JANESKI: The story behind “Much Madness Is Divinest Sense” in Planetary Anthology Series: Luna



Science fiction needs more cops.

That turns out to be the motto for everything I’ve been writing recently.  I was pretty much raised on Star Trek, sci-fi classics like The Day The Earth Stood Still and Forbidden Planet; and my mom got me started reading Isaac Asimov and Edgar Rice Burroughs’s John Carter of Mars at an early age.  As far as I can remember, the only sci-fi cop in everything I watched or read as a kid was Elijah Bailey, from Asimov’s Robot series.

I didn’t just love sci-fi; I loved mysteries.  I started reading a lot of Mary Higgins Clark in about fifth grade, and she is still one of my all-time favorite authors (may she rest in peace).  The Queen of Suspense, indeed.  I remember dreaming that I could write a book that someone would stay up until 2am on a school night to finish, just like I did with her books.

After college, I discovered the magic of crime shows when I started watching NCIS regularly, and I have devoured every cop show I could find since then, including classics like Perry Mason and Gunsmoke.

Eventually, I realized something, and had to wonder: why aren’t there more cops in space?  There has to be crime, right?  People are still fallible people, no matter what century they’re living in (unless you’re in the 80s paradise of Star Trek: TNG, of course).  So why is Elijah Bailey the only one I could think of?

At the time, I’d never seen Babylon 5, so I couldn’t include Garibaldi in my survey of space cops.  He is one of the best, but when I started writing my own stories, I’d never heard of him.  I hadn’t even binge-watched Deep Space Nine until well after college, so I couldn’t include Odo in my list of space cops, either.  Even with those two included, the profession is still sadly underrepresented in science fiction.

So, that’s where I got Special Agent David Forbes Carter, from the Interplanetary Police Forces, Division 7.  He and his story have been ten years in the making, and the story I wrote for the Luna anthology is another step in that long, long road from that fifth-grader who stayed up to read Mary Higgins Clark, to the author who finally managed to print an actual story.

The Luna anthology story is part of the same universe as The Carter Files, as well as the short story I wrote for the Freedom’s Light anthology several years ago.  David Carter doesn’t make an appearance in this one, but two other characters do.

“Much Madness Is Divinest Sense” is the first line of an Emily Dickinson poem that I found when the short story was finished.  I had poems at the beginning of my other books and short stories in this universe, so it was only appropriate to include one here, too.  It described the story’s main character perfectly.

Division 7 Director Jacques de Tournay is the scariest kind of madman–the kind that knows he’s crazy and doesn’t care anymore.  The kind who’s smart and cunning enough to turn his knowledge and experience to something that is terrifying.  In his case, it’s vengeance.

To him, his madness is divinest sense.  His reasons don’t just make sense to him, they’re completely justified.

One thing I always remember from taking philosophy in college is that the opposite of the best thing is, of necessity, the worst thing.  So, what happens when the best, most talented director of the most powerful law enforcement agency in the galaxy turns insane?

The other character here, Agent McClellan, is another madman, but he isn’t the same kind of crazy as Director de Tournay.  He isn’t worried about justifying himself or his actions to anyone; he loves the insanity because he has more fun with it.

I tried to make the motivations of the two madmen different, to show the stark contrast between the two.  It always irritates me when a perfectly good villain in a movie or TV show or book is suddenly presented as someone you have to feel sorry for.  It can be done well in some cases, but when you spend the whole movie hating the villain for his dastardly deeds, and then all of a sudden he reveals that he’s the injured party and has a good reason for being a psycho, it feels wrong.  That’s why I loved the depiction of the Joker in The Dark Knight.  You never find out anything about him–why he’s crazy, his background, any of his reasons (in fact, he lies about his history and his reasons throughout the show), and you never ever feel sorry for him.  He doesn’t even have a name, other than the one he uses to terrify Gotham.

Without giving too much away, I wanted to do that for my villains.  I wanted them both to have reasons for their actions–a good one for Director de Tournay, and a scary one for Agent McClellan–but in both cases, they’ve gone beyond pity.  They may be mad, but they’re still responsible for their actions.  Their reasons can’t excuse them.

JANESKI_PHOENIX_ebookAny more of their story, you’ll have to read in the Luna anthology, or my recently published book: The Carter Files: Phoenix.  They are available on Amazon in digital and print copies.

If you like the universe, there is another short story in the Freedom’s Light anthology. That one, “Backwater,” is about the farmers on Mars and their fight against the encroaching Interplanetary Parliament.

Don’t forget: Back the Blue . . . even in space.

You can find Lori’s blog at https://littlesquirrelbooks.wordpress.com/.

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