Bailey Branigan reporting for ROOTS news, Terra with an interview with

Giazin Triani Orlato

Merculians love children. I see them everywhere, playing in parks and courtyards, performing in the Pleasure Gardens either singing or dancing. On my way here I came across a group walking in lines three abreast on a trip of some kind. I thought it might be fun to interview one for a kid’s thoughts on life on Merculian but it’s proving more difficult than I had imagined. Everyone is leery of a big Terran reporter who is paying too much attention to their children. So I asked Triani if I could interview his child, Giazin, and he has agreed. The young eight year old turned up with a dour companion who kept his eye on the kid at all times. His name is Vandari and I finally dug out of him that he is Triani’s bodyguard. He is not friendly but Giazin just ignores him, and so will I. For a kid his age, Giazin is very sure of himself and he looks so much like Triani there is no doubt of his parentage.

BB        Hi Giazin. Are you getting time off school to talk to me?

GTO     Yeah. That’s the reason I’m doing it. Also I like being down town.

BB        Tell me about school. What subject do you like best.

GTO     (He  shrugs dramatically) Well, it depends. I know I’m supposed to say I love dancing best but since tatsi’s not here and probably won’t see this anyway I’m not going to. (He grins at me.) I like science, especially when we have lessons with the class  Bandalin’s in. Sooo cute!

BB        You’ve got a bit on a crush on her, do you?

GTO     Just how long have you been here? Bandalin isn’t a she any more than I am.         

BB        Sorry. Just a slip of the tongue. Do you see your parents dance often?

GTO     Oh sure. All the time. They’re both pretty good. But so am  I, you know. Just last week I got promoted up to a higher circle in school because I’m just so damn good.

BB        Your parents must be pleased.

GTO     Mersti was. (He pauses thoughtfully.) Tatsi will be, you know, when I get a chance to tell him. I haven’t seen him lately.

BB        I’m sure he’ll be thrilled. Do you live near here?

GTO     I live in Hanging Rock, tatsi’s big estate outside town. It’s about…anyway about half an hour’s drive in a good aircar. I take an air-cab into town by myself sometimes to see Parla, though tatsi gets mad if he finds out.

BB        Parla’s your tatsi’s ex?

GTO     The latest one, yeah. (He sighs.) I really like him.

BB        Does your tatsi get mad very often?

GTO     Depends. Most of the time he just yells a lot but that time I blew up my room when I was entertaining the Visitors he got really mad. And just last week when I went to peek into his sleeping chamber to see who was there with him he bust a gut! Big time!

BB        I guess you shouldn’t do those things.

GTO     You think? (He makes a face and laughs.)

BB        What do you do during school holidays?

GTO     (He shrugs. Then he looks at me thoughtfully for a moment.) What did you used to do when you were a kid?

BB        I went with my family to visit various interesting places. Is that what you do?

GTO     (He laughs.) You obviously don’t know my family! (He winks as he gets up to leave, strangely unsettling from a child. Then he turns into an eight-year-old again as he remembers his manners and bows, like a dancer taking a curtain call.)

BB        Thanks, Giazin.

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Losing a member of one’s family is like shrinking a little. I feel that way now; smaller, less connected to something solid. Yesterday my big brother, whom I have often written about here and elsewhere, died. It was not a big surprise, as he had been very ill for some time, and I have been waiting for that phone call for months. It was still a jolt, a shuddering touch, a reorganizing of one’s reality. I realize that no one alive now knew me back then, when I was very young and looked up to him as some kind of special shining being, to be emulated at all costs.

Ten years older, he was not living at home as I grew up but he was a constant visitor. Whereas Mother was all about books and literature, poetry and history, he was all about music. He was the one who opened my eyes and ears to ballet and opera, who took me around and introduced me to interesting people, invited me to London England when he was there doing his PhD in ancient Greek drama in the 60s. He prodded me into singing lessons and graduate school. In some ways he was domineering, waspish and hard to please, but underneath the crust he was the most caring person I have known. People opened up to him in the most amazing way, because he listened. He was critical, often melancholy but he was generous too, and always interesting. I will miss him.

He would hate this picture, but it was the last time I visited him down in London, and he was happy.

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This time I’m lucky enough to  spend some time with his Excellency Orosin At’hali Benvolini  who holds some government position I haven[t quite figured out yet and had also been an ambassador to an alien planet that was in the news lately as they are making a bid to join  the Inter Planetary Alliance. Like many Merculians I have met, he is charming with a gentle sense of humour and a way of sliding away from questions he doesn’t want to answer that shows why he is a diplomat. He is the first person I have met and talked to who is married.

BB        Thanks for agreeing to talk to me, your Excellency.

OAB     Oh please, there’s no need for titles. It’s just Beny. 

BB        Really? I thought your first name was Orosin.

OAB     That’s’ true, but everybody calls me Beny, except my spouse.

BB        You’re the first Merculian I’ve interviewed who’s married.

OAB     I expect I’m the oldest, too. (He smiles engagingly.) 

BB        You seem to have led a very interesting life, even serving as a lieutenant on the IPA         warship, The Wellington. Can you tell me anything about that experience?

OAB     It wasn’t my finest hour, shall we say. This was at a time when there were few if any        Merculians in the service. It’s rarely fun being a pioneer. Besides, I’m really just a musician, so I was glad to put it all behind me when my tour was over

BB        You’re a musician, too! When did you manage to study music?

OAB     Before this whole IPA Academy thing came up, I had studied at the Merculian School of   Music and Epicantare Arts for several years. And then duty called and I answered.

BB        To be a pioneer. 

OAB     My family has been in diplomacy for generations. I guess it’s in my blood.

BB        So that’s why you left music.

OAB     Oh no! I never left music, just put it on hold from time to time.

BB        I see. But I understand that you hold an important government position of some kind.

OAB     Oh no. Not at all. (He holds out both hands as if pushing this idea far away.) I just sit on a             committee that gets consulted on certain issues now and then.  As I said, I am a musician.

BB        Well, there is one thing I heard that intrigues me even more ­­ about you––your liking for the Terran fortified wine sherry. How did you ever develop this taste?

OAK     Oh dear. You are finding out all my weaknesses! I first tried it when on a visit to a             friend’s parents on Terra many years ago. They served it and that was it for me. Now I order it by the case from the Terran Embassy here in Cap City.

BB        That’s not one of my favourite.

OAB     Have you tried any of our buzzers?  I understand that some Terrans find them interesting. (He pulls out a small case, opens it and holds out the round marble-shaped             drugs.)

BB        No thanks. I was warned about them. I think I’ll stick to beer. (Beny laughs and slips one in his own mouth.) Thanks so much for giving me some of your time for this interview, Beny.

OAB     I have enjoyed your company. (He bows.)

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 This time I’ve chosen a dancer, who seems to be some kind of super star here. His name and image are everywhere and gossip about his sex life abounds. It’s the kind of  treatment rock stars get back home. I am intrigued. It took a while to get him to agree to the interview, as he is apparently leery of the press after some incident last year where he was recorded without his permission. I have been warned that his language is a bit salty from time to time and he has been known to walk out of interviews if he doesn’t like the way things are going. He stands out among Merculians with his black hair and eyes and his use of only one name, Triani. In our brief meeting before the interview started, he comes across as arrogant, aggressive and highly sexual. It’s no wonder people talk about him.

BB        Hello and thanks for meeting with me.

T          Hi sweetie. If I’d known you look like this I would have come sooner.

BB        I gather you have had your full name legally changed to the single name, Triani. That’s unusual, isn’t it. Can you explain way?

T          Well, sweetie, I’m unusual, too. Like me, the name stays in people’s minds.

BB        So it was just a publicity stunt.

T          Stunt? No. Just PR. 

BB        I read that you have a child called Giazin. So if I understand things correctly here, his name would be Giazin Triani …something. 

T          Giazin Triani Orlato. His mertsi is a dancer with another company but I don’t see him any more than I have to these days.

BB        So you have no plans to get married?

T          Holy shit no! I’m not the marrying kind, baby.

BB        Got it! Could I ask you about that beautiful jeweled dagger you’re wearing? Is that what’s called a cimboladagger?

T          This? No, sweetie. This one is a presentation dagger. (He unclips it from his belt and lays it on the table between us.) The Cimbola is our coming of age ceremony where we receive the right to wear a dagger. Those are usually less flashy. This one was presented to me as an award of excellence at the Primata Festival.

BB        It’s gorgeous. You’ve had a spectacular career for someone your age. I’m not sure exactly how old you are but I’ve read you’re the youngest principal dancer in the National Theater company.

T          I was until my hitherto unknown young sibling came along and now he holds that place in the company.

BB        You didn’t know you had a sibling?

T          He was born on the Colony Planet so no, I didn’t fucking know. Look, if you want to talk about Rio, contact him, okay? 

BB        Of course. That just took me by surprise. When you arrived, you had a young Merculian with you with pale hair. Is he your lover Parla?

T          Hell no! Parla is long gone. Keep up, sweetie. 

BB        I see. I read somewhere that you have had Terran lovers as well. Male or female?

T          It depends on the person and what I feel I need from them. (He pauses and looks at me across the table so intently I feel uncomfortable.) Now you I can’t figure out. Are you male or female? (He reaches out suddenly and clasps my hand in a firm grip.)

BB        We’re getting away from the scope of this interview.

T          I think the ‘scope of this interview’ needs to be widened. (He grins wickedly.) Why don’t you come along to my town place and do just that. It’s not far.

BB        Perhaps later. I heard your mersti was a great dancer too. Can you comment?

T          (Rises abruptly.) I don’t talk about him. This interview is over.

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Bailey Branigan reporting from Cap City, Merculian

Two weeks ago I arrived in Cap City on Merculian.  As is my custom in a new place, I intend to interview a few leading citizens of this colorful sprawling city as a way to introduce this place to you, the readers of Travel Beyond.  Before we start, there ae a few things you should know about these people: They are somewhat smaller then we are but otherwise not that different in appearance. They are touch empaths, however, so getting to know one involves closer physical contact than we as Terrans are used to. They use the pronoun ‘he’ but are dual-gendered. This can be confusing at times but one soon gets used to such phrases as ‘he is pregnant because I didn’t want take time out to bear the child myself,’ a phrase I heard while waiting at the SpacePort to enter the city. They all have three names, the last one being the name of their ‘mertsi’ the one who gave birth to them. And last but not least, they are impulsive and very enthusiastic about the arts.

            I have lined up five people to interview, all from different walks of life. First up is Marlo Dasha Bogardini, an investigator with the Cap City Regulators. We are meeting outside behind the Regulator headquarters in a sort of small park, surrounded by flowers. After a few moments talk before starting, I have the feeling in spite of his endearing persona, he probably knows more about me already just from careful observation than I know about him with all my research.

TB:       Hello, Chai Dasha Bogardini. Thank you for agreeing to this interview.

MDB – Hello. Please call me Marlo. I hope you don’t mind but I brought a few snacks with me.

TB–      Not at all. I’m interested to know what a cop does here in this place where, from what I read, there is very little crime.

MDB    Well, don’t believe everything they tell you in the Off World Tourist Bureau bulletins.

He laughs merrily and hands me a pink biscuit. Seriously, we do have crime here, but tourists are generally safe as long as they stay out of the River District and watch out for pickpockets.

TB        Thanks for the warning. Tell me about your police force. 

MDB    I’m an Investigator with the Major Incident Unit, which handles just about anything from suspicious death to fallout from an explosion. Apart from that, we have a Tech Unit, a Major Fraud Unit involving currency manipulation and such, Special Ops for serious head bashing  and our busiest, the DDD, Drugs Drunk and Disorderly Unit who keep tabs on illegal drugs and check around late at night to make sure no one is left somewhere under the weather from too much partying.

TB.       That sounds like a great service! Have you used it yourself?

MDB    Not lately but on occasion, yes. 

TB        Tell me about this ‘serious head bashing’ you mention?

MDB    For instance, a few months ago there was an attempted heist at the Gem Stone Exposition. That is the sort of thing they are trained to handle.

TB        I see. What about murders? Do they handle those too?

MDB    No. Luckily we don’t have a great many and those I handle, with my team, of course.

TD        And now a personal question, if you don’t mind?

MDB    Go ahead. Of course I may not answer. He laughs merrily.

TB        Are you married?

MDB    Oh no!

TD        You look a bit taken aback. Do you not have marriage on Merculian?

MDB    Of course, but it’s not easy to get married here. You have to reach a certain age, and before you ask, no I’m not quite there yet. Then, before you even apply for the permit, you have to have been with your lover for a  very long time. Once you are married, there is no separation allowed. So that’s why  I was a little taken aback, as you say.

TB.       Serious business, then. Thanks for giving me some of your time, Marlo.

MDB    You’re welcome.

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The World of the Merculians in Book Covers

All these covers are done by Istvan Kadar and I love them!

Not out yet as of
February 22, 2022

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And the winner of the Bony Blithe 2021 is…


Thanks for all the wonderful light mysteries we have been celebrating for 10 years! It’s been fun but all good things must come to an end.

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Incarceration! and the fallout therefrom…

I rarely leave the house these days except for appointments connected to eyes or other health things. Weekends no longer mean anything to me. There is no opera or ballet to look forward to, no friends to meet for lunch where we while away a whole afternoon over wine and good food. No hair salon where one can be ministered to and renewed. I miss this all, as do others, I know.

            And yet…

            While various writers have stated they are not able to write, my muse seems to be thriving in this odd artificial atmosphere.  I readily admit that I am not producing deathless pross for the ages, but then did I ever? Except for a few months when I accomplished a serious rewrite of a manuscript that had never been finished to my satisfaction before and sending this in, what I am working on is not in any way serious work. I have looked into my notebooks filled with novel ideas of one sort or another, with character sketches and possible scenarios and plots. But then I close them again. I am not quite ready for that, apparently.  Instead I pick out a new (and appropriately fancy) notebook and begin to make notes on…yes…another Merculian novel. Just what the world needs! Well, maybe the world doesn’t need it, but I do! 

            So now, although not quite finished with book #6, The River District, I have begun what I sincerely hope will be the last! I have noticed, though, that things are getting a bit darker on Merculian. The crime rate is rising, the baddies are getting worse and poor Marlo is snacking more than ever in an effort to get through it all. And now, in The Visitors––well, I guess we will have to wait to find out what happens this time. I assure you there are still many chuckles and some downright guffaws along the way! And that’s why I stay in this world!

            By the way, the next book–The Colony Dancers– will be out soon! Hope you enjoy it.

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What I am Reading

The Rage Room by Lisa de Nikolits

A dystopian satire using time travel and humour, not to mention whimsy, The Rage Room refuses to be hemmed in by category. Energized by rage and frustration, our main man Sharps lurches from one disaster to another in an effort to correct one big mistake. But there is a lot more than that going on in this unique novel. Read it for fun or read it for the thoughtful roman à thèse at its core. Just read it! It will pull you along on a ride like no other!

Brother, the second award-winning novel by David Chariandy is a paean of love to his older brother Francis. Set in the east end of Scarborough north, it is the kind of book that opens one’s eyes to what is underneath the surface of what we think we know. The writing is simple yet sparkles with unexpected ways of looking at ordinary things, finding beauty in surprising places. He shows how easy it is to slip into bad company, the boys one goes to school with, the ones who live all around you in the yellowing high rises. It is a beautiful book and one I highly recommend.

This book is truly spell-binding, drawing in the reader and then, drip by drip, revealing what really happened out in the cold parking lot out by the frozen lake. The story studies in detail how loss and abuse scars the soul. The writing is beautiful, making us hear and smell and feel the biting cold, the crunch of snow, the freezing wind. As you read on, you gradually come to understand how apt the title is. This novel is a work of art!

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Here is the second volume of

The Rambling Writer you’ve all been waiting for! It’s short. Enjoy!

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