The Kabin of Justice Sails by the Wind of Objectivity

Geveler City, 9/4/8/6148

The words formed the waves of the ocean for a lonely painted boat on the otherwise-featureless courtroom wall: The Kabin of Justice Sails by the Wind of Objectivity.
Benjamar, the prosecutor, was a young man of not yet four kor old. When he called for the little girl, his unexpected witness in a trial that should have been over yesterday, he had every intention of remaining objective. He had been the one to ask for this postponement, and it had taken some time to convince the legal representatives and the jury members to give up their holiday – this being the last day of the year – but all were eager to see this case concluded as soon as possible.
So this last day of the trial had started early in the morning with a summary of yesterday’s proceedings: The defending lawyer stressed that the case dealt with the Society’s right to practice its ceremonies, and that neither the defendant nor his son had denied the physical act involved but claimed it was an accepted ritual to which all members of their religious order consented.
Benjamar refused to see any act of corporal punishment as a religious ceremony. He had pointed out that the boy, at seventeen, was still underage, so he could not consent to anything by law, which made this child abuse. This had been followed by a long discussion about the meaning of the words “penance” and “abuse”, and it was nearly midday when he finally called on his new, young witness.
The child, wearing a yellow dress, climbed the seat next to the orange-robed judge, her socks scrunched around her ankles despite her mother’s attempts to pull them straight. With her feet dangling above the floor she gave the defendant a smile. She was on stage.
The defendant, Lenag, had just turned sixty and so was halfway through his last kor of life; the white of his suit statement more than attire. Seeing the brief hint of concern on Lenag’s face when he recognized the child, Benjamar knew that his hunch had been correct and he started by asking the little girl about that night.
“Where were you, Daili?”
She answered confidently and in a loud voice, the way he had instructed her, and told the room that she’d been at a sleepover at her best friend’s home. She’d seen the adults when asking for a drink of water because she couldn’t sleep.
Was she aware that these people belonged to the Sacred Praise Society?
She answered yes, most people in Kolnuia, where she lived, did. She stated clearly that her own family didn’t believe that Bue, the big star, was a divine being, but that had nothing to do with her friendship.
Did she know the defendant and the victim?
Yes, she did. They were her best friend’s grandfather and uncle.
Next Benjamar explained to her that hitting was a crime and that she was here to tell what exactly it was she’d seen that night; that the defendant and his son both said they had been at a ceremony but the court didn’t believe that to be true.
“But if they say so it must be true, because it’s their belief,” Daili answered.
Amused by her precociousness, he allowed her the moment of glory and waited for the audience to silence itself.
“Did you see who was being beaten?” he asked then.
“Yes.” She pointed to the defendant’s youngest son. Benjamar nodded his approval of her clear answers and pointed at Lenag.
“Was that man doing the beating?”
Lenag ignored the child smiling at him.
“Can you point to the person who was doing the beating?”
The girl scanned the room, then shrugged. “There was lots of people there.”
“There were a lot of people there. Was this man there?” Benjamar asked, indicating the lawyer he was standing in front of.
“No.” When she shook her head her braids swayed along.
“Was this woman there?”
The jury member he meant turned red in the face at the suggestion.
The child shook her head again. “No.”
Benjamar walked around the room, randomly picking out people and repeating his question. To the girl it was a game.
“Was this woman there?” he asked, stopping at Lenag’s daughter-in-law, who sat among a large group of members of the religious commune.
“It was her home,” Daili answered, sounding impatient.
“I asked if she was there!”
For a moment the child seemed uncertain, but then she defiantly frowned at his abruptness and answered, “Yes.”
“Was this man there?” Benjamar continued, now pointing at Sotyar, the defendant’s oldest son and the victim’s brother.
“Was he doing the beating?”
The lawyer objected but was overruled.
In the front row her mother nodded for the child to answer the question, which Benjamar repeated and he reminded her that she was here to speak the truth which, he had promised her, would help the defendant.
“Yes,” she answered.
He thanked her and returned to his seat. She’d performed well. The old judge had to shout to silence the audience, after which the lawyer attempted a rescue mission: If the boy himself had admitted that it had been his father and not his brother hitting him, could it be that she was mistaken, as it had been late and she’d been tired?
Quite adamantly she answered, “No.”
The lawyer had no more questions. The judge told the child to leave the stage. Lenag turned his head away when she walked by him.
Not about to lose this psychological advantage, Benjamar approached the bench and requested that the hearing continue without delay. He handed the judge and the lawyer a copy of the records – mandatory before any person could be called to justice – which he’d ordered yesterday and which, he promised both of them, showed no flaws in the state of Sotyar’s home, or in his willingness to co-operate at the last health inspection. In addition there were no reports of earlier misconduct and his genetic record showed no criminal potential, which gave him an excellent chance of being let off with just two years as a user. Sotyar had graduated Learners with a creator certificate, which was more than Benjamar had expected from a Society member.
The judge ignored the lawyer’s protest, called the room to order and told the jury members to return to their assigned seats before announcing his intention to continue with the hearing, this time with Sotyar as the defendant.
After a short whispering session with the lawyer, Sotyar, who was the same age as Benjamar, took his father’s place, but he remained seated when all stood to wait for the judge.
“The state of Geveler against Sotyar, identification KN3K4C,” the clerk announced, walking up to the new defendant.
“I swear to nobody but Bue,” Sotyar told him.
Taking his second tranquillizer for the day, the judge poked his fat index finger into Sotyar’s direction. “You will promise to speak the truth for this court.”
“If you’re not willing to take my word without that, you won’t take my promise either,” Sotyar replied.
He also refused to address the judge as ‘Your Honour’. “What honour?” he asked.
Benjamar glanced at the judge, whom he thought had a bigger ego than his intelligence should allow. He quietly admired Sotyar’s principles. However, this was the part of the trial that was to bring him his own victory. The little girl had been no more than a port of call to reset the course.
The room, still restless with the sudden turn of events, only went quiet when Benjamar asked Sotyar for an explicit description of the ceremony. Sotyar complied; a momentary flicker in his eyes was the only indication that he was aware of the sensation his words provoked in many members of the audience.
“You realize that physical contact of that sort is unlawful by the Geveler Civil Rights act?” the prosecutor asked him.
“What civil rights? Those you preach or those that exist only for city people?”
“This is not a discussion. I ask the questions and you answer them.”
“We speak our own justice,” Sotyar replied with a defiant smile. No doubt he enjoyed this game of words. He was out to shock and he was succeeding.
“Who gave you the right to decide that your justice stands above that of the court?” Benjamar demanded.
“Because our justice is based on ethical values, not on the political power of the state,” Sotyar answered, just a little too quickly.
“I didn’t ask why; I asked who!”
“…The Divine Star did.”
Benjamar left it at that. Sotyar wasn’t ready to denounce his faith for Geveler laws, nor would he lie, though he wasn’t going to be ordered into promising that. That was his right.
The defence lawyer did his best to compensate but the damage was done. The jury members returned at the exact end of the compulsory thirty-two minute deliberation period. They were all eager to go home for the New Year’s celebration tomorrow. Another half an hour later Benjamar stood outside.
In front of the courthouse, the judge kicked a pebble down the marble steps as he stated for camera that today had been a great victory for justice and otacy.
That night a news reporter summarized events for the viewers at home:
“The head of the Sacred Praise Society was charged with leading the members of his sect to acts of violence, misguiding the system and lying in court. He will spend the remaining four years of his life as a user in service of the state. He humiliated himself when the verdicts were read by begging the judge to spare his son.
“Sotyar, who sat emotionless throughout the whole trial, was convicted of physical abuse as well as with contempt of court and will be travelling to the Land Beyond tomorrow.
“As a result of his victory, the prosecutor has gained enough credit to become the youngest judge Geveler has ever had. It was his ability to see through the lies which enabled him, in his own words, ‘to take control of the kabin as it was sailing in the wrong direction’.
“The defence felt disappointed because it was still the majority vote that was meant to protect the rights of the minority.
“The eight-year-old girl who was a key witness for the prosecution, said she was sorry it was over because now she had to go back to Learners.”
The newest judge of Geveler turned off his screen. Justice had been done according to the law. There was no more to be said about it.

The above is the prologue of my science fiction novel, yet as such it makes no claim to being science fiction. It merely sets the scene for the social order of the planet the colonists are living on as well as setting up the consequences that are unavoidable for colonists trying to start all over on a new planet.
Yet, exactly because its strong focus on social issues, it may turn away some science fiction readers, who may want to start with a technological description or more action.

Writer’s Retrospect

To date I have published one science fiction novel in five parts, three contemporary fiction books for different age groups, and a non-fiction series. Yet none of them do particularly well in the sales department and at times that leads me to wonder if it is all worth it.

Luckily, my non-fiction focus deals with the psychological types and therefore the natural talents of people, and so it is always there to remind me that I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else.

Any independent writer knows how difficult it is to bring a book to completion, not just with regard the actual writing, but with publishing and marketing. You own your project from the first line to the last comma, from the original scribbles on little pieces of note paper to the lay-out, the press releases, the blurb and the cover image – everything is your responsibility and there are hundreds of possibilities of making mistakes.

And if you’re like me, and your books are like your children, you care for every bit of them and want nothing more than to ‘raise’ a perfect book without any flaws – preferably one everybody likes.

Therefore, discovering that you missed a comma or typo, that you didn’t target the right audience in your first press release, or worse, realizing you should have ended the book differently, is not only frustrating – or even depressing – for a writer who has no support network, it can also be very costly.

After all, it is expensive to produce a book – you pay an editor, illustrator, manuscript assessor, printer, eBook converter and possibly a distributor – and to advertise it; never mind all the hours of work that go in the writing itself, and starting over is generally not an option.

So what to do if you find out you weren’t as perfect as you wanted to be?

What if, in retrospect, you shouldn’t have used that particular name because it is mispronounced, or not written that prologue because it confuses people, or what if you find out that your blurb is not as attention provoking as you had hoped?

What you should not do is stop writing or trying.

First of all, you should remember that even those who have been in the industry for a long time make mistakes. There are plenty of books of big publishing houses on the market with mistakes as bad as having repeated paragraphs or wrong page numbers. And the same applies to all other products; even the greatest electronics companies regularly market something that doesn’t work.

Secondly, every writer, no matter how revered, has some books that are not as well received. Most writers look back on their early works and believe them to be less than perfect. Most writers don’t get their recognition with a first book – not unless they have relations within the publishing or marketing world.

Thirdly, do not celebrities and politicians retain their fans, no matter how many stupid mistakes they make? And do not many readers love the character in a book, exactly because they recognize those minor flaws and insecurities in them. They recognize that people are not perfect and it is a lot easier to relate to somebody who is just as imperfect as you are.

And don’t forget that, it is to be expected that people make more mistakes in those aspects of the process that do not fall in their natural talents, and fiction writers are generally not natural editors, illustrators and marketers. Nobody is talented in all those fields, which is why publishing houses came into being in the first place. Therefore, as an independent writer, forced to go it alone, you should not consider yourself a failure if you make a mistake, but focus on all those things you got right, despite them not being part of your natural talent.

Making mistakes is human and, even if a mistake cannot be rectified, it is not a reason to give up writing or even give up on a particular book.

Instead find a creative way to utilize your mistake.

This is what I have decided to do with my science fiction book, which I spent ten years writing – so it is a little like my children to me – and like I tell my children to try and try again if they don’t immediately succeed, so my book deserves a second chance.

Thus, after asserting – with the support of the wonderful people in the Science Fiction readers, writers, collectors and artists LinkedIn group – that I wasn’t targeting the wrong market because my work strongly focuses on the human aspect and not on space battles, I have decided to use my blog as a vehicle for reintroducing my book by rewriting the prologue.

The prologue, after all, is the very first bit of the book anybody reads and if it doesn’t attract the attention, the rest of the story won’t even get the chance. In retrospect, the book would have been better off without the prologue – which introduces some of the main characters in a for them life changing event, but without their names, because I wanted the reader to have the chance to work that relationship out for themselves. Maybe that made it hard for people to get into the story, but I cannot now simply remove the prologue, since what happens there is referred to later in the book.

However, what I can do is rewrite it – using my blog – and insert the names I had wanted to keep until later. Maybe it will make it more personal and recognizable for the reader if they can make the connection to the characters in the next chapters immediately.

And if that doesn’t work, I will find another creative way to try and get some attention to my book, because, like my children are dear to me even if not perfect, so are my books and I will never give up on them.