Memory Seed At 25, Day 1

by stephenpalmersf

One of the questions I am most often asked about Memory Seed concerns deKray. In a city of women, he is pretty much the only free male character; certainly the only important one. Not only that, his name seems to imply he is “of Kray” or somehow represents the city. Who, then, is he? Does he represent masculinity? What is his role?

Though he is the only free man in the novel, other men are mentioned – those inside the Fish Chambers of the Goddess’ temple for instance – and it is never stated or implied that men simply aren’t around. (In Tales From The Spired Inn I added a few men to the female mix.) DeKray though does have a special place in the scenario, and his name is relevant.

The published novel was the third version of the story, which I wrote some time in 1993 when my soon-to-be editor at Orbit, Tim Holman, was without me realising it considering the work. When he contacted me the following year I had updated the second version, in which all the elements of Memory Seed were present except the female/male gender balance, so I had to tell him there was a new version. This third version was in part inspired by my dedication to the feminist cause, but also by research into feminisation of animals owing to pollution. The main thrust though was to write men out of Kray, something I did with relish.

DeKray does not represent masculinity except in that he is defunct, as traditional masculinity should be. As is made clear by his inability to see the Clocktower at the end of the novel, he is a dead end: the past, retrogressive, old-fashioned – the deceased hand of male ideas and culture, which has no place in the future of Arrahaquen et al. Nor does his line continue through children.

DeKray does have a role however, which involves the Cowhorn Tower. Various fans of the novel noticed the visual echoes around him: the lapel pin, the small copper object, and the Cowhorn Tower itself. DeKray in fact, though he cannot see the Clocktower, is on a time loop himself; this the reader knows because he sees himself being operated upon, and because of the discovery of Myshelau’s grave.

I like deKray because of his calm, almost simple view of life, and because of his directness. He is an honest character, if one at something of a loss in the city of women. I think it is appropriate that Kray remains his environment.