Letters to Readers
Where to Get It
Greetings, young people of planet Earth,
Much adult science fiction is based on the assumption that the human race will be in charge, or at least high up on the pecking order, when we venture to the stars. Young adults have a somewhat clearer memory that when they graduated elementary school, they were not immediately movers and shakers of the world, but instead found themselves in middle school.
Young adults also remember well the training wheels on their first small bicycles. Will-power alone could not propel them to their destinations.
Nebador is about little steps the smallest of us can make from the playpen to the university, from the gutter to the stars.
As you know, your world is changing very rapidly. During times of change, those who are stuck in old, rigid ways of thinking and feeling often don't do well. Those who can see far and think clearly are best prepared to survive, prosper in some way, and find happiness.
Stories like these help by letting us walk in the shoes of those who have lived through similar times. They become our heroes, giving us strength when we face challenges, and whispering their inspiration to us when we must solve problems.
Someday, many years from now, your stories may also be told, and you will become heroes to younger people who are struggling to understand the universe. They will take comfort in your courage, and learn from the lessons you have already learned.
J. Z. Colby
Greeting from the Deep Learning Notes,
Greeting from the Deep Learning Notes,
As you must know by now, Nebador is much more than just an entertaining story. The particular Muse who inspired the author was obviously concerned about young adults in the early twenty-first century who are about to inherit a very different world than their parents knew. That world will have many fewer "safety nets," and those who have not sharpened their wits and honed their skills may find themselves struggling.
The Nebador stories contain many wit-sharpening and skill-honing lessons and situations, and the author has provided the questions and comments in this book for any reader who wants to learn as much as possible from the same Muse. Some may be useful to all readers, and others are best tackled by advanced students familiar with psychology, sociology, and politics. All readers and teachers must pick and choose for themselves.
The web site contains other useful resources, such as the author's collection of fallacies and other thinking errors, the many situations in which our minds can't handle reality. The author will respond to any thoughtful question related to the Nebador stories.
J. Z. Colby
Greetings from NEBADOR Book Two: Journey,audio (1.7 MB)
In NEBADOR Book One: The Test, we met a young ship's captain, Ilika from Satamia in Nebador. After arriving in a medieval kingdom, he revealed that his final test, as a new captain, was to find and train his own crew. He looked for them in many places, but finally discovered they could only be found among the young and spirited slaves (with one exception) who had lived through more than their share of misfortune and hardship.
To identify his potential crew members, he had to figure out how to test many illiterate slaves and one innkeeper's daughter. The group then had to find a way out of the medieval walled city with political, psychological, and physical dangers on their heels. The "test," therefore, took place on many levels.
The author trusts that those who hate learning and growing quit somewhere in the middle of Book One, just as Kodi quit, and have not bothered to get this book. That leaves more books and more adventures for the rest of us.
Although they walk the same roads, the "journey" in Book Two is different for each of the characters, just as it is different for each reader. But something about a journey, of one kind or another, seems to be necessary for people to make leaps forward in their growth.
Even though we don't yet know much about Ilika's ship, it is obviously no place for children. The young adults who will become Ilika's crew are leaving childhood far behind. The Muse keeps whispering to the author that many young readers will soon be forced by events in the world to do the same, sometimes long before they might like.
J. Z. Colby
Greetings from NEBADOR Book Three: Selection,audio (2.3 MB)
In NEBADOR Book One: The Test, Ilika of Satamia in Nebador arrived in a medieval kingdom with the purpose of finding a crew for his ship. He selected ten students, nine spirited young slaves and one innkeeper's daughter. One of the students did not understand that teamwork requires trust, and quickly landed back in slavery. Ilika did not, at first, understand how many of the taboos of that society he was breaking, and he and his remaining students were forced to use dark and dangerous ways to escape the walled city.
In NEBADOR Book Two: Journey, their bodies, hearts, and minds were tested by nature, personal demons, and human relationships. They came to the first mountain pass transformed, hardly recognizing the people they once were.
Although the journey is not yet over, the travelers have been sorely tested. Strengths and weakness have emerged, some not even known, before the journey, to those who own them. Ilika is getting a pretty good idea of who will make good crew members -- and who will not. The students, also, are seeing who will stand at their sides through thick and thin, and who will run away scared.
By the end of Book Two, it is a rare young reader who is not seeing part of themselves in one of the students. They might be relating to the strength growing in Sata as she discovers that the universe can be deadly and friendly at the same time. They might be admiring Boro's down-to-earth wisdom and understanding of all things physical, like chemistry and geology. Or they might be trembling a bit, along with Miko, as he wonders what makes a good leader, and why the skill eludes him. Or they might be walking in Buna's shoes as she struggles to learn math and logic.
Although the journey of life can be challenging, we all get through it, one way or another, whether it is short or long. Other tests and challenges, however, are designed by the mysterious powers of the universe so that we cannot all pass. No matter how much we might want to be on the team, we cannot all make the selection.
J. Z. Colby
Greetings from NEBADOR Book Four: Flight Training,
In NEBADOR Trilogy One, Ilika of Satamia attempted to educate ten youth from a medieval kingdom, hoping to find a crew for his mysterious ship. One student quickly returned to the comfort of slavery, a system he understood. Another jumped before he looked once too often, and left behind the love of his life. She could not bear to be alone, and was soon in the arms of a young man far too smart to do the growing he needed to do. Finally, one was called by love and the gentle animals of the Earth.
After spending months imagining sails and a wooden deck, Ilika's five new crew members departed the kingdom of their birth in a deep-space response ship of the Nebador Transport Service. Their destination: Satamia Star Station.
They will soon learn that the road to the star station is neither short nor easy. Countless lessons must be learned on the ground, in the air, and on water. Often their minds are eager, but their bodies are not ready to follow. Sometimes progress is only possible because of their strong bonds of friendship.
But their biggest challenge comes from an unexpected source, as a calling of the heart fools both the young captain and his inexperienced crew.
Any reader who is sure that going into space will be push-button easy, and that we can take all our human myths and problems with us, has probably left the Nebador stories behind long ago. Books Four and beyond are especially for those youth, and a few young-at-heart, who are not afraid of the hard work -- physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual -- that comes with any grand, life-changing, soul-building adventure.
J. Z. Colby
Greetings from the Deep Learning Notes, 2011,
NEBADOR Trilogy One is behind you. Hopefully, you learned many things, from the electromagnetic spectrum to emergency rope techniques, from need-driven communications to trigonometry, from quantitative logic to the ethics of leadership transfer.
But all that was just the appetizers. The five new crew members of the Manessa Kwi may have taken a very large step outside their culture, but it was still just a step. Now it's time to get serious, time to spread wings and fly.
The Muse, who whispers to the author and wants young adults to sharpen their wits and hone their skills, is quickly being joined by many wise human voices. Although they don't often agree on the details of what is upon our future-horizon, one theme comes through clearly: the excesses and entitlements of the 20th century are not sustainable.
In NEBADOR Book Four and Book Five, the new crew of the little ship learns that they must clean up their own messes. The Nebador Transport Service may watch over them, but no help remaining stuck in childhood will be forthcoming.
As always, the author will respond to any thoughtful question related to the NEBADOR stories.
J. Z. Colby
Greetings from NEBADOR Book Five: Back to the Stars,
This grand, life-changing, soul-building adventure continues as the new crew of the deep-space response ship Manessa Kwi heads for interplanetary space. Will Satamia Star Station await them, just around the corner? Of course not. Those readers looking for quick and easy left the Nebador stories behind, probably several books ago. Those of you about to sink your minds into this book are made of sterner stuff.
Space separates the children from the grown-ups. Your age doesn't matter. If you are nine, and you are aiming your life toward standing on your own two feet and dealing with hard, cold reality, you are leaving childhood behind. One of the critiquers who helped make these stories possible started at age eight.
Interplanetary space is like the twenty feet of air that separates the bird nest, where the little birdies must first spread their wings, from the ground, where cats await their next meal. In interplanetary space, we will grow up or die.
But beware the temptation to gaze at the stars and planets too much. The first step into space starts on the ground, on the good fertile soil of planet Earth. We visited our moon in 1969 and the early 1970s, but have not been back, and have not done much else in space, because our "house" is not yet in order. We knew, in the 1970s, that energy and other resources would soon run short, and we decided, as a whole people and a whole planet, to ignore the warnings and do nothing.
The crew of the Manessa Kwi will see and understand many things as they journey outward from their original home to the stars. If you, young readers, have your eyes open, you will learn much from their journey, perhaps more than many people learn in a lifetime.
J. Z. Colby
Greetings from NEBADOR Book Six: Star Station,
We are all formed in the crucible of childhood.
"Slavery," in the sense of being "captive" by something that takes more than it gives, is often a part of our lives.
The "tests" begin early, even if just those boring days in school with countless multiple-choice questions to answer.
Some young people are called by a "journey" of growth, sometimes to get out of "slavery," sometimes in a very different direction.
The "selection" processes of our world can be very deceptive. Everyone wants to be a winner -- but what are we winning, and is it worth it? The world will not tell us, for that would reveal its many games and scams. We must find out for ourselves.
"Training" is not so hard, IF we've had our eyes and ears open, with brain engaged, every minute since kindergarten. If not, we might have some catching up to do. A planet with tight resources and expensive energy will naturally have few people with comfortable lives, and many who are struggling to make ends meet. Training, at everything we can think of, is essential.
But occasionally, everyone needs to come home.
Does that mean we can just goof off? Since our parents are there, will they clean up our messes? Can we treat others however we want without getting slapped or bitten?
By stepping onto a star station, our beloved characters have left childhood far behind. They have, in some ways, even left adulthood behind. On a backward little planet like Sonmatia Three, being a grown-up just means staying alive until you die, and it doesn't matter who you step on.
On a star station of Nebador, it's not that simple.
Here on Earth, we must decide.
J. Z. Colby
Greetings from the Deep Learning Notes, 2012,
You have probably noticed a progression of depth in the Nebador stories and their Deep Learning Notes.
In Book One, the characters were concerned with the basics of getting along, forming a working group, and learning to read and count. Those are things we all need to do to be anything more than ... slaves.
Book Two, you will remember, added writing and calculation, basic chemistry, and a relationship lesson or two. For some, trigonometry was a headache. Others would rather do trig all day than what Mati went through right after that.
After learning to meditate, in Book Three, and wrestle with quantification theory, flying a little star ship seemed pretty easy -- as long as no one was trying to burn it.
Book Four taught our characters the things any flight crew must learn, and some important lessons about people, even people in need. This is the basic work of anyone "standing on their own two feet."
Things got a bit more serious in Book Five. In space, there's always one more "person" on any excursion, most often seen in a black hooded cape, holding a scythe. He has much to teach us.
Suddenly, in Book Six, we are no longer alone and in the wilderness. A "million" lessons await us, from technical to spiritual, but none more important than the biggest question of all:
What's out there, and how do we fit in?
J. Z. Colby
Afterthoughts from NEBADOR Book Six: Star Station,
As Book Six: Star Station is being published, Book Seven: The Local Universe has been written, Book Eight: Witness is about half-written, and Book Nine (not yet titled) has been "assigned." The Muse (or whatever you would like to call Her) is obviously not done with Nebador. And yet, this is a good time to pause. The essential Nebador story has been told, and most of the unanswered questions from the earlier books have been answered.
As I'm sure you know by now, this story isn't really science fiction. That genre has done the great service of hosting (and, in a sense, protecting) those stories that attempt to explore our place in the universe. Ideally, that would be the task of religion, but it isn't ready to take up that role yet. Perhaps it will be someday.
In the meantime, while waiting for Book Seven and beyond, the author invites all readers to dig deeper. The Deep Learning Notes, available both on the www.nebador.com internet site and in printed book form, are a good place to start.
But the most important "depth" can only be pursued in each of our lives, minute by minute, day by day. If the Nebador stories have anything to leave to the world, it's a glimpse of the difference between REALITY, and the many layers of assumptions and myths that most people live by. If, while reading these stories, you have experienced even a tiny peek beyond normal "monkey mammal" thinking, then you have set your feet on the path to "Nebador" (by whatever name).
Good journey to you!
J. Z. Colby
Greetings from NEBADOR Book Seven: The Local Universe,
The previous book of the series, NEBADOR Book Six: Star Station, finally answered most questions about Ilika's civilization, both for the five crew members from a backward medieval world, and for us. By Book Six, the new crew of the deep-space response ship Manessa Kwi has been tested in many ways, gone on long journeys by land, air, and space, looked Death in the face, and come home to Satamia Star Station to heal their wounds and, of course, be tested some more. Book Six concluded Trilogy Two, and is the final book of the essential NEBADOR saga.
The book in your hands takes the story to a new level as the crew begins advanced training and real missions. No longer will they be making little supply runs here and there. Now they must work with highly-trained Nebador citizens to solve serious universe problems that involve the fates of entire civilizations.
Although our friends must continue to wrestle with physical and mental challenges, more and more they find they must understand spiritual matters. Indeed, they receive a training supervisor who is only visible when she chooses to be, and knows when to let the monkey mammals of the Manessa Kwi discover solutions for themselves.
Most people agree that our spiritual helpers, by whatever names we call them, also know when to leave us alone with our problems and predicaments so that we will most deeply feel the joy of standing on our own two feet.
J. Z. Colby
Greetings from NEBADOR Book Eight: Witness,
and a girl whose name may have been Jackie,
who may have died in the 2nd class swimming pool
on the R.M.S. Queen Mary.
Also dedicated to Gian and Sophia Temperilli,
and Erika Frost,
who carry on Peter's work,
each in their own way.
This story is special. I had all the usual help from the Muses, and also some specific nudges and whisperings from a certain little girl (see dedication above). Unfortunately, I cannot share royalties with her, because of her current immortal state, and even her name is not known for sure. She stuck something in my shoe last time I was visiting her "home," and it is now one of my most cherished possessions. I hope it will allow her to find me if she ever needs to, and I will visit her as often as I can.
That same little girl seems to have known where the NEBADOR series was going, for the "darkness" she injected into Book Eight was just right to prepare me, and hopefully my readers, for Book Nine. Some young people, of course, shy away from "dark" stories, and some parents try to protect their children from such stories. That's okay, as the "darkness" we are moving toward may only allow passage by a few.
J. Z. Colby
Greetings from NEBADOR Book Nine: A Cry for Help,
The Muses, or whatever you would like to call those mysterious sources of inspiration, don't always just inspire. Sometimes they issue orders.
For a long time, Calliope (epic peotry) was my main inspiration, as she probably is for most novelists. Thalia (comedy), Melpomene (tragedy), Erato (love), and Polyhymnia (sacred poetry) also had things to say, of course.
Then, as I was finishing NEBADOR Book Six and beginning Book Seven, another presence began to be felt, almost like a shadow lurking in the corners of my mind. It took a while, and many long walks and meditations, to figure out who it was.
Clio, the Muse of History, started speaking more and more clearly and ... almost forcefully ... as Book Eight passed and Book Nine, the epic conclusion of the NEBADOR saga, began to be drafted. But even as the other Muses stepped aside and Clio's voice became dominant, I became aware that writing and polishing Book Nine wasn't all she expected of me.
She also instructed me to GIVE Book Nine to anyone who was led to discover it by the mysterious workings of the universe. I don't expect anyone to understand this who lives their life solely by the rules of human society. Those of you who can understand, will understand.
This story is for those who are young and would like the Earth to still be livable when you grow up. A few older people, with their eyes and ears open, might also enjoy it.
I'm sorry, but the ultimate fate of the planet in the story was not revealed to me, and I chose not to just "make something up." Perhaps that will encourage people to continue pondering the themes of the story long after reading it. That would be good, and very timely.
J. Z. Colby
Afterthoughts from NEBADOR Book Nine: A Cry for Help,
The planet Ko-tera Three may be a mirror into which we are invited to look, but it will probably appear, to most people, dark and smokey. If the smoke in that mirror ever clears, which could happen very quickly, we will wish for a child with a lifetime of memories, and a golden deep-space response ship, but may very well discover that they are all busy elsewhere.
Ultimately, I'm glad that the long-term future of Ko-tera Three was not mine to know and write about. The future of our own similar predicament is also not mine to know.
We may have sealed our fate by using up the 40 years since we got our warning (back in the 1970s). During that time, we succeeded in giving a fair fraction of the human race the lifestyles that only kings and queens of old enjoyed. Perhaps that is natural for any intelligent species. I speculate in the NEBADOR stories that some sapient creatures heed the warnings and do what is neccessary to get their societies into balance with the climates and ecosystems of their planets, but I don't really know.
There is no shame in belonging to a species that cannot "rule the Earth" forever. We have lots of company. Every type of creature has its limitations, and every species tends to get out-of-balance with its environment when life, for any reason, becomes too easy.
Individuals, like you and me, are always free to transcend what the "average" person thinks and does, and what society, corporations, and the governments "say" we should think and do. That's called spiritual growth. In the end, all that matters is what each of us takes with us in our hearts, minds, and souls. Societies, civilizations, empires, and entire species come and go, always have, and probably always will. NEBADOR, or whatever you would like to call it, watches over them and guides them, but is most interested in that rare, special person who never quits learning.
If even one young person, like maybe you, gains a good understanding from the NEBADOR stories of the differences between good and evil, balance and imbalance, true sapience and mere sentience, then I will have succeeded in my mission.
J. Z. Colby
Greetings from NEBADOR Book Ten: Stories from Sonmatia,
I must admit to being in a very strange mood, one that has lasted for many months, as I complete the final polishing of this book. To understand this mood, I must think back over the previous year of writing Escape from Sonmatia Two, coaxing the seven youth who attempted short stories for the Last NEBADOR Writing Contest, and finally helping the three who finished their stories to make them as good as possible.
Although we usually think of "moods" and other emotional states as stemming from human relationships, it appears that my current mood is coming from Mother Earth herself. During late 2015 and early 2016, some very unsettling news has begun to peek out of the usual noise of mostly-unimportant happenings around the world. These critical news items, completely ignored by the vast majority of people, are starting to make me think that my inspirations for the NEBADOR series are drying up at just the right time.
Mother Earth is changing, and she's not keeping it a secret. A thousand -- maybe ten thousand -- news stories could fit this description, but three rise above all the rest. First, she's getting hotter. As I write these words, the Earth has been experiencing record heat for twelve months in a row. Second, the floating Arctic ice cap is thinning and melting. It might look about the same, but it's in terrible condition and getting worse quickly. Third, just this spring the Carbon dioxide level in the air did a major jump upward that is hard to explain.
None of these three things has ever happened before, except maybe far back in deep geologic time. These three news items are telling me that slow, creeping climate change is NOT what is happening. Predictions for slight changes by the year 2100 are wrong. A new game is afoot, which is beginning to be called "climate disruption."
I hope all the NEBADOR stories will help prepare young people for the years ahead. I wish I could spend a week with each of you, showing you the joys of climbing a thousand feet in elevation, from the river to the ridge, to strengthen your bodies, or walking through the woods at night with coyotes yapping in the distance, to strengthen your minds. I will continue to teach and train the few young people, and their families, who are sent to me by the universe, and hope that these stories help the rest of you deal with the changes happening to Mother Earth.
J. Z. Colby
Farewell to Nebador
In this still moment, after reading about the courage of two friends, Green and Blue, it is time to say good-bye to Nebador.
Ilika, Kibi, Mati, Rini, Boro, Sata, and sometimes Ashley and her team, are out there in the stars, flying their beloved deep-space response ship on missions of all kinds. Susan and Alex have glimpsed Nebador, but have returned home. Daphne, Dem, Tir, and Green have just begun their adventures.
Kodi, Buna, Misa, Toli, Neti, Risan Gor, Liberty, Shawn, Blue, and countless others continue to live their lives on the mortal spheres of time and space, looking for what happiness and purpose they can find.
Miko, Nosta, T'shlix, Jenny, Jimox, Teina, and that girl of many names whom I usually just call Heather, have graduated into the mysteries that lie beyond mortal life.
Kerloran, Melorania, Shemultavia, and Dorolora, who are known by many names, along with others like them who did not enter our story, continue to watch over Nebador.
This humble author, and his readers, are now living close to the times that Heather foresaw, but without the benefit of wise leaders like Susan and Alex. We must, therefore, turn our attention to the years ahead, when the sounds of chugging and whirring cease, and the wild creatures who remain can once again hear each other's voices in life and graceful death.
A few of us might find a place in that world for a little while longer, as witnesses, and for training. Perhaps I will meet you deep in the woods around Mt. Brynion, or somewhere on the banks of the Coweeman River. When the coyotes perk up their ears, listen for the soft sounds of a minor pentatonic flute.
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