Carol E. Slider
Preface to The Kentucky Chronicles
CAROL E. SLIDER (B. 1963)|
Preface to The Kentucky Chronicles
The Kentucky Chronicles is a fifteen-volume series about a Seventh-day Adventist “alternate universe” in which there are “Arts Academies” in each state. The students at these Academies participate in the traditional arts and produce high-quality films. I created this fictional world in my head at some point very early in my life and have expanded upon it ever since. This series (almost 2,400 pages in length) is obviously my most ambitious attempt to write about it.
When I began writing the first volume of the series in 1999, I did not intend to write any more than that. I wanted only to write about one particular year in which Kentucky Academy (the school I have imagined the most extensively) begins to emerge from obscurity. Visions of the Sunrise takes place in 1977-78, when I was in junior high school and just beginning to make up more coherent and sensible stories about the Academy world. (My early grade-school fantasies about the Academies had nine- and ten-year-olds serving as administrators, directing movies, and even getting special permission to drive automobiles.)
By the time I completed Visions of the Sunrise, I had decided that I wanted to write about the next couple of years of “Academy history,” so I wrote Songbirds Never Cry. Of course, that set the stage for Book Three.
About the time I was writing Book Four (Divided Loyalties), I decided I needed a long-term plan for the series if I intended to continue. It couldn’t just be a series of incidents strung together with no larger purpose. It needed to have an ultimate destination, and I needed to begin planting clues (as one does in a mystery) about that destination all along the way.
The series begins in August 1977 and ends in July 1995. Over the course of the 18 years encompassed by the series, I have attempted to reveal the hand of Providence working through a series of seemingly disparate events. On the whole, I believe I have achieved a moderate success at this. To make it better, I would have to begin at the beginning and edit every page with this specific goal in mind. (I’m not inclined to do this, except in the highly unlikely event that someone actually becomes interested in publishing all this someday.)
MAJOR PLOT THREADS
These stories involve many intersecting characters and plot lines. Many of these (especially some in the earliest books in the series) are not developed extensively, or are developed for a time and then dropped. Some of the plot lines which inform the entire series include the following:
PRODUCTION AT KENTUCKY ACADEMY. “Production” (film-making) is the most important and profitable activity in my fictional universe. So the most consistent thread of the series deals with production at Kentucky Academy, especially the student leaders (“production directors”) who are primarily in charge of this activity. Also important to this part of the story are the writers, actors, composers and technical personnel who work in production.
INDIANA ACADEMY. Throughout most of the series, Indiana Academy is the “sister Academy” of Kentucky. Its story runs parallel to the story of Kentucky Academy, and its students, faculty and administrators often interact with those at Kentucky. In some books, Indiana’s story is almost as important as that of Kentucky. Book Fourteen (The Prayers of the Righteous) is primarily about Indiana Academy.
THE ACADEMY ADMINISTRATION. While telling the stories of Kentucky and Indiana Academies, I also tell something about the administration of the entire Academy system. During the course of the series, the Academy system gets a dictatorial leader whose actions become an important part of the outworking of the plot.
THE CHORAL DIRECTORS. While many different arts activities presumably take place at the Academies, the series focuses first upon film production. Because of my experience in choirs through the years, the choral directors at the Academies (particularly at Kentucky and Indiana Academies) also become significant characters in the series.
WEAKNESSES AND PERCEIVED WEAKNESSES
There are two major reasons why the Kentucky Chronicles may not be publishable, even if I edited them extensively.
They are not “religious enough” for a denominational publisher. The books occur within a Seventh-day Adventist world, and do not contain explicit sex scenes, foul language, etc., etc. In fact, students at my fictional Academies are probably much more conservative than actual Christian high school and college studentsat least in some ways. Nevertheless, references to God and religion are not always central to the narrative. Book 14 (The Prayers of the Righteous) contains some of the most intensely spiritual passages I have ever written. But that is not true of the entire series. The students at the schools spend a great deal of time making films, and most of these films are not specifically religious.
They are far too old-fashioned, non-ironic, denomination-specific and “traditional” for a general audience. While I can understand irony, analyze irony and write about irony, I have never been able to (and never had the desire to) write fictional irony. There are good and evil in my fictional world, and even characters who have ironic tendencies; but the edgy, knowing, too-hip tone of many contemporary works will never be mine. I usually try not to become too earnest and slide toward melodrama (an unfortunate tendency, as I greatly admire Charles Dickens); but frankly, I would rather be melodramatic than postmodern. I think that a more general non-ironic Christian audience (the audience that appreciates the Left Behind series, for example) would be put off both by the many specific references to Seventh-day Adventism and by very the obvious bias against all forms of popular music.
I do not consider these two barriers to publication to be “weaknesses” in the literary sense. The more serious weaknesses that I perceive in the series are the following:
EXPOSITION. Especially in the early books, I often stop the narrative to offer explanations in a “historical” toneas if I am writing a “history” of the Academies rather than a novel. I did this because I was writing for myself, and wanted to record and remember certain details that I had imagined about the Academy world. But it occasionally makes for dull reading, even for me.
PLOT SUMMARIES. Almost all of the films described in the novels are stories that I wrote or thought about writing. The Academy world has always been a “meta-universe” for me, encompassing all my other writings. So while I was writing a mystery, for example, I was also imagining how it would be filmed and who in the Academy world would star in it. In The Kentucky Chronicles, I sometimes stop the narrative and summarize one of these stories. If I edited the series, I would probably relegate most of the plot summaries to appendices.
NUMBER OF CHARACTERS. There are (I would guess) about 50 characters that are central to the main plot thread, and hundreds of minor characters that appear throughout the series. Some of these characters are involved in subplots that don’t seem to go anywhere. They’re important to me because they’re part of my “world,” but too much emphasis on them may weaken the series as a whole.
RESOLUTIONS. At some point, I began thinking long-term and planting clues and foreshadowings about future events. Unfortunately, this may frustrate and confuse some readers; for by the time you reach one book, you may not remember some of these clues and foreshadowings.
Certain persons have encouraged me to make all or part of these stories accessible through this web site. I would rather not do this, for various reasons. On this page, however, I’m including links to brief excerpts from each of the 15 books. If you would like to read more, please let me know. I’m usually willing to share these efforts with anyone who is really interested, and who is willing to comment upon them afterwards.
THE KENTUCKY CHRONICLES AND ITS CHRONOLOGY
Visions of the Sunrise (1977-78)
Songbirds Never Cry (1978-80)
Farewell to Autumn (1980-81)
Divided Loyalties (1981-83)
Surveying the Heights (1983-85)
Winter Dreams (1985-86)
The Maker of the Song (1986-87)
Et Lux Aeterna (1987-88)
There is a Tide (1988-89)
Shades of Night (1989-90)
Night and Day (1990-91)
Double Vision (1991-92)
Neither Height nor Depth (1992-93)
The Prayers of the Righteous (1993-94)
The Leaves of the Tree (1994-95)