THE RAVEN -- November 17, 2004
[A semi-regular free message & gift from Peter S. Beagle to everyone on the www.peterbeagle.com e-mailing list]
Greetings to all as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, faster than any of us here can quite believe. For this RAVEN we've got a special freebie for you, a fable straight from the depths of Peter's filing cabinet that is both very funny and all too sadly true.
But first! (Cue old newsreel fanfare)
HEADLINE 1: UNABRIDGED LAST UNICORN AUDIOBOOK COMPLETED. PETER THRILLED BUT EXHAUSTED AFTER EPIC BATTLE TO RECORD CLOSING SONG.
Yes, for the first time ever there is going to be an unabridged audiobook of THE LAST UNICORN, with Peter reading the text, original music by LA-based guitarist/composer Jeff Slingluff, and stunning cover and booklet visuals by award-winning artists Leo and Diane Dillon. All the recording and editing is now finished and everyone involved is extremely pleased with the final result. Co-Producer/Engineer Jim Lively even thinks it has a shot at being nominated for an audiobook Grammy, and we certainly hope he's right!
Distribution details and official release date are being worked out now, and will be announced just as soon as they are locked in. In the meantime, it's safe to say that the audiobook will be available first as a downloadable MP3 (for folks who like to listen on computer or portable player) followed soon after by a release in boxed CD format. We hope that all of you will like it and spread the word.
Now, about that closing song...
Back when Peter first wrote THE LAST UNICORN's final lyric ("None But A Harper"), he came up with an original melody he liked very much. During development of the audiobook, however, it became clear that this melody of his, the one he'd been singing for nearly 40 years, didn't work with Jeff Slingluff's new music at all. Not even a little bit. And Peter *loved* Jeff's music. So Peter and Jeff and co-producer Connor Freff Cochran got together at Jeff's place in Thousand Oaks, California, where they spent a kickass evening around the kitchen table improvising a new approach that everyone liked. (Guitars and Marquerita Mix were involved. Tough to argue with the combination.) But when it came time to actually record the final vocal, well, that original version just wasn't ready to bite the dust. Take after take, Peter would start out strong in the new mode, only to find himself shifting back to the old melody somewhere in the middle, or, worst of all, on the very last note of an otherwise perfect take. The struggle was epic -- took two whole nights to get right, in fact. But the effort and headache was worth it, because in-between these two Recording Sessions From Hell, Peter and Connor came up with an even niftier bridge section.
HEADLINE 2: HE FINALLY WROTE A SEQUEL!
People have been begging Peter to write a sequel to THE LAST UNICORN since the day it was published. He has always said no, he couldn't. That there wasn't any more story there to tell.
Turns out he was wrong.
We are incredibly pleased to announce the upcoming release of "Two Hearts," the sequel to THE LAST UNICORN. Or perhaps it would be better to call it a "coda" rather than a sequel, because in fact this wonderful story doesn't so much follow up on THE LAST UNICORN as bring it to a perfect and heartbreaking close.
If you loved THE LAST UNICORN, you will have to read this story. And if you know anyone else who shares your love of Peter's best-known book, they're going to want to read it too.
General publication of "Two Hearts" is scheduled for summer 2005, but it will be available before that in a signed, limited edition collector's chapbook that Conlan Press will be giving away FREE to advance purchasers of THE LAST UNICORN audiobook.
Details to come. In the meantime, spread the word! The long, long wait for the rest of Lir and Amalthea's story is almost over.
THIS RAVEN'S GIFT -- "THE FABLE OF THE MOTHS"
[About this piece, Peter says: "'The Fable of the Moths' owes its existence to the fine poet and novelist Al Young, who, back in the mid-1960's, published a good, small, short-lived magazine called LOVE. Perhaps because he knew that I loved the fables of La Fontaine, and the modern ones written by George Ade and James Thurber, he asked me specifically to contribute a fable of my own to the first issue of the magazine. It's been a long time, but my memory is that the moth story popped into my head entire, almost as you have it here. People have called it cynical and hopeless, but I wasn't writing it in that frame of mind. I believe that human beings are actually quite capable of learning those things necessary for the survival of the species. The problem is that they tend not to want to know them, and so they are inevitably forced to relearn the same old stuff in every generation. Makes for *very* slow progress, and starts to get really dangerous around 1914 or so."]
THE FABLE OF THE MOTHS
by Peter S. Beagle
Once there was a young moth who did not believe that the proper end for all mothkind was a zish and a frizzle. Whenever he saw a friend or a cousin or a total stranger rushing to a rendezvous with a menorah or a Coleman stove, he could feel a bit of his heart blacken and crumble. One evening, he called all the moths of the world together and preached to them. "Consider the sweetness of the world," he cried passionately. "Consider the moon, consider wet grass, consider company. Consider glove linings, camel's-hair coats, fur stoles, feather boas, consider the heartbreaking, lost-innocence flavor of cashmere. Life is good, and love is all that matters. Why will we seek death, why do we truly hunger for nothing but the hateful hug of the candle, the bitter kiss of the filament? Accidents of the universe we may be, but we are beautiful accidents and we must not live as though we were ugly. The flame is a cheat, and love is the only."
All the other moths wept. They pressed around him by the billions, calling him a saint and vowing to change their lives. "What the world needs now is love," they cried as one bug. But then the lights begin to come on all over the world, for it was nearing dinnertime. Fires were kindled, gas rings burned blue, electric coils glowed red, floodlights and searchlights and flashlights and porch lights blinked and creaked and blazed their mystery. And as one bug, as though nothing had been said, every moth at that historic assembly flew off on their nightly quest for cremation. The air sang with their eagerness.
"Come back! Come back!" called the poor moth, feeling his whole heart sizzle up this time. "What have I been telling you? I said that this was no way to live, that you must keep yourselves for love - and you knew the truth when you heard it. Why do you continue to embrace death when you know the truth?"
An old gypsy moth, her beauty ruined by a lifetime of singeing herself against nothing but arclights at night games, paused by him for a moment. "Sonny, we couldn't agree with you more," she said. "Love is all that matters, and all that other stuff is as shadow. But there's just something about a good fire."
*MORAL: Everybody knows better. That's the problem, not the answer.*
Text for this RAVEN by Peter S. Beagle and Connor Freff Cochran. Logistics and delivery handled by Kim Flournoy. To learn more about Peter's work and to stay current with his latest personal and professional news, come to www.peterbeagle.com
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