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Don Sakers was launched the same month as Sputnik One, so it was perhaps inevitable that he should become a science fiction writer. A Navy brat by birth, he spent his childhood in such far-off lands as Japan, Scotland, Hawaii, and California. In California, rather like a latter-day Mowgli, he was raised by dogs.

As a writer and editor, he has explored the thoughts of sapient trees (The Leaves of October), brought ghosts to life (Carmen Miranda's Ghost is Haunting Space Station Three), and beaten the "Cold Equations" scenario ("The Cold Solution," Analog 7/91, voted best short story of the year.) He's best known for his Scattered Worlds space opera series. Don is also the book reviewer for Analog Science Fiction & Fact, where he writes the "Reference Library" column in every issue. Don lives at Meerkat Meade in suburban Baltimore with his spouse, costumer Thomas Atkinson. Having recently retired from 42 years with the local public library, he is hard at work becoming a starving writer.

The Leaves of October by Don Sakers

The Hlutr…Immensely old, terribly wise...and utterly alien. Long before life crawled from the oceans of Earth, the forests of the Hlutr stood on a million worlds. Their soundless songs filled space, and their mastery of evolution had brought peace to countless planets.

When Humanity went out into the stars, they found the Hlutr waiting for them. Waiting to observe, to converse, to help. Waiting to judge...and, if necessary, to destroy. Humans were savage, uncontrolled, aggressive and unpredictable.

Should the Hlutr encourage Humans — or exterminate them?

CURATOR'S NOTE

Sakers' Scattered World series is full of terrific reads, and this is a great introduction to it. As M.C.A. Hogarth notes, "How often do you see stories from the standpoint of sapient trees?" Think alien ents. And enjoy. – Cat Rambo

 

REVIEWS

  • "An underrated SF gem."

    – Wavelengths Online
  • "Don Sakers has woven a wonderful tapestry of tales together into a greater whole with The Leaves of October."

    – Rambles
  • “Uniquely striking and beautifully handled – Staley Schmidt
 

BOOK PREVIEW

Excerpt

I am but a sapling, yet already I have become proficient in the reading of the First Language, in the rustles and whispers of the Second Language, and even a bit in the vast soundless waves of the Inner Voice with its meanings from beyond the sky.

I am also skilled in relations with the other orders of life, although this world has circled its sun but a dozen times since I broke soil. You may find it strange to hear a Hlut speak of relations with other orders—these are the Hlutr, you may say to yourselves, who stand so far above the others that they touch the clouds, who live so long that the watch mountains change, who talk among themselves in their two languages (for what can you know of the Inner Voice?) all oblivious to the world. How, you may ask, can they even be aware of others?

And your thoughts are partly right, Little Ones—but only partly. True, the Elders...those who are old even as the Hlutr count time…do not pay that much attention to others. True, they live so slowly that your lives are but a flicker, and to them you are less than goats are to a mountain. Yet you must not make mountains of us, Little Ones, for we are alive (even as are you) and we know the pains and beauties of living. We feel kin to all life.

Let me assure you that the Hlutr do care, tiny and ephemeral as you are. We know you and feel you and cherish you, although you may not think so; for truly, we do not speak with you and seldom acknowledge you. We are aware of the flying creatures who perch upon us, of the land beings who jump, walk and creep around us; of the grubs and many-legged crawlers who live on us and in us and within the ground beneath our roots. We appreciate, we feel for, we cherish all Little Ones—down to the tiny, primal bits of pulsing, growing, mindless life within you and their dull feeling for the Inner Voice, their dull awareness of the great world about them.

I have been taught to be even more conscious of you, Littles, than are my brethren Hlutr. I have been taught by Elders and normal Hlutr alike, living so fast that I have fit many of your lifetimes into my scant dozen years. With each day I grow better with the First and Second Languages, the expressions of my people; with each day I become more attuned to the waves of the Inner Voice…not only that I might communicate with my brethren of far-off worlds, but also that I might talk with you, Little Ones.

Why, you may ask, have I been created this way, why have I been bred and trained into such a non-Hlutr type of Hlut? You may wonder what need the Elders have of a Hlut like me. I wonder too, my Littles. I have some idea. There are whispers in the wind, and pulses in the Inner Voice, that bear news across the galaxy and around the world to me. There is news from the Ancients of Nephestal, whose culture is almost as old as the Hlutr.

The Daamin, the Ancients, tell us that there is a new race ready to come forth and join the Scattered Worlds of the Galaxy. We will all have company soon, dear Little Ones, and I believe the Elders with to be ready for these new ones.

There are strange stories about them, stories which I do not quite understand. The Daamin tell of these new ones, these Humans, and of their distant planet and their odd ways. We have learned of our stunted relatives the Redwoods of Terra; we have been told of Animals and Dolphins and some of the Humans' strange societal customs (some of them a little like the many-legged crawlers and some of the grubs). In their own way they have studied the Universal Song and learned some of its principles. Enough, at least, to harness some of the power of the First Cause. And they are coming, Little Ones; already their seeds flash outward from their world at speeds as fast as the Inner Voice can move, and soon they will be here among us.

Little Ones, we must prepare for the Humans.