In the beginning, I imagined the cover of Kelvoo’s Testimonial looking like most science fiction covers, with an artistic rendering of one of the key scenes from the book. I won’t give away what those key scenes may have been, since I wouldn’t want to reveal too much of the plot.
While I was sketching a very rough idea of what Kelvoo looks like, I was thinking about the fact that Kelvoo’s Testimonal stands out because it’s written from Kelvoo’s non-human perspective, as an autobiographical work. This made me think about some of the book covers for autobiographies of famous people. . .
. . . That’s when it occurred to me to use the idea of an autobiographical style of cover. The benefit of such a cover is that it immediately draws attention to the fact that this book, dealing with human first contact, is written from a non-human’s perspective.
Here are four conceptual mock-ups that sprang to mind.
While some (mostly me) have said that the pencil crayon drawings possess a certain “homespun charm”, I am working with a professional artist to produce a top quality depiction of a kloormar. More about that in a later blog post.
There is one item that I forgot to include on my mocked-up covers. Did you spot it?... The author’s name! Perhaps my modesty was the cause, though certain of my family members may tend to differ.
As I write this, I really don’t know what the final cover will look like, but at least you know where I started.
The short answer is “no”.
In the third (and final) part of the story, people will see parallels between the kloormari’s circumstances and those of many Native North Americans, but the overall intent of Kelvoo’s Testimonial is not to represent indigenous people for the following reasons.
Chapter 44: Back in the Village
“But Kahini,” I objected, “we are kloormari. We are defined by our language. Terran is such a limited, monophonic language. In kloormari, we can convey complicated ideas in a fraction of the time. The structure of our language develops our neural pathways in ways that are unique to us. Surely, if we lose our language, we are destined to lose our identity!”
Chapter 45: Homelands
I replied, “But K’tatmal, kloormari and human values are not the same! K’tolin didn’t understand that it was forbidden to be on a human’s land. In fact, I don’t understand the whole concept myself. Why is it that, in exchange for money, a being can have exclusive access to part of a planet? Beings can reproduce, but land cannot. What happens when all of the land is owned? What will be left for everyone else?”
Over the course of most of my career as a software developer, I have worked off and on for indigenous communities, known as “First Nations” here in Canada and “Native American Tribes” in the U.S. For several years I had thought about writing a science fiction story that could parallel some of the experiences of indigenous people when dealing with the arrival of the Europeans. I thought that the humans would represent the innocent indigenous people and alien visitors would represent the early explorers and settlers. I naïvely thought that such a story might foster a better understanding of the struggles of indigenous people. In the end, this is not how Kelvoo’s Testimonial ended up, for several good reasons! Please see my blog post, “Is Kelvoo’s Testimonial intended to reflect the experiences of native people in the Americas?” for the explanation.
As I write this, the world is in the grip of a fourth wave of a pandemic on top of several years of geopolitical upheaval, deep philosophical divisions, rising anger, and rejection of facts. In this context, how could I write a story in which humans represent goodness and innocence? At the same time, I have great hope for the future of humanity.
With my planned novel being set in the future, I wanted to portray the humans as much improved and well-intentioned, but still tragically flawed. At about the same time I thought about having the humans as the visitors and an extraterrestrial species as the recipients of the benefits and consequences of human interaction. This led to the idea that my novel could be an autobiographical account, written from the perspective of an extraterrestrial.
That’s how the idea Kelvoo’s Testimonial came to be.
Chapter 50: Pachelbel’s Canon
“It scares me that our people are starting to become more emotional and more like the humans, but human history and our experiences can serve as a cautionary tale for us. I am hopeful that we can embrace creativity and individuality while avoiding the more irrational human traits.”
In Kelvoo’s Testimonial, Kelvoo and the kloormari experience the best that humanity has to offer via the scientific human first contact team. This is followed by the dark depths of human nature that Kelvoo and his team of kloormari are subjected to when a rogue gang of lawless humans abduct them and force their participation in a crime spree spanning several star systems.
By using the lens of an outsider’s observation of the range of human behavior, Kelvoo's Testimonial explores human kindness and cruelty, indigenous rights, women's rights, gender issues, religion, prejudice, addiction, oppression, death, trauma, grief, guilt, hope, and healing.
Chapter 9: Above and Beyond
As a kloormar, I had never experienced what humans call “Love”. Having never been a human, I cannot say that what I felt in that moment was the same thing as love, but in those moments of viewing my home world from the great beyond, I experienced a feeling unlike any other before.
Within the context of my life and limitations, I fell in love with humans and everything good that humanity represented.
Chapter 26: Friendship
“That’s exactly what I’m talking about!” Bazz said emphatically. “This is just the beginning. First they worm their way onto this ship, then the captain tells all the other captains how much better they are, then they get jobs on Perdition and Exile, and before you know it, humans are the minority on our planets! These bastards are evil and they’re out to replace us. These aliens are going to sneak up on us and next thing you know, we’ve been replaced!”. . .
. . . Everyone on Sam’s Team was shocked. None of us could have foreseen that our exemplary service could actually backfire and turn our human crewmates against us…
. . . We had studied enough of human history to know what xenophobia looked like and where it invariably leads.
Countless science fiction novels have been written about humans making first contact with alien species. The difference with Kelvoo’s Testimonial is that the story is written from the perspective of a non-human whose planet is visited by the humans and whose life is changed forever as a result.
The editor who first evaluated the manuscript of my novel pointed out the unique perspective of Kelvoo’s testimonial and briefly researched to look for similar stories. It turns out that “Nor Crystal Tears” by Alan Dean Foster (1982) was written from the perspective of the insect-like “Thranx” after their initial encounter with humans. Of course, I had to read the novel! Nor Crystal Tears differs from Kelvoo’s Testimonial is it was written in third-person form and describes the Thranx's initial reaction to humans as paranoia and revulsion instead of friendship and curiosity. Nor Crystal Tears is a prequel in a series about the “Humanx Commonwealth” – an alliance between species once they overcame their mutual distrust.
I have also just finished reading the first two novellas in a series called “The Murderbot Diaries” by Martha Wells. The themes are similar to Kelvoo’s Testimonial since they are written by a non-human in first person form, however, the non-human is not an extraterrestrial, but is instead a human creation that blends robotics with organic components. The Murderbot Diaries is a bestselling series and has won Nebula and Hugo awards, among others.
At its core, Kelvoo’s Testimonial is about human nature as much as it is about the kloormari and first contact with humans. By employing the perspective of a being that has never observed humans, Kelvoo’s Testimonial challenges our notions about ourselves, our beliefs, and our core values while Kelvoo leads the reader through a series of suspenseful and dramatic adventures.
Another aspect that sets Kelvoo’s Testimonial apart is the degree of emotion. Most of the time, my reaction to a sci-fi novel is along the lines of “that was interesting”. I usually enjoy some of the technical aspects of the story along with any clever twist that a story may end with. I’ve done my best to intersperse Kelvoo’s Testimonial with humor and I haven’t shied away from the raw emotions of tragedy as I explore the aftereffects of seemingly benign human first contact on Kelvoo and the entire kloormari species.
Chapter 7: Getting to Know
In a remarkable coincidence, Bertie strode onto the scene at that moment. Bertie was carrying Sam’s midday nourishment. When she saw us gathered around the panel showing two unclothed figures she offered, “Ha ha! Look at you scamps gettin’ yer jollies gawkin’ at nekked people! Hee hee, what a bunch a pervs!”
This time I understood what Bertie was saying with the exception of “scamps”, “jollies”, “gawkin’”, “nekked”, and “bunch a pervs”.
Chapter 23: Exploring, Grime, and Punishment
As Torm started to unfasten Brawn, the crew got up and left in silence. The two uninjured women assisted their companion to her feet. They passed behind Torm and Brawn on their way out, walking through a pool of blood. The injured woman had only one of her feet touching the ground, leaving half a set of bloody footprints across the deck.
On his way out of the room, the captain touched my shoulder. He motioned toward the blood and footprints and said with a smile, “Do have your team clean that up. There’s a good chap!”
The title character of Kelvoo’s Testimonial is a kloormar. Kelvoo’s species are collectively known as the kloormari.
When I started writing Kelvoo’s Testimonial, I had an image of Kelvoo in my head. I created a rather crude line drawing of a kloormari as you can see here.
You’ll notice that the drawing includes an artist’s signature. If you wonder who Y. Sakamoto is, she’s a minor character in the book who was part of the human science team that initiated first contact with the kloormari. Yuki drew the sketch based on her observations of the kloormari.
The kloormari are intellectually superior to humans – vastly superior! Paradoxically, before first contact, they lived a stone-age existence in terms of technology. To thrive and survive, the kloormari had no need for advanced technology since they and their planet were perfectly adapted to one another. If necessity is the mother of invention, the kloormari could be thought of as orphans.
Kloormari intelligence is the result of their hyperthymestic memories. From the moment of birth, a kloormar will remember every sight, sound, and other types of stimuli. A kloormar only needs to be shown or told something once to have it committed to memory. As a result, the kloormari rapidly learned to communicate with the humans and embraced human technology at a pace never seen before in other species. The kloormari do have difficulty understanding human emotions and many aspects of human behavior… just like many humans themselves!
On first sight, humans typically find the appearance of a kloormar to border on grotesque or frightening. The same is true when a kloormar first sets its eye on a human.
At the top of a kloormar is a dome-shaped structure on a stalk. Humans tend to assume that the structure is a head on top of a neck. The dome is actually the kloormar’s segmented eye. The eye has a 360 degree horizontal and 180 degree vertical arc of vision. To humans, a kloormar’s eye is the most striking feature due to its bright yellow coloration. A kloormar has no distinct structure that would be equivalent to a head.
Four flexible cone shaped structures are found on a kloormar’s shoulders. These are the auditory organs (ears). The kloormari can swivel their ears to increase the clarity of a sound and to determine the direction of its source.
The kloormari have no front or back side due to their double-sided torsos. A kloormar can move “forward” or “backward”, relative to an observer, with equal ease. On each side of the torso are four vocal outlets of varying sizes. This allows a kloormar to produce polyphonic sounds with frequencies from the human range of hearing and beyond, well into the ultrasonic range. The kloormari can perfectly imitate any sound that a human is capable of hearing. This includes all manner of speech, music, and even sounds from mechanical equipment and nature. A kloormar can hold a conversation with a being on one side while simultaneously conversing with another being on the other side.
Below the middle of the torso, a kloormar has a pouch on each side of the body. Although the pouch appears identical on each side, the pouch on one side is for ingesting food and the other is for reproduction. The reproductive pouch can host a developing kloormari embryo while it grows into a fully formed child.
A final pair of openings at the bottom of the torso are used for breathing and to detect odors.
Like a human, a kloormar has two upper and two lower limbs. Unlike a human, each arm has two elbows and each lower limb has two knees. On the back of each kloormari hand are several dozen tendrils that can be moved independently. Six manipulators extend from the palm of each hand with each manipulator resembling an index finger and thumb.
Between the topmost and lowest limbs, a kloormari has a total of eight clasper limbs, each tipped with a manipulator. In addition to being able to move quickly in an upright position, a kloormar can lie down and move very quickly using all of its limbs, “centipede style”.
The external surfaces of a kloormar may appear to consist of exoskeletal plates, but on closer examination, a kloormar is covered in a tough, thick epidermis, similar to the skin of a rhinoceros. A kloormar’s skin is medium grey, with tiny specks of red and blue. The number of blue specks tends to increase as a kloormar ages. A kloormar’s lifespan usually extends just beyond 300 years.
The accompanying diagram is my own very poor color rendition of the frontal view of a kloormar, drawn in pencil crayon. Some say that my illustration has a certain “homespun charm”. Personally, I think it’s absolutely awful! While I’m writing this blog post, I’m starting the process of finding an illustrator who can create a quality, professional image for use on the book cover and elsewhere.
I’ve enjoyed designing the kloormari species. Their intelligence and physical attributes will be featured prominently in various parts of Kelvoo’s Testimonial.
The first step in the publishing process for Kelvoo’s Testimonial was to get a professional opinion from an independent third party. An editorial evaluation helps to determine the quality of a manuscript and discusses the steps that could be taken to improve upon the work to increase its appeal to a wide audience. I was satisfied with Kelvoo’s Testimonial and people close to me loved it, but without feedback from a neutral party, how could I really judge the work given the likely biases of my readers up to that point?
An editorial evaluation was performed in June and July, 2021. The evaluation listed the story’s strengths and areas in need of improvement. The evaluation had several pages of details. Here are just a couple of excerpts from the “Strengths” section:
“The novel is well-structured and well-paced. After setting the stage in terms of what this book is about, why it’s being written, and who the kloormari are, you do a great job of pulling us through the novel by crafting chapters that each have a clear setup, complication, and resolution.”
“Despite the fantastic subject matter, the novel also feels highly realistic. This is helped by the level of detail involved but also by the frequent asides to the reader. Over time, it feels like a real first-person account of actual events.”
Under “Potential Areas of Improvement”, the main point was:
“The only real issues I identified have to do with the mechanics of the prose itself, particularly in terms of grammar, punctuation, and style.”
This section listed a wide variety of improvements, especially regarding my writing of dialogue. Kelvoo’s Testimonial is my first significant work that is written in first person form with a great deal of dialogue, so there were many issues with correct use of quotation marks and punctuation. Additional areas needing work included:
Overall, I was very happy with the results of the editorial evaluation since it indicates that I’ve written an engaging story. At the same time, I was pleased with the level of detail and examples of areas that need to be cleaned up from a technical perspective.
As a result of the editorial evaluation, a “complex edit” is now underway to tighten up the text and improve the overall writing style without altering my story. The complex edit work started in mid-August. As I write this, we are in the first week of September, so I’m expecting to see the results in the next week or two. I can’t wait to see the improvements!
My lovely wife was my high school sweetheart and we’ve been together ever since. Cora has put up with a great many of my hare-brained schemes, including writing Kelvoo’s Testimonial! Her support has been indispensable and appreciated.
We have a wonderful daughter who wouldn’t want me to share her name or other personal details, so I’ll just say that she’s all grown up now and enjoying much success in her profession.
When Cora and I married, I wasn’t sure what to do with my life. I worked in sales and wasn’t enjoying myself. Everything changed when we purchased (I may be giving away my age here), a Commodore home computer. I dived into the rabbit hole of programming and I found myself frustrated by the technical jargon in the “how-to” programming books. That’s when I decided to write a short book to lead readers through the process of programming games on a Vic-20 computer, written in plain English. The result was that I got myself hired to create computer games, starting my software development career. I shelved any ideas of being a writer as I managed to build on my career through self-learning and the mentorship of many co-workers, far more skilled than me.
While programming may seem like an exercise in boredom and isolation to some, it broadened my horizons tremendously as I worked for various organizations, becoming familiar with diverse industries like insurance, banking, forestry, manufacturing, distribution, fisheries and first nations management. My work forced me to keep learning and stay curious. I couldn’t have written Kelvoo’s Testimonial without all of the experiences that came before it.
I don’t want to give the impression that my life revolves entirely around software development. Cora and I love travel and scuba diving. I started diving at the age of fifteen and Cora and I were scuba instructors for a brief time before we married. Our travels have taken us across Canada including the high arctic, to various parts of the U.S., and to the Caribbean, the South Pacific, the U.K. and France. I also enjoy videography and playing with drones.
Over ten years ago, I tried to write a sci-fi novel. I can’t remember any of the details of the story except that it was about a scientist who invents an anti-gravity device, which transforms the world with a whole lot of unintended negative consequences. I got about eight pages in, read it back to myself, and thought it was complete rubbish! Looking back, I think I was trying too hard to be an author; making myself use words like “diminutive”, when I could have just used “small”. Thus, my writing career was shelved once again.
My birthday in January, 2021, led me to picture the lifestyle that I’d like to have down the road when my software development career comes to a close. Once again, a rather romanticized vision of becoming a sci-fi author came into view. On January 30, I opened a new Word document and wrote, “As the morning horizon of the Kuw’baal sky began its timeless transformation from black to grey, I made my way to the algel falls…”, thus starting Kelvoo’s Testimonial.
Kelvoo is a kloormar – An extraterrestrial species living a stone-age existence, unaware that a whole universe exists beyond their planet's cloud covered sky. All of this changes when a human first-contact team lands near a kloormari village. That’s where the novel, Kelvoo’s Testimonial begins.
Kelvoo’s Testimonial is Kelvoo’s recounting of first contact with the strange and fascinating humans, and all of the joys and horrors that followed – Hence the book’s subtitle, “Surviving the aftermath of human first contact”.
After the humans arrive, the visitors and the indigenous kloormari learn to communicate. Using their vast intelligence and perfect memories, the kloormari rapidly learn about human technology and culture. Kelvoo forms a strong friendship with the human teacher, Sam Buchanan. Kelvoo loves all things human and believes that human contact was the best thing ever to happen to the kloormari.
The humans take Kelvoo and a team of kloormari on an amazing voyage in their spacecraft. During the trip, Kelvoo unintentionally causes a breach in protocol, resulting in the existence of the kloormari being leaked to the public.
Shortly after the first contact team departs, a criminal gang of "outlier" humans arrives. Taking advantage of the kloormari's admiration and trust for humans, the gang's vain and deceptive captain lures Kelvoo and eight other kloormari onto his ship, where they are promptly enslaved and forced to participate in crimes on an interstellar voyage of terror and tragedy.
The only hope for Kelvoo's team is to use their growing knowledge of human nature and technology, along with their special abilities, to outsmart the cunning captain and the merciless members of his crew.
Will Kelvoo's team survive, and what will become of the kloormari planet, now that its existence is known far and wide? Kelvoo's Testimonial is Kelvoo's personal account of human first contact and its aftermath.
Blog posts in chronological order
What is Kelvoo's Testimonial?
A bit about me
The publishing process - Editorial Evaluation
Who or what are the Kloormari?
What's the twist that differentiates Kelvoo's Testimonial?
Which issues does Kelvoo's Testimonial address?
Where did the idea of Kelvoo's Testimonial originate?
Is Kelvoo's Testimonial intended to reflect the experiences of native people in the Americas?
Book cover - Initial concepts
Depicting Kelvoo - My work with an amazing artist
Book cover - Final selection
Kelvoo.com website launch!
Original Song #1 - The Boys of Jezebel's Fury
Original Song #2 - Home on the Yangtze
Original Song #3 - Flying Away
My First Printed Copy
My First Review and Bookstore Order!
Now Available at Bolen Books!
Kelvoo's Testimonial gets a Kirkus Starred Review!
Official Launch Day!
A Sequel to Kelvoo's Testimonial?
Come Visit Me on Mastodon
Phenomenal News from Kirkus Reviews!
First Draft of Kelvoo's Terra Completed!
Kelvoo's Terra - Cover Reveal!
Kelvoo and Kindle Unlimited
Kelvoo's Terra - Official Launch!
Kelvoo's Books in your Local Bookstore
Kelvoo's Terra - First Amazon Reviews
Book 3 - Kelvoo's Teachings - First Draft