The Secret of Secrets is my series of New Wave-y sci-fi books beginning with Everything Fails. It is, in a sense, one very long book. But it’s a lot more than that because each book is a complete novel in its own right, with its own themes and ambitions. Plus, the series is metafictional, so the books themselves are discussed in the books themselves, if that makes any sense. There are a few completely fictional books within the series: the Book of Life, the Book of the Dead, and the Secret of Secrets.
Now when I say completely fictional …
There’s a medieval treatise called Secretum Secretorum, which means—more or less—the secret of secrets. So there’s that. You can research that if you’re into that sort of thing.
There are Judeo-Christian documents known as the Book of Life and the Book of The Dead.
Right? So the books in my books are not those books. They just have the same name. If you think there may be some other connection … welllll …
Me, myself, I, that is Teresa Van Santana, your humble narrator. I split my time between the 21st and 32nd Centuries, working in the future as a private secretist and in what you call the present as, well, a writer. I do other things, too, but they’re secret, so sorry but I can’t tell you.
Lila Juno. She’s my wife and the mother of our two children, Mason and Fox. Lila’s a filmmaker by trade, which is one of those dead but revitalized artisan niche occupations in the Thirty-Second Century. You know the kind. We do not get along very well.
My son Mason is 6 but is about the size of a 8 year old. He’s curious and talkative and loves stories, just like his parents. He loves cats, too.
We have two cats—Hamlet and Laertes. That’s a coincidence—their names, I mean. I know that’s hard to swallow coming from a writer, but I swear it’s true. We adopted Larry when he was a kitten, then many years later rescued Hamlet, who was already so named. They’re the same age, too, another coincidence.
Horace Délasser is my best friend since childhood—my brother, really. He’s married first to Ada, then later to Dole. He and Ada have two kids that I call Crow and Weasel. Horace is a major in The Ministry of Planets Armed Response, Aerospace Division. He’s also a spy. But you don’t know that, right? Could be hazardous to your health.
My Friend on the Inside. So, hey, I’m sorry but some of the characters in my books don’t really have names at first. I know, I know. This requires a little more effort on your part—as the reader, I mean—because you have to sit there and wonder who the hell this person is with only a description like “my friend on the inside.” So who is it? Well, they are Brim, like I was. They also give me clues to their identity as the series goes along. If you really want to know who they are, that gets revealed in book 6, Love Is What You Have. They give me a codename for them in book 5, We Can Never Go Back, and that’s when I start trying to guess who they might be. But, yeah, that’s books 1, 2, 3 & 4 of not knowing who they are. Which is rough, I’ll grant you that. But, hey! It’ll make the pay off interesting, right?
Klava. Oh, jeez. Let’s see. How to describe Klava. Well, she’s an assassin. She’s from another place, like another reality altogether. I access this reality through a series of sites where the boundary between the two worlds is weak. You’ve heard of stuff like before, right? Of course you have. Anyhoo, Klava’s very reliable and we have kind of a thing, but she’s also very violent—you know, like you might expect an assassin to be—and usually takes odd forms of payment. Like body parts. She’s introduced in book 2, These Are The Things I Know, and is in most books thereafter.
Cobie. That’s my nickname for Maria Luisa Jacobi. She’s my personal physician, a role she never really signed up for but sort of fell into. She’s an ophthalmologist, but I kind of go to her for whatever I need medically. Oh and we used to date. So there’s that. I don’t ever say it explicitly in the books, but she’s also a little Aspy.
Condé Groesbeek. The mysterious galactic restaurateur who buys the shitty coffee shop next to my place of work and turns it into a decent café. We become friends but … it’s complicated. Our relationship is detailed in book 3, The Grand Story of Not, book 4, The Thieves Of All That You Are, and book 5, We Can Never Go Back.
Knot. Well, let’s see. Knot is not from my present but my future. They know a lot about me and my life. They can read not only body language as I can but actual thoughts. They are the Master Secretist who teaches me the secret of secrets. They claim to have been with me throughout various difficult points in my life—such as the Blast, Down In The Underground and stuff like that—but I really have no idea who they are. Yeah, yeah. They showed me their face once, so I actually know now, okay? But I’m not telling. I think there’s a lot of clues, though, so you can piece it together if you want.
Dwizaal. I usually just call him D. His nature and identity is one of the central mysteries of the series, so I don’t want to say too much about him. I’ll lay it out as clearly and non-spoiler-y as I can. Whatever he is, he’s tied to the Jungle Planet where I grew up—that’d be Meezed-Zedbee II. Some people on the Jung can see him other than me, but no one on other planets seem to be able to see him. (Well, other than Knot.) Most of the myth surrounding him on the Jung is that he’s a demon. Like, the possessing sort of demon. But at other times he’s said to me that he’s something more like a displaced soul. And he’s got a grudge against me. Why? Well, that’s part of the mystery, y’all.
A stroller-carrier system for babies that has automated components to it. Parents in the 32C love them. They’re dangerous, IMHO, but I use them from time to time because busy.
A beam is probably most analogous to a tv show or a newspaper. It’s a serially updated piece of media. People can watch beams on personal external readers or through implants.
Bits are the basic unit of galactic currency.
E.g., “I just bought this rad 500 bit dress,” or “Ten thousand bits? You gotta be fuckin’ kidding me! No way it’s worth that much.”
One carries bits in a bitpurse, which sounds a lot like “coin purse” used to; however, bitpurses are not literal purses but tiny chips. Bits are transferred touchlessly through secure broadcast, bitpurse to bitpurse, Most bitpurses are embedded in other objects—like a bracelet or something—though you can transfer the little chip dealie to clothing or pretty much anything. Some people have them installed in teeth. Ew.
Brims & Trenches
I started my professional career as a secretist working for the galactic government. The name of the agency I worked for is the Ministry of Secret Matters, sometimes just called the Ministry of Secrets. My nickname for people who work for the Ministry of Secrets is Brims & Trenches. Why? Because they wear a fedora-style hat and a long coat, like a trench coat. They also wear identity masks, which are literal masks, yeah, painted pale with black lips, but they also mask the wearer’s bioelectromagnetic signature. (Note that I said, “mask” not “hide;” see ghosting for more info on hiding that shit.) The astute reader will notice that I use they/them pronouns for Brims (yes, even in the singular) because their gender is usually concealed. “Brim” is also considered insulting by some—kind of like “cop” in the 21C.
Bubble™, Brought to you by CoDex Corporation and Cosmic Communication Concern
People get confused about Bubble, but I’m not sure why. It’s just social media, okay? It’s the 32C version of all that. Wanna talk to someone? Blow them a Bubble. Don’t get them? Let a message stick to their paper. See? Easy peasy. Now, if you want to actually talk to someone in real life, good luck with that …
A somewhat racist term for a Tauran. I’m not personally offended by it, but it’s not a good look to go around dropping words like this. Oh, and many secretists are Taurans—though certainly not all—so sometimes people use the word “bull” to refer to a secretist also, even though that’s not always correct. Language, right? People talk how they talk!
Yeah, we got ‘em. Ours fly, which is rad, and most are interstellar capable. They also have standard autopilot and virtual assistant personalities. Cars don’t “park” in the 32C, they “dock.”
Short for chemicals, okay? This covers illicit drugs as well as legal ones. I don’t do a lot of drugs these days, but I used to in the Jung. I occasionally use legal, performance enhancing chems for difficult field work.
Both the physical space where cars are stationed and the act of stationing a car to rest so you can disembark. So it’s not a parking lot, it’s a parking dock, or just a dock. Lots of ‘em are on rooftops.
A person with a non-binary sense of gender. Usually it’s an identity thing, but it could cover expression too. This is the safest assumption to make if you don’t know someone. But remember what they say about assumptions …
Every living thing gives off energy signatures. A lot of non-living things, too. Anyhow, ghosting is a set of techniques for hiding one’s energy signatures so well that you appear to not be there. Notice this is not the same as masking because that will show either an absence of energy where there should be some or a distortion of what one would expect to see. No, ghosting is close to true invisibility because you’re matching the surrounding energy. I’m Tauran, so this comes easier to us than humans.
A special, rotating door that manages different gravity levels in environments where gravity is variable.
Technically it’s Meezed-Zedbee II, but most people call it the Green Jungle Planet. I almost always refer to it as the Jungle or the Jung. I moved there at the end of 3076, when I was about 11½. Book 7, Be A Dark Horse! (alternately titled A Ministry of Ignorance) is all about the Jung. I sometimes use “jungle” as an adjective to describe any old lunacy that I think is reminiscent of the sort of wild shit one might see in the Jungle. Notice that I am just as like to say “in the Jungle” as “on the Jungle.”
A kinesic register. Okay, thanks, T. What the eff is that? A kinesic register spots body movements, gestures, and other nonverbals and compares them against a database to give the user a probable intention of the actor. It’s used by security to spot dangerous people, by healing professions to understand how people are feeling—especially when they don’t themselves understand what they’re feeling, and by secretists to … well, that’s secret. I have one installed in my brain—a kinny, I mean.
Mim, mimsy, and Jesse James are all the same thing. It’s illegal, street-grade mnemosynoxone, which is a memory altering chem used a lot in interrogation. Mim’s super popular because it lets the user revise history to how they’d prefer to remember their life rather than how it actually happened. The effects aren’t lasting, though, so you gotta take more. Ends up creating a dementia-like effect in long-term users but does not respond to dementia treatment. So it’s bad effing news.
Here’s what I can tell you: it’s a professional job that requires a minimum of a few years of preparation and training, the job duties of which include meeting with people in secret, listening to what they have to tell you, and then not telling anyone else what’s been told to you. There’s more to it than that—like, a lot more—but that’s all I can tell you. Why? ‘Cause it’s secret. Duh.
Physical reinforcement of arteries and veins to protect against rupture. Many Brims have this enhancement.
A competing but somewhat interlacing telecommunication product that’s similar to Bubble™. Its focus is more on using still imagery, preproduced vids, and pithy text to grow ones brand strength rather than actual communication. But who’s keeping track, really? If you ain on Swiggle making a Swiggle spew and getting people to watch your swagger, than you’re irrelevant in the 32C. Or so my publicist keeps telling me.
Folks from an alien minority supposedly originating in a planetary system around Aldebaran (also known as Alpha Tauri)—but who the hell knows. There aren’t too many of us, and we’re not super good at sticking together. Our differences are mostly genotypic, so we look and act like other humans. Well, more look than act, in my humble opinion, but whatevs. We’re better at certain things—or at least have that reputation—such as feeling the feelings of others, sensing danger, and hiding.
I use “they” and “them” to refer to people when either a) I do not know their gender, or b) that is their preferred set of pronouns. It’s my preferred set, by the by, even for the singular. This is in no way grammatically incorrect for two reasons: 1) way better writers than anyone who would offer criticism of this usage used they in this manner, writers such as, oh, I dunno, Chaucer and Shakespeare, and 2) there are people who use the words in this way in real life, as opposed to some ivory fucking tower somewhere handing down edicts on how people should speak versus how they actually do. If it seems like I have some anger on this subject, you’re not wrong. This is a 21Cst Century thing, by the way—not a 32C thing. So wake up and join life, please.
The 32nd Century, part of the 4th Millennium—which I sometimes call the 4Mill or the Fourth Milly—we’re about 90-ish years shy of the 184.108.40.206.0 long count, if you’re into that sort of thing. Life’s not so different from the 21st—at least, that’s what I think, and part of why I’ve chosen to compare the two times. It’s also a metaphor for the disappointment of the actual future as now present when contrasted with the expected future of the past. If that makes any sense. If not, just ignore it.
The century of human history in which you find yourself. I am totally fucking enamored of it, which is why all my novels are written in a 21st Century style. Some would say that’s also why they are difficult to read. But you can’t listen to critics, or you won’t write a fuckin’ thing.