Tandra of the elConn-Grey-Oran Family: Ruminations by the Author
While reviewing and editing the third book in The Archives of Varok, I have decided to explore the enigma of Tandra Grey – now Tandra elConn-Grey-Oran. Who is she really?
I'm willing to admit that she borrows parts of my life. 1) I was trained as a microbiologist, as she is, but I never pursued that career. I much preferred to raise my daughters and try writing a novel – A Place Beyond Man (with the extensive help of Harris Dienstfry, my editor at Charles Scrhibner's Sons, a valuable service now rare in the industry). 2) Sure, I love and respect animals, hence she loves and respect aliens – the ellls and varoks that are so much like humans that their alien nature comes as a surprise to Tandra and is almost more than she can deal with. 3) Shawne, my daughter, was two when APBM was first drafted, but the virtual human baby in that book grows up on an alien planet and develops her own characteristics quite apart from the real Shawne (who is now my publisher, if you haven't noticed, and a dedicated writer and editor).
But back to Tandra: In APBM she becomes the conciliator between ellls and varoks, since her natural inclinations lie somewhere between them. So why couldn't she do more conciliating between humans on Earth?
No one, not even Orram, who shares her moods and thoughts, knows much about her early history. Orram and Conn learned only that Tandra lost her parents early in life and made her career as a microbiologist through grueling hard work and some luck applying for scholarships. As far as they know, she has always worried about Earth's future.
In the third book of The Archives of Varok – Conn: The Alien Effect, coming this spring – Orram comes to understand that Tandra likes to be alone. She is exhausted by lots of company, not energized. She has a mild temperament, unless her belief system is challenged. Maybe that's it. Maybe she carries a huge load of anger over Earth's ecological and economic failures, hence she stays away from Earth when Shawne goes there to teach steady state principles.
As 21st century human society became more divided and extreme in their denial of the damage the huge human population was doing to Earth, she became an embittered recluse. Her disappointment with the human failure to preserve Earth could explain why she was so easily persuaded to leave with the aliens, trusting her child's safety to them. The child was drawn so strongly to Conn, Tandra dropped all sense of caution. Orram believed Tandra had faith in the natural goodness of sentient creatures residing in a meaningful universe. All Conn knew was that she hated what humans had done to Earth, and had no strong ties there.
Tandra is a human woman of mixed heritage, with a medium frame and small stature, but she is not delicate. She has a lovely face that can be anything from East Indian to deeply tanned Caucasian, a reflection of an ideal hybrid human. She is fiercely loyal to her new mixed family and has little trouble accepting Conn's mate, understanding that he has sexual needs as a loner that conflict with normal schooling behavior. The three deal with their various feelings of jealousy in The Webs of Varok, including Tandra's misconception of Orram's physical needs, which, unlike those in humans, are subordinate to varoks' need for mental joining. Eventually Tandra understands that is why varoks were successful in stabilizing their population ages ago.
In APBM, the sensual, aquatic ellls are immediately attracted to Tandra, believing her to be sexually driven, as most Earthlings are. The aliens have observed that life on Earth evolved with an overload of testosterone, so that every species is still driven to extremes of mating behavior and competition, often with tragic consequences, both individually and biologically. Tandra agrees. She is simply not driven by intense sexual needs. She needs confirmation more than sex, Conn agrees.
The varoks are not so sure. Tandra seems neutral sexually to them, more like themselves than ellls. They are surprised and delighted, however, when she becomes sensitive to their thought patterns and moods, enabling her mental bond with the varok Orram. Meanwhile, his elll soul-brother Conn challenges Tandra's identify as a sensual being. In coming to terms with Conn's alien nature, she goes through a Jungian Individuation from enchantment through repulsion to realism and acceptance.
Conn believes that Tandra hasn't dealt with her own physical needs. How does she react when a human male courts her? What does this mean to the family? What does this reveal about her back story? Once again the family ties are stretched, while their attempts to help Earth put their lives at risk in The Alien Effect.