The key to reading Robert Stikmanz’s Prelude to a Change of Mind is keeping an open mind. Described in an introductory letter from publisher’s media kit as a fairy tale for adults, it is further designated The First Book in The Lands of Nod; as we all know, being first leaves little by way of making a sound comparison. However, based upon my love of the sci-fi and fantasy genres, I delved into this maiden work by the Texas-native author with the first prerequisite ingredient: an open mind.
Our story opens with an onslaught of imagery: in one fell swoop, the reader is introduced to beings whose physical likenesses defy any known dimensions; places and locations which require orientation of considerable mental effort; events that demand placement in time and context to establish a reader’s sense of understanding of where the part fits within the whole; the identification of the story’s major character(s) to give the reader his/her first hint as to where his/her loyalties might ultimately lie. Quite the tall order, yet we get these demands within the first two or three pages of this extremely short first tale. [Onslaught: blitz, attack, ambush, assault, offensive.] The reader’s open mind instinctively goes on the defensive.
Rob Lewis, writing under the pseudonym r. stikmanz (aka Robert Stikmanz), populates his fantasy land of Nod with creatures of varying origins, ranging from the mythological and fey to our world in the here and now. In Prelude to a Change of Mind, the former chapbook artist and poet sets his audience’s travel agenda on a course for a land where the inhabitants make frequent ‘visits’ to our present-day existence. Making what they call “jumps from consensa to consensa” bearing messages against our doomful way of life, they stage a campaign to enlist specific persons from among us as worthy candidates to assist them in saving us from our own irresponsible misuse and abuse of our resources and each other.
Patricia Margaret “Meg” Christmas is an eighteen-year-old human from contemporary planet Earth. Over a period of several days, she is nursed, stroked, and serenaded through some elusive illness by beings she discovers are called thrm’m - creatures with empathic powers from a different dimension. This illness, she learns, has stolen her last remaining (closest and most beloved) relative.
During her recovery, Meg receives unexpected enlightenment from the self-appointed guardians of these tiny nurturing creatures. Identifying themselves as dvarsh (dwarves/elves), Jack “Jackanapes” Plenty (with the power of intuition and a questionably talented poet) and Ekaterina Rigidstick (cousin to Jack and the ‘metamathemage’ of their 4-person unit) hope to persuade Meg to join their ‘cause’ in what was discovered, according to the two, “approximately four thousand years” before to be “the manifold nature of being, the fact that all possibilities are.” Suddenly alone, the girl finds that genetically, ethnically, and mentally, she might possess the capability to help them save our world.
Prelude to a Change of Mind at times tried my patience; at other times it was impressive in its ability to lure the reader into the story. It is written in a narrative voice that varies in pace, scope and appeal. The major social, ecological, political, racial/ethnical, religious, and economic issues which preoccupy our minds or screams at us in the headlines each day take center stage. They are the topics that apparently dominate the attention of untold numbers of worlds and dimensions, of which we here in our own consensa are totally unaware even exist.
The mind in question in Prelude to a Change of Mind happens to belong to our major character, Meg. Her Dvarsh tutors have a small window of time in which to change her way of thinking, to educate and train her to take her place in the unit beside them. The question is what does she have to do to help save our world? And, will she change her mind to save the world?
I found it difficult to empathize with Meg, could find appreciation in neither Jack’s wit nor Ekaterina’s unwavering stability and lucidity, and found little wonder in the adorable little creatures. Perhaps this 168-page (149 pages of which comprise the tale) novel gave the author too little time in which to develop his story.