Free Ralph!
An Evolutionary Fable

Author's Foreword

This book was a gift of my adventure with cancer— along with a new and deeper appreciation of my life and loved ones, and a new and curlier head of hair.

Late one night as I lay in the hospital, suffering a rare toxic reaction to one of my chemo drugs, running a high fever and unable to eat or sleep, the opening scene began to unfold in my head. I followed the words to see where they led. When I came home to recuperate and then resume my treatment, the story kept coming, scene after scene after scene.

It did not come out of nowhere. Free Ralph! is the natural culmination of my bachelor’s degree in Fiction Writing, 30 years of writing in several genres, 15 years of professional editing experience, and a lifetime of novel-reading. It also draws on my longstanding love and concern for the natural world.

The depiction of our biological cousins the chimpanzees that emerged from my fever is not a “realistic” one, however. In the midst of writing it, I discovered in my bookcase Jane Goodall’s first book, In the Shadow of Man, which I must have brought home from a yard sale for my animal-loving wife, Dawn. Reading Dr. Goodall’s account of her pioneering work helped me re-shape the daily habits and activities of my chimps to outwardly resemble “reality.” But realism is not the point of this particular story.

Nor is Free Ralph! exactly a fantasy. Calling it a “Fable” seems to sum it up best. And like all fables, the story came with a message. I believe the timeliness of this message is one reason I “lived to tell the tale.” One who has lived through the ordeal of cancer dares not question its gifts. But writing it was the most fun I ever had, and I have no doubt that this played an equal role in my recovery.

Among the many authors to whom the story owes a literary debt, I am particularly thankful to Edgar Rice Burroughs, author of the Tarzan novels— one of my earliest passions as a reader— and to Daniel Quinn, author of the Ishmael novels. I hope you’ll find Free Ralph! worthy of my debt to them.

But if not, don’t blame me. Blame it on my fever.

On to the next adventure! Blessings,

Stephen Wing

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