Mid-list science fiction writer Karen Guerreri imagines that her characters talk to her as she writes; her latest opus, Preternatural, is being dictated by the S.oteri, group-minded omniscient, omnitemporal, telepathic jellyfish. Among the S.oteri's other contactees (the aliens have no concept of serial time, so it's all happening right now) are the pharaoh Akhenaton, a female near-Messiah and contemporary of Jesus called Jess, and Hypatia, keeper of the great library at Alexandria--all of whom, according to conventional history, came to sticky ends. Karen, suspecting that the S.oteri are real, becomes convinced when she meets some other current contactees: Serena Bell, a terminally ill sketch- artist and sf fan; psychic and writer Tessa McGill; actor Larry Koster, who played a Captain Kirk type in a Star Trek-like series; and Larry's ex-sidekick Max Neimark, who played a sort of three- eyed Spock. Larry and Tessa, eyes lighting up with dollar signs, grab ideas from Karen's book and collaborate on a screenplay. Meanwhile, the S.oteri, deeply disturbed by the prolonged contact with humans, plan to withdraw. But, since they're entangled in the Earth's past, history may change utterly if they do. Intriguing, well-considered ideas and above-average characters from Bonanno (Otherwise, 1993, etc.). The real obstacle is the seemingly interminable twiddling between setup and payoff.