#71: Footnotes on Verse Three, Chapter One

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #71, on the subject of Footnotes on Verse Three, Chapter One.

This is about the creation of my book Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, now posted to the web site in serialized form.

I began a series of posts on what might be called the “behind-the-writing” tidbits, what went into those decisions, what were the inspirations and the sources of the stories, the characters, the book as a whole.  Some years after the first three books had been completed I went back through the first and created a collection of such thoughts, chapter by chapter, and started doing the same for the second book; I used that first document to do the web log posts that covered the events in question.  Then, when I was two-thirds through and had published #53:  Character Battles (the fourteenth of twenty-one installments covering six chapters each), I uncovered another document, a considerably older one that I had been writing concurrently with the fourth novel while the second was in editing.  Thereafter, beginning with #55:  Stories Winding Down, I integrated those earlier thoughts with the later ones (not always seamlessly, I would say, but I made the effort), and wondered about those materials from that earlier document that somehow did not make it into the later one.

I am here attempting to fill in the blanks, comparing what I wrote in that original history of the creation of the novels with what was published in the web log posts here, to provide the missing pieces.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers, so you might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  The link to the novel title will take you to the table of contents for the book; links below (the section headings) will take you to the previous behind-the-writings web log posts, where there are links directly to the referenced chapters.  There won’t be links back here in those posts, although I will endeavor to include a comment on each of them referencing this post.

I have made an effort to avoid excessive duplication, that is, including here only those insights which were not substantially covered in the previous posts.  Some of these comments are inconsistent with or even contradictory to the earlier posts, proving that my memory of events changed in some ways over a very few years.  I have not marked the contradictions as such, but preserved them simply here.  Any duplication is hopefully the minimum necessary to be able to understand this article without jumping to the earlier ones, although some might have slipped through in the copying process.  Where the memories behind a specific chapter were substantially identical in both documents, I noted that with the entry “Nothing different” rather than skipping the chapter.


This is a rather long post, and could have been divided into two or even several shorter ones.  However, response to these behind-the-writings posts has been less than enthusiastic, and although those few who wrote to say they hoped to see the second novel Old Verses New and its accompanying behind-the-writings posts were very encouraging (and included at least one Patreon supporter, which also matters), they were indeed few in number, so I don’t want to belabor this if there is not more interest than that.

We began with:

#18:  A Novel Comic Milestone, the first six chapters.

Chapter 1, Kondor 1:  Jim Denaxas thought the name was a good strong name for a comic book hero.  I made him black because I wanted to escape the all-white cast of so much fantasy, and my other two characters were going to be white for other reasons.  Joseph was my middle name, and Wade just fit.

E. R. Jones had told snippets of stories about Richard Lutz, the moral atheist who had helped create the core ideas of Multiverser when they were in the army.  I cannot now remember whether Lutz was a medic; I know he had ribbons for rifle skill.  I knew that my second character was going to be blatantly Christian, and I wanted to offset that with someone we could admire who did not hold these beliefs.  The thorough-going denial of all things supernatural offered a lot of opportunity, and the combination of combat and medicine in one man would make for a complexity of character I could use.

The army experiment gone wrong idea also came from Lutz; that was how most of the original test players started, as it was originally run on an army base, I think in Germany.

Since the first six chapters were all originally intended to be comic book stories, they are a bit longer than many of the others, all contain some kind of action, and end in some type of cliffhanger.  I particularly liked the image of the character discovering it was a space ship, not a sailing ship–one that had happened in games more than once–and so I used that as the first ending.

Chapter 2, Hastings 1:  I am not at all certain where I got the names for Lauren Elizabeth Meyers Hastings.  I do know that none of her future nicknames came to mind.  Hastings is the name of Hercule Poirot’s sidekick, and it gave her an English name.  She was actually a less powerful character than I; I found my own adventures overly complicated and a bit incredible.  This was my second world–the only world E. R. Jones ever ran me in besides NagaWorld, where he started everyone–and so I made it her second as well.

Her wagon is a rough copy of my rickshaw; I designed a cart in which I could carry my things, with two wheels and two handles.  I didn’t want to copy it exactly, so I gave her a wagon with a pivoting front axle.  Most of her things were from my equipment sheet.

My editor, Steve Darlington, thought I did not paint the vampires as sufficiently evil in the draft I sent him; he thought Lauren came off as prejudiced against them and seemed more the villain than they.  Thus I tried to harden them a bit in the first confrontation and elsewhere so that the reader would not be sympathetic with them.

On the change of the word from “alchemist” to “psionicist” I remember asking several of my sons, including my eldest, for suggestions, but it ended up being my idea.  It was often the case that I would talk to them and come up with my own solutions through the interaction; it was also often the case that they would give me ideas as well.

Mr. Jones had used Father Peter Holer of the State Street Mission, who had won the lottery and retired.  Father Holer was the creation of one of his other players, and I changed the name.  I also recognized that a Catholic priest would never win the lottery and retire–just one of the many things that he and his players did not understand about Catholicism–so I changed that.  I picked the Saint George Mission rather absent-mindedly, but when my editor objected that the dragon slayer was hardly an apt icon for a charitable mission, I went back and played up the idea of spiritual combat within it.

Slobadan Milosevic was added to the list of respected world leaders in response to the editor’s complaint that the references were all unfamiliar to him.  He was Australian, and I took that as significant.

Chapter 3, Slade 1:  Robert Slade was in part an effort to get a good comic book hero name.  I was never a fan of Elvis, but it fit well.  Jim Denaxas made some other goofy suggestions, which did not ever make it into any of the stories (the one I recall is “mom died of failed diet”; this was shortly after the FDA recall of several diet drugs, but I don’t know if he had that in mind).  Somehow, Slade evolved as the goofy character, the one who makes everyone laugh despite being completely serious about everything.

There was a lot about Slade that suggested he would have been a smoker.  I didn’t want a hero who smoked, so I made him a former smoker.  I had a lot of trouble with the match stick, and had to go back and put in a lot of references to it, because it was introduced as character color and then faded away.

I also decided that my third character would be strongly religious, but not Christian.  I might have done Jewish, as I have some training in that, but thought it best to choose a faith which I could not easily mess up.  I went for the Norse gods, influenced greatly by C. S. Lewis’ comments that it was the noblest religion.

The idea Slade expounds that he was a chosen warrior of Odin came from E. R. Jones’ Multiverser character, known as Roland of the Sar or Michael di Vars.  Jones was a soldier, or at least a cook in the army.  Giving this same idea to someone with no such background might have been part of the source of the humor, but then I did not want two characters with too similar a background so I could not have him be another soldier.

A lot of the look and feel of Slade comes from Christopher R. Jones and his manner of play.  Chris is a bit crazy as a player, and I think that’s reflected in Slade.  In appearance, I have often described Slade as “a blonde, bearded Chris”, and sometimes forget that Slade doesn’t wear Chris’ trademark cowboy hat.

Auto mechanic was chosen to connect to a certain level of society.  Lauren was moderately college educated, Kondor in the military, and Slade was to be connected to the ordinary working people.

The editor said there were too many pagan references in the early pages, and in a sense he was right–as much because he used many here as because he used fewer as the story progressed.  I stripped all that I felt I could, but some I needed.

Going up the chimney was put in to vary the journey.  I began to realize that the dungeon might make a fun game, but it tended to make a dull story.

The three men were obviously the archetypal fighter, wizard, and thief.  I knew at this point that they wanted to go in, but I don’t think I had yet figured out why.

Chapter 4, Kondor 2:  Obviously it was necessary for Kondor to join the crew in order for the story to go forward, and security gave me good opportunities for action.  This was still supposed to be combat.

When it was suggested that Kondor’s friend on the ship should also be black, this attuned me a bit more to the notion that the reverse prejudice Kondor would eventually display needed to have roots earlier in the book.

The gear and people and events all come very much from the game.

Being nearly killed by the grenade is a bit out of sorts for the game; it would be difficult for a character to end up in his condition (but not entirely impossible).  I needed a good cliffhanger here, because I was still writing comic book episodes.

Chapter 5, Hastings 2:  I must thank my wife for calling my attention to the anguish Lauren must have felt about losing her family.  A lot of game characters ignore this; real people probably wouldn’t.  The other characters also expressed this at times, but Lauren is the one who has lost the most.  I added the thoughts about family to this section to capture that.

The fight scene is of course there to give action to the comic that never was; but there was a similar fight in my game version.  No, I can’t do those things; but my imaginary self, like her, practiced and learned to do them in NagaWorld before coming here.

I had a problem with descriptions of the characters which came out strongly in Lauren’s case.  The problem was that my perspective prevented me from ever describing how any main character was seen by any other character until near the end when the three main characters come together.  Thus I had to find ways to describe them earlier, before the reader had formed too solid an image of them.

Again, the thing with Big Bill was created to be a cliffhanger.  Originally it was laced with male chauvinism in the high steel, and set up as a contest, but my editor quite rightly observed that this was too much, and so Bill became the supervisor.

Jake Williams was based on a character named Luke Sparks, created by another player in the game; but his role was stripped down significantly here.

Chapter 6, Slade 2:  The dropped tool chest crashing and the knight ordering Slade to keep his hands down seemed a good start.  I’d not heard or read anything quite like it.  I wound up with a stand-off, but the idea of asking for a beer to break the ice worked well.

It was at this point that I conceived the idea of the djinni search.  It was also at this point that I started to realize that the Slade stories were always funny, and the others weren’t.  Since it was still intended for comic book release, I let it stay that way.

I invented the names Torelle (from the name Dorelle, I think) and Filp (probably inspired by the thief Villa Reston of Blake’s 7 fame, who also inspired much of the character’s personality as I think Villa the ultimate template for a thief character).

#20:  Becoming Novel, covering chapters seven through twelve.

Chapter 7, Kondor 3:  Because this was the first section that was not written to be an episode in a comic book, that absolved me of the need to put an action scene in it.

It was at this point that I realized I was going to have to change my strategy.  When I started, I had imagined three independent story lines in perpetuity; for this to be a novel, they would eventually have to come together, to do something that would make a unified climax.  And, I realized, for that unified climax to have the feel I needed, these earlier stories would have to in some way be preparing them for that.  I thus now knew that there would be a rescue of someone, in which Kondor, Slade, and Lauren would all participate, using the skills they learned and equipment they gathered along the way.  This redefined a lot of what I was doing.

I made the decision to start moving Kondor toward medical because I didn’t think that the continued security story would stay interesting, and I no longer needed to have him constantly involved in fights.

Chapter 8, Hastings 3:  I owe something to the game company White Wolf and their World of Darkness games, particularly Vampire:  the MasqueradeMultiverser play allowed my character to become a character in that game, and much of my background material comes to me from that, filtered through the storytelling of E. R. Jones.  The concept of faith may or may not be theirs; it is much like what I understood from play.

The idea of using scripture verses as the focus of faith came from the idea of priests using crucifixes and holy water the same way.

Chapter 9, Slade 3:  Again, I was becoming more and more aware of the lack of story in the dungeon journey, so I tried to give the feel of a long trip to a single chapter.

The appearance of the efriit was a decision of the moment.  I needed something to give tension to the scene, and since my backstory had already suggested that the djinn were enemies of the efriit, it was the obvious choice.  I did not yet know how it would be resolved.

Chapter 10, Kondor 4:  I had some vague notion that Kondor was teetotal; I don’t know quite where I got the notion, but I confirmed it at this point.  I think in part it was because Slade needed to be a drinker to fit his image, and I didn’t want Lauren to be so prudish that she would not drink at all (although she winds up drinking perhaps slightly more than I), but I wanted one of my heroes to avoid alcohol.  Kondor was the logical choice.  It fit what I might term his severity.  This was where it came into expression.

I knew he was going on with the ship; I needed to make it seem reasonable.  The bit about being abducted by aliens was off the cuff.

Chapter 11:  Hastings 4:  The robe my character wore was royal blue with scarlet trim; hers is scarlet with gold.  I had just heard the idea that men were stimulated by reds which were closer to the orange spectrum while women preferred those with more blue to them.  My wife likes purple, and I borrowed that from her.

The Pit, in the original game, was called The Succubus Club.  That seemed too evidently evil.  I liked this better.  It could easily be mistaken for what it pretended to be, an ordinary charcoal grill restaurant.  The interior décor I invented at this point, as I decided it would be interesting to make it seem hellish in a way that was technically feasible.  If anyone ever copies it in a real building, I would love to see it.

I’ve heard that Spumante is classed as dry, not sweet, but it always tasted sweet to me.

The title The Book of Journeys sounded less committed to evil than it might have been, and could easily be connected to Cain.  As to connecting vampires to Cain, I know that White Wolf will take credit for the idea; however, Grendel and his mother were descendants of Cain according to Beowulf, so the idea of monsters coming from his curse is probably well within the public domain.  I like the idea better than either the Dracula or the Judas stories for the origin of vampires.

Chapter 12, Slade 4:  This was all created on the spot, pretty much as I wrote it.  The CD player accident had already been established somewhere (at least in my notes) as the way he got started.

When he calls on Thor, in my mind that was the use of magic to enable him to strike the spirit; but I left it as vague in the story as I guessed it would be in Slade’s mind.

I realized that it was futile for Slade to try to defeat the efriit in physical combat, so I turned his attention to the bottles.  This also gave me a good moment of tension on which to hold the story.  Although I did not always use cliffhangers, I had recognized that a good part of what drives a story forward is that the reader wants to know what happens next.  I first recognized it in Herbert’s Dune, but then realized I had seen it in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings–the use of characters on several stages, such that we continue reading in order to find out what is going to happen to the one we’re not reading about now.  Of course, I knew that the djinni was going to come out of this bottle, and I’d guess the reader knows it too; but it’s still anticipated.

#22:  Getting Into Characters, chapters thirteen through eighteen.

Chapter 13, Kondor 5:  I’m not certain whether to credit Richard Lutz or myself for the idea of Kondor studying medicine.  In our game version of him, he had earned several doctorates in various fields, including several in medicine, and so I was modeling Kondor on that.  But I cannot be certain whether that was true of the original player character or whether I invented it when writing the rules to the game.

Chapter 14, Hastings 5:  This was all recreating parts of the game, and so the background information is E. R. Jones and the character choices are mine.  Even the botch was a game event.

Chapter 15, Slade 5:  The wishes were mine; I had long thought of the idea of using three wishes by having the first one be for complete knowledge of wishes, and the other two for the wishes granted to someone else.

Chapter 16, Kondor 6:  As I began this section, I realized that an emotional reaction to the pirates was very likely, and very useful.  I was using the mechanics of the published world for background events, but the appearance of pirates gave me the idea for the reaction; and the appearance of pirates again at about the same point in the journey as before suggested the next step.  I recognized by this point that just going around the loop with no particular objectives, while it was building his skills in ways I wished to build them, was not going to be a particularly interesting story in the long term.  So it was time to move to something else.

My editor’s reaction was that it was too soon, that there should have been more to that story; but I was happy with it as it was.

Chapter 17, Hastings 6:  This training session is very like one I played out in my game in a later session, including the gunnels and the landing in the lake.  I, too, tossed Raiden in the lake.  Oh, it was Ed’s idea to call him Raiden, and for the reason that eventually emerges in this story as well; that’s probably the main reason I did not change the name.

There had been no talk of payment that I recall in the game; but there had been the shrine and the pages, and so the knowledge of the vampires, so I thought it worked well to prefigure that knowledge here.

Chapter 18, Slade 6:  I had once run a D&D game in which an amusement park was built inside a dungeon.  The reactions of the characters to the terrors which were intended as rides was very helpful to me here.  I realized that being swiftly carried what had been several days’ walk riding the winds would be a terrifying experience for the characters, whatever else they  had done, save for the one to whom the analogy of roller coasters would be apparent.

As I got here, I realized that I didn’t know which way the story was going to go next; but it seemed a good line to suggest that Slade didn’t know this, and might hook the reader into wondering the same thing.

#25:  Novel Changes, chapters 19 through 24.

Chapter 19, Kondor 7:  Nothing different.

Chapter 20, Hastings 7:  Nothing different.

Chapter 21, Slade7:  I was not at all certain what to do with Slade at this point, but decided to take him back to Torelle and see what I could develop.

I have long noted that there is not necessarily less love in arranged marriages than in “falling in love” types; there is sometimes more, as the couple has clearer expectations initially.  But I recognized that Slade would find the whole thing foreign, and this gave me the opportunity to play that theme.

It was quickly apparent that other than getting contacts for visiting the others, there was nothing to do at Torelle’s, and I moved on.

Chapter 22, Hastings 8:  Up to this moment I had not even considered varying the sequence of character chapters, but I was not yet certain what I was doing with Kondor.  I had dropped him in the woods thinking that it would be Sherwood, but had serious doubts as to what sort of story I could tell from that.  I thought perhaps it would keep the reader guessing a bit longer to delay that, and also give me time to think about what I wanted to do there.

The name Raoul was my idea; it was just Raal in the game.  Lauren may have been more articulate than I, but the events were much the same.

Chapter 23, Slade 8:  The trip to Omigger was primarily to give Slade a smattering of magic; but I didn’t want him to become, like Lauren, a powerful generalist.  He was to develop as a fighter who dabbled in other things.  Thus his tie to Omigger should be one of polite interest in the wizard’s activities, tinged with a resistance to the study of magic.  I also decided that Slade should get the primer; at this point, I guessed it would give him the foundation in magic I desired.  And again, it was over quickly.

Chapter 24, Kondor 8:  Obviously the gathering of gear was the first step; I wanted to make it interesting.  I decided it would help to play out the story the way it unfolds in the Sherwood Forest game setting in The First Book of Worlds, building from bramble to road in steps.

The language problem comes from my study of linguistics.  I’ve spoken a bit of thirteenth-century English, and it is barely intelligible; I thought it would add some realism to make their communication difficult, but did not have a way of settling the matter if they could not understand each other at all, so I devised that it was difficult but not impossible to understand.  The particular sentence I chose as the first words would not be too different from the modern pronunciation, so I was comfortable with that.  It became more of a fiction as the story progressed, but I knew that eventually he would learn what they meant and be better able to make himself understood, so I let that part slide.

Regarding the language barrier, I determined rather early in writing this material that no one in this era would use contractions.  I had to go back over it a couple of times to fix those I’d inadvertently let through, but ultimately keeping the contractions out of their dialogue helped them sound a bit foreign, which is what I wanted.

#27:  A Novel Continuation, chapters 25 through 30.

Chapter 25, Hastings 9:  Making Lauren female changed this scene somewhat; I had to think of how she would react to a strong and very animal female.  Otherwise, this is something of a recreation of game events.  I’m not certain how Ed described the Lilith connection, but my version owes something to George MacDonald, a story I’ve not read but heard tell of on several occasions.  The idea of the three curses was mine.

Chapter 26, Kondor 9:  Having skipped Kondor because I didn’t know what to do with him, I now skipped Slade for much the same reason.  Again, I didn’t want to bog things down with the language barrier, but merely suggest how different was their speech.  This section was primarily to create an interaction between Kondor and the Merry Men without giving him too much information; their reaction to his futuristic gear seemed simple enough, and his impatience made more sense than trying to have him explain to people who could not possibly understand what the reader already knows.

I mentioned Robin as a clue.  I didn’t know whether the reader could tell what was happening yet, but Kondor was going to need something else on which to base his conclusion when he reached Nottingham.

Chapter 27, Slade 9:  I skipped the year’s trip because I couldn’t think what to do with it; but it was obvious that nothing else was going to happen to Slade until he made the journey to see Filp, so I started it with little notion of what would happen there.

Once I grasped that Filp was a thief trying to play the part of a nobleman, it was fairly easy to work out a story there.  In Multiverser we’ve said that it’s only the modern person who can understand that some things are technology beyond our understanding and others really are magic; it is in a sense only the modern man who can understand the idea of learning to be something you are not.  Filp was locked into being a peasant thief, and no amount of riches and power could change that without the help of someone who could change both the man and the role until they came together.  This started that part of the story, and for the first time since the end of the djinni quest Slade’s story had direction.

I did not know when I introduced Wen that she would become Filp’s wife; but it did make sense that the barmaid would flirt with the customers, and perhaps that Filp would only notice that she flirted with him.

The sequence about coffee was originally longer, involving talk of grinding beans, boiling water, pouring the water over the grounds, adding sweetener and cream, and more; but my editor complained that readers know how coffee was made and I wasn’t really making it funny or interesting, so it was cut back.

When Slade said about getting a bit of fun back into Filp’s life, I was already  planning to do the thieving bit; I had not yet worked out the details.

Chapter 28, Hastings 10:  Most of this happened in play.  The aspect of Horta trying to read her mind I added.  Looking back, it’s obvious that he was trying to determine whether she was the same person as Laurelyn of Wandborough (whom he had seen die twice before), but I didn’t have that part in mind at this time.

Chapter 29, Kondor 10:  I was by this time uncertain what I was doing in Sherwood Forest; but it seemed appropriate that Kondor would go back to find Robin’s men.  I didn’t know yet how tough that was going to be, but I got him headed in the right direction.

Chapter 30, Slade 10:  When Slade and Filp rode out to hunt–a spur of the moment excuse–I still had not decided whether they were going to rob someone else’s castle or just do Filp’s.  This section and the last were shorter; I had now escaped the mental constraints of comic-book type chapters, and so could put in shorter vignettes as needed.

#30:  Novel Directions, chapters 31 through 36.

Chapter 31, Hastings 11:  The rain was my idea to get to the apartment; I don’t remember why I was there in the game.  I also don’t recall what details of the shrine were mine.  Much of the rest reconstructs game events a bit differently.

Chapter 32, Kondor 11:  The solution to Kondor’s problem played itself out as I wrote.  It was very like a game, with me figuring out what problems I would throw at the player and me figuring out how I would respond to those problems.

Chapter 33, Slade 11:  Nothing different.

Chapter 34, Hastings 12:  The idea of creating the fake pages of the Book of Journeys was one I’d had in the game, and decided to recreate here for much the same reasons.

The problem at the door was my own invention; it seemed to me that the referee in the game had let this slip past too easily, that the priest would not change the wording of his invitation and the pagan would not dishonor it by entering anyway.

I had not yet decided whether Raiden would be part of the attack on Jackson; he was  not involved in the game version, but I liked him and I’d cut out a lot of extraneous characters that the game had included.  In the end, I just forgot to include him.

Chapter 35, Kondor 12:  This was all being created on the spot; there was no plan to use this scene to re-emphasize Kondor’s attitudes to killing, but it made perfect sense in the story.

Chapter 36, Slade 12:  As mentioned, the decision to make this Filp’s castle gave me a good outcome for the events; it also gave me something to do with Slade, in terms of creating security.  I had half a mind to have them go into business showing other nobles how vulnerable they were and how to correct that, but the more I considered it the less I liked it.

The modifications to the walls particularly had been much more involved, with quite a few options and the pros and cons of each, but the editor rightly said to cut it.

It was also good to for Slade to find a real friend in Filp; and I began to consider having Filp return.  This was further encouraged by the fact that Slade was my son Adam’s favorite, and he particularly liked Filp.  Bringing Filp forward as a friend made Slade’s stay here better, although I was not yet certain what I could do with it.

I kept looking for new vignettes for Slade, and didn’t really have anything long-term going here, as I did with the other two.  But the short stories were fun, and the discontinuity not really that strong given the timeline aspect.

#33:  Novel Struggles, chapters 37 through 42.

Chapter 37, Hastings 13:  There was more shopping in the original draft; I wanted to have a positive statement of a number of objects she was to add to her equipment in the future.  It didn’t work well, and the editor said to cut it.

The fight with Jackson was probably tougher in the game, but most of the essentials are there.  I needed to beef up Jackson’s offensive abilities a bit and ignore some of the attacks he withstood, but it worked.

The use of oil and the James 5 passage was my idea in the game; I telepathically communicated it to Father James.  However, that was a situation in which the players didn’t understand the Catholicism they were portraying.  I also had suggested the use of the Requiem Mass.  I thought Father James would be sharp enough to come up with these without Lauren’s suggestion, and that it made for much better story.

Chapter 38, Kondor 13:  I was trying to keep the story from two problems.  One was the possibility that it would seem too easy to find Robin’s people; the other was the problem of boring the reader with the details of what didn’t matter.  I had not yet determined how to bring him to Robin, or what to do when he got there.

Chapter 39, Hastings 14:  This was a drastic decision in the writing process:  I let one of the characters get a chapter ahead, and another get a chapter behind.  Part of it was to allow the two slow stories to be slow; part of it was to give urgency to Lauren’s fight.  But I think part of it was that this was the one story for which at this moment I knew what to write.

The question that struck me initially about my recollections of play was that I couldn’t remember why I didn’t use the disintegrator on him immediately.  The answer had to be that I didn’t have it–but that didn’t work for her, because she must already have picked it up.  Thus a miss was the best response; Gavin was not so tough as Jackson, and would not have been able to withstand a serious hit.

The ending, where she smashes his limbs with the blaster, went down like my game, and for much the same reasons:  I was very angry at this monster.  The editor didn’t like it, and I had to rewrite it to try to bring the reader more into the evil of Gavin and the desire to see him dead.  The flying was also from the game, and pointed toward the next event, which I wanted to preserve for several reasons.

Chapter 40, Slade 13:  The wedding of Filp to Wen surprised me; I needed something for Slade to do, and this seemed a reasonable direction for that story to take.

Chapter 41, Hastings 15:  There was a scene like this in the game; but it had to be changed drastically.  I met a crazy young man named Henry, who insisted that I was Merlin; Lauren obviously couldn’t be Merlin, so I invented someone.

Bethany needed to come from somewhere in early Norman England, I thought, and she needed a name which might have been used during that time.  I had no other thoughts concerning the name.  I wanted her to be a bit loose around the edges, but not as bad as Henry had been.

Henry had been very pleased that I gave him my tattered robe; it seemed ridiculous to me then and still does.  Lauren tossed hers in the trash.

I added Bethany’s telepathy.  I couldn’t imagine that Lauren would teach her anything and not that.

Detecting magic was difficult.  In the game, I just said I was going to try to do it psionically, and I succeeded.  In the story, I needed to find a way to describe what she was doing.

Chapter 42, Kondor 14:  It was time to move forward; I decided that Robin gave up waiting for Kondor to leave, and so made contact.  I also needed a way to draw Kondor into the group, so the sick man was an obvious hook for that.  The medical stuff was rather straightforward, and I invented the hillside camp when I got there, looking for a way for them to be hidden when they were obviously a fairly large group.

In the game version, Friar Tuck has a bit of divine magic; he wouldn’t call it that, but it is part of the world in which this is set.  It didn’t make sense to involve Kondor with that, but it did make sense for Tuck to be concerned about witchcraft and such.

#35:  Quiet on the Novel Front, chapters 43 through 48.

Chapter 43, Slade 14:  Time had been passing slowly for Slade with nothing happening; I still didn’t know what was going to happen, but I thought if it passed more quickly I could find something.  The vesting ceremony had a number of advantages, including that it pushed time forward to a definable point and brought everyone back together.  That was about as far as I’d thought.

Chapter 44, Hastings 16:  The scene at the store was a recreation of a game event, although in the original Raal was not present.  I needed someone to inform Lauren of the significance of the Tezcatta; I had gotten it from the player who played the Father James character, but he wouldn’t be there.

The change in the martial arts training seemed worthwhile; I wasn’t sure how I would use it, but it was good to have it there.

The blood link connection between Gavin and Jackson had been in the game, but there hadn’t been a scene in which it was discussed–rather, the player, who was more familiar with the setting than I, gave me that information.

The discussion of the werewolf cab driver was my idea; I didn’t think the priest would accept the help of the wolves nearly as freely as he did in the game, and wanted to provide a foundation for that.

Chapter 45, Kondor 15:  The choice to build the hospital was a sudden one.  I had imagined originally that Kondor was going to learn to use the bow from Robin Hood; but now I couldn’t see him working as a bandit in Sherwood Forest.  I could see him helping the sick, and doing so in ways that would have an impact.  So I started the hospital thread, and let it have its head.

The problem with the flue came from one of James Burke’s excellent shows.  I suspect it was Connections, although it may have been The Day the Universe Changed.  He had pointed to the development of the chimney as a step in the social organization of England, and I knew that this had not yet happened as of Richard I.  Thus I knew Kondor would have trouble getting his chimney, and rather than having him invent the thing I found an alternate solution.

Salicylates, antibiotics, and disinfectants were all things I knew were not in any significant use which would revolutionize medicine when they arrived and which were relatively easy to bring into being if you knew how.  I didn’t entirely know how, but did know that the primary disinfectants were alcohol and salt, both of which were available in this age, that the first antibiotics were natural mold defenses, and that salicylates, of which aspirin is the most popular, were found in some plants (although I don’t know which).  That meant I could stock a medicine cabinet for him, and that would make it a viable concept.

I puzzled over the roof for a while myself.  The sod roof seemed a good choice, although I’m not at all certain how well it would have worked in actuality.

Chapter 46, Slade 15:  I knew perfectly well what vesting meant, but it didn’t seem like Slade would know, and didn’t seem like something for the story.

Turning the attention to Torrence, the second son, was a spot decision; and bringing Shella into it was even more unexpected.  But I think it was here that I first seriously began entertaining the notion of bringing Shella and Slade together.

Chapter 47, Hastings 17:  My character learned moving through the twilight from Raal, just as Lauren was going to.

It was obvious to me that the wolf would not be cognizant of whatever native abilities he had that humans would consider superhuman; so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to list a few, and if it were necessary to create more later, they would simply be things Raal hadn’t considered.

Chapter 48, Kondor 16:  The joke about “can’t take it with you” was a toss-in.

#37:  Character Diversity, chapters 49 through 54.

Chapter 49, Slade 16:  When I introduced the idea of Shella marrying Slade, I didn’t know whether I was going to do it.  I brought up the idea primarily as a way of making something happen in this part of the story, and of giving Slade a reason to explain himself to Torrence.  But as soon as I said it, I liked the idea, and started toying with whether or not to do it.

The death of Omigger similarly was a way of creating story events at this point.  All I knew was that it would bring my characters together again.

Chapter 50, Hastings 18:  I had done five years of Christian radio.  I didn’t have the necessary foundation for that with Lauren–but there was a woman popular at the time (might still be, don’t know) who was a sort of call-in advice person, and I thought I could give that role to Lauren’s double, remove the marriage, and keep the parts that might matter.

Again, Lauren is most like me.  Corn muffins with coffee, and eggs for breakfast are my preferences.

I ended the meeting mostly because I wasn’t sure where to go with it yet, but also because I thought it would keep the reader interested in where it was going.

Chapter 51, Kondor 17:  I had thought about having the Sheriff’s men kill Kondor now; but as I was thinking about it, it occurred to me that it would be good to have one of them come for medical treatment.  It would have to be something serious, something that would allow the soldier to overlook the fact that there were wanted men here.  A sick child was the solution, and preferably a daughter.

The idea that it would be difficult to house her parents developed in the telling.  The confrontation with Friar Tuck was another effort to keep people worried about what would happen next.

Chapter 52, Slade 17:  Nearly everything in this chapter was a surprise to me.  I had not really expected any of the companions to die while Slade was here, but the funeral moved the story forward.  I had not considered the relationships between the characters, but there was value in giving the estate to Filp, given that he had the larger family and I was starting to play with the idea of Torrence becoming Slade’s designated heir.  Giving Slade the books followed somewhat reasonably from Omigger’s perhaps incorrect assessment that Slade was actually interested in magic and led toward empowering him as a wizard–although it slowly came to mind that I did not want him to be a Norse clone of Lauren, so magic would always have to be a minor thing for him.  Getting Shella interested in magic gave her more reason to be at Slade’s manor and brought them together more–although I was still undecided about her future.

The letter was always to suggest appointing Torrence as Slade’s heir.  I decided on that as I wrote this chapter.

Chapter 53, Hastings 19:  The idea of having children in this world was the hook I needed to bring the vampires into this discussion.  I expected to put Lauren Meyers on the list of those who helped in the war against the vampires, particularly as something of a communications link, but that meant there had to be a reason to explain it to her.

The confrontation with Horta worked well.  I think it built tension and gave me an excuse not to have her keep returning to The Pit where nothing was happening.

Chapter 54, Kondor 18:  I had not considered how I was going to get out of the awkward situation I’d created with the introduction of Friar Tuck to the scene, but Kondor’s instincts worked.  The suggestion of chicken soup is good, because for a very long time people believed chicken soup particularly good for sickness and it turns out they were right–it does help fight viral infections, to a small degree.

The thought of soup reminded me that liquids were important, and I remembered sassafras tea, which I made when I was eleven or twelve.  The roots boiled in water provided a beverage that was flavorful.  The same principle could be applied to drawing the salicylates out of these roots and getting them into the girl more palatably than by having her try to digest bits of ground root, and would at the same time restore fluid levels.  I guess I was thinking a bit like a displaced doctor, but the idea worked.

The Ronald McDonald Houses came to mind as I tried to figure out where the soldier could stay.  I didn’t think they’d go back to Nottingham and leave their daughter.

#39:  Character Futures, chapters 55 through 60.

Chapter 55, Slade 18:  The culture difference between Slade and Torelle was fun to play with.  I brought Torrence into this position mostly to tie up Slade’s affairs neatly.

Chapter 56, Hastings 20:  Nothing different.

Chapter 57, Kondor 19:  The extension of one hospital to many was the logical next step in the process, although I had not imagined it until this point.

Chapter 58, Slade 19:  If Slade and Shella were to get together, she would have to be more than a helpless little girl; and it would be fairly easy for her to be the magic-user he never would be.

Putting the time in with Filp meant that Slade’s future thieving efforts seemed more realistic, as if he had actually spent time practicing them.

Chapter 59, Hastings 21:  This originally went too quickly.  I grasped what it was Gavin was doing all too easily; but my editor did not.  So I had to slow it down, giving Lauren and the reader time to understand why this “religion” could not be tolerated.

In the game, I had another player character with mine, a very powerful one; we left the scene in the cab, but were pursued and both leapt out and flew away to escape.  That wasn’t really workable here; besides, I liked the idea of Lauren learning to use the twilight.  I don’t remember the circumstances under which my character learned that, but this was a good time.  I invented the idea of zombie dogs rather abruptly.

Chapter 60, Kondor 20:  I was comfortable with Kondor’s story.  Time had progressed to the point that Richard had probably died and John taken the throne; the charges were reasonable for the era; and Kondor had changed the world and really didn’t have much more he could do here.  I picked someone from the story, and moved him on.

The Quest for the Vorgo was also published, although as part of a demonstration kit that I had never run nor seen run.  It’s a lot of fun to do it with an atheist or agnostic character, so it was perfect for Kondor.  It starts with the character arriving in the right place and time to be accepted as the answer to a prayer for a deliverer.

#43:  Novel Worlds, chapters 61 through 66.

Chapter 61, Slade 20:  Game adventures often end abruptly; Slade’s did, but not before everything was organized for him.  I leave more worlds through making mistakes on skill learning attempts than any other way, and that’s what caught Slade this time.

Chapter 62, Hastings 22:  The flat tire served two functions within the story.  One was to create the expectation that an attack might be imminent, specifically so it would be disappointed.  That is, if every time combat comes we see it coming, it loses an important element.  Sometimes it has to come unexpected, and sometimes it has to not come when anticipated, or it is not surprising.  The other function was to build the feeling that many of her psionic powers were becoming second nature to Lauren.  She seems like a powerful sorceress not so much because she does powerful things but because she does the odd bit of magic routinely  and without thinking about it.  Magic is part of her ordinary approach to life.

Chapter 63, Kondor 21:  The contrast between this world’s magical reality and Kondor’s persistent atheism was a lot of fun in many ways; but because we see all things through Kondor’s eyes it was not always easy to maintain.  Anything that happened had to be explained with his bias, and so had to be magical enough that the reader would see what Kondor was denying.  The easiest way to bring that in most of the time was by bringing forward his attitude about superstition.

The pun on the name was a sudden inspiration.  Having them get his name wrong seemed a nice touch, given their expectations.

Chapter 64, Slade 21:  The captain isn’t anyone in particular.

Chapter 65, Hastings 23:  I managed to come up with the clues at this moment.

My own second encounter with the ghoul (his name was Bob the Ghoul in the game; I made it Arnie) was when he came after another verser player character.  That character was at this point a superhero, and I knew that bringing in such a character at this point in this story would badly unbalance it.  Besides, there were several other more dangerous enemies and a lot of crazy side stories that came with him that would have bogged down the book terribly.  So I took advantage of Lauren Meyers’ existence to bring about the same situation.  Oh, in game I caught Bob at the airport; Arnie launched his attack downtown.

Chapter 66, Kondor 22:  Seeing the rather magical story through the eyes of a confirmed unbeliever gives it a lot of explanations that aren’t true.  That’s part of the character, and part of why I wanted to bring him into this one.

I knew Kondor would insist on having full information before he began, so I had to think through what details should be included.  There would be plenty of surprises that had nothing to do with Kondor’s side.

#47:  Character Routines, chapters 67 through 72.

Chapter 67, Slade 22:  Slade’s use of magic needed to feel like something he could do, but which wasn’t a big deal or a lot of power.  The darkness spell felt like that.

I grabbed a few cultural historical references I thought Slade would know.  I’ll confess that I had to ask my son Ryan about the video games that came out that year.

The idea of an evil earth-centered oppressive Federation is of course a Blake’s 7 notion.

Lewis Carroll deserves credit for the answer to “What did you say” questions.  Slade recognizes the joke, I think, but doesn’t push it.

Chapter 68, Hastings 24:  I realized that there were only two ways I could bring Lauren Meyers’ comments into my narrative without breaking my perspective.  One was to have Lauren Hastings actually listen to the show, and the other was to have someone recount it to her.  The former was impossibly difficult.  Lauren slept days and worked nights.  If the show was in the day, she couldn’t hear it until the next day, because she had to sleep.  If it was at night, she would be at work and couldn’t listen, let alone respond.  So I had Raal tell her what happened.

In some ways, Lauren was more powerful in this scene than my player character was.  In the game, the other player character used an invisibility screen to vanish, and a gravity belt to fly, and so carried the ghoul through the air while I gave instructions; and the guns were handed to me, not dropped.  I managed to save it without losing the important points, and in some ways to improve it, by using her capture rod.

I wanted her to have the guns; that’s how my character got them.  The idea that she took the guns from an enemy would eliminate any arguments about whether she should have gotten better or different weapons.  By the time she might be able to consider that, she would be good enough with these that it wouldn’t matter.

Chapter 69, Kondor 23:  Kondor is still providing “realistic” explanations for everything that happens to him.  I think it’s funny; I think it goes a long way to show how a lot of efforts to explain away miracles and magic are silly.  The reader knows that the people of this world are right, that these are undead monsters.  Only Kondor doesn’t know it, and won’t ever recognize it, because he’s already decided that it’s not a possibility.

The stalls were part of the tension here.  It was at this moment that I created the idea that Kondor was not comfortable around cemeteries, in part because I needed his nervousness to build the story tension.  Without that, it would have been a simple walk to the door; with it, the reader feels every step.

I think it was Ryan who originally suggested, back when I was writing this world for game use, that the Vorgo should be a bowling ball.  I think originally it was green, but I went with marble and mica here to make it a bit more ordinary.

And of course the awakening undead is part of the scene in the world scenario.

Chapter 70, Slade 23:  I have no idea who John Alexander is; he’s definitely a commanding personality, but I don’t think I’ve known anyone like him.  Ann Parker reminds me of someone, but I can’t think who.  Bert “Burly” Bently is Blake’s 7‘s Gan in many ways, including size and look and soft demeanor, but he’s got something of an engineer’s fix-it flavor to him.  Ishara Takamura probably comes from one of the villains in one of those movies from a video game, like Mortal Kombat.  I keep thinking of Toni Bently as very like Halle Berri, but that she’s not black (yet I keep forgetting that she isn’t).  I’m still not entirely sure what Marilyn Wells did, but she’s got long hair and dark eyes and looks good in the costume.

Chapter 71, Hastings 25:  The guns were the same as the ones I got in the game.  Mine had something called Brimstone Rounds, but not knowing what those are I did not include them here.

In the game, there were three major vampire recruiting strongholds in the city.  I took down The Succubus Club, which I’ve replaced fairly directly with The Pit (although the interior is my design), with the werewolf battle to come.  The Presemium, a high arts theatre, involved an assault unlike anything in this story.  The Coffee Shoppee in the college area, geared to appeal to young intellectuals through poetry and jazz, got the honor of the magical coin, which was sufficient to completely destroy its ambiance and drive off its clientele.  Lauren didn’t have all those targets; she used the coin to reduce the number of humans in The Pit before the attack.

Once I knew the clues, I knew what the three things did; but unfolding the discovery within the story was an important part of it.  The chapter ending cliffhanger seemed good to me; I had gotten away from cliffhangers, and needed to bring a few back to drive the story forward.

Chapter 72, Kondor 24:  The idea that Kondor’s rational explanations could not keep his feet from running appealed to my wife when she read it.  The dash for the gate was a given from the beginning; he was going to have to run this far.  The idea that they would not cross that line in daylight both gave it a magical feeling and gave Kondor and company a chance to get back to the castle.

#50:  Stories Progress, chapters 73 through 78.

Chapter 73, Slade 24:  Translating Slade from medieval to futuristic would be a trick; but I thought probably I could make what he already knew sound useful.

I hadn’t really realized that the comment that Ishara had “trouble with intimacy” was funny, I think because Slade’s stories have that light humor most of the time.

Chapter 74, Hastings 26:  Other than that I needed Lauren to wake up again, this chapter primarily is here to stall Kondor’s next step.

Chapter 75, Kondor 25:  Preparations for the battle and exposition of the function of the Vorgo were both  important, but also part of delaying the battle itself.  The pyre actually is a good idea which Kondor would not be able to recognize.

Chapter 76, Slade 25:  This settling in section asks a question that is usually not much part of a lot of stories:  what is happening when nothing is happening?

FPM stood for something when I wrote it; I may have failed to record it anywhere, but I think it may have been Federal Planetary Militia.

Chapter 77, Hastings 27:  I had by this time decided that Lauren wasn’t going to survive the raid on the Pit, although the exact details had not been decided.  This section was preparatory for that, establishing that everything was wrapping up and filling in her equipment needs.

Chapter 78, Kondor 26:  Having established the electronic eye in Kondor’s head, it was time to use it.  It would work for him, and provide information to the reader about what was happening.

I did an in-game castle siege once; but the players relied more on sending troops into the field and using magic from the walls.  This assault was to be a bit less magical and thus more historical, and that required some attention to what I knew of castle assault and defense tactics more generally.

The delay for the battering ram was in part reasonable to the scene and in part keeping the action from accelerating too rapidly.  Constant battle would become dull quickly and exhaust the reasonable resources of the keep, so it had to be broken in spurts, with tactical changes used to explain the breaks.

#53:  Character Battles, chapters 79 through 84.

Chapter 79, Slade 26  My application of matter transmission was to be limited as Blake’s 7‘s was, requiring that the individual wear something to be teleported.  I don’t recall how that show handled teleporting objects, but devised something analogous for that.

Chapter 80, Hastings 28:  The shopping was all stuff I’d wanted her to have for future use that I had not yet acquired; I knew she was leaving.

When I started, the guy playing the priest was buying holy water–he didn’t understand that as a priest he could make his own.  Once he knew that, he was making bathtubs full, and took my advice on high-powered water guns.

Chapter 81, Kondor 27:  Making Sowan fly and drop fire bombs was an abrupt and difficult choice.  Those abilities are detailed in his description in the game world from which this is drawn, and I did not wish to ignore them; but then, Kondor would have to find a way to incorporate them into his philosophy.  Once I had an idea of how he would do this, I did it.

Chapter 82, Slade 27:  I took the opportunity to try to bring Tom’s character to the foreground here.

In this section, Slade moves from weapons practitioner to skilled warrior.  One might say that all that practice finally pays off.

I liked the idea of not explaining the life pods to Slade.  First, they saved me the trouble of figuring out the details.  Second, they saved space in the book.  Third, there was something very realistic about Tom Titus not taking time to do such exposition.

Chapter 83, Hastings 29:  The in-game battle was longer, but went very like this.  Henry, Bethany’s alter-ego in the game, complained that his Barbie doll with a hat pin didn’t become fifty feet tall as he expected, but it did run around stabbing vampire feet.

I don’t know why I brought Lauren Meyers here, except perhaps so that I could have all the indigs working together and create the idea that they would continue to work together in the future.

In game, Horta landed on the roof, made his venomous comment, and fled like a Roman candle rocket.  I thought it necessary for him to die here, although I was not yet certain of how the fight was going to go.

Chapter 84, Kondor 28:  Kondor’s explanation of Sowan’s magic as psionics was a reasonable solution for him.  This also introduces the arrogance of Kondor’s position, that his rational explanations for magic powers are better than the superstitious explanations of the people who use them.

I had to give some thought to what he actually saw, given his untuned eye.  When I realized that all visible light would be interpreted as green, it gave me something to explain.

From this point forward, the older version of the history had been found and incorporated into the articles.  Maybe there would have been interest in which insights were from the older and which from the more recent memories, but I didn’t want too many articles or articles that were too complicated.  Here are the rest of the behind-the-writings pieces:

As mentioned, there has not been much feedback concerning whether to continue the stories; not many read #70:  Writing Backwards and Forwards in which we asked for reader thoughts on what to write in the future.  Much depends on your responses; I look forward to hearing from you.

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#70: Writing Backwards and Forwards

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #70, on the subject of Writing Backwards and Forwards.

When I was at TheExaminer, I eventually took to creating indices of articles previously published; when I moved everything here last summer, I included those indices, and finished one that covered the first half of 2015 (through July).  On the last day of December I did a review piece indexing the rest of that year, as #34:  Happy Old Year.

It may seem premature to do another index; it is not even falling on a logical date (although as I write this I am not completely certain on which day it is going to be published).  However, some new “static” pages have made it to the web site, and quite a few more web log entries, and it seems to be a time of decision concerning what lies ahead.  Thus this post will take a look at everything that has been published so far this year, and give some consideration to options going forward.  You might find the informal index helpful; I do hope that you will read the latter part about the future of the site.


Temporal Anomalies/Time Travel

The most popular part of the web site is probably still the temporal anomalies pages.  It certainly stimulates the most mail, and the five web log posts (including those in the previous index) addressing temporal issues received 30% of the blog post traffic.  We added one static page since then, a temporal analysis of the movie 41.  We also added post #56:  Temporal Observations on the book Outlander, briefly considering its time travel elements of the first book in the series that has made it to cable television.  We’d like to do more movies, and there are movies out there, but the budget at present does not pay for video copies.

This part of the site has been recognized oft by others (before it was a Sci-Fi Weekly Site of the Week it was an Event Horizon Hotspot), and the latest to do so is the new Time Travel Nexus, a promising effort to create a hub for all things time-travel related; we wish them well, and thank them for including links to our efforts here.  They recently invited me to write time travel articles for them, although if I do it will have to be something different, and we have not yet determined quite what.


By sheer number of posts, this is the biggest section of the web log.  Although since the last of these indexing posts it has been running even with posts about writing and fiction, it has a significant head start, with half of the articles in that index connected to law or politics primarily.  Some of these have religious or theological connections as well–that can’t be helped, as even the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights recognizes that the protection of your right to believe what you wish, express that belief, and gather with others who share that belief is both a religious and a political right, and cannot always be distinguished.  (Anyone who says that religion and politics should always be kept separate misses this critical point, that they are really the same thing.  It’s a bit like saying that philosophy and theology should be kept separate–the difference is not whether God is involved, but how much emphasis is placed on Him.  So, too, politics is about religious beliefs in application.)

Trying to sort these into sub-categories is difficult.  Several had to do with legal regulation of health care, several with discrimination, and we had articles on freedom of expression, government and constitutional issues, election matters.  These twenty-seven articles together drew 35% of readers to the web log, but a substantial part of that–13%–went to the two articles about the X-Files discrimination flap.  One article on this list has received not a single visit since it posted.  Thus rather than attempt to make sense of them, I’ll just list them in the order they appeared, with a bit of explanation for each:


As mentioned, some of the political posts are simultaneously religious or theological, and I won’t repeat those here.  There is one post that is really about everything, about the very existence of this blog, but which I have decided to list as primarily in this category:  #51:  In Memoriam on Groundhog Day, 160202.  This is a eulogy of sorts for my father, Cornelius Bryant Young, Jr., who is certainly the reason for the existence of the political materials, as he significantly supported my law school education and then regaled me with questions about whether Barrack Obama was a legitimate President.  He is missed.

I also wrote #65:  Being Married, which is not exactly my advice but my choice of the best advice I’ve received over several decades of marriage.  I’m hoping some found it helpful.

It should be noted that five days a week I post a study of scripture, and on a sixth day I post another essentially religious/theological/devotional post, on the Christian Gamers Guild’s Chaplain’s Teaching List.  That is far too many links to include here, but if you’re interested you can find the group through this explanatory page.


There were a couple game-related posts in the previous index, this time two of them specifically about Multiverser.  There was some discussion about some of its mechanics on a Facebook thread, and so I gave some explanations for how and why two aspects of the system work–the first, in #38:  Multiverser Magic, 160112:  addressing difficulties people expressed concerning its magic system, the second, in #40:  Multiverser Cover Value, 160114:  explaining the perhaps not as complicated as it seems way it determines the effect of armor.

There was also another game-related post, #44:  The Feeling of Victory, 160121:  which discussed a pinball game experience to illustrate a concept of fun game play.

The award-winning Dungeons & Dragons™ section of the site (most notably chosen as an old-school gem by Knights of the Dinner Table) continues to get occasional notice; someone recently asked to use part of the character creation materials for work they were doing on a different game, and someone asked if I had a copy of my house rules somewhere, in relation to some specific reference I made to them.  Although I’m running a game currently, I don’t know that anything new will appear there.  The good people at Places to Go, People to Be are continuing to unearth the lost Game Ideas Unlimited articles and translating for their French edition.  Unfortunately, Je parle un tres petit peux de francais; I can’t read my own work there.

Logic and Reasoning

Periodically a topic arises that is really only about thinking about things.  That came up a couple times in the past couple months.  first, someone wrote an article about the severe environmental impact of using the universal serial bus (USB) power port in your car to charge your smartphone while you drive, and in #45:  The Math of Charging Your Phone, 160122, we examined the math and found it at least a bit alarmist.  Then when people around here were frantically stripping local grocery store shelves of all the ingredients for French Toast (milk, bread, and eggs) because of a severe weather forecast, we published #46:  Blizzard Panic, 160124.

On Writing

I left this category for last for a couple of reasons, several of those reasons stemming from the fact that most of this connects to the free electronic publication of my book Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, and I just published the last installment of that to the site.  You can find it fully indexed, every chapter with a one-line reminder (not a summary, just a quip that will recall the events of a chapter to those who have read it but hopefully not spoil it for those who have not), here.  There have been about seventy-five chapters since the last of these posts, and that (like the Bible study posts) is too much to copy here when it is available there.  That index also includes links to these web log posts, but since this is here to provide links to the posts, I’ll include them here, and then continue with the part about the future of the site.

  1. #35:  Quiet on the Novel Front, 160101:  The eighth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 43 through 48.
  2. #37:  Character Diversity, 160108:  The ninth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 49 through Chapter 54.
  3. #39:  Character Futures, 160113:  The tenth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 55 through 60.
  4. #43:  Novel Worlds, 160119:  The eleventh behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 61 through 66.
  5. #47:  Character Routines, 160125:  The twelfth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 67 through 72.
  6. #50:  Stories Progress, 160131:  The thirteenth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 73 through 78.
  7. #53:  Character Battles, 160206:  The fourteenth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 79 through 84.
  8. #55:  Stories Winding Down, 160212:  The fifteenth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 85 through 90.
  9. #57:  Multiverse Variety, 160218:  The sixteenth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 91 through 96.
  10. #59:  Verser Lives and Deaths, 160218:  The seventeenth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 97 through 102.
  11. #61:  World Transitions, 160301:  The eighteenth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 103 through 108.
  12. #64:  Versers Gather, 160307:  The nineteenth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 109 through 114.
  13. #66:  Character Quest, 160313:  The twentieth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 115 through 120.
  14. #69:  Novel Conclusion, 160319:  The twenty-first and final behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 121 through 126.

The Future of the Site

I would like to be able to say that the future holds more of the same.  There are still plenty of time travel movies to analyze; I have started work on the analysis of a film entitled Time Lapse, but it will take at least a few days I expect.  This is a presidential election year and we have clowns to the left and jokers to the right, as the song said, and with the extreme and growing polarization of America there are plenty of hot issues, so there should be ample material for more political and legal columns.  The first novel has run its course, but there are more books in the pipeline which could possibly appear here.

However, it unfortunately all comes down to money.  My generous Patreon patrons are paying the hosting fees to keep this site alive, but I am a long way from meeting the costs of internet access and the other expenses of being here.  Time travel movies cost money even when viewed on Netflix.

The second novel, Old Verses New, is finished–sort of.  No artwork was ever done for it, and it is actually more difficult to promote articles on the Internet that do not have pictures (frustrating for someone who is a writer and musician but has no meaningful skill in the visual arts).  More complicating, Valdron Inc invested some money into it, paying an outside editor to go through it, and they still hope to find a way to recoup their investment at least.  I might have to buy their interest in it to be able to deliver it to you, and that again means more money.

So what can you do?

If you are not already a Patreon supporter, sign up.  A monthly dollar from every reader of the site would not make me wealthy, and probably would not cover all the bills, but it would go a long way in that direction.  Even a few more people giving five or ten dollars a month to keep me live would make a massive difference.  I think Patreon also has a means of making a one-time gift, and that also helps.

Even if you can’t do that, you can promote the site.  Whenever there is a new post or page here you think was worth a moment to read, take another moment to forward it–it is easy to do through most social media sites, some of which have buttons on the bottoms of the web log pages for quick posting, and in all cases I post new entries at Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, and even MySpace, all of which have some way of easily sharing or recommending posts.  Let people know if there’s a good political piece, or time travel article, or whatever it is.  Increased readership means, among other things, an increased potential donor base–support to keep us alive here.

There are other ways to help.  Several time travel fans have over the years provided DVD copies of movies, either from their own libraries or purchased and sent directly to me, all of which have been analyzed.  I now also have the ability (thanks to a gifted piece of not-quite-obsolete discarded technology) to watch YouTu.be and Netflix videos on my old (not widescreen) television, and with some difficulty to watch other internet videos on borrowed Chromecast equipment (not as satisfactory–can’t pause or rewind without leaving the room to access the desktop).  Links to (safe and legal) copies of theatrically-released time travel movies make it possible to cover them now, for as long as the money keeps me online.  (Yes, even “free” videos cost money to see.)  One reader very kindly gave me a Fandango gift card to see Terminator Genisys in the theatre, which was a great help and enabled me to do the quick temporal survey published here, although I had to obtain a copy of the DVD to do the full analysis web page (it is nigh impossible to take notes in a darkened movie theatre, and very difficult to get all the vital details from an audio recording).

You can also ask questions.  I don’t check e-mail very often (seriously, people started using it like an instant messaging system, I have cut back to every three to six weeks) but I do check it and will continue to do so as long as the hosting service and internet access can be maintained; I interact through Facebook and (to a much lesser degree) the other social media sites mentioned, and often take a question from elsewhere to address here.  That gives me material in which you, the readers, are interested.  I do write about things which interest me, but I do so in the hope that they also interest you, and if I know which ones do that helps more.

So here’s to the future, whatever it may bring, and to the hope that you will help it bring more to M. J. Young Net and the mark Joseph “young” web log.

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#69: Novel Conclusion

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #67, on the subject of Novel Conclusion.

This is about the creation of my book Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, now being posted to the web site in serialized form.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers, so you might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  That link will take you to the table of contents for the book; links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.  There were also numerous similar previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts:

  1. #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone (which provided this kind of insight into the first six chapters),
  2. #20:  Becoming Novel (covering chapters seven through twelve),
  3. #22:  Getting Into Characters (for chapters thirteen through eighteen),
  4. #25:  Novel Changes (chapters 19 through 24),
  5. #27:  A Novel Continuation (chapters 25 through 30),
  6. #30:  Novel Directions (chapters 31 through 36),
  7. #33:  Novel Struggles (chapters 37 through 42),
  8. #35:  Quiet on the Novel Front (chapters 43 through 48),
  9. #37:  Character Diversity (chapters 49 through 54),
  10. #39:  Character Futures (chapters 55 through 60),
  11. #43:  Novel Worlds (chapters 61 through 66),
  12. #47:  Character Routines (chapters 67 through 72),
  13. #50:  Stories Progress (chapters 73 through 78),
  14. #53:  Character Battles (chapters 79 through 84),
  15. #55:  Stories Winding Down (chapters 85 through 90),
  16. #57:  Multiverse Variety (chapters 91 through 96),
  17. #59:  Verser Lives and Deaths (chapters 97 through 102),
  18. #61:  World Transitions (chapters 103 through 108),
  19. #64:  Versers Gather (chapters 109 through 114), and
  20. #66:  Character Quest (chapters 115 through 120).

This picks up from there.  These chapters bring the book through the climax to the end.

There is some essential background to the book as a whole in that first post, which I will not repeat here.

Chapter 121, Kondor 40

I was in the mountains of New Mexico in my scouting days, and climbed one that went above the tree line.  Although for some reason I could not understand then or now we did it before daylight (we wanted to see the sun rise, but wound up mostly huddled in makeshift rock shelters trying to stay warm and out of the wind), I remember something of the terrain.  The idea of the trees thinning gave me new terrain and a new problem for Kondor; he was now out of his forest element, and needed to adapt.

As Joe hopes to see Lauren again, the possibility of heaven is automatically discounted, but the reality of being a verser creates a different possibility for which he can have some hope.  That hope is realized in the next book; that probably doesn’t spoil much.

There are several ways to mark a trail, and Kondor considers some of them.  Using rock markers is good.  The standard, though, stacks a rock on top of another rock, which is good because it doesn’t happen naturally but bad for the current purpose because it doesn’t survive over long periods of time.  The markers I use were my own invention here, the “S” shape prefiguring the destination.  Obviously, I learned making and following trails in Scouts; this particular trail marker was again to suggest the snake.

I knew that somehow Bob was going to be the one fighting the big final fight against the “big boss of the whole game”.  Joe has now delivered him to that point, and I needed something to remove Joe from that final fight—so I gave him his own battle.  I’m not sure when I thought of the idea of one of them fighting the soldiers while the other rescued the girl; but it was evident that Kondor would have to be left behind, because I needed Slade’s perspective on magic.  Slade was better at that sort of glorious one-man combat anyway.

I like to think that Kondor was inspired by Lauren’s sacrifice to take the same step himself.  That’s why he says, “It’s my turn.”

Chapter 122, Slade 41

I skipped Lauren intentionally.  I was in suspense concerning what was going to happen to her, but at the same time I needed to move the main quest forward.  So I tackled this moment when Joe stays behind and Bob goes ahead, and then returned to deal with what happened to Lauren in the next chapter.

I couldn’t for a moment think why Slade would go on and leave Kondor to fight against such odds; but then the realization that Speckles was already on the altar gave me the reason.  I wasn’t sure it was completely sound, but it worked for the moment.

I had envisioned something akin to Stonehenge; but I wanted the ground to rise slightly to it from where they were, and the center to be hidden from view so that Slade and Kondor, while not that far from each other, could not see each other.  Thus the idea of a crater commended itself.

This is the moment when one of the birds is shown to have magic.  I was not yet certain how much magic the bird had, but providing one such bird made Bob’s task appear more difficult.

I had envisioned the wizard as part of the group transporting Speckles, the sparrow hen suspended in the air and moving slowly along the route as the wizard walked and directed her.  Because he is using magic, not psionics, he can also levitate himself (fly), which Lauren does psionically, not magically.

This might be the best combat scene in the book—although there is Lauren’s still ahead, and the final battle, but here Slade fights and defeats fourteen opponents, and the flying feathers and flashing blade come alive in the action.  I tried to envision a combat that would be compelling on the screen; then I tried to convey it sufficiently that my readers could see it.  Of course, screen combat is often compelling by the speed, the number of movements which occur in short order.  That was difficult to portray here without wasting a lot of bodies quickly–which is what I did.

I then started thinking about how they could change the nature of the fight; the ring was an idea aimed at that, and then the fake sound behind him.  Having him recognize it as a fake and then fake them into believing he was fooled seemed a fun way to do it.

The editor thought the killing of the wizard unnecessarily violent.  I thought I was in the climactic sections, and it needed to be vivid and thrilling while still just this side of credible.

I learned from reading Lord of the Rings and Dune that one way to keep tension is to maintain multiple stages.  I do that constantly throughout the book, but particularly here when Bob wonders whether Lauren had died.  I did not at that moment know the answer to that question, but knew I was going to have to write her fight next.

I liked the Sleeping Beauty reference; I thought it kept Slade humorous even in the midst of the serious battles.

Originally after the phrase “a snake that could swallow all snakes” I had included “it could swallow a cow”, but the editor quite rightly said that should go; that was less impressive than that it could swallow all snakes, and it was cut.

The missile brush trick is something I would use in the third book as a spell one of Slade’s companions knows.  I’m not certain I even remembered then that I had used it here, and there is no direct connection between the two.

Chapter 123, Hastings 42

When Lauren leapt from the cliff, I thought that might be the end of her; but I needed to write the story to figure out what would happen next.  My first instinct was that I would no longer have her stories to break up the others.  I had at that moment no intention of attempting to recreate the battle with the beast, but only to bring it to whatever conclusion I chose off camera and then let the reader know where she was.  But there were several problems with that.  One was that I still needed Lauren’s stories to break up Slade’s thread.  One was that it was cheating the reader to set such a major battle aside and not resolve it.  In the end, the idea of multiple staging seemed to demand that this battle be fought, and that Lauren’s story come back in here, so I wrote it.

I knew it was crazy for Lauren to jump, and I needed the reader to know that she knew that.  In fact, it was in the rewrite that came up with the idea that she would grab its neck when it tried to snatch her in its jaws.  That made it much more believable.

I now needed to manage a roller coaster ride in a way that would seem terrifying yet believable; I also needed to find a way to bring down the bird, but not make it seem too easy.

The disintegrator rod was a weapon I wanted to take from her for a while anyway; she would get it back eventually, but she needed to learn not to rely on it.  She couldn’t hold on to it practically up here, and it couldn’t survive the fall without breaking, so that all came together fairly well.

I had her try several things which did not work; I had it try several things as well.  It would be dramatically very good for her to plunge toward the ground with it, but I knew she wouldn’t cause that to happen intentionally.  It had to be an accident.

I also realized that I needed some way to save her, because the more I thought about the denouement the more apparent it was that Lauren and Slade were going to have to discuss a couple of things to make them work.

The idea of breaking her fall by leaping up from the creature had been vetted with two of the smartest people I know, my good friend (now Reverend, possibly Doctor) David Oldham, and my brother Roy.  Dave didn’t like the original version in which she pushed off just before landing and rolled across the ground.  The idea, of course, is that both she and the reptile are falling at the same rate, which is not as fast as she would fall alone because it is using its good wing to slow the descent some, and if she pushes herself up from its back she will transfer at least some of her kinetic energy to it, accelerating its fall and decelerating her own.  I’d originally had her leap up and away and then come down on the dirt; David agreed that it might work if she also landed on the beast’s body, to use the body of the beast as a sort of cushion or air bag, crushing it and so absorbing some of her momentum in that impact before rolling down the slope.  The outcome was the more dramatic idea of slowing her fall with the leap and then landing back on the bird and tumbling off.  But I did not want the reader to know at this point whether that worked.  I left the chapter hanging as to that.

I think if this were done as film/video, the entire section of these few chapters would bounce between Joe fighting the bird honor guard, Lauren fighting the flying reptile, and Bob rescuing Speckles.  I’m not sure how to integrate it, but then, I’ve never done video.

Chapter 118, Slade 42

Kondor is now gone.  The last chapter is his, because it is the beginning of the next book, but his chapter that would have fallen here has been skipped because his part in this book has ended.

This battle went through a couple of rewrites. The version that went to the editor was too short, but it took a lot of thought and effort to lengthen it and keep it interesting.  The entire section of the snake circling Slade and closing for the crush was added; yet it was a good add, and brought back Slade’s first “magic”, the reference to Thor.

The talking was always part of it.  Part of it was plot exposition, part was Slade’s style, his way of “not being afraid”.

Slade confronts a “primitive” religion, the sort of “original” religion that atheists think are the origin of modern beliefs.  He sees the flaws in it.  He starts out with a rather typical twentieth century derision of primitive religious beliefs and practices; but even as he started to deride the idea that the snake was a god, Kondor’s attitude toward his own beliefs came to mind, and he recognized that there could very well be a spirit of the mountains of whom the snake was a servant.

The battle has a feeling of “flourish, then consider”, which worked well and contrasted with a lot of the fights elsewhere, such as Lauren’s battle with the flying beast, which were continuous action until they ended.  Slade often had these pauses in battle; they seem in retrospect to characterize his style to some degree.

This is the climactic victory of the whole book, and for Slade it is much more than that he just saved the girl and won the battle.  I didn’t realize it for quite a while, but I knew that Bob’s story had ended here.  Some years later I was reading something on Aristotle’s Poetics and realized that this book really ultimately was Bob’s story.  He was an ordinary auto mechanic who fancied himself a warrior of Odin, and now he is a warrior of Odin, having defeated a giant, albeit a minor one.  His victory yell is the call of that success; the rest is denouement.

In the original I had included the phrase “beaten the big boss of the whole game”, which I thought fit well with Slade’s character; but the editor thought it a mistake to make it seem like a video game battle, and I conceded and cut it.  But he agreed that the yell should stay, and I kept the “it wasn’t game over” line.

Chapter 125, Hastings 43

Denouement.  It is here that we discover that Lauren survived her crazy stunt, and then spent some time finding her way out of the mountain valleys back to the nest, and pick up the idea that the parakeet people migrate.  My editor thought it was so patently obvious that Lauren was an idiot not to have realized it sooner; but I don’t know that anyone else had that impression.  I haven’t gotten any other responses suggesting that it was blatantly obvious to the readers.

I wanted to give the impression that Lauren was exhausted, so I stacked her first words to suggest a breath, “‘What about,’ she asked, ‘Joe?’”  I figured that would convey the feeling of breathlessness.  I probably did this many times.  I notice it here:  I break the sentence in an awkward point to insert the label.  I thought it created a pause, here specifically to give the impression of panting, as if she was breathing heavily as she spoke, although elsewhere it expressed uncertainty or thought or hesitation.

I was at this moment uncertain how I was going to get either Lauren or Slade out of this world; so I did not commit to whether they were going to follow the parakeet people.

Again, Lauren is like me.  I wear a sweat suit to bed.

The idea that warriors of Odin would brag about their victories had really just come to me when I was writing this section.  It fit, to a significant degree.  They were to be courageous, fearless in battle, and by bragging of their exploits they would encourage each other to greater feats so that they would have more about which to boast.  I have no idea whether it’s true; the only other Odinite I ever knew was also a game player character who (player and character) knew about as much as Slade about that religion.

The editor thought that Lauren’s words about God giving what we need when we need it were the right “moral of the story” as it were, a good place to wrap it up.  It was, in a sense, the end of this book; the Kondor chapter which follows was in many ways a way of saying, “To be continued.”  The moral for Slade at this point is that what matters is whether you will do what needs to be done when the time comes.

I should probably credit Corrie Ten Boom’s father with the lesson about God giving us what we need when we need it.  I’m sure I’ve heard others say it, but his example of holding onto his daughter’s train ticket until they board the train in the context of whether she would be brave enough to face martyrdom at the hands of the NAZIs is memorable.

Chapter 126, Kondor 41

Almost as soon as I’d decided it was a novel and not a comic book series, I decided that Kondor would end on “the other Mary Piper“.  The world in the game book has both the space ship and the sailing ship versions, and often they are played in parallel.  I didn’t want to play them in parallel–I thought that would be dull and predictable here (although it is exciting in play, because the players keep wondering whether what happened to the other guy is going to happen to them).

Joe’s ending is really more like the beginning of the next book—but in a sense it has to be here, because we have to know what happened to him when he fought the sparrows.

The weakening of the flashlight beam was a nuance, kind of a “referee’s call” for a tech device not working as well in a low-tech universe.  It’s not something Joe would expect, because he hasn’t really worked with the idea of technology not working in some worlds, so when it doesn’t work he seeks more practical explanations.

The deja-vu expression, “We have been here again, we will be here before,” is something of a Multiverser gag for time travel worlds.  That’s not what this is—this is a parallel scenario, the same names and situations in a different kind of universe—but it fits pretty well.  I had written it for an entirely different scenario.  I had done in play a series of adventures which were built around C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, and included the fun of running them chronologically backwards, such that each adventure took place before the previous one.  This meant that from the first adventure the player characters were recognized by those around them as being heroes from an earlier time.  When they could no longer discount this as mistaken identity, Aslan explains it with those words:  “You have been here again, you will be here before.”  There it was rather obvious in meaning:  in their future they would return in Narnia’s past.  However, I thought the phrase was one of my better bits, and I was not certain whether the second novel would ever be done–and I knew I could not use the Narnia adventures in a published work–so I placed it here, in a position that would have something of a different meaning.

I hope these “behind the writings” posts have been of interest, and perhaps some value, to those of you who have been reading the novel.  There is another–two more complete, actually, and another two started–but there are some complications which I will discuss in the next web log post, probably tomorrow..  Feedback is always welcome, of course.  Your Patreon support will make a difference.

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#68: Ridiculous Republicans

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #68, on the subject of Ridiculous Republicans.

In a previous post, mark Joseph “young” blog entry #67:  Dizzying Democrats we commented that both sides of the current presidential race are ludicrous.  We gave some consideration to the nonsense on the Democratic side, and promised to return to the Republicans.

So let’s look at the Republicans.


If the Democrats have lost control of their primary process to someone who is not even a Democrat, the Republicans may have it worse:  they have lost control of their primary process to someone who is not even a politician.  He has been called a clown and a buffoon, and there are people who are literally frightened that he will become the next President of the United States.  He is not a buffoon; he is a professional businessman and an amateur actor:  Donald J. Trump.

Despite his seeming popularity, it should be noted that most Republicans have been voting against him–if we compare the tallies of votes for Trump against “all others” combined, he never has the majority.  The professional politicians have all been doing what politicians do in these processes:  sniping at each other in an effort to emerge as the best of the rest.  The field has been shrinking, but it’s still too large for a head-to-head between Trump and “Not Trump”.  It is agreed that were the Republicans to unite behind a single alternative candidate, that candidate could defeat the loud-mouthed juggernaut and take the nomination.  The problem is, neither the remaining candidates nor the Republican voters can agree on who that ought to be.  The splintering within the party has resulted in disagreement concerning who truly represents Republican values–the right wing for whom Cruz or possibly Rubio are the best choices, or the centrist moderates for whom Kasich and Romney are the best remaining choices.  (Romney is not actually running, but it has been suggested that he could take the nomination in a brokered convention, that is, one in which no candidate enters with a delegate majority so negotiations work toward the selection of a compromise candidate.)

Some argue that Trump is not even a Republican–but that’s a problematic argument.  Unlike Sanders, who has always declared himself not to be a party member, Trump has never run for office and so never had to declare his party affiliation before.  Republicans in their current state constantly argue that various prominent party members are “Republican In Name Only” (RINO), and although Trump does not stand clearly for everything the party believes, he does oppose at least some of what the Democrats promote, and no one fits any party platform exactly except the people who write it, and usually not even all of them.  He says he is a Republican, and has persuaded enough Republicans that he stands for what they want to support that claim.  Republicans are not flocking to support Bernie Sanders; they are supporting Donald Trump.

Besides, it is not unknown for politicians to change their views or their party affiliations.  One of the best Republican Presidents in my lifetime began his political life as a Democrat and union organizer; by the time he was Governor of California, Ronald Reagan was a Republican beloved by the party’s conservative wing.  He, too, was an actor, although he did have government experience before running for President, and in fact had run and lost in the primaries previously.  People are afraid of Donald Trump, and what he might do as President–but many were similarly afraid of Reagan, and he not only did not start World War III he ended the Cold War, and there is at least evidence to support the claim that his economic policies sped the recovery and stimulated job growth.  Trump is not Reagan, but often the good Presidents are the ones no one expects will be good, and the ones expected to be good crash and burn.  No one expects Trump would be a surprise good President–but then, that’s the point of “surprise”.  I don’t know that I agree with Trump about much, but I am less afraid of him than I am of the extremist socialist policies of Bernie Sanders, even while I agree with Sanders on at least a few ideas.

So the Republican party nomination is still in the air as much as the Democratic, and the party leadership is struggling for that place of the appearance of impartiality that still allows them to guide events to an outcome they believe represents the true values of the party, and we are looking toward a highly polarized election which at this point looks like the exit poll question will be, “Whom did you vote against?”

Other posts and articles on presidential politics include web log posts #10:  The Unimportance of Facts, #13:  Governor Christie’s Debate Jab, #41:  Ted Cruz and the Birther Issue, and #42:  Politicians and Statesmen, and site articles Coalition Government, Polarization, Christie’s Early Potential Presidential Aspirations, The Republican Dilemma, Re-election Incongruity, and Election Law.

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#67: Dizzying Democrats

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #67, on the subject of Dizzying Democrats.

With the Presidential election looming and the primaries in full swing, it might be expected that there would be plenty of serious material for a political column; yet although I’ve published several political pieces over the past month or so, the race has fallen off the radar.  The problem is not that nothing is happening; the problem is that the entire race, on both sides, seems completely ludicrous.

Let’s look at the Democrats.


Before there really was a race, one candidate entered the ring and was expected to emerge with the Democratic nomination.  She was, of course, Hillary Rodham Clinton, former First Lady, former United States Senator from New York, former Secretary of State.  The Democratic Party machine wanted her.  Indeed, throughout the primary race there have been charges that party chairman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was attempting to rig the system so that no one could seriously challenge the Chosen One they hoped they could claim was the first woman President of the United States–limiting debate opportunities to keep competition from getting exposure, scheduling the few debates for times when few would watch.  It was supposed to be a royal promenade to the nomination.

It has been anything but that.  Bernie Sanders entered the race.  He might not be winning, and there are still pundits claiming that he can’t win, but he has surprised and outperformed her repeatedly in this race.

What makes this the more ridiculous is that Sanders is not a Democrat, and the Democrats are not really supporting him.  He has always claimed to be a Socialist, who votes with the Democrats because they (at least theoretically) stand between his extreme leftist views and the right wing views of the Republican party; he is, as it were, allied with the Democrats, but not one of them.  Analysis of the primaries shows that he tends to attract independents to the Democratic primary–people who do not call themselves “Democrat” are signing up to vote for Sanders, and tipping the balance against the majority of regular registered Democrats who mostly support Clinton.  Sanders is in essence stealing the party by flooding it with ringers.

And it seems that the Democratic machine, devoted as it is to its “everyone gets to vote” philosophy, is helpless against this onslaught.

Worse, at least from the perspective of the old school Democrats, is that their candidate is in trouble quite apart from the race.  People want to write it off as a minor indiscretion, but it appears that the lax treatment of the security of top secret information in Secretary of State Clinton’s e-mails is, under the law, treason.  The investigation is ongoing, but it seems more likely than not that the government is going to have to indict her and put her on trial, and before she can become President.  It’s got to be a damper on a political campaign to have to conduct it while defending against federal charges, and that’s only assuming that she’s not convicted.  Clinton has this looming over her, and a lot of people are skittish about voting for her because of that threat, and because of the implications of the investigation.

It could go away.  The Democrats could in fact make it go away:  the President of the United States could issue a pardon.  Gerald Ford demonstrated that it was possible to pardon someone for any and all crimes they might have committed, without them ever having been charged.  Obama could simply decree that Clinton has been pardoned, and the charges vanish.  So, given how much trouble this has been, why doesn’t he?

It would be a bad move politically, because of the Nixon stigma:  as soon as the President says that she has been pardoned for any involvement in any kind of illegal activity while serving as Secretary of State, a huge number of people will conclude that he knows she is guilty and needs to be pardoned.  She already has a trustworthiness issue:  most Americans, and even a substantial number of Democrats, believe she lies constantly and will say whatever is politically expedient.  A presidential pardon will only confirm those suspicions, increasing the level of distrust.

Yet the machine is still trying to put her in front, and it might succeed.

So really, the Democratic party is in shambles at the moment.  Anything could happen, but probably the party leadership will not like it, whatever it is.

We’ll look at the Republicans later.

Other posts and articles on presidential politics include web log posts #10:  The Unimportance of Facts, #13:  Governor Christie’s Debate Jab, #41:  Ted Cruz and the Birther Issue, and #42:  Politicians and Statesmen, and site articles Coalition Government, Polarization, Christie’s Early Potential Presidential Aspirations, The Republican Dilemma, Re-election Incongruity, and Election Law.

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#66: Character Quest

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #66, on the subject of Character Quest.

This is about the creation of my book Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, now being posted to the web site in serialized form.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers, so you might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  That link will take you to the table of contents for the book; links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.  There were also numerous similar previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts:

  1. #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone (which provided this kind of insight into the first six chapters),
  2. #20:  Becoming Novel (covering chapters seven through twelve),
  3. #22:  Getting Into Characters (for chapters thirteen through eighteen),
  4. #25:  Novel Changes (chapters 19 through 24),
  5. #27:  A Novel Continuation (chapters 25 through 30),
  6. #30:  Novel Directions (chapters 31 through 36),
  7. #33:  Novel Struggles (chapters 37 through 42),
  8. #35:  Quiet on the Novel Front (chapters 43 through 48),
  9. #37:  Character Diversity (chapters 49 through 54),
  10. #39:  Character Futures (chapters 55 through 60),
  11. #43:  Novel Worlds (chapters 61 through 66),
  12. #47:  Character Routines (chapters 67 through 72),
  13. #50:  Stories Progress (chapters 73 through 78),
  14. #53:  Character Battles (chapters 79 through 84),
  15. #55:  Stories Winding Down (chapters 85 through 90),
  16. #57:  Multiverse Variety (chapters 91 through 96),
  17. #59:  Verser Lives and Deaths (chapters 97 through 102),
  18. #61:  World Transitions (chapters 103 through 108), and
  19. #64:  Versers Gather (chapters 109 through 114).

This picks up from there.  In these chapters the three main characters begin a joint rescue mission.


There is some essential background to the book as a whole in that first post, which I will not repeat here.

Chapter 115, Kondor 38

I think the hints of the first signs of autumn were drawn from my writing journal—the notebooks in which during and for some time after college I attempted to practice writing in scraps, descriptions, character sketches, plot ideas.  At one point I found it worthwhile to attempt to describe seasonal appearances which might be useful for future background.

The hibernation suggestion is a diversion, to help the reader miss the other possibility.

Joe’s attitude toward Bob has a lot of amusement in it; he thinks of Bob as something of a clown, and doesn’t take his “warrior of Odin” notion seriously.

It seemed like time to trigger the problem, even though I was not certain how it was going to work.  This introduces the big event for which I brought them together.  The choice to make it Speckles who was kidnapped was made late in the process, but I long knew that one of the parakeet people would be taken, and it made sense for Lauren to be emotionally invested in the one taken.  It gave extra impetus to the quest.

Chapter 116, Hastings 40

As mentioned, “Lauren was not ready” picked up from the end of her previous chapter, where she expected to be ready.  It is perhaps a comment on our inability to be ready for the unexpected.  The juxtaposition between the end of Hastings 39, “Lauren was ready”, and the opening here, “Lauren was not ready”, was intentional.

Joe’s rationality comes through in calmly approaching the situation—but Joe has no emotional investment here.

The distintegrator rod is Lauren’s most potent weapon, and I needed to take it from her so that she would not begin to rely on it.  Thus I knew that she would lose the disintegrator, which is why she took it.

The decision not to wear the robes was obvious:  they’re a psychological weapon that would be useless against the sparrows, who don’t understand clothing at all.

As I mentioned, I gave Lauren the rifle so that she could give Joe the bullets.

There is also the aspect here that Joe might be an atheist but he has integrity, and Lauren can recognize and respect that even though he is not a Christian.

Slade’s comment about “something more” did as much to bring forward his idea of this as training for Ragnorak as it did Lauren’s idea that they were there for a reason.  Kondor’s “religion thing” was a recognition on my part that this fit with his ideas.  Joe blames war on religion.  That of course is a very narrow view and not really defensible—in some places one could as easily blame religion on war.  But it is the way he sees it.

I had intended for Joe’s Sherwood Forest tracking to come into play here; but it naturally flowed from that and from their personalities that he would be the leader on this expedition.

Chapter 117, Slade 39

Most of this was to bring to the fore Kondor’s tracking ability.  I still hadn’t worked out how this was coming together.  I knew that Slade’s alliance with the wind was still supposed to play a part, and had some image of that in my mind.  I knew that I wanted Lauren to sacrifice herself to let the others continue, and had envisioned some sort of leap into a chasm or something.  But I needed to break the tracking passage, so I created the cave entrance.  At that moment, I didn’t know where the cave went or how the other things fit.

Perhaps it’s a learn by doing thing.  I remember George Lucas commenting that it was very difficult to get any excitement out of spaceships fighting each other in space, because there was no real background; space ships fighting inside the space station, or speeder cycles rushing through the forest, could be made much more thrilling by the background zipping past.  In something of the same way, perhaps, I realized that having Kondor track their quarry for hours would be dull, unless something interrupted it.  At this moment, I had no idea what was in the cave; I thought in terms of a long path to somewhere, but it was very vague.  But I needed to get away from Kondor following the trail long enough to break the monotony.

In a lot of this I used an observer narrative technique.  Rather than attempt to follow Joe’s ability to follow the trail and have to get too many details into it, I let Bob observe that Joe did it extremely well.  I did the same with other moments in this part of the story, avoiding becoming too directly involved with the characters performing many of the actions but instead focusing on how they are perceived by their companions.

It was not out of character for Kondor to bring everything; and I already knew that he was going to die on this, and go to the other Mary Piper, so I wanted his gear close to him.  I think by this point I knew Lauren was going to survive her leap and have a chat with Slade toward the end, although the details were still unclear, so having her travel light made sense (particularly as her wagon would have been too much for the journey).  I never thought much about what Slade left behind, although I imagine his magic books and treasure chest did not go with him here.

I had set myself another challenge which I realized now.  The events leading to the sacrifice had to be drawn out long enough that my trio could reach the hen in time.  My first thought was that I had to make the trail long enough and assume that the captors moved along it slowly, such that it would take them quite a few hours to get to the end but the faster moving trackers could close the gap in that time.

The editor was confused by the shift in name usage; it is consistent with the person whose story is being told.  Lauren, who is almost always called Lauren in her own stories, calls her companions Joe and Bob.  Slade is always Slade to himself, and he consistently refers to his companions as Lauren and Kondor.  Kondor is again always Kondor in his own stories; he once or twice refers to Lauren as Mrs. Hastings before relaxing into Lauren, but although aloud he comes to call him Bob, Slade is almost always Bob Slade in his narrative, reflecting a bit of distance, some lesser connection, there.  I think that I got this idea of using the full name from The Great Gatsby, in which my high school English teacher pointed out that one of the characters is consistently distanced from the crowd by using his full name.

I brought them to the cave mouth and was not certain what I would do next.  I recognized almost immediately that what I needed was an obstacle that would slow the captors some, possibly as a place where some ritual was performed in advance of reaching the sacrificial location, but I was not sure how I was doing it.  At first I thought this could be the place, but then I realized that I needed to accomplish a lot more, and this could only be a landmark along the path.  I had considered an underground passage—I had played in a Star Frontiers game in which a ritual trek included a trip through caverns—but decided to make it shorter than that.

The other aspect of this was that the interruption, and the several subsequent interruptions, made the journey seem longer.  This seemingly longer journey was necessary, because it had to appear at least reasonably credible that the threesome caught up with a group that had left the night before; they could perhaps move two or three times as fast, but they could not really move ten times as fast, so this had to seem like it spread over several hours.  No matter how much tracking Kondor did, it would never have that feel, unless it were broken up by something else.  The cave was just such a thing.

Chapter 118, Kondor 39

The perspective of having the characters observe each other hits again here, as Joe watches Lauren recite the scripture that calls the light.  Light is one of those magicks that works in most worlds.  It also gives us Joe’s viewpoint, that her magic is really psionic and she doesn’t know it.  Kondor applies the same reasoning now that he applied to Sowan the Mage:  it can’t be magic, so it must be psychic.

It is sometimes the case that versers teach each other, and that’s encouraged in some situations; but I didn’t want these people to be too much the same, so they always think of it (and isn’t that just like life) at inopportune times.  Joe will not have the chance in this world to ask Lauren for a lesson, and by the time he does have the chance there will be other problems.

The image of the cave was the moment I decided there was a snake god at the end.  I was going to need something to fight in the big climax, and a giant snake seemed a good choice.  I had not, at this time, read Rowling at all; I subsequently discovered that she used a battle with a snake-like creature in one of her books.  This seemed different enough in retrospect, and I couldn’t see an effective way to change it, so it stayed.

The roof exit was a sudden inspiration; it would provide another value to Slade’s preparations and, to a lesser degree, Lauren’s acrobatics.  I think it was probably at this point that I decided one of the sparrow people was a wizard–more precisely, an evil cleric with clerical magic.  That was the explanation that would ultimately come out for how they carried Speckles along; it would also give me some suggestion that the procession was not a rapid flight with a prisoner, but a ritual march to the place of sacrifice–another piece that made catching up credible.

Lauren’s question about carrying Speckles up the wall is the first clue to their situation, and I decided that the way they were transporting her limited their speed.

Joe’s pride is challenged by the fact that the others made this climb easily.  It shouldn’t be, really—he is the most heavily encumbered here, as he brought all his gear and the others brought only what they thought they would clearly need.  But he’s also the only one who went through boot camp, and couldn’t let himself be outdone by the others.

Chapter 119, Hastings 41

Lauren thinks about how her use of holy magic might impact Joe even as she uses it to solve their present problems.  Again, I’m letting the characters describe each other, rather than showing what they do from their own perspectives.

I climbed a hill as steep as this at Camp Lebanon in the summer as a boy.  That is the memory.  Much of this was again to make the journey seem longer; providing Lauren’s feelings would help reach that objective.

I managed to get Slade’s pagan god references back into the story without actually thinking of any, by having Lauren reference them.

The wind at the gap was intended as a magical protection left by the sparrow’s wizard-priest.  That’s why it rises when Joe attempts to cross, but not otherwise.

I had envisioned the bridge long before.  I had long debated from whose perspective this scene should be presented.  Doing it from Slade’s perspective would mean that I had to provide both sides of the supernatural dialogue, and that would make it more difficult to understand why Kondor was not convinced of the supernatural after hearing the voices.  I had resolved to do it from Kondor’s angle, so that I could focus more on his reaction.  In the end, it was more the fact that I was in Lauren’s perspective when the moment came that decided it; but this allowed me to present Kondor’s negative attitude and Slade’s side of the discussion without prejudice.  But first we had to deal with crossing–or rather, not crossing–the bridge, in a way that would not cost the life of a character.

Having Joe fall into exactly the same position as Big Bill in the earliest chapters would, I thought, seem credible.  In fact, I’d had trouble with the original version of the Big Bill story and had to entirely rewrite it (it was originally a chauvinistic challenge to Lauren’s right to work the steel, and my editor said it did not work at all), but I had to save the critical moment there because it had to be echoed here.  We know how Lauren will save him almost immediately; it is still tense as she does so.  When Lauren saved Big Bill, I did not realize I was going to do this again.  Yet I wanted this scene so I could use Bob’s connection to the Caliph of the West Wind, and it was a perfect situation to repeat the same rescue this time of Joe.

It is a Multiverser bias point that levitation—telekinetically lifting yourself—is more difficult than other forms of telekinesis—lifting other objects, such as other people.  Thus it makes sense that Lauren can lift Joe easily but cannot lift herself; it’s a different skill.

Lauren’s anthropomorphizing of the wind is in keeping with her supernatural view of the universe; it also sparks Slade to recognize how it fits with him.  Kondor, of course, won’t accept it.  Joe looks for the naturalist explanation for the wind, but is willing to accept the mental powers explanation for Lauren’s ability, as long as it’s not magic.

Having Lauren describe Bob’s confrontation with the wind enabled me to avoid what kind of voice the wind might have had while at the same time avoiding having Joe’s complete invalidation of it.  Having Joe talk whenever Bob stopped talking gave me his skepticism and got me out of committing to the voice of the wind.

I have no idea how Kondor knew the trail ahead would be rougher; of course the air would be thinner as they went higher, and that would be a problem.  But a break seemed to be in order at this moment.

Chapter 120, Slade 40

The points about how far they had traveled and how difficult it was to negotiate the ledge were both intended to help explain how the trio managed to catch up with their quarry.  I brought back the matter of how they moved Speckles, because I wanted the reader to wonder as well; that way the revelation that there was a wizard would drop the other shoe, and they would get it.

At this moment it came to me that the world through which they were traveling was still beautiful; their attention had been drawn away from that by their focus on the problem.  The sudden opening of the view is a spot of light in the story.

The flying reptile idea had come to me considerably earlier, and I knew that Lauren was going to end her part of the quest here; I had not decided yet how she would survive it.

It was now time for Lauren to sacrifice herself.  I struggled with the pterodactyl, trying to present it in a way that would make it able to hold them at bay and threaten their lives without their weapons putting an end to it.  There had to be a reason why Lauren would jump for it; that reason could only be that it continued to threaten and delay them, and they could not effectively counter it.

I envision the beast using the cliff face for cover and maneuvering in and out of view rapidly as it attempts to snatch one of them for food.  I don’t expect they would make a terribly good meal, but it doesn’t know that.

Guns do jam in Multiverser, on botch rolls sometimes.  I needed Joe’s rifle to jam, because I needed him to have bullets for the confrontation ahead but I couldn’t have him stop trying to kill the beast at this point.

Re-reading this, it occurs to me that Lauren’s talent includes organizing effective teams that continue without her.  That matters eventually.

I have elsewhere told the tale of running Skinner’s Falls in a canoe during the flood.  The short version is that when we reached the four-foot swells at the head of the rapids, I froze and stared, and barely heard my father shouting for me to paddle.  It was something of this feeling that I imagined for Slade at this moment; Lauren jumped off a cliff aiming for a flying lizard.  Whether she made it or not, she was probably dead.  He was stunned.

Interest in these “behind the writings” continues, so I’m still thinking they’re worth producing.  Feedback is always welcome, of course.  Your Patreon support is also needed to maintain this.

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#65: Being Married

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #65, on the subject of Being Married.


These young couples, they don’t know–
They just think we’re old.
We took the silver years ago–
We’re going for the gold!

Photos from cakepicturegallery.com
Photos from cakepicturegallery.com

I have often thought about writing a piece about being married.  My wife has argued that I am in no position to give people advice about marriage, and she has a point.  Ours has been a rough marriage from the beginning.  However, that beginning is now–well, these web pages stay up a long time, but as I begin this I note that we are closer to our golden anniversary than to our silver.  It has been a long time.  I have been married twice as long as I was single.

I don’t presume, though, to give you any insights I have learned for how to keep a marriage together from my own observations.  Rather, over the years I have heard a lot of advice, and I have found some of it to be quite valuable, incredibly valuable.  I do not remember where I got it all, but I’ll try to note those points I can credit.

  1. Before we married, my father said that I needed to ask one question, and have an answer:  why are you marrying this person?

    My father’s experience gave him this, and it’s worth recounting.  He had been dating a girl–I’m not certain whether he was still in high school or already in college, but she kept talking about what they were going to do when they got married.  Finally one day he interrupted this by saying that he was not certain he was ready to marry just yet.  He was quite surprised three months later to read that she was marrying someone else.  Some people, he suggested, were in love with the idea of being married.  That’s not a satisfactory reason to marry; you need a reason to marry this person.

    The value of this particular bit of advice cannot be overstated.  Believe me, the day will almost certainly come when you are going to ask yourself this question:  Why did I marry this person?  If you have already answered it, you will know the answer when the question comes.  It can get you past some serious complications, knowing the answer, and particularly if it’s a good answer.  Even if you are already married, take a moment and give yourself that answer if you can.  If you’ve answered it adequately in the good times, the answer will be there in the time of crisis.

  2. I think I had already heard or read this somewhere before we married, but I remember that one of the many counselors we visited in attempting to work out our difficulties in the early days repeated and reinforced it:  divorce is not an option.  That was our attitude going into this, and it’s an important one.  Sure, people get divorced, even people who had no intention or expectation of doing so.  However, if your attitude is, “If it doesn’t work, we can get divorced,” you’ve got a vulnerability, a weak spot in your corporate armor.  The thing about marriage–about any commitment–is that it takes work, effort, in a word commitment.  If you’ve given yourself an emergency exit when you’ve built the thing, you’re going to be more inclined to use it when things get tough.  Face it, life has tough times, and there will be times when it will look like it would be easier to quit than to fight.  If quitting is off the table up front, fighting is the only choice, and you are more likely to put the effort into getting through.

    I should caveat that not every marriage can be saved.  Some relationships are so broken that one party or the other is not willing to embrace the grace and forgiveness needed to heal it.  Some people are so broken that they need to be mended themselves before they can be part of someone else’s life (but if you are that person, finding a different partner is just seeking to ruin someone else).

  3. This one comes from Bob Mumford, but I’m not entirely sure whether he was applying it to marriage or to church relationships.  It’s true either way:  God gives us the person we need, not the person we might want.  Mumford did say that God made one man and one woman, and they’re very different.  That’s an important part of it.  God is working to form you into his child; your spouse is part of that process, pressing you to become more loving.  That means it will sometimes be difficult–as someone has said, it’s easy to love those that are lovely, but God calls us to love when we really don’t feel loving at all.  You’re not always going to be happy with His choice, but ultimately His choice is going to be best for forming you into who you ought to be, and thus for your ultimate happiness.

  4. The ideal spouse is an illusion, and the more so when you think that it is some spouse other than the one you already have.

    C. S. Lewis addressed this somewhere, noting that to some degree the fact that you have been married has already been part of the process that makes this person your “other half”.  Be married to someone for a week, and both of you change–maybe not in the ways either of you wishes, but the process has begun.  That process is rocky, sometimes painful, sometimes seemingly counterproductive, but it is moving both of you toward what God wants you to be.

    Meanwhile, the axiom that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence does not mean that it is, but that it appears to be so.  When you look at your reality, you see the bad parts; when you look at your fantasy, you see the good.  The fantasy is unlikely to be as good as the reality.  For one thing, you will be bringing your self into the next relationship, and you have just as much potential to spoil that one as you had to spoil this one, plus a bit more because you have added a track record for failure in the first relationship.  If you could not make the first marriage work, you have less chance to succeed with the second.

    It is true that the percentage of marriages which end in divorce has been rising over the years.  However, part of that is because second marriages are less likely to survive than first ones, and third marriages less than seconds.  Your best shot at long-term marriage is usually your first one.  If you let that break, you prove that you are the kind of person who will let your marriage break.

  5. The way forward in life is always into God.  If our direction is taking us closer to God, it is moving us forward; if it is the right way forward, it will take us further into God.  That often can help as a measure of which is the right path, as if we can see that one path takes us toward and the other away from God we can be pretty certain that if we’re seeing it clearly the former is the right choice.  It also should be seen as assurance:  if this is the right path, whatever it looks like from here, it is going to bring us closer to God.  God says that He hates divorce.  As a rule of thumb, then, breaking a marriage is moving away from God, and affirming one is moving toward God.

  6. You are going to have to give up your expectations.

    You probably will say that you don’t really have any expectations, but that’s not really possible.  You formed an image of what a marriage is like, of how it works, from the relationships of your parents and other adults among whom you were raised.  You are to some degree going to emulate that, and to some degree reject it; but similarly you are going to expect that your spouse has some of the same expectations about how it works as you do–and your spouse is going to have different expectations, for both of you.

    That means the wife is not just going to fall into the role the husband expects, and the husband is not automatically going to be what the wife expects.  Here are some “typical” clashes:

    • Each party has a belief about which of them manages the money and pays the bills.  Sometimes they won’t agree, and money is one of the top tensions in marriages.  Even when it is agreed as to which of you will balance the checkbook and cover the regular bills, there is still going to be an issue concerning the control of the “extra” money–what do you have to do to be able to buy yourself a new outfit, or a quick lunch?  Your parents probably had systems for this, but it is probably not the case that you both grew up with the same system.
    • In some houses, the man is expected to fix anything that breaks, because that’s what men do; in other houses, if something breaks you call a repairman or buy a replacement.  This is a simple example, but your relationship will be filled with things each of you thought, without ever considering it or recognizing that you thought this, was the way it would work.
    • It has gotten more complicated.  In today’s world, we cannot assume we know who washes the dishes, or who cooks the dinners.  Child care expectations are no longer simple.  There are also cultural expectations.  Interracial marriages mean cross-cultural marriages, which means that his family and her family both have ideas about what a bride or a groom ought to be and do, and they are not going to match.  You both will find yourself trying to explain to your extended families that this is not how things work in your spouse’s family, and that you have to adjust–without making them think you married someone who does not know how to be your spouse.  Complicating it, you probably are not completely convinced that your family is wrong.  After all, that’s how it worked when you were younger.
    • Then there are the wealth of holidays.  It is not even just which holidays you celebrate, but how you celebrate them.  Do you have a Christmas Tree?  Is it cut, balled, or artificial?  Does it go up the day after Thanksgiving, or the last weekend in Advent, or Christmas Eve?  When and how does it come down?  On what holidays do you have a big dinner, and on which ones is snacking the order of the day?  You expect that such celebrations will continue as they did when you were young, but so does your spouse, and there’s not a very high probability that those expectations will match.

    These are just obvious ones.  The point is that you expect each other to be and do certain things, and you expect that you yourself will fall into a specific role, and the role you envision for yourself is not going to match the one envisioned by your spouse.  That’s normal.  All of us take years figuring out how to make our relationships work, and you should not expect less for yourselves.

  7. This was actually one of the first things I realized, and one of the hardest to apply; I still fail at this frequently.  You must learn to express your love in two languages–the one you understand, and the one your spouse understands.

    Near the end of Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye starts singing to his wife Goldie a song that asks, “Do you love me?”  Her first reaction amounts to, what kind of question is that and why are you asking me this now, but they have had three daughters reject parental guidance and marry for love (and a slippery slope it proved to be, as the first married a good Jewish boy and the third a gentile Marxist).  Ultimately, though, she lists all the ordinary household chores she has done for him, like cooking and cleaning and washing, along with bearing and raising his children, so she concludes that that she must love him:  “I suppose I do.”  He replies, “And I suppose I love you.”

    We learn two things from this; the first is about speaking two languages.

    You think that all those things you do, which on some level you are doing for your spouse and which on some level that fact that you are doing them means your spouse does not have to do them, is expressing your love.  Whether it’s going to work, paying the bills, cleaning the house, making the meals, raising the children, maintaining the yard, driving, shopping, washing, repairing, whatever it is you do, you do it, on some level, because of love, and you think that’s understood.  Your spouse thinks the same thing about everything of which you are spared because your spouse handles it.  Yet you don’t see that as an expression of love for you.  In fact, at least sometimes you think that your spouse likes to do those things.  It does not occur to you that he hates driving, she hates laundry, but does it because of love for you.  On the other hand, it sometimes occurs to you that you are doing the driving, the laundry, because of love.  You are expressing love in a language you understand.  That is important, because it reminds you that you love this person, and will do this because of that.  However, your expression of love is not being heard.

    You need to speak the other language, the language that will be understood.  Michelle, ma belle, sont les mots qui vont tres bien ensemble, sings Paul McCartney–in French, Michelle, my lovely, are the words which go very well together.  Most of us do not need to learn another spoken language; but we do need to communicate in a way that our spouse recognizes as an expression of love–whether it’s flowers and candy or dinner and a movie, or breakfast in bed or a sporting event, or simply saying the right words at the right time, the unexpected display of affection, some way of letting that person know that there is love here.

    It also helps if you can learn to perceive the expression of love your spouse is constantly making in the language you don’t understand.  It’s probably there, and it is a mystery to the other person why you don’t realize it, just as you don’t understand why your expressions of love go unrecognized.

  8. The other thing we learn from Tevye and Goldie is that for the purpose of marriage love is not primarily somethng you feel; it is something you choose and do.  Throughout history in most of the world, marriages were arranged:  families chose brides for grooms and grooms for brides.  It is really the “normal” way; selecting your own spouse is only a recent and limited practice.  That means that most people learned over time how to love, or show love to, spouses who were selected for them by someone else.  It is not really that difficult to decide to love your spouse.  In the modern world, most people in arranged marriages will tell you yes, they do love their spouses.  It is a choice you make.  Feelings are too erratic to be the basis for commitment, but they will follow from decision.

  9. In I Corinthians 7:32ff Paul comments that the unmarried man worries about pleasing the Lord but the married man worries about pleasing his woman, and then says the same (gender reversed) about the unmarried and married women.  What is interesting is that Paul does not say that this is wrong; rather, he seems to be indicating that if you are married, pleasing your spouse is (at least) as important to you as pleasing the Lord, and that’s as it ought to be.  Sure, he says that it is better not to marry for that reason, but he also says that for most people it is better to marry, and that means that for most people there is that one person in life, the spouse, who matters as much as Christ.  We don’t like to think of it that way, but Paul says that we act that way, and he does not condemn us for it.  Spouses are important.

I was developing this for a “permanent” web page in the Bible and Theology section of the site, but decided that that was not the best way to do it.  That’s partly because when I had eight points I kept thinking of a ninth and then forgetting it before I had the chance to write it down, and then while I was trying to think of it I remembered the one that falls ninth here, which I know is not the one I kept forgetting.  I conclude two things from this.

The first is that no matter how many things I remember and put in this page, I am going to miss something, something that undoubtedly helped me through one of the true rough spots in my life and marriage, and I’m going to wish I had included it.  I could hold the page until I died, and still not manage to include everything.  I thus hope these points will help you now, and perhaps before we reach our fiftieth (should we both live so long) I’ll post a few more.

The second is that I am not always going to remember all of these points–and neither are you.  Make note of them, come back and read them again (as long as we manage to keep the site online through your support), and think about them more than just on the read-through.  They are all worth remembering; they will all help keep your marriage together a little longer.

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#64: Versers Gather

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #64, on the subject of Versers Gather.

This is about the creation of my book Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, now being posted to the web site in serialized form.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers, so you might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  That link will take you to the table of contents for the book; links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.  There were also numerous similar previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts:

  1. #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone (which provided this kind of insight into the first six chapters),
  2. #20:  Becoming Novel (covering chapters seven through twelve),
  3. #22:  Getting Into Characters (for chapters thirteen through eighteen),
  4. #25:  Novel Changes (chapters 19 through 24),
  5. #27:  A Novel Continuation (chapters 25 through 30),
  6. #30:  Novel Directions (chapters 31 through 36),
  7. #33:  Novel Struggles (chapters 37 through 42),
  8. #35:  Quiet on the Novel Front (chapters 43 through 48),
  9. #37:  Character Diversity (chapters 49 through 56),
  10. #39:  Character Futures (chapters 57 through 60),
  11. #43:  Novel Worlds (chapters 61 through 66),
  12. #47:  Character Routines (chapters 67 through 72),
  13. #50:  Stories Progress (chapters 73 through 78),
  14. #53:  Character Battles (chapters 79 through 84),
  15. #55:  Stories Winding Down (chapters 85 through 90),
  16. #57:  Multiverse Variety (chapters 91 through 96),
  17. #59:  Verser Lives and Deaths (chapters 97 through 102), and
  18. #61:  World Transitions (chapters 103 through 108).

This picks up from there.  These chapters have all three main characters coming together.


There is some essential background to the book as a whole in that first post, which I will not repeat here.

Chapter 109, Slade 36

With Joe and Lauren in the same world, their story had slowed significantly; I thus skipped Joe this time and came back to Bob to keep the story moving.

I really like the imagery of Slade’s action hero movement here.  He is holding his blaster in his right hand, but he has to cross-draw his sword from that side, so he tosses the blaster in the air and catches it with his left hand while simultaneously drawing the sword with his now free right hand and striking the enemy.  I don’t think it’s that tough a trick, really, as I often toss my keys in the air with one hand and catch them with the other while transferring whatever was in the other hand to the first hand, for any of several reasons (usually to have my keys in the other hand, since I need them to the right to start the car but keep them in my left pocket).  Holstering the blaster wrong-handed is more difficult, but not impossible if given a moment, and he gives himself the moment by terrorizing them.

The distinction between ranged and close combat was needed to explain how Slade could defeat thirty trained guards; the emotive violence would also be a factor.  The notion that blaster-wielding troops would be incommoded by close combat doesn’t seem that alien.

I also like the chaotic impression of not being able to tell which soldiers are trying to fight and which looking for an escape route.

Somehow my editor didn’t get that Ishara drew his blaster to shoot at the person shooting at Slade, and felt I had left unanswered the question of why Ishara suddenly shot Slade.  I don’t remember what I changed, but I hope that the version that went to print is clear that Ishara did not shoot Slade, one of the Federation guards did.

There was a typo in the printed version.  In the last paragraph a sentence begins “But abruptly, and he dropped it….”  I corrected it for the online version to “Abruptly he dropped it….”  I am not certain what the original was supposed to say.

Chapter 110, Hastings 38

I realized as I said that Joe took to tending the sick parakeets that I had not previously mentioned them, but it was simple enough to suggest that sick birds stayed out of sight.

This is my first mention of “the journey”.  Lauren never worked out what that meant, but my editor did.  I don’t know whether he was smart or Lauren was stupid; I don’t know whether other readers realize what it means before the reveal.

This was one of the theological discussions that enabled me to put forward ideas about life and heaven.  I tried to keep them “fair”—neither Lauren nor Joe generally won, although when Bob was added that created more complications, because he brought a different viewpoint to it.

The argument this time was to show that they still disagreed even though they were becoming friends, to explore some of the ideas about time, give a bit more backstory to Scriff–and to give Slade a stage on which to enter.

The new voice is, of course, Bob Slade.  I did not want it to be too obvious that he was arriving to join them, although my editor seemed to think that once the two of them were together it was pretty obvious that the third was going to arrive at any moment.  I was so irked by that problem that in the next book I made a point of bringing two characters together early and then separating them before bringing all three together in a different world.

Chapter 111, Slade 37

Having brought Slade onto the stage, I needed to fill in the gaps before the story escaped him.  Mostly, though, this was just an attempt to create the feeling of meeting them for the first time, and I wanted it to have the natural feel you get when you’re in a foreign country and meet someone from home.

I specifically had Bob ignore the fact that Joe is black.  It is Joe’s self-perception of his blackness that is his racism problem.  Neither Lauren nor Bob ever take note of it unless he mentions it.

This chapter let me fill in the gap from Bob’s departure from Destiny to his appearance here in the valley.  I placed him at a greater distance from the others to start, but in something of the same direction, and said he took two days to make the trip afoot.

There is something about their common experience that draws them together despite their differences.  There’s also the fact that for this first “gather” I put them in a world in which they are the only humans, so they naturally would have more in common with each other than with the birdmen of the world.

Chapter 112, Kondor 37

This is a peculiar chapter, because it is told from Joe’s perspective but focuses on a conversation between Lauren and Bob which continues for quite a while before Joe is drawn into it.  It thus gives the naturalist’s observations of arguments between supernaturalists.

Bob is completely different from Joe.  Joe is a trained soldier who prefers to be involved in healing, Bob a trained repairman who views himself a fighter.  Joe is serious about everything he does, Bob is not serious even about the things that most matter to him.  They have very little to connect them.

Bob has fair reason to think that there should be a fight.  He was killed in NagaWorld by artillery while stripping parts off a war machine.  In the Djinni Quest, he had to face efreet, and learned of his own inadequacy which he spent decades remedying.  On Destiny, he was part of a rebel pirate crew, and he was one of the key combatants.  Whether there actually was a plan for him to be a fighter or whether he is simply reading the events to fit his expectations, the evidence supports his belief.  Thus his incredulity that there would not be any use for his fighting skills here—and his ultimate validation when there is.

I don’t know what’s available in terms of Norse scriptures either, but in recent years there seems to be a growing number of what might be called fad pagans.  They’ve learned about pagan religions from various sources, and knowing almost nothing about these have decided to declare themselves devotees of these faiths.  Connecting Slade’s beliefs to a series of fantasy novels fit well with who he was.  My knowledge of Norse religion is all second-hand from multiple sources, and so Lauren’s and Bob’s also are all second-hand—but from different sources.  Thus Lauren surprises him with the notion that the giants beat the gods in the end.

The C. S. Lewis quote is one I read decades ago; I could not tell you in which book he wrote it.  I have since heard that J. R. R. Tolkien opined that Lewis romanticized Norse religion.

Years after the book was published, and even well after I had finished the third novel (in which Slade begins learning a few things about his faith) a reader from Finland opined that he hoped in the future I would draw more from the Eddas, and give Bob’s religion more real substance.  I have not done so.  That’s partly because the point is that Bob does not know much about such things—as with magic, he is not really all that interested in the details, and his interest in all things intellectual is shallow at best.  It’s also because I wanted room to play with what Bob believed, and to create things that fit my story needs.  I make no claims that anything Bob believes is genuinely Norse religion, and I make that clear up front with his source:  a series of fantasy adventure novels.

The Viking Raiders series and their author James Thompson are completely fictional inventions of mine.  It is perhaps ironic that I have since met someone named James Thompson who is very into fantasy (mostly Star Wars and Harry Potter, I think), but I did not know him then.

The outbreak when Lauren finds it incredible that Bob got his religion from a set of fantasy adventure books draws Joe into the argument.  He expresses the populist view that the Bible is a collection of myths and legends, against Lauren’s educated view that it is collected history.

Joe’s argument is the typical circular argument that because we have no proof of anything magical or supernatural, we can discount any claims that there is such proof.  Of course, this puts him against both of the other disputants, each of whom is certain that he has encountered the supernatural personally.

Lauren quite rightly accepts that Bob’s magic is as real as hers, and that in the question of whether or not there is a supernatural, Pagans and Christians are allies against naturalists and atheists.  She might be leery of the source of Bob’s powers, but she’s much more concerned about the denial of any such powers than about the specifics of the source in this discussion.

Joe moves to the typical argument that there are scientific explanations we don’t yet know, and that he can accept mental/psionic powers which might be confused for magic.  Lauren is ready with an answer, specifically because she is familiar with both and knows them to be different.

This of course spilled over into the argument about religion, dragging Kondor into it.  The challenge at this point was to keep everyone credible and in character, and find a way out of the argument without anyone conceding anything.

Having Joe tell the story of the debate enabled me to end it unfinished.  Whatever Lauren and Bob said after this probably wasn’t even on subject anymore.  Joe has in essence lost the debate without surrendering his position:  he knows he can’t win, so he stops trying.

Chapter 113, Hastings 39

I had some notion in mind that the parakeets spent the summers here, but was only hinting it.  My editor thought it incredibly obvious, and thought Lauren really should have realized it sooner, but I’m not convinced even now.  They were not interested in nest construction or maintenance at this point because they were leaving soon.

I knew the action was going to have to resume soon; this was a calm before the storm, and although I was still working out the details of the storm, the calm needed to draw to an end.  Thus Lauren returned to her practice.

The idea that Lauren has been lulled into relaxing and that Bob’s diligence shocks her back to practice seemed sensible.  After all, she’s been thinking that the reason she is here is to help create the basics of civilization, and now she has two companions—one always dressed in the garb of a soldier, the other constantly practicing his combat skills.  If her theory is correct, there must be a need for fighters in whatever is to come, and she needs to put herself back on track for that.

Bob’s practice includes changing the power cell in the weapon because he noticed previously that that was a time-consuming part of fighting, and it would be to his advantage to recognize when he was firing his last shot and to be able to change the power cell quickly.

There are more hints of what is to come in this chapter, but not of the part that matters to the story.  In a sense, the journey is a distraction:  it will come, and it will change the situation, but while the reader is expecting that something entirely different is coming that the reader is not expecting.

The statement at the end of this chapter that Lauren would soon be ready sets up her next chapter, where she realizes she is not.

Chapter 114, Slade 38

From the first chapters, it had always been assumed that all three characters had started in NagaWorld; but because that world is used as the starting point for players and is supposed to be a mystery to be explored, I tried to keep the amount of detail about it in the book limited.  But at this moment, it seemed sensible to bring out that they were all in that world originally, because it supported the view that they were connected, and that would help the story move forward.

Bob spent years in the relatively quiet position of lord of a castle, but most recently had been in the rather action-packed adventures of a rebel space pirate.  The quiet of the parakeet meadow is a bit of a come-down from that.

In a later book, Lauren and Bob communicate briefly in parakeet, merely because they can.  It becomes a shared experience.  He never becomes particularly fluent in it, though.

It struck me that one aspect of the religion of Odin, as I understood it, was that it valued strong fighters and did not value much else.  Thus for Bob the docile and relatively weak parakeet people were not candidates for his religion, and he didn’t care what they chose to believe.  That also suggests that the gods of this particular faith don’t care about people except in relation to what they are able to do.  Lauren’s faith is entirely different from that.

Lauren broaches the notion that there can be a scientific explanation for how something happens that does not negate the theological purpose of why it happens.  Joe challenges that, thinking that either God did it or science did it, and if there is a materialist scientific explanation for how something happened, asking why is redundant.

I liked the idea of the odds of drawing the two of spades from a pinochle deck (which, of course, has no such card) well enough to use it again, this time to have Joe say it in response to the question of the probability that they would all land in the same world at the same time twice.  It reflected the growing impression Kondor had that random chance could not account for his experiences.  He would of course seek scientific explanations; but he was starting to move away from pure coincidence as an explanation for it all.

Interest in these “behind the writings” continues, so I’m still thinking they’re worth producing.  Feedback is always welcome, of course.  Your Patreon support is also needed to maintain this.

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#63: Equal Protection When Boy Meets Girl

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #63, on the subject of Equal Protection When Boy Meets Girl.

United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg does not like the Roe v. Wade decision.

To many, that will sound like nonsense.  Ginsburg is the anchor of abortion rights on the United States Supreme Court, and Roe the seminal case which recognized, some would say created, such a right.  Yet Ginsburg does not disagree that there is such a right; she disagrees regarding the basis of that right, and thus with the reasoning of Roe which is its foundation.

Roe v. Wade is in essence a Right to Privacy case.  Beginning with Griswold v. Connecticutt, in which the court found that the state could not criminalize the act of teaching couples how to use contraceptives in the privacy of their own bedroom, the court inferred that the First Amendment protections of freedom of expression, Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure, and Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, implied a right to keep one’s personal matters private.  There were several intervening cases which extended that, and there have been others arising since Roe, but in Roe the argument was that the decision to have an abortion was a medical decision between a woman and her doctor, and as such was a private matter in which the government should not interfere without a very compelling interest.

Ginsburg disagrees.  That argument, she claims, makes a private and personal decision a matter to be discussed with a doctor–a paternalistic oversight that according to Ginsburg violates the fundamental right at stake.  She claims that a woman’s decision should be autonomous, something she decides without involving anyone she does not wish to involve.  She makes it an Equal Protection right, covered largely by the fifth through tenth amendments.  Her assertion is that a woman should have the autonomous right to decide whether to bear a child, unimpeded by any considerations including medical ones, because it is solely the woman’s problem.

Ginberg’s reasoning presents serious challenges for those who oppose abortion.  If her line were adopted, current efforts to regulate abortion providers and facilities would be unconstitutional.  As the decision stands, if abortion is a privacy right as a medical decision on the advice of a medical professional, it is completely reasonable for reasonable regulations of the medical profession to restrict access to abortions based on the government’s regulation of health care.  If it is an autonomous right under equal protection, then a woman in theory should be able to have a doctor or anyone she chooses perform one in the privacy of her own bedroom without any government involvement at all.  Yet Ginsburg’s position suffers from some other problems.  She believes she is defending the concept that a woman should be treated exactly as a man would be in the same circumstance, but (apart from the fact that men would not be in exactly the same circumstance) the treatment of men in this circumstance is already worse than the treatment of women, viewed from the perspective of individual autonomy and equal protection.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg official United States Supreme Court portrait.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg official United States Supreme Court portrait.

Let’s look at the situation:  boy meets girl.  We’ll call our girl Ruth, for Justice Ginsburg, and we’ll name the boy Tony, in memorium of the recent passing of her good friend, colleague, and adversary Justice Antonin Scalia.

Ruth and Tony meet, maybe at work, maybe at a party, maybe at school or in the neighborhood.  They like each other, and start seeing each other.  They find themselves attracted to each other.  Human physiology being designed to promote reproduction, at some point they have desires to have sex.  At this point they are just about equal, as far as reproductive rights are concerned.  Some argue that Tony is disadvantaged in that his drives are stronger than Ruth’s, but there aren’t many ways to test that.  Ruth might have more resistance to those drives because the consequences are more direct for her, but in essence it is within the power of each them them to choose, autonomously, not to engage in sex.  It is also within their power to choose, jointly, to risk a pregnancy.

Yes, Tony could rape Ruth; Tony could coerce Ruth by some other inducement.  Women are raped fairly often, usually by men, sometimes by women.  Men are also raped, by men and sometimes by women, but considerably less often–although more often than reported.  Men are more embarrassed about being raped than women are, and so less likely to report it; and they are taken less seriously when they do, partly because some people think a man can’t really be raped by a woman, and partly because men who have never been raped by a woman somehow think they would enjoy it.  Rape, though, is a separate issue:  anyone who has been raped has had rights fundamentally violated, quite apart from the problem of potential pregnancy.

If Ruth and Tony agree to engage in sex, suddenly the entire picture changes:  they no longer have equal reproductive rights.  A significant part of that is simply technological.  Either of them could have an operation rendering him or her permanently infertile, which is generally a drastic step few want to take and is a considerably more expensive and difficult (but ultimately more reliable) procedure for Ruth than for Tony.  Barring that, though, Tony is limited to the question of whether or not to use a condom–a prophylactic device with a rather high failure rate.  Ruth’s equivalent, a diaphram, is a bit more difficult to get (must be fitted by a gynecologist) but considerably more effective; she also has several other options.  Usually she would use spermicide (sometimes known as “foam”) with a diaphram, but she can also use hormone treatments, usually in pill form but sometimes as implants, that disrupt her ovulation cycle.  All of these options have varying probabilities of preventing conception; there are other options.  Intra-uterine devices (IUDs) usually reduce the chance of conception but also prevent or sometimes disrupt implantation, causing a spontaneous abortion–what in popular jargon is called a “miscarriage”, but at so early a stage that pregnancy was not suspected.  In all these ways, all the reproductive rights are on Ruth’s side:  if she chooses not to become pregnant, she has an arsenal of ways to prevent it.

However, young lovers are often careless.  Birth control is so unromantic, so non-spontaneous.  The young suffer from the illusion of invulnerability, that they are the heroes of their own stories and everything is going to work according to their expectations.  People have sex and don’t get pregnant; some couples try for unsuccessful years to have a baby.  A pregnancy is often a surprise, even for those who want it.  People take the risk, and Ruth and Tony might lose.  So now there is a baby on the way, as they say, and again Ruth’s reproductive rights are more than equal to Tony’s.  She can choose to carry the child to term, or to have an abortion.  He has no say in the matter, even if he is her husband.  She might include him in the decision, but it is her decision; she does not even need to inform him that there is a decision.  She can end the story right here.  He cannot.  He has no say about his own reproductive rights.  He cannot say, “I do not want to be the father of a child; terminate it.”  Nor can he say, “I want this baby, keep it.”  He does not, in that regard, have equal protection.

Maybe he does not care; maybe he figures it is her problem.  However, it is not just her problem–it is also his problem.  The inequities are not yet quite done.  If Ruth decides not to have an abortion–exercising her reproductive rights and overriding his–the child is born.  At that moment Ruth has yet another choice:  she can keep the child, committing herself to the difficulties and expenses of raising it, or she can absolve herself of all further responsibility, agreeing never to see the child again, by putting it up for adoption.  I do not want to minimize the agony of that choice, but it is her choice–it is not his choice, and he has no say in the matter.  His reproductive rights are not equally protected.

In most cases, if she chooses to surrender the child for adoption, he has no say in the matter; he cannot say it is his child and he wants to keep it.  That, though, is only half the problem.  If she decides that she wants to keep the child, she can sue him for child support–and indeed, if Ruth is poor enough that she files for public assistance from the state, most states will find Tony and force him to make child support payments, and jail him if he fails to do so.  It is his responsibility to support the child if she says it is.  He can claim that it is not his child–the tests can be expensive, but there is an avenue to avoid false claims–but we already agreed that it is his, so he is going to have to support it.  She had a choice; he has none.

So by all means, let’s think of abortion as an Equal Protection issue.  Men are not protected in this nearly as well as women.  A lot of things would have to change to get there.

In addition to web log posts with the Abortion, Discrimination, and Health Care tags, see also the articles Why Shouldn’t You Have Sex If You Aren’t Married?, and Was John Brown a Hero or a Villain?

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#62: Gender Issues and Seating Arrangements

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #62, on the subject of Gender Issues and Seating Arrangements.

A lawsuit has been filed against Israel’s El Al airline, alledging discrimination in relation to seating accommodation:  the airline asked a woman to move to a different seat to accommodate the religious considerations of an ultra-orthodox man seated beside her.  Apparently this happens sometimes.

I once read an interview with Freeman Dyson.  (I think it was him; I also read an interview with Gerard K. O’Neill, and I sometimes get some of the trivia confused.)  The interviewer asked him whether growing up he ever wondered why he was so smart.  He responded no, not exactly–or at least that’s not the way the question came to him.  What he wondered was why everyone else was so stupid.

I did not have that experience.  However, I am often surprised that things which seem obvious to me are completely obscure to other people.  I’m sure that’s a common perception of opinionated people–I know some opinionated people who don’t understand why other people disagree with them and conclude that those people are not intelligent, which is only sometimes true and rarely the reason.  I, though, am not talking about people disagreeing with my opinion; that happens all the time, and I have great respect for many people whose opinions are very different from mine, and find great value in discussing our disagreements.  Much is learned through this, even when neither of us change our views.  What I mean is that sometimes problems have what to me are obvious solutions, and yet the people for whom these are problems fail to recognize the solutions even after the problems become serious–like the present lawsuit, which El Al had to know would happen eventually.

So let’s look at the story.


The story is that Renee Rabinowitz was flying from New York to Jerusalem on El Al.  Rabinowitz is a Jewish woman, a NAZI Holocaust survivor, eighty-one years old.  She was seated beside a Jewish man.  The man, however, objected.  He was of one of Israel’s “ultra-orthodox” denominations (“sects” is such a biased word).  The Torah is understood to forbid any contact at all between any man and any woman not related to each other, even if that contact is accidental.  The man asked that the woman be moved to accommodate his religious beliefs.  The stewardess asked–Rabinowitz says pressured–her to change seats.

It is obviously a problem.  If the Israeli national airline, whose advertising says that they “are Israel”, is unable to accommodate the religious scruples of those Israelis who most strongly uphold the historic traditions of the national faith which long defined them as a people, how can anyone expect to have their religion respected in the wider world of commerce?  To hope that on a transatlantic flight adjacent seatmates would never accidently touch each other–it certainly defies the odds.  El Al is right to attempt to accommodate the request, and there is a sense in which the man is within his rights to make it.  Yet the situation is so riddled with problems that have obvious solutions that the outcome here should never have happened.

First, this apparently is not the first time El Al staff have asked women to move to accommodate the religious scruples of men, and there is no indication that they have ever asked men to move to accommodate the religious scruples of women.  The Israel Religious Action Center (a liberal advocacy group) was waiting for the right case for a lawsuit, which suggests that this has happened before, to the point that it at least implies a policy.  The lawsuit is certainly going to claim that the airline was aware of the potential problem.  That raises the first obvious solution:  why did the airline not ask passengers whether they had this specific concern?  Airlines ask whether you want first class, business class, or coach, often whether you want a window or an aisle seat, whether you have any specific dietary restrictions.  How much trouble would it be to include whether each passenger is male or female, and whether he or she has a religious objection to sitting next to someone of the opposite sex?  Not every airline in the world would, could, or should do that, but certainly El Al should already have been doing it, since they have already had the problem.  This simple policy would eliminate at least most of the complaints in this area.

But more directly, as it will undoubtedly happen again, the stewardess certainly handled the matter inappropriately, and so did the male passenger.  The way to accommodate a religious problem of this sort is to move the person who has the problem.  If I am seated next to someone who so reeks of smoke that it is aggravating my asthma, I seek to move; I don’t expect him to be incommoded for my problem.  The man certainly had a right to have his religious concerns respected, and on that basis to have the stewardess seek a more acceptable seat for him.  He did not have the right to inconvenience a fellow passenger who was a stranger on the basis of his religious liberty.

As I say, the solutions seem obvious to me.  I can only wonder why no one recognized them before the problem became a lawsuit.

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