This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #440, on the subject of Changing Worlds.
With permission of Valdron Inc I have previously completed publishing my first seven novels,
- Verse Three, Chapter One: The First Multiverser Novel,
- Old Verses New,
- For Better or Verse,
- Spy Verses,
- Garden of Versers,
- Versers Versus Versers, and
- Re Verse All,
in serialized form on the web (those links will take you to the table of contents for each book). Along with each book there was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed with the chapters in the tables of contents pages. Now as I am posting the eighth, In Verse Proportion, I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights. This “behind the writings” look may contain spoilers because it sometimes talks about my expectations for the futures of the characters and stories–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued, as being written partially concurrently with the story it sometimes discusses where I thought it was headed. You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them. Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.
It was suggested in connection with Re Verse All that shorter more frequent behind-the-writings posts would work better; they proved to be considerably more work in several ways. Thus this time I am preferring longer, less frequent posts. This is the third mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 43 through 63. The first was web log post #432: Whole New Worlds, covering chapters 1 through 21, and the second was #437: Characters Relate, chapters 22 through 42.
There is also a section of the site, Multiverser Novel Support Pages, in which I have begun to place materials related to the novels beginning with character papers for the major characters, giving them at different stages as they move through the books.
History of the series, including the reason it started, the origins of character names and details, and many of the ideas, are in earlier posts, and won’t be repeated here.
Quick links to discussions in this page:
Chapter 43, Slade 182
Chapter 44, Brown 209
Chapter 45, Kondor 187
Chapter 46, Slade 183
Chapter 47, Brown 210
Chapter 48, Kondor 188
Chapter 49, Slade 184
Chapter 50, Brown 211
Chapter 51, Kondor 189
Chapter 52, Brown 212
Chapter 53, Slade 185
Chapter 54, Kondor 190
Chapter 55, Brown 213
Chapter 56, Slade 186
Chapter 57, Kondor 191
Chapter 58, Brown 214
Chapter 59, Slade 187
Chapter 60, Kondor 192
Chapter 61, Brown 215
Chapter 62, Slade 188
Chapter 63, Kondor 193
I had managed to steal some time to write the Brown and Kondor chapters back to back, and knew roughly what happened next for both of them, but ran headlong into another Slade chapter. He’s got the engineers finishing up the telegraph and starting on water heaters and hot water heat, and I really have no idea what he does next–that is, there are other things he can invent, but he can’t invent everything at once.
As usual, I had my character think about things. This time, though, by the time I was writing what he could create I’d already settled on the phonograph. It was different enough from the telegraph and the hot water systems that it would involve an entirely different group of engineering students, I expected.
I had concerns about whether I would be able to make this chapter long enough. I knew that Derek was going to be darted by an animal husbandry robot, who would recognize that Derek was not one of the indigs and therefore, by its programming, an animal. It would therefore effect the capture of the stray animal and attempt to determine where it ought to be to return it. Derek of course was darted by the porcuperson dart, and he carries darts of that sort with him, so he knows the feeling.
The tension was between having Derek actually spend time looking for the devices and moving the story forward. The linguistic conversations with Vashti were partly to pad the story, but they brought some interest at least to me.
Again I was afraid this was going to be a very short chapter. The significant moment in my mind was that Kondor was going to carry Leah across the threshold into the bedroom, but I knew the scene had to end before there was anything, well, X-rated (or is that A-19 now?). There wasn’t really enough time between crossing the threshold and being in bed to make a chapter. Ultimately I decided I had to cover the trip from the dining room to the bedroom–which wasn’t easy, because my floorplan was rather sketchy.
Leah had expressed the intention to drink enough to relax herself, deal with her nerves. Of course, she’s drinking wine–distilled beverages have not yet been invented here. You have to drink quite a bit of wine to get very drunk, and while she might have done so I decided I didn’t want her three sheets to the wind, only mildly intoxicated. That gave me something to talk about.
I knew that Kondor would close the door for privacy. It struck me that this was a good way to tell the reader they were not invited to see what happens next.
This was an awkward start because what I knew was that Slade wasn’t going to go to engineering, and the engineering professor was going to catch up with him at lunch. But then, I knew that Shella slept in, and in my mind Slade has been more of an early riser, at least as compared with her, so I figured out how to burn the morning and headed for lunch.
On the between meals cafeteria, I was sort of remembering college–but the snack table (which I was originally thinking of as donuts and coffee, but realized I couldn’t make it that human) was added to provide something to do. The image of students filtering in in anticipation of food was from my memories.
I reached the point at which I ultimately ended this chapter, thinking that I should have the engineering professor arrive and begin the conversation I’d planned for that, but then three things dissuaded me. First, as the Slades got their food it was a good point to fast forward to the end of the meal. Second, I’d written enough text for a moderate chapter. Third, I wasn’t sure what would happen after that conversation, and at least if I stopped here I would know what I was writing the next time Slade came to the top of the pile.
Going into this chapter, I knew that Derek awoke in a cage of some sort. I figured a few things. One was that the locks would be connected to the central computer, so he could override them, but he still would have to escape the robot. Concerning the robot, it has decided that Derek is an animal, and that means it’s trying to classify him and figure out where in the artificial ecosystems of the ship he belongs. It also means that because of its programming, it doesn’t “expect” intelligent speech from him and will automatically ignore any sound he makes as being that of an animal. Birds might mimic human speech, but we don’t really believe they know what they are saying and so only take what they say seriously in the sense that they must be repeating something they heard. Complicating it, I want Derek to come out of this adventure with a robot, and it makes sense for that to be this robot. He’s either going to have to reprogram it or get it to access the computer to be reprogrammed. That actually might not be so difficult–the robot will have no data on Derek, and the computer data will identify “it” as the ship’s first officer. So maybe that will work.
One thing I haven’t decided is whether the robot will strip him of his equipment, and to what degree. On the one hand, not knowing what he is supposed to look like it might not recognize, say, a backpack as not part of the body. On the other hand, it would certainly think that an animal shouldn’t have a laser rifle.
And where did I leave that bicycle? O.K., at this point I went back and reread several of the Derek Brown chapters in Versers Versus Versers, and determined that he had picked up the bicycle with his equipment when he arrived, and had brought it with him to the bridge. I went back and added mention of the device in Brown 196, 199, and 217.
I must credit James Ward’s Metamorphosis Alpha for the idea that robots would not feed sounds made by intelligent animals through their language processing programs, because whatever the noise sounded like the first point was that animals don’t talk. That world changed such that they do talk, or some of them, but the robots weren’t reprogrammed to recognize this.
I mentally played with how this was going to work, going through a lot of options, but realized that Derek had spoken to the computer before, and that would save me a chapter, probably. But I didn’t want escape to be too easy, so I set up the next chapter.
Maintaining the PG adult fantasy fiction feeling, I jumped to morning. I had to give some coverage to their wedding night, and I was recalling my own experience decades ago to some degree.
I had originally intended for this to happen in the previous chapter, but as I noted I hit a good spot for a pause and I needed to keep Slade’s story from snowballing. Most of this I had already covered, but it works as something for Slade to discuss with the head of engineering.
I was getting Derek to suggest a plan for me.
The idea that robots have a cutoff comes from Star Frontiers, where our characters faced combat robots and had to remove a cover panel and hit a shutoff switch on the front of the robot. It was an easily exploited vulnerability. The idea that the switch was in the rear comes from Commander Data of Star Trek: The Next Generation, who once revealed this to Commander Riker, only to have Riker in turn reveal it when Data was on trial to determine whether he had his own right of free will.
Brainstorming to fellow writer E. B. Slayer, it struck me that I would need to slow down Slade a bit, but that Kondor was also headed into a slow time. I decided that after I finished this Kondor chapter I would go back to Derek and then Slade, reversing those two in the sequence.
I honestly didn’t expect this chapter. It formed itself in my mind in fragments, although all the fragments had been placed in sequence before I started typing.
I brought this forward because Derek’s story was pressing for a resolution and Slade’s just wasn’t.
I had pieced this together several ways in my mind, but the idea that Vashti would arrive and distract the robot was best. I had considered having her be drugged while Derek was shutting down the system, but decided that I needed her to converse with Derek and bring out his thoughts.
I was here faced with the problem of what to do with Slade when he wasn’t doing anything, and still have something worth reading.
The fountain was color. The street wasn’t really new, but I wanted to recall the imagery and talk about the commercial aspect.
I had the birds notice Slade practicing in part because it occurred to me that I could get him involved in training indigs in fighting technique. He had been here in the past practicing with his sword; they would undoubtedly have developed weapons like it.
Pretty much all I had going into this chapter was that Zeke would tease Joe, and a vague question about whether the couple would get any kind of special treatment. But I had teased the idea of Zeke marrying one of the other princesses before this, and decided to put the idea in the text, whether or not anything might come of it.
I had left reprogramming the robot to this chapter, so I had to do something with it.
In the gap, it occurred to me that Derek would not know in what sense he had shut off the robot, and it made a difference.
As I mentioned, I had the idea of having parakeet swordsmen engage Slade in practice. That always presents me with the challenge of how to make the combat interesting. That is particularly so this time because I expect to make this a regular feature of his day, and while I won’t describe it in detail every time, I’m going to have to describe a few of them.
I will need a way to remove Kondor from this world eventually, and I have been thinking that another war should do the trick. I’m prefiguring that now, making the reader aware of the potential enemies. My geography follows the real world only very roughly, but adequately that I can use the real world countries for a sketch.
This is, of course, the same balcony on which Derek and Vashti and the others watched (or didn’t watch) the sunset in the earlier book.
I debated what the possibilities were, and let Derek do the same thing. I decided that it would be a good cliffhanger to have Vashti activate the robot and put off what happens to the next chapter.
I was doing these sparring combats mostly because I needed to keep Slade’s story interesting. The comment about combining the two fighters into one was intentionally setting up the next fight.
I saw this coming. I didn’t really like it, but it gives me a chance to explain how Kondor, who has actually seen an elemental spirit of fire, can disbelieve in elemental spirits.
I had to make several snap decisions for this chapter, the first being what the robot would do. I discussed it briefly with Kyler, who thought that it having been shut down unexpectedly, it would believe it had malfunctioned and would head for maintenance. I decided against this, because for whatever I was going to do with it, I needed Derek to acquire it. Thus I went with a reboot-and-upgrade option.
My next complication was whether this was constructed as a zoological bot or as a general service bot with zoological attachments. The former would be of much less use to me, so I went with the latter.
The unit number was just random digits; I saw that the last number was going to be 9, and remembered that this world used base 8, so there would be a conversion and the 9 would tell us that this was base 10. I realized after I wrote it that the center two digits were consecutive; one of my sons has a penchant for four-digit numbers (PINs, phone numbers) in which the center two digits are consecutive and the first and fourth are also consecutive, and I almost changed the 9 to an 8 to achieve that while retaining my base 10 conversion, but I wasn’t sure even he would get it (or indeed ever read it or notice it if he did).
I needed to combine the fighting styles of the two best birds without making it seem either too much like they knew how to fight together or that they were not smart enough to figure out any of that. I also didn’t want Slade to be untouched entirely, but he should still win, and the touch should be something the reader would believe.
I’m sort of being dragged into this. Kondor told Leah that there was no Mithra, and now she’s challenging his assumptions, trying to figure out if he might be wrong.
This has been the third behind-the-writings look at In Verse Proportion. If there is interest and continued support from readers we will endeavor to continue with more behind-the-writings posts for it and another novel.