This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #452, on the subject of Versers Ready.
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. Previous posts for this novel include:
- #432: Whole New Worlds, covering chapters 1 through 21;
- #437: Characters Relate, chapters 22 through 42;
- #440: Changing Worlds, chapters 43 through 63.
- #443: Versers Acclimate, chapters 64 through 84.
- #448: Inventive Versers, chapters 85 through 105.
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 106, Kondor 210
Chapter 107, Slade 202
Chapter 108, Brown 229
Chapter 109, Kondor 211
Chapter 110, Slade 203
Chapter 111, Brown 230
Chapter 112, Kondor 212
Chapter 113, Slade 204
Chapter 114, Brown 231
Chapter 115, Kondor 213
Chapter 116, Slade 205
Chapter 117, Brown 232
Chapter 118, Kondor 214
Chapter 119, Slade 206
Chapter 120, Brown 233
Chapter 121, Kondor 215
Chapter 122, Brown 234
Chapter 123, Slade 207
Chapter 124, Brown 235
Chapter 125, Kondor 216
Chapter 126, Brown 236
Still moving forward, I have not yet figured out how, where, or when Kondor verses out, but I needed to bring Zeke close to him.
The weaponry development was important, again because I was headed into a war (Slade was right about that), and the enemy was going to outmatch the parakeets significantly, even with these advances. I’m also planning to bring Joe here, followed by Derek, but I don’t know what kinds of advances either of them could bring to this world unless Slade has made significant progress already.
I didn’t want it to seem as if Derek could simply take a shuttle and fly to the surface; he would need to clear that with the captain. I also knew that the Captain was reluctant to find a suitable colony planet. This, though, gave me the opportunity to show the length of the mission.
In choosing the length of time The Wanderer had been traveling, I quickly settled on the number 6 for the first digit, but then debated. A four-digit number, it struck me, was not really long enough–I wanted enough time for evolutionary change to be credible–but a six-digit number was absurd, as ship’s systems probably could not have lasted so long. So it became sixty-three thousand, digits randomly suggested to sound random, that is, not a round number.
I sat here for several days. They were eventful days. My wife had just returned to work, and I was spending twenty to twenty-five hours each week driving her and getting short sleep for my efforts; The Essential Guide to Time Travel: Temporal Anomalies & Replacement Theory was published. But I was very uncertain how to move forward with this story, and I brought it up with a couple of people and got some excellent advice much of which persuaded me to go a different way. I didn’t really like what I was about to do, but it seemed the best direction for the story.
The issue at this point was finding the best places to break. It was feeling like I was going to have several short Kondor chapters.
Yes, this chapter was essentially marching in place, keeping the action going without actually doing anything specific. I needed those inventions to come to fruition without focusing on too many more details.
There was a lot to do to prep for the shuttle mission, and I wanted to make sure that the details were covered. I had only just realized, when I went to pack Vashti’s things, that she didn’t have a suitcase, so I found a way to provide that. I knew they would need food, but had not yet considered how they would bring that.
The last thing I had Derek say was essentially that Vashti should buckle her seatbelt. I wasn’t going to do that until the next chapter, but I needed a way to end this one. Vashti won’t understand the statement, so that will be the opening of the next chapter.
There was a lot that went into creating this scene. I discussed it with a couple people, and had to work out many of the details.
I loved Leah, and had imagined that she would accompany Joe into the verse. However, there was a degree to which she was turning into one of the Doctor’s companions, that her job was to say, “What is it, Doctor?”, and on the one hand Zeke was already quite capable of that role, and on the other Leah would be too much like Vashti in that regard. I had imagined the two of them meeting and chatting like old friends, but there was no real future for Leah becoming her own person. She really was too much like Vashti. If I were bringing another wife into play, she needed to be different from those I already had, and although eventually I could get wives for Zeke and Bron, they would be one step removed from the main character (not to mention that Beam was starting to collect wives, and a wife for Bron would easily be lost in the mix).
Then I realized that Leah’s death would have a massive impact on Kondor–but she would have to die first, and he would have to be unable to save her. It would break his implacable rational exterior.
The scene, which I will probably have Zeke attempt to describe because Kondor would not have seen it all, fit together fairly well. Kondor fires his rifle. Kondor knows very little about horses, having rarely ridden them even in this world where they are common. Thus when his horse panics and rears he doesn’t anticipate it, and since he is holding his rifle with both hands, he is thrown. What he doesn’t see is that Zeke’s horse also panics. Leah manages to keep her horse under control, as she has been riding from childhood, and the attacking horses are farther away and also under the control of experienced riders. Zeke has both hands on his reins, though, and although his horse is bouncing him around a bit, he holds his seat and gets glimpses of everything around him. He hears them say something about killing the witch as they go after Leah, and sees her attacked, but then is attacked himself, and killed.
I needed a reason for the Copts to attack an unarmed woman on horseback, but then, this is a world with a fair amount of magic, and the first thought that would come to them concerning such a woman is she must be there as a magician, and therefore she is dangerous. Leaders would be the prime focus. The cartographer would attempt to escape, if he managed to stay mounted, and so Leah would be on her own.
I originally thought Kondor would attack with his rifle, but it struck me that between being thrown from the horse, dragged by the stirrup, and focused on getting his medkit and getting back to Leah, it would be passing odd for him still to have it. I had considered the notion that he had reflexively put it back over his shoulder, but decided that by the time he was in a position where he might have done that, not only was it no longer in his hands, he was already trying to find out what was happening to Leah, and trying to get to his medkit. However, I remembered his pistol, and that was simple enough.
The appearance of Leah as he passes through the scriff was a bit of a stretch, but I really wanted that scene for a number of reasons which will play out in the chapters ahead. He moves to stage 4, entering the new world awake and standing but disoriented and confused.
Kondor is now in Slade’s world, along with Zeke, but it struck me that I could move Kondor’s story forward by having Slade recognize his presence and come looking for him.
The supernatural implications of Leah’s appearance now are brought to the fore. The significant thing is in Zeke’s statement, that it is easy to claim there is no evidence of the supernatural if you’re going to discount anything that might be such evidence.
I’m beginning the planetary survey. Yes, I am going to bring the ship down here. I just need to make sure that it’s believable.
I’m fitting Joe and Zeke into Slade’s world, but mostly continuing the emphasis on Kondor’s grief. There’s a lot I can do with him in this world, but not until he gets far enough past the death of his wife that he can function.
Because in the previous chapter I had kept Kondor silent, I had missed the part about him blaming himself. That seemed important in the character expression of grief. But having him express that to Slade gave me some opportunity to put in some of the arguments against it.
My math skills are good, but not as good as Derek’s. I had to play with an equation to get what is after all the obvious solution, but I wanted to be sure it was correct before I wrote it.
Again, I was trying to make the planetary survey credible without making it too complicated or extensive. Giving Derek things he could discuss made it interesting, I hope.
I wasn’t going to bury Joe’s grief, but I needed the story to move forward, so I pushed him to get involved.
It’s true that Joe’s expertise is in electronics, and he’s going to be a big help there. On the other hand, Bob assumes that Joe will contribute to weapons development, and Joe prefers not to kill anyone and will be uncomfortable with the idea of creating advanced weaponry for the indigs.
This is mostly administrative fill, that is, I have to integrate Kondor into Slade’s story credibly. He would have to be introduced to all the right birds, and arrangements made for him and Zeke to be part of things here.
I realized as I was preparing this chapter for publication that the parakeets had trouble pronouncing the voiced labiodental fricative, and so had to replace “Joe” with “Choe” in a couple places.
I was kind of torn here. There were several steps in my mind between here and Derek’s departure from this universe, and it would be wrong to rush them. On the other hand, I didn’t want to drag them, either. So I started working on them slowly.
I noticed at this point that I had Kondor and Slade in the same world telling the same story, against Derek on a different story, and it was time to change the chapter sequence so that Kondor and Slade would appear with Derek between them in both directions, that is, Derek every other chapter and the Parakeet Industrial Revolution chapter between them.
I thought a lot about their landing trajectory, and realized that as soon as they decelerated their target was going to start moving ahead of them, and unless they made a very steep fall they were going to need it to go all the way around and pass them before they hit the atmosphere. Also, they weren’t going to glide in like the shuttle, but they wouldn’t fall straight down, either. But since they would be losing position I figured that it would make sense to say that in twenty hours their target on the ground would have passed beneath them and been far enough ahead that they could reasonably hit it on a successful landing. Twenty minutes to land is a long time, really, but they’re coming in for a propulsion-assisted landing on a hard surface, which is the way the Russians did it in Siberia, which is different from both a splashdown like all our capsules and a glide like our space shuttle, much more like our moon landing, but with five times the gravity.
I had also realized the part about no one ever having landed one of these interstellar colony ships before a few weeks ago. It might not be true, if the indigs had sent several such ships in different directions, but it would be true that generational ships traveling at sub-light speed would not have reached a destination and returned any data within the lifetimes of the designers.
I realized when I was setting up for publication that having the landing site already ahead of them when they made reentry was not the best plan, because it would mean the planetary surface was moving rotationally faster than they were. On the other hand, because of their altitude, their actual velocity is considerably faster, so as they descend they should have to slow even more to avoid overshooting the target. I decided that this was twice too complicated–once, that it would be too complicated to change the text at this point, and again that it would be too complicated to explain to the reader. So I left it.
I found my way around Kondor’s reluctance to start an arms race by having Zeke get involved in weapons development. Kondor could teach them to build kinetic blasters, but not for a long time, so this is about as far as they can go. I’m not sure what Derek is going to bring to the table, but there’s time for that.
I had originally envisioned this from Kondor’s perspective, but I had just done a Kondor chapter and had to turn to Slade, so I had to rethink it from Slade’s viewpoint.
I wanted the reader to feel the fact that it took a day, and a very long day, to practice the landing simulation, so I put it in its own chapter. I also recognized that it was a very long day, and Derek would not be able to do two in a row easily, so I had him take a day of rest before continuing.
I started this as something of a space filler to move the tech work forward and keep Joe out of the weapons department, but I realized that in the direction he was going he was going to need lasers, and lasers meant relativity, and relativity meant atomic bombs, and he was going to see that and have to face it. Otherwise, I’m trying to accelerate their advancement.
I had come up with the complications before I wrote that he started the descent, but it was while I was writing that I did the calculations and looked up a few aspects of geography. I wanted it to be something that did not run entirely smoothly but was successful.
It occurred to me as I wrote that my readers might expect something serious here. I remembered that my editor for Verse Three, Chapter One commented that once I had brought Lauren and Joe into the parakeet world together, it was inevitable that Bob would join them shortly. That bothered me so much that in Old Verses New I had Lauren verse into the world with Derek fairly early in the book so that I could then verse them both out before reaching the point at which Joe joined them. This might also have influenced Versers Versus Versers, in which Derek leaves before the climactic moment, Tommy never gets there, and Joe continues in that world for several chapters after that. So even though indeed we are headed for Derek versing into the world with Bob and Joe, this is something of a tease, a potential disaster that winds up not being disastrous.
This has been the sixth and penultimate 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.
4 thoughts on “#452: Versers Ready”
Okay, you explained Leah’s apparent death…but you didn’t. We have become accustomed for everything and everyone touched by a verser…well, intimately, over time, to travel with them.
I don’t see an exemption for a companion pre-deceasing them in a world either. I believe some of Beam’s companions were slain before he versed. It’s unclear if Zeke did in this case…your explanation sort leads me that way, but it wasn’t obvious in the original text.
So, unless there’s something else that occurs later this appears to be a gaping inconsistency in how the ‘Verse works. Despite the editorial advantages or disadvantages.
I can see that “how the ‘verse works” is a bit unclear.
There are effectively four ways someone becomes a verser.
The first is what happened to all our primary viewpoint characters: They were exposed to scriff and killed within moments of that exposure. It is generally conceded that that initial exposure makes someone more sensitive to electrical shock, and so the electricity in some rather small devices has been deemed sufficient (on something of a capacitive storage theory).
The second is what happened to nearly all of our “associate versers”, which is that a relationship develops between a verser and someone else such that at the moment the verser dies there is a tacit agreement between them that the verser wants to take the other, and the other wants to go with the verser. At that moment the non-verser is pulled through the scriff with the verser and becomes a verser, but in special relationship to the other verser. This is what happened with the wives.
The third assumes that scriff permeates the body and blood of a verser such that it could be transferred to someone else and cause the other person to become a verser, usually when the scriff becomes “activated” by the death of the verser. In this way, a verser’s enemy can become a verser if the two die in a messy death in close proximity to each other.
The fourth is that someone comes into the verse under the rules for equipment. An example of this is if a verser has a parrot on his shoulder, or is riding a horse, or owns a dog that regards itself as property of the verser, at the moment of versing out the “owned” creature becomes a verser, going with the owner in the same way as clothes and other equipment.
None of these methods are certain. You could tamper with a “scriff inside” device, get exposed to the scriff, get an electrical shock, and live; or similarly die an ordinary death. You could have a close relationship with a verser but not have a strong enough reciprocal connection to go with him when he dies. You could be exposed to the scriff in someone and not have it infect you sufficiently for you to become a verser. The only thing certain is that once you pass through the scriff once, you are a verser, and thereafter you will always be a verser. Someone you are holding could resist your effort to take them with you.
It is unclear exactly how Zeke became a verser. It was probably either the third (caught in the blast when both Kondor’s and his bodies were shredded together) or the fourth (being held in the arms of a verser versing out) of those methods.
My concern with Leah was that it would be very difficult to explain why she did not go with Kondor if he died first; it never happens with spouses in the verse. However, the rule has always been that spouses go with the verser if the verser dies first, but they are not versers if they predecease the verser.
My problem was that Kondor couldn’t actually know that; in fact, very few versers know that. Lauren certainly knew that the first time she versed out her husband did not go with her, but that is a slightly different situation (because she was not a verser during their marriage). So I couldn’t bring it into focus within the text except by making it clear that Leah died first, and thus before she had become a verser.
I hope that helps.
–M. J. Young
It does help. I had suspected the pre-decease part, but I don’t think it was ever tested in the novels until now. And not playing the game…though I think I’d like to should I find time in my schedule…the rules are not clear. (And to a casual player they may not be anyway, it can be that way with complex rules sets.)
So I understand that the scriff activates upon the death of the “primary.” Makes sense. So what happens if a wife, or other companion, that’s been traveling through several worlds with the primary dies before the primary? Is the connection broken? Do they become independent versers in their own right? Are they dead?
In general, it seems the rules work well for the game and the novels. Unfortunately, my mind wants to make logical connection that form patterns, which then inform me of the the rules. And, to a certain extent, it doesn’t really add up for the scriff connections. But, it’s a game, you would not want everyone and everything that you’d had some contact with to travel with you every time, you’d have a wandering tribe in no time…well, a century or two, maybe.
Thanks for the explanation, I understand it. Not sure I’m happy with the direction it took, but within the rules it works and I suspect there’s something you’re working around that event.
“So what happens if a wife, or other companion, that’s been traveling through several worlds with the primary dies before the primary?”
Once she or he is a verser, that’s permanent. An associate verser and the primary can sever their connection, after which the associate becomes an independent verser. (It’s also possible to have a sort of stacking, e.g., if Bron, an associate of Beam, took a wife, she would be an associate of Bron, who would be her primary, while he remains an associate of Beam.)
As to what happens if the associate dies first, they verse out and go somewhere else. The rules give a lot of flexibility here. Since time is not running parallel in different universes, it is possible for the associate to verse out years before the primary and arrive in the next world with him at the same time; it is possible for the associate to arrive some time before or after the primary; it is possible for the associate to skip the next world and catch up in a world after that; it is even possible for the associate to have separate adventures in another world (and since associates are usually NPCs these aren’t actually played) and catch up with the primary in his next world or thereafter. Usually they are brought back together fairly quickly if they haven’t chosen to sever there connection.
That’s actually going to happen in the next book, although I go simple with it.
As to Joe, I’m contemplating another wife for him, and/or maybe someone for Zeke. I’d like to bring in someone like Cali from Blake’s 7; she was the wife of one of my early test game PCs, and it worked well, but I don’t think I can actually plagiarize Blake’s 7 so I’m going to have to consider where I can find such a girl.