This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #94, on the subject of Novel Meetings.
With permission of Valdron Inc I am publishing my second novel, Old Verses New, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents). If you missed the first one, you can find the table of contents for it at Verse Three, Chapter One: The First Multiverser Novel. There was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; the last of those for the first novel is #71: Footnotes on Verse Three, Chapter One, which indexes all the others and catches a lot of material from an earlier collection of behind-the-writings reflections that had been misplaced for a decade. Now as the second is being posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights. This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers, and perhaps in a more serious way than those for the previous novel, because it sometimes talks about what I was planning to do later in the book or how this book connects to events yet to come in the third (For Better or Verse)–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued. You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them, or even put off reading these insights until the book has finished. 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.
These were the previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts covering this book:
- #74: Another Novel (which provided this kind of insight into the first nine chapters along with some background material on the book as a whole),
- #78: Novel Fears (which continued with coverage of chapters 10 through 18),
- #82: Novel Developments (which continued with coverage of chapters 19 through 27),
- #86: Novel Conflicts (which continued with coverage of chapters 28 through 36),
- #89: Novel Confrontations (which continued with coverage of chapters 37 through 45),
- #91: Novel Mysteries (which continued with coverage of chapters 46 through 54).
This picks up from there, and I expect to continue with additional posts after every ninth chapter in the series.
History of the series, including the reason it started, the origins of character names and details, and many of the ideas, are in those earlier posts, and won’t be repeated here.
Quick links to discussions in this page:
Chapter 55, Kondor 60
Chapter 56, Hastings 62
Chapter 57, Brown 19
Chapter 58, Kondor 61
Chapter 59, Hastings 63
Chapter 60, Brown 20
Chapter 61, Kondor 62
Chapter 62, Hastings 64
Chapter 63, Brown 21
I had not been completely cognizant of the fact that Kondor was armed before he entered the bank. He wasn’t really aware of it himself–he had been carrying his weapons for so long he didn’t think twice about it. But as he walked inside, my mind’s eye saw him, armed and dressed in worn fatigues, and I realized it would be taken wrong.
Kondor’s expectation of racism causes him to overlook how others would see the weapons. He takes offense at it because he automatically assumes it’s because he’s black.
Peter Winslow was something of a response to Kondor’s expectations. He was a black man and vice president of the bank. I didn’t imagine that it would be credible to involve the president of the bank, but this would make it clear that there wasn’t any significant racism going on here.
There was a conscious effort throughout here to make this like earth but not earth. The names were common, and the money is in some unnamed form comparable in value to dollars; but rattling off Cliff Westmont as if it would be as familiar a name as Clint Eastwood or John Wayne was one of the opposite suggestions.
I had long wanted Lauren and Derek to meet at about this point, and subsequently to be separated. This would give me the opportunity to give Derek Lauren’s thoughts about why he had been in so many horror settings. Done this way, it would also disrupt that expectation the editor of the first novel had noted, that once two of them are together the reader expects the third to join them. But now I realized that I needed Derek to know that Lauren was also a verser; and the best way to do that would be for her to be in that world when he arrived, so he would sense her in addition to her equipment. Thus this section covered the entire battle with Horta and his allies, and brought her to the new world.
Comparing humans to grass that withers and dies is of course drawn from the Psalms. Lauren is recognizing what she had already read, that human life is truly brief.
Grarg and Chicker (the bear and the raccoon) were characters I had played in a game world very like this; in fact, I’m applying a lot of the game world rules here, although I’m not using the game itself in any detail. The game is Gamma World, probably its fourth edition. I’ve modified some of the details of these characters to make them less fantastic. Grarg, in the game, was able to make himself much larger, reaching architectural proportions. Although I did not necessarily take that ability away from him, I intentionally avoided any situation in which it would be useful.
Derek has been working on his philosophy of the verse. We didn’t see the process with the other three characters. Kondor already had his established atheism and could blame the army experiment for his current situation. Lauren’s faith would mean that she had to fit the new experience into what she already believed. Slade was never a deep thinker, and just picked up an idea from a book and went with it. But Derek was too young to have much of a philosophy of life, and so as he moved from universe to universe he tried to figure out what was happening to him.
I brought Lauren in first specifically so that Derek could sense her now; it would give coherence to his realization that she was also a verser when she arrived.
Again Derek expects a horror story; this time he doesn’t get it, although he gets many of the trappings.
Locking him in the room gave him reason to examine the consoles in detail, and to start trying to hack into them. Derek’s part in the end scenario was always envisioned as hacking the computers and control systems, and it was time for him to establish that as an ability. But he had no particular reason to stay here at this moment, but that he could not get out, and that became the motivation to learn the skills.
Derek is working against a couple hundred years of computer advances; I did what I could to make his success seem credible, by thinking in terms of reverse compatibility particularly in protocols and connectors.
The ID problem was a natural. Everyone presents ID when they cash a check; Kondor wouldn’t really have anything useful in that regard, but would have a lot that wasn’t really meaningful here. I suppose it springs from the amount of junk I carry in my pockets–in the game, I realized that most of it wasn’t much good for anything but starting fires.
The same is true of paper currency. Even modern coins aren’t worth much in other universes, because they aren’t made of very valuable metal. Paper money is a novelty whose only real use is burning, and I gather most of it does not burn that well.
The “telepathy” of that game world was short range broadcast thought sending; Lauren uses long range narrowcasting two-way. Thus when Grarg sends everyone nearby receives, but when Lauren sends to Grarg only Grarg receives.
I don’t recall whether the original Chicker could send telepathically (I think it was a default ability of mutant animal player characters), but I thought it would be interesting if he understood speech and could write. It was an intriguing limitation.
Starson Cumbrick was also a Gamma World character, but from a game almost two decades before, run by Bob Schretzman. He was the leader of a party in another set of adventures, but neither party seemed exactly what I needed to create this Gamma World-like group, so I did some picking and choosing. I changed the name Cumbrick to Coombrick because, well, I’m a sea turtle and someone had to tell me that the original name might be considered lewd.
The idea of the group sending a couple of people ahead to find out about the rumor is not terribly credible in that game world, but it made for a better story. It also gave me more time to think about who was part of this group.
Derek teaches himself to hack the computer so he can get outside; then when he reaches the threshold of outside, he recognizes that it is not where he really would want to be.
The mention of controlling fire suppression equipment was a natural extension of the concept of controlling the security, but it accidentally prefigured a later situation, where he discovers he can access pest protocols.
I wasn’t certain what might actually be in a hotel of this quality, but the hot tub was nice, and something with which I had some familiarity–a friend who was staying with us once pulled a hot tub out of someone’s trash, made some minor repairs, and installed it in our yard for a while.
Kondor’s reliance on technology makes him most subject to depletion of resources. This world was an opportunity to reload him. In fact, that was a key point. I knew Kondor was running out of ammo, and that in the end scenario (which I knew in some detail before I ever started writing this one) he would need plenty. So I needed a modern world setting where he could get it. But a modern world setting needs something to make it different; and I didn’t have many that I’d used. The idea of bringing him into the Vorgo world in its modern age had a lot of appeal, and if it seemed to work I could use it as a game world as well.
Enjoying the comforts of more developed worlds is, I think, a good subtext for Multiverser stories.
The steakhouse is modeled on several places, oddly the first of them the high-end fast food places that once were popular (Bonanza, York), a cafeteria style line with flame grilled steaks and a limited menu, plus more recent mid-level restaurants such as Texas Roadhouse, Lonestar, and the like. I miss the old ones, and the new ones are a bit pricey for me.
Qualick had been a character my wife ran in the game in which Starson was the leader. Dorelle Timbata I invented of whole cloth, as I needed someone with technical skill and I didn’t want the party to be too heavily male–already I had four. Spire is based on a character my son Evan played in the game in which Grarg and Chicker were my characters, but the basis is extremely loose. She radiates a sort of psionic field that causes discomfort in those around her, as a flaw.
Spire’s choppy mode of speech was invented on the spot; characterization through voice was on my mind at the time, I think, and trying to convert some of that to a couple of game characters seemed worthwhile.
On the cards, I departed from what I knew of Gamma World. That setting allowed that certain card types would have access to certain facility types. That was too unrealistic to my mind, particularly when dealing with a secure building. I determined that the cards would all be individual identification cards, with colors and such that connected to professions perhaps, but ultimately with their own magnetic coding which would or would not be recognized by the systems. That also meant that they were unlikely to have a card for this door; but this in itself made it more likely that it had never been entered before, and since I already had Derek inside, I didn’t need to worry about getting them in.
Qualick in the game was not much for talk; again, I created the idea that he would provide a list of many reasons as a point of characterization to distinguish him. I didn’t make much use of it.
I had a lot of reasons to bring Derek and Lauren together.
The interaction here was pretty much invented on the spot to give the feeling of Derek and the others coming together.
The description of Lauren was intentionally humorous in the sense that this is how Derek sees her, which is not at all the effect she intends by the robe.
Derek had been focused on getting out of the complex and then changed his mind, but had not really thought since about what to do about finding food. People coming suggested they might have food, and when they suggested there might be food here, that caused him to realize that as obvious as that was, he hadn’t looked.
I hope these “behind the writings” posts continue to be of interest, and perhaps some value, to those of you who have been reading the novel. If there is any positive feedback, they will continue.
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