#33: Novel Struggles

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #33, on the subject of Novel Struggles.

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 five 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:  Novel Continuation (chapters 25 through 30), and
  6. #30:  Novel Directions (chapters 31 through 36).

This picks up from there.  Half of these chapters are set in Philadelphia, covering Lauren Hastings’ stories.

img0033Philly

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


Chapter 37, Hastings 13

I avoided identifying which verses Lauren was memorizing, partly because I knew that combat was going to have me repeating them and I did not want to overwhelm the readers with them, and partly because if I did not identify them here I could pick which ones I wanted to use when I needed them.

I particularly liked the idea of using a “Payday” candy bar wrapper to mark the target spot under the safe.  It’s a white wrapper with bright orange lettering, but would otherwise appear a bit of trash, and the name was just too appropriate to ignore.

The glance at the fire escape is Lauren’s mistake.  She could have and should have pushed that safe without looking at it, and her glance cost her the shot because he saw her look and so had time to dodge partially.

Jake is using his “offensive driving” techniques, a name I chose for it although the actions were used by the other players before I joined them.  I think they called it “combat driving”.

I’m not sure whether the Super Soakers were my idea, but I had given them the holy water.  Since none of the players were either High Church or theologically educated, they did not realize that the priest could create as much holy water as he wished pretty much at will, simply by filling a container with water and blessing it.  That gave them ample holy water for their guns, and they didn’t have to purchase it.

Lauren starts using her “holy magic” here, by quoting scripture in faith.

I remember suggesting to the player who ran the priest on whom Father James was based that he should get the words to the requiem mass, because it had quite a few passages in it that would be potent as weapons against the undead.  I don’t know that he ever did, as after a couple sessions we wound up playing the same game separately.

The disintegrator rod didn’t really work quite as it appears in the story; it was easier to use.  I needed a reason why Lauren would not have made more use of it, and it made sense that it required more effort than the other devices, so I went with that.  I also needed to avoid making it a one-shot kill weapon (although that is what it was) so there wouldn’t be a lot of questions about why she bothered with the other weapons in the future.  In game, the rods had a repeat factor of one use every two minutes, and this logically expressed itself by making it harder to perform psionics for a minute after using it.

Gavin had blindsided me in the game.  The player who played the priest character later commented that it had never occurred to him that they would have had a link, despite the fact that he knew vampires in that world could.  I was unaware of that, but that was certainly appropriate since I was not native to that world.  Thus my efforts to prevent Gavin from knowing what I did to Jackson were futile—he always knew what was happening with Jackson.


Chapter 38, Kondor 13

Kondor is teaching himself to track.  I had some lessons in this, but never did it, so I was struggling with my memories to make it realistic; but I knew about blazing trails and following the blazes, and about using landmarks and existing trails, so I wasn’t too concerned with getting it wrong.

Arthur C. Clarke is famed for his law that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, but the fact is that any sufficiently advanced anything is indistinguishable from any sufficiently advanced anything else—that is, if you can’t figure out how they did it, one theory is as good as another.

The old fire pit was a place I never really explained to myself.  At first I was thinking of it as a recent location, that the men had packed and moved to another; but then, the extent of work that constituted their hidden village was too much for this to have been an earlier incarnation, and enough that moving would not have been done more than a couple times a year.  So I took this to be a once-used campsite, and never really explained it.


Chapter 39, Hastings 14

I delayed Slade’s chapter partly because I was not sure, still, what he would do next, and partly because I wanted the feeling of elapsed time for him.

The disintegrator was the obvious weapon, and I needed to eliminate it quickly to get the fight I wanted, so I had her miss the target.  In game I would simply have said that the skill failed, and maybe decided whether it missed Gavin or simply did not fire, but here it made more sense for it to fire.

One weakness of magic is that it takes time.  I have to imagine Lauren spitting words out very fast to account for why Gavin does not hit her sooner.

My editor thought Lauren was too cruel in the way she killed Gavin.  It was the way I had done it in-game, and on one level it was partly because he was such a tough adversary that I had to shoot him multiple times to finish him.  It is more difficult in a story for the reader to imagine someone being shot several times at point blank range and not die immediately, but easier to accept that shots which hit appendages are less likely to be fatal, so I focused on that aspect.


Chapter 40, Slade 13

I needed Filp’s marriage to be different from Torelle’s, and since it did not seem likely that he would have been out meeting the daughters of other nobles (who still probably did not like or trust him) having him elevate the one girl with the good sense to treat him well when no one did to become lady of the castle was the best option I could find.

When I wrote of Torelle’s wedding, I was putting a lot of my understanding of medieval marriages into it—particularly the aspect that you are to love the one you marry, making a conscious choice to do so.  I’ve made that point in modern situations, that love is a choice, and if you are married you should choose to love your spouse, and my wife finds that terribly unromantic and hates that about me.  The brief description of Filp and Wen’s very different marriage surprised her, as if she thought I did not understand that kind of relationship as also love.


Chapter 41, Hastings 15

The prayer for open eyes to find home from the sky was something I did, and the result was quite similar, but in retrospect it must have been a botch:  Multiverser magic works based on expectations, so the user should not be surprised by the outcome.

Bethany posed several problems for me.  First, in the original game she was a guy, a young wizard who was really very strange in a lot of ways.  Second, he insisted that I was Merlin, and at some point gave me Merlin’s pointed hat, insisting that I had given it to him—but Lauren could not be Merlin.  I decided that Bethany’s former student should be a girl, and should mistake her for someone else.  At this point I knew that Lauren was going to travel to Camelot and become Merlin’s student, and that she was going to take a student later, but now I had to start creating the details.

I seem to recall in game the young wizard was too excited not to identify me, but then apologetic about it.  I don’t remember whether I used the quotation to pull his confession from him.

Trying to fill the gaps on who Lauren would be, I grabbed a copy of the roleplaying game Pendragon, I think 4th edition, which had been lent to me to attempt to review.  I was looking for somewhere I could place her, and stumbled on the city Wandborough, apparently something that was around during the time of Camelot.  I then did a web search and discovered that the city was still there, so I was fairly confident that it had been there continuously through the intervening centuries.  “Wandborough” seemed a particularly appropriate name for a city that hosted a wizardess, so I was immediately happy with it.  But then, “Lauren” struck me as a modern name.  I don’t know whether that is true, and I never actually checked its pedigree, but I decided it was probably a shortened form of “Laurel Lynn” or “Laurelyn”, and that it would work for an ancient name to have that shape.  She thus became Laurelyn of Wandborough, and since the map showed Wandborough in western England somewhat north of Camelot, I added “Mystic of the Western Woods”.  It seemed a good name altogether.

I was now playing time games, and I knew that I had to make good on what Lauren told Bethany in the past when she got to that point.  Complicating it, that’s in the second book.

I was still not certain how to handle telepathy, and in this case I did not mark it at all, which is as much a mistake as using quotes.

The bag that I was given by my apprentice contained the coin and the heads from four dolls.  I never figured out what they did, and did not understand what they did even after Ed told me.  I needed that coin for the direction I expected to take the story, but I also needed there to be several other objects in the bag.  Thus at this moment I knew what the bag did and that it contained the coin and several other objects, but I also knew I was going to have to figure out what they were pretty quickly.

The paper towel was an obvious precaution, a way for Lauren to manipulate the objects without touching them.

One of the game tricks I learned from watching Ed was the notion “I can do something with that.”  The objects were all relatively ordinary objects which could be given magic properties of some sort, and could really be anything at all but might be fun to work with.  I had no idea what any of them were or did at this point.  In fact, although the acorn becomes a very significant object that ties the three-book arc together when it is revealed in the third book, I had no expectation that it would be special and no idea what it was until the first book was in print and I was writing the second.  The questions Lauren asked trying to unravel what they were were very much the same questions I was asking trying to give them function.

The discourse on magic is one of my first efforts to get Lauren thinking in this direction.  If she is to be a wizardess and Merlin’s student, she is going to have to accept the concept of magic as a neutral power that she can use without violating her faith.  I had covered some of that in the Faith and Gaming series, but obviously she had never read any of that.

Of the last five chapters, three have been Hastings.  Things were happening fast in her story, and moving slowly in the others, and I thought this would support that.


Chapter 42, Kondor 14

It seemed to me obvious that this was Robin Hood; I thought it would seem obvious to Kondor, too.  Who else would it be?

Kondor sees this as a civil rights issue, tinged with the racial oppression of the Normans over the Saxons, although he never says so outright.  It is inherent in his comment about fighting for the rights of the poor.

That “freedom and justice are everybody’s war” becomes something of a theme in Kondor’s philosophy.

This is the end of the twelfth century, and the time in which both magic and science are in their infancy as ways of manipulating reality.  Both were feared by the church, but the use of natural medicines was readily accepted.

I vaguely recall my editor objecting that a disease had to be either bacterial or viral, but he overlooked other possibilities, the big one being parasitic, but of course there are others including allergic, genetic, and organ failure.  I did not revise the text.

This was the beginning of the notion that Kondor would establish himself as a medical doctor in Nottingham.  I had not really thought of going that direction, even at this point, but it came naturally from the situation.  It is probably an example of one of those situations of which authors speak, in which their characters insisted on taking the story in an unanticipated direction.

It would not at all be difficult for Kondor to find his camp—his equipment was there, so he could follow the scriff sense, but I did not mention that, and was more interested in suggesting that he was becoming more familiar with forest life.


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.

#32: Celebrating Christmas

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #32, on the subject of Celebrating Christmas.

I can remember wondering whether Jesus was born on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Night.  After all, it is obvious from the accounts that he was born during the night, and if he was born on Christmas, by our way of reckoning, that would be Christmas Night.  But it always seemed that Christmas Eve was the time that was celebrated, so maybe he was actually born on Christmas Eve, but after midnight, so it was already Christmas Day.  It all made more sense when I learned that the Jewish way of identifying days started them at sunset (nice to think that you start your day by getting some sleep), and thus what we call Christmas Eve would have been the night that is part of Christmas Day, and what we call Christmas Night would have been the beginning of the day after Christmas, what is variously called Boxing Day or the Feast of St. Steven (yes, mentioned in the carol “Good King Wenceslas”, which is actually a Boxing Day Carol, not a Christmas Carol).  So that would suggest that He was born on Christmas Day during the nighttime hours that came before sunrise.

Of course, he wasn’t.  Our Jehovah’s Witnesses friends are correct in their assertion that Christmas is not a biblical holy day.  The Bible does not specify when He was born, but we know that shepherds don’t tend their flocks in fields in late December in Palestine, and they do do that in our spring, say, April.  So if we know that our date for Jesus’ birth is entirely wrong, why do we celebrate it?  And particularly, why do we sing all those silly songs about snow lying on the ground on Christmas night when Jesus was born?

img0032Winter

If we mean why do we celebrate it on December 25th, the answer is simple:  for a couple of very pragmatic reasons.

The first any pagan can tell you:  it was already a holiday.  For the Romans, it was Saturnalia, but since it was the winter solstice nearly every culture in the world had a holiday marking the astronomical event of the sun reaching its southernmost point and starting to return north.  For some, this is a fatal accusation:  we are celebrating a pagan holiday and trying to Christianize it.  However, this was actually pretty smart of the church.  People want their celebrations.  If you say, “don’t celebrate because this day has been set aside to celebrate something that Christians should not celebrate,” you wind up with a lot of people celebrating whatever-it-is anyway (a problem with the objections to Halloween, which even has a Christianized name).  The better answer is to give them something else to celebrate at the same time.  We don’t celebrate an astronomical event or a supposed tie between that event and a pagan god (nor even, really, between the astronomical event and God–in that sense, the astronomical event is incidental).  We celebrate something about which Christians can rejoice, while others are celebrating whatever they choose.

The second pragmatic reason has to do with the church calendar.  After all, we are given something like a date for Easter–not exactly a date, but a connection to Passover, which is fixed to the Jewish calendar.  We don’t really celebrate it on the right date because we’ve disconnected it from both calendars and connected it to astronomical events and a specific day of the week, but we do retain the fact that Easter is celebrated in the Spring, and it would be a bit of a crowded calendar to put the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus all within a few days of each other.  We also have a pretty well established date for Pentecost, and so to put everything in some kind of orderly fashion it makes good sense to celebrate the birth of Jesus a few months before the celebration of his death, so we have time for other things like Lent, and for some time that is not really connected to a holiday.  Besides, there is a poetic benefit to having this joyous holiday mark the winter solstice, in the notion of the best thing to come to humanity coming at the darkest time of the year.  (It doesn’t work that way in Australia, of course, but it’s only an incidental.)  It’s a good time to celebrate it.

But the more fundamental question is why we celebrate the event at all.  It is clear that our first century predecessors did not do so; if they knew the date they chose not to record it, and only two of the four biographers give us any information about that birth at all.  The day that God became man was not particularly important to them.

However, the fact that God became man was of paramount importance.  John’s Gospel does not tell us anything about the birth of Jesus, but this:  “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father.”  God became man–a turning point in all that God was doing for man–and that was something to celebrate every single day.

We, however, are not all that good at celebrating something every single day.  The very concept of a “celebration” to us requires that it be a divergence from the norm.  Many of us celebrate a Sabbath, even if we have moved the Sabbath to the day after the Sabbath, in part because we need the reminder that our time is God’s time, in part because having that moment of specific devotion helps to refocus us on the ordinary devotion that should permeate the rest of our lives.  In something of the same way, celebrating the coming of God into the world on a specific day brings it forward afresh, so that we are a bit better able to celebrate it every day.

The snow and the cold?  Well, that’s just because these are the conditions which accompany our celebration.  It reminds us that Jesus came into our lives–there might never have been snow in Palestine during His entire life, but there is snow in our lives, and He comes into those lives where we are, as we celebrate where we are, in the midst of our own situations and conditions.  I live in the snow and the cold, and Jesus came into my life, which I am celebrating.  If I lived in Australia, I’m sure I’d sing Christmas carols about shrimp on the barbee and swimming in the billabong, because those would be my life situations during the celebration.  Jesus joins us in our lives, as he did in Bethlehem two millennia ago.  That is what we celebrate; that is why.

#31: A Genisys Multiverse

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #31, on the subject of A Genisys Multiverse.

A Temporal Anomalies reader using the handle “Sanddragon939” at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has there posted a response to the recent Terminator Genisys analysis.  You can read it there; I am responding to it here, partly because IMDB periodically deletes old posts (I do not know how old) and partly because I am aware that one letter represents–well, a lot of people (in radio, we said a hundred) who agree but did not write, and they are more likely to find my response here than there.

First, let me say thank you for reading, and for your comments, particularly the positive ones.  I would not wish to appear unappreciative, since I do appreciate your comments.  Most of Sand Dragon’s comments were positive, agreeing with or at least commending points made in the article, and that’s actually unusual–people usually write to criticize more than to critique, and it always encourages me to read that something I wrote benefited someone.

With that said, there are apparently some points of disagreement, which actually all connect to each other, so let’s see if we can connect them and make sense of them.

img0031Genisys

They begin with his point #1, where he says,

But Genisys appears to be a ‘reboot’ of sorts, which acknowledges only the continuity of the first film (while using elements from the second). The world we are presented with at the start of Genisys appears to be a 2029 extrapolated from the events of T1 in 1984 and T1 alone…with Judgement Day having occurred in 1997….what we see in the film clearly appears to be the future of the original film which has been disrupted by the T-5000.

I certainly agree, with the caveat that the T-5000 has to have originated somewhere, and it certainly is not original to that 2029 arising solely from the events of the first film.  Given its abilities, it evidently post-dates the creation of the T-X, which in turn post-dates the creation of the T-1000, and if Skynet had a T-1000 in 2029 it would not have sent a T-800 to do what a T-1000 could do more reliably.  It has had time to anticipate this moment, and to prepare for it.

That means that the future has to advance without the intervention of the T-5000 before the T-5000 can arrive to change things.  We thus have every reason to believe that the events of the previous films must have happened, even if the arrival of the T-5000 then causes them to “unhappen”.

Also, it must be noted that at some point someone sent Pops back to protect Sarah and someone sent a T-1000 back to kill her, and there is a T-1000 trying to kill Kyle Reese, all of which make no sense once Skynet compromises John Conner–Skynet needs him now, so it needs Sarah and Kyle alive.  The alternative is that the roles are reversed, the T-1000(s) trying to kill Kyle and Sarah come from the resistance and Pops was sent by Skynet–which theory falls apart when Pops opposes T-John.  Thus there must be a period after 2029 in which John is still a problem to Skynet and a benefit to the resistance.

Sand Dragon has an answer to that, but it is in point #6, where he begins,

Ultimately though, I feel that this film really doesn’t work under anything remotely resembling your particular ‘replacement theory’ of time….

–a point with which I am in agreement.  It also does not work under fixed time, and I’m inclined to say that it does not work under standard parallel or divergent dimension theories.  (Anyone who is lost is referred to the theory section of the site, and particularly to Theory 102, which covers much of this and links to related articles.)  The fundamental evidence for that conclusion is that under those types of multiple dimension theories anyone or anything sent to “the past” winds up in a different universe, and those who did the sending logically conclude that time travel does not work so they do not attempt it again.  A significant point in our article is that the film does things which don’t work under any theory of time.  However, here Sand Dragon disagrees:

…it best works under some variant of the divergent timeline/Multiverse model (indeed, personally, I feel the Terminator films have always worked on such a model).

Here we are speaking of something like Dr. Manhattan’s multiverse (from the film The Watchmen, discussed in some detail there).

Sand Dragon gives three points in support of this:

  1. “The film itself suggests this with John’s argument that as an ‘exile in time’, he is no longer causally dependent on Kyle and Sarah.”  Of course, John could be–and I maintain is–mistaken about this, but it does support that concept if it is correct.
  2. “The only way Kyle can ‘see into’ an alternate timeline is if that timeline exists in some form alongside the timeline he started from”, which is the point we are going to have to address below.
  3. “…the filmmakers have suggested the T-5000 may have originated in ‘another dimension’ and not just the future past 2029”, which is what we call “parole evidence”, a legal term that means it is not within the document itself and therefore is not relevant unless the document itself cannot be understood without it.  It has always been this site’s practice to exclude such evidence–what the actors said, what happened in the original book or the novelization, what happens in the director’s cut–and there is no compelling reason to change that rule in the present instance.  It is sufficient that such a theory is plausible; that the filmmakers cite it as their model is only valuable if the film actually works under that model and not otherwise.

I maintain it does not work under that model, or at least does not work better.

The multiverse model in question is one that is dear to my heart–as author of Multiverser:  The Game, I relied very much on that sort of Sliders/sideways time concept I first saw in a John Pertwee Doctor Who episode decades ago:  the notion that any possible (or indeed, any conceivable) universe must exist, because random differences between universes would create divergences.  Since I joined the Multiverser creative process in 1992 and published it in 1997, I’ve had over two decades and some serious motivation to consider the idea.  I find it severely inadequate, for reasons already addressed in the theory pages.  However, it is specifically inadequate in the present case, because it requires the existence of a universe predicated on a sequence of events which appear themselves to be impossible.

The critical event is that just before his thirteenth birthday, when something called Genisys was about to be activated, Kyle Reese was told by someone, “Remember, Genisys is Skynet.  When Genisys comes online judgment day begins.  You can kill Skynet before it’s born.”  At issue for us is what has to have happened for that to follow.

It is certainly possible that some sort of cloud-based operating system named Genisys could come online in 2017; Google might be working on something like that even now as it unseats MicroSoft from the title of Evil Cyber Empire.  However, in order for it to become Skynet in 2017, it has to have been tweaked by the emmissary sent from the future–who is identified as John Conner, whom we have distinguished as “T-John” because he has been converted into a type of terminator.  That, though, requires that John Conner was born, and he was born in 1984 as son of Sarah Conner and Kyle Reese.  Kyle will only be sent to the past if Skynet sends a terminator to kill Sarah, and if that happens we have the 1997 launch.  We cannot have a universe in which T-John travels to 2014 that did not include his birth in 1984 and the earlier launches.

The alternative here is that Genisys would become Skynet eventually–not in 2017, but perhaps by 2020, in the same way that we were told it took most of a month for the 1997 version of Skynet to become sentient and launch its attacks but the 2004 version did it in minutes.  Young Kyle then comes from a world in which that happened at some point–but then, who told him it was going to happen?  We might guess that at some future moment someone–perhaps even his older self–comes from the future to deliver that message, but where is that person in the new timeline?  Perhaps the point is that having gone to the past to warn his younger self, this Kyle unmade his older self, and had to be replaced by the Kyle from the other dimension–but we’ve got several consistency problems happening here.  Why should that future Kyle land in his own past, but our Kyle land in someone else’s past?  If the original messenger came from a different future, why wouldn’t he still arrive from that future?

And behind it all is still the problem of how the message given to that Kyle in that universe wound up in the mind of our Kyle in a different universe.

Ultimately, the problem is a predestination paradox.  Multiverse theory believers think that their notion of “every possible universe exists” makes them immune to this, but it only makes the problem more complicated:  in order for any version of Kyle in any universe to have been told by any version of Kyle from any universe that Genisys is Skynet, he must have remembered that he was so told, and thus he will only be told if he was told, and whatever only happens if it happens does not happen.  It does not actually matter that the Kyle who tells is in one universe and the Kyle who is told is in another:  before Kyle in our universe can tell the Kyle in some other universe that Genisys is Skynet, he must receive that memory from the Kyle he is going to tell, and that means he must already have told him before–sequentially–he knew, which he clearly cannot have done.

So I think even under this multiverse theory, Terminator Genisys fails.

As they say, your mileage may vary.

Footnote:  Sand Dragon also said, “I dare say the possibility exists that some version of Kate may have been introduced in the Genisys sequel (which I doubt will happen now).”  I’m not sure whether he means that there won’t be a sequel or that Kate won’t be in it, but whatever he means he apparently knows something I do not know–not really surprising, but I’ll have to see what I can learn.  Add a comment below (the second response block) or send me an e-mail (the first block) if you know something.  Thanks for reading, and for your encouragement and support.

#30: Novel Directions

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #30, on the subject of Novel Directions.

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 five 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), and
  5. #27:  Novel Continuation (chapters 25 through 30).

This picks up from there.  In these chapters, all three characters pick up some new idea or direction, a sort of turning point in their worlds.

img0030Leaves

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


Chapter 31, Hastings 11

Making raingear from trashbags is an old Boy Scout trick.

Jackson was the first vampire my character fought, and it went very like the story here.

In the original text, Lauren leapt more quickly to the suggestion that it was The Book of Journeys; my editor thought it foolish to suggest that there would be only one old dangerous book in the world, although that was how it went in play. I expanded it, allowing the possibility that she was mistaken–but of course she was not.

I added the Internet research to Raiden’s work. His story in the original always concerned me–if the vampires knew that the pages were in the library, they would already have come for them (university libraries are not holy ground), but there was no way they could have known he had found them if he did not reach beyond the library.


Chapter 32, Kondor 11

I spent some time trying to figure out how Kondor could find the Merry Men again; the task was not simple.

Although much of what I wrote about the Merry Men was from memories of stories, I did take some time to study a map of the area, to get a clear image of where the forest and the road were relative to the city.


Chapter 33, Slade 11

From the moment Slade faced the three adventurers at the entrance to the Dungeon of Coriander (before it got its name changed to Corlander), I knew that I wanted him to learn a lot of fighting but also a bit of magic and a bit of thieving. The fighting part was simple, as fighters always taught potential fighters then; the magic part was not too difficult, as Omigger took something of a fatherly fondness for Slade and would gladly share his knowledge. Thieves, though, are not so forthcoming, and so it took some work to devise a reasonable scenario through which Filp would start teaching him. This was my solution.

As I started the part about breaking into the castle, I was working on the assumption that they were breaking into someone else’s castle. I did not think to make it Filp’s castle (which makes more sense on a lot of levels) until I’d written them into the place where they were caught.

I have always been fond of the “construction delays” joke.

Hiding the rope and grapple with the catapult equipment was an abrupt inspiration, a sort of “Huckle-Buckle-Beanstalk” hidden in plain site solution to what you do with that much rope while trying to sneak around a castle without revealing that you’re there.

The tricks and problems come mostly from years of running AD&D games, but also from trying not to awaken family late at night as a teen.

The guard’s line is the same as the line used by Will Scarlet in Sherwood, and intentionally so. I liked the line, but I thought the effect of repeating it was also interesting.


Chapter 34, Hastings 12

There were two traditions related to vampires entering places. One holds that they cannot enter holy ground at all; another holds that they cannot enter any private building without the invitation of the owner. On reflection I suspect the latter was an attempt to secularize the former, to explain why vampires could not enter churches without giving the church itself any special power. Somehow, though, it seemed that in World of Darkness (at least as Ed ran it) vampires could enter any place that was not holy ground, but could not enter holy ground without invitation from someone with an inherent right to give the invitation, such as a priest or pastor. This confused my editor, who I think did not grasp that the home of the priest is actually part of the church property. I attempted to clarify that here.

I also made a point of dealing with the differences in faith as real differences, that Raiden could not casually accept Father James’ invitation without violating his own faith, and Father James could not risk opening the gate to someone who could not pass his test.


Chapter 35, Kondor 12

Kondor’s concern for the frail lives of those who are not versers becomes a liability at this point, as he won’t shoot those who are attacking him. I don’t think I realized at the time, though, that this would begin pointing him in the direction of being the local physician. I was still working from the assumption that he was going to learn to use bows and swords and staves and tracking and stalking skills from the locals. He was my chance to have a character taught the bow by Robin Hood and the staff by Little John, and I still thought I was headed that direction.

I had woods behind our house when I was a boy, and spent a fair amount of time camping with the Scouts as well as learning a very little bit from my great uncles Felix and Peter, who were hunters. I understood something about feeling a trail under your feet, and looking for faint game trails, that small animals could pass under the brambles, and my descriptions of Kondor’s actions as he fled into the woods are based on trying to figure out the best way to move in such an environ.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” must be an American expression; my Australian editor did not recognize it.

I kept running into the problem that Kondor needed to find the Merry Men, but they were notorious particularly because of how difficult it was to find them. Kondor was going to have to teach himself how to do this.


Chapter 36, Slade 12

I figured out how to resolve the problem Slade and Filp faced right here as I started writing it: it is not as the reader has supposed. But then, I had reasonably set up this outcome with the talk of testing their readiness, so I didn’t feel bad about springing it.

Slade wonders what he is going to do the next summer, but I was wondering the same thing.


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.

#29: Saving the Elite

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #29, on the subject of Saving the Elite.

It is a story as old as Noah, and in many cases his “Ark” (a Hebrew word for “box”) gives its name to the story:  a catastrophe looms, and a select few will be chosen to board the spaceship, or enter the bomb shelter, or hide in the caves, or go into suspended animation, so that after everyone else has been killed these can emerge and repopulate the world.  It’s a compelling story.  However, there’s frequently a problem with the way it is told.

img0029Ark

I was reminded of the storyline watching an episode of Leverage from an early season.  In order to discredit a ruthless reporter who had destroyed a client’s reputation with a biased scathing sensationalist story, the team is selling her a scare story in which the government is secretly building bunkers to house the elite while the rest of the nation dies from a self-replicating poison that has infected the water.  All the common people of the world are to be kept ignorant until they begin dying, and the rich and powerful will be saved.

Therein lies the problem.

I once heard a respected university professor explain that he knew nothing at all about fixing a car, and had no talent at household repairs, but that he had long been aware of these things and had taken an intelligent approach to them:  he prepared himself for a career that would pay him well enough that he could afford to hire other people for those problems.  That ultimately is the key problem with a system that preserves the elite:  from time immemorial, leaders and scholars and magnates have all been, to at least some degree, dependent people.  They cannot do the essentials for themselves, no matter how good they are at what they do.

Certainly in our complicated time everyone is a dependent person.  None of us are good enough at enough of the essentials that we never have to rely on the work of someone else, whether it’s to provide our tools or our food or our clothes or our shelter.  We also need the elite–we need people who know how to organize the rest of us for maximum efficiency.  However, that is what the elite do.  Among them there are many architects but few construction workers, many clothing designers but few weavers and seamstresses, many food industrialists but not many farmers.  What we wind up is too many chiefs and not enough indians (I apologize if anyone thinks that old expression is a racial slur), too many admirals and not enough midshipmen, too many generals and not enough privates, too many managers and not enough workers.  And the elite are not particularly good at becoming the workers.

That’s not to say that the ark should be filled with commoners and the elite should be left to drown.  The elite are not without skills.  The Russian Revolution attempted to eradicate all the people who were leaders, thinking that leaders were an unnecessary drain on the resources.  They wound up raising a new generation of leaders who lacked the efficiency and effectiveness of their predecessors because they had never been taught how to do what needed to be done.  Destroying all the leaders, all the wealthy, all the powerful, is a bad idea precisely because they have the training–the talent; the knowledge and the skills–to lead the rest of us.  We do need to preserve some of the elite.  However, destroying everyone other than the elite is even worse, because the talent to organize is useless without effective workers to organize.  The good life is created by the joint efforts of all.

Noah’s ark had to contain a pair of every land animal, so that when the floods receded every land animal would have survived.  Our space ark, or bomb shelter, or bunker, or whatever we have in which we preserve that portion of humanity that will survive the disaster, must have a cross-section of humanity, a mix particularly of skills, of persons who can lead and who can do the work.  The elite are not unnecessary; we cannot thrive without them–but without the rest of us they cannot survive.

So if you’re creating such a story, keep that in mind.  A shelter that saves only the elite dooms even them.  We are all dependent on each other in ways we usually fail to recognize.  That’s what such a story ought to teach us.

#28: A Terminator Vision

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #28, on the subject of A Terminator Vision.

I just spent probably more than a month trying to unravel all the timelines that are impacted by Terminator Genisys, and if you’re a temporal anomalies fan you’ve probably already seen that analysis.  At the end of it, and probably the last part I wrote (it doesn’t always work that way), I suggested that if the Terminator series wants to move forward from here, they’ll need new heroes–but maybe they could have the new hero be Sarah Conner’s second child.  That got things moving in the back of my mind, and I’ve envisioned some thoughts for a future direction for the Terminator series.  I don’t know if anyone in Hollywood takes me seriously (someone once commented that Terminator 3:  Rise of the Machines seemed to get some of its ideas from my analysis of the first two films, but the similarities seem to me to be superficial), but I think these ideas might be workable.

img0028Terminator

Termnator Genisys dropped Sarah Conner and Kyle Reese in 2017, where as far as they know Skynet has been stopped; we of course know better, partly because we were shown the surviving Genisys core in the rubble beneath Cyberdyne, and partly because if there is no future Skynet time unravels entirely.  It appears that they are going to fall in love, and that John Conner will be born.  Of course, John Conner can no longer be the hero–in 2029 he was compromised by what some have identified as a T-5000 and converted into what we’re calling “T-John”.  If we want a future, we need new heroes.

However, there is no reason why Sarah and Kyle wouldn’t give them to us.  They’re settling down to raise a child somewhere in California, but there’s no reason they would not raise several children, to create and prepare a small army against the seemingly inevitable assault of the machines.

I see them raising four children.  The eldest, of course, is John Conner (California law permits parents to give a child any name of their choosing, as long as it is not done with intent to commit fraud), and takes his place in the stories (although he’s a bit young in 2029, if he’s born in 2018 he might just fit the bill).  They give him the Conner surname because they know that he is going to matter to the resistance at least in its early days.  I envision the second child as a daughter, and they’ll name her after her mother, Sarah Reese.  The third child is a bit quiet and withdrawn, overshadowed by his to-be-famous brother but named for his father Kyle; eventually he’ll take his mother’s maiden name to be known as Kyle Conner, so that people know he is brother and son in the famous family.  Improbably, the family breaks boy-girl-boy-girl, and the youngest I’ll name Madolyn–because I like the notion of “Mad Reese” as the wild child renegade freedom fighter, who will be our new hero.

That’s the future; the present is where our story is set–or the near future present.  Sarah Conner gave birth to John Conner sometime in 2018, and she, along with Kyle and Pops, has been raising him.  In 2020, John now two, Sarah gives birth to Sarah (Reese), so now she has a toddler and an infant–and just about that time our movie begins.  A terminator arrives–it should be something different, but not one of the “T-5000” nanite types.  Its mission is to kill Sarah Reese and prevent the births of Kyle and Maddie.  (From the perspective of an analyst, I’m thinking that Sarah Reese must have been killed in this timeline, so that Maddie has a reason to save someone but did not lose her parents or eldest brother.)  From the future, Maddie sends help.  Of course, Maddie is an impulsive type.  She knows that Pops is there, and she could send another terminator to work with him (and gee, if she sends a repurposed T-1000 and it survives, they can replace the actor in the next film because of course the T-1000 can look like anyone), but I’m thinking she sends a person with knowledge of the weaknesses of terminators–or maybe she sends herself.  That would be interesting–“Mom, Dad, I haven’t been born yet, but I’ve come back from the future to keep you alive so that I will be.”  That might be interesting.  It creates a fascinating dynamic–what parent would let his kid die to save him, but what if the kid will never be born if the parent dies?

These ideas do not in any way save the problems in Terminator Genisys, but they do provide a potential future direction for the series.  So I’ve floated the idea, let’s see if anyone notices.

#27: A Novel Continuation

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #27, on the subject of A Novel Continuation.

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 four 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), and
  4. #25:  Novel Changes (chapters 19 through 24).

This picks up from there.

img0027Trees

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


Chapter 25, Hastings 9

I do not recall whether Annuda was my name for the pack mother of the werewolves or Ed’s, but I conveyed the same flavor of who she was that he had conveyed to me.  The use of the telepathy as a way to read character was a new one, but I wanted to establish both what this character was like internally and that Lauren was becoming more comfortable using her skills.

Among animals, showing your teeth is a sign of aggression; this is why cats tend not to like people who smile at them, but prefer people who scowl.  I’m not sure why we do it, but it seemed to me that a people who were part wolf would consider such an act aggressive.

What I knew of Lilith came mostly from the fact that George MacDonald had written a book featuring such a story, which I had seen in the possession of fellow students years ago and gotten some brief information about from a few sources.  It is my impression that she is part of the mythology of the World of Darkness games, but I was mostly filling in details on this here.

The comment about Lilith being considered history in this world, myth or fantasy in ours, had two intentions.  One was to underscore that fiction in one world might be fact in another; the other was to raise the possibility that what the reader considered fantasy or fiction might be truth.


Chapter 26, Kondor 9

I had done a lot of historical research in writing the Sherwood Forest world for The First Book of Worlds, and thought I might use it for this.  I didn’t, though—only a passing recognition of it late in the adventure.  As the initial encounter played out, it seemed that Kondor was not likely to recognize who these people were, or connect them with reality, so I let it play that way.

The one who appears is Will Scarlet; I wanted to keep Robin and Little John out of the initial encounter.

I don’t know whether they make ultrapasturized milk in those foil packs they use for some juices, but it seemed plausible enough at the time.


Chapter 27, Slade 9

I realized that I needed Slade to become a brilliant swordsman, so I made a point of mentioning time spent practicing.

There are probably two inspirations behind the toothpicks.  The second involves my brother Roy.  When he was in perhaps eighth grade a fad went through his class of buying toothpicks and cinnamon oil, soaking the toothpicks in the oil, and sucking on them in school.  He learned the secret and went to buy some of the oil, but the local pharmacists, fearing that the rush on cinnamon oil among kids was somehow connected to drug use, had pulled it from the shelves, so he bought clove oil instead.  He had no idea what cloves were or how they tasted, but was not entirely dissatisfied with the result.  As far as I know, he never acquired cinnamon oil.

The first, though, was a bragging rights sort of thing in Boy Scouts, where we would sharpen our hatchets sufficiently that we could split a log repeatedly down to slivers perhaps a sixteenth of an inch in diameter, which sufficed as toothpicks.  It was that image that gave me the woodcutter providing these.

I was trying to figure out how to give Slade some magic without making him a serious wizard or magician’s apprentice, and to have him dabbling with a primer on the subject seemed as good a start as I was likely to find.  That he always regards his spells as “tricks” is important to his attitude about the studies.

I delayed this chapter and the trip to Filp in part because I was not certain what I was going to do with it.  Obviously I started to figure it out fairly quickly, since I began it at the end of the chapter, but I was at this point winging it.

My editor was confused by the reference to the three year old being a “terror on wheels”, given that he was not on wheels.  I did not change it, though, because I think the expression is used in America (or was when I was a kid) to speak of any kind of race-like running around.

Slade realized that he should learn their names at about the same time I realized they should have names, so I invented them at this point.  Torrence obviously was derived from his father’s name.  The other two I grabbed out of the air, really.  The fact that Shella was a darling baby was the beginning of a romantic sideline I did not expect would go anywhere, and at the time I thought of it more as the way that babies are so adorable than anything else.

I was again playing with the complication that Slade seems to know more about his situation than I can justify.  Any verser who has been instructed knows he can’t have children, but Slade has not had exposure to other versers, and at this point his assumption that he is not aging is based primarily on the fact that he died twice and still seems to be the same age.  It concerned me that I might be giving more in this than I should—although Highlander-type immortals could not have children once they were immortal, that’s a point not strongly emphasized in those stories and Slade did not come across as a big fantasy fan.

The reference to having a girl he wanted is dropped, because I did not want to answer the question of what kind of life Slade had led before he was a verser.  I tend to think of my characters as either virgins or married, and I did not want to state otherwise with certainty.

Originally the last line read “never enjoyed a cup of cappuccino more”, and my editor balked, asking how he got cappuccino here.  I revised it to “even a cup of cappuccino”, hoping that this would convey the point, that it was not cappuccino, but Slade enjoyed it as if it were some expensive product.


Chapter 28, Hastings 10

The notion that Lauren is a fraud touches on something I have often explored in game ideas, that wizardry is as much a matter of projecting an image as it is of performing magic.  Somewhere I had published a piece on a fighter invading a wizard’s castle and the difference between what happened to him and what he thought happened to him.  Originally in this chapter I made reference to the movie Willow and the way he used the disappearing pig trick to trick the witch into believing he had done some powerful wizardry, but the editor objected to including that reference, so I replaced it with the discussion of stage magicians even though I liked the Willow reference better.

I probably should have started using a different way to distinguish telepathic communication from speech, but I had not yet given it enough thought.

Writing the passage about Lauren contacting Gavin telepathically was tricky.  I had to explain first that she could not contact just anyone, but could contact him because reading a mind gave you the same sense as communicating with it.  Then I had to make it seem to Gavin as if this contact meant Lauren knew where he was, while at the same time not confusing the reader into thinking she actually did.

The Bible study time was important because I was going to have Lauren use those verses in combat, and it needed to be credible that she knew them.

I had already worked out how Raal got places, but had not yet revealed it in the story.  Thus he could get to Lauren’s quickly because of his ability, but she would not know that it was not merely because he was nearby.

The clairvoyance is different, because it is targeted at a location known to the user; thus it would be plausible for Lauren to check Gavin’s table to see if he was there, because she is not targeting Gavin wherever he is but Gavin’s table which she has visited in the club.  It then enables her to pretend she found him.

The resistance to the clairvoyance is the first hint that The Pit has magical protections around it; Lauren manages to overcome those in this instance, but she will face them again.

Lauren thinks of her question about The Book of Journeys on her way to Gavin’s table from the car; I similarly thought of the question between writing the part about her needing to ask or tell him something and writing the part where she does.  It was a weak question, but that was fine, because it captures the feeling that she’s grabbing for something to ask, which she was.

Horta is introduced, and he immediately reveals skills of a wizard.  I don’t say how Lauren knows he is trying to read her, and she has no particular skill to detect such a thing, but I wrote it off to the way he stared, and then the idea that he was projecting thoughts into her head to attempt to get her to think about things he wanted to know.

Although I already knew that Lauren’s future would take her into at least two times in the past in this world, it had not yet occurred to me that either Horta or Jackson would be part of those; nor had I yet conceived Tubrok, who would be their master.  Had I done so, I probably would have included references to Merlin and Bethany and Wandborough, which would have worked better in the long term; but since I was being vague here and Lauren was trying not to think about what he projected, it was fine that she did not remember the things that were entirely meaningless to her at that point.

There is something of a power struggle between Gavin and Horta, reflected in the fact that Horta specifically identifies himself as the “senior partner” while Gavin reduces it to a “partner” “running the club”.


Chapter 29, Kondor 10

The notion of versers living in all the fiction ever told was introduced into early games (before I was involved) by Sean Daniels, whom I met once.  It might have been inspired by The Never-Ending Story, but I do not know that, and I took it from him.

My editor and I struggled a bit over the metaphors related to illusion versus reality.  Originally I had written something about being run over by a bus, which he thought was entirely out of place in the medieval setting, so I changed it by removing the bus.


Chapter 30, Slade 10

This was primarily a way for Slade to get Filp to teach him those thieving skills I thought he was going to need in the future.  I had not yet worked out how they would matter, but in the same way that Lauren was turning into my fighter/wizard/priest, Filp was going to turn into my fighter/thief/wizard.  I was not sure how I was going to do it, but it began with the idea of Filp teaching Slade a few things.


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.

#26: The Cream in My Coffee

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #26, on the subject of The Cream in My Coffee.

This mark Joseph “young” web log began with a bit of nonsense, a discussion of the odds of winning a game of solitaire and how to improve them (#1:  Probabilities and Solitaire), and we’ve addressed some pretty serious subjects since then–abortion, civil rights, presidential politics, homosexual marriage, copyright infringement, well, you can probably browse the archives–plus a couple of time travel posts.  This one is back to something that is almost nonsense:  How do you add cream and/or sugar to your coffee or tea for the best outcome?

img0026Coffee

Yes, it seems silly for intelligent people to waste mental effort on nonsense like fixing coffee–something ordinary people do without thinking every day–but in my defense, at least some of this is not my own conclusions but information gleaned from scientific studies funded by governments, universities, and corporations.  (I expect that in Great Britain how to make the perfect cup of tea is still high on the list of national security issues.)  I’m just taking a bit of a break from other matters to share a few secrets about cream and sugar and hot beverages that I’ve picked up over the years; I’m not nearly in the class of those who engaged in a funded study, and the part of this that took the most dedicated time was probably getting the photo of my coffee mug.

If you drink your coffee black, this is not more than a curiosity–information you can use to annoy people whose introduction of lighteners and sweeteners to their hot beverages is less than fully efficient.  However, “black” is not the first choice in the consumption of either beverage, and indeed for coffee, “regular” means one dose of sugar (about a teaspoon) and one dose of cream (about a tablespoon) per six- to ten-ounce cup.  So most coffee drinkers, and probably most tea drinkers, can learn something, or at least confirm something they knew or suspected, from this discussion.

I drink my coffee “light and sweet”–that’s technical talk for double cream, double sugar–and blame my mother and the Baptist church.  There was a coffee hour after the service (not an hour, certainly, but that’s what it was usually called) at which there was always coffee, sometimes cookies or something.  I don’t know whether they also had tea, but what they did not have was a beverage for the mass of children of that baby-boom generation.  I don’t remember other children hanging around there, though, so maybe their parents felt it was better to make an escape with the children than risk some kind of parental embarrassment, and mine thought it was better to socialize with other church members during that time.  In any case, my mother’s solution to the beverage problem was to take four of the styrofoam cups, shovel a few spoonfuls of sugar into each, barely cover the sugar with coffee, and then fill the cups with milk, and pass these out to the four of us.  I once worked with a girl who took eight creams and twelve sugars in a standard six-ounce styrofoam cup of coffee, and really, I’m surprised that with my introduction to the beverage that’s not how I drink it.

Sweetie

I have never used artificial sweeteners.  Apart from the fact that they never tasted right, I have always thought that there was something seriously wrong with anything that tastes sweet but contains no sugar–and apparently my instincts were correct, because it has more recently been determined that at least the most common artificial sweeteners stimulate something in the brain that causes shifts in your metabolism stimulating weight gain.  I’ve gained enough weight since I hit “middle age” (that’s when you stop growing up and start growing in the middle), but replacing sugar with something that tries to trick me into thinking it’s sugar is not my idea of a good solution to that.  However, most artificial sweeteners come in soluble powders or crystals, so what is said of sugar is true of them as well.  There are some liquid sweeteners–honey in tea the most common–which pose different problems, so we’ll start with sugar and powdered sweeteners.

The hazard of powerdered and crystal sweeteners is their tendency to coat the bottom of the cup–you pour the sugar into the coffee, and it goes to the bottom.  You stir it with one of those ineffective stir sticks or straws, but somehow often when you have downed the coffee, there’s the sugar.  This means your coffee has not been as sweet as you intended, and you wind up with at least one swig of almost pure sweetener as you down the dregs.  This is what you want to prevent.

Your primary ally in this is that coffee is hot, and if you connect that with the fact that it is moving rapidly when you pour it into the cup you can see the obvious answer:  put the sugar in the bottom of the empty cup, and then add the hot liquid.  The swirling motion of the coffee will lift the sugar, and combined with the heat it will rapidly dissolve it into the liquid.

Note that the moment you pour coffee into your cup it starts cooling rapidly–first because the cup itself is considerably cooler than the coffee, second because it is now out of the carafe or thermos and has a lot more surface area per unit volume exposed to the air.  I’m digressing here, but if you ever wondered why those professional coffeemakers (like Bunn) use nearly spherical carafes instead of seemingly more practical cylindrical pots, this is the answer.  A cylinder takes up less table space per unit volume, but what matters particularly with coffee is preserving its temperature.  Leaving it on the heat (or leaving the heat on it) gradually overcooks it, so you want to maintain its temperature with the lowest possible addition of heat.  The coefficient of cooling of any body is dependent on the ratio of surface area over volume–the reason children are more susceptible to the cold than adults, they have a greater ratio of exposed skin per unit of internal mass.  The sphere is the geometric shape that has the lowest such ratio; it contains the maximum volume for the same surface area.  Thus coffee in a spherical carafe stays hotter longer than coffee in a cylindrical pot of the same volume–and considerably longer than coffee in your cup.

Because the coffee is cooling rapidly, and in fact is cooling most rapidly in the first few seconds after it leaves the pot, you take maximum advantage of the heat of the coffee for dissolving the sugar by having the sugar ready for the coffee at the instant the coffee hits the cup.

This probably also applies to honey, used more commonly in tea than in coffee.  Because of its viscosity, the heat of the liquid is critical to the dissolution of the sweetener.  Artificial liquid sweeteners might be different, depending on their viscosity, their solubility, their storage temperature, and the quantity used.  A few drops of a room temperature liquid is not going to make much difference to the process; a tablespoon of a refrigerated liquid might be significant.

Creamer

Powdered creamers have a distinct problem:  they tend to clump.  They do so considerably less in hotter liquids–part of their dissolution process involves something akin to melting, as they are chemically similar to plastics (sorry, you didn’t want to know that).  You again want the coffee to hit the creamer while it is at maximum heat–but because of the texture of most powdered creamers, they form skins that keep some of the powder sealed away from the liquid, and hence the clumps.

If you are using a sugar or a granulated or powdered sweetener with characteristics similar to sugar, there is a simple fix:  mix the creamer with the sugar.  If the bottom of the cup is wet (e.g., if this is your second cup of coffee) put the sugar in first and swish it so it keeps the creamer from the residual liquid, then add the creamer atop the sugar and shake the cup gently so that the two mix.  The granulated sweetener will disrupt the powdered creamer, and the two will dissolve evenly into the hot liquid when it hits the cup.

Unfortunately, if you drink “cream only” or “light no sugar”, this does not help.  It’s still important to make sure that the creamer is not clumped–if it is, use the stir stick to break the lumps, because otherwise these become natural protective balls enclosing undissolved powder.  And again, the hotter the liquid is when it hits the powder, the more thoroughly and swiftly the powder will dissolve.

Milk or Cream

This is the hardest part of the process to answer definitively, because there are factors pulling in opposite directions.

To the one side, the moment the liquid cream hits the coffee, even if it is room temperature, the coffee begins to cool.  This means if you are using sugar–or indeed, honey or most other sweeteners–you want the sweetener to dissolve before you add the milk, because you need the heat of the liquid to facilitate the process.  Thus it makes sense to put the sugar into the cup, add the coffee, and then add the cream.

It has also been noted that if you like your coffee hotter rather than cooler, and you have just poured the coffee and are about to add the cream when the phone rings, you should add the cream before you answer the phone.  Because of that coefficient of cooling, the greater the temperature difference between an object and the surrounding air the faster it cools, and thus if you add the cooling cream sooner the rate of cooling due to the surrounding air lessens drastically immediately, whereas if you delay adding the cream the coffee is cooling rapidly and then cools additionally when you return to add the cream.

However, recent studies have determined that adding cream to tea (I told you the matter was of national importance in Great Britain) is very different from adding tea to cream.  That is, because cream (or milk) is in essence an emulsified fat, heat causes it to separate.  If you add hot liquid to an ounce of cream, of course the liquid cools as it hits the cream and the cream is heated relatively gradually.  If, though, you pour an ounce of cream into hot liquid, the cream is rapidly heated as it strikes the surface of the liquid and begins to separate from that heating.  Your beverage is less “creamy”, not as smooth, because it is not as well blended.  Thus for a smoother, creamier, beverage, you want to put the cream in the cup and then add the coffee.

This is, of course, problematic if you are also using sugar, because you want the hot coffee to dissolve the sugar before it begins cooling, and the cream is going to protect the sugar from that heat.

I have not found a resolution to this problem, apart from the possibility of putting sugar in one cup, adding coffee, putting cream in another cup, and pouring the sweetened coffee from the one cup to the other.  That is more trouble than it’s worth, I think, so when I am not using powdered creamer I generally add the cream to the sweetened coffee, rather than the other way around.

So now you know some of the physics and chemistry behind lightening and sweetening your coffee or your tea.  Perhaps it will help you make the perfect cup for your own tastes.

#25: Novel Changes

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #25, on the subject of Novel Changes.

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 three similar previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts, #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone (which provided this kind of insight into the first six chapters), #20:  Becoming Novel (covering chapters seven through twelve), and #22:  Getting Into Characters (for chapters thirteen through eighteen).  This picks up from there.

img0025Forest

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


Chapter 19, Kondor 7

I knew when I reached this point that I had kept Kondor in this world long enough.  In some ways it’s a dull world, a routine in which you develop skills and have occasional interruptions but overall just keep doing the same thing from day to day.  It never really creates a story, only character development.  So I had decided it was time to move him elsewhere.  My editor was surprised, though.  He reacted, asking whether that was the whole story.  On the other hand, it seemed important, too, to put the reader in mind of the fact that the characters would die and having died would continue in another universe, and this was a good time for that.

I wanted Kondor to take some high-tech equipment with him, specifically a medical kit and a kinetic blaster.  He wouldn’t have had the latter as a medic, but he had trained on it as a security guard in the first trip, so it would be natural for him to take it if his own gun jammed, and not unreasonable for the jam to happen.  Once the blaster was in his hand, it would not be at all surprising that he took it with him to the next world.

At this point Kondor first considers the view (attributed to Richard Lutz) that his own life, being immortal, is worth less than the mortal lives of others around him, and that particularly for those whom he counts as friends he should sacrifice himself to save them.  I put Walters here because they had begun building a friendship earlier in the story, and it would be the person for whom Kondor would most likely make this decision.

My editor thought Kondor was quite arrogant in his attitude that he didn’t care whether Walters believed in an afterlife, because since he himself was certain there was no such thing Walters’ death would be the end for Walters.  I made only minor changes.  I think that attitude is arrogant myself, but people do hold it.

My recollection is a bit weak, but I don’t think I knew where Kondor was when I started talking about the forest.  I just knew that I had Slade occupied with castles and wizards, and Lauren in an urban war against undead, and Kondor coming out of a space world, and I needed something different from all of those, so a forest seemed the place to be.


Chapter 20, Hastings 7

I wanted Lauren to have the parka because I was not certain where I would be sending her at this point, and I did not want cold to be a problem.  Besides, I like parkas, and wore one for years; and a parka would cover a cowl, so she could wear the armor under it unseen.

C. J. Henderson and I used to debate on convention panels whether it was worthwhile to keep what in the trade is called a “writing journal”, that is, a notebook in which you write something (every day is recommended) just to keep writing.  He says you should never write anything you can’t sell, and no one is going to buy those notebooks; I say that there is value in having them, and writing them, as long as you remember to look back at them.  The line about “automobiles giving their body parts that others might continue” came from one of my journals, thoughts on a junkyard I had observed from a train, if memory serves.

I did the exploding car trick in play; at the time neither I nor Ed realized that there would not be gasoline in the tanks of cars in junkyards.  By the time I wrote this I’d discovered that detail, so I had to add the notion of Lauren using her clairsentient skills to locate a car that would suffice.

I don’t know whether gasoline really would ignite if heated in a flameless environment, or whether it would merely boil.  I do know that it is highly volatile, and if it did ignite it would go very fast and create a lot of pressure in a tank quickly.

I have no idea how the ghoul—his name was Bob in Ed’s game, but I changed it to Arnie—found my character, but this was how it went in-game.

Given that Lauren was flying and therefore not secured to anything, and that the plastic steel armor she wore would resist being penetrated, it made sense that the impact would transfer the force of the bullet into the motion of her body, and that if it were off-center (as is more likely) it would spin the body around.  Anyway, that’s the way it went in game, and that’s the way I thought it would go here.

I have no idea whether the smoke was poisonous.  My character avoided it because asthma was an issue for me (a weakness I neglected to give her), but it made sense for her to avoid it given that she did not know what it was.


Chapter 21, Slade 7

In the previous Slade chapter I had Torelle run the basic organizational orders to set up a working household, primarily so that Slade would take note and be able to do something of the same when he reached his own castle.  I wasn’t interested at that point in trying to talk about what would happen if you didn’t know how to run a castle, and since most of it runs itself if properly delegated, I just needed Slade to be able to set up the basic operation and then let it run itself.

Oddly, Slade immediately establishes a kitchen staff, despite the fact that he does not have guests for quite a few years.  However, eventually he does.  I had not yet thought that far ahead.

I stepped into a problem with Slade, in that he thought in terms of unaging immortality.  He would have concluded immortality from the fact that he had twice died and come back to life, but the concept of not aging does not necessarily follow from that (as Swift showed in Gulliver’s Travels, in the less well known section about those who never died but kept getting older indefinitely).  It still bothers me; but then, Slade might have extrapolated it simply from the notion that if he were immortal he must be unaging, since old age would otherwise kill him eventually.  Besides, the immortals of Highlander either did not age or aged very slowly after their first death, and that would have been the best analogy he could find to his own condition.

The tiered society of a feudal world is rarely considered, and since Slade has no family and knows only the Corlander nobles at this point, it was unlikely that he would have friends unless he found a way to make them.  I had not explored the notion of the people under his protection, but they would have been peasants, and uncomfortable with a nobleman, and despite what he later does for Filp he probably can’t so easily do that for himself.

Deciding the distances between the castles was a bit of a problem.  It was already established that Torelle’s was across the valley from another that belonged to Count Tork, and you wouldn’t have castles crowded against each other, as they would each be defending a defined territory.  Also, Slade, Filp, and Ommiger got castles that did not previously belong to someone else, so they had to be in territories that were near the borders, while Torelle’s had belonged to the family seven generations earlier and so was if not in the middle at least surrounded by others as the kingdom expanded.  I thought three days travel by horseback would be between twenty-five and fifty miles, and that would be at least reasonable without being boring.

As a footnote, I counted the nights because the nights were when he was more uncomfortable, and I wanted to convey that.

The phone number gag is not the first out-of-time reference in the book, but the suggestion is made that Slade had made others during his time with them.  The chimney and the roller coaster, the Boy Scouts, maybe a few others were already there, but they set a flavor that this statement implies had continued in his conversation otherwise.

Torelle ought to have dispatched a courier to Slade sooner, so Slade could prepare for the wedding; but the fighter is pushing to put everything in order and establish himself, so he wouldn’t delay the wedding simply to invite the guests.

Torelle’s attitude about love for his bride fits with the world of arranged marriages in which he lives:  love is something you choose to do toward the person selected for you to marry.  He finds Slade’s notion that you marry the one you love strange because he was taught that you love the one you marry.

I never give the bride a name.  She is identified as a later child of a higher ranking noble, which cements Torelle’s claim to his title and forms an important alliance for him.  That matters to him, along with the fact that she is young and healthy enough to bear children.  She would be too young by modern standards, but the right age by medieval ones.

It is also part of Torelle’s character that he is rather shallow and does not grasp the concept of relationships.  To him, relationships are matters of status and authority—he has the relationship with his soldiers that they are under his command, and with his wife that she bears his children, and with his companions that they validate his title and position.  The notion of spending time with friends is foreign to him; his life is about doing what he must to be whom he perceives himself to be.

It was also important that Slade see what Torelle did as lord, holding court and managing the land, so he could add that to what he was doing at home.


Chapter 22, Hastings 8

It had been with me for a while that this was not going to be the comic book series for which it was originally intended.  That had had several impacts on the writing already, including that I paid less attention to the lengths of chapters and that I did not worry so much about cliffhangers.  At this point, for the first time I skipped a story, moving Kondor behind the other two.  I was not entirely certain how I was going to proceed with his story, and figured that it was enough of a cliffhanger that he awoke in a forest to hold the reader a bit longer.

I don’t remember what Ed had called the book the vampires wanted, but it sounded to me like it might have been borrowed from some published source.  I created the name Book of Journeys to avoid that, thinking that it might be taken to describe paths one could take.

Gavin’s backstory is Ed’s work.  Jackson he had sketched considerably less fully for me.  The age I picked worked well later, when I was able to place him in Bethany’s time, but at this point I wanted him to be old enough to be powerful but not so old as some of the others.

There was in the game an encounter with a vampire called Lucien, who was apparently more powerful than Horta, but who left the city with nothing more than a polite visit to announce his departure.  There were also two other strongholds (besides the Succubus Club that I turned into The Pit), one a coffee shop with jazz poetry readings, the other a live theater.  I had not yet realized I would not be including any of that.

I do not now remember what name the werewolf cabby used, but it was something even less like a name.  I went with Raoul Wolfe to capture the growl but make it seem like a real name.  My editor thought that a werewolf named “Wolfe” was a poor choice, so I backwrote that it was not his name but the name he used for the cab license.

I think that I learned the name of Bob the Ghoul out of character, that is, as player information; injecting Arnie’s name into this conversation gave me the ability to convey it to the reader and to Lauren without difficulty.

The White Wolf vampire game often devolves to a game of politicking, and perhaps that was why I moved in the direction of internal power struggles as their weakness.  Setting the vams against each other would prevent them from joining against attackers, or at least hinder their ability to do so.


Chapter 23, Slade 8

I’m not sure it was intentional, but I set up Torelle’s wife as the nameless nonentity who existed to decorate her lord’s home and mother his children.  I had not yet conceived the romantic plotlines for Filp and Slade, but these were going to emerge in contrast to the “norm” of the world, which Torelle’s family was establishing.

This was consistent with the personality I was envisioning in Torelle, who was entirely self-absorbed.  It occurs to me that it was very similar to a cavalier I played in a game once, a good person who did not really see the world beyond himself.  There were some justifications for this, given the difficulties of communication even from the next fief; but it was also Torelle’s nature to be focused on himself.

Slade’s assessment that Omigger would not care about what Torelle had accomplished was also correct, because Omigger was also absorbed in his own world, although in a different way than Torelle.  That is, Torelle thought that everyone ought to be interested in Torelle and what Torelle was doing; Omigger thought that everyone ought to be interested in the same kinds of things that interested Omigger, that were not about Omigger but were still narrowly connected to his own world.

Some of Omigger’s self-absorption is seen in his comments about using magic to learn about his friends; it’s not important enough to him to go to the trouble.

Omigger’s home is motte-and-bailey styled, a style I studied for the creation of the Vorgo world which comes up later.

Originally I had contrasted Omigger’s study against a “bookstore or library”, but while Americans tend to use the word “library” to refer to something institutional, a public library or a school or university library, other English speakers, including my Australian editor, would call the room where Omigger kept his books a “library”, and so the reference confused him.  I lost something, I think, because when I say “library” I have more images of school libraries than anything else, but when I say “public library” I lose those in favor of something different; but hopefully it clarified the meaning for non-American readers.

The kind of arcane magic suggested by fantasy games, at least, tends to suggest something very technical, difficult to learn and involving careful techniques and correct understanding.  This is not surprising when we realize that this type of magic was really invented at the same time science was invented, both as means of controlling the world around us, and only the latter actually worked.  Omigger does that kind of magic, so the books he reads are more like technical journals than like religious texts.

I’m starting to draw Slade into being the reluctant magician.  He’s very blue-collar in his thinking, and magic is too much like higher education for him.  He’s only looking at it at this point because Omigger assumes everyone would want to know this stuff if they could learn it, and so he hasn’t really been offered anything else to do.

The comments about the value of the book (paperweight, doorstop, insomnia cure) were culled from comments made by my own Professor Immendorf at Luther College concerning a commentary volume on the prophets we had to acquire for one of his classes.  I added tinder to the list, because it’s a joke made about traveling between universes that paper money becomes firestarter when you leave the world in which it was issued.


Chapter 24, Kondor 8

I had spent a lot of effort developing the Sherwood Forest setting for The First Book of Worlds, and it made a solid contrast against everything else currently in play in the book.  I thought at the time that I was going to have Kondor learn the ambush skills and medieval weapons, coming out something like a medieval special forces soldier.  Unfortunately, I didn’t see how to make multiple ambush scenarios interesting, and Kondor’s character pushed me in a different direction.

The technical data on guns and ammo matters in play, and players will know not only how much power is left on their weapons but how much damage that is likely to do.  Trying to work that into a character’s perspective was more of a challenge.

The earliest English with which I am familiar is that of Wycliff, still over a century in the future; but it is comprehensible, barely, to an intelligent modern ear if you take your time with it.  It might have been stretching things to suggest that Kondor and the merry men could understand each other with effort, but I wanted to include the language difficulty without belaboring it.


Interest in these “behind the writings” picked up a bit, so I’m still thinking they’re worth producing.  Feedback is always welcome, of course.

#24: Religious Liberty and Gay Rights: A Definitive Problem

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #24, on the subject of Religious Liberty and Gay Rights:  A Definitive Problem.

Christians today are being forced to recognize the marital unions of homosexual (and lesbian) couples as just as valid as those of heterosexuals, and even to participate in the celebration of those unions by providing services, from signing marriage licenses to baking wedding cakes and taking photographs.  Many Christians hold the view that homosexuals cannot legitimately be “married”, that homosexual relationships are an affront to God and to nature, and that it is an affront to our faith to be forced to participate–akin perhaps to insisting that Muslims and Jews participate in a feast at which a pig will be roasted and served to all the guests.  We ought to be excused from such offensive events.  Yet time and again the courts rule against us, despite the First Amendment to the Constitution which protects Americans from government intrusion into religious faith and practice.  It is confusing, at the least.  Why is this happening?

The answer is that over the past century or so the meanings of several critical words have changed just enough that our objections have been voided.  Three words in particular have taken altered definitions, and left Christians behind.


Of course the word marriage has changed meaning over time.  It comes into English through French from Latin, the Latin referring to a sexual relationship and thus, for the Romans at least, to an ongoing sexual relationship between a man and a woman.  The Romans were rather specific about this, and that definition came with the word into English thanks largely to the Roman Catholic Church.  A marriage, well into the early twentieth century, was a permanent commitment between a man and a woman with a view to producing and raising children; it was definitively a procreative relationship.

img0024Wedding

It was also primarily regulated by the church in most of the western world, even in the United States.  Marriage “licenses” were created originally to bypass “the banns” (we’ve discussed this before), the rule that required an intended marriage be announced publicly several weeks in advance of the wedding in the home region of the couple so that objections could be known in advance; the parties could in effect post a cash bond guaranteeing that there were no impediments to the marriage, and so marry more quickly or in a place where one or the other was a stranger.  They were optional, even through the early twentieth century–but they had become required first for interracial marriages, gradually for all marriages, and for the very telling purpose that the government wanted to regulate the number of mixed-race children and then additionally prevent incestuous marriages.  Marriage licenses were about regulating sex, and guaranteeing that a couple who had sex would thereafter be jointly responsible for the children produced by their act.

Several things happened in the twentieth century.  One had to do with the Federal Income Tax system, because someone decided that if a couple had children, or was trying to have children, that probably meant one of them (usually the woman) would not be working, and the income of the other would have to support both–and since the government wanted to encourage procreative relationships, such couples, identified by a legal “marriage”, were given a lower tax rate.

The second thing that happened was really many things.  Divorce law changed such that gradually it became easier for couples to separate.  Divorces being very messy cases, courts and legislatures tried to disentangle themselves from the mess by moving toward a system by which what had been presumptively permanent commitments now became readily dissolved.  Further, attitudes toward sex changed, and the judiciary took the view that it was inappropriate for government to regulate sexual activities outside those special cases in which it was likely that someone was being compromised (rape, incest, possibly prostitution).  That meant it did not matter whether someone’s sexual preferences were “aberrant”, as long as they were not abusive.  Any adult could have sex with any other adult, and the government would mind its own business if no one was being harmed.  There is still an issue as to whether anyone is being harmed in these relationships, but the government has decided that in most cases they aren’t even if they are, or at least that they assumed the risk that they would be harmed when they entered the relationship.

The upshot is that marriage is no longer defined as a permanent procreative relationship, but rather as a disolvable partnership between friends.  A critical element has been changed.


The word homosexual did not not exist in the nineteenth century.  Such men were called “sodomites”, and it had a very negative connotation.  Early in the twentieth century someone in the psychology field coined the new word to identify what was then regarded a psychological aberration for study and treatment.  The word itself was criticized as a nasty hybridization of a Greek prefix (homo, “same”) with a Latin root (sexual, “pertaining to gender”).

img0024Freud

As attitudes about sex changed in the mid twentieth century, part of that was the notion that two persons engaging in sex were not hurting anyone and ought to be permitted to enjoy themselves.  This justified what had previously been called fornication but was now called free love, what had previously been called adultery but was now called having an affair, and, eventually, what had been called sodomy but was now called same-sex love.  What had been an unspeakable perversion in the nineteenth century by the dawn of the twenty-first was simply a different lifestyle.

However, the definitional change goes deeper than this.  This is not so simple as a different lifestyle.  It’s not like choosing whether or not to be a vegetarian, or deciding to join a convent, or moving to a farm.  Although science has produced not a shred of evidence that homosexuality is genetic, homosexuals have insisted that they are born that way, and that therefore they cannot really be classed as “men” and “women”, but instead are two more, different, sexes, that homosexual male is no more heterosexual male than heterosexual female.  The assertion is that they are a separate group, another sex, very much like a race.  With the most recent Supreme Court decisions, it seems that the law has agreed.

Therein lies the key problem, the reason our bakers and photographers and caterers and honeymoon hotels are all being told that they cannot refuse service to homosexual couples.  Under the law, it would be the same as excludng service to Blacks or Chinese because of their race.  We went through this in the sixties, as Whites–not just southern Whites, it happened also in Chicago–tried to segregate Blacks by legislation and private practice, when restaurants would not serve persons of color and school boards sent black students to their own schools.  It was an ugly time in that regard, and while we can argue to what degree racial discrimination has been ended (we’ve addressed that before, too) we can probably agree that things have improved from then, and that we do not want to go back to that.  However, the problem is that under law homosexuals are in essence the new Blacks, the group we are not permitted to segregate or exclude, not permitted to refuse to serve, because they are not ordinary men and women engaged in a disgusting sexual perversion, but newly-recognized genders whose different proclivities are ordinary for them and protected by law.

The upshot is that homosexuality is no longer defined as an aberrant sexual practice, but rather as a third (and fourth, and maybe fifth and we do not know how many more) sex, to be protected as women are protected, and any expression of a different attitude on the subject has legally been defined as discrimination.


One more word has changed its meaning significantly over the past century.  The word is wrong.

To say that the word wrong has changed its meaning is, well, wrong; it still retains most of the meanings it ever had.  The problem is that in jurisprudence the acceptable meaning of the word has shifted, and things which were once almost universally understood as “wrong” are not.  Not that this is news, nor even different–society has always been in flux concerning what it regards as wrong in the details.  However, there has been something of a fundamental shift, not a problem with what specific things are wrong but a problem with what constitutes “wrongness” itself.

img0024Haidt

Jonathan Haidt has studied morality, and has written rather persuasively that the kind of morality we have in “Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic” (acronym WEIRD) societies is based primarily on one of six fundamental moral values that the rest of the world, now and from time immemorial, shares.  For progressive liberals, the moral value that matters is dubbed “care/harm” (making the lives of others better, not worse), although they also recognize a “liberty/oppression” value (the primary value recognized by libertarians, individual autonomy).  There is a third value, “fairness/cheating”, recognized, to which we will return.

Conservatives recognize these values, but also recognize three others that are embraced by most of the rest of the world (outside WEIRD areas).  These are “loyalty/betrayal” (what makes it wrong to be a “traitor”), “authority/subversion” (respect and obedience within a hierarchy), and “sanctity/degradation” (the notion that some things, whether churches or flags or sports teams, deserve respect, and others are perversions deserving disgust).  Thus for most of the world, yes, it is wrong to hurt others, wrong to oppress, wrong to cheat, but it is also wrong to betray your own family, to disobey your leaders, and to disrespect your flag or other culturally identified artifacts of identity.  These meanings are not completely lost on people–when someone says, “That’s just wrong,” he is probably tapping into this notion of sanctity/degradation.  However, progressives are so far from these understandings of morality that many of them consider them the enemy, obstacles to what genuinely matters.

I said we would return to the “fairness/cheating” value, because it is universally held but at the same time it is expressed in two distinct ways.  For progressive liberals, “fairness” is about equality of outcome; the ideal for them is the socialist model, in which everyone gets everything he needs regardless of how much he is able to contribute.  For everyone else, “fairness” is about proportionality, that you reap as you sow, that people who work harder should earn more, people who contribute more to society should get more from it.  Thus for most of the world, it is “fair” for potentially procreative heterosexual couples who commit to long-term child-raising relationships to receive benefits which enable that which are not available to others (e.g., tax breaks), but for progressive liberals–and for the current United States legal system and that of other WEIRD countries–it is unfair for such couples to receive such benefits merely because they are giving society a future population.


Christians are thus stymied in finding an appropriate legitimately legal response to what a century ago would have been universally recognized as a complete perversion of the legal system, because over time the meanings of these three words have changed.  To have said then that recognition of a procreative union between two members of the same sex engaging in sexual relationships is a perversion of that which is inherently sacred would have made perfect sense.  Today the words “homosexual marriage is wrong” no longer mean that.  They mean something like, “It is unkind to allow members of one sex to have the same rights available to those of other sexes regarding temporary relational partnerships,” which is not something anyone believes.  To Christians, the old meaning is still the meaning; to the progressive liberals and their legal system in western countries, it is akin to saying that blacks cannot function as free people and need to be slaves.  The world has changed, and expects us to keep up.

Yet as we have also previously said, keeping up with the world is not always the right thing to do.