#117: The Prime Universe

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #117, on the subject of The Prime Universe.

Proofreading some pages I wrote for Bob Slade (character introduced in Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel) brought a smile to my face.  Bob always tickles me; he is written to be fun.  In this particular instance he wonders whether something in the universe he is visiting is like it is in “the real world”, and realizes that he still thinks of the earth in which he was born as somehow more “real” than the half dozen universes in which he has lived for more years than he was there.  It occurred to me that that might be “gamer-think”, but it seemed like something Bob would ponder.  I let it stay.

A few days later I was very much enjoying a book by Ian Harac (those of you who follow my Goodreads reviews will undoubtedly read about it there in a few days), a sort of multiverse story in which the lead characters are investigating inter-universe smuggling, and one of them referred to their universe of origin as “earth prime”.  It struck me then:  how does a culture that travels the multiverse define a concept like “earth prime”?

img0117earth

If you believe in the sort of diverging universe theory in which for every choice the universe divides into two universes, one in which that happens and the other in which it does not (I do not), you might think there is a simple answer:  the “prime” universe is the root one from which all others diverged.  That, though, does not work.  Let us suppose that at the dawn of human history a hypothetical Cain is faced with the choice of whether or not to kill his hypothetical brother Abel.  By this theory, our universe splits into two, one in which Abel is killed by Cain and the other in which they are both alive.  Which is the prime universe, and which the divergent?  Obviously, you suggest, the one in which Cain took the action to kill Abel is the diverging one, because Cain did something that changed history.  That’s not true, of course:  Cain did something that created history, as there was no history of that moment prior to that moment.  Further, although we have so viewed it, it is not as if it is a choice between killing Abel and not killing Abel.  It is rather a choice between killing Abel and doing something else instead.  He could have gone back to work on his garden; he could have left to have a chat with his mother; he could have asked his brother to teach him to raise sheep.  If we are in the universe in which Cain killed Abel, to us it appears that those are all divergent universes; yet if we are in one of those, it is the death that is the divergence, or one of the divergences.  We might think that the death is the most dramatic or drastic version of history, but that is very much our ego:  why should killing one man be a more significant event than giving life to thousands of vegetables and their offspring?  It assumes the importance of humans.

I agree that humans are more important than vegetables, but in the scheme of a godless diverging multiverse that can’t be more than a personal preference.

Thus in a sense, if all universes diverged from one original, all have claim to be that original.  If you cut an earthworm in half, both halves regenerate giving you two earthworms; both of them are the original.  Every amoeba having come into existence by the cellular division of an amoeba in which one becomes two is the first amoeba that ever lived, from its own perspective.  Every universe that is viewed as diverging from another can itself be viewed as the original from which the other diverged, and that is the reality from the objective outside view.  There is no “prime” universe in that sense.

Of course, there are other theories of the multiverse.  Some hold that all the many parallel universes have always existed, either eternally or from the beginning of time.  No such universe can claim to be “first” in a temporal sense.  Yet often one is still identified as “prime”.

Let us remember that the suggestion is made that there is an infinite number of such universes.  I find that absurd, but concede that if the notion of parallel universes of this sort is true there might well be more universes than there are stars in our own.  Vast becomes too small a word.

Something distinguishes each universe in this multiverse.  Whatever it is, if we are to become able to travel it in a controlled fashion we have to discover it and turn it into something quantifiable.  Thus if every universe has a “frequency” at which it “vibrates”, we can give every universe a number equal to that frequency–akin to radio stations, each of which is identified by the number of cycles per second (renamed to honor a scientist named “Hertz”, changing the abbreviation from c.p.s. to hz.).  Of course, it is unlikely that universes “vibrate”, but there would have to be some measurable and quantifiable distinguishing factor, something akin to coordinates, for which we could make a scale.

Making a scale is the problem–not that we could not make one, but that any scale we made would be arbitrary by definition.  Inches and feet are only “real” because we have agreed definitions.  The metric system prides itself on being scientific, every unit defined in relation to every other unit, but ultimately the basic unit, the meter, even though it is defined by other scientifically determinable values, is still arbitrary.  The unit of time we call a second is one sixtieth of one sixtieth of one twenty-fourth of the average period of rotation of this planet from sunrise to sunrise over a year–fundamentally arbitrary and not so constant as was once believed.  So we might think that the “prime” universe is the one in which the measured value of the vibrations is “one” on our scale, but our scale is arbitrary.  As with the number of “gravs” as a measurement of the gravitic force of other planets, we arbitrarily assign “one” to our own planet and measure the others against that.

Perhaps, though, we could make the “prime” universe that one with the lowest “vibration” (or the highest–it is the same result).  The problem here is that, assuming “zero” is not a possible reading (all universes by this definition must vibrate, and “zero” constitutes not doing so) and given the incredible number of such universes, we could never be certain that we had found the universe with the lowest frequency and so could not know which universe was “prime”.  We might devise a formula which determined a theoretical lowest possible frequency for a universe; the formula would very likely be incorrect, and we might not be able to determine whether a universe with that value actually exists.

So then the prime universe is decided arbitrarily, and the best choice would be that universe which first determined how to travel to the others.  We would label our universe “prime” and measure all the others by their relationship to us; our “frequency” would be “one-point-zero-zero” out to however many places seemed necessary for accuracy, others measured by variation from that.

However, the odds are fairly slim (what am I saying? they’re infinitessimal) that our universe would be the first to discover how to travel the multiverse.  Further, given the hypothetical vastness of the multiverse it might be a thousand, a million, a billion years–even never–before we encountered a world which had independently learned to do what we do (unless of course by some wild chance they found us before we solved the problem, but then they have the same problem):  which universe gets to be “prime” because they discovered this first?

Ultimately, then, we call our universe “prime” if we invented our own way of traveling the multiverse, not because that has any meaning other than that we regard it our original home.  If someone brings the technology to us from another universe, in all likelihood we will call their universe “prime”, and ours will be defined on the scale they devised.  It seems the word has no meaning other than “that universe we have chosen as the one by which our scale is calibrated”.  If there is a multiverse of this sort, there is no “prime” universe by any other meaning.

#116: Character Missions

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #116, on the subject of Character Missions.

With permission of Valdron Inc I am publishing my second novel, Old Verses New, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents).  If you missed the first one, you can find the table of contents for it at Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel.  There was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; the last of those for the first novel is #71:  Footnotes on Verse Three, Chapter One, which indexes all the others and catches a lot of material from an earlier collection of behind-the-writings reflections that had been misplaced for a decade.  Now as the second is being posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers, and perhaps in a more serious way than those for the previous novel, because it sometimes talks about what I was planning to do later in the book or how this book connects to events yet to come in the third (For Better or Verse)–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them, or even put off reading these insights until the book has finished.  Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.

These were the previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts covering this book:

  1. #74:  Another Novel (which provided this kind of insight into the first nine chapters along with some background material on the book as a whole),
  2. #78:  Novel Fears (which continued with coverage of chapters 10 through 18),
  3. #82:  Novel Developments (which continued with coverage of chapters 19 through 27),
  4. #86:  Novel Conflicts (which continued with coverage of chapters 28 through 36),
  5. #89:  Novel Confrontations (which continued with coverage of chapters 37 through 45),
  6. #91:  Novel Mysteries (which continued with coverage of chapters 46 through 54),
  7. #94:  Novel Meetings (which continued with coverage of chapters 55 through 63),
  8. #100:  Novel Settling (which continued with coverage of chapters 64 through 72),
  9. #104:  Novel Learning (which continued with coverage of chapters 73 through 81),
  10. #110:  Character Redirects (which continued with coverage of chapters 82 through 90),
  11. #113:  Character Movements (which continued with coverage of chapters 91 through 99).

img0116path
This picks up from there, and I expect to continue with additional posts after every ninth chapter in the series.

History of the series, including the reason it started, the origins of character names and details, and many of the ideas, are in those earlier posts, and won’t be repeated here.


Chapter 100, Brown 34

I did not know when Derek would ever need the sort of stealth skills he was learning in this chapter, but I thought he ought to learn them so I would have some logical basis for them if I needed them in the future.

I had read an article in Omni sometime in the early ‘80s about underground homes and their many advantages.  There seemed a reasonable probability that there would be more underground structures in the future, and that these would have a better chance of surviving the kinds of disasters that were likely to lead to a post-apocalyptic scenario of this sort.  It also gave me a good setting for the adventure—and of course the building in which they created the school was also largely underground, although it had a complete ground floor on the surface.

Credibly describing how Derek disabled futuristic security systems was a challenge, but I managed to be specific enough about the things about which I could be reasonably certain and vague enough about the rest to make it credible.  The weapons were easier—I only had to say that Dorelle did it, and Derek was not in a position to see what she did.

I think the idea that the Progressivists used this base was something I decided at this point; it gave me additional tension for the story.


Chapter 101, Kondor 76

Joe faces the problem of proving he’s a verser.  To his advantage, they don’t have a better explanation at this point.

The Pernicans were something like this world’s version of Atlantis, or perhaps more like Incans, Aztecs, or Mayans—an ancient lost civilization about which there are always rumors of lost knowledge beyond that of the modern world.  Scientists don’t believe those rumors, but the point is that were someone to offer something beyond what modern science understands and claim that that was the source, they would have little way and less motivation to disprove it.

The planet Fortran is of course named for the early computer language of that name.  My parents and my aunt all worked in it some in the early 70’s, I think.

I managed to invent the job at this point.  I got this, really, from the “contingent scenario” in my world The Perpetual Barbecue, published in Multiverser:  The Second Book of Worlds.  In the primary scenario, the player character has landed in the middle of an infinity loop—a temporal anomaly caused by someone changing history in a way that prevents its own change.  It can be a very fun or very frustrating scenario for many players as they keep reliving the same day and have to determine why.  If they manage it, the next day dawns and they have nothing to do.  However, to involve them in the story I use a mistaken identity trick that brings them to the attention of a government working on a matter transmitter (teleporter) project).  I didn’t want to use the teleporter project, even though I probably would never use it in a future book, but the fact that his gun used something like negative artificial gravity made it perfect for a connection to a physics project, and his need for a place in this universe gave him a good connection for it.


Chapter 102, Hastings 76

My future Bethany used magic rather differently from Lauren, and I sought to explain that in a proclivity for the one over the other.  There is a sound game mechanics basis for such a distinction, if Bethany’s best relevant attribute for magic is significantly higher than that for psionics, and Lauren has it reversed.

I thought the reader might wonder why Lauren takes the road to reach Camelot, so I had Ferenna ask the question and provided what I took to be a quite reasonable answer.  In theory I suppose Lauren could scry the land and find a target, but the trip was part of the process.

Lauren has a bit of nostalgia about her homes, even though she has had to leave them and begin anew several times.  In that again she is like me.


Chapter 103, Brown 35

I could think of a lot of reasons why it was a bad idea to go forward at this point, and I let the characters explore them.  Ultimately, though, I needed them to go forward, so I had Derek come up with a good reason to do so.

Derek’s reasoning to some degree echoes what Qualick and Dorelle, at least, already know:  better to work from the top down to ensure that your egress is not impeded.  That’s how they explored the compound where they found him.  His last reason, though, is silly enough that he recognizes it to be silly, yet it is still a significant reason in his mind.  I am to some degree playing with what might be called adventurer expectations:  we’ve all played the games, and know that the first level of the dungeon is the easiest.


Chapter 104, Kondor 77

The notion that military systems are usually fouled up somewhere comes back in the fourth book, where Joe uses it to his advantage.

The idea that the project had been working on artificial gravity for six years gives a basis for how the agent who first saw the kinetic blaster recognized some of its components:  they hadn’t solved the problems, but they had been working in that direction.

This is an example of a situation in which telling the truth about himself played in his favor:  because he has asserted that he did not exist in this world (apart from the vorgo incident) it makes perfect sense that there will be no records of his existence prior to a week ago.

It’s important when writing, and when running a game, to keep in mind what the characters look like.  It is easy for me to forget that Joe is wearing military fatigues even though I never envision him in anything else.  It is something to which other characters should sometimes respond.

Having Joe’s studies run concurrently with their work on the power supply enabled me to burn up an unstated amount of time, and make it credible that he had gotten fully up to speed on electronics and at that point.


Chapter 105, Brown 36

Derek demonstrates one of those facts of reality:  that which comes from your own time you know without thinking, but it might not be intuitive.  Qualick saw the elevator doors closing, and panicked; Derek stepped in the way and they opened again.

I think I learned the lesson about looking like you know where you’re going when I was in high school, but Derek wasn’t in high school so he had to learn it younger.

This again was a dynamic “they win and he dies” finish.  The extermination of most of the population of the complex had begun and would run its course.  Qualick, Meesha, and Holger were holding their own, and had Dorelle to help them.  Derek was gone.

I had at some point realized that this book was going to be considerably longer than the first, and that I needed to bring it to a conclusion.  Because of my vision for the final world, I needed to extract Derek from his present adventure to launch the next one—but I needed to do so in a way that would not be unsatisfying to the reader.


Chapter 106, Hastings 77

I’ve had the experience where someone was talking to me while I was asleep, and I thought I was conversing with them, but my answers were all in the dream.

I needed to have these fights against the undead precisely because Bethany said in the first book that fighting vampires would be like the old days.  That meant that the two had had these fights in Bethany’s past, and this was my only chance to make that happen.


Chapter 107, Brown 37

One aspect of running a Multiverser game involves telling the player what his character sees, not where he is, and letting him draw his own conclusions.  Derek at present is attempting to determine where he is from what he sees.  One of the challenges for him is that there is a tendency to interpret what you see within the categories of your own experience, and thus he makes guesses and assumptions that fit but are not quite correct.

I was creating this world as I went.  The first person with whom Derek interacts is apparently an alien (or a mutant) but I never follow that line.  In the game version I constructed later, I stuck with humans.

Derek is able to remember that he looks like a child, and use that to his advantage.  He’s just old enough that people wouldn’t treat him as a lost child, and just young enough that they would understand him looking for his mother.

I encountered the surname “Terranova” on a claim form during a brief stint working at Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Delaware.  I immediately saw the meaning—“new earth”—and liked it so much that in about 1984 when I was asked to run a band I called it “TerraNova”.  In 1987 there was a television series, Wiseguy, whose lead character was a Vinnie Terranova, that we liked at the time, but I had been using the name previously.  When I was creating a space habitat, the name seemed quite appropriate, so I used it.

I had early established Derek’s preference for inside over outside.  His recent foray in the previous world was unusual, and demonstrated some kind of maturation through which he was willing to undergo a trek outside for a purpose, but he is back to thinking in terms of comfort, and inside is usually the more comfortable choice.


Chapter 108, Kondor 78

I think they still make disposable cameras with strobe flashes, but I’m not sure.  In any case, they made them when I wrote this.

The idea of ray guns replacing bullets completely is probably as insensible as Kondor suggests.  The amount of focused energy required is remarkable.

I’m not sure whether the detailed description Joe gives of the controls is found in the world description.  Some of what is stated is at least extrapolated from the known facts about the gun (including that it has three power levels).

Equating kinetic with gravitic energy does make sense apart from the fact that, as Joe muses, they are both invisible and he does not understand either.  Yet that is a significant point:  they are unlike electricity, which is usually invisible (save when it sparks), or magnetism, also invisible.  It is perhaps to some degree like the wind, which you cannot see despite seeing the effects, because that is an expression of kinetic force but transmitted via matter.

Joe’s touch of paranoia about what kind of world it is and whether by introducing alien weapon technology he is altering it for better or worse, is something I think he had not previously considered, but a significant question in the circumstances.


I hope these “behind the writings” posts continue to be of interest, and perhaps some value, to those of you who have been reading the novel.  If there is any positive feedback, they will continue.

#115: Disregarding Facts About Sexual Preference

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #115, on the subject of Disregarding Facts About Sexual Preference.

I am aware that it is “politically correct” to regard homosexuality as normal, and to assert that homosexuals are born that way and cannot help being as they are.  It has already been established that I do not believe that, and if being politically correct means pretending that lies are true I am going to have to be politically incorrect (a phrase I was using before it was commandeered by a comedian for his talk show).  Opinions are fairly set on this issue, and the battle is going to rage for most of the next generation.  I don’t mind that people disagree with me.  There are facts on the other side, just as there are facts on this side.  What I dislike is when people ignore the facts that support the position with which they disagree.

img0115lesbian

I was moved to consider this by a television show.  It has become extremely common for television shows to give us likeable homosexual characters, in an effort to make homosexuality seem normal.  It’s a mistake, I think, but people in media recognize that they have a lot influence and attempt to use it.  I remember that my wife had a favorite television show featuring a favorite actor, and then the lead character’s girlfriend got pregnant and (over his objections) chose to get an abortion.  My wife never watched the show again, because she could not look at a woman who would do that to her baby without crying, and so the show lost its entertainment value.  It must not have been only her, though, because within a season the girlfriend, a regular from the beginning, was written out of the show, and the series failed by the end of the next season.  People were offended.  I tried to continue liking Buffy the Vampire Slayer after they decided to make Willow homosexual, but I it just upset me too badly that her life was being so destroyed, and the more so that it was done for a political message.  There was a show launched a year or so ago which sounded really interesting and I started watching it rather faithfully, but I couldn’t get past the excessive homosexual sex in it despite the truly fascinating ongoing mystery that was the primary plotline.  If you want to lose audience for an entertainment show, make a bold statement that is bound to offend a large number of viewers, and stick to it.

In the particular show which inspired these current thoughts, there is tension between an elderly widow and her homosexual daughter.  The resolution of the show came about when the mother came to understand that her daughter’s sexuality was not the mother’s fault, that it did not work that way but she was simply born homosexual.  Maybe she was; the jury is still out on that.  However, a picture had been painted of her parents as a couple who possibly never loved each other, the mother terrified of the father for their entire marriage.  How can this not have impacted the daughter?  We are wrong to imagine that our future marriages will be just like those of our parents, but we do it anyway even when we want to make it different, and a girl growing up in such a house would stand a very good chance of being conditioned to fear men and turn elsewhere for affection.  I don’t mean to blame the mother–“fault” for harming someone when acting with the best of intentions but limited knowledge does not always mean “culpability” for the outcome–but I think we’re ignoring a lot of facts when we assert that the environmental factors were irrelevant.

Of course, it’s only a television show, and in fiction the writers can always tell us that things are the way the show says they are.  That the daughter of this fear-filled loveless marriage becomes a lesbian proves nothing, because it’s only what the writers decided.  Still, just as the characters in the story seem to be ignoring the obvious fact that the child grew up to fear men, those who assert that homosexuality is entirely genetic and not at all environmental seem to be ignoring similar facts in reality.

Decades ago I worked with a young man who in his spare time often visited lesbian hangouts and got to know the girls.  He said he never met one who had not been badly hurt by a man at some point–a father, brother, husband, boyfriend, rapist, someone who left her fearful of or angry at men.  There are easily a thousand plausible explanations for that.  He might simply never have met one who didn’t fit the pattern, or he might have assumed that those who didn’t tell him of such a history did not want to discuss it.  Yet it is data:  many lesbian women appear to have rejected men because of abuse or hurt in their past.  It is at least plausible that environment, and not heredity, is the cause of their homosexuality.

I agree that there might be hereditary factors.  As with alcoholism, some might be born with a genetic predisposition to this particular temptation, and as with alcoholism experimentation might trigger it more quickly in those who are more susceptible.  But when those who want it to be entirely hereditary attempt to deny that there are any environmental factors, that those who are sexually attracted to members of the same sex could not possibly not have been, it is almost certainly because that is the answer they want, not the answer the evidence supports.

Believe what you think the evidence supports; defend your position.  Don’t suppose that you can ignore evidence and still make your position credible.

#114: Saint Teresa, Pedophile Priests, and Miracles

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #114, on the subject of Saint Teresa, Pedophile Priests, and Miracles.

You probably have already heard that the woman known to most of us as Mother Teresa is now officially Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

The first I saw it was in an article critical of the Roman Catholic Church, in the Salt Lake Tribune.  My initial glance at the piece noted that it somehow connected the canonization of this world-respected woman to the issue of pedophilia among the priesthood, and I thought it was going to say that an organization which so poorly handled that situation had no business making people saints.  I was musing on that, but I hate it when people criticize my articles without having read them, so I went back to read it completely and discovered that his complaint, while I think just as wrong-headed, was much more subtle.

img0114teresa

It is of course rather easy to criticize the church for its handling of these pedophile cases, but difficult to see from their perspective.  After all, they’re older and larger than most countries, consider their priests something like diplomatic envoys to everywhere in the world, and have a long history of handling their own problems internally.  Add to that the necessity of balancing justice with mercy, the concerns for the sinners as much as for the victims, and the awareness that the quickest way for an ordinary parishoner to remove an unwanted priest is to make sexual allegations against him, and you’ve got a very difficult situation.  It is thus easy to say that they handled it poorly–but not so simple to be certain that any of us would have handled it better.  That, though, was not what the article was addressing.

It is also a mistake to think that the Roman Catholic Church “makes” people Saints.  Canonization is rather more a process of identifying those who are.  There are few people in the world, perhaps of any faith, who would say that Teresa was not a saint.  She certainly fit the standards most Protestants hold:  she loved Jesus so much that she abandoned all possibility for a “normal” comfortable western life in order to bring the love of God to some of the most impoverished and spiritually needy people on earth.  Many ordinary Catholics were pressing for the Vatican to say officially what they believed unofficially.  The problem was that the Roman Catholic canonization process has a requirement that to be recognized officially as a Capital-S Saint an individual must have performed miracles.  At least two must be certified by Vatican investigators.

As one of my Protestant friends said, she should be credited with the miracle of getting funding for so unglamorous a work, and probably also for doing so much with what she had.  Those, though, are not the types of miracles considered; there has to be an undeniable supernatural element involved.  The author of the critical article is unimpressed with the two that they certified, but his argument is rather that miracles do not happen, and the events cited in support of her canonization were not miracles.  He then argues, seemingly, that if miracles really did happen, if God really did intervene in the world, then certainly God Himself would have acted to prevent those priests from abusing those children.  No loving father could have permitted that kind of treatment of his own children; how can the Church assert that God is a loving Father, if that God did not intervene on behalf of these victims?

We could get into a very involved conversation about why the writer supposes the conduct of these priests to have been “wrong”.  Certainly it was wrong by the standards of the Roman Catholic Church.  However, the Marquis de Sade wrote some very compelling arguments in moral philosophy in which he asserted that whatever exists is right.  On that basis he claimed that because men were stronger than women, whatever a man chose to do to a woman was morally right simply because nature made the man capable of doing it.  The same argument would apply to this situation, that because the priests were able by whatever means to rape these children, their ability to do so is sufficient justification for their actions.  I certainly disagree because, like the Roman Catholic Church, I believe that God has called us to a different moral philosophy.  The question is, on what basis does our anti-God critic disagree?  If he asserts, as he does, that there is no God, why does he suppose that it is wrong for adults to engage in sexual acts with children?  It seems to be his personal preference; the Marquis de Sade would have disagreed, as would at least some of the men who do this.  To say that something is morally wrong presupposes that that statement has meaning.  We fall back on “human rights”, but the only reason Jefferson and the founders of America could speak of such rights is that they believed such rights were conferred (endowed) upon every individual by the God who made us.  No, they did not all believe in the Christian God (many were Deists), but they did found their moral philosophy on a divine origin.

However, let us agree that the conduct of those priests was heinous.  We have a solid foundation for holding that position, even if the writer who raises it does not.  The question is, why did God not stop them?

It is said that during the American Civil War someone from Europe visited President Lincoln at the White House.  During his visit, he asked whether it were really true that the American press was completely free of government control–something unimaginable in Europe at that time.  In answer, Lincoln handed his guest that day’s newspaper, whose lead story was denigrating the way the President was handling the war.  It was obvious that such an article could not have been written if the publisher had any thought of the government taking action against his paper for it.

If God is able to work miracles, why does He not miraculously silence critics like the op-ed piece in the Salt Lake Tribune?

Perhaps the writer thinks that even God would not interfere with the freedom of the press in America.  Why not?  There is nothing particular about the choice to write something which is offensive to God that would make it less objectionable than the choice to do something which is offensive to God.  God could perhaps have prevented many atrocities–the development of the atomic bombs that devastated two Japanese cities, the rise of the regime which exterminated nearly six million Jews and even more Poles plus many other peoples, and we could fill the rest of this article with such acts.  Yet these are all choices made by men, and just as God chooses not to prevent one writer from criticizing Him in the Salt Lake Tribune, so too He has not prevented billions of other hurtful actions by everyone in the world.  He allows us to make our own choices, and to hurt and be hurt by those choices.  If he prevented all of them, there would be no freedoms whatsoever.

Two footnotes should be put to this.

The first is that we do not know and indeed cannot know whether God has limited human wickedness and disaster.  We can imagine horrors that never happened.  The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union never “went hot” into a nuclear battle despite the many fictional scenarios describing how it might have happened.  We do not know whether God prevented nuclear war, or indeed whether He will do so in the future; we only know that it did not happen.  Our perspective of the “bad” that happens in this world lacks perspective because, apart from horror stories, we measure it against itself.  Be assured, though, that if the worst thing that ever happened in the world was the occasional hangnail, someone would be asking how God could possibly allow the suffering that is the hangnail.  We complain of the worst wickedness in the world, but do not know what might have been or whether God saved us from something worse than that.

The second is that God, Who is the only possible foundation for any supposed moral law to which we could hold anyone accountable, promises that He is ultimately fair and will judge everyone.  He has made it His responsibility to see to it that everyone who has caused any harm will be recompensed an equal amount of harm, and anyone who has been harmed will be compensated an appropriate amount in reparations, so that all wrongs ultimately are put right.  The writer of the article does not want there to be ultimate justice, but present intervention.  However, I expect were we to ask if what He wants is for God to remove from the world the power to choose what we do and have our choices affect each other, he would object to that as well.  There will be ultimate justice, and may God have mercy on us all.  Meanwhile, we are given freedom to act in ways that are either beneficial (as Saint Teresa) or baneful (as the priests), so that we may then be judged.

How there can be mercy and justice at the same time is something I have addressed elsewhere, and is much more than this article can include.  It is perhaps the problem that the Catholic Church has in handling its errant priests.  The bishops are not God, and neither are we, and we all do the best we can, which often is not as good as we might hope.  We all also fail, hurt others, and need forgiveness and correction.  God offers that, and that is the true miracle.

#113: Character Movements

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #113, on the subject of Character Movements.

With permission of Valdron Inc I am publishing my second novel, Old Verses New, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents).  If you missed the first one, you can find the table of contents for it at Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel.  There was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; the last of those for the first novel is #71:  Footnotes on Verse Three, Chapter One, which indexes all the others and catches a lot of material from an earlier collection of behind-the-writings reflections that had been misplaced for a decade.  Now as the second is being posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers, and perhaps in a more serious way than those for the previous novel, because it sometimes talks about what I was planning to do later in the book or how this book connects to events yet to come in the third (For Better or Verse)–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them, or even put off reading these insights until the book has finished.  Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.

These were the previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts covering this book:

  1. #74:  Another Novel (which provided this kind of insight into the first nine chapters along with some background material on the book as a whole),
  2. #78:  Novel Fears (which continued with coverage of chapters 10 through 18),
  3. #82:  Novel Developments (which continued with coverage of chapters 19 through 27),
  4. #86:  Novel Conflicts (which continued with coverage of chapters 28 through 36),
  5. #89:  Novel Confrontations (which continued with coverage of chapters 37 through 45),
  6. #91:  Novel Mysteries (which continued with coverage of chapters 46 through 54),
  7. #94:  Novel Meetings (which continued with coverage of chapters 55 through 63),
  8. #100:  Novel Settling (which continued with coverage of chapters 64 through 72),
  9. #104:  Novel Learning (which continued with coverage of chapters 73 through 81),
  10. #110:  Character Redirects (which continued with coverage of chapters 82 through 90).

This picks up from there, and I expect to continue with additional posts after every ninth chapter in the series.

img0113woods

History of the series, including the reason it started, the origins of character names and details, and many of the ideas, are in those earlier posts, and won’t be repeated here.


Chapter 91, Hastings 73

The early obstacles to teaching Bethany may illustrate the principle that the more clearly God indicates His intended direction for you, the more problems you are likely to encounter along the way. Lauren is pretty sure that she is here to teach Bethany—she even told Pack Mother Ferenna as much—and so she realizes that she is ill-equipped for the task, Bethany’s father is resistant, and Bethany knows very little initially.


Chapter 92, Brown 31

I wanted Derek to leave the compound, but I had no idea where he was going to go.

Meesha was, I think, based on a character of that name (or one very like it) played by Margaret Morano in the Gamma World game from which Starson and Qualick originated. It was with Meesha that we learned the limitations of the game’s version of telepathy—she could not “speak” to us without being “heard” by anyone within range, but if we sent her ahead to scout she could not call to us once out of range.

I got the name Holger from someone who wrote to me about time travel theory in the early days of the temporal anomalies web site. The character was invented. We had had the practice in those early games that humans always had given names and surnames, but mutants, whether human mutants or animal mutants, had single names.

The name “Cavalier” was probably because we played a Gamma World adventure in which we sought, found, and captured a compound known as “Samurai”. It, though, was partly under water, and the name was a pseudo-acronym for something I no longer remember.


Chapter 93, Kondor 73

I found my next step for Kondor: his raygun got attention, and he was being investigated. It was a hook to move him forward into something else, which still needed some detail.

I think I had some vague notion that “N.I.B.” stood for something like “National Investigations Bureau”. The thing is that FBI agents never identify themselves as “Federal Bureau of Investigation”, so all I really needed was the letters that the agents would use assuming that anyone would know what they meant.


Chapter 94, Hastings 74

I had a side problem. In the first book, Bethany implies that she and Lauren had fought vampires in the past, and now I was in that past and had to make that a reality—but Bethany at this point is the teen daughter of a widowed father who wants to see her live an ordinary life, and Lauren doesn’t know where the vampires are. I did not see them attacking Wandborough—apart from the fact that I would be repeating a scenario I’d already run, there was no logic to the raid deep into werewolf country, and less with rumors of the famed sorceress in the area. I also had to stage an encounter that Bethany would survive, even if Lauren were killed. So I was exploring options, trying to work out for myself where the vampires were and how to make this happen.

The comment on the verse about the fool is another of those that I included because people get it wrong. The psalmist did not mean that all fools are atheists or that all atheists are fools. Rather, some people are foolish enough to act like there is no God because they don’t really believe that there is a God, or that God matters, or at least that’s what they think. Thus they do things God would condemn, because they don’t really think He knows.

I knew by now what was going to happen with Merlin, in the broadest sense. I did not know when, where, or how it was going to happen, but I knew the major pieces.


Chapter 95, Brown 32

None of the creatures in the encountered group came from anything I remembered. Gamma World had a multi-legged horse, which is the nearest thing to a source for the six-legged bull. The “porcuperson” was my own idea here.

Again, as I did with the magic coin in the first book, I buried the one item that mattered in a batch of others—this time the porcuperson. The others are all mutants, but I gave them very little thought, using them primarily to fill the group.

I might have ended Derek’s time in this world here, but it would have felt like an abrupt interruption and I wanted to resolve this part of the story, not merely make it feel as if I’d moved him out of the school so I could kill him.


Chapter 96, Kondor 74

The “blue card” was based on a “green card”, which I assume has a different name but is generally just known by its color. I figured they would have something like it in this world, but that it would defy the odds for it to be the same color.

Federal investigators pursuing a claim by a military surplus store manager that someone showed him a ray gun was a bit of a stretch, perhaps, but I tried to accept that it seemed unlikely and give it some plausibility.


Chapter 97, Hastings 75

There were a number of things that were in the first novel as things Bethany learned from Lauren, or things Bethany knew that she must have learned from Lauren, and now I had to find a way for Lauren to pass them to Bethany. The anti-aging spell is first.

This is also when Lauren tells Bethany to meet her in Philadelphia. It’s a predestination paradox, but it works.

If memory serves, the part about Lauren blocking memories was back-written. In a later chapter Lauren causes someone to forget she had entered a room, and she does it casually and easily; I needed to lay the groundwork for that, so I found a reason for her to learn and use that ability.

The road trip was created to give me some action in this story, and to move Bethany to the Camelot area for the longer story arc concerning Merlin.


Chapter 98, Brown 33

I had thrown some new characters into the story, and I needed to characterize them. I decided that Holger, the crack shot with the laser rifle, would be the kind of person who objects to attributing something to luck that was the result of good planning and skill.

Gamma World had sects of various kinds with their own philosophies about the world. I don’t remember the names, and invented this name, “progressivists”, to fit the philosophy of those who think mutation is the path to the future.  I was not writing political articles at the time, and did not see a connection to the “progressives”, the liberal wing of the modern Democratic party; I leave it to the reader as to whether such a connection might be made.

When I gave Derek the darts, I wanted him to have another weapon for the final scenario; I did not realize how significant the darts would become in the third novel.

Derek was also going to need tools, and a compact futuristic toolkit was just the thing.

I think this is the first time I’ve mentioned Derek using the tent and sleeping bag he got from Bill; it suggests that he used it regularly on this trip, though, and this really is the first chance he’s had to do so.


Chapter 99, Kondor 75

Kondor’s simple explanation for having gotten the gun on a spaceship and then wound up here omitted the part where he was the one who picked up the vorgo all those centuries ago; that was a complication he had not considered when he went for the short and simple version.

It might be stretching the concept, but it seemed not unreasonable for a government agency sending a team to investigate the possibility that someone had a ray gun to include on the team someone who might be able to recognize such a device if he saw it.

I decided to give Einstein’s work in this universe to my artist friend Jim Denaxas (who did the cover of the first novel) because I needed an uncommon name. The names “Sabrins” and “Cordikans” were created to sound like nationalities.

If the government really believed someone had been in contact with technologically advanced aliens, that would be a security concern and they would be at least sequestered until some determination could be made of what they knew. Thus I think it reasonable that they would take Joe into custody here.


I hope these “behind the writings” posts continue to be of interest, and perhaps some value, to those of you who have been reading the novel.  If there is any positive feedback, they will continue.

#112: Isn’t It Obvious

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #112, on the subject of Isn’t It Obvious.

I keep a beverage cup on my desk–usually root beer, usually Barq’s® (I joke that I once had a terrible Coke® habit–two to three liters per day).  It has a lid so that when I inevitably upset it any spill will be minimal.  I recently acquired a replacement for a worn cup, this one with a threaded lid and an airtight stopper.  Twice, maybe thrice, when securing the lid I managed to force beverage out through the threads down the side of the cup and over my hands.  I thought, there must be a way to avoid that–and then I immediately recognized what caused the problem and how to prevent it, and implemented the solution.

A few days later someone was visiting who fancies himself rather intelligent, and he poured some of our coffee into a very similar cup, tightened the lid, and squirted coffee on his hand and the counter.  Helping him clean it up, I gave him the solution to the problem.  To my surprise he responded, “I don’t think I ever would have thought of that.”  Then I recounted all of this to someone I think intelligent (who also has the same kind of cup and admitted having the same problem), who replied, “I don’t think I would have thought of that, either.”

I thought the solution obvious, but I’ll delay telling you what it is in case you want to think about it for a moment.

img0112Tumbler

When I was in law school, sitting in Professor Lipkin’s Jurisprudence seminar (I have mentioned him before, and have since learned that he has died), he asked a question, and immediately pointed at me and said I was not permitted to answer.  The question was one concerning a problem consistent with my experience, so maybe it’s just because the other students, almost a decade younger, did not have the same experience.  That experience was an enigma about whether or not to hold a door for a girl (or group of girls).  Some girls at that time still believed that gentlemen ought to hold doors for ladies, and were very offended if you were rude enough not to do so; others believed that it was chauvinistic for a man to give special treatment of that sort to a woman, and would be very offended if you did.  The question was how to avoid offending anyone.  When the class was stumped, I provided the same answer he had found.  It just seemed obvious to me.

I have spent a lot of time answering questions about time travel and writing analyses of time travel movies over the years, and sometimes I simply don’t understand why a correspondent or reader does not understand.

When I was about twelve or thirteen I met a kid who wrote songs, and I learned how to write songs from working with him.  I eventually became very good, but I have always had this attitude that anyone can learn to write a song if they apply themselves to learning how to do it.  That might be true.  I think I write some very good songs; I think I’ve written some very bad ones, and that through practice I got better.  Writing music and lyrics seems easy.

I realize that this might sound like I am saying, Look how smart I am.  I don’t feel smart.  I think it was Freeman Dyson who once when asked if he ever wondered why he was so smart answered not exactly, what he wondered was why everyone else was so stupid.  I’ve not had that experience.  Rather, I recognize that there are some things which come quite easily to me and others which I cannot do well at all.  I am awed by people (like my sister) who become fluent in multiple languages, because I struggle with languages despite my grasp of English and of grammar and syntax in the abstract.  I have no skill with the visual arts; my drawings are always warped and out of perspective, and when people ask my opinion of their work I always tell them they are asking the wrong person, they should talk to one of my artists.  I have also learned over time that for all of us, the things which come easily to us we suppose are easy, and the things with which we struggle we think are difficult.  Math is a good example.  Someone–a machinist at a factory where I worked as a security guard–once suggested to me that I could with very little practice add a column of two-digit numbers in my head.  I’d never tried, never even imagined that I could do that, but it wasn’t really that difficult once I got it in mind to do it that way (instead of adding the right column, carrying, and adding the left column).  Simple math seems simple to me; I have no experience with calculus and none worth mentioning with trigonometry.  Yet many people struggle with math, while others enjoy it and like to play math games.  (I don’t like math games; they feel like busy work to me.)

That is, it is easy to think that the things which come easily to you are simple things anyone could do.  It is not necessarily true, and it is not necessarily true that the people who easily do that at which you struggle are smarter than you.  They simply have a abilities and practice in those things.

What seems obvious to me might be completely opaque to you, but I would wager that there are things that seem obvious to you that are just as opaque to me.  I actually am as smart as all that, but there are many things I can’t do, and probably you can do many of them far better than I.

The reason the beverage is pushed out through the threads as the lid tightens is that the pressure in the cup is increasing and has nowhere else to go; if you leave the plug open while tightening it, the air (and possibly the beverage if it’s really full) will come out through the top of the lid instead of through the threads.

Hold the door for everybody.

#111: A Partial History of the Audio Recording Industry

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #111, on the subject of A Partial History of the Audio Recording Industry.

In a previous post, #109:  Simple Songs, I said that I had some criticism of Christian record companies that I would defer to another article.  This is that.

I avoid criticism, generally, so I am approaching this more as an attempt to understand and explain why things are as they are, that is, how they got that way, by going back decades and looking at the relationship between the artist and the recording company and a few other entities that were involved in that relationship.

Thomas Alva Edison pictured with his invention
Thomas Alva Edison pictured with his invention

Audio recording of course began with Thomas Alva Edison, who invented the phonograph and subsequently founded the first record company.  His early recordings were cylinders; his competitors forced him to change to disks, which had worse fidelity but were easier to store and use.  They spun seventy-eight time each minute, were usually ten inches in diameter, and had one song on each side.  I have little knowledge and less experience of that time, so I can’t tell you too much about it other than that there are some recordings of a few nineteenth century musicians which have survived.  The invention of audio recording was followed by motion pictures and radio, both of which impacted the music business.  In the early days of radio, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) objected to broadcasters airing prerecorded music, except in the case of concerts that were aired live but recorded for rebroadcasting later.  Then beginning in the nineteen fifties television began its ascendancy, and the FCC was considerably less interested in radio; record companies saw this as the opportunity to sell records by getting airplay, and the connection between record companies and radio stations became the lynchpin of the music industry.  (This was the age of “payola”, when record companies paid people to air their records, recognizing intuitively what was later demonstrated scientifically:  that what makes a recording popular is the perception that it is popular.)  Recording technology improved, such that it was possible to put more information on a disk by using narrower grooves and more sensitive needles.  This gave us the Extended Play (EP) disk with two or three songs per side, the “forty-five”, a smaller seven-inch disk that ran at a slower speed, and eventually the Long Play (LP) album, which ran at thirty-three and a third turns per minute and squeezed over twenty minutes on each side.  Along the way, better needles began to be able to detect and distinguish vertical as well as horizontal vibration, and stereo records took over.

At this time, record companies tended to buy a recording outright.  It was possible then to use a small quarter-inch width seven-inch-per-second tape recorder with one microphone and record a single which had the potential to become popular on radio stations and sell a lot of copies.  The model in the book publishing industry had long been that a publisher paid an author for the right to print a specified number of copies of his book; the risk was then on the publisher to bet that he could sell that many at a price that would recoup his investment.  Copyright law arose to protect publishers, and indirectly authors, from others printing copies of books for which those others had not paid anything–but it did not cover audio recordings.  Thus once a record company had paid for the right to sell the recording, all the proceeds from sales went to the record company, but there was no protection against “song piracy”.

This changed in the sixties, for a couple reasons.  One was that copyright law caught up with technology, and it was possible to protect an audio recording separate from the songs it contained (previously only covered as songs when they were printed and sold on paper).  Now there was a shift toward revenue sharing–the artists began to get a percentage of the gross.  However, they signed recording contracts, which in essence meant that they worked for the recording company–they had to perform concerts as directed by the company, record and perform the songs the company said they should, and produce product on schedule.  Even The Beatles had to record songs which were not theirs, because the recording company thought they would sell.

The next big change is generally agreed to be the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club BandThe Beatles were by that time a phenomenon–they probably could have reached the top of the chart with a recording of the four of them snoring.  They told the record company that they would sign a new contract and make another record if, and only if, they had full creative control of it.  With trepidation–after all, the company thought they were the professionals who knew what would sell and what wouldn’t–the company agreed, Sgt. Pepper’s was a huge success, and thereafter music aimed at the youth market (about thirteen to thirty) included giving creative control to the artists, on the assumption that they were all young and in touch with what the young wanted to hear.  Record sales of successful musicians were good, and companies had capital to spend on new artists (which would be money lost if the artist failed).  Records made a lot of money, and record companies put a lot into promoting them.  Concert tours were in essence promotional efforts to sell records:  a band would lose money on the tour in order to make it back on the sales of records, and the company paid part of that cost.

However, as technology advanced in the recording industry, the demand for quality increased.  No longer could someone record a hit single in his garage.  Chicago‘s song Twenty-five or Six to Four was about paying for recording studio time when it was twenty-five dollars an hour or twenty-five dollars to use the studio overnight, plus the cost of recording tape–and three-inch width recording tape at fifteen or even thirty inches per second was not cheap, but it was only the beginning.  By the late seventies and early eighties, recording studios that produced the kind of quality product record companies wanted cost sometimes thousands of dollars an hour, and it took many hours to lay the tracks, check them, re-record problems, do the mix, and process the final product.  Vinyl was a petroleum product, as were most of the substances used for recording tape, and with the appearance of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) these were becoming more expensive.  The cost of making a record was rising; the profit from selling one was falling.  Record companies were paying a lot of money in promotions and advertising.  Contracts started shifting away from percent of gross to percent of net, so that artists would not get paid for their recordings until the company had recouped all the expenses.

In the film industry contracts for major headline actors sometimes include a percentage.  Ed Asner (once President of the Screen Actors Guild) has been quoted as saying to make sure it is a percent of gross, not a percent of net:  the major studios have a system by which a movie never makes any money, but always owes the studio for production and promotional costs.  The same thing has been happening in the recording industry.  If you sign a contract today, it usually says that you will be paid once all the costs of producing and promoting the album are covered, but those costs include printing copies, buying advertising, shipping product, and paying the salaries of everyone involved at the company.  As the return on investment on records fell, the balance shifted:  by the early nineties, concert tickets were outrageously high because artists got no money from selling records, and thus making a record for them was a way of promoting a concert tour.  By the dawn of the third millennium, record companies were being hit by file sharing–and many artists did not care, because they never expected to make a dime from their records and file sharing brought people to their concerts.  Record companies compensated by changing the terms of contracts so that the record company owned all rights to all performances by the band, and could get a cut of the concert income.  Artists often find themselves very famous but not very wealthy.

Meanwhile, record companies are struggling because the model has changed drastically at the sales end but has not caught up at the production end.  Artists still think in terms of recording albums; the majority of consumers don’t buy albums, they buy tracks–if they buy anything at all, rather than pirating copies from YouTube® videos and file sharing programs.  The quality that goes into making these now digital recordings is in the main wasted on an audience that listens to low quality recordings on low fidelity equipment.

The impact on the Christian market has been somewhat less, because Christians tend to do less pirating and are more likely to buy whole albums of bands they follow.  However, Christian record companies have not escaped the crunch despite the rising popularity of Christian contemporary music.  A recording contract is no longer a mark of success in the music world; in many cases it’s a badge of slavery.  It buys you a lot of help with promotions, but at a very steep price.  It is probably the right choice for some musicians, but is becoming less and less so as it becomes more and more possible to produce your own recordings and promote and sell them over the Internet without such professional assistance.  The main things that a recording contract gets you are funding for production which you will have to repay, and possible radio airplay which only happens for a few.

The problem with Christian record companies is that they are becoming obsolete and see no clear path to reinvent themselves.  I have no advice on that, I’m afraid, despite having worked in Christian contemporary music radio and done some recording myself.  The world changes and old industries fail; it is doing so now.

#110: Character Redirects

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #110, on the subject of Character Redirects.

With permission of Valdron Inc I am publishing my second novel, Old Verses New, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents).  If you missed the first one, you can find the table of contents for it at Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel.  There was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; the last of those for the first novel is #71:  Footnotes on Verse Three, Chapter One, which indexes all the others and catches a lot of material from an earlier collection of behind-the-writings reflections that had been misplaced for a decade.  Now as the second is being posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers, and perhaps in a more serious way than those for the previous novel, because it sometimes talks about what I was planning to do later in the book or how this book connects to events yet to come in the third (For Better or Verse)–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them, or even put off reading these insights until the book has finished.  Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.

These were the previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts covering this book:

  1. #74:  Another Novel (which provided this kind of insight into the first nine chapters along with some background material on the book as a whole),
  2. #78:  Novel Fears (which continued with coverage of chapters 10 through 18),
  3. #82:  Novel Developments (which continued with coverage of chapters 19 through 27),
  4. #86:  Novel Conflicts (coverage of chapters 28 through 36),
  5. #89:  Novel Confrontations (coverage of chapters 37 through 45),
  6. #91:  Novel Mysteries (chapters 46 through 54),
  7. #94:  Novel Meetings (chapters 55 through 63),
  8. #100:  Novel Settling (64 through 72),
  9. #104:  Novel Learning (73 through 81).

This picks up from there, and I expect to continue with additional posts after every ninth chapter in the series.

img0110Village

History of the series, including the reason it started, the origins of character names and details, and many of the ideas, are in those earlier posts, and won’t be repeated here.


Chapter 82, Hastings 70

I brought Lauren to stage three at this point, although I didn’t get into details.  That is, she realizes that she is awake; she has been awake but didn’t know it.  Also, I’m going to step her backwards in a future world—that can happen, but it’s unusual, but I need to do it for the beginning of the fifth novel.  But the idea of becoming accustomed to dying seemed significant at this point.

Again we have the idea that she has to choose a direction, and even with only two directions she is opening some possibilities and closing others with the choice.  She resolves her concerns by making as rational a decision as she can—keeping the sun out of her eyes for a while—and trusting that God will get her where He wants her to be.

Once she confronts the familiar place name, she needs a way to identify whether it is the right place in the right universe.  Getting to her cave is the easy way; it stands a good chance of being pretty much the same after only a few centuries.


Chapter 83, Brown 28

It becomes a pattern for Lauren, that she gathers people around her, gets them working together with her toward some goal, and then she gets killed but they keep going.  She thus changes worlds by creating something self-perpetuating before she leaves them.

The word Derek uses for the head of the school is of course “principal” and not “dean” because he went to schools that had principals.


Chapter 84, Kondor 70

We have reached the reveal:  Joe has solved the mystery.

Kondor starts talking before he knows what he’s going to say, honestly because at this point I wasn’t sure what he was going to say.  I’d written myself into a bit of a box here, following the logic of the conversation, and now I had to find a way out of it.

Both of my adversaries here were good, each trying to outmaneuver the other.  It was difficult to get it to come out with Kondor as the winner, because Krannitz really was a smart illusionist expert in misdirection.


Chapter 85, Hastings 71

Figuring out what would change and what would be the same in a wood that stood undisturbed for some unknown number of centuries took a bit of thought and some tapping into my experience.

The idea that the woods would be a terrible waste of space if no one lived in them is in one sense a bit silly, but it really is in another sense perceptive.  The woods must be there for a reason; the best reason is to be a place for someone or something to live.  Extrapolating the existence of forest people doesn’t necessarily follow, but a good case can be made for it—and in that universe, it happens to be correct.

I knew, and perhaps the reader knew or should have known, that this was the time when Lauren would meet and begin teaching Bethany.  However, it was important to me that it happen naturally, that is, Lauren is not looking for Bethany and not really expecting to find Bethany; she finds a young girl who impresses her with her insight, her intelligence, and offers to teach her something, and then discovers that this is the girl she met in the future.


Chapter 86, Brown 29

I wanted time to pass without spending a lot of the book talking about it, and leaping in with the idea that everyone else had aged ten years and Derek looked the same covered that adequately.  It would include however long Lauren was there, which was maybe three or four years, but would give Derek plenty of time to become quite proficient at his interests.

The explanation about Lauren and Derek being versers is not really necessary for the reader, who already understands it, but helps in giving some form to Derek’s own understanding of it.

I eventually would need to move Derek to another world, and barring another classroom incident I was either going to have to have him kill himself on a botch, probably with some kind of high-tech equipment, or get him to move out of the compound into the more dangerous world.  The latter had more interesting story possibilities.


Chapter 87, Kondor 71

With the arrest, I needed to make it seem like a modern world without making it the same as our world.  I had some advantage in having watched British television, particularly A Touch of Frost, and so had heard the different version of what in America are called “Miranda Rights” (after the defendant in the case in which the Supreme Court affirmed them), but I didn’t want them to be the British version, either.  So I thought about what might be said in my other world, and came up with a plausible statement.

Kondor’s problem was my problem.  I had envisioned a continuation of the game in which he worked as a magician’s apprentice (and later when I ran this part of the game for Graeme Comyn, he did exactly that).  I didn’t have another next step for him, and having Merrick suggest he come by to discuss a possibility was a stall on my part—I had nothing in mind in that direction.


Chapter 88, Hastings 72

As I came into this scene, I wondered how Lauren proves her identity to people who only know her legend.  The answer presented itself:  she knows the name of the wolf whom she taught to walk the twilight, who is the ancestor of the present pack mother.  Since Garla was not the pack mother at the time, there is no other reason why Lauren should know the name but that she was the teacher.


Chapter 89, Brown 30

One of the problems with versing is that even people who believe it have trouble understanding it.  Dorelle asks obvious questions that completely misunderstand the problem.

I’m beginning to work on an adventure, but I don’t know how I’m going to do it—which is fine, because it makes the feeling of uncertainty all the more palpable in the character discussions.  They don’t know how to find a place to explore, either.


Chapter 90, Kondor 72

I had set myself up for the possibility that Merrick would have an idea to help Kondor figure out what to do next, but I didn’t have any such idea.  So I took Merrick away for a few days, figuring I could fill in story details and maybe have something else by the time he returned.


I hope these “behind the writings” posts continue to be of interest, and perhaps some value, to those of you who have been reading the novel.  If there is any positive feedback, they will continue.