Tag Archives: Fiction

#183: Verser Transitions

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #183, on the subject of Verser Transitions.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have begun publishing my third novel, For Better or Verse, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents).  If you missed the first two, you can find the table of contents for the first at Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, and that for the second at Old Verses New.  There was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed along with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as the third is posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers because it sometimes talks about what I was planning to do later in the book–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.

There is also a section of the site, Multiverser Novel Support Pages, in which I have begun to place materials related to the novels beginning with character papers for the major characters, hopefully giving them at different stages as they move through the books.

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

  1. #157:  Versers Restart (which provided this kind of insight into the first eleven chapters);
  2. #164:  Versers Proceed (which covered chapters 12 through 22);
  3. #170:  Versers Explore (which covered chapters 23 through 33);
  4. #174:  Versers Achieve (chapters 34 through 44);
  5. #180:  Versers Focus (chapters 45 through 55).

This picks up from there, with chapters 56 through 66.

Green Jungle Vegetation Tropical Forest
Green Jungle Vegetation Tropical Forest

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 56, Hastings 111

I slept on a lot of the issues for this material.  There was something in me that wanted to delay the next step; but already Lauren was on a slow pace, and I did not know how to slow it further.  I didn’t have anything else for her to do in this time.  The next thing was going to have to be trying to fix the rod, and I was just going to have to make it feel like it had been a long time in the process.  I also knew that the first time she tried, she was going to fail–but not botch; it just wouldn’t fix the rod.  Then I would come back and have her succeed.  These are the things I was thinking as I went to bed.  I had other things on my mind; there was a passage in Chesterton’s Secret of Flambeau which I wished to send to the Christian Gamers Guild mailing list to reconsider the matter of playing evil characters.  I needed to remember to post on the web site that people could now order Verse Three, Chapter One, which had gone to press (although the price tag worried us, at least).  But I knew when I came back to writing Lauren’s part, these things would have to happen.  As I awoke, I retrieved the Father Brown stories from the drawer where I kept them, and headed to my office to boot up the computer.  My mind returned to Lauren, and I considered a line to the effect of she had to understand that her momentary lack of success was not failure (something which I, too, had to understand), prelude to the next section in which she would succeed.  But then it occurred to me that there was another way to do this entirely.  I wasn’t certain of the bias–it would probably be very high–but rather than have her psionically repair the rod, she was in a world in which she could magically repair it.  This opened the idea of praying for it and having God fix it, the thing she could not do done by Him.  I liked the idea, and immediately jotted it down lest I forgot.

It had also passed through my head that she might fix it less than perfectly, such that it was no longer so potent a weapon as it had been but was still very powerful.  This had some appeal in terms of using it against Tubrok; but when I decided on a magical repair, that idea was abandoned.

The magnetism analogy was something I’d devised years before when working on the Multiverser rules; I knew that magnetism worked by a sort of alignment of molecules, and thought that something similar could work for psionics, making it possible for any sort of material to be psionic.


Chapter 57, Slade 67

This chapter actually covered a lot more ground than I had expected.  I’d thought of the idea of Shella watching them as I was writing the previous section.  I’d had an idea of Phasius being able to see that Slade and Shella were in love and mistaking them for married; but there wasn’t really enough time before Filp was going to die for all of that to happen unless he saw it immediately, even in the dark.  The embarrassment and shock then became the catalyst for Slade to recognize that this was what he wanted.

His question, asked first the normal way and then restated to seem more hypothetical, also seemed like him, brave and bold in anything requiring action but hesitant about his own feelings.  Her answer seemed to me the perfect response, providing exactly the same level of hypothetical as he, but making the answer perfectly clear.

By rushing this, I could now have the wedding in Cornel’s place, let Filp give away the bride and be the best man (an idea that is shadowy in my thought at this point, but fits with some old tales about what a best man was originally), let them ride to the barn, and have Filp fall in battle after that.  It was fitting together.


Chapter 58, Brown 72

I was trying to develop Derek’s abilities independently from Lauren’s; that is, not to follow the same points of growth.  But the pyrogenesis seemed obvious–it was just a matter of working out how to do it.

It also seemed that the attachment between Derek and his mother was quite strong; I’m not certain yet where that will go.


Chapter 59, Hastings 112

I had decided at this point that I wanted to bring Lauren back up; thus it would be Hastings-Slade-Hastings-Brown-Slade-Hastings-Slade-Brown.

All of this started to come together as I wrote it; but it took three tries to finish it, as I was trying to keep it all credible.


Chapter 60, Slade 68

The wedding of Slade and Shella had been long anticipated, and I needed it to look good.  I did consult my son’s girlfriend Kellie on the wedding dress; she suggested green, and boots, and a few other ideas that got altered and included.  The feeling of battle seemed appropriate to me; but whether they were to fight with or against each other was sort of floating in the air a bit throughout.

I actually wrote fragments of the next Slade section immediately, inserting placeholders for Lauren and Derek


Chapter 61, Hastings 113

It was time to move Lauren to another world.  I had decided how, by gating her through the border supernatural.  There would be an encounter with St. Peter, probably.  But this suggested that she was bound for the endgame scenario, about to land back in the vampire world in the distant future to finally face Tubrok–and I had no idea what she would do there while awaiting the others.  Derek had to go through some intervening world, partly so that he could adventure and partly so that he could start the transformation back from sprite to human (although I had by now decided that he would stop at some midpoint, from which he could shape change to sprite or to human).  I didn’t know what Lauren would do, but she was going to go.

But I didn’t want it to seem like she had fixed the rod, and now went; so I started talking about ways in which she could combine her skills.  This I knew could be amplified later when they came up in combat, and I’d decide exactly how they worked then.


Chapter 62, Brown 73

I want to credit Kyler with the sprite fire starting idea.  It wasn’t that he suggested it, exactly, but rather that he commented that he was interested in the Brown segments because he loved all things to do with sprites and pixies, so that encouraged me to make them interesting.  I decided that sprites might start fires from their own body heat, given the right materials and a bit of focus.  It stemmed naturally from that glow they had.  I hesitated, wondering whether it would be credible.  After all, at no point had I associated the light with heat (I was quite specifically dissociating it).  I did not want it to wind up being magical.  But I remembered that Multiverser recognized a technological skill of creating fire from body heat, in which it was suggested that the right materials would ignite if heated in the hand.  It also struck me that sprite metabolism, and thus body temperature, would almost certainly be higher than human, so materials that would not ignite at 98.6 Fahrenheit might well do so at whatever temperature a spritish body was maintained.

The fire starting actually came up because I wanted to introduce the ideas of weakening and softening objects.  I am thinking that Tubrok (or his assistants) will use some sort of physical object as a weapon, and Derek will cause it to break (and probably act surprised when he does).  I’ve also thought about whether Tubrok might bury one of his attackers in ice for Derek to rescue with his pyrogenesis, but that’s a lot less clear at this point.

I spent a lot of time thinking about what Derek would make from the clay.  The intention was only that he make something that he would be able to harden.  I thought of a toy soldier.  Since Derek would most likely make a human soldier, that had potential; but I couldn’t imagine he could make a believable replica of a human.  My eldest, Ryan, suggested a flute or pan pipes; these had the same problem as the trumpet I included (I chose trumpet because Derek had played it before).  Then the idea of a toy gun came to mind.  Guns and swords are things kids make; but guns only in worlds that have them.  If my human oppressors had guns, that would give a new level to the deliverer story.


Chapter 63, Slade 69

I hadn’t actually forgotten the book; what had happened was that I’d packed so much into the stay in Charton that I couldn’t include the book in that.  Thus I dropped it into this part on the road.

I’d considered having Slade give the book and horses to the unnamed peasant when he got up; but then, the last day of this venture was going to be a wild ride, with at least a couple of fights.  I was thinking that they would begin by burning down the barn in the morning, but I hadn’t thought it through yet.  Whatever I did, I couldn’t have him wandering around looking to give the book to someone then, so I disposed of it now.

I was going to call the loft the penthouse; but I knew Filp wouldn’t know that word.  The tower was the nearest equivalent, so I used that.


Chapter 64, Hastings 114

I spent a day or so thinking about what it was Lauren had attempted that had botched.  When I finally described it to Kyler, he said, “It’s a shame she didn’t succeed,” and I’d have to agree–but she wouldn’t have been very good at it for some time yet, anyway.

I had previously done the border heaven bit for Chris Jones (who is Roman Catholic), but it had a lot more detail here.

The creature was inspired in part by my recent readings in Daniel and Ezekiel, and in part by an image of a Hollyphant in one of TSR’s old Dungeons & Dragons™ books.  But I also wanted to bring through a notion I’ve had for a long time, expressed in one of my early Game Ideas Unlimited articles (but predating it by many years).  Hume had suggested that imaginary creatures always sounded like they were invented from scraps of other creatures because we were incapable of imagining something outside our experience.  I disagreed; I maintain that it is the inability of language to convey the unfamiliar, since for us to have a word describing something all who know the word must already share the image it describes or it is essentially meaningless.  Thus my creature looked like an elephant, and yet distinctly unlike an elephant.  It perhaps owed something to the Sesame Street character Snufflupagus as well.  In all, if one is attempting to describe something truly alien, one must do so in words that represent the familiar, and then modify them away from their own meaning; and that is what I attempted to do here.

The color idea was part of making the realm feel supernatural; it was, to me, a new idea, although it had precursors in my reading.  Voyage to Arcturus had suggested the idea of six primary colors due to two suns; I had recognized then (about 1974) that this was implausible, as color was a function of the eye and the brain.  But here, it made sense that color would be more than that, something whose reality went beyond eye and brain, something which existed even if it were not perceived.  I couldn’t pick a color to describe the beast that would convey something special, so I created the notion that the color existed beyond Lauren’s perception but within her ability to notice.

The spatial relationships were an attempt to express an idea I’d had related to Dungeons & Dragons™ in the mid eighties.  They had described supernatural realms which were seemingly unbounded, and yet at the same time bordered on each other as if they had edges.  As a solution to this, I created the notion of six dimensions, and the idea that the human brain would automatically resolve these to three by combining them in similar pairs.  Thus a human would not be able to distinguish going up from going out, as it were.  In this brief moment of the novel, I tried to imagine how that would appear.  It also occurred to me that with more dimensions, you could be closer to more people without being crowded.  That is, in our world, you might have someone two feet to the left, to the right, in front, in back, and theoretically above and below–six people within two feet.  By doubling the dimensions you would double the number of positions that would be within two feet of you without having them be any closer to each other.  Thus in one sense, the people would seem crowded, yet in another they would not.

I didn’t have a good reason for Peter not to be waiting for her; I decided he didn’t have one, either.  That is, I did not want Peter to be there when she arrived, because it would eliminate my creature, my view of the world, my reference to all being saints–but it made sense that he would be expecting her.

My effort to describe Peter owes much to C. S. Lewis.  He had expressed glorified humans as somehow ageless yet of every age; and he had written of the Apostle Paul.  Lewis had an uncle who once spoke of discussing theology with Paul like two elderly gentlemen at the same club; this struck Lewis as a failure to apprehend the immense glory of someone like Paul.  I wanted to combine that eternal weight of glory with the easy-going down-home sort of peasant that was still Peter.

Lewis is cited in reference to The Great Divorce; but it struck me that Peter would not cite chapter and verse (as it were), and would speak of the man in familiar terms–“Jack”, as he preferred to be called by friends.

Peter’s refusal to answer theological questions beyond the immediate experience is not merely a dodge to avoid taking sides on such things.  I believe that God wants us to do as he suggests, to work out these matters to the best of our abilities.  I’m playing in a world as I write this in which the saints on earth can at any moment ask the saints in heaven to settle a disagreement.  God doesn’t give us that option; it must be because He doesn’t want us to have it, and thus I conclude that Peter isn’t going to answer Lauren’s curiosities.

As to asking about others, again I get that from Lewis:  God doesn’t tell us what happens to people who never hear the gospel; Lewis said we cannot know with certainty what becomes of those who honestly and from good heart and motive disbelieve it.  Nor can we know who (if anyone) does this.  He deals with us as individuals, and expects us to see to our own responsibilities.  That means to tell others what we know, but not to condemn them.

“That exceeded smiling by so much as smiling is happier than….”  I had much trouble coming to a word for this.  I thought of many facial expressions.  Frowning was too trite; grimacing not opposite; crying contained the possibility of joy.  In the end, “death” was the word I chose.

At the moment that Peter handed her three things, I only knew what one of them was.  But I must take a step back.  When Chris did this, he received two things–a silver crucifix and a scroll with words of healing written on it.  I first knew that Lauren had to receive something from Peter, so the visit would make more sense.  Then I realized (perhaps with a laugh) that the first would be a perfect item, as it would give Lauren the skill she needed for a major moment in the story ahead.  The problem was that giving her that would so obviously be what it was, as the reader would then understand what it was for long before Lauren did, and would wonder that she didn’t use it sooner.  Neither the simple type nor the elegant decorative types would do, as they would immediately be seen, even by Lauren, as “X”, and so described in the text.  Fortunately I remembered a type I’d only seen one or twice in my life, a screw-driven sort, and felt I could describe that in a fashion that would obscure what it actually was from the reader.  But there was also the lesson I had applied to the coin in the first book:  one significant object cannot be given alone, or it calls attention to itself.  I decided that three was the right number.  I did not yet know what the other two were, but (as with the bag) figured I could invent something soon enough.

The free-standing door I’ve seen and used many times before.  Part of my problem at this moment was that I didn’t really know where she was going.  That is, I had the broadest outline of the idea:  she was going back to the vampire world, in or around 2300 (which seemed far enough in the future to be futuristic, but not so far that my predictions would be complete fantasy), where she would face Tubrok in their final confrontation.  What I didn’t know was what 2300 actually looked like; and that was going to take a lot of thought.  So I blacked out the gate.  Usually I don’t show things through a gate–they shimmer, or show only what is behind, or something like that.  But this time I wanted a better reason; and the idea of looking from light to darkness not only answered the question, it also made a statement.


Chapter 65, Slade 70

I had decided that they would be attacked in the barn, and that the barn would be burned down to drive them out.  I realized that they had to move fast (barns don’t take long to spread fire through them).  They didn’t have time to pack; but I couldn’t let them leave things behind.  Thus Shella packed by magic while dressing, and Slade was the last ready.

Slade has improved significantly; he’s faster with his blaster even than he was fighting the snake–one targeted shot every four seconds.  I counted all of the first volley as hits, with four fatal shots.  This was a bit on the lucky side, but not an incredible outcome for his skill.

I couldn’t decide what Shella would be able to do that wouldn’t be (at least in Multiverser terms) more powerful than the bias would allow.  Changing the shape of the ground was the best I could find, so I tried to think of ways to use it effectively.

I didn’t have to decide whether the arrows were blocked by the spell; it was sufficient that no one on Slade’s side was injured by them.

In my mind, Filp cut to the right and was going to sweep in from the end of the line; but this wasn’t something Slade would know, so I didn’t describe it.

I’d always thought Slade should get Filp’s grapple system when Filp died; I have no idea when or how it will be used.

I’m not certain when I decided that Shella had told Torence she was leaving to marry Slade; but I laughed at that myself, so I had to include it.

I recognized the inconsistency in consecrating the fire, which was allied with their enemies, to take the body; but then I decided this was the logical way, and perhaps death itself overcomes such problems.


Chapter 66, Brown 74

Having brought Lauren to the final world, I needed Derek to grow up faster.  I also needed his story to pick up pace.  Thus I focused on building up Derek’s body skills, and used the clairvoyance to introduce the fact that humans were the conquerors.

The size of the man was difficult, and I’m not certain the description is credible.  I figure that a tall sprite is typically twelve inches, one foot tall; Derek will be fifteen inches, because I need him to be very tall for a sprite, but Lelach is probably only ten inches.  If I make my man five feet tall, that’s five times as big as a typical sprite, and if we then take that as the baseline for a normal human, we have by comparison a twenty-five foot tall giant.  That’s bigger than any giant in the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons™ Monster Manual.  The man would seem huge.

The other side of the problem, though, is whether Derek would have a sprite’s perspective on the size when viewing it clairvoyantly.  He is not in the frame, as it were, and he is seeing it as if he were flying so he’s not looking up at it from the ground.  It was not so long ago that he was himself a human (albeit shorter, still an adolescent), and so the size of the man relative to the trees would perhaps not be so shocking.  I was aware of this, but felt that I needed to convey the impression that the human was monstrously big, and so I ignored the perception problem.  I can suppose that there were sprites within Derek’s view, but I did not say so, and I did not want to have him see the man shoot a sprite.

I had the experience of shooting flintlock and cap-and-ball guns, both rifles and pistols, in the late 1970s.  My uncle had a pair of each, and we were invited to his cabin in the mountains where target and skeet shooting was the primary form of entertainment (there were also shotguns, a very nice crossbow on which I modeled Joe Kondor’s, and a few other weapons that do not come back to my mind presently).  The experience is known to me personally.


This has been the sixth behind the writings look at For Better or Verse.  Assuming that there is interest, I will continue preparing and posting them every eleven chapters, that is, every three weeks.

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#180: Versers Focus

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #180, on the subject of Versers Focus.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have begun publishing my third novel, For Better or Verse, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents).  If you missed the first two, you can find the table of contents for the first at Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, and that for the second at Old Verses New.  There was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed along with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as the third is posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers because it sometimes talks about what I was planning to do later in the book–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.

There is also a section of the site, Multiverser Novel Support Pages, in which I have begun to place materials related to the novels beginning with character papers for the major characters, hopefully giving them at different stages as they move through the books.

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

  1. #157:  Versers Restart (which provided this kind of insight into the first eleven chapters);
  2. #164:  Versers Proceed (which covered chapters 12 through 22);
  3. #170:  Versers Explore (which covered chapters 23 through 33);
  4. #174:  Versers Achieve (chapters 34 through 44).

This picks up from there, with chapters 45 through 55.

img0180Tropics

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 45, Slade 61

Yes, I am aware that the djinn are a factor in middle eastern/Arabian mythology, and not Norse religion.  Yet if I begin with the premise that djinn exist in a spirit realm that connects to all physical realms, it is perfectly reasonable for such spirits to interact in different ways in different worlds.

Back in the 1980s I was running an Original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons™ game, and in creating various encounters I created a table that would include a “hitherto unknown spell” in a spell book.  That required that I create such spells, and I had quite a few.  One of them was called “Record” (the verb, accent on the second syllable), and allowed the spellcaster to make a three-dimensional visual record of a scene or event as it happened, preserved in a piece of chalk, and then replay it somewhere else.  This was definitely inspired by that, although it is different in a lot of critical details.


Chapter 46, Brown 69

The size of the butterfly was a bit problematic.  I had not really worked out how big sprites were; I was probably thinking about twelve inches tall, although I had to stretch that for Derek, making him fifteen inches tall when full grown.  Still, he is probably only about five inches tall at this point, and a large butterfly probably would seem like a hawk.

I don’t recall Derek yet using the abilities to summon and control creatures for anything significant, other than as a stepping stone toward learning more skills.


Chapter 47, Slade 62

I suppose that one thing I seem to do is give myself problems and then try to find ways to solve them.  In that way, writing the story is like playing the game.  As referee, I create problems; as player, I solve them.  When I wrote that Phasius was weakened, I did not know how I was going to solve that problem.  I had had some notion that he would know a way out of the castle–but I abandoned that almost immediately in favor of the idea that he knew a way out of the city.  This had merit; but it didn’t solve my problem.

I added motion on the battlements for two reasons.  One was because things were going too smoothly; that is, it didn’t feel like a story for Slade and Filp, now having released Phasius, to cake-walk out of the building with him.  The other was that giving myself a new problem meant I had more time to consider the solution to the old one.


Chapter 48, Hastings 106

I hit a snag here.  I realized that I had not kept up my lists of what Lauren was able to do, psionically, magically, or even physically.  During the second book, she picked up a lot of skills, and built up a lot of the ones she knew.  I had let a lot of it go by, because it was being done a bit behind the scenes–Merlin was teaching her many things, but little that was specific.  She was expanding her psionic abilities, but always in a general sense.  She taught Bethany, but I never really said what.  I realized that I was going to have to go back through the entire second novel and find all the things Lauren had learned, so they could go on the character information sheet I was using.  And I was going to have to do it before I could go much further with Lauren’s story.

What I wound up doing, as I went back to start combing through the second novel draft, was making a general statement of what she was able to do and then changing the subject.  The main thing I wanted her to do in this world was fix the disintegrator staff; I wanted it to be part of the combat against Tubrok at the end, if only to show how very powerful he was as an opponent.  I also wanted her to practice, to spend time improving her abilities.  This gave me the background for that.


Chapter 49, Slade 63

The problem was simple to resolve; and it gave me a solution to the other problem.  The use of darkness had been in my mind to help them get away from the town watch when they were trying to scale the walls; but it came up quite effectively here.  The idea of a secret garden with a door to the city didn’t seem entirely out of character (particularly given that it’s a walled city) and resolved a lot of things.


Chapter 50, Brown 70

The idea of eyes in the back of Mom’s head was the catalyst for this chapter.  I realized I could get to that by having him interested in an unseen animal, and that just saying it would give a new idea for a psionic skill which would be plausible to learn from what he already knew.  I also formed the idea of having Derek learn an entirely different set of psionic skills from those Lauren knew.  This would be difficult, because Lauren mostly knew the skills I’d devised when I was playing.  I would have to think about the skills within the framework of increasing bias but with very different applications.  The heightened awareness and specialized clairvoyance functions made good sense immediately.  I’m still working on the next step, which will be some form of telekinetic, but I don’t know what.


Chapter 51, Slade 64

I took a break before Filp asks his question; I wasn’t sure even yet what I was doing.  But I got the ideas first that Phasius knew one of the guards, and second that he wasn’t really certain where he was or how to find him, and third that he had to take several breaks to catch his breath.  With this I started writing.  I named the guard Saiman because I didn’t want to call him Simon, which was the first name that came to mind.  It was a rather abrupt decision to make him an officer, and then again to have him on duty in the late night.

I decided that the lone guard was Saiman, but wanted to hang it there.  Besides, I knew that Slade was going to play some role, either of a servant or a nobleman seeking Saimon, but hadn’t worked out exactly what he would do or say yet.

I have lived several places in New Jersey over the course of my life–in five different counties.  I’ve also been quite a few places in Delaware and eastern Pennsylvania, and have visited other states in the northeast corridor over the years.  I joke when someone names a particularly town, “I’ve been lost there.”  Here I was turning it around on Bob, that he couldn’t possibly know where he was because he had never even been lost in this city before, so there was no chance he would recognize anything.


Chapter 52, Hastings 110

I wanted to pick up the pace on Lauren and Derek, to move toward some action, even though I didn’t know what they were going to do before the end.

I broke this in the middle, too.

Repairing the rod had long been in my mind; I wanted it to happen here.  But I didn’t want it to happen too soon–it seemed incredible for her to do it immediately.  I actually considered tossing it into the sea, or the volcano, having her give it up completely; but by the time I thought of it I had set it up as a major obstacle for her, and she could not do that.

There is a denigrating comment to the effect of “he puts his pants on one leg at a time just like everyone else,” which of course means that the referenced individual is merely human.  I was watching video from Skylab in which one of the astronauts picked up a pair of pants, grinned broadly, and proceeded to lift both legs off the ground and insert them in the pants.  It was awkward, as he was kicking and spinning backwards, but he succeeded–and as he did so, I thought not only had he not adequately thought through the process, it was not something that required zero gravity to accomplish.  I proceeded to teach myself how to put my pants on both legs at once (no, you can ask me the secret if you see me at a convention or something) and did so several times a week for many years, just because I could and I could say that I did.  Lauren doesn’t do it the way I do–she cheats, using her psionic levitation to hold herself aloft while lifting her feet and pushing them into the pant legs–but she gets the idea from me.


Chapter 53, Slade 65

I had pondered just how Saiman would get Phasius out of the city.  Another secret door was too much to ask.  I fell on a bold plan, to have them ride out the gate in search of themselves.

I also started inventing fragments of Norse religion; I hope no one takes them too seriously.  I needed to give something to Slade in all this, and couldn’t just say that he learned a lot about it without putting something to it that made sense, that fit with what I knew of Norse beliefs.  At this point it’s just a couple of aphorisms; but they’re probably the best way to include a religion in a story without overly detailing it, particularly if they capture the core of the faith, which I think perhaps these do.

I feel I owe an apology to a Finnish colleague, Eero Tuovinen.  At some point he read Verse Three, Chapter One, and in commenting said he hoped that in the future I would bring some real bits of Norse religion into Slade’s stories.  I obviously have not done that.  In my defense, by the time he had written those comments to me this book (and at least most of the next) had been completed, and the fragments of Slade’s religion that appear within it were to some degree integral to the story; and I confess to having only a sketchy knowledge of actual Norse religion in our world; and after all it is already established that Slade is learning about Odin in other worlds, worlds in which Odin is known to work with the djinn of Arabian mythology.  It’s not going to be the same myth even though it attempts to hold to the same core truths.


Chapter 54, Brown 71

In my search to give Derek psionic skills that would make sense coming from his experience and wouldn’t sound like Lauren all over again, I struck upon the idea of telekinetically playing with the steam.  Lauren doesn’t do gaseous telekinesis, or liquid telekinesis for that matter, so I could give these to Derek and so create a unique package for him.  I might come back later and fill in the gaps with things she knows, but I am enjoying the challenge of building a unique yet logical skills set.

The pain resistance and pain reduction skills also struck me as things I didn’t see Lauren doing; and the teeth gave me a good excuse to do them.

I will probably have him do some sort of pyrogenesis inside the tree next; it will be a cold winter, and his ability to warm them will be important.  But it will probably be the air he warms–she only did that once, as I recall, and it wasn’t the first thing she tried.

I’m trying to recall whether I’ve ever actually seen a video game in which you had to control objects on opposite sides of the screen simultaneously, but my video game experience is much more limited than Derek’s.


Chapter 55, Slade 66

I created this as I went, apart from having already decided about riding out the gate.  I also decided at this point that Shella had been watching them by scrying, so she would find them quickly once they approached her.


This has been the fifth behind the writings look at For Better or Verse.  Assuming that there is interest, I will continue preparing and posting them every eleven chapters, that is, every three weeks.

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#174: Versers Achieve

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #174, on the subject of Versers Achieve.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have begun publishing my third novel, For Better or Verse, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents).  If you missed the first two, you can find the table of contents for the first at Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, and that for the second at Old Verses New.  There was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed along with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as the third is posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers because it sometimes talks about what I was planning to do later in the book–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.

There is also a section of the site, Multiverser Novel Support Pages, in which I have begun to place materials related to the novels beginning with character papers for the major characters, hopefully giving them at different stages as they move through the books.

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

  1. #157:  Versers Restart (which provided this kind of insight into the first eleven chapters);
  2. #164:  Versers Proceed (which covered chapters 12 through 22).
  3. #170:  Versers Explore (which covered chapters 23 through 33).

This picks up from there, with chapters 34 through 44.

img0174Dungeon

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 34, Brown 66

The boy/girl distinction on wings was something I’d created in a game years ago, for something larger, elf-like.  I’m not certain that the reasons will ever get into this book, but they had to do with mating practices of flying humanoids.

I stumbled on the idea of doing everything not quite right enough; it seemed to fit a lot of things in life, and so I thought I’d include it here.


Chapter 35, Slade 56

I’d had the idea of Shella teaching Slade the illusion for a long time; but I kept not including it, because I hadn’t found a reason why Shella would not be in the castle (and certainly they didn’t have the reason yet), and I hadn’t quite defined the illusion.  Those things came together just in time, and I went with it.

I was at this moment toying with whether Slade and Filp would be able to get Phasius over the wall, or whether Shella was going to have to come back inside the city to help them.  But I still had to get him out of the castle.

Bob has not really thought about marrying anyone, but he is here recognizing that his relationship with Shella is not based on externals but somehow on who they are inside.  I think men have trouble grasping that generally, that someone would like me, not as a writer or a musician or a teacher or any of the myriad of other externals that in my mind identify me, but as me.  That is what Slade sees from Shella.

“The most important trick, that is, illusion” reflects my aspect of perspective.  I don’t have my main characters telling the story, but when my narrator tells it the narration falls into the way the characters see it.  I just mentioned that Slade thinks of these as “tricks” but Shella does not, and when we come to the most important one, the narrator calls it a “trick” and then corrects himself, just as Slade would were he talking to Shella about it.

This was the first time I hinted that Shella was attractive.  It shouldn’t really be a surprise.

I actually made a problem for myself with Shella.  In the first book I hinted that she was cute, but I never actually described her–no hair color or style, no eye color, nothing to suggest her appearance.  I did not at the time think it mattered, because I had no expectation of ever seeing her again after Bob versed out of her world.  Now, though, I was bringing her back into the story in a major way, and she had been around enough that readers would have an expectation of her appearance.  I always envisioned her as looking like my niece Heather Brown, whom I always thought was cute (and I can get away with that because everyone in the family says she looks like a younger version of my wife); but Heather has dark eyes and dark hair like most of my girls, and I don’t want to jar a reader who has decided that Shella must be the blue-eyed blonde, particularly since Slade is the blue-eyed blonde so that would have them match.


Chapter 36, Hastings 106

I decided at about this time that I was going to push the biases pretty high and let Lauren fix her disintegrator rod while here.  That would allow her to practice, once she was confident, and ultimately to experiment–which would give me what I needed to verse her out.  I almost always go when I experiment, trying to push the envelope; Lauren does that sometimes, as well.

I was still inventing this island, but was now creating a lot more detail.  I figured on a sort of reedy bamboo in the lake or ponds.  Oh, yes–I am quite aware of the difference between a lake and a pond, but I didn’t imbue Lauren with that part of my experience so she was not.

I’ve never seen volcanic rock (other than small pieces in collections or displays), but I’ve read about it and attempted to reproduce some of the variety here.


Chapter 37, Slade 57

I was trying to put the details of the escape together.  I had been thinking about this illusion of making it appear Phasius was in the cell for some time.  I planned for Slade and Filp to scale the wall, find the dungeon, cast the illusion, and bring Phasius out.  Then they would have to cross the wall to escape the city.  At some point, I wanted Slade to use his darkness spell that he used on the ship–mostly because I wanted to bring back into focus that he could do this, but also because I thought it would make for a good tense moment somewhere.  I was still undecided whether to have it in the castle or in the city.  The castle had a certain logic to it, as there were more likely to be patrols and they would be more likely to notice someone out of place; but it also posed the greater problem, as a patch of magical darkness might catch someone’s attention.  The city, on the other hand, commended itself in that even guards on a regular route might think that they were just looking down a particularly dark street or alley, and move on without thought.

I’m still working out the plan and the complications as I write, but I’ve got them inside the castle.


Chapter 38, Brown 67

I don’t think the fact that I had a minor toothache really had anything to do with my fixation on pain control in this chapter.  It was more that I needed to move Derek forward and in new directions, and sore wings seemed a logical direction to take which led to more ideas.

I’ve got the feeling that he keeps coming back to the psionics notion, but never does much with it.  Of course, he’s still young; but it’s probably time to expand his possibilities.


Chapter 39, Slade 58

Again, I was feeling my way through this.  I didn’t want them to move right into people, but I didn’t think it good for them to make the dungeon completely unopposed.  The idea of coming into a barracks of sleeping guards made a good compromise.  Then, why didn’t they just leave?  The notion that they couldn’t find the exit occurred to me, but seemed silly.  I replaced it with the notion that there were guards awake by the exit.  This led me to consider why, and how Slade would get past them, and that to the conclusion that they were the next shift.  This makes it pretty late; but then, they weren’t going to start climbing the wall too early.

I thought of my (mother’s) Uncle Pete, who snored so loudly that the house echoed and Aunt Ann made him sleep in another room.  This made for a more interesting barracks scene than everyone sleeping silently.  It also occurred to me to try to create the lull of two tired travelers resting in darkness, and having one of them fall asleep.  I debated which one for a moment, but decided that the older one would be the better choice.  Maybe I’ll reverse it another time.


Chapter 40, Hastings 107

I started moving the psionic skills forward.  I realize that with the ability to fly, it’s more difficult to keep her on the island; on the other hand, as of yet she doesn’t know how far it is to any other island, and apart from her vague hope that there are people somewhere she doesn’t have any reason to leave here.

I also gave her the fire she needs.  That came to be in part because it was a logical extension of the psionics, and in part because I knew she was concerned about it.

The conclusion that trees and birds aren’t thinking isn’t airtight, but it’s the best Lauren is going to be able to do.


Chapter 41, Slade 59

I needed a new clue to point Slade in the right direction.  The slope of the floor was the first that came to me.  It was good, but it wasn’t strong enough.  The other two ideas followed it in short order, once I’d made that decision.

I had completely forgotten Slade’s flashlight.  He had used it in the first story, and not since, as he’d about run down the batteries.  I almost wrote that he replaced the batteries in the space ship story, even though there was no reason to think he did.  Then I remembered that the Caliph had recharged the blasters; it made sense for him to recharge the flashlight, too.  Of course, the whole four-element theory suggests that there’s fire in that flashlight; but by the four-element theory, it is almost impossible to have light without fire, and that can’t be true or there would be no light in the realm of the djinn.

The treasury was an abrupt inspiration; the diary was even more abrupt.  I had long been musing on the simple task of rescuing Phasius against the more interesting task of proving he was right; this was a simple step toward that more interesting outcome.


Chapter 42, Brown 68

The idea of the hole in the tree being high was new; it gave me something which could seem like an easy challenge, like a child walking across the room.

The pet idea also was new.  Telepathy to Animals, and possibly Summoning, were telepathic skills that would build a base from which Derek could reasonably jump to the more difficult clairsentient skills; psionic defenses would be a good intervening step, but it was difficult to see how he would learn those in the absence of psionic adversaries.  But I had no idea what sort of pet a sprite might have.  I really did first think of the ladybug, which I decided was a bit small even for a sprite (and a bit silly to think of as a pet).  I walked away from the text and thought, even was going to ask the kids what sort of pet a sprite might have; but I decided to come back and explore it on the page, having Derek go through some of the same ideas which came to me, and moving beyond those to others.  I still didn’t know whether he was going to have a pet or not, but at least there were possibilities there.

The structure “‘Mostly,’ she emphasized, ‘girls’” was intended to create that feeling of emphasis.  I’d used the trick of putting the speech marker in the middle to create other feelings, most notably hesitation, but it worked for this, too.


Chapter 43, Slade 60

There were several options for the bars.  A genuine portcullis had merit, but it would have to rise into some space above, and that seemed trouble.  I wanted to avoid the usual jail-type gates.  Something that swung away from the prison that was lifted by chains like a portcullis or drawbridge seemed to have merit.  It probably wouldn’t be particularly effective at containing multiple prisoners, who could push it up in front of themselves, but it looked good.

I didn’t actually expect to get as far as I did in this section.  I had thought that they would get through the gate, then there would be some other obstacle, and they would see torture machines, and then hunt for Phasius.  But at this point it was short, so I put in the next obstacle, one which made good sense.

The windows were added mostly because I had this momentary inspiration for someone to pause and sniff the air and say something based on it.

I liked the gag about the prayer; as soon as I wrote it, I went out and told my sons.  They laughed.

I had no idea how Slade was going to identify Phasius; I had imagined him trying to identify the prisoners, looking in many cells for neither he nor I knew what.  But suddenly it occurred to me that there was a way to do it.  If Phasius gave the name of the Caliph first, that would almost certainly do it.


Chapter 44, Hastings 108

When I use the tropical island as a start world, I generally have Michael di Vars already present, cooking seagull over an open fire and offering to share it with the new arrivals.  I learned about catching seagull in survival training in Scouts; I also was informed that it is a very greasy bird, not particularly palatable.  That may be why Peking Duck takes a full day to prepare.

The bit about Elijah is one of those passages that people get wrong all the time.  People read that a chariot came with the whirlwind and Elijah was lifted into heaven, and assume that he rode in the chariot.  What the text actually says is that the whirlwind lifted Elijah off the ground, and a war chariot interposed itself between Elijah and Elisha so that the latter could not grab hold of the former.  I take this opportunity to have Lauren correct the view, mostly because it annoys me when people make statements that are clearly inconsistent with the source.


This has been the fourth behind the writings look at For Better or Verse.  Assuming that there is interest, I will continue preparing and posting them every eleven chapters, that is, every three weeks.

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#170: Versers Explore

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #170, on the subject of Versers Explore.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have begun publishing my third novel, For Better or Verse, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents).  If you missed the first two, you can find the table of contents for the first at Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, and that for the second at Old Verses New.  There was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed along with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as the third is posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers because it sometimes talks about what I was planning to do later in the book–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.

There is also a section of the site, Multiverser Novel Support Pages, in which I have begun to place materials related to the novels beginning with character papers for the major characters, hopefully giving them at different stages as they move through the books.

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

  1. #157:  Versers Restart (which provided this kind of insight into the first eleven chapters);
  2. #164:  Versers Proceed (which covered chapters 12 through 22).

This picks up from there, with chapters 23 through 33.

img0170Autumn

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 23, Brown 63

The writing became very trying at this point.  I was not at all certain how much childhood development could be interesting, and was torn between four poles.  One was to keep things as short as I could so that it would get back to the more exciting Slade story quickly; the second was to avoid making the segments too short, lest they seem too much like filler.  The third was to move the development material along quickly now that I had something of a story for him in the divine deliverer model.  Finally, I wanted the development material itself to be interesting; it seemed there could be a lot of fun in that, if I could highlight the places where it got fun.

These developmental details are all drawn from The Zygote Experience in The First Book of Worlds.  I had used my wife’s obstetric and pediatric nursing texts for source material when I wrote that, but it is a much simpler and well-organized work for this particular application.


Chapter 24, Hastings 103

The mix of science and theology here was rather spur of the moment.  I was faced with the problem of finding food that she could eat, and had been tightening the strangle hold on the possibilities.  I knew that somehow she was going to have to get past that.  I knew that there was no intelligent life here, and that she could eat just about everything that looks like food with no ill effect (although I was still working on how to get her out of this world when the time came–torn between poisoning, volcanic eruption, drowning in an effort to reach another island, spelunking accident, and being attacked by some deep sea carnivore).  But now I needed to move her toward that somehow, and the conclusion that there must be food here somewhere was an important first step.


Chapter 25, Slade 51

It had been bothering me that Slade had fewer chapters than anyone else.  He had the fewest chapters, marginally, in the first book; and the second book was considerably longer.  Since his story was moving, I at this point decided to let him catch up a bit by alternating him against the other two.

This was the moment when I realized who Shella really was.  That is, up to now she was the cute young girl who could steal Slade’s heart, the young student who waved good-bye as he went up in flames, the clever sorceress chosen to accompany him on this quest, and the girl he was going to marry, but at this moment I saw her as the practical half to Slade’s boldness.

In this, she owes something to another character I created, Olivia, the youngest of the three princesses in The Dancing Princess (First Book of Worlds).  Although in the book Olivia is just the fun-loving outdoors type, in play with Chris Jones she became his foil, laughing at his pretensions, focusing on the serious when he was missing it.  I knew Shella had to be that kind of foil for Slade, but I hadn’t thought of it in concrete terms.  It was here that I saw that she needed to have this practical streak.  Oddly, it was after she had already made the comment about the three needs, and before I’d written her thoughts about discovering the resources before knowing how to use them.  It was because of this recognition that I determined that to be her line.

This chapter took most of a week to write.  Some of it was interruptions, but some was an effort at trying to work out what the problems and solutions actually might be.

It was about this time that I started trying to think of a way to create a story in the fourth novel that connected the two Kondor vorgo stories together into an arc, so tying the fourth book into the first two.  It also occurred to me that there might be another opportunity to bring the djinni alliance into play for Slade, but I was not at all sure how or when.


Chapter 26, Brown 64

I was still following my developmental materials as Derek started walking, and trying to rough this against the change of seasons.  I had always known that he would ultimately learn to fly–it was part of being a sprite, and it had been mentioned before–but I had not considered at what point in his development that would happen.  I still wasn’t sure, but I guessed that he should be airborne by spring.

There was a gap of a couple weeks between writing chapter 25 and chapter 26.  I was mostly wondering what was going to happen next, but I was also working on other projects–including the editing of the second novel, and a reading of the first novel to my youngest two, along with entries in a history from which this is partially reconstructed recalling what I could remember of the creation of that one.

People make the mistake of thinking that “knowing how” is the secret to body skills–acrobatics, martial arts, even walking and swimming.  It is rather the muscle memory, that the body itself “knows how” to do these things.  If you had the memories of Mary Lou Retton implanted in your brain, you would “know how” to do a lot of acrobatics, but you couldn’t do them, not just because you’re not strong enough but because your body is not trained to do them.  That’s also true about simple things like standing and walking–our bodies learn to compensate for balance, move the right distance at the right time, and dozens of other minutiae that make it possible for us to do without thinking tasks we do without thinking every day.


Chapter 27, Slade 52

I recognized both that nobles traveling without servants or horses would seem strange and that there would be few places in a castle where there were people but not fire at night, and so this chapter hedges a lot.  It was also because I knew that Cornel was going to provide help for them and point them to the next contact, but I did not know how or why he was going to do that, or who the next contact was.


Chapter 28, Hastings 104

I’ve been taught (more years ago than I should remember) how to identify edible plants in the field; but I did not give that knowledge to Lauren (I gave it to Kondor, actually).  Thus her experiment is crude and a bit dangerous.  I realized that it was yet possible that she had eaten something that could kill her next week, but knew that I needed to keep her alive for the present.


Chapter 29, Slade 53

It was time for Slade to trust someone; but he was a bit hesitant to do so.  Again, Shella shows the practical side.  They might not know whether they can trust this man, but they have to trust someone and he’s the best bet they’ve got.  He’s more likely to help them if he knows the whole story.

It was a leap to suggest that Cornel also knew the name Majdi, but not an impossible one.

The ring was the last thought I had about this part of the plan.  Having Filp carry it so that he could by his honesty convince someone that he stole it was something I thought I could pull off; it was reminiscent in my mind of Philippe “The Mouse” Gaston of Ladyhawke, telling the soldiers which way Etienne de Navarre actually went in the firm expectation that they would assume he was lying.

I invented the cousin at this moment.  It seemed a good choice for a contact in the city, as the cousin could be a nobleman and would respond favorably to an appeal from family.  I had not yet decided anything more about the cousin.

I did something here that I dislike when authors do it:  I spelled a name in a way that makes the pronunciation ambiguous.  I believe that I intended the name “Arnot” to be pronounced “are no”, but even in my own mind I can’t remember whether “Cammelmyre” was to be “camel mere” or “camel mire”.  I think it was the latter.


Chapter 30, Brown 65

The glowing bodies were created partly to give me something to write about, but partly to make them more magical.  When I started writing about what Derek could do that he hadn’t realized, I was actually thinking more in terms of seeing in the dark; this was to my mind too much like the infravision of Dungeons & Dragons™, and I wanted to avoid that in part because I didn’t want to seem to be following their pattern and in part because it didn’t seem real.  The idea that they glowed, more like Peter Pan‘s Tinker Bell, was good.  But how they glowed had to seem both magical and natural, and that was where I took it.

I was having trouble with the size of the sprites.  I did not at this point realize that I was going to want Derek to have the ability to double in height twice and be the size of a normal teenager, but still be quite small as a sprite.  Ultimately I decided that I could get away with him being five feet tall as a human, and fifteen inches tall as a sprite, and if I made that very tall for a sprite I could make the typical sprites about a foot tall.  Yet I had been envisioning them considerably smaller than that, and had to make some adjustments.  This was a good example:  the interior of the home was originally described as two feet across, which was much two small for several one foot tall humanoids to winter and be able to walk around.  I doubled it on a late edit.

I decided to push the winter through to spring so I could get on with the story.  I did not yet have the details complete, beyond what’s been said, but I felt a bit like Slade was carrying the book at this point, and I needed to get one of my other two heroes active, particularly as I was going to run the Slade story into a different mode soon.  This also was why I brought back the flight problem.


Chapter 31, Slade 54

The walled city was a last-minute decision.  One reason I did it was that the whole thing was getting too easy in my mind.  I had a pretty good idea of how Slade was going to get Phasius out of the dungeon and out of the castle, and then of the ride to Charton.  I needed something to complicate matters.  A walled city with gates closed at night was not only a major complication, it was in a sense the most natural thing in the world.  I explored options in the text, and let it drop for later.

Arnot was being invented on the fly at this point.  I decided quickly that he was not a dynamic or brave person, and wanted to give him the air of an accountant.  I needed then to make it clear that he participated against his wishes, if not his will.  At first I thought Slade’s simple silliness about Arnot not being involved would suffice, but I couldn’t really get Arnot to agree to it so easily.  It thus became a moment when I had to give Slade something of his nobility and force of will, something which is seen in flashes but needs to grow more even in the midst of his humor.


Chapter 32, Hastings 105

I was, to some degree, playing on both sides of the screen here.  As Lauren, I was exploring the world, trying to solve the problems and build the shelter; as referee, I was trying to create the world in which the answers would be found.  The complication as yet not addressed, that of determining which things might be intelligent, still loomed over everything; I couldn’t avoid that.

I was getting the notion of something bamboo-like, which would be consistent with the other plants, which would be used for building.  I had not yet placed it.

When I was in my early teens, we visited an uncle.  There was a tray of round chocolates on a counter, and I pointed and asked, “What are these?”  My cousin Ron responded so quickly with, “Try one” that I knew there was a reason why I might not want to, but he then assured me that they were safe, so I ate one.  How did I like it?  It was all right.  It was mostly a large lump of chocolate with a small crunchy something inside.  That’s when he told me it was a chocolate covered ant.  I shrugged.  I’d heard of them, of course, and now I’d tried one, and found them entirely edible.  That was the experience I here gave to Lauren.


Chapter 33, Slade 55

I developed this plan between the last Slade chapter and this one, and only as a sketch.  The detail came as I wrote it.

I’m making Shella the smart one, the idea person here.  For one thing, I want her to impress Bob, to be someone the reader likes and thinks he should like.  For another, I want to make the reader think she’s bright–she is, after all, a sorceress, and she should come across as intelligent.


This has been the third behind the writings look at For Better or Verse.  Assuming that there is interest, I will continue preparing and posting them every eleven chapters, that is, every three weeks.

[contact-form subject='[mark Joseph %26quot;young%26quot;’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment: Note that this form will contact the author by e-mail; to post comments to the article, see below.’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

#164: Versers Proceed

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #164, on the subject of Versers Proceed.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have begun publishing my third novel, For Better or Verse, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents).  If you missed the first two, you can find the table of contents for the first at Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, and that for the second at Old Verses New.  There was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed along with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as the third is posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers because it sometimes talks about what I was planning to do later in the book–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.

There is also a section of the site, Multiverser Novel Support Pages, in which I have begun to place materials related to the novels beginning with character papers for the major characters, hopefully giving them at different stages as they move through the books.

This was the previous mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book:

  1. #157:  Versers Restart (which provided this kind of insight into the first eleven chapters).

This picks up from there, with chapters 12 through 22.

img0164Tropics

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 12, Hastings 99

I realized that I was almost to a hundred Hastings stories; but it didn’t seem to make any sense to note that in any way.

I was a bit confused on directions at some point; initially I hadn’t given much thought to the directions, but now I wanted her to have arrived on the southern slope of an island in the northern tropics.  This was not for any particular reason but that I thought the southern slope probably more habitable, and for Lauren, at least, it should always seem as if God is directing things one way or another.  Even here, where there was nothing to do, I felt the need to have God’s hand putting her in the “right” place.

The half-buried staff idea had been in my mind for a while, and at this moment I decided on it.

The rain was an abrupt choice.  I wanted to fill the space, and it seemed a good way to do so.


Chapter 13, Slade 47

The comments about the air were a sudden decision.  I rather stumbled into it.

I had thought of several possibilities for what the door from the Caliph’s palace would look like from the other side, but the abandoned barn allowed the greatest possibilities.  I also began thinking that I was going to have to bring them back here, and it might be a viable end scenario to have them walk into the front door of the barn and vanish to somewhere else.

Just about everything here was done on the spot.


Chapter 14, Brown 60

Again, Derek’s spritish name is modeled on the sprite from the other game.  It was also built on his parent’s names, Morach being a joining of Morani and Lelach.

I created the spritish accents and language in part because I had been bothered by Derek’s ability to read the minds of his parents.  Under game rules, if you read someone’s mind, you get thoughts in their language, but if you use telepathy you get ideas translated to your language.  I decided that Lelach and Morani were the children of sprites who still revered the old spritish customs and language, as so many immigrant families are structured.  But then, I also recognized that it made no sense for them to be immigrants to a place where English was spoken; it made more sense to suggest that they were natives in a place where humans who spoke English had moved in and conquered them.  This became the uncertain thing behind things Derek didn’t understand.  I began to formulate an idea that he would become the sprite who led them to freedom from oppression.  The initial idea was that he would prove himself as smart as any human, demonstrating the math skills he had learned elsewhere such as trigonometry and calculus, systems which would be unknown in this world but would have evident uses once he taught them.  Not being well versed in these myself, I was not certain how I would do that, but it was the core of the idea.

I decided as I wrote this section to do the telepathy line I had considered; doing it now that he was born made more sense than doing it before this.  I knew there were ramifications, and I was going to have to deal with these, but I figured I would.


Chapter 15, Hastings 100

Again, I noticed the number of the chapter, but didn’t let it move me.

Even as I started writing this, I had decided on the cave with the water and steam, and had decided that the gear would be underground, but had not decided whether it would be buried or in the cave, or (what I almost did) caught partly in the rock.  Once I got a good picture of what the cave was like, I decided it had to be free.

I also rather abruptly realized that this was, to all appearances, a better home for Lauren than the beach.  I had nothing at the beach that should keep her there, and the multi-use fresh water and steam supply here (plus the potential emergency shelter of the cave) commended itself.  I realized it’s where I would have camped.  Thus I had her change her plans and leave her equipment here while going for the stuff she left at the beach.

I also began to get the idea that Lauren was being forced to rest.  In her last world, she had said she did not wish to rest, but to continue to be active.  I thought it might make this stall world something of interest if I used it as a forced time of relaxation.  In a sense, God could be telling her to slow down a bit for a while, to stop doing so much and enjoy life a bit.


Chapter 16, Slade 48

The prayer was a sudden bit of remembrance from the earlier book.  Actually, I had started reading the first book again to my youngest two, as no one but me had read the final draft, and so this prayer from the first of Slade’s chapters was fresh in my mind.  It led inexorably to the religious discussion, and I needed something to give the feeling of time to the travel.


Chapter 17, Brown 61

Once Derek had made the telepathic contact with his mother, I realized that I wasn’t entirely sure why he had made contact.  It was really because he was lonely, as he couldn’t talk to anyone; but it needed to be put into some kind of conversation that was more than just, hi, how are you.  Thus I started trying to think of questions he would ask.  I reinforced the idea that something was happening that he didn’t see, in the feel of the old ways.

His mother’s question, whether he could hear her thoughts, sprang abruptly to me.  It was the obvious question; I was surprised Derek had not anticipated it.  But I had not anticipated it, and there it was staring at me.  It also led me to a good consideration of the ethics of practicing psionics on other people, which I guessed would become an important point for Derek’s stay in this world.

As Derek begins using telepathy, I decided that I could italicize all telepathic communications, and that would help the reader follow what was happening.  I should probably have done that with the first book, but I had not thought of it in time.  I went back and did it in the second book.


Chapter 18, Hastings 101

As Lauren was searching the woods, I too was searching for any reason why the beach was a better place to live.  Logically, I could say she had to land there so that all her gear would be on land, but I kept thinking there was something else.

The splash of the fish was something I noticed just as I wrote it.


Chapter 19, Slade 49

The concern about fire came to me at this point, so I included it.  Again, it led to interesting spiritual ideas, and I let it have its head–particularly as the banter between Slade and Filp is always funny when they get going.

The argument about Phasius started because I wanted Shella to interact with it, and to draw out of them some backstory.  But the backstory I invented at this moment.  It owes much to A Man for All Seasons (I think that’s the name) about Henry VIII.

I realized that Slade would have said “I love you” in a very non-committal way, that is, as one says to a friend who has just done something wonderful or wonderfully funny or helpful; but as I typed it, I also realized that these words betrayed something I had been hinting with the comments on her smile, something he did not recognize himself, and she only hoped.  As I realized that, the only response I could think for Shella to give was “Thank you, my lord,” the proper response of a lesser lady to a greater gentleman on a compliment.  And I realized that this hid her hopes behind the formality, well enough that he would not see them.

Originally this chapter ended with Slade going inside to go to bed.  But it was at this point that I realized I was setting up my threesome for a trip that would be probably five days from the border to the castle, and then they were going to have to make it back from the castle to the border without being taken by Acquivar’s guards.  I thought now that they should be preparing for that trip; that is, they should be doing something on the way that would make the way back easier.  I asked three of my sons what they would do, and Tristan suggested he would try to arrange for horses for the journey.  I realized that meant finding allies; and that I had just written a section in which a potential ally, drunk though he was, had revealed himself.  Shella, I thought, would see the value, and so I changed the course to let them wait for him.

I wanted the peasants to sound like uneducated peasants, so I played a bit with their grammar.


Chapter 20, Brown 62

I realized after I wrote the telepathic discussion with the mother, that she was almost certain to tell the father.  This was going to be a problem, for the reasons Derek considers in the book.  It was also likely that the father would suggest that the child was dangerous, that the elders should be told, and that it would mean a very short life for Derek.  I thought Lelach would do something to protect him, even if that meant fleeing with him to hide somewhere.  But the first step was that Derek was going to find out that his father thought his mother crazy because she had told him Derek had spoken to her mind.

When Derek described the choice, I, too, knew the answer.  But I don’t like the characters to always succeed, so I placed the failure in there, then the mind reading, then the success on the second attempt.

I suddenly invented the nicknames.  This was exactly the opposite direction from what I had originally intended, but it was the only thing that was going to be readable.  Besides, I could not imagine them calling each other by those long multi-syllabic names.

Tonathel is obviously Moses in another world.  The idea of Derek now being connected in his mother’s mind as a potential deliverer with religious connotations came to me, and it fit in with Derek’s hopes expressed in the end of the previous book.  I drew those connections forward.


Chapter 21, Hastings 102

Between writing Hastings 101 and now I had given consideration to the ramifications of the fish, and the birds.  Were they sentient?  Were they dangerous?  I started this with little idea how Lauren would resolve those questions, but they did seem the questions she would be asking at this point.


Chapter 22, Slade 50

Originally this section was going to begin with Slade’s recognition that he had to do something to prepare for an escape route.  But as I had planned that opening, I didn’t know what it was going to be, and after talking to Tristan I went back and changed the previous section to start the process of making allies.

The names came out of thin air when I needed them.  I was somewhat torn between having the drunk be part of some connected conspiracy, which I thought helpful but unlikely, and having him wish to hide all sympathies for the priest given the danger of supporting him, which I thought useless though probable.  I tried to find a middle ground on that.

Before I wrote this section I got Kyler’s input on the same question of preparing for the return.  Where Tristan had suggested speed, facilitated by horses, Kyler suggested stealth.  I had, while asking the boys, considered the possibility that Shella might create the illusion that Phasius was still in his cell; now I had them getting Phasius out of the castle and reaching a place where horses were available to ride from there to the next point, change horses and ride to the end of the valley, where they would have to rest and abandon the horses.  Tristan also suggested that if there were only one road in their direction and they were on it, they would easily block any messenger from getting beyond them to alert troops down the line.  The last leg, up the mountains, would include at least one good hiding, possibly involving invisibility provided by Shella, and a battle in which Slade could defeat a dozen guards.

The only idea I have at this point for Phasius is to run into the abandoned barn and be whisked away.  I don’t even know where he would go.


This has been the second behind the writings look at For Better or Verse.  Assuming that there is interest, I will continue preparing and posting them every eleven chapters, that is, every three weeks.

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#162: Furry Thinking

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #162, on the subject of Furry Thinking.

If you are in the gamer community you probably have already heard or thought most of this.  Ridiculous news travels fast.  For those who are not, well, it’s worth getting you up to speed a bit.

A British company known as Games Workshop publishes a game under the name Warhammer 40K.  The “40K” part means that it is set in a far-flung (forty millennia) future in which, perhaps somewhat ridiculously, primitives fight with mechas.  The game makes significant use of miniatures, which the company produces and sells.  These miniatures are entirely made of plastic, but some of them have designs that include the image of fur clothing or covering on people or machines.

PETA, that is, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is protesting this.

Image by  Erm What https://www.flickr.com/photos/ermwhat/
Image by Erm What https://www.flickr.com/photos/ermwhat/

I am tempted to join the chorus of those who assert that PETA has lost it–it being at least the last shreds of credibility that the organization had.  I would prefer to think that they are intelligent people who have sound reasons for their position, and so I would like to attempt at least to understand them.  I do not agree with them, because of what I think are some fundamental issues, but in order to discuss those issues I think it is important at least to attempt to grasp their view.

The stated issue is that the appearance of fur on the models, even given that it isn’t even faux fur but just molded plastic in a roughened pattern that looks like fur, sends a wrong message.  That in itself is a bit ridiculous–as one father of a gamer reported his daughter asking, how can PETA tell whether the plastic molding representation is supposed to be real fur or fake fur?  However, we should give PETA the benefit of the doubt.  They could reasonably object to the use of fake fur for much the same reason:  it is popular because it looks like real fur, and in looking like real fur suggests that killing animals for their fur is an appropriate human action.  People should not kill animals for fur today, and suggesting that it will be acceptable to do so forty thousand years in the future is just as unacceptable.

In its argument, PETA includes some detail about the inhumane ways in which animals are either trapped or hunted and killed, or raised and killed, for their furs.  Within the context it’s a bit ridiculous–for all we know, in the Warhammer world such furs might be grown in vats of cultured skin skin cells that have no innervation and no central nervous system, and thus no real pain.  Fur might grow on trees, genetically mutated or modified.  They might have devised completely painless methods of hunting, trapping, and killing fur-bearing animals.  Extending an argument based on the details of actual modern treatment of such animals to the distant future is indeed silly.  However, it is probably not the distant future with which PETA is concerned.  If they still exist in forty millennia they will undoubtedly argue whether any of those methods are truly humane; their real argument is not whether these are appropriate actions in the future, but whether they convey an appropriate message to the present.  Their position in the present is that it is fundamentally wrong to kill animals for their skins, and so the suggestion that it will be permissible in the distant future is a wrong message, because it always will be–and by implication, always has been–wrong for people to do this.

That is where PETA and I part company on this issue.

Somewhere I have seen, probably in some natural history museum, a montage of a group of primitive men dressed in furs using spears to bring down a Woolly Mammoth.  That display, to my mind, communicates something of the reality of the lives of our distant ancestors.  Yet if PETA is to be taken seriously, that display sends the same kind of wrong message as is sent by the Games Workshop miniatures:  humans have killed animals so as to clothe themselves in the furs, and are engaged in killing another animal.  It might even be argued in their favor that one of the theories for the disappearance of the Siberian Mammoth from the world is that it was hunted to extinction by primitive humans (although in fairness it has also been suggested that they died due to the decline of their habitat at the close of the last ice age).  Yet wearing furs and killing animals was how those humans survived, and thus the means by which we have come to be alive today.

I think that PETA would probably assert that the humans had no higher right to survive than the bears and wolves and deer and other creatures they killed for those furs, or the mammoths they hunted for meat and skin.  PETA has an egalitarian view of the creatures of the world, as I understand it:  all creatures are created equal, and have an equal claim to continued life.  People have no right to kill animals for their own purposes, whether for clothes or for food or for habitat.

One reason this view is held is that people believe there are only two possible views.  The perceived alternative is to believe that humans have no obligations at all to other creatures, and can use them however we want, kill them with impunity, torture them even for no better purpose than our own entertainment, eat them, and wear their bodies as clothing and jewelry or use it to adorn our dwellings.  Put in its extreme form, this position is indeed reprehensible, and I object to it as much as PETA does.  However, these are not the only two positions.

Still, that “reprehensible” position is at least defensible.  PETA can argue that the human species has no better right to survive than any other creatures, but it is equally true under that argument that our right to survive is not any less.  Other creatures do not, by this fundamentally naturalistic argument, owe us their lives, but neither do we owe them theirs.  If our survival is enhanced at their expense, it cannot be asserted that we have less right to survive than they.  In the abstract the claim that we do not have a higher right sounds good, but if the issue were to be whether you or I would survive, it is very likely that you would choose you, and if it went to court after the fact and it was reasonably clearly apparent that it was “you or me”, the courts would undoubtedly exonerate you for choosing your own survival over mine.  The simplest form of that is the self-defense defense, but it’s not the only situation in which this is a factor.  Our ancestors killed animals and ate them and wore their furs because in a very real sense it was “them or us”, either we kill these animals and protect ourselves in their skins or we die of exposure.  Certainly I think that killing for furs that are not needed for our survival but merely decorative is selfish, but under a naturalistic viewpoint I can find no basis for saying that it is wrong to put the needs and preferences of other creatures above our own.  Further, I would not condemn an Inuit for his sealskin boots–it is part of his survival, and it is not clear that modern boots are either as easily available to him or as effective for the purpose.

Yet I do not intend to defend that position.  I think there is a third position that covers the concerns of both PETA and the Inuit.  Man is neither the equal of the other creatures in this world nor the owner of them.  We are their caretakers; they are our charges.

That means that sometimes we have to kill them, responsibly.  The best example is the deer of North America.  In most of the continent, and particularly most of the United States, deer thrive but the predators that kept their numbers in check have been decimated.  Without wolves and mountain lions in significant numbers to kill and eat the deer, their natural reproductive rate (geared to replace those lost to predation) quickly overpopulates the environment.  Certainly we have the selfish concern that they will eat our gardens, but even without that part of the problem they will starve in droves, because there is not enough food to feed them all.  The lack of predators is our fault, but only partly intentional.  Certainly we took steps to protect our children from creatures that would recognize them as a potential meal, but it is also the case that we frighten them, and so as we expand they retreat.  That means that deer will die, and their bodies litter the wilderness–and the alternative is for us to maintain managed killing of the overpopulation.  Licensed hunting is an effective and economical approach.  There might be other ways–such as rounding up herds into slaughterhouses and selling the meat on the market–but PETA would find these at least as objectionable.

It also means that we have the right to kill them when in our view it meets our needs–such as taking cattle and pigs and fowl to slaughterhouses to put meat on our tables.

The issue of whether we should refrain from killing animals for clothing is a more complicated one.  After all, in Genesis 3:21 we are told that God made garments of skin for Adam and Eve when they were inadequately clothed in leaves, and we take that to mean that it was the skins of animals, and that thereafter we dressed ourselves in animal skins following the example God gave us.  On the other hand, we have other materials now which are at least as good, and we have a shortage of animals, at least measured against the number of people we have to clothe.  We can provide for our needs without killing a lot of animals, and so we should prioritize our responsibility to care for those we still have.  That does not mean we cannot use fur or leather as part of our clothing; it means that such use should be limited to situations in which it is the best choice for the purpose.

It also means that in a distant future in which animals, including predatory animals, are plentiful and humans are struggling to survive, our present standards about killing creatures for fur or wearing the skins of animals who died or were killed for other reasons simply do not apply.  Most of those who are intelligent enough to be able to play complicated miniatures wargames are also intelligent enough to understand this, even if PETA is not.

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#157: Versers Restart

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #157, on the subject of Versers Restart.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have begun publishing my third novel, For Better or Verse, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents).  If you missed the first two, you can find the table of contents for the first at Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, and that for the second at Old Verses New.  There was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed along with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as the third is posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers because it sometimes talks about what I was planning to do later in the book–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.

There is also a section of the site, Multiverser Novel Support Pages, in which I have begun to place materials related to the novels beginning with character papers for the major characters, hopefully giving them at different stages as they move through the books.

This covers the first eleven chapters of the book.

img0157Ocean

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 1, Slade 43

I had already decided that Slade would return in the third novel, and that right from the beginning he would be on this quest on behalf of the Caliph of the West Wind.  It seemed the place to start, particularly as my immediate audience wanted Slade back, I was very uncertain what I was doing with Derek, and even less certain what I was going to do with Lauren.  I knew quite a bit about the end of this book already, including that Filp would die on this venture but Slade would marry Shella and take her with him henceforth (perhaps also inspired by Chris Jones, whose character in my game married one of the princesses from The Dancing Princess).  I knew that Derek, Lauren, Bethany, Slade, and Shella would all be fighting together against the vampire Tubrok.  I knew that Lauren would free Merlin (and I knew where he was, but not how she would free him) during a critical confrontation.  I knew that she would use the spell which killed Horta, and that it would again kill her but only weaken Tubrok, that Derek would be horrified at seeing this.  I thought probably Derek would deal the fatal blow, but did not know how.  What I did not know was how to transition Slade from the very peaceful Parakeet world to the beginning of this venture.  I made it up as I wrote.

When writing books in series, one of the initial problems is how to introduce characters that your series readers already know and your new readers have never previously encountered.  Here I reintroduce Bob by talking about his feelings about that previous rescue mission.  I also give Lauren a touch of introduction, which will make her appearance a bit easier in the third chapter.

This is one of the unusual universe transitions:  Bob does not die, but in essence gates into the supernatural realm (what we call the “border supernatural”, places where mortal and supernatural beings can meet with each other without entering the other’s true realm) and then is sent from it to another universe.

Bob does not yet realize where he is, only that it is incongruous with his expectations.


Chapter 2, Brown 56

Again with Derek I have to put together who he is and what last happened to him.

I had committed myself to The Zygote Experience, an idea that was included in Multiverser:  Referee’s Rules and formalized in Multiverser:  The First Book of Worlds.  But I was undecided whether Derek would be born a human or, for some reason that kept playing in the back of my mind, a sprite.  I thought that it would be interesting to make him a small flying person; and although I had no idea how I was going to get him back to being human or what I would do about the wings as he transformed through successive worlds, the idea kept coming back to me.

It is that world description that suggests the player should not be given sufficient information to know where he is.  I wanted to keep the reader uncertain as well.  Yet I needed to move the story forward apart from the birth experience, and the mind of the mother made sense.  Thus I had to commit, and I went with the sprite.

The world description gives a lot of information about what an unborn child experiences, beginning as a zygote.  By this point Derek is a blastocyst.  Although the game does not dictate the notion of spirits, too many things in fiction rely on them for them not to be real in the game world, and thus Derek, whose spirit is now twenty-two or twenty-three years old, is able to think and make observations while still a blastocyst—although the fact that his body is so new means he is always falling asleep.

The moment when he realizes he is hungry is part of that blastocyst growth prior to implantation:  the energy and matter that had been in the single-celled zygote has been spent and divided to create a multi-celled blastocyst, and at this point it is floating inside the fallopian tubes on the way to the uterus.  Until it gets there and becomes implanted in the uterine wall, there is no additional sustenance coming into the body, and it would feel depleted to some degree.


Chapter 3, Hastings 96

The odd thing about this world was that I had no idea what to do with Lauren at all.  In a sense, this was what I would in play have called a stall world–a place I could drop her where nothing would happen for a bit and she would spend time running around doing things that looked worthwhile until I could think of what to do with her.  I needed to move Slade’s story forward, and that meant I needed to write Lauren’s story; but I didn’t know what her story should be, so I just wrote something to see where it would go.  The volcano was there partly to give credibility to the island and partly to give me a potential danger to help get her out of here.  I quickly decided that she should be cut off from any contact with other land, as the reader would wonder why she did not attempt to reach it.

I had developed this world, or a world very like it, for demo games.  I had run a game at a Delaware game shop called Days of Knights, and discussed demos with the proprietor.  He said that whatever it was that made the game special, that had to happen within the first half hour of play.  I had previously had the problem that I would start all my players in a gather world and they would often stick there for a long time—which is great for campaign play, but terrible for showing what Multiverser can do.  I needed a world in which I could put all the player characters, give them a bit of an introduction to the game world, then kill them all, abruptly and with certainty, so they could all go to different worlds.  I decided on what I dubbed Tropical Island, a volcano that could go off whenever I decided it should.  I’ve used it fairly consistently since then as the starting world for new players in convention and demo games.  I didn’t change much here, although in game I tend to keep the psi and mag biases very low to limit their options.

Again the point is to introduce a character known to the readers who came from the previous book but new to those who are joining the story here.

The stick in the sand is a trick taught to scouts, although she doesn’t do it exactly right.  The trick is to align the stick with the direction of the sun so it casts no shadow, and as the sun moves west its shadow will appear pointing east.  That does not matter to Lauren; what she needs to know is whether the sun is moving, whether it’s morning or afternoon, and how long the day is likely to be.


Chapter 4, Slade 44

Having found this way of getting Slade out of the Parakeet world, and having realized that somehow he was bringing the humor back into his own story, I kept moving forward with my beginning.

It was at this point that I finally worked out what the quest was, and why Slade would have to do it.

The line “Welcome to my parlor” is the beginning of a quote that continues, “said the spider to the fly,” and so is about walking into a trap.  Slade uses it because he does not know what to anticipate, but if it’s a trap he’s unlikely to be able to escape it whatever he does.

The caliph corrects Slade’s grammar unobtrusively:  he looks well; he is good.

The caliph is explaining the concept we called the “border supernatural”, those places that are like the spirit world but also like the material world, where spirits and mortals can meet and interact as if in the spirit world but not actually in that incomprehensible place.

Majdi is the name of a close family friend who does not ever use his first name, spelled Magdi but pronounced with a soft g.  I needed an Arabic name, and my friend is Palestinian and of Muslim parents, so I figured it was close enough without sounding stock.  Acquivar and Phasius, and most of the names I used, I invented from whole cloth.

As mentioned, I knew before I finished the first book that Filp and Shella would be here in the third, and several of the major events that would happen in connection with them.


Chapter 5, Brown 57

The pattern of the sprite names is probably owed to E. R. Jones.  He created a sprite character for a fantasy game in which I played, named Lanethlelachtheana.  I heard it and recorded it as Laneth Lelach Theana.  When I started writing these characters, I thought Derek would make the same mistake as I; and I obviously copied elements of the other name into Theian Orlina Lelach and her husband Theian Alanda Morani.

I also began to debate whether, or when, to have Derek attempt telepathic contact with Lelach.  I didn’t want to do it, for a host of reasons, but I was beginning to think my story would die on the vine if I didn’t do something with it.

Continuing the follow the notes of The Zygote Experience, Derek has just experienced implantation—he is now attached to the uterine wall, and so feels his mother’s movement.  This also results in the influx of sustenance, as he is no longer relying on the initial food supply of the ovum for continued growth.  The heartbeat is also an early development following implantation, and he notices it but credits the notice to the fact that he is following an interesting story by mind reading.


Chapter 6, Hastings 97

I still didn’t know what she was going to do, so I was filling the space with things that might lead somewhere.

When I wrote this, I had a clear idea in my mind as to what that particular motion of the shadow signified; however, it may be easier to go from what shadow motion a specific path of the sun would produce than to go the other direction.


Chapter 7, Slade 45

I had not considered the idea of retelling the backstory of how Slade found the bottle; but the presence of Shella gave me the opportunity, so I attempted to do so as swiftly as I could.  I cut it where I did because I’d had enough dialogue about things the reader might already know, and didn’t want to compound it with dialogue about things they had just read.  In fact, at this moment I was not certain how I was going to repeat the information about the quest without seeming to repeat it.

It was easy to recall Filp’s suspicious nature; his character fell into place quite quickly.


Chapter 8, Brown 58

Again, I decided that what works well stretched out in a game has to be compacted in a book; so I moved forward to the end of the pregnancy.  I also recognized that it would be difficult to keep the reader in the dark much longer (if indeed he had not already worked out what Derek had not), even with my suggested interpretations.

The perspective that the tank seems to be shrinking is of course because he is growing rapidly and the tank is the same size.  However, he is unlikely to recognize that—we don’t really notice that we are growing until we realize that things around us seem smaller and we know they can’t be, and there is nothing around him he can easily use for a size reference.


Chapter 9, Hastings 98

Left or right was actually the title of a Game Ideas Unlimited article I had done and recently referenced in another article, so it was in my mind as I wrote the opening words of this chapter.  Oddly, the point of the article is that the referee can make such decisions not matter, and that was poignantly so in my mind here, as I still had no idea what she was going to do.

I was wondering whether the objects of Lauren’s quest should be buried.  I kept swithering between having the rod (for I had decided that was her first target) be in the water, on the beach, or buried.  I also began to think of the idea of a cave.  Actually, I had wondered about a cave as a potential place for adventure already, but had back-burnered this because I had the equipment quest to occupy my attention and I didn’t yet know what I would do in the cave.

The part about climbing being easier than descending is something they teach in Scouts.  I’m not quite sure why it is so, but the body does seem better built for ascending.


Chapter 10, Slade 46

I invented the breakfast on the spot.  I had not considered anything of the sort until I started writing this.  It was partly because I needed to get Slade up and partly because I recognized the need to show the hospitality of the Caliph.

The discussion of life and death was also unplanned; it just seemed to flow from the conversation.


Chapter 11, Brown 59

Nothing here was new except perhaps the “Wa maa” for “Where am I”.  I thought that seemed plausible, given the sounds I heard newborns make when I had them myself.

The wings should be a surprise even for anyone who had worked out that he was being reborn.  She does mention flying at one point, but it’s only a passing reference early when Derek is certain that he’s listening to crazy thoughts or fantasy dreams.


This has been the first behind the writings look at For Better or Verse.  Assuming that there is interest, I will continue preparing and posting them every eleven chapters, that is, every three weeks.

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#150: 2016 Retrospective

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #150, on the subject of 2016 Retrospective.

Periodically I try to look back over some period of time and review what I have published, and the end of the year is a good time to do this.  Thus before the new year begins I am offering you a reminder of articles you might have seen–or might have missed–over the past twelve months.  I am not going to recall them all.  For one thing, that would be far too many, and it in some cases will be easier to point to another location where certain categories of articles are indexed (which will appear more obvious as we progress).  For another, although we did this a year ago in web log post #34:  Happy Old Year, we also did it late in March in #70:  Writing Backwards and Forwards, when we had finished posting Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel.  So we will begin with the last third of March, and will reference some articles through indices and other sources.

I have divided articles into the categories which I thought most appropriate to them.  Many of these articles are reasonably in two or more categories–articles related to music often relate to writing, or Bible and theology; Bible and politics articles sometimes are nearly interchangeable.  I, of course, think it is all worth reading; I hope you think it at least worth considering reading.

I should also explain those odd six-digit numbers for anyone for whom they are not obvious, because they are at least non-standard.  They are YYMMDD, that is, year, month, and day of the date of publication of each article, each represented by two digits.  Thus the first one which appears, 160325, represents this year 2016, the third month March, and the twenty-fifth day.

img0150calendar

Let’s start with writings about writing.

There is quite a bit that should be in this category.  After all, that previous retrospective post appeared as we finished posting that first novel, and we have since posted the second, all one hundred sixty-two chapters of which are indexed in their own website section, Old Verses New.  If you’ve not read the novels, you have some catching up to do.  I also published one more behind-the-writings post on that first novel, #71:  Footnotes on Verse Three, Chapter One 160325, to cover notes unearthed in an old file on the hard drive.

Concurrent with the release of those second novel chapters there were again behind-the-writings posts, this time each covering nine consecutive chapters and hitting the web log every two weeks.  Although they are all linked from that table-of-contents page, since they are web log posts I am listing them here:  #74:  Another Novel 160421; #78:  Novel Fears 160506; #82:  Novel Developments 160519; #86:  Novel Conflicts 160602; #89:  Novel Confrontations 160623; #91:  Novel Mysteries 160707; #94:  Novel Meetings 160721; #100:  Novel Settling 160804; #104:  Novel Learning 160818; #110:  Character Redirects 160901;
#113:  Character Movements 160916;
#116:  Character Missions 160929;
#119:  Character Projects 161013;
#122:  Character Partings 161027; #128:  Character Gatherings 161110; #134:  Versers in Space 161124; #142:  Characters Unite 161208; and #148:  Characters Succeed 161222.

I have also added a Novel Support Section which at this point contains character sheets for several of the characters in the first novel and one in the second; also, if you have enjoyed reading the novels and have not seen #149:  Toward the Third Novel 161223, it is a must-read.

Also on the subject of writing, I discussed what was required for someone to be identified as an “author” in, appropriately, #72:  Being an Author 160410.  I addressed #118:  Dry Spells 161012 and how to deal with them, and gave some advice on #132:  Writing Horror 161116.  There was also one fun Multiverser story which had been at Dice Tales years ago which I revived here, #146:  Chris and the Teleporting Spaceships 161220

I struggled with where on this list to put #120:  Giving Offense 161014.  It deals with political issues of sexuality and involves a bit of theological perspective, but ultimately is about the concept of tolerance and how we handle disagreements.

It should be mentioned that not everything I write is here at M. J. Young Net; I write a bit about writing in my Goodreads book reviews.

Of course, I also wrote a fair amount of Bible and Theology material.

Part of it was apologetic, that is, discussing the reasons for belief and answers to the arguments against it.  In this category we have #73:  Authenticity of the New Testament Accounts 160413, #76:  Intelligent Simulation 160424 (specifically addressing an incongruity between denying the possibility of “Intelligent Design” while accepting that the universe might be the equivalent of a computer program), and #84:  Man-made Religion 160527 (addressing the charge that the fact all religions are different proves none are true).

Other pages are more Bible or theology questions, such as #88:  Sheep and Goats 160617, #90:  Footnotes on Guidance 160625, #121:  The Christian and the Law 161022, and #133:  Your Sunday Best 161117 (on why people dress up for church).

#114:  St. Teresa, Pedophile Priests, and Miracles 160917 is probably a bit of both, as it is a response to a criticism of Christian faith (specifically the Roman Catholic Church, but impacting all of us).

There was also a short miniseries of posts about the first chapter of Romans, the sin and punishment it presents, and how we as believers should respond.  It appeared in four parts:  #138:  The Sin of Romans I 161204, #139:  Immorality in Romans I 161205, #140:  Societal Implications of Romans I 161206, and #141:  The Solution to the Romans I Problem 161207.

Again, not everything I wrote is here.  The Faith and Gaming series and related materials including some from The Way, the Truth, and the Dice are being republished at the Christian Gamers Guild; to date, twenty-six such articles have appeared, but more are on the way including one written recently (a rules set for what I think might be a Christian game) which I debated posting here but decided to give to them as fresh content.  Meanwhile, the Chaplain’s Bible Study continues, having completed I & II Peter and now entering the last chapter of I John.

Again, some posts which are listed below as political are closely connected to principles of faith; after all, freedom of speech and freedom of religion are inextricably connected.  Also, quite a few of the music posts are also Bible or theology posts, since I have been involved in Christian music for decades.

So Music will be the next subject.

Since it is something people ask musicians, I decided to give some thought and put some words to #75:  Musical Influences 160423, the artists who have impacted my composing, arranging, and performances.

I also reached into my memories of being in radio, how it applies to being a musician and to being a writer, in #77:  Radio Activity 160427.

I wrote a miniseries about ministry and music, what it means to be a minister and how different kinds of ministries integrate music.  It began by saying not all Christian musicians are necessarily ministers in #95:  Music Ministry Disconnect 160724, and then continued with #97:  Ministry Calling 160728, #98:  What Is a Minister? 160730, #99:  Music Ministry of an Apostle 160803, #101:  Prophetic Music Ministry 160808, #102:  Music and the Evangelist Ministry 160812, #103:  Music Ministry of the Pastor 160814, #106:  The Teacher Music Ministry 160821, and
#107:  Miscellaneous Music Ministries 160824.  As something of an addendum, I posted #109:  Simple Songs 160827, a discussion of why so many currently popular songs seem to be musically very basic, and why given their purpose that is an essential feature.

In related areas, I offered #111:  A Partial History of the Audio Recording Industry 160903 explaining why recored companies are failing, #129:  Eulogy for the Record Album 161111 discussing why this is becoming a lost art form, and #147:  Traditional versus Contemporary Music 161221 on the perennial argument in churches about what kinds of songs are appropriate.

The lyrics to my song Free 161017 were added to the site, because it was referenced in one of the articles and I thought the readers should be able to find them if they wished.

There were quite a few articles about Law and Politics, although despite the fact that this was an “election year” (of course, there are elections every year, but this one was special), most of them were not really about that.  By March the Presidential race had devolved into such utter nonsense that there was little chance of making sense of it, so I stopped writing about it after talking about Ridiculous Republicans and Dizzying Democrats.

Some were, of course.  These included the self-explanatory titles #123:  The 2016 Election in New Jersey 161104, #124:  The 2016 New Jersey Public Questions 161105, #125:  My Presidential Fears 161106, and #127:  New Jersey 2016 Election Results 161109, and a few others including #126:  Equity and Religion 161107 about an argument in Missouri concerning whether it should be legal to give state money to child care and preschool services affiliated with religious groups, and #131:  The Fat Lady Sings 161114, #136:  Recounting Nonsense 161128, and #143:  A Geographical Look at the Election 161217, considering the aftermath of the election and the cries to change the outcome.

We had a number of pages connected to the new sexual revolution, including #79:  Normal Promiscuity 160507, #83:  Help!  I’m a Lesbian Trapped in a Man’s Body! 160521, and #115:  Disregarding Facts About Sexual Preference 160926.

Other topics loosely under discrimination include #87:  Spanish Ice Cream 160616 (about whether a well-known shop can refuse to take orders in languages other than English), #130:  Economics and Racism 161112 (about how and why unemployment stimulates racist attitudes), and #135:  What Racism Is 161127 (explaining why it is possible for blacks to have racist attitudes toward whites).  Several with connections to law and economics include #105:  Forced Philanthropy 160820 (taxing those with more to give to those with less), #108:  The Value of Ostentation 160826 (arguing that the purchase of expensive baubles by the rich is good for the poor), #137:  Conservative Penny-pinching 161023 (discussing spending cuts), and #145:  The New Internet Tax Law 161219 (about how Colorado has gotten around the problem of charging sales tax on Internet purchases).

A few other topics were hit, including one on freedom of speech and religion called #144:  Shutting Off the Jukebox 161218, one on scare tactics used to promote policy entitled #80:  Environmental Blackmail 160508, and one in which court decisions in recent immigration cases seem likely to impact the future of legalized marijuana, called #96:  Federal Non-enforcement 160727.

Of course Temporal Anomalies is a popular subject among the readers; the budget has been constraining of late, so we have not done the number of analyses we would like, but we did post a full analysis of Time Lapse 160402.  We also reported on #85:  Time Travel Coming on Television 160528, and tackled two related issues, #81:  The Grandfather Paradox Problem 160515 and #117:  The Prime Universe 160930.

We have a number of other posts that we’re categorizing as Logic/Miscellany, mostly because they otherwise defy categorization (or, perhaps, become categories with single items within them).  #92:  Electronic Tyranny 060708 is a response to someone’s suggestion that we need to break away from social media to get our lives back.  #93:  What Is a Friend? 060720 presents two concepts of the word, and my own preference on that.  #112:  Isn’t It Obvious? 160904 is really just a couple of real life problems with logical solutions.  I also did a product review of an old washing machine that was once new, Notes on a Maytag Centennial Washing Machine 160424.

Although it does not involve much writing, with tongue planted firmly in cheek I offer Gazebos in the Wild, a Pinterest board which posts photographs with taxonomies attempting to capture and identify these dangerous wild creatures in their natural habitats.  You would have to have heard the story of Eric and the Gazebo for that to be funny, I think.

Of course, I post on social media, but the interesting ones are on Patreon, and mostly because I include notes on projects still ahead and life issues impeding them.  As 2017 arrives, I expect to continue writing and posting–I already have two drafts, one on music and the other on breaking bad habits.  I invite your feedback.

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#149: Toward the Third Novel

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #149, on the subject of Toward the Third Novel.

Many of you have been following the serialized e-publication of the Multiverser novels; if you have missed them, all the chapters and all the behind-the-writings web log posts are indexed, first at Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel followed at Old Verses New.  There is also now a Multiverser Novel Support Pages section in which I have begun to place materials related to the novels beginning with character papers for the major characters, hopefully giving them at different stages as they move through the books.

I have mentioned before that the first novel was really Bob Slade’s story, but that I did not know it when I was writing it.  I only knew, as if instinctively, that he had to be the character who won the climactic battle, and just as instinctively that at that point he had finished an entire story and did not belong in the second book.  It wasn’t until some years after it went to press that I was reading extant portions of Aristotle’s Poetics and realized why that was:  the book is framed within the story of an ordinary guy, a young auto mechanic, who fancies himself a great warrior hero, who by the end of the story is that great warrior hero.  There is of course more to it than that.  Bob himself has some loose ends to his story, like his relationship with the djinni he freed from the bottle.  There’s also Joe Kondor, who has some issues that need to be resolved and who is butting heads but also becoming friends with the third character, Lauren Hastings.  She seems to be in the middle of a much bigger story, with quite a few missing pieces.

Although again I don’t know that I knew and probably would not then have said so, in a sense the second book is Derek Brown’s story.  He is if anything even more ordinary than Bob Slade as the story opens, with no aspirations to be anything, just a frightened preteenaged boy.  In the end, he saves a world–well, a huge space colony, to be precise.  He does it together with Lauren and Joe.  Joe continues to deal with his issues, and Lauren’s story is gaining momentum, but with Derek we have something of an entire story.

Those books have now been posted, and hopefully you have read them because otherwise I have probably spoiled at least some of the surprises.  I am writing this because there is a third novel in the series, fully written, and I need to discover how much interest there is in reading it.  I can’t tell you that that’s the only issue, but it is the big one.

img0149sunset

Nor can I tell you too much about the third book, but there are some things I can say.  It is entitled For Better or Verse, and it has been fully written but has no artwork.  It has not been edited save by me; I asked someone to edit it who said yes but has not yet returned any notes to me about it.  But I’m not unhappy with it.  Kelly Tessena Keck, who edited Old Verses New, read the draft and was not unhappy with it.  So let me tell you what I can.

Bob Slade returns.  He is reunited with some people he knew in the first book, in surprising ways, and begins a new adventure and a new chapter in his life.

We also find out what has happened to Derek, which is in some ways perhaps terrifying in itself but introduces him to an entirely new perspective on himself and the multiverse.

Lauren’s story moves forward, pulling together all the loose ends of the first two books into a massive story arc in which everything comes together.  She again faces the vampires, accompanied by several of the people she has known, this time hundreds of years in the future.

Alas, Joe Kondor does not yet resolve his issues.  He faces them again in the fourth novel, which at this point is still in the “completing first draft” phase.

I’d like to say we’ll get there, but as I say it depends in significant part on reader interest.  People who post comments to this thread or send them by e-mail, or who comment about the novels on any of the social networking sites on which it is announced, certainly will encourage continuation of the story on this site.  More than that, people who support the effort financially and so make it possible for me to pay for the hosting and Internet access make it considerably more likely that I will win the argument concerning releasing the third novel to you.  Several people are already doing this through Patreon, and their few dollars a month each are covering a significant part of the costs; those who cannot afford a monthly commitment can still make a one-time contribution through PayPal.me, in any amount that works for you.

I’d like to see the next book released.  I don’t like to ask for money, but money is needed to make things possible.  I need you to do that.

Thank you.

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#146: Chris and the Teleporting Spaceships

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #146, on the subject of Chris and the Teleporting Spaceships.

I’ve told this story before; indeed, I wrote it up years ago for Dice Tales, and so I was reminded of it recently when I launched the Gazebos in the Wild Pinterest board in commemoration of that more famous Dice Tales story, Eric and the Gazebo.  Alas, Dice Tales is long gone, and although Eric lives on as a meme among gamers, Chris is less familiar.  So I thought it might be time to retell the tale.

I should also say that if any of my players remember any great stories of times in our games that need to be retold, they should drop me a note to remind me of them, and I’ll try to get them posted here.

Spaceship by Mehmet Pinarci
Spaceship by Mehmet Pinarci

It starts with Chris playing Multiverser as one of my original five test players.  I was trying to test a lot of things about the game, like how well it adapted itself to other people’s material (we encourage referees to plagiarize settings and other materials for game play, simply because the game can devour world ideas and the books, movies, television shows, games, and other sources are free for you to use in your own home games), so I decided to have a “gather”, bringing the player characters together, in an old game I always loved, Metamorphosis Alpha.  I had brought Chris there, and he had gathered a couple of followers by then, so he was something of a team.

It occurs to me that Tristan, at that time the youngest person ever to have played the game (I believe he was seven or eight), was one of the other original test players, and his character had attached himself to Chris’s.  Since Multiverser is an “I game”, the characters and players have the same names; I’ll try to keep them straight for you.

The basic concept of Metamorphosis Alpha was that earth had sent a huge colony ship out toward what they hoped would be a suitable colony world.  There were millions of people aboard, and facilities that imitated outdoor parks, huge apartment complexes, and much more.  At some point the ship passed through an unanticipated cloud of an unknown type of radiation, killing millions of people and mutating many more, and the ship, now with only computer guidance, continued its trip through space, passing the original destination with no one at the helm.  However, there were generations of humans, mutant humans, animals, mutant animals, plants, and mutant plants aboard, unaware that they were on a ship, forming new ecologies.  If it sounds familiar, yes, Metamorphoses Alpha was the precursor to Gamma World, the original post-apocalyptic game, and introduced many of the concepts and mechanics that were found in early editions of that game.  It was into this that I dropped my players.

Chris had also by this point learned and created a number of psionic skills, and was always looking to devise new ones.  He was known to be a bit reckless sometimes in that regard, but the other players often gave him reason to exercise some caution.

I had decided to put an expiration date on the world, of sorts, or perhaps to create a problem that would require their ingenuity to solve.  There was, at the top of the ship, an observation deck from which one could see space and some of the exterior of the ship, which would for the player characters explain where they were.  To make it interesting, I positioned the ship (Starship Warden) in a place where it was headed directly toward one star, and near enough that it would be evident that they were on a collision course.  They would have to figure out how to avoid this.  Chris and Tristan were the players who reached the observation deck first, and Chris immediately recognized the problem and started considering how he might solve it.  Not wanting to be rash, he decided to go away and come back the next day to try his idea once he had considered it.

What Chris wanted to do was teleport “the ship” forward to the other side of the star, so that it would bypass it completely.  He wasn’t stupid about it, though–he decided to run a test.  Taking his team, including Tristan, to the top deck, he prepared to test his idea by teleporting the ship forward ten feet.  Tiny Tristan wrapped himself around tall Chris’ leg (he did this whenever Chris announced he was going to try something crazy and dangerous hoping to avoid being separated from him), and with a successful roll on the dice Chris moved the ship ten feet forward.  It worked exactly as described:  the ship shifted forward ten feet, but everything and everyone on it that was not part of it or securely attached to it was now ten feet aft of their previous positions.  It was obvious that were he to teleport the ship to the other side of the star this way, he would leave himself and everyone else adrift in space here.  It was time to return to the drawing board.  It wasn’t a useless skill, and it was added to his character sheet, but it wasn’t the solution he needed here.

He came back the next day with a different idea.  As Tristan again clung to his leg, he opened a huge portal in front of the ship (it really was huge–the Warden was, if I recall correctly, twenty-five miles in diameter and football shaped) with an exit portal ten feet beyond it.  The ship began to pass into the portal and, as if it were a wormhole, to pass out ten feet away; everything and everyone aboard was similarly carried into the portal and out the other side, so it worked perfectly.  He had his solution, and it was added to his character sheet.

The next day he implemented it.

Chris never asked–I’m not sure he has ever asked even since–but I wasn’t really cruel.  I had figured that if anyone had taken sightings and done the math they would have figured out that they had a year before they would actually crash into the star–a year during which the ship would have gained momentum as gravity pulled it ever closer.  He had no idea how far from the star he was, so when he said he wanted the portal to open on the other side, I asked for some notion of where on the other side, and the answer he gave led me to understand that it was not really, in astronomical terms, far at all–maybe inside one astronomical unit.  So I let him teleport the ship to the other side of the star, but then informed him that he was really a lot closer to the star than he had been, and that gravity was slowing the ship’s forward momentum.  In a panic, he teleported the ship again, a short hop, and then again, and then on the third attempt to move away from the star he botched and teleported the entire ship into the core of a planet.  Everyone was dead, which of course in Multiverser means that all the player characters “verse out” and wind up in some other world.  I don’t remember where he went, but he had some other wild adventures, and then I tested something else.

I had put a lot of time into pirating Blake’s 7, and figuring out how to put a verser into the episodes and remove Blake.  I used this for two of my original test players, and Chris was one of them; he might have been the first one.  He did very well for quite a while, until we got to an episode which seems to have something very like magic in it, a world in which there are ghosts on a planet who are tasked with teaching people lessons about fighting.  It has a difficult set-up–I had to use three fast Federation ships under the command of Commander Travis to corner Chris with his back to this planet, and I had succeeded.  In a moment I expected it would come to a direct combat confrontation, the ghosts would intervene, and Chris and Travis would find themselves on the planet being told by the ghosts what was expected of them.  But Chris had not yet given up.  He grabbed his character sheet, and said, “I know what I’m going to do.  I know what I’m going to do.”  He thumbed through to the psionic teleport skills, pointed to one of them, and said, “I’m going to do this.”

I may have cocked an eyebrow Spock-like; I do that sometimes.  I asked if he was sure that’s what he wanted, and he was very confident.  I asked him to describe the teleport target spot to me, and he gave me a position just to the other side of the three ships that had him trapped.  I had him roll the dice.

“You succeeded,” I said.

“Yes!” he exclaimed.

“…and,” I continued, “you can see your ship adrift in space on the other side of the three Federation ships just before the vacuum of space kills you and all the members of your crew, and you leave for another world.

It was the wrong teleport spell, of course, but it was one of the most memorable moments in our games, and we have laughed about it for decades since then.  I hope you enjoyed the story as much as we did.

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