Tag Archives: Multiverser

#70: Writing Backwards and Forwards

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #70, on the subject of Writing Backwards and Forwards.

When I was at TheExaminer, I eventually took to creating indices of articles previously published; when I moved everything here last summer, I included those indices, and finished one that covered the first half of 2015 (through July).  On the last day of December I did a review piece indexing the rest of that year, as #34:  Happy Old Year.

It may seem premature to do another index; it is not even falling on a logical date (although as I write this I am not completely certain on which day it is going to be published).  However, some new “static” pages have made it to the web site, and quite a few more web log entries, and it seems to be a time of decision concerning what lies ahead.  Thus this post will take a look at everything that has been published so far this year, and give some consideration to options going forward.  You might find the informal index helpful; I do hope that you will read the latter part about the future of the site.

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Temporal Anomalies/Time Travel

The most popular part of the web site is probably still the temporal anomalies pages.  It certainly stimulates the most mail, and the five web log posts (including those in the previous index) addressing temporal issues received 30% of the blog post traffic.  We added one static page since then, a temporal analysis of the movie 41.  We also added post #56:  Temporal Observations on the book Outlander, briefly considering its time travel elements of the first book in the series that has made it to cable television.  We’d like to do more movies, and there are movies out there, but the budget at present does not pay for video copies.

This part of the site has been recognized oft by others (before it was a Sci-Fi Weekly Site of the Week it was an Event Horizon Hotspot), and the latest to do so is the new Time Travel Nexus, a promising effort to create a hub for all things time-travel related; we wish them well, and thank them for including links to our efforts here.  They recently invited me to write time travel articles for them, although if I do it will have to be something different, and we have not yet determined quite what.

Legal/Political

By sheer number of posts, this is the biggest section of the web log.  Although since the last of these indexing posts it has been running even with posts about writing and fiction, it has a significant head start, with half of the articles in that index connected to law or politics primarily.  Some of these have religious or theological connections as well–that can’t be helped, as even the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights recognizes that the protection of your right to believe what you wish, express that belief, and gather with others who share that belief is both a religious and a political right, and cannot always be distinguished.  (Anyone who says that religion and politics should always be kept separate misses this critical point, that they are really the same thing.  It’s a bit like saying that philosophy and theology should be kept separate–the difference is not whether God is involved, but how much emphasis is placed on Him.  So, too, politics is about religious beliefs in application.)

Trying to sort these into sub-categories is difficult.  Several had to do with legal regulation of health care, several with discrimination, and we had articles on freedom of expression, government and constitutional issues, election matters.  These twenty-seven articles together drew 35% of readers to the web log, but a substantial part of that–13%–went to the two articles about the X-Files discrimination flap.  One article on this list has received not a single visit since it posted.  Thus rather than attempt to make sense of them, I’ll just list them in the order they appeared, with a bit of explanation for each:

Bible/Theology

As mentioned, some of the political posts are simultaneously religious or theological, and I won’t repeat those here.  There is one post that is really about everything, about the very existence of this blog, but which I have decided to list as primarily in this category:  #51:  In Memoriam on Groundhog Day, 160202.  This is a eulogy of sorts for my father, Cornelius Bryant Young, Jr., who is certainly the reason for the existence of the political materials, as he significantly supported my law school education and then regaled me with questions about whether Barrack Obama was a legitimate President.  He is missed.

I also wrote #65:  Being Married, which is not exactly my advice but my choice of the best advice I’ve received over several decades of marriage.  I’m hoping some found it helpful.

It should be noted that five days a week I post a study of scripture, and on a sixth day I post another essentially religious/theological/devotional post, on the Christian Gamers Guild’s Chaplain’s Teaching List.  That is far too many links to include here, but if you’re interested you can find the group through this explanatory page.

Game-related

There were a couple game-related posts in the previous index, this time two of them specifically about Multiverser.  There was some discussion about some of its mechanics on a Facebook thread, and so I gave some explanations for how and why two aspects of the system work–the first, in #38:  Multiverser Magic, 160112:  addressing difficulties people expressed concerning its magic system, the second, in #40:  Multiverser Cover Value, 160114:  explaining the perhaps not as complicated as it seems way it determines the effect of armor.

There was also another game-related post, #44:  The Feeling of Victory, 160121:  which discussed a pinball game experience to illustrate a concept of fun game play.

The award-winning Dungeons & Dragons™ section of the site (most notably chosen as an old-school gem by Knights of the Dinner Table) continues to get occasional notice; someone recently asked to use part of the character creation materials for work they were doing on a different game, and someone asked if I had a copy of my house rules somewhere, in relation to some specific reference I made to them.  Although I’m running a game currently, I don’t know that anything new will appear there.  The good people at Places to Go, People to Be are continuing to unearth the lost Game Ideas Unlimited articles and translating for their French edition.  Unfortunately, Je parle un tres petit peux de francais; I can’t read my own work there.

Logic and Reasoning

Periodically a topic arises that is really only about thinking about things.  That came up a couple times in the past couple months.  first, someone wrote an article about the severe environmental impact of using the universal serial bus (USB) power port in your car to charge your smartphone while you drive, and in #45:  The Math of Charging Your Phone, 160122, we examined the math and found it at least a bit alarmist.  Then when people around here were frantically stripping local grocery store shelves of all the ingredients for French Toast (milk, bread, and eggs) because of a severe weather forecast, we published #46:  Blizzard Panic, 160124.

On Writing

I left this category for last for a couple of reasons, several of those reasons stemming from the fact that most of this connects to the free electronic publication of my book Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, and I just published the last installment of that to the site.  You can find it fully indexed, every chapter with a one-line reminder (not a summary, just a quip that will recall the events of a chapter to those who have read it but hopefully not spoil it for those who have not), here.  There have been about seventy-five chapters since the last of these posts, and that (like the Bible study posts) is too much to copy here when it is available there.  That index also includes links to these web log posts, but since this is here to provide links to the posts, I’ll include them here, and then continue with the part about the future of the site.

  1. #35:  Quiet on the Novel Front, 160101:  The eighth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 43 through 48.
  2. #37:  Character Diversity, 160108:  The ninth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 49 through Chapter 54.
  3. #39:  Character Futures, 160113:  The tenth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 55 through 60.
  4. #43:  Novel Worlds, 160119:  The eleventh behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 61 through 66.
  5. #47:  Character Routines, 160125:  The twelfth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 67 through 72.
  6. #50:  Stories Progress, 160131:  The thirteenth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 73 through 78.
  7. #53:  Character Battles, 160206:  The fourteenth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 79 through 84.
  8. #55:  Stories Winding Down, 160212:  The fifteenth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 85 through 90.
  9. #57:  Multiverse Variety, 160218:  The sixteenth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 91 through 96.
  10. #59:  Verser Lives and Deaths, 160218:  The seventeenth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 97 through 102.
  11. #61:  World Transitions, 160301:  The eighteenth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 103 through 108.
  12. #64:  Versers Gather, 160307:  The nineteenth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 109 through 114.
  13. #66:  Character Quest, 160313:  The twentieth behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 115 through 120.
  14. #69:  Novel Conclusion, 160319:  The twenty-first and final behind-the-writings peek at Verse Three, Chapter One, Chapters 121 through 126.

The Future of the Site

I would like to be able to say that the future holds more of the same.  There are still plenty of time travel movies to analyze; I have started work on the analysis of a film entitled Time Lapse, but it will take at least a few days I expect.  This is a presidential election year and we have clowns to the left and jokers to the right, as the song said, and with the extreme and growing polarization of America there are plenty of hot issues, so there should be ample material for more political and legal columns.  The first novel has run its course, but there are more books in the pipeline which could possibly appear here.

However, it unfortunately all comes down to money.  My generous Patreon patrons are paying the hosting fees to keep this site alive, but I am a long way from meeting the costs of internet access and the other expenses of being here.  Time travel movies cost money even when viewed on Netflix.

The second novel, Old Verses New, is finished–sort of.  No artwork was ever done for it, and it is actually more difficult to promote articles on the Internet that do not have pictures (frustrating for someone who is a writer and musician but has no meaningful skill in the visual arts).  More complicating, Valdron Inc invested some money into it, paying an outside editor to go through it, and they still hope to find a way to recoup their investment at least.  I might have to buy their interest in it to be able to deliver it to you, and that again means more money.

So what can you do?

If you are not already a Patreon supporter, sign up.  A monthly dollar from every reader of the site would not make me wealthy, and probably would not cover all the bills, but it would go a long way in that direction.  Even a few more people giving five or ten dollars a month to keep me live would make a massive difference.  I think Patreon also has a means of making a one-time gift, and that also helps.

Even if you can’t do that, you can promote the site.  Whenever there is a new post or page here you think was worth a moment to read, take another moment to forward it–it is easy to do through most social media sites, some of which have buttons on the bottoms of the web log pages for quick posting, and in all cases I post new entries at Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, and even MySpace, all of which have some way of easily sharing or recommending posts.  Let people know if there’s a good political piece, or time travel article, or whatever it is.  Increased readership means, among other things, an increased potential donor base–support to keep us alive here.

There are other ways to help.  Several time travel fans have over the years provided DVD copies of movies, either from their own libraries or purchased and sent directly to me, all of which have been analyzed.  I now also have the ability (thanks to a gifted piece of not-quite-obsolete discarded technology) to watch YouTu.be and Netflix videos on my old (not widescreen) television, and with some difficulty to watch other internet videos on borrowed Chromecast equipment (not as satisfactory–can’t pause or rewind without leaving the room to access the desktop).  Links to (safe and legal) copies of theatrically-released time travel movies make it possible to cover them now, for as long as the money keeps me online.  (Yes, even “free” videos cost money to see.)  One reader very kindly gave me a Fandango gift card to see Terminator Genisys in the theatre, which was a great help and enabled me to do the quick temporal survey published here, although I had to obtain a copy of the DVD to do the full analysis web page (it is nigh impossible to take notes in a darkened movie theatre, and very difficult to get all the vital details from an audio recording).

You can also ask questions.  I don’t check e-mail very often (seriously, people started using it like an instant messaging system, I have cut back to every three to six weeks) but I do check it and will continue to do so as long as the hosting service and internet access can be maintained; I interact through Facebook and (to a much lesser degree) the other social media sites mentioned, and often take a question from elsewhere to address here.  That gives me material in which you, the readers, are interested.  I do write about things which interest me, but I do so in the hope that they also interest you, and if I know which ones do that helps more.

So here’s to the future, whatever it may bring, and to the hope that you will help it bring more to M. J. Young Net and the mark Joseph “young” web log.

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#69: Novel Conclusion

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #67, on the subject of Novel Conclusion.

This is about the creation of my book Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, now being posted to the web site in serialized form.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers, so you might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  That link will take you to the table of contents for the book; links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.  There were also numerous similar previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts:

  1. #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone (which provided this kind of insight into the first six chapters),
  2. #20:  Becoming Novel (covering chapters seven through twelve),
  3. #22:  Getting Into Characters (for chapters thirteen through eighteen),
  4. #25:  Novel Changes (chapters 19 through 24),
  5. #27:  A Novel Continuation (chapters 25 through 30),
  6. #30:  Novel Directions (chapters 31 through 36),
  7. #33:  Novel Struggles (chapters 37 through 42),
  8. #35:  Quiet on the Novel Front (chapters 43 through 48),
  9. #37:  Character Diversity (chapters 49 through 54),
  10. #39:  Character Futures (chapters 55 through 60),
  11. #43:  Novel Worlds (chapters 61 through 66),
  12. #47:  Character Routines (chapters 67 through 72),
  13. #50:  Stories Progress (chapters 73 through 78),
  14. #53:  Character Battles (chapters 79 through 84),
  15. #55:  Stories Winding Down (chapters 85 through 90),
  16. #57:  Multiverse Variety (chapters 91 through 96),
  17. #59:  Verser Lives and Deaths (chapters 97 through 102),
  18. #61:  World Transitions (chapters 103 through 108),
  19. #64:  Versers Gather (chapters 109 through 114), and
  20. #66:  Character Quest (chapters 115 through 120).

This picks up from there.  These chapters bring the book through the climax to the end.

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


Chapter 121, Kondor 40

I was in the mountains of New Mexico in my scouting days, and climbed one that went above the tree line.  Although for some reason I could not understand then or now we did it before daylight (we wanted to see the sun rise, but wound up mostly huddled in makeshift rock shelters trying to stay warm and out of the wind), I remember something of the terrain.  The idea of the trees thinning gave me new terrain and a new problem for Kondor; he was now out of his forest element, and needed to adapt.

As Joe hopes to see Lauren again, the possibility of heaven is automatically discounted, but the reality of being a verser creates a different possibility for which he can have some hope.  That hope is realized in the next book; that probably doesn’t spoil much.

There are several ways to mark a trail, and Kondor considers some of them.  Using rock markers is good.  The standard, though, stacks a rock on top of another rock, which is good because it doesn’t happen naturally but bad for the current purpose because it doesn’t survive over long periods of time.  The markers I use were my own invention here, the “S” shape prefiguring the destination.  Obviously, I learned making and following trails in Scouts; this particular trail marker was again to suggest the snake.

I knew that somehow Bob was going to be the one fighting the big final fight against the “big boss of the whole game”.  Joe has now delivered him to that point, and I needed something to remove Joe from that final fight—so I gave him his own battle.  I’m not sure when I thought of the idea of one of them fighting the soldiers while the other rescued the girl; but it was evident that Kondor would have to be left behind, because I needed Slade’s perspective on magic.  Slade was better at that sort of glorious one-man combat anyway.

I like to think that Kondor was inspired by Lauren’s sacrifice to take the same step himself.  That’s why he says, “It’s my turn.”


Chapter 122, Slade 41

I skipped Lauren intentionally.  I was in suspense concerning what was going to happen to her, but at the same time I needed to move the main quest forward.  So I tackled this moment when Joe stays behind and Bob goes ahead, and then returned to deal with what happened to Lauren in the next chapter.

I couldn’t for a moment think why Slade would go on and leave Kondor to fight against such odds; but then the realization that Speckles was already on the altar gave me the reason.  I wasn’t sure it was completely sound, but it worked for the moment.

I had envisioned something akin to Stonehenge; but I wanted the ground to rise slightly to it from where they were, and the center to be hidden from view so that Slade and Kondor, while not that far from each other, could not see each other.  Thus the idea of a crater commended itself.

This is the moment when one of the birds is shown to have magic.  I was not yet certain how much magic the bird had, but providing one such bird made Bob’s task appear more difficult.

I had envisioned the wizard as part of the group transporting Speckles, the sparrow hen suspended in the air and moving slowly along the route as the wizard walked and directed her.  Because he is using magic, not psionics, he can also levitate himself (fly), which Lauren does psionically, not magically.

This might be the best combat scene in the book—although there is Lauren’s still ahead, and the final battle, but here Slade fights and defeats fourteen opponents, and the flying feathers and flashing blade come alive in the action.  I tried to envision a combat that would be compelling on the screen; then I tried to convey it sufficiently that my readers could see it.  Of course, screen combat is often compelling by the speed, the number of movements which occur in short order.  That was difficult to portray here without wasting a lot of bodies quickly–which is what I did.

I then started thinking about how they could change the nature of the fight; the ring was an idea aimed at that, and then the fake sound behind him.  Having him recognize it as a fake and then fake them into believing he was fooled seemed a fun way to do it.

The editor thought the killing of the wizard unnecessarily violent.  I thought I was in the climactic sections, and it needed to be vivid and thrilling while still just this side of credible.

I learned from reading Lord of the Rings and Dune that one way to keep tension is to maintain multiple stages.  I do that constantly throughout the book, but particularly here when Bob wonders whether Lauren had died.  I did not at that moment know the answer to that question, but knew I was going to have to write her fight next.

I liked the Sleeping Beauty reference; I thought it kept Slade humorous even in the midst of the serious battles.

Originally after the phrase “a snake that could swallow all snakes” I had included “it could swallow a cow”, but the editor quite rightly said that should go; that was less impressive than that it could swallow all snakes, and it was cut.

The missile brush trick is something I would use in the third book as a spell one of Slade’s companions knows.  I’m not certain I even remembered then that I had used it here, and there is no direct connection between the two.


Chapter 123, Hastings 42

When Lauren leapt from the cliff, I thought that might be the end of her; but I needed to write the story to figure out what would happen next.  My first instinct was that I would no longer have her stories to break up the others.  I had at that moment no intention of attempting to recreate the battle with the beast, but only to bring it to whatever conclusion I chose off camera and then let the reader know where she was.  But there were several problems with that.  One was that I still needed Lauren’s stories to break up Slade’s thread.  One was that it was cheating the reader to set such a major battle aside and not resolve it.  In the end, the idea of multiple staging seemed to demand that this battle be fought, and that Lauren’s story come back in here, so I wrote it.

I knew it was crazy for Lauren to jump, and I needed the reader to know that she knew that.  In fact, it was in the rewrite that came up with the idea that she would grab its neck when it tried to snatch her in its jaws.  That made it much more believable.

I now needed to manage a roller coaster ride in a way that would seem terrifying yet believable; I also needed to find a way to bring down the bird, but not make it seem too easy.

The disintegrator rod was a weapon I wanted to take from her for a while anyway; she would get it back eventually, but she needed to learn not to rely on it.  She couldn’t hold on to it practically up here, and it couldn’t survive the fall without breaking, so that all came together fairly well.

I had her try several things which did not work; I had it try several things as well.  It would be dramatically very good for her to plunge toward the ground with it, but I knew she wouldn’t cause that to happen intentionally.  It had to be an accident.

I also realized that I needed some way to save her, because the more I thought about the denouement the more apparent it was that Lauren and Slade were going to have to discuss a couple of things to make them work.

The idea of breaking her fall by leaping up from the creature had been vetted with two of the smartest people I know, my good friend (now Reverend, possibly Doctor) David Oldham, and my brother Roy.  Dave didn’t like the original version in which she pushed off just before landing and rolled across the ground.  The idea, of course, is that both she and the reptile are falling at the same rate, which is not as fast as she would fall alone because it is using its good wing to slow the descent some, and if she pushes herself up from its back she will transfer at least some of her kinetic energy to it, accelerating its fall and decelerating her own.  I’d originally had her leap up and away and then come down on the dirt; David agreed that it might work if she also landed on the beast’s body, to use the body of the beast as a sort of cushion or air bag, crushing it and so absorbing some of her momentum in that impact before rolling down the slope.  The outcome was the more dramatic idea of slowing her fall with the leap and then landing back on the bird and tumbling off.  But I did not want the reader to know at this point whether that worked.  I left the chapter hanging as to that.

I think if this were done as film/video, the entire section of these few chapters would bounce between Joe fighting the bird honor guard, Lauren fighting the flying reptile, and Bob rescuing Speckles.  I’m not sure how to integrate it, but then, I’ve never done video.


Chapter 118, Slade 42

Kondor is now gone.  The last chapter is his, because it is the beginning of the next book, but his chapter that would have fallen here has been skipped because his part in this book has ended.

This battle went through a couple of rewrites. The version that went to the editor was too short, but it took a lot of thought and effort to lengthen it and keep it interesting.  The entire section of the snake circling Slade and closing for the crush was added; yet it was a good add, and brought back Slade’s first “magic”, the reference to Thor.

The talking was always part of it.  Part of it was plot exposition, part was Slade’s style, his way of “not being afraid”.

Slade confronts a “primitive” religion, the sort of “original” religion that atheists think are the origin of modern beliefs.  He sees the flaws in it.  He starts out with a rather typical twentieth century derision of primitive religious beliefs and practices; but even as he started to deride the idea that the snake was a god, Kondor’s attitude toward his own beliefs came to mind, and he recognized that there could very well be a spirit of the mountains of whom the snake was a servant.

The battle has a feeling of “flourish, then consider”, which worked well and contrasted with a lot of the fights elsewhere, such as Lauren’s battle with the flying beast, which were continuous action until they ended.  Slade often had these pauses in battle; they seem in retrospect to characterize his style to some degree.

This is the climactic victory of the whole book, and for Slade it is much more than that he just saved the girl and won the battle.  I didn’t realize it for quite a while, but I knew that Bob’s story had ended here.  Some years later I was reading something on Aristotle’s Poetics and realized that this book really ultimately was Bob’s story.  He was an ordinary auto mechanic who fancied himself a warrior of Odin, and now he is a warrior of Odin, having defeated a giant, albeit a minor one.  His victory yell is the call of that success; the rest is denouement.

In the original I had included the phrase “beaten the big boss of the whole game”, which I thought fit well with Slade’s character; but the editor thought it a mistake to make it seem like a video game battle, and I conceded and cut it.  But he agreed that the yell should stay, and I kept the “it wasn’t game over” line.


Chapter 125, Hastings 43

Denouement.  It is here that we discover that Lauren survived her crazy stunt, and then spent some time finding her way out of the mountain valleys back to the nest, and pick up the idea that the parakeet people migrate.  My editor thought it was so patently obvious that Lauren was an idiot not to have realized it sooner; but I don’t know that anyone else had that impression.  I haven’t gotten any other responses suggesting that it was blatantly obvious to the readers.

I wanted to give the impression that Lauren was exhausted, so I stacked her first words to suggest a breath, “‘What about,’ she asked, ‘Joe?’”  I figured that would convey the feeling of breathlessness.  I probably did this many times.  I notice it here:  I break the sentence in an awkward point to insert the label.  I thought it created a pause, here specifically to give the impression of panting, as if she was breathing heavily as she spoke, although elsewhere it expressed uncertainty or thought or hesitation.

I was at this moment uncertain how I was going to get either Lauren or Slade out of this world; so I did not commit to whether they were going to follow the parakeet people.

Again, Lauren is like me.  I wear a sweat suit to bed.

The idea that warriors of Odin would brag about their victories had really just come to me when I was writing this section.  It fit, to a significant degree.  They were to be courageous, fearless in battle, and by bragging of their exploits they would encourage each other to greater feats so that they would have more about which to boast.  I have no idea whether it’s true; the only other Odinite I ever knew was also a game player character who (player and character) knew about as much as Slade about that religion.

The editor thought that Lauren’s words about God giving what we need when we need it were the right “moral of the story” as it were, a good place to wrap it up.  It was, in a sense, the end of this book; the Kondor chapter which follows was in many ways a way of saying, “To be continued.”  The moral for Slade at this point is that what matters is whether you will do what needs to be done when the time comes.

I should probably credit Corrie Ten Boom’s father with the lesson about God giving us what we need when we need it.  I’m sure I’ve heard others say it, but his example of holding onto his daughter’s train ticket until they board the train in the context of whether she would be brave enough to face martyrdom at the hands of the NAZIs is memorable.


Chapter 126, Kondor 41

Almost as soon as I’d decided it was a novel and not a comic book series, I decided that Kondor would end on “the other Mary Piper“.  The world in the game book has both the space ship and the sailing ship versions, and often they are played in parallel.  I didn’t want to play them in parallel–I thought that would be dull and predictable here (although it is exciting in play, because the players keep wondering whether what happened to the other guy is going to happen to them).

Joe’s ending is really more like the beginning of the next book—but in a sense it has to be here, because we have to know what happened to him when he fought the sparrows.

The weakening of the flashlight beam was a nuance, kind of a “referee’s call” for a tech device not working as well in a low-tech universe.  It’s not something Joe would expect, because he hasn’t really worked with the idea of technology not working in some worlds, so when it doesn’t work he seeks more practical explanations.

The deja-vu expression, “We have been here again, we will be here before,” is something of a Multiverser gag for time travel worlds.  That’s not what this is—this is a parallel scenario, the same names and situations in a different kind of universe—but it fits pretty well.  I had written it for an entirely different scenario.  I had done in play a series of adventures which were built around C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, and included the fun of running them chronologically backwards, such that each adventure took place before the previous one.  This meant that from the first adventure the player characters were recognized by those around them as being heroes from an earlier time.  When they could no longer discount this as mistaken identity, Aslan explains it with those words:  “You have been here again, you will be here before.”  There it was rather obvious in meaning:  in their future they would return in Narnia’s past.  However, I thought the phrase was one of my better bits, and I was not certain whether the second novel would ever be done–and I knew I could not use the Narnia adventures in a published work–so I placed it here, in a position that would have something of a different meaning.


I hope these “behind the writings” posts have been of interest, and perhaps some value, to those of you who have been reading the novel.  There is another–two more complete, actually, and another two started–but there are some complications which I will discuss in the next web log post, probably tomorrow..  Feedback is always welcome, of course.  Your Patreon support will make a difference.

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#66: Character Quest

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #66, on the subject of Character Quest.

This is about the creation of my book Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, now being posted to the web site in serialized form.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers, so you might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  That link will take you to the table of contents for the book; links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.  There were also numerous similar previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts:

  1. #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone (which provided this kind of insight into the first six chapters),
  2. #20:  Becoming Novel (covering chapters seven through twelve),
  3. #22:  Getting Into Characters (for chapters thirteen through eighteen),
  4. #25:  Novel Changes (chapters 19 through 24),
  5. #27:  A Novel Continuation (chapters 25 through 30),
  6. #30:  Novel Directions (chapters 31 through 36),
  7. #33:  Novel Struggles (chapters 37 through 42),
  8. #35:  Quiet on the Novel Front (chapters 43 through 48),
  9. #37:  Character Diversity (chapters 49 through 54),
  10. #39:  Character Futures (chapters 55 through 60),
  11. #43:  Novel Worlds (chapters 61 through 66),
  12. #47:  Character Routines (chapters 67 through 72),
  13. #50:  Stories Progress (chapters 73 through 78),
  14. #53:  Character Battles (chapters 79 through 84),
  15. #55:  Stories Winding Down (chapters 85 through 90),
  16. #57:  Multiverse Variety (chapters 91 through 96),
  17. #59:  Verser Lives and Deaths (chapters 97 through 102),
  18. #61:  World Transitions (chapters 103 through 108), and
  19. #64:  Versers Gather (chapters 109 through 114).

This picks up from there.  In these chapters the three main characters begin a joint rescue mission.

img0066Lake

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


Chapter 115, Kondor 38

I think the hints of the first signs of autumn were drawn from my writing journal—the notebooks in which during and for some time after college I attempted to practice writing in scraps, descriptions, character sketches, plot ideas.  At one point I found it worthwhile to attempt to describe seasonal appearances which might be useful for future background.

The hibernation suggestion is a diversion, to help the reader miss the other possibility.

Joe’s attitude toward Bob has a lot of amusement in it; he thinks of Bob as something of a clown, and doesn’t take his “warrior of Odin” notion seriously.

It seemed like time to trigger the problem, even though I was not certain how it was going to work.  This introduces the big event for which I brought them together.  The choice to make it Speckles who was kidnapped was made late in the process, but I long knew that one of the parakeet people would be taken, and it made sense for Lauren to be emotionally invested in the one taken.  It gave extra impetus to the quest.


Chapter 116, Hastings 40

As mentioned, “Lauren was not ready” picked up from the end of her previous chapter, where she expected to be ready.  It is perhaps a comment on our inability to be ready for the unexpected.  The juxtaposition between the end of Hastings 39, “Lauren was ready”, and the opening here, “Lauren was not ready”, was intentional.

Joe’s rationality comes through in calmly approaching the situation—but Joe has no emotional investment here.

The distintegrator rod is Lauren’s most potent weapon, and I needed to take it from her so that she would not begin to rely on it.  Thus I knew that she would lose the disintegrator, which is why she took it.

The decision not to wear the robes was obvious:  they’re a psychological weapon that would be useless against the sparrows, who don’t understand clothing at all.

As I mentioned, I gave Lauren the rifle so that she could give Joe the bullets.

There is also the aspect here that Joe might be an atheist but he has integrity, and Lauren can recognize and respect that even though he is not a Christian.

Slade’s comment about “something more” did as much to bring forward his idea of this as training for Ragnorak as it did Lauren’s idea that they were there for a reason.  Kondor’s “religion thing” was a recognition on my part that this fit with his ideas.  Joe blames war on religion.  That of course is a very narrow view and not really defensible—in some places one could as easily blame religion on war.  But it is the way he sees it.

I had intended for Joe’s Sherwood Forest tracking to come into play here; but it naturally flowed from that and from their personalities that he would be the leader on this expedition.


Chapter 117, Slade 39

Most of this was to bring to the fore Kondor’s tracking ability.  I still hadn’t worked out how this was coming together.  I knew that Slade’s alliance with the wind was still supposed to play a part, and had some image of that in my mind.  I knew that I wanted Lauren to sacrifice herself to let the others continue, and had envisioned some sort of leap into a chasm or something.  But I needed to break the tracking passage, so I created the cave entrance.  At that moment, I didn’t know where the cave went or how the other things fit.

Perhaps it’s a learn by doing thing.  I remember George Lucas commenting that it was very difficult to get any excitement out of spaceships fighting each other in space, because there was no real background; space ships fighting inside the space station, or speeder cycles rushing through the forest, could be made much more thrilling by the background zipping past.  In something of the same way, perhaps, I realized that having Kondor track their quarry for hours would be dull, unless something interrupted it.  At this moment, I had no idea what was in the cave; I thought in terms of a long path to somewhere, but it was very vague.  But I needed to get away from Kondor following the trail long enough to break the monotony.

In a lot of this I used an observer narrative technique.  Rather than attempt to follow Joe’s ability to follow the trail and have to get too many details into it, I let Bob observe that Joe did it extremely well.  I did the same with other moments in this part of the story, avoiding becoming too directly involved with the characters performing many of the actions but instead focusing on how they are perceived by their companions.

It was not out of character for Kondor to bring everything; and I already knew that he was going to die on this, and go to the other Mary Piper, so I wanted his gear close to him.  I think by this point I knew Lauren was going to survive her leap and have a chat with Slade toward the end, although the details were still unclear, so having her travel light made sense (particularly as her wagon would have been too much for the journey).  I never thought much about what Slade left behind, although I imagine his magic books and treasure chest did not go with him here.

I had set myself another challenge which I realized now.  The events leading to the sacrifice had to be drawn out long enough that my trio could reach the hen in time.  My first thought was that I had to make the trail long enough and assume that the captors moved along it slowly, such that it would take them quite a few hours to get to the end but the faster moving trackers could close the gap in that time.

The editor was confused by the shift in name usage; it is consistent with the person whose story is being told.  Lauren, who is almost always called Lauren in her own stories, calls her companions Joe and Bob.  Slade is always Slade to himself, and he consistently refers to his companions as Lauren and Kondor.  Kondor is again always Kondor in his own stories; he once or twice refers to Lauren as Mrs. Hastings before relaxing into Lauren, but although aloud he comes to call him Bob, Slade is almost always Bob Slade in his narrative, reflecting a bit of distance, some lesser connection, there.  I think that I got this idea of using the full name from The Great Gatsby, in which my high school English teacher pointed out that one of the characters is consistently distanced from the crowd by using his full name.

I brought them to the cave mouth and was not certain what I would do next.  I recognized almost immediately that what I needed was an obstacle that would slow the captors some, possibly as a place where some ritual was performed in advance of reaching the sacrificial location, but I was not sure how I was doing it.  At first I thought this could be the place, but then I realized that I needed to accomplish a lot more, and this could only be a landmark along the path.  I had considered an underground passage—I had played in a Star Frontiers game in which a ritual trek included a trip through caverns—but decided to make it shorter than that.

The other aspect of this was that the interruption, and the several subsequent interruptions, made the journey seem longer.  This seemingly longer journey was necessary, because it had to appear at least reasonably credible that the threesome caught up with a group that had left the night before; they could perhaps move two or three times as fast, but they could not really move ten times as fast, so this had to seem like it spread over several hours.  No matter how much tracking Kondor did, it would never have that feel, unless it were broken up by something else.  The cave was just such a thing.


Chapter 118, Kondor 39

The perspective of having the characters observe each other hits again here, as Joe watches Lauren recite the scripture that calls the light.  Light is one of those magicks that works in most worlds.  It also gives us Joe’s viewpoint, that her magic is really psionic and she doesn’t know it.  Kondor applies the same reasoning now that he applied to Sowan the Mage:  it can’t be magic, so it must be psychic.

It is sometimes the case that versers teach each other, and that’s encouraged in some situations; but I didn’t want these people to be too much the same, so they always think of it (and isn’t that just like life) at inopportune times.  Joe will not have the chance in this world to ask Lauren for a lesson, and by the time he does have the chance there will be other problems.

The image of the cave was the moment I decided there was a snake god at the end.  I was going to need something to fight in the big climax, and a giant snake seemed a good choice.  I had not, at this time, read Rowling at all; I subsequently discovered that she used a battle with a snake-like creature in one of her books.  This seemed different enough in retrospect, and I couldn’t see an effective way to change it, so it stayed.

The roof exit was a sudden inspiration; it would provide another value to Slade’s preparations and, to a lesser degree, Lauren’s acrobatics.  I think it was probably at this point that I decided one of the sparrow people was a wizard–more precisely, an evil cleric with clerical magic.  That was the explanation that would ultimately come out for how they carried Speckles along; it would also give me some suggestion that the procession was not a rapid flight with a prisoner, but a ritual march to the place of sacrifice–another piece that made catching up credible.

Lauren’s question about carrying Speckles up the wall is the first clue to their situation, and I decided that the way they were transporting her limited their speed.

Joe’s pride is challenged by the fact that the others made this climb easily.  It shouldn’t be, really—he is the most heavily encumbered here, as he brought all his gear and the others brought only what they thought they would clearly need.  But he’s also the only one who went through boot camp, and couldn’t let himself be outdone by the others.


Chapter 119, Hastings 41

Lauren thinks about how her use of holy magic might impact Joe even as she uses it to solve their present problems.  Again, I’m letting the characters describe each other, rather than showing what they do from their own perspectives.

I climbed a hill as steep as this at Camp Lebanon in the summer as a boy.  That is the memory.  Much of this was again to make the journey seem longer; providing Lauren’s feelings would help reach that objective.

I managed to get Slade’s pagan god references back into the story without actually thinking of any, by having Lauren reference them.

The wind at the gap was intended as a magical protection left by the sparrow’s wizard-priest.  That’s why it rises when Joe attempts to cross, but not otherwise.

I had envisioned the bridge long before.  I had long debated from whose perspective this scene should be presented.  Doing it from Slade’s perspective would mean that I had to provide both sides of the supernatural dialogue, and that would make it more difficult to understand why Kondor was not convinced of the supernatural after hearing the voices.  I had resolved to do it from Kondor’s angle, so that I could focus more on his reaction.  In the end, it was more the fact that I was in Lauren’s perspective when the moment came that decided it; but this allowed me to present Kondor’s negative attitude and Slade’s side of the discussion without prejudice.  But first we had to deal with crossing–or rather, not crossing–the bridge, in a way that would not cost the life of a character.

Having Joe fall into exactly the same position as Big Bill in the earliest chapters would, I thought, seem credible.  In fact, I’d had trouble with the original version of the Big Bill story and had to entirely rewrite it (it was originally a chauvinistic challenge to Lauren’s right to work the steel, and my editor said it did not work at all), but I had to save the critical moment there because it had to be echoed here.  We know how Lauren will save him almost immediately; it is still tense as she does so.  When Lauren saved Big Bill, I did not realize I was going to do this again.  Yet I wanted this scene so I could use Bob’s connection to the Caliph of the West Wind, and it was a perfect situation to repeat the same rescue this time of Joe.

It is a Multiverser bias point that levitation—telekinetically lifting yourself—is more difficult than other forms of telekinesis—lifting other objects, such as other people.  Thus it makes sense that Lauren can lift Joe easily but cannot lift herself; it’s a different skill.

Lauren’s anthropomorphizing of the wind is in keeping with her supernatural view of the universe; it also sparks Slade to recognize how it fits with him.  Kondor, of course, won’t accept it.  Joe looks for the naturalist explanation for the wind, but is willing to accept the mental powers explanation for Lauren’s ability, as long as it’s not magic.

Having Lauren describe Bob’s confrontation with the wind enabled me to avoid what kind of voice the wind might have had while at the same time avoiding having Joe’s complete invalidation of it.  Having Joe talk whenever Bob stopped talking gave me his skepticism and got me out of committing to the voice of the wind.

I have no idea how Kondor knew the trail ahead would be rougher; of course the air would be thinner as they went higher, and that would be a problem.  But a break seemed to be in order at this moment.


Chapter 120, Slade 40

The points about how far they had traveled and how difficult it was to negotiate the ledge were both intended to help explain how the trio managed to catch up with their quarry.  I brought back the matter of how they moved Speckles, because I wanted the reader to wonder as well; that way the revelation that there was a wizard would drop the other shoe, and they would get it.

At this moment it came to me that the world through which they were traveling was still beautiful; their attention had been drawn away from that by their focus on the problem.  The sudden opening of the view is a spot of light in the story.

The flying reptile idea had come to me considerably earlier, and I knew that Lauren was going to end her part of the quest here; I had not decided yet how she would survive it.

It was now time for Lauren to sacrifice herself.  I struggled with the pterodactyl, trying to present it in a way that would make it able to hold them at bay and threaten their lives without their weapons putting an end to it.  There had to be a reason why Lauren would jump for it; that reason could only be that it continued to threaten and delay them, and they could not effectively counter it.

I envision the beast using the cliff face for cover and maneuvering in and out of view rapidly as it attempts to snatch one of them for food.  I don’t expect they would make a terribly good meal, but it doesn’t know that.

Guns do jam in Multiverser, on botch rolls sometimes.  I needed Joe’s rifle to jam, because I needed him to have bullets for the confrontation ahead but I couldn’t have him stop trying to kill the beast at this point.

Re-reading this, it occurs to me that Lauren’s talent includes organizing effective teams that continue without her.  That matters eventually.

I have elsewhere told the tale of running Skinner’s Falls in a canoe during the flood.  The short version is that when we reached the four-foot swells at the head of the rapids, I froze and stared, and barely heard my father shouting for me to paddle.  It was something of this feeling that I imagined for Slade at this moment; Lauren jumped off a cliff aiming for a flying lizard.  Whether she made it or not, she was probably dead.  He was stunned.


Interest in these “behind the writings” continues, so I’m still thinking they’re worth producing.  Feedback is always welcome, of course.  Your Patreon support is also needed to maintain this.

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#64: Versers Gather

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #64, on the subject of Versers Gather.

This is about the creation of my book Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, now being posted to the web site in serialized form.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers, so you might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  That link will take you to the table of contents for the book; links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.  There were also numerous similar previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts:

  1. #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone (which provided this kind of insight into the first six chapters),
  2. #20:  Becoming Novel (covering chapters seven through twelve),
  3. #22:  Getting Into Characters (for chapters thirteen through eighteen),
  4. #25:  Novel Changes (chapters 19 through 24),
  5. #27:  A Novel Continuation (chapters 25 through 30),
  6. #30:  Novel Directions (chapters 31 through 36),
  7. #33:  Novel Struggles (chapters 37 through 42),
  8. #35:  Quiet on the Novel Front (chapters 43 through 48),
  9. #37:  Character Diversity (chapters 49 through 56),
  10. #39:  Character Futures (chapters 57 through 60),
  11. #43:  Novel Worlds (chapters 61 through 66),
  12. #47:  Character Routines (chapters 67 through 72),
  13. #50:  Stories Progress (chapters 73 through 78),
  14. #53:  Character Battles (chapters 79 through 84),
  15. #55:  Stories Winding Down (chapters 85 through 90),
  16. #57:  Multiverse Variety (chapters 91 through 96),
  17. #59:  Verser Lives and Deaths (chapters 97 through 102), and
  18. #61:  World Transitions (chapters 103 through 108).

This picks up from there.  These chapters have all three main characters coming together.

img0064Wigwam

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


Chapter 109, Slade 36

With Joe and Lauren in the same world, their story had slowed significantly; I thus skipped Joe this time and came back to Bob to keep the story moving.

I really like the imagery of Slade’s action hero movement here.  He is holding his blaster in his right hand, but he has to cross-draw his sword from that side, so he tosses the blaster in the air and catches it with his left hand while simultaneously drawing the sword with his now free right hand and striking the enemy.  I don’t think it’s that tough a trick, really, as I often toss my keys in the air with one hand and catch them with the other while transferring whatever was in the other hand to the first hand, for any of several reasons (usually to have my keys in the other hand, since I need them to the right to start the car but keep them in my left pocket).  Holstering the blaster wrong-handed is more difficult, but not impossible if given a moment, and he gives himself the moment by terrorizing them.

The distinction between ranged and close combat was needed to explain how Slade could defeat thirty trained guards; the emotive violence would also be a factor.  The notion that blaster-wielding troops would be incommoded by close combat doesn’t seem that alien.

I also like the chaotic impression of not being able to tell which soldiers are trying to fight and which looking for an escape route.

Somehow my editor didn’t get that Ishara drew his blaster to shoot at the person shooting at Slade, and felt I had left unanswered the question of why Ishara suddenly shot Slade.  I don’t remember what I changed, but I hope that the version that went to print is clear that Ishara did not shoot Slade, one of the Federation guards did.

There was a typo in the printed version.  In the last paragraph a sentence begins “But abruptly, and he dropped it….”  I corrected it for the online version to “Abruptly he dropped it….”  I am not certain what the original was supposed to say.


Chapter 110, Hastings 38

I realized as I said that Joe took to tending the sick parakeets that I had not previously mentioned them, but it was simple enough to suggest that sick birds stayed out of sight.

This is my first mention of “the journey”.  Lauren never worked out what that meant, but my editor did.  I don’t know whether he was smart or Lauren was stupid; I don’t know whether other readers realize what it means before the reveal.

This was one of the theological discussions that enabled me to put forward ideas about life and heaven.  I tried to keep them “fair”—neither Lauren nor Joe generally won, although when Bob was added that created more complications, because he brought a different viewpoint to it.

The argument this time was to show that they still disagreed even though they were becoming friends, to explore some of the ideas about time, give a bit more backstory to Scriff–and to give Slade a stage on which to enter.

The new voice is, of course, Bob Slade.  I did not want it to be too obvious that he was arriving to join them, although my editor seemed to think that once the two of them were together it was pretty obvious that the third was going to arrive at any moment.  I was so irked by that problem that in the next book I made a point of bringing two characters together early and then separating them before bringing all three together in a different world.


Chapter 111, Slade 37

Having brought Slade onto the stage, I needed to fill in the gaps before the story escaped him.  Mostly, though, this was just an attempt to create the feeling of meeting them for the first time, and I wanted it to have the natural feel you get when you’re in a foreign country and meet someone from home.

I specifically had Bob ignore the fact that Joe is black.  It is Joe’s self-perception of his blackness that is his racism problem.  Neither Lauren nor Bob ever take note of it unless he mentions it.

This chapter let me fill in the gap from Bob’s departure from Destiny to his appearance here in the valley.  I placed him at a greater distance from the others to start, but in something of the same direction, and said he took two days to make the trip afoot.

There is something about their common experience that draws them together despite their differences.  There’s also the fact that for this first “gather” I put them in a world in which they are the only humans, so they naturally would have more in common with each other than with the birdmen of the world.


Chapter 112, Kondor 37

This is a peculiar chapter, because it is told from Joe’s perspective but focuses on a conversation between Lauren and Bob which continues for quite a while before Joe is drawn into it.  It thus gives the naturalist’s observations of arguments between supernaturalists.

Bob is completely different from Joe.  Joe is a trained soldier who prefers to be involved in healing, Bob a trained repairman who views himself a fighter.  Joe is serious about everything he does, Bob is not serious even about the things that most matter to him.  They have very little to connect them.

Bob has fair reason to think that there should be a fight.  He was killed in NagaWorld by artillery while stripping parts off a war machine.  In the Djinni Quest, he had to face efreet, and learned of his own inadequacy which he spent decades remedying.  On Destiny, he was part of a rebel pirate crew, and he was one of the key combatants.  Whether there actually was a plan for him to be a fighter or whether he is simply reading the events to fit his expectations, the evidence supports his belief.  Thus his incredulity that there would not be any use for his fighting skills here—and his ultimate validation when there is.

I don’t know what’s available in terms of Norse scriptures either, but in recent years there seems to be a growing number of what might be called fad pagans.  They’ve learned about pagan religions from various sources, and knowing almost nothing about these have decided to declare themselves devotees of these faiths.  Connecting Slade’s beliefs to a series of fantasy novels fit well with who he was.  My knowledge of Norse religion is all second-hand from multiple sources, and so Lauren’s and Bob’s also are all second-hand—but from different sources.  Thus Lauren surprises him with the notion that the giants beat the gods in the end.

The C. S. Lewis quote is one I read decades ago; I could not tell you in which book he wrote it.  I have since heard that J. R. R. Tolkien opined that Lewis romanticized Norse religion.

Years after the book was published, and even well after I had finished the third novel (in which Slade begins learning a few things about his faith) a reader from Finland opined that he hoped in the future I would draw more from the Eddas, and give Bob’s religion more real substance.  I have not done so.  That’s partly because the point is that Bob does not know much about such things—as with magic, he is not really all that interested in the details, and his interest in all things intellectual is shallow at best.  It’s also because I wanted room to play with what Bob believed, and to create things that fit my story needs.  I make no claims that anything Bob believes is genuinely Norse religion, and I make that clear up front with his source:  a series of fantasy adventure novels.

The Viking Raiders series and their author James Thompson are completely fictional inventions of mine.  It is perhaps ironic that I have since met someone named James Thompson who is very into fantasy (mostly Star Wars and Harry Potter, I think), but I did not know him then.

The outbreak when Lauren finds it incredible that Bob got his religion from a set of fantasy adventure books draws Joe into the argument.  He expresses the populist view that the Bible is a collection of myths and legends, against Lauren’s educated view that it is collected history.

Joe’s argument is the typical circular argument that because we have no proof of anything magical or supernatural, we can discount any claims that there is such proof.  Of course, this puts him against both of the other disputants, each of whom is certain that he has encountered the supernatural personally.

Lauren quite rightly accepts that Bob’s magic is as real as hers, and that in the question of whether or not there is a supernatural, Pagans and Christians are allies against naturalists and atheists.  She might be leery of the source of Bob’s powers, but she’s much more concerned about the denial of any such powers than about the specifics of the source in this discussion.

Joe moves to the typical argument that there are scientific explanations we don’t yet know, and that he can accept mental/psionic powers which might be confused for magic.  Lauren is ready with an answer, specifically because she is familiar with both and knows them to be different.

This of course spilled over into the argument about religion, dragging Kondor into it.  The challenge at this point was to keep everyone credible and in character, and find a way out of the argument without anyone conceding anything.

Having Joe tell the story of the debate enabled me to end it unfinished.  Whatever Lauren and Bob said after this probably wasn’t even on subject anymore.  Joe has in essence lost the debate without surrendering his position:  he knows he can’t win, so he stops trying.


Chapter 113, Hastings 39

I had some notion in mind that the parakeets spent the summers here, but was only hinting it.  My editor thought it incredibly obvious, and thought Lauren really should have realized it sooner, but I’m not convinced even now.  They were not interested in nest construction or maintenance at this point because they were leaving soon.

I knew the action was going to have to resume soon; this was a calm before the storm, and although I was still working out the details of the storm, the calm needed to draw to an end.  Thus Lauren returned to her practice.

The idea that Lauren has been lulled into relaxing and that Bob’s diligence shocks her back to practice seemed sensible.  After all, she’s been thinking that the reason she is here is to help create the basics of civilization, and now she has two companions—one always dressed in the garb of a soldier, the other constantly practicing his combat skills.  If her theory is correct, there must be a need for fighters in whatever is to come, and she needs to put herself back on track for that.

Bob’s practice includes changing the power cell in the weapon because he noticed previously that that was a time-consuming part of fighting, and it would be to his advantage to recognize when he was firing his last shot and to be able to change the power cell quickly.

There are more hints of what is to come in this chapter, but not of the part that matters to the story.  In a sense, the journey is a distraction:  it will come, and it will change the situation, but while the reader is expecting that something entirely different is coming that the reader is not expecting.

The statement at the end of this chapter that Lauren would soon be ready sets up her next chapter, where she realizes she is not.


Chapter 114, Slade 38

From the first chapters, it had always been assumed that all three characters had started in NagaWorld; but because that world is used as the starting point for players and is supposed to be a mystery to be explored, I tried to keep the amount of detail about it in the book limited.  But at this moment, it seemed sensible to bring out that they were all in that world originally, because it supported the view that they were connected, and that would help the story move forward.

Bob spent years in the relatively quiet position of lord of a castle, but most recently had been in the rather action-packed adventures of a rebel space pirate.  The quiet of the parakeet meadow is a bit of a come-down from that.

In a later book, Lauren and Bob communicate briefly in parakeet, merely because they can.  It becomes a shared experience.  He never becomes particularly fluent in it, though.

It struck me that one aspect of the religion of Odin, as I understood it, was that it valued strong fighters and did not value much else.  Thus for Bob the docile and relatively weak parakeet people were not candidates for his religion, and he didn’t care what they chose to believe.  That also suggests that the gods of this particular faith don’t care about people except in relation to what they are able to do.  Lauren’s faith is entirely different from that.

Lauren broaches the notion that there can be a scientific explanation for how something happens that does not negate the theological purpose of why it happens.  Joe challenges that, thinking that either God did it or science did it, and if there is a materialist scientific explanation for how something happened, asking why is redundant.

I liked the idea of the odds of drawing the two of spades from a pinochle deck (which, of course, has no such card) well enough to use it again, this time to have Joe say it in response to the question of the probability that they would all land in the same world at the same time twice.  It reflected the growing impression Kondor had that random chance could not account for his experiences.  He would of course seek scientific explanations; but he was starting to move away from pure coincidence as an explanation for it all.


Interest in these “behind the writings” continues, so I’m still thinking they’re worth producing.  Feedback is always welcome, of course.  Your Patreon support is also needed to maintain this.

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#61: World Transitions

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #61, on the subject of World Transitions.

This is about the creation of my book Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, now being posted to the web site in serialized form.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers, so you might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  That link will take you to the table of contents for the book; links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.  There were also numerous similar previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts:

  1. #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone (which provided this kind of insight into the first six chapters),
  2. #20:  Becoming Novel (covering chapters seven through twelve),
  3. #22:  Getting Into Characters (for chapters thirteen through eighteen),
  4. #25:  Novel Changes (chapters 19 through 24),
  5. #27:  Novel Continuation (chapters 25 through 30),
  6. #30:  Novel Directions (chapters 31 through 36),
  7. #33:  Novel Struggles (chapters 37 through 42),
  8. #35:  Quiet on the Novel Front (chapters 43 through 48),
  9. #37:  Character Diversity (chapters 49 through 56),
  10. #39:  Character Futures (chapters 57 through 60),
  11. #43:  Novel Worlds (chapters 61 through 66),
  12. #47:  Character Routines (chapters 67 through 72),
  13. #50:  Stories Progress (chapters 73 through 78),
  14. #53:  Character Battles (chapters 79 through 84),
  15. #55:  Stories Winding Down (chapters 85 through 90),
  16. #57:  Multiverse Variety (chapters 91 through 96), and
  17. #59:  Verser Lives and Deaths (chapters 97 through 102).

This picks up from there.  These chapters continue with Lauren and Joe exploring a new world.

img0061Lake

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


Chapter 103, Hastings 36

I tried to give the feeling that a fair amount of time had passed, enough that Lauren could learn a bit of the parakeet language.  I also focused on finding technologies she could teach them—fire and pottery the basic ones.

I introduced Speckles because I knew by now that a kidnapping was the way to initiate the quest, and I needed a victim.  I made her someone Lauren would find particularly interesting, intelligent and open to change.

I’ve often said to people that if you want to know what God wants you to do, you have to drop the “but” from “anything but”.  In saying this, I point out that if God wants you to be a missionary to Africa, it’s the only place where you will truly be happy.  The idea that Lauren would enjoy being a missionary to a primitive world commended itself here.  It is one of those things that people talk about in Bible college:  the idea that if you agree to do whatever God wants you to do, He will probably send you as a missionary to some primitive place where you will be very unhappy.  The answers to this are, first, God sends relatively few people to such mission fields, and second, if God does send you there, you can be assured that you would not be so happy anywhere else in the world.  But it is part of the Bible student mentality, to worry about the possibility.


Chapter 104, Slade 34

I was doing the trap on the fly, as I recall.  I knew I needed this to be an adventure, and the idea that it was a trap would make it so.

There were obvious anomalies, things that had to be as they were to make this part of the story work which at the same time couldn’t be there unless there was something wrong.  The big thing was the prisoner transport, which could not be seriously considered without a fighter escort.  If the transport was not here, there was no way to evacuate the prisoners; but if the fighter escort was here, there was no way The Destiny could do the rescue.  Thus I recognized that the crew would suspect a trap, and would deal with it accordingly.

John’s pep talk is pretty good, I thought.  He manages to put it in perspective and get them thinking they can do it.

I had given the plan previously; now it had to be updated on the fly for the new information, and that was kind of fun.  There were contingencies for possibilities that didn’t happen, which I thought made it seem more realistic—if you’re ready for what happens and nothing else, well, that seems plotted; but if you make a point of being prepared for things that don’t happen, the fact that you managed to be ready for some of the things that do is understandable.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone on television use anything like the reflector, although it could be that I just don’t remember.  I figure if you’re looking at four to twelve screens that keep jumping from camera to camera, and someone points one of the cameras at a different doorway or hallway, you’re not going to realize that you don’t see what that camera is intended to show you because you still see something that looks like a scene from one of the cameras, and unless you’re really attentive to the sequence of screen shots it will be a while before you realize you’re missing something.

I wanted Slade to have a sophisticated weapon for the battles ahead, and this was the best place to get it.  Joe had the problem that he only had one power pack and was going to have to recharge it, but Slade starts with several and practices changing them.


Chapter 105, Kondor 35

Introducing the same world again without making it dull proved a bit of a challenge; thus I did it quickly.

The idea that versers can sense each other is built in to the game; that was a given.

The idea of the odds being about the same as drawing the two of spades from a pinochle deck was an expression I created for Joe.  If you don’t know, pinochle decks have no cards lower than the 9.  You could only get a two of spades if someone placed it in the deck.

I knew I was taking him to Lauren, but he, she, and the reader were all to be surprised by that.  Still, I figured woods was a general enough description that it wouldn’t necessarily follow that he was in the same world.

The references to the details of the trees reminds that Kondor has developed significant woodcraft skills while in Sherwood for a dozen years, particularly in identifying native plants that might have uses.

Originally this was the first time I described Lauren, and one of my readers balked—my wife’s imagined Lauren was blonde and it was too late in the book to change it.  I back-wrote the scene with the mirrors at Father James’ place to fix that.  I also went back and placed rather more detailed descriptions of each of the characters earlier in the book.

My editor said that the problem with bringing Kondor and Hastings together was that it told the reader that Slade was about to die.  I don’t know if that’s true–I think I managed to keep him in the other world long enough to take some of that expectation away–but I took it to heart, and in the second novel I had Lauren and Derek appear together and then separate again, particularly to defuse this sort of expectation.  I also thought that I would do something in the third novel that would defuse it from a different direction.


Chapter 106, Hastings 37

Lauren’s opening words are, of course, what Joe just heard her say—in parakeet.

My wife was the first one to say that she liked the fact that Lauren and Kondor don’t immediately like each other, but that they start arguing about things almost immediately.  She appreciated the fact that Lauren and Joe weren’t immediately friends simply because they were both versers.  I knew before I got here that they would have this religious fight (and that Bob would get involved, too, although he’s a lot less serious about it than they and more or less takes it as fun).  Their verbal sparring becomes a significant part of their relationship—and enables me to insert some discussion of important basic theological concepts without breaking the story.

The racial conflict was rather a spur-of-the-moment insight–that I’d created two distinct races, one of which was “black”, and Kondor would be sensitive to that.

The theology debate gives way to an issue of race.  There is a degree to which Kondor is right:  black people think a lot more about race or color than white people do, in the main.  But then, it is just as discriminatory to accuse someone of not noticing race because of race as it is to notice race.

It also seemed important to me that Kondor not lose the religion argument, and particularly not on the first bout; but it flowed well this way, too.

The Neanderthal/Cro-Magnon debate is still ongoing, so although I’ve run worlds in which they are different races of the same species, they might be different species of the same genus, so Lauren’s example works as long as we don’t assume she’s right about the facts.

It wasn’t that much of a stretch to assume that Joe’s medical kit would have equipment to identify poisons.  One would need that to provide antidotes.


Chapter 107, Slade 35

The trapped office was an afterthought because everything else had gone so well.  Also, I realized that if I were going to bring Slade to the “gather” I had planned for the parakeet world, it was going to have to be on this excursion, as it would take too many chapters to put me in the position of killing him in another.  So this became the way out.  Of course, it wouldn’t be quick or easy, but it would be dramatic.

I was running out of good ideas on this one anyway, and didn’t want to leave Lauren and Kondor alone together too long before creating some action there.


Chapter 108, Kondor 36

At this point in their relationship, Joe views Lauren as in the peer group of his aunt; and he still has that mentality of addressing adults as adults.  Thus he thinks of her as “Mrs. Hastings” still.  It reminds us of their ages.

Lauren’s statement that she arrived in mid-spring but it’s been about six months is the first indication that the years are longer here.  That enabled me to accomplish a lot more within part of a year than otherwise, and still have changing seasons eventually.

There is often a feeling of exclusion when people around you are speaking to each other in a language you do not understand.  That is amplified here, because they are speaking with an entire set of phonemes foreign to Joe’s background.  It would be as if people in your presence were communicating with each other by Morse Code or Binary ASCII.

This was where I started to feel the complications of my stylistic decisions.  I was now telling the story of two characters, but still constrained to tell it as the stories of each individually.  On the one hand, it meant that I couldn’t tell all sides of a situation easily.  On the other, it gave me the freedom to write materials that skimmed the details–such as the conversation Lauren had with the parakeet people here, which is reduced to Kondor’s discomfort at not understanding any of it instead of extended dialogue.

At this point Joe is feeling quite awkward.  He wants to stow his gear so he can attempt to absorb what has happened.  Note that to this point, in three of his previous worlds he dealt primarily with humans (in his first world he fought giant robot spiders, but we only get a vague glimpse of that).  There were the undead creatures in Quest for the Vorgo, but he never came to grips with what they actually were apart from enemies of the human race, and he had humans around him.  This is the first time he is surrounded by completely alien creatures—only they do not seem quite “alien” in the science fiction sense so much as fantastic in the children’s fantasy world sense.


Interest in these “behind the writings” continues, so I’m still thinking they’re worth producing.  Feedback is always welcome, of course.  Your Patreon support is also needed to maintain this.

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#59: Verser Lives and Deaths

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #59, on the subject of Verser Lives and Deaths.

This is about the creation of my book Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, now being posted to the web site in serialized form.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers, so you might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  That link will take you to the table of contents for the book; links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.  There were also numerous similar previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts:

  1. #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone (which provided this kind of insight into the first six chapters),
  2. #20:  Becoming Novel (covering chapters seven through twelve),
  3. #22:  Getting Into Characters (for chapters thirteen through eighteen),
  4. #25:  Novel Changes (chapters 19 through 24),
  5. #27:  Novel Continuation (chapters 25 through 30),
  6. #30:  Novel Directions (chapters 31 through 36),
  7. #33:  Novel Struggles (chapters 37 through 42),
  8. #35:  Quiet on the Novel Front (chapters 43 through 48),
  9. #37:  Character Diversity (chapters 49 through 56),
  10. #39:  Character Futures (chapters 57 through 60),
  11. #43:  Novel Worlds (chapters 61 through 66),
  12. #47:  Character Routines (chapters 67 through 72),
  13. #50:  Stories Progress (chapters 73 through 78),
  14. #53:  Character Battles (chapters 79 through 84),
  15. #55:  Stories Winding Down (chapters 85 through 90), and
  16. #57:  Multiverse Variety (chapters 91 through 96).

This picks up from there.  These chapters begin with Lauren exploring a new world and Joe leaving an old one.

img0059Station

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


Chapter 97, Hastings 34

The “parakeet people”, as I mentioned, had been created for a different world, a world called The Valley for a demonstration version of the game; this was not at all like that world, but the people seemed like they would work here.  They are technologically less advanced, closer to the culture of birds in their practices, and have no psionic abilities, but are otherwise the same.  I wanted something that was alien but cuddly, something that the reader could love or could at least understand how Lauren could love them.  Making them brightly colored flightless avians fit the bill, and I had already used such creatures in that other world so I’d given some thought to them.

Obviously birds are not sexless, but their genitalia are somewhat different from mammalian, sufficiently so that (as is true with felines, come to think of it) humans don’t see it.  Since they were avian, I made them oviparous, which eliminated the navel and the mammary glands.  Thus to Lauren they would not be distinguishable by gender on sight, at least initially.

The tapping speech centers trick is something that I picked up from Dungeons & Dragons™, that a number of spirit creatures do:  they read the minds of the people in front of them in a way that allows them to speak and understand the target’s language while doing so.  My character did it in play, I think when he contacted the Dar Koni in Nagaworld, but Lauren is teaching herself to do it here.  It proves less than completely reliable at first, as she has trouble finding a word and then a moment later finds it easily.  I describe it differently from the way the Dungeons & Dragons books do.

The aspect of being unable to say her name in their language is tricky.  Most names in most languages have meanings, but at least in modern America we have largely abandoned words as names.  That is, when a Greek said that his name was Theodorus, everyone knew that meant God’s gift; when an American says his name is Theodore, everyone just asks whether people call him Theo or Ted, and we don’t think about what the name means.  Yet between human languages names translate—the Greek Petros is the English Peter, the Spanish Pedro, and the French Pierre, only partly because the name has a meaning, and only partly because the languages are related.  But English was not related to the Parakeet language in any way, and whatever meaning “Lauren” has relates to objects in our world which probably did not exist in theirs.  Thus although in the next book Lauren’s name would translate to a proto-English version when she used the same trick, in this case she could not translate her name into their language.

That also let me suggest that their mimicking abilities were as good as any earthly bird.

The notion that the word for “home” meant “nest” was quite logical.  We use the word “home” to mean “house”, but also to mean some rather intangible concepts about people and places.  The word that they used for their houses would similarly extend to cover the place where they lived more generally.

The fear of “something else that had nothing to do with her” was my first step toward the climactic events of the book.  I was introducing the concept that these people had an enemy, and the enemy exercised some control over them.  The something which the birds feared turned out to be the sparrow people; I had not at this point determined that.

I liked saying that the mayor started toward the town “without another peep”.  It was an expression my parents used, and I’ve heard others say something about not wanting to hear another peep out of someone, usually children who are supposed to be going to sleep.  The impression that these are child-like creatures was underscored by that, I think, but of course they were also bird-like, and we think of birds as peeping, and in fact use it of children mostly because we use it of birds.


Chapter 98, Slade 32

I never actually used a Playstation Guncon, but I saw one a few times.  I decided it was a good design for an inertial weapon, and it made sense for Slade to have played video games with it at some point.  I think it was a relatively short-lived gadget, but it was sufficiently connected to his time that I could make the reference.  When I first saw the Blake’s 7 blasters, I thought they were a neat design, an escape from the traditional shape of guns.  One could say the same, I suppose, about the hand-held Star Trek phasers.  But when I learned the concept of the fast draw (not just that it existed, but how it worked) I realized that pistol grips were designed so that when held normally the gun barrel would point toward the target.  Thus I needed something more like a gun than not.  Yet I still wanted something different; and the idea that Slade was a video game player invited the idea of using something that functioned like a gun in the modern video game world.  The Guncon was available, something like a gun but not, with a similar grip system, so it became the design of choice.  It also meant Slade had used something enough like it to know what he was doing with it.

The MK-12 does pretty much the same thing as Kondor’s kinetic blaster, but I gave it different power parameters.  Kondor’s can be adjusted to three levels of impact, increasing in damage and power consumption, which means fewer shots at higher levels of impact.  Slade’s has only the one power level, but it gets as many shots from one battery as Kondor’s gets from his lowest setting.  On the other hand, Slade’s is the larger gun to carry.  There is little functional difference between the two guns, but I wanted there to be operational differences because they came from different worlds.

It was time to give Slade skills based on his stay in the space world.  I wanted him to have the blaster, and to improve his thief skills by extending them to these kinds of locks, so I started that process.  Lock picking of course has to keep pace with the technology.  Slade has leapt across centuries of technological improvements, so he needs to get up to speed on the locks—but Tom Titus can teach him.


Chapter 99, Kondor 33

The anti-supernaturalist Joe Kondor is looking for a naturalist explanation for creatures that appear to be made almost entirely of light with bits of matter floating within them.  Magnetism and gravity are the first ideas that come to him.  Again he found a naturalist explanation for a supernatural phenomenon.  In this case, even though it’s not accurate, it gave him a functional way to respond to the monsters.

The fact that the vorgo unmakes these creatures is a complete surprise to him, but he does not have time to think about it at the moment.  That ultimately comes back to him in another book.

I didn’t have “magic weapons”, so I needed to find a way to make specters difficult to kill but not invulnerable.  The notion of knocking out bits of skeletal debris from within the field that comprised their form gave me that option, since if you aimed solely for the form you probably would miss the bits and pass your attack harmlessly through, but if you focused on hitting the fragments rather than the creature, it was a tougher shot but a potentially effective one.

The big limitation on guns (slug throwers) is the ammunition.  I’m generally pretty lenient on being able to find the “right” bullets in any world that has bullets (with a few exceptions, such as Dark Honor Empire where only one size bullet exists), but when you’re in primitive worlds running out of bullets is a big deal.  Besides, he had already used quite a few in The Mary Piper (beta), and had not had a chance to replace them.

I was rationing his bullets, and yet exhausting them.  It was important that he run out of ammo, but not too soon.


Chapter 100, Hastings 35

I wanted Lauren to learn the language, so I had to explain why the link was not sufficient; it’s a reasonable explanation anyway.  I also wanted to use the time Lauren was here alone to give some feeling to the world in which the three would adventure.

The sparrow people came into existence at this moment.  I knew that someone would be kidnapped by someone, but only now knew who the kidnappers would be.

The “sparrow” people are more like crows, I expect, but since parakeets are so small I didn’t want a larger bird and I didn’t want the name to prejudice the reader overly much.  These are the villains, but they aren’t particularly villainous or threatening at this point.  They were the “others” from the previous chapter when there was concern about the reaction of some “others”, and indeed they don’t like the fact that she is there.  For one thing, they’re the dominators here, and that the oppressed people have a monster living among them is not going to be seen with approval.

Both the hint that she could not always get the language link and the comment about the pyrogenesis being less reliable here than in the vampire world are pointing to the fact that the psionic bias is lower here.

The thing about birds eating berries that are poisonous to people is true, part of basic survival training.  It happens because the berries have a seed in a thin shell, and the bird’s digestive tract is less acidic and so does not dissolve that shell.  The seed passes and finds soil elsewhere, thus spreading the plant to new locations.  In other animals, though, the shell dissolves releasing an internal poison that sickens the eater, discouraging such creatures from taking the berries in the future.

There is a survival field test for edible plants, but there are kinds of plants for which it does not work (mushrooms notably) so it’s probably better not to use it in an alien world.  In any case, Lauren doesn’t know the test.

I decided on the double-length seasons as a way of making things move slowly here, and creating more time for everything to happen without disrupting it with a winter.  I wanted Lauren to be here a long time but not a lot of seasons; she arrived in the early to mid spring, and I wanted the half year to the late autumn to be a long time in which a lot happened.  So I decided that the year was about twice as long on this planet as on earth.  That’s simple enough to do, I think—a larger, hotter central star and an orbit farther from it getting about the same radiant energy but going through seasons and years more slowly.

I also wanted her to get a bit complacent, and then realize that she shouldn’t be.


Chapter 101, Slade 33

The mini-adventures referenced at the beginning of this chapter were all concepts from Blake’s 7 episodes.  That was, in fact, one of the problems I had with this scenario–so much had been done so well by the series this was emulating that creating new stories was a challenge.  The idea of the Federation trying to trap Destiny came from a Blake’s 7 episode, but didn’t do anything that that episode did.  So, too, the notion of transporting a rebel organizer to another planet, but in the Blake’s 7 version the Federation had replaced the organizer with an incredibly sophisticated robotic duplicate.  I stuck to the simple form, partly because I didn’t want to steal so cleverly original a script idea, and partly because I didn’t see any way Slade could have been involved in such a story.

These adventures also gave Slade time to practice, which made his skill the more credible, particularly with the blaster he had only recently obtained.  It should have taken longer to get as good as he got, but I didn’t want to drag the story too much.

One of the better pieces of advice I picked up decades ago was not to name characters specifically so you can make jokes about their names (one of the reasons I find the Meet the Parents films so annoying).  I broke that rule with Rhodes Correctional Facility, not merely because Rhodes’ End had a clever ring to it, but also because I figured whatever such a prison was called someone would have come up with an ironic nickname for it at some point.  This one worked.

The Rhodes prison break was, as far as I recall, my own idea from the ground up.  I was not sure at this point how it was going to go, but I did think that Slade would verse out in the process.  When I mentioned the security systems, I already had in mind the possibility that the air would be evacuated killing everyone including the Destiny crew.  I didn’t like that idea, because I prefer an upbeat game and an upbeat story, and whatever happened to Slade I wanted the Destiny crew to survive at least, preferably succeed.

The shielding was a reasonable reason why they couldn’t materialize in the commander’s office; the communications systems were a reasonable explanation for why the entire thing wasn’t shielded; and it made sense that the central control area could not be shielded for that reason.  But I was making it up as I went along, trying to figure out what I would do in that situation and why it wouldn’t work, and then what I would do instead.  I also wanted to split the group up, because it made sense to have them work together in different places to make the plan work rather than go all in a unit to one place.

Tom’s pride, that Bob Barnes is “almost as good as me”, seemed an appropriate reflection of his character.  He would not admit that someone was better than he was at any thief skills.

I also decided it was a trap at the moment they got there.  I needed something to make it more interesting.  What I had not decided was exactly how the trap was supposed to work; but it would mean that there would be no guards in the prison levels, as the obvious plan would be to evacuate the air once the Destiny crew was aboard.

I thought it was clever that they recognized the trap precisely because they did not see the fighter escort for the prisoner transport.  It’s something like a prisoner transport convoy that does not have a police escort—the fact that there is no escort suggests that there are no prisoners, or the transport is bait.


Chapter 102, Kondor 34

I needed an excuse for Joe to keep the pistol bullets, because he was going to need his guns for the last world and wasn’t going anywhere before that where he could resupply.  This was a fight scene, plain and simple.  I used the mace because I wanted to keep the bullets in the pistol (I’d already planned to provide bullets for the rifle through Lauren’s spare).  Kondor needed to succeed clearly and die in the process, and this seemed to work.

In high school I attended a summer music camp, and at the end of the week we did a concert at a church in Flemington that had a real pipe organ.  Its choir loft was a maze, and our handlers had to arrange us and direct us so that the procession could split into the choir seats that surrounded the central organ and sat within the pipes.  It happened one year that I was second in line, the guy in front of me meandering around the warren and landing cuddled up next to the organ.  When we were later recessing, we had to wait while everyone else moved out of our way, and I jotted on a piece of music, “I guess the worst thing about being first in is being last out.”  He wrote back, “At least I can say that I led the choir.”  That’s where the line about being last out originates.

In play this is a tough world, because you really want the player to defeat the undead, but once he has done this there isn’t much for him to do thereafter, and less that is likely to get him killed.  I try to push the main fight to a place where the player knows that the humans have won but he’s not going to make it out alive.  It was easy to do in the novel, of course.  As C. S. Lewis once observed, in Hamlet Ophelia did not drown because the branch broke or because Hamlet did not arrive in time, but because Shakespeare drowned her.  On the other hand, I do assume that in some way the undead recognize the verser as not of this world, and target him specifically.


Interest in these “behind the writings” continues, so I’m still thinking they’re worth producing.  Feedback is always welcome, of course.  Your Patreon support is also needed to maintain this.

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#57: Multiverse Variety

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #57, on the subject of Multiverse Variety.

This is about the creation of my book Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, now being posted to the web site in serialized form.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers, so you might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  That link will take you to the table of contents for the book; links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.  There were also numerous similar previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts:

  1. #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone (which provided this kind of insight into the first six chapters),
  2. #20:  Becoming Novel (covering chapters seven through twelve),
  3. #22:  Getting Into Characters (for chapters thirteen through eighteen),
  4. #25:  Novel Changes (chapters 19 through 24),
  5. #27:  Novel Continuation (chapters 25 through 30),
  6. #30:  Novel Directions (chapters 31 through 36),
  7. #33:  Novel Struggles (chapters 37 through 42),
  8. #35:  Quiet on the Novel Front (chapters 43 through 48),
  9. #37:  Character Diversity (chapters 49 through 56),
  10. #39:  Character Futures (chapters 57 through 60),
  11. #43:  Novel Worlds (chapters 61 through 66),
  12. #47:  Character Routines (chapters 67 through 72),
  13. #50:  Stories Progress (chapters 73 through 78),
  14. #53:  Character Battles (chapters 79 through 84), and
  15. #55:  Stories Winding Down (chapters 85 through 90).

This picks up from there.  In these chapters we see very different worlds and adventures.

img0057Stars

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


Chapter 91, Hastings 32

Even reading the first paragraph here, I relate to it—the feeling of simply staying in a warm bed.

I was building this world from a different one.  Eric Ashley thought it was supposed to be the same world, but really it was only the same creatures at a more primitive cultural state—things I had not yet decided at this point.  (After all, if I can have humans in many different universes, why can’t there also be many different universes in which my humanoid avians are the dominant creatures?)  However, I wanted to dial down the power for this one, so I decided the psionics bias wasn’t high enough for levitation.  That requires what might be considered a moderate bias, so I still had room to decide that other things were possible—and as Lauren notes, I could still change my mind.  Ultimately I put it where it was possible for her to “levitate” other objects (telekinesis) but not herself (levitation), which worked for what I needed to do.

I was making world decisions on the fly at this point.  I wanted this world to be a bit less magical and a bit less psionic than Lauren’s previous ones, to prevent her from being the superhero, but since I hadn’t decided exactly how much I was moving slowly.

The magic worked, but there wasn’t any particular way Lauren could be certain it worked, only that she attempted it and felt a direction.

I had already made some decisions about this world.  It was my “gather”, the place where the three were going to meet and work together.  I knew that in the end Bob Slade was going to face the final challenge and defeat it, that Joe Kondor was going to use his tracking skills, and that Lauren was going to sacrifice herself for the sake of the mission.  The rest I was creating as I went.

The road eventually became indefensible; it was not something the indigs (indigenous life forms) would have created.  I wrote it off to a dry watercourse which they followed into the woods when they foraged, thus smoothing and compressing the bottom, but it’s weak.  Fortunately I never had to defend it.


Chapter 92, Slade 30

A couple years before I wrote the novel I had read about quantum non-locality and thought about using it for the kind of communicator I describe.  I published a web page explaining the idea, and got a few e-mails about it.  Eventually someone wrote to say that what I proposed probably would not work—but the novel was already in print, so there was no changing it.  Some years later, someone else wrote and asked if he could use the idea in one of his own books, and I said sure, but I’m told it won’t actually work.  He seemed to think that was fine, that it was simply good to have a scientific-sounding explanation for a science fiction device.  Of course, one of Clarke’s Laws says, in short, that scientists are usually wrong when they say something is impossible.

The work aboard Destiny as part of engineering was raising Bob’s technical abilities.  I used them a bit in a later book, but haven’t really tapped them yet.

I had developed Slade as a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, and it seemed appropriate to get him involved in installing components, much as he’d have done with cars back home.

A diplomatic mission was probably going to be a boring story, I thought, and the more so as Slade was not a diplomat; but a planet rejecting pressure to submit to the Federation was good basis for some action, and so I set up the action.

The rebel pirates was my recognition at this moment.  I still don’t know what was in the crates.

I set up for combat without knowing exactly how I was going to handle it; but I thought this was a good starting position, and I’d work out something.


Chapter 93, Kondor 31

Talwin the priest was of course using prayer to strengthen and revitalize the men; Joe could not accept the possibility of that kind of magic, and so he relegates it to the realm of positive thinking.

I wanted to get Kondor outside the walls, because nothing more or interesting was going to happen until I did; but the castellan wasn’t going to agree to it without a compelling reason, so it was time to bring the vorgo into play.

As I broached the notion of Joe going on the offensive outside the walls, I was looking for a way to move the story forward and bring a dramatic ending—but it was obvious that such a one-man assault really made no sense.  However, it would make sense to use the vorgo as a weapon against the specters, and since it would be difficult to target them specifically from the distance of the walls, a commando mission to get it into their midst was the best option.

I knew at this point that he was going to die outside the walls, and I didn’t want him to be too far from his gear, but it didn’t make sense for him to take it all.  I knew he was bound for the parakeet world, with Lauren, so it would be all right, but I didn’t want to run another searching for gear scenario and wasn’t sure how to avoid it.

I also wanted him to have a low-tech weapon that didn’t rely on ammo with which he’d had at least some experience, so I gave him the mace and cause to use it at this point.  I hadn’t yet figured out how I was going to get him to use it before his other weapons were exhausted, but he was going to need it.  I note that I’ll do that in games sometimes–give a player character something I know he’s likely to need in the future that he doesn’t particularly want in the present.

I had envisioned a part of the end of the book, and it required Joe to fight a long battle that exhausted most of his ammo and left him with hand-to-hand combat.  I thus needed to put such a weapon into his gear, and a mace was both simple enough and connected already to Bob if I needed to talk about training Joe to use it.  I did not do that until considerably later (the fourth book), but it was in view at this point as a possibility.

It is also a mission that makes no sense to him, and probably had he not approached them he would not have volunteered and they would not have asked him.  So it was important to have him ask to fight outside the wall.

I notice that sometimes I split infinitives in this book.  I have since somehow had it drilled into me not to do that, and it bothers me when I see it, which suggests to me that I’m being too strict in my grammar sometimes.  I’m sure very few people recognize it—but I do it less in later books.


Chapter 94, Hastings 33

At some point I decided that the bird people I had created for the demo world The Valley would work well in this gather world.  I took away all the trappings of that world—the psionic monks, the meteorite storms and rings around the planet from the broken moon, the avian/reptilian predators—and just made them a simple primitive group.

The wigwam is a traditional Native American home design in the northeast corridor.  It in some ways perhaps resembles a beaver’s home but on land, comprised of sticks and mud.  It struck me as also similar to an enclosed nest.  Some birds do build enclosed nests, but these are relatively rare; it is also rare for such nests to be built on the ground.  However, it seemed to work, to push the nest concept toward the wigwam concept for a small humanoid flightless avian race.

Seeing brightly-colored humanoids, the natural response would be to assume they were dressed in bright colors.  They aren’t, but that’s how it would appear from the hillside above.

Lauren is on one side of a valley, coming down from a low mountain; the mountains to the other side are higher, and of course she can see them—one cannot really see the mountain on which one is standing, only the immediate slope.

I’ve seen sunsets and sunrises in the mountains.  They are most impressive, really, when you are sitting with your back to the sun looking at the far mountains where the shadows are gradually rising or receding.

I was trying to give the feeling of serenity and beauty, and I could only do so through Lauren’s eyes.  The hymn came forth as a way of presenting the impact it had on her.


Chapter 95, Slade 31

Somehow the printed version of this chapter made it “93”, a typographical error no one caught.

It was time to do ship-to-ship combat, and I needed to figure out a way to make The Destiny a significant force in battle.  I was attempting to think of something that would make my spaceship different from all the many battling spaceships I had seen, and I came up with the notion of a pair of independently controlled maneuverable gun batteries.  This would give the ship the tactical advantages of launching fighter planes without putting fighter pilots at risk, as they could be remotely controlled from the bridge and could flank the enemy.  The idea of independently controlled weapon batteries was a rather sudden solution which I had never seen.  They are probably quite logical now in a world of drone fighters, but at the time I was not aware of anything like them.

“OTG” is “orbit to ground” weapons.  I figured readers would get it from the context.

The cracked pipe was because I really didn’t want Slade to sit and watch the entire fight—partly because I didn’t want to describe more of it, and partly because it wasn’t that interesting.  If I put him to work in engineering fixing the cooling system, that meant he was contributing something.  The broken pipe would save me the trouble of continuing the blow-by-blow on the battle.  The problem with battles is that you have to keep them changing.  They have to seem risky, edgy, as well as new, but at the same time within the bounds of what the reader expects of the players.  If the battle is short, it makes the enemy seem weak; if it’s long, it gets boring as it bogs down in detail.


Chapter 96, Kondor 32

The football imagery is natural for Kondor because the vorgo looks so much like a ball, although more like a bowling ball than any other kind; but football strategy makes sense for it.

I am glad I realized the problem with the eye patch; it’s one of those things that sometimes slips by in games, when a character has a disability with which the players are unaccustomed.

Destroying skeletons by shattering their pelvises seemed a solution to the problem of facing them at range.

The spectres were guaranteed to be tougher than anything else they had faced; I needed to make them so.  It was not so hard, really–in game terms, they had a very high resistance to all kinetic attacks, because the weapons usually passed through.  Looking for an explanation that would work in the book, I decided that they only did damage if they managed to dislodge the fragments of matter suspended in the glow.

His notion that zombies in the setting of a graveyard are horrors, but on the battlefield they’re just another monster, probably owes something to the Dungeons & Dragons™ games I’ve run:  players don’t really worry about lower-level undead as if they were really undead, they just treat them like any other creature.  The specters are different because there are features about them that empower them; the zombies are just ugly putrid bodies that need to be killed.

It was quicker, I thought, to switch to the pistol than to switch clips on the rifle; but whether or not this is so, I wanted to keep a clip for the rifle, so he would not be out of that ammo yet.

The advantages of rifles over pistols are pretty much all about range, and at point blank range those advantages are insignificant; for some rifles, the length of the weapon becomes a liability in close combat.  The M-16 seems to be a weapon that can be fired accurately “from the hip”, as it were, but it still is not more accurate at short range than a pistol.


Interest in these “behind the writings” continues, so I’m still thinking they’re worth producing.  Feedback is always welcome, of course.  Your Patreon support is also needed to maintain this.

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#55: Stories Winding Down

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #55, on the subject of Stories Winding Down.

This is about the creation of my book Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, now being posted to the web site in serialized form.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers, so you might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  That link will take you to the table of contents for the book; links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.  There were also numerous similar previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts:

  1. #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone (which provided this kind of insight into the first six chapters),
  2. #20:  Becoming Novel (covering chapters seven through twelve),
  3. #22:  Getting Into Characters (for chapters thirteen through eighteen),
  4. #25:  Novel Changes (chapters 19 through 24),
  5. #27:  Novel Continuation (chapters 25 through 30),
  6. #30:  Novel Directions (chapters 31 through 36),
  7. #33:  Novel Struggles (chapters 37 through 42),
  8. #35:  Quiet on the Novel Front (chapters 43 through 48), and
  9. #37:  Character Diversity (chapters 49 through 56),
  10. #39:  Character Futures (chapters 57 through 60),
  11. #43:  Novel Worlds (chapters 61 through 66),
  12. #47:  Character Routines (chapters 67 through 72), and
  13. #50:  Stories Progress (chapters 73 through 78), and
  14. #53:  Character Battles (chapters 79 through 84).

This picks up from there.  The battles our three characters were fighting last time have come to an end, or at least a lull, in these chapters.

img0055Spring

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


Chapter 85, Hastings 30

Lauren’s story was driving forward at the moment with the arrival of Horta, so I brought her back and delayed Bob for a chapter.  That also had the advantage of leaving Bob floating in space a bit longer, giving the feeling of that seemingly interminable waiting he experienced before he was rescued.

I still had no idea what the acorn did; having Bethany shout to use it was another piece of the puzzle I was going to have to solve when I worked it out.  It seemed appropriate to suggest that it would be useful against Horta.

Lauren is overmatched by Horta, and it shows.  She is losing from the beginning, and can’t get an advantage.

I did not need the gun, as such, to go with her; I only needed the bullets.  To have Horta damage the gun meant Lauren was not going to use it, and the bullets would be in the clip when she reached the next world.

The more potent a spell is in Multiverser, the more it costs to do it.  The cost of the magic Lauren uses to engulf Horta in flame is high in that the range is extremely short creating the serious risk that the user will be caught in the fire—which is what happens to Lauren.  The idea that the spell Lauren used was so powerful that it killed her even as she succeeded was an idea I had seen with explosives, but not with magic.


Chapter 86, Slade 28

The notion that life pods are automatic seems to be presumed in science fiction stories, but it occurred to me that it is presumptuous and there should be some consideration of why they are that way.  The answer was simple enough.

This was a different way to show the battle; it saved me from trying to work out the details of how they did such combat just yet, and captured the necessary parts.

Bob reasonably sees this as a turning point in his life, a moment at which he has begun to be a warrior.  It’s not much, but it gives him his start.


Chapter 87, Kondor 29

The vorgo has had its effect, and by chance it has brought to unlife the dead man next to Joe.  He is now looking for an explanation that does not include the idea that magic has animated a corpse and caused it to attack him.

He also has the experience of being frightened of something which intellectually he does not believe.  The dead are dead, he tells himself, and this is all done as part of a psychological battle—but if so, it is working against him almost as well as against the others, because he believes they are undead even though he knows they cannot be.

Again Kondor comes up with a naturalist explanation for a supernatural event.  That leads him to start seeking a naturalist solution, which the reader knows is a mistake.


Chapter 88, Hastings 31

The image for this world bothers me a bit.  Our artist was from the southwest, and apparently was unfamiliar with the shape of the wigwams made by Native Americans in the eastern forests—he made them look like teepees of straw.  They’re supposed to be round-topped.  But then, I’m not an artist.

Although I knew that this was the last world for the book, and I knew the major plot points that would have to happen here, I actually knew very few of the details of this world at this point.  I knew that it was primitive; that was about all.

The telepathy test was something that I don’t think I’d ever seen anyone try, but it made sense:  if you were still in the same world, you should be able to find the mind of at least one person whose mind you knew.  Lauren did not consider the possibility that they might all, or any, be asleep, though.

I considered that she might have been teleported to the Poconos, not far from the city; I knew she had not been, but it was a possibility she had to consider.

The notion that versers think about patterns in their arrivals is a recurring one.  There are no patterns, but the randomness of the arrivals sometimes seems to create them.

I sleep in sweat suits.  I started decades ago when we had a dog who would wake me wanting to go out, and the pajamas I favored while not indecent were not exactly adequate for being seen by neighbors.  The practice made sense for a verser, particularly when in an outdoor setting, so Lauren adopted it.  I don’t think I ever considered what the others wore for sleep.


Chapter 89, Slade 29

I was actually impressed by Slade’s performance; it seemed to work well.  I thought it would be good to have his shipmates impressed.

QNL is explained later.  It stands for Quantum Non-Locality.  I don’t know whether it would actually work, but is based on the theory that one particle of matter can exist in two places at the same time, which I’m told has been “demonstrated”.

Slade questions his actions, wondering rather human questions about the men he had killed, and chides himself for doing something (the thinking) that does not fit with his warrior self-image.  I’ve seen the monolithic fighter type, and he doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Slade’s decision to push the questions from his mind seemed an important part of his character development, but I’m not yet certain where it is leading.


Chapter 90, Kondor 30

The priest Talwin is of course healing people by prayer.  Kondor assumes that that is not possible, and so concludes that Talwin simply persuades them that they can keep going.

Kondor keeps coming back to being a doctor.  It seems to be his first response in most situations, and so has become very much core to his character.

Figuring out what day would look like when the sky is so totally overcast it is as night, to a man whose red and blue visual receptors are tuned outside the visible light range into the infrared and ultraviolet respectively, was a feat; but I had already considered the problems of mixing those frequencies into normal eyesight in a web page on vision variants in Dungeons & Dragons™, so I had a head start on it.


Interest in these “behind the writings” continues, so I’m still thinking they’re worth producing.  Feedback is always welcome, of course.  Your Patreon support is also needed to maintain this.

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#53: Character Battles

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #53, on the subject of Character Battles.

This is about the creation of my book Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, now being posted to the web site in serialized form.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers, so you might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  That link will take you to the table of contents for the book; links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.  There were also numerous similar previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts:

  1. #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone (which provided this kind of insight into the first six chapters),
  2. #20:  Becoming Novel (covering chapters seven through twelve),
  3. #22:  Getting Into Characters (for chapters thirteen through eighteen),
  4. #25:  Novel Changes (chapters 19 through 24),
  5. #27:  Novel Continuation (chapters 25 through 30),
  6. #30:  Novel Directions (chapters 31 through 36),
  7. #33:  Novel Struggles (chapters 37 through 42),
  8. #35:  Quiet on the Novel Front (chapters 43 through 48), and
  9. #37:  Character Diversity (chapters 49 through 56),
  10. #39:  Character Futures (chapters 57 through 60),
  11. #43:  Novel Worlds (chapters 61 through 66),
  12. #47:  Character Routines (chapters 67 through 72), and
  13. #50:  Stories Progress (chapters 73 through 78).

This picks up from there.  All three of our characters are involved in some kind of fight in these chapters.

img0053Phila

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


Chapter 79, Slade 26

I have never been a sports enthusiast, but I was forced to play a bit in high school and knew something of the various games.  Football is a particularly good example here, as each player has to do his job but probably does not know what the other players are doing—only that if they all do the little part they need to do, the guy who does understand the whole plan will see to it that they achieve the desired result.  My job might be only to push this incoming lineman to the left, but the result should be that our receiver goes through the hole that helps create and we advance the ball a few yards.

I would feel bad about stealing matter transmission, except I don’t know who created the idea.  They had it in Blake’s 7, and mine is most like theirs, but I saw it in Star Trek before that, and it was on Doctor Who at least as early as the Tom Baker years.

In my explanations of what happens when someone “verses out” I noticed that it was very like what theoretically happens in matter transmission:  the molecular structure of the body is disassembled, moved, and reassembled.  Thus for Slade his first transmat would feel similar to his last verse-out.  He’d never been fully conscious for that, but fortunately I’d already moved him to that semi-conscious state for his arrival here, so it was something that would feel familiar.


Chapter 80, Hastings 28

The idea of blessing water as it filled the tank of a pumper truck was mine.  We used it when we went after the Presemium, a high-brow theater that was the third of the three major vampire strongholds in Ed’s version of Chicago—it had underground caverns, and I wanted them flooded with holy water.  Since at this point I knew Lauren was not going to stay in this world long enough to do all that I had done, I decided to use the pumper truck, and several other bits we used at the Presemium, at the Pit.  (I also did a psionic transmutation, changing the water in the fire sprinkler system to alcohol, but I did not include that in the books.)

The camp food was modeled on Gumper’s Four-man Meal Packs, a staple of long-trek hikes and canoe trips.

I think I inserted this short chapter to give the feeling of delay, of the passage of time before the attack on the Pit, hoping that the reader would feel some anticipation from it.


Chapter 81, Kondor 27

I may have seen something like the ram catcher in a game source book somewhere, but I can’t recall to credit it.  I might have invented it and used it here initially, and then seen something like it elsewhere.

The fact that arrows are not terribly effective against skeletons is a Dungeons & Dragons™ trope, but it makes sense to me.

Eventually, when I designed this world for game play, I had to work out how the wizard did his magic; at this point, he only needed to be able to do it, particularly since Kondor, a disbeliever, would not be interested in how Sowan thought he did it.


Chapter 82, Slade 27

Two things are happening in this chapter, really.  One is that I am trying to give the impression of critical sections of the ship—a liquid or gas cooling system, a computer mainframe, and something like rods to control the reaction in a nuclear reactor—without actually saying what anything really did and so limiting the future technology or causing Slade to appear to know more than he did.

The other is that I’m trying to turn a routine raid into an action story.  The alarm sounding and the appearance of the technician are part of that effort, creating problems that have to be overcome.

The expression about there being no good plan Bs is something of a family enigma.  I’m sure I heard it from my brother Roy, who is equally sure he got it from me.  I joke that since I included it in my novel, I’ll be credited for it, but I suspect there’s someone out there who came up with it first who hasn’t gotten credit for it.

I wanted one-man life pods so that it would make sense for Slade to be alone.  They’re not exactly sensible, but you do see them on some science fiction movies.


Chapter 83, Hastings 29

I had staying power—Ed complained about how difficult it was to get my character out of a world, and he never actually succeeded in getting me out of this one.  Lauren is reflecting that to some degree, winning and surviving against the odds.  She is the only one of the characters at this point still in the original world—although in fairness, Slade stayed in his first world for a couple decades, and Kondor for perhaps a dozen years, and it’s really only been a few months for Lauren.  Still, I was going to have to move her out of this world, and I knew that this event was my best shot—if I did not do it now, I was going to have to expand into a lot of much more difficult adventures (my work eventually involved a paranatural predator, a ghost, an Egyptian curse, and a wizard, all of which were crazy open-ended stories).  So I knew going into this that somehow Lauren was going to come to the end during this fight.

This chapter is laced with Lauren’s scripture verses.  I wanted to establish them, and convey the texts to the reader.

The dimming is of course the wizardry of Horta, battling against her.  We’ve got a contest of skills and power here.

The baptism quote is one of my favorite “people get this wrong all the time” verses, which is why Lauren explains it.

The wizard whom Bethany replaces brought a Barbie doll—he seemed to be fixated on the things—and when he cast his spell it walked into the fray stabbing people in the ankles with something like a hat pin.  He complained that it was supposed to grow to be forty feet tall or something.  I wasn’t doing dolls with Bethany, and thought that military toys were a better choice.

The soldier was not an unreasonable possibility, given the priest’s connections with the hunters, but the real reason for having him here was to give Lauren the bullets that Joe was going to need in the last adventure.  I did not yet know what that was, exactly, but it was taking shape and I knew that he was going to be short on ammo and needing more.

I still did not realize that Lauren would be fighting Horta in the past, or that there would be a more powerful vampire, Tubrok.  Still, this confrontation was going to be adequate for the climax of this world.


Chapter 84, Kondor 28

C. S. Lewis somewhere spoke of the “materialist magician”, the person who tapped supernatural powers but believed they were entirely natural abilities of his own.  Kondor has something of that perspective of the wizard—who is not such a person, who actually is knowingly tapping supernatural energies.  However, he is correct that there is a difference between having mental abilities beyond those of everyone else that give you unexpected powers and using magic—he just fails to recognize that the latter is also possible.

Joe tells the dying man he’s going to be all right, and maybe he thinks so, if he can get back in time to help him; but there is something to the need for medical personnel to encourage positive thinking in patients, who are more likely to recover if they believe they will, and so it may be that this is just something Joe has learned as part of “bedside manner”.

Joe is faced with another evidence that what he thinks is happening is incorrect, as the dying soldier dies and comes back to life as a zombie to attack him.  First he has to deal with the problem; then he has to explain it to himself in a way that fits his view of the universe.


Interest in these “behind the writings” continues, so I’m still thinking they’re worth producing.  Feedback is always welcome, of course.  Your Patreon support is also needed to maintain this.

[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]

#50: Stories Progress

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #50, on the subject of Stories Progress.

This is about the creation of my book Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, now being posted to the web site in serialized form.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers, so you might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  That link will take you to the table of contents for the book; links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.  There were also numerous similar previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts:

  1. #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone (which provided this kind of insight into the first six chapters),
  2. #20:  Becoming Novel (covering chapters seven through twelve),
  3. #22:  Getting Into Characters (for chapters thirteen through eighteen),
  4. #25:  Novel Changes (chapters 19 through 24),
  5. #27:  Novel Continuation (chapters 25 through 30),
  6. #30:  Novel Directions (chapters 31 through 36),
  7. #33:  Novel Struggles (chapters 37 through 42),
  8. #35:  Quiet on the Novel Front (chapters 43 through 48), and
  9. #37:  Character Diversity (chapters 49 through 56),
  10. #39:  Character Futures (chapters 57 through 60),
  11. #43:  Novel Worlds (chapters 61 through 66), and
  12. #47:  Character Routines (chapters 67 through 72).

This picks up from there.  Our characters are advancing in their efforts.

img0050Cemetery

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


Chapter 73, Slade 24

I took Slade’s cryptic comments in another direction with his statement that he’s died before and will do it again.

The concept of an “auto-mechanic” is very much a twentieth century concept, and while it’s not dead yet it probably will be if we keep going a few more centuries.  Thus I realized that the crew of the spaceship would be just as clueless regarding what an “auto-mechanic” was as the medieval adventurers.

The captain’s comment that the assassin Ishara has “problems with intimacy” is, as far as I recall, the only line of which my editor specifically said it was funny.

I also thought it likely that people in the future would have no understanding of smoking, and that faced with that Slade would realize that it can’t be explained.

The stuff in the small treasure chest was invented on the spot, as things I thought might have use as well as value.


Chapter 74, Hastings 26

I had imagined—not as much as envisioned—that in future books when Lauren trained Bethany in the past some of these magics would come into that.  They never did, although the trick with the die came to have plot significance in making something work when I painted myself into a corner with Merlin.

I still had no clue about the acorn.  I often wonder when I read books by others whether the author knew when he put the “shotgun over the mantel” how he was going to use that particular shotgun, or whether it was an “I can do something with that” moment, or simply a bit of serendipity.  This was a highly serendipitous “I can do something with that” object, and I stunned myself when I realized what I had given myself.


Chapter 75, Kondor 25

Kondor’s dream is dealing with the idea that the fact that you disbelieve something does not mean it could not be a reality.  It is easy to laugh at supernatural horrors when you know them to be fictional; it is much more difficult when they might be a reality.  Army of Darkness can fill the screen with horrors, but they are never real horrors for us, and we can laugh.

When he was in Sherwood, I spent very little time on the notion that he would learn their skills; but it seemed reasonable that having been there for years he would take a bit of time here and there to learn a few things outside his medical specialization.  He was, after all, also a soldier.  Thus the bow was a reasonable choice; at one time all English peasants were expected to learn the bow, and it was the weapon that defeated the French.

Joe had a resource problem:  his bullets were limited.  I knew by this point that I was going to have to find a way to re-supply him, but also that he was going to have to be careful about how quickly he used what he had.

Because of Kondor’s skepticism, the explanation of the vorgo is a superstition, and he thus thinks that what is being done in that vein is wasted resources.  He tries to justify this based on the morale of the fighters, but at every turn he sees more problems—such as the fact that manpower is going to be used to move corpses to the pyre when it should be on the walls.


Chapter 76, Slade 25

In technology skills, Multiverser recognizes that the level of skill necessary for various tasks differs in kind.  The ability to design a machine is the highest level, but there are people who are very good at building a machine from a design, even better at building than the designers, who could not create a design.  There are those who can modify a machine by looking at how it works and improving it, those who can repair a machine if it breaks, those who can (intelligently) sabotage a machine so that it won’t work properly, and those who can operate a machine with only a basic knowledge of how it works.  Slade is looking at star drives and gravity generators and particle weapons, and he cannot begin to fathom how these work—but he’s also looking at electrical systems and fluid and gas conduits and support structures, all of which are simple enough that he could fix a problem without knowing how that particular part of it makes the rest of it work.  Thus he has repair skills that can be used here.

The listening post raid is inspired by a Blake’s 7 episode in which they attack a Federation Outpost to get the latest code cipher machine.  It was an obvious type of mission for this kind of scenario, and I run it frequently in live games (although, as I think I mentioned, this world was created in this novel and only subsequently detailed for game play).  I had to remove the code cipher machine, as that was too obvious a connection, and I expanded the outpost significantly both to give me more room for my adventure and to make it different.

The line about Slade trying to decide “what medieval gear he should have for a raid on a space station” was another that my editor mentioned positively.  The image of an armored knight with a sword attacking a space station does have something of a lark to it.


Chapter 77, Hastings 27

The game system imposes limits on how much people can carry, both in terms of what can be lifted or carried while walking and in terms of how much will move with the person from universe to universe.  This latter limit increases over time, but particularly in the early worlds people who are pack rats have to consider what they really need to take with them.

It is also often the case that players wish they had gotten one thing or another in a previous world where it was relatively easily obtained, and Lauren is considering that aspect now.  She has sort of left it to the last minute, and while I might be accused of the convenience that she managed to think to do this shopping very shortly before she left this world (and I had at this point realized that I was going to have to move her before I’d used all the cool stories I’d developed in play), it is certainly the case that facing the fight she has planned she would be aware of the possibility of moving to another world in it.


Chapter 78, Kondor 26

The darkness was needed because without it there would be no explanation for how the undead were able to fight in daylight.  I don’t think I ever explained how it was done, but I attributed it to magic used by the specters, the most powerful of the enemy.

The eyesight adjustment was one of the key reasons for giving him that eye before.  I wasn’t certain where or when I would use it, but seeing in the dark was the point.

It is interesting that Joe thinks of the natural eye as the “good” one, and the cybernetic one as a substitute, not a real eye and therefore inferior, even though it does more and responds faster.

That the castellan regards Joe’s vision magical fits into Joe’s preconceptions about magic, that it is simply a word to describe what we do not understand.


Interest in these “behind the writings” continues, so I’m still thinking they’re worth producing.  Feedback is always welcome, of course.  Your Patreon support is also needed to maintain this.

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