This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #432, on the subject of Whole New Worlds.
With permission of Valdron Inc I have previously completed publishing my first seven novels,
- Verse Three, Chapter One: The First Multiverser Novel,
- Old Verses New,
- For Better or Verse,
- Spy Verses,
- Garden of Versers,
- Versers Versus Versers, and
- Re Verse All,
in serialized form on the web (those links will take you to the table of contents for each book). Along with each book there was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed with the chapters in the tables of contents pages. Now as I am posting the eighth, In Verse Proportion, I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights. This “behind the writings” look may contain spoilers because it sometimes talks about my expectations for the futures of the characters and stories–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued, as being written partially concurrently with the story it sometimes discusses where I thought it was headed. You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them. Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.
It was suggested in connection with Re Verse All that shorter more frequent behind-the-writings posts would work better; they proved to be considerably more work in several ways. Thus this time I am preferring longer, less frequent posts. This is the first mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 1 through 21.
There is also a section of the site, Multiverser Novel Support Pages, in which I have begun to place materials related to the novels beginning with character papers for the major characters, giving them at different stages as they move through the books.
History of the series, including the reason it started, the origins of character names and details, and many of the ideas, are in earlier posts, and won’t be repeated here.
Quick links to discussions in this page:
Chapter 1, Kondor 172
Chapter 2, Slade 168
Chapter 3, Brown 196
Chapter 4, Kondor 173
Chapter 5, Slade 169
Chapter 6, Brown 197
Chapter 7, Kondor 174
Chapter 8, Slade 170
Chapter 9, Brown 198
Chapter 10, Kondor 175
Chapter 11, Slade 171
Chapter 12, Brown 199
Chapter 13, Kondor 176
Chapter 14, Slade 172
Chapter 15, Brown 200
Chapter 16, Kondor 177
Chapter 17, Slade 173
Chapter 18, Brown 201
Chapter 19, Kondor 178
Chapter 20, Slade 174
Chapter 21, Kondor 179
The first decision that had to be made about this book is which characters’ stories it would recount. That wasn’t that difficult a decision, because Kondor, Slade, and Brown had all been absent from the previous book, the seventh, Re Verse All, and so there would be a strong argument against omitting any of them from this one. Meanwhile, I had Hastings and Takano together in the same world, and if I carried them over I would have five viewpoint characters, which while I have done that before it makes for shorter stories. Besides, if at some point I split them I would have more trouble. I could bring Beam into it, but since on the last page of the previous novel he verses out he is the easiest one to delay.
The second decision was the sequence of the characters. The argument against Joe was that he was the last chapter of Versers Versus Versers. On the other hand, there were a lot of chapters since then in the intervening book. What Joe had in his favor was that his first chapter actually had some action in it. Further, when I finished writing Versers Versus Versers I tackled a short story continuation for each of the six viewpoint characters, and for him I wrote three consecutive chapters, so there was a strong argument in that for beginning with him.
In the end of the previous book I had had Joe suggest to Zeke that they attempt to sink the boats by shooting holes in them. After I finished it, I remembered that canoes don’t sink because they’re buoyant, and these wooden boats would swamp but stay afloat. Thus I had to rethink the strategy, but more significantly I had to think of why Kondor would know this and have him rethink it.
As usual, as I started writing the book it was untitled. I had received suggestions when I was writing the seventh book, although I used my own idea of Reversal to create Re Verse All, which I liked and ultimately used. I had also been considering Inverse Proportion. Then there were the suggestions from readers: Eric Ashley recommended Chapter and Verse, and Bell, Verse, and Candle, and To Verse is a Verb; Kyler Young put forward Conversation; John Walker suggested Joe Verses Slade (although I felt like there must be something better than “Slade” to make that work, such as Tornado). As I am reaching the sixth chapter, I am leaning toward Con Versation, or else In Verse Proportions. While I was working on setting up the HTML pages of Re Verse All I thought of Ner Verse, but am not sure how I would use it.
I am thinking that for the gather I’ll use The Farmland beta, in which aliens invade a primitive world and the verser defends it. I could put this in Slade’s current world, the parakeet world at the level of the industrial revolution, which is more advanced than the world of the book version but should be workable. Slade, Derek, and Kondor have all done spaceships by this point, so they’re a good set to put against the aliens.
The argument for making Slade second was that I had written three consecutive chapters for him as well, so it would be quick and easy to put together a good part of the beginning of the book.
I wanted Bob to be able to communicate with the Parakeet People, but it was not credible that their language would not have changed at all from the time when they wove baskets and lived in wigwam-like nests to the age of the industrial revolution. Thus I decided that the first bird he encountered would be a scholar of ancient civilization who knew the language. Bob, though, does not know it well, and it is likely that the scholar would shift to the modern version of it rather easily–for example, someone who knows the early Greek of Homer and also knows modern Greek would probably revert to the modern if he started conversing in Greek, despite the similarities in the two languages.
When I created this world in Verse Three, Chapter One I never really made decisions about the biases. I decided that some things worked and some didn’t, but I didn’t put numbers on anything. As I bring the world back into play, that gives me two problems, the one figuring out what was possible then, the other deciding whether that has changed, and to what degree. When I do Mystery of the Vorgo (which I did in Old Verses New, but it didn’t matter there because Kondor doesn’t believe in magic), I keep the magic curve but drop the level, so everything that was possible is still possible for the verser, but not for the indigs, and it’s all more difficult. Eventually Shella is going to try to figure out what she can and cannot do, and I have to make it consistent with what is already established about this world.
The problem with Derek’s story is that not only did I write only two chapters for it, they’re not consecutive. The first follows immediately from the cliffhanger of Versers Versus Versers, but the second is clearly set later, after Derek and Vashti have become more established. That means I face more writing when the next Brown chapter is due.
I recognized the Commander Brown problem, and decided to play with it a bit. The robot does not recognize the problem, and Derek has to find a way to get it to do so.
In the previous book Derek had noticed that the indigs he encountered were left-handed. I remembered that, and assumed that it would mean that the top assistant would be the left-hand man because of it.
This was again one of the chapters I wrote immediately after finishing Versers Versus Versers, and so was continuing the battle there. I had not yet decided which characters would be in the seventh book and which would be in this one.
This was another chapter written before the decision had been made concerning which characters would be in which books. I was beginning to paste the three characters together in this book and so creating the story, while at the same time formatting Re Verse All for publication, and getting the opening of the ninth novel in place (there were aspects of Lauren’s and Tommy’s story that needed to be covered before I forgot them).
Originally I had called the apartments “Married Student Housing” as they were called when I was in college (although my colleges didn’t have any such dorms), but I changed it to “Mated Student Housing” as perhaps better translation for what the birds might have called it.
This was the first chapter I had to write to continue the story. I had another Brown chapter, but it was several chapters later, and I needed to bridge from here to there.
I wanted Derek to address Vashti in a language the homonoid did not know, but I had to look up whether he had programmed the computer with Arabic or Farsi. (It was Arabic.)
I started this and gave it its head, but had to interrupt in the middle without knowing where it was going to go after Derek commented that he didn’t know the native language. At the time I was trying to set up Re Verse All for online serial publication, so I didn’t get back to this for perhaps a month or so, during which time I had thought of a different direction. Returning once I’d finished the last behind-the-writings post for that book, I picked up and integrated the two ideas.
This was another chapter written shortly after the previous book was finished, so I would know where I was taking Kondor. There is one more Kondor chapter already drafted, and this one actually sets that one up, but boxes me into I’m not sure what.
The notion that amirates give silver chains like the gold chains given by the caliphate seemed appropriate.
This was the last of the pre-written Slade chapters, and even a month or so later I am not certain what happens next.
The fact that they appear as gods is significant at this point.
I had originally written that the porter’s name was “unpronounceable”. In editing, it bothered me, but I didn’t realize the problem and make the change to “untranslatable” until the night before it was published.
At this point I was struggling with all three stories. I knew quite a bit of what had to happen with Derek and with Slade, but wasn’t sure how to organize it; I was not at all certain what to do with Kondor.
With Derek, I realized that he did not know for how long he was expected to stay at his post, and in fact he didn’t even know how the ship’s time system worked. In contemplating this, I decided that there was something rational about dividing the day into twenty-four equal hours, the hours then into sixty minutes each of sixty seconds, but that there was nothing rational about supposing that the day of the originating planet was the same length as that of earth. I thought perhaps it should be the equivalent of twenty-one hours, with each second correspondingly shorter such that the clocks counted twenty-four shorter hours in each day. That would give me a bit of math to resolve, but it was manageable.
The next problem, then, was how many of those shorter hours comprised a standard shift, and was it different on the bridge. I was much inclined toward making the standard work day eight hours, but making the bridge shift shorter, six hours. But the problem was communicating all of this to Derek.
Beyond that, they had to find their quarters, and it would be separate quarters for each of them because they would be officer’s quarters. They would of course move in together into Derek’s room and turn Vashti’s into some kind of study area–which was the next problem, that Vashti had a tremendous amount of learning to do, and Derek had to learn some himself, so they had to put that together from the ship’s computer.
All of this had to be done without belaboring the text.
I tackled the time questions first.
This was the last pre-written Kondor chapter. There was one more pre-written Brown chapter, but its content was for later in the book and I had a lot to write before I could insert it.
Before I started this chapter, I was approached by a publisher who was willing to publish my Why I Believe and wanted me to write a book based on the Temporal Anomalies in Popular Time Travel Movies web site. These occupied a significant amount of my attention for several weeks, and I realized that I was not moving this book forward, which might be a problem because Re Verse All was a relatively short book and was progressing rather quickly through the online publication process. Still, I was unsure how to proceed with a lot of this.
I had been struggling with how to move Bob forward, knowing all the things he had to do but not how to get them into the story, and abruptly it occurred to me to do something I’d done before: have the characters talk about it, and see what ideas they had. Most of what I was trying to work toward had already occurred to Slade, and was easy enough to put into the story, along with the idea from Shella that he learn the language mind reading trick.
I pushed forward by moving Derek and Vashti off the bridge to living quarters, and as I was setting them up I realized that they hadn’t eaten in five or six hours, and I was going to have to address that first but had not given it any thought at all. I wanted to avoid replicators and food dispensers, but knew I didn’t have a kitchen crew and wanted to avoid forcing them to make their own meals. I’ve got a couple chapters to work it out while I catch up the other two characters.
I was concerned that I not wind up putting Kondor back into a situation in which he was introducing modern medicine to a technologically primitive society, and wondering how to avoid it, when it struck me that this is a highly magical world and to this point although there have been a number of people injured, no one has been sick. I wondered about whether I could credibly create the idea that there is no disease in the world, and floated it on one of my social media pages to get feedback from fans. Some of it was excellent, and I started piecing together how to make this work.
I was several weeks stalled on this. It was only partly because during this time I completed a first and a second draft of the promised time travel book. It was also because I was stymied on all three stories–on Joe because I really couldn’t think of what to do with him, and on Bob and Derek because even though I had a lot of pieces through which to move them, I couldn’t figure out how to connect them.
I had considered having Bob botch or fail on the language link, but I had some significant problems ahead for him and didn’t want to add this to them. I might still have a language link failure at some point, but for the moment I just need to push forward.
I’m thinking that Bob can invent the internal combustion engine and the telephone and maybe the light bulb easily enough. I’ll have to decide whether they have electric generators, but I think they do because I think they have electric motors and batteries, although it is possible their vehicles are all steam powered at this point. I don’t see him refining petroleum, but he can run a vehicle on alcohol fuel, and if they don’t have distillation that’s easy enough for him to create.
I was trying to get things organized, and realized that food was the priority, so I sent them to the officers’ galley which, I realized, would probably be stocked much as the other kitchen but would have no staff so Derek would have to cook. Then I tried to work out where he would think to start Vashti’s education, and moved on from there. I have to move them forward quickly, and bring in instruction on using their stations, but I couldn’t put more into the time than was credible.
The bathroom kept nagging at me, probably because I had just set up to publish the chapter of Re Verse All in which Beam teaches his lieutenants how to use one and I didn’t want to omit it from Derek’s story.
I was stuck with how to keep Joe’s story interesting in the Arabian Nights world, and took it up with several people, one of whom suggested I should just verse him out–but I didn’t have anywhere to send him, and I was going to need to take him to Slade for the gather which would limit how much I could do in any intervening world. Then it struck me that he was a highly eligible bachelor, obviously a wealthy foreign nobleman, and that it might be time to entangle him in some kind of relationship. As I considered it, the notion of someone trying to arrange such a thing struck me, and I figured I could launch that and see where it might lead.
This was a short chapter, much shorter than I had intended. However, when I wrote the last words, “I would like you to marry my sister,” I needed a way to convey the shock of this, and in less than a minute I decided that the best way to do this would be to end the chapter here.
I couldn’t decide whether to do the engineering discussion or the legal discussion first, but since I saw the problems arising in the latter I decided to move forward with engineering.
I decided that the language link failed mostly because I didn’t want it to succeed constantly, particularly considering that both of them were fairly new at it.
When I was setting up the HTML page for publication for this chapter, I realized that the next chapter, Brown 201, had the wrong number–the digits had been transposed to 210. What was worse is that the error was copied both to my outline notes of the book and to the behind-the-writings document from which these posts are produced, and then followed, every chapter nine places higher than it should have been. That was forty-five chapter numbers that had to be corrected individually in three different places. At least, though, I caught it before I had done images for them.
I needed Derek and Vashti to learn what they needed to know at a swift but credible pace, and I needed to make it happen without it becoming boring reading. Eventually I’m going to have to create a problem, probably an intercept course with a comet or other huge ice ball, but I’m going to want Derek and Vashti to be able to handle it when it comes, so I need to get them trained first.
I had a number of things to deal with, and decided to stretch the time a bit by having Mohammed try to persuade Kondor to come meet Leah and instead he insists that she must come to him. I had thought briefly that perhaps he brought her with him, but decided that was not the way he would have done it, so there will be a delay while he goes to get her.
I need to pick an amirate for Mohammed, who will be the recently installed Amir there. I’m thinking southwest, but that’s terribly convenient; the problem is all the others are north of the Capital, and would take a longer time to reach. That’s not necessarily bad, but I’m not sure how to stretch it at Kondor’s end.
I had been trying to construct a conversation here, and it wasn’t working. At one point I had imagined the professor saying something like “but you’re not parakeet; you’re not even avian”, but I couldn’t make that make sense. That is, in our world we might say “You’re not human; you’re not even hominid” or maybe “primate”, but we wouldn’t say “mammalian” even if that were the case. In the end I’m not sure whether I conveyed the “legal nuances”, but I think I got the problem across.
This was going to be a Brown chapter, but I wasn’t sure what to write. Then as I thought about it I decided that I left Derek and Vashti in a routine, and giving them a bit more time before the next chapter would make it feel like they had continued working that way for a while. Besides, I knew exactly where the Kondor chapter began and a lot of what it contained, and people would be waiting for it, so I decided to go for it.
The idea of telling the prospective in-laws about the verse had occurred to me already, but the idea of having Zeke suggest it was new.
This has been the first behind-the-writings look at In Verse Proportion. If there is interest and continued support from readers we will endeavor to continue with more behind-the-writings posts for it and another novel.