Tag Archives: Fiction

#43: Novel Worlds

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #43, on the subject of Novel Worlds.

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), and
  10. #39:  Character Futures (chapters 57 through 60).

This picks up from there.  Two of our three characters find themselves starting in new worlds in these chapters.

img0043Castle

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


Chapter 61, Slade 20

I was building Shella into a sorceress for no real reason other than that it gave me story and character development for Slade.  It turned out for the better in the long run, but at this point I did not see where it was going.  I recently read the quote (and I confess to being terrible at sources) that writing a novel is like driving home at night in the fog:  you can only see a hundred feet ahead, but you can make it all the way home.  That makes sense to me.

The “not bad, for an auto mechanic” line was important.  It was enough that Slade regarded himself a fighter, and was becoming one; I did not see him embracing a career in magic, and doing so would have made him too much like Lauren.  I needed him to think of magic as something he didn’t really do well and wouldn’t pursue seriously.

Having Shella there also gave me a side door through which to arrange Torrence’s marriage.  I wanted it to be something with which the modern Slade would be comfortable, but knew it had to fit within the concept of arrangements of the time.  Using the sister to introduce girls to her brother seemed the way to do it.

I found my way to get Slade out, and had tied up most of the loose ends to this point.  I did not know that any of these people would ever come back into the story, so the parting from Shella was a bit melancholy for me.

At the time I gave very little thought to what it was Slade was trying to do, that is, what spell he was trying to learn.  I don’t think I’ve returned to that, but it’s possible that I mentioned it again somewhere and have since forgotten.  Anyway, I’ll probably recall it in some future book.

I think the fact that Joe and Bob versed out in successive chapters was strictly coincidence here—I’d brought them both to the point that they were ready to go, and I had worked out where they were going, and found ways to move them, so it happened.


Chapter 62, Hastings 22

I wanted Lauren to learn the sort of “hyperspace” travel the werewolves used, as I was certain it would be useful to her in the future.  I had no idea just how much she would use it eventually, but here and now she needed to learn it.

In copying this chapter, I noticed that I’d missed a close quotation in the book.  It’s fixed in the online version.

I’m fond of grilled ham and cheese, and of cream of mushroom soup.  Tomato soup goes well with grilled cheese, too, but is a bit cliché, so I went with my preference.

I had eaten at Bookbinder’s in Philadelphia exactly once—treat of the executives of a company for which I had worked security, when I had to testify at a National Labor Relations Board hearing concerning the termination of an employee I had caught stealing from the company.  All I remembered, really, was that they had really good lobster bisque.  It’s also the only fancy restaurant in the city I know, but at least I knew it was there.


Chapter 63, Kondor 21

I created The Quest for the Vorgo as a world for a stripped demo game that ran very rough, but I found the world to be fascinating and reworked it for full game play; it was slated for release in The Third Book of Worlds, which is a work in progress.  It owes a lot to the wonderfully comedic Army of Darkness, and its idea of dropping a modern person into a medieval undead horror story.  I’ve used it for a lot of demos since I wrote this.

I was particularly interested in running Joe Kondor in it, because he was an atheist, and he would have to find naturalist explanations for the magic that permeates so much of this world.  I figured it would be fun, and there would be a sort of message in the very fact that in the face of all this magic he could maintain his persistent unbelief.

The opening of the world was also fun, because we have a group of magic-using locals who have just performed a ceremony which is supposed to call a “supernatural” deliverer to aid them, and the character appears in their midst.  I will never say whether he appears there because the spell worked, or they think the spell worked because he appears there, but generally people who land in this world take the bait and go on the quest whether or not they think the magic worked.

The names of these characters were invented quite off the cuff; the only one that has any real source is Dimtri, which I got by shortening Dimitrios, cover artist Jim Denaxas’ given name.  When I pulled the world together for game play, I did not carry the names into it, because they are not all that easy to remember.

The castle is on a motte and bailey design, but Kondor would not know that (and the reader probably would not connect the description to anything specific even if told that it is the design of the Tower of London) so I simply had him describe it.  The photo selected for this web log entry is a motte and bailey castle, but rather a smaller and more simple one than the one in the story.

The name mistake, Jo-suede Candor, was at the time intended as a way of intensifying the sense that these people did not think of him as human.  They did not understand the structure of his name.

The comment on the bed was on the thought that medieval life was not comfortable, that they had nothing like the comforts we take for granted.  Even when Joe was in Sherwood sleeping on a mattress he made from local materials, his bed was more comfortable than this one in the main tower.


Chapter 64, Slade 21

In-game, players roll each time they enter a new universe to see whether they have moved to the next “stage”.  In the first stage they enter unconscious and awaken.  In the second stage, though, they arrive in a dream state, and the referee mixes bits of reality with bits of the past and whatever fantastic elements he wishes, much as the sort of dream you have when you are awakening but still dreaming and things in the room mix with the dream.  I wanted this to happen in the book, and Slade’s second world gave me an opportunity to experiment with it.

I created this world specifically for the book, although I later distilled the essential elements from it for demo games and was hoping to release it in a planned project of short world books called “Triple Play”, sets of three worlds that were of similar substance, this one one of three space settings.  That has not materialized.  I based a lot of this on the concepts of Blake’s 7; as I previously mentioned that my thief Filp was based significantly on Vila Reston, I also based characters here somewhat loosely on those characters.  I had run a Blake’s 7 world at least twice in playtest (after all, Ed always encouraged plagiarization for game play) but knew I couldn’t use it as it was, particularly as I think someone had been working on a role playing game for it about that time.

Kondor was surprised to find himself on a spaceship; Slade is similarly surprised, but his situation is different.


Chapter 65, Hastings 23

I gave the impression through Bethany’s dialogue that she and Lauren had fought vampires together before.  I already knew that Lauren was going to train Bethany when she returned in the past, but had not worked out any of the details of that.  When I got to that part in the second novel, it was something of a challenge to figure out how to make that happen.

The use of her psionic powers is becoming automatic for Lauren, which is going to matter eventually.

The hints are riddles.  I had by this point worked out what the paperclip, die, and marble each did, and found a way to create seemingly related riddles for them.  I still did not know what the acorn did, and had to make it seem as if Bethany knew but was keeping it secret.

I remember that when Ed ran this scenario he had his Bob the Ghoul (whom I have renamed Arnie) attack someone I knew—but I do not remember who it was.  I had Chris Jones’ character (known by the not very original name Shadow, I renamed the character Whisp in the rulebook) working with me, but I can’t now recall the details of how we found out about the attack, or who was attacked.


Chapter 66, Kondor 22

The particular fun at this point is that the summoners believe Kondor is a supernatural immortal—which in a sense he is—and therefore that he does not understand anything about being mortal—which of course is not true, he just doesn’t understand the details of their time and place and the nature of their enemy.  So it is difficult for him to make sense of the information, because they assume on the one hand that as the summoned deliverer he must know the problem and the solution, and on the other that as an immortal being he knows nothing about graveyards and corpses and the undead.  His situation is actually the reverse of that.

It would have made more sense for Kondor to send the emissaries sooner so that troops would be arriving the same day he returned with the vorgo, but he did not think of that.  This gave me more drama during the fight, though, because there would be reinforcements if the troops could hold long enough.

The wall was not envisioned as thick enough for an entry passage with arrow slits and murder holes; Kondor’s corral achieves something of the same effect, although less effectively.


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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#39: Character Futures

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #39, on the subject of Character Futures.

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).

This picks up from there.  Our three characters are each in various ways preparing for something in the future in these chapters.

img0039Sherwood

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


Chapter 55, Slade 18

I had begun seriously toying with the idea that Slade might marry Shella, but at this point I was also seriously planning the end of my book, and Shella did not fit where I was headed.  Still, it seemed natural to draw them closer together.

The notion of Torrence becoming Lord of Slade Manor had developed gradually, and was well-formed when I had the letter sent at the end of the previous chapter.  Shella’s place was still nebulous.

I wanted to bring across the idea that having control over your own destiny is a very modern concept, that even for the sons of noblemen in the past everyone fell into his assigned place in the world and did what his parents left him to do.  Torelle can’t see it any other way.

As Slade begins talking to Torrence, he wants to say that Torelle ought to have mentioned this earlier but is too stubborn in his conception of life to have done so, but he doesn’t want to offend Torelle in the process, so he looks for a reason why it falls to him, now, to do so.


Chapter 56, Hastings 20

I needed a lunar eclipse, because the concepts of the werewolf I was using included that they were nearly invulnerable under that condition.  In play, if I recall correctly, Ed simply rolled the dice and announced that there was such an eclipse coming up on a particular date.  I could have done something similar, but I wanted a bit more of a connection to reality—besides, I had played this in about 1993 and was writing in 1997, so just as he had put me a few years in my future I put Lauren a few years in hers, and had her already past the date of the eclipse from the game.  So I checked an almanac.  There was an eclipse coming on October 17th, which in story terms was very short, as I had been tracking dates and trying to keep consistent with the seasons in the climate and could not easily shift everything (not impossible for Lauren to wear a parka in September, but not at all reasonable in August).  It happened that the eclipse would not be total in Philadelphia, but I figured that to be a very small change, and noticed that it would be quite a few years before there would be another eclipse at all, and I could not stretch Lauren’s story that far.  I also felt that the rush gave it a sense of realism, because when you are trying to align actions with astronomical events you sometimes find yourself under pressure.

In play, some of the ideas put forward in the book by Father James came from the player behind his character, Tim Pangburn’s Father Holer, including the banquet, radio jammers, and the tampering with fire boxes and false alarms.  I had conceived of the Mission On the Move (it was the State Street Mission in game, I think, but I liked St. George better, and was not at all certain how much Ed had plagiarized), but I didn’t use it until the third raid, the destruction of a theatre called The Presemium.  I had already decided that Lauren’s story had run long enough, and I was going to eliminate everything I did after that point, in part because some of it was very much off the central story and involved another player character, and in part because I had still been in that world when Ed stopped running the game, and I thought the confrontation with Horta would be a good way to end it.

I also conceived the notion of blessing water in the pumper trucks, but that, too, was done at the Presemium raid; I liked the idea too much to abandon it, so I brought it into the story here.

I was toying with the notion that Horta might be an antediluvian (pre-flood) vampire at this point, and put the notion forward with Annuda.  Werewolves are not so long lived, perhaps comparable to humans, and their history is all oral tradition, so it wasn’t etched in stone just because she said it might be so.  Since Lauren killed Horta, and I was planning to take her to earlier points in the history of this world, I realized while writing the next book that I was going to need someone more powerful than Horta who was going to have to be the villain in the final encounter in the third book.  Thus the destruction of Horta led to the conclusion that Tubrok, not Horta, was the antediluvian.


Chapter 57, Kondor 19

When I run Sherwood as a game, Richard does not return unless the player finds a way to return him; the novel more closely follows the history, in which the merchants ransom their king.  John really did not have the money—Richard and their father had heavily taxed the land to pay for their wars, leaving little in the royal coffers.  It is also the case that upon his safe return, Richard reneged on the deal he had made with France to remove the impediment to his leadership of the Crusade, and crossed the channel to do battle over the ownership of Normandy, Brittany, and D’Anjou.

The connection between the Prince John who ruled as surrogate for Richard and the King John who was forced to sign the Magna Carta is not generally made.  I had never made it until I researched the history for this world, and even now I cannot put a year on it beyond that it was near the end of the first decade of the twelve hundreds.  I figured Kondor wouldn’t know, either.


Chapter 58, Slade 19

Quite frankly, I had no idea that Slade would eventually marry Shella.  It was one of those things, that I thought they were attracted to each other but that he would always consider it impossible and she would never push the issue, and so he would verse out and leave her behind.  So I was playing with their mutual attraction while keeping the boundaries clear.

The communications spell was one of those things I thought might be useful at some point in the future, but was done more to give the impression that Slade was learning magic, at least a bit.

I also found myself building a friendship between Slade and Filp.  It, too, was expected to end when Slade left, but I found that much of it lingered with Slade as he visited other worlds.

When I began Slade’s dungeon crawl I thought he would probably be killed somewhere early in the game; I had not anticipated making him a lord and keeping him there for decades.  I realized that I had painted myself into a corner, as there weren’t too many ways to remove him that would be consistent with his character, but I also saw some advantage in having the story go this way, so I wasn’t too worried.


Chapter 59, Hastings 21

My editor was not a religious man, and he found Lauren’s affront at the competing religion to be irrational.  I had to do some extensive rewriting here to make it clear why the religion Gavin espoused was dangerous.

Throwing a “spanner in the works” is probably a distinctly British version of that concept; I had always heard it as a “monkey wrench”.  The latter is a vernacular name for a pipe wrench, which I assume the former also is; I got it from a Doctor Who episode long ago and liked the word at least for that expression.

“We Shall Overcome” has long struck me as a peculiar song.  I learned it at church camp, and it comes across as one of those contemporary Christian songs of the early sixties, like Kumbaya or They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love, but it lacks any specifically Christian thematic elements.  Thus I thought it would work for a religion that was imitating Christian ritual.

Lauren’s speech and actions are calculated to incorporate as much supernaturalism as possible into what should come across as very natural and ordinary, as if magic and vampires were things everyone encountered on a daily basis.  It was part of the psychological attack on their faithlessness.


Chapter 60, Kondor 20

Kondor’s uncertainty concerning what to do next reflected my own.  I was not eager to attempt to create a tour of early thirteenth century England, and I really had done most of what I could do with Kondor as founder of modern medicine.  I was also faced with the problem of how to remove him from the present world, since if arrested he would logically face a trial, a rather drawn out and not terribly interesting part of the story.  So I looked for a shortcut, and managed to find one.

Sir Guy’s accent is different, of course, because he is high-born Norman, whereas all the commoners and recruits of the shire reeve are Saxon.

I have often wondered whether to return Kondor to a future version of the world he formed here.  I do that with players in this world, particularly if they kill or otherwise depose Prince John and so prevent the signing of Magna Carta.  Joe took no interest in politics here, ultimately (despite his initial interest), so he did not change that—but he did change their medical science drastically.  I chose to bring him back to a future version of his next world, though, and if I ever do it with this world it will be far enough removed from the present to give it distance.

I have always been fond of the opening of Quest for the Vorgo, in which the verser arrives on the table on the dais during the ceremony to summon a supernatural deliverer.  No one has ever been able to answer whether the magic brought him there, or whether it was something else.


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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#37: Character Diversity

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #37, on the subject of Character Diversity.

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

  1. #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone (which provided this kind of insight into the first six chapters),
  2. #20:  Becoming Novel (covering chapters seven through twelve),
  3. #22:  Getting Into Characters (for chapters thirteen through eighteen),
  4. #25:  Novel Changes (chapters 19 through 24),
  5. #27:  Novel Continuation (chapters 25 through 30),
  6. #30:  Novel Directions (chapters 31 through 36),
  7. #33:  Novel Struggles (chapters 37 through 42), and
  8. #35:  Quiet on the Novel Front (chapters 43 through 48).

This picks up from there.  Our three characters are defining themselves very differently from each other, and in some ways differently from the way they began.

img0037cabin

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


Chapter 49, Slade 16

At this point, Shella is the girl Slade can’t possibly marry.  I knew they were going to be close, that I was going to play with this flirtation, but also that he would verse out and be gone leaving her behind.

Torrence is the better fighter, because he has been training all his life to become a knight, where Slade has been approaching it with considerably less devotion despite his religious views.  Slade doesn’t really grasp what it is to be dedicated to anything in particular.

I decided that Slade was going to have to explain who he was and what was going to happen to him to Torrence at some point, because Torrence would eventually face the problem that Slade was gone and there was no body to show to prove his death.

The death of Omigger was at that point tossed into the mix in part so I would have something different to do with Slade’s story, in part because I wanted the sense of the years rolling past, and in part because I had decided that Slade was going to have to pick up a bit more magic at this point.  I figured that Omigger was now out of the story; it was never my intention or expectation that any of these characters would be seen again (other than, of course, Slade), but it turned out that I had come to like them too much and had to bring some of them back later.

Filp is not literally Torrence’ uncle; he’s a distant cousin.  Slade, though, uses such words in the inaccurate way most Americans do, basing them more on relative ages than actual biological relationships.


Chapter 50, Hastings 18

In-game, when Ed introduced me to my self, he was a nationally syndicated religious broadcaster—picking up on the five years I had been in Christian radio and suggesting that I became one of the program creators.  I didn’t want to make the other Lauren an on-air Bible teacher or evangelist, so I shifted it slightly.  I also made her single.  Ed had not dealt at all with the fact that I was married before I was in radio, but I had not had that much contact with my other self.  Also, in game I discovered that I was on the radio, and holding meetings in town, so I went to find myself; here I thought a chance meeting a better approach, as I could not think of a reason for Lauren to seek her other self otherwise.

I prefer not to drink coffee without something on my stomach, and am fond of corn muffins, so that’s what Lauren ordered.

The places in Lauren’s bio are all real.  They are not connected to me in the ways I describe for Lauren.


Chapter 51, Kondor 17

I did not yet know where I was going with the Kondor story, but decided that this was not yet the end of his time in Sherwood, and that the soldier was seeking medical treatment for a child.  That worked well, opening new directions for me.

I think Jim Denaxas gave me the Kondor name, and I  always knew it was the name of a bird, but I only mentioned it here.

I saw potential complications with the soldier, the one being that Kondor had no housing for family members of his patient, the other being that he would be a threat to the freedom of some of those who visited the clinic.  I used both.


Chapter 52, Slade 17

I gave Slade the books to push him in the direction of wizardry, but he really did not want to go that way so he never learned much.  Still, it introduced the other option.

I have Slade improving on his combat skills, now more nearly equal to Torrence.  I need him to become a hero soon, and I need his skill to be credible.

I had decided most of what was in the letter when I wrote of it, although I’m not sure whether I had already thought through the part about Shella.


Chapter 53, Hastings 19

Creating alternate life paths is an interesting aspect of play when you introduce divergent selves.  Here, though, Lauren has to introduce her duplicate to the nature of the world, mostly to set up the encounter with Bob the Ghoul.

I think, if memory serves, I had Lauren Meyers rush out of the first meeting so I could split the discussion into two parts, and think a bit about how I wanted to handle the second.


Chapter 54, Kondor 18

Even in our time people won’t finish taking their antibiotics once they feel better.  The result is the creation of superbugs, virulent bacteria that are resistant to the medicines, and frequently relapsing into illness that is more difficult to cure the second time.  For Kondor, the problem is multiplied by the lack of understanding of the time.

At times the speech of the Nottingham people seems stilted.  It was intended to, and I achieved it in part by avoiding all contractions.  Thus when Tuck says, “You are right, of course.  But I really do not like it.”  It sounds archaic because we would say “You’re right” and “don’t like it”.  So I think it had its desired effect.


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]

#33: Novel Struggles

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

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

  1. #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone (which provided this kind of insight into the first six chapters),
  2. #20:  Becoming Novel (covering chapters seven through twelve),
  3. #22:  Getting Into Characters (for chapters thirteen through eighteen),
  4. #25:  Novel Changes (chapters 19 through 24)
  5. #27:  Novel Continuation (chapters 25 through 30), and
  6. #30:  Novel Directions (chapters 31 through 36).

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

img0033Philly

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


Chapter 37, Hastings 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Chapter 38, Kondor 13

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

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

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


Chapter 39, Hastings 14

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

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

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

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


Chapter 40, Slade 13

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

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


Chapter 41, Hastings 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Chapter 42, Kondor 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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#30: Novel Directions

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

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

  1. #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone (which provided this kind of insight into the first six chapters),
  2. #20:  Becoming Novel (covering chapters seven through twelve),
  3. #22:  Getting Into Characters (for chapters thirteen through eighteen),
  4. #25:  Novel Changes (chapters 19 through 24), and
  5. #27:  Novel Continuation (chapters 25 through 30).

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

img0030Leaves

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


Chapter 31, Hastings 11

Making raingear from trashbags is an old Boy Scout trick.

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

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

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


Chapter 32, Kondor 11

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

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


Chapter 33, Slade 11

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

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

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

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

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

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


Chapter 34, Hastings 12

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

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


Chapter 35, Kondor 12

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

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

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

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


Chapter 36, Slade 12

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

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


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

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#29: Saving the Elite

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

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

img0029Ark

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

Therein lies the problem.

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

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

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

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

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

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#28: A Terminator Vision

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

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

img0028Terminator

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

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

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

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

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

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#27: A Novel Continuation

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

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

  1. #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone (which provided this kind of insight into the first six chapters),
  2. #20:  Becoming Novel (covering chapters seven through twelve),
  3. #22:  Getting Into Characters (for chapters thirteen through eighteen), and
  4. #25:  Novel Changes (chapters 19 through 24).

This picks up from there.

img0027Trees

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


Chapter 25, Hastings 9

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

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

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

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


Chapter 26, Kondor 9

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

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

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


Chapter 27, Slade 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Chapter 28, Hastings 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Chapter 29, Kondor 10

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

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


Chapter 30, Slade 10

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


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

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#18: A Novel Comic Milestone

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #18, on the subject of A Novel Comic Milestone.

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 first few 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.

img0018Novel

From time to time I pick up my old books and read them again.  I don’t think this is conceit.  For one thing, I pick up and reread books by quite a few authors–Tolkien’s trilogy, Moon’s Paksenarrion series, the Teddy London Books by Henderson, anything by C. S. Lewis, and many books that are of no particular interest but that someone gave them to me and I have them here.  For another, writing an ongoing series requires that I maintain continuity, and thus that I remember the histories of my characters, including the negatives.  It is relatively easy to remember all the things they have done; it is much more difficult to remember the things they could not do, such as that Bob Slade was never a Boy Scout.  So I read them.

Why that matters is that when I read them, I remember things few others would know.  That is, I remember what I was thinking when I wrote them, and why I wrote what I did, and what I changed and what it was originally.  I remember conversations with editors, conversations with friends, discussions, decisions, ideas.  Perhaps they are worthless; but perhaps someone might be interested in how the writing process developed over time.  That seemed worth sharing, and so periodically, if traffic to these pages shows interest (I get specific page traffic reports on the blog; for the web site otherwise I only get total traffic and have to guess at what’s popular by the e-mail and comments) I’ll keep it going.

Originally, Ed Frost, briefly President of Valdron Inc, wanted to launch a Multiverser comic book.  It fell to me to write the stories, which were originally sketched in a panel-by-panel format.  The plan was that the first issue would introduce Kondor and Lauren, then the second issue would continue Lauren and introduce Slade, and then the third issue would continue Slade and Kondor, and from there we would rotate the stories so that each issue contained stories from two characters, each character vanishing every third issue.  For better or worse, after I had written six installments, what became the first six chapters, the artists said it could not be done without significantly more staff, and the comic was dropped.  I later picked up the stories and began restructuring them into novel form.  That makes these first six chapters something different from the rest, because while they were being written this was envisioned as the beginning of a comic book series running three separate characters, and with the seventh chapter it was being re-thought as a unified novel.

One aspect of the original comic book plan was that each section had to end on something like a cliffhanger; that is, because it would be sold serialized, you had to want to read the next part of the story so you would buy the next comic to see what happened.  Thus there is a fair amount of action in the early chapters to create that kind of tension.  Apart from that, though, I had long ago observed, reading Lord of the Rings and Dune, that having stories set on multiple stages with unanswered questions in each pushed the reader forward, wanting to know what would happen next to Frodo or Paul Atriedes, and so I tended to retain that concept of ending chapters at a point at which the reader wants to know what happens next, and then jumping to a different character.  Had I stuck with the comic book concept, of course, it would have been possible to follow the chapters of one specific character; it is not impossible to do so, and some who have read the book and then returned to it have followed one particular character through all his (usually Slade’s) chapters, but since they eventually come together it becomes necessary to read the intervening chapters to know what the character does between his own story entries.  The character by which each chapter is identified is in essence the viewpoint character, the one whose perceptions, thoughts, and feelings give us the events.


Chapter 1, Kondor 1

My recollection is that Jim Denaxas gave me the Kondor name, although I am uncertain of that.  I wanted a name that would convey strength; this character was from the beginning envisioned as what might be called disciplined, having a structured life and approach to reality and a strong moral core.

At the time I started writing this, all Multiverser player characters started in NagaWorld, which was a world created by E. R. “Ed” Jones.  It is a world with many secrets, and I did not wish to reveal them in the novels, but I did not at that point wish to suggest that these characters had not been to the one world which, in my mind at the time, all characters knew.  (That changed in the early years of play, first because I did not wish to post the secrets about NagaWorld to online sources, then later because we learned that for the purpose of demo games it was better to begin players in worlds that did not have the potential for long-term play.)  Thus all three characters make allusions to different parts of NagaWorld.  For Kondor, it is suggested that he began in or near the Glass City, and was killed by one of the “giant robot spiders” that patrol its streets.  The first paragraph briefly references that fight, and the story continues from there.

Kondor draws largely from a character renamed Peter Adams in the game books, originated by Richard Lutz, whom I never met nor saw.  The concept that he was military arose partly from the fact that Ed Jones had been military and had playtested the earliest Multiverser games with military players on bases around the world, including Lutz.  It was fairly standard in those days that player characters took their standard duffel bags, and were killed by some army experiment, so Kondor’s start recalls that.

The Mary Piper was a world I had created for Multiverser:  The First Book of Worlds (which also contains NagaWorld).  It had in some ways been a demonstration of a principle, that you could use the same ideas to create very different worlds by changing setting or genre elements.  In this case, the world book presented side-by-side two trading vessels, one in a post-medieval early gunpowder world, the other as an interstellar spaceship.  I wanted Kondor to start on the spaceship, because I wanted one of my three stories to begin in a science fiction setting, and this was a setting I had already designed and could write fairly easily.

I made First Officer Jamison black because it gave me an easy way to describe Kondor:  with twenty-seven crewmen there was a reasonable chance that one of them would look generally like him, and given that I wanted Kondor to convey an air of discipline, making it the first officer gave me that.  Jamison has been black in every game version I have run since, although prior to that it was never mentioned.

When I run the space version (called Mary Piper Beta) it is always supposed to be a surprise to the player character that he is on a spaceship.  I wanted to capture that, too.


Chapter 2, Hastings 1

I created Lauren Hastings so I could tell some of the stories from the games in which I was a player.  Because in that sense she would be me, I wanted to make her different, although I long wondered whether I made her a woman because she was so like me and I needed her to be different, or whether I made her so like me because she was a woman and I needed that point of contact.

Her first world (after NagaWorld) was also mine, except that when Ed Jones ran me in this vampire-filled world (a variant of the World of Darkness published by White Wolf) it was set in Chicago.  I have never been a city boy, and do not know my way around even those cities I have visited; but my real-life exposure to Chicago amounted to having ridden in my father’s car a few miles along the beltway as boy and hearing some years after that that they built the Sears Tower, which gave it the tallest building in the world at that time taking the title away from New York City.  I moved my character to Philadelphia because I had been at that point living in its New Jersey suburbs for a while and knew I could make at least a few real geographical references with accuracy.

The blast mentioned was also the way my character left Nagaworld, trying to create a kau sin ke that was a psionic device and getting caught in the explosion that came from my botch.  I actually had some problems at this point, because I was giving Lauren the backstory of having stayed at Umak Tek, the city that “I” built in Nagaworld, and conducting at least that one of the same experiments I had conducted, but was not making her the architect of the city, so I was always a bit uncertain exactly what she actually did while there, other than learn a lot from what I had left behind.

My wife’s comments on the first draft included that she did not find Lauren credible because a young mother who had been separated from her children would have thought about them more.  I integrated a lot more of that before it went to the editor, but I do not now remember which comments were part of the original effort to define her and which were added later.

I had a kau sin ke, a gift from my players for a game prop, but a real weapon nonetheless.  Like Lauren, I played with it a bit, but never had any training; still, I could flick the end out threateningly and flip it back to my hand, spin it in a figure eight in front of me, and snap it like a whip without hurting myself; and I had a character in another game, a D&D variant, who was expert in it, so I’d spent some time thinking about how it could be used.

Gavin and Jackson were very much Ed’s inventions originally; I’m not certain whether I even changed their names.  I had come to realize that Ed not only plagiarized most of what he used, he encouraged the practice for gaming, so I was always careful about what I took from his games–not because I was worried about stealing from him but because I was worried that I would take something he had stolen from someone else.  However, he expressed confidence that Gavin was an original of his, and Jackson was never developed beyond sidekick muscle, so they were safe choices.

I had a bit of trouble when Lauren says she is not a scientist.  I had played that scene, and said that I was an alchemist, by which I meant that I had dabbled in the chemistry of another world to create some of the materials I was using (which Lauren also uses, but never claims to have created herself).  Yet the “Alchemist” title was to some degree associated with that character, and I did not want to connect it to her.  My eldest had become “the Psientist”, but I realized that were she to use that word it would not sound to the ear different from “scientist” and it would be foolish to suppose Gavin to have heard something different.  Thus I fell back on “psionicist” as the best available choice.  Since most of Lauren’s powers to that point were psionic, it fit.

The Pit was inspired by a place Ed presented called the Succubus Club, but I changed it.  For one thing, I wasn’t certain he hadn’t lifted that from some other source.  For another, it was too blatant.  There are a lot of restaurants that use the word “pit” in their names, and I thought that one called simply “The Pit” would be able to slip under the radar as a hellish reference most would take as simply a name for a place that flame-grilled steaks and chops.

Father Matthew James was taken from a player character belonging to one of Ed’s players, who had been playing as a human vampire hunter in that universe for quite a while and, along with the other player character, was running scared.  Ed injected my character into their game to give them a boost, someone to help them and get them moving in a positive direction instead of playing defense.  I changed the name and am not certain I remember the original.  He was a priest, though, and many of the details here are from that character.  The mission, too, was part of his background, but it had a different name.  I gave the priest two Bible names, partly because I knew I could remember them.

I liked Saint George as the name of the mission; my editor Steve Darlington did not, saying that it was rather militant (George was a knight and dragon slayer, according to the legends).  However, his criticism only strengthened my resolve, and I addressed it by having Lauren recognize the peculiarity of the name.

I knew that Lauren in her future was going to visit this world in its past, but although I made Jackson wary I had not yet decided she was going to have encountered him in that past.

When I picked the date for the paper, it was for me the near-term future.  As problems delayed events it loomed closer, and I worried that I should push it back; but the eclipse–well, that should be mentioned when it arises.

My Australian editor did not know the names of the people I placed in significant positions in the United States, and I had to tweak some of the headlines, too, to make them a bit more depraved.  His rational tolerance saw no problems with pagan religions having more visibility and he had never heard of Ashtoreth.  I swithered on the subject of how to get the impact I wanted.


Chapter 3, Slade 1

I wanted a middle name for Robert Slade, and it was again Jim Denaxas who suggested “Elvis”.  He said to trust him.  The name has never mattered yet, but I always remember that he said it would be useful.  It does to some degree give him a rough date–obviously his mother was an Elvis fan.

From the beginning, Slade was very much a cross between the characters of Ed Jones and Chris Jones.  He was tall and lanky, like Chris, and was never entirely serious about anything; but the Nordic religion and the justification for it came from Ed’s character.  Both of them are dark-haired, but I wanted Slade to be blonde partly for contrast against the other characters (I always envisioned Lauren as a brunette) and partly because a blonde Norse warrior is more appropriate.  Yet I wanted him to be a bit awkward and humorous.  Since this was originally intended as a comic, I suppose that some of the influence came from DC Comic’s Super-Elastic Plastic Man, a superhero who seemed to joke his way through his adventures.  I wanted Slade’s antics to bring smiles to faces, and so set a different tone from the other two.  It seems to have worked–he is usually the one readers mention liking most.

I had started Kondor in a science fiction setting that was space-based, and Lauren in a modern horror setting (although not so much a horror story), and since part of the point was to show that Multiverser could handle all kinds of worlds I wanted something on the swords-and-sorcery medieval fantasy line for Slade.  I thus went for a D&D style dungeon crawl, and rather than worry about how I would induce Bob to go on such a quest, I simply dropped him in the dungeon and gave him the task of finding his way out.

A lot more of Bob’s story was for the eye, and I had more trouble converting it to text than the others.  Right up front, I had envisioned mostly black panels with partial illumination when the torch lit, but only sketchy images of the attacking beast.  I thought of him as less disciplined than Kondor, less educated than Lauren, definitely blue collar, working in an auto repair shop of some sort.  This also gave him tools, which I wanted to have because it would let me do some of the Gamma World game stuff about using tools as weapons.

His reference to pirating parts places him at what is perceived in NagaWorld as some kind of industrial complex spanning the northern horizon but is known to be a fully automated battlefield in which machines fight each other.  This meant that my three characters were all in the same world, but far enough from each other that there was no chance they would have encountered each other prior to this.

I wanted to pepper his speech with a lot of references both Norse and modern cultural, and started immediately, with the name of Loki and the Wizard of Oz quote about fire for the scarecrow.

I have never used a self-lighting blowtorch, but I would think they exist.  I can see easily enough how to make one.

I’ll credit Telly Savalas with the stick match idea.  I’d read about different ways people attempt to quit smoking based on different stimuli causing them to smoke, and Kojak’s lollipops are a replacement therapy for the constant hand-to-mouth contact smoking offers.  I went with stick matches, because a lot of boy scouts carry a match in their mouth around camp just to have it convenient (I think I may have done so at one time).

The Cerebus-model three-headed dog or wolf is a popular dungeon game monster, and it let me bring in the gaming reference and set the tone of a monster-filled tunnel complex.

Ed and I both flipped invisible coins; there’s an article entitled Game Ideas Unlimited:  Invisible Coins that talks about them.  Thus I borrowed the coin flipping from Ed, but made it real and gave it power by incorporating the prayer to the fates.

I think the original function of the room was to give Slade a magic torch, so that the farce of the perpetual flashlight would not become a problem.  However, by the time I was writing this I realized two things–one, that dungeon crawls and brief combats were not all that interesting, and two, that if I were going to make this story interesting I was going to have to turn something into a quest and add some characters.  Thus rather early realized that he was going to emerge to discover his three future companions; and I also knew that they would need a reason to return that would include bringing Slade with them.  The story of the djinni in the bottle began to take form, and I listed “bottles” among the junk.

My imagery of the tunnels is formed probably from three sources, one the caves of the Smokey Mountains I visited on family vacations as a child, the second years of running D&D games, and the third some glimpses of eighteenth and nineteenth century forts, particularly Fort Mott which guarded the mouth of the Delaware River and had a tunnel leading under the river to a companion fort on the other shore.  That tunnel has never been open for my exploration, but it can be seen from the New Jersey side.

My three companions were designed as typical fantasy characters, the fighter, wizard, and thief, and were fleshed out significantly only later.


Chapter 4, Kondor 2

Again, I never had given any thought to the race or color of any member of the Mary Piper crew until I had Kondor aboard.  I was at that time sharing the draft with a fan who happened to be black, who felt that color would be a natural connection for a black man out of place, and would make him feel more comfortable (and after all, if there were no non-white humans in this universe, would they not wonder what he was?).  So I made Walters black to create a point of connection, that Kondor related well to one of his crewmates.

Looking back, this may have been the beginning of Kondor’s incipient racism.  I had not planned it, but it emerged from this.

The sound of the impacts of kinetic blaster fire was my guess at what a weapon would do that hit you with a ball of force; I thus envisioned the invisible missiles as golf-ball sized spheres of forcefield, and assumed that they would bounce off walls with a thud.  This had the advantage that they would be likely to do serious blunt trauma to living targets but unlikely to put holes in spaceship walls.  The M-16 was more problematic, but here I just assumed that the walls had a built-in resilience that would deflect bullets if they were not too direct.

It is rare in Multiverser for characters to receive crippling injuries, but it happens.  Ed Jones’ character is noted for having a robotic arm.  I wanted Kondor to have some kind of mechanical prosthetic, and this seemed the best way and the best place to get it.  More on that when we get there.


Chapter 5, Hastings 2

I avoided using the name “plastic steel” for the polymer-like material of which many of Lauren’s things are made, partly because it struck me as cliché despite the fact that it’s the term I use for that material in play.  Her armor is again like the armor my character made for himself.

Again there was originally a visual expected here, of Lauren sitting in the chair and gradually slouching away into a doze; but that would not work quite so well in text, and since my wife had suggested giving more attention to missing her family I put some of that here on the rewrite.

My character spent a long time in NagaWorld getting in shape and working on acrobatics, and I wanted to introduce that in Lauren early so it would not be a surprise later.  She’s not really combat-trained at this point, but has been working with jumps and flips and other acrobatics and gymnastics moves as well as with what she might do with the weapon.

In the game, the priest did a number of things which I knew priests would never do–put holy water in a drinking glass and communion wafers in a sandwich, for example.  I wanted to create a similar but credible layer of defense.  I began with the assumption that vampires had to be invited onto holy ground, and Father James’ house was a church rectory and therefore consecrated.  His invitation is carefully worded to invite Lauren inside but not to invite a vampire.

The mirrored tiles on the walls were a later addition.  In the original first draft Lauren was never described until Joe Kondor saw her in chapter 105 (I had, of course, assumed initially that there would be pictures of her in the comic, so a description for the artists would be separate), and when I described what he saw my wife had her immersion snapped because she had always envisioned Lauren as a blonde.  I nearly always envision my female characters as brunettes, but I’d never said so; thus I had to find a way to get her description in earlier in the story, and this gave me the opportunity to do so.  It also helped that vampires are said to have no reflection, and therefore a mirrored front hall would tend to reveal trouble while looking stylish.

Whenever I have one character explain something to another, I always remember Diana Rigg’s Lady Holiday saying to Miss Piggy, “It’s plot exposition, it has to go somewhere.”  Even though it makes perfect sense for Father James to explain the world to Lauren, I tried to make things happen around it that so it wouldn’t be all talk.  Had it been a comic, these would have been done in flashback panels; but dialogue doesn’t work that way.

Jake Williams was also the translation of another player’s character to the book, again with the character name changed.

The backstory in the game had the parishioner leaving his money to Father James and the priest retiring; I recognized immediately that that was entirely unlike anything that was likely to happen in the Roman Catholic Church, and so changed it to a trust fund with the priest as named trustee.  That’s still a bit iffy, but I think that the church might allow something like that.  (I’m a bit touchy about stories that have clergy do things inconsistent with their own faith.  Part of that stems from the movie From Dusk Till Dawn, in which a lapsed Baptist pastor creates holy water to use against vampires–a deal breaker for me, because holy water is a sacramental concept used mostly by Catholics and similar “high church” denominations, and does not exist at all in the non-sacramental Baptist tradition.  I also seem to recall a mystery in which the detective recognized that a supposed minister was a fraud because the appointments in his office were inconsistent with his claimed denomination, and if you want to use details like that you have to get them right when they don’t matter.)

The explanation of her telepathic abilities was needed because the editor didn’t understand how it worked when I tossed it in unexplained.  It is pretty much the standard rule for Multiverser, but I’m also fairly sure it was the standard rule for the psionics in the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons™ psionics rules, so it seemed natural to me.

The reference to her sleep schedule in NagaWorld is because one of the “alien” aspects of that world is the forty-hour day, twenty of daylight and twenty of moonlight.  Players struggle to adjust to it in some way, and the longer a character is in that world the more likely it is that he will fall into some kind of long-day sleep schedule.  Twenty-seven awake and thirteen asleep seems to be plausible, and then to stretch it an extra four hours somewhere would not be that difficult if you were already accustomed to that kind of schedule.

Again we have a cliffhanger ending that was supposed to push the reader toward the next issue.


Chapter 6, Slade 2

It was a thought I had pretty much at this moment, that in our world a person raises his hands to show that he is unarmed and not going to attack, but that if a wizard would attack by raising his hands and releasing energy from them in such a world that move would be seen as aggressive.  Thus I had Torelle warn Slade not to raise his hands.

Omigger’s reaction to the phrase “auto mechanic” was perhaps the beginning of my games with Slade’s use of modern references his companions would not understand; this one, though, was innocent–it did not occur to him that they would not know.  On the other hand, it probably inspired his attitude of using modern references specifically because his friends would not understand them and he would find them humorous in the context.  He is essentially telling jokes only he would get, but the reader also gets them (I hope).

My image of Torelle at this point was tall, handsome, probably similar to Slade but not quite as tall and more evenly built.  He has something of a commanding voice, not quite Brian Blessed but strong and confident and proper–oh, and an American accent.

Omigger always has a refined British accent in my mind.  The name is itself a British joke.  Some years before we saw a Peter Davison Dr. Who episode in which they kept making reference to a great ancient Timelord, which was pronounced OH-mih-guh, and we took it to be “Omigger”; then we saw the title, which was “Omega”, a word which Americans pronounce oh-MEG-ah.  My wife missed the joke at first, not realizing how the name I wrote was pronounced, until she heard me reading the story to our sons.  I think she said, “You didn’t,” in that inflection that means “I can’t believe you did that.”

Filp is modeled very much on Vila Reston of Blake’s 7.  All my thieves owe something to him.  The mealy-mouth voice is part of it, although I’m less clear on the accent–he sounds more southern U.S. than British particularly in his old age in the third book, and I’m not so particular on his voice here other than that it always has that mousy frightened sound to it.

The three are classic D&D in their dress and equipment.

There was a “MacDonald’s Tavern” in I think Montvale, New Jersey, at which I ate maybe twice or thrice, but it had a rustic atmosphere that inspired my conception of the tavern here, with wooden tables and simple chairs, a lot of visible rafters and plain wood paneling, and a cluttered and busy feeling.

The idea of stew containing “some kind of meat” recurs particularly in my medieval settings.  Usually no one asks.

Originally the family name was “Coriander”, which I probably knew was a spice but I lifted from the bookstore in The Never-Ending Story.  The editor did not like a fief named for a spice, so I changed it to “Corlander”, grateful for the ability to do a global replace with word processing.  I only more recently learned that “Coriander” is called “Cilantro” in the United States, which is probably why an Australian editor thought first of spices.

Filp becomes the character who expresses confusion over the things Slade mentions, beginning here with the chimney.  Torelle, meanwhile, becomes the one who is confused by Slade’s view of the world, the questions he asks, the things he expects people to take for granted.  It begins here with Slade’s interest in who started the war, when Torelle’s view is that wars are a normal part of feudal life.

The phrase “worlds away” was picked up here by Slade and later by Kondor, the sort of phrase people use figuratively which they could use literally and not be noticed for it.

The Caliph of the West Wind is, I think, a character one of my D&D characters met in Ed’s D&D world, a djinni in a bottle which my character released.  I thought the notion of a middle eastern style hierarchy quite appropriate to the world of the djinn, so I took the concept.  I’m not sure whether efriit are as well known as djinn, but then most people would have called the D-J-I-N-N-I a G-E-N-I-E, so I was probably aimed at an audience with some fantasy education at this point.  I figured eventually they’d figure out what an efriiti was.

Those who were aware of the original comic book panels, including particularly my eldest son, were disappointed by the text section describing Slade’s training.  It was originally supposed to show Torelle teaching and criticizing and saying, “You’re using that sword like a mace,” and then saying that he would instead teach Slade to use a mace.


If there is interest in this page, I’ll produce another after a few more pages of the novel have been published to the web site.  (The hardest part, actually, will be coming up with unique images for each such post, so that PInterest will accept the new page as a new image, but that’s my problem.)  Feedback is always welcome, of course.

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