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Day Two Hundred and Twenty-two: The Workaholic

December 30, 2011 Leave a comment

For the month of December, I’ll be world-building. This means taking a look at the people, places, and institutions that I have created over the last six months and trying to figure out more about them. This will involve a look at the stories in which they’ve appeared, and then some speculation, stream-of-consciousness writing, and with any luck a few revelations. In addition, I may come back and add new material as the Elves in my unconscious ship out new ideas, so I’ll be sure to link them up.

Your feedback as readers is, of course, more than welcome. There are probably questions that I’m forgetting to ask and holes that I need to fill.

Wish me luck!

——————

I’m going to do a couple of short ones, as I’m a day behind and the New Year is coming up. I’m sure you’re all busy as well, so I won’t take up too much of your time.

Our random number generator today provided us with Peter Wach, a character who has popped up in a couple of stories, never with a lot of good happening to him. Let’s see what his stories tell us about him.

46: The Big Day

  • He works 80 hours a week at Munin Scientific.
  • He’s working on “carbon pico-crystal arrays” that will allow a vast amount of storage space on a single chip.
  • He’s married.
  • He has a personality conflict with Ewan Conwell.
  • He was accused by the management heads of Munin of stealing work from Conwell. He was then detained and interrogated by security.

127: Last-Ditch

  • Some time after the events in The Big Day, Wach went to Taylor Petraglia for help.
  • He wants some kind of revenge/compensation from Munin.
  • After the events of The Big Day, Wach was fired, his bank account was frozen, his house was foreclosed on, his driver’s license was revoked, and his wife was sent a well-doctored photograph of Peter having sex with a teenage boy.
  • He’s currently staying with a friend.

Here we have a classic hard-luck case. Peter is a person of very narrow focus, and normally it would serve him well. It allowed him to work on this project, which is every bit as revolutionary as he claims it will be. In his words, “When it gets into production, it’ll be a bigger advance in computing than the integrated circuit.” So that’s saying a lot.

The problem, of course, is that he misses a lot of what goes on around him, which made it very easy for the conspiracy against him to be pulled off. And to be fair, I don’t think that Ewan Conwell actually had anything to do with it. He was a convenient excuse for the higher-ups to use, and the fact that Peter doesn’t like him very much just helps sell the whole thing. In fact, if Ewan found out how his name had been used as part of their snare, I reckon he’d be pretty angry about it.

The main thing about Peter, though, is that he is very good at what he does, and pretty crap at everything else. He never would have dreamed that his work would lead him to this situation, which betrays a certain trust in the fundamental order of things. He doesn’t have the time or desire to worry about the bigger picture, and so assumes that everything is working smoothly. A more street-wise man, perhaps, would have recognized the potential for backstabbing and hidden a copy of the data somewhere outside the company. But Peter is not that kind of guy.

Whats going to happen to him from here on out? Good question. If he’s gone to Petraglia, then Peter could just end up being the catalyst for a good mystery-thriller story. On the other hand, it would be interesting to see a naive kind of guy like Peter wade into the murky waters of industrial espionage and somehow come out on top. A more challenging story, certainly.

We’ll keep Peter around and see what happens to him, I think.

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Day Two Hundred and Twenty-one: The Inevitable Monster

December 29, 2011 Leave a comment

For the month of December, I’ll be world-building. This means taking a look at the people, places, and institutions that I have created over the last six months and trying to figure out more about them. This will involve a look at the stories in which they’ve appeared, and then some speculation, stream-of-consciousness writing, and with any luck a few revelations. In addition, I may come back and add new material as the Elves in my unconscious ship out new ideas, so I’ll be sure to link them up.

Your feedback as readers is, of course, more than welcome. There are probably questions that I’m forgetting to ask and holes that I need to fill.

Wish me luck!

——————

Man, vacations really aren’t good for my ability to stick to a deadline. So much napping to do…

Anyway, today I’d like to look at the third Evil Corporation on my list – Barbeau Pharmaceuticals. Now give me some credit here: they really are going to ruin the world for the rest of us. At least that’s if all the time travelers are correct. Let’s see what we know about this company and its founder, Paul Barbeau:

33: Monsters

  • Time travelers have been trying to kill Paul Barbeau since he was born. Before he was born, in fact.
  • Barbeau Pharmaceuticals will produce “a neurocybernetic viral analogue that would safely cure nearly all forms of human disease.”
  • Paul Barbeau injected himself with the first batch.
  • The company has a blue logo.

45: Sleeper

  • Paul was a high school freshman at ten years old.
  • He developed a new printable circuitry as a science project.

65: Amanuensis

  • Cerbecorp is looking at a cooperative agreement with Barbeau Pharmaceuticals.

116: Paul Barbeau (interview)

  • The nanotech virus the company is developing will be a cure for nearly all disease. However, it will eventually network and create a human “hive mind,” eliminating individuality almost entirely.
  • The company will go to any lengths to protect Paul Barbeau and ensure that the future comes to pass.
  • The original complex will be raided in 2066.

Huh. I really thought there would be more.

It kind of resonates with Cyberdine Systems from the Terminator movies, and brings up the great question of whether or not we can really change our future. Paul Barbeau’s analysis of his rather unique problem leads him to believe that the future cannot be stopped – his company will create the panacea, which will go on to pretty much eliminate humanity as an individualistic species. He cites as evidence for this that he hasn’t been killed, despite the repeated attempts by time travelers to get rid of him:

Miss, most people who are targeted for assassination are indeed assassinated. It may take a few tries, but the killers only have to be successful once. The target has to be successful – or lucky – all the time. And there is no one so lucky that they can survive near-constant attempts for their entire life, as I have.

Do you understand what this means?

I cannot be killed, miss.

They cannot succeed. All of these bodyguards are really just here to make the odds as small as possible, but I could go wandering through the poorest part of the city wearing a tuxedo made of thousand dollar bills, and I would not die. I could be surrounded by murderous time travelers all day, and they would not kill me.

No matter what happens, I must survive to create the virus. The killers are themselves the evidence of that. If I gave up, they would have no reason to kill me, and thus would never have started their mad crusade. But still they come, which means that I must succeed. It is a thing that is beyond my control.

At least so far, he seems to be right. I haven’t come up with a reason why he shouldn’t be right, but I do know that I’ve created a fanatic, and they’re always fun. The only thing that will convince Barbeau that his destiny is not inevitable is his own death, at which point he will be beyond caring. So in many ways, Paul Barbeau could be a wonderful antagonist for someone to work against in the future.

About the company itself, I know this much: it’s a very well-regarded pharmaceutical company, famous for its innovative and pioneering research. They make enough money that their motto as far as things like regulations is that it’s “better to ask forgiveness than permission,” and so far it’s paid off for them. The company has not gone public, and is directed almost entirely by Paul Barbeau, who is considered a genius in both the scientific and medical fields. The company has branched out a little into other consumer goods, but maintains its focus on medicines. It donates a sizable amount of its product to developing countries, garnering it an excellent reputation in international politics, which gives it more leeway in performing research and getting into countries where other companies might be barred.

Barbeau himself, however, is something of a recluse. While there are many rumors as to where he lives – a private island, an underground desert base, a complex built into a mountain in the Canadian Rockies – his location has never been confirmed. He communicates daily with the directors of his company, and seems to possess an intricate knowledge of what they’re doing at any given time. This has led to suspicions that he has a network of “reporters” in his company, or at least a very advanced electronic data-gathering program.

Barbeau is not evil, really. Not in the conventional sense, anyway. He really does want to help people, and his company has a remarkable record of doing so. If you didn’t know what was going to happen in the future, you would say that Barbeau Pharmaceuticals was the model of a good company trying to do good work. But Paul truly, truly believes that he will end mankind as we know it, and rather than try to stop what is coming, he’s decided to embrace that.

Of course, ending mankind as we know it isn’t really a laudable goal, so I’ll have to create someone to fight against him, to try and see to it that the horrible future he’s working on never actually happens. To do that, I’ll have to make someone who is (potentially) as strong and as driven as he is.

The big thing is this: when I write this story, Paul will have to be the protagonist. He’s the one with the goal, after all, which is what a protagonist is, and the person trying to stop him must naturally be the antagonist. So: a story with a villain protagonist. Always fun…

Day Two Hundred and Nineteen: Last Chance to Escape

December 26, 2011 Leave a comment

For the month of December, I’ll be world-building. This means taking a look at the people, places, and institutions that I have created over the last six months and trying to figure out more about them. This will involve a look at the stories in which they’ve appeared, and then some speculation, stream-of-consciousness writing, and with any luck a few revelations. In addition, I may come back and add new material as the Elves in my unconscious ship out new ideas, so I’ll be sure to link them up.

Your feedback as readers is, of course, more than welcome. There are probably questions that I’m forgetting to ask and holes that I need to fill.

Wish me luck!

——————

One of the great realizations I had when I started doing this project was that while I certainly wanted to write something new every day, there was no reason why I couldn’t recycle ideas from time to time – especially ideas that I may not have been able to fully exploit when I first tried them out. That’s not to say that I’ve got a complete handle on them now, but I’m pretty sure I’m better than I was.

In any case, one idea that I had was pretty simple, all told. With all the stories of people who travel from one world to another, one of the things that doesn’t often get dealt with is the aftermath of their trip. How do you deal with living in a fantasy world and having the adventures that go with it, and then come back to the mundane world of bills and work and television? The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant probably handled it best of the books I know of – but poor Thomas didn’t handle it very well.

That seems to be the way of things, though. I mean, what other way could a person react to that kind of transition. that kind of experience? Really, the only way you could possibly handle it would be to either go utterly mad or to convince yourself that you had already done so. And that’s pretty much where I started this story – with Adam walking into his home for the first time since his adventure in Another Place. So let’s see what we know about him from day 76, A New World.

  • He has a sister, who was good enough to take care of his home when he vanished to wherever he’d gone to.
  • Prior to coming home, he had been in a psychiatric hospital for a few months.
  • Certain stimuli can trigger flashbacks of his time in the other world.
  • His doctor, Thomas Greer, was against letting him go, but Adam convinced him that he was healthy and ready to leave.
  • Adam believes that he had a nervous breakdown, brought on by stress from work, the failure of his marriage, and the death of his mother.
  • He was found in the middle of a field, laughing and crying, and was brought to the hospital.
  • He left the hospital believing that he was fine, but is now really not so sure about that.

Again, this is kind of treading Thomas Covenant’s ground here, but Adam’s not exactly a leper. When he left the hospital, he was on board with the idea that he had “experienced a near-total disassociative state of mental dissonance.” But now that he’s home alone, that conviction is very quickly becoming more and more tenuous as his memories/delusion intrudes. Here’s what he remembers (or thinks he remembers):

  • A snowmelt stream and high, impassable mountains.
  • A woman with him by the stream.
  • A great voice, possibly that of a dragon, saying, “Very well, then. We are agreed.”
  • His arm being burned.
  • A great mansion, gilded and perched atop a high mountain.
  • A woman with eyes as blue as the sky on a late autumn day and skin that was deep, almost impossible violet, and her breath smelled of honey when they kissed.
  • Red skies and rain that burned and great insects that flew and carried people off only to drop them from the sky.
  • A blade in his hand that sang to him and called down the lightning when he needed it.
  • There was a stone, and that stone was a key.
  • There was a door, but it wasn’t a door.
  • “There was a path, and it was a path he could not see but he walked anyway and it led him to her. To the keep. To the dragon and the battle and the promise. And the field.”

Okay, then. How about them apples?

I could ride the idea for a while that maybe Adam really had this experience and maybe he really is nuts, but that would bore me pretty quickly. It’s the kind of story that has to be done with great skill and care, and honestly I’m not sure that I could pull it off without making mincemeat of the whole thing. And besides, I’m already convinced in my head: his experience was real. Very real. And it’s far, far from over.

There are a whole lot of questions that need to be answered here, and part of that is because I’ve started him off at the nadir of his adventures.

You see, in really good hero stories, the hero has to be brought low. Really low. And he has to ask himself if all that he’s going through is really worth it, or if he should just give up. And at this point, the author stands there in front of a nice, shiny door and holds it open for him, and says, “Look – we can end this now. You go your way, I go mine. Sure, there are plot points that need to be resolved, but if you’re not ready to take this all the way, I understand. Here’s the door.”

The hero needs to look long and hard at that way out, that simple means of getting off this insane ride. And if the story is going to work at all, then the hero has to want to see it through more than he wants that nice, easy way out. So he turns his back on the door, and the author smiles and shakes his head knowingly and you hear the soft, irreversible click of the door closing forever.

That’s where Adam is as we start this story. He could go back to the hospital and have treatment after treatment until he’s well and truly sure that everything he’d gone through was a delusion. That would be the easy way out. Or he could find his way back and finish what he started.

Seeing as how this nadir usually comes in right in front of the big climax of the story, that means I have a whole lot of back-story to deal with. Including, but not limited to:

  • What is this world that he went to?
  • How did he get there in the first place?
  • Who was that woman?
  • What bargain did he strike with the dragon?
  • What role did he play in this other world?
  • Why and how did he come back to his own world?
  • What does he still need to do to complete his quest?
  • How will he get back to that other world?
  • Will he ever return to his world again?

Exploring those questions is going to be a hell of a ride. I look forward to it, though.

Day Two Hundred and Seventeen: New to the Game

December 25, 2011 Leave a comment

For the month of December, I’ll be world-building. This means taking a look at the people, places, and institutions that I have created over the last six months and trying to figure out more about them. This will involve a look at the stories in which they’ve appeared, and then some speculation, stream-of-consciousness writing, and with any luck a few revelations. In addition, I may come back and add new material as the Elves in my unconscious ship out new ideas, so I’ll be sure to link them up.

Your feedback as readers is, of course, more than welcome. There are probably questions that I’m forgetting to ask and holes that I need to fill.

Wish me luck!

——————

I have a great love of super-heroes, as you may have noticed. I’ve been reading comic books for as long as I can remember, and there’s something about a super-hero movie that I just can’t pass up. I have t-shirts and replica rings, and I would have action figures if I had the room for them. Point is, when I started doing this writing project, I knew that super-heroes were going to play a big part in them.

What is often overlooked is that a lot of the really good stories that you can tell with super-heroes are the same stories that you tell with normal people, only bigger and with tights. So in that sense, I created Mass Man in his eponymous story on day 74.

Here’s what we know about him from this story: he loves being a super-hero, but he hates a lot of the trappings that come with it. The spandex, the mask, being hurled into buildings and having to keep his dignity in front of civilians… Especially his name – Mass Man. It was given to him by a reporter and the name just stuck. Now he doesn’t think he can change it without looking whiny and self-important.

His powers are pretty simple: he can manipulate mass, both his own and that of other things. This means that he can fly, walk through walls, stop bullets, lift heavy things, all that. He doesn’t know how he does it, and he doesn’t really care to know. What he wants is to be a super-hero and not go out there looking like a moron.

His role models are Photon the Magnificent and the Lady of the Rooftops, two high-profile heroes out of Corsair City. When they come to help him with his giant robot trouble, he gets to talk to them about the missteps and problems of being a new hero, which gives him a bit more confidence that he will one day make a name for himself.

Basically, Mass Man is an early twentysomething, and suffering from the same problems that modern young people all have to go through. He’s not sure who he really is, for one. He hates the label that’s been given to him, but can’t come up with anything better. He knows what he wants to do, but really all he can do is emulate the people who do it better. He has those he admires, and he feels both awe and shame when he has to perform in front of them. He’s new at this gig, and feels like he ought to be a lot better than he is, despite not having a lot of experience.

Perhaps that’s because he – like a lot of us – was told as a kid that he was intrinsically special and due for greatness. Maybe he was praised for everything he did, and can’t understand why he’s not getting the same treatment anymore. I dunno – it’s not Bruce Wayne levels of childhood trauma, but what happens to us as kids does a lot to make us who we are as adults.

The story doesn’t go into his backstory a whole lot, but here’s how he looks in my head: he is a middle-class kid from the suburbs, in his mid-twenties, who manifested these strange powers maybe a year or so before the story begins. He lives in a world where super-heroes are real, and so has a career path all laid out for him. Despite that, he doesn’t know anything about being a hero other than the costume and a baritone voice.

A lot of his stories, then, are going to be about growing up – both as a hero and just as a person. These are, in a lot of ways, my favorite kinds of super-hero stories. It’s all well and good when they save the world or vanquish evil, but the stories where they become better people or learn their limits are a lot easier for me to relate to as a reader. I look forward to exploring his world with him.

Day Two Hundred and Sixteen: Angry Young Man

December 23, 2011 Leave a comment

For the month of December, I’ll be world-building. This means taking a look at the people, places, and institutions that I have created over the last six months and trying to figure out more about them. This will involve a look at the stories in which they’ve appeared, and then some speculation, stream-of-consciousness writing, and with any luck a few revelations. In addition, I may come back and add new material as the Elves in my unconscious ship out new ideas, so I’ll be sure to link them up.

Your feedback as readers is, of course, more than welcome. There are probably questions that I’m forgetting to ask and holes that I need to fill.

Wish me luck!

——————

During November, I wrote a lot of long stories for NaNoWriMo, some of them coming in well over 3,000 words. Given that my average prior to that was usually around 12,00 to 1,500 words, that’s pretty damn good. Of the NaNo stories, Rainsinger was the longest, clocking in at 3,930 words, and it was one of those times that a sort of organic, “let’s see where this goes, shall we?” style of writing kind of paid off. So, for today’s character sketch, I want to look at the main character of that story, a boy named Jundir.

We know a few things about him right away – he’s a teenager, and he’s at that point in his teenage life where all adults are stupid and useless, and the world is totally working against him. His people, the Vas’alim, were nomadic, crossing dry plains and deserts for more than a generation. Jundir’s grandfather is a Rainsinger, a kind of Vas’alim mystic whose job is to dance and sing and bring the rains. It’s implied in the story that his might be a dying profession, perhaps because his success rate is low. Either way, Jundir thinks he’s ridiculous.

What Jundir wants to be is a Water Hunter, the people who scour the land for aquifers, liquid-holding plants, that kind of thing. Unfortunately, Jundir had been bitten on the foot by a rock snake when he was younger, and they had to take his leg to save him. His leg was amputated just above the knee, squashing any hopes he might have of being a Water Hunter. Despite that, and despite being told directly by the leader of the Water Hunters that there was no way he could ever join them, Jundir still refuses to admit that he is in any way “crippled,” despite the rather commanding evidence.

It’s a common teenage condition, really. There’s still an underlying belief that the world is just, that somehow things will come together for you and that you will be allowed – nay helped – to find your full potential. What he’s beginning to suspect, however, is that there is no justice in the universe. Things just happen, and they have to be dealt with. But right now, he would rather refuse to do so, and keep beating at the world until it gives him what he wants. Which it won’t.

So he’s angry all the time. Angry at his grandfather for being old and stupid, angry at his mother for taking his grandfather’s side, angry at the Water Hunters for not giving him a chance. Angry at anything that’ll stand still for a few minutes, really.

What helps is that his grandfather – who is also struggling to accept a new reality, that being a rainsinger is no longer as important as it once was – kind of strips away the mysticism of the job.

Re-reading it, I get the distinct and unsettling feeling that I wrote something a lot deeper and more complicated than I thought. There’s subtext and metaphor and. I think, some foreshadowing that I really didn’t put in there on purpose. There’s a revelation in there somewhere, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Damn.

Whatever I did, Jundir leaves his grandfather less angry and more confused than when he arrived, but with a hint that he could make something of himself despite his injuries.

A lot of this story is certainly me as an adult talking to me as a teenager. I certainly didn’t lose a leg or anything, but I think I shared Jundir’s expectation or glory and success. It wasn’t so much that the universe owed me anything, as it was that it was unthinkable that I couldn’t be the hero in my own life’s drama. But I was hut about the head and shoulders with the sure and certain knowledge that the greatness and glory I thought was in my future wasn’t actually coming. I was far more focused on doors that closed than on looking for new doors, and had to grapple with the understanding that not only is life not fair, but that the universe really doesn’t care what happens to me or what I do.

He also suffers from a certain measure of over-simplification. His grandfather wears stupid costumes and dances, and he is therefore a useless old man. The Water Hunters are praised by everyone, and they are therefore heroes – whose ranks he clearly must join. As the story begins, he’s set his world-view in stone, which is why he has trouble fitting his new, maimed self into it. When the story ends, he is beginning to understand that the world is nuanced, that perception is sometimes more important than reality, and that it is entirely possible that he could be wrong.

A hard thought for a bright, self-centered teenage boy. Not that I would know, of course.

As I think about it, he and his grandfather really have the same existential enemy – the Water Hunters. Jundir wants to be one, but never will, so they remind him of an entire future that will never be. His grandfather sees them as a negation of his entire identity. He’s a mystic, a man who’s trained since he was a boy to read the weather and predict it, to appeal to people’s need for a little drama and the invocation of spirits. He’s a solo act, the only Rainsinger in this particular tribe. The Water Hunters, on the other hand, are a young band of men, whose job is simple for everyone to understand – they go out, they come back, and they bring water with them. That’s it. No song or dance or weird chanting.

So, in their way, Jundir and his grandfather are a lot alike. It’s probably for the best that Jundir never got to be a Water Hunter, anyway. They bend towards arrogance – especially the younger ones – and I think Jundir would have very eagerly followed their lead.

Writing more about him will be interesting, but there’s a lot I need to work out as well. First of all, who are the Vas’alim, and where are they? Are they a part of Earth Prime, and if so, when do they live on the timeline? Are they pre-agricultural people? Post-apocalyptic? Hell, are they contemporary, but somehow wandering a desert so vast that they don’t even know the 21st century has happened? Why do they travel the way they do? Would they settle down if they could? Wandering desert people aren’t new in fiction, so I realize I’m following in some well-trodden footsteps here, but it’s still something I need to know in order to make these people believable.

Also – what happened to his father? We know very little, except that he probably wouldn’t have followed in Grandfather’s footsteps and become a Rainsinger. And I don’t think he was a Water Hunter either – that would have showed up in the narrative pretty quickly, I think.

So, there’s a good coming-of-age story going on in this, which I can no doubt expand when I know a bit more about the world and the people in it.

Day Two Hundred and Fifteen: Time-Lost Mom

December 23, 2011 Leave a comment

For the month of December, I’ll be world-building. This means taking a look at the people, places, and institutions that I have created over the last six months and trying to figure out more about them. This will involve a look at the stories in which they’ve appeared, and then some speculation, stream-of-consciousness writing, and with any luck a few revelations. In addition, I may come back and add new material as the Elves in my unconscious ship out new ideas, so I’ll be sure to link them up.

Your feedback as readers is, of course, more than welcome. There are probably questions that I’m forgetting to ask and holes that I need to fill.

Wish me luck!

——————

I wrote this from a cafe last night because there was a work party where I knew the booze would be flowing. It was a very wise choice, all told. While I was able to tweet with coherence, I wouldn’t put bets on being able to write more than 140 characters at a time.

Anyway, today’s character – chosen non-randomly this time – is Emma Confrey, from day 78: Mother’s Day. A secondary character we don’t know a lot about, but that’s okay. She’s important nonetheless and I think there’s something interesting about her.

Full disclosure: the story was inspired by an Idea Book I picked up at the Mark Twain House when I was back home in Connecticut, and this is one of the few stories that I wrote while I was on vacation. That in itself is deserving of some slow clapping, I think. The book suggested the first line – The last time I saw my mother was fifteen years ago – and my imagination just went off with itself. Starting from a catchy first line is a fun way to write, so if you ever think of a really snappy opener to a story, see where it leads you.

So, Emma. Let’s see what the story tells us about her. For one, she’s a scientist, and she clearly thinks that her daughter Donna ought to be one too. She’s the kind of mother that all teachers fear – the one who is so intimately involved with her daughter’s academic life that she may as well be running it. She pushed Donna into science classes, and saw no problem with doing her science fair project for her.

At the same time, she’s a very irresponsible and distant mother. Donna (who is the POV character in the story) tells of her mother spending most of her time in the garage/lab, rarely coming out to spend time with her child. There’s no indication in the story that she actually cares about what her daughter wants or needs, and only spends time with her when she eats or when it otherwise cannot be helped. For her part, Donna would rather stay with her father, but the pro-mother bias of family court didn’t agree with her.

In this story Emma announces that she’s built a time machine in the garage. Rather than try and spend time with her stuffy teenage daughter, she announces that she’s going to jump ahead fifteen years and have a drink with her much cooler, older daughter. She grabs a couple of beers, heads out into the garage, and vanishes. The machine indicates that her destination was August 11, 2026 at 10:24 AM.

Fifteen years later, against her better judgment, Donna comes back to the house. The house is dilapidated, and the machine has long since been shut off. Donna waits until the appointed time, but her mother never shows up.

What we can say easily about Emma is that she’s a really crappy mother. Her work is her life, and anything else is peripheral to that. Her disinterest in her daughter is so pronounced that she won’t even talk to her as she is – she has to go to the future where, presumably, a “better” daughter will be. One who, it who should be pointed out, would have lived for fifteen years without her mother’s influence, something I don’t think she really thought about.

So the real question is why she had a daughter in the first place? Perhaps it was something she thought would be interesting. Perhaps she thought it would make for an interesting project or experiment. Perhaps it was an irrational biological urge. Whatever it was, it passed quickly. She returned to her science, leaving her daughter and husband to take care of each other.

For his part, her father seems like a decent guy, even though we don’t see much of him in the story. I like to think that he honestly believed he would get custody if he divorced Emma, and it broke his heart when he didn’t,

The upshot to this – if there is any – is that Donna turned out to be remarkably self-sufficient. This is something she probably wouldn’t appreciate until she was older, but not having her mother to take care of her caused Donna to draw on her own creativity and strengths. Abandoning your child to her own devices isn’t a recommended parenting technique, but if you must do it you should hope your child is strong enough to work life out on its own.

Emma did build a time machine, by the way. It worked just as she meant it to, the problem was her lack of foresight rearing its ugly head: without anyone to take care of the house, the electricity was shut off. No electricity meant no power to the time machine, which meant that she couldn’t complete the trip she’d started. If she had been a better mother, perhaps, Donna would have been able to keep the torch burning, as it were. She would have had an emotional investment in her other’s success.

But no. Emma stepped into that machine, and she was sent off on a one-way trip into the timestream. Perhaps if another character invents a time machine she can find her way back , but for now I’m assuming the same thing that Donna is assuming: her mother is dead and gone, and has been for a long time.

A happy story? Not at all. But I liked it anyway…

Day Two Hundred and Fourteen: The Angry Puppet

December 21, 2011 Leave a comment

For the month of December, I’ll be world-building. This means taking a look at the people, places, and institutions that I have created over the last six months and trying to figure out more about them. This will involve a look at the stories in which they’ve appeared, and then some speculation, stream-of-consciousness writing, and with any luck a few revelations. In addition, I may come back and add new material as the Elves in my unconscious ship out new ideas, so I’ll be sure to link them up.

Your feedback as readers is, of course, more than welcome. There are probably questions that I’m forgetting to ask and holes that I need to fill.

Wish me luck!

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Okay, time for another character sketch. This one will likely be short, for two reasons. First, I have to record my podcast tonight, so there’s lots of things to do, and I can’t do that until The Boyfriend takes The Dog out for a walk. Secondly, I don’t really know a whole lot about the character that my random number generator gave me: Kurt Brannon, from the story on day 26, Confrontation. Here’s what we know about him:

  • He was really ready to kill Jenna Birch.
  • He was nearly a state wrestling finalist in high school.
  • He was accused of throwing wrestling matches. Some classmates got into his emails, reported him, and he was thrown off the team. He also lost his college scholarship.

And that’s pretty much all we know about him. That, and he was so convinced that Jenna had been part of a plot to ruin his life that he was just about ready to shoot her in the head.

The natural question, then, is what would drive someone to such a level? I mean, stalking this girl to figure out the best time to strike, breaking into a university biology lab, and holding her at gunpoint is not the behavior of a rational individual. It’s pretty clear that Kurt has problems, and fixing wrestling matches is just one of them.

When I think of high school wrestlers, I think of Breakfast Club, which pretty much dates my teenage years right there. In that movie, the Jock was dealing with his father’s disappointment over a stupid prank, and that was the last straw on top of years of pressure and expectations. Kurt has something like that going, only worse. His father was a slightly less pathetic version of Al Bundy – a guy whose last major accomplishment was when he was in high school, and he hasn’t done anything since. Kurt’s father was a wrestler, and he went to State, and would have gone further if he hadn’t been injured. His wrestling career was over, leaving him only with the dreams of what might have been.

Dreams he naturally transferred to his son. The pressure for Kurt to be a wrestler and to be a winner was immense and unrelenting. But no one can withstand that kind of pressure for very long, and the way Kurt dealt with it was by fixing matches to make money off them. Not a lot of matches – just enough that he could make some cash on the side while not jeopardizing the future that his father wanted so very much.

Unfortunately, bad luck and the persistence of the Internet worked against him. Perhaps he didn’t log off a library computer, or he autofilled an address wrong – whatever it was, his emails regarding fixing matches got out. Some of his classmates turned him in, enlisting Jenna in their cause to give them credibility. With her and the evidence on their side, they were able to convince the principal and the coach that Kurt had in fact been cheating, and his dream was crushed.

His father didn’t react well. His dream had been taken away by bad luck. His son had thrown it away. It got so bad that Kurt had to leave his house. He stayed with friends, barely finished school, and then disappeared before graduation. No one heard from him or saw him again until he went after Jenna.

Kurt is a damaged boy, to say the least. He can’t accept responsibility for what he did, probably because he never really thought that he had the power to make any real decisions about his life. His father and his coach pretty much orchestrated his days and nights, so Kurt already saw himself as bereft of any kind of agency. That made it easier to blame other students for his downfall. He didn’t think he’d really been responsible for his own success – why should he be responsible for his failure?

Jail, of course, won’t do him any good. A shame, because that’s where he’s going. Best case scenario, he finds Jesus and repents, but then he’s just transferring power over his life to someone else. He won’t be whole until he can accept responsibility for himself and his actions – good and bad – and let go of the dream that was never his to begin with.