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Day Two Hundred and Twenty-three: The Nightfinder

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!

——————

As part of NaNoWriMo, I came up with an overall theme that had to do with the classical elements – air, water, fire, earth, and aether. During the “fire” section, I thought about campfires and what they represented: safety, warmth, companionship, s’mores – but also a kind of safety in the darkness. A beacon at night for others to find you. A small zone of civilization in the wilderness, rudimentary civilization though it might be.

With that on my mind, my thoughts naturally turned to the end of the universe [1] and how the only stars that are likely to still be shining in the ridiculously far-away future would be the red dwarfs stars. These stars are not only the most common type of star in the universe, but they burn so well and efficiently that they have a projected lifespan of hundreds of billions of years – far longer than the universe has existed so far and much, much longer than our own short-lived sun will exist. So I thought that at some point, these red dwarf stars are likely to be the last ones left when all the hotter stars either burn out or explode. And if there is intelligent life able to do so, it will huddle around these stars, getting as much energy from them as they can until they finally burn out.

So I imagined a ship from one of these star-hugging colonies – one of the first red dwarf stars to fail. The people who lived there would have to evacuate, sending ships in all directions at supra-luminal speeds to try and find new homes somewhere out in the vast, unending darkness of the universe.

The Nightfinder was one of them, and gave me a nice, two-part story. Here’s what we know about the ship and her crew:

171: A New Star 1

  • The captain is Atris Parkell.
  • The ship moves through “supra-luminal space.” At random intervals they would drop back into real space, look around, and move on if they couldn’t find a red dwarf colony.
  • Crew members are outfitted with neural encoders for the transmission of information. They also work as translators, as long as the computers have been given a plaintext code to compare the new language to.
  • Their ship had originated around Delta-b Cygnus, which was a generation or two from failure.
  • The ships were meant to be legacy ships, packed with crew and civilians.
  • Suicides began after a few months, reactions to “existential dread.”
  • There are starkeepers on the crew – experts in solar science.

Part of writing this would be thinking about what kind of ship the Nightfinder would have to be. With the exodus from its star, it was pretty clear that the Nightfinder was going off into the unknown and never coming back. What’s more, it would be traveling alone. The exodus plan for the people of Delta-b Cygnus was basically to send ships in all directions, in the hopes that one of them ran across an inhabited star. Not the best plan, mind you, but the future state of the universe – at least as science understands it now – would really allow for nothing else.

The universe is expanding, you see, and it’s going so very, very quickly. This doesn’t mean much for us, but in the far-off future, it’ll mean that things are farther apart than they used to be. The stars won’t be sprinkled lavishly throughout the sky, but will rather be rapidly-flying pinpricks of light until they get so far away that their light can never reach us. The skies of the future are desolate and empty, and cosmology as we understand it will be impossible.

So the people of Delta-b Cygnus would literally have no idea where other stars were. They would just have to hope for the best. This also was why the Nightfinder and other ships had to be able to travel at faster-than-light speeds. Anything less, and they would never catch up. There would always be more space in front of them so that even if they did have a destination, it would always be receding away from them, faster and faster.

At the same time, it have to be a legacy ship. FTL travel is nice and all, but when you don’t know where you’re going, the universe is still a terrifyingly big place. No one knows how long they’ll be looking because no one knows where the other stars are. All they can do is pop back into real space from time to time, look around, and hope for the best. It’s a crappy plan, really, which is why I knew that there would be suicides starting pretty quickly. By the time they reach Alpha Aurelius, I figure about two-thirds of the original population is gone, and the ship is run by a skeleton crew that consists of whomever they can dragoon into working on it. The sheer hopelessness of their mission, the vastness of the universe – it’s all too much for a lot of people, and they simply give up. Somehow, the captain is able to keep some from doing away with themselves.

Of course, given what he discovers about Alpha Aurelius, it’s uncertain that he will be able to keep doing so…

—–

[1] As they do.

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.

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 Twenty: The Shadow Agency

December 27, 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’ve mentioned here a couple of times that I have a deep-seated distrust of corporations, but did you know that distrust also extended to the government? Why yes it does, but in a different sort of fashion. Where I have nothing but contempt for the way that corporate entities abuse their power and manipulate the public, I have a kind of grudging admiration when the government does it.

Why? Too much X-Files when I was young and impressionable, I suppose.

But also, the motivations for government secrecy seem ever so slightly more legitimate than corporate endeavors. If a government is engaged in a massive conspiracy or cover-up to protect national interests, to defend the security of the nation, or to protect its people, I can kind of get where that’s coming from. If a company is hiding data, falsifying studies, and engaging in unethical behavior just to turn a profit or to boost its stock price, I find that reprehensible.

It’s not the kind of moral distinction that can help you sleep at night, but I think a lot of people would agree. After all, men and women who sign up with the national military, kill and destroy in the name of their country, are generally considered heroes. Men and women who sign up with a private company – Blackwater/Xe, for example – kill and destroy in order to pull down a fat paycheck, well… let’s just say there’s no holidays in their honor.

So, it felt natural that I should come up with a government agency of my own, to be used where I see fit, and that agency is the not-so-creatively named Department of National Security.

The DNS has shown up in a few stories so far. Here’s what we know about them:

104: Discipline

  • The DNS took in Carly Siminsky after her powers manifested.
  • They’re training her in their use.

133: Khrys Ferro 1

  • The DNS deals in counter-terrorism action.
  • It has field agents and bureau agents.

135: Khrys Ferro 3

145: A Little Rain

  • They have a database on metahuman criminals.

180: Away from the Green

  • They’ve enlisted the help of Evelyn Pierce.
  • They fight drug trafficking.
  • They have experience dealing with metahumans.

189: The Bad News

  • They have been holding Carly Siminsky for several years – five or six.
  • They have a desert training facility.

Okay, I think that’s about it.

So far, nothing really earth-shattering. They deal with superhumans, but they don’t keep them a secret or anything. And there’s no indication that there’s any kind of super-human registry or anything like that. The DNS just keeps tabs on them and tries to enlist those that it can into helping it deal with its problems.

Of course, it can’t just be that. There has to be something more insidious going on. And once I figure that out, I’ll look forward to exploring it.

What I do think I know about the DNS is that it’s been around for a very long time, but has only been public for a few years. The way I see it, the DNS was an extra-legal department that connected various agencies in the United States government: the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, DoD, IRS, State Department, all of them needed to keep in touch with each other somehow, but lawmakers had done a fine job of firewalling them off from each other.

Much like life, bureaucracy finds a way, and by the time World War 2 was in full swing, there was a network of connections between all those major agencies. That network grew into a shadow agency all its own, funded by siphoning off from the departments that Congress knew about. The attacks of September 11th, 2001 were a chance for the agency to come out into the open – somewhat – but at the same time required that it be forced to perform more mundane, publicly-visible tasks. Like counter-terrorism, for example.

And just like an iceberg, of course, much of the DNS is hidden well out of sight, still dealing with the connections between agencies and issues that don’t really fall into the bailiwick of any one department.

I will have to figure out more specifically what they do, of course. There are certain things that the CIA or the FBI already do very well that it wouldn’t make sense for the DNS to copy, so I’ll have to figure out what those things are. Right now I know that one of them is dealing with metahumans – so pretty much any metahuman story is going to end up with the DNS in it somewhere.

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 Eighteen: Daughter of Power

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!

——————

Okay, let’s take a look at one of my earlier characters, from a story that really could benefit from some serious re-working.

Elli Acton is the only daughter of a very powerful man – Wilford Acton, who founded Acton Informatics. She’s appeared in two stories, only the first of which is canonical. The second, however, still reveals a bit about her character, so we’ll use it here.

4: Daddy’s Little Firecracker

  • Her full name is Eleanor.
  • She has been divorced more than once.
  • She doesn’t often talk to her father – nor does she seem to want to.
  • She believes that he has interfered in her life somehow.
  • She has brought a gun with her that she plans to use on her father.

82: The Value of Information

  • Elli sometimes reacts with violence when her father is mentioned.
  • She likes to read non-fiction.
  • She has little patience with guys who try to chat her up.

And that’s about it. Clearly the key to understanding Elli is understanding why she hates her father so much. I mean, she really did mean to kill the man, and if you’re going to do that then there has to be some pretty serious hate going on.

My first impulse is to say that it has a lot to do with her father’s work. That’s usually a pretty good starting point, and having a distant, unapproachable father has been a reliable trope in fiction since, well, forever. But it can’t just be that he works too much, and I think it’s the information we get in the second story that really may provide the key. The narrative says, of Acton and his company:

[Wilford Acton] was the founder of Acton Informatics, which began as a maker and supplier of customer listings back in the late 70s. As technology improved, Acton and his company became the premier designers of databases in the nation, and were now supplying programs and programmers to nearly every major government and corporation on the planet.

Michael, the POV character in that story, wants to work with Acton to create a system that essentially anticipates the wants and needs of consumers by way of monitoring their purchases and finances. So for example, if their credit card activity shows an increase in social activity – like going to bars or restaurants or clubs – then they might receive coupons to local eateries. Someone who lost their job, whose credit activity might be showing a lot of late-night internet purchases, might see a lot more ads for counseling popping up in their browser.

Now, it’s ethically dubious at best, but here’s what I think is going on: Acton Informatics has been doing this for a while now.

I’ve noticed that my Evil Corporations tend to be specialists. Cerbecorp is the best at security, Munin Scientific is the best at memory and storage. Acton is the best at processing and manipulating information. I’ll have to do a longer piece on them before the month is out.

What it boils down to, however, is that Wilford Acton used his daughter as a kind of test case. He managed to collect enough of her data that he could predict her actions with incredible accuracy, and spent years manipulating her into certain decisions. At least one marriage, a job, moving to a new city, that kind of thing.

Elli found out (How? That’s a good question.) and she was exactly as upset as you might expect someone to be. She wavers between trying to pretend her father doesn’t exist and focusing her laser-like fury on him. She absolutely refuses to forgive him for what he did, and has no interest in finding out why he did it. As far as she’s concerned, it was an unforgivable violation of her trust, and she will spend the rest of her days hating him.

Naturally, this makes Elli a difficult person to get close to. She trusts very, very few people, and even those only conditionally. She takes any possible association with her father or his company as a sign of betrayal, and is not willing to hear anything good said about him.

This, of course, offers up a couple of interesting story possibilities. One, of course, is Reconciliation. One way or another, Elli is forced to listen to her father’s reason and understand why he did what he did. She needs to be given the choice to forgive him, rather than completely denying the possibility.

The second story possibility is an Alliance. As much as she hates her father and everything he is associated with, there may come a day when she needs his help more than she needs to hate him. The alliance would be fragile and uncomfortable, but it might go a way towards that reconciliation storyline.

I’m really lucky, actually – I get along very well with my parents. I find it hard, and a little sad, to try and put myself in the position of someone whose relationship with their parents has degenerated into virulent hatred. Maybe in order to help Elli to overcome her issues with her father, I should look into the stories of people with such poisonous relations. How did it start? How was it healed, if at all? Why would hating someone for years be preferable to finding some level of forgiveness?

I suppose that’s one of the real benefits of writing – you get to explore these questions without actually putting yourself through them.

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!

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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.