Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Evaluation: Ananke 3

So yeah, I know it's not Monday today, either. It's less than a week since the last one, though, so I'm counting this one as a victory. Over what, I don't know.

So I finally wrote out all the scenes I had planned out, and sure enough I'm getting ideas for new ones. I think I'm closer to the final product, content-wise. I already got a decent idea about recycling a character from the original Void story (that is, the fanfic that inspired Vurok) in a role that'll be useful to introduce another new character I'm very much looking forward too. So yay!

Style-wise is difficult. I'm still trying to figure out reported vs actual dialogue. I'm consciously alternating between them right now, and the result isn't horrible, but not ideal either. I'll see what works.

Things I hate about Vurok, so far: That I can't pause in the middle of action scenes and make characters have lengthy conversations. I made a minor reference to that in Void, or rather Void did since it was part of his narration. Today I wanted Ananke and Void to stop and debate the ethical implications of theft but they were in a hurry and it made no sense to stop and argue that. Curse my silly ideas of internally consistent narrative universes where I have to bother about making sense. I think I can fit the conversation elsewhere, and probably will, but it still bugs me. If it was an Overworld psychflare it wouldn't be a problem... (Overworld being the setting where The Arbiter takes place, but also goes beyond that. It's the general kind of story where I can play around with embodied philosophical concepts. In that sense, Taijitu and Chao is also and Overworld psychflare, even if its world is not the same as the one in The Arbiter)

As two minor comments 1) I apparently have continuity now. This being a story of actual events that take place after Void (as opposed to ramblings which are what take place in Reflections), references to minor points of Void where made. This isn't a big deal, or shouldn't be, but I feel its significant.
And two, I'm adding needless layers of hidden meaning as a way to entertain myself while deciding on minor details. I already do that a bit with numbers in my not-actually-in-progress novel, but I figure names work just as well. Anagrams!

Friday, July 23, 2010


See, imaginary readers? Sometimes I do post when I say I will. That'll learn you to assume my partial inability to keep to my own schedules is a complete inability to keep my own schedules.

Anyway, prophecy and why I hate it, both in fiction and in the real world. But mostly in fiction

First thing is, the paradoxes involved in knowing the future. Often, the assumption is that the future is set, what will happen will happen, period, and what you're getting is a snapshot of that. (I will address conditional futures later). What's the problem? That it makes no fucking sense. If you're getting a snapshot of the future, and we assume that the past holds some manner of influence over the future, then we have to assume that knowledge of the future being in the past somehow worked everything out so that the future would turn out exactly as it did. Which really only happens because of authorial intervention. There's no intradiegetic reason why visions of a set future work out (Yes, I do like that word a whole fucking lot, why do you ask?).

Conditional futures have similar problems because they are often set as in very stark choices, it's either the end of the world or the beginning of Utopia, etc. Never as a gradient of slightly different possibilities, which is what you'd expect if it actually was about the natural consequences of actions and not hamfisted fitting into prefabricated patterns.

Second, the whole vague symbolism. Real prophecies (That is, alleged prophecies that take place in the real world and not in fiction) are almost always filled with obscure symbolism. See Nostradamus or the book of Revelation. This is because of a very good reason, namely, that they are bullshit. Prophecies that have specific interpretations have the annoying tendency of being disproved.

However, this makes no sense in fiction. In a universe where prophecy is true, there's no reason for this multiple interpretations babble. Sure, it might have been a nice literary twist the first five hundred times or so, but by now it's been done to death. Not to mention, all these prophecies with vague wordings that have some sort of obscure meaning need some sort of intelligent source. There's no reason given why information spontaneously travels back in time, assembles itself into an arguably technically true statement in a language understood by the prophet. And if there is an intelligent source creating these messages, why? If it wants to help the characters, then why be an asshole about the meaning? And if it doesn't, why create the prophecies at all?

So yeah. I dislike prophecy as a narrative element, at least the usual versions of it. Which is why Ananke's power works the way it does.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Evaluation: Ananke 2

So I was supposed to do this three days ago. Connection issues on Monday prevented that, as well as keeping me busy catching up with various websites the other two days. Yes, that's my idea of busy. I'm still doing that, actually, connection is still spotty, but damn I'll at least try to stick to my arbitrary schedules that nobody knows about.

So, as the title implies, I figured out a title for the story, as well as a new codename for the superpowered outlaw formerly known as Pythia. In Greek mythology, Ananke was the personification of Necessity as an aspect of destiny, that is, the future that happens because it must happen. Or at least, that's my interpretation of it. The whole thing had a distinct deterministic feel, which rather fits Ana (no, that's not her birth name, it's just a nickname based on a codename. And yes, I'm aware of how silly that sounds) since her main ability is not the typical predicting the future as in getting vague "visions" or "prophecies", but rather an automatic process in her mind collecting data and organizing into various possible outcomes by probability of each. Something like a cheap Laplace's demon. In any case, she only sees the future as a chain of consequences from the present, and not as an actual Pythia supposedly did, as divine yet obscure revelations. (I hate the typical prophecy thing of a long bunch of verses that have to be interpreted symbolically, for various reasons, so I'm not going to be using that kind of precognitives. At least, not in the Vurok Canon).

So yeah, Ananke is the new name. Thanks to a little bit of rediting Void and Reflections now have her new name rather than the old one. This is one of those times I'm glad I'm doing this as a web-based project, retroactive renaming is much easier (The fact I've had to do that twice should say something about my work). If this was a published work, I'd have to introduce a retcon explaining she was changing her name for intradiegetic reasons, and it would sound almost certainly stupid. Note: Intradiegetic is the fancy way of saying "within the story universe", and I've been dying for a chance to use it without being needlessly obscure since I learnt it. Fortunately, I can be as much of a pretentious bitch here as I like.

I've written about a page by now, which is proportionally a lot more than what I had but still pityfully little. I'm considering cutting back on the dialogue a bit and focusing more on reported speech as in the earlier psychflares, because honestly I don't like how my dialogue turns out, but I don't think Vurok as a continuing universe works with that writing style. I'll see how it goes.

Not many advances plot-wise, but that's to be expected, I rarely get much further with plot until I've written out all I've got figured out and then ask myself what next. It's annoying but unavoidable, what actually happens changes a lot between my head and the page, partly because some things are easier to write, partly because I get better ideas while working. One of the two plot points I mentioned last time was covered, the other is next. And I'll see how it goes from there.

Also, I want to rant about prophecy, but I'll leave that for tomorrow, as a "regular" blog post.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Vamos Carajo

Ganamos. Esta vez, ganamos.

Monday, July 12, 2010

On psychflares and evaluation

So, to the imaginary population of people who read this blog regularly and expect something to show up on Wednesday, let me disabuse you of that notion quick. As I've noticed lately, my once-a-week schedule was too optimistic. Mostly, I expected that every so often I'd have some of the "easy" stories to write so I could buy time for the harder ones. As it turns out, almost all the stories lately belong to the latter category. I could work harder to get stuff on time, but there's two problems:

One, I need ideas to write. Not basic ideas, the ones I base the stories on, those I have plenty, but the details, the stuff that makes it a story and not me yelling, "Look, Yog-Sothoth and Jesus are having a conversation!". Sometimes, all I need to get those is writing, the plot sorts itself out and I know how the story ends and how I'm getting there. Lately, though, I need to stop and think and ponder and force some ideas to show themselves but it takes them too long and by the time I get them it's Monday and I have to finish in a rush and can't edit because I'm sick of this and I'm still working on the details which I could solve if I had more time but I don't and the story sucks! ... yeah, um, sorry about that sentence.

The second is what I touched upon on the last bit of that run-on sentence, if I focus more on arbitrary deadlines than writing passable stories, then all I have is crap. I want to improve myself as a writer, not become a machine that regularly pumps out mediocre crap. The world has enough of those. Besides, treating writing like it's a job isn't helping either. I just take it as a chore and avoid it. Killing my own motivation is not good.

So, I've come up with a new system. Since I don't want to go back to the old "write a few paragraphs and then forget about it" model that I had before the Psychflares, I'm still going to give myself some kind of schedule, making myself more aware how much time passes between writings. It just won't be a publishing schedule. So, from now on and until I figure out a better system, Monday is evaluation day. I'll look at my current work-in-progress and see what I have accomplished so far, what I want to hit in the future, what details and plot points I want to figure out, what I should edit, etc. Completed Psychflares will be published whenever they are deemed fit to see the world.

So, seeing as today's Monday...

Work-in-progress was supposed to be "Pythia", latest chapter in the Vurok City canon. Most of that is indeed so, with one small problem re: the name.
As I noticed yesterday, there is a character with that codename and similar powerset in the Whateleyverse. A very minor character, truth be told. She only gets mentioned in passing in two chapters of one story. Still, Vurok was born essentially from me reading Whateley and thinking "this is so damn awesome", as I've mentioned in the comments for Void. I want the universe to deviate itself from those roots, to become my own creation, not someone else's works with the serials filed off. And having a pseudo-precognitive esper telekinetic named the same as one of their precognitive esper telekinetics is not originality. So, yeah, Pythia is getting a name change. Or technically a codename change, I have no reason to change her as-of-yet-not-revealed birth name. The changes will be retroactive, so Void and Reflections will reflect the new name, whatever it is.

Getting past the title!
What I have written so far is a handful of sentences, dialogue with the soon-to-be-renamed protagonist and her boyfriend, about him not thinking things through. It's a decent start for the themes I want to set up in this story. Mostly, they relate to improvement of themselves, as a team and as individuals. New powers will be elaborated on, new characters may or may  not appear, a new niche for Void et al. as a gang of outlaws/paranormals that needs a certain stability will begin to be established. This is the basic stuff I want to touch upon. I already know one character who will make a brief but relevant appearance, and two others probably will too, but I'm not sure. One character may appear or be foreshadowed or jut be left for later, I'm not sure yet. I like her in concept, but there's polishing that needs to be done and I don't know if I'll have place for her right now. We'll see.

Plot-wise, I have very little. I know two events that will take place soon, both of them triggering some of the points above due to their conjunction, but both of them were set up during Void. The plot is very lacking in events unique to it that shape it. I won't really be able to get to them until I hit upon the first two and see were those lead me, but that doesn't stop me from running possible scenarios through my head.

So, what I have written: Almost nothing!
What I have thought out: A few generalities and themes, and two specific plot events.
What I need: A new title/codename, figuring out how the plot develops into the middle, how I want it to end, and which of the new characters gets an introduction. So, basically, everything.

So, let's hope this works out! And if not, I'll still persevere. I'm bound to find a system that works if I keep trying, staying motivated is the one trick to it. Well, maybe.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Psychflare: The Arbiter

[see comments for notes]

The Arbiter

The landscape had a shifty, changing quality to it. At the moment, it resembled a peaceful meadow, next to a small stream, but the very background felt alive, barely contained, as if it could become anything else at a moment's notice. An ageless woman rested there, her back against a tree, contemplating the scenery and pondering her existence.

The calm was not to last, though. A part of the world twisted and vanished, the ground replaced by an expanse of clouds, holding twelve gates of pure pearl. As they opened, a man in a simple robe walked through them, surrounded by an aura of light. He stopped in front of the woman, who looked up and greeted him.

“Why, hello there, Yeshua. What brings you to this corner of the overworld?

“I'm sorry, I'm looking for the Arbiter.”

“Well, you're looking at her. What can I do for you?”

“You? I'm sorry, what happened to...?”

He was interrupted as the landscape altered itself once more. An endless extension of primal darkness could be glimpsed through a rift in the world, where eldritch spheres of pure light manifested themselves. Their very nature was incongruous with space and time as we understand them, as if they obeyed the rules of a universe beyond the universe. The sounds that issued forth were as if spoken by multiple voices in unison, covering tones that could not exist.

These visions of madness made little impression on the other two figures, however, both of them quite used to the rather fanciful appearances denizens of the overworld took at times. The Arbiter in particular had not changed her expression at all since the first arrival, but Yeshua now sported a look of utter disgust and contempt.

“Oh, you're here,” he said. “I was just trying to find out what happened to the Arbiter.”

“Hi, Yog-Sothoth. As I was explaining Yeshua, the Bosses decided that maybe Siddhartha was not the best choice for the job. A few shady events here and there, souls changing hands under the table, that kinda thing.”

Yeshua was taken aback by the news, but recovered his composure quickly. Yog-Sothoth seemed more amused than anything else, if the preternatural snickering was any indication.

“So the Bosses say, we need someone new, I get the offer, and I take it. But enough 'bout that. I gather ye have a dispute and need some sorta arbitration?”

That would be correct,” Yog-Sothoth replied. “As you know, Yeshua has been referred to as “The way, the truth and the life”, whereas I adopt, as one of many titles, “The opener of the way”. This conflict...”

“Now hold it for a sec,” the Arbiter interrupted. “You're telling me yer dispute is 'bout who get t'use the word “way” in their title?”

“There's a number of elements in play,” Yeshua said “but the basic problem is around the fact the use of that word for both of us can lead to misinterpretation. If I am “the way,” and this... being”, he spat, “is the way's “opener,” then one might be inclined to believe it to be some herald of mine or prerequisite for my appearance, which he most certainly is not.”

“But, more importantly, if I'm a mere “prelude” of the humanoid,” Yog-Sothoth interjected, “then I'm reduced to a minor figure within his cult! I shall not be reduced to a simple detail in the cosmology...”

“Silence, both of ye. By the name of the Nameless, I had hoped this job would involve somewhat more interesting disputes.” The Arbiter's expression remained calm, but a tone of exasperation was clear in her voice. “Ye really think any significant number of mortals is gonna be stupid enough to think both of yer mythologies are s'pposed to be the same?”

“With all due respect, Arbiter,” Yog-Sothoth said, “mortals are idiots. Yeshua has a habit of incorporating lesser known deities as “demons” in his cult. I will not stand by and let my brethren suffer that fate.”

“And I,” Yeshua said, “will not let a true path towards righteousness be corrupted by the influence of such perversions”

“Ye are worse than mortals... fine, I'll do an arbitration, it being me job and all. Now, the usual test for cases like this one would be seniority, so I'd have to determine which of the titles in question was taken first....”

Both started talking at the same time.

“It should be obvious then...”

“Certainly that means...”

“Silence.” The Arbiter's voice had a finality none dared challenge. “As I was sayin', there's the problem that yer last dispute was over this very fact, and no satisfactory conclusion's reached. So, I think we should decide on an alternate method.”

“Perhaps a mortal judge could be summoned...” Yeshua started to suggest.

“And you believe than a mortal is more likely to get the right answer than the Arbiter?” Yog-Sothoth replied. “This is an obvious trick, trying to play on your popularity with them. Do not take me for a fool.”

“Well, then, what do you suggest?”

“Perhaps some sort of argumentation of worthiness to use the title based on...”

“Bah. That will get us nowhere!”

“I do have an alternative both of ye might like...”

The landscape changed completely this time, into a barren wasteland, punctuated by rock formations and deep canyons. The heat would be beyond bear for any human. Desolate visions was not what one was used to in the overworld.

“This will set the scene nicely. How'd ye feel about trial by combat?”

“It's... unorthodox, but not necessarily a bad idea”

“I'm not opposed.”

“Good. Now blast yer brains out and don't bother me for a while”

The Arbiter left for a far off rock that had a decent view of the fight with a single tree that was the only vegetation in the area. As she rested her back against it, a joyful figure, dressed in a monastic robe, made its appearance.

“Why, hello, Siddhartha. How was the meeting?”

“Nothing too troubling, thankfully. Did anyone come seeking arbitration while I was gone?”

“No, no-one came up, luckily enough”

“Say, you wouldn't happen to know why Yog-Sothoth appears to be devouring Yeshua?”

“Not a clue; I'm just enjoying the show.”