Thursday, May 31, 2012

Spanner R4 Update: Chapter 3 Complete, Starring Shira's New Akio Car

It took me two days to finish the Revision 4 version of Spanner Chapter 3, one to cut its word count down below 15,700, one to rewrite the restaurant scene in Part 6 ("You Don't Know What Is What"). While I was at it, the old yellow Boss Mustang in Part 3 became a brand new Mustang in metallic cherry red, and it's now Shira's. But Shira won't be "legal" (i.e., able to get a driver's license at 15) until Chapter 7, so she has to let Willa and Karen drive "her". What Shira told me while I was out walking to the store changed even the name of Part 3: "Her name is Rio." And yes, Shira is in love with it.

The notional daughter of Utena Tenjou and Akio Ohtori now has her very own Akio Car. Revolutionary Girl Utena fans remember Akio's car, possibly the coolest Cool Car in the history of anime. Now Shira has one of her own, a new cherry Mustang with an ubersexy AI. She's in love with it, and starting in Chapter 7 the kids at Bangor High will be jealous.

The restaurant scene is very near the end of Chapter 3. In Revision 3 it isn't dramatic enough, so I decided to throw in a mass Mexican standoff between Conservative Revolutionary Party militants and Socialist Revolutionary Organization terrorists, demonstrating how little different they really are. The ending part with the investigation is now its own scene and much shorter, but manages to carry the implication that the Toymaker, Spanner's resident mad bomber, may have had something to do with the fiery crash two years earlier that robbed Jim Sparks of his face. I restored the usual restaurant TVs to this one so that I could insert the second token appearance of the virtual character in the form of a creepy logo who inserts herself into the story to become a major player at the end of Chapter 15.

Earlier, I expanded one scene and added another in which the SRO terrorists and an American prison jihadi who first appeared in Chapter 2 and loses to Shira in Part 4 escape from the Bangor Jail. I didn't remember to mention the jailbreak in the restaurant scene, but the SRO's presence implies it.

Meanwhile, I made some final revisions to Chapter 2. I edited the new scene at Game Wars to re-insert that virtual character to make it once again her first appearance. Then I went back and forth through the chapter, looking for stuff I could cut, any remaining continuity errors to correct, and scenes I could improve. I found a surprising number. There was even some dialogue left that wasn't yet up to my standards. Chapter 2 is now fully complete.

Next comes Chapter 4. The challenge is not just all the work necessary to upgrade the Revision 3 version to Revision 4 standards and continuity. I added new scenes to Revision 3. Then during Script Frenzy, I added new scenes to Revision 4. Most of those even newer new scenes are still in script form. I won't just be revising. I'll be novelizing too. I'll get to that eventually. Right now, though, I'm taking the rest of the night off.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Spanner R4 Update: Mary Sue No More, or How Karen Kubota Became a Real Character (Plus: Chapter 3 Editing Strategy)

Shira’s cousin Karen Kubota is a charter member of Spanner’s original “Class of ’92”, yet for two whole decades she never fully developed into a character. She was a Buddhist “Purity Sue”, a pretty body with a pleasant manner but not much content, whose character was pretty much limited to being Compassionate, Earnest, Genki, and the Victor Laszlo to Shira’s Rick Blaine. So how did she stop being a flat Mary Sue who I avoided writing and become an actual character with an increasingly important role?

  1. She developed the lacerating wit proper to a Richter-Thomas. When last night I completely rewrote an important scene in Chapter 6, she surprised me by calmly unleashing it on no less than the private owner of the Seattle-area school system, Book 1 major villain Peter T. Ross.
  2. She fell in love with Shira, making the hypothetical Karen × Shira ’ship canonical at last. In the final version of Chapter 2 she now successfully convinces Shira to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with her by seducing her in a very sweet scene.

The second one came first. My muse, yuri fangirl that she is, pulled it on me during the massive Chapter 2 rewrite. I almost expected it. The first hit me by surprise – it didn’t sound Karen enough at first – but then I realized she’s a Richter-Thomas, and if you’re a granddaughter of two-fisted children’s author Eleanor Richter, you’d better be able to keep up with her – and if you aren’t yet, you will be eventually. Nelly Richter is the “Wicked Wit of the West”; that had to rub off on eldest daughter Reva Richter-Thomas, who in turn passed it on to at least three of the four Kubota kids: big sister Saffron, gay brother Sage, and Karen. But the key to Karen’s character remains the Japanese spelling of her name: its Chinese characters are renge, “lotus”, backwards.

Shira, Spanner’s resident canonical “Launcher of a Thousand ’Ships”, has a special weakness to beautiful women she loves, even close relatives. If she’s beautiful and Shira already loves and trusts her, getting Shira into her bed is a matter of course, if of course the woman swings that way. The Richter-Thomas women inherited a strong bisexual tendency from the Thomas side, who were German socialists and advocates of free love and Nacktkultur (nudism) during the Weimar Republic even though they were ethnically Jewish. So of course Karen got it too. Why else would she know the most effective way to touch Shira’s heart? Her relationship with her friend Colette, introduced in Chapter 3 before a villain in Chapter 5 knocks her into Chapter 13, even resembles a marriage. So when Karen’s character bloomed at last, the love quotient tripled!

This gives me hope for the remaining flat characters, including “Class of ’92” members Daisy Kwon and Marina Reyes (who now debut in Chapter 2 as tutor and student). Right now Daisy is the Korean-American version of the elegant Japanese “Yamato Nadeshiko” woman and Marina is a depressed illegal-alien girl (Mexican, of course). They’ll become more prominent when the School Arc begins in Chapter 5.

Meanwhile, my strategy for cutting down the not-yet-edited four sections of Chapter 3 is beginning to emerge. Take Part 3:

  1. I combined it out of the Revision 2/3 sections “Portrait of an American Family” and “Car Song”. I was going to call it “Coming to Take Me Away” (still a scene title) but just decided (while on the pot, even; that happens) to make the final title “Car Song”. Two cars appear. I should make it three by adding one to the section’s final flashback. Willa drives one. As for the first…
  2. Remember the lemon yellow Boss Mustang that Shira’s greasily tinkering with? (In the nude, even; Shira is nothing if not way too audacious to be legal for her age.) It’s now metallic cherry red, it belongs to Shira, its name is Sally, and Shira calls it “she”. Shira is notionally the daughter of Revolutionary Girl Utena heroine Utena Tenjou and archvillain Akio Ohtori. Akio has a scene-stealing car that owns you. Sally the Mustang is Shira’s version of the Akio Car, and its scene-stealing qualities are intensified by her love for it. When she finally gets to drive it in Chapter 7, Shira being Shira, the experience proves quite erotic. Just the driving, not the sequence’s concluding all-human love scene. The driving.
  3. Start the section with a transitional scene. Another Shira videoblog? Lurid tabloid TV video of a wild police chase ending in a spectacular crash? Both? One then the other, or both at once?
  4. Cut down the opening scene at Red House. Turn it into a sequence, in fact: Desiree tells off the Mormons, turns down a New Age cult, and with her sister and lover Charlie greets in the nude a pair of old Jehovah’s Witness ladies so that when they kiss the old ladies drop dead. That last one comes from one of the very last notes in Project Notebook #15, and this is the perfect place to put it.
  5. Three bloated Revision 3 scenes to cut down: the garage, the living room and kitchen, and Willa’s car on the way to the boardwalk. Problem: too much gratuitous exposition, not enough connection with story continuity.

Talk about bloated: Part 4, “Party Crashers on the Boardwalk”, is very long indeed. Those 600+ words I need to cut? I could cut that many out of Part 4 without hurting the plot. I’ll also cut some bloat out of Parts 5 (“Your Next Trick”) and 6 (“You Don’t Know What Is What”) while changing them to fit into the stronger Revision 4 continuity.

And now to put that strategy into action…

Monday, May 28, 2012

Spanner R4 Update: Chapter 3: "Love Is A Terrorist"

One of the new additions to Spanner Chapter 3 for Revision 4 is this declaration midway between a love scene and a political provocation and tying the two together:

Love is a terrorist; fornication, homosexuality, ephebophilia, consensual incest, and nonwhite sex are unforgivable acts of sexual treason against the holy American Race, mercilessly punished by the State…

In an absolute monarchy like Saudi Arabia or an absolute oligarchy like China, the statement “love is a terrorist” is almost literally true, since intense love brutally assaults all boundaries. This is what André Breton, “pope” of Surrealism, meant by l’amour fou, “mad love”. Naturally, all the love scenes in Chapters 1 through 3 are distinctly transgressive, involving lesbian incest or miscegenation with jailbait. The assumption is that social order requires strict state control over procreation, so that romantic love ends up being discouraged or banned outright lest it lead to social disorder or even worse, e.g. legalized sodomy. Come Chapter 9, Shira and her forbidden love Leila, crossing caste and race lines and in contemptuous defiance of God and Country, come together in a romantic and erotic collision so violent it threatens to destroy the Conservative Revolutionary dictatorship over the “traitorous” liberal state of Cascadia. For Leila the prodigal princess and the female lover of lower class and inferior race she gives herself to, teenage lesbian interracial romance is a deliberate act of terrorism against a social order they both find impossible to survive in.

And of course since I depict acts of sexual terrorism in the form of rogue cops screwing schoolgirl prostitutes and mother-daughter couples living in outlaw marriages, the Author himself is committing the related act of throwing mind bombs containing live mind viruses engineered to blow minds. For did not John Ralston Saul in his essay Voltaire’s Bastards enjoin the novelist to become an “emotional terrorist” turning novels into bombs as our predecessors presumably did before us? And is that not the very spirit of Rock ’N’ Roll, surviving the death of the music itself? As Ozzy Osbourne once said when he got fined after a riot at one of his shows: “Eighty thousand dollars – rock ’n’ roll!”

The final Revision 4 name for Chapter 3 is: “Rock Is Dead”. Considering Shira’s act of stealing a backstage kiss from pop princess Minty Fresh (Part 2, “Stalking Minty Fresh”), the presence of the Band With No Name, the chapter-ending bombing of a Patriot Country concert, and of course lotsa yuri, the name is supposed to be ironic:

Elsewhere in the city, somewhere, anywhere, drumsticks pound out an apocalypse, guitars scream and roar, feedback wails, a maniac swings a microphone around and howls, crowds of defiant Rockers continue the noise when the music finally comes to an end, instruments and voices united to shout down the news coming from the official media echo chamber that rock is dead.

And so now that my busy Memorial Day weekend is over, I’ll start rewriting the last four sections of Chapter 3 so I can finish its Final Revision. Meanwhile, skipping one chapter, I find myself writing a completely new and different Interlude 3 called “One Nation Under Copyright, All Rights Reserved”. And so it continues…

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Spanner R4 Update: Yuri vs. Cyberpunk: Too Much Love! It's Ruining My Beautiful Cynicism!

Last post I mentioned that the yuri element of Spanner is foregrounding itself more in Revision 4 so that I'm less reluctant to throw some shameless sentimentality into the story. There's a lot of emotional intensity in this version, and it's only getting more intense as the story goes on. I'm worrying that all this love is ruining my cynicism! I fear that it's diluting the cyberpunk.

Fear not, faithful readers. The cynicism remains where it still belongs: against institutions, religion, the conventional so-called wisdom, liberal wimpiness, and conservative neophobia. I've become even more cynical about superheroes now that I've made the connection between them and terrorists and realized what they have in common: they substitute individual heroism for mass action, encouraging the people to become passive. The ultimate link between superheroes and terrorists in Spanner is that archvillain Henry Becket, the leader of the Conservative Revolution, is both at the same time; in fact, in him, both are the same — the key to his character, and to the American imperial regime.

So I'm at the same time transgressive and defiantly sentimental when I write the love stories, but cynical where it counts, about the Man. The first vague vision I had in 1996 of combining yuri romance with punk science fiction and political thriller has finally become clear to me in 2012.

Also last post, I bet myself (and you, my readers) that once I stepped out of the house my muse would start assaulting me with story ideas for Chapter 3. Sure enough, she did: new bookend scenes with Leila, a new jailbreak scene linking Chapter 1 and the later Chapter 3 scenes where terrorists pop up. And so once I got home I threw them in. Then I edited the first two sections, now called "The Call" and "Stalking Minty Fresh", cutting and rewording until I put the most content in the fewest words; now they're done. That still leaves four sections to edit and 600 words to cut, though I suspect that once I condense those sections I'll have room for new content I can use for more continuity welding. I'll see if I can finish Chapter 3 R4 tonight.

And so the editing continues...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Spanner R4 Update: Chapter 2 Now Transformed Too

First Chapter 1, now Chapter 2. I thought it was perfect. But then I moved that one new scene back (to a later part of the chapter) and added new scenes. How do I get my word count back under 15,800 now? Cut fat. Lots of it. As it turns out, there was a lot of fat I needed to cut, including a whole lot of continuity errors that developed during the long transformation from Revision 3, in almost every scene. Spanner Chapter 2 is now a completely different beast from it was just last week.

Yesterday I thought I'd move that new scene into Chapter 3 and all would be fine. I woke up this morning realizing it belongs in Chapter 2 and nowhere else, so now it's in the middle of the chapter. I condensed it, then cut a few hundred words out of a few scenes and thought that would be just fine. I'd done it just a few days ago; this would once again be nothing. So I thought.

Then I realized the new structure I'd created for the opening section, "Lethal Lolita", intercutting between the Rebel Styles incidents and four returning characters, would have to be expanded even further. Now there's a new incident, and the order of intercut scenes with the main characters goes like this: Shira first, before the first Rebel incident and built up from fragments taken out of Chapters 3 and 4; Leila second, her section moved from Chapter 4; Jennifer third (new); Karen last (just added today). Then I added two new scenes in which Karen convinces Shira to do Buddhist chanting with her in exchange for sweet, sweet love; Karen knows exactly how to touch Shira's heart where it's most sensitive, so of course beautiful (yet less explicit, for now) cousin love ensues. All this pushed my RTF file's word count to 18,000, counting the intro page and the long complete Interlude 2. Almost 800 words now had to be cut. So I set out to cut them.

A few scenes I didn't need to modify; they were perfect the way they were. A few scenes only needed token modifications, or the few edits necessary to conform them to Revision 4 continuity. All the long ones except the first and last, though, needed heavy editing, not just to correct Revision 4 continuity errors but to condense them so I could get the document word count down below 17,300. Some of those scenes received major transformations. However, I did it. I reached my word goal, Chapter 2 is back under the 15,750-word limit (not counting the section titles I'll convert to HTML comments in the ebook version), and for the second time a Spanner chapter not labelled "Intro" or "Interlude" is all but complete.

Meanwhile, I made a few revisions to Chapter 1 as well. The description of Shira's mother Hope that I moved from Chapter 3 to Chapter 2 is now in her first Chapter 1 appearance. In the same edit, I changed how I introduce the characters by name in the flashback sequence and added a description of Jennifer's brother Connor to his first appearance (to wit: he looks like a taller male version of her). I reworded some of the more unwieldy sentences left over from Revisions 2 and 3. Chapter 1 now reads more smoothly and fits better with Chapter 2.

Speaking of kissing cousins: I've noticed the yuri element foregrounded itself more. There's more of the consensual lesbian incest, still strictly limited to a single family, that of Shira and her cousins (the Richter-Thomases), for reasons explained in Chapter 3. Chapter 1's final Revision 4 replacement for the first flashback turned out to be a double mother-daughter love scene in which Shira and Hope, Jennifer and Willa pretty much went ménage à quatre. In Chapter 2 it's now Shira/Hope, Jennifer/Willa, and Karen/Shira in addition to the heterosexual Shira/Sparks sequence with embedded Shira/Kira × Amanda flashback. And that's in addition to the heavy foreshadowing of the central Shira/Leila relationship that has its actual beginning in Chapter 3. None of this is under my control; since I'm one of those storytellers who lose control of the story to their characters, my job is to keep them in continuity. One change that was completely unconscious till I noticed it: as more characters dare to love more intensely, some of my writing has become more boldly, even defiantly, sentimental. And this in addition to the subjective approach to love scenes I originally developed for the comics version and translated into modern poetry. I should expect more of this to emerge in later chapters. As Karen insists on reminding her author, love is the key to the whole story.

I'm going to take a rest for the night and take a walk. I've already procrastinated enough stuff just so I could sustain edit mode on those first two chapters. Who knows, I might find my muse and inner-editor tag team wrestling me back to Chapter 3...

Friday, May 25, 2012

Spanner R4 Update: The Chapter 1 Director's Cut! Chapter 2, Too

For once in my life I've actually finished something. Believe it or not, the text of Spanner episode 1 is perfect. Not just the Intro and Interlude 1, which I mostly finished last year but for a few tweaks, but Chapter 1 as well. The resulting ebook represents the hypothetical two-hour pilot episode.

Unlike the Intro and Interlude that bookend it, Chapter 1 has undergone massive changes between Revisions 3 and 4. For one, Revision 4 is now eight parts, compared with the mere five of the Second and Third Revisions. I completely replaced most of the second-half flashbacks, heavily modified the few remaining, and switched the places of the iPhone sacrifice and the basement scene. The flashbacks, in fact, now have a plot of their own, giving Chapter 1 an unconventional three-act structure with the first act occurring late (and the Intro acting as a parallel first act). It's longer than all later chapters because I didn't bother to limit myself to my arbitrary limit of 15,750 words (representing the 65-page upper limit for a one-hour TV script). I've managed to find and correct a whole bunch of continuity errors, new and old, and the last remaining typos. There's nothing left to change. Chapter 1 is complete.

Then I went on to Chapter 2. I had written some new scenes for Revision 4. However, yesterday I proceeded to move one and delete the other, then replace them with a series of new scenes, one extending the opening "Lethal Lolita" sequence by increasing the number of Rebel Styles' victims to four, three more separating those four scenes and linking to Chapter 1 through the characters (in order of appearance ) Leila, Jennifer, and Shira. The Leila scene came from Chapter 4, including the dream and flashback; naturally, I heavily edited it to fit its new context. The Shira scene has elements transferred from Chapters 3 and 4. Then I edited the rest of the chapter. I found all kinds of continuity errors to correct, some resulting from the many changes to Revision 4, but also some older ones as well, including a few dating all the way back to Revision 1. A few characterizations even changed, if subtly. So now if the text of Chapter 2 isn't quite as perfect as Interlude 2, at least it's close.

The one scene I moved is going to Chapter 3. That put the word count over 16,000. Unmodified, the equivalent TV episode would run an hour and 10 to 15 minutes. So my challenge there is to get it down below the 15,750-word limit without cutting out any of the important stuff. I suspect the longer scenes (the mid-chapter boardwalk and ferry-terminal sequence and the restaurant scene late in the chapter) have a lot of fat I can cut. I have plans to change the new scene as well: instead of a single scene with a TV-commercial stinger, I'm going to make it an intercut sequence.

Now for the shameless plugs: I've already related how yWriter5 has made editing my novel so much easier, to the point where I can no longer even conceive of doing NaNoEdMo without it. For the ebook editions, I've discovered three invaluable tools: eCub, which assembles your ePub book; Sigil, the perfect tool for editing and cleaning up your ePub book and even creating one from scratch; and Calibre, with which you can convert your ebook between different formats, both in the GUI and from the command line, and has an ebook reader and a library manager as well. These are the tools with which I'm creating the ebooks I intend to publish. (For the covers, my tools are GIMP for Photoshop-level image editing, Inkscape for vector graphics, the scanner I already have, and the graphics tablet I don't yet.)

In short, I'm starting to see the finished work. Naturally, it continues...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Spanner R4 Update: Chapter 1 Final Revision Is Almost Ready to Publish!

Now that I've gotten over my Script Frenzy victory (and yes, it took me two whole weeks to get over it, I'm back to editing the Spanner final revision. Today I made a breakthrough: I now have a final text for the Intro, Chapter 1, and Interlude 1! I updated the ebook HTML pages with a modified version of the custom stylesheet I've been using, and they look good! Under my current plan, I'll be selling one 15-20,000-word installment on a regular schedule (biweekly? weekly?) for 99¢ each, though I bet the slick style I chose to create for the publication version may make it worth $2.99.

Of course, I'm not finished yet. There's still the dedication, foreword, and "Caveat Lector" page that remains incomplete, the cover and the title page that I haven't even started yet, and the e-reader table of contents that requires hand modifying the content.opf and toc.ncx files.

The important thing is, I now have a final text for the first installment of Spanner, which I'm calling "Episode 1: Spanner in the Works". As my project has evolved from an aborted manga to the novelization of a hypothetical TV show, I might actually call Book 1 "Series 1".

I'm likely to finish up Chapters 2 and 3 and Interlude 2 very soon, possibly tomorrow or Monday. After that, there's the still incompletely novelized Episode 4 and its still very rough Interlude 3. Right now, though, there's still 22 chapters and 10 Interludes to go...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Poem: Under the Devil Cross (Untergang)

(A Surrealist poet's take on Downfall. Or something like that. It grew out of the movie's German title, Der Untergang. Memetic mutation: I bet some people will mutate this poem to parody popular memes the same way they do Downfall. Note: The ethnic slurs are there simply for irony, not to mock tribalism and gangster movies like in Spanner; the apostrophes are missing because I read Cormac McCarthy.)

It used to be Hindu
It used to be Buddhist
It used to be Hermetic
It used to be Zoroastrian
It used to be theosophical
It used to be good luck
Till the evil prophet with the devil in his eyes
Consecrated it to Satan with the blood of six million Jews
And now its name is devil cross
Under the devil cross
He went wild hunting

The kikes are always to blame for everything said the evil kraut
Who killed six million of them
But couldnt shut them up they only got louder
Speaking in voices of artillery that split his bunker
With exploding words of Marx Mises Maimonides thou art the man
Accused six million voices he tried to silence with overdose
Of amphetamine and arsenic he chomped like candy fed to him by
His fat personal quack no kike science for this kraut but
Six million voices refusing to shut up only got louder
Under the devil cross
He went plumb insane

Driven by demons he tried to drag his nation down with him to hell
Grandpa what was Germany
Cub it was once a nation of poets and philosophers
Till Prussian aristocracy Dada economics world war drove them mad
And they made an evil Austrian with the devil in his eyes their god
Who fed them a subsistence diet of lies and six million Jews
And stabbed his nation to death with the devil cross
Stabbed it in the back dragged it down with him straight to hell
So now theres a black hole in the middle of Europe
Grandpa I dont see a black hole there
Well cub he killed all the poets and philosophers leaving only cynics
Under the devil cross
He wrecked his nation

Six million dead Jews wouldnt shut up kept getting louder
Voices of dead poets and philosophers the voice of reason
He hated reason kept rattling his rotting brains split his bunker
His head crammed with amphetamines arsenic hate lies occult piosity
Thought he could abolish reality by feeding the devil six million Jews
Reality laughed in his face got its revenge
His glorious millennium sacred empire of a thousand years lasted twelve
His apostles followed the example of the Dada poets by committing suicide
Or saved their now worthless lives by betraying him
Leaving him alone with the six million voices in his head
Six million dead Jews who refused to shut up but only got louder
Till he shut them up by putting a bullet in his head
Under the devil cross
He went under

Copyright © 2012 Dennis Jernberg. Some rights reserved.
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