Saturday, June 30, 2012

Spanner R4 Update: Chapter 14, the Clip Episode with Extra WHAM!

Every fan of Babylon 5 and many other series is familiar with the Wham Episode, dedicated to the shocking plot twist. Now Spanner has more than enough WHAM! to satisfy any plot-twist addict, and I've spent extra time putting more WHAM! into the Fourth Revision, particularly Chapter 1, where the WHAM! (the Spanner Incident, to be exact) is what kicks off the plot in the first place.

Then there's the Japanese TV tradition of the Recap Episode, which sums up the story so far for those who came to the story late. (There's a specific reason for this that has to do with Japanese broadcasting which I won't get into right now.)

Problem: how do you plot a Recap Episode so that it becomes a Wham Episode? It sounds difficult, and it is — but it's been done before. Case in point: episode 33 of Revolutionary Girl Utena. The trick is to add a little something which will change the context of everything. Trickiest of all is doing it in such a way so that Chapter 14 will make, say, Chapters 2 and 3 look like Innocuously Important Episodes in comparison, and still be overshadowed by the major-league WHAM! of Chapter 15.

I'm going to keep roughly to the outline of the Third Revision. I'll remove some scenes, condense others, send others to earlier chapters, all to make room for the context-changing flashbacks to earlier chapters. I'll still keep certain of the new Fourth Revision scenes, but the main plot is there mostly to structure the flashbacks and add the extra context needed to prepare for Chapter 15.

The first flashback-oriented episode is Chapter 9, which tells Shira's and Leila's backstories in a way intended to drive them apart but only brings them closer together. In fact, I'm going to scatter a lot of flashbacks in Chapters 10-13, of both the backstory variety used in Chapter 5 and the context-changing kind I'm now using Chapter 14 for. By the time Chapter 15 begins, you'll realize that much of what you knew before turns out to have been wrong.

An extra character bonus comes in the assault on the gang meeting at Oliver's property. Turns out Leila was part of a couple with a bit of a "Bonnie and Clyde" reputation, and her boyfriend was Frank Becket, police chief Jack's gangster son and classmate Debbie's older brother. But now, though they still share some nihilistic-sounding premises, Leila has grown from a nihilist into a more optimistic existentialist, while Frank has remained a nihilist. This comes out during their katana duel:
Frank: What happened to you, Leila? Where's the heartless bitch I fell in love with? You've gone weak!
Leila: I grew up. Why won't you?
Of course one issue Frank has with Leila now is that she's fallen in love with a girl, a dark-skinned one at that, and he thinks it's gross. And Shira is no nihilist; philosophically, she's an "ethical slut" hedonist.

There's new character Dr. Mina Tatsumi's escape from the madhouse and army of Yakuza-girl clones, and there's the whole "Fujoshi Paradise" sequence that needs restructured, condensed, and ultimately turned into a thread which should start in Chapter 5. But first I need to completely restructure Chapter 14. The fine details come later.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Spanner R4 Update: Skipping Forward Through the Chapters

Sometimes the muse likes to lead me on a wild goose chase. Now I find myself redoing the Chapter 14 into a semi-"recap episode" with an extra dose of "wham!", and tweaking the already replotted Chapters 7 and 15, and turning Chapter 18 into the direct sequel to Chapter 15 involving the Corporatist state government's revenge against Team Spanner and the Cascadia Populists generally, which proceeds to backfire for Governor Brinkman, the Fearsome Foursome, and CPMC in Chapters 19 and 20, culminating in their ultimate blunder: somehow turning a district-wide high-school student walkout into a great big soccer fan riot. And I was supposed to be plotting the weakest scenes of Chapter 4...

The Chapter 14 idea began as the intersection of two ideas. The first is the structure of the last half of Chapter 9, which I built around a pair of flashback sequences, one after the other, involving first Shira then Leila, as two male characters try to convince each that the other is bad news (they fail: Shira and Leila love each other because they're bad news). The second is the anime tradition of the midseason recap episode, and specifically the second one in Revolutionary Girl Utena which doubles as a Wham Episode rivalling any in Babylon 5.

Chapter 15: I flipped through my notes again and found the one where I'd written the chapter's final six-part structure, then divided the scenes the way I did Chapter 7 back during NaNoEdMo, with the section numbers added to the scene names. As for Chapter 7, I added a few elements to a new scene in Section 4 ("The Birthday Party") to tie it in to a few more plot threads, including one very long one that starts in that scene.

That takes care of those three chapters for now. Now back to the problem I'm working on in Chapter 4: how to make a meeting with about a dozen characters more dramatic. Maybe I should have Shira drop one of her customary wham lines, causing a "Why didn't I think of that?" reaction in the others?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Spanner R4 Extra Update: Cascadia Has A Real Flag!

I read this article on the soccer fans of Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland, and how they've been bringing out the Cascadian flag. Well, guess what? Cascadia really does have its own flag! In fact, you can buy one!

The site where you can buy the flag defines Cascadia as the entire Pacific Northwest envisioned as a potentially independent nation. My definition in Spanner is considerably smaller, basically western Washington and Oregon combined with southwestern British Columbia, set apart as a sort of Indian reservation for liberals by the Conservative Revolutionary federal government, essentially the Cascadia of Ernest Callenbach's utopian novel Ecotopia without the California part that Callenbach was focused on.

But guess what? Even this "rump" Cascadia is still secessionist and rallies under the Douglas Fir flag a.k.a. "The Doug". That body of water in the northern part of the state, around which the urban heart of Cascadia nestles, is still called by Cascadians the Salish Sea. And the entire theme of "legal in Cascadia but not in America" just has to carry the implication of "Cascadia wants to be independent of the American Empire", and so do all those references to the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement that I threw into the Third Revision last year as they happened. And what could Chapters 21-23, the last three chapters of Spanner Book 1, be about but Cascadia trying to be independent, with the Doug waving throughout the aspiring nation?

I slapped my forehead and cried out, "But of course!"

EDIT: It turns out Cascadia has a Native American name as well: Chinook Illahee. And Illahee just happens to be the name of a neighbourhood in Bremerton, come to think of it...

Spanner R4 Update: A Subjective Approach to Love Scenes

One of my favorite love stories of the 1990s was the sweet love between the two female leads of the manga Chirality. Problem: the love scenes were the series' weak point. Too Penthouse-y! That's because author Satoshi Urushihara is notorious for indulging his breast fetish. It stopped the story cold. So I vowed to create an opposite approach to comics love scenes that would focus on the lovers' emotions and push the expressive limits of the comics medium.

I never learned to draw well enough to actually put that plan into action — in pictures. Instead, I translated it into prose, starting with Spanner Revision 3, shortly after fully discovering poetry, ironically during Script Frenzy when NaPoWriMo runs concurrently. So far in the Fourth Revision, I've written all the love scenes (and some of the action scenes) in a style derived from Surrealist, Beat, and prose poetry.

Actually, I have two approaches to love scenes: the intense and the languid. The intense style uses the surreal method in which erotic intensity breaks down language and veers into mysticism. The languid or sensual approach involves describing the erotic action in terms of the physical sensations the lovers feel. Naturally, they shade into each other. My concern is not with how a love scene looks, as the standard pornographic approach (such as Urushihara's) does it, because pornography eventually gets boring. I'm concerned with how the characters feel. At the sensual end of the spectrum, I describe how, say, a caress feels on bare skin; at the intense end, the characters lose all reason and fuse souls.

I'm not a naïve yet horny teenager anymore. Pornography just won't cut it with me. I want to show how love and sex feel. You want the Penthouse approach, there's dirty pictures and videos all over the Internet. If I can get you inside, say, Shira and Leila's bodies so that you feel what they feel, I've done my job. I'll accept no less. And so the love scenes are among the parts I edit most obsessively, the way Ernest Hemingway edited the last page of one of his novels thirty-eight times, and for the same reason: to get it right.

UPDATE: And what should I encounter but an post called "Limbic Revision: How Love Rewires the Brain" about a book related to this very subject, A General Theory of Love, which I should add to my list of Spanner's crucial sources...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Spanner R4 Update: Chapter 4 - The Meeting at Mudlark House, Take 1

Believe it or not, there's three versions of the pivotal meeting at Mudlark House in Spanner Chapter 4, and they're all unsatisfactory. One, they don't have enough of the characters; two, the plan's still too explicit like in a heist movie; three, there's not enough ominous foreshadowing. The versions are those from the Third Revision, the initial Fourth Revision outline, and the Script Frenzy script.

In addition to host Willa and her teenage relatives involved in organizing the Student Union that plays such a pivotal role in the School Arc between Chapters 5 and 21, Hope has brought several disgruntled teachers who, unlike her (and the three sexy librarians who serve as mentors to the Student Union activists), have not been purged from the Teachers Guild — yet. Problem: the Guild is using the Conservative Revolution as an excuse to transform itself from a workers' organization into a private employment services corporation which its management hope they can list on the stock exchange. Bigger problem: it's the Guild that owns the private Seattle Public Education Corporation that's already notorious for treating both teachers and students so contemptuously. Shira announces she'll be going "into the belly of the beast", meaning she plans to undermine SPEC from within.

I guess this scene will have to work like the ones in heist movies — in fact, the TV version in its final form should be in part a homage to heist movies, and to those war movies in which the heroic raiders work out their plan to, for example, bomb the bridge over the River Kwai or the Nazi gun emplacements at Navarone. But this being Chaos Angel Spanner rather than, say, Topkapi or Inglourious Basterds, anything can happen and every plan requires a Plan B. Shira's tagline is, after all, "expect the unexpected". Point and counterpoint: to properly set up the School Arc, I will need to contrast the flexibility of Shira and her crew (the future Team Spanner) with the pointed inflexibility of the management within the "revolutionary government" of SPEC. The meetings at Mudlark House and SPEC headquarters should reveal two completely opposite worldviews, the Populism and Corporatism that will clash head-on in Chapters 22 and 23, once the School Arc has come to its explosive conclusion.

There will be two more scenes related to the Mudlark House and SPEC meetings: the emergency meeting at Drusilla's cult complex to determine the succession to the chairmanship of Biotron after Shira's delivery to Dr. Thorwald blows up; and a Socialist Revolutionary terrorist action involving hostage taking and, well, a meeting to plan an even more audacious action, this time aimed at SPEC and its chairman, Peter Ross.

Ah, Peter Ross. I'm going to give him a character arc like the infamous "Papa Doc" Duvalier who started as a doctor and ended as a genocidal dictator. Ross started as a teacher whose politics were pretty liberal and who was a friend of the even more liberal Hope Reston. Now he's a militantly corrupt neoconservative Corporate, and Hope is his radical nemesis. But he personally blacklisted her, so her daughter Shira Thomas will have to serve as her point man. In Chapter 6, Ross reveals just how unamused he is.

Now back to crafting the Mudlark House scene. I want it to work, so I need to get it right.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Spanner R4 Update: Interlude 3 Complete - Weirder and More Cyberpunk than Ever!

Guest starring the clone-resurrected Walt Disney and Japanese Prime Minister Sony Corporation! With visual shout-outs to left-handed anime bass girls Mio Akiyama and Haruko Haruhara by left-handed bassist Rebel Styles. Sony makes its appearance in the form of a 900-foot Screen Gems logo (Screen Gems being, of course, a Sony division). With these additions, and heavy bromantic vibes between IP Defender Martin Martian and his adoring assistant (and later "widow") R. A. "Legs" Leggett (a villain from Chapters 4, 6, and 11), the brand new Spanner Interlude 3, "One Nation Under Copyright, All Rights Reserved", is now complete, and it's cyberpunk as hell!

Now Rebel wields a mean bass in addition to the illegal mons stored in a pair of terabyte Poké-Ball earrings. It's got five strings, it's connected to first a pair and then an array of sound cannons, and it's illegally not registered to Fender owner Sony. Now the slayer-by-television of half the Conservative Revolutionary Party leadership can more than hold her own against two of the Intellectual Property Industry's deadliest enforcers.

Disney will not get any characterization. He gets a line, but it's the standard ritual stuff you hear from Richard Becket, who is characterized, mainly because he has to deal with tricky, tricky Shira in the main story and gets his ego bruised repeatedly. Oh, and because Dick Becket's an aging superhero with a god complex. As for Sony, it's important because it holds political office like US President Goldman Sachs & Company and UK Prime Minister News Corporation, only it owns a much cooler and scarier logo, the Screen Gems "S From Hell".

Now that the single most cyberpunk of the Interludes in Spanner (at least in Book 1) is finished, my next challenge is Chapter 1. First task at hand: the meeting at Mudlark House, in which several important characters try to hammer out a strategy against the Seattle Public Education Corporation and its owner, a thoroughly corrupted national teachers' union, on the last day before the School Arc begins in Chapter 5.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Spanner R4 Update: Editing Chapter 4 and the Art of Killing One's Darlings

GLaDOS: Caroline deleted.
Just a couple weeks ago I came up with this scene to open up Spanner Chapter 4 with power, based on a real incident. I put a lot of work and heart into it.

Sorry, didn't fit the story. "Coffee Shop Massacre" deleted.

When editing, writing teachers insist, you must be willing and unafraid to "kill your darlings" — that is, edit out scenes you love, scenes that are awesome, because they detract from the story. It's like the story about the French sculptor Auguste Rodin: when he was making his statue of novelist Honoré de Balzac, the sculptor’s students raved about the magnificent hands until he got so frustrated he chopped them off. The part, he chided, must not detract from the whole. So far I've killed a number of my "darlings" in the first four chapters. This scene that quickly grew into a sequence just happens to be the biggest.

So what did I replace it with? An even newer scene, tying into Chapters 1 and 15, about how the High Corporates, billionaire oligarchs called "Incorporated", have been hogging all the celebrity. Within Chapter 4, it connects to the major scene in which a High Corporate actually appears. In the Chapter 4 context, it must underline the moral decay of Corporatist society and make it clear that the decay starts at the top. I also mention smart drugs; some Corporates chomp them down like candy, the way some Patriots take steroids. Even more interesting, here's an article by a free-market economist that says banks aren't even capitalist businesses at all; the salient point: fiat-money systems like the current American greenback eventually end in hyperinflation and must be replaced with commodity money (read: gold), preferably without government interfering to start the vicious cycle yet again. For the alliance of State and Bank is the enemy of the free market.

Another new replacement scene, related to the central Shira-Leila romance that tentatively commenced in Chapter 3, involves a Caliphate terrorist group holding hostages. A few of the women defect to the terrorists. Jennifer even cynically comments that such easy Stockholm Syndrome has become such a regular occurrence that it's become the only success Al-Qaeda in America has, since suicide bombers (like the two Shira kills in Chapter 3) only succeed in justifying enthusiastically bloody American retaliation. So what makes these women so vulnerable? American women, Jennifer scornfully explains, are relentlessly instructed by the official State ideology and propaganda to find spiritual salvation in surrender to a man in the exact same manner the man is to find salvation in the Nation. So when they get captured by enemy warriors skilled in exploiting this weakness, these will-less women are easy prey. Jennifer's explanation inevitably becomes a harsh criticism of Twilight and the Mormon doctrine of salvation through procreative marriage it's based on.

I found one later scene very hard to write: the parents' meeting about the impending School Arc beginning next chapter. Something I read yesterday provided the key, a magazine article about how the "iron law of oligarchy" inevitably destroys all populist organizations and movements; as Shira's Rocker anarchist dad, whom I'm throwing in, sums it up: "You get leaders, you end up with aristocracy." The solution, he suggests, is networking: only if the people participate in their own revolution can they prevent it from turning it into yet another Conservative Revolution.

My guideline for editing Interlude 3: pit the IP Defenders of the corrupted Corporate application of the Rule of Cool against Rule Of Cool Incarnate. The man who sends the IP Defenders after Rebel Styles is another of the High Corporate supercelebrities now introduced at the beginning of Chapter 4. And what does Rebel want? Why, to take out some Corporate supercelebrity. Or so she says. But then, every mere terrorist longs to become famous for killing a High Corporate...

Update on Chapters 2 and 3: Chapter 2, it turns out, didn't need any extra editing. It's now officially complete. In Chapter 3, I corrected the vague dialogue in one scene, tightened the wording in another, and added a word I discovered was missing; now that too is complete. So now Spanner Revision 4 is now complete up to Chapter 3.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Spanner R4 Update: Chapter 1 Final Edit Completely Complete At Last! Chapter 2, Too

When I last thought Spanner Chapter 1 was complete, my muse thought otherwise; she added new stuff I had to throw in. So I fitted it in, and now I can finally declare with absolute certainty that Chapter 1 Revision 4 is finished! The great thing is, I didn't have much to add to Chapter 2, either.

The New Myth
Myths structure many stories, whether ancient pagan myths or medieval folktales. The new myth that structures Spanner is composite: Jack the Giant Killer (of Beanstalk fame) versus the Titans from Greek mythology. "Jack the Giant Killer" is the most common myth structuring especially left-wing political thrillers. One name the Corporates have been known by since the 19th century is "Titans of Industry", and the reference is specifically to the giant gods that warred against the Olympians. But now the Olympians are dead, slain by Jesus, so the Titans have no one to turn against except humanity. Prometheus is once again a traitor, because he gave the fire of the gods to humanity.

As for Jack, the central symbol of his myth here is not the familiar axe, but the horn from earlier versions with which he summoned his fellow villagers, who chopped down the beanstalk together to kill the Giant. Since Spanner defines both superheroism and terrorism as the substitution of individual heroism for mass action (that's the "conservative" part of "Conservative Revolution"), that means Shira, normally a trickster hero, must become a herald hero if she is to bring down the Becket dynasty's tyranny. She has to blow the horn, not just throw monkeywrenches.

The original structuring myth was the descent of Ishtar. (Neal Stephenson's cyberpunk classic Snow Crash is similarly structured around a composite myth: the descent of Ishtar into the Tower of Babel.) This is still the structuring myth of Shira's character arc. But it comes into play in Book 3, so I'm not concerned with it right now.

The Replacement Flashback
There was this short flashback that had no function but to get the Wrecking Krewe hackers to the abandoned dogfight pit where they would sacrifice their iPhones to Eris. It now forms a framing device for a longer flashback in which Willa, Hope, Karen, and the old hacker Wellspring (in that order) inform the assembled Krewe what they're up against, interspersed with quotes from major villains. Stylewise, I realized I could embed one of my custom blockquote-equivalent styles from the series stylesheet within another. Yes, CSS is that powerful.

The Vampire Hero (?)
Will Becket, the vampire super soldier who drank Osama bin Laden's blood, gets a new scene at the end of the Spanner Incident: he climbs out from beneath the rubble to the top and exults, "Spanner! I accept your Challenge!" Thus starts one of the series' longest plot threads. He starts out as a villain, but will he remain one? Only he can decide...

Other Edits
I corrected a few new continuity errors that sneaked in during the last "complete" final edit, and smoothed out the clunky appearances of the "Left-Handed League" theme. After that, I found nothing left to add, subtract, or correct. Chapter 1 is now complete.

Chapter 2
In the new Revision 4 scene at Game Wars, I wanted to add something new and add back something I had removed for word count. What I put back in was the logo that appears in every chapter between 2 and 15 until it reveals itself to be the face of a secret AI ally at the end of Chapter 15. The new detail was Shira taking off her shirt in an attempt to use the trope "I Have Boobs, You Must Obey" to distract the men rioting on the sidewalk. Her attempt fails, so she laughs at them and goes in the door. I may adjust the wording one final time; but other than that, I can't find anything else to fix. Chapter 2 is complete.

Chapter 3
I put a lot of work into this chapter, too. What is there left to fix? There may be a few opportunities to drop in a few continuity references to Chapters 1 and 2. Or it may already be complete. I'll know when I do one final reading tonight.

Next: Chapter 4 and Interlude 3
With the Fourth Revision now done up to Chapter 3, I turn my attention to Chapter 4 and its accompanying Interlude. They're still in a rough state: I dropped sections of the Script Frenzy script into the Chapter 4 HTML ebook page, and I put revision reminders before every scene of Interlude 3 except the first.

Chapter 4: Some of the scenes will remain more or less intact from the Third and even Second Revisions. My challenge is to fit the new scenes into something resembling an episode continuity. I'm also going to return to the Titan myth introduced in the final version of Chapter 1, and maybe add another hint of the Egyptian mythological theme also from Chapter 1 (though something different from the "ka" or spirit double that played a role in the Spanner Incident).

Interlude 3: Rebel's strategy against the IP Defenders: connect her bass guitar(s) to a sound cannon. Old otaku that I am, I'm dropping in otaky references to the two most famous left-handed female bassists in anime: Mio Akiyama from K-On! and Haruko Haruhara from FLCL. Also, I'm giving Leggett personal motivation for revenge. Revenge is always nastier when it's personal.

This means I'm ahead of my Panic Time editing goal this month. Now that the first three chapters are finished, it'll be no problem to finish Chapter 4 and Interlude 3 by next week. Maybe I should aim for Chapter 8? I think I will.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Preparing for JulNoWriMo and 50/90: Spanner's "Pretty City Arc" and the Soundtrack

If I were doing WriDaNoJu, this would be the beginning of Panic Time. Instead, besides editing Spanner Book 1, I'm making belated preparations for JulNoWriMo and 50 Songs in 90 Days.

For JulNo, I'm going to return to Spanner Book 2 and pick up where I left off, or not long thereafter: the Pretty City Arc that takes up the middle section. Chapters 31-39 even have their own single-volume name: "Died Pretty". Shira and Team Spanner go down to LA to rescue the Shelley twins from their grandfather Governor Brinkman's final betrayal, only to find something more shocking — but I won't spoil the surprise. They'll also find out the most degrading and horrible things about the fashion and entertainment industries, leading to the violent confrontation with the Media Industry Association of America brass in the final third of Book 2.

For 50/90, I'll start work on the techno soundtrack to Spanner — as in what I've been hearing in my head (or the kind of stuff I've been writing and drawing to) since 1992. This includes the virtual-reality sequences in Book 2. Many of the fight scenes will have drum & bass soundtracks.

Meanwhile, the Chapter 1 final edit turns out to have one final pass left in it. I'm adding a few lines, putting in a couple more themes important later in the story, initiating a few more plot threads, and making major changes to two scenes. Then I can declare it complete and move on to Chapter 2, in which I'm adding one detail to one of the scenes new to Revision 4: Shira takes her shirt off — and fails to attract male attention despite being completely naked above the waist. Why? Because all the men are too busy beating each other up. Over beer. So she laughs at them. When the tear gas starts to fly, she goes into Game Wars to greet her darling cousin Karen half-naked.

July's coming up fast, so I'll want to start making my JulNo and 50/90 preparations while there's still a June. I've also set a goal for the rest of June: complete the Fourth Revision edits of Chapters 1-4 and Interlude 3. I can do it. Here goes...

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Spanner R4 Update: Chapter 1 Final Edit Now Complete!

Today it took two passes to finish the final Fourth Revision edit of Spanner Chapter 1. The first was to edit in the Heteronormative Crusader trope involving every faction except the Socialist Revolutionaries and add the new idea that came to me that all the hoverboarders involved in the Spanner Incident, not just Shira, are left-handed. The second was to clear up any remaining errors I found, some of which turned out to have been unchanged since the Second Revistion. I finished at exactly 9:45 Seattle time.

First pass: I inserted one new subscene to the scene on the airplane with Jennifer and the Socialist Revolutionary hijackers in which a Corporate hostage gay-baits them and gets his neck broken by a butch lesbian (a character I imported from the Project Notebooks and added to the SRO group). Turns out her girlfriend is the older Saionji sister, Hime (not Miho as I called her in the Chapter 3 R4 jailbreak scene), another import from the Project Notebooks, now appearing several chapters before Arisa so far (Arisa first appears in Chapter 8 R3). At the end of the Shira-vs.-Oliver fight scene, Oliver now gay-baits the cops arresting him and gets beaten with cattle prods for his trouble (poor, poor serial killer!). I also added the first signs of a pair of cultural details foregrounded in Chapter 3 and involving tattoos: that Rocker culture pretty much requires tattoos (distinct from the deliberately hideous and even demonic tattoos that identify gangsters) and that Moral Enforcers and other factionalists frequently have all their tattoos removed (and it shows). The Rocker tattoo thing also comes up in Chapter 7, when it comes up that tattooing is the mark of Rocker adulthood and begins at 18 (Chapter 7 is when Shira turns 15; the Shelley twins, who have a heavily tattooed gothpunk-singer mother, will turn 16 in Chapter 24).

Second pass: I actually spent more time on this, since in addition to correcting the remaining continuity errors (and a few remaining typos), I looked for places to insert mentions that Shira, Karen, Sparks, Arisa, and Steve/Deth Pussy are all The Southpaw. These just happen to be the characters most directly involved in the Spanner Incident, and they all ride hoverboards. Which one threw the monkeywrench? To quote Shira: "If I tell you, I'll have to kill you" (she winks). The detail that Shira is left-handed becomes important later because of the notoriously unfair advantage that left-handers have in fencing and similar fighting sports; when the swordfighting turns deadly in Chapter 11, that advantage allows her to survive. It also gives her an advantage in martial arts; several rivals she fights have specifically right-handed styles which allow her to dominate them. In the first pass, I inserted the detail that Ariel is also left-handed — but what does she have to do with the Spanner Incident, or is it just another misdirection? Her left-handedness will likely become important later. (Leila, by contrast, is ambidextrous, a detail I won't even mention until at least Chapter 5 but becomes important to Chapter 15.)

Two passes, one to edit things in and one to (mainly) correct the remaining errors, and now Chapter 1 is complete at last! Even so, I'll probably make one last read-through just to be sure. There may still be a few stray errors, but nothing more needs to be edited in. It's almost ready for publication. Now to make that cover I've been procrastinating...

Next: Interlude 3. We know IP Defender Leggett is determined to keep the Richter-Thomases and their band from reclaiming creative control of their songs from the MIAA. But why does he have a special hatred for Shira in particular? Interlude 3 explains why — once I edit it.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Spanner R4 Update: The Final Edit of Chapter 1

As good as Spanner Chapter 1 has turned out so far, I just realized it actually needs one more set of tweaks. So I'm doing these final edits before I declare Chapter 1 complete and concentrate on the cover:
  1. Establish a particular quirk of all the radical factions except one, including the ruling Conservative Revolutionary Party but not the left-wing Socialist Revolutionary Organization: hysterical homophobia. They are Heteronormative Crusaders. Whether the CRP, the KKK, Minuteman, Al-Qaeda in America, if they're right-wing radicals, they're the "God Hates Fags" Cult with bombs. Their assumption: if you're not a Blood Knight, you're not a man at all but a girl and a homosexual and probably a liberal as well. And the factions all throw accusations of unmanliness at each other, which are required to be avenged through honor killing — accompanied by accusations of unmanliness. And so the cycle continues. The SRO are the exception because this left-wing faction made up entirely of dissident soldiers has a large gay contingent. So I need to establish this in the first chapter.
  2. The next-to-last flashback ends in not a dialogue but a vow spoken by the seven Wrecking Krewe members most deeply involved in the Spanner Incident. I've already changed most of it, with just one character left without a line.
  3. The five heroes directly involved with the Spanner Incident are all left-handed. Originally it was just Shira, then Karen, but now it's all five. I've made the first edit in the scene mentioned above, but I need to edit it into the entire chapter.
  4. The last addition is the sparkle effect that is the sign of the reality distortion field produced by an especially powerful Charmer. There are three Charmers this powerful in Chapter 1: Shira, Spanner, and (the ghost of) Steve Jobs. Jobs may be three years dead when he appears, but his televised image still projects a potent RDF! Shira uses her Charmer power when fending off fanatical old ladies and fighting assassins Oliver and Johnny-Johnny in her first appearance in the flesh. Since Oliver's Charm-proof (as demonstrated in R4 Chapter 5), Shira's full-strength Charm only serves to enrage him — which is exactly what she wants. So edit Shira's Charmer power into her first sequence, and edit the sparkle effect into the reality distortion fields.
And once I make these edits, Chapter 1 will be complete at last!

I'm also editing my new Interlude 3 to strengthen the characterization of its two "Intellectual Property Defender" MIBs to give Leggett a much stronger motive for revenge against Shira. I'm also introducing the actual chairman of the Media Industry Association of America, the "Culture Fuhrer". He gives the IP Defenders their orders.

Once I'm done with both of these tonight, I'll be making another return to the drawing table. My focus this time: the geometrics of figure construction.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Reading: "Destroy and Revolution" by Kouji Mori - First Impressions

Last post I introduced a manga I just discovered, Destroy and Revolution, about two Japanese high-school boys in love — turned terrorist. Here are my first impressions:
  1. Prediction: Karl Marx will not be mentioned once in this series. The Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky denouced individual terrorism as the substitution of individual terrorism for mass action, so he would not be impressed with these two. They'd remind him too much of the Socialist Revolutionaries who lost the 1905 Russian Revolution.
  2. Kouji Mori's style is not pretty, even if Yuuki is. If there's any mangaka I'm familiar with that he resembles, it's Naoki Urasawa of Monster fame. I won't be surprised to find out he's a former Urasawa assistant, the same way Shotaro Ishinomori (Cyborg 009, Kamen Rider) was Osamu Tezuka's, or Tsutomu Nihei (Blame!) was Tsutomu Takahashi's (Jiraishin).
  3. "Let's break it" is a line that absolutely begs to be referenced.
  4. First mystery: who are the "unworthy" who are being purged?
  5. Makoto is not actually ideological ("Both this ideology and the significance of it are still beyond my grasp"). He admits he's dumb. He's in this out of love for Yuuki. The relevant trope seems to be Love Makes You Evil — though "evil" (i.e. terrorism) isn't necessarily considered wrong in Mori's universe, unlike our understanding here in America, the most mercilessly Calvinist-Manichaean country in the West.
  6. Correction of last post: the apartment block was under construction, and the Diet member being targeted owns it. There is a long-standing link between real estate and political corruption in Japan.
  7. First flashback: Makoto Tanaka is an Ordinary High School Student repeating a grade. Yuuki is one of the most popular students at their school, with a reputation for arguing so hard with his teachers that he drives them all the way into retirement.
  8. Second flashback: Makoto's father went bankrupt and committed suicide. The State then put Makoto into foster care. Sure enough, he was bullied. The same thing radicalized me.
  9. Second mystery: what's with the hand, Makoto?
  10. Popularity, fame, girls, and money are nothing to Yuuki. (To Shira they would be expedient means.) Especially money, "the most ridiculous creation human beings have ever made". He's an anti-capitalist. Sure enough, he violently attacks a school extortion ring two pages later, long distance, with a well-aimed brick. Is he inspired by Che Guevara, the most charismatic terrorist in history? He wouldn't be the least bit surprised at 2014 America. He already lives in Spanner's world. Prediction: he will say "bankster".
  11. There are translation errors, of course. Even spelling errors. MangaReader is not a commercial publishing outfit.
  12. Third mystery: who does Yuuki insist on hanging out with a misfit like Makoto and even saying "we're the same"? (Makoto looks at his right hand.)
  13. Second mystery answered: Makoto's right hand contains (SPOILER!) amazing superpowers! Talk about ending with a bang! Believe it or not, Destroy and Revolution makes Spanner's identification of terrorism with superheroism the subject of the story!
And that takes care of Destroy and Revolution #1, "Our Resentment". As a good opening should, it sets up the story in a big way and asks questions that won't be answered until later episodes. Judging by the omake page, Mori's sympathies seem to be with our protagonists and especially Yuuki. The names themselves are telling: makoto means "truth" and yuuki means "courage". Note that the illustration on #1's last page is the Tarot card Death: an early version of that card contains the severed heads of the Pope and the Emperor, implying they got what they deserved (they're also falling from the Tower in the same deck). The revolutionary tale embedded in the Major Arcana by Cathars driven underground is closely related to "Jack the Giant Killer", which is structuring myth shared by both Destroy and Revolution and Chaos Angel Spanner. Here, Yuuki and/or Makoto is Jack, and the banksters are the giant.

So we have the yaoi Bonnie and Clyde, as terrorists, who might be right. Maybe. Terrorism's a tactic as dodgy as any a bankster would come up with.

While fixing dinner tonight (grilled cheese sandwiches, with sharp cheddar!), the idea came to me for a fanfic challenge: keep the plot of Destroy and Revolution but replace Yuuki and Makoto with:
  1. Kaworu and Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion (and Makoto may have been directly inspired by Shinji);
  2. Homura and Madoka from Puella Magi Madoka Magica;
  3. Utena and Anthy from Revolutionary Girl Utena, adding actual revolution to that story;
  4. Jessie and James from Pokémon's Team Rocket;
or your choice of iconic anime and videogame couples. If Shira and Leila are to be the terrorists in a Spanner alternate-universe fic, bonus points for referencing Bonnie and Clyde, double bonus for references to George Hayduke (possibly the original Spanner) and The Monkey Wrench Gang.

Anyway, back to editing...

True Love as Terrorism: "Destroy and Revolution" and "Spanner"

Destroy and Revolution by Kouji Mori is a manga about the sweet, sweet love story of two pretty Japanese boys — who just happen to be violent terrorists on a bombing rampage. Strangely enough, I only heard of it yesterday, while randomly surfing TV Tropes (it's on the "Ho Yay → Anime" page as the sole entry under "D"). Like Chaos Angel Spanner, it begins with a bang — with our titular heroes, brooding Makoto and charming Yuuki, destroying a high-rent apartment block in Tokyo for "the purification of the unworthy" (a corrupt politician in this case).

Like I said, I only heard of Destroy and Revolution yesterday. That means it could never have become an influence on Spanner, which I've been working on since 1992. Now consider this: in developing the relationship line for Spanner, I did this, in approximately this order:
  1. I centered it on the story's two main girls.
  2. I made their personalities volatile: brooding Leila, hot-blooded charmer Shira.
  3. I put their love in direct opposition to a future fascist United State of Amerika.
  4. I re-envisioned it on the Surrealist principle of l'amour fou or "mad love", which can lead to not just personal liberation but the destruction of society, thus making their love itself terroristic.
And even though the two stories developed completely in isolation from one another, Spanner uncannily resembles a yuri version or "distaff counterpart" of Destroy and Revolution, with a more sophisticated revolutionary ideology (which, admittedly, grew out of nearly 30 years of at least rebellious thinking). Also consider that Shira and Leila are only a couple years younger than Yuuki and Makoto. Now consider this scenario: Destroy and Revolution, starring Utena and Anthy from Revolutionary Girl Utena, working toward a real revolution, against Ozymandias from Watchmen. That's as close to a perfect description of Chaos Angel Spanner as you'll get in terms of other stories.

Adolescent love expressed as a passion for destruction. Too bad Destroy and Revolution came far too late to have any direct influence on Spanner. But you never know...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Spanner R4 Update: Chapter 4, Second Pass: The Novelization Part (With Bonus Chapter 5 Preview)

I know what I'm editing now. Second phase: adapting those parts of Chapter 4's Script Frenzy script version that I haven't adapted yet, plus completing scenes I didn't script but which remain unfinished. Here's the rundown:
  1. Incomplete: the opening coffee shop scene before the shooting; the first two paragraphs are still in concept and not yet written.
  2. Incomplete: the strategy conference for the Bangor High student tutors and their parents. The original outline and the Script Frenzy version are set at Mudlark House; for the revision, I'm moving it to the house of the Tachibana family from Chapters 1 and 5.
  3. New: the scene where the future Team Bremelo scout Dictel Park and run into a Klown gang called the Baddd Boyzz near the old Dictel Corporation headquarters. The gang leader, Little Badd, and his chief enforcer, Big Baddd, will be a recurring menace throughout the School Arc.
  4. New: what in the original outline was a funeral is now a gathering at Drusilla Becket's cult headquarters to determine who takes over Biotron Corporation now that its founding chairman Dr. Lars Thorwald is dead.
  5. New: the scene at the Shelley family house to discuss how to extricate Leila from her arranged marriage to Oliver Thorwald, which remains enforceable by law despite the elder Thorwald's murder.
The hard part is, surprisingly enough, those first two paragraphs. The easy part is converting the new scenes from script to prose (and HTML). After that, I'll update the novelization to include changes made in the script version. The third phase, then, will be cutting the chapter down to size.

Meanwhile, here's a new scene for Chapter 5 that I thought up while walking the downtown streets right after posting yesterday's entry. This little scene says volumes about both episode villain Mark Bernkastel (the serial killer Shira saves Mimi from in Chapter 4, and the first homeroom teacher in the School Arc) and major villain Dick Becket, king of the Corporates and supreme guru of "Sado-Monetarism". Seems his sadism goes beyond even economics...

The scenario: just before Bernkastel sets out for Dictel Park to hunt our heroines, he calls the United Corporations chairman while he is having sex with the Shira clone he's having his kitchen staff fix for dinner that night (some Corporates like to eat clones of themselves as a delicacy, but their leader prefers to clone his female enemies and have sex with them before he eats them). The clone makes the expected sexual noises throughout the scene.
Bernkastel: Chairman! Shira Thomas is Spanner!
Becket: (irritably) What did I tell you about interrupting me, Bernkastel?
Bernkastel: But Chairman, this is urgent!
Becket: I'm busy, Bernkastel. Wait until I'm finished.
Bernkastel: What in Jesus America's name—
Becket: Are you a cocksman, Bernkastel?
Bernkastel: (surprised) What?
Becket: If you were a cocksman, Bernkastel, you wouldn't be going around killing women instead of conquering them. If you were a cocksman, you would have conquered Shira Thomas long ago. Am I clear?
Bernkastel: But—
Becket: You are as useless as ever, Bernkastel. Goodbye. [hangs up phone]
I've noticed how the Beckets can intimidate even the scariest villains: Drusilla and a theocrat in Chapter 1, Richard here, Henry pretty much anytime. And I haven't even gotten to Colonel Tom. As for making deals while having sex with the clone you're going to eat: that's an act of supervillainy in itself, and one of the most cyberpunk things my villains have done yet. It's absolute decadence only aristocrats are capable of getting away with. So into Chapter 5 it goes, along with the followup scene in which the cooked clone is being served, after Bernkastel is blown up by a mon his ex-wife sent to his phone.

The followup. Chairman Becket's serving this well cooked Shira clone to none other than the real ruler of the American Empire, the President of President Goldman Sachs & Company, a ruthless corporate raider who looks like a simulant and plays dress-up in a cop uniform even though he doesn't have Police Guild membership:
President: I thought I ordered you to serve me the real Shira Thomas!
Becket: I was hoping this would inspire you toward revenge.
President: Bull pucky! I won't be satisfied until the real Shira Thomas is right here on this table, specially prepared personally for me!
Becket: You try catching her, then.
President: My men are already working on it. Speaking of which, how's my old friend Mark?
Becket: He is already dead.
Now to get back to drawing my callipygian heroine — the stubborn original, that is...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Inside Spanner: Memetic Drift and the Ayn Rand Problem

There's a lot of Objectivists among the Corporates in Spanner, or at least they like to think they are. Problem: the Corporates are essentially the same as the villains of Atlas Shrugged. Spanner's "church of Ayn Rand" is no more similar to Ayn Rand's or Nathaniel Branden's Objectivism than the Catholic Church is to Jesus' religion or early Jewish Christianity. However, there is one crucial similarity, which I consider the fatal weakness of Objectivism and especially its ethics:

Social denialism.

That's the denial that humans have a social nature. In the infamous words of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher: "Society does not exist." In other words, humans are by nature solitary predators — or should be. That "should be" is the core of Rand's egoist ethics — and of Max Stirner's philosophy of extreme egoism. This works to the benefit of those at the top of the Corporate hierarchy, the High Corporates who bear the titles "MBA" and especially "Incorporated". It doesn't work too well for ordinary civilians, who possess the social nature Corporates do not.

Here's the mutation: what if Rand's corporatist villains were her most fanatical believers? This, in fact, is what's happened in real life: only the James Taggarts and Orren Boyles are left when the religious Objectivists have left for real cults and the irreligious ones have grown tired of the philosophy's many contradictions and increasingly archaic errors (it is, after all, a distilled version of the worldview of the Gilded Age that lasted from the end of the Civil War to the beginning of the Great Depression, roughly 1870-1930). Once the religionists and the realists have left, then, you have the corporatists. I've observed that these people, including the Koch and Romney clans, are predominantly billionaire heirs, some separated from their Enterpriser clan founders by five generations or more. They believe in the virtue of aristocracy for its own sake, because they see their inherited wealth as a gift from God or whatever. They believe that democracy is a vice because to lack money is by definition to lack virtue.

Egoism has become the religion of the Orren Boyle crowd. In Spanner as in Atlas Shrugged, these people have no genuine sense of self, so they must build their false self (the colloquial definition of "ego") to compensate. As it turns out, Rand herself has become their guide, their master in ego-building! And so they build their egos into giant monsters. They deify their egos and build temples to themselves. They demand that all "lesser" people bow down and worship their egos as gods Or Else. And of course they build theocratic dictatorships dedicated to the glory of their egos. Now you understand the Corporate caste in Spanner.

Now witness their leader, one Prince William Richard Astor Cromwell-Becket of Dictel, Incorporated, Chairman of the United Corporations. Richard Becket used to be a superhero codenamed Neron back in the Cold War. He's the answer to the question, what if an older version of Ozymandias from Watchmen took over the world? He prides himself on doing deals during sex. His grandmastership of the Illuminati, however, is the subject of another post, on the elitist premises of fundamentalist "Nicolaitan" Gnosticism. But how can this guy reconcile Objectivist materialism with unworldly Gnosticism? In the way he deifies his ego, of course! This contradiction first comes to a head in Chapter 15, in which the Becket brothers and their sister Drusilla get their egos smacked by it.

Any meme can mutate into something radically different from what it claims to be. But some weaknesses in its philosophy encourage some very undesirable mutations. Ayn Rand's social denialism is a particularly pertinent case in point. That's not just because it's central to the Corporate worldview in Spanner, but also because it's become the elite consensus in America today, and the non-elite are suffering the consequences...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Spanner R4 Update: Chapter 4, First Pass: Slashers, Gangsters, Jihadis, and Nihilists

First Revision 4 edit of Chapter 4, with a special focus on the villains: serial killers Oliver Thorwald, Johnny-Johnny Johnson, and Mark Bernkastel; misanthropic Corporate warlord Lars Thorwald; crime lord Arvid Shield; various Klown gangsters; the mobsters whose Syndicates are identified by ethnic slurs; the third jihadi out of the five who escaped from Bangor Jail in Chapter 3; and that nameless Nihilist who shoots up a coffee shop and tears out his own throat in the brand new opening sequence.

In that opening sequence we find out something important about Shira's Charmer power: if your faith is absolute enough, even faith in nothing, you have no defense against a Charmer as powerful as Shira (or Arvid). She'll demonstrate this over and over in subsequent chapters. Also, she explains the difference between terrorists and nihilists: terrorists want to take over (their specialty is demanding unconditional surrender Or Else), but nihilists merely want to destroy everything. During the fight scene, Jennifer shows that being a Final Girl means she has no more tolerance for nihilists than she does for serial killers (e.g., Bernkastel in Chapter 5). (Reminder to self: at least map out a rough plot summary for The Jennifer Theory so you'll have something to work with once you get to the visual novel.)

Scenes from the Script Frenzy TV episode script include:
  1. the funeral of Dr. Lars Thorwald (whose cloned backup bodies were poisoned in Chapter 3), now merely the notification of his explosive death, but still introducing his research chief and sometime lover Dr. Mina Tatsumi;
  2. the flight over Dictel Park in Bangor (the fictional city I placed west of Bremerton next to the nuclear submarine base) that turns into a fight between Shira and Bernkastel over a girl who turns out to be Mimi, originally introduced in Chapter 5;
  3. the four scenes with Desiree's lost daughter Lucie as she escapes Drusilla;
  4. the Shira/Hope love scene in which Shira warns Hope never to give in to the temptations of power in the Teachers Guild hierarchy;
  5. the "Touhou Online MMORPG" scene with "Aya Shibata" and the first online appearance of J.T. Sparks as "Debaser"; and
  6. the coffee shop scene in which Shira finds herself being headhunted by Corporate coolhunters she names "John Nike" and pranks them by slipping Alka-Seltzer into their Diet Cokes (remember that experiment?).
The rest of the chapter remains from the Second and Third Revisions. However, there's a few changes I want to make:
  1. I want Jennifer's cousin Samantha Blair to return;
  2. Polly's mother Rosalie (Shira's dad's first love) will join the family strategy conference mid-chapter;
  3. Ariel's shop will be in Bremerton rather than Port Townsend, which will be a major plot point come Chapter 16;
  4. Hiromatsu Fukuda, the "otaku no baka" who manages to marry the anime version of Aya Shibata, gets facetiously dubbed "Hiro-nyan" by Shira (partly a homage to flighty Yui and her Azu-nyan in K-On!; "nyan" is Japanese for "meow"); and
  5. the cats at Shira's apartment need to be introduced, not only red tabby Mikan walking on the piano keyboard, but a neutered yet still fierce Angora named Tanner (named after MGM's scariest lion) who will later show an even more violent antipathy toward Dr. Becket than Mikan does in Chapter 16 and should be introduced probably purring on the bed due to his special fondness for Shira, whom animals tend to love as much as they hate Dr. Becket; there's also a dog named Catalina, one of the sweet-tempered Reston pit bulls, who is Shira's registered K-9 that she'll be walking a lot in dog-friendly downtown Bremerton.
My goal right now is just to finish scenes. I'll cut the chapter down to size (once again, to just over 15,750 words) on the second pass.

My 6-Year Artist's Block Is Over

It was 2006 when I abandoned drawing in order to focus on NaNoWriMo, sometimes to the exclusion of all else. It wasn't even till the exact middle of JulNoWriMo 2010 that I even returned to Spanner at all (with the inspired near-final version of the Intro). Suddenly, after six years, I find myself inspired to draw again.

Now, inspiration sometimes comes for the most unexpected reasons. Shira's own tagline is "expect the unexpected". And of course she's the character I've started to draw again. So why did I start drawing her again? Why, because her butt is so beautiful I felt compelled to visualize it on paper.

No, I'm not posting sketches; I'm still rusty, so they're not good enough yet. I'm going to post complete drawings, done in Inkscape, in full color, showing off some of the clothes she wears in the story. There's the getup in Chapter 3 with the purple Pedobear baby tee, pleated tartan microskirt, gangsterskin boots, and Cookie Monster plushie hat. There's the (not much of a) Kitsap Kouriers uniform she hoverboards in during Chapter 4. And of course there's the sailor-suit school uniform she wears to Bangor High. Last but not least, video body paint. And then I'll update her character profile for the new Fourth Revision continuity. In the meantime, I'm going to practice so I get her looking right, and other characters as well. Once she looks right, I'll post pictures.

So now I'm drawing again. That means I'm back to teaching myself how to draw the figure. I already know a few things, but only enough to draw figures standing rigidly upright in front, back, and side views. My challenge: learn to draw my characters so they look like they're moving naturally. This is important not just for character designs and the eventual comics, but for animation as well.

And that's not all. With 50 Songs in 90 Days coming in just under a month, songs are starting to come to me again, and I realize I'm going to have to practice my singing and instruments again...

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Spanner R4 Update: Three Chapters and Three Interludes Complete

Spanner Chapter 3, Revision 4, is now pretty much perfect. Like Chapters 1 and 2, I took out a lot of dialogue and added more action. Some examples:
  1. The big escape from the escape-proof jail, courtesy of a certain virtual demon named Rebel Styles.
  2. The maiden voyage of the cherry-red Mustang named Rio, complete with "first start-up" scene.
  3. Prudish old ladies attempting to stone the cousins (Shira, Jennifer, and Karen) for being affectionate.
  4. The mass Mexican standoff between right- and left-wing terrorists.
So in Chapter 3, as in the previous chapters, there's now a lot more action and excitement in the Fourth Revision than there was in the Third. There's also somewhat less dialogue and a lot less narrative-killing exposition. Even so, the text and events of Chapter 3 now fit its ironic title, "Rock Is Dead" (the point being that it isn't, no matter how much the entire System tries to make it so), than ever before.

Also complete: the brand new Interlude 3, written entirely from scratch specially for the Fourth Revision. Called "One Nation Under Copyright, All Rights Reserved", it seems at first to be the violent adventures of an "IP Defender", or intellectual enforcer, for the Media Industry Association of America, depicted as if it were a cult. Then "Martin Martian" (real name unknown) gets sent by Jesus America after an especially defiant IP pirate named — Rebel Styles, who just happens to look and dress exactly like Shira, only the story's set in L.A. rather than Seattle. Is this a flashback? To quote Shira and/or Rebel: "If I tell you, I'll have to kill you." A few plot twists later, it turns out to be the origin story of a villain already introduced in Chapter 4, IP Defender R. A. Leggett. After writing the new Interlude 3, I went back two chapters to replace the mention of Leggett in Chapter 3 with the first mention of IP Defenders, of which Leggett is the first introduced.

One thing that changed between the Third and Fourth Revisions: the consensual incest theme. I find it insisting on foregrounding itself even more this time, both yuri and non-yuri. As mentioned in Chapter 3, the Richter-Thomases are not normal, even for Rockers. The second love scene in the entire story, in one of the new Revision 4 flashbacks in Chapter 1, is a four-way involving two mothers (who were lovers long before they were sisters-in-law), two daughters (who are cousins), and something close to erotic satori. Chapter 3 reveals a sexual tension between Shira and her Rocker father so intense that she can say "He is my wife." Then there's all of Chapter 7, even unrevised... Seems Shira, the canonical Launcher Of A Thousand 'Ships, may end up sleeping with every important character in the series. I'll probably end up having to serialize the Fourth Revision on Tumblr rather than here, since Tumblr can handle it, though I'll keep the chapter link posts here.

And so my next task will be Chapter 4. It'll be the first chapter for which I'll be drawing from this year's Script Frenzy script. There's still a few unadapted scenes left. I also have major changes in store for a few scenes, including the one late in the chapter which introduces Ariel Shield's New Age store and her gangster brother Arvid. I also have the task of cutting it down to size. I'll probably take a rest before I take on the task. In any case, here goes...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Spanner R4 Update: Chapter 4 Ready to Edit, Interlude 3 Finished (Preview of Interlude 4 Included)

Sometimes simpler is easier. This time, I saved Spanner Chapter 4 in HTML directly from Word and used Notepad++'s HTML Tidy module to clean up the screwy Microsoft markup instead of 1) changing the styles in Word 2) going online to convert the RTF file into ebook form 3) unzipping the ePub file 4) then cleaning up the markup. With a few find-and-replace operations, I inserted my custom markup and replaced all the quotes, apostrophes, and screwed-up special characters with the HTML entities I use (’, —, and the like). Once I make the HTML file easily readable, Chapter 4 will be ready to edit.

Its companion story is now finished. The new Interlude 3, "One Nation Under Copyright, All Rights Reserved", turned out to be the origin story of a villain who makes his first appearance in Chapter 4, Intellectual Property Enforcement Bureau agent R. A. Leggett, out of the death of his more experienced and fanatical mentor, one Martin Martian, at the hands of a fourteen-year-old Rebel Styles who looks and dresses exactly like Shira but is not. It also reveals a little more background behind the Conservative Revolution, specifically the important role the Media Industry Association of America monopoly cartel played in it. The atmosphere of this misadventure of Corporates, however, is that of religion and even cultism rather than business, economics, or politics. And it gives Rebel her own tagline:

Fee Rebel Styles
angel of chaos

...a tagline she shares with her alter ego Aya Shibata, whom a scene in Chapter 2 describes as "the Technosphere's most scandalous Player" and hints that she needs in Gensoukyou, home of the Touhou "bullet hell" shmup series, where all the characters have taglines. Now that Interlude 3 is finished, it will go into the Episode 4 ebook right after Chapter 4.

The old Interlude 3 is now part of Interlude 4. IIRC it was the Interlude 4 of Revision 3. Now "The Law of Social Darwinism" is the first part of Interlude 4, "The Rules of Tournament", which follows Chapter 5. This opening section, a Corporate manifesto or five-part statement of apocalyptic faith, reads in its initial version:
the law of social darwinism:
Natural selection has failed. Man has grown weak. His genes are at war with themselves. He is on the verge of extinction.

Compassion, sentiment, and love are the poison that is destroying the Race. The poison has given rise to a conspiracy named Humanism that promotes a doctrine called Liberalism that it has enthroned as the dysgenic horror of Communism: the sacrifice of the blood of the Best so that the worst may live and feed at their expense.

The best must seize control of the machinery of evolution for themselves. They must purge the Race of the Race-destroying poison of sentiment from the human genome and enthrone once more Eugenics as queen of the sciences forever.

The only way to save Man from extinction is to establish the dictatorship that will reverse the damage the cult of Humanism has inflicted upon the Race. It shall purge the Race of the weak, promote Profit over people, and raise the best to Godhood.

Thus shall Man fulfill his eternal destiny: to wield absolute dominion over Earth and conquer the infinite kingdom of Space.
Those of you who have read Bram Dijkstra will recognize echoes of his exposés of the Overclass blood mysticism that overran Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries until the eugenics-based Nazi empire was finally smashed. That mysticism claimed that semen, brains, blood, and money (and possibly even oil) were the identical substance. One of the themes of Spanner is that hierarchy retards human evolution, especially at the top. And of course this manifesto of Corporate faith foreshadows the Corporate Terror that will ravage the American and Chinese Empires in Books 3 and 4. The (eventually revealed) author? None other than Richard Becket, pope of the Corporates, superhero name Neron, who is to Spanner what Ozymandias is to Watchmen.

The rest of Interlude 4 (the original Interlude 3 from Revisions 2 and 3) follows in the sections "The Rules of Tournament" and "Bangor High School: Dictel Stadium: 19 August 2014". I'll get back to those when I'm editing Chapters 5 and 6, since those sections explain so much of the School Arc that references are made to it all the way into Chapter 22.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Spanner R4 Update: Done With That Chapter? The Characters Beg To Differ

So you think you're through editing Spanner Chapter 3? Wrong! Now Karen and Polly want in the boardwalk fight scene, Willa wants a more cyberpunk videophone, and Talia's yelling at you for omitting her from the Patriot-versus-terrorist mass Mexican standoff at the end. Your characters are the real authors of this story, so you're going to have to give them what they want. Fortunately, what they want is just what you need to make "Rock Is Dead" more, well, rockin'.

Sure enough, this is precisely what happened to me the previous two chapters: I thought I was done, I patted myself on the back, and then here come the characters demanding revisions. This is how I ended up cramming more good stuff into Chapter 2 than I ever thought possible while going only 50-60 words over my 15,750-word chapter limit. Now I'm about to do the same to Chapter 3.

Meanwhile, I'm about to build the ebook of Chapter 2 and Interlude 2. Chapter 4 is also followed by an Interlude, this time a completely new one. (The old Interlude 3, "The Law of Social Darwinism", is now part of Interlude 4, "The Rules of Tournament", which follows Chapter 5; the new Interlude 3, "One Nation Under Copyright, All Rights Reserved", is currently half-written, but I already have great ideas for its second draft.) Chapter 3 doesn't have an Interlude after it. What to do? I know. Reach back into my list of Spanner Side Stories, some complete and some still unwritten, and stick one in the Chapter 3 ebook as a bonus story.

Which story to use? I've got a few science fiction ones written or planned, but I don't want to use any of those yet. I'm saving the "Satan Claus" story for the Series 2 Christmas episode (likely Chapter 29 or 30). So I decided I'll write a completely new story. Step 1: swipe a title from some New Wave song, say, "Senses Working Overtime". Step 2: what's it about? How about the effect Shira's Tracker training has on her love life? Trackers, in learning how to see animal and human tracks that are completely unnoticeable to normal humans, learn to amplify their perception to almost superhuman levels. It takes discipline for a Tracker to keep themself from following any interesting trail. What would a highly trained Tracker with such high-keyed perception do in bed? How would she romance somebody?

Now I'll plot that story, finish Chapter 3, finish Interlude 3, and then get back to Chapter 4. Come to think of it, I'm actually starting to see some parallels between the new story and the new Interlude 3...

Friday, June 1, 2012

Spanner R4 Update: New to Chapter 4, A Shock Cold Opening!

Hollywood calls it a "cold open": the story begins right in the middle of the action. When I read the news of a mass murder in a Seattle café, I asked myself, what would have happened if Shira and Jennifer were there? Between Charmer and Patternist, it wouldn't have happened — unless the killer appeared out of nowhere and suddenly started shooting. There's the new cold opening to Spanner Chapter 4: characters peacefully drinking coffee and holding conversation when suddenly this happens; he manages to kill two and injure five with his full-auto pistol with 30-shot magazine before Shira and Jennifer take him out. I even have the heavy-metal soundtrack, frozen in time. Afterwards:
Sparks: Just what we need. Another terrorist.
Shira: (grimly) No. Not terrorist. Nihilist.
For about a decade's worth of Project Notebooks (until about 2003 or so), I wrote notes about a faction called "Nihilists". Now I know precisely what they are: those who commit acts normally considered terrorist, except their motive is not intimidation but pure destruction. Like the terrorists, they are both solos and gangsters. This nameless nihilist is the first to appear in Spanner — Oliver Thorwald's just a Corporate trust-fund twit turned Special Forces soldier having fun killing "subhumans" and "un-Americans" — but his sudden attack and death announce the presence of the new villain who in Revision 4 dominates Chapters 4 and 5: Mark Bernkastel, the serial-killer teacher (original concept: the "Third" from the manga and anime Future Diary without the "future diary", given my usual wicked twist). He will give our heroines their first real introduction to Nihilism.

It's not merely "the hatred of the good for being the good" as Ayn Rand put it (Nietzsche's word for that: "resentment"). Nihilism, the cult of nothingness, is hatred of existence and the desire to destroy everything. Nihilists like the Seattle mass murderer in the news specifically target the best precisely because of their love of life. In Chapter 5, when Shira accuses Bernkastel of being a terrorist, he laughs. He laughs at the terrorists for their idealism and their delusion that they're (super)heroes. (In one of the new Chapter 1 flashbacks, Willa says terrorists and superheroes do the same thing: substitute their own individual heroism for the mass action required to overcome tyranny.) He will lay out the theory of Nihilism in detail. Then he will take on Shira, Leila, and Jennifer in Dictel Park. He will even sneer at Oliver and his pet psycho Johnny-Johnny.

But that's in Chapter 5. In the Revision 4 action climax to Chapter 4, added for Script Frenzy 2012, Shira flies her hoverboard over Dictel Park to survey the gangs only to find herself rescuing a girl from the serial killer she will know next chapter as Mark Bernkastel. That girl is Mimi, who since Revision 2 had made her first appearance in Chapter 5. Shira saves her life and vows to be her "knight protector".

In summary: Chapter 4 now has a new "random massacre" opening scene written just today and a new "rescue the girl from the mad slasher" climax written in script for in April for Script Frenzy. As with the previous three chapters, Chapter 4 is turning out a lot more interesting in Revision 4 than ever before.

Then there's the completely new Interlude 3, "One Nation Under Copyright, All Rights Reserved", in which an extremely fanatical and ruthless Media Industry Association of America intellectual property enforcer takes on a young woman who claims to be the dangerous Rebel Styles. I got stuck on that for a couple days. What unstuck me was this new passage: "Martin Martian [his handle] prays to the Corporations of the MIAA. The Corporations pray to the entity they themselves worship. Its name is GOD, for Guardian of Democracy (in neoconservative jargon)." etc. I may finish Interlude 3 tonight.