Writing: Novel In Progress Part 2

Click here for Part 1

So I’m not 100% happy on the conversations or introductions of characters.  But I barely know them yet.  All I know right now… well before I wrote this all I knew was it was in space and there were ambassadors.  I still don’t actually know where the plot is going to go… or who the “villain” will be.  We’ll find out!

Part 2:

Now they assembled in the docking bay to await the first orgalla ambassador in history.  Communication itself had proved nigh-impossible with the species; the war had never been officially ended.  The orgalla had withdrawn when the combined human, kikital, and devallo forces which created a barrier of fighting to a stand-still.  The orgalla had simply stopped attacking and after much argument the joint forces had agreed not to pursue the powerful race.

Twenty years passed and then the silence was broken with the first radio signal from orgalla space in history.  They requested – in Standard no less – a meeting with their ambassador to work out a peace treaty.  It took two years to establish a secure place and the appropriate team who would attend.  The orgalla communication had assured them that there were no special considerations required for their ambassador, who would arrive with only one guard.

The shuttle landed and Captain Chou straightened, surprised at how nervous he was to meet the strange creature.  He had only ever seen dead orgalla or vids of them during combat.  He had only just been drafted when the fighting ceased. Now was going to be his first in-person encounter with a species that had threatened not just humanity but three species.

The shuttle did not dock in the bay but abutted the side of the bay and clung with leg-like appendages to the end.  A ramp unfurled like a monkey’s tail into the space and opened into the shuttle bay.  There was a shift as the darkness within was lit with light and then the orgalla stepped down.

Orgalla were thin, reminding most humans of insects like a preying mantis but were a single body part – not having separate heads, thorax and abdomen.  They had a variety of long appendages, two on their top-most piece being eye stalks with a third near their tail-region being another eye stalk, but the third usually remained closed unless they were standing still.  Generally they had between four and six “leg” and to or four “arms” which they could adjust as needed.  Their skin was actually very soft and supple the vids claimed, and alive they looked irridescent.  Many kids thought that was a production value, because in death they faded to a dull grey.  Their “uniform” consisted of a similar material which was vaccum-sealed.

Behind the orgalla a young woman stepped down from the orgalla ship.  The entire delegation burst into a buzz of talking except the three ambassadors and Captain Chou.  The woman was probably in her mid-twenties, brown hair braided back from her face in a very simple military-style braid. Her clothing was a similar to the orgalla’s military uniform as well, clearly vaccum sealed around her throat.  A small blinking light along the collar was the mechanism that could allow the material to snap like a venus fly trap around the head and face.  The orgalla in front of her wore its “face” covered.

The three ambassadors slowly moved forward with Captain Chou, watching the young woman cross with confidence towards them.  She held out her hand and spoke in standard, “My name is Talia Lost.  I am here to represent those you call orgalla.”

Captain Chou took her hand and found her grip to be just slightly tight for polite company, he slowly spoke, “I am Captain Chou.  On behalf of the Earth-human alliance, welcome to the Sunburst.”

“Is this a proper noun or the scientific term? Should I have concern of electromagnetic pulses?” the young woman asked.  He blinked in surprise.

“No, the ship is just named Sunburst.”

“But it is not alive.”

“No.”

Her face showed no expression, but after a bare moment she nodded and said, “Like the Santa Maria or HMS Beagle.”

“Yes,” again the captain was surprised.  She looked him in the eye and said, “An honor to meet you Captain Chou of Earth alliance.”

Ambassador Poul had pushed himself forward despite his rather junior stance so he was introduced immediately after Ambassador Irvine.  The kikital were next and lastly the two devallo ambassadors.  To each the young woman listened intently and then had a minute pause as though translating this information.  She then would nod and tell them it was an honor before going to greet the next.

The captain led the young woman to an ambassadorial cabin they had situated near the shuttle bay, a six-room suite larger than the captain’s own quarters.  The orgalla held up two appendages and moved into the rooms first while the young woman waited.  She didn’t seem impatient while the guard pulled out a small mechanical object and went over the rooms.  The guard disappeared into a second room and then Talia stepped into the main room.

“Thank you very much captain.”

The captain led the ambassadors to the meeting room and they all sat down.  Ambassador Irvine spoke first and said, “Well, I see why we were told their ambassador didn’t need any special considerations.  How the hell did she…”

“Are we sure she is human?” one of the devallo asked sharply.

Captain Chou blinked and asked, “Do you think she’s a shapeshifter or something?”

“Perhaps.” Ambassador Risyk was almost certainly the one doing the speaking although devallo could be difficult for humans to tell apart.  “Or a clone injected with inhuman dna.  We all know orgalla do not communicate like us.  Their ships have few radio-based devices and it has long been assumed there is some kind of telepathy or something. A trait which is not known in humanity.”

“At least not that has ever been proven,” Ambassador Irvine said calmly.

The young man Poul scoffed and said, “And just what are you implying.  This girl is some kind of gypsy?”

“Earth still uses such offensive terms?” Irvine replied with apparently curiousity, but there was an undertone which silenced the earth-man.  Captain Chou ground his teeth silently, embarrassed that Earth had sent this stupid boy.  Irvine continued as if the comment was not worth more, “No, what I mean is that there have been centuries of odd skills within humanity- the ability to remember detailed events or count all the objects dropped in nanoseconds.  Perhaps this girl has a similar odd genetic trait which the orgalla were able to exploit.”

“So you think she was an experiment?” Ambassador Yewoul  asked.

“I don’t know,” Ambassador Irvine said.  “But I think we shouldn’t assume anything yet.”

Manners: Meritocracy is Bullshit

So I had someone ask me to write about this – it wasn’t something I had directly run into, but the minute I googled it I went “Ah, yeah.  I’ve heard this argument in other versions”

The reason I put this as a “Manners” post is simple.  If you aren’t addressing your own imperfections/biases/etc. you are allowing yourself to be shallow and cruel – even if it’s unintentional, it’s rude.  It’s poor social skills. You may not realize you are being hurtful – but if I swing my elbow and break someone’s nose accidentally – my intention isn’t what mattered.  I apologize profusely, I grab gauze & tissues to stanch the bleeding.  I get a damn ice pack and try to be more careful I’m spinning in place.  I learn from the effect and I don’t shrug it off with “well that wasn’t my intent so suck it up and grow a thicker nose.”

Ok, so hopefully you’ll buy into “ok, intent isn’t the issue – but merit is good right?”

In theory yes.  Merit is awesome. So, the definition of these “meritocracy” companies is based on the idea that MERIT should be the #1-only-conceivable factor to come into a role.

And it’s bullshit.

Let’s look at places that claim to be a “meritocracy” – Kotaku just did a write up on a gaming company (who made League of Legends) who has rampant sexism – and can’t even acknowledge it.  They claim to be a meritocracy… shocker they also have rampant sexism.

Here’s the problem.

Claiming to be “merit based” can only be done if you can guarantee that personal bias doesn’t play.  And that isn’t possible.  We all have personal bias.  It’s nature.  It’s like people who say “I don’t see color.”  Ok, you are either blind or delusional.  Because even the color-blind can see the difference between Norwegians and Nigerians.  We all see it.  Blind people I’ll give a pass to on “I don’t see color.”  Saying that you just ignore your biases means you are ruled by your biases.

You can all too easily end up in confirmation bias if you don’t acknowledge you have bias.  I don’t want to spend this talking about that – but it’s out there (click here for a Google search)

I really like this video (grainy quality and all) that discusses priviledge in terms of a “race: https://youtu.be/FBQx8FmOT_0

Don’t discount the advantages you’ve been given which can influence your bias.  Everyone works hard, but the same amount of work might get someone from point A-D whereas the person who started at B or C gets to E or F or sometimes even G because A really was a tough step and once you have A, damn – B and C aren’t nearly as bad and really you can get that extra letter’s worth of distance with the same amount of effort.  A is just that big and tough a step.

And the hard part is – I teach managers about hiring and finding the best candidate.  And I try to a void the word “bias” because it has become so loaded.  I tend to call it ‘rose colored glasses’ and talk about triggers which might “endear” a candidate to you subconsciously.  I then stress how having a well balanced team of personality types, strengths, and skills is a powerful tool.  If everyone is exactly the same… well you are going to make the same box-house.  But add and empower someone who considers a dome. Or east & west wings of a house.  Or a ranch instead of a cape cod.  Neighborhoods with character – have different kinds of houses.

Diversity builds character and interesting culture – just think of A Wrinkle in Time.  The planet IT controls is “everything is exactly the same” – and it’s BORING.  So not only (a) do you not WANT to be “color blind” because then you are just getting the same in a different package (I know, the Zelda 3DS is cool looking, but really? It’s the same machine) but (b) you are lying – because we DO have biases.

There is a quote, and I couldn’t find who said it originally, the closest I saw was something on imgur that said “my mom used to tell me” and it really sums up what I think is wrong by claiming ONLY merit matters:

The first thought that goes through your mind is what you have been conditioned to think; what you think next defines who you are.

If you never stop and think about the thought about people – you will never define yourself.  You will live by someone else’s definitions of how you should behave.  Hell, I’ve caught myself with instant thoughts that make me recoil:

  • God she looks like a slut.  Shit.  I don’t want to judge other women that way, she isn’t a slut because of the way she dresses.
  • Ugh, that dude smiled at me. Bet he wants sex.  Hold on – maybe not. Stop assuming all men think about sex all the time.
  • Those teens are probably brats.  No, they are being loud but that doesn’t mean they are guaranteed to be assholes.
  • Ugh. That color is awful.  I wonder if she wore it to clash on purpose.  No, no. People are allowed to have different taste – orange and blue may seem hideous to me, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t think it’s awesome.
  • That man looks creepy.  Oh nope, the way he’s looking at me definitely makes my skin crawl.  Avoid.

It isn’t easy to unlearn trained biases and society does have those.  Jim Crow laws still existed in my parent’s generation – what parts of that shitty system crept into their mindset that they haven’t unlearned yet?  As a culture, we have issues – and there is statistical evidence to back this up – that racism is a VERY REAL issue.  So if you aren’t willing to confront your internal biases – then when you are interviewing someone and that insidious “he’s black, I bet he’s a ‘thug'” creeps through your mind… you don’t squash it.  And since it isn’t there for the white dude – *GASP* you end up with a super-white team.  And it was all “merit’ to you – but was it?  Or was it you unwilling to do the hard work of acknowledging you were given some bad nails in your upbringing that make your steps creak. Well, I guess it’s just a feature, not a bug then right?

Writing: Dream last night

I have vivid dreams sometimes. Last night was especially interesting and honestly, I kind of want to write it out because it WAS so interesting.

So the dream is in third person, like I’m watching a tv show or reading a book with a good imagination (ahem).  The setting is a weird mix of classical Indian and Japanese.  And there are things that call out that it is a weird mix.  Most of the people in the room think nothing of it, but there are 2 men dressed as Middle Easterns but clearly fake beards (I mean, pretty good – but in modern terms “clearly fake”) who make comments about stuff being unusual.

The room is set for a party.  And there are several young women who are considered to be psychic who will be “summoning the dead to speak” tonight.  Of course my foreign men scoff at this witchcraft nonsense, but the two young women most involved are quite serious.  One is considered one of the greatest beauties in the land as well as an extremely powerful psychic.  The other is also beautiful, but not AS beautiful and much more demur about her power.  They had names in the dream and they are already fading.  So we’re going to call them Haughty and Demur.

So Haughty is bragging that she is going to bring back some powerful general or king or demi-god  (the language is such that it kind of means all three?).  Demur doesn’t think it’s a good idea, but doesn’t argue enough and sets up for the ritual lighting the candles the six psychics are going to use as shields or something.

The two foreigners are wandering around trying to find the trick at this point and pointedly being told by onlookers not to interrupt or disturb the ceremony.  It begins and it’s as weird and lovely as anything on TV.  A doorway hovers in the center of their circle – golden gilt edges that move and twist and roll.  Like snakes or vines on moment and then rolling waves of water the next – it was a cool effect my brain made.

AND – this is where the dream got weird and special.  One of the walls in the room turned clear – and on the other side of the glass – ALIENS.  The two foreigners swear, the onlookers all start talking.  Haughty yells at her acolytes to concentrate but several FREAK OUT.

And then the mystical door opened and a demon came through.  Not as cool as some of the other stuff my brain made up – this was like a minotaur kind of thing with lots of green slobber.  All hell breaks loose.  The two foreigners pull six-shooters and open fire.  Haughty is grabbed by the head and something sucked out of her (soul? I dunno).

Demur is the one who saves her, stepping in and using weird language to drive it back.  As it steps back through the door though – it becomes a GORGEOUS man and winks at her.  It/he (Demon) blows her a kiss of yellow flame and it emblazens on her shoulder (uncovered – I wish I could draw so I could recreate the mixture Indian sarong and Japanese kimono outfits)

So Demur collapses and her father (no idea her dad was in the room!) comes over yelling and hollering – turns out HE’S kind big and powerful…. anywho.  Everyone is freaking out. Demur gets put on a couch alone in a room and the two foreign dudes come in – one of them has his beard kind of sagging on one side right now.  Demur confronts them about not being “arabs from the west” and they finally admit they’re not.  She offers to help get them out of the palace through some secret tunnels she knows of.

Turns out these are the passages the ALIENS use to “tend” their “zoo” (these people).  The foreigners are space-men.  The dream moves to the alien environment there and gets way more confusing (and it’s already fading!! noooo!)

The demon now can cross because of the mark he left on Demur.  He offers her powers to save the 2 dudes (she might have a crush on one of them).  They pick up a red-headed chick.  Demur ends up having these awesome psychic golden chain-things she can lash people/aliens with.  One of the space-men was more techy, the other more the weapons/sharp-shooter/sneaky dude…..

And too much of that second half has faded but it was COOL.  To me.  I’m not saying my imagination is a healthy place all the time – but dreams like this…. damn they’re just fun.

Review: Freedom

So I gave up 39.8% of the way through Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. One of few books I can say I’ve given up on.  It might help if I could skip ahead, but that’s really hard to do well in an audio book.  Especially since I generally listen while on my commute and I’m driving.

The characters are flat.  And there is a part of me that detests them because I’m afraid someone out there is like that.  The first third of the book focuses on Patty – through her college & married life.  She struggles with anxiety, depression, and alcoholism – and at 40% of the way through you have a hit (since it’s written like her autobiography) that she is aware of it “now” – whenever now is.  But then, a chapter or two before I stopped she stopped being the narrator (I think).  It switched to her husband’s best friend Richard.

Thus far both of them are looking at the third character,Walter – Patty’s husband & Richard’s best friend – with this weird lens of him being a supportive character but somehow also the glue that holds the three of them together and frankly the only pseudo-mentally-stable of the three.  This switch is where I really just fell off the bandwagon (pun intended) and had to go find something else.  I looked at my app and it said 38-something % and I went “shit.  I thought Patty was the character and I feel like her arc is so close to done. I can’t sit through another arc or whatever this dude is doing.  I have no idea what the plot is and no interest in these characters.”

Now, I will say that I had to read Prince of Tides in highschool and this books reminds me a lot of that.  and I will say, I don’t tend to enjoy books that try to rip me up emotionally – I have enough stress in my life, I like my books to be more escapist. Freedom reminds me a little of Prince of Tides.  Not like 100%, but that idea of exploring what made someone do something really messed up and emotionally manipulative and stupid… yeah, I think if Freedom is going anywhere it’s along those lines.

And the writing style was good.  The semi-autobiographical tone of Patty’s story was interesting, with those flares of exposition into her own growth since the moment.  The opening was my favorite part – it was a bunch of snippets of the gossip of the neighborhood about Patty and Walter and their son Joey.  And Patty’s little breakdown and her evolution from “perfect mom” to “crazy neighbor” was well done in that format.

Overall, I have to give this a 2/5 for me – but I could see someone else really getting sucked in and enjoying it more than I did.  I don’t want a story that makes me cry…

Anime: Subbed or Dubbed

Ah, the ageless debate of subtitles vs dubbing over with native voice actors.  I have an opinion (shocker!).

I am going to focus on anime because I haven’t seen many/if any dubbed Bollywood or the like.  And I’m ignoring bad kung fu dubs.  Some of them are better for the cheesy words-don’t-match-mouth-moving (the soccer one comes to mind) and again, my depth isn’t so great.

Anime however, that I feel I have some “authority.”  I’ve seen more than 2.

My short opinion is that subtitles tend to be better, but dubbed versions are damn convenient.

My best example of this definitely shows in Jubei-chan: The Ninja Girl. There is a single line in one episode where the dubbed version (when I first watch this is what I had available).  She said putting on the eye-patch that transforms her into an awesome warrior was like “a bad headache.”  My brother was around and had seen the subbed version and said, “Oh no, you need to see the Japanese.”  The more-direct translation was “like the worst menstrual cramps of my life.”

Oof.  As someone who’s had bad menstrual cramps most of my life – Yikes!  No wonder she doesn’t wanna!  It really changed the line.

And that tends to be true.  When anime is regionalized, sometimes vocals are changed either to better line up lip-movement or to handle “sensitive” issues.  American boys might have been exposed to cramps! Nope!  Just a headache.  Those are equal right???  You know, because a charlie-horse cramp in your gut is like the sore foot when you first walk around for an hour in new shoes…  Totally equivalent. *rolls eyes*

However, I am a busy person.  I like listening to TV shows (this is how I binge them) while cooking, cleaning, doing puzzles, playing video games, and other “around the house” sort of chores & hobbies.  I got through a bunch of a Parks & Rec season while sewing a skirt once.

So, honestly as much as I prefer the better dialog when it is subtitled, if I have the option there is a very good chance I’ll watch it dubbed.  Because I am “lazy” I guess and don’t want to just sit and stare at the words on the tv.  I want to be able to multitask.  Frankly, few anime take 100% attention and those that do, I gladly switch to subtitles.

So that’s my opinion.  I respect people who also say they prefer dubs so they can watch the art/anime instead of reading.  I don’t find that personally a problem, but there are times when there is a lot of action that I totally understand that annoyance.

Writing: damnit!

The downside, as I’ve said before, to writing “the story I want to read” is when I notice an old file, open it – have an inkling of what I intended and go “damnit. I wanna know what happens!”

I totally did that with a ~1 pg document.  There is a teaser.  A tiny, itsy-bitsy teaser that is driving me crazy.  I don’t remember who the villain was going to be, I have just enough to be curious.  I guess it wasn’t my worst beginning…. You tell me.

Prologue

It is so small and weak. The voice was quiet, pleading.

Their species is not weak. It is almost a bark, with an angry edge to it.

Our younglings are just as helpless. They are not as loud. A third tone, almost a soft musical chime to the worlds.

Do as you wish your highness. Keep it as a pet if you so choose, but if it ever looks the least harmful, then we will kill it on sight. A final, fourth voice said.

The pink mewling creature was lifted up and carried off the hulk of the ship.  As they left they passed the crews that were dismantling the pieces of the ship.

You must admit, came the fourth voice¸ they are good with machines.

They have already integrated too much of our technology the harsh and angry voice said all we can do is win by attrition.

Not all the quiet voice said, Please give me a chance. I am sure there is a way to make it work.

The plan has merit the sing-song voice added.  What can it hurt?

The creature suddenly opened its mouth and let out the most horrendous noise.  All four stopped moving and stared at it.  Then they looked to one another and the chiming voice said, It is hungry.

She is hungry the voice which had been angry no longer was, instead sounding shocked.

So be it, the fourth voice, As king I decree that we shall no longer seek them out.  Princess Risha’lla will raise the thing.  It is not deaf and her plan will be given the time needed to see possible success.

I will not fail you father the soft voice, Princess Risha’lla said.

Chapter 1

“Sir, the orgalla have entered the system,” the helmsman said.  “Shall we meet to escort them?”

“No, wait for them to reach us,” the captain said and moved from his seat on the bridge to the view port at the gunner’s station.

The ship he saw was massive with three smaller ships around it.  His own vessel ran a crew almost a thousand men and women with space to spare for recreation, a dome garden and three sets of quarters which could be used to expand for families if the ship ever was placed on local patrols instead of being on the border patrols.  The ship approaching was at least three times the size of his vessel.

“The price of being good at my job…” the captain muttered as he looked at the ship.  He then went to his chair and sat back down, “Lieutenant, please let the ambassadors know that the orgalla have arrived and we will be meeting them in approximately an hour.”

“Yes sir,” the communications officers quickly turned and began to relay the message to the ambassadorial team on board.

“Captain Chou, the orgalla are requesting to link to our nav comms,” the communications officer reported.

“Link them in so they can follow us into the port,” Captain Chou said firmly.  The young man took a deep breath and sent the signal.  The orgalla were still the monsters parents told children about to scare them.  Some of the colonies still had massive damage from the orgalla almost twenty years before.

“Commander Lorant, you have command until I return,” Captain Chou said.  “Lieutentant, please make sure the ambassadorial team isn’t running late this time.”

The captain did not have to rush to get to the docking bay which would allow them to access the orbital planet access point, but he did not pause to think or talk to anyone either.  The collar of his dress uniform was a little loose, but he didn’t try to figure out a way to tighten it now.  When he arrived two of the attachés were waiting, but none of the ambassadors had arrived.

“Was an hour not enough to time for the ambassadors to be able to dress and assemble?” he asked the attachés with a frown.

“I apologize sir, I know that Ambassador Irvine is on the way,” one of the two said.  As he spoke, a woman swept into the room.  She had chosen to wear a formal gown instead of a suit.  It was appropriate that she had chosen the historical garb of her people, but the long sweeping sleeves trailing across the floor behind must be heavy and hot.

“Am I truly first to arrive?” she asked.  “This is a disgrace!  Ashley, call Poul and you should get Yewoul too.  It is not like any kikital to be late.  I’m sure he’s been detained by Poul.  Oliver I want you to call Etcorm, Deneph and Risyk.  Find out where they are.  I apologize Captain, I thought an hour was more than enough time.  Especially because Deneph doesn’t need to put on clothes or brush fur in anyway.”

“Thank you Ambassador, it is appreciated to know that it is not a lack of protocol,” Captain Chou said with a smile.

“No, I agree with you that we need this peace,” Ambassador Irvine said.  “If my ancestors hadn’t gone to Mars then we would have been destroyed by the Chinese, I understand better than most that we need to expand safely.  The orgalla are too powerful not to make sure they are on our side.  I just wish Earth had sent someone other than Poul.”

“It doesn’t help that the North Aligned States never really saw much of the fighting in the last war,” Captain Chou said.  “Hence they had the power to have Poul selected.”

“Well, he is here now, so we’ll have to make it work,” the woman said firmly.

It was only a few minutes before the other ambassadors arrived.  Ambassador Poul Westmire represented Earth itself, while Ambassador Johanna Irvine represented the human-colonized planets everywhere else.  Poul was wearing a white tuxedo with a white turban around his head.  His thick beard had been combed and greased into a pair of points down his chest.  Johanna was wearing the long blue and silver kimono she had brought which had once been worn by the last royal princess of Japan as she fled to Mars, the ships built and piloted by Australians and then flying to help Australia and Japan escape the Chinese invasions which turned half of Earth into a single empire almost three hundred years ago.  The princess had died on the trip to Mars because of a terrible pregnancy combined with seven months in space.

Review: The 10th Kingdom

I was JUST talking about this with someone…. telling them they should watch/read/either this one!

Dream by Day

Mini Series poster

This is one of my favorite books and mini-series. The show isn’t exactly like the book, but it does a very close job of it. I probably watch this once a year (maybe every 10 months) and I’ve read the book an average of every 16 months since the first time I read it. If you haven’t read this book – you need to. Not you should. You need to. You’ll never see fairy tales the same way, and it is beautiful for it.

Synopsis: I’m not going to take anything from anywhere, so I hope I do it justice: Virginia is your average young waitress living with her father and struggling to keep it all together. Until the day that Prince Wendell, the grandson of Sleeping Beauty and cursed by his wicked stepmother into the body of a dog, crashes in Virginia on her way to work…

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