Traces of Chaos will never be military fiction, Siendes’ chosen profession non-withstanding, just like having a cop as main character doesn’t necessarly turn your tv series a police procedural. It’s a matter of focus and I prefer to write about the persons as opposed to epic battles. Besides, the sheer ammount of research needed to get military science fiction right as a civilian is mindblowing. And well, we all have our lazy phases.
But there’s some stuff you got to get right, for both immersion and out of respect for the men and women who make a carreer out of risking their arse so that people like me have the safety to slack off at home and write silly stories. Ranks and their required periods of service 1 are one of them – and they’re gotten wrong so often. The chain of command is not really an intuitive concept if your main exposition to it is Babylon 5. And well, no matter what Star Trek says, that captain ain’t going to join the landing team and the security personal will have body armour, which probably won’t be red.
The more I researched military ranks, the more I became aware that they’re deeply sated in that particular country’s history, language and culture. It’s why the NATO developed that fancy lettering system to figure out who equals whom in rank (and paygrade), after all.
Simply put, rank names and structures are world building at its finest.
I’ve found a decent solution that makes sense in the context of ToC’s Earth military history – the first time we see Siendes in a military setting she’s pretty well etablished as Oberst 2 with a pretty decent shot at making the jump into the general ranks, but man…
I’m still sorely, SORELY tempted to add one or two throw-away lines about that impatiant civilian of emperor who equalised rank names all over the different military branches, simplyfied the structures and pacified most of the military personal by bumping them up a paygrade or two.
Seriously, I’ve read enough regulations to get a headache that lasts me a lifetime. And I don’t even have to live with that stuff.
So… Between the painting of Traces of Chaos and murdering the population of Skyrim (and, admittingly, killing everything that dares to cross Fem!Shepard in Mass Effect 2.) I’ve been quietly working on my second comic, Silent Suns1.
Silent Suns features an ensemble cast. Not something I’d ever done on my own, but these characters have been developed together with John, a good friend of mine2. This resulted in one of the most important writing lessons I ever got in my short career: Every character has to be crafted for the maximum ammount of useful inter-character conflict3.
In the first book you’ve got the Pilot, the Tech, the Playboy, the Killer and the Doctor. Not many characters, are they? Both the Playboy and the Killer sleep around, but they clash about their respective attitudes towards their partners. The Killer and the Doctor clash about their choice of profession. The Pilot and the Tech about the demands of their ship and their respective definitions of feminity. The Pilot is a bit of a prude and goody-two-shoes, which nicely leads to conflict with the Playboy and the Killer. The doctor’s prim and proper, the Engineer’s rarely seen without being covered in greese and oil. The doctor feels responsible for the Pilot and the Engineer, being the oldest person on the ship, whereas the Pilot firmly believes she should be in charge.
A wonderful recipe for tasty, tasty drama small and big. And the best thing is, it arises naturally.
I never really thought about this before, mainly because the common writing advice is “make the most interesting character the main-character” and well, Siendes has by far the most interesting character arc in ToC. And it is a good advice, really, but very, very few characters can carry a whole story on their own. Siendes can’t. She needs support.
The Another Life storyline’s fine in that regard, just due it’s setting. It’s “Siendes among humans” afterall. Mona’s good on keeping Siendes on her toes (it’s why they married) and Asar von Prehn, well, you’ll see. I am going to tweak some minor characters a bit, but Another Life is full of foils for my dear Des.
The main story is another matter.
Siendes needs a foil, somebody on her side she can clash with, preferable somebody she likes but who can still keep her on her toes. Siendes, unchecked, tends to be a bit of a bully.
Maybe I can introduce Shivret earlier than planned, we’ll see. I have at least six months to think about that properly and I’m sure I’ll find a way.
An idea I shamelessly cribbed from tumblr.
Pick a question and a character/place you want that answered for and I’ll answer next Wednesday. I try to make some art for it, too. Preferable related to Traces of Chaos, but Silent Suns is fair game, too.
First come, first serve. And if it takes off, I will make it a weekly occurance. :D
Every one of them will arrive at the same place: “Can’t you just make us a general-purpose computer that runs all the programs, except the ones that scare and anger us? Can’t you just make us an Internet that transmits any message over any protocol between any two points, unless it upsets us?”
Go check out the full article “Lockdown: The coming war on general-purpose computing” , it’s a pretty important read. If you agree or not, at least this is something we should think about.
In my case, it made me think about the fact that the future could look VERY different from what I expected as student. I always assumed people would end up having at least one, if not multiple general purpose computer in every home, which they can use freely how ever they intend.
But you know, it could be just happen in 10, 20 years that general purpose devices are actually either prohibited, severly regulated or just plain not accessible for Joe Schmoe and email, chat and stuff would happen about the government-approved (or, even more likely, COMPANY-approved – it’s not the governments that runs our world these days) applications/devices against which facebook or the iPhone is the very model of free, unregulated, unfettered and individual information distribution.
And the majority of people (including me?) would be happy with this state, because, well, as long as it’s convient and doesn’t get into the future-angry-birds, why complain? I know I usually don’t give a flying fuck about consequences of gating, at least as long as my toy does what I bought it for and I can look at my cat pictures.
You know, I never thought about how fragile the internet actually is.
A book needs to be found to be burned; but in order to get rid of the internet you just need gain control the phonelines (including wlan), as the unrests in England and the arab spring have shown. The whole freely accessible internet thing might just be a bubble about to burst, something that will die and wither, just like the hippie movement.
At least this gives me some nice ideas how the people in my science fiction stories handle things like this.