Monthly Archives: September 2008

NaNoWriMo Outlining

I’ve started outlining for NaNoWriMo. I already know my worst enemy for November: The feeling that I can, and should, do better than what I type. When one wants to write a whole novel in a month such concerns should probably be overcome. NaNoWriMo isn’t, after all, about quality. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to shut that inner critic up yet and consequently haven’t gotten too far.

Even so, it’s already clear that I really wouldn’t want to meet my protagonist. He’d probably punch me in the face. I have taken pretty much everything away from him, and on top of that I am torturing him with cosmology. I’m also hooking him up with a woman, hopefully that’ll placate him a little.

NaNoWriMo 2008 Planning

I think I know what I will write about during NaNoWriMo 2008. The basic premise is something I wanted to work on for many years, and I’ve never gotten around to actually doing it. I think my earliest notes reach back to, oh, probably 2002 or so. There’s not much there, but at least some of the basics are in place.

I’ll now have to work out the characters in greater detail, and work on the setting. I’ll also want to get started on outlining as soon as possible, unfortunately this week is totally crazy at work. As I type this, it’s 21:01, and I am about ready to fall asleep. Tomorrow… I hope. It does not bode well for November but I shan’t be discouraged this easily.

There is one more thing that I am, well, not worried about, but that may become a problem. The storyline I have in mind includes some things that I am not sure I can stomach. It would be rather ironic if I gave up in Mid-November because my villain is, well, too evil.

For now I’m not going to reveal more about my plans, except this: Of course it’s set in a parallel world. Everything I create is.

Parallel Universes

I guess everybody has their favorite topics. For one, it may be dragons or juvenile wizards, for others it’s intergalactic smugglers and energy swords. For me, one of the most fascinating ideas is the existence of Parallel Universes. That is, the idea that there may be other worlds existing alongside our own.

I guess since everybody who stumbles across this, one way or the other, is probably rather well-versed in this now commonplace topic of fantasy and science-fiction stories, I don’t need to elaborate further. What makes the topic so fascinating, however, is that a Multiverse is not any longer something you’ll only find in fairy tales. There are many scientific theories and hypotheses that tackle the matter. Scientific, if you let me use the word for something currently untestable, because many very smart and very reasonable physicists are taking the matter serious.

So why do parallel universes hold such a great appeal to me?

First and foremost, it gives me a great cosmology to work with. I don’t have to fumble for any weird constructs like a divine creator; I’m using the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics to explain why the universe (or rather, the Multiverse) exists, and why things happen the way they happen, even if this is not necessarily how the “real” Multiverse works.

Secondly, it lets me get around the familiarity problem. No matter where on Earth I set a story, someone else will live there and know a lot more about it than I could find out through research or even visits. For example, in one story I have in mind, the protagonists would have to go on a bike trip through New England in the present time, that is 2008, or whatever the year. I am not sure anybody does that… especially local teenagers. No problem, I my version of New England, it’s all the rage.

Is it a cop-out? In a way. I’m throwing the audience (the players, the readers – who ever it may turn out to be) a huge hint about what’s going on (that is, that this is not “our” Earth) by having the foreign exchange student fly into Boston’s Logan Airport on the Pan Am 747 Clipper Princess of Mars. And I firmly believe that departing from “our” reality is fine as long as you can provide good explanations, and your reasons are consistent.

Finally, parallel worlds let me play with history or setting as I please. Need a world where the Nazis reign supreme in 2017? No problem, it’s a parallel world. Need a standard fantasy setting with dragons and wizards? Sure, another parallel universe where the laws of physics are just a little different. Need to have demons invade London or aliens showing up in North America? Why, they must be coming from a parallel world.

It is true that I don’t really need a cosmology to support stand-alone settings. But it also doesn’t hurt.

For example, my fantasy world Enderra was attacked by vicious demons in about 1992 (our year), which plunged Enderra into chaos and anarchy, and it took a thousand years for the people of Enderra to recover. This easily let me make many desired changes to the setting. Later, when I worked on Thraeton, I wondered how the natives may have learned magic. It was a simple matter to have wizards from Enderra travel to Thraeton during the Demon War. They didn’t stay – there was no demon presence on Thraeton – but they left behind knowledge of rudimentary magic.

Thus two of my settings became connected, and part of something bigger, and in my opinion they are both richer for it.

BBC: Parallel Universes – A good introduction to the matter

Creature: Thornkiller

The Thornkiller is a mobile plant predator that consists of a lumpy body about 10-20cm in diameter, from which sprout very long (1.5 – 2.5m), thin, tentacle-like appendages. The “tentacles” look like the thin branches of a thorny bush, giving the creature its name.

The Thornkiller lives in an ordinary bush, which it will use as camouflage. To the casual observer, its branches will look like the normal branches of any kind of thorny brush. The beast senses its prey by vibrations of the ground. When an unsuspecting creature gets too close, the tentacles will suddenly become active, and latch onto the victim, entangling it. Its sharp, thin thorns will dig into the victim’s flesh and begin to drain it of its blood, which the Thornkiller consumes. The victim will die from blood loss, and its carcass will eventually rot and fertilize the ground for the plants that the Thornkiller lives in. Some Thornkillers inhabit small burrows in the earth or small caves, where their tentacles will often be mistaken for dangling roots or vines, until the they attack.

The Thornkiller’s victims are usually small to medium sized animals, however large specimen can easily attack and kill humans or other animals of the same body mass. It only has animal-like intelligence and is mostly driven by its instincts. It is an ambush predator and will not pursue an animal that manages to break free, but its tentacle-like branches are quite strong, and struggling will usually only cause deeper wounds and thus hasten the loss of blood.

Thornkillers do not generally live in proximity to human settlements, because humans will invariably kill and burn them whenever they find out about a Thornkiller.

The creature reproduces by growing seeds like most other plants; a short time of blooming in spring is followed by the growth of the seeds on the main body of the creature. The seeds look similar to chestnuts, but their thorns are much harder and sharper. The animal will drop its seeds on to passing animals, if possible. The seeds get entangled in their fur, and will thus get carried away from the parent Thornkiller. After some time, the first tentacle-like vines will grow, and the seed will start to drain blood from the host animal. This will provide the nourishment until it has grown large enough to move on its own. This first victim is not usually killed; instead, the thornkiller drops to the ground and seeks out a nearby bush which it will make its home and where it will await a new victim.

Statistics

Strength: Low
Agility: High
Intelligence: Low (Animal)
Endurance: Medium
Weapons: Thorny tentacles – trap and tangle victims and bleed them to death
Armor: None. Vulnerable to fire. Small size makes it hard to hit.

 

Notes

Inspired by a dangerously-looking thorn bush on my way to work. First written on 2002-01-18.

Sad Numbers

Because I just hit the “mile stone”:

Spam comments: 1003

Legitimate comments: 89 (that includes my own because I can’t be bothered to count manually)

Fortunately Akismet is doing a really good job of blocking spam. I guess once you discount my own comments it’s about the same quota I have in my email, where I once calculated that 98.5% of all emails I receive are actually spam.

Signed up for NaNoWriMo 2008

After some pondering and some valuable encouragement from Mr. V. (the guy who suffers the fate of sharing the office with me) I’ve decided to give NaNoWriMo 2008 a try.

I’ve signed up and even got the user name nils. If you’re on the project, add me as a buddy or something, if you want. We can cheer each other on. 😉

I have not decided what I will write about, and even less of an idea whether I will actually manage 50k words. It does not really matter whether I will fail or succeed. Either way I’ll learn something in the process, and it should be fun.

I’ll definitely work a little ahead, that is, I will work out my characters, plot, and setting before I actually start writing in November. I’ll have to work full-time, and if I need to stop writing in my precious spare time to think about those basic questions I’ll never make it. Maybe I’ll simply take November 2009 off and write full time for thirty days. But let’s not go there yet.

Terra – The State of the World

The local year is 1999. The League of Nations now includes almost every nation on Earth, and dominates through the wealth of its off-world resources and, where necessary, through the power of its military. As most countries can focus their expansionist desires and their hunger for resources to uninhabited parallel versions of Terra, international conflict is at an all time low. Not everybody is happy with the status quo, of course, and in some countries nationalists dream of ending the League domination.

This post describes the current situation in some key countries.

Continue reading “Terra – The State of the World” »