8fold/TEB: Science-Blades of Terra Alter, book I
pwerdna at gmail.com
Wed May 8 21:04:12 PDT 2019
On 5/4/2019 2:47 PM, Jeanne Morningstar wrote:
> As always, I jumped in with a big idea with little clear end point
> which I intended to write on the seat of my pants.
> The basic premise came from one of the things that interests me the most about
> 8fold: taking Silver Age-y conceits and exploring their potential for emotional
> depths. It also came from my longstanding, deeply ambivalent love for planetary
> romance as a genre, the strange and mercurial bridge between fantasy and SF, not
> unlike how I describe alchemy in this story.
Mmmmmm, yes. Deep and good feelings.
> The haunting vision of Mars,
> the mysterious astral travel to another world, the inexplicably immortal
> protagonist, the combination of uncanny super-science and good old fashioned
> swordfighting stick with me to this day. Even as a teenager, though, I was
> skeeved out by the Confederate worship that went into the premise, and growing
> older it's only become more clear to me how that, and a lot of SFF, is based on
> American racial myths of the frontier. Burroughs, and other old-fashioned
> adventure SF works, are the kind of thing I'm fascinated by and want to critique
> and take apart, which is an often productive seed for storytelling.
Take good and powerful emotions and ideas, and unspool the shitty stuff around
them~ It's my favorite mode. :>
> Another big influence is Silver Age DC writer Gardner Fox, someone who's work
> I've only come to appreciate more over the years. He was a master of coming up
> with brilliant tossed-off ideas to fill the deadline of monthly comics, full of
> fascinating unexamined implications.
I KNOW RIGHT
> It's kind of mind-boggling to think of how
> many DC event stories (and now a TV crossover) have been built around his
> sublimely half-baked ideas about the multiverse.
"sublimely half-baked", yes, Big Mood, I love that feeling
> You can see the points in this story where
> I've tried to imitate his fantastically science-fictional/science-fictionally
> fantastic conceits, and the kind of "DC Logic" involving reversals and
> variations of concepts that he used so often.
> Finally, there's a neat coincidence around the protagonist's name. A while after
> I wrote this, Emily Wilson came out with a translation of the Odyssey, a
> foundational influence on adventure SFF. She set out to examine a lot of the
> default assumptions that previous male translators had brought to it. And of
> course, Elaine Williams is another scholar who has the same initials as her. I
> didn't intend her name to have any particular significance--I often wind up
> naming characters some variation of Elaine/Elena/Eleanor--but you can see how
> this connects to what I'm trying to achieve in this story.
You're just like Silver Age Superman, only, I don't think you could sell comics
to kids where the featured initials were "EW".
I've commented on these before, but a few more...
> He'd fallen
> into a gate beneath the earth, built by the Atlanteans, that led to Terra Alter:
> a funhouse-mirror version of the world he knew, where magic reigned and science
> was a secret underground tradition.
I like how this reflects the secret underground tradition of magic in the main
> But while
> he had his duties as Champion of Terra Alter, he valued his old world and life
> too, especially Elaine. So the Atlan gates would take him between Earth and
> Terra Alter every three months. And marriages with more than two people were
> common there, so he'd come home to ask Elaine if she wanted to marry him too.
> She'd agreed, not without some mixed emotions.
This really is a deeply lovely setup.
> There was a knock at the door. Her heart leapt--could it be her husband? She
> opened the door and found it wasn't. It was a woman--a foot taller than her,
> with lustrous dark hair and warm dark eyes, wearing magnificent red and white
> robes and a golden crown. It was *her*.
> Antinea nodded. "Jason was on his way home when the gate... blinked out,
> somehow. None of our seers or our devices can tell where he is."
> "So why do you need me?"
> "Because... I don't understand him fully. You know parts of him that I don't.
> We'll need your help to build a truer image of him, and that will help us find
> him." Elaine sensed an explanation wouldn't be coming for a while.
Connecting straight to the emotions, here. <3
> As far as anyone
> knew, Terra Alter wasn't a parallel Earth. It was a world elsewhere in the
> galaxy, in a solar system that was almost the mirror image of Earth's, give or
> take a few planets. The Venus of that system--Venus Fortuna, the arcane
> astronomers called it--was a beneficent influence, moving in prograde rather
> than retrograde orbit, as opposed to the Venus Infortuna that balefully watched
> over her own Earth.
This is also such good worldbuilding.
> "Through a quantum-aetheric projector," said Antinea. "I won't be able to stay
> here for much longer." Elaine noticed that for all she seemed to be really
> there, slowly drinking the tea, she was starting to flicker like an image on a
And this is such good visual craft!!
> you're describing... that sounds almost like death."
> "It is," said Antinea.
And that's an extremely well-rhythmed rhyme.
> While Antinea worked on preparing whatever kind of strange space science she was
> doing, Elaine went about making the last preparations to leave. She'd called up
> the catsitter, telling her she'd be gone for three months, which is longer than
> she'd hoped but also too optimistic.
I'm gonna be honest, I have no idea how I'd prepare for an event like this, in a
fantastic circumstance or just in real life.
> She hadn't had many chances to practice her craft once
> she graduated and everyone who'd been in fencing club drifted away--fencing
> wasn't something responsible adults did, it seemed.
Only cool and hot people
> It was harder in general to
> make connections and meet new people as she got older. There was an expectation
> that after a certain age you were supposed to know perfectly who and what you
> were in life and have it all together, which really wasn't true.
Again I say: HAHA YEP
> Cloaks of Unknowing. These were agents of the School of Night. They'd attacked
> her home once, but that time her husband had been around to face them. Now it
> was up to her. This was her world now. And she had to fight for it.
> There were two assassins, wraiths of thick smoke in almost-human shape. They,
> too, were projecting their minds into an aetheric body, though theirs was less
> realized than Antinea's--it was only needed for one thing.
Ohhhhh, that's excellently tied together.
> She remembered how fencing had been
> a refuge for her in stressful times, and then all her frustrations gripped ahold
> of her--her sense of helplessness in the face of university administrators who
> made sweeping changes without talking to anyone they'd affect, the endless march
> of forms and deadlines, the long emptinesses when her husband was away. All that
> anger burst through her body into her sword like lightning into a lightning rod,
> and she stood up straight and charged with power.
> She ducked the wraith's shadow-tendril, then
> thrust the sword into where its heart would be. It struck--the smoke vanished
> away to reveal the power-core shining with moon-cold light, which cracked like
> an eggshell, scattering its pieces to the floor.
MORE EXCELLENT VISUALS.
> embraced Elaine, who was wobbling on her feet, and held her up with her strong
> "Are you sure you want to go ahead with this?" said Antinea. Elaine wasn't
> really paying attention to the words, but there was something comforting about
> her rich, melodic voice and the warmth of her arms.
> But now she was with Antinea alone--this was something
> new. She had no idea how to parse what she was feeling.
> CHAPTER V: THE TRANSITION OF ELAINE WILLIAMS
Something something obvious joke
> Elaine lies down on her bed and closes her eyes as Antinea presses the
> snow-white jewel into her forehead, the transmitter that will send her to the
> other world.
Have I mentioned how much I like scientific terms like "transmitter" alongside
very fantastic stuff
> Somewhere in the shadow there is a tower, and she
> shudders remembering the old and awful story of that tower and what the Seven
> Wonders had found there--
That's such a stellar throwaway reference
> The stars rush toward her at firework speed; her soul is yanked through
> interstellar space. She has no stomach but she must barf.
And this moment of contrast X3
> "She's alive!" said an exultant voice from beside her.
Of course. :3
> The quality of the light was different, though she couldn't say
> how--she'd never been able to compare such things before.
That's such an amazing detail because I know what you mean
> Shaking, Elaine pulled herself off the slab and stood up. She saw just what she
> was wearing--a red skintight outfit which sparkled under the crystalline lamps
> that hung from the distant ceiling. "Uh," she said. "Does everyone here dress
> like this?"
> Taramon nodded. "Except for the Council. I'll admit I miss those sorts of
> outfits sometimes. The robes get devilish hot in the summer months."
Heeheeheehee. X3 I love these, like, mundane details - one of the things that
makes you a good writer is how much attention you give them.
> Strangely enough, she found that she was missing her cat.
> After the death of Emperor Mandragus, his corpse was dug up by his successor to
> be tried. In the midst of the trial, however, the eyes of the corpse opened, and
> he condemned his successor to death. A cloaked figure, who came from no one knew
> whence, carried out the order. And so began the reign of the Dead King...
THIS IS SO GOOD. I definitely see your academic specialty here.
> It was
> rumored they even used science.
I'm fascinated for you to define what "science" means in this world.
> It shone upon a colorful garden, holding all the poison flowers in the
> world. Spiders and scorpions crawl among them.
> "I thought you didn't dream anymore, Father." Her voice was a well-tuned lute
> whose strings dripped with poison.
> "I should not, and yet I do! I don't like them! Dreams are nothing but riddles
> deep-fried in folly! Would that I could behead councillors who speak such
> double-tongued drivel as the Lords of Dreams!"
THIS IS SUCH GOOD DIALOG
> Blue and gold banners hung beside the throne, with a symbol of an eye whose iris
> was a gear and pupil was a labyrinth.
THAT'S SUCH A GOOD SYMBOL
> Elaine kneeled before the golden throne, hoping she
> wasn't committing a faux pas. "No need for that," said the queen. "You are the
> wife of my husband. Stand."
> It gave me a
> Elaine laughed. "Speaking as an English teacher, I don't blame you."
> Its people are scientists and seekers who
> come from all over this world. It moves about the world to escape from its
Just like Net.ropolis, only not
> It was part of a domain covering most of the world,
> marked by a symbol--a horned circle upon a cross standing on a wavy line--which
> she knew as the Monas Heiroglyphica, created by John Dee, the magus, spy and
> statesman who had named the "British Empire."
This is such a good thematic point and also SO COOL.
> "Don't worry. I have faith in him. And you." Antinea smiled--she really meant
> it, or seemed to. Which meant she had more faith in Elaine than Elaine herself did.
> She stood in a place of honor beside the queen and watched a sort of
> masque, which seemed extremely convoluted and allegorical. Antinea whispered to
> her that no one really understood what it meant, including its writer.
> The queen took her hand again, and
> she felt something like an electric spark. "I think you have the first claim on
Heeheehee gosh yes ^#^
> Then someone approached her. It was a tall, pale, dark-haired woman in a scarlet
> dress. She smiled a knowing and inviting smile. "May I have this dance?" she said.
Dun dun dunnnn... ANOTHER GIRLFRIEND!
> Bonus Feature:
> Originally published in Mighty Medley #21
Oooooh yes. <3
> She was crammed into a window seat and hadn't been
> able to go to the bathroom in far too long, as she was too timid to try and wake
> the snoring man beside her. She envied him his sleep.
> She looked at the dim starlight in the moonless sky outside. It was strange
> going on long trips, when you felt neither awake nor asleep, neither dead nor
> alive. Everything felt fuzzy, as if she weren't quite inhabiting her own body.
> It might have been an interesting experience if it weren't so awful.
All of this is extremely familiar and real.
> Sitting next to her was no longer the snoring man, but a tall, muscular
> red-haired woman who looked like she'd stepped out of the cover of a sword and
> sorcery novel, though her leather armor was a little more practical.
> Juliet flinched, forcing an awkward smile. "I--I'm just curious where you're
> "To the Still Point at the End of Time,” she said, where I will ask a favor of
> the one who dwells there."
The Time Crapper?
> "To Cincinnati. To, uh, visit my boyfriend."
> "I see. You're spoken for? Ah well."
YET MORE GIRLFRIENDS.
> The woman beside her had fallen asleep and started snoring.
Oh my goodness. X3 I forgot about that part.
> The headline read "Julie Ann Justice Controversy--Can She Be Trusted?" and the
> photograph showed a brightly smiling, improbably-costumed woman. The snatches of
> the story she could read mentioned superheroes, magical battles, alien
> invasions. But those things weren't real...
> Not, at least, in the world she'd left behind.
:D :D :D
Drew "I love it" Perron
More information about the racc