8fold/TEB: Science-Blades of Terra Alter, book I

Drew Perron 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.

Big mood~

> 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.


> 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 
Eightfold Earth.

> 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 
> screen.

And this is such good visual craft!!

> "What 
> 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.


> She 
> embraced Elaine, who was wobbling on her feet, and held her up with her strong 
> arms.

now kiiiiiiiiiss

> "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.



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.

Exhibit B.

> 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.

Organic farming!

> "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!"


> Blue and gold banners hung beside the throne, with a symbol of an eye whose iris 
> was a gear and pupil was a labyrinth.


> 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 
> headache."
> 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 
> enemies.

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.

awwwwwww <3

> 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 
> me."

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.

Yessssss :D

> Juliet flinched, forcing an awkward smile. "I--I'm just curious where you're 
> going?"
> "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."


> 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

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