seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
[community profile] jukebox_fest is due Wednesday, my time. I finished my first draft last night... should be able to polish it by Wednesday, but time is a bit limited by social demands.

Debating [community profile] invisible_ficathon. Didn't nominate, but there are plenty of things I might be able to write that were? Except I don't really feel like this is a good exchange for me. It's my kind of writing, but not the kind of writing I can toss off an emergency response for in a day if I end up stuck. I basically need to luck into a prompt that really inspires me or I'll be screwed, so probably will pass.

I never actually mentioned it here, but I got a netflix subscription so I could watch Daredevil. I... liked it. I didn't love it. I thought the balance it struck between realism and comic bookness was a little off. But I loved its perplexing Fake New York-centrism. The Awl really nailed the problem with Daredevil's version of Hell's Kitchen, but on the other hand, I really admired the show's commitment to exploring the small scale consequences of Avengers 1 in relationship to New York's actual long-term history of conflict between developers and tenants, even if it meant constructing a fantasy version of Hell's Kitchen. I also thought Foggy/Ben was a much better ship than Ben/Karen, and therefore was frustrated by the final shot of the season.

After finishing Daredevil, I moved on to Arrow, and have now watched the full Season 1 of the show. Which bears comparison to Daredevil, in many ways. I have a lot of thoughts about "You have failed this city" and Oliver's general usage of 'my city' in his guise as the Hood. I'm grateful that the show does push back a few times with people telling him not to use the possessive, but it's not enough. Oliver's life is way too disconnected from the ordinary life of the city for it to really be his in a spiritual sense, so the possessiveness comes off too often as an aristocratic sense of ownership. Knowing the place to get the best burger in the Glades does not somehow equate to belonging to the Glades. Fundamentally, though, the show recognizes this. Oliver is not only not a hero quite often, but he's not even aware of what's going on in 'his city'. I really admire the writers for letting Oliver fail so often, and for letting him sometimes even deserve to fail. I'm not sure how I am expected to feel, however, at the end of one of the many episodes where Oliver does succeed, after indiscriminately killing a crowd of faceless, nameless drug dealers or security guards. Arrow often struggles to fully articulate the mechanics by which a crime slips past the eyes of the legal system and into the purview of vigilante justice. I'm not saying necessarily that there shouldn't be a set of such mechanics, but I would like to see them elucidated more clearly by Oliver. I'd like to see Diggle and Felicity (or Laurel and Quentin, or Huntress and Dark Archer) force Oliver to articulate them. It would make the show much more effective as a meditation on the limits of justice.


Lastly, I am reading Kevin J. Anderson's The Dark Between the Stars, as it was in fact nominated for the Hugo for best novel, regardless of the circumstances. I am 250 pages in and I am loathing it. I've been bitching about this book in #yuletide for the past week. KJA's writing instincts just seem totally off. He routinely fails on basic narrative details. This one might be the most infuriating, but it's typical of a whole class of error:

Lee Iswander is frantic with worry and heartache after a natural disaster ruined his business and killed many of his employees. His wife offers to bring him his favorite food for lunch. In an internal monologue, he wonders what his favorite food is, if he even has one, if his wife knows what it is. A page later, his wife brings him food, and... the narrative does not tell us what the food is, or whether or not it's his favorite. It just says that she brought him food. I'm a hundred pages later and I am still obsessing over Lee Iswander's favorite food. It's such a confusing oversight. It's a six hundred page novel, why would you leave it out?
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
For the [community profile] invisible_ficathon, I was assigned to write Escape from Zyzzlvaria fic. This requires about ten minutes of background to explain- [personal profile] roga got it last week while I was writing, but you're getting it now.

One of the highlights of my calendar year is the MIT Mystery Hunt, a weekend-long puzzle competition in which teams strive to solve a set of extraordinarily complicated and creative puzzles in order to reveal the hidden location of a coin on MIT campus. The Hunts have gotten more and more elaborate over the years, both in terms of the puzzles and the theatrical stagecraft wrapped around the puzzles and have developed their own language and style. There are certain particular puzzle types that you'll only see at Hunts. One such example is the Chaos puzzle, in which a constructed language invented for the puzzle must be deciphered before the puzzle can be solved.

Another example is the Duck Konundrum, the trademark puzzle of a Hunt veteran named Dan Katz. Duck Konundra consist of long and ridiculous lists of tricky step-by-step procedures that must be followed in order to get an answer. They also involve a live duck. In the second of these puzzles, players had to set up a half dozen board games and then follow a series of complicated steps for manipulating the pieces on the boards. Information on one board was used to drive moves on other boards, so making a single mistake on one of the steps would propagate and screw up results all across the puzzle. One of the board games was Escape from Zyzzlvaria, a board game which did not actually exist, but which the player could deduce enough about from the text of the puzzle to partially recreate in order to solve.

Several years later, Dan Katz was involved in running the Hunt again, and the entire Hunt was themed based on the Escape from Zyzzlvaria board game. The various characters were acted out, the fake board game was actually constructed, and a number of the puzzles helped build out the fictional game even further. [personal profile] jadelennox, my recipient, has been Hunting for at least as long as I have, and asked for the characters of the game to get one more adventure. And if the story could also be a puzzle, so much the better.

I will confirm that the story contains a fairly simple Mystery Hunt style puzzle. The instructions that go with any Hunt-style puzzle are the same: There are no rules of structure, and any resources you want to use you can use- Internet, books, other people, flamethrowers, laser beams, etc... The puzzle should not require you to break the law to solve. And the first aid kit is not a puzzle. Somehow, you will be able to get a short word or phrase out of the puzzle as an answer. I will happily confirm answers if you PM me.

As far as characterization, I didn't have a lot to go on, so I mostly stuck to the characterization guide in the answer key to a puzzle featuring a parody of the Hitchhiker's Guide to Zyzzlvaria, and crammed in Star Trek jokes when those weren't enough.

The result is a very silly story that I am very happy exists. It was strange to write, though. I sketched out a rough outline of the plot, a drawing of the logic grid, and a list of clues that I needed to insert into the story somewhat naturalistically in order to make the puzzle solveable. As I wrote, I crossed off clues as I included them. The resulting narrative was rather on rails, because there were so many particular story moments it needed to hit, but my brain kept trying to drive me off the rails. Many of the clues involved the bridge, but every time my protagonist tried to go to the bridge I decided the story would be better if he went elsewhere instead, so I had to figure out other ways to drop the clues about the bridge. In its sort of linear shaggy dog story format, the piece it most reminds me of is my first If on a winter's night a traveller fic. Though there are huge differences between the pieces in tone and style, they were both written to rather severe structural constraints. It's a good thing to try to do every once in a while, I think.

"Where on the Brass Rat is Captain Blastoid"
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
Dear Invisible Ficcer,

Thanks for writing a fic for me! As I write in most letters for exchanges like this, I have notoriously bad taste in fiction, so you should not let yourself be restrained by my taste. Write something that you will enjoy and everyone will be better off. Below, some thoughts on the fandoms.


The Escapist - Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay

I'm more a fan of Golden Age Escapist than Silver Age Escapist, so please keep the nonsensical visits to alien worlds and parallel worlds out of the fic if at all possible. On the other hand, I greatly prefer the Silver Age origin story of the Escapist, so it'd be cool if you could retcon the Silver Age version of the story of how he got the Key into a story about a Golden Age villain like Swastika Man or the Panzer. Please include Luna Moth, or make the story all about her and drop the Escapist from the fic altogether. We need more strong women in comics.


The Entertainment- J.O. Incandenza

This is really all about the fans, right? The Entertainment is only interesting because of what it says about the people who are drawn to it, those of us who have built a fannish community around our shared love of the Entertainment. Please celebrate our fan culture in your story.

Galaxy Girl - TV Show

Galaxy Girl is due for a really grimdark reboot, wouldn't you say? I always loved the adventures, growing up, but I thought the morals at the end of each episode were really saccharine and problematically uncomplicated. What if Galaxy Girl had to confront something genuinely difficult, like the dilemma from Tom Godwin's The Cold Equations? How would she emerge? I think Galaxy Girl is a great figure to use to talk about real heroism in contrast to the types of simplified 'heroism' our children's television misguidedly teaches today.

Robert Templeton Series- Harriet Vane

Preferably casefic. I'd love to see one of the throwaway cases mentioned in Death 'Twixt Wind and Water. The case of the Elysian Traveler sounds particularly intriguing to me. Or write me something about his early days, before Vane started writing him. How did he acquire such strong arms?

I ship Robert/Henry, like everyone else in the fandom, and would of course welcome a cute moment the two of them share in between cases, but... here's a thought. Remember Dorothy, that young writer who was falsely accused of murder? i always thought there was something between Robert and her. Obviously there are issues to be worked through- Dorothy's family hates Robert- but I think it could be interesting to see what happened if the two of them ran into each other again. Possibly while working on a case?

Sefer Milhamot Hashem - the Book of the Wars of the Lord

I really like the alternate take on the conquest of Jericho in this scroll. Presenting it as a purely military victory without any overt miracles is fascinating! I'd like fic about one of the characters in that story- Joshua, faced with the challenge of besieging a walled city without the ability to just collapse the walls with shofar blasts, struggling to come into his own as a general, or Rahab, the spy torn between her loyalty to her city and her loyalty to her handsome foreign lover, or the King of Jericho, overconfident and ultimately tragically doomed.


The Leather Mask - Benno von Archimboldi

I really can't say why this is my favorite of Archimboli's novels. It's solidly mid-career, with neither the naive brilliance of his first novels or the sad wiseness of his last books. I think it's the alliance of kink and politics that makes it so compelling to me. Archimboldi manages to convey the sheer horror of encountering the woman (or is it truly, in the end, a man?) who wears the leather mask, and then flips the perspective on us to show us what it is like to wear it, how it both empowers and limits its wearer's choices about identity and presence.


Anyway, feel free to disregard all of that and just write whatever the hell you want.

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seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
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