(2) Tue Jul 03 2012 08:41 Month of Kickstarter 2012 #3: Universe's Fair:
Welcome back to the all-month cavalcade of crowdfunding. As the month progresses I'm getting a better picture of the flow of new project launches: on Sunday only about 50 projects were launched, but yesterday saw about 175 launches. You can expect some interesting statistics at the end of the month, let me tell you. But for now you can expect some interesting Kickstarter projects:
- I pledged $12 towards Bringing History to the Public, a project by the World's Fair Historical Society which is probably the worst-designed Kickstarter project I've ever contributed to. But I find the story incredibly compelling--Randy Richter has a ton of World's Fair memorabilia and wants to get exhibit space for it. Exactly the kind of project I want to discover in the firehose and highlight. I'm hoping that someone who's actually done a crowdfunding project before is also really into World's Fair stuff, and can help Richter fix up his copy and rewards (Although I don't think you can change reward tiers after the project starts? See, I don't know this stuff.)
- Better designed is Bicycle Astronomy, a get-the-public-to-look-through-a-telescope project. $15 gets me a patch, and I know at the start of this project I said I didn't want patches, but this is a patch I can use on my eventual Freeman Lowell/Joel Hodgson cosplay jumpsuit.
Speaking of bicycles, today's "Month of Kickstarter Platinum" showcases @cme FlatFree Bicycle Wheelsets, bicycle tires that will never go flat but which require custom-sized rims. $280 gets you rolling!
(3) Tue Jul 03 2012 09:25 Constellation Games Author Commentary #32: "The Evidence of Absence":
This chapter has the most artsy title in the book. It's a reference to
the idea of negative space, of emptiness as a thing in
itself. Every section of the chapter has something to do with negative
space: the fossil imprint, the absence of Jenny from Ariel's life, the
player character's amnesia in The Amulet of Manufactured
Memory, and the holes in the ground where the garbage has been
Part Three was originally called "Negative Space," and you'll see why in the last chapter.
It's not just Part Three though. Negative space shows up through the whole book: as the foundation hole where Ariel's house used to be, the fractal pits Tetsuo and Somn dug out of the moon to build Ring City, the expectation that contact missions always find dead civilizations, and, uh, Ariel's negative reaction to being in space. Part One of the novel is about Ariel and the Brain Embryo, whereas "Found Objects" is about Jenny and the reentry foam with a Brain Embryo-shaped hole in it. It's what we in the trade call symbolism.
Symbolic of what? The Fermi Paradox, basically. The fact that the more we narrow down which numbers should go into the Drake equation, the better it looks for life in the universe, yet here we are, alone, facing down an emptiness that has become a thing in itself. The idea behind the Constellation universe, going back to "Vanilla" before I came up with any of the backstory you see in the novel, is that we find out we're not alone and it doesn't help. We're all lonely together and some of us (here, Somn and Ariel) are lonelier than we were before.
In the first draft Somn actually referred to the fossil imprint as
"the evidence of absence". I cut it because I
couldn't imagine something that poetic making it through the
Purchtrin-English translator. But that's what she was thinking. That's canon.
More stuff that's canon:
- I wrote about the
likelihood of complex fossils on Mars back when I was working on
the second draft. Conclusion: it's not very likely. However, the odds
were boosted recently by the discovery of multicellular fossils on
Earth much older than any previously found.
I think the real stretch here is the idea that life
evolved on Mars and then died out completely. Once bacteria
show up, I don't think anything short of a supernova can make them go
extinct. A supernova, or perhaps some... Creative License.
- Fossil molds happen all the time in real life (see picture), but most are due to causes other than mysterious extradimensional unlife.
- You'll see in "The Time Somn Died" that Somn has considerable
experience with Ragtime's fossil imprints. But the real importance of this chapter to that story is her line "I nearly stayed behind."
- In the second draft the Somn scene was the last time Ragtime came up, which really pissed everyone off. The lack of any kind of resolution for this plotline was widely considered the number one problem with the book. That's why I added the Tetsuo scene to the next chapter: so Ariel could have a finalizing talk about Ragtime with someone who won't just dismiss his concerns. Just don't expect an explanation.
- Ariel's review of The Amulet of Manufactured Memory is
probably the book's clearest example of the old literary trick where
someone's seemingly innocuous writings reveal volumes about their
mental state if you know what to look for. But I mostly think it's
interesting from an exposition perspective.
Considered as a human game, The Amulet of Manufactured
Memory would be pretty unremarkable—single-player RPG featuring amnesiac
protagonist of a different gender from the player. But for a Gaijin
game that's really unusual. This is a great technique for conveying
alien-ness—show something that the reader can facially identify with and show how it's unusual from an alien perspective. But I knew it
was a trick I could only use once. (Gatekeeper is the same as
Pong, but the point of that is it's a really simple game that
gets independently invented all the time.)
- Amulet and Dana Light Is: Unauthorized were both
heavily inspired by the
specification for my ideal video game back in 2008. In my original
notes for Constellation Games my ideal game actually showed up,
as Unauthorized: Welcome to Earth. Sort of a Grand Theft
Auto where instead of a human psychopath you play an alien
invader. That game still exists in the Constellation universe, it's just not mentioned in the
novel because Temple Sphere was more useful dramatically.
(I suspect that weblog entry was also one of the main inspirations
for Constellation Games itself, so thanks, Ben.)
- All the Gaijin game companies in the CDBOEGOACC have names that include some multiple of 3. This is kind of my tribute to Star Control II,
in which all the captains of Ur-Quan Kohr-Ah ships were named "Death
701" or "Death 43" or "Death [some other prime number]". The tribute
is most obvious for Amulet which was published by "9 Death To Various Obsolete Procedures".
As long as I've got these cards out, there's a
direct reference to Star Control II way back in chapter 2
(specifically, to Frungy), which I didn't mention before.
- I didn't notice this until I was writing this commentary, but both Amulet and What-the-Fuck Creek are games that tell the same basic story every playthrough, but tell it drastically differently every time. It's sort of the opposite of the Dhihe Coastal Coalition's fear of fiction. And given what I said a couple weeks ago about the lack of diversity within Gaijin castes, it might give insight into what it's like to be Gaijin.
- I like to imagine "Ke's Got No Name!" as the Gaijin equivalent of Odysseus's "Outis". In his review, Ariel calls his post-amnesia character "No-Name". That's a mistake on my part: "No-Name" was the character's name in the second draft, but that's not a Gaijin name, so I changed it. But let's say that's Ariel's nickname for the character. Apparently the rule of Gaijin names is that when I change one, I forget to go through and change it everywhere it shows up.
- Dana's line "I got dumped for an earlier version of myself who's dumber and greedier!" really resonates with some readers. Not my intention, but I'll take it.
- The Dana scene is Ariel's fourth sex scene in the novel. For the first two I ruined Ariel's life right after the sex scene. In chapter 30 it happened during the sex, and here the sex just indicates how low he's sunk already.
I'm kind of annoyed at having written one of those books where the male lead has sex with every available female character, but I don't think anyone would confuse Ariel with James Bond. (In the event that you did confuse Ariel with James Bond, the management regrets that no refunds can be provided.)
- When I first wrote those limericks in chapter 18, I remember
thinking "I bet Dana will really appreciate this, once she becomes
capable of knowing that it happened". I did not anticipate how
her appreciation would come out.
- It's nice that Ariel refuses a fake Jenny, though he might have
any number of non-noble reasons for doing that.
Dana knows a lot she shouldn't, but she doesn't know the
Ariel/Jenny history. She's engaging in the same speculation you may
have done prior to chapter 30.
- I seem to have a thing for purple dresses. The Captain in "Four
Kinds of Cargo", which I wrote right after Constellation Games,
wears a purple dress at one point. I guess what I'm saying
is, keep rocking those purple dresses, ladies.
- Auslanders are the traditional science-fictional puffball aliens
from the upper layers of a gas giant. (Recall that the proposed
carbon-eating kites from chapter 15 are Auslander animals.) There was
an Auslander bartender in "Vanilla" but I think the archaeologist in this chapter has a lot more character even though it's only got a couple lines.
- When I was writing the second draft I was worried that there'd be
no gaming content in part three, because Ariel has set those interests
aside for now. But there's plenty, it's just not similar to what came
before. I'm thinking specifically of Ariel collecting from the archaeological dig, an idea I think is really nice, and not something I've seen elsewhere. (And I did add one more set of game reviews after selling the book.)
Next week is the last "normal" chapter of the book. After that it's all climax and denouement. Tune in next Tuesday to hear Curic give her heartwarming monologue, "I was trapped alone in a decaying world of the dead."
Image credits: The Ohio State University Radio Observatory and the North American AstroPhysical Observatory (NAAPO), Mark A. Wilson, Toys for Bob, Deror avi, 20th Century Fox (check out the deletion debate!)
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Tue Jul 03 2012 10:30 Beautiful Soup 4.1.1:
This release fixes some bugs, especially having to do with tags that use namespaces, and including a very serious performance bug that made BS4 slower than BS3, even when using the lxml parser. The previous, much-better-than-BS3 performance has been restored.