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[Comments] (5) Constellation Games Author Commentary #1: "Terrain Deformation": Check it out, bronies. The first chapter of Constellation Games, "Terrain Deformation", is in subscribers' inboxes. That means it's time for bonus author commentary here on NYCB. Every Tuesday I'll put up a post like this, containing whatever I have to say about this week's chapter.

Even if you haven't subscribed to CG, you can read the first chapter for free and then comprehend this post. But this magic is subtle, and will only work twice. So get on the gravy train before it leaves the... gravy station, I suppose.

These commentary posts won't usually be very long, but they'll give me a space to say whatever piece I might have. The Chapter 1 commentary would be super long, except I'm going to stretch my general comments out over the first few weeks. You can ask me questions in the comments or on Twitter. I don't intend to spoil later chapters, but eventually the callbacks will start coming due and I'll start referencing the early chapters a lot. And of course I will spoil whatever chapter I'm talking about that week.

So, on with the commentary! This is the shortest chapter in the book--I'm not doing anything but setting up the premise--and it's almost all that remains of my initial draft. I had to get rid of that draft because I tried to advance the plot entirely through blog posts. It got quite complicated, and boring. But the first contact with the Constellation is a very intense, breaking-news situation in which Ariel is not directly involved, so blog posts work well here. From start to finish I can't think of anything major I changed in this chapter.

The Twitter feeds are a lot busier this week than they will be in the future, because of all the crazy stuff that's going on in the story world. Also because I wrote a lot of tweets for the first couple chapters and then decided to scale it back so as not to overwhelm readers/myself. Pretty soon it'll settle down to 2-5 tweets per real-world day.

This chapter introduces the recurring game reviews on Ariel's blog. My original plan was to have one review per chapter (remember, this was originally going to be serialized on a gaming website). This did not work! At all! Most of the time there was no way to tie a game review into the action of the novel. I refocused on the action and now there's a review every few chapters, each one (hopefully) interesting on its own but also earning its keep, the way scenes in a novel are supposed to.

This chapter introduces the two main human characters, Ariel Blum (whose blog/framing device we're reading) and his BFF from college, Jenny Gallegos. I'm generally going to let the characters speak for themselves, but I want to talk briefly about Ariel's name.

I think super-symbolic names like "Adam Truman" are stupid, but character names are important for mechanical reasons. There are a lot of characters in a story, and if you don't give them distinctive names, readers get confused. It's worse for people like me who are bad with names in real life. And a character's name is often the first thing I come up with, with everything else flowing from that. It's not their destiny, but the name often says something about their upbringing and their life so far.

This is the sense in which Ariel's name is important. He was named after a character from Shakespeare, and shortly after he was born, his name become irrevocably associated with a woman from a Disney cartoon. Only certain kinds of characters can come out of that mold. But if you want to get super-symbolic with Ariel's name, connecting it to The Tempest and The Producers or Ulysses... well, I can't stop you, and you might not even be disappointed.

I think that's enough for now. Tune in next Tuesday for Chapter 2, when Ariel will say: "Nobody eats my coleslaw and disses NASA."

PS: I've put up an episode guide at constellation.crummy.com. There you'll find links to these commentaries, the archived Twitter feeds, etc. etc.

Next week ->


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