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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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Posted by Luddy at Tue Nov 29 2011 13:28

I'm not a twitter user so I'll probably be catching up on a week's worth of twitter messages at a time rather than following them in real-time. Since there aren't any timestamps (other than "1 hour ago" and so on) it's hard to mentally line them up with the dates in the novel. What do you have in mind for people who read the novel off-line, or read it after the serialization is complete?

Would it be possible to have Sycorax produce html pages showing the various twitter feeds merged chronologically? Maybe all the tweets for a day on one page with a different color for each character. Maybe link to (or indicate somehow) the relevant section of the novel. What I have in mind is having the novel in one window and the twitter feed in another, going back and forth between them according to the timeline of the story.

Posted by Leonard at Tue Nov 29 2011 13:35

The tweets will be archived according to the in-story day they were posted, and they'll be color-coded by character. Basically, what you want will happen.

Posted by Susie at Tue Nov 29 2011 17:36

Gravy trains leave gravy boats.

Posted by anonymous at Wed Nov 30 2011 13:34

FYI Constellation Games is featured at the top of the page on http://www.candlemarkandgleam.com/
but the link goes to a page that says I should "check back soon" rather than a page where I could actually buy it. There's a truncated picture of the cover that links the page back to itself, and a full picture of the cover that links to a larger picture of the cover. Dead end.

Undaunted I went to the books tab and found it under science fiction .. clicked on "add to cart" ... and had CG in the cart at a price of $0.00. But it was just another dead end page with no way to select a subscription level or proceed to checkout.

I did eventually get through it, but I thought you might like to work with the publisher to make it easier for people to buy your book. It would also be nice if it were easier to give a subscription to the serial as a gift!

Posted by Leonard at Wed Nov 30 2011 16:15

I've emailed the C&G editor about your problems. We'll get it fixed.

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