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[Comments] (3) Constellation Games Author Commentary #25, "The Infiltration Path": I accidentally wrote a lot of this commentary as chapter 24 commentary, because the ambivalence scene really wants to be part of 24. It may have originally been in 24, but I had to move it out because there was too much stuff in there already.

One bit in the final chapter is presented out of order, but there's it's still chronological from a certain standpoint. Here in chapter 25, I just wasn't a good enough writer to present the events of the novel in strict chronological order. I don't know why this sort of thing bothers me so much. (Actually, I do.)

I'm tired of getting interrupted every week to write the commentary, so last week I made them my main project. I've completed commentaries up to the end of chapter 33 (but haven't chosen the images, which takes a while on its own). After chapter 36, there will be some short commentaries on the bonus stories and "Pey Shkoy Benefits Humans", and possibly one more on the book as a whole.

If you've read the paperback, the spoiler thread from last week is still open for your questions and comments. Here's last week's Tetsuo-licious Twitter feeds, and now commentary:

Now for all you loyal commentary readers, it's time for the first ever Constellation Games deleted scene. Early in the second draft, this chapter ended with Ariel and Tetsuo on the commuter train to Ariel's parents' house in College Station. I'll present the train conversation and then explain why I cut it:

"Do people ever ask you what your real name is?" asked Tetsuo. "When you tell them your name?"

"No," I said, "but I'm not a space alien who took a Japanese name."

"It seems very rude," said Tetuo.

"What is your real name?"

"Why do you ask me the instant I tell you I don't like to be asked? Tetsuo Milk is my real name."

"What was your name before you learned a human name to change it to?"

Tetsuo made a reluctant sound and then said "Don't transliterate that in your blog."

"That's pronouncable," I said. "Why'd you change it?"

"We always adopt local names on contact missions," said Tetsuo. "We've got to prove we're the most adaptable species in the universe. We're pretty conceited, honestly."

"Hey," I said, "that's our schtick. Humans are the most adaptable species."

"According to who?"

"That's just how it works. Everybody's the best at something. Farang are the strongest, Barbarians are the fastest, Her is the creepiest. Humans are the most flexible."

"Are you designing a role-playing game?"

"Better me than somebody who doesn't know basic rules of game balance."

"Everybody thinks their species is the most adaptable," said Tetsuo. "It's like patriotism. You like the Longhorns, your parents like the Aggies, who's to say who's right?"

"Those are football teams," I said. "Patriotism is for countries."

"Well, you get what I'm saying."

It's a pretty funny conversation, which is why I present it now, but I cut it because it has serious problems and I make better use of its ideas later on:

Basically, a much better scene in chapter 28 killed off this scene. Let's let it rest... in peace.

Tune in next week for the family reunion, during which Tetsuo will say, "Your brother's not a turtle."

Image credits: Thomas Deusing, Dave Herholz, NASA, Maureen Didde, Flickr user Perro Viejo.

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Posted by Zack at Tue May 15 2012 11:38

This is also the point at which it dawned on me that Ariel's family is actually Jewish, despite any number of obvious tells earlier in the book which I should have given more credence to. (Starting with his last name, even.)

I really liked the "ambivalence thing"; it plays well with other ways you've been avoiding, er, species essentialism. And underlines just how long the Constellation's been around. You might be able to make a case that present-Farang aren't the same species as then-Farang, even.

I keep forgetting to ask this question: why did you decide to set the book (well, the on-Earth parts of the book) in Austin?

Posted by Leonard at Tue May 15 2012 13:42

I had a job interview in Austin in 2000 and I liked the city but I didn't get the job. In retrospect it was the kind of fake-fun dot-com job that would have put me on an Ariel-like career path of disappointment when it went under a couple years later.

Second, Austin is a xenophilic city in a xenophobic region. It's a good shorthand for Ariel's attitudes vs. the government's. And a lot of big game companies have Austin offices, so it was easy to come up with a story where Ariel moved to Austin for college and never left.

Posted by Leonard at Wed May 16 2012 13:56

Apropos species: they're not the same species, if only because of genetic drift. Around chapter 12 Ashley mentions that Ip Shkoy Aliens were significantly smaller than her and Tetsuo. But they're still pretty similar.

For reasons of narrative simplicity I decided not to cover things like post-contact speciation and multiple intelligent species from the same planet. Even though that's what happens on Earth.


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