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[Comments] (3) Constellation Games Author Commentary #33: "Infinite Lives": This is another one of those "last chance" chapters, so a lot of stuff got crammed into it. Curic's version of the Austin visit back in chapter 8, Tetsuo's villain monologue, and Ariel's Reflex Games moment of truth. "A Few Ip Shkoy Games About Asteroids" is the last blog post in the book.

When I first wrote all these commentaries out this one was pretty light, so I saved the final deleted scene for this chapter's commentary, even though it was cut from chapter 30. But then I thought of a lot more commentary for this chapter. So this week you get a big commentary and a deleted scene! Live the excitement.

It's been a while since the microblog was an accurate real-time representation of what Ariel and Tetsuo were doing, but now it's just getting ridiculous. Chapter 33 takes place over an entire month (November 11 to December 12). The rest of the stuff in the Twitter feeds—mostly EVERYTHING IN AUSTIN stuff—covers the timeframe of chapter 33. There's nothing in the feeds about what happens in chapters 34, 35, or 36.

Of course, since chapter 33 takes place over an entire month, spreading its microblog over three weeks actually gets us closer to the microblog being an accurate real-time representation of what Ariel and Tetsuo are doing.

This might make more sense next week.

Enough stalling, here's the final deleted scene of the book. Perhaps the most forgettable detail in chapter 30's letter to Jenny is the other letter Ariel says he wrote, the one to his dad, apologizing for stealing the Scotch decanter. Here is that letter. I cut it before finishing it, so I've filled in bits of missing narration. There are also details that don't fit with the final draft, like the idea that Ariel's parents might not have noticed the theft yet.

October 12


Strange to write you a letter by hand and put it in a mailbox but I need low QoS on this message and the post office knows how to be slow.

By this time you may have noticed that your cut-glass Scotch decanter is missing. This letter is to confess that I stole it when I came up with Tetsuo last month. I was at our old house with its quiet and its familiarity and I thought: what would I take as my inheritance if I could only take one thing?

Kind of a morbid question, but urgent because I am leaving the planet and I may not be back. I have a variety of reasons, some of which I hope will make sense to you later.

[Ariel then talks about his dad's usage of the decanter when Ariel was a kid:]

I would sit on the couch in your study, reading or drawing or playing with the Game Boy while you worked. When you heard about a paper being accepted, or you met some other accomplishment, there would be the ritual of getting the bottle down from the closet shelf and pouring yourself a toast.

Please understand what follows. I know you hate when I use these video game analogies, but what I'm trying to explain is not the thing being analogized but why I did and I do think in these analogies.

Sitting on the couch while you typed, I would play an RPG with the utterly generic title of Magic Quest, which you bought me for my ninth birthday. One of the character classes in the Magic Quest series is the essence mage (or FORCMAG in the Game Boy version), whose magic power comes from his "life force". Where most RPG magic users can recharge magic points just by resting, an essence mage must sacrifice some of their life force, incurring a small but permanent penalty.

There are three strategies for playing an essence mage. 1) You can use their incredibly powerful magic relentlessly at the start of the game, rapidly boosting the party to the point where fancy equipment can make up for the character penalties. 2) You can play them as a melee specialist and only pull out their magic when absolutely necessary to save the party. 3) You can play them as evil and vampiric, draining the life force from NPCs and other party members.

This became my model of manhood, a bank account that you gradually drew down, a magic meter that depleted as you fought and won the conflicts of the working world.

[There was going to be something else here, but I think it works as is. Not sure why I even put in this note.]

I'm sure you refilled the decanter occasionally, but I never saw it. It always seemed to be three-quarters full, and I felt that once it was empty, that would be it for you, and for me as well.

Anyway, I took it with me and now your decanter is orbiting the moon. Please get in touch with Jenny and she will pay to replace the decanter and its contents. I know it's not about the money but about the betrayal of trust etc. I also know what my act of theft implies in terms of the essence mage analogy. I'm the son of two English professors, I don't need the subtext spelled out.

I'm sorry that I won't make it for Thanksgiving. Tell mom not to worry about me. Tell yourself as well.

Your lovingloving son,

It's in a rough state but it's a pretty good scene. It's not necessary to the plot but it does some good character development. The problem is it's completely overshadowed by Ariel's letter to Jenny. I couldn't even put this scene in the commentary for chapter 30 because of all the commentary about Ariel's other letter. But it's a nice little scene. Good night, sweet scene; And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

With this chapter the normal part of Constellation Games is OVER. Tune in next week for the first part of the shocking two-chapter climax, when Ariel will say, "They don't conserve anything except mass and angular momentum."

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons user Jacawa, Flickr user opacity, Alan Light, NewNation.sg, Flickr user Ata B.

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Posted by Brendan at Tue Jul 10 2012 16:29

"Lois McMaster Bujold described science fiction as 'fantasies of political agency'"


Posted by Leonard at Tue Jul 10 2012 16:45

I'm surprised you never heard that one before.

Posted by Brendan at Tue Jul 10 2012 17:12

I came late to Bujold.


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