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[Comments] (3) Constellation Games Author Commentary #36: "Protector of Earth": Here it is, the denouement. I hope you've enjoyed the story, the commentary, and whatever bonus materials are coming your way. As I start closing out this commentary series I want to give a big thanks to you, the fans. I've done projects before that have garnered fans, but Constellation Games is the first time I feel like I have a traditional fan base, and it's greatly appreciated on my end.

Now that I've buttered you up, I want to once again ask you to do what you can to get other people interested in Constellation Games. "What's in it for me?" you ask, because buttering you up only goes so far; I get it. Well, maybe you want a sequel. I have an idea for a sequel. But I can't justify spending the time to write a sequel to a book that wasn't a big hit. I'd be better off writing a totally new novel, as I'm doing now.

Hopefully getting people interested will a lot easier now that serialization is done. Ebooks will soon be available for $5, which should take the book into the realm of instant-gratification impulse buys. You'll be able to get a PDF direct from the publisher, or to get Nook and Kindle versions from B&N and Amazon.

It would also help a lot if you left reviews of the book on the bookstore sites, Goodreads, LibraryThing, and so on. Or just post a review on your blog. And remember that someone who's on the fence can read the first two chapters for free as PDF or HTML.

I'm still trying to line up podcast appearances and so on. But I've learned that it's really difficult for an author to effectively promote their own book, because everything I say sounds like an ad. Well, it is an ad. That's why books have quotes on the back covers from people who didn't write the book. Fan-driven publicity is a million times more effective than anything I can do. (n.b. I haven't actually measured this, but a million times seems about right.)

Hopefully after that you're ready for some commentary:

You can read the end of the book as an unimitigated "yay, Ariel", and I deliberately didn't spend much story time on what I'm about to say, but... Ariel's redesign of Human Ring is an incoherent mess. His appreciation of art does not extend much past "art is good and we should have more." He's not a curator, an architect, or a designer of ecosystems. He didn't even get to finish his metafractal before instantiating it.

But this huge mess pushes a habitable Human Ring into the realm of the imaginable. Ariel gets in your face with a really cheesy version of whatever you're good at, and gets you thinking about how amazing it would be if you could redo it properly. (Most of what Ariel does between December 26 and April 22 is working with people with real domain knowledge.)

I used The Dinner Party to dramatize this. Judy Chicago's piece is a monument to dead and mythological heroes, realized in media traditionally associated with women: ceramics, sewing, weaving, embroidery, lace, and (implied) food. It serves as a counterweight to all of history's monuments honoring men.

Like all monuments, The Dinner Party works by overwhelming you. In the Brooklyn Museum the piece has three parts: you walk down a hallway hung with very 1970s tapestries, then you turn a corner and enter a dark triangular room containing nothing but the installation, and you're overwhelmed. Finally you leave the installation room to a big Mathematica-like timeline explaining who all the women mentioned in the piece were. (I get why the timeline is necessary, but it leaves me with the feeling that I've just visited a state park.)

Ariel does not really understand The Dinner Party. Even Somn, who understands it less, can see this. Ariel's reproduction omits the timeline, the hallway with tapestries, and the dark triangular room. He just reconstructed the table in the uniformly-lit docking bay along with everything else. This ruins the overwhelming effect.

It's highly questionable whether Jenny would want to put Protector of Earth in that room. Setting up The Dinner Party next to Trajan's Column doesn't do either piece any favors. But it does put them on the same rhetorical level, and putting hundreds of those pieces in a room a mile square creates its own overwhelming effect. In the docking bay, the monuments humanity has built to its accomplishments are themselves recognized as accomplishments.

Even before the contact event, Ariel knew what this tasted like. He had an archive of all of humanity's Games of a Certain Complexity, acquired through software piracy and playable whenever he wanted to play them. Now he's demonstrated that kind of abundance in a way that people who don't care about video games can appreciate.

Of course, all the artworks on Human Ring are replicas. Even the "fucking Banksy mural" got destroyed by the matter shifters and had to be restored from backup. But as Tetsuo says in chapter 12, there are no un-replicas. Even the original artwork is an imperfect replica of the pure idea in the artist's mind.

And every replica is imperfect. Duchamp's famous "readymades" are, less famously, not ready-made. They've been altered, or they're nonfunctional replicas, or (later on) they're laboriously reconstructed (and further altered) replicas of the original replicas. When BEA Agent Krakowski smashes Fountain in chapter 34 he's destroying a replica of a replica of a possible replica.

Constellation Games is full of replicas. Ariel's house, Dieue's apartment, the shipping containers, Ariel's notebooks, the CDBOEGOACC games and hardware, the golden cellular-automata machine, the periodically resurfaced lunar field, the Disneyland environments of Ring City, Jenny's cosplay, Tammy's missions in the Orion simulator, Ariel's recreation of Tammy's go bag, Dana Light in all her forms, the game companies making the same game over and over, Recapture That Remarkable Taste and Sayable Spice: Earth Remix, the imperfect copy of Tetsuo that Somn has in her head, and the imperfect immortal electronic copy that could have existed instead.

Negative space is Ariel's theme, and replicas are Tetsuo's. Throughout the book, Tetsuo concerns himself with the negative space that separates real replicas from fake ones. The way someone from a culture with less history might care a lot about originals vs. replicas. He cares because the original was trying to tell you something. Probably unintentionally, probably not what the original creator was trying to convey, probably something about that person and their society. A real replica will let that message come through. A fake replica will preserve the text of the article but lose the revealing advertisements. And how you use a replica will, in turn, reveal something about you.

Maybe miscellaneous notes are an anticlimax after that, but here they are anyway:

And that's Constellation Games. This commentary series will continue for two more weeks, with commentaries for the bonus material posted on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you ordered the bonus material, you should be getting it soon along with the complete ebook. If you ordered the USB key, the bonus material's on there. If you're not sure what to read first, here's the commentary schedule, and my recommended reading order:

Update: I originally put the stories in this list in the order I wrote them. But when I suggested a reading order to Kate, I suggested chronological order, which is the exact opposite order. I've changed the commentary schedule to reflect the order recommended in the email that contains the bonus material.

If all you're getting is "The Time Somn Died", then your task is easy. Otherwise, tune in next Tuesday, when Dana will say, "Americans cost extra." Tune in next Tuesday, when Somn will say, "Ha ha ha... stop it!"

Pictures from the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Botanical garden are ones I took on March 9, 2012. Other image credits: NASA, Jerry Paffendorf, and Kevin Stefanovitch.

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Month of Kickstarter #31: Jazz Python Planet: As I write this I have backed 269 Kickstarter projects. I've also been posting the word "Kickstarter" to my Twitter feed every day for the past month. (In my defense, it was always in a sentence along with other words.) So you might imagine that people who are hustling especially hard on their Kickstarter projects might discover me and pitch me to back their project.

Throughout Month of Kickstarter I've gotten a lot of recommendations from friends. Some I've backed, some I haven't, some I'd already backed when the friend told me about it. But from strangers? Not too often. Earlier this month someone asked me to back their video project about (I think) how to do video projects. It wasn't really my thing so I ignored it. And yesterday Daniel Davis asked me to check out Urban-Jazz Violinist Daniel D.'s New Album Project! I actually saw this project when it launched, and decided it too was not really my thing, but what the hell. It's a fine project, today is the final day of MoK 2012, so let's go out with the abandon that marked last year's observance. I've backed Daniel's project and two others:

Thus ends Month of Kickstarter, coincidentally on the same day as the serialization of Constellation Games. But just like last year, the fun doesn't stop when I stop backing all these projects. Once the projects complete (or fail) I'll be updating the graphs I made last year, when I said things that sound ridiculous now, like "realistically you're not going to get more than 350 backers." What's the realistic number of backers now? We'll find out.

This year there are other people crunching numbers on Kickstarter projects, notably Kicktraq. But this year I've gathered a lot more data than I did last year, and I've got my own ideas for how to slice it up. See you then!


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