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[Comments] (12) Constellation Games Open Thread: Now that the serialization is done, I think it's time to bring back the open thread, a place to talk and ask questions about the novel as a whole. This is also a good time to mention that Constellation Games is now available for $5 on Nook and Kindle. Finally, you can indulge your love of DRM!

What? You don't love DRM? Boy, is my face red. Fortunately, now that the serialization is complete, you can also now buy a $5 unencumbered PDF at the publisher's website. Or buy the trade paperback from the publisher, and get the PDF for free.

You can't buy the bonus stories right now! They've gone into a Disney-like "vault" of artificial scarcity, as a way of increasing the social standing of those forward-thinking individuals who bought the bonuses as part of the serialization. They'll shuffle blinking out of the "vault" at the end of November. At that point you'll be able to buy the bonuses from Candlemark & Gleam, either on their own or along with the novel. And only then will the stuff I'm saying over the next couple weeks make sense.

That's the business stuff; now I want to toss out a topic to get the open thread started. There's a weird plot hole in the novel that I don't think anyone else has noticed. Way back in chapter 2, Jenny and Ariel are picnicking in the hills on the way to the landing site. They encounter a hippie who's been to the landing site and who's now heading back to Austin. He talks like he just decided to go check out the landing site. How the hell did he get there so quickly? He's on foot, and the site's fifteen miles out of town. Did he just happen to be taking an early morning stroll in the country? That's a really big coincidence.

This little discrepancy has nagged me for a while and I've got a variety of solutions. Some of them are boring, some are way too interesting. Want to give it a try? Leave a comment.

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Posted by kirkjerk at Wed Aug 08 2012 11:40


Posted by Brendan at Wed Aug 08 2012 13:49

He's a fictional character.

Posted by Jeanne at Wed Aug 08 2012 14:50

Being From Austin, I actually didn't blink at all at the notion that there'd be an arbitrary hippie en route *from* the landing site -- that seemed completely normal for here and I did not question it.

But also: he says he was a civilian weapons inspector back in the nineties, right? I forget when you said the book takes place, but something like 2016, right? So around twenty to twenty-five years of severe NASA underfunding, which would lead to some possibly poorly maintained/disused launch or repair facilities. I don't know what logic the Constellation had for choosing landing sites, but probably the conditions needed (or preferred, anyway) to land their shuttles are going to be similar to the conditions needed to land anything, and it's going to be close to wherever the NASA facilities in parallel-world Austin are.

On looking back at the book, there's no necessary warrant for this assumption, but I always assumed that the hippie was meant to be a homeless guy, because (1) he was on foot (2) he immediately got interested in the food, and (3) there are a lot of very smart homeless hippie types in Austin who've voluntarily opted out of This Modern World, and possibly this is a bigger problem in 2016 after increased recessions, economic crises, etc. If you need a place to stay while sleeping rough in Austin, and you used to be a civilian weapons inspector, and you don't mind walking fifteen miles to downtown to see people, you can probably find an old NASA or other government site to bed down in, no sweat. So he could have actually been very close to the site of the landing, been walking around in the hills doing his Morning Routine maybe a half mile away from the site, seen a mysterious glass shuttle descend from the sky, and drawn his own conclusions.

Also: where in your mind are the landing site and Ariel's place supposed to be? Austin is big enough that it could just be fifteen miles from Ariel's house, if he lives in the north part of town. Without the whole fanciful idea that this is some kind of genius misanthrope hippie who lives in abandoned military installations and philosophizes about contact with the Other, he could just live way south and Ariel lives way north. (My assumption is that the landing site is somewhere near the airport in the SE part of town and that Ariel lives somewhere around Lamar & Airport Blvd, north of the campus, which seems like an Ariel kind of place to live. Notably, the guy who inspired Iolo from the Ultima series also has his crossbow shop right around there.)

Posted by Leonard at Wed Aug 08 2012 15:45

Man, where were you when I was writing this book? I had like one conversation with an Austin resident the whole time. I like that something that seemed inexplicable to me seemed like normal Austin weirdness to you.

I used Google Maps to put the landing site southwest of Austin, in the wilderness between Bee Cave and the zoo, solely because I liked the name "Bee Cave". At some point I looked at Craigslist and decided exactly where Ariel and Jenny lived, but I never used that information and apparently didn't even write it down. I think it was near the campus, so I'm happy to go along with Lamar and Airport.

My boring explanation for the hippie's presence was that he was driving back into town from a camping trip and whoever else was in the car dropped him off so he could check out the landing site and walk home.

My way-too-interesting explanation is that that guy is a spook, of the "so spooky Krakowski calls them the spooks" variety. He's not walking back to Austin; he's securing the perimeter. Everything he says to A&J is his honest opinion, but... he's a spook. And that's how Ariel gets on the BEA's radar.

Posted by Ben Heaton at Wed Aug 08 2012 15:53

The hippie is one of the *real* aliens behind the scenes, the ones who created the Constellation as a decoy.

I think that ties up all the loose ends.

Posted by Jeanne at Wed Aug 08 2012 18:16

Comically: I wrote the manuscript that's currently sitting with my agent sometime a couple of years ago, when I was living in NYC and had only memories of Austin to go from, but which was set in Austin. I was trying to write a scene in which a character has to go to a horrible subdivision in the southeast of town that I remembered as being named "Lava Caves Road," but which is actually named "Lava Hill Road" -- Bee Cave Road's sheer lexical power invaded the narrative of its own accord.

The only weird thing about the landing site being in the wilderness near Bee Cave is that Austin gets hillier the further west you go -- to some degree explaining why it's a wilderness -- so it'd probably be not a great landing site. Which I like because it shows you just how good the Constellation shuttles are, and it also makes it really, really plausible that the traffic out there would be awful, since it's in no way serviced by major highways or other roads.

I like the spook explanation, actually (also the *real* aliens explanation). Or perhaps he's a rogue instantiated Slow Person, the only one who's grievously regretted his decision to upload, and who's thus taken a voluntary monklike vow to live at "normal speed and to follow the Constellation's movements throughout the universe, "beating them to the punch" with contact missions in order to speak to the few people who may be able to prevent others from following along with uploading -- the fact that Ariel remembers what he says much later in the book, as soon as he learns about the nature of the Slow People, proves that his brilliant subliminal conditioning tactics have borne fruit. I guess he breaks his monklike vow whenever he arrives at a contact point in order to quickly learn the language, customs, and history of the planets or nations he walks in disguise through, and in order to quickly travel to all landing sites in the world and find and assess contactees who seem potentially receptive to his message -- like he picked Ariel and Jenny because they're sitting alongside a vast line of far more advanced vehicles, seemingly enjoying the small pleasures of fleshly existence. But wherever he appears he appears as a complete technophobe -- someone who walks through the hills miles out of town, for example -- in order to subtly reinforce the idea that The New is not necessarily The Good. The Constellation has no idea about his efforts on their behalf, and they couldn't possibly matter to the Slow People either, so they do nothing to stop him.

Posted by Leonard at Wed Aug 08 2012 22:07

Your Slow Person idea makes me want to draw a symbolic connection between the mystery hippie and Ragtime. If Ragtime were sentient its view would be the cynical one that humanity is ultimately doomed, and that Ragtime and the Constellation are just two lions fighting over the carcass. And that the Constellation is doomed in the same way.

Posted by Susie at Thu Aug 09 2012 22:50

This is probably not the point of your post, but did you know about the Disney vault before our conversation on Sunday?

Posted by Leonard at Thu Aug 09 2012 23:46

Yeah, I did. I remember seeing commercials mention it back when the "vault" was full of VHS tapes. I did adopt your technique of always putting "vault" in scare quotes, though.

Posted by nemryn at Tue Aug 14 2012 13:48

The hippie is actually a magical elf.

Posted by Ben Heaton at Wed Aug 15 2012 13:01

The hippie is Ariel from the future, attempting to change history.

Posted by Leonard at Wed Aug 15 2012 21:01

Ooh, that time travel idea is great. Ariel does become very similar to that hippie. And... yeah, that's barely possible according to my self-imposed laws of physics for this universe.


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