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bear by san

March 2017



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muppetology animal deadlines

Quest for inspiration!

Okay, guys. I have an assignment for you.

Please, if you've read it and liked it, tell me what you thought was cool or touching or fun or interesting about Dust, and why.

Because since I have no gut on Chill, no sense of the shape the book should have, I'm trying to figure out why the first book was successful for the people it was successful for. And if I can't feel my way through it, maybe I can intellectualize my way through it.

Comment thread may contain spoilers, right?


I think another problem I'm having is that I was trying to limit the book to three points of view, as I did Dust, and that's not really working out. Because rather than two colocated ingenues working toward a goal without really having an idea of the larger picture, I have a widely scattered uneasy alliance of cynical old bastards working towards a goal without really having an idea of the larger picture. I have come up with a pretty cool structural inversion that I want to see if I can pull off. That will be fun if it works.

So I think I need at least 5 POVs, and possibly 6--two primary ones and three or four secondaries.

Right. Silly bear. Borrowing a different narrative convention means borrowing a different set of structural tools. The Interminable Quest Fantasy Novel structure is not the same as the Get The Bad Guy structure. And you knew that, didn't you? But you were in a hurry and wanted to write another book just like the last one, only different.

And of course, that is a trick you never mastered.



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I have a widely scattered uneasy alliance of cynical old bastards working towards a goal without really having an idea of the larger picture.


And, hm. Favorite bits aside from Rien and the brave stubborn wonderful teenaged her of her -- hm. Loved the suitless spacewalk and the mechanical basilisk; adored Pinion and the angels (corporeal and otherwise) and the nonstandard gender definitions beyond all reason; had trouble keeping the House of Conn straight but loved them anyway; would really like to know what's going on in Arienrhod's head; and would sit still for six hundred pages of characters arguing about what to have for dinner as long as there was plenty of set design to go along with it. And I want to know what happens if they get where they were supposed to be going.

(And I am hugely in favor of space squids.)

Any of that help?
Beautiful. Thank you. So you would be down with giving Arianrhod a POV?
The things that really worked for me were:
--the bildungsroman aspect (which is part of why the ending made me cranky)
--the way Perceval has to come to terms with Everything Changing, emotionally.
--the physical world, which hits on the same sort of buttons as Gormenghast (as in, neat huge rambly world with lots of different bits in it with their own stories that you only see parts of as you go through them)
--the emotional arc btw Rien and Perceval (thank you for not making it a soppy love story)

And, not so much:
--the wings, along with other Really Symbolic Stuff (I'm something of a shallow reader, I admit it. First time through, just for story. Re-readings delve deeper, but if it won't work on the surface level as well, I'm not likely to re-read.)
--the last-minute, emotionally-wrenching Death of Beloved Character (which worked way better for me in _Hammered_, but is now starting to feel like a Theme.)

Hope this is helpful. I did really like _Dust_.
Thanks for answering the question.
The thing that grabbed me about Dust was how well you handled Clarke’s Third Law. Somewhere along the line in the history of the Jacob’s Ladder, a choice was made (individually or collectively) to use a fantastic metaphor for humans interacting with technology, and a feudal system for organizing society. The people who have to live with this understand it perfectly well— they aren’t superstitious about it— and many of them would much prefer that it be different, but they’re still stuck with decisions made by people who are long dead (though they may have opportunities to load up their recorded personalities so they can berate them for it, which might be satisfying). The world of the Jacob’s Ladder has tension not only between the different factions of human beings and individual people and artificial intelligences; it has tension between the living and the dead who had ideas about how they could influence their descendants’ culture and evolution.

Caveat on my own perspective: I’ve been a gamemaster for twenty years and love to see interesting worldbuilding. I also find transhumanism fascinating (though I wouldn’t be an early adopter), so I find cautionary tales about transhuman themes interesting.

Oh, thank you! I am so glad that came through.

So many people have called it "a fantasy novel disguised as SF" that I was pretty much convinced I totally screwed the pooch on what I was trying to do there.
Hey, I follow along the late Robert Jordan's WoT 60+ POVs, so I'd say that I actually enjoy a variety of them, so long as they're coherently coordinated. (Why did I have the sudden urge to insert "coagulatively" at the end there? Weird, alliteratively speaking...)
Various coolness I liked in Dust, a list:

Nanotech cannibalism.
Sentient armour.
Basilisk cutting-torches.
Mallory the necromancer.
Fruit with memories in.
Angels and angel tarot.
That great radioactive trip Our Heroes took.
The bat cave, and the throwaway line about needing to detour to avoid cannibals.
Did I mention the basilisk? Definitely the basilisk.
That sprawling competitive-occasionally-vicious Conn family dynamic, with hinted and occasionally explicit traumatic backstory.
The characters: Mallory. The villain. Tristen. Caitlin. Perceval. Rien. Benedick.
Did I mention the family dynamic? Definitely that, too.

All of it cool and interesting, most of it touching.

Also, I think you call it a bulletproof kink? One of mine is the escape from fraught imprisonment. So, you know. That.

If I were to elaborate on why I liked all of this, it would probably take me most of the night.
Also, Perceval's emotional arc, and the sheer vast interestingness of the world itself.

And Pinion, and the mutually contradictory themes that word implies.

And I agree with the commenter above: I'd like to know what's going on in Arienrhod's head, too. And who her supporters are and why.
I love assignments like this. *rubs hands together*

I loved how technology had gone so far it really was magical, with magical names and mythological references, but the characters weren't bumbling around in Dark Ages ignorance. They had an awe of it as one would with magic, but they also had something of an understanding of it.

Samael, angel of death--or rather, of life support services. I cackled at that.

Dust. Creepy, horrible Dust.

Mallory. I've become fond of non-typical necromancers, and the dual-gender aspect of Mallory made me very, very happy. I still don't know if, given the choice, I'd rather have Mallory, or be Mallory. Also, Mallory's method of necromancy.

How the symbionts are nanotech, but a little more.

How perfectly reasonable science fiction stuff (autodocs, laser cutting torch) become things that are dangerous and mysterious. I gaped and grinned when I found out what unblades had begun life as.

Rien and Perceval. You hit the teenaged girl voice perfectly--it's not childish, but neither is it grown up. It's smart and brave and gets underestimated and has an uncomfortable feeling about knowing it isn't grown up yet, but still resents being treated as a child.

Rien to Mallory: "I don't love you. You shouldn't change yourself for me." How that echoed with her later relationship with Perceval.

Their relationship, too. It was weird, but it was beautiful, and Rien's semi-unbeing broken my heart. It broke my heart more that neither seemed to see it coming, and how very, very brave they'd been.

I liked the bizarre, convoluted politicking. I can totally see that happen on an old, stranded generation ship that was started under dubious ethics.

Said dubious ethics of the founders. Shiver! How their religion got really consumed by what, heh, evolved in the need to stay alive after the ship had its catastophic failures.

The extremeness of the body mods of the Engineers, and how it's no big deal to them.

The idea of resurectees. Creepy.

Benedick's bunny slippers.

Tristen. He's very quiet, but he has a lot of presence on the page. The pointed ears made me grin a little and I was going, "... Elric?" but heh, he fortunately does not have Teh Angst.

Inkling, scary, vicious, cheerful thing that it was.

How the entire ship is very alive and aware down to surprisingly tiny things.

The angels. Sure, they'd started life as a splintered AI, but they acted weird enough to be the angels out of mythology.

All of the mythology worked into the story. It's not trying to hide and be sly and cunning and clever, it's there for the reader to see. Basiliks have deadly eyes, Samael is the angel of death, Jacob's Ladder is the ladder to heaven... it's in the how and why that you've put in the interesting details. You didn't try to hide that something was up with these mythological references, and that made it more fun when you revealed the details.

I could probably go on, but it's nearly 3 am and I'm not so much with the thinky. Rather than devolve into blathering fangirlism, I'll leave this 'til tomorrow and see if anyone left any gaps I should fill when I wake up. *g*

Dude! Thank you. This is exactly the sort of thing I was looking for.

I am having very hard time finding the cool; these books exhaust my cool generator, I think. So having a list of what *is* cool helps me think of more cool.

Um. If that made sense at all.
OK, I liked the flavor of the personalities of the AIs. Even though we had more of Jacob Dust that the others, they were still neat. I'm looking forward to meeting the consolidated entity.

The hints of the family history background---and the fact that you didn't give us the whole thing, either in one larger, or several smaller lumps. The background is important, but it's not the current story. So you gave us what we needed to have, and tantalized us with the rest. More of the same would be good. The history geek in me wants it all, but I think the story is better without letting us have all the backstory.

The conflict between Rien's "deal with the problem you have no matter how daily--or how dangerous" and Perceval's paladin/knight-errant urgings--the mundanity and the idealism was fascinating, and heart-breaking. Perceval doesn't have Rien's mundanity to deal with anymore, so she may need a new anchor to keep her aware of the dailyness of things, so to speak. Beimg Captain in the midst of a major disaster gives her plenty of chances to be heroic--and a lot of it isn't going to involve things that will appeal to her ideals.

Also, how is Perceval going to deal with grieving for Rien? How much (if any) of a guilt spasm is she going to have?

Things that were hinted at that I'd like to know more about:
My-aunt-the-basilisk/plasma torch
The haunted fruit
How did Tristen end up alone in the dark?

As I think about it, I'll probably come up with more.
Thank you!
Lessee. In no particular order ...

the contrast of the nobility / titles / servants fantasy milieu(sp) with the hard SF space/wild AIs/generation ship/cold vacuum.

Zelazny is love.

The sheer gleeful inventiveness of the nanotech, particularly the boffo reveal at the end. Also AIs as surly angels.

I sympathized with the protagonists, which made the big sacrifice at the end really have some meaning (compare with Undertow, which I also enjoyed as a novel, but would happily have dropped Andre off a pier, so his reversal at the end really didn't have the same punch.)

Wild ecologies, thriving cities, unexplored jungles, all on the same ship. Mmm.
Awesome! Thank you!
What I really liked about Dust was the personality of the AIs. I found them really believable as *people*, especially Jacob Dust. Perhaps nerd spoke unto nerd.

It happens. Thank you!
(Hi, I don't believe I've introduced myself--I'm just a random fantasy reader who got to your LJ through Sarah Monette's)

Speaking of Dust...
I just saw the book in my local B&N and seriously considered buying it until I realized I only had enough money for a small coffee (damn Starbucks). So I sat down and read the first three-ish pages before I had to leave.
It looks really cool, and I'm always a sucker for anything resembling angels, though I'm not too familiar with the realm of advanced-technology.
I promise I'll buy it on my next outing!

Anyway. Good luck on Chill!

Yours faithfully,
Random Reader of Randomness
Thank you!
This won't surprise you at all, but Rien worked for me. She worked as a character and as a narrator and as a counterpart to Perceval. I liked Perceval, but Rien's is the viewpoint I see the book through when I think back on it.

And the two quotes that resonated:

"Don't change yourself for me. I don't love you."

"You named me for yourself. But you also named me for nothing."
Thank you!
I think my favorite part of Dust was the relationship between Rien and Perceval, and how everything seemed to echo with all this weight of older sf behind it. (Some of which I'm sure was purely imagined, as I don't think you meant Mallory to remind me of Signy Mallory, and some of which like the Zelazny family structure, I'm sure you ment for me to notice. And there was other stuff, like I wasn't sure if Ariane should call up Ariane Emory). I also loved Hero Ng beyond measure, both because of his insight and because of the immortality through cannibalism.
Thank you.

As for any historical SFnal speculations, well.

I used to have a dog named Signy. ;-)
Thanks, Will, but that's not the question I asked, and it's really not helpful right now, I'm afraid.

I have *no* instincts for this book.

Who wrote "Ship of Fools"?
Coolest nanotech ever.
AI Avatars.
The Tarot.
The garden library.
Exalt and AI subsumption.
The Conns -- want more back story. Love that family murder and mayhem.
People who hope.
People who pick their hill to die on.
People who keep on sloppin' the hogs.

Break the AI again.

Thank you.

I think hog slippin' is gonna be a major theme of the second novel, actually, because it's what Tristen is about.
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