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Eric: On Scumworlds, Ecosystems and Textual Whores: Thoughts on Star Trek: Worlds

People sometimes ask me what it's like to do work for hire for an RPG company. It seems like such an ugly phrase. Work for hire. It seems one step away from Word Writing Whore.

(For the record? My e-mail signature has been "Freelance Writer and Textual Whore" for some years now. Alongside a link to a website or two and a quote, usually from a webcomic or Alton Brown. Before that, my e-sig was "Gadfly for Hire.")

(Also for the record, "Gadfly for Hire" embarrasses Wednesday. I'm not entirely sure why. I think it's the way the word sounds. Gadfly. A fly noted for being a gad. This is not why I stopped using it. I stopped using it years before she and I even talked, much less started going out.)

(Also, for the record? Yes. Yes we're going out. Subtlety isn't working here, so let me be blatant. Me am besotted. She am besotted. We am the thing of besotted. Is that perfectly clear to everyone?)

(I lay odds that in the comments, someone will say "I think Eric's seeing Shaenon Garrity. Also, Wednesday's dating John Allison. But they're covering for each other.")

Anyway. Work for hire.

I never minded it, myself. I know I'm supposed to, but there's something about being paid to write about role playing games that makes me think "grab the money now and giggle incessantly." I enjoy writing for role playing games. I enjoy the process. I enjoy engaging that part of my brain. I enjoy working in other peoples' sandboxes. I enjoy getting slips of paper in the mail that say "Pay to the order of" because I spent a few weeks writing about planets on Star Trek.

And I enjoy reading what I've written.

I'll admit, it's more fun to get comp copies of a printed book. There's something about the smell of fresh printer's ink that's in the shape of words you came up with that makes a fellow high as a kite for days. But getting a PDF is almost as good, especially when it's as pretty as Star Trek Worlds. The production values are top notch. And the other guys wrote some kickass stuff about planets in there too.

And then there's my stuff.

I didn't get to do very many of the... how you say... name planets. I didn't get to do Vulcan or Bajor or Cardassia Prime. I was originally scheduled to do Rigel, which is like twelve planets all by itself, but Ken Hite had developed a kickass Rigel system for the previous incarnation of the RPG (Last Unicorn, for those playing at home) which he thought could be the basis for an even more kickass version in this setting. So, we traded off. He got Rigel, and I got Romulus and Remus.

(For the record? The stuff he did for Rigel was vastly better than what I had thought of.)

Only, this was in the months before Star Trek: Nemesis was scheduled to come out, which meant we had to wait for official information, since the product was originally supposed to be scheduled for a concurrent publication with the movie, to get some solid publicity off the excitement and hype that Nemesis provided.

Stop laughing.

Anyway -- that meant we needed to get solid information on the movie's take on Romulus and (especially) Remus. Which meant we were waiting on Paramount.

And waiting.

And waiting.

And finally, my editor (Jess Heinig, who's one of the best editors I've ever worked with) said "hey, Eric? We're running low on time here. By the time they clear the info and send it to me so I can send it to you, and then you read it and write the thing and send it back, we're going to miss our deadline. I'm still going to pay you for that section, but we're going to have to do this part of it in-house."

Which to be honest is part of the Work for Hire experience too. And you smile, nod and say "sure, Jess. No problem." When what you want to say is "you bastard! Romulus was mine! I will destroy you!"

Saying that kind of thing, by the way, is not considered conducive to getting later assignments. So. I went with the "sure, Jess. No problem" solution. And felt lucky to be getting the money for it anyhow. That was certainly not promised.

As a result, the twenty two or so worlds I contributed were more the settings for episodes or movies, or background information, rather than the core planets of the Federation or its enemies. So, I didn't get Vulcan or Andor, but I got to do Athos IV, which is where Michael Eddington met his end alongside his former C.O. and enemy Benjamin Sisko. I got to do Benzar, which features the fish headed guys with the breathers that Wesley Crusher always ended up befriending. I got to do Cordian, where Jonathan Archer and T'pol were taken prisoner, and some hundred years later was the subject of the Babel conference Sarek of Vulcan got himself stabbed over. And I got to do Boreth, where Worf, seeking answers to the void in his soul, first saw Kahless step into the firelight.

On the one hand, this was liberating. I got to do planets that the fans would care about, but that didn't have tons of stuff already defined for them. Let's be honest -- there's a lot of information out there for Vulcan or Kronos (I know that's not the Klingon spelling. Sorry). Doing that job involves collation and culling and shaping. On the other hand, there's next to nothing about Farius Prime or Rura Penthe. I needed to eke out all there was (and I bought a fair number of reference books and watched a lot of episodes of different Star Trek series), but there was also tremendous latitude. I could actually work to tie up loose ends and stretch my Science Fiction Worldbuilding muscles.

And, I got to do Ceti Alpha V. Also known as "THIS IS CETI ALPHA V!!!!!!" being screamed by Khan in the best Star Trek Movie. That was worth the price of admission right there.

And so, there were... interesting challenges as a result. Take Athos IV. On the episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine where it appeared ("Blaze of Glory," for completists out there) it was shown to be a world shrouded in fog, well able to confound sensors. This is why it had become an outpost for the Maquis, and why it had become their final fallback after the Dominion and Cardassians had smashed the Maquis into tiny pieces.

As a side note -- you are aware Wesley Crusher is directly responsible for the formation of the Maquis, right? His actions led to a terrorist underground and almost led the Federation into war with the Cardassians several times. And ultimately got all those people massacred. Including, by inference, all the folks on the planet that the Enterprise tried to resettle. The ones who swore they wouldn't mind being left by the Federation, and then blamed the Federation for abandoning them. Punk ass cadet, thinking he was smarter than the whole Federation....

But I digress. Read Wilwheaton.net.

Anyway. It wasn't enough to say "here's a planet they used to use as a base, and then Michael Eddington got spacked." I had to come up with a history for Athos. What was it before the treaty was signed? Why did it have the materials for an outpost? Eddington made reference to people having lived there.

So I created a world of rainforests and airponic style vegetation. I detailed the resources. And I worked on the history. I knew what Starfleet vessel had surveyed it. I knew the valley that the colonists had first settled. I knew why people came to Athos IV. I made it a real place.

And, in writing about Athos IV, I realized that not counting that planet of Native Americans Wesley Crusher refused to let be displaced again, it was the only Maquis world that we knew anything about. In a way, I was writing about the worlds of the Demilitarized Zone as a whole -- creating an entire kind of people. A people who sought new lives, and new worlds, and had the foundation for their universe taken away from them when the Federation pulled out of the Zone. What sort of people would remain? What sort of people would be left to say this world is mine. It is my home. I grow things here. My family is here. You cannot have it!

And so I wrote about the rise of the Maquis on Athos IV. And the fight they fought. A world named, ultimately, for a Musketeer. (And I notice, looking at the map the graphic artist put in, that the continents got named for the other Musketeers. Good on him.) And I wrote about the destruction of the Maquis, until there was nothing left but a handful of desperate men in a fallback base, doing whatever they could to survive until someone could rescue them.

It was like that on a lot of worlds. We knew about the firestorms of Bersallis III, but we knew about it from an episode that was far more devoted to Captain Picard nailing one of his subordinate officers in a jeffries tube than about the planet. I detailed the reasons why the Federation (and others) kept going back to a planet that turned into a plasma fireball every seven years. We knew there were mind control slugs in the sands of Ceti Alpha V, but I went into the ecosystem that allowed them to grow and flourish before the destruction of Ceti Alpha VI changed everything. With Turkana IV, I went into how a Federation backed colony of humans could descend into abject chaos and horror, leading to a planet where human beings organized into packs and gangs. And with Iconia I got to play with hearsay and legend.

In the question of "what's it like to do Work for Hire," one answer is "sometimes frustrating for reasons no one but you will get." Take Gagarin IV -- a planet from a second season episode of Next Generation, where genetic research is being done. And indeed, the Darwin Research Station is the only thing of interest from the show. (Well, that and the genetic supermen who then fade into the night never to be mentioned again, but I digress.) One of the hardest things to work on for this planet was the planet itself. See, I watched the episode... and it was green. Luminescent, even. The orbital shots showed the Enterprise swooping around a green planet. The matte paintings of exterior shots showed a planet of lush greenness (though no visible vegetation) and green skies. It was, in Scotty's words from another era, green.

So, being something of a planetary science aficionado, I made it a "scumworld." That's a planet that has gone from anaerobic simple single celled life forms (prokaryotes, for those who like biology) to more complex single celled life forms that expel oxygen (which is actually caustic and poisonous to cells not evolved to use it) called eukaryotes. A planet with enough moisture and sunlight could become covered with eukaryotic life, which could even end up floating in the atmosphere, for millions of years before events happened to nudge it into multicellular life. So, I made Gagarin's star a blue star, which meant that a planet in its comfort zone would by definition be a young one -- perfect for a scumworld -- and also meant that the star would burn itself out and change size and shape long before multicellular life could evolve, which meant there was no chance the Darwin Research Team could interfere with evolution (since the Federation has a serious fetish for evolution). It gave them an oxygen world, but also gave them such simple indigenous life forms that there would be little chance it would interfere or corrupt their genetics work.

So why is this frustrating? Because I've seen the artwork of the world in the completed product and they made Gagarin IV blue. Blue!

These are the kinds of things that cause head shaped dents in nearby walls. Significant others of writers should take note.

Of the worlds, the ones I'm probably most proud of are Benzar, Galor IV and Tzenketh. Benzar was a planet of intriguing aliens which hadn't been otherwise elaborated on, but which seemed unduly confident (one could even say arrogant) in their ways. And the intriguing word "geostructure" got used. So I developed a race that evolved on seashores, close to their seas, so that when they speak of their geostructure, they speak of their clan, their waters and their continent, all at once. Galor IV was a nothing world on the show -- it was a reference, only. The Daystrom Institute had an annex there devoted to cybernetics and android research. A Starfleet Admiral who had been attached to that annex had shown up to steal Data's daughter and bring her there, because they never got tired of beating the whole slavery horse when it came to Data. And that was it.

Well, I came up with a reason this planet had not only an Annex of the Daystrom Institute devoted to it (and one specific to android research) and a reason a Starfleet Admiral would be attached to it. It was a reason a plurality of old school Star Trek fans would love, at that. A reason... well, I'm not going to go into here, but I for one think it was brilliant, and I figured there was at least even odds Paramount would nix right out of the gate.

Finally, Tzenketh was a planet which we knew the Federation had had a war with -- and which was a serious enough problem that a new potential war could have been disastrous for the Federation with the Dominion looking over their shoulders. Other than that, it was a completely blank slate, and so I created a race -- a good race, different than anything I'd seen in Star Trek but perfectly compatible with the Star Trek universe. I was astoundingly proud of the Tzenkethi and their planet, and I figured it was even odds that Paramount would nix that too, because they might have plans for a planet at least as significant a threat as Cardassia Prime.

When I got my copy of the PDF, like every other writer out there, I immediately went and read the stuff I wrote. And I was stunned. It was beautiful, and the vast majority of the stuff I did got passed through. So I immediately checked on the stuff I knew was iffy. The Ceti Alpha V ecosystem thing? In there. The Tzenkethi? In there exactly as I'd put them. The Galor IV thing? No problem at all.

But they changed Benzar. Whether it was Paramount's review, or an editor changing it to conform to some other book in the line (though I'd seen Star Trek Aliens), or my research having failed to turn up a major element of their history and development or some editor just not liking it, I don't know, but they remade the Benzites into an uplifted species instead of an evolved one (and took out the evolutionary adventure hook I'd put into it.) They kept all the geography and sociology, but changed the core fact that had it make... well, sense. It's not bad, but....

In fact, it's perfectly fine. It's good. No one on Earth will care about this, any more than anyone on Earth but the most anal of Trekkies will notice that Gagarin IV was green on the show and is blue in the book, but I notice. I notice.

And that might be the final lesson of this. What does it mean to be a Work for Hire guy? It means reading through a book you poured thirty-four thousand of your words into, seeing that thirty-three thousand, five hundred of those words are essentially as you had them, minus copy editing, and fixating on the five hundred words they changed. And knowing that they had every right to do so. This is their book, not yours. They own it. You got paid for it.

It was green, damn it. And the Benzites make more sense being evolved rather than uplifted. Damn it.

That's what Work for Hire is.

This is a damn good supplement. I'm proud to be a part of it.

And now, back out to the streetcorner.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at October 28, 2005 2:14 PM

Comments

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at October 28, 2005 2:27 PM

And now, back out to the streetcorner.

Hon, would you just get yourself a pager and start doing outcalls instead? It really wouldn't do for you to get mugged.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at October 28, 2005 2:33 PM

Do you have any idea how hard it is to get Developers and Line Editors to call a pager?

Comment from: Rhandir posted at October 28, 2005 2:34 PM

Congrats Eric and Weds!
-r.

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at October 28, 2005 2:41 PM

You keep using up all my BeneFit Boi-ing for your black eyes, though, and that gets expensive.

Besides, your skin tone doesn't even *go* with Boi-ing Lite. Sheesh.

Comment from: Merus posted at October 28, 2005 2:44 PM

Because I'm never one for what it looks like on the surface, I personally think Eric's seeing John Allison. Also, Wednesday's dating Shaenon Garrity. But they're setting up a sham relationship so that they can protect their secret lovers.

Oh come on, it's logical enough.

Anyways, congratulations to the happy couple - Wednesday's lucky to get a man who's going to just keep getting thinner and fitter as time goes on, and I'm sure Eric will be having a lovely time after he's got the defenses up.

(Oh, you didn't hear? alt.fan.wednesday got a fatwa out on Eric. You'll have to track them down and kill them all, one by one, before you can safely have her. Plus you'll get a sword and a horse and you'll have to do some light platforming.)

How much freedom do you think you would have had if you had worked on the name planets? One would think that there'd be less room to put one's personal stamp on a setting that's more rigorously defined and almost certainly a key setting for GMs.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at October 28, 2005 3:14 PM

A gadfly is a fly that draws cartoons about King Arthur.

Comment from: vilious posted at October 28, 2005 3:17 PM

This whole piece is clearly an oblique commentary on today's Narbonic about the relationship between geekboy's affairs of the heart and their obsessions. We have a one-paragraph parenthetical public avowal of love buried in about 45 paragraphs of rant about world-building for hire.

That's OK. Most real life is a commentary on Narbonic. Most people couldn't do a public avowal to save their lives. They were 45 good paragraphs.

Comment from: Tangent posted at October 28, 2005 3:20 PM

Darn it, Merus, you stole what I was going to say! Gah!

As for the Star Trek stuff, you should have had a planet of substitute teachers having to put up with freshmen classes firing phasers at each other and lobbing low-powered photon torpedoes around. *shiftyeyes*

Rob H.

Comment from: larksilver posted at October 28, 2005 3:31 PM

Oh, c'mon, guys. Isn't it obvious? Eric's gone goo-goo over Jeph Jacques, if anybody (it was their mutual unrequited love of the barrista that brought them together), while Wednesday is secretly co-habbing with the Scary bigmouth chick from the live-action Anime snark thing a while back - no, wait. I can't even type that and pretend to be serious, the thought is too scary.


Seriously though.. the whole "words for sale" thing sounds an awful lot like any kind of creative endeavor for money. I did a brief stint painting kids' rooms for people, with cartoon or pre-school characters, themes, that sort of thing. After the nth time someone said, after approving the budget, okaying the design, and then letting me get the damn 3/4 of the way finished, they said "oh, y'know what? He'd rather have a baseball theme".... GRRRRRRRRRR. Sure, you still get paid for the completed work and supplies (even if you have to fight for it), but augh! to know that the work you did isnt' going to be seen by anyone. bah.

And also, seriously, the Weds and Eric bein' besotted thing? Makes me smile. Lots.

Comment from: Ardaniel posted at October 28, 2005 3:43 PM

As an alt.fan.wednesday member from 1995 or so, I think I can pretty much say that no, none of the rest of you have the right of it when it comes to a.f.w's reaction to Eric. :)

Comment from: Dave Van Domelen posted at October 28, 2005 3:43 PM

Time for all the webcomics artists out there to start drawing wedding gifts, featuring the happy couple honeymooning on a green scumworld? :)

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at October 28, 2005 3:57 PM

...clearly, I need to start reading alt.fan.wednesday.

...of course, it could be said I should have started that some time ago....

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at October 28, 2005 4:00 PM

My wife's only just started reading Arthur, King of Time and Space. Wife. 'Course, there's been that three-year law school thing wrapping up. But, dude, wife.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at October 28, 2005 4:25 PM

Methinks maybe I joked about Eric's relationship a bit much.

Though I have to admit, I'm more than entertained by the fact that he chose an adjective that's a synonym for "drunk" to describe his feelings about Wednesday. Love is an awful lot like really strong alcohol taken in really too fast.

Though the meat of this essay makes me almost want to write my own about what it's like being an editor. Except it would be in my LJ, which literally nobody knows the name of (I'm more than a little curious to see who finds it first).

As for getting people close to you to read your work - well, my wife reads my stuff, but nobody else in my family does. This is a bit demoralizing. I also have no clue as to the reaction of alt.drunken-bastards.richard-healey on my own marriage, my writing, or just about anything really. Or if there even if it still exists.

Comment from: Merus posted at October 28, 2005 4:32 PM

I just want to know exactly what Tangent was going to say that I stole first, because I covered sham marriages, weird Usenet people, enemies of Judaism and Shadow of the Colossus in a few short paragraphs.

I'm slightly concerned that Tangent is my evil doppleganger or something, especially since I'd be the first to say that I'd probably be his instead.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at October 28, 2005 4:34 PM

I would guess that you stole the line about sham marriages/relationships, Merus, as you clearly stole any and all video game references from me.

Comment from: Merus posted at October 28, 2005 4:34 PM

As an alt.fan.wednesday member from 1995 or so, I think I can pretty much say that no, none of the rest of you have the right of it when it comes to a.f.w's reaction to Eric. :)

Now you have to tell us, you realise.

Also, hey look I worked out blockquotes.

Comment from: HKR posted at October 28, 2005 4:42 PM

By the way, is there a link to where I can get this PDF?

Comment from: Denyer posted at October 28, 2005 5:15 PM

More info about PDF in this entry.

Is that perfectly clear to everyone?

Yesh. Have assumed for a while, but didn't want to be impolite. Congrats you two! :)

Comment from: J.(Channing)Wells posted at October 28, 2005 5:29 PM

NO! NO! ERIC BURNS LOVES ME, DAMN IT, ME!

...shutting up now. 'welcome.

Comment from: LucyK posted at October 28, 2005 5:41 PM

You two am the thing of very pleasing. If also unfortunately the thing of very transatlantic. Damn saltwater.

Comment from: Tice with a J posted at October 28, 2005 5:58 PM

This isn't related to Star Trek or RPGs, but I don't care. It has to be told.

There currently exists an unmanned combat helicopter called the Snark.

Order yours today.

Comment from: Darth Paradox posted at October 28, 2005 6:08 PM

Just what we need. Websnark slash. (I have, of course, seen this coming ever since the first time you denied that there was anything going on. And I'm sure I'm not the only one. But congrats!)

Being able to work on canon material for the Trek universe, though... just knowing "hey, a little part of that universe is mine" has got to be worth all that.

Now wait until the first time you see someone else referencing stuff you came up with as canon, in another book or game or whatever...

Comment from: Merus posted at October 28, 2005 6:17 PM

I have a very cavalier attitude to canon. I was fortunate enough to be heavily involved in world-building for a game I play, and got so used to just making stuff up that I'd do the same for other settings where there was a hole and pass it off as probably true.

Comment from: gwalla posted at October 28, 2005 6:33 PM

Cuckolding Andrew Farago? How could you, Eric?

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at October 28, 2005 6:54 PM

I've recently become very adamant about not applying the word "canon" to bodies of fiction. Religious scriptures have canon; fiction has sources. When canon means what's true and fiction means what's made up, trying to apply the one to the other only drives fandoms apart when the purpose of fandoms is to bring people together. Hell, applying canon to religious scriptures drives people apart when a purpose of religion is to bring people together, and that's what the concept's for. Who wants to borrow that?

Comment from: EsotericWombat posted at October 28, 2005 8:03 PM

Dude... Adam and Eve? Abraham being like 400 gorram years old? There's heck of fiction in scripture.

Comment from: Darth Paradox posted at October 28, 2005 8:18 PM

"Canon" doesn't specifically mean "truth". More generally, it's an authoritative body of work (or alternately, an authoritative body of sources). Be it the canon of the Church, or the canon of Shakespeare, or the canon of Star Trek.

(That, and I have a hard time having "canon" defined as "a body of truth" and then applying it to religions. As far as I'm concerned, "the canon of $RELIGION" is applying the word to fictions as well.)

Comment from: Connor Moran posted at October 28, 2005 8:49 PM

My favorite recent instance of the word canon was when I read something refered to as "non-canon apocrypha," about as uselessly tautological a phrase as can be imagined.

Comment from: Robert Hutchinson posted at October 28, 2005 8:50 PM

Okay, it's incredibly weird watching people congratulate E&W in this thread, considering the months and months of blatant hints and asides.

But never mind that now: Tzenketh! I knew what episode that was from immediately. Too bad they completely screwed up that arc. I had that episode on tape for the longest time--why, I don't know.

Comment from: Plaid Phantom posted at October 28, 2005 8:56 PM

One man's opinion, but I'm not getting into that discussion.

For the record, I still think Eric's seeing Shaenon Garrity. For the record, ya know.

Off the record? Congradulations. ;)

Comment from: Plaid Phantom posted at October 28, 2005 9:07 PM

(the first line was in reference to the religion comments above, for those who couldn't figure it out.)

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at October 28, 2005 9:23 PM

Okay, it's incredibly weird watching people congratulate E&W in this thread, considering the months and months of blatant hints and asides.

Funny. I thought the lengths to which some commenters had gone to place Eric with some third party (especially the one which had me as the onlooker in a triangle!) were even weirder. :)

Comment from: Dave Van Domelen posted at October 28, 2005 9:42 PM

"Snarkslash much?" t-shirts!

Comment from: Plaid Phantom posted at October 29, 2005 12:30 AM

Yes! T-shirts!

Comment from: Tangent posted at October 29, 2005 12:45 AM

Merus: I was referring to the bit about Eric's seeing John Allison and Wednesday's dating Shaenon Garrity.

As for me being an evil doppleganger of you... well, that would explain my minions - er, I mean this swarm of imaginary cuddly kittens surrounding me.

Me, mad? Ha! They'll never prove it! *is taken away in a pretty white wrap-around coat...*

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Webcomic Reviews
http://www.tangents.us

Comment from: John Lynch posted at October 29, 2005 5:08 AM

Wow, I would never have picked Wednesday to be Eric's mystery woman (then again, I didn't actually realise it was a mystery. I figured everyone was minding their own business and not prying).

I thought Wednesday lived in Canada though? Or England? With Eric living in America?

Comment from: Merus posted at October 29, 2005 5:32 AM

Long-distance relationships never work out, except when they do.

Funny. I thought the lengths to which some commenters had gone to place Eric with some third party (especially the one which had me as the onlooker in a triangle!) were even weirder. :)

Okay, Wednesday: that one was a joke. It worked better for the joke to have someone recognisable as the slighted third-party than someone unrecognisable. It was basically 50-50 anyways who got to be the jilted lover.

Comment from: Denyer posted at October 29, 2005 9:31 AM

Oh, chill...

I've recently become very adamant about not applying the word "canon" to bodies of fiction. Religious scriptures have canon; fiction has sources. When canon means what's true
Nah, it's just what group A can persuade group B is valid. I do like using the word "mythos" in references to fandoms where there are many continuities and timelines, though.

Comment from: John Lynch posted at October 29, 2005 9:50 AM

I think religion is the oldest example of canon being used to describe what's "true" within a work of fiction ;)

I'm kidding.... sorta.

Comment from: JDanRyan posted at October 29, 2005 10:02 AM

Out o curiosity, Eric, how tough was it working with Paramount's interference this time? I remember the stories about how FASA had nothing but cirrus when it came to ParamountĚs oversight of the product; since the culture at Viacom is a lot stingier than it was when the parts of the company had been under the Gulf + Western moniker, I canĚt imagine that the suits were any easier to deal with.

Other than delays and not caring if you were able to make an effective tie-in, how tough did the publisher have it dealing with the corp suits?

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at October 29, 2005 10:27 AM

I was way too far down on the food chain to actually talk to someone at Paramount, J. Dan. I talked to my editor. My editor talked to Paramount.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at October 29, 2005 11:01 AM

When canon means what's true
Nah, it's just what group A can persuade group B is valid.

Well actually I know that - but do Group A and Group B see the difference between "true" and "valid"? Often not.

There's a difference between recognizing a religious scripture as canon and taking it as fundamentally literal. I recommend against the latter myself. Jesus warned us not to look to authority outside our selves to tell us where to find God (Luke 17:21). The Tao that can be described is not the true Tao.

I talked to my editor. My editor talked to Paramount.

"And Paramount talks only to God"?

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at October 29, 2005 11:28 AM

And to be fair, Wednesday did all but come out with this months ago. Remember when Eric said that he was running himself into the ground with his various writing projects? I responded that one of the things my wife does is help me budget my time and resources to prevent complete burnout. I followed that immediately with a "You should get someone like that... oh, wait, nevermind," figuring I'd just coyly hint at things.

But then Weds came in, basically saying how impossible it was to keep him from doing that with an Atlantic Ocean in the way. Seemed pretty clear as day (as if it wasn't before) after that.

Completely changing gears, I have one question that's been playing on my mind - is writing for a role-playing suppliment like this any different than writing fanfic? Obviously not fanfic involving the major characters of the story, but world-based fanfic, I mean. The major difference, of course, being that once you've written it, it's official.

Comment from: Denyer posted at October 29, 2005 11:51 AM

but do Group A and Group B see the difference between "true" and "valid"? Often not.

For comfortable padded restraints for individuals of all bickering denominations, there's Mastercard.

For everything else, there's Biblical universalism. ;-)

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at October 29, 2005 11:59 AM

I have one question that's been playing on my mind - is writing for a role-playing suppliment like this any different than writing fanfic? Obviously not fanfic involving the major characters of the story, but world-based fanfic, I mean. The major difference, of course, being that once you've written it, it's official.

People have always written fanfiction - it just wasn't called that, for the reason that the actual word fanfiction has a dimension of definition that wasn't required before. Virgil did. Dante did. Malory did. Shakespeare did. The reason we needed a new word come 1965 or so was because of modern intellectual property law. We needed vocabulary to acknowledge the difference between derivative writing that is licensed by the owner of a non-public-domain property and derivative writing that isn't licensed. Fanfiction (or more recently fanfic or fic) is derivative writing unlicensed by the property owner. Therefore what Eric wrote isn't fanfiction because it was licensed by the owner to his employer.

(Though I like to say Arthur, King of Time and Space is King Arthur fanfiction, it really isn't because there's no property owner, just as Dante and Malory didn't really write fanfiction. But people know what I mean, so I say it anyway. If others were to continue to use the term the way I do, however, it'll lose the extra dimension and another word shall be coined to fill the vocabularial ecological niche.)

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at October 29, 2005 2:26 PM

Maybe I should make myself more clear.

I've found that there are three distinct different feelings when I write. One is when I report (with or without editorializing) on what actually happens in real life. There, it's an urge to present the truth, either a widespread truth or a personal truth.

Another is when I write and create my own world. There, I'm forming everything out of raw materials - it is quite clearly mine.

The third is when I'm writing fanfic. There, I'm trying to just branch off of something already built. I have to be mindful of what other people have done while not suffocating my own story, all the while mindful that my own story isn't considered proper by others.

I personally get a different feeling when I write in each of these different styles. I'm wondering if doing official work on an established property feels similar to writing fanfic, or if it feels different.

Comment from: Rich Burlew posted at October 29, 2005 4:34 PM

Eric, I feel your pain on the RPG work-for-hire. WOTC editors introduced a paragraph that described something that was literally impossible within the rules of the setting into the last Eberron work I did for them (it had to do with bloodlines and the magical powers that go along with them, the details aren't salient). Then they released the section it was in as part of their website "preview" of the book, causing fans of the setting to bitch and moan. All you can do is collect your paycheck and hope that no one identifies the exact passages you wrote that got shredded.

Oddly, I also know from the long-distance relationship angle, though I admit that we had only the state of New Jersey separating our NY-to-Philly romance, whereas you seem to have the Atlantic Ocean to contend with. If it's of any help, I ultimately decided to risk publishing an OOTS book primarily so I could quit my NY job and move to Philly, which has worked out fairly well so far. So...Gossamer Commons, Vol. 1? Just a thought.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at October 29, 2005 4:53 PM

32_footsteps:

Oh. That's very different. Nevermind.

Comment from: unliz posted at October 29, 2005 9:40 PM

Hey dude, I just noticed you were listed on Quotations Page and thought I'd drop by and say congratulations!

Comment from: miyaa posted at October 29, 2005 11:12 PM

Besotted...is that like upsotted from the Christmas Classic, Jingle Bells?

(I suppose this means Eric and Wednesday will have a lot of skype and video tele-dates.)

Comment from: gwalla posted at October 30, 2005 1:13 AM

It's been obvious for a while that Eric & Weds were an item. I'm kinda surprised some people just never picked up on it. But then, I suppose not everyone reads every post (heresy!).

Comment from: larksilver posted at October 30, 2005 1:16 AM

It has indeed been obvious for some time. They've even admitted as such, over on livejournal. But still, always with the makin' me smile at the idea. Cause, well, they're both so cool and all.

Comment from: Merus posted at October 30, 2005 1:20 AM

I hope I speak for the clueless when I say that we figured it was coming eventually. What we all missed was that it had already happened.

Comment from: FlyingFish posted at October 30, 2005 2:11 PM

Anyone could have compiled all the data we have on Romulus; you got to create worlds for yourself. This, in my mind, is beyond cool. (It's also the sort of stuff that draws me when looking at stuff like this: the elaboration on things barely touched upon earlier.)

(I'm not sure I follow what you mean by "uplifted" though. Especially as opposed to "evolved.")

Subtlety isn't working here, so let me be blatant. Me am besotted. She am besotted. We am the thing of besotted. Is that perfectly clear to everyone?

Absolutely. You were doing Bizarro speech grammar there, so in translating, I find you two in fact hate each other. Couldn't be clearer.

Comment from: quiller posted at October 30, 2005 2:31 PM

If you aren't sure what "uplifted" means, you might want to read David Brin's Uplift Series. Basically, an evolved sapient is one that develops through natural selection. An uplifted sapient is one that develops through the actions of an already intelligent species on it. (Genetic engineering, surgical procedures, controlled selection for intelligence, etc). In Brin's books humans have uplifted Chimpanzees and Dolphins when they encounter the galactic community

Comment from: Bo Lindbergh posted at October 30, 2005 4:22 PM

Quoth gwalla:

It's been obvious for a while that Eric & Weds were an item. I'm kinda surprised some people just never picked up on it.

Dude (fourth paragraph) may have something to do with it.

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at October 30, 2005 5:10 PM

It was true at the time.

Then things changed.

Comment from: Doc posted at October 30, 2005 5:47 PM

I would have thought it was obvious that they were covering for John Allison and Shaenon Garrity's secret relationship. Now that would be some scary spawn... (only permutation left, the horse wasn't quote dead enough).

Also a conversation that keeps swinging from relationship talk to the exact meaning and origins of the word 'canon' = awesome.

For me Canon has always had less to do with absolute truth and validity and more to do with the 'official line'. Whether in religion or geekery.
For (a convoluted and geeky) example, the line of 8th Doctor Doctor Who books had a few interesting events that judging by the new tv series are probably not now 'canon' even though they were published by the BBC. Even though they are not canon I think most fans who've read them accept them as part of the back story and it seems that the TV show writers are not deliberately contradicting them as of yet. So for the moment the events are 'real', but not canon.
As far as I can tell anyway.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at October 30, 2005 5:47 PM

Yes.

Good things.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at October 30, 2005 9:22 PM

On relationship(s): I perceived veiled implications since Wednesday's sojourn across the wide water. I had them confirmed by the observation, "I met my girlfriend through my blog" (whose context the site search function has failed to turn up for me).

On "canon": I read that the BBC charter requires that its programs not be derived of anything else than what's aired on it. The context of course was fannish speculation about continuity carryover from the 1990s-2000s novels when the new Doctor Who series started, but under these terms of the charter carryover could not be. (The same fannish mutterings occurred when the 1996 movie was made, about the Doctor Who novels that'd been coming from Virgin Publishing till then.) Me, I was taught not to expect cross-continuity from tie-ins by Doctor Dolittle in 1968 (...and again in 1999).

Comment from: William_G posted at October 30, 2005 9:53 PM

Just thought I'd chime in and mention that Star Trek 2 was the best Trek ever.

Comment from: larksilver posted at October 30, 2005 10:57 PM

Just thought I'd chime in and mention that Star Trek 2 was the best Trek ever.

Which, of course, explains why so many webcomics are compelled, at some point in their lifespan, to have a character go "KHAAAAAAAAAAN!" hee.

Comment from: Nate posted at October 30, 2005 10:58 PM

There'd been an amount of coy hinting in comment threads here, before various less-coy comments elsewhere, which made all the coyness more amusing for those of us who'd guessed.

And now that that bit of on-topicness is out of the way.

Dude. Strunk and White, the opera.

Comment from: larksilver posted at October 30, 2005 10:58 PM

Just thought I'd chime in and mention that Star Trek 2 was the best Trek ever.

Which, of course, explains why so many webcomics are compelled, at some point in their lifespan, to have a character go "KHAAAAAAAAAAN!" hee.

Comment from: larksilver posted at October 30, 2005 10:59 PM

Okay, that was weird. It told me it wouldn't accept my post because I had just posted (which, I hadn't, not in hours - if at all today), and then it double-posted me. Bi-zarre.

Comment from: Doc posted at October 30, 2005 11:48 PM

Paul: Kudos I was not aware of that. Though of course it does make sense and explains why they didn't *terminally* finish off the 8th doctor series, leaving a bit of room for fannish gap filling.

Comment from: Denyer posted at October 30, 2005 11:53 PM

the line of 8th Doctor Doctor Who books had a few interesting events that judging by the new tv series are probably not now 'canon' even though they were published by the BBC. Even though they are not canon

Not official canon, anyroad. One of the great things about a time war, though, is that it permits this and this as well as the hinted TV one without there having to be continuity blips. Most fiction doesn't have the luxury of retroactivity being a literal and underlying factor in its mythos.

Comment from: Doc posted at October 31, 2005 12:11 AM

Exactly, it was nice to see that once the series finally allowed itself to totally abuse paradoxes it did it pretty well, albeit abstractly. Not to mention it gives a nice way to shed a lot of the existing continuity without rendering it totally meaningless. Thanks for those links by the way Denyer, I found that first one ages ago but lost the link in a formatting. It takes forty years of history to get *proper* fan-wank timeline fudging.

This isn't really the place for it but is anyone else having trouble hitting Gossamer commons at the moment?

Comment from: miyaa posted at October 31, 2005 12:38 AM

Funny thing about the Shrunk & White: The Opera, I was at a student recital where he used video game music as the basis for his compositional work. And yes, it has been done before in Japan (authorized by Nintendo, I believe). And I was wondering as I heard him if someone would be daffy enough to develop music for on something else so mundane, like the Chicago Manual of Style.

I don't suppose Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Movie would be next, huh?

Comment from: miyaa posted at October 31, 2005 12:39 AM

Oh, as another point, anything involving 'canon' that doesn't involve large blasts and gunpowder, a la the 1812 Overture should be renamed as something else.

Comment from: Horus posted at October 31, 2005 2:13 AM

Thanks Eric, I needed the big flashing neon sign. It's all perfectly clear now ;)

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at October 31, 2005 8:03 AM

The server where Gossamer Commons lives changed IP addresses last night. Whenever DNS out your way gets the memo, you'll be able to read it again; the strip updated as normal last night, but only because propagation had reached me.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at October 31, 2005 10:37 AM

Miyaa, given that they do get composers to write scores for video games, it really makes alot of sense that compositions based on video game tunes would be made.

But if they ever made Eats, Shoots, & Leaves: the Musical, I'd probably buy out an entire performance and force writers under me to attend it. I can dream, can't I?

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