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My New (old) Fiction Project


#61

Back on track!

I’ve just finished chapter 13 of Strikeforce, so there will definitely be an update this Friday.

Here’s the trailer for the chapter:

Covered by suppression fire from the rest of the squad, two of the Krai moved towards M’Krell.

Their tactics were flawless. But those tactics relied on their opponents doing the sane thing and keeping their heads down.

They weren’t designed for Nightflyer.

Dern dern dern!


#62

Today’s new chapter is Strikeforce chapter 13: Crossfire. Strikeforce meet their first extra-terrestrial! Or two… or three…

Over in the Who’s Who section you can get the whole life story of Don Newman. This is probably the most important bio published so far. Don straddles both the Strikeforce and Heroes eras, and has done a lot more besides, so this is packed with more background detail than anything I’ve published so far.

After all that effort, the other new pages have to be fairly minor: a piece on the Vancouver Sentinel which I admit is pretty pointless, and a timeline of 1997 in which you might find a couple of interesting details (whether background teasers or foreshadowing, you decide).


#63

Coming in Heroes issue 14: the girls go shopping!

PAGE FIVE. Five panels.
Panel 1

Daylight. A city. Specifically, the exterior of a shopping mall. If it’s not obvious what it is, we can include a sign: “QUEENSTOWN MALL”. (Name unimportant – just something to set the scene.)

CAPTION (voice-over, continuing SPY’s thought):
“Where are teenage runaways likely to go?”

VOICE (from inside mall):
This is absolutely perfect!

CAPTION:
Winnipeg, Canada.

Panel 2

Inside the mall. It’s a female-clothing store. SARA is wearing a big, sky-blue coat trimmed with white fur – just the thing for the Canadian winter. (It’s fake fur, of course. I know there’s no way to convey this point on a comic panel, I just thought I ought to mention it.) She’s examining the coat in a full-length mirror. CHI-YUN sits on a nearby chair, looking bored.

SARA:
What do you think, Chi-Yun?

CHI-YUN:
Sara, your power lets you find anything you need. Why does shopping take so long?

Panel 3

SARA turns an exasperated look on CHI-YUN.

SARA:
You just don’t get it, do you?

CHI-YUN (softly):
No.

Panel 4

SARA is sorting through a rack of clothing.

SARA:
Just try something on!

CHI-YUN:
I don’t need clothes. My skin can look like whatever I want.

Panel 5

SARA holds out a horribly cute pink jacket with flowers or hearts or something.

SARA:
Don’t you get cold?

CHI-YUN:
Never.

CHI-YUN:
And I’m never going to wear that.

I hope you can contain your excitement until the issue goes live tomorrow!


#64

The new issue of Heroes is a bit different from usual, because the focus is off main characters. Instead we’re looking at what some of the peripheral characters are doing while the main characters just … hang out and go shopping. It’s designed to show that there’s a whole living universe surrounding the cast, and events don’t just stop because Sara wants to buy a new coat. Everything is connected in the end, of course, and hopefully you’ll see the links (or guess the foreshadowing).

The issue is called Meanwhile… , for obvious reasons.

Other new items are a bio of Luey, who you should know from both Strikeforce and Heroes, and an extensive article on the Krai, who are currently making life difficult for Strikeforce in the Aliens story arc (to be concluded next week). All links to new items are on the home page: http://dmheroes.co.uk/index.html


#65

My plan for this morning was to write an article of the Department of Intelligence and Counter-Espionage (DICE). Unfortunately, I can’t find my notes on this anywhere on my computer. Which means they must be in one of my Plot Books.

These are my Plot Books:

This could take some time…


#66

Only two new items this week due to unexpected stuff eating up my writing time.

In the new Strikeforce chapter, Crossfire Part II, the alien invasion is in full swing:

On the ground, Scorpio was equally worried.

‘How many of these things do you think are on the ship?’ he called to Nightflyer.

‘Too many. It’s huge!’

‘We’re going to need a better plan,’ said Scorpio.

‘You mean better than no plan at all? Hold the fort, I’ll confer with the aliens.’

Nightflyer leaped clean over one squad of Krai, weaved through the blaster fire of another, and skidded to a halt near where the solid-looking Star Guard leader was defending Princess M’Krell from attack. He was pleased to note that the princess had seized a fallen Krai blaster and was enthusiastically joining the battle.

‘Singularity, this isn’t winnable,’ he said. ‘We’re looking for a better plan.’

‘Better than no plan at all?’ said M’Krell, Singularity’s translator making a good job of conveying her sarcasm.

Nightflyer grinned as he dropped a pair of Krai with spinning kicks. ‘We’re usually good with no plans,’ he explained.

And in the Encyclopaedia this week, an in-depth look at the Department of Intelligence and Counter-Espionage:

A high-level NATO meeting in 1980 laid the foundation for a concerted response to the threat, and the Department of Intelligence and Counter-Espionage was subsequently formed. The DICE charter included international extra-legal powers specifically to combat the Anarchist threat. DICE and the Anarchists were locked in covert (sometimes overt) combat for the rest of the decade and into the '90s.


#67

How to prepare for an unexpected game in one week or less:

http://dmheroes.co.uk/journal/post/2017/01/14/Preparing-a-game.aspx

Last week I was blindsided by the players voting to return to a segment of the Game I had never expected to re-visit – the “Crusades” era we played about three years ago. I could remember the premise and the direction I wanted the plot to go, but I was very vague on details. So pretty much everything else this week was put on hold while I desperately tried to cram everything I needed to know.


#68

After dealing with aliens, werewolves, gangsters and smugglers, staying the night in a spooky mansion should be no problem, right?

Panel 1

In CHI-YUN’s bedroom, she’s putting a chair beneath the door handle.

CAPTION (CHI-YUN’s letter): Everyone was spooked by Fred’s premonition. Even though they’re not very reliable.

Panel 2

CHI-YUN lying in bed. The light is off (but we should still be able to make out her features). She’s holding the covers up round her chin and her eyes are wide open.

CAPTION (CHI-YUN’s letter): Anyway, I wasn’t worried.

CHI-YUN (thought): Cat’s eyes. Bat’s hearing. Rhinoceroseses [sic] hide. Cockroach’s poison immunity.

CAPTION (CHI-YUN’s letter): I am the most powerful person in the team. Nothing was going to get me.

Panel 3

From outside, in the hall, we see a bedroom door opening and CHI-YUN looking out.

CAPTION (CHI-YUN’s letter): Then I got the munchies.

What could possibly go wrong? Find out in Heroes issue 15, A Dark and Stormy Night.

It really should have been the Halloween issue, but I couldn’t make the timing work.

Elsewhere in this week’s update you’ll find a mini-biography of Eileen Webster and the start of a timeline for the year 2322.


#69

Here’s an idea which I’m not sure is necessary or even interesting: Annotations.

I’ve written a page-by-page analysis of the things going on in an issue of Heroes on the site’s blog:

http://dmheroes.co.uk/journal/post/2017/01/28/Annotations-Heroes-14.aspx

I thought giving a bit of context to some of the many names and events referenced in the issue might be interesting, plus it’s an insight into how I put the story together. I have no idea if it’s worthwhile reading, but I can pretend I’m a proper work of literature if I have scholarly notes in the back :wink:

Here are some examples if you don’t fancy reading the entire (long) blog post.

PAGE 1

The Superiors was a superhero team we created as a break from using Strikeforce (we’ll get to them around Strikeforce chapter 150). I wanted the group to be based in Toronto, Canada, and the geographically-challenged players decided (cleverly, we all thought) to call them “The Superiors”, because of the lake.

The joke here is that Toronto is nowhere near Lake Superior.

PAGE 5

This scene is really just an excuse to make some defining statements about Chi-Yun’s powers. We’ve seen her shape-change into different clothes before, but I though the implication that she never actually wears clothes is pretty interesting. And much more logical than invoking “unstable molecules” that cause her clothes to change when she changes form.

PAGE 12-13

This is mainly me self-indulgently addressing a peculiarity in the the group being a “super-hero team” without actually adopting any of the trappings of a super-hero team (except for James, who half did, making it even more peculiar). This was the players’ choice of approach, and it caused some problems for me as a GM trying to rationalise things. It cropped up in conversation occasionally as the players thought about changing the approach, but I think most of them struggled to see how any change would make sense for their characters. Attempts at adding “code names” always seemed artificial. (This may be a commentary on modern comics.)

PAGE 17

Major foreshadowing alert! Elliot’s “inter-departmental committee to study ways to contain superhumans” will be become very important, eventually.

This whole conversation (pages 9-10 and here) is an example of a scene that the players knew nothing about at the time, as their characters had no part to play in it. But I knew that these characters were meeting and why, as the committee thing was a major plot point. So this was part of the Game’s story, even if not actually seen in a Game session. Again, this is how I plot. Everybody has a story, even if the players don’t see it.

PAGE 20

Paul Chant is another one that got away. He was meant to be a major player, and I’d worked out his whole shtick and backstory, but I just couldn’t get his path to cross with the players’. So he’s here in a fairly pointless, orphaned appearance, and will now fade away.


#70

Yes, the hiatus is unforgivable, and I can only apologize and blame various real life stuff.

But finally, here’s a new update!

The main story this week is Strikeforce chapter 15: The Hill. And Avatar’s got a plan for locating the hidden Anarchist base:

‘Don’t you think DICE have tried something as simple as following them before?’ said Electron.

‘But DICE don’t have an insubstantial, invisible, super-fast demon,’ said Nightflyer.

‘That’s me,’ said Avatar, smugly. ‘In astral form.’

‘Eastwood will never go for it,’ said Scorpio.

‘We won’t know until we ask him,’ Nightflyer pointed out.

‘Very well, let’s ask him,’ said Scorpio, standing and putting on his helmet.

‘Now? It’s after midnight.’

‘He’s the head of an international spy organisation. You think he sleeps?

Read the full chapter here: http://dmheroes.co.uk/strikeforce/index.html

In the Who’s Who, we tidy up a loose end by writing up Gemma Webster. And in the Gazetteer, there’s an entry for Yucca Mountain.

Yucca Mountain is completely irrelevant to the on-going story, as it’s an orphaned plot thread that we never followed up. I was seeding a lot of potential plots around the United States, to give the players some choices about where they wanted to go. They never got to Yucca Mountain, but as is usual for the way I plot, I worked out how the situation played out without them. So it’s part of the story, even if it was never part of the Game.

I actually think I did do some indirect follow up years later, but I’m a bit hazy on how it connected without reviewing my notes, so that will have to wait until the Heroes story reaches that point.

There should be another update next week. I’m fairly confident of that.


#71

Mid-week blog update!

I’m doing more “annotations”, this time to Chapter 1 of Strikeforce. Read all about how clever I am here: http://dmheroes.co.uk/journal/post/2017/03/16/Annotations-Strikeforce-Chapter-1.aspx

The titles of the first three chapters are quotes from the story of Friar Bacon and the head of brass (an Elizabethan-era play by Robert Greene, though I’m pretty sure I must have read a modern retelling (possibly James Baldwin’s, I’m not sure, it was a long time ago). The story itself pre-dates Greene’s version. The head of brass says three things to Bacon’s witless apprentice:

“Time is,”

“Time was,”

“Time is past”

The moral of the story is about not having the wit to see something before it’s too late. I’m not saying the moral applies to Strikeforce, I just like the story and the quote, and it fitted these chapters.

etc. …


#72

Gosh, there’s some actual discussion on my blog! The whole Strikeforce story is built around travelling back in time to save the future, an incredibly common trope in comics (and SF in general), but as soon as you start to think about it, it doesn’t work:

If you accept the information that is given about what caused the original “hole” in time (“the cause must come from outside this space-time continuum” – Strikeforce chapter 2), then really the only possible outcome is that Strikeforce have destroyed their own future – whether they caused the original destruction doesn’t matter (and gets into the thorny problem of predestination), they’ve still caused an equivalent destruction just be being something that wasn’t originally supposed to be part of 1987.

Or… maybe it does work, and there will be actual consequences from this… dern dern dern!


#73

Another weekly update sticks to schedule! Wonders will never cease.

The HEROES story this week is part two of the story started in A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT, so if you can’t remember how that went, go back and read it now. Then you can read this weeks chapter, AFTER THE FALL, when the secret of the crazy people in the haunted house is revealed:

"Years passed. Superheroes were forgotten, relegated to sensationalistic pieces on the late-night kook channels.

But bank robbers are never forgotten. Somewhere, in some dusty FBI file, our crimes waited to catch up with us.

So we hid. In the middle of nowhere. For twenty years.

Perhaps Firebrand was the lucky one.

And the rest of us were still in purgatory."

And James fights another old man!

Close-up on JAMES squatting on top of the branch. He’s completely coated in mud.

JAMES: All right. He’s starting to tick me off.

Two background essays this week, both in the Who’s Who department. Marc Carter tidies up a minor character from Heroes #4, while Harry Eastwood is a major (excuse the pun) character from the Strikeforce story.

Find all the links on the site’s home page.


#74

This week I proudly present chapter 16 of Strikeforce: The Hill, Part II (http://dmheroes.co.uk/strikeforce/index.html)

Last time, we saw Strikeforce finally discover the hidden Anarchist base. And now…

‘The important thing is, we know where it is and we can storm it,’ said Nightflyer. ‘Let’s go now while it’s dark.’

‘Hold on,’ cautioned Electron. ‘I’m as keen as anyone, but as we’re pretty sure they have hostages in there …’

‘He’s right,’ said Eastwood. ‘They’ve been there a long time, they’re not going anywhere now. So nobody goes blundering in until we have a plan. That’s an order. Understood?’ He glared around at Strikeforce, daring them to object.

‘I’m all about the plans,’ said Nightflyer cheerfully. Electron snorted and Nightflyer gave him an innocent look.

What could possibly go wrong?

On top of that I’ve done some work on the history pages, added short entries for 1829 and 1849 and tidied up some other bits of the timeline (http://dmheroes.co.uk/history/index.html). And I’m afraid that’s your lot for this update.


#75

Remember back in Heroes issue 14 we had a cliffhanger showing Don in trouble?

Well it’s time to look in and see how he’s getting on [Spoiler: not good] in issue 17, cunningly titled Whatever Happened to Don?

Hey, it’s only a squad of shape-shifting, super-human killing machines. Not a problem for Don, right? Right???

Well, all that is so exciting that to calm you down there’s a couple of very minor background articles, one on the Stone Circle seen in Strikeforce #14 and one on Casey’s Bar seen in Strikeforce #8. Not terribly important places, you might think, but they still need to be documented (and the story will feature both of them again).

No update is scheduled for next week due to other stuff, so come back on the 21st and hopefully I’ll have something then.


#76

I complied the Strikeforce chapters into a single, print-ready document, and it’s 132 pages long. That’s the length of a (short) novel.

More accurately, it’s 57,000 words, which isn’t quite novel length. But the Heroes scripts are 85,000 words in total (though slightly less useful measure, because of the nature of the comic script format). Together, that’s a respectable length novel.

Now, bear in mind that I’ve only written up about six months’ worth of a 30-year-long game.


#77

Yeah…I wouldn’t beat yourself up about that David. That’s pretty awesome.


#78

Don wasn’t supposed to be an important character. When I introduced the DICE organisation to the Game, the main and only important character was supposed to be Major Eastwood, its leader (a thinly disguised Nick Fury, as I’m sure everybody figured out). But I needed other agents, so Don started as a generic background extra, and then got a name probably around the time Scorpio saved his life.

He could still have faded into the background, but now he had a reason to be remembered. Scorpio had saved his life, so there was a bond there, and when I needed more DICE agents to appear in a plot it just made sense to say it was Don. So now he needed a personality, and a background, and a skill set beyond being “generic secret agent #1”.

Huey, Dewey and Luey were quickly added to DICE because Don needed a team and, well, I love names that are puns and/or have meta-textual meaning. Ed (“the duck”) Mallard was also an inevitable addition by this point.

Don was never a major character, because the Game had to be exclusively about Strikeforce, and he didn’t really appear very often, but his appearances were remembered.

When I ended Strikeforce and moved the story “twenty years later”, the main characters would be young super-humans on the run. I needed an older mentor for them, someone who could lead them into the stories I wanted to tell. From the moment I concieved the idea, there could only be one choice: Don.

When we started that next phase of the Game, I introduced Don and the players accepted it with a smile, because they knew it was exactly right. As players they knew and trusted Don, and so it made it easy for them to believe that their characters would trust and follow him. It wasn’t something forced on them to make the story work, it was something that made sense within the world and felt right.

In the Strikeforce story, I introduced Don by name earlier than I did in the Game, and I gave him and his squad larger supporting roles. Whenever I’ve needed a generic DICE agent, I’ve made it Don or one of his team. Because it probably was, except I hadn’t given them names at that point. And because I knew Scorpio had to be with Don at a certain point in order to save his life and for them to become friends, so why not begin the association a little sooner? I think it works.

Don went from un-named to cardboard character to trusted friend to key participant to one of my favourite characters over years of play, and I like to think it all grew organically. I hope it looks that way from the outside. But you’ve still got lots of his story to read …

(This was this morning’s self-indulgent blog post. I’m celebrating having some free time to do some writing after a few weeks of craziness.)


#79

Today on my blog I’m musing on diversity, because it seems topical. It goes like this:

There’s a big fuss in the media at the moment about diversity in Marvel comics. Apparently, Marvel editors believe that people aren’t buying Marvel comics because we don’t like the “diverse” (non-straight-white-male) casts they’ve introduced.

As a life-long Marvel reader who no longer reads them, let me set the record straight: I didn’t stop buying their comics because they introduced black, female, or gay characters. I stopped reading them because they were consistently publishing bad comics. I’m talking about having storylines that were impossible to follow, making beloved characters act completely out of character, and randomly cancelling and restarting titles just to make it as hard as possibly to know what to buy. I stopped buying Marvel comics because their editors no longer knew how to put out good comics, not because they had gay heroes. Every lapsed Marvel reader I’ve spoken to has said the same.

Soooo… how does my universe score on diversity? Probably pretty poorly. It was simply never a consideration when I started the Game. So the vast majority of characters are straight, white males. In later years I (and I think my players too, though we never discussed it) put more thought into having a greater variety of character backgrounds. So I think you’ll find the Heroes cast more diverse than the Strikeforce cast. But the mix of main characters still isn’t anywhere near representative of modern America.

I could retroactively make half the supporting cast black, but that would be the very epitome of “tokenism”, making a change just so I could say I’ve done it, and I don’t think it serves any useful purpose.

So I’m sorry, I’ve got a mostly non-diverse cast, and I’m stuck with it. It’s just how it is.


#80

When did Avatar become the most important character in the Game? It’s hard to say for sure, but it started in Strikeforce chapter 17, coming this Friday. My ideas of how my universe (its cosmology) worked started to crystallise then.

I thought I was running a basically science fiction Game, but that went wrong right from the start when one player decided to play a demon.

It was trying to reconcile that choice, and fit demons into my (I thought) rational universe, that gave me the key over-arching plotline that ran through the whole Game.

I’m not going to give it away now. And chapter 17 won’t really explain anything either. But it’s where the explanation starts. Don’t miss it!