Thursday, 02 May 2019 20:21

Bringing Ragnarok Developer Diary 15: on Brain Surgery, Writing, and the Futilty of American Politics

Whew, what a month April has been!

As I mentioned in a previous Dev Diary, my spouse has trigeminal neuralgia, and recently went through minor brain surgery to effect repairs.

All has gone as pretty much as planned, though she is not the sort of person who bears well being trapped in a chair waiting to heal for a month.

My progress on Bringing Ragnarok: Book Three has slowed to a crawl, though. I generally work best alone. I mean, mostly alone, anyway because is anyone truly alone when you have cats? I firmly believe that crazy cat ladies are actually just folks who have life figured out.

Of course, in a world where sanity is defined relative to the mental state of the rest of the population, maybe crazy doesn’t actually mean what it used to.

I find myself walking around more and more convinced that the wold has gone rather mad. Madder than usual, even.

Anyway! Back to the point – slow progress on the writing front. I’m starting to suspect that my publication date may slip to August, but the good news is that the publication date for Book 4, December 2019, should be unaffected.

While I slow in getting final edits made to Part 1 of Book 3, which will push back drafting Book 2 to mid-May, I have been able to do a lot of the research and planning that will make writing the rest of Book 3 and Book 4 even easier this year.

I’ve probably mentioned in these before that I’m incredibly obsessive-compulsive when it comes to embedding realism into my work. I love world-building, and find it much easier to focus on writing good characters and dialog in the world once I’ve fleshed out backstories.

So I’ve already filled a couple notebooks full of maps, diagrams, timelines, histories, hell, even the outlines of a couple academic fields.

Much of this material won’t even make it into Bringing Ragnarok. It’ll be for my next project, which I’m tentatively titling "Bivrost Nine" and will take place in a very different 22nd century than the one Yari and Loucas are stuck in. Many of the same features of my style will remain the same – multiple alternating perspectives, lots of lore – but the story will essentially be in the spirit of Babylon 5, Firefly, Star Wars, and Star Trek. My own anarchist/anti-colonial take on those genres, focusing on interstellar cooperation, diplomacy, and empire-building.

Empire-building from an anti-imperial perspective? Yup, I think it’s doable. And fun too – sci-fi adventure with tons of history and mythology, less than half of it human.

But Bringing Ragnarok gets its fair share of attention! In the 20th century Europe point along the Six Friends’ new Thread of reality, Eryn’s path will take her from Berlin to the Eastern Front in Poland, as the great Soviet Winter Offensive of 1945 is about to commence. So I’ve had to work out the approximate orders of battle for the Soviet and (alternative history) German Resistance armies, come up with a temporary counter to the Allied Air campaign so the Germans can actually do something with the forces they’ve assembled, and reveal the reason why Eryn has to go East, when she’d already had more than enough of war out West.

And in 21st century Post-America Kim, Timur, and Patrick are on the front lines of another looming conflict. The Deserets, naturally, were always a side-show for the Missoula Regiment. Texas was actually pulling their strings, hoping to expand north into Montana before the Lakers – shorthand for the Great Lakes Confederation headquartered in decontaminated Chicago – get there first. For their adventure, I’ve been doing a lot of Google Earth based recon – and getting some physiogeographic advice from an awesome person who runs one of the coolest, most calming sets of blogs ever. And, naturally, I’ve had to design a plausible Texas Armed Forces structure, decide what equipment they’d use in 2040, and what former US military divisions would be reflagged to Texan control.

Then there’s the 22nd century Inner Solar System, where Yarielis and Loucas are finally at a place of safety – Insurgence Headquarters, deep in the Northwest Hexant of the Belt – it isn’t to last. The hornet’s nest they’ve stirred up – ok, let’s be honest a long-simmering uprising across the colonized Solar System against the rich people who run everything from their paradise megacities on Earth – means that the Insurgence has to kick into high gear, and all hands (flesh, metal, or holographic) are needed for the fight. So, naturally, I’ve had to establish where the Navy’s fleets are, their response times, and what sort of plan an organization used to guerilla tactics might employ granted better equipment specifically built for the task. And, because fighting is only half the battle, develop the means to get Yari and Loucas to an important meeting on one of the Habitats of Lagrange Point 4 – Ramallah Station.

And mentioning Palestine – there is another factor that has been slowing my progress this past month.


The problem with having a lot of time where you need to be up and about – getting medicine, food, running errands – is that it is hard for an autistic like myself to get settled enough to do the “hard” work of figuring out what words to type out, then what ones to delete or write again.

As a result, I’ve let my brain get distracted by politics again.

And the problem with politics is that I find them eminently frustrating. Which impacts my productivity.

Most people dislike politics to some degree, but my dislike is rooted in the terrible mistake of knowing too much.

Which sounds arrogant, but remember: I’m autistic. Special interests studied to the exclusion of all else are part of the package. And mine are informed by years of postgraduate education in part a result of this special interest-slash-obsession, focusing on question of politics and policy from both technical/empirical and philosophical/ethical perspectives.

Plus I grew up in one of those rural conservative christian households where Fox News played most hours of the evening. Which offers me a unique insight into the worldview of that tribe, now proving so decisive in Anglo-Saxon elections, that appears totally lacking in almost all the mainstream discourse.

Basically, what we’re witnessing right now is a global collapse of the postwar socio-political-economic order. It is driven by a few key factors. Wealth and income equality are one, because they amp up the stakes of all interactions between members of the system. The internet is another, both because it has made information so cheap that it is more and more difficult for any one group to dominate global discourse and because this has forcibly revealed humanity to be more diverse than is comfortable for many people. And America’s failure to control its military-industrial complex and commit to a stable and just international security regime is a third.

And yeah – this doesn’t even mention the climate crisis. Which is real, only just beginning, and unlikely to get more than token support so long as the collapse consuming the rest of the world system continues unabated.

Ultimately, the old order is breaking down, and as it does, groups with starkly different visions of the future are engaged in escalating conflicts. Everyone is tightening their hold on their resources, members of their tribe, bracing in instinctive anticipation of what may come – and getting suspicious of outsiders.

It’s an old story, really, one of the oldest. And very frustrating to watch in real-time. Especially when I look around the internet, I listen to what people say, and I realize how completely asinine the discourse has become.

If you tell me what you online publications read, I can probably tell you who you want to vote for in 2020.

Better yet, if I were to look closely at the headlines, track record of writers, and other interesting details of the media landscape you consume, I could probably tell you exactly what kinds of phrases those writers and editors use specifically to attract your attention by feeding you ideas you already agree with.

Politics is always about identity. And so political publications, almost always funded by ads under the present model dominating the Internet and also facing conditions of ruthless competition, basically offer commentary geared to make some subsection of the political market happy.

So most everything you read about politics, and therefore most everything anyone talks about politics-wise, is just a giant feedback loop containing mostly nonsense and noise. All the chatter is just that – chatter.

And chatter accomplishes very little. Except maybe increase CO2 emissions. So, back to writing I go, and let the world take care of itself.