The Great Catch-Up
Author Commentary #9So....
It turns out that publishing a book is time-consuming. In the same way that a black hole is matter-consuming. You'd think that, since the manuscript is done, the hard part is over. But in reality, there are details to finalize, promotional material to build, graphics to build.
Not to mention one last read-through to make sure EVERYTHING IS FUCKING PERFECT....
It's not perfect. But hey, it's out there now.
|Photo By Tyler Murphy, owner of 1st printed copy.|
You can buy it right here, if you are so inclined. Which you should. Because it is, without a doubt, the finest book ever put out by a human named Jeremy L. Jones in the year 2018.
So buy the book!
But the podcasts kept going up, so I'm gonna jot down a few thoughts about the chapters that went up in the meantime.
Chapter 11 introduces the pyramid, a kind of religious center of the city and, though it's not directly stated, it's hinted that it's one of the oldest buildings in the city and a pristine relic from the ancient history when mankind was building a minding colony on Titan.
The pyramid is also one of the few ideas that survived from the first draft. Back then, my idea was to have a whole separate storyline involving exactly how Titan became the terraformed paradise that it is portrayed.
They walked through the open door and found another gravel path that lead to the center. Several squat buildings lined the path on either side. Each was the size of a small house and looked vaguely cone-shaped with the top third cut off. They had been white at one time, but the paint was worn with age and patches of bare aluminum started to show. There were a few decals showing flags from the former great nation-states of Earth, the United States, China, India, the European Union and so on.
“They look kinda like space ships” said Althea.
“Landers, I think.” said Cronus, “Wasn't unusual back in early space times. No point in building something here with no air, no warm and no terraforming. They built it all on earth, set it down here and put a dome over the top. Earth normal in no time.”
“How old do you think it is?” said Viekko.
“You know as much as I,” said Cronus, “I’m starting to think old Interplanetary Energy kept a lot of their Titan exploration under wraps, I ain’t never heard about no colony here and I’ve broken through the old lines at the Ancient Houston headquarters. It might be almost a thousand years old.”
“So what the hell do you think that is?” said Ariane pointing ahead.
The path ended at a building that towered over everything else in the dome. It was built of cut orange-grey stone and, unlike any other building in the city, there had been some architectural considerations. It was still boxy, but it had two magnificent spires that reached almost to the top of the dome. The facade formed pillars, buttresses and arched windows all inlaid with intricate designs that made the word ‘temple’ seem appropriate. The words, ‘Kostya labs’ were carved in old Roman lettering into a stone block over a set of open wooden doors.
Ariane walked up to the building and ran her hand over the stone next to the door. “My grandfather wrote about buildings like this in his journal,” she said, “Kostya loved the ancient stone monuments of Earth, he said it was mankind’s first attempt to remake the land. He was especially fond of the pyramids. They were nothing but rock, but the simple geometric pattern made it human. It’s logic imposed on the chaos of nature. He saw his work as an extension of that idea.”
Kostya go on to be this formative figure in the book's universe and more mysteries would evolve and go on to be a major storyline.
Shortly after the I wrote the first draft of Saturnius Mons, I sat down to write a brief outline of the entire series. I quickly discovered that how the planets ended up terraformed wasn't terribly important and really wasn't part of the story I wanted to tell. Plus, in Saturnius Mons, it seemed weird and out of place to try and discover the hidden secrets Dr. Kostya left on Titan when there is a bloody holy war happening outside.
So I scraped all the monuments except the pyramid which stayed as kind of a strange relic from my very flawed first version.
Chapter 12 was and always is a chapter that stands out for me. Not only because it's the first major battle of the book (hang on to your naughty bits, there gonna be more!), but because of the Perfiduloi solders.
Since I wrote this scene in the second draft, trying to figure out how to handle these characters was always awkward. I ended up naming them because just refering to them as 'this soldier' and 'this perfiduloi' got really confusing really quickly. Likewise, I wanted to humanize them and bring a kind of empathy to this coming conflict between the two people of Titan.
But, at the same time, having characters appear in one chapter and then disappear completely from the narrative was just as weird. It was a bit like they showed up and I said, "You see these people? You like them? Did I make you care about them at all? Fuck you, they're going away for ever now."
*Drops mic and gives finger*
I tried several ways to keep the soldiers more generic so that their sudden disappearance for the rest of the book wouldn't seem so weird (including having Viekko refer to them by a number which, of course, led to many jokes about number one and number two) but I could never get
It wasn't until we were compiling the final version of the manuscript that my editor, Madison, brought up the same issues and suggested a solution. Instead of having them just disappear, maybe they could reappear elsewhere in the book.
So those that survived will be coming back. And if it feels kinda forced or like they were just 'stuck in'... well.... .... ....
I don't have much to say about chapter 13 other than ended up having one of my most unintentional favorite lines of dialog in the book.
This was another change that happened late in the process. At some point -I can't remember if it was before or after I sent it to the editor- I realized that the relationship between the team and the Houston had degraded significantly. He should and was ready to toss them out of the city.
Then, at that critical moment, he turns and leaves everyone right in the middle of the most holy and important building in the whole fuckin' city! Just turns and leaves! He was like 'I hate you people, I don't trust you, but it should be fine just leaving you IN THE MOST IMPORTANT BUILDING IN THE CITY!"
IT'S TOTALLY FINE, YOU GUYS!
Suffice to say, was no reason for it and when I read it, it felt wrong. It felt like he should at least make an attempt to kick them out. But I didn't want him to actually kick them out because that would require getting them back in and more scenes and working around the fact the Cronus was not in there doing his thing, blah blah blah...
So I needed a quick fix.
Cronus to the rescue.
It didn't completely come out of left field. I had, at other points, had the people of the city reacting to certain 'holy relics' of the Transplanetary Energy Corporation. At one point, Viekko and Isra came across a house where they had the Company Handbook displayed on an altar. Holograms and recordings occasionally appeared and the Urbanoi people reacted dutifully.
But all these were lost in the editing process as they usually involved stepping away from the main plot and conflict for longer than I was comfortable with.
So when I needed some reason for the Houston to let Cronus and the other stay, it seemed believable and served to show that, no shit really, these people worship the Transplanetary Energy Corporation.
The Houston’s face screwed up into some combination of pain and anger. For a brief moment, Althea worried that Cronus had committed a sin far greater than anything else up to now. Then the Houston turned and started walking toward the exit. “The Kompanio must have chosen you. You must be here to bring their message back to the people.” He paused and turned around. “You may stay here for the time being. Finish your work. I believe it would still be wise to leave this place before the eclipse. Soldatoi, venu!”
With those words, the soldiers rose from their knees and scurried after the Houston.
Viekko folded his arms as he watched the entourage leave. “Nice work, Cronus.”
Cronus raised his goggles and grinned at the group, “Deus ex machina! God from the machine!”
But it still seemed vaugely like a cop-out so I decided to 'hang a lantern on it' as we writerly-type-humans would say. Which is to say you have one of the characters acknowlegdge that circumstances oddly turned out in their favor.
Cronus exlaiming 'Deus ex machina!' of course has a couple meanings. First, it's almost literally true in this situation. And, secondly, it almost feels like Cronus is calling me out on my own shit.
In as much as my own writing makes me giggle -and it vary rarely does- every time I read this line, I get a chuckle.
Chapter 14 became interesting when it came time to layout the book. Individual chapters may not feel like they mean much in the grand scheme of things, but they really do. It's a rare person who has the time and the temperament to sit down and read an entire book cover to cover so, most likely, people are going to be digesting a book in smaller bites. That means, for me, I like each chapter to feel like a mini story. You have your beginning, rising action, climax and resolution, they just happen in small scale and each one leads into something bigger.
But this one was weird because it ended up as such a short chapter. So much so that I was tempted to merge it with Chapter 13 or 15. Trouble is Chapter 15 is a monster. Without giving too much away, I think it's fair to say that... Ze Shit? It's about to get real!
And 13? I toyed with having this scene at the end of thirteen but I didn't do it for a couple of reasons. First, like I said, 15 is a badass bitch. I felt it might feel psychologically gratifying to have a short chapter before one as massive and consequential as that one.
And second, it just doesn't fit. Having Viekko end by rushing off to the city capped it off nicely and Isra's stage battle with the Houston played really well on it's own.
So it remained on its own.
Just hanging out there.