Issue 86 Creators’ Notes

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    • #8766

      This is a thread for the creators’ notes for Issue 86!

      Usually, we like to use the SSBB wiki to give authors and artists a chance to leave commentary, notes, links, and other useful information about their stories. However, since the wiki is down, this thread is intended as a temporary holding place for those things. Once the wiki is revived, any material left here will be transferred over there.

    • #8768

      Notes on If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem:

      The title of this piece is taken from Psalm 137 — it’s the ‘by the rivers of Babylon’ one — which is a psalm of longing for a home you’ve been kicked out of, even if it’s a home you’ve never seen. To put it in a historical context, it’s a psalm from the Babylonian Exile period of biblical history, where the Israelites (or at least the literate ones) had been taken away to Babylon and not permitted to return. Another shining example of my using my education NOT for its intended purposes!

      The moral of this piece is NOT supposed to be how the children of oppressors and children of the oppressed can get along just fine, so forget the past! Uzhab (and all the other Doqar like him) only get to where they are because they’ve renounced their privilege. They have reckoned individually with their heritage, because their culture isn’t going to do it anytime soon. It doesn’t make them perfect, but it makes them capable of learning.

      The Doqar and Halla are of course VERY Star Trek aliens — you know, they’ve got essentially human body structures with some prosthetics glued on, they’ve got compatible genes so they can have babies together, they’ve got (mostly) binary genders that include men with penises, they’ve got similar concepts of measurement, and so on and so forth. This is 100% because if I’d gone all wacky with alien worldbuilding, we would’ve been here all night. I’ve already got my nose up against the ceiling of the word limit. Forgive any shorthanding.

      Much love to beili, who not only did the gorgeous illustration, but walked me through some of the initial brainstorming. I have had to rush so many of my SSBB pieces lately, I wanted to start this one early and try and make something I could really be proud of. It was great to work this out in advance, and also great to have such a pretty picture waiting for me as a reward for finishing.

    • #8784
      AvatarIron Eater

      Having some login troubles so guest mode is GOOO~

      Yes, it’s technically named after a Queen song.

      I actually sat down and plotted out an entire outline for this one, since a mystery story requires a certain amount of tightness with its story to work, and even with that framework I found I had to aggressively cut down details, drop entire scenes, and similar acts of chainsaw editing; my original draft was around 28,650 words, and unlike last issue where I was able to just move the starting point up to save myself a few K, this one required lots of agonizing decisions. Learning how to kill your darlings is rough! Maybe one year I’ll actually write a Rhoanish story under 25K and have a Ward and Wainwright tale in the December slot, but that would probably end up book-length. Then again, maybe that’s not so bad.

      Getting a chance to show Mr. Ward interacting with people other than Hugh was a delight, since he is an unrepentant turbo-asshole if he chooses to be, and when the upper classes are involved he regularly makes this choice. In a modern setting it’s safe to assume he’d be a big Bong Joon-ho fan. Showing his parents–and establishing that he has a background as a child laborer, as “mudlarks” were a very real thing–was quite satisfying, as this also gave me a chance to show him having positive interactions with people other than Hugh, ranging from the affection given to Primrose and Ezekiel to the manipulative but genuine kindness shown to Mrs. Wimbly. He’s very much a behind-the-scenes guy and I figured it couldn’t hurt expanding a little on the knack for social skills hinted at in In Ossa Venenum from October 2019. For the record, “Ori” is short for “Orion” (his middle name), not a mangling of “Aubrey.”

      In case it wasn’t obvious, Ezekiel is fully aware of Primrose’s professions (she practiced both before they started courting, much less were married), and it doesn’t bother him much since she clearly knows what she’s doing. This isn’t an exact historical setting (those studying Hugh’s outfit in particular will note its separate elements are playing Calvinball across a century or two) so she’s got significantly better, safer access to contraceptives than an actual working Victorian woman. Might be silphium-based, since for all we know people didn’t drive it to extinction in this setting? Either way, Mr. Ward is an only child by design, and his parents planned him well in advance.

      This one’s a bit more about the injustices of class systems than queerness this time around, though I’d like to think there’s still a modest dose of the need for self-love and understanding of one’s nature and finding healthy ways to engage in such (and maybe a bit about appropriation w.r.t. Lord Cadfael? he’s a dick and also probably not even a little gay so it’s not a perfect metaphor).

      I really wish I’d been able to do more with the “Mr. Cutty thinks Hugh is a vampire” angle but there are only so many words to go around in one of these. Maybe next time!

    • #8785
      AvatarIron Eater

      Forgot to note that the above notes are for Mare Testimonii, by Iron Eater (that’s me!).

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