Thursday, November 26, 2015

Up, Down

Got nine hours of sleep and woke naturally instead of by alarm. And I'm cresting on the manic side of my sometimes bipolar disposition. Ideas seem to come easily, I feel energetic. Which founders a little when I realize how little time there is, really, before I have to be back at work, and mentally list all the necessary tasks (laundry, time with family, etc.) that will cut into that time.

Had to put the drawing pad aside because I have a prop that is fast coming due and I need work space to tinker on it. And I really should keep up the prop work -- I'm not going broke while working full time, like I was last time I tried it, but I'm also not making as much above expenses as I'd like. A few bucks here and there from prop making would be welcome, and it is a lot more interesting then what I'm currently doing for work...and I've a paid-up year of membership at TechShop going to waste if I don't.

Ah, but I've been listening to podcasts on history and archaeology (and a little science) almost non-stop over the past several weeks of building cabinets and pulling PC boards from recycled electronics. So yesterday I finally made a break-through on planning that Tomb Raider fanfic I've been using as my sole writing outlet aside from this blog. I know where I am going to go with it now, right out to the coda. I'm just not real sure how to do it.

Through the past fourteen chapters and eighty thousand words I've sent "adventure archaeologist" (and video game character) Lara Croft after a mystery involving the ancient Egyptian god Horus. In the process of tracking the Tears of Horus from Malta and Tripoli, from under Colonel Gaddafi's eyes to the Giza Plateau and right smack in the middle of the Valley of Kings, she's ran into increasing clues about a different mystery of Pre-Dynastic Egypt; the fantastical "Ancient Astronauts" inspired back-story of the movie and television show(s) Stargate.

In true fan fiction cross-over fashion I've now got the major characters of the two properties together, and brought the two plots together to the point where the current incarnation of Horus the Elder has apparently mind-controlled Lara into getting him into Stargate command, where he used the titular Stargate to escape Earth.

And, yeah, I had some vague ideas as to what his big plan was, a climactic scene and some key revelations to come. But I basically started writing from a yacht moored off Comino with no larger intent then to put Lara Croft and the Stargate universes' resident Adventure Archaeologist Daniel Jackson into the same room and watch the sparks fly. So there isn't exactly a tight outline I've been following!

I'm pretty proud of how it has developed and I've got a decent following over at Fanfiction dot net now. My big set piece was a multi-chapter exploration into Prague Castle and environs after the Kunstkammer of Rudolph II, And it's not so much that I got to fold in so much in the way of legends and history from the Teutonic Knights out to discovery of the Galilean Satellites, but that when I was done it all seemed to hold together in a way that looked like it had been carefully planned!

This mystery wrapped in enigma served with a side of red potatoes and cabbage became an exploration through layer after layer into the past; from a brief discussion of the period of communist rule before the Velvet Revolution, to evidence of SS/Ahnenerbe investigation (and their fancy but not entirely practical "security system" for Lara to apply her trademark climbing and gymnastic to), to the dawn of the Age of Reason with the astronomers and naturalists and psychics and charlatans who surrounded one of the last of the Holy Roman Emperors, and back down through the rabbit hole of Christian symbolism and Hermeticism and grail legends and the tenuous link to the imagined glories of Rome until I could last spring Rabbi Lowe's grand creation, the Golem of Prague -- and tie it all finally back to the Tears of Horus I'd started with!

That was almost three months ago, though. I've been trying to figure out whether I am at the Act II/III turn-around now with 40% or less of the story still to go, or whether to let it expand further. I've been trying to work out what Lara's personal arc is; there's a great space here to really push on her guilt and fear and bring her to her worst crisis before she starts on her way back up and towards eventual victory but I don't know if that fits within the larger story arc. And of course I needed to figure out the set-pieces and major building blocks of the rest of the story.

Well, I know what I want to try now. And it is complicated. I was tempted for a while to go right through the Stargate and put one last "tomb" (aka the central mechanic of any of the games Lara Croft had featured in) with a climax involving a difficult climb, and then go to a not particularly conclusive conclusion.

Instead I'm taking a slightly longer path. I'm stealing a trick I first saw in a Travis McGee mystery. Basically, they try to warn others (specifically the Asgard, the "good guy" aliens of the Stargate universe) about Horus, but are told the ex-god had gained their trust through various good works.

So I'm going to split the party, and send small teams made up from combinations of both casts (Tomb Raider's and Stargate's) to explore three or more archaeological mysteries, attempting to discover what Horus had been up to in the misty past and if he indeed was being as nice a god as the Asgard think.

And then bringing everyone back together and wrapping up with a Boss Fight and (on the falling action) a crazy free-for-all between Asgard and allies against the renegade "Frost Giant" faction and their pal Horus the Elder.

But my problem now is a bit worse than finding three interesting mysteries of the past to explore. And more than the constraints that these activities of Horus need to fall somewhere between 3,000 BC and (preferably) on or before the 18th Dynasty (which is actually really convenient, as it falls right in the right zone to play around with the Boy King Tut, Nefertiti, and of course the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten,)

No, the big problem is that with all these archaeology podcasts and all I'm awakening to the emotional realization that this material (and the way the schema of the Stargate universe exemplifies the conflict) is exactly the same as the anti-science conspiracy theories -- Creationism and Apollo Hoax and anti-vaxxers -- that I've been arguing against for a good decade now.

I'm having more and more trouble twisting real history and science here; the excuse of "it's just for a story" is no longer working for me. So, yeah, although it would be trivially easy to reach into that wide-lipped candy jar of existing psuedo-archaeology; Pakal's Spaceship and the Copper Culture and Giant Nephilim with "double rows of teeth" I feel obligated to be scholarly, to stay closer to the bounds of real history and archaeology, to debunk some of the demon-haunted detritus of cable-channel misinformation, and to bring out some of the fascinating material that is out there in the real world.

And so with all that, my net is pretty wide at the moment. I'd like to send Lara Croft and her current companions to North America (because that, and pretty much everything from Turkey through Pakistan and down the length of the Arabian Peninsula has yet, to my knowledge, to be featured in a Tomb Raider game)*, England (because there's no better way to show off Croft Manor and to convince her stay-at-home team to come out and play a little), and Malta (both for general interest and as a book-end to how I started the story).

I'm also thinking of  Iram of the Pillars, because not only is a lost city cool, but it's in one of my zones of "a game hasn't done this yet" -- and I've already mentioned a previous search for it in my narrative. White Island is mildly tempting, as is something properly polar (possibly even Mountains of Madness). And I have a hankering to bring some Assyrian lammassu out to play -- Tomb Raider games have done sea serpents and centaurs already, and they'd fit right in. I also see I (albiet unintentionally) laid the groundwork for satellite discovery of some entirely unknown (and suitably massive) architecture to be discovered somewhere (perhaps in that handy rub al' khali).

But whatever I go with, there's a bit of work yet before I can write any of it. That's the thing about comic book science and's a lot faster.

* I believe "Rise of the Tomb Raider corrects that omission.

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