Sometimes the answers to my design problems come from the strangest places. Many times I have told the story of how I solved a tricky graphics problem by using Mayan mathematics. Today I have another odd example.
The Siboot novel lacks continuity. It is a collection of short stories, none of which connect. Indeed, the first third of the novel fails a simple test: if all the stories in that first part were deleted, the novel would not lose any meaning. Yes, there are some good stories in there, but what’s the point? Why burden the reader with them?
So why not just throw them all away? Do I retain the stories merely because I think they’re cute? Am I so vain that I cannot let go nice but useless material? At this point, it certainly seems that I am retaining these stories to satisfy my vanity, not my artistic needs.
A possible solution
However, last night I had an idea that might help. I recalled a book that I read many years ago: Beyond Civilization, by Keith Chandler. This is a highbrow book using refreshingly plain language — none of the arcana that academics use to establish their membership in the in-crowd. It’s definitely weird. Mr. Chandler claims that there are four main mindsets that civilizations can have. The essence of his thesis can be summarized in this little table:
I am a bit leery of this; it strikes me as more clever than true, especially the Aztec row (Mr. Chandler actually uses the term “AmerIndian”, but all his examples come from MesoAmerica.) Still, there’s something compelling about the system, and there’s no reason why I cannot wave my authorial wand and declare that these four mindsets shall be applied to Lamina. I could then weave these mindsets into the stories to establish a clearer personality for each of the species.
The quick and brutal solution
On further thought, however, it seems to me that I am really just coming up with a band-aid to preserve some nice stories. It’s time for me to gird my loins and make the right decision: kill it. Delete. Destroy. Erase. I shall retain only those stories that are absolutely necessary to the game. Let the bloodletting begin.
Later the same day
I have set to work with my chainsaw, ripping out whole sections of the novel. In the process, the document’s file size has shrunk from 800 KB to 200 KB. No, I haven’t wiped out that much stuff; I think it’s just the consolidation of past versions. Still, this certainly seems like the Lamina Chainsaw Massacre.
I’m also completely rewriting much of the material to provide greater continuity. The central theme will be the development of eeyal on Kira. It starts with Siboot discovering the auras and interpreting their meanings. Then he’ll discover the existence of eeyal, but won’t get very far with it before he dies. Over the next century, the Kirans expand and refine their knowledge of eeyal.
Looking over much of the material, it looks like all of it will have to undergo big revisions, and much of it will be eliminated.