Monday, 24 July 2017

CanCon 2016: Days 1 to 2

Can*Con 2016, the Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts & Literature took place from September 9-11th in Ottawa, Ontario. I’m finally doing the writeup 11 months later... well, that’s how long it took me to get to it in 2015 too. I also blogged about 2014 and about 2013, if you’re a completist.

These posts are recaps, with very little colour commentary on my part. Some are near word-for-word recaps, others are a summary. This is the latter, as I go through my written notes, though some more detailed accounts will be split off from here into their own posts. As was the initial workshop “Get Plot! which happened before the start of the Con.

After that workshop ended, I went away for a bit, then came back, and was there for the Opening Ceremonies at 7pm. Pretty sure that somewhere in there, I rolled up my “stats” on my Con Badge, and for the record: Strength 13, Intelligence 20+1, Wisdom 12, Dexterity 15, Constitution 18+1, Charisma 8. Which results in Health 23 and Defence 19. I guess that’s reasonably accurate (if a bit overpowered), I just keep barrelling along, thinking I’m clever but really it’s more I know things, while not being charismatic enough to hold people’s interest.

At the Ceremonies, the head of programming, Derek Kunsken, said a few words. Including about the history (founded in 1991, with a vision of bringing fans together, has been running continuously since 2010). He notes, “we’re a particular size and place”, picking two things and doing them really well. Come here for the Literary and Science side of conventions, many other places do anime and costuming.

He then introduced the Special Guests. Tanya Huff (Author Guest of Honour), Eric Choi (Science Guest of Honour), Sheila Williams (Editor Guest of Honour), and Sam Morgan (Agent Guest of Honour). There’s also attendees from BC, Montreal, New York, etc. Incidentally, this con has been nominated for an Aurora Award twice. It’s on the ballot with this year with Ad Astra.

He asked the guests why they said YES to coming here, seeing as they could do anything with their weekend.
-Tanya: Last time, she got an Aurora award, so she has good memories. And if we don’t take our genre literature seriously, as Canadians, we can’t expect the world to. So given CanCon’s concentration, she wants to hook into that energy. Looks forward to conversations. Works alone, scary when the cats answer back.
-Eric: Considers ‘no’ is not an option. He’s been on the other side of the table for several CanCon in the past, and they do his two favourite things. As someone new to Ottawa (it’s way friendlier than Toronto), it truly is an honour to be at this table, and be amongst one of his favourite cons with some of his favourite people. Looks forward to conversations and learning. Then, referring to his rolled stats: “I’ve got Wisdom 6 here, how threatening can I be.”
-Sheila: It worked out well for her schedule this year, she keeps the number of cons she attends down, having a job and kids. But she likes to go to places that are in different areas, meet new people, new writers, new readers, to hear different things, and reach new audiences. This was a great opportunity and she was very honoured to be asked. Her last Con in Ottawa was World Fantasy Con in 1984, thought it was time to come back. Looking forward to meeting people, “I am really friendly”.
-Sam: The joke he prepared was that you paid me. In sincerity, he loves Canada, it’s full of super nice people, and when going to conventions he meets the nice people of that area. It’s been wonderful, people have manner, some of his favourite actors are Canadian, he resonates. Also, poutine.

Derek then handed things over to Marie Bilodeau, who went into the layout of the hotel, and how in the programme, 50% of the rooms marked are correct. (Sunset is actually Aurora. Related, the guild hall and tavern programming are reversed, except when it comes to the parties at night.) Using the stairs is also encouraged, since there’s only the one elevator in this particular tower, please save it for those who need it.

There was also mention of how some volunteers are boss monsters, who can be challenged, and thanks was given to sponsors. At 7:25pm, things were officially open for business, campaigning, and whatever.


RANDOM PANELS



I poked my head into “So This is Your First Con!” (even though it wasn’t) with Lisa Toohey, Ryan McFadden, and Matt Moore, moderated by Brandon Crilly. They were talking about pitch sessions (that’d be new for me, I stayed). Lead with a strong pitch, and they’ll ask for more info. As it’s their livelihood, they’re likely looking for reasons to reject you, but it’s not about the work, it’s about what can be sold. Pitches like hard SciFi, lead with the genre AND sub-genre.

If you’re meeting the person at a bar (rather than a formal session), you can lead with small talk. Do not EVER pitch at a Dealer’s Table. Matt Moore added, don’t be an ass, because while there’s not a blacklist, word will spread - Canada’s a small community. And don’t think a different person is better, he politely rebuffed someone once telling them not to do that, only to see them ask a colleague later, to which he figured, they’re in trouble now. Don’t lie, you’ll get caught. If you say you "like their work", the natural response is what’s your favourite book of ours.

There’s no dress code for pitching, but the people are in business and looking for someone they can work with. Express your true self, in a professional way.

I also have written hashtag #OttSpecLit, if you like what happens in panels made a note of things not to forget, and if you don’t like parties, hang around the restaurant or approach people at panels. Or Mike go to parties anyway, the bell curve for “cool kids” is shifted here.

I ended up at the Story Structure panel at 8pm. That’s one I recapped secretary style on my laptop, so it will be in a separate post. At 9pm, I dropped by “Batman vs Superman: Cataloguing the Badness of it”. On the panel, Erik Scott de Bie, Jack Briglio (who saw the “Ultimate Edition”), and Tim Carter.

What was seen as the biggest problem? Jack said motivation was weak. The Batman/Superman fight in particular was more a “get this over with” so we can fight the real villain at the end deal. Tim said it was the universe building. (He compared it with Amazing Spiderman 2.) Erik said it came down to Zack Snyder, the Director. With the portrayal of woman, and plotting like SuckerPunch (another movie Snyder directed).

Conversely, what was done well? Jack said “The Doomsday Battle”. Tim said having real world consequences for superheroes. Erik said Wonder Woman. They then delved into an analysis of individual scenes and how they ranked.

I left 15 minutes in or so, figuring time to head home, though did end up popping into a few places on the way. The “Non-Verbal Communication in Prose” room seemed to be locked. The “Mechanics of Sex” panel room provided the following, though I didn’t get the introduction of who was who there:
-Sex is one of the biggest character reveals. Consider a Wizard doesn’t want to say the wrong thing and set the bedroom on fire, literally. Vocals isn’t only moans.
-Sex isn’t nice and pretty, it’s messy and fun and concussions.
-There’s history and location to consider as well. For trans people re-evaluating sexuality, please do your research!!
-Someone with a physical injury may have full sensation but not full control. Penetration being some magical end goal is perpetuated out there, why?

I also peeked into the ConSuite, where there was a discussion about “Young Adult” books, how the audience is made up of two groups: Those who ARE NOW young adults (late teens), and those who WERE young adults 10 years ago. There is the “New Adult” category, seen as for older, but that’s a box made for those who WERE, and top down categorizing never works. The biggest thing now is colouring books, and picture books, for parents who have kids or have friends with kids. It’s all demographics. Wait another 8 years, we’ll be back to 14 year old protagonists again.

I headed out to get home. End Friday. Begin Saturday.

My first panel at 10am was “Character Arc and Mental Health”, another recap for a separate, more in-depth post. I then went to “Why Doesn’t Epic Fantasy Get Any Critical Respect - Or Does It?” at 11am.


EPIC FANTASY



Panelists were Evan May, Sonya (S.M. Carriere), Ed Willett (the moderator), Ranylt Richildis, and Peter Halasz. After introductions, the natural question was how to define Epic Fantasy.
Not that...

Evan: Big scale, lots of people, high stakes. An entire continent.
S.M.: Agreed, large cast, high stakes.
Ranylt: Echoed completely, but also politics. And a heroic element. Doesn’t matter if there’s magic or point of view changes.
Peter: Can’t disagree, he also adds how it’s the oldest form of storytelling. The epic of Gilgamesh echoes today. But these used to be poetry, it’s only prose the last 100-150 years. Why the change? Dunno.

Ed went from there to where “epic” came from, and whether that relates to the possible lack of critical respect. S.M. thinks is depends on the literary circles. Ranylt remarked on “click bait”, infuriating fans. Evan says the epic story hasn’t always been told really well, plus there’s Tolkein fatigue after being saturated with the movies. Peter built on that, saying after the Tolkein imitators that came out of the early 60s, there were hack imitators.

Peter said he couldn’t get past the first few paragraphs of the “Wheel of Time” series, S.M. backing him up on that. Granted, after James Rigney Jr. (pen name of Robert Jordan) died, and it was taken up someone else from book twelve, it apparently got somewhat better. Ranylt noted how, after the 90s, Tolkein (and Stephen King) seemed “back on the syllabus” too. The moderator (Ed) remarked that Tolkein definitely came from an academic place, no matter what you think of his writing - but now perhaps we should define “respect”?

Peter said it’s not financial respect, like “Wheel of Time” gets. S.M. added you can enjoy something without respecting it - Pern (Anne McCaffrey’s planet) gets zero respect but is enjoyed by millions. Ranylt said there’s a disconnect with those not familiar with SpecFic, noting Sturgeon’s Law, “Ninety percent of everything is crud.” Peter said someone who’s not a hack is Canadian Steven Erikson, whose “Malazan Book of the Fallen” (essentially 10 books in 10 years) is remarkable and politically valid for the world. S.M. added there’s incredible characters and arcs in that.

Ranylt said she loves multiple book things, mentioning Scott Barker and Scott Lynch (who is a “Master of Understatement”). Peter tossed in four names, Ian Cameron from Toronto, Guy Gavriel Kay from Saskatchewan, Joe Abercrombie from the UK, and George R.R. Martin, with the caveat that “Game of Thrones” goes downhill from the first book. Peter thinks the TV Series is better (a rare case where the media version’s superior).

Ed asked, is it possible to have a SHORT epic fantasy? S.M. said what matters is the scope, that stakes are the entire world. “Coming of Age” was referenced, and is it more women now than men? Ranylt mentioned Kameron Hurley, her “The God’s War” trilogy, and that it’s hard to build a world in a short time. You need to imply that it’s there, which is a real skill.

Someone was brought up (Susan F? My handwriting’s bad here), which segued into the idea of “sausages taint the steak” for things that are badly written. Fantasy does go into the human condition and can be insightful. So, what does it take to get respect? S.M. says write well, Evan adds take politically correct issues into account, and Ranylt includes be a critical thinker who understands nuance. To clarify, it’s not “good versus evil” now, it’s shades and “the tragic backstory” with the Big Bad being offscreen (like Sauron, Vader).

Final question, why is respect for epic fantasy important? S.M. said it’s an explanation of the human condition that is less technologically done than in SciFi, and it’s just nice to be respected. Peter said it used to get huge respect when it was poetry, it’s stories about us, our journey through life. Jungian not Freudian. Ranylt said the 20th century model of what we see as “literature” needs variety, that the old model is starting to die. Ed noted how Shakespeare is grandfathered into respect, and wondered if there were any last comments.

I don’t have anything written down for that.


PARTLY NOTICED



What I have next is the panel “Getting Your Work Noticed” with Laurie Cooper, Marissa Caldwell, Beverly Bambury and moderator Lisa Toohey. Starting off, what’s the #1 Tip to Get Heard?

Laurie said believe in yourself. Start a newsletter, your brand, what you want to do. Marissa agreed, decide what kind of image to put out there. Background, graphics, dark red versus bright pink - write 50 words that describe you and the way you write for branding. Beverly agreed, noting quality is more important for her. Work on the craft first, then branding.

There needs to be either a lowering of ego or an increase in humility. You can still be yourself, even if that self is you hate people. (Chuck Wendig was mentioned.) It may not have the broadest appeal but you just need to get the right people. Lisa added that who you’re selling to, versus who your audience is, might not be the same. For instance, you market to parents, not young kids.

So, some people are more genre focussed, others have a broad range, how do you brand cohesively? Lisa suggested the brand is you. When selling books, you’re selling yourself, embrace that. Beverly said you can have different parts to a website or different websites, it’s whatever brings together those parts. Laurie said consistency is key across all platforms, your tagline/bio should represent that self.

When should you get a publicist? Laurie said, if you’re generating income, you’re a business. Start a virtual assistant, consider percentages. Beverly added publicists need a nurturing aspect, so it never hurts to send an email. On platforms, Laurie likes Facebook but it does curtail your reach, and Marissa says you can “target ads” but NOT “boost posts” since that last gives no control over who sees it.

You can get scary good at targeting ads by looking at demographics. A giveaway may be worth it, depending. Romance as a genre tends to be more visual, as is Instagram. Twitter upside is powerful searching and more solid connections, downside is it’s slower to grow and targeting sucks in Canada. Do have a business page. Goodreads was brought up - but that’s when I had to go.

I left somewhere around 12:30pm, to get to my niece’s birthday, returning around 4pm, which is a good enough point to break this post up.

Hopefully you found some of this to be interesting, informative and/or helpful. Feel free to drop a comment if you have an opinion or a question. The interim panel posts are coming soon.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

CanCon 2016: Get Plot

Can*Con 2016, the Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts & Literature took place from September 9-11th in Ottawa, Ontario. I’m finally doing the writeup 11 months later... well, that’s how long it took me to get to it in 2015 too. I also blogged about 2014 and about 2013, if you’re a completist.

These posts are recaps, with very little colour commentary on my part. Some are near word-for-word recaps, others are a summary. We begin with the latter, though at some points I managed detailed notes, largely because the CanCon tale begins on Sept 9th with a Workshop.

Normally I can’t get to these, because I’m still teaching in the afternoon, but not for the 2016-2017 school year! The workshop was called “Get Plot!” and was led by Julie E. Czerneda. After a set of introductions (there were about 20 of us, four tables with five at each), Julie began.

Plot and plot problems all share the same sort of things: No time, too many ideas, not enough ideas, ideas at the wrong time, a great idea after you’ve already finished. How are we to control our plot and what we’re doing?
Plot and plot, what is plot?


SMALL IDEAS


A thought experiment was devised, every table was given a scenario: A large construction crane in an unusual place. A parrot and an elevator. A room with no escape. Three fashion models on the freeway. From these we were to asked to ADD PLOT IDEAS. By going around the table, every person would add on to whatever came before. As I was the scribe for our group, I have that first “Get Plot” in it’s entirety:

The large construction crane would be on an iceberg. (I’d briefly mused on a castle courtyard, implying unusual based on an anachronism, not geography, which likely tells you something about me.) It’s painted in carnival colours. The iceberg’s starting to melt. The penguin crane operator is concerned. To stop the melting, it shoots a beam into the sky like the bat signal. The Penguin God responds. It sends down a second iceberg with a weather control machine. Crane work continues, penguin finds a sunken ship.

There’s clues about the Penguin God there. In an Old Shrine in a room. Being guarded by a Ghost Seal. Who gives an ominous warning. Penguins disregard the warning. The floor opens up, they get swallowed. Penguin activates a remote to use the crane. Darkness falls, suddenly. Our initial penguin prays to God for guidance, repenting. It’s struck by lightning. Ghost Seal asks have you have enough yet (“are we still doing this”). Penguin says yes, and light returns. Having learned humility, the penguin can enter the shrine. It waddles in and opens the chest. Discovering a way to become a Penguin God. (“It’s just a funny hat.”)

Is that an ending? “It’s a matter of interpretation.” (We’d been given a warning to conclude.) Julie remarked that, like high school students, you need to take the pages from their hands or they’ll keep going. At the end of the day, the ideas are leading you down that rabbit hole, with no idea of where you’re going.

Every group read their entries. With ours, Julie remarked that one of the keys to controlling plot is to have a strong sense of character. Notice how we almost immediately went from the crane scenario to WHO, a penguin protagonist. That let us know “what’s going on”. Here were the other stories, abbreviated by my typing speed:

2) Parrot and Elevator. Parrot flies into the elevator, asking next passenger to push the button. Wants floor 13, but it goes 12 to 14, so guy pushes 14 and hits stop button. The parrot yells to open the door, it’s a floor under construction. Parrot and man exit into an ornithological research lab. Parrot is scared and upset, wants to leave. Man grabs him, admits he’s a scientist. Parrot gets back to elevator, but it’s now under construction. Then it goes to a perch, and says he’s really in charge, the man is the experiment. The construction people are also the lab workers.

Julie’s thoughts: Big ideas, you don’t know where they’re going to take you. The small ideas tell you where to go, and the actions of a character moving through a scenario is part of the plot, but it is in service of the plot. The parrot being the one doing the experiment, that changes the story. It’s getting big ideas like that which tell you you’re on the right track.

3) Room with No Escape. A one way door into the room, person enters. There are cameras. Water begins filling the room. The person can’t swim, climbs walls, running out of air. Hyperventilating. Close to reaching the ceiling, passes out. Sinks into the water without struggling. Spontaneously develops gills and fins. Awakens, gasps, struggling, realizing. Tries their new parts out. Feels hungry. Then water begins to descend.

Julie’s thoughts: The action required to make the plot happen is another piece. “Cool to have this happen, but needs to fall in the water” [for that]. People are following the lead of the others very nicely. (We can feed off each other.)

4) Three fashion models on the freeway. Because they were carjacked. One of them tries to flag someone down. Succeeds, but it’s her worst enemy. A shapeshifter. Who tries to kill her. One of the others saves her, causing a distraction. The shapeshifter becomes an animal. So they steal his car. The shapeshifter regains hands, calls police, reports the models. Cop chase ensues. Cop becomes a bear, was also a shifter. The models head into the woods. Find an old cabin. They break in, where they find the initial carjacker. Which is when he reveals the secret reason why.

Julie’s thoughts: Often what happens with this activity is that you can be down the rabbit hole, chasing an idea, chasing, chasing, then ask, why don’t I know where I’m going? (That circles back to the notion of a big idea.)


IDEA MELDING


A new exercise, each table was given three ideas, and asked to develop a plot from them. Our ideas were: “Lovely Above, Dead Below”. “Identical Coordinates”. “Bricks and Mortar.” There was also an Added idea which could be used: “TV may speed up puberty.”

The thought we gravitated to was parallel worlds, overlapping, one lovely, one dying and dead. We tried to come up with an elevator pitch. The one world is using the other dying world to grow and thrive - unwittingly. Industry is the difference (“bricks and mortar”). Our protagonist will try to bridge that gap and return the growth and energy down to the dying world. Using their television signals to enable the kids, the next generation, to join his cause (subliminally?).

At this point, we were allowed to Trade Off with another table. We gave up our “Bricks and Mortar”, receiving “Invisible Genocide” in it’s place. Which seemed to fit well enough with our dying world. It’s a parasitic relationship, but the benefiting world has no way to see the other world, it’s invisible to them. Our protagonist wants to right the wrong, redistribute the life. Can he swap with himself? What happens to the other world?

Julie then dropped a new Plot Idea at our table: “Stone age art”. This could be the key for how our protagonist figured it all out: palaeontology. It’s a mirror image, the art indicating something, to stop the genocide. Because the two worlds were once able to work together? But one world “tied off a limb”, and the limb starts to die. Lack of energy.

New Plot Idea drops: “Gaining weight by dieting”. So, over the course of years since that event in the past, humans have stopped needing to eat, they can survive on air no matter how little they eat. On the lovely world. Meanwhile the others are dying. Cutting calories is really working.

New Plot Idea drops: “Moon tunes”. The moon is the thing sucking up the energy of one universe and sending it to the other. As the moon is the conduit, we must “Retune the Moon”. Use the TV rays our protagonist had been using to recruit kids to “retune”. What title then? Mirrored Moon? Moon Rising? Lunacy? Lunar-cy? “It’s a working title. That’s what editors are for.” Settled on “Above and Below”.

With time elapsed, we all shared our story concepts. Here’s how our group presented all of that in an “elevator pitch” style. “Above and Below”: An archaeologist finds stone age art. There’s a connection between his world, a wonderful thriving society and another. The horrible truth is, the other world is being destroyed because the energy is being sucked into his world. He’s determined to stop this. It’s related to the moon, his people have stopped eating since they eat the rays of the moon. The moon isn’t properly dispersing energy. By feeding young people energy through their televisions in the other world, helping them to grow faster through puberty, balance is restored.

2) “Wine Makers of Labrador.” A tale of how global warming has affected all crops. All middle/equator parts of the earth are bad. Joe’s got a winery in Labrador, everything’s getting worse and worse, pests and ravens attacking crops, he’s facing bankruptcy. Dropping toxins everywhere, new wineries are encroaching on his spinach farm. Surprise delivery: Nanotech. Joe injects himself, now he can commune with ravens. Even think like them. “Doesn’t sound like an advantage” but with this perspective, he can see how everything comes together, to be more environmentally conscious. He develops a safe spinach-grape hybrid. The only downside is that to help it grow, it needs to be in a greenhouse full of bagpipe songs.

3) “Amazing Space.” There’s a space mission, probing the martian crust, a scientist hears bagpipes. Might be close or far, due to atmosphere. Boy scientist who is small goes down a geological formation. Finds a tablet, they can see it, but gets stuck on his third time. Only a parrot can read the greek on the tablet, keeps saying it’s “Welcome to Atlantis”. The boy gives up on rescue and goes sideways through tunnels, a cave is really slimy, the bagpipes keep calling him. He comes to an abandoned city with monkey statues and carvings, decides to stay there, he’s a surprise delivery.

4) “No More Resilience.” Release the Bees. A younger sibling falls into (something I didn’t catch), releases a virus which spreads through meat eating bees. There’s a school trip, a science teacher finds a lab, the key is brazil nuts. But one student is allergic. They race back with EpiPens. (My fingers were getting tired here, I missed some of the subplots.)

Then Julie dropped the bombshell: She never said we had to use all the ideas she was giving us. “It’s a trick I played with you because we tend to think all our ideas are important and equivalent.” We hate to get rid of one, but we have to choose which points are moving the plot forward.

The flip side is sometimes you stall, you need more ideas, more things to happen. All these ideas were from newspapers or science articles - sub headers, or the first line of a paragraph. Julie keeps them, and if ever doesn’t know what she’s doing or needs to add something, she’ll look through them. “Aha, I’ll do that. They do it upside-down.”

Ideas can be such a help. The trouble is sorting the good ones from the not so good ones. If you could have tossed some ideas, it might have streamlined the stories. But at the same time, it’s good creative work, having all of them.


TONE AND CONSEQUENCE


Julie pointed out that the story conclusions were on the soft side, because of course we were only dealing with ideas. Plot is nothing by itself, you only need it to get where you’re going. An overall story must also consider TONE and CONSEQUENCE. That’s the destination.

What do you want readers to feel at the end? What should they taste in their mind? That’s the TONE. Should it be tragic? Humourous? (“The Little Mermaid” originally had a tragic end, not so for Ariel in the Disney version. Unless you look at it in another way?) As to consequence - that was fairly well done already, but know that when a lot is happening in a plot, there needs to be a consequence to the protagonist.

We were invited to redo our stories to fit the TONE that was dropped on our table. “The workshop is working when I can’t stop you working.”

TONE: Satisfying. Our group decided this meant everything was tied up with no loose ends.

We need a clear solution. Both worlds work together to shift the moon, to accomplish their goals. And don’t kill things off, statistically an average reader wouldn’t be happy and satisfied if we killed them all off. (Also, “You’re a god and you’re a god” isn’t good but the single Penguin God was satisfying.) So perhaps the worlds merge? And as they merge, they balance?

CONSEQUENCE was then dropped at our table: Societal triumph.

Implication, both societies have to win. We need to bring them both up, not bring one down to match the other. By working together, they can create a lens to magnify and disperse the moon rays equally. Don’t want to be the 1%, everyone wants their dream, inspires a movement.

Decided POV Archaeologist Character could be a martyr, he needs development. And a name. Archy, for Archaeologist? (Or use Yhcra? Or Veronica, go female?) By the end of the story, the other world has to know what she/Veronica did, we can find out that the dying world was also communicating the one on top. Wanting to find a solution. Visual, sketching done.

Perhaps moon rays affect body and mind. Creating sense of entitlement. The light world is sent into rehab, get off the moon drugs. Veronica needs to find allies for that on her world. This could be a trilogy as she recruits. Does she motivate people’s morals? Or is everyone getting fat, lethargic, not productive, not doing art? A call to “the way it was supposed to be”, balancing. Regaining lost things. We have the Utopian Moon Ray version of TV junkies?

Julie said our plot needed the unexpected element (or I’m pretty sure this was said for us, my notes get a bit jumbled here). There’s cool combinations there, but where is the surprise that we’ll latch onto as our hope? And is it REALLY our hope, as it may be more interesting if Veronica finds the cause, instead of how to save them. Or something with uncertainty. For a short story, stop it there, that works.

Here’s a revisit of the others. (Presented to match the above order, including titles, it’s not how they were originally presented.)

2) “Wine Makers of Labrador”.
The lead is a Scottish Spinach Farmer. The morning of his father’s wake, he inherits the farm, under threat from the wine makers, who are moving north due to the global warming. In his father’s will, NanoTech. The middle part is the same, he finds strategies by communing with ravens. Now, slowly his mind is taken over by the ravens, his daughter trying to pull him back from the brink. Alas, he leaps off a cliff to his death thinking he can fly. But daughter receives a message at his own wake, allowing her to save the farm. And the ravens are now listening to the bagpipes the same way her father had.
TONE: Uplifting.
CONSEQUENCE: Personal loss.

Julie’s thoughts: That became a character driven story. Plot will take you there, even if you don’t think it will, if you find the right character choice. Someone who is personally invested, with a personal history of investment, and suddenly it’s easier for the story to make an impact. We can feel for a teacher saving a boy, but we could all relate right away to this person. Who should have had a name.

What’s key is, plot and character can’t be separated. If the plot you have isn’t working, maybe it’s that the character isn’t right. Or you must switch up the ending (due to that character choice).

3) “Amazing Space”
A space mission. The son of an older scientist, unhappy he’s at a permanent take your kid to work day, acts out. Called irresponsible. He keeps hearing faint bagpipes, he follows it to the rock chimney. Third attempt, he’s stuck, has to keep going in. Finds an abandoned city. (Did we keep the statues of monkeys?) Realizing his air is going to run out, he’s going to do something with his life, explores this city as much as he can, a camera recording sends it up to the scientists. He is remembered as the explorer who discovered the lost martian civilization.
TONE: Sombre.
CONSEQUENCE: Unforeseen loss.

(I gave my fingers a rest during the discussion here. This was a two hour workshop.)

4) “No More Resilience”
A science teacher, leading the high school trip, is mountain climbing in the desert. One student falls/becomes ill. A rescue mission ensued, and a virus allowed to spread. The zombielike virus spreads, related to brazil nuts. Upon returning from the trip, seeing the effects of their action, it’s spread beyond the community, affecting the larger world. One goal, brings people together to fix the damage in a more environmentally aware way. Second goal, internal goal of the teacher.
1st tone: Sobering. 1st consequence: Salvaged opportunity.
2nd tone: Shock. 2nd consequence: Personal triumph.

If I'm interpreting this right, Julie gave them two sets because in a sense they had two plots? (The teacher saving student plot, which was referenced above with the wine makers, and the virus plot.) In a sense, with the rescue, the plot ended. If writing horror, it would be a mistake to take the child out, the child who can doom everyone. But internal filters don’t always kick in to say, “I’m doing a SciFi special”. There’s patterns in there, almost not enough ideas, one might have to ramp it up to “found the Penguin God” levels.


PLOT HANDLING


“While this is fresh in our minds”:
-When you have an ending, it’s easier to control what idea pieces you’re using.
-Short fiction is really hard, so much needs to be accomplished in few words. Sprawling is easier in novels and fantasy.
-A really well plotted story, with twists and things in it is fine, but it still needs beginning-middle-end. You need to know the end at SOME point when you’re writing.
-If you’re having a struggle, maybe your writing is not the right tone. Maybe you’re trying to channel your inner Pratchett, it’s not dark, it’s meant to be funny. Or vice versa, twist it darker.

Julie finds she always knows the TONE she’s going for when she starts. That colours all choices as you’re going along. One may say, “I hate her but in a good way”. One thing takes me there, another doesn’t. Don’t fool the reader, but always be sure of where you’re going. Tone is for the reader.

In terms of the CONSEQUENCE, what kind of things do you want to happen to the protagonist. Julie doesn’t always know when writing for the consequence. But you get down to one logical outcome, and that’s the sweet spot. If you have tons of plots heading off into the sunset, something’s wrong. Plot narrows down to a point, it’s where you’re going to go.

For one story, Julie didn’t know until the last 30 pages if everyone was going to die or not. She let the story take her there. She did know the tone wouldn’t be particularly happy, only “satisfying”, a cautionary tale. It becomes inevitable. You just know where it’s going to know.

Granted, sometimes you don’t know from the start, and that’s fine, but it should narrow as you’re writing. Once about 2/3rds of the way through, Julie checks that in her own writing. The graph of tension level. She’d better be ramping everything up: the action and tension and getting everyone there at the 2/3rds mark.

Also check the emotion level. You should see that going up just before the climax, an emotional investment. And if tragedy drops it down, better have something at the finish to take you higher. Or else the reader will say “this is where the book stopped for me”.

At some point here, things transitioned into more of a Question & Answer.

On beginning-middle-end, the first act is setup, the second is escalation, the third is climax and resolution. It works because that’s how we tell stories, it’s natural, though not a rule. It’s one way to tell a story.

The “35k Hell”, the struggle to connect the start to the end (while keeping the middle interesting) is a true thing. Because the first third (or a bit less) is when everything is new to you and to the reader. It’s annoying, you have to keep checking your world building and inventing names, but the story is opening up like a flower.

The middle SHOULD be where it starts to really kick. Everything’s settled, major events occur, but unless you’ve thought it through, you’re left languishing. (Julie says once she’s past the 35k, her family can walk back into her office again.) Even throw your intended ending out, organically write through to something new. Or maybe it’s a short story, maybe you don’t need that.

The one third to establish, it varies. Murder mysteries start with the murder, perhaps not much action, but that’s the setup. We know to expect more. Push it, push harder. James Bond starts by jumping into the action. What if it isn’t good enough? “Better is the next book.” If you ever think you’ve written your best story, quit and do something else. You’re always adding to your skills.

If you have a particular thing, like structure or connecting scenes, we move through a space. If characters are moving seamlessly, scenes will probably flow. Jumping too much is the problem. Have structure. Don’t fuss about “better” structure (avoiding cliches, etc), tell a story such that when you read it again you say, “yeah, I like that”. The only way to test it is to have a reader read it. Then you go back to the craft. Most of the time, it’s not as complex as you perceive it should be. When you have enough extra bits, it comes from you too. Have to wake up the brain.

Writing without structure is like driving from Ottawa to Vancouver via Halifax. Certain books require it. Certain authors require it. Julie’s written a book with every scene on a post-it, she could change where they were, to make sure she had the plot points covered (it was book 3 of 8). “I never thought I could enjoy outlining it to that level, and then write it.” But she found it was “different parts of the brain”.

Each spread: 10,000 words. An outline journal allowed going back to say where she said various things. A synopsis of each chapter covered all the points. It was helpful with a complicated project, but whatever works for you. The blissful part is when you’ve written something and read it later. Who wrote it, fairies in the computer? And why can’t the next part look like that?
Players = Characters...

What about when a character takes control of the plot and veers off somewhere else. One one hand, gotta get it done on deadline, can’t let things go off plot. On the other hand, some writer friends take vacations with characters to listen to them. Then save that draft, open a new one, and start out fresh. (I spoke up at this point, mentioning that you can also look towards your villain, seeing what they do if the characters aren’t paying attention.)

Another problem is if it’s the secondary character. “This character wouldn’t die” when they were supposed to. He ended up spawning another book all by himself, and THEN died. Perhaps the secondary character is the main character? Write from their point of view? Or maybe take the qualities and give them to someone else.

Cautionary tale: There’s a guy who came to Julie with a box and said “I’m ready to write my novel”. He had been world building for 30 years. Topographical maps, economic structure, the works. “Do you not know a gamer? They will take and use it.” Possible he doesn’t really want to write, just world build.

Remember, every once in a while you’ll have to say “I don’t need that plot point.”

This was a long winded description of a very small thing Julie does; she provided her email, referencing an anthology. There was also a handout with some advice. Twitter: @julieczerneda


SOME FINAL POINTS


I have some final point form items which may have been in discussions following the workshop, I’m not certain.

-Names are an interesting thing, even though they can be the last thing you think of. Someone choosing the middle names of her parents as an author name gives “Alex Gordon” who is also a baseball player.
-One of the most important things is stepping back for the tone. We’re in the adventure and writing viscerally, so we don’t see where we’re going.

Pros and Cons of shifting point of view, between characters, or picking 1st/3rd person? (I suspect I asked this...) It’s hard to pull off leaping from head to head, because the reader invests in a character, so they’ll need to invest equally in the next one - or it’s off putting. Or if you go into the mind of the villain, do we want to be there? Acting against our protagonist?

If it’s done right, if you keep things going properly, it’s fine. An aside (by Death) outside of a first person narrative could work. But make sure scenes fall in the particular order and at the right time. Don’t do scene breaks with first/third person, break those by chapter. The benefit is third person can have characters look at your protagonist, and maybe we don’t want to be in his head thinking “I’ll be kingly now”.

In terms of plotting, chapters are a good way to tell if plot is big enough. Even if some are shorter in length.

And that’s all I have from this! At that point, it was 2pm, and I headed back off, to return for the Opening Ceremonies at 7pm. That will be in the next post. Thanks for reading, feel free to comment if you have particular thoughts.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Now Teaching: Week -6

I will be coming back after a year away from teaching. Presently, there are nine weeks until the start of school (which is right after labour day) but any teacher who doesn’t come in at least once in the week prior to that (to figure out classroom setup, make photocopies, et cetera, all at no pay) is crazy. So if that’s “Week 0”, we’re at “Week -6”.

I seem to have decided it’s more important to take a whack at the To Do list versus actually prepping courses... “Do another Parody Math Video” is officially off the list. The CanCon2016 recap is pending. Somewhat related, I’m wondering how much “regular” stuff I should keep mentioning, like Tuesday Yoga and Thursday Comic Chat. (I have mentioned the former, not the latter, despite the latter soaking more time.)

Another insight I had today... by effectively starting all my weeks with SUNDAY (not Monday), I’m pushed to get a few things done on Saturday so that I can mention them here. Also, I’ve never had that “summer feel” of “what day is it”... though that never happened much anyway, and could be connected to my inability to relax? Ah well, time still passes.


*
Item counts run Sunday (July 16) to Saturday (July 22).

Step Count 2016: About 63,300.
STEP COUNT 2017: About 61,600. 25 stars.

THIS TIME LAST YEAR:
-Recaps for TMC, broken A/C, was still very wound up.

School Email Count: 2 New (0 sent)



TEACHING RELATED ITEMS:
 -Nope.

WRITING + ART RELATED ITEMS:
 -Did entire “Stats” video, connected to this Monday’s update.
 -Drawing for video, and brainstorming new ‘tan characters.
 -Thursday stArt Faire Comic Chat.
 -Drew, inked and coloured strip for next Monday.
 -Drew, inked and coloured strip for following Monday. Buffer!

OTHER ITEMS:
 -Dinner with friends Monday.
 -Yoga Tuesday.

 -Got through another chapter of Gleick’s “Time Travel”.
 -Tea with a friend.
 -Massage for shoulder issues Thurs.
 -Haircut became a thing.
 -Mowing lawn, dealing with dead branches, called Orkin.
 -Finished watching “Erased” anime with Anne-Lise.

STUFF I NOW MAY NEVER GET TO:
 -Post recap about CanCon 2016 (from Sept)
 -Write a TANDQ article on Polling and Bias
 -Write a post about types of praise/encouragement
 -Organize all the paper clutter from school
 -Organize all the electronic clutter from school
 -Weed through/organize emails
 -French Citizenship project
 -Binging Anime (RWBY borrowed from Scott)
 -Read some of the books sitting at my desk
 -Complete old fusion fanfic
 -Do an entire (illustrated?) series on “Bias”


RH Stress Level: 1 (Evasion, Flier Fin)

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Now Teaching: Week -7

I will be coming back after a year away from teaching. Presently, there are nine weeks until the start of school (which is right after labour day) but any teacher who doesn’t come in at least once in the week prior to that (to figure out classroom setup, make photocopies, et cetera, all at no pay) is crazy. So if that’s “Week 0”, we’re at “Week -7”.

Not much has been done regarding the return to school this week. I’ve been reminded of the fact that my SmartBoard files are inaccessible from my laptop, the software’s only installed on my old laptop. It creates a strong temptation to just do things from school computers in late August. It’s also occurred to me - I’m bad at binging. I’ve done a whole set of posts about that (while watching anime). Yet grading papers (particularly around exams) requires binging, due to timelines and consistency. Could be why it can reduce me to tears.

The cleaning of the basement last week moved to tidying outside this past week. So stuff is getting done. Yoga’s back. Vacation plans with my wife have been made. I’ve been communicating via email with people/readers and feeling better about myself. And I also took the first step towards making a new math video. Not sure if that last counts as school related.

*
Item counts run Sunday (July 9) to Saturday (July 15).

Step Count 2016: About 70,500.
STEP COUNT 2017: About 65,500. 20 stars.

THIS TIME LAST YEAR:
-I was in Minnesota for “Twitter Math Camp”. My cubic formula song has actually done surprisingly well on YouTube over the last year.

School Email Count: 2 New (0 sent)
Apparently staffing info will be EMAILED this year, not snail mailed.



TEACHING RELATED ITEMS:
 -Not much, see above.

WRITING + ART RELATED ITEMS:
 -Wrote an “Epsilon Project” serial entry.
 -Wrote an RRL wrap-up post for Book 3.
 -Wrote Any ~Qs strips right into September.
 -Drew, inked and coloured strip for next Monday.

OTHER ITEMS:
 -ALL the sweeping. Driveway, deck, basement.
 -Cleaned the deck with suds and brush.
 -Installation of washer/dryer (and locating gas).
 -Yoga’s back on (Tues evenings)

STUFF I NOW MAY NEVER GET TO:
 -Post recap about CanCon 2016 (from Sept)
 -Write a TANDQ article on Polling and Bias
 -Write a post about types of praise/encouragement
 -Organize all the paper clutter from school
 -Organize all the electronic clutter from school
 -Weed through/organize emails
 -Do another Parody Math Video
 -French Citizenship project
 -Binging Anime (RWBY borrowed from Scott)
 -Read some of the books sitting at my desk
 -Complete old fusion fanfic
 -Do an entire (illustrated?) series on “Bias”


RH Stress Level: 1 (Evasion, Flier Fin)

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Now Teaching: Week -8

I will be coming back after a year away from teaching. Presently, there are nine weeks until the start of school (which is right after labour day) but any teacher who doesn’t come in at least once in the week prior to that (to figure out classroom setup, make photocopies, et cetera, all at no pay) is crazy. So if that’s “Week 0”, we’re at “Week -8”.

During these eight weeks, I’ll need to learn a new programming language (as well as remember how to program), along with other aspects for a course I haven’t taught since before the curriculum changed eight years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I’m keen to give it a go, but it means all my other courses REALLY need to be in place in advance. And I didn’t do much with that over the last year. Busy with the writing. The failed writing.

Yeah, all the writing I did over the last 52 weeks? I somehow feel like I’m worse off than I was back in July 2016. At least back then I had a plan, and there was some hope that I could get more visibility. Now, pretty much no hope of finding time to market myself, or be noticed by anyone, not that I managed it over the last year anyway. We’ll see if I can make peace with that.

I am still drawing too, and now doing Thursday comic chats, based on the work of others. Feels like that’s all I have going for me creatively. If you haven’t noticed, I’m rather depressed.


*
Item counts run Sunday (July 2) to Saturday (July 8).

Step Count 2016: About 52,900.
STEP COUNT 2017: About 61,600. 21 stars.
When I get depressed, I can wander aimlessly. Good for my physical activity.

THIS TIME LAST YEAR:
-Put up “Nanoha” merchandise, which is still there. Prepared for Twitter Math Camp, which I can’t really afford this year.

School Email Count: 0 New (0 sent)
(No surprise there.)


TEACHING RELATED ITEMS:
 -Organized all basement binders. Relocated necessary materials.

WRITING + ART RELATED ITEMS:
 -Wrote post about having no “Epsilon Project” serial entry. I fail.
 -Watched “Magical Index” movie and other anime with Anne-Lise.
 -Retooled T&T Book 3 for RRL (Woodlands now ends that book) + edits
 -Drew, inked and coloured strip for next Monday

OTHER ITEMS:
 -Dealt with broken washing machine and getting a new one.
 -Tidied up office area. Really, it’s better now, as is the basement.
 -Saw “Shakespeare in the Park”, “Midsummer Night’s Dream” on Tues.
 -Had massage to deal with arm + back pain.
 -With friends Saturday morning.

STUFF I NOW MAY NEVER GET TO:
 -Post recap about CanCon 2016 (from Sept)
 -Write a TANDQ article on Polling and Bias
 -Write a post about types of praise/encouragement
 -Organize all the paper clutter from school
 -Organize all the electronic clutter from school
 -Weed through/organize emails
 -Do another Parody Math Video
 -French Citizenship project
 -Binging Anime (RWBY borrowed from Scott)
 -Read some of the books sitting at my desk
 -Complete old fusion fanfic
 -Do an entire (illustrated?) series on “Bias”

RH Stress Level: 1 (Evasion, Flier Fin)

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

MT Series Scan: Magical Index 4

I am a SLOW binge-watcher (and reader). Two hours is about my limit, after which I need processing time. I also enjoy watching online reviewers, and reactions to things that I’ve previously watched, so why not take the time during a slow binge to chronicle my own reactions and speculations?

Today we’re looking at A Certain Magical Index (Disc 4) along with some extras. I decided to watch this universe chronologically, and I want to see the threads into their September with “Index II”, hence the additions.

As we left off, Toma had pledged to defend Mikoto, since people were taking notice of “The Kamijo Forces”, and didn’t like whatever he and his friends were getting up to. Also, Toma hadn’t finished his summer homework, and school was going to start back up.


*Magical Index II, Disc 1*


Index II #1: The Last Day, August 31


Stream of Consciousness:
-People have fun as Toma does his homework. ESP Card experiment? Exposition of “Imagine Breaker” with flashbacks, clarifying this is just after Episode 18. Index shouts at him, messes everything up, Hungry Index sucks. (Second OP, it includes Misaka and Accelerator... with a crutch?! Heavy beat in background. Railgun characters (no Saten, aw), Index characters, religion. Music hits it’s stride, Index and Toma. I guess it’s okay? Might grow on me too.)
-Annoying self-righteous Index is annoying. CrossbowGuy uses magic, blows open the apartment, Toma’d gone for food. (So Index is KINDA useful.) Food dumped all over him. CrossBowGuy's fast. Toma wants his homework fixed, “feeling a little bit violent”, heh. CrossBowGuy grabs Index. Invisible? Aisa’s outside. Sphinx is useful? No, goes for a fishhead. (Very Index of the cat.) BowGuy has picture of HospitalGirl. (He wants the magic to heal her?) Index is untying ropes (some points to her).
-Toma runs into Mikoto. Why the run, he loses it on her. She gets flustered so he runs off again. (Mikoto looks jerkish here.) Index identifies Azusa Yumi bow while trying to phone. (Index, you’re DOING something!!) BowGuy’s in mortal danger from this? “Baopiaozi.” He didn’t become a magician for this, Index says it was love, but a grimoire is not the way. Toma stops the spell. BowGuy fires at them, Toma’s turn for a speech.
-BowGuy collapses, even one text was too much. Gave up on life three times now. Sphinx scratches him to consciousness, Toma’s hand could obliterate the curse, maybe. Big Cry. (ED: Toma’s hand to jazzy colours. Then some Mikoto and Index and montage. I guess it’s okay.) Then Kanzaki versus sea knights?? Tsu remarks on who they are. (I do like how he plays both sides.) NEXT: Conspiracy outside the City, with Index gone.

Thoughts and Theories:
 I suppose if you want an introduction to the characters and the universe, that episode gets the job done. Yet I feel like the only reason it was set here in continuity was so that Toma could mention the Mikoto promise (and to maybe see her so soon after those events)... otherwise it could go anywhere. (Alternately, does Misaka get colder towards Toma after whatever the coming Accelerator stuff is, so this showed a better relationship between them??) Anyway, there’s a good chance we never see BowGuy again, he didn’t even get a name. Onwards into the final “Index” arc.


*Magical Index Disc 4*


19 Last Order


Stream of Consciousness:
-Aug 31, right after midnight. OP. (Yeah the OP grows on you. I prefer it to the Index II one.) Accelerator buys drinks. People try to challenge him, since he was beaten by Kamijo, but his powers are the same. “What about me has changed?” He can reflect away noise too, whoa. Small girl is tiny “Misaka Misaka” narrating?! (Misa will do for me.) Only wearing that blanket?! Serial #20001?!? Her codename is ‘title drop’. Accelerator’s not in 304? Or 307 (that was a bit funny).
-Apartment’s blown open?? He tells Misa it’s not safe with him, but she has no one else. (This narrative is WEIRD. But I guess I can see why a manga might be based on this guy, we’re finally seeing layers.) Hah, hoping for a domestic Accelerator to surprise her. His body has no pigmentation, he reflects away UV Rays? Accelerator sees “Amai Ao” drive away.
-Misa does share in the Misaka Net. “Without you, we wouldn’t have been given souls.” She also claims he didn’t want to do the experiment (easier to see that in “Railgun”). Reasoning: what was the point in speaking to the Misakas? Flashbacks. Conclusion, Accel desires to make contact, but the words were also abusive, like he wanted her to give up. (I like the reasoning.) He goes to leave, she collapses, he still leaves.
-Still Accel! (I did not expect a redemption arc here.) Accel goes to the lab, his ID is still good for 90 days. Yoshikawa, going over data isn’t that fun. He wants to borrow conditioning equipment, she’d noticed bugs in the Misaka personalities. (Retroactively somewhat due to Shinobu?) “Virus” of “Last Order”, Misa was an extra unit, the “control tower” for all Misakas. Her escape was an attempt to prevent being overwritten by illegal code seven days earlier??
-At midnight, a virus will run through the Misaka Net. “Intriguing. Who?” Amai Ao, an original “Radio Noise” Project researcher. How can they stop this?? There is something Accel can do: either find Amai, or secure Misa and incubate her. Choice? Given he’s bigger on destruction? He picks Misa. NEXT: Desperate measures, Accel finds Misa but Amai finds him.

Thoughts and Theories:
 That was all Accelerator. No Touma at all. I’m flabbergasted. It looks like next episode is more of the same, and the previous “Index” episode was only tangentially related (via Mikoto). Part of me feels like this story is becoming aimless, why are we wandering so far afield from magic, but part of me feels like this is awesome character development. Except seriously, everyone BUT Index gets treatment this way. (She’s annoying, contains books, and likes to eat, that’s it.) And yet, I adore when villains are redeemed, or at least are the heroes of their own stories.
 I guess what I’m saying is, this is a great story, but why is it in the middle of “Index”’s story?? So it packs more punch than exposition when Accel talks about it later? Except I don’t know why he’d seek out Toma, the guy who messed up his life. (Aside from “protagonist reason”.) So if those two characters won’t talk, how does this hook back into the main plot? All I can guess is Mikoto’s about to be pulled in too. Guess we’ll see.


20 Virus Code


Stream of Consciousness:
-Toma lampshades how he won’t appear. OP. Accelerator used to have a name, five character total. Escalation history, from being hit, to taking on the army. Misa was taken by a man in a lab coat. City security code is red, no one in or out, yet Amai’s in debt. Amai’s in his car, worried Misa will die before the virus activates.
-Accel in the way of the car, vector change to stop. Kid’s got electrodes on, “brain cell” operation, can he fix her there? No way. Yoshikawa’s coming. (Starting to wonder if Amai’s actually the bad guy here. Beneficial virus?) Misa repeats “Misa”. Code’s preparing to execute, even though they should have had four hours. Ten minutes to create the command, so kill her first. (UHHHH.)
-Reverse the bioelectricity? He’s got the pre-infection personality data. Next step after his mastering “reflection” is “controlling”. Throws the phone away. All he has to do is erase any excess - but Doc thought that not enough? Pre-Infection data, code count 357081. Says delete, she says resist. Yeah, what else IS he erasing? Aside from her memories of him?
-Amai has a gun, Accel’s doing electron microscope precision work, he can’t reflect. WTF, boom. (Okay, Amai’s the bad guy.) DAMN. And Misa’s still in an Error mode. Wait, no, cancel due to illegal process. Now he’s gonna kill Misa too?! ACCEL’S ALIVE? He reflected the bullet in his skull? O.o (That can’t feel good.) “Lip service” but it’s not right for Misa to get killed. He’s down. (All his energy was used in the speech?) Amai makes generalizations, fires gun again. But it’s Yoshikawa shooting HIM, daaaaamn.
-She gets Misa, admits she couldn’t shoot Amai anywhere vital. A soft decision, cruel in this state? She says Frog-Face doctor might save Accel, he’s nicknamed “Heaven Canceller” ooooooh. Yoshikawa wanted to be a teacher. Huuuuh, another speech. He’ll die alone, she won’t let him take a kid. Both have guns, another gunshot. ... She’s alive, but was shot by the heart. Accel manipulated her blood flow, even unconscious. Daaaaaaamn again! Accel’s verbal and computational abilities are affected. But 10,000 brains can offset one person’s skills? The higher-ups did remove the lab. Help Accel? “He can do it if he just tries.” NEW ED. (Pairs of people, lyrical, flowing. Again montage, to rainbow.) NEXT: Sorcerers snuck in, many characters, including transfer student (side ponytail girl? Index?).

Thoughts and Theories:
 Oookay. Redemption arc then. One that was hard to do from anyone else’s perspective. Totally something I’d do as well, with my “villain” characters. I only wish I could understand how it fits in. I mean, this gunplay is pretty heavy duty stuff, tonally at odds with most of what came beforehand. So maybe that’s the idea, “Index” is shifting darker? (I mean sure, Toma lost an arm, but this?) Granted, I suppose this is the best place for the anime to place it, before the season end, but after the reintroduction of all the other magic and science characters. Will Accel play a part in the season end then? Somehow, I can’t see it (isn’t this ALL Sept 1st?), yet that makes this a loose end.
 In brief, I liked this, but it puzzles me. Also, it hasn’t escaped my attention that it’s the male characters who seem to have the most soul searching (female characters propping them up). Oh well, something a bit more traditional in terms of a plot is coming up next. How does a single day of school startup go so awry? Let’s find out.


21 Counter Stop


Stream of Consciousness:
-Sept 1st, Index will be alone while Toma’s at school. (Also, his apartment got cleaned up REAL FAST from BowGuy trashing it. What was the point of all that destruction?) Index doesn’t know how to make her own lunch?! OP. (Wait, was Index always next to him in the class OP? Oh, she was.) Biribiri runs past, more reference to yesterday’s boyfriend thing. Toma feels like a transfer student. Komoe’s feet don’t reach the brakes. ^^
-AIM Diffusion field papers (An Involuntary Movement, huh, like body heat - guess that’s what affects sorcery?). If an esper could read such fields. (Hello ITEM reference.) Tsu is being helped by a teleporter who isn’t Kuroko? It’s upside-down director guy. “Sherry Cromwell”, member of Necessarius, needs to be brought down. (Ahh, this is why condition is Red for Accel tonight.) Tsu will deal, Director references “Imaginary Number School District’s Five Elemental Control Method”.
-Transfer student. Index and Sphinx. No, she’s not the transfer student, go home. (Heh, nice misdirect.) Transfer student is Aisa. (Pfffft, okay then.) Index seeks food vouchers, but there’s no buttons. Hyoka, sidetail girl, also a transfer student. Of course Toma bursts in as they’re changing. CHOMP. (Well, they’ve done worse fan service.)
-Index has info, including golden ratio. They’re fighting over Hyoka? Cat into boobs. Komoe didn’t see him at the ceremonies. (Pfft, okay a girl attracting AIM field’s kinda funny.) “He doesn’t listen to anything I say”, well maybe it’s because you mostly say self-absorbed things, Index?! (Grrr, clue in.) Toma cares enough to be mad. Aisa’s suspicious, Hyoka’s name was from her last school, except no one had seen her, she’s known as ‘title drop’, and is key to learning more about Five-Element Agency. Toma’s heard of that? They control from shadows? Hyoka had her own class/lab for her ability. Be careful.
-I forgot AntiSkill woman (Yomikawa) taught (apparently honours students). Two intruders to the City, but are there really two? Kuroko’s looking at a dark skinned blonde? Uses her signature moves, but Blonde wrote something. Makes a golem. Railgun. Escaped, monologues while making more “Golem Ellis”? Eyes. Ew. NEXT: Battle in the underground with “Sherry”, and Hyoka in new clothes.

Thoughts and Theories:
 Something I came across while looking at timelines, apparently Aisa’s powers have been sealed by the Church, I don’t think that was ever made clear. But I guess it’s why she’s a main character too now. In fact, all the mains are being showcased as we ramp up, and that makes sense. This new Hyoka Kazakiri is interesting (is she really Sherry in disguise, maybe?), while the other “Sherry” is creepy with her “Ellis”. So her and Ellis are obviously who got into the city, but I’m not convinced of the Sherry connection yet.
Pretty sure Toma will try to save Hyoka though. We’ll see AntiSkill too. No idea what to make of the “Five Element Agency” (is Stigyl’s fire a member of the FEA?).


22 Golem


Stream of Consciousness:
-Index is full? (Call the media.) To arcade. Aisa calls, bad reception. (Eyeroll.) Bunny girls?? Cosplay photos, ah. He didn’t just walk in on them! Yay! The curtain falls, okaaaay. (He didn’t... Index, you’re a moron. He’d see those photos anyway.) A voice in their heads? Ohh, his hand blocked it. Telepathy. There’s a terrorist, they’ll be sealing off the mall. As Eyeball Ellis sees them. Index is useful! (That needs to stop being a surprise.)
-People are sealed in. Index says this is her job, not Toma's?? They take each other out. Index and Railgun finally meet. “Did he come to your rescue without asking too” heh. Kuroko colour commentary. She’s teleporting people out (but can’t with Toma). Pointless rivalry! (Like why teleport Misaka out AT ALL? She was with Kuroko, could have been sent out at ANY TIME.) Which leaves Toma with Hyouka. AntiSkill grenade blows themselves up. x.x
-Hmm, “Imagine Breaker” recognized, not with the Key to FEA now. Earth is her power, and she IS Sherry, with English Puritan Church, trying to start a war. Kazakiri’s back (Toma BUY A CLUE, she's connected). She’s knocked out, errr, her body is a shell and she’s a glowing prism, UHHMMM. She doesn’t even know what she is?? She runs toward the golem, figures. x.x Why did you smack her AWAY and not GRAB HER? As Kuroko has others to teleport.
-Komoe gets through. Hyoko (wait, that’s a different subtitling of her name... I'd better stick with Kazakiri) never appeared on video feeds. AIM Field connection. If all data describing “human” comes together, is there a “person”? From overlapping AIM Fields?! (I think Sorcery is a better explanation.) She existed before as a “ghost”. Komoe tests his resolve, hangs up. Kazakiri reforms. Sherry says Kazakiri’s not human, to survive that damage. “You’re like Ellis”, a golem. Index flashbacks, well, that’s good. Toma jumps in at the last moment. NEXT: Battle to save Kazakiri, including some work by Index outside.

Thoughts and Theories:
 Did not call Kazakiri as being the Golem. I will say they won’t defeat Sherry here, only Ellis (and the chalk?) since the alert level actually rises to Red during Accel’s arc. Or maybe they defeat her but she sets something in motion (within Kazakiri?). Kazakiri is apparently the key to FiveElementsA... or rather, not her, since she took on the appearance of someone unseen. (If it IS her, science been grooming her behind the scenes for a while.)
 Oh wait. Toma has no offensive weapons, Sherry knows about his Breaker, and AntiSkill’s not cut out for sorcery. Kazakiri’s likely going to need to do her “Counter Stop” (or channel it from the real person?) since Sherry’s not backing down otherwise. Also, Tsu hasn’t shown up yet, so he could be out with Index, acting cagey for an action break. I bet the fight will take most of the next episode.


23 Friends


Stream of Consciousness:
-Now her name’s spelled Hyoka. Golem crumble was delayed. Sherry writes fast. Toma brought AntiSkill? “Help my friend.” Bullets aren’t doing much. Sherry writes in air and invokes four quarters of Heaven? All part of Toma's plan, heh. Ooooh, if she touches him, her own existence might cancel, good point... he’ll be back. Nice slide. “I have no need to run away.” Punches. She can’t sustain two at once, but? An escape tunnel? (I called something!) Toma’s overlooking something. (She’ll pull Kazakiri down?) Ohhh, it was Index the whole time. x.x Right, that’d start a war. 
-Outfit pins. London style forms. Index silly fears, Mikoto makes a good point. Index causes Mikoto to have silly thoughts. x.x Sphinx is off and Mikoto doesn’t do cats well. Toma notes Index not a resident (what about her fake ID for the beach, not good enough for AntiSkill?). He's going to go underground. (Wait, is Kazakiri the one who teleported with Tsu before?) She says she’ll be a decoy, as she’s a “monster”. Oooh, he almost touched her. She’s down. Flashes back. Finds her own ID in her bag?
-Ephemeral city. Where people change forms based on their AIM fields. Cute. Wait, it’s based on her looking at them? (Mainspring?) Can’t touch them, until Index. (Her robes?) In half a day, got all the firsts, including friends. Giant hand. Index gets serious, Kabbalah? She can also control Ellis, disrupt the spell. “Spell intercept.” (Thank goodness.) Self repair every three seconds? Safety pin what now? She's almost knocked out, he’s no longer under remote control. Punching blue sparkles. NEXT: Flashpoint. Tsu and Kazakiri and Toma running.

Thoughts and Theories:
 It’s a different way of having the characters come together. Where “Railgun” tried to pull everybody and their parents together at the end, here we seem to be left with the core characters (plus Kazakiri, who we’re meant to love in less than a day, yet not Magnus or Kanzaki). The stakes are high (Church war over assassination), but the battle is more individual. I DO feel like this is going to change things? As if the Series ends here, not because everyone wins, but because everything’s different after a small victory.
 For "different", maybe Kazakiri won’t survive... particularly if she’s not the real one... or maybe she’ll be okay, but the “Imaginary Number” district gets blown wide open to the public. Incidentally, the “Anime Only” from “Railgun S” about Febrie’s “Ghost” power converting AIM fields into virtual matter? That’s not far off from this stuff, Kazakiri formed from AIM fields. (Maybe someone did their homework.) OH. In fact THAT’S where I’ve seen her triangular prism before, back in “Railgun”, the warped baby angel of death. Continuity! Maybe these “beings” are not meant to be around at all.
 Specific episode predictions? Well, Toma will get out to the Index battle (but not until the second half of the ep, Kuroko can’t teleport him). No idea what that safety pin thing was supposed to do, but it will be relevant. They’ll need to nail Sherry, perhaps that’s Tsu’s job. And Upside-Down Director will probably have a foreboding speech to someone, as elsewhere, Toma’s just happy Index is okay. (This is starting to feel like pointless speculation.)


24 Imaginary Number School District


Stream of Consciousness:
-It’s not Toma narrating, it’s Kazakiri! As Toma runs after her in the tunnels, of course. (Should have called that.) OP. Rubble falls, Sherry’s with Toma. (Ellis can be flesh and blood?) “Science and magic are equally balanced” claim. Isn’t it strange, us knowing how when espers use magic, it hurts them? (Yeah, hm, how DOES science know about the magic?) Twenty years ago, tried to do fusion. Ellis was an esper?! She taught him spells, ow. Then Knights killed him. “Remain segregated”, I can buy this, but why give him the speech NOW?
-Toma, “We’re not talking about the same thing”, for sure. Ohh, she doesn’t want a war, just a situation that gets close, so everyone backs off. She’s set up lots of circles and doesn’t want pity. ^_^ He remembers something Index said about position, yaaay! Identifies a magic circle out of place, oooh, smack. She insists on a flashpoint, it’s like it was 20 years ago, Toma says don’t attack people over that. (Toma seems a bit naive. Oh, Sherry agrees with me. Uh, I don’t want to kill everyone though, so I don't agree with her.)
-Toma Insight: Her conviction isn’t multifaceted, it’s about her wanting not to lose Ellis. He (esper school) and Index (magic church) are symbolic, hmmm, don’t separate them either. Sherry really wants to be stopped? This is when she gave up remote access, okay then. Hyoka acrobatics, digital nature shown to Index. (Index probably won’t run.) Golem can’t control his regeneration. Kazakiri’s kinda badass.
-Toma in for the win (natch, but how did he get there and find them so fast). Crumbling. (No, it’s not over. Also, duck maybe? ... oh, it really is over. Uh.) Mikoto’s back. (Uh, Toma? Call someone about Sherry? Maybe?) Haha, Kuroko thinks Mikoto’s responsible. So, Kazakiri and Toma on construction equipment. Losing Index. (He’ll probably say no one has to know, and Index won’t care.) She’s STILL crying. Feelings make her human (but he can’t touch her, rough). “This isn’t normal, is it” ... it is for this City.
-UpsideDownGuy with Tsu. Closer to the Key now. The “Imaginary” district is an AIM diffusion field?? And he’s the one who gave it consciousness? (So Kazakiri's a school district?) No, it’s power in a different phase from humanity. Now given life creates an Angel. (Uhhhh.) Others like her imply there’s “artificial heaven”. (I agree Aleister Crowley is not sane. Though him then not having an opinion on this heaven is interesting.) “This incident has gradually started to send the world off the rails” (so I got that right).
-HAhahaha, progress in that he wasn’t in hospital this arc. (But Accel was, soooo.) Heh, gets smacked on the head for being oblivious. (At least it’s not Index biting.) Index’s skirt is weird, Hyoka’s psychic energy body is phasing, unstable, since Toma’s hand exists... she has to go back. “It’s not like I’m dying.” (That is a nicer departure, should have realized that.) ED plays.
-Spinning maid WHY? Aisa with her magic wand again, heh. Tsu’s still on the job, Accel is in hospital with Misa (should have called that) and AntiSkill woman is in charge of him. Stupid shower scene, oh that’s a TERRIBLE last shot. Wait, post-credits shot, ArchBishop “Laura Stuart” calling Toma the “manager” of the grimoires. Oh, final FINAL shot Index being stupid about food. UGH. But typical (non-funny to me) humour. >.<

Thoughts and Theories:
 Boy, “Railgun” and “Index” are like night and day in finales, but that makes sense when you consider “Railgun” makes up it’s (anime only) conclusions while “Index” follows the manga (I presume). Toma HAS shown growth here (more than merely not being in hospital), with understanding magic, as seen in his dispelling Sherry’s circle. Index KINDA has, in that she's becoming useful, but she's still so self-absorbed that it's hard to buy the "she's so friendly" vibe at the end.
 I DID call Aleister’s random speech. I did NOT call Kazakiri fading away for a while (but should have). In the end, the series is wrapped up, but feels... unfinished. In a sense, ALL of “Index” was about setting up the world (science v magic) and the main characters (boy do I hate some of them, while others like Tsu are very layered)... which is what allows for spinoffs. Like “Railgun” or like the “Accelerator” manga, which I can totally see now, but wouldn’t have understood partway through.
 Thing is, Mini-Misaka is a loose end. The “Kamijo Forces” is a loose end. The destruction of “Tree Diagram” feels like a loose end. Even bizarre spinning maid-girl is a loose end, as in what point did she serve, ever. But here we'll end, as it’s a new school year, and Toma and Index are in a sort of truce, and I grant it does make for a sensible stopping point.

 Would I recommend the series? Yeah, it has a lot going for it, and “Railgun” showed that revisionist history can iron out some of the bugs. Of course, I’m biased towards the concept (aside from the religious angle, which I knew little about). I’m going to take a break before Series II though.


***
That’s seven episodes, so we’re overdue to finish this post. As a parting shot, I happened to look up “Index Abridged”. There is “A Certain Magical Index Abridged Ep 1” (two episodes, not that great) ; “Index’d Ep 01” (a reimagining more than anything, five episodes with extras, meh) ; and “Indexed: Episode 1” (the funniest but that’s the only ep). There’s also “A Certain Abridged Railgun: Episode 1” (only ep, some funny jokes but also unnecessary racial and gender slurs).

BONUS: Movie, The Miracle of Endymion.

I watched it with my wife (the one who bought it for me) on July 2. We both quite enjoyed it. I particularly like using song to bridge the gap between magic and science. I suspect revisionist history lampshading with “has that always been there”. I wish they wouldn’t keep jamming fanservice in. She remarked on how there were a lot of characters to keep straight (which is a good point, there’s a lot of new ones in addition to the regulars, plus Accelerator from out of nowhere is a doubletake) and it wasn’t clear why Toma was hush-hush about magic (yeah, there could’ve been a line there).
 The twist, when it happens, is VERY nicely set up without being obvious. (Incidentally, the power went out while we were watching, due to a thunderstorm. My computer switched to battery. Power came on with the singing at the end, after Toma’s phone was dead. Weird.) Oh Saten and her baseball bat. Ok, really done now. ^_^

Thanks for reading, feel free to add your own thoughts below.