Planning, musing…

I’m juggling several projects one of which I think of as “my erotic epic” and so this post is simply me thinking aloud here about what I should do next. Some years back, I jumped in to Milida’s collaborative interactive fiction piece over at Writing.com, “Arabian Nights Gender Changing World,” which explores the various fates of John Lemure in an Arabian Nights virtual reality game. I had a small idea for a short story arc that pushed my buttons, and started writing chapters. Soon after I started, I had an idea for a plot that would make something more of it, and I noted down about ten short bullet points. And from there it grew.

Real life interrupted me, more than a year ago now, and I haven’t yet picked up my quill and continued the story. The last time I attempted to, I realised I had so many threads going that if I didn’t go back and re-read and summarise what had happened so far, I was going to introduce all sorts of continuity errors. So I started making a chapter-by-chapter summary to get it straight in my own head once again.

The story itself is probably way too long, and is meant just for pleasure – it’s not a deep intellectual piece, nor does it explore any notable moral ideas. It’s purely for fun. I think it will probably work, at that: being unashamedly just a “pleasure piece,” if you know what I mean (wink wink, nudge nudge). I don’t think there’s too much repetition, though poor old John (in my story arc) does keep getting into and out of variants of the same situation. A bit like the Perils of Pauline in that respect, I suppose: repetition with variation, except with changes accumulating and plots deepening, of course. So for an erotic piece, maybe the fact that it is long might even work in its favour?

“How long,” I imagine a few people asking?

Well, I think the plot is nearing completion. Writing.com limits each single interactive fiction contribution to about 10k characters (under 2k words), and I mostly pushed up against that for each piece.  I’ve written about 200 parts of the story so far, and should wrap up in another 40 or so. Collected together as a single MS, it is currently just under 300k words. Which if published as a printed book would be approaching a thousand pages long – currently.

So, here’s where I start musing. The version I’ve been putting up on writing.com is basically a first draft, and I was planning to finish it off, polish and improve it, maybe add a little more, and then publish it. But a thousand pages or more? That’d be a daunting read. And I probably wouldn’t finish writing it until around the end of 2016, so it would also be a long wait. As well, very few people know of me, or the story, so if I look at it from a purely commercial viewpoint, just publishing it as a single massive piece of erotica has lots of negatives:

  • It would take a lo-o-ong time for anyone to read the whole thing
  • I’d need to charge a high-ish price because of all the effort I’ve put into it
  • So even with Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature, the sheer length would make it hard for people to decide to buy the whole thing
  • With fewer people having read it, it would garner few reviews
  • The all-or-nothing approach would pressure me to focus on that single story to the detriment of my other projects
  • I think the sheer length would discourage many readers from even starting it: there’d be little visible sign of progress as you read it.

If I break it into multiple volumes, however, all those problems go away. And it would give me more flexibility to publish some of my other shorter stories in between volumes – since I wouldn’t feel like I had to finish “my erotic epic” before working on anything else.

As for the fact that the first draft is available for free on writing.com – there are (or were) one or two hundred people following the story, some even offering feedback and encouragement, and I think it would be mean to just stop it and say “if you want to see how it ends, you’ll have to buy it.” I’d rather say “If you’d like to support my efforts, please buy the finished and polished version.”

Anyway, those are my thoughts at present. I need to get back to my summarising to refresh my memory about the complex predicament the MC had gotten himself into. While my initial ten bullet points grew into a far longer outline so the ending is pretty well worked out there’s enormous room for contradictions if I don’t get all the existing details straight in my head before restarting.

Well, that decision seems cut and dried, now that I’ve thought it through here.

The approach also lets me keep contributing to the erotic bimbo-transformation illustrated text adventure game Trap Quest (http://trapquest.com/), which I find both enjoyable and terribly distracting. As well as blog here, and keep any followers in the loop, along with my Twitter feed, @SelkieTG.

Sex in the West

I had an idea for a story just now – a full-length sci-fi story that may or may not contain elements of erotica – which set me once again pondering Western culture’s attitude to sex.  Because, truth be told, I’ve always been drawn towards tales of transformation; no doubt because of my own awareness of how poorly I fit into various categories.  So this novel will explore an issue which I believe we will face, probably some time within the next 50 years: the consequences of a deep and full understanding of how our minds work.

That thought led me again to pondering the often transgressive nature of science fiction, and the extreme importance of that genre for humanity’s sake.  SF, by exploring possible alternate worlds, lets us see the dangers and threats that face our societies and even our species, and provides us with well-thought out starting points for considering what might be.  If the future is a vast dark unknown, then science fiction (and fantasy) act like torches illuminating areas near the path we tread through that immense cavern of night.  A path that will hopefully one day lead us to the stars and finally allow us to place some of our species’ eggs in more than one fragile basket.  So SF is important: the story of Dr Frankenstein’s monster resonates so deeply with us because ill-considered technology, or technology developed without considering how it can be used to do more good than harm in the long term, is a real and genuine threat.  It’s crucial for us to devote the necessary time and money to think things through, and to talk to the people who will be affected by the changes.

Anyway, the idea for the novel is one of those important threats we’ll face from technological change and the advance of our understanding.  For those of a deeply religious bent, who fear technological change and believe we should stop learning and growing – that we should never have picked the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge – I would argue that God would never have given us our wonderful brains, our inquisitive nature, nor set up the world so that something as magnificent and robust as Evolution shepherds all life through Change, if that free will were not a big part of whatever mysterious plan he has for us.  In truth, I’d go further, and argue that given God’s avowed interest in free will, he must not have a Plan for us: it must be a Hope.  One in which our free will and our minds will play a major part.  And how would we judge parents who wanted their children not to grow and learn and develop; not to exercise the gifts they were born with and developed through hard work and passion?  Provided of course that their actions are driven, at heart, from love; or at least respect?

I think one of the West’s great tragedies is the idea that all sex (or most sex) is sinful.  How harmful has the enforced celibacy of priests been, how much misery and pain has that simplistic idea caused?  I’ve heard of the Japanese idea of “shikata ga nai”, which I understand means “it can’t be helped;”  it’s human nature, just accept it.  To me, that seems a much more honest attitude.  Like so many things, sex can be good or bad, beautiful or ugly; it all depends on the spirit that motivates the act.

And a big problem, and perhaps a growing problem, is that our cultures have not yet adapted to the rate of change that technology and knowledge bring to our societies.  In Australia, some people argued against the free offering of vaccination against cervical cancer, arguing that it would promote promiscuity.  (That “sex is sin” idea again: better to let some young girls die!)  Even in the West, we haven’t invented good mechanisms to protect society as a whole from the potentially-immortal entities we’ve created: we don’t require companies and other organisations to produce a 5-yearly Ethics report, with an honest assessment of the pluses and minuses their actions have wrought.  We stumble into global climate change and look about in dismay, wondering how we got here and resisting investment in engineering solutions, until the truth is towering over us like the wall of an onrushing bushfire.

We don’t have to walk off cliffs in the dark, you know.  We can collectively look ahead and choose safe routes if we’re just willing to be open and honest with ourselves.  We don’t have to try to stuff genies back into bottles: we can choose how we phrase our wishes, how much or how little we use those genies.  Because, let’s face it, not all individuals are good, and not all organisations are good; and if we don’t understand how this newly-discovered “fire” invention works, well, some day one of those not-good organisations will figure out how they can use it to serve their own mean purposes; and then we’ll be on the back foot and at a disadvantage.  We can’t pull the blankets over our heads, we have to face our fears.  It’s one of history’s major lessons for us as a species, over and over and over again.

So I think that all sorts of speculative fiction, whether it be sci-fi or  fantasy or whatever, is crucially important for us.  And it can be fun, and moving, and even sexually exciting if we wish.  Sex isn’t sin.  Technology has moved on: we have birth control, we understand how to have safe sex, women are equal to men, we’re all different….  Thousand-year-old moral or ethical guide-books that tell us to not suffer witches to live, or that tell us it’s okay to own slaves, or to kill homosexuals or infidels… those maps are out of date in some areas.  Update them!

Societies evolve.  Things change.  We adapt or we wither and possibly die.  Things that once worked may stop working; things that were once essential to the smooth operation of society can start working to its detriment.  Things that once meant one thing change beyond all recognition, too; so that even the people who set those mechanisms up might stare in dismay at what those practices have evolved into.  Just because it used to work, or used to be good, doesn’t mean it’s beyond examination.  We need to look at what we do, and why we do things, with clarity; and then honestly discuss and work out what we should be doing.  Collectively.

And there’s scope for variation.  Variation and difference is not just allowable, it’s essential.  If history teaches us one thing, evolution certainly teaches us another: the vulnerability and fragility of too much uniformity.

So I’ll end my little rant by welcoming the technological changes that the ebook is bringing.  Sure, they’re awful in some respects compared to “real” books.  But in some ways real books are awful compared to ebooks.  They’re similar but different things.  And ebooks grant privacy of purchase – you no longer have to face our collectively-stated (and individually-ignored) lie that sex is sin: you can browse and buy what you want in private.  And sure, you can’t show easily display the spines of your collection of ebooks on your shelves, to spark off conversations like “Oh, you like Janet Evanovich too, you might like…”; but you also don’t need to worry about people saying “Eh, what’s this? You’re into bondage?  You’re sick!”  Fifty Shades of Gray was a bestseller not just because it met a need, but because you could buy it without suffering public embarrassment..

So ebooks allow us to follow our true desires in private; and I think and hope that in time, the gap between the public lies we all solemnly pronounce and agree on, and the private truths we all practice, must surely narrow?

Game review: TrapQuest by Aika

This isn’t a proper post, and it’s not the game review itself, either; it’s just a quick note to point you at my review (with screen grabs) of TrapQuest, the text-based, X-rated, adventure game by Aika, over on FictionMania at: TrapQuest game review.  The game is one that contains several “gender-fluid” and other quite kinky fetishes.

Be warned: personally, I find TQ highly addictive. And my review, and the TQ site itself, contain images that are very NSFW.

Merry Christmas!

(PS: Aika is shooting for a Christmas Day release of a new version with a 3rd “dungeon area” to play in, which has been in development now for some time.  Cross your fingers! )