So let me tell you what I was trying to achieve with Fine Structure.

This is going to be a little difficult for me to write because one of the first and most important things I was aiming for here was to write as original a piece of science fiction as I could manage. I deliberately tried to avoid invoking as many science fiction (and general fiction) tropes as I could. Irony? I wanted to create something which was pretty new. The central concepts of Fine Structure - most notably, the concept of information as a substance with an equivalence with energy and mass - was, as far as I know, pretty much entirely original, as well as naturally (through a little creative application) giving rise to a surprising number of wonderful new technologies and powers, such as teleportation, telepathy, mind control, memes, antimemes and other things which are generally impossible. Memes and antimemes in particular, as powerful tangible objects with offensive capabilities, are pretty new in modern fiction. This also gave rise to the concept of the Script as an informational representation of the Structure - "the same thing from different angles". The Script also builds from a concept I first outlined in the Ed story The annoying orange orb outside my window each morning, which in turn was inspired from the line in Futurama where it's revealed that while FTL is still impossible, scientists have simply increased the speed of light to enable intergalactic travel.

The major source of inspiration for the Powers plot, meanwhile, was comic books. I love comic books. Like all media, they have their criticisms, but most of all I like the scale of the stories, the absence of anything in the way of a budget, the lack of restriction on who can appear where, and the idea of working in a shared universe which has so much historical significance and inertia after being built up by previous generations over decades and decades. Comic book movies do exist, and despite the limitations of the medium they have, for the most part, served well. Comic book prose, meanwhile, has usually been pretty unpleasant. I can't get past the first chapter of the Crisis On Infinite Earths novelisation and it's written by a guy who writes truly tremendous comics. They are simply different skills. Tying together as many superpowers as possible inside a unified and logically consistent framework was fun, sure. I'm particularly proud of the fact that Mitch Calrus' power set is almost exactly the same as the Martian Manhunter's. X-ray vision, invisibility, intangibility: all covered in one entirely rational leap of logic! But the main challenge I saw in front of me was "how do you write a comic book fight?"

I wanted to put the reader right there in the moment. This is why Power Of Two is written in the first person perspective, and why the whole story (other than the anomalous On Digital Extremities) is written in the present tense. Comic books are written in the present tense, and these days the "internal monologue" is pretty ubiquitous, and both of these practices put the reader closer to the action. It feels like it is happening now to me, not something that was happening then to that guy. I also wanted to capture the scale of threats which comic book universes feature so frequently, in a way which felt as close to reality as I could manage. In case you hadn't noticed, Oul is the Galactus of the Fine Structure universe: the cosmic, unstoppable supergod which we see coming from space to destroy the whole Earth, which we then drive off with our superior science and heroism. This is also why there's a Fine Structure multiverse. It just occurred to me one day that there should be a multiverse, and this is where the chapter 'Verse Chorus, in which the multiverse is created, came from. The underlying thread of a series of superheroes, each one being twice as powerful as the previous one (and hence more powerful than all the previous superheroes combined) is one which I've had in mind for years and years.

I wanted to capture the pace, scale and frantic complexity of, let's be honest here, Grant Morrison and Joe Kelly's JLA comics. I wanted to build a story complex enough to be worth multiple readings, with buried detail for the closely observant - although I've dug most of that up myself in the Q&A. Several of the chapters aren't intended to tell a story but to capture feelings at specific moments in time, similar to how The Custodian did in his short story Chase scene whose title I immediately knew I had to steal to make Fight scene. And, most of all, I wanted to be able to build up to a monumental climax in which the whole world and everybody in it is miraculously saved, at tremendous cost, and at the last possible millisecond, from the direst peril. This is how every superhero story ends, right? "All the heroes are dead. The Sun is falling into a black hole. The anti-God makes Earthfall in fifteen minutes. It's time to save the world. TO BE CONCLUDED."

I wanted to improve my descriptive skills, which is why Fine Structure is less driven by dialogue than the Ed Stories were. 1970- in particular was a major exercise in description for me. For future stories, I'm intending to work on my characterisation and giving unique voices to characters. At the moment they all sound pretty much interchangeable.

As for a moral-- an implication for the modern world, as is traditional in science fiction-- well, Fine Structure is a story about the importance of science. The main message of Fine Structure is: science will save the world. Science is the only thing that can save the world. Science is unstoppable, reason cannot be killed, logic cannot be stopped, there is no force on Earth which can stop a scientist from learning, and turning our backs on science will doom us all. Even the gods are rational and obey laws. The future is not something which happens by just waiting for time to pass. And if you want to be assured of a life after death, you have to build it yourself.

Thank you all ever so much for reading.

(ob. angsty title:) You See Me Now The Vet'ran of A Brutal Psychic War

So Depression just sucks. Sucks rocks, or balls, or whatever you've got that can emphasize and flavor the quality of suck. Just not good, all 'round. I am guilty of whinging on about my depression in public, especially here at E2, so please consider this a SKIP NOW warning for those who just don't care. You shouldn't, really; this is much more about me being able to coherently tie concepts related to my depression together somewhere than about having people actually read it and god forbid respond to me.

I know it doesn't look that way ("Hey Custy, then why write it on a public daylog, you shmuck?") but it's true. Why put it here? Because for whatever reason, I'm much much less inclined to edit or wholesale delete things I have posted for potential public consumption. I nuke and edit scratch pads all the time, especially private ones with personal content. It is a statistical near-certainty that at some point in the next three months, I will decide that what I've written here is intolerably personal/angsty/embarrassing/angry, and I will have an urge to just wipe it out. But if it's posted, I will second-and-third guess myself, tell myself to give it a day (since it's been up there, after all) and maybe it'll survive for me to read it nine months from now, when I need it.

I personally divide depression into three broad levels of severity. 'Mild' means that I have bad days, or bad periods, but that there are times when I'm not depressed and in fact times when I'm genuinely happy/joyful (I think the technical terms are euthymic or euphoric). Generally, the good periods outnumber the bads, which doesn't make the bads any easier when they're upon me, but my life as a whole tends to be a vital process and something that I feel should continue.

At the bottom of the scale is 'Dysfunctional.' This is the worst, and I have to admit I haven't reached it yet, although the subtleties of its landscape and climate are becoming clearer through the mists ahead. This is a state where I am unable (read: not unwilling, but unable) to perform the basic actions required to keep myself what I see as 'base functional' - that is, alive, clothed/fed/housed, employed. A 'Dysfunctional' state is one that would prompt my family and/or friends to initiate an intervention without consulting me, and a state where I would at worst passively accept such an intervention if not be grateful for it. 'Dysfunctional' is characterized by crisis response.

Then there's the awful middle ground, which I term 'Severe.' A state where I do not experience happiness/euthymia/euphoria at all; one where my condition is either 'depressed' or 'not depressed', but the former at least half of the time. The lows have no bounds save that I'm not yet Dysfunctional - I'm still actively functioning.

I'm there now, and I think I'm wandering around the bottom end of this phase. I am functional, yes, but it is requiring brutal and expensive measures to maintain that functionality. As the title indicates, this is a dirty war, and it's getting harder. It's not just triage of what I'm able to do versus what I can't; it means that for every 'functional' action I take, I have to expend a measurable quantity of what for better word I'll label 'energy.' I have a finite store; I don't know how much I have, but I know that every time I elect to make that payment (to go to work. To pay the rent. To do laundry, however infrequently. To buy food.) I look at my store and while I can't tell you how much I used, I can tell you with assurance that the level is lower.

It's a holding action at best. There are some things that I technically could do that might help lift my state - I could work out, I could get bariatric surgery, I could socialize, etc. - but I am grimly unable or unwilling to spend the enormous amount of energy that it would take to even *try* to do these things (with no guarantee of success) because the number of 'survival days' it would mean losing is just too damn scary. Just too big a chunk of what's left.

Why is it an 'awful middle ground' if it's better than Dysfunctional? Because (at least I think this is true, never having yet been there) there are events or methods that might help which are only likely to occur or even legal once I've reached Dysfunctional. Once I hit that, it's truly out of my hands. If I'm lucky, the last thing I'll manage to do before hitting that level is to call for help for real, or invoke emergency response. If I do hit it alone and on my own, I don't know what will happen. I told a friend semi-jokingly that there were two real paths that lead into Dysfunctional - suicidal and catatonic. I'm pretty sure I'll fall into the latter, which is probably a better way to go in the abstract (I'm sure I will wish I'd been able to/happen to go the other way, though). I've had a couple of what might be called 'catatonia events' which others have witnessed and told me about. Thus my prediction.

The obvious question, I guess, is why I'm fighting against going there and getting help, or (more cogently) why I can't just get the help right now before it reaches that point.

I don't know, in many cases. In some situations, it is because of the social stigma and resultant problems (social, career, financial) that invoking the emergency entails. I'm still fighting. I haven't surrendered. Invoking emergency is a surrender, and a deliberate acceptance of whatever costs society wants to impose on me for Making The Call. I basically would be saying "I don't even care what the cost is nor do I have any say in what it is or how it's levied."

Not there yet.

I'm not saying I'm doing nothing. I'm in therapy. I'm on medication, and being monitored thereby. These so far haven't helped, but who knows.

Vet'ran of a Brutal Psychic War. I'm surrounded, and I'm low on ammo, and the wounded are still on the line - but holding out another day is still better than surrender, because *something* might happen. I don't know what that something is. Reinforcements? Peace talks? I don't know, the metaphor is flagging. But something. Holding out gives me more time where something I can't predict might make things better.

But sooner or later, the salient will collapse. I just don't know when. And looking back at the last ten years of my life (and their trajectory), every rational and analytic impulse I have tells me that there will be no cavalry charge, no last-minute truce, no peace talks.

But I can't quit.

I was programmed during childhood not to quit, even when I haven't yet figured out how to win. I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing. I think that were my life in better shape, this would be a useful trait; one I could use to make bold risk/reward calculations about...things. Something I could be proud of. I think, somewhere, I'm still proud of it.

Even though it's now serving to just wedge me tighter.

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