3 May 2018

Mecha Academy Episode 2 Chapter 1 Commentary

After intense training and the obstacle course, the cast get a break, in "By Your Leave" Chapter 1.

I had a few goals for this new arc.  The first, give the characters a chance to be themselves.  To do that, I separated Rhiannon and Dusty.  The second, expand the setting just a little more.  To do that, I need to show more locations than just the Academy.  Planets are big.  Maybe not as incredibly big as space, but there is a lot of surface even to a Mercury (74.8 million square kilometres) or a Pluto (17,646,012 square kilometers).

Separating Rhiannon and Dusty was easy.  They both wanted the distance.  Dusty wanted a quiet weekend so that she could lounge and read.  Rhiannon was willing to join Ric on his madcap escapade to Lars' hometown.  Since I started with Ric's group in the chapter, I'll start with them here.

Abby reappears!  She was last seen in "Roommates" Chapter 1; she was the barista Ric chatted up as he missed the bus to the Academy.  He kept in touch with her off-screen.  Susanna also came along because Lars, which he wasn't expecting.  Miyami and Rhiannon are still unattached, though, so they don't have guests with them.  Or Miyami is Rhiannon's guest.  That's something that may have to be worked out in the future.

Tamar is an agricultural world, with plenty of arable land for crops and livestock.  Shelter Cove, home of the starport, is the main city of the planet.  Most of the remaining towns exist more to support the farms around them than anything else.  I'm basing how the towns and other settlements work on Saskatchewan and the grain industry, though loosely.  There are a few other cities, but they act as administrative centres and collection points to funnel agricultural products to Shelter Cove.  Lars' hometown, Vaughan's Landing, is a farming town, providing the farms around the day-to-day necessities.  I didn't map the town out; I didn't see a need for it just yet.  I just kept in mind what sort of thing is seen in small towns I've been to - diner, a couple of bars, maybe a hotel for visitors, definitely a few bed-and-breakfast places, a couple of grocery stores, and the train station.

The trip to Lars' hometown also lets me fill in details about him.  Lars and Miyamo both fell into the background as Rhiannon, Ric, and Dusty took centre stage.  There's name dropping, there's an old flame, there's parents and siblings.  Most of the names for locals came from Mongoose's The Sword Worlds, keeping to the naming theme of the world.  The Landers were mentioned before, the same time Ric got the idea of going to the Vaughan's Landing Fall Festival.

There's a line that gave me pause just after I wrote it.  Ric and Lars are talking about Susanna and Ric knows that there would be others jealous of the attention Lars is getting from her.  "There's Vance and Tricia just off the top of my head."  That line came out naturally, as in I didn't even stop to try to figure out the names.  The real world then reared its ugly head - NaNo and American electioneering in the same month is weird - and I started to wonder if there would be any stigma for LGBT in the Empire.  That's when I realized, this is the far future; if we're /still/ having problems over personal sexuality then, humanity should just end now.  So, line stays in.

With Dusty, once she's encouraged to go to Shelter Cover, working out what she's doing was easu enough.  The problem with her trip was that she had no one to react to or with.  I tend to need an ensemble cast when I write.  Even if I start with a solo main character, a large supporting cast just happens.  Look at both The Soul Blade and The Devil You Know.  With both of the stories, I had a solo main character - Brenna in the former, Ione in the latter - but the cast grew to include friends, family, and unexpected recurring characters.  All because the leads needed someone to share reactions with.  Same thing happened with Dusty, but to a lesser extent.  She met people that anyone would meet on vacation.

Dusty's scenes are a counterpoint to her roomies'.  They're off being social; she's trying to take it easy and be by herself as herself.  Last episode, Dusty kept herself controlled, showing little emotion around others, especially her roommates.  Alone, she should be able to relax and read her book.  I also got to expand a bit on the relationship between Dusty and Commander Haag.  There's more to it than just her being in his command.

Speaking of Dusty's reading material, didn't the book sound familiar?.  It's a bit of cross-promotion on my part.  I wasn't sure what she'd be reading and really didn't want to spend time coming up with a fictional book, complete with author and title, when a reference to the book was all that's needed.  So, I tossed in Unruly.  It's a minor pet peeve that characters in science fiction seem to just read the classics.  Surely someone else will write something major between now and the future.  Not to mention, not everyone likes reading the classics.  Some so-called classics of the English canon have not aged well.  And people don't appreciate being preached at by their entertainment.

Friday, Mecha Academy, "By Your Leave" Chapter 2, "Out and About".
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In , Star Wars: The Original Radio Drama.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, The Almighty Thor.

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