Friday, November 22, 2013

Astral Plane story, some description and interlude

I don't think I've ever committed to writing, even more sure (but not totally) to the blog, stuff about the Astral Plane Story.

The idea is that, for at least some people, it is possible to leave their individual dreams and go to a shared dream world with its own inhabitants and battles and whatnot.  There are... probably not demons because that would raise the question of where the angels are, but nasty things there that need to be constantly opposed to be kept at bay.  It's a wondrous place, but also a place that's always in conflict.

And so a fair number of the people who do end up going there when they sleep end up involved in the conflict.

And then things become complicated.  Because on said plane your soul isn't mediated by a brain so one's brain doesn't need to be fully developed in order for them to be operating at a completely mature level, likewise I've always thought of there being a character with Alzheimer's who relishes the clear thinking and memory when no longer having to deal with the disease.

I said it becomes complicated because relationships.  I have in mind a respected general in the Astral Plane who is a little girl in waking life.  It comes to pass that someone ranking well below her on the Astral Plane adopts her.  Parent and underling is very screwed up when it comes to power differentials.  That relationship works because the two people can keep waking life and dreaming life separate.

The main characters, friends in waking and dreaming life, aren't necessarily as good at it which is complicated for them because they are high school students and their Assistant Principle is someone who is in their military unit on the Astral Plane.  They run the unit.  They don't just outrank him, they directly on a night to night basis have contact with him in the context of outranking him.

Which generally isn't a problem but then we come to this interlude.

It would be in the second story I have roughly mapped out in my head.  I don't know exactly what kicked this off.  I mean I know it follows directly from Kristycat saying, "You could have been talking about my high school English teacher," in this thread at Ana Mardoll's what I don't know is how that ended up going to how the characters from the Astral Plane story would respond to that.

But eventually this is the scene that ended up taking shape: A student, not in any way a main character, has been the subject of subtle sexism to her breaking point and an argument with her teacher ends in her being in tears (also in the comment "try as I might I've never quite been able to convince the people around me that my brain does not shut off just because water is coming from my eyes. But nope - you show emotion, you've lost the argument.")

And then we have interaction between the two main characters and the Assistant Principle.  So:
Student Male (SM)
Student Female (SF)
Assistant Principle (AP)

Both SM and SF barge into AP's office, SM gets there first because he had a smaller distance to drop off his stuff at the next class, tell the teacher he was going to the AP's office, and get to the AP's office.  (They have different classes next.)  He's also the more emotional of the two because he's just awakening to sexism as a thing in the real world and this is the most flagrant example he's ever noticed.  SF is also awakening, but it's to the fact that there is a pattern here and this is sexism (and that she's been on the receiving end of it without realizing that was what it was) and so it's a completely different experience for her.  For her it's more of the same but she didn't realize what it was before.  She doesn't have the outrage of, "This evil thing has invaded our wonderful egalitarian world," because she knows that that isn't the world.

That difference makes it so that the conversation is very much:
SM: [Heated words that aren't necessarily easy to follow]
SF: [interrupts with well reasoned cogent argument on why action should be taken]
SM: What she said.

Other than emotion levels they're very much on the same wavelength (for example, neither one tried to make a difference in the class itself, and both decided to go around the rules to use their relationship with the AP to get something done.)

I haven't figured out exactly how the conversation goes, or even the generalities.  The AP opens up with the barging into his office had better be due to something major, SM says it is but not on the Astral Plane, AP has a staffing problem and then gets into the sexism.  Beyond that I don't really know.

Oh, except that I do know that when AP points out that they're exploiting their relationship with him the response (probably from SM because it's something you'd say when you're too upset to consider the vastness of "any") is that any tool at their disposal will be used.

I figure that the classes are on a rotating schedule.  So the class isn't repeated the next day but instead the day after.  Just before they wake up that day SM asks AP if he's done anything about sexist teacher and AP says no then wakes up leaving SM and SF thinking that nothing is getting done.

At class AP shows up and addresses the entire class.  Again, only fragments of this are worked out yet.  I do know that he's particularly blunt with his language ("Multiple students have come to me, both male and female, and told me about an incident that happened last class.  Apparently people with vaginas don't get listened to or have what they say taken seriously.  I have a penis so that shouldn't be a problem, now...")  But I'm not sure if he's trying to be sensitive to the fact that, while everyone in that particular class is presenting as their assigned-on-the-basis-of-genitalia gender, there could be trans* students there who simply aren't transitioned, or he's going for shock value (how often are those words heard from high school administration?), or he's trying to be as direct and unsubtle as possible about sexism which generally shows up in seemingly indirect and subtle ways.

But he takes the time to talk about sexism, how it shows up, how it's not cool, how it's not accepted (this part being directed straight at the teacher) and so forth.

This is the sort of thing that has train wreck potential in high degree and serious possibility of backfiring but in the story goes well to the surprise of SM and SF who tend to view waking life AP as bumbling (though respect him as a part of their unit on the Astral Plane.)

Then he leaves, it is assumed to be over, class starts, the teacher grumbles about lost time, and things move on.  (Note well that SM and SF will be on the lookout for any reprisal and, as he will point out at the next staff meeting, so will AP.)

After class AP gets SM and SF and they have a conversation in an empty classroom.  Something like this:

AP: NEVER use our friendship or our connection on the astral plane to pressure me again.
SM: Then what the fuck can we do?
AP: No swearing in school.
SM: I think technically it was profanity.
SF: Obscenity.
SM: Nuance.
AP: The point: you are missing it.
SF: Obscenity retracted the question stands.
AP: Go through channels, the school has--
SM: (loudly but not quite a shout) I thought your door was open to all students.
*AP is visibly on the defensive, and preparing to respond at equal volume.*
SF: (Calmly) Of which we are two.
AP: (Calmly, having collected himself) Yes. *short pause* And you should come to me. But don't come barging in, don't use our relationship as leverage, and don't... there is a time and a place for things. School things happen in school. Not on a mission outside of A'nuk Ril.
SM: (quiet, somewhat mater of fact, somewhat defensive) I waited until the mission was over.
SF: And if we do –if we talk to your secretary, wait our turns, and come as students like we would if we had no connection to you– can we count on you to deliver the same kind of results as you did today?
AP: That's my job.
SM: And if you'd been doing it this would have--
SF: (sharply) Future. (calm level tones) Not the same as the present or the past. Don't dwell on what should have been.
AP: And in the future I need to know that what goes on while dream-walking on the astral plane won't be used against me here. In this school I'm the assistant principle and you're both students. If you can't abide by that here because we have a connection there then I'm going to have to sever that connection.
SM: (angry) You'd quit over--
AP: Yes, yes I would. There are any number of people who will take my place there, I have a job to do here.
SF: We saved the world.
AP: I know.
SM: (closer to calm) More than once.
AP: I know.
SF: Last year...
AP: If something like that happens again then of course forget all protocol. But I need you to promise me that you'll only step outside the bounds of your role as students in emergencies.
SM: And you'll deal with your staffing problems?
AP: I can only deal with them if people let me know about them, insofar as they do: yes.
SF: Then we can keep what goes on on the two planes separate. (Looking at SM) We can.
AP: Then we're all agreed?
SF,SM: Yes.
AP: Good.

*AP pulls out pen and paper to give them notes saying not to be punished if they're late for the next class*

And I'm not sure if AP should comment on SM's ... tone.

On the one hand, AP knows better than to make a tone argument.  On the other hand he knows himself and part of that is that he's bad at keeping relationships separate too.  If another student came in upset and started shouting he wasn't doing his job right because [problem] then he could keep himself from going on the defensive and evaluate whether the student had a valid point.  If SM or SF did that he couldn't stay as detached, would go on the defensive, and wouldn't be able to rationally evaluate their points.

It's only because SF didn't do that that he was able to see, "Yes, something does need to be done about respected teacher we've had here more than thirty years because that is unacceptable," and afterward, "Yes, you should come to me, just not the way you did last time."

And sometime after that, it has to be sometime after that because that conversation is what got him thinking about "door's always open" vs. "you can't just barge in", he makes a comment that students should come to him if they see any group of students being treated differently than any other group of students and, "While my door isn't always open, my waiting room is.  And there's a comfy couch."


  1. I don't think I've ever committed to writing, even more sure (but not totally) to the blog, stuff about the Astral Plane Story.

    Maybe you can start. (Other than this, I mean.) Looks interesting.

    (I especially like the idea of a shared dreamworld that people remember when awake. I've encountered shared-dreamworld stories before, but they all involved complete amnesia (not even normal patchy dream memory, none whatsoever) of the dreamworld when awake, and sometimes the other way 'round as well.)

    (also in the comment "try as I might I've never quite been able to convince the people around me that my brain does not shut off just because water is coming from my eyes. But nope - you show emotion, you've lost the argument.")

    I've been avoiding that thread*, so this quote is new to me. And Kristycat? (I think it's pretty safe to say you'll be reading this at some point.) So much this.

    (I said much the same thing myself a year or two back in a spoken conversation. One of many times I've stated the (to me) obvious and my mom had no idea what I was talking about.)

    *I recognised it as the sort of thing that causes in me not only anger, but an overwhelming temptation to blame the messenger. Ana doesn't deserve that.

  2. An obvious candidate for the not-demons would be monsters from the subconscious. Maybe too obvious.

    1. I'll have to think on whether that would work for this story but an earlier, completely different, story idea had the antagonists being nightmares personified (also personified were things like dream catchers and worry stones) and at some point an earlier antagonist was going to team up with the main characters explaining that they'd never seen something like current antagonist because he and his kind were ordinary nightmares, this thing was born from the thoughts of, say, serial killers.