Friday, October 19, 2018

Wait, are you spies?

[This idea sprang forth because of a single line in an MLP fanfiction called Sharing the Night.  Interestingly, it didn't come up when I first read it, or when I recently reread the line in question.  It came from the line randomly popping into my head weeks later.]
[I have no idea of the setting, or any of the characters names, that will likely lead to some awkward phrasing.]
[[Ok, I'm going with a "Universe 1" "Universe A" naming style.]]

Something suddenly occurred to her, and so she said to her closest underlings, the ones who basically did all of the work of governing for her, "Wait, are you guys . . . spies?"

For a moment all of them stopped.  Even stopped breathing.  In light of that detail, it was probably a very good thing that it only lasted for a moment.

"Um . . ." lead underling said.  The other underlings --first underling, underling primus, and underling secundus-- didn't say anything, but they did, at least, resume breathing.

While the response wasn't what she, the ling who was over, would have hoped for, and indeed was somewhat disturbing given the context, she breathed a sigh of relief.  There were no objections to the semantics of her calling the underlings, four women, "guys", and that was a good thing.  They didn't need a repeat of The Battle of the Oxford Comma.

True, all four of the lings who were closest under her had supported her position in that conflict --if not for outside agitators there wouldn't have been a battle-- but things came dangerously close to violence against people, and (more disturbingly) one of the oldest surviving treatise on punctuation now sported coffee stains that would stay with it for the thousands of years remaining in its useful life.

Marginalia was to be encouraged, provided those providing it literate, legible, and respectful of future generation's need to be able to read the original text; coffee stains were without appreciable value.

And so, they definitely didn't need a repeat of The Battle of the Oxford Comma.

This was to say nothing about the possibility of another Subjunctive Cold War or "Than" Part-of-Speech schism.

Still, the response wasn't an answer.

Thankfully lead underling wasn't trying to avoid giving an answer; evidence of this came in the form of her turning to first underling and asking, "Are we spies?"

First underling naturally had had time to think about this, as all four underlings were asked the question.  Unfortunately, she didn't to have a definitive answer either:

"I'm not sure," she said.  "I've never really thought about it before today.  I can see things pointing each way."

"Well," underling secundus said, "spies are clandestine operatives, so the fact that we're openly questioning whether or not we're spies would seem to disqualify us."

Underling primus countered with, "There's nothing in the definition that says spies can't admit to being spies.  In fact--"

"Openly allowing for the possibility that one might be a spy, while risky, is exactly the sort of thing a spy might do to throw suspicion off themselves," first underling said.

"Exactly," underling primus said with a nod.

"Ok," underling secundus said, "so . . ."

There was silence.

The silence ended with lead underling turning back to she, the ling who was over, and saying, "We'll have to get back to you on that boss."

Then the four of them hurried out of the room.

She, the ling who was over, addressed the empty air:

"I note that none of that quibbling would have been necessary in the least had the answer been a simple: 'No.'"

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It's hard to write when you don't have names for characters.

As mentioned, the naming style is "Universe 1" Universe A", everyone gets to be first.  Except for underling secundus, but there's a reason for that.

It has to do with the fact that the Romans were a sailing culture.  When you're talking about things that are moving, the thing that comes second is following.  A following wind is a favorable wind.  (The wind is blowing precisely where you need to go, meaning you get it's full power and are spared the work involved in sailing not-with-the-wind.)

Thus "secundus" also means "favorable" and/or "lucky".

So you get lead, first, primary, and the lucky one.

"Lead" is the informal leader of the group (hierarchically they're all equals), "first" is the first one lead tends to turn to (think "first mate" or "first officer"), primus and secundus I'm not really sure about.  I haven't even come up with names for them, their interpersonal relationships aren't really figured out in detail.

I already used bare "underling" and "overling" in a thing, so I didn't just want to have the one in charge be "overling" in this, thus: "she, the ling who was/is over".

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Regarding the thing that inspired this, it was:
“Rainbow Dash must never know that I said this, but doesn’t that make you… spies?”
as half remembered weeks after reading it for the second time.

Regarding the story that that line comes from,  Sharing the Night, I'm not really sure what to say about it.

I absolutely love the narrative voice, and the world-building is pretty cool (the mythology it created is like nothing you'll see elsewhere), and the Librararchy subplot is very fun.

The main story itself, though, is rather lacking.  (In my opinion, of course.)  Some things feel forced, the pacing leaves something to be desired, characters other than the main two seem to be forgotten for lengths of time, and characterization . . . has problems that are kind of complicated.

So parts of me are telling me that I should totally recommend it, and other parts are saying not to.  The result is a muddle.

Read it here, if you want to read it.  Be aware that it's over two hundred thousand words and still in progress.

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