Behind the Curtain

For those curious, I wanted to give a few bits of background to the stories I wrote for Pod and Planet. I’ll work backward, and will bullet point it to TLDR things as much as possible.

NOTE: SPOILERS AHEAD; READ THE STORIES FIRST!

We’ll go in reverse order. If you just want to read about the grand prize winner, Intercession, skip down below.

Stationside

Stationside didn’t win a prize, but was the most work of the three. As Sugar Kyle (who won several prizes as well) states “the stories that come the easiest do the best” – it seems that the ones that just flow as you write are the ones that win. Stationside simmered in my brain for almost a year, and took many drafts to finish. I couldn’t find a story to fit around the vignettes. At its base, it is an in-character complaint that the EVE character models are far more sculpted and pretty than real capsuleers would be. So here’s some behind-the-scenes on this story.

  • The title comes from picking a “slang” term for people living on station. CCP has used “dirtsiders” to describe the average planetary citizen, and “eggers” for capsuleers.
  • All of the pictures used for the story are from actual EVE Chronicles. Space station bar pictures are hard to find.
  • In my mind’s eye, a capsuleer should look like this or this, not this.
  • I chose Dodixie because Jita seemed too obvious and I wanted to leverage the “decadent” side of the Gallente.
  • Meves Geria is in fact an actual Fed Navy security mission agent located in Dodixie. My bet – everyone in a station knows the local agents by first name. Thus “You’re Meves Geria’s kid?”
  • Pilius Geria grew up on Dodixie VI, a lovely terrestrial planet. I suspect that to survive as a station employee in the third-busiest trade hub in New Eden, you would have to have a pretty cosmopolitan background. And even with an uncle on station, it would be an expensive ride to get across the system for average dirtsiders, much less to a different empire. I wanted a local.
  • I postulated that low sec residents would be a battered bunch. In lowsec you rarely get podded, but your ship gets blown up all the time. Thus, for pirates & FW militia, physical injuries on older clones would be common. By contrast, NPC null types from Syndicate, Curse, etc. might fit the personality profile but get podded enough they’d be mostly unmarked.
  • “Her majesty,” the unnamed Caldari woman with dark hair, blue eyes and a red-and-black jacket from sov null is Mynnna. I postulated that these folks could in fact fit the profile of CCP’s models. In nullsec, podding is not unusual, so you’d often be in a clean, pretty new and young clone, potentially unmarked.
  • Araz Hakarvin is a station trader. While his clone is unmarked (never podded, in fact only in space to come from Amarr to Dodixie) and he has picked every fancy dress choice he can, he has let himself go and so looks just as you would expect from someone who overindulges his every rich whim on the local. Maybe I followed too many cliches by making the lecher an Amarrian, but sometimes the shoe fits.
  • The wormholer is from personal experience. He’d have enough money for extra guards, but would hide them. He would have lived in his pod without getting out for days, weeks or months – slowly withering away. Imagine being in a bathtub for two months. His hair would be totally fried or fallen out, he’d be pale, withered, and his muscles atrophied, and desperately hungry for something other than blood-pumped nutrient fluids. But pod himself healthy? Not with this HG Slave set in, bro.

Homecoming

Belphegor Apis (Image courtesy ParityBit)

Belphegor Apis (Image courtesy ParityBit)

Homecoming took second place in the non-canon category. Most of the story behind the story here is right at the end. I wanted readers to believe that “I” was a human in an escape pod on the first read, but then on a re-read see loads of clues that this was a drone.

  • As stated, this was inspired by Rixx Javix’s 1v1 cartoons of the Lost Ogre II. I sent Rixx one of the PLEX this story won as a token of appreciation.
  • The story is about the transformation of an Ogre II left in space into a Belphegor Apis rogue drone.
  • It was really hard to find a ship on fire. Then I had to reverse-engineer first bits to find a way to fit in a Coercer. I had intended a 1v1 between two battlecruisers.
  • The biggest re-read clue: The numbers in brackets like [307]. This is the count of seconds since the drone was launched. That’s why at the end it resets to [1] when the drone mother relaunches him! Many of these timings are direct matches to the timings in Rixx’s cartoons.
  • Next clue: I used very stilted, machine language phrasing for the drone. Things like repeating “It is statistically unlikely.” I tried to use short sentences and paragraphs to hint at machine thinking as well.
  • After three years, alone with himself in the dark, I think even a drone starts to go a little crazy. That’s when he finally starts to use “human” words like “tired” and “should”. By five years, he’s actually on the verge of being philosophical, talking about “halfway” as if it is something other than math and he might be able to trick himself into being optimistic, but failing due to :math:. I postulate that the mother drone he finds is just as “human” – in fact more so for having been at it longer.
  • 840 m/s is in fact the top speed of an Ogre II. And 11+ years is in fact the time it would take an Ogre II to go 2 AU. This calculation hurt my brain, and I had to redo it like 4 times to make sure I got it right.
  • Last clue: Orange lights, and the picture. Orange lights are key features of rogue drone ships. That’s no Dominix, captain…
  • Hevrice is in fact where Rixx and his corp, Stay Frosty, live. But how to get Rixx the PVP pirate into a PVE situation? Of course, our smart mother drone must have found a way to get a PVE player there for Rixx to come and gank, luring him to her trap!

Intercession

Intercession was the contest’s grand prize winner. While Stationside was a lot of work to write, Intercession was the first one I wrote and submitted, and just rolled out on my keyboard after a minimum of setup. This one is chock full of lore references though. Here are some of the hidden gems, which I hoped would provide some amusement for judges CCP Falcon and CCP Eterne.

  • I set out to make a creation myth for Bob the Wormhole God. For those of you who might be unfamiliar, Bob is something us wormhole dwellers made up to describe the forces of randomness in wormhole connections. Bob is generally considered to be the reason why you find what you do. If you are lucky, Bob is with you. If you are not lucky, Bob is displeased. This phrase is actually a thing, and you will see Nabobeh (who eventually becomes Bob) say “not pleased” for this very reason. Bob hates cowardice and loves explosions, and favors those who make them while he punishes those who do not.
  • In the preface I link to a Chronicle Eterne wrote about the voices in Empress Jamyl Sarum’s head. If she could have an Other (in effect a sentient rogue AI or a “bodiless” Sleeper) sharing her head, why not have someone with a Sleeper voice in his head?
  • Deepari II Imperial Academy School is an actual Amarrian character starting system.
  • All of the character names are mashups of first and last names of Amarrian agents I found listed on eve-agents.com. I did a search on “Bob” and Nabobeh was the best one that came up. I posited a degeneration of the name from Nabobeh to Bobeh (a childhood name) to Bob.
  • I needed a “bad guy” to give an antagonist. I think that Mides Sarwed is a pretty weak antagonist, but I needed someone to be the fall guy later in the story and I needed him to be a known jerk so that when Bob smacked him later it would be something the reader liked and connected with as a “well it’s about time” moment. His favorite taunt is making fun of Nabobeh’s name because the story is about his name, of course.
  • T-IPZB is the center of the events that actually triggered the so-called Seyllin Incident. It should have been called the T-IPZB Incident but that just doesn’t roll off the tongue (and the death toll was much higher at Seyllin). The events at T-IPZB are outlined in the great End of the World Chronicles. In particular, the stories 1, The Great Harvest, and We Humans. Jamyl Sarum’s superweapon blows up, taking a cache of Isogen-5 with it, which then explodes all the stars (including Seyllin) that would later make shattered planets. Given all these connections, and the fact that Nabobeh gets caught in the actual star explosion, I think it’s as plausible a way as any for Nabobeh to get that voice in his head.
  • Lorado Station is the name of the station in T-IPZB in the book The Empyrean Age. The Goons of course have renamed it.
  • Nabobeh survives due to being in a heavily tanked Prophecy – it might be one of the few ships with enough tank to survive for a few seconds of contact with coronal ejecta, long enough to barely get your pod out. Ever wished you could stop a warp in progress? Yeah, Nabobeh does too.
  • I crippled the main character because I wanted his power to emanate from the focus of his mind and the communications with the Sleepers. I wanted him to want out of his body like they had done. There are clues right away that the voice is a Sleeper, “a place where weakness of flesh is irrelevant”.
  • I had to find a way to kill time from YC 111 to the present. Imperial bureaucracy and training time were the perfect foils.
  • Civic Court Tribunal is in fact located at Penirgman IX.
  • “The puzzle” is in fact wormhole space itself and its connections. The “almost 2500 pieces” are the individual wormhole systems. When he says, “I can keep them all linked and in perpetual motion now. But it’s all I can do to prevent it from flying apart,” this is the first big hint that he’s Bob – it is his influence that is keeping the wormholes opening and closing rather than just shutting down for good.
  • The voice tells him it needs more Methanofullerene: “One of the most useful organic semiconductors … can be blended with other polymers to create incredibly efficient solar cells, offering a near-endless source of power in places that would otherwise be difficult to supply.” Put another way, “I need more power!”
  • J121146 is an actual Class 5 wormhole. I spent a good bit of time on wormhol.es hunting for one that looked unoccupied. Originally I had them living in a Class 2, but when my corpmates read the first draft they didn’t buy that even Bob would be able to pull off the upcoming capital jump into a C2. So I found a new J-sig and rewrote that part to have them have “already graduated” from a Class 2 to a Class 5.
  • “There was little room in the POS tower for him … In wormhole space, tolerances were short for those who didn’t pull their own weight.” These are truths of wormhole life. The combat scene in the middle of the story is a pretty typical C5 fight escalation on the hole. While it’s made up it’s about right on how it would go.
  • Nabobeh really comes into his own when he starts joining fights. It becomes his fun. He learns to control w-space more effectively. He can alter mass of the holes. He can trigger angry or irresponsible behavior in pilots (“Push him.” “I can do that?”). He gets to be the trump card his corp pulls out to win in ways that are almost impossible, but they never realize it’s him. Until they stop giving him his fun. Sounding like Bob yet?
  • After the fight: “Nabobeh smiled. “Was. Not pleased.”” Bob was not pleased. 🙂
  • They name their home hole “Victory”. In my experience, most wormhole corps have a pet name for their home system. Unlike null guys who will call VFK-IV “VFK”, wormholers come up with things like “Hollywood” or “Nova” rather than using the J-sig.
  • Mides comes back in the picture “a veteran of the sov wars”. The war in Fountain. Want to guess which side?
  • When Nabobeh gets tired of his corp’s carebearing ways who does he call? Sleeper Social Club, natch. The bearded man in the tan jacket featured both here and in last year’s story Escalation is our dear CEO.
  • At this point you can start to see the tables turn, as Nabobeh makes decisions, and the Sleeper voice starts chiding him, but is clearly no longer the teacher, but the advisor. (“You act the part of a poor friend.” “They have become that which they once despised. They have sold their souls for ISK, and not remained true to their ideals.” “And you are to punish them?” “It is time for them to learn the puzzle like all the rest.”) And by “learn the puzzle” he means that he is withdrawing his protection and throwing them to the wolves.
  • LOL moment – the picture of the ship getting shot by Sleepers in the Sept. YC115 section is CSM member James Arget. In a Drake (yes, granted this was in his E-UNI days when SSC didn’t exist).
  • “Wormholers had a particularly vicious trick they reserved for regular site runners – essentially they powered down all of their systems and sat silently for days at a time, cruiser-sized holes of dark matter just beyond the outer edge of a system … until the moment when they simultaneously brought all their systems to life and immediately warped to their targets.” It’s hard to describe a logon trap in a lore-compliant way.
  • Taza’s dream of Bobeh with a toy venture is what hopefully was the Ah Ha moment for most readers. Now Bob(eh) is strong enough to be the one talking, not just listening.
  • The November YC115 picture is from the Chronicle called The Vitrauze Project, about Sleeper first contact. That chronicle is also the source of the phrase It May Not Make Sense At First. It seemed a fitting connection.
  • J170376 is in fact a Class 3, and a special one. As part of the Odyssey expansion, it was renamed. CCP has confirmed it was intentional, but has been very quiet as to why. Some speculate that it was because the J-sig matched the date of a murder someplace in the world, but I don’t buy it. They’d be renaming them every release. No, I think CCP had a very specific reason for renaming this system. Why not have it be where Bob is sleeping?
  • Oruze Constructs do in fact spawn in C3s, do have Awakened Upholders guarding them, and do have a Sleeper Enclave.
  • The description of the virual world is intentionally similar to a description that is visualized by Jamyl Sarum in the novel Templar One. It’s what makes her get rid of the first batch of Dust clone soldiers (and likely the origin of 514, although it’s not specific enough for us to know).
  • If you blow up the final picture, you’ll see a shadowy outline of a human figure. This is a single frame from the Fanfest 2012 video below – one where Amarrian soldiers enter a Sleeper Enclave themselves.

Thanks for reading!

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