Short Story for Fighting for Gwen; Unclean Legacy up on CreateSpace


I’ve contributed a short story to Fighting for Gwen, because …

Well, a lot of reasons. Mostly, Elizabeth was really kind to me on a few occasions, and Shreyas too. Plus, Gwen sounds awesome.

I just heard back that (a) I am pointing at the correct link to publicize; and (b) that my story is going out on the 30th of this month. So there you are!

It’s called the Prince’s Rule, it’s a pretty awesome fairy-tale romp, and I guess that the cheapest way to get it is to donate $10 to what will eventually turn either into helping the Sampats or helping autistic people in general, which should get you at least three other stories by other people too.


In other news: I can’t get a copy to look it over myself right now, so I don’t want to do a serious sales push until I hear back from someone who bought it, but is An Unclean Legacy in print form.

Best wishes,


Fable of the Swan Available Monday; Unclean Legacy on Sale

On Monday I am releasing a new book: Fable of the Swan. It’ll appear on DriveThruFiction, the Kindle store, and Smashwords; some of those versions might sneak through as early as “in the next few minutes or hours.” I don’t know!

Here’s the summary:


A world fell into the void. It put down roots there.

Somewhere in that world is Town. Its main urban center is Horizon, all overbuilt and Gothic. That’s where Principal Entropy keeps his School. He’s God or the Devil, the stories say, although they’re a bit ambiguous on which.

I started School about 5 years ago. I’ve known Kseniya pretty much that whole time—a foot taller than me, stronger than all the boys, with the blood of giants and magicians coming down to her from both sides. I didn’t meet most of the others until a year or two later—not Vanessa, who wanders the basements like a spirit in a wan white dress; not Giselle, who’s something of a fiend for checkers; not Mikhael, who does chemistry for Lee Scathing and is a bona fide Christian; and certainly not Elya, who I can’t actually remember but who probably was nice.

Mom was a scientist—I mean, ordinary science, I mean, clean science, not the other stuff. I don’t have as much to remember Dad or Desmond by.

This is the story of my first kiss, how I was struck by a dodgeball and achieved enlightenment, and how and why I plan to turn into a brass cephalopodan war machine and rip up Death.

I’m kind of the boring one, though; it’s really rather more about my friends.

Fable of the Swan is the first book in the “Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine” transmedia project, with more books and RPG products forthcoming from Jenna Katerin Moran and Eos Press.


I’m also putting An Unclean Legacy on sale for a bit—ideally until my next book release—at $.99. If you’ve been curious, now’s a good time to pick it up!

I’ll add a link to all this on the sidebar soon.

Best wishes,


Aside, in January 2012: “Of the Pontiffs and Magistrinae and their Wailing”


So I was working on a tetrachloradic divinity device in response to the way that an omnibenevolent omnipotent omniscient God should really be intervening a lot more often, and, apropos of nothing, found myself wondering if it is in fact true that God does not talk to people in dramatic, externally observable and trackable events all the time. Oh, sure, there’s no evidence for it, and there would be such evidence by definition, but

You can totes build a perfect mapping between the real world and a world where that happens. It is easily space-time isomorphic.

Now, that mapping? It isn’t a simplification. It’s got to be practically a complication. And I’d even go so far as to say that that is why we do not experience it. That we tend not to experience things that add that much Kolmogorov complexity to our experiential world unless we’re schizophrenic (or human) or whatever. but

I’d also guess, using my way undernourished computer science intuition, that the additional complexity of an active interventionist God is less than logarithmic in world-size, and possibly even constant. So what does it even mean to say that that world isn’t so?

Now that may make me seem like I’m all apologetic for the Lord and stuff, that I’m being a good theodicist, but OK, that’s not quite true, because look, this bit here? This bit is where I go off the rails of apologetics and crash right into a brain controlling a trolley.

My instinct is also that getting from here to a perfect world is quadratic.

And that is so much worse than merely bad apologetics that it will probably actually be described by future archaeologists as a crude biologically-prototyped example of the computational heresies that would later tear apart the allegiances of the pontiffs and magistrinae of the First Artificial Church.

Bonus: “Some Thoughts on the Ending of An Unclean Legacy”

I thought I’d share some thoughts on An Unclean Legacy and how it evolved from the original story to the book. This contains medium spoilers: I’m going to avoid spoiling anything crucial to the story, but I will talk about a lot of stuff. Skip this entry if you want to be completely unspoiled! We’ll be back to the letters column on Monday. ^_^


So the first version of An Unclean Legacy was basically written live—back then I was posting Hitherby Dragons 6x/week, with nothing even faintly resembling a buffer, and while I had the basic ideas plotted by the first post, when it came to the details I was basically riding the hurricane.

One consequence of this is that the character of Violet got a bit shortchanged.

See, each of the siblings had received one magical gift on their tenth birthday—anything in the world they wanted, really, although Sophie’s first request was arguably denied. And Violet had wanted not to have to worry about suitors, which in practice meant that anyone that got too close to marrying her by force or choice was seized up by magic, cut into extremely fine pieces, and expelled over the local forest in a mist.


Well, hm.

So, most of the Groeneveldt siblings are fundamentally messed up by what they can do. That isn’t a general statement by me on what it means to have talent; I suspect that where it’s coming from is Montechristien’s guilt. They’re all coming from a household where power is fundamentally held in suspicion, particularly once Yseult dies but even to some extent when she was alive. Giving Violet a power that she could use as a weapon against her siblings, in a story like this one, meant that she would have to turn that weapon against her siblings at some point, as part of the exploration and explanation of what that power meant, and I didn’t want her to do that.

So there are hints throughout the book that Violet has some of the Saraman nature: that she has unnatural tracking abilities, unnatural beauty, is probably a sorceress, and may or may not have a handful of low-end not-quite-human tricks—but that isn’t really allowed to matter. If she were able to turn into a giant land-shark or whatever then we’d have to show her turning into a giant land-shark (or whatever) and fighting with, probably, Elisabet. And that would break my heart.

At the same time, it was important that Violet not be vulnerable, because that isn’t what she’s about either. If there were a relatively powerless marriageable female eldest sibling, it’d be a natural reason for external powers to get involved in the Groeneveldt succession struggle. That would give the other siblings a reason to band together to protect her from those outside forces, and—given that their reasons for hating and fearing one another were only barely stronger than their love for one another as it was—that would have screwed the story up something fierce. Nor could I just ignore the matter—I can handwave Francescu’s suitors disappearing because frankly he was a lot less viable as marriage bait by the time they both got their gifts, but I wanted pseudomedieval pseudoChristian metaphysics and that meant a pseudomedieval pseudoChristian society and that meant that I had to have an actual reason why people weren’t spending all their time trying to influence Montechristien by way of Violet.

At least, I think that’s what was going on in my head. I assume that I conceived the whole story in a single night and for a single night’s post and then only realized slowly how long it was going to be, so it’s quite possible that it was just “OK, Violet needs a way to be able to kill anything,” (subconscious advises: except her siblings), “lol, maybe she didn’t like boys when she was 10 and so has the power to kill any potential fiance.” Or possibly there was some connection between holding things too closely and killing them that was going on there, something like that percolating. It would fit, of course!

But anyway.

So day after day passed, and I didn’t have a good moment to introduce her gift. I was writing An Unclean Legacy mostly in three segments per day, and while I didn’t have to link them together chronologically I did need to link them thematically so that each day had a beginning and an ending. And Violet’s gift wasn’t really thematically connected to any of the stuff that was going on with the siblings, in part for the reasons we just discussed—it’s a hedge against the outside world interfering rather than part of the internal story. Plus, she was interacting almost exclusively with her siblings and her father, which made it a pretty hard thing to bring up.

“As you know, Manfred, anyone who gets too close to marrying me gets threshed by Montechristien’s Magical Suitor-Threshing Machine.”

“Golly! I’m sure glad I’m your brother and not your fiance!”

Manfred would not actually have said golly, however. Instead, he would have looked at her in that way that Manfred, when people give unnecessary exposition in his company, looks.

So by the time Violet’s gift came up at all, it was only barely early enough to not seem like a deus ex machina when it mattered—and possibly even did seem a deus ex machina, and an unnecessary one to boot, since there were plenty of other ways I could have resolved the particular point in question.

I wanted to fix that particular awkwardness when I was writing the expanded version. In fact, I knew as soon as I sat down to start that fixing that was the first step—that the first scene of the new, expanded story would be Violet receiving her gift. That meant that I had to give her a more dramatic motivation—the story isn’t a comedy of manners, so showing her and Francescu fending off various suitors at age ~10 until she got so exasperated that she snapped wasn’t really something I could open with. Fortunately, I knew that she had at least two fairly unpleasant suitors in the story, so I figured that a bit of prognostication could make her choice of gift an obviously wise one as well as illustrating some of the dangers of the world in which she lives.

Here’s the interesting thing: it was a wise choice. It sounds completely stupid, as a magical gift, but she gets much more mileage out of her ten-year-old gift than at least three of her siblings. I did some stuff in the update to make her gift feel more epic, to make it resonate with high heroic fantasy, but even before the update—before Violet and her magic mirror seeing the suitors to come, before the implications that she has broad conceptual and narrative authority over what it means to be her suitor and who and what qualifies for the threshing, before the chance to look in at her personal story’s ending—it was always something that gave her the power to make her own destiny.

Of course, opening with a scene like that means ending with a mirror-scene; a book’s ending, IMO, reflects its beginning, and I wound up organizing Unclean Legacy as cut more or less directly in half by the mirror. (Arguably, anyway. There are really two places you could put the mirror.)

The interesting thing about this, and the reason we’re talking today, was that the best scene I could find to mirror and answer that opening with Violet receiving her gift wasn’t the close to Violet’s story—which, for I think good reason, was mostly a grace note towards the end of Christine & Sophie’s story—but rather her father Montechristien’s proposal to her mother, Yseult.

Now, the very beginning and very end of a book aren’t always the heart of what it’s about. That’s why they’re called prologues, I think, rather than chapters one, sometimes. And epilogues, rather than chapters whatever! Sometimes the very beginning and ending is a structure around the story rather than the beginning and ending of the rawest part of the story itself.

And so if I had to say what the heart of the story is, well, it goes from “the Devil and the Unicorn” to “In a World of Miracles,” from Montechristien and Santrieste’s answers to the Devil to Sophie and Manfred’s answers to the onyx void; that it’s about suicide and salvation and suffering and all that kind of thing.

But the Once Upon a Time opening is still about a girl who doesn’t have to bow to anybody, and who accomplishes this in part by being completely unsuitable for marriage and functionally immune to the threat of sexual assault (as well as by inheriting money and power); and the Happily Ever After ending is still about a woman who accepts a marriage proposal from a guy who objectifies her a bit less than her previous suitors had.

(I’m giving away the ending because it’s a flashback and a digestif; the interest value of the ending isn’t the events but the emotional content and the details.)

I’m not totally sure how I feel about that beginning and ending on feminist grounds. I certainly didn’t expect that to be the moral of one of my stories, ever. I mean, I think Yseult found something priceless but I wouldn’t consider her happy ending something that Violet was ever looking for; nor does it seem to me like I want to say Yseult’s fantasy is more evolved or mature than Violet’s, because it’s not; Yseult is arguably an incomplete Violet, rather than the other way around.

So I don’t know what it means, exactly, only that it’s right. Maybe one day someone will tell me why and I’ll be “oh, of course, it’s because it’s a flashback that that works” or “Violet’s story doesn’t make sense without showing where she’d be without her gift, which is noticeably but not necessarily overwhelmingly different.”

I don’t know. It’s weird. I like romantic happy endings, but I’m critical of the patriarchal structure of marriage, and so I don’t want Yseult’s ending to be something obviously good or something obviously bad, but … well. It is what it is.

We know it pretty early on in the story.

Yseult’s time with Montechristien isn’t perfect, and it doesn’t suck. It’s a happily ever after, more or less.

(Miscellaneous: Projects Status, September 17)


Jack o’Lantern Girl

Written, though kind of short.
Fate pending; last touched December 2010.

A sort-of novel-form look at some of early Hitherby, explaining a bit about death, Bob’s nature, and what Martin actually said when Jane and Martin met.
Firewood Boy

~35% written.
Put aside to work on RPG stuff; last touched June 2011.

A sort-of novel-form look at some of early Hitherby, intended to cover Tantalus, Martin, Mei Ming, and the shadow, but so far spending most of its time on Tantalus and Pandora.
eBook of Chapter 1

Last touched mid-2009.

I’m waiting to see if anything interesting happens with Jack o’Lantern Girl first.
The Frog and the Thorn

~15% written.

The current arc on Hitherby dragons. At the current rate of posting, it’ll take 4 years, but the truth is, if my life doesn’t get enough better to move to 3/week at some point before the jaguars fall, I’ll give up and post my design document instead.

Comics, Webcomics & Picture Books

[A Mystery!]

Ongoing; estimated completion in December

This is a ~40-page illustrated eBook (as a series of Kindle-sized images) I’m doing with an artist of my acquaintance. It may also see print release through Eos or something else.
How Rat Did Not Become a God

100% (webcomic), <100% (if print)
Fate pending; last touched ~July 2011.

This is a 13-page webcomic or a 26-page book with art by Tony Damiani. I showed it to someone who said I needed to try to get it published as a children’s book. Then I flailed for two months. Then I asked some awesome people in the publishing industry if they knew how one does that or how to tell if it’s worth trying.
Chibi-Ex #1

100% scripted, ~75% art-complete
Ongoing; estimated completion October 31, 2011.

~36 page comic with Miranda Harrell. Ongoing as a webcomic. I haven’t done anything towards making it an eBook. There will probably be a print release through Eos.
Chibi-Ex #2

First draft script complete
Not yet started; scripted ~July 2011.

I scripted a short interlude to go up during a change in art style—Miranda is interested in trying to go digital. Miranda also wants to try writing a short piece. We’ll see what happens. The current script focuses on Euphrasia Savinot.

some proposals on the table

I have another artist I’m talking to about doing a project with but he didn’t take to my early ideas. I hope to get back to him with more proposals in October.


Nobilis: SLAM! (Snakes
Larger than Mountains)

Some concept work. May or may not happen.
Last touched ~April 2011.

Giant and/or magical animals wrestle with death, life, Excrucians. The Aaron’s Serpent/Megalith Wasp/magical talking cat/&c. book for Nobilis. Project got killed but likely will return someday.
The Royalty of Heaven

Some concept work.
Last touched ~August 2010.

The Angels/Heaven book for Nobilis. Some borrowing of the Osiris myth may take place.
A Society of Flowers

content ~90%; presentation and adaptation ~0%
last touched December 2009

Social and cultural information for the Nobilis. This’ll use the rules stuff for Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine, so it’s on hold until after the first CMWGE stuff.

content ~50%; presentation and adaptation ~0%
last touched 2002.

An update of the 2nd edition campaign for Nobilis. This’ll use the rules stuff for Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine, so it’s on hold until after the first CMWGE stuff.
Revised Example of Play

in queue
not started

No promises, but I want to update the 2nd edition example of play to the new mechanics. This’ll be a free download.
Nobilis Tarot

under consideration
not started

I’m considering a kickstarter to get this done, since I don’t know how to gauge interest otherwise.
Nobilis Soundtrack

under consideration; talked to a musician
last touched August 2011.

Another thing that only really makes sense with a kickstarter, right now. Music is expensive and I don’t know how many people would want this.
Project/Imperator Sheets

version done, getting feedback;
last touched today.

A set of these with faction-specific thematics. Probably a free download. As a casual gift to players it’s ready now; if Eos decides to polish up and make it a little less casual, it may be 2-8 weeks.
Short Promo Video

concept work

I’m probably going to put together a short promo video going into some detail as to how we researched the Powers and other creatures mentioned in the book.
Cafepress Store

concept work

We need a Cafepress store, of course. I raised the possibility casually a few times but I’m not sure if anything was done with it. I don’t want to set it up myself because keeping track of how much of the money in my paypal is Eos’ is already a lot of work. I’ve sent a more specific email prompt as of today to start making sure this happens.
Russian Translation of Nobilis


I was approached by a Russian group interested in translating Nobilis. I dropped the ball here during the furor around replacement art, but it might still happen.

Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine

This is a large transmedia project, mostly focusing right now on the part that is a supplement/Elseworlds for Nobilis.

CMWGE Main Book

completion status ambiguous (see below)

I stopped work on the main book in December 2010 to avoid repeating Nobilis’ mistakes. The underlying material is excellent and needs HQ art; plus, I need to work with a HQ layout person from the beginning, rather than after the text is finished, to avoid sections with too much art, too much marginalia, too little text per heading, or other such. (The section on the Light and the Dark in Nobilis is a key example here: too much art that the layout team didn’t really have a good way to handle, which I couldn’t address because the art and text were done before layout started.)

Currently my plan here is to gather HQ art over time with other CMWGE works, and hopefully have the project as a whole be enough of a success to drag, I don’t know, Fred Hicks in for layout or something.

CMWGE Miscellaneous Art
Eos has an in-house artist who’s free and I have other artists who really want to work on the project, so a couple of people have started work on CMWGE art. I’d hoped for a layout person and a couple of look-defining pieces from a Kazuo Oga-quality artist first, but that didn’t happen, so this is going to feature expensive errors and wasted art.
CMWGE Rules Core

first draft ~80%, concepts ~95%.
last touched September 14.

The core rules for CMWGE includes a ~65k section to remove the need for HG prep and answer all questions of the form “but what do I do” forever after; this was a grueling challenge and will need lots of layout help. There’s also a pending 10k or so that’s not going to be grueling, and then as many examples as I feel like including. The rules core may also include pregens, in which case 5 out of 10-15 are basically done and the remainder are in different states. Again I’m a little stuck here without access to good layout. This may be hard or easy. The important bit was finished on September 14 and will be going to a larger playtester set after I get a few more early comments.
Fortitude (Main)

writing at 90%.
last touched July 2011.

A setting book for Nobilis or CMWGE, looking at part of the Chuubo’s world. ~60k. It was delayed at 90% pending the rules core; I could theoretically finish it now.
(Adventures with the Rats)

writing at 95%.
last touched August 2011.

Fortitude has talking rats. They have adventures. Perhaps you will join them. ~60k. Delayed at 95% pending the rules core; I could theoretically finish it now.
CMWGE Board Game

concept work

It’s easier to design some components I want for the setting if I think of them as board game pieces, so I figured, we might as well add this to the stack.

under consideration; talked to a musician
last touched August 2011.

If we wind up able to get Nobilis music, I also want music for CMWGE.

Book of Divine Letters

last touched June? 2011

A look at the Chinese language through a CMWGE lens. I put this and my Chinese language studies themselves on hold when things got bad in June? July? and am officially due to take them back off of hold now that I have the core CMWGE rules thing done. I’ve just been crashed since that point.

some development done.
last touched December 2010

The artist originally working on converting some CMWGE stuff into comic form is MIA, alas. I still think it ought to happen.
[Caroline Yatskaya novel]

some concept work
last touched September 2011

In the absence of a webcomic I’ll probably write a short Kindle Book.


I think about this on a semi-regular basis so that if an opportunity crops up I can go for it.

Miscellaneous Projects

Dreaming Waters

arguably written

I literally ran out of time to finish this before coming to China and didn’t know if I’d be productive here or if Eos would be interested. In some ways I still don’t know these things. So I handed it off to a company which then may or may not be doing something with it. I’m not 100% sure what happened. I’d talk to them about what happened and see if I should be taking it back and finishing it but I have a lot on my plate and life is a neverending merry-go-round of misery and delays. ^_^
WTF 2.0


It occurred to me that with the CMWGE rules core I could turn Wisher, Theurgist, Fatalist into something awesome, but I don’t know if I’ll have a chance to do so.
Wai! Eos-Sama!

loosely scripted
last touched … June 2010?

Webcomic focusing on the Eos office and the salvation of the world. Loose ties to the Frog and the Thorn. I’m waiting for Eos to give me an artist since the volunteer artists I get aren’t usually interested in this particular project.
You Yen

concept work
last touched … April 2010?

Gothic kung fu RPG/transmedia project.
[No real title]


A story arc about angels, demons, dragons, and a few other things.
Fairies RPG


Large amounts of concept work done before coming to work for Eos; not currently moving forward.

concept work
last touched December 2009.

A facebook game.
Rabbit and Star

concept work
last touched December 2009.

Collaborative board game.