May 20th, 2011


Liner Notes: The Ontological Engine

The first pseudo-victorian writing I did was a short piece called Victim/Victorian, inspired by my love/hate relationship to real Victorian porn. Later, I renamed it Victim/Victorian, Chapter 1: City Manners to make room for the subsequent episodes that kept creeping out of my keyboard. When I finally brought that project to a conclusion in 2006, I did so with the awareness that making it up as I went along had left the story very thin in some ways. For example, I had been calling one of the main characters "the widow Dalrymple" since that first fragment, but never with any idea of who her husband had been or what had become of him.

I started developing the very loose idea of an SF prequel about the adventures of Daedalus Dalrymple (I found the name almost irresistible), and his disappearance, which would have to be light enough, somehow, to not serve as a total buzzkill for the humorous events that follow.

Another entirely different thread in my potential-story notes from that period was something playing with the ravishment-by-monsters trope in pornographic fiction. Characteristically, I hoped to have my cake and eat it, mining the hotness of the meme, while dodging or subverting the cliches. At some point the tradition (which goes back at least as far as classical Greece) of drawing bird-penis hybrids* and that remarkable edible bivalve known as the geoduck had come together in my mind into one grotesque fantasy creature--or rather, three. Originally, this was going to be a 21st century mad science story with genetic engineering, eco-sabotage, Wikipedia, and 'ducks named Heo, Deo, and Leo. I think I may even have a few pages of Leo's rather florid memoirs floating around my hard drive somewhere, if anybody is inclined to wade through it.

It wasn't until Circlet issued the CFS for Like a Wisp of Steam, their first steampunk book, that the pieces started coming together. I found that my characters worked better if my inventor and Eleanor's husband-to-be were separate people, leaving the first name Daedalus with one, and the last name Dalrymple with the other. I started writing with a pretty good sense of the characters, but not much knowledge of the story, other than that I was working towards a climactic geoduck orgy. The first draft featured a couple long scenes of Daedalus and Victor sitting around talking that were, on re-read, begging to be cut. The scene with Professor and Mrs. Hargreaves that I excerpted here took up only a paragraph--I expanded it because I wanted more smuttiness, earlier in the story, to counterbalance the massive sex scene of the last quarter.

Worst of all, the major event at the ending (which i shan't spoil here) was absent, producing an ending that fizzled where it should have popped. So to speak. When the solution finally struck me, it did so with such a sense of rightness and inevitability that I have to wonder how long my subconscious was struggling to get the idiot in the driver's seat to pay attention.

Yet somehow, all of this flailing and tweaking and re-tweaking ended up producing what remains perhaps the best thing I've written yet. Writing is weird

* Hello, Rule 34.
dinosaur, erotica

Liner Notes: Miss Pierce's Position

The climax of Ontological Engine is intended to be hot. It's also intended to be funny, and a bit grotesque. When I showed it to friends, when some told me it was sexy, that gave me pleasure; and when some told me it was gross, I was neither particularly surprised nor overly saddened; but when a couple expressed mock-horror that I had managed to make something so bizarre so arousing, that made me feel like I had really succeeded in my goals.

When the story appeared in Circlet's anthology, Up For Grabs critical response was gratifyingly positive--most of the best quotes made it onto the cover of Erotofluidic Age, so I won't paste them in again here. Furthermore, though I had introduced Eleanor's husband, and dropped some hints about the conception of Beatrice and Maggie, I still hadn't explained what became of Victor. It seemed that there were more stories to be told from that world.

After a little brainstorming, I came up with a sex act that I felt would adequately one-up the climax of Ontological Engine. Constructing a circumstance for that to occur in gave me enough of the basics of the character of Minerva Pierce that once again I was on my way, with a decent idea of where I was going, but only the vaguest notion of how I was to get there. The previous story had been a good 4000 words over Circlet's maximum recommended length, and this one, I was determined, would be much shorter.

No such luck. The final manuscript was within a couple hundred words of Ontological Engine, but looking over it, what regrets I have are about omissions rather than inclusions. I wish I'd given Hubert and Louise something to do, and I have a bit of a Chekhov's Gun problem with Eleanor's threat at the end of her scene with Dewey and Daedalus.

I submitted the story for the Like Tooth and Claw shapeshifter anthology, and got an very encouraging rejection from Cecilia, urging me to consider writing a book instead. Fun fact: of the four stories I've written for Circlet, only one (The Terminando) has appeared in the book I originally submitted it for.