Bunches of Themes

In the end for Tales from the Twisted Eden Sector, all of the stories were grouped based on a similar theme or idea. I played with a lot of different groupings for them, but in the end I found that thematically made the most sense when you were reading the anthologies.1 The ideas, for those who have not checked them out yet:

Syndicate – An introduction to the universe and some basic elements

Backstreets – What the backstreets are

Office – The Syndicate offices and how it functions

Visitors – Things that exist in the universe that should not be there

Evidence – Magical items

Legacy – A look at all those potential “Chosen ones” that exist in these sorts of stories and what they’re doing

And then there’s Simya Academy, which was a tie in novella and isn’t going to be talked about too much in this series.2

As one person pointed out, doing this didn’t work for every book. Backstreets, I agree, was very samey after a while because the type of story is very much the same when I tell something that happens in the Backstreets. It’s essentially a winding haunted house, so they all came out with a very heavily haunted house influenced feeling and narrative structure.

Legacy also had issues in that it was the last book of a very loosely explained series that attempted to give an explanation of what was going on.

Overall, though, I think it worked for this series. Considering I was going to allow users to build their own books from the stories provided,3 I think this was probably the best idea I could have gone with.

You know, until next week when I think of something better.

  1. And for writing them! []
  2. Nor is the actual content of the series at all. []
  3. And an earlier structure that involved rigid classification and no consideration for arcs at all []

Tagging Narratives

Back when I was still sitting on Tales from the Twisted Eden Sector, I talked to the CEO of a company of BookRiff and she presented a very interesting idea that I pretty much immediately took to. The idea of BookRiff, originally, was more academic1 and would allow you to take articles and chapters out of various books and merge them into a different book. Ideally, it meant that students could get cheaper textbooks by only printing off what they needed.

I, being someone who had an anthology series with strange linearity, had a very different idea. In one of the early iterations, instead of releasing them in collections, I was going to release every story individually and give people a way to create their own books based on which characters they liked or which stories they wanted to continue with.

This, of course, fell through. But I haven’t quite given up on the idea. I like the idea of a build-your-own-narrative where you pick the pieces you like and put them together to make them your own. A whole book with only those characters you like. An arc that is put in the proper linear order. Just giving people a way to take the existing pieces and let them put them together in a way that makes sense to them.

In my head, I call it a tagged narrative. The idea of it is that it is a group of stories that are user created and grouped under a categorization that the user creates rather than one that the gatekeeper2 imposes. It could be something curated by a lot of people that doesn’t have anything to do with the way the original content creator had grouped the narratives originally.

  1. Or that’s how she pitched it, anyway []
  2. In this case, me, the author []

He Said, She Said Narrative

I’ve been talking about my Tales from the Twisted Eden Sector’s narrative structure a little and how I tried to evoke a feeling of urban legends being told in a bar one night1 rather the traditional storytelling method of making everything feel genuine to the universe.

And then I kept going with the idea.

I thought about stories I’ve heard my friends tell and there was one more element to it that I was overlooking. If there was a story from, say, a camping trip2 there was never one story. There were different ones told from different perspectives that all seemed to hook together if you paid attention to them. This fragmented narrative structure made the storytelling a lot more fun because they wouldn’t frame it as before or after or during another event – you’d have to figure it out based on other story details.3

I liked the idea and ran with it as an intentional part of the structure. Within the sets of not-so-self-contained stories are arcs told from differing perspectives, all of which add something different to the narratives. Even outside of the arcs, there are items and characters that appear at different points with different tells that give you a sense of when each story is taking place within the narrative and giving a different context to the events in other stories.

And I do like to find ways to make the third person limited perspective a bit more interesting. As much as I dislike first person for the number of times I’ve felt trapped in the head of a character I grew to despise, I do like how it limits things to what a character would feasibly know and leaves the reader with an incomplete picture of what’s going on.4

Yeah, that part was intentional too. I’m not sorry.

  1. Not actually what I said, just go with it []
  2. I would never be in attendance for those due to my skin’s disagreements with the outdoors []
  3. Or you cheat and ask, but what fun is that? []
  4. When it’s done well, anyway []

That Thing That Guy Talked About Once

I said before that there was a reason that the stories in Tales from the Twisted Eden Sector never seemed to be completely done, then I just stopped in a place where there was kind of an ending but not really.1 Let’s get into that reason.

Like I said before, endings are fascinating to me in that they rarely ever actually are endings so much as break points in stories with so many things that could continue the story, but we don’t continue them because we are satisfied with that much.2 I often wishing the story were being told by a person so I could ask what happened next or for some update on it.

That’s largely where the last story in each of the books came from. There was someone in a bar telling some urban legend they heard from a friend of a friend who would elaborate on prompting if necessary, but ultimately wouldn’t know. Maybe they would elaborate. Maybe they would lie and say they knew more.

From there, I took the idea and ran with it in a lot of different ways. For now, the beginnings and endings. I stopped thinking about the narratives as prose and started thinking about the stories as things you would tell your friends about. If I were going to tell my friends about, say, that time I had to interview a couple of crazy children with superpowers and they dragged me into hell and I had to figure it out via surveillance footage hours later, where would the story start and stop?

While part of it was trying to find a way to make the last story not seem too out of place, I found I really liked the effect of the narrative. It ended up giving this effect3 of a bunch of stories that your friend told you the last time you were hanging out. The way the stories began and ended felt more like urban legends than set in stone text about the universe.

Given the stories are supposed to be about a well kept secret world that coexists within our own, it felt like a very good format. If I can make it seem like all those brick backstreets in Vancouver seem like they were hiding more than they actually were, then that was perfect.4

If that’s where it ended, that would have been great. But I kept thinking about it and I just ended up expanding on the idea.

  1. It was a parallel to what I was talking about in the post, but if I have to explain that then I need to work on my execution. []
  2. I didn’t say all of this, but we’re going to pretend I did to keep me from meditating too much on the nature of endings. That’s another post entirely. []
  3. To me, at least []
  4. And everything in Vancouver is red brick. []

The End Came and Nothing Happened

Now that Tales from the Twisted Eden Sector is done,1 I want to talk a lot about it. It’s not one of my more popular series by a long shot. It’s weird and it doesn’t all seem to fit neatly together. There’s questions at the end of it that are never fully resolved. Hell, there’s something called The End in the series that’s alluded to over and over again that never gets a resolution.

Let me make you angry. That was intentional.

The whole series was a way for me to play around with a lot of concepts in stories and narrative that most other people really don’t like. None of them are books you can sit down and read from beginning to end and leave with a sense you got the whole story. The shorts have these dangling threads at the ends that hint at a story that is still to come. Even those stories that stretch into two or three more shorts don’t wrap everything up nicely in the end. On top of that, things aren’t always in their proper order, leaving the reader with a mess of stories that all take place in the same area and have a few characters to connect them, but no idea what they are supposed to do with all of them.

Let’s start with talking about endings in general. I’m fascinated with the idea that fiction has to wrap everything up neatly and that there is a definite ending to anything. So often, I’ve read stories where the main character will have a breaking point in their story2 that isn’t actually an end. On top of that, the effects of the climax are never fully addressed or even acknowledged for the most part.3

With Tales from the Twisted Eden Sector, I decided to play around with how the endings worked. The beginnings too, to an extent. Normally a short story is meant to be self contained. They have a proper beginning, middle, and end. While all of the stories in the series definitely had a middle, the beginnings and endings were much less defined, with many just starting and ending in strange places with things left open.4

There are endings of a sort. There are some things wrapped up. Some questions answered. But I’m very aware of all the questions that have been left behind unanswered. But there is a reason for all of this, and that is twofold.

  1. In the loosest sense of the word []
  2. They won that last fight and hooked up with their love interest and they walk off into the distance []
  3. So how is the city recovering after you blew half of it up? []
  4. We still don’t know if Flint’s still alive from the first book, for example. []