Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Coin - Chapter Nine and Epilogue notes

So this is it. We get a little technobabble to start, explaining what Haruhi’s done to the Entity, but the main focus of the first part is Nagato. When I conceived of this passage, I came in with the idea that Nagato would be somewhat cold toward Haruhi, yet in writing it, I realized that couldn’t entirely be the case. I think she must care for Haruhi at minimum through caring for Kyon, but to go through with exposing her inmost wishes, there must be more than that, too. At the same time, there’s a contradiction: Nagato clearly has felt oppressed by Haruhi’s methods and demeanor and the need to be fixing things when Haruhi breaks them. As it comes out, her feelings seem complicated, and I thought that was good. Real people have complicated feelings, too.

The piece Nagato plays on her stereo set is, of course, Gymnopedie No. 1 from its use in the Disappearance movie, and what we have here is someone with that Disappearance Nagato’s basic personality but also our Nagato’s knowledge and experiences. Central to this scene is how Nagato thought she was experiencing an error that didn’t reflect anything about herself, but only through this program did she realize her feelings and how she had denied herself. That, ultimately, will connect with how Koizumi and Asahina have done the same.

The Japanese as a rule tend to have more emphasis on personal boundaries and a lack of physical contact, or so I’ve read. I won’t pretend to be an expert in this respect, but this was why I chose Haruhi touching Nagato’s hand as the trigger for Nagato’s negative feelings toward her to come out. It’s tough enough for Nagato to speak her mind and expose herself that way. To be touched or invaded in an unwanted fashion is too much to expect of her.

Naturally Kyon is the first person she’ll turn to when she’s in need, and it’s no accident that Kyon ends up kneeling on one knee in front of her as she sits on that park bench. Well, maybe an accident on Kyon’s part. What must Kyon be thinking here? The way I see it, Kyon is not spontaneous. Haruhi is his spontaneous half, and he appreciates being around her because it pushes him into things he otherwise might not do. Nevertheless, there’s some resistance, but being kissed by Haruhi isn’t something you can ignore.

And the one thing Haruhi can’t stand is the thought of hurting Kyon the way she’s hurt everyone else.

So we go back, and the old woman is here to find Haruhi because the old woman is Asahina. I know quite a few people saw that coming, but if you didn’t, a quick recap of the hints: Asahina bought a cap at the stadium. The old woman gave Haruhi a cap right before, seemingly with the same initials on the inside of the brim. They’re the same cap. The old woman and Asahina (big) both refer to Asahina (small) as mousey in chapter seven also.

This is where it may get a bit complicated. The idea of resonance is some artistic license on quantum mechanics and time travel. Basically, quantum theory says any event has a variety of possible outcomes. A die can come up with anything between 1 and 6. A coin can come up heads or tails. You might think that, when you go into the past, everything you don’t influence will stay the same. I merely contend that any quantum event can turn out differently—not because you influenced it but just due to quantum probability. This, in turn, makes any closed timelike curve (a paradox, etc.) unstable. It’s an old idea I had for another story, but it fit well here.

One of my prereaders remarked on how Haruhi’s powers in this story seem to work just exactly the way she wants without fretting about details, so it’s natural, in a way, that she would go even further, to the time when she gained those powers, without knowing right away when that was, but this scene should be familiar. It’s in chapter three—after leaving the hospital and Taniguchi, Haruhi remembers a certain dream. The paradox and resonance are as follows: something may have given Haruhi powers at first, but that set off a chain of time travel events that made an unstable loop. Now, the only way to seal that loop is for Haruhi’s powers to make it so, or instead she could choose to break it. And she is tempted to break it, though she’s not as certain she should as I originally envisioned. That would be really unsympathetic—to be so sure the world should change without doubts, without recognizing how enormous of a decision that is.

Really, this final scene of chapter nine is the driving force of the whole story: the younger, middle school Haruhi represents all she’s forgotten about why she was looking for extraordinary things, and it comes as a breath of fresh air.

The epilogue goes after things a bit quickly; there are several ends needing tying, but the basic thrust should be easy enough to understand. Haruhi’s show of mercy to the Entity, in the hope they’ll learn what she has, was originally more than that. She would’ve given them a piece of power, maybe to teach them that that wasn’t everything, but given the dangerous deeds the Entity’s committed, I judged that to be a bit too much.

And then there’s the future Haruhi who accompanies the old Asahina. Remember when Asahina (big) says someone else told her to wear the baseball cap, that she thought Haruhi was being nostalgic? Originally, there was a lot more scene here and interaction between Haruhi and her older self, but that ended up feeling like too much exposition when things should be left open-ended. Conversely, there were some unanswered questions—about Rooter, about people hurt at the stadium and the future of the human race—that I thought Haruhi would feel unqualified to answer, but it would be wrong not to acknowledge them at least.

I was going to go with an ending where Kyon had the beginning manuscript for the novels, but that had been done, so instead, I went with a call back to the end of the first book instead.

Overall, this story has turned out very differently from what I first envisioned, but that’s a good thing. I had the benefit of good, intelligent feedback to tell me where I was steering too far too quickly into darkness. I’ve set out to do what I wanted—to have Haruhi learn of her powers and realize what she truly wants out of life. It may be some time before I’m back writing Haruhi, but I feel I can do it passably, so I have no aversions to doing so.

Until next time.

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