Friday, March 23, 2012

The Coming of the First Ones - Chapter 1 notes

In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Forty-eight

Since finishing “Before and After,” I’ve had the plan for this story in mind. That I started writing it this soon reflects, in my mind, the volatility of the creative process. What story comes out is what comes out, and we as authors have only so much control over it. Naturally, first chapters—the beginnings of stories in general—tend to be easiest. There’s much more time to develop them compared to when you finish one chapter and have to figure out the process for the next. Even with outlining, that process of evaluating where you are and what comes next is continual. This is one reason why I outline less now than I have before. I know that, by nature, a lot will change between outlining and writing.

Hence, the first scene reflects a lot of changes between how I thought this scene would play out and how it ended up. Nakamura should seem like a familiar character from Echoes, though his background is a bit different. Originally, Nakamura’s wife had died before Instrumentality as well, but here, she is a victim of the First Ones’ attempts to touch her mind, to test their influence on people. Beyond that, this scene has played out much as I imagined it, and it’s only better for the change, in my mind.

In general, during the reivision process it was pointed out to me that the piece was a bit unfocused. I had felt this way, too. Before rewriting, Shinji pursued Rei for no strong purpose or reason, reflecting his aimlessness. In the revision as it stands, Shinji’s motivations are tightened up a little bit. He still reflects the general malaise that has afflicted humanity, but once he realizes how it has touched him, he makes sure to do right by Nakamura for helping him. I think this is an important point. Shinji is flawed, but he’s capable of doing the right thing once he has the time to think it through and go beyond his own weaknesses. This is part of what I’m trying to do with writing as a whole—stay a little more positive while still probing the psychology of the human mind.

It may seem strange that I chose the year 2048 to be 2 years after Instrumentality ended. I went with this for a couple reasons. First, by giving more time between the Hybrid Adam-Lilith being’s formation and the present, there was more time to have information pass into space at the speed of light, which to me is a constraint on how much can be known and when. In addition, it adds to the mystique of what Rei has done.

One thing I wanted to avoid was having this story retread all the same issues of NGE. I will not have Shinji regress to the same person who questioned whether it was good to exist. I think Shinji is stronger than that, but he will have to learn and change and confront who he is. Shinji has retreated, to some extent, to protect himself, though he maintains his relationship with Asuka. A big part of this story will be having him realize he can come out and step into the spotlight.

In some ways, it may have been a bit too much of a cop-out to have Rei preserve so much of society. To be honest, I felt it would be too expected to examine a truly post-apocalyptic world. This setup gives a lot of possibilities to examine consequences in a (somewhat) more stable environment, to hit home just how difficult it is to keep humanity intact even with so much already done for people, and even with the miracles Rei’s performed, there are still after-effects, like the Cult.

The Cult is something I consciously tried to portray here as a positive thing, but by nature, it attracts the downtrodden and people looking for hope. Cultist Masuyo is the archetype of the positive aspects of the Cult, but there are other sides to it. See if you can guess who Archon Juniper is.

The scene where Shinji reflects on his time at the refugee shelter was something I came up with largely on the spot, only going back to add in more detail on the gunman who tried to kill Shinji, especially to make it clear how he was influenced by the First Ones and how Rei saved Shinji. In fact, this goes well with how Rei’s role in this chapter has changed, also. Initially, Rei appeared to Shinji and gave as exposition the First Ones’ goals and intentions. Here, she doesn’t appear to him at all, adding to the mystique about her. Of course, if you haven’t read “Before and After,” the idea that Rei exists at all might be surprising, but I tried to present it as easily as I could. A lot of what Rei has become and what she’s doing isn’t clear just yet, but I’ve long accepted the idea that something like Rei could present at all places and times, with no real concept of linearity. She doesn’t obey those rules strictly in this story, mostly because her limitations are more restrictive.

There’s a ton of stuff to talk about. Kyōko, for instance—I thought her coming back would be part of the best that could happen, that what Rei has done in general is a best-case scenario that, nevertheless, is still a little sour. Kyōko as an eccentric scientist just kind of happened, but I think it adds a touch of humor to the story. Asuka, too, is a lot more mellow, as one person described her. Overdedicating herself to her work is her only big flaw, but I thought it fit from how she put so much pride in Eva. She encourages Shinji to step up, but that doesn’t mean she’s prepared to see what that entails. Asuka, too, has room to grow, and grow she will.

I could talk on an on about this chapter. Misato and her secret job (three guesses what she’s doing, and the first two don’t count), Gendō and his influence on Shinji’s thinking, on repeating past mistakes, on reconciliation that may never come. I definitely take the opinion that Gendō is somewhere in the LCL sea and that he doesn’t return reflects that he chooses not to.

Overall, the big part of revising this chapter was to increase the influence of the First Ones on people, including how they’re trying to kill Shinji or torment him. That undercurrent, though it doesn’t dominate the chapter until the end, is important and really ties everything together.

Finally, I spent a lot of time writing and rewriting the final scene, eventually settling on what you see now. I was told the last few lines could be either epic or cheesy. I guess we’ll have to see. The First Ones are coming, as you might expect, and I hope not to waste too much time before showcasing their arrival.

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