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Author Topic: 2011-07-03 A Veiled Betrayal [Christopher Purnell]  (Read 1641 times)

roosterboy

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2011-07-03 A Veiled Betrayal [Christopher Purnell]
« on: 03 July 2011, 11:22:09 »
The Star League isn't the only interested party...

The Star League's war against the Periphery touched hundreds of worlds--but the Star League's were not the only interested hands. Sometimes the League's invasion merely provided the opportunity.


Cavalier

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Re: 2011-07-03 A Veiled Betrayal [Christopher Purnell]
« Reply #1 on: 18 July 2011, 17:27:56 »
No comments? Well, anyway, a brief excursion into storytime...

I first noticed Eleusis when I read the House Marik sourcebook, back when the original House books were being put up for free download and I was just getting into BattleTech. My own sympathies were still half-forming, though I had already kind of decided the Clans weren't really that interesting to me, and the Davion fans in the MPBT:3025 beta servers just grated on my nerves too much for me to line up with that House. ComStar was an interesting choice, and when I picked up the old ComStar sourcebook in the neglected corner of my college games store they slotted into place as a favorite element of the universe for me- but neither they nor the Word of Blake captured my primary interest. In the end I wound up choosing House Marik largely because of the intricacies of the old House sourcebook, which produced a realm with more... verisimilitude and less outright silliness than the other books, as well as an appealingly diverse and complex setting allowing a lot more freedom and options to the player character. I suppose the resemblance to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which I had spent several years studying, was also a selling point.

Anyway, Eleusis, as a former Islamic theocracy turned province of the League was an example of that kind of diversity I was interested in. I kept the planet in mind, and was surprised to learn it had been taken from the Magistracy of Canopus. The date references for the artificial lakes of Koranic calligraphy predated the existence of the Magistracy, and the theocracy's end post-dated the planet's entry into the League by centuries. I pondered briefly how you could have such a theocracy inside the Magistracy, which before the Star League had political as well as social subordination of men to women as a state policy, and came to the conclusion that it could not possibly work out well. How or why Eleusis would even have joined the Magistracy was another question to me, since there was nothing indicating force was used to bring it in. I kept that at the back of my mind for a few more years, and after I began writing for BCorps I drew back on it. I decided to write a story set in the Reunification War era, which had a great potential but had seem neglected as a setting for the fiction, and using Eleusis seemed to create potential for a great moral conflict. What do you do when the people you're liberating are ugly and oppressive themselves?

Parallels to certain real world conflicts were not intended at first, but they happened anyway. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed likely that the Canopians would have to hold Eleusis down by force. The cultural and political differences were just too big for relaxed autonomy to be feasible and the ways that Eleusis would develop if left on its own would be repugnant to the Canopian government. I concluded it likely that both sides, even if the occupier meant well and provided lots of effort into improving the planet, would come down into a cycle of mutual contempt and barely concealed hostility. When the Star League came calling, they would want to exploit the situation as a matter of course. A rebellion on Eleusis would make their lives much easier, and it might provide for a quick victory and a genuinely grateful population to propagandize about at a time when the war was not going well. Of course, the problems of dealing with the devil are many and varied, and any effort to co-opt the local theocracy was bound to bite the Star League (or as it happens, the Free Worlds League) in the long run.

The story as you read it was effectively half of what I had in mind. Setting the scene was relatively easy; world-building comes naturally to me. The characters and general setup was also easy to develop. The rough plot would be a bit of cloak and dagger negotiations, high stakes stuff on the side by the Captain-General to secure some post-war gains, followed by the "liberation" of Qurtuba. At the liberation the moral consequences would have been made evident. The Free Worlders would have to step in and threaten to shoot their own allies to insure they didn't massacre Canopian prisoners outright. It would have been a pivot point in the story, a moment of doubt and uncertainty crystalizing into a dramatic climax. And then I heard Historical: Reunification War was coming out and so I shelved the whole thing after getting about halfway through the first half.

Several months later there was no Reunification War, and I had finished working with another largish story that may or may not ever see publication. I wanted to keep my momentum going but didn't have a good idea what to write next. I pulled out this story again, look it over, and decide... meh. I adjusted it a bit to be more stand-alone, including adding the escape from the city in the middle of the spontaneous rebellion. I may have been highly influenced by listening to the Noir OST when I wrote the gun battle. Anyway, I sent it off to Jason, and he sent it back with some comments. I worked to strengthen Montecuccoli as a protagonist by making negotiations a lot more tense; initially, after all, the first part was only an introduction to the situation, before he stormed Qurtuba with his company later on. Since that wasn't happening, at least in this part, it needed some changes. Changes were duly made, the narrative was strengthened, and the finished product looked a lot better while retaining the setting construction I'm reasonably proud of.

And then it came back that the situation didn't fit with Reunification War. I gritted my teeth, and asked if I could see what the book actually had to say about Eleusis. I expected the worst; that the planet was being written as a bastion of civilian resistance to the Star League. As it turned out the account had nothing to do with any of that and did not pay the slightest attention to the implications of having a Muslim theocracy in the Magistracy. So I went back and rewrote it as a kind of explanation as to why the religious, social, and political makeup of the planet was irrelevant, with the anti-Canopus, pro-theocracy forces rising up too early and being put down before they could influence anything. And I hope it turned out reasonably entertaining and interesting despite the rather drastic changes in focus and flow, and the relatively low-key violence involved in it. In the end I did get to touch on behind-the-scenes political maneuvering, address a setting issue that had bothered me for a while, and tossed in a bit of up close and personal violence as seen through someone who isn't used to that.

The next story I wrote had a lot more classic "guy in cockpit of a 'Mech" perspective. If this wasn't appealing I hope that one should prove to more peoples' tastes.

Tizona

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Re: 2011-07-03 A Veiled Betrayal [Christopher Purnell]
« Reply #2 on: 18 July 2011, 18:36:57 »
We started a little thread in the BattleCorps forums when the story came out, but it hasn't many comments. BC forums are quite dull lately.

This is a story that, despite the unconclusive ending, has left a good taste in me. The part I enjoyed most was the negociation. We're somewhat used to in-universe negociations that quickly turn into veiled threats, if not into an outright aggression. Montecuccoli here shows steel nerves not betraying himself despite the tone and exigences of his interlocutor. I liked how he lead the talks.

Thank you for detailing the story's birth proccess. I hope to read more works from you soon.

Cavalier

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Re: 2011-07-03 A Veiled Betrayal [Christopher Purnell]
« Reply #3 on: 18 July 2011, 19:11:52 »
I'm glad you liked it. Admittedly I would have much preferred to go with my original plans, but I just came back to the story too late to get it in before Reunification War was set. I suppose the plot is a case of "all that work for nothing," but the process does keep the reader's attention (I will assume) and helps explain away a problem (even if only a handful of people would have ever noticed it). I can also hope that some readers might find the setting I constructed to be desirable for their own use in the RPG. And well, sometimes things just happen and efforts turn out to be futile. I doubt I'll ever do an ending like that again, though.

I don't have BCorps membership for the time being, but feel free to repost the commentary there if you think people will find it interesting.

Tizona

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Re: 2011-07-03 A Veiled Betrayal [Christopher Purnell]
« Reply #4 on: 18 July 2011, 19:52:12 »
In fact there were just two posts, one mine and another from a fellow ::)

Both agreed in liking the negotiation part, though he missed some more action. His exact words were (I hope he don't mind me quoting him here...)

Quote from: wolfhound_88
would have liked a bit more mech trashing stuff, but taht's just cos with job hunting i need lots of nice big gratuitous explosions to make me forget the job hunt

And your efforts constructing the setting didn't go unnoticed. I quote myself  this time:

Quote from: Tizona
What I've liked most it's how are the environment and the clashing cultures portrayed, though, for some reason, my mind refused to match the actual Andalucía with the landscapes of Eleusis. It was something more like the Arabian nights, maybe the constant image bombardment in the current news has something to do with it.

Matching what you intended or not, it was pretty inmersive and one of the winning points of the story.

Ghost0402

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Re: 2011-07-03 A Veiled Betrayal [Christopher Purnell]
« Reply #5 on: 24 July 2011, 22:01:44 »
Another excellent story.  The views from a previous story about the Mariks and the SLDF birth, this fits.  Once the war got bogged down, they were looking for anyway to bring it to an end, even sending the CG out there to lead.  Just another wonderful facet of the FWL and the ingenuity they have over the other great houses.
"Kiss my hairy ass Falcon,"  Star Colonel Onyx,  17th Wolf Regulars Cluster, Clan Wolf  Wars of Reaving.