I’ve been keeping a “writing journal” since Nano 2017, when I picked up the idea from one of the pep-talks. It’s a fairly irregular affair, with entry titles often going along the lines of “Three Months Later” and “The Mother of All Breaks”, but I don’t sweat it. I use it when I need to talk to myself about writerly troubles and it makes for incredibly entertaining and occasionally educational reading after a few years of maturing in a cellar. It’s nice to look back at problems that I have managed to overcome. And identify those that I have not!
Reading through some old entries related to the interminable efforts to rewrite my Nano 2017 novel, Under Her Wing, I came across this paragraph that made me laugh out of frustration that has moved nowhere in the three and a half years since I wrote it. I’m going to redact the hell out of the specifics to avoid spoilers, but I think everyone who’s tried their hand at writing will find something to relate to here despite the vagueness:
I still don’t know the answers to a great many questions. Do I want [X] as a character? What might be the content for, and more importantly, the point of the planned chapter with [X] and [Y], that’s supposed to illustrate their relationship? Am I OK with portraying [A]’s relationship with [B] as a troubled one? How do I infuse the story with the love between them [if it’s mostly about their problems]? Are [A’s reactions to the problems] enough to depict it? Does [Game] really have a role in the story? If not, should it be cut out? Are only things with a role allowed? If not, what else should be cut out?
That’s all I’ve got. Sorry, but I don’t actually have answers. Just questions.
During my many years in the Mass Effect fandom, I’ve seen many fanfiction authors embrace the “No Reapers AU”, where AU stands for Alternate Universe, marking a departure from canon large enough to affect the entire setting. This may be done for a number of different reasons. The author may dislike the notion of the Reapers and the save-the-world narrative framework; they might want to distance themselves from themes such as indoctrination or ignore the existence of factions like Cerberus; from Shepard as the protagonist and their tired hero’s journey; last but definitely not least, this might be the means to keep favorite characters, like Saren and Nihlus, alive past the timeline of the first game. This comes at the price of effectively deleting much of the official content and usually requires supplementing it with much of one’s own world-building.
Needless to say, all sorts of AUs are possible and “No Reapers” is only an example.
Well, lately I’ve been thinking about a “No Humans AU”.
While excavating the drawers of my former desk, I came across a bunch of developments sketches for Thinker Traitor Soldier Spectre (TTSS), my Mass Effect novel from 2019. It’s mostly maps and scenography plans.
It’s been a while! I regretfully admit that I’ve all but forgotten about this website and my self-imposed obligation to post monthly. Ah, well. It’s happened before, and it will surely happen again. At least this time, I have a decent excuse.
I’ve been working on a story — an original piece — that’s been on my mind a long time now, but lacked a setting till recently. I know that sounds weird — how can you even conceptualize a story without a setting? Well, I totally can! I had some vague ideas but the vagueness was so vast that it was barely discernible from void. And then, pretty much out of nowhere, I knew how to fill that void; this in turn allowed me to start getting things from my head and onto the page.
Five years after I wrote a post with the same title, announcing the move of the community archives of recorded Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer games from their original abode on the Bioware Social Network forums (that were being shut down at the time) to a dedicated website at www.prestaciouschallenges.com, I made my old dream come true and turned those archives into an online database accessible through a website of my own making at mehof.smehur.com.
This project has taken me over half a year (and counting) of daily work, fueled in equal parts by the intractable passion for programming and the undying fandom zeal, and laced with so much fun that I’m sure to remember it fondly forever. I’m so very glad and proud that it’s finally live (although it’s still not 100% done).