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He followed the faint smell of smoke to a stall near the edge of the market, sandwiched between an asari confectionery and a hanar diner. The place looked clean, freshly renovated, with spotless white tiles and clear glass tanks, not a speck of mold in sight. A neon orange sign hung over the storefront, some of the letters flickering once in a while. It was supposed to be artistic, he figured. The glass seemed to be hand-blown, and a permit on the Presidium was much too expensive for such oversights.

The woman behind the counter stood up when he approached. “What’ll it be?”

Continue reading [55]

An Exercise in Self-Critique 4

This is the fourth post in the series where I critique the beginnings of my own stories, written long ago, and try to make them better. Here are the previous posts:

The usual method is to look at the first 250 words and examine/edit that excerpt in detail. But today I’ll do something different. I want to talk about some of the material that I cut from Thinker Traitor Soldier Spectre, the Mass Effect fanfiction novel I finished last year, and explain why it never made it into the final version.

Continue reading An Exercise in Self-Critique 4

Adrift (2012)

This is a very old version of chapter 1 of Thinker Traitor Soldier Spectre, the Mass Effect fanfiction novel I finished in 2019, posted here as part of An Exercise in Self-Critique 4. Compare it to the official final version here.


A bright morning in Har Triste on Palaven. He’s standing on the edge of a crater, ankle-deep in the rubble. Where the Subourus Plaza used to be. The buildings around still stand. At angles. Burnt and punctured, shattered windows and naked armature. He can’t remember which war he’s fighting in, but war it is. His planet is under attack, his people suffering. Yet as he looks up at two winding missile tails in the serene yellow sky, he only thinks, it’s beautiful.

Continue reading Adrift (2012)

A New Mass Effect Fic: The Precedent

Two years before Eden Prime, Saren enlists Nihlus’s help to get an old friend out of some serious trouble. But it’s only the tip of the iceberg. How far will he go to ensure the success and secrecy of his misguided quest?

This is the story I timidly announced some time ago. I’ve been brewing the concept for it since 2013, but only dared try my hand with it now. Writing it was surprisingly smooth and easy (though it did take three months of daily work). It seems I’ve forgotten, again, what a joy it is to write new stories, compared to the struggle of continuing and/or salvaging the old. Despite the dark themes, The Precedent was a breath of fresh air.

Read it here, or on AO3.

Image: I was wrong by PaleCaesar