Nightwatch: Who Watches the Watchers pt. 2


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Post January 12, 2007, 01:13:05 AM

Nightwatch: Who Watches the Watchers pt. 2

Three hours and 17 selections of 5th-8th grade band pieces has numbed my brain to the point where I'm unwilling to tackle this head on. Let me abridge:


Is this all of the story now, or is there another part after all? Last time, Bill, you said there was only 1 more part, yet it says 'to be continued'. The storyline doesn't seem at all finished, and as if it will take at least a few more installments to get there. That said, I don't know how in depth I should attempt to judge the story.

What does the Stephanie infodump at the beginning have to do with the rest of the story? It's a ton of backstory for her, but sticks out like a sore thumb. It reads like one of those "I'd like you to put this in" things from Jeff instead of an integrated part of your story.

Telling vs showing is rampant in the first half of this installment.

The Psychic discussion about Stephanie reinforces the earlier telling, but is then largely repetitive, and therefore unnecessary, IMO.

Is it important that Tom realized how attracted Simon is to Stephanie? I think we as readers knew it already.

The whole business with the difference with a brown recluse and a house spider, is it important? Does it advance the story? Is it relevant for later? Or was it just to remind us about the interconnectedness of the collective, or something else?

I liked Simon's powers of deductive reasoning, but the effort placed to diffuse the potential powers and effectiveness of the collective at this point seems almost as if it was tacked on after the comments from the first part to tone down the danger.

However, as we see things from the boy's perspective, he proves that the psychic powers are just as deadly as we feared. He can think people dead. He so much as says so when talking about the Jaguar leaders being easier to kill than control.

There's a lot of discussion about the trade minister, but unless he's a part of Prometheus (or a part absorbed by), it seems superfluous.

The prayer struck me as odd. Perhaps it was just as it was found, and I'm wrong, but it struck me as odd that none of the verbs were conjugated. Since he learned it on the streets as a child it would have been Portuguese and not Spanish, right? I can't speak Portuguese, but I learned a fair amount of Spanish in school. In Spanish, normally you would for sure conjugate the first verb. Of course, it's a prayer/poem, so rules could just be out the window…

I truly liked the psychic discussions while Tom was being led on his journey to the bowels of Nightwatch. It seemed like a good way of SHOWING the collective's power and limitations instead of just telling us. Doing the opening of this installment like this would have been much more effective, in my opinion. I also thought it was a good way for all of us to lose track where the heck was at the point he met up with Simon.

That Prometheus has the boy and are able to use him is... chilling. Shivers up my spine kind of chilling. I look forward to that unfolding.


So, since the continuation tag was at the end of this installment, I don't know if I should look back at both parts and try to voice an opinion or not. Is there more from Bill to come, or is this going to be a 'find the boy' überplot that stretches out over the whole season?

If this is all, this part doesn't gel anywhere near as well as the first. It seemed to lack a certain... flow? soul? polish? voice? I'm not sure which is the right word. Maybe the plot seemed less structured. In any case, it seems far weaker than the first bit. Hope that can be distilled down into a helpful bit of constructive criticism.

Anyhow, there were good bits introduced, like the Prometheus thread, and I am very curious to see 1) how Nightwatch finds the boy, 2) what Prometheus will eventually use him for beyond mind-reading intel, and 3) how the bad guys are thwarted.

Nate

PS. Ooo. I just realized that since the Boy was really behind building the Tesla cannon, perhaps he (or a Prometheus-friendly faction of the collective) was Zod in Dan's story. Zod at the time Dan was writing it gave me conniptions, and I complained about it a lot. Somehow the idea that Zod was a psychic group instead of a demon conjured by a librarian is strangely comforting to me. Don't know why. Although I'm not sure how Dan will like the notion.
Last edited by kailhofer on January 12, 2007, 01:25:06 AM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post January 12, 2007, 10:28:47 PM

Re: Nightwatch: Who Watches the Watchers pt. 2

Ooo. I just realized that since the Boy was really behind building the Tesla cannon, perhaps he (or a Prometheus-friendly faction of the collective) was Zod in Dan's story. Zod at the time Dan was writing it gave me conniptions, and I complained about it a lot. Somehow the idea that Zod was a psychic group instead of a demon conjured by a librarian is strangely comforting to me. Don't know why. Although I'm not sure how Dan will like the notion.


Zod wasn't a demon at all, but he was changed/toned down a bit from my original concept of his being a pure mentality/disembodied intelligence (similar to Vanamonde or the Mad Mind in Arthur C. Clarke's "Against the Fall of Night".) - created by Tesla back in 1908 after the comet's first deflection from Earth impact in order to give advance warning of the comet's eventual return. The Secret Society of Librarians Devoted to Beneficence and their single representive that was shown in draft 1.0 - that got cut from "Fly By Wire" to make the 2.0 version that was published - were just the group that was in contact with Zod as more of a guiding force than a controling one. The concept got cut before I could fully develop the text for it. Partly because of Nightwatch requirements and partly because the fact that "FBW" was actually three different stories happening simultainously proved to be a bit confusing to those not in the loop. (Jeff asked me to cut the endings for two of the stories, but allowed me to weld part of one of them to another chapter.) Stephanie speculated that there were actually two Zods; one living in the computers, and one that was less omnipotent that was impersonating the first. If there is ever a "FBW 3.0" written as a stand-alone novel without any Nightwatch elements, maybe I could clarify all the confusing bits.

I'm sure that I am seeing a few details in Bill's story that may have slipped under everyone else's radar, however. I do hope that the story continues so that I can see if I'm right!

Dan
Last edited by Vila on January 12, 2007, 10:30:14 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post January 12, 2007, 11:14:06 PM

Re: Nightwatch: Who Watches the Watchers pt. 2

Nate & Dan,

A few answers.  .  .but not too much because Jeff Williams is one of those guys you Just Don't Want To Mess With.  Hope you understand.

As for you, Mr. Nate Kailhofer.  .  .you were completely right and I was completely wrong.  Quad Erat Demonstratum.

I could have done it in just two installments.  .  .as long as you don't mind one of them being on the order of 60,000 words.  

It was just too much.  I finished the thing.  I absofuckinglutely hated the ending.  I struggled.  I swore mighty oaths to obscure dieties.  .  .and then I just cut the thing in half and sent in a Part II that wasn't meant to be a Part II but at least it made sense.

I am in the midst of a major ending re-write.  You'll be glad I did this when it's done.  No Kidding.

My first ending was just so.  .  .Hollywoody.

As for the Stephanie thing.  Well, if I have to explain it.  . .then it didn't work.  I'm curious to see if maybe others can see the value in this.   Any takers?  In my book, it says an awful lot about WHY she is the way she is.  I'll let the jury decide.  And if I have to.  .  .I'll explain it.  I know that Jeff gets it.  He gets it so well that it took a month for him to decide to let me put it in the story at all.  

And Dan.  .  .as for the Tesla connection.  I could just about write a dissertation about the guy.  I've researched the bejeebus out of his life and came up with some fascinating possibilities.  This fellow was a genius and a veritable Houdinni with the things he could do with his body.  .  .and yet he had four distinct episodes of ill health where he was bedridden for months at a time.  

So I stole those months and gave them to the Collective (of his era--not The Boy, himself) so they could design and build the device you described in FBW.  And since I was stealing from you, anyway.  I figured a fellow named Polios might just be interested in the survival of humanity and had guided the Collective in a mutually agreeable endeavor.

You gotta grok that I actually understand astrophysics to the degree that I know just how freaking hard it is to point a beam weapon from any point on Earth and hit a comet in space with enough energy to alter its course before it gets too close.  .  .which you suggested in FBW.

So how could Tesla do it?  Why, the Collective--with a little help from Mr. Gray/Grey/Polios--usurped his mind for those months and then implanted memories of being ill.  They needed him for design, but not necessarily for actually building the thing.  Regular laborers could do that.  Don't forget the unlimited funds available to them.  With Mr. Polios's help, they could maybe possibly, just barely, manage to target the comet.  Let's face it, no tech of time could have come close to fixing a vector for somethng moving like this.  And I put it on a Steamship because steam engines were the powerplants of the day and because it adds a little privacy to the whole endeavor.

As for Zod?  I'm not going to address this, right now.  That's one of Dan's little subplots that just may be way too complicated for me to parse.  I merely tried to justify--to me and those who think like me--how in the hell Tesla DID it.  He was brilliant, but he wasn't from Krypton.  Suffice it to say that the Collective can do an awful lot when they try.  Sometimes--with a little help--they can even save the world.

I'll respond more to some of Nate's questions and critiques when I get the chance.

Stay tuned, folks.  .  .it might get a bit bumpy.

Bill Wolfe
Last edited by Bill_Wolfe on January 12, 2007, 11:17:47 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post January 13, 2007, 01:22:09 PM

Re: Nightwatch: Who Watches the Watchers pt. 2

Zod wasn't a demon at all, but he was changed/toned down a bit from my original concept of his being a pure mentality/disembodied intelligence (similar to Vanamonde or the Mad Mind in Arthur C. Clarke's "Against the Fall of Night".) - created by Tesla back in 1908 after the comet's first deflection from Earth impact in order to give advance warning of the comet's eventual return. The Secret Society of Librarians Devoted to Beneficence and their single representive that was shown in draft 1.0 - that got cut from "Fly By Wire" to make the 2.0 version that was published - were just the group that was in contact with Zod as more of a guiding force than a controling one. The concept got cut before I could fully develop the text for it. Partly because of Nightwatch requirements and partly because the fact that "FBW" was actually three different stories happening simultainously proved to be a bit confusing to those not in the loop. (Jeff asked me to cut the endings for two of the stories, but allowed me to weld part of one of them to another chapter.) Stephanie speculated that there were actually two Zods; one living in the computers, and one that was less omnipotent that was impersonating the first. If there is ever a "FBW 3.0" written as a stand-alone novel without any Nightwatch elements, maybe I could clarify all the confusing bits.

Dan

Sorry. My fault. I got the versions confused from what was actually published.

Nate
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Post January 13, 2007, 01:49:34 PM

Re: Nightwatch: Who Watches the Watchers pt. 2

Nate & Dan,

A few answers. . .but not too much because Jeff Williams is one of those guys you Just Don't Want To Mess With. Hope you understand.

As for you, Mr. Nate Kailhofer. . .you were completely right and I was completely wrong. Quad Erat Demonstratum.

I could have done it in just two installments. . .as long as you don't mind one of them being on the order of 60,000 words.

It was just too much. I finished the thing. I absofuckinglutely hated the ending. I struggled. I swore mighty oaths to obscure dieties. . .and then I just cut the thing in half and sent in a Part II that wasn't meant to be a Part II but at least it made sense.

I am in the midst of a major ending re-write. You'll be glad I did this when it's done. No Kidding.

My first ending was just so. . .Hollywoody.

As for the Stephanie thing. Well, if I have to explain it. . .then it didn't work. I'm curious to see if maybe others can see the value in this. Any takers? In my book, it says an awful lot about WHY she is the way she is. I'll let the jury decide. And if I have to. . .I'll explain it. I know that Jeff gets it. He gets it so well that it took a month for him to decide to let me put it in the story at all.

Bill Wolfe

Actually, If I was right, I'm sorry about it. I was truly hoping to see a second part that could have done all you seemed to be trying to accomplish. Such a piece would have been a real thing of beauty.

I'm confused, though. You were still writing the second part after the 1st ran? And you're still not done?

If so, shame on Jeff for even running it. That's poor quality control. Your story could potentially ruin his carefully crafted, wonderful universe, or worse yet, never finish at all, and then how would such a hole be filled? I understand when Jeff himself does it, because only he's to blame if it blows up in his face.

I apologize if you had it all written, but if not, shame on you too, as an artist. Your medium and subject matter deserves more respect than that, in my opinion. Simon and company are such good characters that they deserve nothing less than an artist's very best effort.


As for the Stephanie thing, I do think it was a tremendous source for her backstory. You filled in a big blank. My concern was over why it was filled, and why it was needed for the story. Obviously, when you're done with the next part, I may have my answer.


Nightwatch is hard. People who haven't written one don't get just how hard they are.

Buck up. You can do it. I have every belief that you can knock my socks off if you try hard enough. You've got a great plot. You've established goals, heroes and villains. Add the rising action, a strong climax and some character resolution, and I have little doubt that this one can be known as the best multi-parter of the Nightwatch universe. Plus, you could even make an indelible impact on the subject matter and style of all future stories. That's how much this storyline could impact things.

But no pressure. ;)


Nate
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Post January 13, 2007, 04:45:13 PM

Re: Nightwatch: Who Watches the Watchers pt. 2

Okay, time to add my two cents.

I also thought that part 2 would be the conclusion. Perhaps it shouldn’t, but this assumption distorted my reading of it a bit. Whenever I saw a new tangent, I wondered how Bill was going to wrap things up. If I had known subsequent stories were to follow, I would have focused less on possible dangling plot lines.

I’m curious on why the mental state of Stephanie was included. On one hand, a lot of the reader’s time is invested on the nature of Stephanie’s mind. I expect that there will be a large payoff later on. I would be extremely disappointed if this turns out to be a non-factor. I suspect that it will figure prominently later on, since I can see a couple possible scenarios on how this could be leveraged.

On the other, I found Stephanie’s mind to be fascinating, in a horrific, I-can’t-stop-watching-but-I-know-I-should-turn-my-head-away, fashion. Although Bill quoted my story, I never imagined taking our spunky gal to depths that extreme. Good job! This adds a layer of complexity to Stephanie that, in my view, humanizes her. Too often I see her being used as a plot device. Need someone to crack the impossible code to hurry the plot along? Call Stephanie. Not that her hackneyed abilities aren’t demonstrated in this story. However, I saw her as a person first, all set up by the backdrop.

Some other random observations:

- I thought there were a few places that could have been tightened up a tad, but this is more a stylistic choice. At times, the narrative evolved into an infodump, which slowed things down unnecessarily.

- A lot of telling (or thinking) instead of showing. Somewhat related to my previous observation. Granted, when you’re dealing with mind readers, you’re already challenged in showing something that’s by nature internalized.

- Excellent use of the little details that add a sense of authenticity to the narrative. One very good example:
He was accustomed to following more than one conversation at once—a skill he had honed through years of couples therapy—but this was going to take some getting used to.


- Moral ambiguity. I love it as a writer (although I abhor it as a person... strange how that works). The moral dilemma of reading people’s minds and the hypocrisy demonstrated by the Collective (they don’t like their subjects to read their minds in turn) makes for a rich, juicy topic.

- Referencing past stories. One of the critiques I had for 2006 was that too many stories seemed standalone. I’m heartened to see everything’s connected once again.

- I didn’t care for the spider scene. I believe I know why Bill inserted this. He wanted to demonstrate Simon’s competence, especially after having the Collective play with him like a puppet (string or hand puppet... I’ll let you decide where they were putting their figurative hands). However, Simon shows his ability to deal with the Collective later on. This scene came off as an unnecessary infodump.

- My sole criteria for whether I judge a story good or not is whether it keeps me engrossed. You can write absolute drivel or a masterpiece, but if it works, it works. When I was reading this during lunch, I was disappointed that I had to put it off and run to a meeting. That's a sign of a good story.

- Ha! I was correct that there would be a connection to Prometheus. The game of chess is but a simpleton’s game compared to the various factions vying for supremacy in this story.
Last edited by Jaimie on January 13, 2007, 04:49:01 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post January 14, 2007, 03:59:41 PM

Re: Nightwatch: Who Watches the Watchers pt. 2

Three hours and 17 selections of 5th-8th grade band pieces has numbed my brain to the point where I'm unwilling to tackle this head on. Let me abridge:



Well now, Nate.  All I can say is that you're being a good dad.  I too, was in the band and I do not believe my own father ever saw me play.  Ever.  Period.  This being said, I still maintain he did a pretty good job, but I do wish he had seen me play.  .  .I wasn't bad.


What does the Stephanie infodump at the beginning have to do with the rest of the story? It's a ton of backstory for her, but sticks out like a sore thumb. It reads like one of those "I'd like you to put this in" things from Jeff instead of an integrated part of your story.


I have integrated it.  .  .you just haven't seen that part, yet.  But it does—as is—explain a little about why she really really really isn't in 'the loop' as to what this whole mission is all about.  Simon and Tom and all the psychics in the world know that Stephanie Keel has no business knowing that there are people in the world who can read minds.  And now you know this, too.


Telling vs showing is rampant in the first half of this installment.



Nate, as you well know, showing is hard.  As a demonstration, look how long (ie: how many words) it took to show everybody how clever Simon can be by leading Tom and the Collective through the maze which is the underbelly of Nightwatch, just to keep them all unsure and offbalance for long enough to get Tom into the interference zone created by The Egg.  In the meantime, I had to create and discard four characters that have no further purpose but who had to have some kind of verisimilitude just to make the thing work.

What'ya want?  A novel?


Is it important that Tom realized how attracted Simon is to Stephanie? I think we as readers knew it already.


I think it is.  What we know and what Tom knows are two very different things.  Most of Nightwatch has been written in Limited Omniscient mode.  As one who studied to be an English Teacher, you should know what I'm getting at.  Do you really think that the characters in the story have this kind of advantage?  That's why it takes me so long to write something. I think about this kind of thing all the time.  This story has been told in exactly two points of view.  .  .P s OV'  for those of us in the biz.  Tom's POV and The Boy's POV.  It may seem like the Stephanie Prelude and the scene in Hong Kong were also Limited Omniscience, but if you look closely, you will see that The Boy was listening to the psychic conversation in Hong Kong and the prelude is straight narrative.  It was—as a prelude—merely an infodump.  It wasn't anybody's perspective.


The whole business with the difference with a brown recluse and a house spider, is it important? Does it advance the story? Is it relevant for later? Or was it just to remind us about the interconnectedness of the collective, or something else?

I'm a little unsure about how to answer this one.  I doubt anyone will read this thing more carefully than you, so I'll go ahead and answer this.  In effect, I am trying to show some of the limitations to the Collective without having to tell you all what they are.  Many of them are absolute sociopaths, completely unable to function in normal society.  They can't stay focused on the task at hand and they can't help but bring their own psychoses into the discussion.

In other words.  I've read and re-read every single Nightwatch story several times during my research, and somewhere—don't ask me where—I read that Gillian had to get rid of the spiders in the back room of the Canon Moon.  Well, I used this one little datum to show some of the limitations of the Collective, Simon's encyclopedic knowledge, and Gillian's vulnerabilities all at once.  Needless to say, the Southern House Spider is real, the fact that it's northernmost territory is around DC is real, the fact that they play dead when agitated is real, and the fact that it looks like an awful lot like a brown recluse are all real.  And if Gillian were chasing spiders into bags rather than killing them, and if she were used to dealing with the benign spiders and ran into a very poisonous variety, Tom would be concerned.  Especially since he had been told that his memories were going to be erased at the end of this little adventure.

To me.  .  .this is characterization in its purest form.  WWTD  What Would Tom Do.

Any other questions?


.  .  . as we see things from the boy's perspective, he proves that the psychic powers are just as deadly as we feared.  .  .  .


As I said before, killing is easy.  I've got a shotgun at home that I quite assure you will allow me to kill any human Hollywood movie hero.  That doesn't make me superior.  

The United States has the capability to kill the entire population of.  .  .let's just say for the sake of argument.  .  .the entire population of Iraq.   But that's a far cry from controlling them, ain't it?  So unless you're willing to kill them all, you're going to either have to outsmart them or work with them.  Are you with me?

There's a lot of discussion about the trade minister, but unless he's a part of Prometheus (or a part absorbed by), it seems superfluous.


He wasn't superfluous to The Boy.  He was a means to an end.  But the best laid plans.  .  .

The prayer struck me as odd. Perhaps it was just as it was found, and I'm wrong, but it struck me as odd that none of the verbs were conjugated. Since he learned it on the streets as a child it would have been Portuguese and not Spanish, right? I can't speak Portuguese, but I learned a fair amount of Spanish in school. In Spanish, normally you would for sure conjugate the first verb. Of course, it's a prayer/poem, so rules could just be out the window…


The prayer is real.  I have researched Brazilian street children to the point where I dream about them, at night.  I wish I had just made up things like poking the eyes out of the rats to see what they do and the police death squads shooting street children when hired by local merchants.  Unfortunately, these things are all real.  But I suggest you reread the poem/prayer/song.  Now, think about to whom this song is sung and how God might just reward those who have the opportunity (and that is everyone reading this, right now) to do something about this. . .and who don't.


That Prometheus has the boy and are able to use him is... chilling. Shivers up my spine kind of chilling. I look forward to that unfolding.


Wait for the conclusion, Nate.  




PS.   Ooo. I just realized that since the Boy was really behind building the Tesla cannon, perhaps he (or a Prometheus-friendly faction of the collective) was Zod in Dan's story. Zod at the time Dan was writing it gave me conniptions, and I complained about it a lot. Somehow the idea that Zod was a psychic group instead of a demon conjured by a librarian is strangely comforting to me. Don't know why. Although I'm not sure how Dan will like the notion.


Between Dan and I, we've answered this one.  

But once again, Nate.  .  .Thank You For Your Critique.  

You're who I'm writing for, most of the time.  

Bill Wolfe
Last edited by Bill_Wolfe on January 14, 2007, 04:04:43 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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