Let’s Read Stargirl! – Chapters Four to Six

This is part of a series aiming to annotate the entirety of the second draft of Stargirl, and is most definitely not to be taken as advice for anyone else who might want to write something! For more context, please see here.

Hello again, friends. If you’ve not read the first set of annotations, covering chapters one through three, check it out here, and let’s get going! I should have mentioned, by the way, that feedback, comments etc. are more than welcome, since I’ll hopefully get around to draft 3 before too many more years have passed!

Chapter 4: Bag

This chapter does a couple of things (hopefully): solve TM and Veggie’s immediate problem (finances), thus endearing Ziggy to them pretty heftily; develop Ziggy’s mannerisms a little bit, since we only met her two chapters ago and she’s already changed her entire physical appearance and therefore I thought readers might need to have her made a little bit more tangible at this point; get a laugh or two.

There are, perhaps, some hints that maybe TM has a bit of a potential burgeoning romantic interest in Ziggy, or at least he thinks she looks rather nice. Is that important? Well… not really, but highlight for spoilers if you’ve read the rest of the book already:

When we meet TM and Veggie at the beginning of Stargirl, TM is very much not over Aster, who we’ll meet a little bit further on in flashback sequences. I did not want TM and Ziggy to become romantically involved; I wanted this to be a story about love in all its forms, but TM and Ziggy’s love was never of that nature for me. Marty and Veggie’s is perhaps the most authentic love story, which I thought was rather nice given that Veggie will basically have meaningless sex with anyone (although he’ll always somehow become firm friends with them afterwards!). Anyway, TM and Ziggy both experience the beginnings of attraction to each other – TM because he’s still pining for Aster, of whom Ziggy reminds him just a little, and Ziggy because she thinks it’s what people ought to do – but both learn that they can quite happily have true love for each other without it being sexual, and I think they both sort of grow out of these states of malaise or confusion as a result.

That was a really short chapter with relatively little going on, to be honest, so onwards we go!

Chapter 5: Television

Hopefully the fact that the unscheduled meeting went as well as it did is a further clue to readers that this is a weird world that works just a little bit skew-whiff from what you might expect, and that it’s probably best to just embrace that. Rather than try to pass this off as something that could realistically happen, I wanted both TM and Veggie to be fully aware of how ludicrous the scenario was; why pretend this is something that could happen in real life? It’s fiction, so why not just make things go in really strange directions, eh?

Ziggy’s comments to TM about trying to subdivide things, people, phenomena into little easily-understood bitesize chunks begin to express a theme, I think. TM is constantly desperate to understand things, but this world is sometimes better when simply appreciated for what it is. The conversation also introduces us to Aster, who will be showing up again.

Aster didn’t appear in the first draft of Stargirl at all. She came about because I wanted to give some context for why TM thinks the way he does some of the time, and why he would naturally gravitate towards Ziggy; I don’t think this is the last time Ziggy says something that TM will then remember Aster saying to him before. As you might guess by the fact that she doesn’t seem to be around outside of these flashbacks, Aster and TM are no longer together – I don’t think it’s all that much of a spoiler to confirm that she is not dead, but these little snippets we see of her will start to give the impression that she hadn’t entirely worked out who she was, what she wanted and so on. Ultimately, although she loved TM, she felt she needed to go and discover who she, in all her indivisibleness, was as a person. He hasn’t come to terms with that at this point in the story.

Oh, and Aster also allows me to express a lot more in the way of abstract thoughts that were always vaguely present in Stargirl v1, but which were much less defined. This conversation about whether the universe itself might be sentient, for example, isn’t just theoretical: in this story’s universe, I really do think there probably is a semblance of consciousness in all things, universe at large included. That’s never made explicit, but there are rumblings later on in the story of cosmic forces that may or may not be sentient, but nevertheless exert a lot of power over the cosmos (stars in particular).

I’ve not even mentioned the main purpose of this chapter yet: introduce Riegel O’Ryan. TM and Veggie know who she is; Ziggy doesn’t, but is utterly enthralled, almost as if in a hypnotic trance. O’Ryan will be appearing again shortly. More spoilers:

The reason large cosmic entities like Orion have such a powerful effect on smaller celestial bodies like Ziggy is literally because that’s what is happening in space. It’s gravitational forces, just expressed as a mental or emotional attraction rather than a physical one. Also, Star Power again.

Chapter 6: Friends

This chapter introduces us to the majority of the rest of the main cast, and also gives us the first mention of pick and mix. Pick and mix will be very important to the rest of the story. (Do people outside of England have pick and mix? I hope so.)

Before we get to the supporting cast, though, Ziggy is not doing too well at this point. I think adjusting to life on Earth is probably very odd for her, and coming under the influence of such a huge force as television (and O’Ryan, whose significance will become clearer later) hasn’t helped. To cheer her up, Veggie establishes that Stargirl‘s world works in much the same way as Scott Pilgrim, in that it’s totally possible to become a great musician by playing Guitar Hero or an incredibly skilled martial artist through playing enough Street Fighter. Professional wrestling will also come up again later on in the story – if you can believe it, professional wrestling was the sole inspiration for one of the climactic scenes of the story, and working backwards from there I had to work in a fair bit more of it in order to make that scene work. In fact, the entire novel is structured a little bit like a wrestling feud. I will probably forget to say more about that later, so do remind me towards the end.

We now come to the three people who form the rest of The Gang: you’ve got the primary trio of TM, Veggie and Ziggy, and then this group of people who have mostly at some point been romantically involved with Veggie. (The exception is Marty, and spoilers (although the sheer fact that I’m putting spoilers here probably tells you what’s in them anyway) – he will of course be the one who ends up having the most meaningful relationship with our Veg.)

Jack Derrida came about because I was studying Jacques Derrida at the time and thought it would be hilarious if there was a guy whose name sounded just like ‘Jacques Derrida’ and as a result he basically thought he was as smart as Actual Derrida but mostly he just takes the fun out of stuff; Dominika Dolezal is from somewhere in Eastern Europe (she’s probably Czech given the surname, which translates to something like ‘lazy person’, ironic given that she is in fact pretty much the best at everything), and Marty Rook is your friendly neighbourhood rock star.

I’m not entirely sure what drove me to conceive of each of these characters, but I ended up really liking them all, and they all play a part in what unfolds later down the line.

Once the group are introduced in the flesh, they get to introduce themselves properly, which is to say ‘by playing a tabletop role-playing game’. In the process of setting up, though, Derrida makes a comment about liking things to have a neat plot, a worthwhile conclusion, and some sort of meaningful point. Marty suggests that that’s not always the way the universe works. I wasn’t sure when I started writing Stargirl how it would end, and therefore whether it was going to have any of these things, so Marty’s comment is partially a joke at my own expense. Their discussion is also, however, still a fairly good expression of one of the themes I’ve been trying to start to bring out, which is that the universe really does work in very strange ways, sometimes appearing chaotic and sometimes (perhaps accidentally) landing on a perfectly neat and didactic little bundle.

Oh, and we also get our first mention of ‘the Swede’, the only person Veggie ever loved that he didn’t stay close friends with afterwards. I really do see Veggie as an earnest, well-meaning guy who just loves a lot of things and a lot of people and is very happy about that. The Swede, however, will appear a bit later on in the story, and Veggie will not be very happy about that. (I’m not entirely sure exactly what the Swede did to offend him, but suffice to say that there will be further offences made by the time his part in the story is over.)

Next time, we’ll play some Hero’s Adventure.

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