Let’s Read Stargirl! – Chapters Eleven to Fourteen

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.

Welcome back! If you’ve stumbled upon this without having read the previous instalments, you can read the annotations for chapters one through three herefour through six here, and seven through ten here.

Chapter 11: Cheese

This chapter has one of my favourite little details that doesn’t have any bearing on the plot whatsoever: Marty’s parents are kind of an inversion of the ‘Real Housewives’ archetype, where you have a man who’s incredibly well-off in some surgical/ scientific/ marketing/ banking career married to a woman who may or may not work, or might develop her own brand and entrepreneurship. (I’m not suggesting, by the way, that these women have any less worth whether they work or don’t, are parents or not, or whatever else, just that this is the template you often see in these ‘reality’ shows.) Here, Marty’s mum is the accomplished and affluent one, while his dad is the househusband who occasionally delves into business ideas.

There’s also a brief mention that Marty’s band, the Inciting Incident, has four members. We will see the other three, but they don’t factor into the story (and I don’t even have names for them, which I’m disappointed in myself for!).

Marty’s attic room is kind of based on a guy I knew at school (friend of a friend) whose dad was a heart surgeon and whose house was pretty badass. He had a room at the top of the house with a projector, just like Marty’s; he played a lot of Halo 3, with a little dob of Blu Tack stuck dead in the centre of the projected screen so he’d know exactly where to aim.

A couple of little details: we learn that Ziggy is terrible at music, but exhilarated by trying it anyway, and everyone has pets with weird names. (I can’t remember whether this is still in v2, but I remember someone in v1 having a pet called ‘something.jpg’.) Neither of these mean much in the overall scheme of things, but to be honest I very rarely think of the overarching plot when I think about Stargirl; I think about these little things about characters, and the moments they spend together. Moments such as playing video games, for example, which probably don’t contribute all that much to the story but which are some of the bits I conceived of first – in fact, in some ways the story of Stargirl is mostly just an excuse for me to have these guys hanging out with each other.

The games they play are more examples of the same trick I pulled with Hero’s Adventure: something sufficiently similar to real games that readers could hopefully follow what was going on, but not the same so that I can avoid trademark issues and also not have to follow exactly the rules of those games. Blackest Spirit is of course pretty much Dark Souls, and Derrida describes doing various runs and tricks that are very similar to things real people have done in Dark Souls, but it isn’t exactly Dark Souls and so I can have Derrida do things that aren’t quite possible in the real game. (That said, the trick he pulls off with the first boss is, if I remember correctly, actually possible to do to the Asylum Demon, and the descriptions of how he cheeses several of the other bosses aren’t all that far off things that can be done in-game. Tumblebuffing is also a thing.) As for Super Fighter XI, I know very little about fighting games so it’s really just a caricature of… all the fighting games.

Derrida’s explanation of Kantian ontology and video games, by the way, is something I wrote an essay about at uni. I may well return to this topic for the blog at some point! And for the record, ‘the ins and outs of a duck’s arse’ may or may not be a real saying, but I have known at least one person who uses it semi-regularly, and I liked it enough to include here.

Chapter 12: Rainmaker

Not too much to say about the Aster bit here other than that TM’s point that the ultimate question might be ‘what is your own personal ultimate question?’ is pretty much the philosophy I personally subscribe to, and is a simplified expression of Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialism. In short, most things are conceived of before they exist: we come up with the function, purpose, shape and so on of a table or a vase or whatever, and so their ‘essence’ precedes their ‘existence’. Humans are the only kind of thing for which existence precedes essence: we get to decide what constitutes our own essence, and to live a good life is pretty much just to live authentically according to whatever that essence might be.

That’s… not quite the whole thing, but you get the picture, hopefully.

Oh, and the answer to ‘what’s twelve plus fish divided by Nintendo?’ is of course ‘B-plus out of Hideo Kojima’.

When we return to the present, TM and Veggie watch Wrestle Kingdom 9, a New Japan Pro Wrestling Show that had just happened when I started writing Stargirl but which is of course now several years old. Originally they were big fans who were watching the event pretty much contemporaneously; v2 made the very slight tweak of having them be new to the genre and therefore binging shows from the past, just so the story wouldn’t be dated so specifically. I have seriously made the argument about pornography being the nearest thing to wrestling that Veggie puts forward here, by the way.

This match, unlike the gaming session that came before it, actually does have some impact on the story. At the very least, it gives (I hope) some thematic weight to one of the climactic moments later on.

Chapter 13: Rock

Exposition abounds here, unfortunately. I don’t know whether it’s necessary to have this bit where the guys read Derrida’s article explaining that yes, Ziggy really is a star who really did disappear from space; I feel like that’s already clear enough, y’know? It does tell you something about Al Tyer, though, namely that he’s really quite a boring guy.

I am, by the way, also not sure whether what Veggie says about it taking two to tango is insightful or meaningless, but it’s one of my favourite little bits of dialogue that I’ve come up with.

I think I was just having too much of a good time having them all chilling out with each other when I was writing this; they’ve just hung out with the gang at large and now Ziggy just wants to hang out again before going to ‘that thing Riegel O’Ryan’s going to be at’ (which I think I need to clarify more in v3 – you might remember she announced at the fair that she’d be at the museum’s space rock unveiling whatsit, but it’s been a while since then so I’m not sure Ziggy’s throwaway comment is enough). It’s probably too much padding, and v3 will probably have to slim it all down quite a bit. I’m just not sure how I’m going to manage that – I’m very bad at getting rid of bits I like, partly because I like them and partly because I then have to kind of rewire the stuff that came before to flow into the stuff that comes after, which isn’t always as simple as it seems like it ought to be.

When the gang are done with their continued hanging-out-ness, it’s up and off to the museum. Veggie strips completely naked in front of Ziggy and TM and doesn’t really think much of it, something which will actually help me to give him a bit of subtle character development down the line – highlight to reveal spoilers from later in the story.

It’s only a little thing, but after the timeskip and Veggie developing his relationship with Marty, there’s a scene where Dominika takes off her shirt in front of him and he politely looks away. The Veggie from before Marty would probably have just taken his own shirt off so they’d both be in the same boat.

I quite like the one guy who came to see Al Tyer. I should find more for him to do later in the story. Anyway, Ziggy sees the little chunk of space rock and is just so compelled by it that she decides she simply has to steal it. This may seem arbitrary, and… well, kind of is, because I’m not really sure where the idea came from or why the plot should demand that they steal a space rock, but I think it kicks off the first real bit of movement in the story. It’s too late in the story to be kicking off, really, isn’t it? Another reason I think I need to streamline all the hanging-out up to this point, but there it is. I think I divide the story into two, possibly three ‘parts’ in my mind, and the heist to steal the space rock is probably the main thrust of part 1 (although we are, I think, more than a third of the way through the story at this point, so we should probably have come to this sooner).

Chapter 14: Plan

And so, a heist plan comes together. This is either an excuse for me to do more hanging-out-playing-games sections or a really good compelling reason for why I needed those sections in the first place – your mileage will vary depending mostly on whether you like those sections, I guess. Still, this is another nod to the Scott Pilgrim school of upskilling: do something in a fictional context enough, and you’ll get really good at it in reality.

We get a bit more Hero’s Adventure, meeting a character called Rusk who’s a high-up dude in a thieves’ guild-type organisation called the Leaf. The first game of D&D I ever played featured a guild called the Leaf run by a guy called Rusk – and also featured a rogue called L, a blind archer, and a powergaming barbarian cannibal, come to think of it, so I guess this game of theirs is pretty much entirely inspired by mine.

I don’t dislike the story told in the Hero’s Adventure campaign at all, but I do now think it takes up far too much time and space and adds almost nothing to the overall plot out in the real (well, non-tabletop-RPG) world that most of the story takes place in. That said, I think cutting it down would make it seem like an even stranger and more out-of-place inclusion, so I’m not sure how to handle it really for v3. Thoughts and feedback welcome!

Next time, the plan comes together. Sort of.

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