Let’s Read Stargirl! – Chapters Fifteen to Eighteen

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 hereseven through ten here, and eleven to fourteen here.

We’re getting towards what I think of as the end of ‘Part One’ of Stargirl, and things will start to build towards something resembling an actual plot before too long. We’ve got more RPG and gaming sections before then, though, which depending on how you feel about them may be welcome news or a bit of a disappointment!

Chapter 15: Sneaky

This seems as good a time as any to mention that I didn’t give the chapters titles until I eventually uploaded the novel to Inkitt. Well, some of them had titles, kind of. I had this sort of outline which laid out what I thought the chapter structure would look like as I was going from v1 to v2; it had single words like ‘museum’ or ‘gaming’ as chapter headings to let me know when I thought particular things were going to happen. So in the end, I stuck to a similar pattern when making up names for the chapters – I didn’t put a whole lot of thought into it! I’m definitely not married to the chapter names; I’m not even totally set on Stargirl as a name for the novel, in fact. If anyone has any better suggestions, hit me up.

Anyway, this chapter begins with another Aster bit. Do the Aster bits work? I’d love to know; I like them, but I don’t know how much that counts for! Aster’s thoughts here, as they often are, are cut-down and slightly neatened-up versions of thoughts that I’ve had and just scribbled into a note on my phone. Bizarre philosophical crises happen to me fairly regularly, it’s fair to say. This particular thought is one that has less thematic relevance to things going on elsewhere in the story than other thoughts she’s had, but I do think that this concept of things being not literally the case yet still completely true is one that fits rather nicely with the fact that throughout the entirety of the story, stuff happens that’s stupid and would make no sense if it really happened, but… it’s true anyway.

I’m realising as I read back through this that I actually find myself wanting to skim over the gaming sections, which is weird considering they’re the bits I found easiest to write. I think I have a tendency to ignore side-sections like this in other stories, which isn’t always a good habit. It might be telling me something, though, about just how readable it actually is to have long stretches where very little really happens. Fun to write, perhaps not so good to read. I would be very interested to find out whether people enjoy these bits or not.

Still, that’s not to say I don’t have things to say about them: the games they play are, again, obviously rip-offs of real games, even more thinly disguised than they are elsewhere. ‘Steel Cog Sturdy’ is Metal Gear Solid, of course; ‘Sliver Nucleus’ is Splinter Cell. I’m not entirely sure what ‘Silent Murder’ is supposed to be other than a vague pastiche on Hitman and its ilk, albeit set in historical China. The whole thing does give me more excuse to have Ziggy and TM play off each other a bit and develop both their characters as well as their relationship, I hope; the almost ludicrous seriousness with which everyone’s taking the really rather dumb idea of robbing a museum and preparing only by playing games should show just how seriously TM and Veggie take their friendships, even to someone they only met a few days ago (I think; I’m really bad at keeping track of how much time has passed).

Chapter 16: Museum

To me, this is kind of where stuff starts to get real. (Again, I know it’s dumb that we’re now almost halfway through the text and it’s only just ramping up. Major structural edits will be required for v3, but this is stuff I didn’t – and still don’t, really – know anything about when I just started writing Stargirl to see what I could come up with.) First we get TM and Ziggy talking again, but this is kind of a conversation that I think all their other conversations were building up to. So far, they’ve just sort of thrown a lot of abstract thoughts about various philosophical matters at each other and nothing’s really stuck too much, but here they finally start contemplating some real, pertinent questions: what it means to be a human, to comprehend yourself as a living being, to be fictional, to suffer loss, to be conscious, to die, to pass on bits of yourself to someone else. These are all things that I hope have been bubbling a little bit under the surface, but they come to light here for the first time. There are, of course, no answers to any of these questions. I’m utterly terrible at answering questions, but I hope I’m a bit less terrible at asking ones that make you think about stuff for yourself.

TM and Ziggy find themselves, as if by fate, at the very museum they’re planning to rob. I imagine it as looking very much like the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter, my home city; I’ve not gone so far as to explicitly set Stargirl in Exeter, but every time they’re out somewhere I’m describing something very similar to somewhere real in Exeter. Al Tyer’s there, and he also contributes to the getting-realness by starting to introduce something resembling cosmic stakes, albeit very abstract ones. The things he talks about in this creepy little speech will be explored a bit further later, although I deliberately never fully explain quite what the nature of the cosmos and its inhabiting entities might be. I think that should remain unknowable, but just enough of it hopefully comes through to illustrate why Tyer and O’Ryan do the things they do throughout the rest of the story. Some more slightly spoilery thoughts (highlight to reveal):

It’s fear, basically. They don’t know whether the fundamental forces of the universe are sentient or malevolent; these things can’t be known, even by them. All they know is that unnatural deviation to the order of things is dangerous; Ziggy’s departure is causing gravity (without any will or conscience, just by its nature) to start moving things in different patterns, throwing them out of orbit; destabilising, effectively. Orion really does think she’s doing the right thing throughout. She probably enjoys it a bit more than she needs to by virtue of her nature as the Huntress, but she believes that even if her actions were harmful or evil, she’d still have to do them to prevent the universe just collapsing.

I also just really like “‘I am a local celebrity,’ said Al Tyer. ‘We are many things.'” I wasn’t intending to explore the concept of celebrity with Stargirl, but Tyer and O’Ryan certainly do embody some of the virtues and vices of fame in what might occasionally be interesting ways, even on a local scale.

Chapter 17: Adventure II

This session of Hero’s Adventure is supposed to be kind of a proxy/ set-up for the eventual Actual Real Life Heist, as well as something to cheer Ziggy up (she’s invariably a bit… troubled after coming across Tyer or O’Ryan).

A few inspirations/ low-key obscure references I should mention for this bit: Atgard the giant, super-bulky serpent being ‘light on his feet’ is probably an unconscious shoutout to one of the Yogpod’s D&D games, which featured a ten-foot, 600-pound goliath cat burglar; Fist being called Fist because he doesn’t use his fists is based on something Karl Pilkington said (I think back when he was a producer on Ricky Gervais’s XFM show, before the Karl Pilkington Show) about a guy on his estate whose nickname was ‘Stan the Hat’ because he never wore a hat.

Barry’s strategy of diving down in the shadow of a parachute is, I realise now, actually unintentional foreshadowing, of a sort. Highlight for spoilers:

TM will later jump off a balcony using the Bedsheet Tablecloth Whiteboard as a parachute. It’s not hugely significant foreshadowing, and the two events aren’t even that similar, but in both cases it’s TM gliding down off a high place so the image is pretty close.

Chapter 18: Twist

Aster’s presence makes itself felt again, despite not getting a flashback in this chapter. Both TM and Ziggy are now throwing out the kinds of things that you should now be used to hearing Aster say; as they were discussing on the rooftop, bits of consciousness pass from one person to another, and so on from there. It’s a subtle thing that isn’t really that important, and most people probably won’t notice, but I really like it. As for Ziggy’s point about time going backwards when the universe collapses in on itself, that’s something I’ve been wondering for years now, ever since I learned about inertia. My science teacher was not particularly keen on answering when I attempted to ask whether this was a theory that might hold any weight.

The adventure crew bust through the remainder of the story using all their items and whatnot, which is just basic Chekhov’s Gun stuff on a micro scale. It might also make you wonder whether all those odd inventions that have been brought up before might get to eventually see some use in a similar context, perhaps… Note also that the Hunters of Men are in search of someone important, who turns out to be Ziggy’s character. It’s a small clue to what – or who – O’Ryan and Tyer want.

Another very small reference: Strowman is named after WWE’s Braun Strowman, who had just recently debuted when I first wrote v1.

More small – and spoilery! – foreshadowing bits that I’m discovering as I go through this, actually (I still think these sections need heavy condensing, but there might be more worth keeping than I thought):

TM pipes up that ‘every good story has one of the good guys die unnecessarily’, when it looks as if Marty’s character is probably going to die. As I mentioned in a previous instalment, Marty didn’t survive v1. Barry does actually end up dying, which might make you wonder whether TM’s doomed to be killed off before the end of the story, but TM does in fact survive to the end, with Veggie being the one not to make it. Ziggy also sort of dies, but not really, and of course her character L is emphatically killed off. Finally, as Derrida puts it, ‘fuckin’ celebrities always turn out to be evil’, which is of course prescient given that the only two celebrity characters are indeed the main antagonists.

And that’s the end of the gaming sections! In fact, this is the end of most of the bits where our gang can just hang out and do fun stuff together. Things will take a pretty dramatic turn in the next few chapters, and it’ll all be different after that.

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