Let’s Read Stargirl! – Chapters Nineteen to Twenty-Three

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 hereeleven to fourteen here, and fifteen to eighteen here.

This is the most chapters I’ve done in a single instalment, but I thought it made sense because these are the last chapters of ‘Part One’, as I think of it. After this, things get tonally different, the pacing changes, and the story moves in different directions. So let’s plough through this!

Chapter Nineteen: Show

This chapter is, I think, the last one that’s just our gang hanging out, and now I come to it I’m sad that it’s about to be over. For all that I still think I probably need to condense those scenes, I do feel (I hope, at least, but of course I don’t know what your experience as readers will be) now that we’re at this point that they did their job by making us care for the characters and the dynamic they have together. This will be important, because that dynamic is about to change.

I think that a lot of Stargirl‘s early stuff is basically just about finding joy in the mundane, even while stuff happens on a cosmic basis around them. The gang are constantly just taking ordinary, everyday stuff and somehow making it just slightly weirder until it’s an object of hilarity, joy, friendship. Conversely, even now the plot’s turning towards a cosmic scale, TM and Ziggy need to make time in this chapter to do things like… eat sandwiches bought from a Tesco, get dressed (although Ziggy of course always finds clothes that definitely weren’t in the flat before), poop. That sort of thing.

The Inciting Incident’s show was one of my favourite bits to come up with, despite (as per usual) not really doing much to move things along! Their songs are so dumb, and so much fun to imagine them playing. This is definitely another Scott Pilgrim-inspired sequence.

I do think I need to make it a bit less… er, suggestive when Veggie catches up with TM and Ziggy outside the bar. He says he’s decided that Marty is really attractive and wipes his lips with his hand; I wanted this to come off as if they’d just been snogging, but on rereading it kind of sounds like they might have been doing something a bit less PG! I’m not averse to mentioning sex, but I don’t think this is the time for that, and I don’t think it would come across as very classy on either Veggie or Marty’s part.

Chapter 20: Museum II

This is so tremendously anticlimactic, isn’t it? That is by design, but I don’t know whether it will work for readers or not – let me know! The idea was again to do with this juxtaposition of the mundane versus the hyperfantastic, with Veggie’s plan being so ludicrous and far-fetched that the most appropriate thing to happen in response would be for the actual event to be as completely uneventful as possible. It’s also because the true climax of this part of the story is about to happen in a chapter or two’s time, so this deflation of tension hopefully makes that more surprising, and because (highlight to reveal spoilers) there’ll be a much more classic, stylish, and as-Veggie-would-have-wanted-it heist scene later on, so this one kind of sets up for that.

Anyway, getting into the museum and to the room where the space rock’s held is as simple as… walking in, and the let-downs just continue when Ziggy realises that she doesn’t really know what she came for.

Ziggy is kind of supposed to be a bit of a deconstruction of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl thing (although I wouldn’t say that’s the defining aspect of her character): she’s often super-quirky, she’s literally from outer space and just landed in our protagonists’ lives, and so on, but as a consequence she’s also very prone to extremes of emotional distress and to immediately putting a lot of stock in something. She really wants to be as authentic a human as possible, which she thinks means embracing any and all experiences, so she’s very quick to jump to the conclusion that stealing the rock will be meaningful in some way without really considering why. The disappointment of getting there and finding that, really, she doesn’t know what she thought she would get out of it is something I’ve felt before, especially when my mental health’s not doing so well. I think it’s quite a human thing to get very hopeful, very anxious for something to happen, only for it to come to pass and then to realise that you’re not really sure what you were hoping for in the first place.

That said, if Stargirl as a story has a philosophy or a worldview or whatever, it would be something like humanism or existentialism: we make our own meaning in a universe that is infinite and that we just sort of happen to have appeared in. Ziggy’s really trying to do that, and her line here (a variation on which will be repeated at the very end of the story) that the universe may not care about anything but she does and that’s the important thing is this overarching philosophy boiled down to one sentence.

So if this book ever becomes, like, really famous, and people are debating its meaning and stuff, just tell ’em that it’s that one line right there.You’ll note that, in opposition to this idea, the antagonists often try to suggest that defining your own existence is pretty much pointless and that the universe is so incomprehensible and uncaring that you’re basically meaningless and doomed. They are the antagonists, though, so don’t listen to them.

Speaking of…

Chapter 21: Rainmaker II

Ohhhhh, I hated writing this. It was probably the third or fourth scene I came up with when the vague shape of the story was coming together in my head: I had the beginning, because that’s where it all started, and an idea of some cool stuff that I really wanted to happen at the end, and I wanted a Battle of the Bands somewhere in between (we’ll get to that) and I knew that this chapter here was going to have to be roughly the halfway point.

Still, having it in place from the start didn’t make it any easier when I had to say goodbye to Ziggy.

Before we get to that, though, let’s start at the beginning. Al Tyer is there, and makes some deliciously creepy statements about the weather before expressing again his thoughts on this whole idea of these nebulous and terrifying, almost Lovecraftian, forces swirling around up in the highest levels of existence. He’s not wrong, I don’t think; we’ve already discussed that everything in Stargirl including the universe itself has some degree of consciousness, so of course natural forces like gravity would be these all-encompassing, seemingly malevolent (but really just following rules) entities that all would be bound to. He wants to return Ziggy to her place in the stars because he’s really, truly terrified that those forces will, by their nature, cause chaos and destruction if things stay out of their natural order too long.

He might not be wrong about that either, to be fair to him. The question in that case becomes whether Ziggy’s friendships and loves, and identity as a person, are more important than preventing the cosmos from slipping into utter chaos! The answer to that question, far as I’m concerned, is… yeah, probably. Again, that’s something that probably can’t logically be true (I can’t sensibly argue that one person is more important than all people), but again I think that metaphorical or non-literal truths can be just as true, just because they’re not literally the case. I’m very bad at explaining this concept in a way that makes sense.

Anyhoo, who is Al Tyer really? Well, he’s Altair (O’Ryan put too much emphasis on the last syllable, remember?), the brightest star in the Aquila constellation. When a star goes missing, it’s the job of the brightest star in their group to come down and fetch them, with the help of a specialist.

That specialist is of course O’Ryan, or Orion: the Huntress. She’s orders of magnitude more powerful than Tyer or Ziggy, being an entire constellation; as I’ve discussed in the spoiler text, the gravitational force that she would have exerted in space would have been utterly enormous, and that’s the same degree of power that she has over other stars whether they’re in space or on Earth. It’s the reason Ziggy felt so powerless around both her and Al Tyer, since both are larger celestial bodies than she is and both therefore exert a lot more influence over her than she does them.

TM gets to punch Al in the face, which is fun, and he and Veggie really don’t want to let Ziggy go. She really doesn’t want to go either; I really did get attached to them all, and forcing them to go through this was genuinely hard! When they’re expressing their wish not to be split up, that is partly my own wish. Unfortunately, though, it doesn’t work that way. Despite TM’s promise that he’d punch the Sun for Ziggy (he’s being totally serious, but in fact he’s already just punched Altair, who’s about one-and-a-half times as big as the Sun!), Orion pulls out some moves that might look familiar if you were paying attention to the wrestling matches earlier: Okada’s ‘Heavy Rain’ slam, or something like it, and his ‘Rainmaker’ finisher.

Why the hell does Orion use wrestling moves? Because I just thought it was cool. Spoilers for a bit more of an actual answer:

The story of Orion vs the good guys is kind of structured a bit like a feud or rivalry in pro wrestling: she comes out of nowhere and destroys them (this would be called a ‘squash match’, and is a reasonably common way to debut a new wrestler who’s being promoted as a Big Deal), then they encounter each other a few more times until a final, winner-takes-all climactic bout to settle the score. In their last encounter, Orion continues to use Okada’s moves; TM borrows a knee strike from Shinsuke Nakamura, who was also in New Japan at the time of v1 but is now in WWE, and Ziggy puts the whole thing to rest with Tanahashi’s High Fly Flow from space. I just think it’s cool, OK?!

This done, Orion and Altair take Ziggy… back to space. That’s it, by the way. I don’t think of this as much of a spoiler now: she really is gone, and we won’t be seeing her again as a human on Earth. (Her presence and TM and Veggie’s friendship with her will nevertheless be a driving force for the rest of the story, of course.)

Chapter 22: Gone

After this point, the tone, the pacing, the characters’ focus… everything changes, I think. I’m not sure it was entirely deliberate so much as just an effect of Ziggy not being there any more, but certainly I think with a bit more refinement it could work really well: you’ve got the goofy first half, getting to know and love these characters, and then a complete shift to a much more serious second half following this big loss.

Anyway, the next two chapters are pretty much just a sort of winding-down after the Big Moment that was Orion and Altair showing up to kidnap/ kill Ziggy (I’m not really sure myself whether she can be said to be dead, or just elsewhere, but she doesn’t exist in the same way any more for sure).

I don’t really know whether I pulled off what I was going for in this chapter. Writing emotions isn’t my strong suit – I prefer, where possible, to let the reader work out what characters are feeling through cues in dialogue, situation, the way they describe things et cetera but I thought we needed a good old cry here and I don’t know whether I did it very well. This emotional bit could come across as sincere and touching to some, perhaps cringy or just a bit blunt to others. I suspect it’ll get at least a few tweaks for v3.

Oh, and Dominika can talk. Of course she can talk! Why does she only talk now? I don’t know. I think it was an attempt to add some more… shock, sincerity, signs that this is a really unusual and emotional situation, but I’m not 100% convinced that it makes a whole lot of sense. Dominika needs a better character arc in v3, I think; I like her when she’s around, but I haven’t given her enough growth or flaws to make her really interesting (or particularly consistent). She does plant the seed in TM’s head, though, that inventing something would be a reasonable solution given that he’s an inventor; this thread actually went nowhere in v1 and was just sort of skipped over, but v2 has a whole additional section detailing what he decided to invent and how all that went. That’ll be coming up in the next couple of instalments, I should think.

Chapter 23: After

I’m not sure what happened with the formatting here.

This is hopefully another good reason for bringing Aster into existence for v2 (remember she didn’t exist in v1): TM has now suffered something like Ziggy’s loss before, so all these emotions are familiar in a crushing way. I could be wrong but I think the Aster sections stop appearing now, so that’s another way that Part Two is different from Part One.

TM and Veggie have some MORE EMOTION – am I laying it on too thick here? Possibly, but I feel the situation merits it. I can’t see that having them react to any less of a degree than this would be believable or in keeping with the strength of the relationship I hope you’ll feel they’ve developed with Ziggy.

She’s not done changing their lives just yet, though, as they find her character sheet with three words written on it. What were those three words?

You’ll find out in the next chapter, which is the official start of Part Two!

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