Let’s Read Stargirl! – Chapters Twenty-Four to Twenty-Seven

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 herefifteen to eighteen here, and nineteen to twenty-three here.

This is the start of what I think of as Part Two, and in fact all of the chapters in today’s instalment are also new to Draft 2. So let’s dive in!

Chapter 24: Later

Okay! So after the shock and despair that was the last couple of chapters, I figured I was going to need a timeskip. I’m not good enough at writing realistic emotions to have spent too long with the guys in the immediate aftermath of Ziggy’s, er, abduction, so I needed to be able to go away for a bit and come back when they were back into a routine and stuff. We’re now around three years after Ziggy’s disappearance; I’m not hugely consistent on the timeframe, I don’t think, since a bit later on something supposedly happens exactly three years to the day after Orion took Ziggy, but I don’t know whether that lines up with other times I mention how long the new gymstaurant has been open, for example.

Oh, yeah, the gymstaurant. A few things in this story are entirely based on the design philosophy Veggie and TM discuss all the way back in Chapter 1, which is to say that doing stuff purely because it’s a terrible pun is probably a good idea, and ‘Muscles & Mussels’ is definitely one of those things. It didn’t really need to be anything in particular; I just needed a new enterprise that Ziggy could inspire and that could put the guys in a slightly less dire financial situation, so I picked a stupid homophone and went with it.

We learn that they’ve also been gradually building something resembling a spaceship, as suggested at the end of Part One. They did not even attempt to do this in Stargirl v1, actually, but one of the most common points I got from the select people who read it for me was that it seemed difficult to believe that they wouldn’t try to actually build a spaceship. It’s exactly the sort of dumb thing they do all the time, so why would they not do this particular dumb thing? So, in Stargirl v2, there’s a spaceship.

When Veggie says that ‘it’s about Aster’ for TM, he’s kind of half-right, I think. As TM will say more explicitly shortly, Aster left in such a way that there was nothing he could do about it. It was of her own free will, which he respects too much to try to chase her or persuade her to change her mind. Ziggy, though, didn’t want to leave, so TM finally feels justified in having this desire to go and bring someone back. It is, though, much more about just having that love for Ziggy and wanting to save her than it is about any kind of historical I-couldn’t-stop-Aster-leaving motivation, I think.

Chapter 25: Launch

This was a difficult chapter to write because, of course, it didn’t exist in v1 and was added when the spaceship element entered v2. Because of its placing in the narrative, though, it had to accomplish the same things that the (completely different) chapter that used to be at about this point had to do, which is to say establish the new status quo following the timeskip – mainly the fact that Veggie and Marty are now together, in a more committed relationship than is usual for our Veg.

We have to face, in this chapter, the fact that Stargirl‘s universe really does work differently to ours. Stuff that just shouldn’t work on a logical, practical, scientific, physical level does work because… well, because it becomes more of a symbol of the thing than the actual thing, and belief in the symbol causes it to function as people think it ought to. That’s a bit of a roundabout way of saying that this spaceship would not work in any way in real life, but the gang build it not to scientific specifications but to look as much like their collective idea of a spaceship as possible, which means they can then believe in it being a spaceship. It wouldn’t work for just anyone, though; this group of people happen to be unusually good at making reality work the way they think it should. It’s partly because of the influence of Ziggy; having known her gives them a connection to the stars that most people don’t have, but even before meeting her Veggie in particular had this bizarre power in abundance.

It’s for the same reason that using the space rock as fuel works: it seems thematically appropriate to them, so it has the effect they think it should. There’s really not much special about the rock itself at all.

A small detail to notice here before we move on: Veggie says ‘ground control to TM’, which since TM’s full name is Tom Major is basically a variation on the first line of Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’. There’ll be more of those, if you keep an eye out.

Chapter 26: Oddity

TM is in space. Yeah.

I have to admit I don’t know myself whether this is literally supposed to be TM getting teleported into space or whether it’s more of a metaphorical thing. I don’t think it matters; hopefully we’ve established well enough by now that metaphors are just as true as any other kind of fact in Stargirl‘s universe (if not our own, come to think of it).

TM’s ‘all the lights in the sky’ line is a bit of a nod to Area 11’s album of the same name, which I listened to quite a bit while writing this. Their songs are quite similar to what I imagine The Inciting Incident’s to sound like, too: chock-full of references to anime and games, not to mention some rather banging synth metal riffs.

Ziggy speaks to TM while he’s up here, and tells him that, basically, while she wishes she could come and be human again, it just isn’t going to work. She’d be chased forever, and she couldn’t put them through that; besides, being a star isn’t all that bad, and she’s in her place in the order of things now. Thinking about it, I don’t know how I feel about this. I’d really like the message of Stargirl not to be ‘you should accept your place wherever people tell you it is’; I want people to want to be their own person, and I don’t know that Ziggy’s decision to accept her place fits with that theme. I’m not sure what else I could do, though; Ziggy can’t come back, and I don’t want her to be angry and scared up there, so my only real option seems to be to have her just be OK with it. Maybe in v3 I’ll figure out a better way for this not to come across as endorsing that people should stay ‘where they’re supposed to be’. Or maybe it doesn’t; maybe it just reads as a tragedy that Ziggy’s trying to make the best of. I don’t know. As ever, feedback welcome.

Chapter 27: Re-Entry

Not a lot happens here, and to be honest I could probably subsume this (very short) chapter into the previous one; just have it as an extra bit stuck on the end. I like TM’s time in space being separated from the things either side by a chapter break, though.

It’s pretty much just a reflection on trying to accept that, despite the loss, they should still live their lives without letting themselves give in to despair because Ziggy wouldn’t want that. I didn’t write this intending for it to seem like an allegory for a real-world loss, but I think it kind of reads like that a little bit and I suppose that makes sense, given that a loss is what they’ve experienced.

The end of this little interlude marks a return to the mundane, though: they’ve got to get back to work. Some of the stuff that happens in Stargirl is so ridiculous and some is so crushingly normal, and I like trying to play up that juxtaposition as much as possible. This one’s particularly sudden because what they’ve got to get back to isn’t just work, but the bit of the story that comes next and which was originally right at the start of Part Two before the ludicrous spaceship bit happened.

Most of Part Two is… more grounded, less exaggerated than Part One, possibly due to a lack of Ziggy, but the whole ‘let’s try to go to space’ bit is definitely still in that category of heightened-wouldn’t-work-in-the-real-world stuff. So when it then comes back down to earth with a ‘we’ve got to go to work’, that bump does feel unusually abrupt in part because it is a movement from a more fantasy-ish segment to one a bit more realistic (still not entirely realistic, of course, but more so), and that movement isn’t hugely smooth because the last four chapters have basically just been inserted between the previous ones and the next ones. I would try to make it smoother, but I find it quite funny having it be so jarring; then again, the fact that I always enjoy doing dumb stuff and lampshading it might just be an excuse to cover up the fact that I’m not particularly good at doing stuff that isn’t dumb!

Next time, we’ll take a look at the chapters that were originally the very beginning of Part Two. I guess you could think of the Spaceship Bit as being a kind of Part One point Five, an interlude between the two parts.

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