Let’s Read Stargirl! – Chapters Thirty-Three to Thirty-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, nineteen to twenty-three heretwenty-four to twenty-seven here, and twenty-eight to thirty-two here.

To my astonishment, this is the last one! I considered splitting these last five chapters into two parts, but I think it’s all really one big stretch of stuff, so here it is.

After this, I’ll have to have a think about what this has taught me as a whole about Stargirl and how Draft 3 can be better than it currently is! If you have any thoughts or suggestions, I am all ears.

Chapter 33: Battle

Star Power gets a mention! I totally forgot that it actually gets name-dropped in the text; I’ve been mentioning it in the spoiler text in several of these commentary instalments, but had been under the impression that it didn’t actually get named in the story at all.

So, yeah, Star Power. It’s… I guess kind of like Gurren Lagann‘s Spiral Power? It’s something that all beings have – all sentient beings have a fair bit of it (including the cats!), and even inanimate objects have a certain amount of it. Stars have the most of it, and people who come into contact with stars end up absorbing a bit of it. Veggie had an absolutely huge amount of it in the first place, hence his almost supernaturally forceful/ magnetic personality. Basically it just allows people to very slightly make reality behave in the way that they’re determined it ought to: symbols will function literally, as happened with the spaceship that was really just an icon of a spaceship and not at all an actual spaceship.

It’s tied to, but not the same as, the fundamental forces (gravity being the one that gets the most influence in Stargirl); Orion and Altair’s ability to completely overpower Ziggy was partly due to their giant reserves of Star Power (if you’ve seen Bleach, think of how the reiatsu/ spirit energy of one fighter can totally smother that of the other, winning the fight before blades are even drawn) and partly because their celestial bodies are literally exerting huge amounts of gravitational force over her.

So that’s Star Power! A small detail, but one of the biggest elements of this story’s fictional universe. As for the rest of what happens in this chapter, the guys go in search of Orion, TM asks Derrida to feed the cats while they’re out, and Lauren and the Ire aren’t dead at all.

I suspect this one’s fairly easy to spot, especially if you were keeping an eye out for more stars in the knowledge that Orion doesn’t come down solo, but I do rather like the girls who make up Lyra (Lauren and the Ire – L. Ire – Lyra… geddit? Yeah, it’s kind of weak, but I think it’s a good name for a band anyway). I’ll admit I’m not entirely sure why four of them come down rather than just one, as would usually be the case: if pressed, I’d probably give the reason that usually it’s the brightest star in a constellation who would come to Earth to fetch one of their own, but this time it’s the brightest one that’s gone missing so it takes more lesser stars to recapture them.

Team Lyra’s mission is to take out Team Protagonists, on account of the fact that Orion wants them out of the way while she hunts for Vega. She really is a bit frightened of our heroes, I think, if only because she knows that the universe is weird and you can never be quite sure what anything’s going to be capable of. Team Protags take out Team Lyra by crushing them under a bunch of sound equipment, but all get a bit beaten up in the process. Knowing that they need to get back to their flat quickly (Orion’s heading there, remember, and TM’s not only left Gary Mackerel there but also asked Derrida to go there to feed the cats), TM pulls out one last trick.

Yup, he built the Octobike.

What is the Octobike, you ask? Well, refer to TM and Veggie’s very first conversation and that’s about all you need to know. It’s probably another instance of TM’s Star Power making this ludicrous machine work when really it’s a terrifically impractical thing that’s far more style than substance; luckily, in this universe, style is sometimes enough to create function!

Chapter 34: Cat

Here we are, then, back at the flat for the beginning of the final confrontation. Orion discovers that Veggie’s real name is Jonathan Vega and assumes (not all that unfairly) that he must be the Vega, the star she’s looking for. Given his giant Star Power, it’s believable enough for her.

He’s not the real Vega, by the way. I almost made that the twist: that Veggie had been a star this whole time. Then I thought about it and realised it was dumb. In fact, he’s just a guy who happens to share a name with a star. I came up with ‘Veggie’ before realising that this was all going to happen, incidentally; I have no idea where the name came from, I just liked the sound of it! (If anything, I might have been thinking of Pulp Fiction‘s Vincent Vega.) In the end, though, it worked out surprisingly neatly when I realised that it could give rise to this misunderstanding.

So Orion strolls off with Veggie in hand, ready to take him back to the stars; TM and company are left under guard of Keelut – or Sirius, the Dog Star, I suppose. Fortunately, they’re saved by a tale as old as time: cat versus dog!

I think this was something I came up with pretty early on, too, in the period where I was just imagining various scenes before eventually stringing them together into something resembling a structured order. I just liked the image of this cat barrelling in and taking out a much bigger dog, and so TM and Veggie got cats! (I’m a dog person, for the record, but I still like that cute little fluffballs named after philosophers get to stand bravely against a much bigger, much more dangerous opponent.) It’s almost a nice arc for Maurice Meow-Ponty, actually, as Michel Furcoat’s the one that shows up most frequently throughout the story but, of course, his claws are sheathed and so there’s not a lot he can do – Maurice Meow-Ponty gets to show that he does care about his friends after all, swooping in to save the day.

This seems as good a time as any to mention that you may or may not have noticed that whenever either of the cats appears, they’re always introduced as ‘Michel Furcoat, the cat’ or some variation – I always say ‘the cat’ immediately after their name. I’ve no idea why this is. My best guess is that I might have been listening to Welcome to Night Vale at the time and something about their joke of insistent terminology such as ‘John Peters – you know, the farmer’ just stuck in my brain.

Escaping from the flat, the gang spot a bright star pointing down at the museum. Why the museum? Because it just seemed appropriate, and thematic appropriateness gives things power in Stargirl‘s world.

Chapter 35: Museum III

It’s another heist, kinda! A mini one, but still. TM gets another chance to use some of the inventions that were name-dropped allllll the way back when he, Veggie and Ziggy are first trying to brainstorm: the Enchi-Ladder and Super Grease actually become things! (You’ve probably totally forgotten that those were ever things, but they were! Go back and read… I think it’s chapter two or three, and they’ll show up as what look like throwaway jokes. I should probably mention them again, come to think of it, so that they don’t seem so out-of-nowhere here!)

Orion somehow determines that Veggie is indeed not the original Vega, but that he’ll ‘burn brightly enough’ to function as a sufficient replacement. Star Power is basically my shorthand for this same concept. It’s kind of brutal, though, isn’t it? Now that I look back at it, the idea of letting the real Vega get away as long as she can fill that gap with something of equivalent power, which is to say sacrificing someone who really didn’t have anything to do with it… it’s all a bit intense.

There’s another brief showdown with Lyra before TM literally blows them up. This, I think, does kill them for all intents and purposes; stars on Earth are pretty durable, but not invincible, and I reckon this would be enough to destroy their bodies. They wouldn’t be harmed long-term, though; they’ll just find themselves back in their places, unable to come back down (at least, not for a while). Dominika and TM escape the explosion, but Derrida’s arm gets crushed by falling rubble. Nika therefore has to stay and look after him; this is really just a way to make sure that it’s just TM one-on-one with Orion at the end. Marty, if you remember, stayed with Gary Mackerel, so he was already out of the picture; in v1 he was dead, of course. Another v1-to-v2 difference, for similar reasons: it was originally Derrida’s legs that were crushed here, leaving him at the end of the story with little prospect of walking again. Like Marty’s death, I decided it was all just a bit too bleak, and so the group is in generally better shape by the end of v2.

Chapter 36: Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-

This might be the only chapter heading that isn’t purely descriptive of what’s in it. It is, of course, a reference to Bowie’s ‘Changes’, and we’ll see why in a minute.

TM faces down Orion for the last time, with her being astonished he’s not dead and him basically just shrugging and saying ‘deal with it’. Humans are nothing special, he observes, but that’s not to say that people aren’t special; it’s a similar theme to some things that came out earlier about the fact that stuff can still be awesome even if the universe as a whole doesn’t care. You take the normal and you make it special and brilliant, and that’s the joy of life, I think.

Orion delivers a pretty devastating beatdown, darn near killing TM, but the sight of a bright star above snaps him out of it and he punches her with the space rock. As with its ability to power space teleportation, this works really just because he needs it to and believes it should – or maybe there really is something a bit special about that rock as a result of Ziggy’s interaction with it. I dunno. Again, I think it’s thematically appropriate and that’s what matters as far as I’m concerned!

Before Space Rock Punch, though, Orion goes for the Rainmaker one more time; TM ducks and hits her with a knee to the face. I sort of think every character in Stargirl has their own signature move, like in wrestling, and the knee-to-face is certainly TM’s (it’s not the first time he’s used it, as he took the Swede out with it). He also gets what might be my favourite line of the entire novel: Orion says she’ll be making some changes, to which TM responds ‘turn and face the strange, bitch’ before punching her lights out.

Then Ziggy falls out of space and obliterates Orion with a High Fly Flow at terminal velocity. I can’t help but get a bit worked up reading this part; it’s just such a badass image in my head. I hope it translates onto the page!

We get a repeat of the ‘the universe doesn’t care but I do’ line which is basically the characters’ (and the story’s) mission statement, and which I think suggests that Ziggy was able to come down, albeit briefly, by pure force of determination and the strength of her bonds with other people. That’s what I had in mind, anyway, although I don’t know how clearly that comes across.

With Ziggy’s part played, she has to go back to her place in the stars, and so do all the other star-people. If Team Lyra weren’t already back up there, they are now; Keelut will just have faded away, assuming the cats hadn’t already taken her out (!); Orion’s pretty-much-broken body turns to dust and floats back up, and… Veggie also goes. Sorry. He doesn’t get saved; he really does die, sort of. He’ll still exist in the same way that Ziggy does; she alludes here to the fact that her existence as a star isn’t really all that bad, and that she’s still able to watch them and feel that love for them, but it doesn’t change the fact that as far as TM will be able to tell, Veggie is gone for good.

I… don’t really know why this happens, now I think about it. As are several of these ending sequences, this was another one of the things that I knew pretty much from the beginning was going to happen, and I hope it’s still a powerful moment, but I find myself wondering now what purpose Veggie’s loss actually serves. It feels like an appropriate climax to the arc of the whole thing, I think, and I feel like I would see the story as being something completely different if this changed, but I somehow can’t find an explanation at this point for why I feel this needs to happen.

I’ll have to think about that long and hard before setting out on v3, I think.

Chapter 37: Stargirl

A week later, and things are slowly returning to something resembling normality. Derrida’s arm’s pretty messed up, but he’ll be OK; Marty and Dominika are fine, albeit bruised, as is TM. I realise now that I didn’t mention what happened to the cats! – the last time we saw them was facing down against Keelut, which seems like a fight they’re not likely to win, but they’re fine, don’t worry.

And finally, we meet the titular Stargirl.

Yup, Ziggy may be Stargirl, but she’s not the one the book’s named for. Neither is Aster, although she could also lay claim to the moniker. It’s this one right here. (Fact is, the title may well change before too long anyway, so it doesn’t matter all that much, but there it is.)

The real Vega somehow finds TM, looking to apologise for what happened to him and his friends. Of course, she knows that she’s been replaced, which… basically means she’s free now. Nobody’s going to come after her, since her vacated spot is filled and that was the only reason anyone was trying to bring her back. As she says, she’s hoping for forgiveness but not expecting it; I think the way she imagines this is going to go down is that she’ll express her genuine sorrow over what happened and then just sort of leave.

(That’s kind of what happens in v1, actually; she and TM have most of the conversation they do in this version, but she then disappears and leaves TM to reflect on things alone. The story then ends with him realising he has no idea which of the stars he can see is Vega or Ziggy or Orion or anything, and ruminating that he doesn’t understand his place in the cosmos but can still find meaning on his own and without full comprehension of the larger scope of the universe.)

Instead, though, he forgives her immediately. He can’t not forgive her, not having known what was at stake for Ziggy. He’ll have been through anger and denial and all the other things over the last week, but by the time Vega appears in front of him he’s reached a state of acceptance. Mostly. There’ll still be sadness and fury, but he’s moving on as best he can. The fact that Vega quite closely resembles (if not in physical appearance, in mannerism and general aura) Ziggy and Aster probably doesn’t hurt either.

In the end, TM takes Vega in, much as he and Veggie did for Ziggy. I can’t imagine him just leaving her, I don’t think; he knows how much life and love and friendship meant to Ziggy, and his invitation for Vega to join him is his hope that he can help someone else achieve that too. It’s not an attempt to replace Ziggy, and I think I’ll tweak his dialogue about suggesting that she might fill the void that she and Veggie left behind; he’s not latching on to her as some unhealthy way of dealing with the grief, and I think what he says as it currently appears comes a bit too close to sounding like that.

Finally, once again, things are resolutely certain that the universe at large probably doesn’t care about what’s going on in this tiny little planet, but that doesn’t matter so much when the connections between people can be, in spite of that cosmic meaninglessness, so hugely important.

And, er… that’s that. I have no idea whether anybody will have read along with these annotations, but I think I got what I wanted out of them, which was an insight as to what I think works about the story and what I’d like to change for Draft 3. The main thing is pacing, I think: it’s waaaaay front-loaded right now, with a lot of stuff in Part One during which not all that much actually happens, and a super-lean Part Two where things do happen, but possibly too quickly if anything.

Thank you for reading Stargirl, if indeed you did, and I would love any feedback or constructive criticism about how it can be made more betterer for the next version. Perhaps one day I’ll complete a final draft which I might even try to get published or something! We shall see.

Thanks again, and may you find your own meaning in an entirely indifferent universe. Much love.



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