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Poem: "Not the Absence of Fear" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Not the Absence of Fear"
This poem came out of the April 2014 Creative Jam. It was inspired by a prompt from ellenmillion. It also fills the "courage" square in my 3-6-14 card for the fest. This poem belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them. The rate is $.50/line, so $5 will reveal 10 new lines, and so forth. There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements. You can also ask me about the number of lines per verse, if you want to fund a certain number of verses.
So far sponsors include: little_lynnet, kestrels_nest, general fund, Anthony & Shirley Barrette

FULLY FUNDED
426 lines, Buy It Now = $213
Amount donated = $73
Verses posted = 46 of 110

Amount remaining to fund fully = $140
Amount needed to fund next verse = $2
Amount needed to fund the verse after that = $2.50



"Not the Absence of Fear"


Clarity

Over winter break, I make time
to browse through the website for the
Super Power Organizational & Operational Nexus.

It contains a wealth of information about
superpowers and the people who have them --
history, legal concerns, health care complications,
a massive index of known powers and abilities,
self-help pages for people having trouble,
profiles of some famous soups.

SPOON offers a variety of classes and workshops
to teach people how to control their talents.
I'm tempted by that, tremendously so,
because it would help us a lot --

but at the same time it's risky,
going to a place with other soups
who might guess more about us
than we want them to know.

In the end, though, I decide to go;
visiting a SPOON base is less risky
than having our powers go haywire.


Mira

I'm the one who winds up going to SPOON
because it's not a place where it would
do us any good to fake being Maisie,
but my knack for blending in
could come in very handy.

We don't want to attract too much attention,
just slip in and learn a few things
and slip back out again.

In here, wearing a costume isn't conspicuous;
over half the people are wearing them.
I'm not in full costume, but I've got the mask.
The short, hairy man at the desk
is just wearing street clothes, though.

"Welcome to SPOON," he says.
"My name is Pax. I'll help if you
need a hand with your paperwork --
which is on actual paper, for security."

It makes me feel better already
to know that the data can't be hacked.
I flip through the sheets he hands me.
Some of the questions make me uncomfortable.
"Do I have to answer all of this?" I ask.

"No," he says, his brown eyes warm and kind.
"Fill out as much or as little as you want.
Just understand that we'll protect your information,
and the more you tell us the better we can help."

"Some of this I don't even know yet,"
I admit. My hands are shaking,
and it makes the pages rustle.

"That's okay too," Pax says with a smile.
"Nobody knows everything about their powers,
especially in the beginning. That's why
we come here to learn about them, right?"

Startled, I realize that he must be
new at this himself, but already
he's pitching in at SPOON
to help other people feel welcome.

"I guess so," I say
as I start to fill in the
least-risky-looking lines.

"Do you have a general idea
what your powers are?" Pax asks.
"Mine cluster around healing,
cooperation, and uh, sex."
He looks half-proud, half-bashful.

"It's all ... kind of a jumble,"
I hedge, not wanting to explain
that there are six of us in here
and we each have different abilities.
"I really just wanted to catch
the general orientation lecture at noon."

"Can't go wrong with Soup Call 101,"
Pax says, and that's not the name
listed on the website but it makes me giggle.

Then there comes a shout and a crash,
and Pax tackles me to the floor
just as shards of glass rain all over us.

Ham, Ham, help somebody's trying to kill us!


Ham

I scramble up
but the air is full of debris
and it's all I can do
to block even part of it.

I've never seen anything like this,
not up close and personal,
powers flying everywhere in a boil
of superheroes and supervillains.

"Che cozz’?" I yell at them.
"Try to leave some walls standing!"

The fight rages on,
energy blasts blazing,
fists waving, chairs breaking,
things suddenly crumbling to dust

and here I am with my cute little dagger
along with just enough talent
to throw a punch from across the room.

The sheer amount of power
getting flung about is enough to dazzle me,
and then I see why --

Maronna mia! That's Jack Union
and Dr. Infanta, two world-class soups
right there, not counting the rest of the mess,
and I am so in over my head here.

Fear clenches a fist around my chest
and for one mad moment
I can almost sympathize with Farce
and her pathetic wheezing.

I can't let it stop me. I can't.
There are people to protect.

I stick to the fringes of the fight,
pulling folks out of the way as they fall,
darting in with a quick thrust or punch
when I spot an opening.

I recognize Savoir Faire
dancing around a huge thug
with muscles like a side of beef;
said thug is mainly concerned with
shielding the little girl behind him.

Dr. Infanta may be pint-sized
but she has a pistol in one hand
and power in the other,
some kind of time-twisting
that drops a wall on top of Jack Union
and he doesn't get up this time.

The fight is suddenly over,
and I'm washed out,
falling back into myself
like the chunks of plaster
still pattering down from the ceiling.


Clement

I dart forward
just as Ham loses control.
I can feel the body's exhaustion
wrapped around me, heavy as wet felt.

There are supervillains still standing,
but that's not my problem.
I focus on the casualties,
quickly sweeping the room for clues,
most of them are moving, good --

but there's Pax,
still sprawled on the floor
where he shielded Mira
from the initial blast,
covered in shards of glass
and lying in a pool of blood.

He must have gotten cut
when the windows shattered,
and now that I'm thinking of it,
I can feel the nicks and scratches
scattered over my own body,
but they're not serious so I
push down my awareness of them.

I kneel beside Pax,
check his airway and breathing first,
both fine, then circulation --

and he's pouring blood everywhere,
there's no way I can stop it all,
but I try, I have to try.

I strip off my shirt to press over
the worst wound in his abdomen,
as I reach into him with my power
to assess the damage.

I can feel Pax's energy against mine,
know that he's some kind of healer too,
but his power is stunned senseless
and quivering inside him now,
useless to do anything.

There are too many leaks
for me to contain all at once,
so I grab what I can and squeeze
my healing energy around them,
but there's not enough left for me
after Ham's desperate battle.

It's like clinging to the edge of a windowsill,
feeling the weight of fear dragging me down,
fingertips slipping, nails starting to tear,
and I don't know what will happen if I fall

but I won't give up on Pax
I won't I won't I won't --

Suddenly I'm drowning in power,
gone from windowsill into river,
shocking and cold as water closing overhead.

I gasp at the sudden freezing slap of it,
but it doesn't choke me, only jolts me
out of awareness of Pax's body
and back into my own.

"I don't need your talent,
I need your hands," Dr. Infanta says
as she pushes me down to where
Pax's thigh leaks in small spurts.
"Keep pressure here."

I'm afraid of her -- who wouldn't be? --
but I don't let that get in the way.
I obey her without hesitation,
awed by the immensity of her gift
and the swift precision of her skill.

Her tiny hands are so slicked with gore
that she looks like she's wearing red silk gloves.
She is deft and gentle as she works,
moving briskly from one wound to the next,
guiding my fingers from thigh to upper arm.

"You're helping Pax?"
I ask, shocked by her kindness.
It's not what I expect of her
from what I've read or seen on the news.

"He doesn't deserve to die,"
Dr. Infanta says quietly.
"He was just in the wrong place
at the wrong time."

Her yellow dress is dyed scarlet
in streaks and spatters,
more wicking up from the puddle below.

It seems like hours
but can be only minutes
before she sits back on her heels
and tenderly peels my grip away from Pax.

"He'll be fine," she says,
patting the back of my hand,
"and so will you."

"But there's nothing wrong with me,"
I say, confused, because
the cuts I have are trivial at most.

"I know," says Dr. Infanta,
shaking out her wet red skirt
as she stands up.

"Stop right there, you sodding bint,"
Jack Union roars. He staggers out
from under a mountain of plaster,
blood trickling down his face --
apparently that last blow
got through even his Invulnerability.
"You are under arrest!"

"Not today," Dr. Infanta says.
Her bodyguard touches her shoulder
and they just vanish.

"Bad form," Savoir Faire says,
rounding on Jack Union.
"She just saved Pax, and
that's the thanks you give her?
Not everyone has your invulnerability,
you fils de putain!"

Granny Whammy sets her gimlet eye
on the fuming Jack Union.
"My office," she says, "now."

Burly shoulders slump
as he trudges through the door.
She closes it behind them
with an ominous clack of the latch.

I look around the ruined room.
No one else is dying at the moment.
It seems like an ideal time
to lose consciousness, so I do.


Keane

I come to with a massive headache,
my body aching with bruises
and stinging with cuts from the glass.

It feels like I'm lying on a couch,
or maybe a bed, and I can't see
much because the lights are dim
but even that little stabs at my eyes.

I grope for the pain,
try to twist it into a thread of power,
but it slips through my fingers,
burning like nettles.

I don't know what else to do.

Springs creak, and then
Savoir Faire leans over me.
His right eye is swollen shut
and he has a cut over the left,
but he's smiling at me.

"It is good to see you stirring,
poupée,"  he says.

He lifts my hands one at a time
to dab something on the skin of my wrists.
I smell mint and musk and fresh-mowed grass.
The headache begins to fade at once.

Savoir Faire tucks my hands
back into my lap and pulls up the blanket.
"Go back to sleep," he says.

Oh. That I can do.


Maze

When I wake up,
I feel like death warmed over,
but the pain has diminished enough
that I can think through it.

This time it is Granny Whammy
who is sitting next to me.
"How are you feeling, dear?"
she asks, leaning forward so
I can see the clock behind her.

I look at the hands. 4 PM.
"Well, fuck. I missed class."

She bursts out laughing.
"I'm afraid class has been cancelled
for the time being," she says.

"But I drove all the way here,"
I whine, too frustrated to stop it.

"I suppose I can give you a few pointers,"
Granny Whammy said. "First, stay out of
fights where everyone else is overwhelmingly
more powerful and experienced than you.

"I didn't --" I begin,
but Granny Whammy doesn't know
that it was Ham and not me
who threw himself into the fight,
so I have to take the hit for him.
"-- think of that."

"It's a professional hazard for heroes,"
she says with a nod. "Second, try not to
overdo it with your powers like you did today.
When you do overstrain yourself, use this."
She hands me a bottle of some viscous liquid.
"Blue chamomile will dull the headache
if you stop and rest. It won't help much
if you keep pushing yourself, so don't be stupid."

"Thanks," I say. I feel stupid,
but what else could we have done?

"Third, try to keep your clothes on,"
says Granny Whammy.

I look down at myself.
My bra is ruined, rust-red
dried all over white cotton.
Savoir Faire's elegant silk shirt
is wrapped around me under the blanket
but not buttoned all the way up.

I vaguely remember Clement
tearing off my shirt to use as a bandage.
Idiot forgot our body is female, I realize.
"Yes ma'am," I say firmly.

I'm shaking a little, though,
and of course she notices. "You know,
courage is not the absence of fear,
but the determination to push through it,"
Granny Whammy says.

"Guess I'm just too stubborn
to know any better," I say.

Granny Whammy pats my knee.
"There are clean clothes for you
on the foot of the bed," she says,
"though I doubt Savvy will be
wanting his shirt back."

I've probably gotten blood on it too.
Oh well. Worse things have happened,

I think as I look at the pile of clothes.
"I appreciate it," I say, sitting up slowly.

"I'll let you get dressed," she says
as she stands to leave.
"I hope we'll be seeing you here again,
though after today, I wouldn't blame you
if you decided not to come back."

I got to see the tiniest supervillain in the world
beat Jack Union by dropping a wall on him,
I almost saved someone's life,
another superhero loaned me his shirt,
and Granny Whammy gave me personal advice.

"I wouldn't miss it for the world,"
I say as a grin tugs my bruised face.

"Oh, you'll do," Granny Whammy says,
a merry glint in her eyes. Then she
closes the door softly behind her.

The clothes turn out to be a jogging suit
with the SPOON logo on the front,
the OO in the middle made by
the bowls of two spoons.

As I put on the jogging suit,
I remember Dr. Infanta telling me
that Pax would be fine, and so would I.
It niggles at me, even now,
because I may be sore
but a few scratches are nothing
to compare with his injuries.

Maybe she wasn't referring to
my body, though, maybe she meant
something else altogether.

Her power touched mine inside Pax;
she could have sensed something that way,
like the ruin that Mindflare left inside our head.
Maybe she saw that. Maybe she saw us.
She could have said that.

But she hadn't said anything.

It's just a suspicion,
yet it eats away at me.
If Dr. Infanta knows about us,
she could destroy everything.

I think about the delicate web
of deception and omission
that keeps us safely suspended
within the shell of what was Maisie's life.

It would only take a few words
for Dr. Infanta to tear that to shreds.

But she hadn't said anything.

I remember her little fingers,
skin almost the same tint as mine,
gloved in a thin film of blood
as she worked to save Pax.
She even took the time to
give me reassurance.

Dr. Infanta had the attention
of everyone in the room.
She could have told them.

But she hadn't said anything.

So maybe she didn't know after all.
Maybe she knew, but for some reason
she decided not to mention it.

I can't be sure, one way or the other.
I can't rely on anything.
I certainly can't trust her --
she is still a supervillain,
she trashed a SPOON base,
and I've heard plenty of horror stories
about the things Dr. Infanta has done.

Yet she stepped in when she didn't have to,
was gentle in a way I never expected --
that all the stories led me not to expect --
and it makes me wonder if maybe
there are other stories about her
that I just haven't heard before.

Maybe it's not as simple as being
a supervillain or a superhero.
Maybe she didn't say anything
to give us space to tell our own stories.

It's enough to make my head hurt,
and I don't think this is the kind of thing
that even blue chamomile can help.

So I pick up my stuff that
someone has left beside the bed,
slip into my shoes,
and head for the door.

I'll deal with the rest
when it comes, if it comes.

* * *

Notes:

Jack Union -- This world-class soup operates openly out of Great Britain. A baron's second son, Jack joined the army in his youth, serving with distinction. He is tall and slender, with a little muscle definition but not beefy. He has pale skin, straight dark brown hair, and blue eyes.
Origin: Jack's latent powers manifested during an intense firefight when he charged an enemy position to rescue his unit. Now in addition to his military work, he sometimes does special missions for the Queen (whom he adores because she reminds him of his grandmother).
Uniform: Standard army uniform; when on a soup mission, he adds a British flag cape.
Qualities: Master (+6) Soldier, Expert (+4) Dutiful, Expert (+4) Hand-to-Hand Combat, Good (+2) Gentleman, Good (+2) Historian, Good (+2) Ruggedly Handsome
Poor (-2) Was That Racist? (often makes oblique, questionable remarks)
Powers: Expert (+4) Strength, Expert (+4) Invulnerability, Good (+2) Adaptation, Average (0) Energy Blast, Average (0) Flight, Average (0) Speed
Motivation: Defend the honor of the United Kingdom.

* * *

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
-- Nelson Mandela

Superpowers are the cornerstone of the superhero genre.  But the science underlying them means that they could suck in real life, without supporting powers and knowledge.  One interesting bit of information is that good and evil acts can make you stronger.  In Terramagne, superpowers usually -- though not always -- come with those required secondary powers, but the knowledge isn't free.  Characters have to learn it somewhere, somehow.  Among the first things learned is that superpowers are really all about personal change.

Information sharing is a delicate issue for organizations and individuals.  SPOON does their best to create an environment where it is safe to share so that people can learn.

che cozz’? – what the f**k are you doing? (Che cazzo fai?) [KAY-kaatz]
-- Italian slang

Bringing a knife to a gunfight is a general description of any situation where a character is woefully unprepared or outclassed, originally from The Untouchables.  It can be opposed to the Level Scaling trope in which the world presents tougher foes as characters gain power -- although really it's more a matter of the the characters moving up to where those larger challenges are active.  Traditional comics rarely mix characters of very high and very low levels, but I figured that a more realistic approach would mean that when the big names throw down, almost everyone  else is overwhelmed in comparison.

maronna mia! – oh my God! (Madonna mia!)  [maa-ROAWN-aa-MEE-uh]
-- Italian slang

Fear comes in several types. Courage also has different aspects. Courage actually requires fear.  There are ways of using the brain to stay cool under pressure.  Know how to overcome fear and build courage.

The "fight or flight response" actually has four modes (fight, flight, freeze, fawn). Adrenal stress in a crisis often leads to a crash afterwards.  Learning to cope with the adrenaline rush is an important part of rescue work.

Sexism in the United Kingdom is a topic of ongoing debate.  Jack Union does a lot of heroic things, but he's also kind of a jerk.

Fils (pronounced [fis]) [from L filius son] m son.
Fils de pute / putain m son of a bitch. See pute.
Putain [from pute] f 1. whore, tart, hooker; 2. vulg. woman (derogatory); 3. interj. bloody hell! fucking hell!: cette putain de machine this fucking machine.
-- French Uncensored

The safety trades are concerned with the qualities of a hero, such as courage and compassion.  Here's a lesson plan for exploring heroism.  Savoir Faire has many qualities of a gentleman and generally acts like a gentleman in the big ways despite despite being saucy in the little ways.  Now consider that Dr. Infanta came from a time and place heavily influenced by feudal structure, and you can see that she tends to wield power like a noblewoman -- even though she was born a peasant, she had the pattern for "this is how people with power are to behave," which is high-handed but also protective.

Delivering criticism is a necessary skill for leaders.  A common rule is to give praise in public but criticism in private, although there is some variation.  Know how to give constructive criticism or discipline a misbehaving employee.  This situation is complicated by the fact that Jack Union isn't an employee per se, but Granny Whammy still needs to maintain certain standards of behavior -- namely that vulgar language is not heroic and that taking advantage of a supervillain's good behavior to punish them will discourage good behavior.  She makes it clear to everyone that she is displeased, but keeps the details private.

Poupée  [dimin. from L pupa  doll] f 1. puppet; 2. colloq. fam. young girl or woman as an object of sexual desire. See more at femme.
-- French Uncensored

Risk-benefit analysis is something people usually learn in adolescence.  Here's an example dealing with playground safety.  Going to SPOON is always a bit hazardous because mayhem could break out at any moment, but they're well prepared for that and it's the best place to learn about superpowers -- so moderate risk, high reward, and therefore justified.

German chamomile yields an oil called blue chamomile, which has soothing qualities.  It laps over from physical to metaphysical effects, so in Terramagne it's used to treat the symptoms of overusing superpowers.

Gray areas raise the question of who is a worthy opponent.  There can be honorable villains and dishonorable heroes.  Dr. Infanta prefers to minimize damage while pursuing her goals.  Jack Union has a very authoritarian perspective and doesn't always keep an eye on collateral damage.  Consider how heroes and villains are portrayed.  Leadership involves making ethical decisions, so know how to solve a moral dilemma.

Discretion is a virtue, especially for soldiers and people who handle sensitive information.  Some superpowers can reveal things not easily discovered elsewise, which places extra responsibility on the bearer to handle that with care.

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37 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
thnidu From: thnidu Date: May 5th, 2014 10:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Looks yummy.

•It was inspired by a prompt from .
> ("A perfect and absolute blank")
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 5th, 2014 10:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

Fixed!

I fixed the missing prompter name.

I'm glad you're enjoying this poem!
little_lynnet From: little_lynnet Date: May 6th, 2014 07:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Eeeeeeeee! That is an awesome cliffhanger. ^_^ I love how it's Mira who goes to SPOON (but then I worry how the attack is going to affect her; she's already so shy).

Sounds yummy indeed! ^_^
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 6th, 2014 07:59 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> Eeeeeeeee! That is an awesome cliffhanger. ^_^ <<

Yeah, that was deliberate on the donor's part. Sometimes a microfunded poem lands on a really good cliffhanger and it's fun. With a little luck we might get some general donations in the fishbowl this week, and folks can consider extending any of the three open epics.

>> I love how it's Mira who goes to SPOON <<

She's not bad at socializing, despite being shy. I think it's good for her to get out more. Mira does well at fronting in situations where too much eagerness could get them in trouble. She is watchful and cautious.

>> (but then I worry how the attack is going to affect her; she's already so shy). <<

Pretty much like you see here; she tends to dodge back inside and demand that someone else deal with the problem. This kind of withdrawal is a key reason why multiple personality is often considered a dissociative disorder. They still haven't gotten the hang of fully fluent switching, but they are making progress.

>> Sounds yummy indeed! ^_^ <<

I'm happy to hear that.
little_lynnet From: little_lynnet Date: May 14th, 2014 10:07 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Yeah, that was deliberate on the donor's part.

*awkward wave* That would be me.

Pretty much like you see here; she tends to dodge back inside and demand that someone else deal with the problem.

Ah, I'm glad. I shudder to think what the damage'd be like if she were ever forced to remain the fronter in a situation like this.

I can almost sympathize with Farce

PROGRESS! I mean, Ham is clearly still Ham, but I really like this little line. It feels like he's making progress in regaining some of the skills he didn't get in the split. And I like how he managed to be helpful and useful, even though it's probably not quite how he'd like to be involved if he had time to think about it. It ends up a powerful companion to your nonfiction piece about how you handled that accident, I think.

And eep. Another good cliffhanger!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 15th, 2014 01:33 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

>> *awkward wave* That would be me. <<

I've changed the credit to reflect your LJ username.

>> Ah, I'm glad. I shudder to think what the damage'd be like if she were ever forced to remain the fronter in a situation like this. <<

Most of them wouldn't do well if they got stuck-front in the wrong situation. They're pretty specialized at this point, and they do show some dissociative tendencies in terms of bailing out of circumstances that don't suit them.

>> PROGRESS! I mean, Ham is clearly still Ham, but I really like this little line. <<

Yay! I'm glad that worked for you, while staying in character.

>> It feels like he's making progress in regaining some of the skills he didn't get in the split. <<

Yes, I think so. Ham is beginning to think about how other people feel and how he interacts with them, not just looking for things to hit.

>> And I like how he managed to be helpful and useful, even though it's probably not quite how he'd like to be involved if he had time to think about it. <<

They are pretty good at finding a way to contribute, even if it's not a perfect match for their skills. That's a crucial ability for low-level characters to be useful.

>> It ends up a powerful companion to your nonfiction piece about how you handled that accident, I think. <<

I had not thought of that in direct connection, but now that you point it out, yes. Most people don't have high-level skills for emergency services, so you have to do the best you can with whatever you have.

>> And eep. Another good cliffhanger! <<

Yay!
little_lynnet From: little_lynnet Date: May 15th, 2014 06:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

I've changed the credit to reflect your LJ username.

*blinks* Why?

Ham is beginning to think about how other people feel and how he interacts with them, not just looking for things to hit.

And to realise when he's in over his head. We've seen him realise that before, if I recall, but not quite to this extent and not in a situation where he's then switched so automatically to doing other useful things. It feels like a lot of progress for him in situations like this. ^_^

I had not thought of that in direct connection, but now that you point it out, yes. Most people don't have high-level skills for emergency services, so you have to do the best you can with whatever you have.

Yep. And I know this is an aspect that you really wanted to try and show with this series, so poems/scenes like this one, with people who clearly don't have the high-level skills to help still doing important and useful things in an emergency, really helps with that, I think. ^-^
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 15th, 2014 07:30 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

>> I've changed the credit to reflect your LJ username.

*blinks* Why? <<

Because when you commented, I realized that you had a LiveJournal account, and by switching to that, it gave readers a way to find your blog. I tend to go for connectivity when I can. If you'd prefer that I give credit to your Dreamwidth account, or anonymous, I can do that. Just let me know what works for you.

>> And to realise when he's in over his head. We've seen him realise that before, if I recall, but not quite to this extent and not in a situation where he's then switched so automatically to doing other useful things. It feels like a lot of progress for him in situations like this. ^_^ <<

Yes, it has happened before, but the effect is much stronger here because he's sooooo far out of his league. I agree, it's great progress!

>> Yep. And I know this is an aspect that you really wanted to try and show with this series, so poems/scenes like this one, with people who clearly don't have the high-level skills to help still doing important and useful things in an emergency, really helps with that, I think. ^-^ <<

Yay! That makes me happy. It matters that people can assess a situation and find something helpful to do -- and be willing to step in, even if it's a daunting challenge.
little_lynnet From: little_lynnet Date: May 16th, 2014 01:18 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

If you'd prefer that I give credit to your Dreamwidth account, or anonymous, I can do that. Just let me know what works for you.

No worries. Go with what works best for you. I was just curious since I know I've told you that I don't use LJ much.

Yes, it has happened before, but the effect is much stronger here because he's sooooo far out of his league

And so far he doesn't seem to be beating himself up about that! (Of course, he doesn't exactly have the time to do that, but still.)

It matters that people can assess a situation and find something helpful to do -- and be willing to step in, even if it's a daunting challenge.

It does. ^_^ It's good to have that sort of stories available for people. ^_^
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 16th, 2014 11:11 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

>> And so far he doesn't seem to be beating himself up about that! (Of course, he doesn't exactly have the time to do that, but still.) <<

I think that Ham feels outclassed here, but doesn't feel like he did a bad job or made mistakes in judgement. The most he's likely to do in response is throw himself into training more.

>> It does. ^_^ It's good to have that sort of stories available for people. ^_^ <<

Thanks. I appreciate hearing that.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: July 5th, 2014 12:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Mira does well at fronting in situations where too much eagerness could get them in trouble. She is watchful and cautious.

Pues Mira mira bien, ¿no?

Punnery aside, this story is very satisfying. And I very much like the, mm, un–black-and-white–ness.

Edited at 2014-07-05 12:38 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 5th, 2014 01:40 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

>> Pues Mira mira bien, ¿no? <<

Si.

>> Punnery aside, this story is very satisfying. And I very much like the, mm, un–black-and-white–ness. <<

I'm happy to hear that. I feel that the superhero genre is ideally suited for exploring useful ethical questions, but that the mainstream has done a very erratic job of developing its potential. So I'm looking for characters and situations that do interesting things with that kind of moral ambiguity.

I have villains who are just horrid (Haboob), villains who are basically honorable but do some appalling things (Dr. Infanta), people who are currently acting like villains but might not stay that way (Antimatter), ... hmm, not sure if I've got a hero who's sliding downscale, heroes who are jerktastic (Jack Union), and heroes who are valiant (Stalwart Stan). I feel that it's crucial to represent the complete spectrum of good and evil because otherwise position becomes meaningless if they're all in a dogpile somewhere in the middle. It matters that Jack is an asshole who can and sometimes does do great things, and that Savoir Faire is mostly a gentleman with sometimes a smarmy mouth. Because Stan's going to look at guys like that and think about whether he wants to emulate them or not. Antimatter is going to look at them and wonder how far down he wants to go, or whether it's worth climbing up if some of the "heroes" are acting like twats.

Then I look for conflicts that will pit characters against each other in fun combinations and/or pressure them to make difficult decisions. Do you help someone now who might hurt you later? Do you help someone in a way that puts you at risk right now? Do you let someone go, because they just did you a big favor, even though they're likely to cause trouble later? What really makes a hero or a villain? Is it their personality? Their objectives? Their methods? I like thinking about that, and making readers think about that.

For me, I'm less interested in gray than in taijitu -- black and white splotched together and fighting like the Kilkenny Cats.
siege From: siege Date: July 5th, 2014 02:49 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: the fall to hell

Hm. You say you don't have any supervillains on the way down. But what causes a person to descend into villainy? Ultimately, it's a breakdown of inner barriers. As with soldiers, one act that breaks a barrier can lead to others. If nobody is there to stop the descent, and any stimulus causing the problem continues, then the subject has a tendency to head toward the depths of awfulness and forget to breathe or look around.

I know there are a few thugs and minion types in Terremagne so far.. what if one of them experiences a really bad break, and doesn't get any support for it?
thnidu From: thnidu Date: July 5th, 2014 04:14 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Thank you! I did not know the term taijitu, though I have practiced taijiquan ("t'ai chi ch'uan" in Wade-Giles). And now (Wikipedia Is Your Friend) I have the written terms, which do indeed correspond:

Traditional:
太極圖 tàijítú
太極拳 tàijíquán

Simplified:
太极图 tàijítú
太极拳 tàijíquán


Edited at 2014-07-05 04:15 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 5th, 2014 08:53 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Fascinating. Sorry I forgot to include a link. I guess I've used that word so often it's becoming part of my standard vocabulary, and I don't always remember to tag it.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: May 27th, 2014 06:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Keeps getting better.

This stanza is pretty confusing for a minute:
«
I recognize Savoir Faire
dancing around a huge thug
with muscles like a side of beef
who is mainly concerned with shielding
the little girl behind him.
»
because the sequence of clauses, the syntax, puts the relative clause after the noun-phrase, separating it from the noun (S.F.) it refers to. It makes it seem as if it's the thug who's shielding the girl.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 27th, 2014 11:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> Keeps getting better. <<

I'm happy to hear that.

>> It makes it seem as if it's the thug who's shielding the girl. <<

It is the thug shielding the little girl. That's one of Dr. Infanta's bodyguards. She may be pint-sized but she is winning that fight.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: May 28th, 2014 04:11 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Oh.... I forgot.... /
Yup. Thanks. Sorry.
Can't tell the players w/o a scorecard.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 28th, 2014 09:33 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

First, I have edited the relevant verse for clarity; please let me know if that helps.

Second, this series has a character guide linked on the series page. Dr. Infanta appears on page 2.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: May 29th, 2014 03:38 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Oh, yes, I know who Dr. Infanta is. I didn't mean that tagline literally.

Rereading that stanza and the following one, I think my problem was my failure to realize that Ham recognizes the "little girl" perfectly well. And if I may continue to noodge (Yiddish, ~~ "pester"): the revision jars a bit because Ham's other stanzas each flow as a single sentence or uniform thought, and — ah! — this is the only place in Ham's section where a line begins with a capital letter and isn't either the first line of the stanza or the beginning of a quotation. Would you consider:?

with muscles like a side of beef
said thug being mainly concerned with




Edited at 2014-05-29 03:39 am (UTC)
siege From: siege Date: May 29th, 2014 03:45 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

That's the end of one sentence and the beginning of another, so the capitalization makes sense to me. Perhaps a semicolon?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 29th, 2014 07:19 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

I've changed the sentence break to a semicolon splice. Better?
thnidu From: thnidu Date: May 30th, 2014 07:33 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Yes, thank you!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 30th, 2014 07:40 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Yay! I'm glad I got it right.
siege From: siege Date: May 28th, 2014 02:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Whereas I misread it as Savoir Faire doing the shielding! This is somewhat of an ambiguous set of lines.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 28th, 2014 09:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

Okay...

I have edited the verse in attempt to clarify this. Please let me know if it makes more sense now.
siege From: siege Date: May 28th, 2014 09:37 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Okay...

That's much clearer, thank you. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 28th, 2014 09:42 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Okay...

Yay! Thanks for confirming.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: May 29th, 2014 03:41 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Okay...

siege, please look at my comment just above this subthread.
siege From: siege Date: July 5th, 2014 02:51 am (UTC) (Link)

Personal secrets

Now that I can see the whole poem, I wonder what would happen if Damask met Dr. Infanta again? What could cause Infanta to bring up what she might have learned?

What if Dr. Infanta needed someone who could handle a telepath?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 5th, 2014 03:49 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Personal secrets

>> Now that I can see the whole poem, I wonder what would happen if Damask met Dr. Infanta again? <<

They likely will meet again, under various circumstances. One thing I want to explore with Damask is how interactions change over time as characters learn and grow.

>> What could cause Infanta to bring up what she might have learned? <<

She is pretty serious about not outing people, so very little. One would be if it were immediately relevant to something going on; another if not mentioning it would get someone hurt in a way that could be avoided by bringing it up.

>> What if Dr. Infanta needed someone who could handle a telepath? <<

One of her Guardians is a telepath, but only Good level. If Dr. Infanta needed a stronger one, she's good at politicking and trading favors. It wouldn't be hard for her to pull strings and find someone willing to help. Hrm, in fact there's a supervillain henchwoman who specializes in that, Shuffleboard.
mdlbear From: mdlbear Date: July 5th, 2014 03:12 am (UTC) (Link)
I like how they're learning to work together.

I also like the line about paper being more secure -- that's an area where I have a certain amount of expertise.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 5th, 2014 03:37 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> I like how they're learning to work together. <<

Yay! I'm glad that's working for you. It's one of the main themes I wanted to explore with Damask, so it runs throughout the series.

>> I also like the line about paper being more secure -- that's an area where I have a certain amount of expertise. <<

Sooth. SPOON has great security. With their website, they do have some stuff online, but most of that is nonpersonal information, like statistics. They also have a policy of protecting anyone who's a registered user. It helps reduce the apprehension of people talking about their superpowers in a world where prejudice can still be a serious problem in some places.
mdlbear From: mdlbear Date: July 5th, 2014 03:50 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

One of my former bosses, who spent a summer as an intern at the CIA, has some great stories about security. There was one room -- the library, I think -- where the security was nothing but a person with a perfect memory for names and faces. If you'd been introduced, you could just walk right in.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 5th, 2014 09:04 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Brilliant. SPOON can afford to do things like that because of Super-Intellects.

Similarly, information stored only in someone's mind cannot be rifled in the same way as a computer database. You'd need a telepath, and almost none of them will do that.
MEOWDate From: MEOWDate Date: October 1st, 2014 02:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

coping with adrenaline rush

Something I had not thought of. And I love the courage quote from Mandela.
Lots of good food for thought.
ShiraDest.
U.N. Date: Sunday, October 1. 12014 H.E. (Holocene/Human Era)
thnidu From: thnidu Date: July 17th, 2015 04:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow. How fine. Thank you.
Oddments noticed and appreciated:

---

It's like clinging to the edge of a windowsill,
[...]
Suddenly I'm drowning in power,
gone from windowsill into river,
shocking and cold as water closing overhead.

---

"He'll be fine," she says,
patting the back of my hand,
"and so will you."

"But there's nothing wrong with me,"
[...]
"I know," says Dr. Infanta,

---

(Ham:)

I can't let it stop me. I can't.
There are people to protect.

---

But she hadn't said anything.
[...]
But she hadn't said anything.
[...]
But she hadn't said anything

(I only noticed this one on second read. (-: )

---


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