Saturday, November 04, 2006

Portrait of a Fictional Friend

Crossposted from the Outpost:

Portrait of a Fictional Friend

Here's the result of my silly project of the evening: a photograph of Ariel Allegra. You may remember her as the interdimensional traveler who brought Black Rose Kate here for a visit on Halloween night. Ariel is the 20-year-old daughter of a wizard and a ghost - at least, that's the short version of who they are. Ariel has black hair like her father, but it's less curly. Her eyes are green, and occasionally they glow a little.

"Yes, yes," Ariel says impatiently. "They can see for themselves that I have black hair and green eyes, even if you didn't catch them glowing. What else are you going to tell them about me?"

"Well, I mentioned your parents."

"They're my parents. I asked what you have to say about me personally."


Ariel sees my hesitation, and pounces on it. "You don't know what to say, do you? You named my fictional counterpart nearly thirty years ago, but you still know practically nothing about me. You mostly think of me as a multidimensional taxi service for your pirate friend, and secondarily as Joshua Wander's only daughter. I think I'm insulted."

"All right, then tell me what you want me to know about you. And while you're at it, tell my readers."

Ariel chuckles. "That's one way to get out of it."

"Fine, we'll do it together, interview style. Fair enough?"

"Right," Ariel says. "Are you interviewing me, or am I interviewing you?"

"Troublemaker. First question: do you really attend something called Croatoan College, as I wrote at the end of Mall of Mâvarin? Or is that apocryphal?"

"No, it's as real as I am, in quite a few universes."

"Meaning you've been to more than one version."

"No. One version, multiple universes. "

"So you can't change which Croatoan College you attend, in case you get a bad grade or something?"

"There's only one Croatoan College. It's kind of hard to explain, but it vibrates through a whole series of similar timelines, so that it's accessible from all of them."

"What do you study there?"

"You mean, do I study potions with Professor Snape? No. There is a series of four courses in Applied Magic, but overall Croatoan has nothing in common with Hogwarts or Mâton or any other fictional school for wizards. We have comparative physics, and biology, and literature, all the normal courses other schools have, except that they take into account the variations among the worlds Croatoan touches."

"But who would go to a school like that? Wouldn't that curriculum be inappropriate for anyone other than a time traveler?"

"You mean an interdimensional traveler. Yes, it's a little weird, but it turns out there are quite a few of us. Plus Croatoan has a very good reputation. A number of heads of state graduated from there."

"Which reminds me. What about Carl and Cathy, the students who almost became Carli and Cathma? I seem to recall your mentioning them in a note to me. Do they really go to Croatoan with you?"

For the first time, Ariel looks a little embarrassed. "Ah, well, that was sort of a joke." I read about them in Mall of Mâvarin."

"So they're not real."

"To say that for sure, I'd have to visit every universe there is. But the Carl and Cathy I go to school with never traveled via shopping mall."

"I see. Is there anything else you'd like to add?"

"Yes. It's five o'clock in the morning. Stop watching the Benson marathon and go to bed."

"Will you still be here tomorrow?"

"Oh, I never know that. Good night, Karen."

"Good night, Ariel."

And good night, gentle reader.


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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Kate and Ariel: Just My Imagination

Crossposted from the Outpost to get the Kate and Ariel entries all in one place:

Just My Imagination

Whenever I write about an encounter with Black Rose Kate, as I did last night, I get a little worried that the casual reader will think I've completely lost touch with reality. You do know better, don't you? Well, don't you?

The odd thing about Kate and Ariel is that they are the only fictional characters I've ever created (aside from childhood, and setting aside for a moment the multiverse view of reality) who know I exist. I've never had a conversation with Rani or Cathma or any of the Mâvarin characters, even as a writing exercise in the privacy of my own head. Despite the fact that Mages of Mâvarin (and the serial Mall of Mâvarin, which probably isn't canonical) depicts characters traveling between different versions of reality, it's important to me that they be completely real within their milieu. To have them interact with me, their creator, would be to cheapen their verisimilitude. They would become like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, talking back to the camera (or to Leon Schlesinger). "Breaking the fourth wall" is usually pretty amusing, and it works well for cartoon characters, the tv series Moonlighting and so on. But it also means that you can never quite suspend your disbelief in the world of such characters. If Bugs knows he's on a movie screen, then nothing around him can be regarded as real, even to Bugs himself. Mâvarin needs to be completely real to Cathma and Carli and Rani and the rest, so that they can behave naturally and the reader can believe in them. Any interaction between them and me would call that into question. Besides, they just don't have anything to say to me.

But Kate is different, and so is Ariel Allegra. Part of what's interesting about Kate as a character is her ability to be placed in a fish out of water situation (i.e. in another century) and thrive there. She is self-confident, observant and opinionated, which gives her the ability to comment on the modern world with an outsider's perspective. Having her interact with me, her putative creator, doesn't make her less "real" because the interaction is part of her backstory. The whole premise is that somehow an eighteenth-century pirate has managed to travel from a universe in which she's real and I'm not to one in which I'm real and she's not. Ariel, being theoretically the person who caused Kate to "visit" me in the first place, is entitled to pull the same trick. As the daughter of Joshua Wander, a character who travels between universes on a regular basis, Ariel can inhabit almost any version of reality without losing believability, as long as she behaves believably and consistently herself. She's not as effective a commentator as Kate, however, because she's seen too many versions of the modern world to consider ours all that strange.

Do I really believe in this multiverse, infinite timelines idea, the concept that makes it possible for Kate and Ariel to "really" exist in some universe somewhere? The best answer I can give you is that I do and I don't. Apparently there's a fair amount of support in the world of physics for the idea of an infinite multiverse, where every possible variation is played out. But I never took physics in school, and I've never quite been able to grasp the technical explanations. Nor do I really like the idea, taken to its logical extreme. If every single possibility is played out, then every time I do something good, some Karen somewhere is doing something bad (and another one is doing nothing, and one is doing something even better, and one is doing something even worse, and so on). At the macro level, an infinite multiverse is a zero sum game. If every possibility must be played out somewhere, then free will is problematic at best.

Also, "every possibility" does not include impossibilities. If all universes obey the same scientific principles, then none of them contain real wizards, or talking rabbits in planes that stop falling when they run out of gas, or tengremen, or time traveling sports cars. Phooey on that. I prefer a more limited and freeform multiverse, where anything we create as fiction can and does exist in another version of reality, and other possible realities don't necessarily exist. I can't justify this idea scientifically, and I'm not sure I really believe it's true. But my fiction is predicated on it.

So I hope you don't mind if I indulge in this conceit from time to time, and talk to the few fictional characters who know I exist. That is, after all, what they're here for.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Black Rose Kate: This Year's Werewolf, Questioned

Belatedly cross-posted from Outpost Mâvarin to get the Kate saga all into one blog:

Round Robin: This Year's Werewolf, Questioned

Pat (DesLily) chose "The Creative Side Of You" as the theme for this week's Round Robin Challenge. I've been preoccupied with Halloween the last couple of days, but let's see if this will serve. Tonight, John and I built a haunted forest in front of our house. I proceeded to hang out there with a few entirely fictitious friends. Or are they? Black Rose Katie Specks always gets annoyed with me when I claim that I created her. But according to my research, she never existed in this version of reality. Ariel Allegra is more philosophical about it. "I don't mind your calling me fictional," she says, "as long as you understand that in most of the worlds I move through, you're no more real than I am here."

"Tell me again why you perform this Halloween ritual each year," Black Rose Kate ordered. The eighteenth century pirate scribe has taken to dropping in on me lately, wherever I happen to be, aided by her dimensional vagabond friend, Ariel Allegra, Joshua Wander's daughter. The two of them were hanging out by my front door, eating our mini-Snickers and critiquing the kids' costumes. Except that this year, we weren't getting many kids. "As I understand it, you are not attempting to ward off evil spirits," Kate continued. "If anything, you are inviting them."

"I may have invited you, but you aren't what I would call an evil spirit," I said. "Merely piratical. And hungry."

"Good one," Ariel said.

Kate frowned. "I speak of the spirits of the dead and the undead. Clearly I am neither."

"That's debatable," I said. "Most likely you've been dead for centuries, but you haven't stopped moving yet." Kate started to protest, but I held up my hand. "No, don't get mad. You know it's only a joke. Besides, you're right. This has nothing to do with warding off spirits. Modern Halloween is a celebration of the human imagination."

Ariel, who had just taken my picture for this entry, asked, "Whose imagination? Yours or the children's?"


"So you aren't doing it for the children. At least not entirely."

"No. Mostly I'm doing it for me. And a little bit for John, and a little bit for the kids."

"Then tell me this," Kate said. "For whom did you hold your two imitation bats on strings and prepare to launch them through the air, when I told you there was not a child within a furlong of your house?"

"You could have been wrong," I said. "I thought I heard some."

"Who can hear distant children with any accuracy when your street is so noisy?" Ariel asked.

"Aye," said Kate. "Aside from present company, all I have heard this past half hour is that dreadful music about Jesus, and a man talking about a cake walk."

"Yes, that's all coming from the church on the other side of Wilmot."

"Why do they sing about Jesus, tonight of all nights?" Kate asked.

"They aren't singing. They're just playing a very bad recording," I said. "It's all part of a party that church is throwing, an alternative to Halloween. They want children to think about Jesus instead of ghosts and werewolves. And pirates," I could not resist adding.

"In truth, it is no bad thing to consider God and the state of one's soul," Kate said. This surprised me a little. She certainly didn't act as though she worried about such things.

"Is there something wrong with thinking about werewolves and pirates, ghosts and vampires?" Ariel asked. "In your time and place, nobody believes in those things, do they?"

"Some people still believe in ghosts," I said. "The rest, not so much."

"So none of these children will leave your yard believing in werewolves," Kate concluded. "Do the people in that loud church believe otherwise? Would they say it is a sin for you to don the mask of a monster?"

I shrugged. "Maybe. Some people might. It's wrongheaded, though. As I said, it's not about promoting belief in the supernatural. It's about being creative, and having fun."

"And candy," Ariel added.

"Did you have fun, scattering your toy rats and spiders and snakes?" Kate asked.

"Oh, yes. Yes, I did," I said.

Kate shook her head. "I shall never understand this century," she said.

Round Robin Linking List

DesLily - POSTED!
Here, There and Everywhere 2nd Edition

Carly - POSTED!
Ellipsis...Suddenly Carly


Janet - POSTED!
Fond of Photography

Karen - POSTED!
Outpost Mâvarin

Sara - POSTED!
Animated Seasons

Linda - POSTED!
Blah Blah Blog

Suzanne R - POSTED!
New Suzanne R's Life

Teena - POSTED!
It's all about me!

Steven - POSTED!
(sometimes) photoblog

Marie - POSTED!
Photographs and Memories Too (AOL)
Photographs and Memories Too (Blogger)

Robin - POSTED!
R's Musings

Julie - POSTED!
Julie's Web Journal

Chris - POSTED!
It's all about me...I think!

Sassy - POSTED!
Sassy's EYE

John - POSTED!
Personal Effects

Brad G - POSTED!
We Is

Gattina - POSTED! ***Welcome New Member***
Keyhole Pictures

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