Category Archives: Brain droppings

On Why the Council is Dumb

The one question I get over and over is ‘Why isn’t anyone seeing what is going to happen?’

It was a question many asked in canon ME, and simply because the Premiseverse is not canon does not mean I have dismissed the very good points Bioware raised in their own storytelling.

And it is important, if you read my work, to understand this, as it is perhaps critical to understanding why things happen the way they do in the Premiseverse.

At the end of the day, there are three things that blind people to seeing what is going on around them, no matter what situation, culture, race, or time period they live in.

The first and most commonly cited reason (or excuse) is institutional arrogance. Or Ahern puts it, assumptions. But the leaders of society are not merely chosen because they are charismatic or able to mobilize money and influence. Most of them — despite what you may think by reading the internet — actually are efficient planners and thinkers, with enough vision to see trends (or else they are swiftly out of office).

More than one person has commented how much more ‘competent’ my Council is over the canon one, and how much more effective Udina is. That’s mostly because the Council members in canon ME were a bad literary device, the Obstructive Bureaucrat. Such people exist in real life, but almost never at the highest levels of political control, because you put people like that in places to block access to those levels, not to make them worthless.

There were other issues (see further below on context) but the bottom line remains that, at least in canon ME, the polticians wanted to be blind as not to have to deal with problems that would make waves.

This isn’t the case in the Premiseverse, because of the ugly fact that most of the Council members are more like puppets. Their only real task is to keep the galaxy from flying apart into open war, and they are very good at it. So our answer as to why people are blind is not merely institutional arrogance.

A second common explanation is that the problem is one of sheer outlandishness. Politics deals with the here and now, and even after seeing a big black ship thing attack you, you may not go ahead and decide that more of them are on the way. The premise shoved down our throats in ME was bad enough, but how TIM somehow linked the disappearance of humans to Reapers in ME2 without any clues whatsoever (that we ever saw) was even stupider.

I cannot think Bioware wrote this badly on anything but deliberate intent. And it should be easy to see why. They were building a story to explain why things happened, but the narrative changed several times, from mysterious cthuloid monsters, to conspiracy laden plots and suicide attempts, to weirdness with dark energy, and finally to whatever the fuck that ending was supposed to mean. You can’t have a coherent story that contradicts itself, and the only way to hide those contradictions was to make everything seem … well, unfeasible.

Shepard HAD no options in Canon ME to do much of anything. The player was railroaded at every step of the process , and the illusions of choice given had very little effect on the final outcome. As such, being dismissed as crazy and having any evidence produced dismissed was not a choice by the people involved but rather the requirements of the text, and can’t even be analyzed.

We’ll leave aside the first two, because while they explain things, my own preferred reason fits better.

No one saw it becuase of one thing, a simple  lack of context.

It is impossible for a medieval culture to know it should be preparing for the cometary strike that is coming if they can’t understand orbital mechanics or the nature of what a comet is.  Even if they knew that ‘the world would end’ on a certain date, what could they feasibly do to prevent that?

Lack of context can be found in both canon ME and PVME. The context is not, as some people assume, Reapers. The context is the scale and scope of the threat,and the political cost to face it.  People sneer at this concept because they have never run for office, or realized that the vast majority of humans (and I can’t see most aliens being much different) are focused on the here and now.

Given the omniscient viewpoint, it is all too easy to simply lambast those in power to being blind as to context. But consider: right now on the Web, there’s a series of articles about the mathematical certainty that a civilization-wrecking cometary or asteroid impact will happen on Earth in the next century. We have the technology to avoid this. We have the resources and knowledge to colonize another world if we research it and push it. The danger is not some pie in the sky imaginary thing — it WILL happen.

Yet nothing is being done to address it, and I doubt it will. The financial cost is too high. People will point to all the other problems we have. It would require sacrifice, it would require a great deal of moving energy and money away from our entertainment, our wars, our self-absorbed internet culture to undertake such a thing.  The danger is real…and yet no one who sees it has access to the levers of power.

If we knew a comet was going to hit us in a century, and had an exact date, perhaps we would be motivated. But we don’t. It will be handled ‘in the future’. Someone else’s problem. No context. We’re too busy wondering what appalling stunt ISIS will pull next, or watching music videos, or reading fan fiction.

In canon ME, the problem was Shepard, despite being a good soldier, was an idiot when it came to being an intelligence agent — which is inexcusable when partnered with a goddamned DETECTIVE. Shepard didn’t make an effort to bring back evidence or proof of her findings, instead relying on the sadly common military mindset of ‘identify the threat, report the threat, and let the chain of command determine how to deal with the threat’.

Without evidence, you can’t have a threat to identify aside from vague reports. Without any form of context, the choices made by the council are suddenly not merely political ass-covering out of arrogance, or even bad storytelling, but the sort of reactions that ANY person in a position of power makes when told something they can’t do anything about.

In the Premiseverse, no one knows when the Reapers will get here, or if they are coming. It could be six years, or six hundred, or six THOUSAND. To prepare for their arrival now would throw the galaxy — already in a state of chaos — into more chaos. And while Shepard had enough evidence to back up her claims of the Reapers being real , what she didn’t have was the context to say “they’re coming in X years.”

Passing the buck is that thing everyone sneers at , and yet everyone has a tendency to do. You’ve done it. I’ve done it. We’ve all done it. Is it surprising the Council would?

 

Various ranting

A summary of things I didn’t like in canon Me that has been … fixed. Someone told me I was arrogant in thinking I could write better than Bioware. Buddy, at this point, I’m not even having to TRY very hard, given my competition is a comic that everyone I know thought was the dumbest shit since Daikatana.

First, the Alliance not finding the wreckage of the Normandy for two plus years. How in shit is this even possible? Who in hell picked up the life pods?  Fixed.

The goofy comic resolution of how Cerberus got a hold of Shepard’s body. Being fixed.

Feron being replaced with Shields. Fixed. C’mon, really? I read that comic three times and aside from gratuitous ass shots of Liara at every panel, not one word in six made any sense. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, the only good thing in that train wreck was Tazzik.

Fourth, all of ATTWN gave people a reason to care. A reason for Liara to take a risk on trusting TIM.  A reason for the Alliance not to recover the body on their own. A reason for Liara to go batshit insane, Joker and Tali to go batshit depressed, and Garrus to just go…batman.

Fifth, some kind of explanation for why in the HELL the Broker would have or could have gotten a hold of Shepard  — or how , for that matter, the Normandy could have been blown up.

Sixth, Ahern and von Grath pimpage.

Seventh, a framework around how my version of ME2 starts. For reasons that will soon become clear, this mess with Shepard will still get blamed on the geth, and the geth are not the pushovers they were in ME2. It will be war, lots and lots of ships will be built, and the galaxy will be about four or five times as strong as they were by the time even Canon ME2 rolls around, much less ME3.

I’m aware that some spelling, grammar and other mistakes and issues remain. Hell, I haven’t finished editing up OSABC yet and I’m in sight of the end of ATTWN.

But eventually I’ll burn out again, and then I can edit. For now, enjoy the update pace and forget canon. I hope you enjoy the ride.

Unrestrained giggling

Oh, Shepard honey, I’mma kill you so hard.

The absolute best part of writing this fic has to be drawing together all the lines and plots so that it is conceivable that no one could see what is happening without an omniscient view, without it becoming some kind of uber-conspiracy.

The second best part is the slow realization that if Shepard died bad in canon, there is no telling what kinds of atrocity will be inflicted on her in the Premiseverse.

It’s coming, dear readers. And it’s going to be bad. My goal in the next segment of chapters is to reduce even Progman to crying.

Artwork Suggestions

My personal situation is not exactly getting better, as since I make just enough to not qualify for any kind of subsidies, the cost of insurance, prescriptions and just basic living is eating at my savings.

Thus a lot of the highly disposable income I once had is not so disposable anymore. That means, for all of 2015, I will probably only commission one artwork (either from Armesan or NikitaStewart)

It’s a toss up between three choices:

1) The Wedding of Sara and Liara and the Processional of Blades

2) The Final Moment of Benezia

3) A series of colorless sketches for Dragunov, Branson, Tetrimus, and other characters.

 

Interested in people’s thoughts.

Two new features upcoming

I haven’t gotten around to final review or posting yet, but there will be two new updates to the OSABC line up in the next week or so.

First up is due to a request from AlsoKnownAsMatt, the ANN Media Archive. This will be mostly story-based interviews (as opposed to Westerlund style, text only transcripts) with Emily Wong and various people in the story as it moves along. The first interview will be that of Emily and Shepard when Shep announces her marriage to Doctor T’Soni. The second will most likely be Wong’s interview with Liara in the immediate aftermath of Shepard’s death.

The other new feature will be the STG Files : Benezia Incident, a pack of STG related stuff — profiles on OC’s and modified minor canon characters, STG backstory and investigations into Saren and Benezia, and some ideas of what Benezia and Saren were up to prior to ME1. Like the Cerberus Files, the STG Files is told from an in-universe perspective, but the writers are not all terrorist racist nutjobs, so it’s far more unbiased than a Season of Sorrows Unending.

If you guys and gals who read this have any more ideas, comment and let me know.

On fluff and its necessity

I’m about 65% done with the next ATTWN chapter, and it is almost entirely fluffy. I had a couple of PM’s asking me for more fluff and a couple asking for less, so I thought I would address the issue.

Mass Effect is a game, and as a game it cannot indulge in the things that make up ‘normal life’. A lot is abstracted — going to the restroom, eating, sleeping, etc. That being said, going from A to C and not bothering with a clearly there but boring B is not a sin.

Going from A to X, however, and skipping everything between, certainly is.

A lot of the reason ATTWN even is happening is ‘fluff’. The circumstances behind Shepard’s death, while similar to canon, do not actually follow canon. Namely, the mystery of how the Collectors were able to pick up the Normandy when REAPERS couldn’t, and the sheer stupidity of reviving someone who fell from fucking orbit.

ATTWN has to deal with a lot of fluff to establish both Shepard growing beyond what she was before ME1 (because growth is a criterion of the story, and a CORE CONCEPT that will come up again and again in ME2 and ME3 Premiseverse) as well as preventing massive infodumps.

That being said, I’m attempting to strike a balance between emotional backstory and action. I’m interested in thoughts on this issue.