Well, okay, it’s a ludicrous number of references compared to my usual fiction, which tends to be either fantasy or set in the Greek heroic period; in both cases, my ability to reference modern culture is between limited and impossible. I’d had references at various places earlier in this year’s NaNo novel, but never to this extreme before. The character introductions from the Missing Letter Monday excerpt and yesterday’s excerpt will be needed to understand who the characters are. Oh, and you need to know that Frank, the pilot, was just returned to them, but due to the odd effects of the air on this island, because he couldn’t be healed in the first week, it will take years for his wounds to heal. (I know, that makes no sense out of context. But it does make at least semi-sense once it’s fully explained. Not that the characters have learned that explanation yet. They may not even learn the explanation before November ends; it’s the 19th today, and they’re nowhere near learning it.) The “stack” in Caesar’s hands is a stack of items that Mel brought when she was accompanying the return of Frank, but there was a bit of a quarrel and she left without explaining what they were. They’re flat, thin, rectangular objects about the size of the front cover of a book from the Loeb Classical Library. (But less colorful. I didn’t specify their colors, but they’re either white, black or gray. Something very dull. No green or red here.)
Oh…Aiko hasn’t come up in the other excerpts, has she? She’s the AI in the computer that runs pretty much everything on the island. (Hence her name “Artificial Intelligence Child”, using the kanji “ko” for “child” while also giving her a genuine Japanese name. It works so neatly that I must have actually encountered it somewhere else and forgotten about it: no way I could come up with something that slick on my own.) She’s only discussed in this excerpt, but I’ll go ahead and quote the description when Ashley first encounters her (while his shoulder still hasn’t healed up yet):
Forcing himself to his feet, Ashley decided he was going to inspect that picture. It was definitely odd somehow. Lurching from one piece of furniture to the next, Ashley made his way over to the wall, leaning his good shoulder against it for support. By the time he got there, the image had changed to a view of the island, this time from directly above, giving a good view of the sealed caldera of the volcano in the center.
“What the **** is going on with this picture?!” he demanded. The frame was nothing special, just a thin, flimsy-looking black frame, without any kind of ornamentation.
“It’s on screen-saver, of course,” a girl’s voice replied, seeming to come from the picture itself. It sounded like the one that Mel had been talking to earlier.
“What the…!!” Ashley tried to step away from the wall, and ended up on the floor.
The girl’s voice laughed at him, and the image of the island faded away to show a girl of about eight years, in a plaid dress with frilly lace around the edges. The girl had very European facial features, pale skin and blue eyes, but long, lustrous, straight black hair, the type that Ashley associated with Asians. From the lacy ribbon in her hair down to her black-and-white striped socks and her platform Mary Janes, there was something about her that just felt off. She was standing against a pure white background — so pure white that Ashley couldn’t tell where the floor ended and the walls started.
“Who are you?” Ashley asked.
“I’m Aiko, of course,” the girl answered, her head tilting to one side. Above her head appeared the letters ‘AI’ followed by a Chinese or Japanese letter. “Who are you? And why are you on the floor?”
“I’m Ashley, and I’m down here ‘cause you scared the **** out of me.”
“You shouldn’t swear like that,” Aiko reprimanded him. “It’s rude.”
Aiko is totally voiced by a Vocaloid, btw. Probably MAYU. (Which tells you a lot, if you happen to be familiar with Vocaloid, but next to nothing otherwise.) Thought I should mention that because it means her speech feels a little awkward and unnatural, but the men hearing it don’t know why, and can’t quite even put their finger on what’s wrong with it. (I think that’s not mentioned until Paddy comes to hear her, or the similarly Vocaloid-voiced menu when he calls the kitchen to order dinner. Uh, not that it would literally be Vocaloid in the far future. Just something like Vocaloid. (I guess that makes them UTAU, lol.) But so I hear Vocaloid speech when I’m writing the dialog of the artificial characters. The menu, btw, got KAITO’s voice. Lucky menu!))
As in the previous excerpts, I haven’t edited this apart from self-censoring the hard swearing, and maybe correcting a few words with squiggly lines under them in the composition window. (Though sometimes words have squiggly lines because they’re dialect, or at least just conversational, and sometimes they’re proper nouns from books I haven’t read so I’m not sure what the right spelling is. *ahem* I’m a bit ashamed of that…)
Warning: this is a pretty long excerpt, and the good stuff is towards the end. But…well, actually, I like all of it. (For once, I was actually forced to — gasp! — describe things! Not that I’m very good at it…) Oh, we’re in Paddy’s head this time, so it always says “Ashe” instead of “Ashley.” Read the rest of this entry →