Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Go~ go~ Miracle Editing Force~! Also, GODLY ART.

So, looks like the translators are done with the first batch of scripts! Now it's the editing team's turn to take these apart, pretty them up, and generally get on with the task of making everything sound fluid and natural. Having unofficially grabbed the editing coordinator role for myself, I'm going to be starting in on these first, and passing them along as I complete them. Hope you're all okay with that. <|

In other awesome news, please, feast your eyes on this absolutely magnificent Reyvablog request pic by Linearis. It's a beautiful sketch (I was particularly fond of heartofharmony's rendering, as I've had so much trouble with getting pictures of her to look right-- this captures her personality and her fashion sense so well-- but they're all cute!), and it just gets even more impressive when you discover that the artist did this in four minutes. FOUR. MINUTES. Timed to a song, apparently.

Wonderful, wonderful stuff. Soon as I get the URL for the translation project stuff (as I'm woefully bad at remembering where things are), I'll get cracking on that.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

The Mirball!

At long last, I have acquired that one thing in SL without which my Mir avatar was not complete.... the Mirball, perhaps better known to most people as the shield she surrounds herself in at the end of AT1. Thanks so much to Eolande Elvehjem, who made this for me absolutely free of charge! (Warning: some small degree of obscured nudity.) 1 / 2

You have to see it in person to appreciate it fully; it animates, causing the texture to swirl prettily over the surface, and it works perfectly in flight, wherein Mir can hover and float around just as she does in AT.

We're Ar Tonelifying Second Life... one step at a time. =D

Mir's "180".

Something I've been musing about.... (Spoilers for AT2 will follow.)

I've seen a number of fans, in various place, evince surprise at Mir's appearance in her Cosmosphere Level 8, going as far as to say things like "I can't believe Mir was really like this" and "she doesn't seem anything like the Mir we know". For the longest time, I never really understood what these people were getting at. As someone who's immersed myself in Mir's story since AT1, her appearance in her Level 8 didn't just seem congruous with her personality; it seemed almost mandated. I didn't find myself surprised by it in the slightest.

In fact, that was perhaps the one big downside of AT2 for me (or, perhaps, the downside of my immersion in Mir fannishness); practically nothing that came to pass regarding Mir surprised me at all. With the exception of a few odd little details of correlation between my internal concept of Mir and the game's concept that I couldn't have ever expected would be represented so accurately, I remained largely underwhelmed, because I'd thought about all of this, and retrodden it in my mind in painstaking detail.

I suppose the fact that it was all so accurate in itself should have surprised me, but... it didn't. I didn't feel like I was seeing anything I hadn't already seen in my mind. I worried a lot before playing AT2 that it wouldn't match up with my internal image of Mir, and I was glad that it did, yet the downside of having my mental image of the game match so well was that I didn't feel like I was playing a new game, but one I'd already played. The idea that Mir was really just a fragile, caring child inside, who wanted to build a better world... that seemed evident from Harmonious, from "Reyvateilia" (which always seemed such an explicitly childish name that I was sure that either she must have come up with it as a child or just had a very naive mindset), and, in AT2, from her various costumes and actions leading up to that. There are plenty of clues that Mir is awkward, naive, vulnerable, and socially undeveloped, that she was kind as a child and then lost her mind, and that what was being restored when Harmonious was sung was her innocent, pure way of looking upon life. All of these things, in fact, were what made her stand out to me as more than just a typical "abused villain" character. Yes, she fits the trope, but she's also so much more than that. The interesting part of her is that she's always been purehearted, and she's always held onto that dream.

But I guess the key phrase in all of this is "as someone who's immersed myself in Mir's story". If you don't think about Mir very much, you won't notice these subtle developments, this buildup to her character. You have to analyse her to see it. And the fact that she is so analysable, that AT2 was capable of presenting to me an image identical in almost every respect to the Mir I'd been imagining, despite the fact that basically all we ever see or hear of her is a voice roaring and screaming about wanting to destroy all humans... the fact that there were so many little clues there, from her shield-encased graphic in the final battle to the hymn Harmonious, and that they all did lead exactly where they looked, with enough thought, like they were meant to lead... I don't know. Something about that impresses me, in retrospect, even though it seemed so obvious at the time that it oddly didn't impress me at all.

You can analyse a piece of literature, and come up with elaborate, intricate theories about what the authors might have been trying to invoke with the symbolism, what was really underlying each and every scene, the deeper message that's being told. And while these theories are useful in examining what readers get out of a text, one gets the feeling that they don't often correlate with authorial intent. A simple piece of literature can suggest a million complex things, and yet these complex patterns are largely in the eye of the beholder. A good work will generate them, but they tend to have little bearing on the author's conscious intentions. That Tsuchiya and co. were conscious of all these little things, to the point where the sequel explicitly spells them out, seems impressive.

I remember people saying, back before AT2 was out in English, that Mir's heart wasn't something I understood, because I'd only played half the series. I understand what they meant, and yet at the same time, it makes me smile, a little, to look back and see people saying now how right I was all along, and realise that I did, always, know her heart. Not out of any smug feeling of "haha, I was right and you were wrong"; that's not it at all. It's simply that it makes me happy to realise that I did, after all, truly comprehend my favourite character, even without all of the extra information.

Mir's shaping up to be the most interesting character in AT thus far, and-- again, not in a smug way, just in a sort of... satisfaction-of-having-solved-the-puzzle way, I guess-- it's nice to be able to say "I knew she was interesting before it was cool".

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Testing something: please stand by.

Unless you're logged in as an author on the Reyvablog, you currently won't be able to view it. I'm just testing something out; please bear with me.

Shurelia in SL!

So over in SL-land, our latest project just came to fruition... the creation of Shurelia! We managed to get a designer to produce some custom hair for us, which is now on sale at Discord Designs in-world (just search for it), titled, yep, Shurelia. I really hope some random AT fan stumbles across it at some point and does a double-take....

Mir eyed it with some suspicion before we tried it out on an actual Shurelia-ish model. (We need to get a better skin for her... the problem with SL skins is that they're generally far too huge in the lips.)

As you may have noticed, we're on a floating piece of land in the sky-- somewhat appropriate, and we just found it randomly.... Less fortunate was when Mir accidentally stepped backwards and plummeted into the Sea of Death. (This was made even more amusing/horrifying by the fact that Shurelia teleported her back up to the sky island again, only to misaim the coordinates and send Mir falling for a second time....)

Schoolgirl Shurelia is cute.

Shurelia the Mir fan!

Over time, they finally came to understand each other... with the help of a little bit of Dive Therapy. 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8

[Edit: The image that replaced "Mir falling into the Sea of Death" previously has now been swapped out for the right one. Consider it a moment of "Bleep"-style censorship. This image was too awful to show viewers, etc.]

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

werewolf biology 101

What do knotted ropes tied to the fridge door handle, large quantities of probiotic drinks, and a dog's water dish have to do with each other? Well, they're all in dhezeall's kitchen, and not because she owns a dog. They're actually three things that she finds very useful because of her ability to shapeshift.

When dhezeall shifts forms, the energy released by the transformation causes everything on or in her body, that's not actually part of her body, to be atomised. It's a very localised reaction-- if you're touching her arm at the time you may get the top layer of your skin burnt off, and clothes have various chances of survival depending on what they're made of (though they can expect, on average, to get a little scorched), but the main things that go are things like dead skin cells and bacteria.

This has a couple of obvious advantages: for one, every time she changes forms, she becomes preternaturally clean. Even a baby, newly born from its mother's womb, is an unpleasant creature by comparison; having spent nine months surrounded by and drinking in the fluids of its mother, it's been part of life's natural interchange of microscopic lifeforms for quite some time. When dhezeall reforms, she does so as a being that has had no contact with the world until that point. She may look like a wild animal, which doesn't normally inspire thoughts of dazzling cleanliness, but in truth she's basically sterile to touch; her breath is pleasant, and her body doesn't carry the slightest hint of scent. As one might suspect, this feels pretty wonderful-- like the best exfoliating treatment imaginable, and then some.

The other advantage to this, of course, is that any bacterial or (non-computer-)viral illness she was harbouring inside her will be utterly destroyed, making her effectively invulnerable to infection as long as she has energy to shift. This isn't actually as impressive a skill as it could be, that said; most Reyvateils can achieve similar effects with healing magic, and a simple heal generally requires a lot less energy than a full physical transformation. dhezeall is a rare Reyvateil in that she doesn't really know how to heal at all, and so shapeshifting is her only way of shaking off disease.

In addition, this skill has one major downside. You need bacteria in your body to be healthy; the "friendly" kind, as they're frequently called, that help dispose of nastier bacteria and assist in food digestion. dhezeall's shapeshifting powers don't discriminate between the two, so every time she shifts, whether from Reyvateil to animal or back again, she needs to replenish that supply of bacteria or else have trouble digesting her food. Hence the large amounts of probiotic drinks, which she'll usually pour into a drinking bowl beforehand if she knows she's going to be shapeshifting; for the occasions where the desire strikes her suddenly (her magic is fairly unpredictable), the rope on the fridge door makes an easier pull handle for animal teeth to clamp onto, and she buys the drinks in large cardboard cartons so they're easier to tear open. There's also a similar rope attached to the faucet, so she can get herself water; the energy release from shapeshifting also dehydrates her cells, and she generally wants to drink a lot afterwards.

If asked what these are for, she'll generally say she has trouble with her wrists, and the ropes make it easier for her to operate handles that would normally cause her pain. It's quite easy to believe considering that she walks with a cane, and not everybody in her life knows why.

Opening cartons in animal form tends to make a heck of a mess, though, so she tries to avoid it where possible, instead resisting the temptation to eat until she can return to Reyvateil form. There's another reason she prefers not to eat as an animal, too; while her intelligent mind remains largely intact, pretty much the only food that seems palatable to her in that form is raw meat, and if she gives in to the temptation to hunt something, she's inevitably sickened by the memories afterwards. She can eat cooked meat, too, but actually getting access to it is the trickier part; there's rarely anyone around to cook it for her (and she trusts few people with the secrets of her magic), and she can't very well do it herself.

Furthermore, even consuming vast amounts of yoghurt drinks won't replenish all the bacteria that need replenishing-- not in such a short space of time. In practice, she's frequently not at her healthiest after a shapeshift until her body's had time to return to its normal state.

So there you go: being a werewolf isn't quite all it's cracked up to be, although there's still little that compares to the feel of bounding over open land, the earth beneath your paws and the wind in your fur. (Except... she actually can't do that, either. The install port doesn't go away in animal form, and neither does the limp.)

So what unusual items do your characters keep around the house, if any?

Monday, 9 March 2009

~reyvablog: omake post 2 (spoilers follow)~

More omake!

Lyuma's IPD card, pages 2 and 3.

And inspired by the Reyvateil fusions thread on A Reyvateil's Melody... dhiyante/brizeall, and Lyr/Miuma. dhiyante is uberhot and conflicted about whether she wants to wear these clothes... Lyr is just an adorable gothic lolita. XD

Sunday, 8 March 2009

dhezeall's genderform!

dhezeall: So, at long last, I finally decided to go through this monster of a thing. May as well post it as an omake. Try one too, if you want.

Also, forgive the vast amounts of whitespace. Lemme know if you have a clue how to fix on Blogger. :\ Huh, apparently removing all the whitespace from inside the table, even the parts that came way after where the whitespace was displaying, worked. Weird.

My name is
My identity is
ALWAYS!, activist, admirer, alien, ambiguous, androgynous, bent, big sister, boy with a vagina, boy with boobs, caring, casually-dressed, chapstick lesbian*, chaser, confidant, counselor, creature, drag king, dude, female, female guy, female-bodied, femme-loving, flirt, friend, friend with benefits, friendly, full of love, gender confused, gender euphoric, gender expressive, happy, homo-romantic, homoemotional, homosexual, huggy, illusionist, impersonator, liberal, lover, mage, male lesbian*, manly-hearted woman, midgender, non-humansexual, non-trans, nonhuman-sexual, obsessed, outgoing, outspoken, oversexed, passionate, pervert, playful, polyamorous, polysnuggler, pro-sex feminist, promiscuous, Reyvateil in pants, Reyvateil-chaser, Reyvateilsexual, samespeciessexual, secretly male, sex positive, sexual, shaman, shapeshifter, singer, snuggly, soft butch, Teru-curious, third gender, top, transhuman, versatile, witty, wolf, working class
What's yours?

*Where "lesbian" isn't really accurate for reasons I've mentioned before, but it was the closest thing I could think of to convey the idea.

The Dog Food Rapture -- Ar Tonelico fanfiction (Reyvablog canon, 1,141 words, Reyvablog spoilers, some disturbing themes)

A blog-entry-that-could-have-been, written by someone who never got to post it or whose post somehow never ended up getting linked on the Reyvablog. Maybe she couldn't find free internet access in time to write it up, or maybe the server ate her post, or maybe she just didn't get noticed. In any case, somehow, against the odds, it was salvaged from a world that now exists outside time.

It seems a bit odd warning for "disturbing themes" when the Reyvablog itself had no warnings. Perhaps I should put a warning in the author's notes?


My name is Merisa Csetla, and I have only a handful of days to live. Not because of Sublimation, but because I'm a Reyvateil living on the streets, and I can't afford Diquility. By my calendar, I'll expire in a little under two weeks.

Before that, if what happened to some of my friends is anything to go by, I can expect to spend my last day or two alive writhing and crying in agony, trying desperately to communicate to my few remaining friends my need for water, or warmth, or comfort, but having my words mangled beyond all recognition by the collapse of my rational mind. As I succumb to frightening hallucinations, curled up tightly on the filth-covered ground in an attempt to shut out the waking nightmares, my friends will be forced to try and interpret my mumblings as best they can, and mostly end up guessing at requests that only scare me more. Perhaps I was, even, asking for some of those things in the beginning, but then my vision warped and my mind broke down and the sight of moving liquid came to look like the distorted face of a demon. Eventually, my last thoughts being of darkness and pain, I'll probably fall into a coma from which I will never be roused. My friends will have to dispose of the body, which they'll probably do by dragging it behind a pile of trash. On the streets, even a worn, dirty blanket is a luxury; so are old clothes. They can't be spared for something so sentimental as a shroud.

After that, they'll sit around nervously and wait for it to happen to them-- as I'm doing now, having "buried" several who went before. Their hearts will be gripped, like mine is, by a deep and ugly terror that never quite abates. Like me, they'll remember that twisted, awful face, the greyish pallor, the bulging eyes, and they'll imagine that agony inside themselves, and they'll never quite sleep the same. And on the streets, sleeping is hard as it is.

And then... then it'll come to them, too, and one by one they'll go through it, until all that is left to show for their lives is a rotting huddle of corpses feeding the streets' abandoned dogs.

At least, that's how it would go, if not for Sublimation.

I know what you're thinking: so Sublimation will save some who might die horribly. But there are countless more people it hasn't saved, and many it still won't save. Don't I, who witnessed the death of my friends, understand that? Even if Sublimation saves you from that fate, is that any great thing, in the scheme of it all, compared to the billions who never lived to see these days? And does it justify changing an entire world?

As you can possibly tell by the fact that I have these arguments to hand already, I might have thought that too. In fact, at one point, I did think that. But then some pretty extraordinary news was leaked to me-- from that blog where one of the posters is apparently the girl who'll sing with Mir. (I believe her, personally. My friend who follows that blog says the accusations of her backdating her getting-shot posts are false; she saw those posts made well before the video of her came out, depicting the exact same injuries she described.) She said that, along with all the living people being saved, the dead are going to be raised, too. They're all in the Binary Field, intact, just sleeping, and they can know the world again if Mir calls all life to her side.

I've always been a bit of a Prime Directivist, really, if you'll excuse me twisting a term-- I'm still a specfic geek at heart, even if I sold my collector comics long ago. Sure, the Goddesses made the world or whatever, but I've never seen much of a reason to believe they've kept on having a hand in things. As far as I was concerned, they may as well have just made this world and walked off into the proverbial ethereal sunset, leaving us here to cope with what we have. Afterlife? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps this is the only life we'll ever have. I don't see what makes it particularly more likely there'd be one than not; the Goddesses don't seem to care much about our lives right now, after all.

But hearing someone personally involved with Sublimation say we go somewhere when we die, as a casual detail assumed as she made her greater point... that tipped the balance for me, I guess. Like I said, I'd had no reason to believe one way or the other with no evidence. Someone who's going to actually engage with all this telling me what it's like? Sure, I'll listen. Why lie? Mir clearly has a reason for doing this; if she intends evil, there's no reason not to scare us, and if she has a good reason, it'd have to be sufficiently good for her to even consider something like this. If she'd had to make things up, wouldn't that, perhaps, have hinted to her that this wasn't a good plan? Wouldn't she think her own reason was enough?

I, for one, think it's enough. Because it means that I won't die, and my friends won't die, and those of them who have already died and suffered aren't rotting on the streets, dumped behind the garbage, for nothing. The billions and billions of people who've already left this world didn't live for no reason. And when I go to that perfect world, never having known death, I'll see my dead friends again, and I'll see all those billions of people, too. People who died in the First and Second Eras, victims of the wars, people who knew and saw and did things I could never imagine. Everyone who ever lived. Ever.

And that's what makes Sublimation different from, better than, any other way this world could be saved. Social change? Wonderful-- but it won't bring back the lost. It won't make the continents unfall and all those people who died there start living again as if none of it had ever happened. It won't undo my cold, dead friends, whom the streets claimed for lack of care. People could stop hating overnight, war could end forever, and they'd still be cold and dead.

So next time you wonder if Sublimation's really a good thing for us, think about those billions of lives. And if you're wondering about billions yet to be born-- when did Mir say new life can't be made there? She seems to be all about life, right now.

Could there really be a better way for the world to end? I'm not sure I can think of one.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

~reyvablog: archive~

Less an "archive" than a "reordering", really, but for those of you who want to read the Reyvablog in chronological order (so as to avoid spoilers if you haven't read it before, or just to make it easier on you), the following links will take you through its history.

November: The Month of Coming Together


December: The Month of Raising Voices


January: The Month of Self and Integrity


February: The Month of Falling Apart


March: The Month of Praising and Letting Go

Live 1
Live 2
Live 3
Live 4
Live 5
Live 6
Live 7
Live 8

Ask The Reyvabloggers!

For those of us who haven't yet achieved Sublimation/enlightenment/Nirvana and are still here on Earth missing our interactions with the Reyvablog people, I thought I'd start a thread in which people can ask questions of our characters-- either things you've always been curious about that might not have been explained during the course of the plot, or lighthearted meme-type questions just for fun. You can ask questions as your characters or as yourself, but characters have to respond in character. (They can also decline to respond-- that's fine too! And you don't have to answer a question before you can ask one-- obviously, since you may not even have a character.)

I'll kick off with a few....

dhezeall asks winters: So how much control do you have over that tail, anyway? Can you move it like an arm, or is it more limited?

heartofharmony asks polyhymnia: Can you describe the best experience you've ever had using your magic?

AR asks Rigil: I do know you two got engaged, but did you ever get to sing for Crystal after all, and how did she respond?

neonsunray asks celeliss: If you ever got to play Truth or Dare with Mir, would you ask her to tell a truth or do a dare, and what would the truth/dare involve?

Also, when asked what happiness was (and therefore what they would probably be experiencing in Sublimation), my characters' first responses were as follows:

dhezeall: Happiness is a warm Reyvateil. ♫ And, generally, affection and kindness and stuff.
heartofharmony: Happiness is being at peace and not having to fear or worry about anything.
AR: Happiness is a world where people don't seek to hurt each other just for being different.
neonsunray: Happiness is being able to be what you've always known in your heart you were meant to be.

What are your characters' first thoughts on what happiness is? Not complex philosophical theories (we can get to that later XD), just... the first things they think of?

Friday, 6 March 2009

Diquility theory

[Guestblogged by Deciare.]

There is an article describing the triangular Reyvateilian heart (the nuclear triangular loop, also translated as the core triangular ring) as an aggregate of Static H-waves that eventually grows to become a Reyvateil's soul and character. From the heart, a continuous stream of Dynamic H-waves (emotions and intent) are emitted that causes the Reyvateil's body to constantly generate and regenerate itself as it decays over the course of time. It's effectively a constant emission of an intent to stay alive, or an intent to continue existing, prompting endless regeneration of the body's Static D-waves until the heart no longer functions.

The reason a Third Generation Reyvateil needs Diquility is because the nuclear triangular loop is an artificial construct, and doesn't exist in Reyvateils born the traditional way. Since Diquility is a concentration of "high-purity SHWs with no characteristics", if we were to think of that as an extension to what I said earlier about Reyvateils needing to resupply their "intent to continue existing", then we can theorise that the intent to continue existing is the most fundamental, basic intent. Like one's instinct of self-preservation.

... Which can be overridden by a Reyvateil's other emotions and intents; what else she is radiating as DHWs when she sings, when she harmonises, when she experiences events that cause her to feel something other than neutral.

Consider: Song Magic is a perfectly-articulated condensation of the singer's DHWs, without any omission. Isn't it strange that there is rarely any mention or survival or continuing to stay alive the lyrics of those songs?

Allowing non-essential feelings to be completely excluded from a Reyvateil's mind on both a conscious and unconscious level could significantly boost the strength of her song magic by increasing the purity of DHWs used to convey her intent to the Tower, and her emotion to herself. It's not too different from what humans were trying to do with Mir.

So Third Generation Reyvateils may need Diquility at all due to this gross design flaw in the name of efficiency. A Reyvateilian mind instinctively prioritises survival very low on the list when there are more salient emotions to be felt, and other things that she feels needs to be done.

It ties into the Reyvateilian desire for pervasive interconnectedness, too, as described by the Reyvablog. It's not only because they are used to feeling each other's hearts and don't wish to be alone. It's because even feeling someone else's emotions are so desirable, inspiring, and uplifting compared to feeling neutral. Which leaves one very little time to to actually focus on merely continuing to exist. Logically, one shouldn't have to concentrate one's emotions on continuing to exist, so it's counter-intuitive.

~reyvablog: omake post (spoilers follow)~

So, just kicking off here with a couple of the omake bits I've created for the Reyvablog so far....

Lyuma as an IPD. I'll create page 2 of this at some point....

Randomly, isn't every city in the AT world an airport city? Firefly Alley, Nemo, Rakshek....

And a little bit of background for this next omake... I believe, at some point in the story, dhezeall mentions an experience where she went diving with her friends and couldn't handle the subsequent embarrassment she felt when they told her about what had happened in her Cosmosphere. As a result, she became uncomfortable with the idea of diving. Basically, the first level of her Cosmosphere dealt with her fears about being perceived as feminine and stereotypically Reyvateil-esque, as well as the secret crush she had on one of her friends. So, in her Cosmosphere, she approached said friend, acting shy and coquettish... and wearing a big floofy dress. Her friends didn't stop laughing for quite some time, and of course, she was mortified....

I do, however, have her permission (yes, I really do) to show you a couple of pictures of what that might have looked like....

On the Reyvablog and feminism: reflections

What is on reflection really rather nice about the Reyvablog, I think, is that it's a piece of fiction where almost every character is female. Even out of the humans and Teru (who aren't necessitated to be female, unlike Reyvateils who basically only have one physical sex), there's a total of one male character, the human medical researcher Rigil (or Silver). It passes the Bechdel test several thousand times over. And, at least to my mind, it manages this without drawing attention to the idea that it's non-normative for fiction to do this.

Watching Dr Horrible recently, I remember thinking, "you know, if all the gender roles in this story were reversed, people would Notice. It would suddenly be a story about Female Villains and Female Heroes, not about villains and heroes." You can't have a story with a mostly female cast without people going, "whoa. Why is everyone female?" A mostly male cast, however, doesn't raise an eyebrow. Male is the unmarked category, the default, the average.

On the Reyvablog... there was actually no marked category, in my mind. The bloggers didn't stand out for being female; Rigil didn't stand out for being male. I forgot what gender winters was a lot. And that was nice. What was also nice was that it wasn't, to my mind, a very "girly" story at all; it wasn't a story About Lots Of Girls Who Do Girl Things. I suppose in part that was because it was more About Lots Of Reyvateils Who Do Reyvateil Things, but still, from a this-world standpoint it's refreshing. All-female casts can too often cause writers to force the story into being about Shopping and Fashion and Boys, as opposed to, you know, just normal people living their lives no matter what gender they are.

The Reyvablog was about some tough people, some fragile people, some educated people, some naive people, and plenty of people in between who spanned the whole spectrum of things people can do and be and think. They weren't constantly oohing over relationships or simpering or preening; nor did they consistently ignore things like being pretty or having partners. A lot of them didn't feel they needed partners to make their lives complete, and would rather not have had the ones they were forced to be with. One of them was basically the female equivalent of that guy you know who's always saying "lol, I'd tap that". (dhezeall was interesting to write, actually. A male character like her would, I think, have come off as at least a little bit bothersome and pushy; she was quasi-famous for saying to one character who described themselves physically, "great, now I have to imagine you sitting behind your keyboard being hot". She playfully hit on and innuendoed at the other characters a lot. She was never crude or demanding about it, though, and she would have stopped immediately if someone had expressed their dislike; and she was also very mature in other senses, and very kind. She took in a naive sixteen-year-old homeless girl and would cut out her normal way of bantering with people around her, because she was sixteen. But as a guy, I think she might have been intimidating just because of the history of the sexes.)

It was, ultimately, I think, a really good story about people and rights and the end of the world and all sorts of other things. It was a story about people, with an almost exclusively female cast. That's not often seen, and I'm proud of it.

Fitting quotes for the moment.

I keep the quotes below in a file on my computer, because I like to be inspired by them from time to time. Looking at them now, I realise they're all extremely fitting for the Reyvablog, in various ways.

Implied Reyvablog spoilers follow.

The universal brotherhood of man is our most precious possession.
Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)

One single grateful thought raised to heaven is the most perfect prayer.
G. E. Lessing (1729 - 1781)

There is no greater joy nor greater reward than to make a fundamental difference in someone's life.
Sister Mary Rose McGeady

A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest--a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

Wisdom and spirit of the Universe!
Thou soul is the eternity of thought!
That giv'st to forms and images a breath
And everlasting motion! Not in vain
By day or star-light thus from by first dawn
Of childhood didst thou intertwine for me
The passions that build up our human soul,
Not with the mean and vulgar works of man,
But with high objects, with enduring things,
With life and nature, purifying thus
The elements of feeling and of thought,
And sanctifying, by such discipline
Both pain and fear, until we recognize
A grandeur in the beatings of the heart.
William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850)

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.
Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 - 1968)

We've always been here and we'll always be here. We are a specific arrangement of particles and this instant is infinite. Did we luck out, or didn't we? The odds against this sentence having ever being typed, much less the odds against you reading it were inconceivable. Smile, because the fact that you're able to is almost impossible to comprehend.
Jeffrey Rowland

There was a blithe certainty that came from first comprehending the full Einstein field equations, arabesques of Greek letters clinging tenuously to the page, a gossamer web. They seemed insubstantial when you first saw them, a string of squiggles. Yet to follow the delicate tensors as they contracted, as the superscripts paired with subscripts, collapsing mathematically into concrete classical entities-- potential; mass; forces vectoring in a curved geometry-- that was a sublime experience. The iron fist of the real, inside the velvet glove of airy mathematics.
Gregory Benford - Timescape

If we discover a desire within us that nothing in this world can satisfy, also we should begin to wonder if perhaps we were created for another world.
C. S. Lewis (1898 - 1963)

I am convinced that the world is not a mere bog in which men and women trample themselves in the mire and die. Something magnificent is taking place here amid the cruelties and tragedies, and the supreme challenge to intelligence is that of making the noblest and best in our curious heritage prevail.
Charles Austin Beard (1874 - 1948)

~reyvablog: behind the scenes (major spoilers follow)~

EXEC_with.METHOD_SUBLIMATION/. ~omness chs ciel sos infel~ #Mir with Lyuma extracting
Ending song

The above linked file is actually EXEC_over.METHOD_SUBLIMATION/. ~omness chs ciel sos infel~; the lyrics are mostly identical, with one small change. Please open your heart, and use your imagination. :)

Thanks to aquagon for the original translation and the translation of my edited lyrics.

Chs hymma en famfa der ciel,
Like the birds that fly in the firmament

chs plina en grlanza art fhyu,
Like the plants that dance thanks to the wind

chs hasyu en zassyen der sielp,
Like the fish that swim in the rivers

chs bister en rana anw dor,
Like the animals that run on the land

was yea ra messe anw briyante.
I will be happy to convey to the world my voice of joy

Wassee anw fane lusye,
Let's praise love's shining light

wassee zess frawr bautifal en afezeria,
Let's praise this blessing, as beautiful as a blooming flower

wassee en chs Sublimation.
Let's praise our own Sublimation

Was yea ra omness chs ciel sos infel iem, wassee!
Now, I will be happy to turn my life into a world for the sake of love. Let's praise!

Let's praise!

Was yea ra wael yorr uteu enw fernia,
I'm happy to see you sleeping with a smile,

en sorr quen art ftt omnis crudea.
a smile that exists because suffering has vanished.

Was yea ra wael yorr yaserwe,
I'm happy to see that you are relaxing,

en melenas oure en yanwe oure sor.
and thinking "What do I love the most? What is most important to me?"

Was yea ra grandus ciel sos infel.
I will be happy to protect this world, because of love.

Was ki ra fogabe van anw na fogabe cupla.
I will concentrate in forgiving even the unrepentant

Wassee, fatele gyajlee haf alroetsue,
Let's praise, so that the sinners can find atonement

wassee forgandal dauane keenis na nozess,
Let's praise, because the radiance of the dawn will not disappear

wassee en chs Sublimation.
Let's praise our own Sublimation

Was ki ra yorra sarrifis anw omnis noes, wassee!
Now, everyone, offer yourselves to me. Let's praise!

Let's praise!

xN rre cia n.m.l. ut talam ag f.r.l. du tussu/.
The sky is being dyed with the color of the dawn, and I tremble with the presentiment of change

xN rre sarr m.n.g. du tyui lyuma/.
Let's try to catch that tiny star once more

xU rre urgn zz tUkd ut LYAglansee,
The laments no longer reach us,

targue rre qejyu zUzx
and even if the people are still despairing,

ag tUn za vUt dn balduo sefanl/.
they will stop living in the forest of darkness

Wee yea ra rre lyafre famfa en jass anw iasien;
I'm happy that the morning dew is claimed by the flying butterflies;

en tarfe tou yos maun.
they gently rest upon your closed eyelids

xU rre sefanl s.n.k.k. aje qraffa,
I'm sad that the trees have finished sprouting their new leaves

en h.k.t.t. nafan du ouwua kouf/.
and that they have wrapped us gently in their whispers

Was nyasri ga hieg yorra guaysu
I'm sad that you are depressed

art crudea en raklya art idesy memora.
because of the sufferings and cries that come from the memories of the past

Tasyue anw gyuss en yosyua yor,
I will offer my embrace to you and console you

tasyue anw ciel en dople anw omnis lamenza,
I will offer myself to this world, and I will remove the laments from it

tasyue en chs Sublimation.
I shall offer myself, and my Sublimation

Was yea ra sonwe sos yor en valwa anw ciel.
I will be happy to sing for your sake, and to purify the world

Was yea ra omness chs ciel sos infel.
I will be happy to turn my life into a world, for the sake of love

Was yea ra grandus ciel sos infel.
I will be happy to protect this world, because of love

Wassee anw fane lusye,
Let's praise love's shining light

wassee zess frawr bautifal en afezeria,
Let's praise this blessing, as beautiful as a blooming flower

wassee en chs Sublimation.
Let's praise our own Sublimation

Was yea ra omness chs ciel sos infel iem, wassee!
Now, I will be happy to turn my life into a world for the sake of love. Let's praise!

Was yea ra chs yuez en yanje yanje pitod yor.
I'm happy to be with you, and I want to be forever, forever with you

Was yea ra chs yuez en yanje yanje pitod yor.
I'm happy to be with you, and I want to be forever, forever with you

Was yea ra chs yuez....
I'm happy to be with you

The players

Mercís Enfandria (AR): 31 years old, long-time activist and independent Reyvateil, and owner of the blog "Falling Through the Generation Gap". After becoming interested in Reyvateil rights in her teenage years, she made a vow to herself, as many other Reyvateils have, to live independently of "the corps"-- the Church and Tenba, the two big organisations in Sol Ciel who provide free Diquility to Reyvateils in exchange for what she saw as emotionally demanding and coercive work. After working several regular if low-paying jobs, she fell upon dire circumstances and for several years worked as a prostitute, doing volunteer activist work by day, until a strange and random act of kindness turned her life around.

While she was a prostitute, she began to look to Mir as a symbol of hope in times of adversity, and, as revealed in the side-story The Flesh Fair, covertly wears a hand-crafted red-and-black pendant in dedication to her.

She shares the same last name as Leish Enfandria, one of my other OC Reyvateils, but they're not actually related (or at least, only very distantly, in the same way that two people with the last name Wood might share a common ancestry many generations back). She's extremely tight-lipped about her upbringing and family history; even those close to her know very little about it. Much like Luca Truelywaath, she has amber eyes.

Daire Nakayoji (dhezeall): 26 years old, long-time activist and independent Reyvateil. Known for her use of dry wit, dressing casually and androgynously, and flirting with anything with an install port; carried on a hush-hush relationship with Mayalan, a Church Reyvateil with a human partner and a friend of polyhymnia's, for a large portion of the plot, though only celeliss was in a position to know about it. Because of bullying inflicted on her as a teenager, her right ankle (where her install port is) is weak, and she typically walks with a cane.

Despite her sometimes sharp words towards people she considers ignorant, Daire is a caring, friendly and socially responsible person. She, like AR, has a history of being heavily involved with offline activism, though she joined the movement several years later. At various times, her floor and couch have been home to several Reyvateils in need of shelter, including celeliss.

Her father, who hated Reyvateils, forbade music from being played in the house when she was growing up. As a result, she can't stand silence, and plays music at a low volume constantly when she's home. She carries a portable music player for the commute to and from work; the ride isn't exactly silent, but she says being able to shut out the crying babies and bickering teenagers makes her journey bearable.

She's interested in the concept of non-binary gender identity as it applies to her, and considers her gender to be "Reyvateil in pants", a statement she made quasi-flippantly but with serious meaning behind it; she prefers female pronouns but considers her femaleness to be secondary to her Reyvateil nature in terms of what defines her. In 21st-century queer theory terms, "soft butch" fits her pretty well as a descriptor. Being only attracted to Reyvateils, rather than females as a whole, she rejects the definition "lesbian", arguing that there ought to be another word for Reyvateil-specific attraction.

Daire has never had a great deal of control over her magic; it tends to come to her suddenly and only when she's in dire need, and has no consistent theme. She manifested her first spell, a powerful blast of fire, as a teenager to escape her abusive home. Though she never mentions it to anyone, she also has shapeshifting magic, and has been known to occasionally look something like this, amongst other things. (Not my art.)

Alodia Hyafazerie (heartofharmony): 19 years old, Reyvateil employed with the Church of Elemia. A shy, introspective girl, raised by her father on dreams of an ideal life in the Church, she was subsequently partnered with a controlling and unpleasant man and forced to confront the stark reality that the Church guaranteed no happily ever afters. Realising that even those she believed in might not always be telling her the full truth, she began to wonder what else she'd not heard the truth about, and, driven by her increasing understanding that forced partnering was unfair, she found her way into activism.

On the outside, Alodia is exactly what many people expect a Reyvateil to be: feminine and graceful in her demeanour, with a fondness for pretty clothes and a seeming willingness to submit to authority. However, her brain is also very much alive and ticking, and while she's still sometimes brought up short by the things she was indoctrinated to believe, she values critical thinking and tries hard to implement it in her daily life. She's a voracious reader of all kinds of things, from novels to the political and scientific journals she finds in the library, and has never quite been able to shake her weakness for pulpy romantic fantasy, even if in reality she's grown wary of the romance game. Like many Reyvateils, while she's not entirely asexual, she leans more towards harmonic bonding with her own kind as her primary way of relating emotionally to others.

An extremely non-aggressive person, she'd like life to simply be peaceful and free of conflict. Eventually, she gets her wish, from the source that she least expects.

Lyuma Sechel (neonsunray): 18 years old, college student. Came to the blog after following a trackback link from a news article that featured her, written by an undercover journalist without her permission. One of the few Reyvateils in Sol Ciel ever to pursue a college education after being funded by her rich parents and encouraged to pose as human, she studied business, wanting to do something for her species by someday making it to the top of a big corporation and helping to change working conditions for the better; but deep down her heart always lay with the arts, specifically painting. She tells people that she began painting Mir because she wanted to explore the many controversial issues that surround her, but secretly Mir had always fascinated her for more reasons than that.

Lyuma is empathetic, even for a Reyvateil, and prone to dreaming big and believing wholeheartedly in those dreams, even when they make her seem disconnected from reality to others around her. The turning point in her life came when she decided to leave her prestigious college position to pursue Mir to Metafalss, where she ended up being shot in a riot and rebuilt with mechanical parts. During this time, Mir also upgraded her to be insanely powerful-- enough to be guaranteed to be able to handle an Extract Hymn, which put her at a level almost on par with a Beta Reyvateil-- and attached her to Infel Phira, so that she could sing the METHOD part of the Hymn Sublimation.

When she was injured, she lost her left arm, which meant she also lost the use of her install port (it was on her left wrist). Thankfully, she had enough Diquility within her to last her until the end of the world; it's unsure whether Mir could have found a way to manually give her Diquility if she'd needed it before then.

She formerly had long brown hair, but cut it when she went to college. The red-and-black dye job she frequently sports is a subtle, codified way of expressing her devotion to Mir.

The politics

Falling Through the Generation Gap was heavily inspired by real blogs in the field of activism, particularly race and gender equality activism. While my activities in the sphere of activism are, unfortunately, pretty much limited to reading said blogs and trying to reform my thinking based on what I've learnt from them, I do feel that my attempts to understand the uncomfortable social issues they raise, as commented on by those who have to live with the impact of them day in and day out, have helped me to develop my personal morality.

As a result of becoming increasingly aware of these kinds of social issues, when I played Ar Tonelico for the first time, I immediately started reflecting on the problems a disenfranchised "second-class species" like the Reyvateils would realistically face. Disappointed that the game hinted at these problems but didn't really develop them, and that other fans didn't seem to be interested in speculating much on them either, I decided to start exploring them in my own fiction, directly comparing them to existing social issues in this world, with two aims: to get fans to think more about how Reyvateils don't have the same advantages and options as everyone else, and to raise awareness of similar inequalities that currently exist in this world. The plot veered away from that structure a bit at the very end, as it took a more supernatural turn, but judging from the comments I've received, I think I still managed to make a few people think harder about various social issues.

...Somehow, that all came off sounding incredibly arrogant; as if I, a privileged white male, could ever really speak for these people. But, at least in this fandom, no one else was going to if I didn't say something first, and I felt something needed to be said. I hope I did some justice to the diverse range of voices out there, and I'm extremely thankful to all the players who added their voices to the mix and helped keep it from being a monolith.

Thanks to, among others, the people at The Angry Black Woman (who inspired the Angry Reyvateil's name), Feministe, Feministing, Alas, a blog, and Shapely Prose, for being a constant source of inspiration, insight, and perspective as I constructed this work of fiction. Also, special thanks go to innumerable LiveJournal people, whose usernames I've long since forgotten, who participated in various iterations of International Blog Against Racism Week; your posts were what sparked off my first tentative forays into privilege theory and the activist community, and made this whole thing possible.

The media

One of the fun things about writing the Reyvablog was getting to play with various sorts of media. I wanted the blog to be as authentic a facsimile of a real activist blog as I could make it, and so early on I made the decision to link to screenshots of various fictional news articles, which all used templates shamelessly stolen from actual news sites. People seemed to like the feeling of authenticity and gravity this lent to the story, and so over time I used this as an excuse to get even more creative with various forms of media, even going as far as to typeset, print out, and then subsequently scan a four-page article to make it look as if it had been scanned from a real magazine. This was printed actual size, on A3 paper, at a print shop; it's totally the real deal.

Players joined in, too; we even had one of our players compose a poem which one of the characters was meant to have found on an amateur poetry website. It was a good poem in its own right, yet it wasn't even a feature piece; it was casually tucked away within a comment in the middle of a long thread, and largely overlooked. Such was the attention to detail that was put into this work of fiction.

The aural aspect of the blog was particularly fun to play with. I figured Reyvateils probably rely on sound quite heavily, so I'd like to have included even more sound clips, but I'm no audio expert and they're fairly time-consuming to do. For the speeches in Hymmnos, I sent the scripts in English to Lazy and had him translate them into Pastalia Hymmnos and Standard Hymmnos respectively; the Pastalia Hymmnos was so insanely complex that I reduced it to a phonetic approximation of the syllables before sending it off to haounomiko, who performed as the voice of Mir and Shurelia. Deciare also aided in the translation of an important part of the Standard Hymmnos speech. Background crowd noise on the speeches was acquired from various YouTube videos, including some clips of street celebrations for Obama when I wanted the noise to lean more towards cheers than jeers. The song of the streets was created by blending whale song, New Age harmonic chants, and the Hymn of the Fayth from FFX played backwards. XD

The ending

...Yes, I "killed off" all my characters. I "killed off", at least in this timeline (I'm sure iterations of them that belong to any other stories you're writing will be just fine), all your characters. I hope that you're able to be comforted by the words of Sublimation, the knowledge that they truly are now in a better world, and this compilation of thoughts and reflections on the story.

My intention, for what it's worth, was not to craft a bad, cruel or negative ending. Rather, feeling that it got a raw deal in the original game, I wanted to write a story that showed a different side to Sublimation. I believe that change doesn't have to be a negative thing, that even such a complete transformation of the world we're used to doesn't have to be bad. I don't believe, as many stories want to argue, that we're necessarily best served by holding onto everything that makes us human (or Reyvateil, or Teru), including all the flaws.

I've also, since the end of AT1, wanted to see a story in which Mir finally gets to create the utopia she's always dreamed of. AT3 may yet be that story-- but just in case it isn't, I wanted to write this one, because I believe it's a story worth telling. Again, too often in stories (RPGs in particular), the person who wants a "perfect world" is shown to be misguided, because people would prefer to live on just the way we are. I think living on as we are is great-- but we can also, potentially, do better. For once, I wanted to write a story where the person changing the world was in the right.

On the flip side, that's not to say that there was no suffering or loss involved in the transformation. Even those who truly believed in the goodness and necessity of it had their doubts, at first. I had Mir give the characters five days to reflect on their situation because I wanted to highlight that, when confronted with the certainty of their world's ending-- even if they were explicitly told that that ending was for the better-- people would need time in which to process things. For some, even, five days didn't seem like enough. For others, no amount of time could ever truly feel like "enough". For others yet, five days was almost longer than they could bear. The main characters inhabited various spaces on that spectrum, at various points in time. I wanted to provide a space for people to explore the idea of what someone faced with a world on the brink of transformation would think, feel and do.

I hope I did a good job of conveying the bittersweet nature of the transition, from speech and sorrow to the final, hopeful event. If you haven't yet, please do listen to EXEC_over.METHOD_SUBLIMATION/. ~omness chs ciel sos infel~, read the lyrics as you listen, imagine Mir and Lyuma's voices singing to create the new world of spirits, and reflect on the time you spent among these characters and what they meant to you.

With your help, I was able to craft a much greater work of fiction than I ever could have alone.

Thank you for playing.

Feel free to add your thoughts, questions, character profiles, bits of info you never got to reveal on the blog, etc., etc. to this thread!


Well, that's it. The end. No more. No more comments on the Reyvablog, please. Sublimation has occurred.

We'll be back with an afterword post on exec_harmonious very shortly, where we'll be holding a cast party for everyone who's been reading (and watching) who wants to add their thoughts-- so please keep watching this blog for that. It ain't over 'til the Mir sings... oh. Never mind, then.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Reyvablog goes quasi-live.

Or at least, frequently updated.

Remember, 12 noon PST, 3pm EST on Friday, if you want to be there at the end of the world. Blogging will probably start an hour or two before that, so tune in early to keep up as things go along, but that's our final call.

(Why, yes, I did just cleverly conflate Pacific/Eastern time and Pastalia/Elemia time, how nice of you to notice. XD)

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

AR: screenshot showcase, and a little backstory

In these last days of the world of Ar Ciel, the homeless Reyvateils who slept outside AR's apartment complex are no longer there. She hopes that, wherever they've gone, it's somewhere safe, a warm and comfortable vantage point from which to watch the end of the world. Maybe they returned to their families, finally able to reconcile and put the issues that held them apart behind them. Or maybe some charitable soul was able to give them a new start. Either way, somehow, the atmosphere in these slums feels a little calmer, a little less laden with suffering and doubt, than it did several days ago. 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6

Back in AR's small apartment, the room seems cleansed by the still light of sunset, liquidy and gold. Even these dark places are slowly having their pall lifted from them, it seems, in preparation for a new world's arrival. Not a thing can feel too cruel, too cold, or too shabby in these final hours, for cruelty and coldness hover on the brink of banishment. 1 / 2 / 3

A sidenote: The doll is Amarie, the physical inspiration for AR's Mind Guardian. (Named that well before AT2 came out, incidentally! I guess it's a popular name in that world....)

She was actually once somewhat intelligent, about as much so as a household pet; the technology that produced Reyvateil-level artificial intelligence went through a lot of refinements, first creating beings with the mental capacities of simpler animals before going on to replicate humans. This cruder technology, in the modern day, is now fairly cheap, and is frequently used to produce toys for children that cost about as much as a "talking" doll using very simple technology would today.

Through the development of such beings-- possessing the intelligence level of animals, yet capable of speech-- humans learnt a lot about the emotional capacities and needs of various animals, and stronger animal cruelty laws were introduced in many nations. Ironically, however, the dolls themselves are often treated poorly for being "artificial", with many simply discarded when they break or the child gets tired of them. While they don't feel pain, don't take offence, and are generally extremely meek, kindly and non-destructive, in order that they might be fit playthings for children, they still have needs for comfort and security, which can often conflict with the desires of a child who sees themselves as having outgrown toys. Reyvateils are often much more sensitive to the needs of these toys than humans, and many have found them to be steadfast companions whom they treasure as dearly as flesh-and-blood pets.

AR has carried Amarie's physical counterpart with her from home to home since she was five years old, occasionally relying on advice from hobby forums in order to carry out servicing on her that she couldn't afford to pay someone to do. Several years ago, Amarie simply stopped functioning, and there seemed to be no way she could be repaired within the limits of AR's budget; AR debated whether to keep what in some ways seemed like a corpse, but found she simply couldn't bear to part with her. Thus Amarie now lives with her as a silent companion, a continuing source of comfort, yet her only life within AR's own mind.

Oddly enough, the time the doll-Amarie stopped working was around the same time as AR found herself out of reputable work and took up an unfortunate career on the streets. The symbolism of this is not lost on her.

In AR's mind, she wears a small suit of armour and carries a spear.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Hymmnos lacks words for a lot of things.

That little comic I talked about yesterday. (Warning: contains spoilers for today's Reyvablog plot.) Born as a result of the problems we had translating Mir's speech....