FAQ / February 6, 2019 AAAC FAQ #1

Since I’m getting asked the same questions from multiple people, I’m going to start a FAQ series about The Anti-Anti-Anti-Christs.

How did YOU envision the characters?
I didn’t, actually. That’s partly down to my aphantasia, but also an intentional process: On each pass, I would search-and-replace all the character names to something new, to keep me from associating the name with an identity. After a while, they became defined by their decision trees and speech patterns, to the point where, when I’m talking about them in a post such as this, I can’t think of how to refer to them at all.

OK, but what gender did you pick, at least?
It was all down to technical issues. I knew I had to use all the same pronoun sets while writing, so all the characters were female (imagine how you structure sentences between two women vs a man and a woman… no “he said/she said” shortcuts allowed). I figured search-and-replacing “she” was going to be easier than “he” (fewer collisions with other words). Turns out, s+r isn’t really a great idea for complex prose. And even worse, I totally forgot about “her/her” in English. Think of it this way: “she put on her hat” vs “who did it? Her.” With he/his pronouns, that’s: “he put on his hat” and “who did it? Him.” Converting all those her/her instances properly was way harder than it should’ve been. I’m sticking with an all-male cast next time 🙂

What happened to “they” pronouns?
Ugh, English sucks. “He kicks the ball across the street and jumps into his car.” vs “They kick the ball across the street and jump into their car.” It’s not just the “they/their” instances, it’s how you treat the other verbs in the sentence. I’m trying to build a parser that recognizes such issues, but it may just come down to adding another layer to the raw text to allow it to handle things properly.

How do you even write like this?
Well, the first draft is straight-up text like a normal book. Then I go through and replace each character’s details, one by one, and proofread the whole thing as I go. The exact syntax is: [aaac-rebel-fname] or [aaac-rebel-zis]. Why ‘zis’? Because that pronoun set has zero collisions (no two items are the same) and it’s close enough to the he/she set that I grew up with, that I can wrap my head around it intuitively without looking things up all the time 🙂

How is this powered?
I actually wrote the software myself, from the presentation to the editor I use to “enhance” the text. It’s mostly just Javascript (with some jQuery because I’m lazy) and it auto-saves by writing to the server via a quick PHP script. When 2019 is done and I’ve built all I can build out of this sucker, I’ll open source it. But for now, it’s a little too kludgy to let into the wild.

And this concludes our broadcast day. I’ve gotta get back to writing episode 2…