A Fiction Agreed Upon Hiatus!

July 8, 2020

This is going to be a weird post for me.

First, I don’t like posting about myself. It makes me uncomfortable. I like to just exist as a conduit: my creativity flowing through me to the page for your eyes. But I felt, very strongly, that I needed to explain why I am I putting A Fiction Agreed Upon on hiatus.

And because I am me and I will never make a story short if I can make into a epic (sorry, Hemmingway) here is a little bit of backstory.

I came up with the concept for AFAU in 2016, during the summer. It quickly spiraled into the version you see now, with a cast of millions, world building, themes, ect. Then the American election happened, and I ended up changing some things. You see, in the original draft of AFAU, I was going to include far more “problematic” historical figures than the cast I have planned today. For example, I was not just going to have one Adolf Hitler, I was going to have TWO, a young artist and the Furher.

This is because the driving thrust of AFAU has always been about how we (society) evaluate history and the people who make it. Would the Year Three Thousand look on a young Adolf, whose ambition is to paint, with pity? Hate? Fear? And how would it change their interactions with a Hitler who is at the end of his life, the murder of twenty million? How would that in turn affect his relationship with Napoleon and Napoleon with Robespierre and Robespierre with Machiavelli, so on and so forth.

After November 2016, this changed. I knew I could not, would not, ever be comfortable with using Hitler. How could I be when global politics was taking such a turn to the conservative right? How could I interrogate people like Hitler (never mind the actual man), investigate and question without people mistaking my intentions, thinking that I was endorsing that kind of monstrous brutality?

To be absolutely clear: I don’t and never will. Academic curiosity could never justify it in my mind. Hitler should go down as a monster in history.

So I dialed it back. I re-evaluated my ‘cast list’. I made changes in response to real life. I know there are other creative minds out there who will insisted that you should never compromise your art to modern stresses. I don’t always agree with that.

But I didn’t want to lose that angle. So, I didn’t cut all of them, but I tried to strive for balance. If I had Napoleon I needed to have Toussaint L’Ouverture. I wanted to question history and for history to examine itself.

But now…

2020 is a bizarre time to live in as a historian. I guess this is how Horace Walpole felt in 1793. You have beliefs about the world around you and then everything gets turned on it’s head and you just aren’t sure about anything anymore.

Season Three of A Fiction Agreed Upon is/was going to dramatically increase the number of Historical Figure running around. Elizabeth the First, Catharine the Great, Lewis, Clark and Sacajawea. I had/have a long subplot about the Founders and Framers of the American Constitution that was going to loop Jerimiah (the alien who met Rain in the Louvre in season one) back into the plot.

But now I don’t think I should. At least not right now.

How can I justify talking about Thomas Jefferson, who knowingly, through his whole life, was willing and eager to prop up racism and slavery?

How can I justify talking about Andrew Jackson whose legislature continued and massively increased the slow rolling genocide of Indigenous Americans?

How can I justify talking about Magpie Jones, a non-binary person, who is going to have to keep explaining their gender identity to nearly everyone they’re risking everything to help?

And the list goes on!

The White Plague, the Second American Civil War, World War Three. Debates on what goes into recorded history and who gets left out and why. The scenes of militaristic oppression and violence on a resisting population who is trying to demand answers from their leadership.

How can I justify writing any of this in 2020, when it is so fucking close to the reality we are living in?

The answer: I can’t.

I just

Can’t.

I won’t. It’s not the right thing to do right now.

The same reason why I would not use Hitler in 2016 is the reason I will not write this in 2020. It’s just not appropriate.

I don’t know when AFAU is going to come back.

I do think it will eventually come back, mostly because it’s a keystone project to the rest of the Extended Universe, but it won’t be the same. I must do a lot of rigorous thinking about my approach.

It is heartbreaking to post this. I’ve put a lot into A Fiction Agreed Upon. It’s important to me. But it’s still not as heartbreaking as what a lot of black, queer, immigrant or indigenous people are suffering today, right now, in 2020.

And this is why AFAU is going on hiatus.

Thank you for understanding.

  • Elaine.

P.S. This is not to say that I won’t be posting. I’ll post essays, reviews, short stories or flash fiction. Maybe previews of one of the other million projects I’m working on. Just not AFAU. Not for a while.

Season Two. Episode Twenty Three: Arrivals. Part Three.

Over the next few days Leonardo noticed a distinct shift in the mood of the castle.

“Fencing?” He repeated when Aspen told them at breakfast.

She nodded. “Yeah. Sword fighting for practice. It’s great for your reflexes and flexibility.” She took a bite of her breakfast, pieces of sugared wheat and dried fruit in milk. “Probably strength too, if you use heavy swords.”

“Will you be teaching us?” Napoleon asked, casting a dubious look over Aspen.

She shook her head. “I never learned. It’ll be Kami.”

Leonardo frowned. “I do not approve of violence in that way.” He shook his head. “I do not want to fence.”

“No one will make you, don’t worry Leo.” Aspen smiled at him then glanced at his breakfast: coffee. “But uh, you should definitely have something other than that. Otherwise Russo might make you eat that cup, too.”

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Season Two. Episode Twenty Three: Arrivals. Part One.

Robespierre had just rejoined them, and Richard was sharply reminded of how much he disliked the diminutive Frenchman when he limped his way up from the kitchens, into the grand entrance. He clutched the heavy shawl around his shoulders. He also wore a pair of heavily tinted glasses. He looks the part of a beggar, Richard thought. Robespierre hair had also been shaved down to the scalp and it appeared to grow like a wild hedge.

“Cold,” he rasped. Richard had heard that something happened to his throat, reducing his voice to whisper.

“Yes, it is rather. Here,” Russo pushed a cup of tea over to him. “You’ll warm up.”

Richard rolled his eyes. Across from him Bonaparte had stood up to sit down next to Robespierre, who looked up at him. Bonaparte bent toward him, whispering something that Richard couldn’t hear but made Robespierre suddenly smile widely, stretching the scars over his face.

“Aw, that’s sweet,” Aspen Strong said. She was seated next to Richard, also watching as Bonaparte and Robespierre bonded over something.

Richard snorted and Strong nudged him playfully. “Come on. He was such a soggy plum after we got him back. Frankly this is way better.”

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Season Two. Episode Twenty Two: All Burst to Light. Part Three.

Maximilien focused on keeping his eyes closed. Even the very dim light filtering through made his temples throb in a muted agony. He knew that the subtle sting of something in his hand was helping to keep it at bay, he’d managed to parse that much since waking up. There was a lightly accented woman’s voice that kept up a steady stream of chatter, likely so he could easily track it around the room.

“This is going to be cold, but the medicine in it is going to help the inflammation in your eyes. We need it to go down before I can start working on your corneas.” There was a gentle clattering nearby and he flinched. “I’m curious, have you always been sensitive to light?”

He tried to swallow, throat still aching. But he was able to force the syllable out. “Yes.” His voice was a quiet raspy husk of what it used to be.

“There’s not a single portrait of you with them on,” the voice remarked. “Was that a vanity thing?”

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Season Two. Episode Twenty-Two: All Burst to Light. Part Two.

PART TWO.

Napoleon had always awoken early. He just couldn’t stand the feeling of wasting time on sleep. When he’d been on campaign, he would sometimes wake just after midnight to pour over his maps or wake his aides to send missives.

Now stuck, he still found himself waking early, wandering through the castle, often ending up in the Harmony Susuki’s study, where he could easily spend hours reading through the various war reports that had happened since his death.

Typically, one of the women would find him, chin propped on his hand, staring unblinkingly at the diagrams of battles long won.

However, for once he was interrupted by something far more interesting: raised voices outside of the door. Napoleon leaned back in the chair, looking over at the door.

“Are you sure you want to do this, Jerome? You don’t-“

“I have to do this, Mags. It won’t take a genius to put together that Julia’s source is me. Since Miller saw Aspen they’re definitely going to know we had something to do with this if I stick around.”

There was silence. Napoleon, cognizant of the creaking chair, stood up and padded over the door.

“We’ll miss you. Everyone,” Jones said quietly. The tall negro was facing away from Napoleon, but he could see Jenkins face. The young man ran a hand over his face and sighed.

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Season Two. Episode Twenty-Two: All Burst to Light. Part One.

Maxime was drowning in blood.

It was in his mouth, his throat. The very smell made his eyes water and churned his stomach. He was trapped wherever he was, standing in a warm pool of blood that he couldn’t avoid getting into his mouth.

He wanted to scream. But he didn’t dare open his mouth, for fear of all of it flooding it into him. Then, much to his horror, he could feel it creep up his face. Into his nose, leaking into his mouth past his lips and clenched teeth. It stung as it got into his eyes, warm and salty as tears.

He was fully swallowed in it before he finally decided to just open his mouth and let it happen.

Maximilien woke with a gasp.

He failed under an unfamiliar weight. Something was covering him from neck to feet and he couldn’t claw his way out from under it.

I’m drowning!

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Season Two. Episode Twenty One: Dante in Hell.

Episode Twenty One – Dante in Hell.

A/N: Specially formatted extra-long episode! Aspen Strong: Secret Agent: The Movie. 

This was such a terrible idea, Aspen thought to herself.

She was barely floating along, using just enough of a propulsion to gently drift towards the Bastille, which loomed ever closer. The red emergency lighting made all the blue controls on her panel pop, but only served to remind her that she couldn’t use any of them. If the Bastille detected any unauthorized  ship coming towards them and inquired, it would ruin everything.

Such a bad, bad idea. Why didn’t I leave for Mars?!

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Season Two. Episode Twenty: The Destruction Cycle. Part Three.

PART THREE

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Kami said quietly.

“No.”

“No, you’re not sure?”

Aspen sighed and rubbed her forehead. “No, I’m positive this is a terrible idea. The number of things that can go wrong is ridiculous. But I swore to Magpie I was going to go along with this.”

She was walking Kami and Harmony out to the transporter point. They were preparing to go pick up Cherry for the holiday break and then onto the interstellar travel depot to go to the Martian colony. The flyer was nearly prepared for its slow mission disguised a piece of junk. They had the information from Julia about the security rounds on the Bastille.

Everything was in place, but Aspen still felt a horrible sense of unease. She was sleeping poorly, expecting Chikara Haruka and Marie Rivera to break open the door of her condo and arrest her. Probably hide her on the Bastille like they did with Robespierre and leave her forgotten in the dark.

Aspen shivered and rolled her shoulders back, looking over her shoulder. Middleham was shrouded in mist, a light layer of snow and frost covering the stiffened and dead grass.

Kami touched her hand. “You don’t have to, you know. You can get out of here too.”

Aspen shook her head. “I gave my word.”

“Are we ready to go, love?” Harmony asked gently. “You’ll take care, Aspen?”

Kami walked over to the console with Harmony. She waved for a moment, face still pinched and then they were both gone. Aspen sighed and stood there for a long moment before finally about-facing to head back to the castle.

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Season Two. Episode Twenty: The Destruction Cycle. Part Two.

Leonardo cursed as he cut his hand on yet another piece of jagged metal. He withdrew it and examined the slice that ran along his palm.

“Careful,” Harmony admonished, distractedly. “The dermal regenerator is on the table.”

Leonardo slid out from under the ship and rolled to his feet, staggering slightly. He put a hand up to his head. It felt slightly fuzzy and Leonardo shook to clear it.

He picked the regenerator and examined it. It was simply a metal wand, with a flat panel. Leonardo placed the panel over the cut, which was still bleeding sluggishly. He pressed the button on the top and the small machine lit up blue and hummed. Leonardo hissed as he could feel his skin knit back together. After a moment, he took it away. All that was a left was a thin pink line.

Leonardo adored the future.

He yawned as he turned back to the ship. Aspen Strong was on top of the flyer, using a laser tool to mold two pieces of metal to the top. It was blackened and already punctured with holes.

“I can’t believe I have to do this to my ship. This is butchery,” she muttered.

“It’s the Federation’s ship, Aspen,” Harmony said. He stood and stretched. “I need to go check in with Kami and Mags. Do you want anything?”

“Coffee,” Leonardo said.

Aspen looked at him sharply. “Have you had any water today, Leo?”

Leonardo cocked his head. “No. Why would I?”

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Season Two. Episode Twenty: The Destruction Cycle. Part One.

Once Maximilien had given Charlotte and Henriette one of his beloved doves to care for. A moment of childish negligence and the poor bird was dead.

He’d given Camille to Georges for careful keeping in the way he needed to be watched and as a lamb taken in by a lion, Camille had been destroyed.

He’d carefully helped craft a document to free France from her chains and within months seen it betrayed and violated.

Maximilien’s whole life was a constant cycle of destruction. He would nurture and build only to see it pulled apart like cooked meat as soon as he turned his attention away.

Something must have been wrong with him, if Maxime could never care for things the way they needed to be cared for. Now, he was being punished for it.

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Season Two. Episode Nineteen: Human Needs. Part Three.

PART THREE.

Richard longed for a paper book.

The slick glass tablets, thin a piece of parchment, did not hold the same feeling of satisfaction as holding a page and turning it to reveal the next. The slippery action of sliding his fingers along the screen was too fast, too immaterial.

Richard did take solace in the fact that there now there was much more to read, indeed more than he ever thought he could read if given another ten lifetimes, but bitterly longed for paper.

He’d remained in his room, today. The atmosphere of the castle was distinctly cold since the discussion of Robespierre. Leonardo had been his usual distant self, only conversing with the guards and the staff in tense, quiet tones. Bonaparte, too, had been quiet, reading and mumbling to himself in a corner of the solar lounging in a chair with his feet to the fire.

Richard had no desire to speak to this self proclaimed Emperor of the French. He did not seek out the company of Leonardo. He felt the quiet disdain of the staff and guards. Richard, as he had for so much of his life, had no company but himself.

He sat in his room and studied the grounds instead. The weather had stripped the leaves from the trees and he felt that there was snow on the way. Richard had noticed that it seemed to roll in harshly, unexpectedly. He shuddered. Were the seasons not even a constant he could depend on, anymore?

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Season Two. Episode Nineteen: Human Needs. Part One.

PART ONE.

It was an extremely strange experience to sit down in the ancient dining hall in front of a replicated dinner with Leonardo da Vinci across from her and Napoleon next to her. Aspen took a bite of her sandwich and watched Napoleon struggle with his burger. 

“You don’t eat it with a knife,” she pointed out and took the opportunity to take some of his french fries.

“I’m not some savage or student, to eat with my hands,” Napoleon snorted. He persevered with the fork and knife.

Leonardo was clearly lost in his own head, eating with his right hand and sketching with his left. It looked like the designs of an eagle or falcon in flight. 

Harmony and Kami were getting ready to head out for the night, standing in the entryway, speaking to Magpie. Richard was sitting at one end of the table, eating steadily and ignoring Russo who was sitting at the other end. She eschewed dinner, studying the maps of the land around Middleham. 

“Is this whole damn castle built on a swamp? The only safe places to build would be inside the castle walls,” she asked aloud, pointedly.

Richard scowled. “The ground is steady enough to hold the castle,” he snapped.

Russo glared at him. “It won’t always be. You should see the state of the plumbing,” she muttered, looking back down. 

Aspen hid her smile in her coffee. She wasn’t above being amused by petty bitching between the doctor and the Englishman.

Above them, there was the electronic whine of an engine and she glanced up. Cutting it close, Jerome.

Aspen stood and stretched. She grabbed the last bite of her sandwich and stuffed it into her mouth, getting ready to be relieved of duty. Let Jerome keep the keep, as it were. 

But instead of the calm saunter that she expected from Jerome, the door exploded inward, nearly taking out Harmony. Jerome wasn’t even in uniform but he looked wild, his eyes red and breathing heavily. Everyone stopped and looked up at him.

Before anyone could ask Jerome, he spoke. “I know where Robespierre is!”

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