Void Engineers & the Masses

For the next in cut content from Convention Book: Void Engineers, a little snippet that was painful to cut: the first part of the relationships with the world section — The Masses and Extraordinary Citizens. Again, this isn’t edited text.

The Masses

For all your rockstars and hot shots out there, check your attitude when it comes to dealing with the Masses. They’re why we won’t abandon the Technocratic Union. We’re their first, second, and third lines of defense against anti-Consensus threats — not the Union’s defense, but the Masses.

It took the Dimensional Anomaly for many of us to wake up and realize our responsibility to the world at large. We do what we do for them, and in a sense they repay us. For even in light of worldwide struggles of prosperity, terror, and control, humanity still dreams — dreams of exploration of the stars and dreams of fantastical futures. That’s what we’re fighting for, to make the whole of the cosmos capable of supporting those dreams.

How that dream is realized among them shapes our Convention’s nature. China’s rising ambitions have transformed us by adding many Enlightened Chinese to the roster. The International Space Station has helped bridge cultural rifts that used to plague us, notably U.S. and Soviet members. That’s to say nothing of the beginning of the commercialization of space travel; while far from ready, it’s that inch closer to the big dream, and every step forward is a boost to the Masses’ hopes. So we do all we can to foster the spirit of exploration (and not just in outer space). For we don’t just lose the war if our enemies beat us; we lose if the Masses stop caring.

Some of us take this idea a bit further. One popular theory among the Void Engineers is that the Masses will manifest global Empowerment once the whole of the Universe is ready for them. It’s a tall and ultimately worthwhile order — that’s humanity’s destiny.

Extraordinary Citizens

An individual Extraordinary Citizen might be a potential recruit, but collectively they represent something far greater: hope for the Masses overall. Their rise is a fortune or blessing to us, as even though they aren’t capable of the full spectrum of Inspired Science, they’re able to serve without endangering their fellows with Paradox. Indeed, some of our most distinguished Border Corpsmen are Extraordinary Citizens. So show respect; the EC you meet today could be your CO tomorrow. (For relative values of “tomorrow.”)


On Cutting Text

This was one of the many cuts I made that sucked to do. There are two parts of each Convention book that I kept for myself: the introduction (since my job is to set tone and expectations, and I’ve read the whole book), and the relationships section (where I get to implant throughlines).

In N.W.O. and Syndicate, we wrote about the Masses. In Progenitors, for some reason I missed writing about that in the book — which no one caught until I did looking back in preparation for that Syndicate section. So, when I was looking for a few thousand words to cut from the book to make it be only slightly over budget, those 372 words above went on the block. Progenitors set precedent for that. And when I compare this text to some of the others we could cut, this feels more or less integrated with other sentiments throughout the book; it’s only explicitly stated here, but implied elsewhere. So, while painful to cut, it’s not like hacking off a limb.

To describe the whole process and publishing reality in short: the reason that there’s a word count budget even for PDF/POD products (which I realize baffles some people) is that there’s a financial budget for these projects. In the case of these Convention books, the word count budget is set based on an anticipated word count of 48,000; per the development contract, the project can’t come in less than that. Per a general sense of professionalism, we try to not go over by 5%, and by 10% is a lot. (Fun fact: Void Engineers goes over by around 10%.) The reason is that the more words writers write, the more words the developer has to develop. The more words a developer hands to an editor, the more words need editing, and the same for layout. But the payment doesn’t necessarily scale; it doesn’t in these cases. And some of the project’s creative expenses are invoiced before publication, which means that the project’s budget can’t adapt to the results of sales (unlike how it can with a Kickstarter campaign).

Part of this revolves around old publishing schools of thought regarding page counts and printing, though that still applies in POD land — for standard black & white POD from DriveThru/Lightning Source, the page count must be in multiples of 6; going over even one page costs the same, printing-wise, as having an additional six pages.

So when I get the initial proof to go through the book, I sighed a bit — there totally was room in that section for the above text, based on the amount of space at the end of that section. But this process is waterfall, not iterative like we have at Paizo or when I’m doing my own stuff, so once the text was laid out, there wasn’t any putting that missing text in. This isn’t the only time I found text I cut would have fit in a Convention book, but that’s the nature of the beast. C’est la vie.

As much as it sucks, it also causes us to actually finish projects, rather than constantly nitpick and never actually publish. I’m found of saying “Publishing is ancient Greek for ‘sub-optimal decisions and actions.'” (I vary it up, but that’s the general gist.)

– Ryan