“…And He Built a Crooked Hub” Annotations

Warning: contains spoilers

 

Illustration

p. 78-9

My thoughts on Josh Meehan’s illustration of the Starship Entropy can be found in this blog post.

 

Scene 1

 No notes.

 

Scene 2

 p. 80

Nashira’s disdain for American beer reflects the Australian part of her upbringing.

Rynyan’s folding of his tapering fingers is a nod to his pose in Vladimir Bondar’s illustration for the Russian translation of “The Hub of the Matter” (titled “В Гуще Событий”/“V Gushche Sobytiy,” meaning “In the Thick of Things”) in the December 2010 Esli Magazine. I’ve always liked how well that illustration captured the leads’ personalities.

p. 81

Rynyan jumping Nashira’s claim on “Rynyan’s Rings” was depicted in “The Hub of the Matter.” An ad for the Rings as a holiday spot appears as interstitial material in Hub Space: Tales from the Greater Galaxy.

The running gag of Tsshar’s compulsive pickpocketing is the first Marx Brothers element in this story—it was a trademark of Harpo Marx’s nonverbal comedy—but it won’t be the last.

p. 82

The Ziovris incident occurred in “Home is Where the Hub Is.”

This scene was complicated to structure, and was originally two scenes that delayed getting to the fun parts. Hub stories take me a lot of time and effort to write, because it takes trial and error to find the best comic timing. Having business like Nashira and Tsshar’s pickpocketing war going on during the exposition is a good way to maintain the pacing and humor. So I sometimes write different discussions and interactions separately and then realize I need to blend and overlap them, playing them off each other for comic effect and faster pacing. The scenes with David’s family in “Make Hub, Not War” required a similar creative process.

 

Scene 3

 p. 82

Opmlqh, named here for the first time, was introduced in the opening scene of “Home is Where the Hub Is.”

p. 83

Rynyan’s partnership with the fanatics was seen in “Make Hub, Not War.”

“Octacube” is one of the less common names for a 24-cell 4-dimensional solid, essentially the 4D equivalent of a tetrahedron in the same way that a tesseract is to a cube. But I thought it was the best-sounding name out of the options. I was originally just going to make the safe another tesseract, but a bit of research revealed there were other 4D shapes I could use.

p. 84

I’ve noticed a tendency in a number of TV shows that include LGBT characters to be more evasive about showing physical intimacy between same-sex male lovers than female ones. For instance, Arrow gave Sara Lance and Nyssa al Ghul a fair number of makeout scenes, but Curtis Holt and his husband Paul never seemed to touch at all or even look like they wanted to. If I was going to write a romance between two men for the first time in my career, I knew I had to approach it exactly the same way I’d approach any other romance. And for me, that means being fairly frank with the nudity and sexuality. If anything, I probably overcompensated a bit, presenting David and Julio in a way that would feel too indulgent of my own fantasies if I’d done it with female characters. But that comes later.

 

Scene 4

 p. 85

Morjepas returns from “Home is Where the Hub Is,” which is where Nashira made her deal to end the Dosperhag’s “accident” attempts.

 

Scene 5

 p. 86

I only vaguely described the Qhpong in “Home is Where the Hub Is.” My description here is influenced by John Allemand’s illustration for the story in its original Analog publication (Dec. 2010, pp. 70-71), though not precisely based upon it.

The Sarlacc, of course, is the toothy and tentacled monster that gobbled up Boba Fett in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.

p. 87

“But it was lovely getting to talk to you about something other than a male for a change!”: Here I’m poking fun at my own inadequate success at passing the Bechdel test in my previous Hub stories. Though Nashira and Opmlqh did have a conversation in HIWTHI (passing Bechdel parameter #2), only one of them was named at the time (failing #1) and their conversation was exclusively about a man, namely David (failing #3). In fact, the Qhpong wasn’t even identified as female until after their conversation.

“Have you met Yldai?”: The story’s second Marx Brothers nod, an anagrammatic reference to a line from Groucho Marx’s famous ribald song “Lydia, the Tattooed Lady,” written by Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen and appearing in the 1939 MGM Marx Brothers film At the Circus.

p. 88

It was around this point in writing the story that I realized the flaw in my plot logic: If the characters could see through an open door, they’d know where it led before going through. So I had to concoct the blurry effect to make the story work. Although it’s still not a perfect fix. Nashira would’ve naturally missed noticing the blur the first time, when she fled the frozen room, but she had her eyes wide open the second time. Then again, she was also in quite a hurry, so she might not have stopped to notice the effect. Similarly, Rynyan steps through with confident haste, not stopping to look first. Later on, Mayte and the partygoers are probably chemically impaired enough not to notice or care, and David jumps through a door in haste his first time. After that, everyone in the suite is probably aware of the phenomenon, and newcomers from outside apparently can’t see the effect.

An “unfolded” tesseract, or tesseract net, looks like this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesseract#/media/File:8-cell_net.png As you can see, there’s one cube that can’t be accessed directly from the center cube. I never recognized that issue before I wrote this story, so my prior references to the suite having seven rooms had to be fudged a bit to mean five single rooms and a double.

Pizza delivery fantasies are apparently a mainstay of porn, for some reason. Or so I gather.

p. 90

Originally, I had David and Nashira pass briefly through the frozen room before ending up in Chojieg’s, requiring Nashira to massage David’s nude body to warm him up. That was one of the bits in the first draft that went a little too far and almost got the story rejected.

The towel incident on Renziov is from “Home Is Where the Hub Is.”

 

Scene 6

 p. 92ff

And it’s all been building to this. By now it should be clear why I’ve been referencing the Marx Brothers—the climactic scene is an homage to the classic stateroom sketch from A Night at the Opera, first and greatest of the Marxes’ MGM films. It’s a great opportunity to go all-out with the zaniest comedy scene I’ve ever written professionally, with the bonus that it’s a situation of genuine, escalating peril for David, Nashira, and the rest. Rynyan basically ends up playing Groucho, while Tsshar continues to reflect Harpo once she shows up.

p. 94

Yolien seems to have gotten a promotion since his introduction as the front desk clerk in “The Hub of the Matter.” Good for him.

For the record, the rooms of Suite 47 are numbered and occupied as follows:

  • Room 1: Chojieg
  • Room 2: Vacant (frigid), with cleaning robot
  • Room 3: Yldai
  • Room 4: David LaMacchia
  • Room 5: Opmlqh, aka “Millie”
  • Rooms 6/7: Anya, Mayte, and conventiongoers/partiers from Sol

Nashira’s path through the suite: Room 2 => 5 => 3 => 6/7 (with abortive forays into 1 & 2) => 4 => 1 => 5 => 3.

The full tally of occupants in Room 3 at its most crowded, in order of arrival:

  • Chojieg
  • Nashira, David, Julio
  • Yldai
  • Mayte, 2 other partiers
  • Rynyan, Anya, 1 other partier
  • Hevhuo
  • 3 partiers
  • Millie
  • Hevhuo’s assistant
  • Tsshar
  • Yolien
  • 4 bellhops (assuming 2 trays each)
  • Cleaning robot (partway)

Total: 23 people, 0.5 automata

p. 94-5

The last touch I added to the first draft of the story was the detail about Yldai and the safe, which let the subplot of identifying the spy work as an honest mystery that the reader could solve if they were attentive enough—one more genre piled into the stateroom of this story along with the Marx Brothers, Heinlein, and bedroom-farce influences. Originally, I just made a joke of it, with Rynyan citing the made-up clue no reader could possibly know as if it were obvious. But I wasn’t satisfied until I came up with a genuine clue on top of that.

 

Scene 7

p. 95-6

As I mentioned in my “Hubpoint of No Return” notes, I realized that Rynyan’s constant pursuit of Nashira felt too much like sexual harassment, especially if he was going to be her boss, so I had him become enlightened and lay off of her. But I thought it might be funny to reverse the dynamic—to have Nashira start desiring Rynyan while Rynyan rejected her, to make her the aggressor for a change, which seemed a more appropriate role for her.

Although that runs up against the problem that Rynyan is right: It would be inappropriate for Nashira to seduce her boss, and that might not be the greatest position to put her in on an ongoing basis. So she probably won’t go after Rynyan as persistently as he went after her, but it does change the dynamic between them in an interesting way. Mainly because it’s the last place Nashira ever imagined herself being—not only in bed with Rynyan, but feeling more trust and respect for him while being at odds with David.

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