The House Built of Pain aka "The Scandian Mega"


#21

So I thought when I put this up a year ago I included on some notes on how I originally planned to end it, but I didn’t, so here they are:

Flashy Stuff:
-GIANT ROBOTS FIGHTING!!! Dracoforms fighting an actual Dragon! A Dracoform made of Seraphim plastic! I felt really torn about this, because on the one hand I wanted a realistic look at how a brutal regime with an efficient military would wage a counterinsurgency, but I also wanted GIANT ROBOTS!

Heart of the Wolf
-“The tragedy of the Scandian League is that Halder Skalice is not a great man.” This has been in the back of my mind ever since the Leviathan War, and I even used as a characterization device then as part of why he made such an interesting foil for TO Halberg. TO Halberg was a larger than life figure who led his nation out of the ashes of war; Skalice, though every bit as good on the battlefield, refuses to stand up to Travin to enact change, even though he is probably the only person who could do so.

The Travin-Halder relationship was supposed to have several major inflection points:
-In the “Dawn” flashbacks, we see Halder agrees with Travin not to suppress a Communist takeover of the country. As the current leadership is corrupt and hopelessly incompetent, Halder thinks this is the only way to keep the country safe.
-After several giant robot battles, the last bits of the Yellow Turbans are holed up in Wisdon, behind a magical barrier. No weapon can penetrate it, but eventually they figure out that air MUST be able to get inside so people can breath. It would be possible to kill them all with poison gas.
Travin gives the order, and Halder objects. "They are fully contained, they are mostly women and children. We would be violating the Hosluftgrad Conventions. This is an unnecessary act of barbarity."
Travin admonishes Halder for being “selfish.” "You must think of “us,” of “we”. Their very continued existence defies us. If word of their continued defiance spreads, we run the risk of others following their example. The other Great Powers would smell blood and carve us up."
Halder and Travin go back and forth for a while, but eventually concedes that koyzha is right, that for the safety of “all of us”, the rebels must be gassed.
And then Halder goes and has the same argument AGAIN with second in command, except he’s the one arguing FOR poison gas. (“You’ve become soft, living among these, these degenerates. Freethinkers. Tasnicans.”) He’s not just grudgingly doing it; he has accepted and internalized the logic of the regime, and become its enforcer.

-In another flashback post, Travin and Halder visit the construction site of the first Dracoform (cameo appearance by Jendon Fel!). Halder objects to the Dracoform: it’s too expensive, it emphasizes form over function, it’s too slow for the rest of the speedy, deceptive army he’s building, it’s the wrong for the wrong time. As the Dragon slowly lumbers to life, Travin chastises his general: "Your problem, my good Halder, is that you lack vision."
Which of course, is entirely true: he’s good at winning battles, good at this tactical game of positioning Scande among the Great Powers, but he doesn’t have an idea to change Scande into a different kind of country, or ever see himself in charge, or even see Scandian dominance of the Web as a means to anything other than survival.

Finally, after all the fighting is done, and the Yellow Turbans are put down. Travin summons everyone to party headquarters – all the party leadership – and announces he has found a conspiracy to destroy the league. He reads a list of names, who are traitors, who are escorted out of the room. People inside the room can hear the firing squad. About a quarter of the party’s leadership is pulled away and executed; most of them had nothing to do with the Yellow Turban Rebellion and were actually quite loyal communists. Travin is doing it basically to show he can. (“Yellow is for the soil of our homeland. Red is for the blood of the Scandian people. Black is for our EVIL! Don’t fuck with us!”)

After Travin reads the last of the names, he announces that today is a merry occasion. A large samovar of vodka and plates of caviar and other food are brought in.

“In honor of the many sacrifices of the great men of the nation, and the great victories of our glorious military, today will henceforth be known as SLCM Day. I would like to give our great commander, Halder Skalice, the opportunity to make a speech commemorating this day.”

Halder is stunned (and he pretty much expected to get shot, because in the scene before this he helped Enrika escape the country.) After a moment of silence, he simply raises a glass. “To the greatest of all men, Comrade Travin Rumanski.”

The survivors all cheer, and clap, all the better to drown out the shooting and screaming outside.

Re-reading this post makes me sad…although some of this stuff is interesting, and who could argue with giant draconic robots, it also feels overstuffed and overambitious. There are too many characters there filling roles without a lot of personalities, and although names on a page can ascend, not everyone can be Damien Gavalian. I think some of my better “late Kupopolis” work was more focused. There’s all this cool stuffed, but it also feels sandbagged by one-shots doomed to die, a slow-burn plot that never went anywhere, and some random world-building I wanted to shoehorn in because I was in my “let’s make Kupopolis religions” phase.

It makes me think about where I want to go in Kupopolis Reborn – there’s a great character story here in House Built of Pain, and plenty of room for Giant Robots, but it feels sandbagged by a bunch of stuff I felt compelled to include at that point in my Kupopolis career. (I feel the same way today reading continuity-heavy comics). Part of this is I always felt guilty about how much attention I gave Scande; they seemed to be the unloved middle child of my creations, having neither the long history of interaction of Tasnica or the GA nor the energy I felt inclined to lavish on shiny new toys. (It felt deeply unfair for Tasnica to have two megas AND be my focus in Neo and Scande to have zero.)

Although, to be fair, the whole point of Scande was that they were locked in stasis – the one person who could really change things was too afraid to act. Almost all of the notable Scandians were military people, and really the only thing I could think to have them do was go fight non-Scandians. I loved Sheila Sporr during the Robotics Tournament, but I felt hard-pressed to come up with more stuff for her to do (though she was supposed to have an arc, here, the gist of which was that she doesn’t pay enough attention to her disabled brother who idolizes her until he’s killed BECAUSE HE HAS A GODDESS KEY OH EVERYTHING IS INTERCONNECTED!!!)

Let’s end this on what was always Halder’s theme song:

youtube.com/watch?v=OTQcJx7xqAc

“Nothing’s gonna change my world.”

(And yeah, it has to be Laibach, the official band of Scande.)


#22

Oh, nice! I was wondering how this one ended. You gotta feel for Halder. Even more so if he ends up being one of the post-White Cell Generalissimos.

I also hear you, regarding feeling weighed down by all I did before; I know that took its toll. I was juggling, after awhile, the Esper Union, everything in Crystal, a couple corporations, a huge independent space fleet, and a cast of characters woven through and beyond them. I had my babies and my neglected babies that needed protective services to take them away and give them to a good home. Eventually, the weight was just too much, since 25 year-old graduate student Gabe couldn’t do the consistent writing output that 21 year-old undergraduate Gabe could.


#23

Oh, one more detail I had forgotten:

Halder was going to learn about TO Halberg’s death near the end of the post, after the fighting was done. He was going to go into a rage, becoming inconsolable over the death of his frenemy, the man who represents the soul of a nation in a way he couldn’t.

I had started writing this post before Halberg was dead and Tex killed him off partway through. I kinda liked the idea Skalice didn’t hear about it until the end.