Oops, I missed scheduling this! Thankfully I’m still up stupid late/stupid early, and can post it manually. Release notes include a diagram of the sectors and walls of the city, by popular request. After release notes comes the chapter itself. Read the chapter before the notes if you don’t want to know anything going in. I have plenty of room to go wild in the release notes, so for now I’ll just say ‘enjoy.’
Release notes, reflections, and wanderings…
Gregg is not our perspective character this chapter. Instead, we follow Liley, his brother-in-arms. “Brother,” “bro.” These terms interest me. “Bro”—frat boys, masculine privilege, dudes drinking booze and making jokes about the kinds of girls they’d like to bang. A problematic culture, to say the least. And the communism of the “bro” is necessarily one that excludes the weakness/uncoolness/unchillness/etc. of the woman. Is it possible to queer (v.) the term?
I like to think of ‘brony’ as a queer identifier applying to My Little Pony fans of all genders. A stubborn progressive, I want “bro” to be an equalizer. I think it was Jay-Z who had some lyric like “ladies is pimps too.” Why can’t girls be bros? Why can’t uncool guys, who maybe don’t buy so much into the backwards-hat-wearing, beer-guzzling misogyny of frat row? It’s an issue of usage, perception, the agreed-upon army of metaphors and metonyms, yada yada.
I’m also fascinated with urban myths commonly found in at least anime (and probably elsewhere, I imagine) along the lines ‘men and women can’t be friends’ — the whole, you’re either romantically involved, or not involved thing. Those kinds of narratives are such bullshit to me. It seems they have to be predicated upon sexual attraction and the tensions it places on relationships, but then what of gays and other non-normative populations? Can a lesbian be friends with another lesbian? What about with a straight man? Friendship is such a weird idea, of course; maybe humans aren’t ‘meant’ to make friends. But when we tell stories about men and women not being friends, it implies a prescription of homosociality: men should be friends with men; women, with women.
Homosciality. Bros. The inevitability of sexual attraction.
These are a few of the things revolving in my head as I deal with the structure of Watch, the culture of Watch, and the relationships of its members. In a basically sex-blind city-state, in which brothels are equal opportunity and men and women serve side by side in the military, what kinds of differences would still exist between the men and the women? Which of those differences would be necessary? Which would be ‘issues’ the culture is actively trying to overcome, and which would go completely unnoticed?
Liley clearly has feelings for Gregg, and Gregg for Liley. They are attracted to each other, despite being “bros.” Does this subvert Watch’s insistence on pure brotherhood? Or does it call for a more radical, no-sex-barred brotherhood?
There is little time for contemplation, however, as the city is plunged into chaos. The explosion from last chapter proves to be significant, and the fallout is not easily contained. Whatever Watch’s sex-dynamic goals, they’re not too relevant when the grimy Sector 5, home to the city’s black markets and crime gangs and less reputable businesses, erupts. As smoke piles high above Citadel, what will become of the meticulous structure Watch strove to maintain? Liley’s thoughts might gravitate toward the man she loves, but in the end she’s alone with her duties and her orders. The city has gone mad. Liley finds herself in what seems a unique position to recreate stability.
Speaking of the city’s stability—Gray is instrumental.
“Eat up,” say the posters.
The city is just a city, and beyond the city is dust. A monotonous city needs a monotonous food source. I don’t want to say too much about Dr. Grace Valence right now, especially since the story decided that exposition regarding her would be forced and out of place at this time, but we’ll see her again. Is it wrong for Liley to notice and appreciate her killer looks? Would beauty have cultural value in the dusk city? Gregg finds Liley pretty; for now, I’ll let Liley find Gray pretty. Of course, Gray isn’t just pretty.
One thing I worry about in this story is a dearth of character descriptions. If that dearth is a problem, please let me know in the comments. It’s something I’m willing to work more on. I thought I’d try something less descriptive and more… whatever this is. But like most everything I do, it’s an experiment, and sometimes experiments fail.
On that note, I hope the chapter is enjoyable, along with these notes, for whatever they’re worth.
Following is a schematic diagram of the city, bird’s eye view, by popular request. It’s kind of crude, but I think you’ll find it does the job. Click for full size!