Hi! I’m Jonathan Lovelace, an aspiring author, occasional poet, game designer, software developer, and 2009 graduate of Calvin College. Welcome to the Shine Cycle Online!
Each week, this blog features a new post in each of five quite different “departments.” Since this organization appears to confuse some newcomers, I’ve written this “sticky” post to introduce myself, the blog, and its subjects—briefly here, and in more detail after the jump.
But before that, I should mention the sharing policy (you’re encouraged to link to and otherwise share my work, and permitted to make personal archival copies, but other than that please don’t copy my work) and the comment policy (aside from the usual common-sense items you’d expect, please comment on the post you’re commenting about, rather than wherever you happen to be!); I encourage you to read them.
From childhood, I’ve had a story in my head that I feel called to write. That “big work,” tentatively titled “the Shine Cycle,” is the original nominal topic of this blog, but now is only one of the five “departments”: on Mondays I post background essays about the story and its world (and “writing status updates” about once a month).
I’ve also had poetry “come to me” on occasion since high school. Each Friday I post one of these poems, as I’ve been doing since late 2009. This is the most popular “department” of the blog.
Because I’m hoping to publish a collection of my poetry, I’m a notoriously bad critic of my own work, and most of my subscribers started reading this blog long after I began posting a poem a week, each Thursday from September 2011 to January 2013 I asked for your feedback on a few poems from my archive.
I’m also developing an innovative turn-based strategy/simulation game called Strategic Primer; each Wednesday I write about the game—its design, implementation, development, history, and so on.
Saturday is the day for “miscellaneous”—occasionally excerpts from the Shine Cycle, but more usually essays on a variety of topics.
I’ll describe each of these “departments” (and that term itself) below.
Mondays, as I said, are the day for posts about the Shine Cycle. The Shine Cycle is my “fantasy series-in-preparation”—more precisely, my planned series of mythopoeic fantasy novels, primarily consisting of the history of two continents in an invented world from their creation to at least two centuries afterward. Running through much of it, occasionally surfacing in the story I feel called to tell, are the threads of the individual stories of dozens of characters from our world who abruptly find themselves there, and make their mark on the their new world.
The thought that originally sparked what became this immense task was a what-if (or, rather, what-next) speculation about the end of The Last Battle, when I was in elementary school. But it soon spun away from that to a world and story of its own … and then quickly spiralled out of control. I brought it into some semblance of order in middle school by creating an outline of the main plot, which I’m still (in much-modified form) following as my guide for the series as a whole. But thereafter, more and more plot threads and character ideas attached themselves all over.
Because of the scope of the project, for now I’ve been trying to put more effort into the structure and background of the series than into writing any one part of it. I really don’t want to have a character in two places at once (according to the accounts in two different books) or an event to be described by two books as happening entirely differently, and so I’m trying to work my way through the entire series in outline first, and get to the details of each story later. (Though I am working on actually writing, and revising, a few of the individual stories.) And I’m trying to develop a general outline of each major character’s history, so that I never end up needing a character to be where she wouldn’t be. I want everything to make sense, preferably the first time I write it.
Most months include a “writing status update,” a brief introduction to a planned novel in the series, and a couple of miscellaneous “worldbuilding” essays. When I started the current schedule in early 2010, for a while most of the posts were profiles of important characters, and I’ll post more of those when I have them. Other topics I’ve covered include several posts on the system of “applied metaphysics” that places the series firmly in the category of “fantasy”, my development of a projected history of our own world’s future, several of the races that inhabit the world of the Shine Cycle, and so on. Links to these and other past essays are arranged topically in the Shine Cycle archive.
Wednesdays are devoted to Strategic Primer. It’s a strategy game I’m designing. As conceived, there are two “editions” or “versions” of it: a “campaign edition” for a group of human players, run by a human moderator called the Judge, originally done with pen and paper but now run by email assistance, and a “computer edition” that will be a computer game for one or several players, in which each player will be able to play any part from infantry grunt up to commander in chief. But the campaign edition is the only one actually being worked on right now.
In Strategic Primer, each player takes the role of the commander of a military outpost on an imagined world, which he or she is leading into the future. It has obvious similarities to many other games, but has several distinctive features that I think make it superior, including:
- Competent subordinates: once your workers and other subordinates have some experience, you can generally give them their instructions and leave them to it, and trust that they’ll carry them out competently.
- Limitless possibilities for discovery: If you describe a technology or scientific advance in terms that your subordinates can understand, and they have the necessary tools (physical and mental) to make use of that description, you gain the advance.
- You can do the unexpected, taking the campaign in directions I never anticipated.
- A story to explore.
- The possibility of real diplomacy between players.
A campaign is run by turns. Each turn, each player gives the Judge orders for his subordinates (soldiers, farmers, miners, scientists, engineers, smiths, etc.)—this is called the player’s “strategy” for the turn. Based on all the players’ strategies, the game rules and mechanics, and his or her own imagination (for things like “AI” players and “independents” that the Judge controls), the Judge determines what happens in the world that turn, and gives each player his or her “results” of the turn. In the current campaign, which desperately needs more players, most turns have taken about a month to resolve (though the current turn has taken several months due mostly to my attempts to “improve” the game with in-retrospect-unwise changes), but creating a strategy should take even a beginner no more than an afternoon&; most of the time is spent waiting for the other players to give me their strategies—we work around your schedule—or for me to work my way through them to produce the results.
Players in a campaign have assistive programs to help them play the game. The map viewer, which shows the player the terrain of the game-world, the location of fortresses and units, and the results of players’ explorations, is under active development, and I’m quite responsive to player feedback.
The two regular posts each month are a “development report” describing the progress I’ve been making in implementing the suite of “assistive programs” I mentioned and annotated installments of the log of the first (original) campaign, which I ran in 2001. When the current campaign picks up again (it’s somewhat stalled at the moment, as I alluded to above) I’ll resume posting turn summaries after each turn is finished. The miscellaneous essays in the Strategic Primer department have included the game’s distinctive features compared to other games, hints and other information for players of the campaign, topics that came up in developing the map viewer and working on the campaign, and so on.
Thursdays, I post (now topical, rather than chronological) selections from the extensive archive of poems I’ve posted here over the past several years, in hopes of getting your valuable feedback on which are my best and how they can be improved—I’m hoping to publish a collection soon.
Each Friday I post one of my poems that has not appeared here before. I have one “series” of poems—inspired by the cycles by Charles Williams—set in the Arthurian milieu, and written mostly from the perspective of a few main characters (Taliesin, Arthur’s court bard; Merlin; and Blanchefleur, Taliesin’s beloved). The rest of my poetry is generally in my own voice, and on varied subjects as they come to me—love, friendship, nature, God, and dreams are some of the many subjects I’ve written poems about. Many poems are tinged with an apparently inescapable note of melancholy.
And on Saturdays, as I said, are “miscellaneous” posts, but there are several common subjects, and a few ongoing post-series.
The most regular series of essays consists of reviews of books I think everyone ought to read—I created a list, which at present numbers over a hundred works, of such books, but am now regularly writing quasi-critical essays that explain why I think each work belongs on the list.
Links to other miscellaneous essays are collected on the archive page.
Again, welcome to the Shine Cycle Online!