In 2003 I wrote a Matrix fanfic called “Agents”. In it, a hacker named Stef gets a meeting with Morpheus and co…who promptly GTFO when Smith show up, leaving Stef to get killed/interrogated/bugged by the agents. Stef runs, but is caught (~30 seconds later) by Smith, who drags her in for a very familiar conversation.
Three “seasons” of fanfic later, with a co-author joining me, writing her own recruit (who would be the initial impetus for Mags), and another joining, then leaving, and I knew I wanted to keep writing these characters and concepts, but in a way that was something more than fanfiction – something I could potentially do for the rest of my life. I was young and stupid, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
The first “original fic” version was crap, it was the fanfic with the thinnest of veneers over it – originally the “false world/computer world” concept was still in place, taking place in a post-apocalyptic Earth that had thousands of sims running that showed various stages of humanity, should aliens ever find Earth and want to know about the former inhabitants. The agents, in this version, were basically the same as Smith and co, but with a benevolent bend, rather than scary-information-control-suits.
That stuck around for a couple of versions, with varying levels of interaction with the “outside world/real world”. The rebels/Solstice/whoever at this time knew of little hidey holes in the fabric of the world where they would have their bases – born of the “backdoors” in the Matrix, and would eventually lead to blackout zones.
The agents were very much still aloof, with emotion running the gamut (through various versions) of being completely disallowed and a sign of fault, to frowned upon and being needed to kept under wraps, to seen as a necessary evil when dealing with humans. This was very much an artefact of the way I was used to writing agents – and for a value, it was fun, seeing how much you can push emotion into a person who thinks they aren’t capable of showing emotion.
[…and somewhere in my head, Taylor growls…]
Stef was still an action girl at this point – I think the original character concept was to make her something of a female Peter Parker – hence the Spyder moniker – who would always have a witty retort/one-liner when kicking ass. She also wasn’t insane (and wasn’t for much of the history of the text – I’ll bring it up when it becomes relevant again).
Other major characters at this time – Jones was in place, but wasn’t the Jones we know (…think we know…) and love. I think Taylor was about, but had no focus on him. Mags…really wasn’t a factor. I think at the time, I was still using Greer (the co-author’s recruit character, which I had permission to use, as she’d long since left the character and story behind).
Curt was a rebel-traitor-shithead, who died about halfway into the first book. In the common room, with Stef requiring the roof to fall in on his head.
Yeah.
The only reason Curt exists as a character today is when I was writing this version (ie, MF1.0, what we’re commenting on now), I decided to give the poor guy a break, as I’d killed him at least twenty times by then. I think this might go beyond “Rescued from the Scrappy heap” or “promoted from obscurity”. He really wasn’t supposed to become the major player that he does – I predominantly kept him around so that Stef had someone to play off, other than Ryan, and so we had a different voice spouting exposition once in a while.
The story was…familiar in parts, recruitment, fighting, death – the mirrorfall aspect came in fairly early on in the succession of drafts – at the time, I think it was basically a freeform code that let you interact in non-standard ways, it was a remnant of a simulation that had stopped working…so it is in fact, very similar to the mirror that we have now.
Over the course of twenty drafts, a lot changed…though not as much as you would think. The computer world element slowly moved to magic, though it flipped back and forth a couple of times.
[I’ve had a couple of…I don’t want to say “damaging”, but unhelpful conversations during my time as a writer – the first being that it’s arrogant to enjoy your own material, let alone laugh at your own jokes. The other was that…there aren’t enough girls writing SF, and that they tend towards fantasy, and that there needs to be more girls writing SF, so if I wrote fantasy, I was letting the whole team down.
Yeah.
So while I kept shoving these fantastical concepts into the story, I tried to stick to some sort of SF. It’s kind of funny that now I’ve gone with balls-out fantasy, it probably contains more science (or at least “science”) than when I was trying to write SF.]
Characters slowly started to show emotion, though it was still very contained. The whole process was very stagnant, and I started to really, really resent the text…and resent Stef even more, as I saw her as the focal point, and the thing that was giving me the most issues.
I hated Stef for so long, I really did.
At one point, I just gave up. Utterly and totally. I didn’t write for eight months (…which as I say that, I hope my current involuntary hiatus doesn’t last that long). I didn’t want to write any more, I just wanted to leave it behind me.
I slowly weakened on that…and with a combination of Nightwish/Final Fantasy AMVs, and NanoWriMo, I felt it was time to give it another go.
I started on a story for NaNo…which involved magic steam being mined and used for tech, a robot being imbued with life from one demon to help him and an avatar of the gods fight another demon.
Yeah.
Elements of this, oddly, are still canon, though background detail that I won’t divulge, as I have to go back and tweak them to fit the new mythos. The “good” demon was in love with the god buried at the centre of Earth – and they managed to pull her from the mirror without causing a mirrorfall, and send her to Death – which is why you’ll hear characters talking about Earth having a “heart but not a god”.
The girl and the robot (who becomes a real boy, of course), are the parents of one of the people living in Hummer’s house…but again, while this is my headcanon, I need to work out exact details before I put anything on paper.
About 10,000 words in, I stopped to start working on the worldbuilding, and didn’t stop. I didn’t finish NaNo, of course, but it was the spark I needed to write again.
I still hated Stef.
I wanted to include the Agency, because I felt that it was logical to have such an organisation in a world like this – there was some people in suits, someone doing it bureaucratically, so it didn’t make sense to entirely throw away everything I had created. At the same time, I was still so disillusioned with all the work I had thrown into them that I didn’t want to make them the focus.
…and on top of that, I had this fixation where I knew I wouldn’t be able to have a “clean” start until I had written one story that would sate the beast that was Stef (or the writer’s-block-demon that I had turned her into). So I wrote a new story called Harmony.
This story itself went through a few iterations – it began as a single story, then felt like I needed to do a trilogy, just to get all the Agency stuff I wanted to do out, and never have to use them as main characters again, then it morphed back to a single story, when I felt that might have me spending too much time on them…and be tempted to get lost in the world of suity goodness again.
So Harmony became one book again – it opened with Stef having gone through an analogue of the events in Mirrorfall, but without showing them. First scene was her in her office, waxing angstily/poetically about her “heart transplant” – Ryan was a lot more aloof in this version, so she was going through it by herself. Giving them a close relationship, you know, would make me more likely to want to write them.
The plot of the book is one I’m going to use in canon in several parts – an interdimensional ship crashes, this ship is powered by one of “the thirteen” – the first thirteen mirrors to have fallen, this happened waaay back at the birth of this universal cycle, and they all clumped together and were this big travelling mass that sort of evolved beyond where normal mirrors do. There are twelve ships powered by these mirrors, the thirteenth mirror’s location is unknown.
The mirror ships basically function like TARDISes – they can travel through huge swaths of space and through dimensions, and are basically set up to be scavengers – they show up to worlds about to undergo a mirrorfall of their own, and loot the dying world, then escape before the world dies.
A god – who runs the mega corporation of the world these ships are based out of – is in hot pursuit, wanting the ship back. Shenanigans happen, and it’s a fun plot where Stef mopes her way through it, and comes to terms with her death.
That story didn’t go anywhere, though did set up some more of the world building. But it had the agents in it, so I shied away again.
The Mirrorverse was forming – it wasn’t the Cookieverse we have today, but it was forming all the same. I was back into the writing groove, though still very gun (and suit) shy.
I wrote a graphic novel script called Bastion, which was my love letter to the 80s fantasies that sort of defined my early childhood. This I really count as the first Mirrorverse story, though the mythos is slightlty out of whack with what was defined later, it had a lot of the hallmarks, and was the first appearance of a phoenix – and was the reason I used the phoenix in Mirrorfall the way I did. (The phoenix in this story though, when it comes to destroy a world, eats its way out of the body of a dead unicorn, which while gross, is a very cool image).
I had a spot for a cameo of Ryan and Stef (they were going to be in the background of a few frames), and I felt like that could be my goodbye to them – they were happy, and they had their own lives, off screen.
You know it doesn’t end there.
I started on an anthology of stories – one for each Sin and Virtue (another project I would eventually like to get back to), the first of which was Dorian’s origin story. Again, the agents were mentioned as a background element, but not taking the main stage.
I had softened on my hatred for Stef, and had gotten over my writer’s block, so I knew it was time to try and write another agents story, with a view to making it a continuing series, because I knew that’s where my heart really belonged.
I also got a new laptop at this time (in fact, my first laptop) – it was a lovely HP that I called River (it was larger and more powerful than the one I had wanted, a pretty one I was going to call Inara), and I opened up a document, and wrote the first chapter of Mirrorfall.
It was bad, it was poorly written, and it still has typos…but it was still good. It was the start of something that, I hope, is going to last a very, very long time for me.
I wrote a couple more chapters, including, of course, chapter 2, where I stole Dorian – as it had been his anthology story that prompted me to do this, and it turned him into a benevolent Morpheus-like figure.
I got a site, and I posted…the results of which you’ll see.
I actually lost all copies of this version, let the site die when I moved over and had the new version of the text. There is so much I dislike in it, because it was a first attempt, because I was trying things I never had before, and because everyone was so OOC compared to where they would get to, but for the first time since leaving it behind, I’m finally happy to show it off. It’s an important piece of history that very few of you have seen – it shows where we came from, and hopefully, you’ll be interested in hearing me ramble about the choices I made and why.
Is it horrible. It is flawed. It is our history.
Mirrorfall 1.0 – with annotations by me, Wraith and Shade.