The Bitter Drop - UPDATED 02-NOV-2016! [WIP][ink] (NSFW)


#1

A schizophrenic former rebbe and prophet-to-be, his stoner witch best friend, three-dollar-bill twin necromancers and their shady mentor and the looming end of the world. The Messenger-Judgement of Death turning up is not helping matters at all, either.

GAME WIP HERE!!

So! This is going to be the prototype/my first go at my baby project, a work I’ve been tinkering with for almost a decade now. It’s gone through many media, but I finally settled on Interactive Fiction, as it gives me the greatest flexibility in terms of showing off all possible iterations of the story without totally confusing the reader … and it’s a fun medium to write in, to boot. I’m choosing to write it in ChoiceScript as it seems to be the engine that has the biggest chance of getting my work seen.

The Bitter Drop, as a whole, is going to be told from four points of view of highly-characterised protagonists. They’ll pass narrator duties in a round-robin every vignette. The story will be told in the second person, present tense, because that’s my favourite way of telling IF. Why mess with tradition, eh?

I’ll be posting devlogs, updates and Q&As in this thread! I hope the glimpse into my ridiculously chaotic process will be, if nothing else, entertaining. The first vignette should be up shortly.

I hope you’re half as excited as I am! Thank you for your warm welcome earlier and for your kind words – without them, I would’ve never gotten the courage to do this.

EDIT: Oh! Just a note. Since this is going to be a Hosted Game, I’m not going to adhere to the COG House Style where I find it restrictive. Character genders, sexualities, race/ethnicities and birth assignments are set in stone and not up to debate. I do hope to eventually get a chance to write a COG House Style game, but The Bitter Drop is not it.


Would anyone be interested in playing a disabled character?
#2

While I generally prefer to choose my own gender and sexuality, the fact that I know you’ve already got a gay guy in the cast makes me far more fine with this. :grin: I might suggest not doing it in second person, though, as this generally works far better with the “insert personality here” style characters, and I could see a first (or even third) person style working better here. Obviously, it’s up to you, though.

Good luck with the game. :relaxed:


#3

Aw, thank you! :slight_smile:

For the record, the gender/sexuality/etc. breakdowns of the seven key characters are thus:

  • Lev Venyaminovich/Liubouv Venyaminovna Morgenshtern, bigender (gender-nonconforming gay cis man/queer futch trans femme)
  • Mogila Borisovna Balshemnik, femme bisexual trans woman
  • Anzu Tamiratovich Menelik, flaming gay/bisexual intersex trans man
  • Siris Tamiratovna Menelik, stone butch intersex lesbian, monozygotic twin of Anzu
  • Antonia Mara doch Hellewege, asexual cis woman
  • Ignatius Raimut syn Hellewege, cis trade
  • The Worm Judgement, also known as Chervey, the many-eyed Angel of Death, angel sexuality and gender are malleable

Mogila, Lev and the Menelik twins are also fantasy Jewish (and the Menelik twins are Black); Raimut and Mara are the equivalent of Russian Germans prior to WW1. The setting is heavily based on the Ostbloc and the primary location is a sort of amalgamation of St Petersburg and Moscow.


#4

Just a note: I intend on having the Prologue up tomorrow. Today was a less than productive day, as I’m still getting to grips with Choicescript.


#5

OMG AN ASEXUAL CHARACTER!!! PRAISE THE GODS!


#6

Asexual, aromantic and defaulting-to-cis agender, in fact! I’m going for Gay Representation Bingo here.


#7

###CONTENT WARNING
Due to the era The Bitter Drop’s setting is based in and due to my own experiences within the communities of gender-non-conforming same-gender-loving men (trans and cis), cis same-gender-loving women, trans femmes and trans women of all orientations, both gender-conforming and gender-non-conforming, AMAB and non-straight-transmasc AFAB nonbinary people, and other outcasts from the mainstream gay community and the “alternative” queer communities, I regrettably will have to use a couple of slurs to refer to identities that have no other words to describe them. I will do the courteous thing and partially censor them. I will not be referring to real people with those words without their permission and all fictional people I refer to with the words in question are comfortable with them. However, if the mods feel I still have overstepped a line, I will accept whatever sanctions are deemed appropriate.

And I’ll put up a general CW and NSFW warning up top of the thread title, too.


Now! On to my reply to @ParrotWatcher, who probably didn’t expect this wall of text.

I forgot to reply to this, despite the fact it’s a really interesting point I have a lot of opinions on!! Strap in, this is getting long and I need to give you a lot of context, first. And then there’s Part II, that’s more about reader empathy.

All four POV characters and Antonia Mara have an extensively complex relationship to their genders. Let’s go over each case to show you what I mean:

###Lev Venyaminovich/Liubouv Venyaminovna Morgenshtern
has a vast, complex, unique gender that can no more be shoved into the existing gender binary in colonised Vsemlada than one can hold the scent of a rose in bloom in one’s open palm. Here’s a list of embodiments, subcultures, identities, drag costumes and Tumblresque descriptions that Lev/Liubouv uses as labels, shorthands, crutches and #goals:

  • Radical Faerie
  • Soft-butch queen
  • No-hormone/non-op trans fem
  • Gender-dysphoric cis gay effeminate boy
  • A gender-non-conforming slightly flamboyant girly fey boy who loves other boys but, about 30% of the time, is a timid futch tomboy who kind of likes hard blue-collar butches with their hands stained with motor oil but ends up dating boys for some reason anyway
  • Agender fey gay boy
  • Galadragriel
  • Dkefg (a term that, in my small circle of gender-non-conforming and/or trans gays, lesbians and NBs we have adopted to honour the shared experiences of butch same-gender-loving women and fem same-gender-loving men, whether cis or trans, and how such experiences and embodiments can exist within one person regardless of one’s birth assignment or one’s first non-heterosexual sexuality or one’s first consciously embodied gender. Another term for it, not composed of reclaimed slurs, is “nondenominational gay”.)
  • To people who have no business knowing the depths of Lev/Liubouv’s complexity and intricacy, “genderfluid” and “bigender” are the approximations given.

What pronoun do you even use, here? Let’s go over the possibilities:

  • A modern nonbinary neopronoun: “fae”, “voi”, “neb”, “star”, “gem”. Something that emphasizes the effeminacy, the delicateness, the ethereality and the, to be frank, stark disconnection from reality.
    Problems with this: I would be get an endless amount of very painful, homophobic, transmisogynist, transphobic, anti-fem and just downright triggering shit, from cis busybodies and from from trans people who think the current pronouns we have are Sacred and Serious and anything else is Embarrassing Baby Bullshit. Also, in-story, only Mogila, Anzu and Siris would call Lev/Liubouv those.
  • He/Him/His: about 70% of the time, Lev/Liubouv does indeed identify as “a boy of some sort”, though there’s always the addendum that the boy in question is fem and limp-wristed and, well, a bit of a wimp. It’s not inaccurate. It’d do the job.
    Problems with this: talk about vastly, vastly inadequate in this time when the mainstream masc gay male community is to muscle Marys, Castro Clones, Tom of Finland and the Leather culture what r/fitness is to Olympic-grade weightlifting, wrestling and other feats of professional strength. There’s very little room for gender-non-conformity (from either side!) in “he”, as I have learned very painfully (I’m a gender-non-conforming faerie myself). It would not convey the complexity of Lev/Liubouv.
  • She/Her/Her: vada Polari, chicken! Quite acceptable, following the traditions of pre-Stonewall gay male communities, the Radical Faeries, drag queens, flamboyant and effeminate cis same-gender-loving men within their own communities, the old queens who still speak Polari, the AMAB agender male-attracted people aligned with gay male communities who aren’t trans women but don’t want to be a “he” or a “they”, etc.
    Problems with this: I guarantee you that despite this being the best and clearest choice, it’ll just confuse 95% of my audience, because 95% of my audience is not going to be from the same communities I am in, the same communities that are my new family. People will just assume Lev/Liubouv is “just” an “uncomplicated” binary trans woman and Anzu is abusive for misgendering Lev/Liubouv by using words like “boyfriend”, “boy”, etc. Anzu doesn’t fully understand Lev/Liubouv’s gender situation but he always works towards more understanding and compassion and support. So, uh, not a thing I want to happen.
  • They/Them/Their: perfectly neutral, nonjudgemental, non-prescriptive.
    Problems with this: says absolutely nothing about any of the complexity I just talked about and why bother, then?

###Mogila Borisovna Morgenshtern
is a loosely-binary, artsy, pretentious stoner trans woman. She’s same-gender-loving, specifically bisexual, but she leans towards women and identifies as a femme lesbian, the sort that first into the iconic butch/femme dynamic. Her pronouns are somewhat easier! A lot easier, in fact:

  • Zie/Zir/Zir: Mogila is artsy, pretentious and likes being elegant in an avant-garde way, so zie’s all over the idea of using an unusual pronoun and flying the trans flag high. It’d be cool to use an “accepted” nonstandard pronoun in The Bitter Drop, really.
    Problems with this: as with neopronouns, I do not look forward to the bullshit people will aim squarely at me for daring to write about things actual trans and gay people do in their actual, normal, everyday lives.
  • She/Her/Her: the obvious choice.
    Problems with this: Mogila herself would be a bit petulant she can’t be something of a show-off.

###Siris Tamiratovna Menelik
is an intersex stone butch lesbian. She’s mischievous, gregarious, tough as nails, everything that “tomboy” implies and the sort of old-school butch that would pair excellently with Mogila’s old-school femme. Except, due to her intersex status, she has complicated feelings about her gender: her experiences overlap with experiences not only of cis non-intersex women but also with trans women (intersex and not) and trans men (intersex and not). She also experiences some mild gender dysphoria over how she looks, dysphoria that is often contradictory. Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, man. That’s some shit.

  • They/Them/Their: again, nonspecific. Siris wonders if it’s more “accurate” for her, but worries people will just use it to erase the fact she’s a lesbian.
  • She/Her/Hers: Siris feels uneasy with it, due to how puberty played out; she wonders if she’s “truly” a woman. It’s complicated and painful and she doesn’t think about it a lot, but it bothers her sometimes. She wants to be a woman, desperately but she doesn’t know how much she’s allowed commiserate with Mogila and other trans women, given that she was assigned female and things didn’t go tits up until later. To her, “she” is a bright star that ever escapes her grasp, no matter how hard she reaches. But she’ll keep reaching. And she’ll never compromise on being butch while she’s doing it.
    Problems with this: I think Siris is the only one who has unambiguously be referred to with a pronoun where there isn’t an alternative that’s just as good or potentially interesting or more IC.

###Anzu Tamiratovich Menelik
Anzu, Siris’s twin, also has a complex gender situation. Unlike Lev/Lyuba, who is genderfluid-dualistic, one and the other at the same time while maintaining borders between the constituent parts, Anzu is not like that. Anzu’s gender is not fluid. Anzu’s gender is very much concrete. And it contains multitudes. Anzu’s gender cannot be understood via a binary system, nor via a spectrum. We must think of gender as a 4D possibility space to understand how Anzu’s gender fits into everything. Anzu does gender to the hardest possible extent, performs it up to eleven, uses it as a weapon and as a tool of healing both. Anzu is a f*ggot but Anzu is also a mother and Anzu is as much warrior queen as philosopher king. Again. The binary does not have space for Anzu.

  • He/Him/HIs: fortunately, he is entirely comfortable presenting as an effeminate, flaming queen who’s extremely smug about being a gay boy and he does not in the slightest mind people calling him “he”.
    Problems with this: the inattentive, or people who miss the conversations about gender, might think Anzu is a binary man.
  • She/Her/Hers: Vada Polari. Among other fems and queens, Anzu will permit trusted friends to use “she”. But only for certain people. It’s a gay culture thing, all right?
    Problems with this: Anzu is also intersex and a trans man. People might read this as implication that he’s “of both worlds” due to being intersex or that he’s “really” a girl because he’s an effeminate, flamboyant, prettyboy trans man. Yuck.

###Antonia Mara doch Hellewege
the fabled triple A: asexual, aromantic, agender. Dislikes gendered pronouns with vehemence. A starry-eyed nebula of a witch and a complete kook. Definitely filled her bedroom with sparkly plastic balls, to make it a “cosmic ballpit”.

  • They/Them/Their: in this case, the problem is that it’ll cause some muddled prose, confusion and get grammar snobs up my ass chittering about how you can’t use plural pronouns for one entity. I don’t want to deal with that. And it seems … bland. Especially for Antonia Mara, who is not bland.
  • Yt/Yt/Yts: Antonia Mara’s preference. Most trans people and almost all cis people would find this dehumanising and insulting, even though it’s Antonia Mara’s choice based on a deep-seated disconnect with people, society and the normal ways of things. And due to spoilers. Hrmph.

So. As you can see, if I, the author, give the narrative voice a specific set pronoun for any of them, I am setting myself up for various kinds of problems, ranging from deep disappointment in myself in taking the easy way out to harassment, death threats and doxxing (we all know this is the internet and we all know how queer creators on the internet fare). Hence? The POV will be “you”. Everyone else will gender the characters differently, depending on their own divergent viewpoints, precise relationship to the POV character, mood, ideology, etc. etc. etc. And it’d be an interesting way to show where we let in some people while barring others, for reasons that are very complex and sometimes very painful.

… there’s a second reason for me to choose second-person narration, but wow, I wrote a lot for this, so how about I save that for another post. o7


#8

I’m afraid I’d probably count as part of that 95% :sweat_smile:. But it does make perfect sense. I’m far less complicated than either you or your characters (I hope that didn’t sound offensive), as I’m just a guy who is attracted to other guys instead of girls, and while I do have some effeminate qualities (my love of butterflies would probably count), I would never consider myself in any way female. That said, I do occasionally wonder whether I actually truly see myself as male, or whether I just identify as male because it’s what my body is. And now I’m just confusing myself… :sweat_smile:

I suppose first person narration could help get around the identity problem without putting the reader literally into the characters. I wouldn’t really mind, but as the other thread showed, some people will consider a 2nd-person character to be literally them, while a 1st-person character is just someone whose story they are following.


#9

Hey, feeling disconnected from Traditional Masculinity is like the gay boy experience. 8V You’re not alone, friend! To talk in pre-Stonewall concepts, you’re the kind of man who romances men, but “passes” in the street and and I’m the faerie that’s part of the tourist-attraction vibe of The Village in the 20s. But we’re both still Christopher’s Kind, whether you’re cis and gender-conforming and I’m trans and gender-non-conforming.

:heart:


#10

I say confuse people!

Your game’s going to be extremely niche. I say if you want to use

then just do so. Or if you want to use a mix, use that. Choice of Robots makes up pronouns for their robots, and we’ve other games that have introduced non-binary pronouns to people.

You can say you don’t want to get into triggering discussions on this thread and we’ll respect that, and the choice of pronouns you use.

Of course difficulties come when you move on to publish, especially if you’re planning to sell the game. But those sort of difficulties occur for all games.

Bah! Nothing effeminate with loving butterflies! They are winged flapping horrors! Just brightly painted moths!

Nobody Suspects The Butterfly

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJ_Pfuj9wPE


#11

Oh, I’ll use neopronouns! Mogila and Anzu and Siris (and some characters that are spoilers) will probably occasionally use some for Lev/Liubouv. LL will probably use “cyn/cym/cyi” sometimes for Anzu and sometimes zie/zir/zir for Mogila and sometimes for anyone else that might want to use nonbinary neopronouns. The four POV characters will use “yt/yt/yts” for Antonia Mara when Ignatius Raimut isn’t around. And so on.

(And sometimes Anzu and Lev will call each other “she” and there’ll be conversations about why that is, as well.)

I do think this will be a very niche work, but it’s a story that’s really important to me. I hope it will be just not-niche enough to reach a good portion of sad and lonely and questioning queer kids and young adults, like I am/I was/I may always be.

Anyway, I don’t want to put a blanket ban on triggering or difficult subjects. I think those will be fair game unless someone takes it too far and is too big a jerk. Does that sound fair?

… and now I’m gonna work on the tiny, tiny pre-Demo. Maybe I’ll get to show it to you guys today??


#12

And a reminder! While I’m working on that demo, there’s a teaser preview floating around. Different engine, but the content and style will not be very different at all!


#13

Pre-Demo is not happening today/tonight, because I tried pantsing it and it turns out it you can’t pants a COG piece. So I am instead very diligently planning things: primary and secondary stats and end conditions and all those things that the COG Style Guide recommends. I’m taking some liberties, since it is a hosted game, rather than an official game, so I’m hoping the mechanics won’t be too dull.

Also. For the record. A negative stat that you have to prevent from rising too high is “Inconvenient Libido”. Certain characters coughAnzucough have trouble keeping the silicone schlong in the posing pouch.


#14

Hello! @grrozny just wanted to comment that i really liked everything so far! Your game feels like a fresh breath :grinning: and i look forward to more! Also im learning more on the gender/sexuality record so far from this demo game, so kudos for that! :smile: I really like playing as Lev even more so the part where Lev is trying to RO Anzu, they both are so freaking cute :laughing: :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


#15

Sounds like this is trying more to be a political statement than a game.


#16

I’d like to hear your reasoning for that.

Like, the circumstances, identities, etc. of the protagonists hew pretty closely to those of myself and my friends and peers. That’s not political, that’s just everyday life. Like, I’m a gay man writing about the romantic relationship between two people whose counterparts I could find within five minutes of casual looking in my communities. I don’t understand what’s so political about that? “Two gay boys fall in love and deal with the approaching end of the world” doesn’t sound anything like the synopsis of 1984 to me, you know?


#17

So! Some news.

After a lot of design work and so on, I realised this game won’t work in ChoiceScript. So I’m going to do it in ink, like the WIP I posted the other day. But I’m still going to post updates, previews, etc. here, because I got such a positive response!

Er, sorry to disappoint on ditching CS, though. Just, the way I was going to do branching would be really difficult in CS. But I will be going another HG at some point, probably after I finish this one, so there’s that, at least.


#18

Mostly the same here, I would never self-identify as female in any way too, but we’ve all got a “softer” side, nothing to even be embarrassed about.

I agree with this though, if you’re merely inviting me to look over the shoulder of one of your mostly established characters and occasionally influence their decisions I strongly prefer the narrative to be in the first person.


#19

I have another reason for preferring second-person POV, which is, uh, I like it better.

But also, I like how it heightens immersion for the reader and I want to make use of that in the game, especially because it’ll add to the disorientation of the times Lev is dealing with the exacerbation of his mental illness.


#20

I wish I loved writing in second person. I find it so tricky though. I am deeply envious of anyone who prefers writing in it.