Review – Paving Stones Made From Good Intentions
Paving Stones was one of those stories that emerged nearly fully-formed in one quick session.
One thing that didn’t go so smoothly was the choice of a title. It evolved as follows – The first title was Paving Stones Made of Bad Intentions, as it is a Mirror Universe story. However, I didn’t like the idea of going with a straightforward opposite. Instead, I wanted for it to be a lot clearer that the centerpiece scene was an act of love, albeit somewhat misguided love.
The second iteration was Paving Stones Made of Good Intentions, which corrected the idiom and better evoked the undercurrent of it being the road to hell. But I didn’t love how it flowed.
The final title was Paving Stones Made From Good Intentions. This title brings together not only the fact that the centerpiece scene is happening because people mean well but also because this is the road to hell. Furthermore, the title effectively denotes that the road to hell is actually deliberately and actively fashioned from these good intentions. This is rather than them being somewhat more passively made of them. A subtle difference, to be sure. But the idea was that the intentions are somewhat more refined. There are good intentions but they are perverted and shaped into the paving stones. This is opposed to just laying them down in the roadbed.
When I wrote Reversal, one of the things I had Doug describe was his early childhood and how he was sent off to boarding school. But I didn’t go into a lot of detail. Hence I wanted a little more about that. In addition, this is Doug’s first real meeting with Lili. So, while he doesn’t necessarily sugarcoat things, he doesn’t go into a lot of excruciating detail. Plus, for Doug at the time, his going away to school occurred over four and half decades previously. Hence some detail or another may have been forgotten.
In Reversal, Doug also briefly mentions that he received his promotion to run Tactical in a manner where he did not have to murder his superior officer. It was important to me, given the way that the overall story arc was to go, that he not be the killer of Ian Reed, Malcolm‘s mirror counterpart. And so Doug had to be put in charge of Tactical on the Defiant, somehow.
Furthermore, the story was written as a response to Ad Astra’s January 2012 Pathways challenge, wherein the writers were challenged to come up with stories about formative stages or scenes in an older character’s life. I had originally considered writing about Lili O’Day and the house fire that had killed her parents, but I was thinking about that and suddenly one word hit me, and it wouldn’t let go. And that word was indoctrination. Once the word grabbed me, writing the story was a lot like taking dictation. I made very few changes, apart from minor cosmetic ones, after completing the first draft.
The Five Signs of Weakness
I wanted a kind of distorted version of the Ten Commandments or the Golden Rule. Over time, I had already written several mirror universe stories, so there was already a framework. And in Reversal, Doug acknowledges that there are signs of weakness and that he cannot show them, for that’s a confession of vulnerability that could cost him his life. The signs, at that point in the progress of my writing, were somewhat underdeveloped but they did include not acknowledging an injury and not admitting to love. Doug himself sees the development of his nascent conscience as probably being what the mirror would think of as the ultimate sign of weakness. After all, in the mirror, how can you act if you’re tripped up by guilt?
A Child’s Memory Device
In order to convert these somewhat incoherent ideas into lessons digestible for a child, I created a maxim of five signs of weakness for all mirror children to learn, and have to repeat back to their elders.
- I will never show physical weakness.
- I will never show weakness in trade.
- (and) I will not show mental weakness.
- I will not show weakness in my dealings with others.
- (and) I will never show weakness when it comes to justice.
During the course of the story, Doug and his parents explain what each of the signs really entails. For example, mental weakness not only involves not knowing how to do something, but also not keeping apprised of rumors and intelligence. They tell Doug to keep his eyes and ears open, and not wait for people to impart lessons. They encourage him to have intellectual curiosity, but it’s not about books or mathematics. Rather, it’s about the various whisperings around an encampment or a barracks or a starship. In many ways, they are telling Doug to eavesdrop, as not knowing certain things could harm his career or even cost him his life.
Jane’s Lowood School and the school in Tom Brown’s School Days serve as models for the Triton Day School. This is where Doug would be, essentially, indoctrinated into the ways of the mirror. He was to forget he softness of his mother, Lena,. Or, if he remembered at all, that would be ridiculed and dismissed with a sneer. I even had a Mister Brocklehurst take Doug to school – a direct reference to Jane Eyre. The school was also portrayed as a place where Doug’s beloved stuffed toy would be taken from him and used to harm him. In Fortune, Doug confirms that gentler children were bullied and harassed. And so in order to survive, he had to become hardened.
Originally a giraffe, the stuffed velociraptor represents childhood innocence, but with a cruel twist. The toy shows up at the beginning. It is Doug’s sole comfort as he listens to his parents argue about his fate. The toy’s banishment from the breakfast table, and Lena’s inability to find it signify that Doug’s innocence is already, irretrievably, lost. Finally, I chose a velociraptor is not only to show menace behind the plush. It also foreshadows his predecessor at Tactical’s fate. That was death after a mauling by a Gorn, who resembles a velociraptor rather closely.
For Doug, running Tactical is a useful promotion. However, he did not originally seek it. If Ian Reed had lived (in canon, there’s an even shot whether Malcolm’s mirror counterpart would survive a Gorn attack), Doug would have remained as CO of the MACOs on the Defiant. Instead, Doug is in direct competition with Aidan MacKenzie and Chip Masterson.
As is true in my fanfiction, the Defiant is a confusing mess, and Doug must figure things out quickly. Hence the flashback to his his parents sending him off to school. That’s because this is where he clearly also had to do a lot of fancy footwork to get up to speed in a hurry.
One thing that Doug learns from Lili is forgiveness, and so, off-screen, he does eventually forgive his parents. By the time of A Kind of Blue, they are already naming their first-born son after Jeremiah (Doug’s father) and Lena.
- Paving Stones Made from Good Intentions – originally posting (contains reviews)
- Paving Stones Made from Good Intentions on Fanfiction.net
- also,Paving Stones Made from Good Intentions on Fictionpad
- Paving Stones Made from Good Intentions on Wattpad
- in addition, Paving Stones Made from Good Intentions on G & T Show forums
- Paving Stones Made from Good Intentions in In Between Days context
- in addition, Paving Stones Made from Good Intentions in Hall of Mirrors context
The story is rated K although it’s possibly closer to K+, given its disturbing themes.
I love how this story turned out, and I am very proud of it. It won the January 2012 Pathways challenge at Ad Astra.