Review – Paving Stones Made From Good Intentions

Review – Paving Stones Made From Good Intentions

Origins

Paving Stones was one of those stories that emerged nearly fully-formed in one quick session.

Titles

Review – Paving Stones Made From Good Intentions
In Between Days

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, I wanted the title to effectively denote that the road to hell is actually deliberately and actively fashioned from these good intentions, rather than somewhat more passively made of them. A subtle difference, to be sure, but the idea was that the intentions are in a somewhat more refined form. It is – there are good intentions but they are perverted and shaped into the paving stones, as opposed to just laid down in the roadbed.

Background

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. Very few changes, apart from minor cosmetic ones, were made after the first draft was written.

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?

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.

  1. I will never show physical weakness.
  2. I will never show weakness in trade.
  3. I will not show mental weakness.
  4. I will not show weakness in my dealings with others.
  5. 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. Doug is told to keep his eyes and ears open, and not wait for people to impart lessons. He is encouraged 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, Doug is being told to eavesdrop, as not knowing certain things could harm his career or even cost him his life.

 Influences

Review – Paving Stones Made From Good Intentions
Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre is a favorite book and it was a definite influence. I liked the idea of a school where children would be intimidated (Lord of the Flies and Tom Brown’s School Days also came to mind). Jane’s Lowood School and the school in Tom Brown’s School Days served as models for the Triton Day School, where Doug would be, essentially, indoctrinated into the ways of the mirror. The softness of his mother, Lena, was to be forgotten or, if it was recalled at all, to be ridiculed and dismissed with a sneer. I even had Doug taken to school by a Mister Brocklehurst – 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 that, in order to survive, he had to become hardened.

The toy

Review – Paving Stones Made From Good Intentions
Stuffed Velociraptor

Originally a giraffe, the stuffed velociraptor represents childhood innocence, but with a cruel twist. The toy is shown at the beginning and 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, the choice of a velociraptor is not only to show menace behind the plush, but it also foreshadows his predecessor at Tactical’s fate – death after being mauled by a Gorn, who resembles a velociraptor rather closely.

Tactical

For Doug, running Tactical is a useful promotion, but not one that he had originally sought. If Ian Reed had lived (in canon, there’s an even shot as to 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 placed into 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 being sent off to school, where he clearly also had to do a lot of fancy footwork in order to get up to speed in a hurry.

Forgiveness

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.

Review – Paving Stones Made From Good Intentions
Roots VS paving stones (Photo credit: Théo La Photo)

And by the time of Together, that son, Jeremiah Logan Beckett – who they call Joss – is carrying around a stuffed dinosaur of his own. But in Joss’s case, it’s a much gentler stegosaurus.

Story Postings

Rating

The story is rated K although it’s possibly closer to K+, given its disturbing themes.

Upshot

I love how this story turned out, and I am very proud of it. It won the January 2012 Pathways challenge at Ad Astra.

17 thoughts on “Review – Paving Stones Made From Good Intentions”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *