Parallax and body horror
Like I said above, the other inspiration I keep coming back to is "body horror movies."
If we get to do all five planned chapters, you'll get to see a recurring theme: Take a standard horror theme, like "pod people" or "kaiju" or "parasites," and imagine a PG-rated version that really just wants to go about its life peacefully.
When @anthracite and I used to roleplay a lot together online, we each had a whole stable of characters that were technically "monsters." Creepy but generally friendly.
We had a whole district on PuzzleboxMUCK called "Strangewarp" where doing monstery, grotesque things was perfectly normal—everyone was basically immortal and you couldn't really do anything to someone without their consent, so as long as you were POLITE about it, a little monstering around was considered normal.
We liked to play right on the borderline between "cute" and "terrifying." She had a butterfly lady who liked playing—artfully—with stabby things. I had a pretty little android mousedoll who was secretly, under her perfect shiny skin, full of whirling knives and screaming ghosts.
We coined the term "creepycute" for them—and the term "Designated Evil At Birth" (DEAB) to describe them, people who had all the trappings of monstrosity but were... pretty nice, really.
That's the Mixolynes in a nutshell. They're fungus-based, they have colorful slime for blood, and they have the power to assimilate other species' DNA. If Kirt and Noa weren't such cute, sweet colorful little flower-children, they'd be TERRIFYING. They might _still_ be a little terrifying, if you get on their bad side.
(And yes, if you're wondering... I absolutely LOVE Marceline from Adventure Time. PB is a pretty good candidate for creepycute, too, especially in Mad Candy Scientist mode.)
Parallax and Saturday mornings
Two of my major inspirations for Parallax's story arc(s): Saturday morning cartoons and horror movies.
When I was a kid, there were a bunch of things about cartoons that really bothered me. This was the He-Man/GI Joe era, so you didn't have sophisticated morality like Steven Universe and Adventure Time. You could usually rely on several things to be true about old cartoons:
1) If someone was exposed to a transformation opportunity, it was not only invariably a threat, it would either never happen or would be reversed by the end of the episode. It would never be something the character actively wanted—or if they did, it was "just the evil talking" and they'd soon be "cured" of that desire and happier for it.
2) If something cute and friendly turned out to be secretly evil, it would also be revealed as "ugly" around the time it was revealed to be evil.
3) If there was a hive mind or alien intelligence, it would either be so "advanced" it was free of emotion or (more likely) it would be pure evil.
Parallax is basically my opportunity to fix the shows I watched as a kid and do it MY way. :)
Parallax and RL politics
One little worry I've had when I've been writing the script is that it would come across as a parable for "bothsidesism" in the real world.
Granted, we came up with the dual-story concept shortly before this current political mess really started. And I do think there are some valuable lessons in Parallax about polarization and the demonization of ordinary folks on the "other side."
But if any of you were worrying about it... this is absolutely not a story about how we should make nice to actual real-world autocrats and bigots, nor "just try to understand them."
So far, everyone we've actually met in Parallax is a fairly decent person with fairly noble goals. But that may change in later chapters, and once we start meeting people who are willing to abuse their power and cynically twist the facts... you will definitely not be asked to "see it their way."
I guess if there's a political message in Parallax, it's "you're not good or evil based on what culture you come from—you're good or evil based on how you actually treat others."
If there are "good guys" in Parallax, they're our four adorable young space cadets trying to make sense of the conflict they're about to blunder into. If there are "bad guys," they're the people in their respective societies who will exploit this for the sake of dogma and power.
FUN FACT: The very first draft of what would become Parallax was about giant mechanized battle pants.
I... I don't know. You'll have to ask @anthracite.
"So, being a Vek-10 priest is like digging through the garbage of the gods?"
Q: "So, being a Vek-10 priest is like digging through the garbage heap of the gods?"
A: Oh, goodness, no. The Vek(0–10) are/were all very clean... More like the tidy but confusing Escheresque gardens of the gods. It's probably rather like going through the estate of a fussy deceased great-aunt. Everything is very neatly laid out for somebody who was not you.
Q: "So a lot of puzzling over the very specific and esoteric reason for a grouping of seemingly dissimilar items?"
A: Hmm. Probably a lot of pareidolia, too—and cultural defenses against seeing false patterns in things, because that could WRECK a faith like that.
"What is your favorite thing about the Vek-10?"
Q: What is your favorite thing about the Vek-10? (Thanks to @001zlnv for the question! Readers, feel free to ask us your own questions!)
A: Well—and I do hope to bring some of this into Chapter Two—I do like the fact that they're a fundamentally rationalist religion. Their gods objectively existed. The archaeological record is pretty clear about this. And their religion's entire methodology is to get closer to them by recreating their science, in hopes of someday following them wherever they went.
The Vek-N faiths are still full of ritual trappings, arcane symbolism, theological disputes, and internal politics... but it's all (supposedly) in service of becoming better engineers—and accepting that the process also requires getting the irrational parts of your society in order instead of just suppressing them.
Optimistic sci-fi. Definitely not a parable about propaganda. At all.
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