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by The Inhospitable Ski Slopes of Agalaesia. . 158 reads.

The Rejected Times Issue LXII

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Issue LXII | NOVEMBER, 2020

Editor-in-Chief: Agalaesia
Deputy Editor-in-Chief: Vincey


  • Interview with the Grim Reaper - Former Issues Editor - Minskiev

  • The Horrible Secret of the Sauce Pt 2 - The Church of Satan

  • Three Summarized Arguments for a New Feeder - Agalaesia

  • Interview with Electrum - Issues Editor - Minskiev

    Interview with the Grim Reaper


    How did you start writing issues, and how did you become an issues editor?

    I started writing issues for one of the Issues Editor contests - which dovetails nicely into the second half of that question. The first real issue I wrote was also an entry into the contest, of which I was one of the winners.
    I'd always liked the role that issues played in the game; I appreciated the way they broke down questions into a few simple options, that they used tight story-telling to help frame familiar political ideas in weird and wonderful new lights.

    Besides being a fascinating game mechanic, they're also a brilliant literary genre - beyond a small story, they're self-contained microliterature. You can have a few options, sure, but for your own NationState, an issue's story is two paragraphs long - a context, and your chosen response.

    For me, writing issues was a way to explore a genre that really is associated with the rise of the internet; a kind of writing that's arguably never been done before.

    Do you have a favourite issue?

    The Widow Raven is brilliant. I think it reads really nicely as a novelty issue. As a more conventional set of issues, the AI personhood issues are fascinating to me. AI are such a trope of utopian and dystopian science fiction, and they represent such an opaque and foreign notion to us in that genre. In NationStates, AI personhood is really framed around that moment of transition and those questions of what it means to be a person. The result is to create really quirky but completely believable stories that are founded on off-the-wall takes on mundane situations, but my favourite issue actually is kind of structurally quite vanilla - Due Processing is just so well-executed, and really a great example of building a long-form, story-focused issue.

    How do you deal with a writer's block?

    Not well. :P

    There are a couple of ways that work, to varying degrees.

    My preferred way is to skip ahead of the block, which is a technique novellists often use - in an issues context, if you're blocked up on a specific option, just leave it be for a while and work on the others. That works really well for people who don't have a lot of productive time to deal with.

    For people who like to sit down and make issues writing a big leisure activity, it can be a good time to get in your weekly exercise. Go for a walk, or at least have a good pace or do some sit ups. The trick is to get out of the mental headspace the writers block happened in, and then get into a new headspace when you get back - have a quick chat with some friends, or read a news article or two and keep the draft out of your mind.

    The last way is to remember that you can always just copy+paste your drafts! I've often recommended that people who edit their work - and this goes for people doing assignments and essays too - treat drafts as an opportunity to really experiment. Whenever you get the kind of block where you know something isn't right, but not how to replace it, just remove it. If something isn't in the same place, just move it. Then write around it. Look at that side-by-side with the original draft, and it'll be easier to identify those subtle, emergent qualities - to compare the rhythm and the implications that come from the new relationships in the text.

    Are there any changes to issues that you would like to see, including features and player-made developments?

    I think the beauty of the Issues game is its simplicity. Really, any move towards making Issues more open for submissions would be great. If I had a magic wand, and I could rewrite NationStates from the ground up, I think I'd take into account that the way people treat issues has really shifted towards something that is typically 'common knowledge', or anciliary to the game. Getting repeat issues is annoying for new players, and so a lot of people start turning off.

    I think, in an ideal world, people could become reinterested in issues again through collaborative, public-facing issues drafts in an organized way. Maybe even to create kind of an optional parallel, publicly-managed pool that can be merged into the main one on a case-by-case basis by the more exclusive editor group. When I was an editor, there were points where the pool of drafts was actually a real bottleneck. Moving towards letting people piece together an issue, rather than having a 'main' author who takes ownership of an issue and merges in comments, might make it easier to create a breadth of experiences and styles, and to produce finished drafts.

    What makes up a good issue?

    A good issue is one that has a really coherent storyline that emphasizes, and illustrates the core question. You don't have a lot of space to provide floral description in an issue, or to provide technical context for whatever is in question. You can't waste word count doing one or the other. The only way to really produce a good issue is to use your word count to do both.

    The make-up of a good issue should not be 'story' and 'a question'; it should be a single narrative that does both. Instead of explaining what a problem is, or how solutions impact it, use your story to your advantage and illustrate those two things. Tightening up that story has the advantage of creating a scope for that problem; if you feel like your story is not sufficient for covering all the aspects of your question, consider narrowing the question! It's easier to see a good story than a good question - so, if you think you have a good story, try fixing the question.

    What's your favourite type of issue?

    I really like issues where the options would not make sense in any other issue. There's a general formula everyone knows for issues that are effectively yes or no questions - "Yes, we should solve this; No, we should expand on it; What if we ask a different question?" Those are great for lots of issues, but for my personal tastes, a well-conceived issue is one where every option has a fundamentally distinct principle, or approach, to solving a single problem.

    What tips would you give to a new issues author?

    I give two quotes, both being demonstrative of their own principle.

    "A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    “This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.” - Gary Provost

    In a genre where each self-contained work could be composed of a double-digit number of words, each word must count. Justify every word and punctuation mark. The editors have had multi-day discussions about replacing words and punctuation; even about swapping clauses, and moving them around.

    Read the issue as a whole; remove any options that are unnecessary, and ensure their lengths, their use of dialogue, and the amount of information versus story in them creates rhythm. Then read each component. The issue text, the options, and the description text must all sing alone, as well as together. Then go as far as to make sure that every sentence works, and that every single word is in the right place to convey your intention. Even conjunctions.

    Whenever you feel lost, start by removing anything - and everything - that is not necessary. Repeat this until everything is; until every word you remove would literally make the issue more difficult and less fun to read.

    What are your thoughts on people looking up the consequences of the issue before answering them? Do you think it kills the spirit of issue answering?

    I think it's not a good way to start off playing the issues game, and I think that if you 'min-max' too hard, then you run the risk of burning out on issues mechanics. That being said, I think that if you're playing less for a singular #1 position, and more for perhaps a slate of stats you want, or a specific image of your nation, then I think that it's definitely fair to derive a lot of fun from comparing the hard mechanical numbers, and trying to decide on the trade-offs you're willing to make on the way towards that slate.

    Ultimately, however, the heart of the issues is to experience the stories and for the story's options to feel consequential to you. If what you want your nation to look like is defined less through issue text, and more through stats, then go for it! If someone is interested in getting into the mechanical part of issue - playing issues more for stats - I knew someone who liked to work out what their RP nation would do, and comparing it to what their stats nation would do. That made for some fun conversations!

    The Horrible Secret of the Sauce Pt 2

    CREATIVE | WRITTEN BY The Church of Satan

    The Horrible Secret of the Sauce Pt 2 | Written by The Church of Satan

    For those of you that don't remember or never read part one of the story, you can refresh your memory or start the story from the beginning. We last left off the RRA had made its way to the office of the Speaker, Vulturret who was the last epidemist The Rejected Realms had. If there was going to be any hope of saving The Rejected Realms it would require him. As bizarre as it sounds he believed the source of the infection was at Kandarin's BBQ & Grill. And so with skepticism, they started the arduous journey there.

    Vulturret awoke in a daze, trying to figure out what was going on. He heard a voice, muffled but loud. “Hello? Hey! Hey, Vulturret! This is no time for a nap."
    "Where am I? What happened?" Turning Vult's head towards himself, Wop yells over the moans and groans of the infected around them, "You stay close to me at all times. Understood?"
    "Yes, sssir." A voice from the radio brought him out of his daze, "Commander! They're everywhere. We need to get out of here. Recommend we proceed to the west. The crowd is thinnest there."
    Wop unholstered the handgun from his hip, looked forwards at the horde, and fired a few rounds into the windshield. Kicking the windshield out, he crawled out of the humvee activated his radio, outstretched his hand towards Vulturret, and declared, "Move out. We're headed west." The infected roared as they started to overtake the other RRA vehicles. The sounds of gunfire intermittently interrupted the roar of the infected as they fought their way west where the horde was weakest. Fifty feet, a relatively small distance when compared to the several blocks of walking dead they would otherwise have had to traverse, and yet for that relatively small fifty feet, it was still an uphill battle.

    They fought tooth and nail just to escape. "There's too many of them, sir!" Wop bellowed his response, "I ain't got time for lip, son. GIVE 'EM HELL!" The APC however was quickly overwhelmed. The troops ended up trapped in what was supposed to protect them. Wop, Vulturret, and a small contingent of soldiers made their way twenty feet out thanks to the distraction of the APC but they weren't aware of how bad it was going until the blood-curdling screams rang out. "They're getting slaughtered in there, sir. We gotta save them."
    "Keep moving forward and keep firing. There's no helping those poor bastards with that many infected blocking the exit." Wopruthien motioned west, reloading his weapon. "We're almost there! Don't stop! Focus fire on the north, south, and west sides. Let the infected to the east fall over themselves while we escape!” Pushing through the horde, trying their best to ignore the screams coming from the APC, hating every moment of it. Finally, they break through to the outside of the horde, "Move it! Move it! They're not done with us yet." Vulturret panicked and darted west without thinking, "What're you doing Smarty Pants?! I said stay close!" Vulturret kept running in search of somewhere safe. "Everyone disengage and go after the Speaker. If he dies we all die." Chasing after Vulturret, Wopruthien and the remaining RRA troops caught up with him two blocks away. Wopruthien grabbed Vulturret by the throat and yelled, "I SAID STAY CLOSE YOU IDIOT!" Still trembling and coming down from the adrenaline, Vulturret responded, "I was getting away from those, those...things!"
    "YOU NEARLY KILLED EVERYONE! IF YOU WEREN'T SO DAMNED IMPORTANT I'D-" The street started to quake, slowly shaking until the concrete gave way to the tremors, taking with it the entire group, a wrecked semi and a partially collapsed building which finally managed to overtake it.

    "Hello? Is everyone okay? Answer me, that's an order."
    "A little worse for wear but I'm alive, sir."
    "A few bumps and bruises. Nothing to worry about."
    "I'm lucky to be alive. And I thought paperwork in The Assembly was exhausting."
    "Not me, sir. I'm dead."
    "Kyorgia, shut it. We don't have time for your jokes. Good to know everyone is still walking. Anybody know where we are?"
    "Well, all I can see is a whole lot of nothing so we must be in a Barnett Newman painting." Wopruthien couldn't help snapping at Kyorgia, "This isn't stand-up night at the local chuckle bucket." Just as he finished his sentence, a distant light sped towards them. That's when Wop's eyes widened with a sudden realization, "EVERYONE MOVE TO THE WALL, NOW! HURRY!" The light moved past them and crashed into the fallen debris from above, exploding as it overturned and scraped its way across the ground. "Gentleman it looks like we're in the subway."
    "Where do we go from here, sir?"
    "Yeah, you soldiers might be used to this but my job doesn't involve punching things into oblivion. So what do we do now? I can't even tell where this tunnel leads." Vulturret was even more nervous than before, but in control enough to just barely avoid running off in a panic. Holstering his handgun and switching to the rifle on his back, he turned on the flashlight attached to it. "We'll have to move quickly. That horde of infected will be on its way down here any second. They originally came from the north and that train came from the same direction. If we head north we might find less infected to deal with but there will probably still be a lot packed into the tunnel if that train is any indication. If we head south we might encounter a sizeable portion of the horde above us after we reach the surface. Either way, there will be no going back. Everyone keep quiet, stay sharp, and don't waste your ammo. We're taking our chances north. Move quickly." Wop, Kyorgia, Vulturret, and the other two soldiers started northward, carefully climbing over the train wreck. As they passed what was left of the forwardmost car, the sounds of infected pouring into the tunnel from the collapsed road thundered throughout it. Wop whispered as loudly as he could, "Move faster and don't let the infected get the better of you. If you panic you die." They walked for hours in near-total darkness, quietly. The groans of the infected echoing through the tunnel began to fade, slowly. Eventually, they reached one of the stations, the groans of the infected sounded as if death itself were whispering in their ears. Vulturret broke the group's silence, "Finally-"
    Wop immediately interrupted him, "Not so fast, Smarty Pants. There might be some outside the entrance. This time, you STAY CLOSE and do as I say. That's an order, not a question." As they exited the subway, the smell of burning flesh consumed them.

    One of the soldiers put their sleeve over their nose and managed a few words while choking on the smoke, "What the hell is that?"
    "Must be Kandy's new burger. We're on our way there anyway and I don't know about you but I'm hungry," remarked Kyorgia. Wop scoffed at the ill-timed joke but knew he was right. "Aside from his poor sense of humor, he's right. That's the Community Centre. Kandy's is less than a mile away. So tell us Vulturret, what exactly are we looking for?" Vulturret took a folder from out of his bag, "Well Commander, how do you feel about sauce?"

    I know, ANOTHER CLIFFHANGER? It'll be a long wait but when Halloween comes around again, keep an eye out. See what happens next! Happy Halloween, readers. ^_^

    Three Summarized Arguments for a New Feeder

    OPINION | WRITTEN BY Agalaesia

    Gameplayers have, for quite a while, been nervously awaiting for a new feeder. Some prominent nations have stated that it is not a case of "if," but a case of "when."

    Recently, there have also been proposals to create a 'feeder warzone,' and the idea of a new feeder seems to emerge once every so often. So, what is the case for a new feeder, and how would such a feeder shake up how governments interact with the game?

    Here are some of the arguments for new feeders:

    One: WA Dilution

    Diluting the feeder’s World Assembly Nations is a common argument when arguing for the concept of a new feeder. Many argue that The North Pacific and other feeders have too many endorsements. and therefore should be “diluted.” Indeed, the number of endorsements that The North Pacific has gained is a common reason cited in the radical General Assembly “National Sovereignty” argument, a stance which is often used by The West Pacific.

    Ideally, by “diluting endorsements” by founding new nations in multiple locations, this National Sovereignty argument could be eliminated. “Diluting Endorsements” by creating more feeders could also make the World Assembly more exciting and less predictable, as the passage of world assembly resolutions would not be as reliant on the few opinions and predictable key votes that it currently revolves around.

    Two: Political Diversity

    Currently, almost all feeders (with one major exception) are allied or in agreement, however, this makes inter-regional relations and, at times, the World Assembly go stale with lack of engagement from world governments.

    All gameplaying nations acknowledge that the inter-regional landscape is stale, however, refuse to do anything about it. By creating new feeders, engagement from existing regional governments in gameplay would increase dramatically. Whether this is a positive outcome depends on the regional government, and it could very well be that many will continue to focus on regional infrastructure over fostering inter-regional relations and conflict.

    Three: Why Not?

    At the end of the day, the exact nature of a new feeder can only be guessed at - will they gain stable governments and natives, or will they be ridden with constant coups and regional conflicts?

    Whatever happens, the creation of new feeders would shake up how governments and nations interact with the game for multiple future generations.

    Interview with Electrum - Issues Editor


    How did you start writing issues, and how did you become an issues editor?

    I started writing issues seriously back in May this year, when the fifth Issues Contest was announced. It seemed like a good way to try writing in a different style, given that I am mainly a sports roleplayer (I like to see issues editing as a side gig).

    I became an issues editor after winning the issues contest - my winning draft was "The Brains Behind Kuru". It's basically a follow-up on legalising unregulated cannibalism, and how that can lead to the spread of an infectious brain disease. It was a last-minute submission and came to me in a moment of serendipity when I was originally planning to write an issue themed on Sweeney Todd.

    Funnily enough, I have some terrible unpublished forum drafts from 2014 on sentient animals and mouldy cheese that I have no recollection of ever writing. They will never see the light of day.

    Do you have a favourite issue?

    "Contract Killer". It's based on a great piece of English literature, and is littered with references and allusions to the characters and themes of said piece of literature. Option 4 is a great touch as well. A close second is "For Want of a Nail". The premise is engaging, and it provides some very humorous and varied option choices.

    How do you deal with a writer's block?

    It's good to have a stockpile of ideas that have been compiled over a period of time. I always have a phone or notepad with me at all times to write down issue ideas as they come. When I'm writing a draft, I find that stopping work on it and coming back a week later can provide a fresh perspective.

    Are there any changes to issues that you would like to see, including features and player-made developments?

    We're always welcome to new suggestions, but one innovation I'd like to see used more often is issues where the resulting effect line depends on the country's characteristics. For example, issue 982 has the leader play chess, and the outcome of that match depends on the country's stats.

    What makes up a good issue?

    I think the four essential elements of a good issue are, in order of importance: humour, an engaging premise, good characterisation and brevity.

    What's your favourite type of issue?

    My favourite type of issue is one that presents an unintended consequence to a decision that has been made earlier. If an issue can convince someone to change their mind and consider new perspectives, then perhaps there is hope for this world after all.

    What tips would you give to a new issues author?

    Draft on the GI forums, and don't rush to submit immediately. We're a friendly bunch and we all want what's best for the game -- if you receive constructive criticism, take it in stride and seek to iterate and improve.

    When writing, work on characterisation -- one of the biggest problems I see in submissions is that all of the characters sound the same. Give your characters a bit of personality, either by describing what they're doing, or in their speech.

    Also, show, don't tell. For example, instead of saying 'said snootily', think about ways you can express the snootiness of someone without saying it.

    What are your thoughts on people looking up the consequences of the issue before answering them? Do you think it kills the spirit of issue answering?

    Totally fine with that. It's impossible to stop anyways. After all, part of the fun in NationStates is to mould your country into whatever image you want it to be.

    NOTE: The Rejected Times does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Rejected Realms.

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