Hold the bullets, hold the festival, and EMBRACE THE PSYCHO!!!
Over the past four months, I’ve been gradually releasing chapters from my 2018 novel, Psycho Bullet Festival: The Odyssey of Abigale Quinlan, re-editing the text for errors and creating header images to denote each chapter. It’s part of a prolonged process I’ve taken on to revise and republish novels I’ve previously written on Nigma Box to better preserve them and make them available to my current audience. And now that the re-publishing process is completed, I wanted to do a post-mortem on the work, discussing its origins, my inspirations, my intentions, and my overall thoughts on this story after an extensively detailed re-visiting. So without further preamble, let’s start the Psycho Bullet Festival! …After some housekeeping!
Part 0: Meipuru Tsuri and the Death of Dreams
On January 20th, 2016, I released my second full-length novel in the form of The Malice of Abigale Quinlan. A sequel to my first novel, Verde’s Doohickey, and as I discussed in Natalie Rambles About The Malice of Abigale Quinlan, I was far from happy with how the story turned out. Because of how dissatisfied I was with my own work, I put an end to every sequel I had loosely planned up until that point and canceled what was to be this overly ambitious 10-part novel series, The Novus Logs.
However, this did not mark the end of my narrative pursuits. Oh, far from it. Even before I had finished the editing on Malice, I was already working on the outline for my next story. One that had nothing to do with anything I previously worked on, was set on the other side of the planet and focused on concepts I had wanted to explore before, but never had the opportunity.
This planning ultimately led to the creation of Maple Loves Senpai, a 30,000 word novella I initially released on May 27th, 2016. The story follows 16-year-old Japanese high school girl Meipuru Tsuri, as she confesses to her high school crush and the titular ‘senpai,’ Satoshi Suzuki. But upon confessing and subsequently being rejected by Satoshi, Meipuru uses a charm given to her by a fairy, which causes these two would-be-lovers to fuse together into a single being. The ensuing story then follows Meipuru as she is ordered by Satoshi to go about using her newfound powers to absorb others, mixing and matching their traits in order to become Satoshi’s idealized waifu. It was a dark comedic love story, one that featured absurd situations, gruesome murders, and the appropriation of cultural stereotypes.
I thought about revising that story and republishing it on Nigma Box with my other works. However, the actual story had a lot of… problems. Its understanding of Japanese culture was amateurish. Its storyline was repetitive. I egregiously made the protagonists 16-years-old and had them indulge in outlandish sexual acts (including penile vore). And overall, I don’t look back on the story fondly. It has elements and components that I adore to this day, but I would not be happy with republishing the story with only minor edits, and if I were to make it available to the public again, I would want to reinvent it wholly, fix its more problematic elements, achieve more of a sexual absurdist tone. But I have no idea if I will get around to this planned reimagining and expansion, and this is not Natalie Rambles About Maple Loves Senpai, so I’m going to jump ahead to what I did AFTER I released this novella.
Part 1: Psycho Bullet Festival 2: Help Me Bury My Children
The true and proper origins of Psycho Bullet Festival: The Odyssey of Abigale Quinlan begin with the conception of its original title one cold January afternoon in 2016, as I was waiting for a train to take me out of the filthy city of Chicago and back to my suburban home. As my mind wandered aimlessly and my eyes drifted at the denizens below the elevated platform, I mused about future story titles I could pursue, having just finished The Malice of Abigale Quinlan. And I was not met with an idea, but a name. Psycho Bullet Festival 2: Help Me Bury My Children.
An outlandish and downright stupid name that wasn’t an original idea as much as a hodgepodge of references. The name “Psycho Bullet Festival” is a reference to a mechanic of the same name seen in a 2006 video game adaptation of the 1992 Quentin Tarantino film, Reservoir Dogs. I watched a video of the game sometime back in 2015, found the title entertaining, and decided that nobody would notice or care if I were to take it.
“Help Me Bury My Children” is a reference to the video game podcast Super Best Friendcast. Where their 2015 Christmas special, episode 125, was entitled Miracle Girl Festival: Let Me Bury Your Child: Stop Me From Bearing Your Child. Which itself was a partial reference to the 2012 PSP title, Conception: Please Give Birth to My Child! and the 2015 PS Vita anime crossover rhythm game Miracle Girls Festival.
While the “2” came from… the fact that I thought the title didn’t sound stupid enough and thought that a number helped tie it together.
I spent the proceeding 50 minute train ride thinking about this title and using it as a basis to craft a narrative. During that ride, I decided that it would be a post-apocalyptic action story centering around a female character on a quest to murder her children, gaining greater and greater powers as they all fell, while being aided by a group of wastelander allies. My mind took influence from contemporary Japanese action games and the recently released Fallout 4 as I mulled over this concept. And as I thought of a protagonist to lead this story, one with great powers and capable of greater feats, I decided to repurpose none other than Abigale Quinlan
Abigale Quinlan was the titular antagonist of my 2014 novella My Life As Abigale Quinlan and my 2016 novel, The Malice of Abigale Quinlan. In both stories, she played more of a secondary role, being the one who initiated the events of the story, and being the form taken by each story’s protagonist. But she herself played a minimal role, and I wanted to see that corrected by writing a story where she was the protagonist.
That sounds simple enough on paper and was enough for me to form a vague foundation at the end of my train ride, but as I continued to muse on the concept in the ensuing months, I realized there were two problems with this idea.
One, Abigale Quinlan has always been portrayed as an unfathomably intelligent individual. A genius with the knowledge, conviction, and cunning to get out of every situation, and a character who was too darn intelligent for me to accurately write a story from her perspective. She was a perfect individual who never made mistakes, and I typically find protagonists who can do no wrong to be boring as all hell, because they are immune to failure and consequences.
Two, Abigale Quinlan was not really ‘protagonist material’. In her two prior stories, she was a monster. She was a school shooter. She was a crass, brutal murderer who mentally broke people for fun and sought emotional highs by tormenting innocent individuals. I had written monstrous protagonists before, such as T-Bird in my 2014 novella Psycho Shatter. But that was a short story with multiple protagonists, a darkly comedic tone, a narrow plot, and a narrator. Meanwhile, I imagined Psycho Bullet Festival being a prolonged novel-length narrative with a set protagonist, a supporting cast, and a serious yet intentionally edgy tone.
In order to reconcile these issues, I decided that a reinvention of Abigale Quinlan was necessary, and I began to reimagine her from the ground up as a more deliberate protagonist. One whose origins would tie into the world I wanted to create and would play the role of the bringer of the apocalyptic setting the story would take place in.
In the Psycho Bullet Festival universe, Abigale Quinlan is a well-traveled and well-learned immortal woman of color who traveled about the world starting at the tail end of the Italian Renaissance, seeing empires fall and revolutions begin, while consorting with many of the greatest minds in the latter half of the second millennia. During this time, she was subjected to many hardships for her appearance and immortality, which both painted her personality from a bright-eyed intellectual to a cynic, and caused her powers to expand beyond her innate abilities to recover from lethal wounds and never age.
According to my notes, she developed strength and speed when up against strong armies of men who tried to repeatedly kill her. She developed the ability to transmogrify matter, known as Real Booting, after being imprisoned with no way to escape. She developed the Snap Burst ability after being assaulted with gunfire and needing a way to fight back. And she developed the ability to rapidly heal when she was tortured relentlessly by individuals who branded her a daemon. This made up her skillset until the modern-day, where centuries have left her cynical and thinking little of the world as it rapidly changed due to the technical innovations seen throughout the 1980s through the 2000s. All until something happened that caused Abigale Quinlan to transform the setting into a post-apocalyptic one.
After being abducted by a powerful organization, Abigale would be tortured through their aggressive experimentation. Through the relentless pain and imprisonment, Abigale developed the ability to shape the world around her through the sheer force of her will, granting her the ability to control nature and weather. After escaping from the facility she was imprisoned in, Abigale would throw Earth into disarray as she summoned catastrophic natural disasters that crippled civilizations and solar flares that eradicated most electronics
The events of Abigale’s torture and the Cataclysm were initially referred to as Psycho Bullet Festival 1, and Psycho Bullet Festival 2 was set to take place several years later. Where Abigale Quinlan would wake up with no memories of the destruction she caused, and with her powers gone from her person. Upon reawakening, she would soon learn that her abilities had been passed down to the children she bred while unconscious and in the custody of the Flare Foundation. A private organization that wished to use her for their own gains. Upon escaping the facility, the story would follow Abigale and a young woman named Jack Crowbar as the two venture through a desert wasteland on a quest to kill, or bury, her children, restore her powers and use her powers to restore the world to its former glory.
I settled on how these initial events would play out in June 2016, and while most of my ideas carried over into the final release, I cut out much of Abigale’s past for the sake of keeping the story focused and her character more mysterious, and I completely changed the tone I originally envisioned for this story. I was writing a story called Psycho Bullet Festival, and I felt that the tone of the story should fit its title. To me, this meant that the story should be a hot-blooded tale of action where super-powered individuals battle it out for dominance in a world that went to shit, with every new opponent being crazier and more vicious than the last. An actiony and intentionally edgy story with a flippant protagonist who cared only for herself.
But as I started writing the story, I began to veer away from this idea and into the story that I ultimately released. A slower and more methodical story about a woman traveling the world and murdering her children through fairly conventional means, where things are kept grounded for the majority of the story, and where the bombast implied by its title is not present until its final chapters.
Why did I change this title so drastically during its development? Well, it was not a conscious decision, but rather a result of how long it took me to write this bloody thing.
Part 2: Sayonara! Goodbye! Embrace the Delays!
As a writer, I have a history of a fairly quick turnaround. I have written novels in as little as 5 months. I have written novellas in less than a month. I can put out short stories in half a week if I am focused enough. And I can reliably write 3,000 words a day if I am in the right headspace and not interrupted by other people. But with Psycho Bullet Festival: The Odyssey of Abigale Quinlan, it took me the entirety of June 2016 to finalize the initial outline and 22 months to actually write the ~75,000 word story, before I was finally done on April 27, 2018.
Why did it take me so long? Well, the simple answer is that life happened, shit happened, and I didn’t have the time needed to work on this story. What exactly occupied my time? Well, quite a lot actually.
I made a new friend on June 1st, 2016, the day I began working on the first full outline of Psycho Bullet Festival. This friend and I quickly became incredibly close over the ensuing weeks and we would spend hours a day together during the first year we knew each other. Playing games, watching anime, doing Choose Your Own Adventures, working on some collaborative writing projects, and just chatting about whatever crossed our minds. The time I spent with them represented time I wasn’t working on my personal projects, including Psycho Buller Festival.
In the fall of 2016, I started attending Northeastern Illinois University and began pursuing my bachelor’s, and eventually master’s, in accounting. The more intensive curriculum meant I was spending more time on school projects and studying in general, but that was fairly marginal in the grand scheme of things. Time became an issue when it came to getting there and back, as I relied on a paratransit service to bring me to and from school. A service that was cheap and great when it worked, but they were very much unreliable. They were constantly late in picking me up and when they did pick me up, they would often stretch out a 20 minute car ride over 1 to 2 hours.
Now, this would not be so bad if I could do something as I waited for and while in these vehicles. But I did not get a smartphone until 2019, and I cannot read in a moving vehicle for more than a few minutes before I get carsick. Meaning there really was nothing I could do but meander and muse about things, reviewing class material in my head, and thinking over my ongoing personal projects… among other things.
On May 18th, 2016, I came out as transgender to my mother and by June 23rd I was already beginning my gender transition in earnest by starting Hormone Replacement Therapy. Over the ensuing 18 months I spent a substantial amount of time preparing to start presenting myself as female beginning in 2018. Visiting doctors, preparing for and undergoing Facial Feminization Surgery, buying a new wardrobe, taking vocal training lessons, getting my name legally changed, and so forth and so on. None of this represented a massive amount of time, but when added up, it easily amassed into hundreds of hours.
New Work, New Problems:
From June 2014 through August 2016 I worked an office job with a generally slow workflow and would routinely spend the last 3 hours of my 8 hour days with nothing to do. I would spend this time writing my earlier novels and other content for Nigma Box, and a significant amount of the Verde’s Doohickey, The Malice of Abigale Quinlan, and Maple Loves Senpai were written within this office. But in June 2016 I started a second job at the administrative end of a medical office, where I had significantly more work to do every day. Meaning I was no longer able to write things during my downtime at work, as I had next to none.
In addition to writing fiction, I also write about video games, and while it takes comparatively little time to pen a game review or offer an editorial regarding current goings-on in the industry, I often found myself fatigued of writing after I completed these tasks, and would push off Psycho Bullet Festival as being less important than the game reviews and news rundowns I was producing on a weekly basis from 2016 through 2018.
Because of all these factors, I wound up undergoing significant delays in the writing of Psycho Bullet Festival. These delays would last from weeks to months, and caused the development of this story to stagger over time. By letting these creative ambitions sit and gestate while undergoing some very substantial changes in my life, they mutated over time, and as my ideas changed, I began to change, and I slowly reworked the story into something new and different from the hot-blooded edgy action story I originally envisioned in June of 2016.
Psycho Bullet Festival 2: Help Me Bury My Children became Psycho Bullet Festival: The Odyssey of Abigale Quinlan, and in the process, I think some things got worse, some things got confused, and some things got better. But before getting to that, I want to talk about the title for a moment.
Part 3: 1 Psycho, Some Bullets, 0 Festivals
The very title of Psycho Bullet Festival is something I considered removing throughout the development process of this story but kept due to the simple fact that, after you call something by a name for two years, you start to grow attached to it. Unfortunately, as a story called Psycho Bullet Festival… it fails to deliver on what it promises.
There is only one psycho seen throughout the story, that being Fiona/Maxxie/Flare. The quantity of bullets is not especially high throughout the story. Episode 1 features 3 bullets, Episode 3 features 1 bullet, Episode 6 features an ambiguous amount of bullets fired from a hunting rifle, and Episode 8 features 2 bullets unless you count the pile of misshapen bullets created by Punky— which I don’t! That puts the total bullet quantity at 6+x, with x representing up to 10, as most hunting rifles are rarely able to hold more than 10 rounds. Meaning there are 16 bullets, which is hardly enough to constitute a “bullet festival.” Let alone a psychotic “bullet festival.” And it’s not like festival can have any other meaning in this context!
…But to take a less pedantic approach, the title of Psycho Bullet Festival implies bombast, action, and high energy, which is very much not what PBF delivers. The writing and tone of the story is far more mellow and slower, being a story filled with a lot of quaint dialogue and internal introspections from its protagonist, and while this is peppered with fight scenes in the form of Abigale’s battles against her children, my approach with them was arguably too realistic. Rather than viewing these encounters like a choreographer, visual director, or video game designer, I viewed them as people in the world and informed their actions accordingly.
Or in other words, based on the title alone, Psycho Bullet Festival was a BETRAYAL to itself. But aside from botching the title, the most important part of any work competing for one’s attention, does the story have merit, and is it a good novel?
Eh, not really. I think it’s slow, routine, and loses steam partway through before revving back up again in a very awkward approach to pacing. The tone is somber and dark in many respects, and the story is very uneven with its action, being notably deprived of much excitement from Episodes 7 through 11, and while it has a lot of stake in the backstories, as exemplified with Episodes 7 and 10, it’s all uneven and lopsided. The world-building, while interesting in some respects, means very little with regards to the overall story. The varied settings are non-visual set dressing, and the navigation through terrain is almost completely undermined with the introduction of a vehicle a third of the way into the story.
It is a messy, uneven little mound, but it is one that I think has some merit, and in lieu of a more creative structure, I think the best way to filter out the bad, the weird, the good, and what the hell I was thinking is to focus on the cast of characters. First the Psycho Bullet Babes, then the Psycho Bullet Babies, and finally, the Psycho Bullet Bitch.
Part 4: Abigale and the Psycho Bullet Babes
As I said earlier, Abigale Quinlan was originally going to be a more callous and violent individual akin to her prior incarnations in my earlier works. But that idea changed as I began writing from her perspective and trying to sympathize with her plight as somebody unintentionally responsible for untold amounts of destruction and one who had essential traits about her person stolen from her via forced breeding. I felt that it would be disingenuous and unrealistic for any individual, even an immortal, to not look at this situation with a degree of sorrow and self-loathing, and I decided to make her a ‘good person’ instead of a ‘bad person’.
A good person who does not want to hurt people, and feels guilt for her actions, despite her best effort. A good person who clings to what she had lost, as it was an inherent part of her person and sense of self. A good person who does indeed care for others, even if she feels she must remain distant from them after having lost so many people throughout her lengthy existence. And a good person who puts herself to high standards and bemoans her newly dulled wit and the routine stupidity of her current actions.
I tried to convey this through her actions and narration, how she willingly puts herself into danger, protects her allies, takes no pleasure in the act of killing her children, let alone anyone, and goes on methodical walks to both establish the world and her remorse. However, I don’t think I was able to properly capture the mindset of an immortal woman who was jaded from a prolonged and eventful life, even with the caveat that her memory is fragmented and her intelligence is comparable to that of a common person.
I generally prefer writing in the first-person over the third-person, and whenever I write a character from the first-person, I worry if I am writing them too close to home. This is why I tend to mostly write younger characters who share similar principles and values as me, or more jaded adults inspired by individuals who I have seen verbally express their aspirations and disdain for their current situation in vigorous detail. But Abigale Quinlan, at least this Abigale Quinlan, is a character a bit too different from me for me to truly get inside her head… despite being her creator.
I tried to make her determined, resolute in her duty, and fretless in the face of adversity. Somebody who still felt sorrow and sympathy, but kept a professional face on when interfacing with most others, knowing she always has a role to play. But even with my best effort, I think she still sounds too much like a young person. She still sounds too much like me. And she shouldn’t sound like me. She should sound like somebody better. Because she is better than me, even in her weakened and stupid state.
…Oh, and there’s another, fairly minor yet deeply… confused bit of lore about her that I should explain: Why does Abigale Quinlan have a penis and why does she impregnate herself?
Well, the reason why Abigale Quinlan has a penis in the first place has to do with her original incarnation in My Life As Abigale Quinlan. Where I flippantly decided that she would have a penis because, at the time, I thought that the idea of a woman with a meter-long tail-like retractable penis was ‘The Hottest Shit’. I omitted this trait in The Malice of Abigale Quinlan because it did not fit with the story I wanted to tell and would be a weird ancillary detail that would have confused the narrative.
As for why I brought it back in Psycho Bullet Festival, in order for my initial idea to work, the story would need to be about Abigale hunting her own children, and I did not want her to share the responsibility of parenthood with another character, male or female. I wanted her to be the sole parent, and in order to do so, I needed to give her the means to reproduce… well, not asexually, but without the involvement of another party. Also, I wanted Abigale to pass down her abilities to her children, and that made more ‘sense’ to me if the reproduction involved her combining her dual genitals, as everything that defined the child would be derived from her own biology, including their inherited powers.
In the early idea phase of Psycho Bullet Festival, I also thought about having Abigale use her penis as a tool, as a way for her to surprise opponents, and even a way to murder her children— by choking them to death with her meter-long dick— However, I began to move away from this idea as I began writing and finding the right tone for this story.
In the final text, Abigale only off-handedly mentions her penis, it is never shown or described and is more of an afterthought. And canonically her penis is meant to be a retractable yet otherwise completely unremarkable human penis. One that Abigale can ‘release’ from a body cavity if she wants to. But at no point in the story does she ever have a reason to whip her dick out.
Jack Crowbar was a character who underwent a lot of mutations throughout the concept phase, with the earliest renditions being heavily based around the character of Peatrice from The Malice of Abigale Quinlan. She was to be a character with an appearance largely lifted from fetish art, a penchant for crowbar-based violence, and a love of sex learned through years of sexual abuse. But I quickly moved away from this original starting point and gradually pulled the character back into her final form. That of an androgynous young Asian woman with a dark past that left her frail, timid, and child-like despite having the body of an adult.
This change came about because I felt that this character was too crazy and unrealistic for what I, at some point, decided would be a more grounded story. And I wanted to do this by establishing a character who underwent formative years in this horrible post-apocalyptic world. Somebody who was broken during childhood and lost everything she held dear. And somebody who would symbolize how damaged the world was after the Cataclysm.
Beyond her general background, she plays a lot of roles in the story proper. She is a surrogate child for Abigale to care for as she goes on her journey while killing her biological children. Which is part of a greater theme of motherhood that is just kind of… there, and I never did anything with. She represents how much was lost in the Cataclysm and how an entire generation was crippled by these events and lost their innocence as they were forced to survive in a vicious environment. And she provides both details on the world and steadily foreshadows future events by discussing the Flare Foundation and Miss Flare.
She also gives Abigale a person to talk to and develop a character relationship with, and provides an ongoing B-plot throughout the story as Jack gradually grows closer to Abigale through their shared experience. The exact ramifications of their relationship are not very… traditional, and very little about how they feel about each other is overtly stated, but there is a lot of subtext to go through in reconciling their relationship.
To Jack, Abigale is the person who freed her from her slavery and is the first mentally well-adjusted individual she has interacted with in years. She is somebody who will protect her, who will respect her, will lend an ear to hear her woes, and will not reject her, no matter how vicious her past is. This closeness, this sense of belonging, causes Jack to view Abigale fondly, as somebody who is akin to a parental figure. But, thanks to years of sexual abuse and the misunderstanding with that, Jack also has a romantic interest in Abigale.
Jack ultimately wishes she could be with Abigale in a vague loving relationship comparable to a healthy couple or a parent and child, something she has not had since the death of her parents. However, from the onset of the odyssey, Jack is aware that this cannot be the case, and that she will never be anything more than a friend. Because of this, she represses her feelings and does not share them with Abigale, for she knows that it would not benefit their relationship.
That covers the core of her character, but there are two other elements I should address, starting with the fact that Jack’s background. She lost everything in the Cataclysm before turning to a life of murder in order to survive, took joy in the act, and becoming a ‘Jack the Ripper’ of sorts. I did this in order to show how even the innocent and mild can lose themselves if under the right type of pressure, and to show just how much Jack was broken by the events of the Cataclysm, driven to a wall where she had to abandon all she was and all she thought was good.
She takes pleasure in these actions not because she is evil, psychotic, or anything of the sort. She takes pleasure in the act of murder because she has nothing else. Because she would drown in her own despair if she were to accept her actions as evil, and the only way to retain her composure, she subconsciously told herself that this was a good thing. That killing helped her live. That, by extension, killing was good, as it meant she would live longer.
She is only able to accept her actions as what they are when divorced from the hostile environment she found herself in. And with salvation near, and her happiness at a high it had not been in nearly a decade, Jack finally feels strong enough to confront and confess to her actions.
The second element I want to discuss is her name. Jacquelynne “Crowbar” Onson is a jumbled and confusing name that itself is based on two references. Jack Crowbar is a direct reference to an online radio program hosted on the website of the disbanded nerdcore group The Adventures of Duane & Brando. I listened to this program sporadically throughout 2010 and occasionally a co-host would appear, a woman who went by the handle of Jack Crowbar. I later mingled the name of Jack Crowbar with Jack Onson, a self-insert type character by the artist ONATaRT who was formally introduced in his short-lived and delisted YouTube video series called Resqetch.
As for why I extended that into Jacquelynne, well, I did so because I wanted Jack to be a character of many names. I find names like Elizabeth, Catherine, and Jacquelynne to be extremely interesting, as they can be broken up and contorted into so many ways. And after coming up with Jacquelynne’s backstory, I felt that she would feel dissonant and disconnected from her former preferred name, which I retroactively made into Lynne, and would feel more comfortable viewing herself as Jack.
There’s also some symbolism to draw from with that choice of name, going from the feminine name of Lynne to the masculine name of Jack while losing certain details of her life that she might consider feminine. Going from a schoolgirl to a murderer and sex slave to a woman. I could say this was all intentional and that I wanted to use Jack to abstractly explore my own ideas of gender while undergoing my own gender transition (from starting hormones to presenting myself as female) during the creation of this story… but that would be a lie, as I only came to realize this symbolism during my re-edit.
As a whole, I do like her character. Her brief impulses of crowbar-based violence in Episodes 1, 6, and 8 foreshadow her backstory, and by giving her two whopping backstory exposition dumps throughout the story, she is able to come into her own as a character in this world. She is a core part of the story, a genuine central character with some development and depth, and even if she doesn’t do much beyond tagalong, dish out lore, and does some neck based murders. there really isn’t a lot of room for her to do much more next to Abigale. She plays her role well, and… I like her.
Next, we have Zedaki. A character who I originally imagined as a middle-aged man who thrived in the post-apocalyptic landscape, becoming the leader of a settlement and an infamous figure with strong bonds to his allies. A cocky fellow with the gun and sword skills to back up his boasts, and one who would drive recklessly through the wastes to aid Abigale in her quest, while being all-too-eager to step into fights.
This is the character I decided to write, and a character who I wrote up until Episode 5. But as I was writing them, I started developing doubts about their character and decided to rewrite them entirely. Zedaki then became a young woman stranded in an unfamiliar nation took the role of leadership reluctantly, and was grappling with the loss of her lover along with everything else.
So, just like the other main characters, Zedaki underwent a 180 from concept to execution. But while I think I ultimately made the right call with Abigale and Jack, I’m not sure that was the case for Zedaki. Mostly due to how… boring Zedaki is as a character. With Abigale, she is the protagonist, and the story is her odyssey. Jack is a character who works in the story on several levels I just discussed. But Zedaki is not made to be especially cool or collected, and she’s not much of a weirdo. She’s overall very average and unremarkable in her temperament, barring some flashes of hot-bloodedness or cockiness meant to contrast Abigale’s collectedness. In the story, she exists to drive, banter, and get in a single fight with Marz.
I tried to give her character some depth with the loss of her female lover, Raiyne Underwood, her attachment to the oddball ensemble she wore, which was inspired by the attire of Red Mages in classic Final Fantasy titles mixed with the standard clip art version of a cowboy, and her change in appearance partway through the story was meant to symbolize a form of growth for her. But whatever development I wanted to accomplish with her just doesn’t work.
This is because I never actually explained what her development was going to be, and decided to do it at the halfway point in the story, when Zedaki was only introduced as a character around the 20% mark. Her character lacks the time to establish itself, and despite undergoing an outfit change, she is pretty much identical in temperament. And whatever personal baggage she unpacked leading up to this change is not detailed. She has a moment where she realizes that nothing in this world is permanent, where she accepts the loss of the one person in this world she could rely on, her former lover and the female leader of Madeco, and where she discards the notion of carrying out her legacy. But she never explains her feelings directly, and there is not enough subtext to adequately explain or expand upon her supposed development.
I think I was planning on having the explanation come later in the story, but I forgot to include such a scene in the outline I was working on, subsequently forgot about including a backstory showcase when writing the story, and never wrote anything in-depth about her backstory in my notes. This ultimately results in Zedaki being a shallow main character who might have some depth, but never shares it with the rest of the cast or the reader, causing her to be a more muted presence, despite her vibrant attire.
I actually might have tried internally justifying the lack of heart-to-heart scenes between Zedaki and Abigale under the pretense that Zedaki is a woman in her 30s and she doesn’t need to hash her worries out with someone else. She isn’t broken and has handled her mental state well after the Cataclysm. She doesn’t want to share needless details with someone she’ll only know for a short while. And while she might enjoy being playful around Abigale, she isn’t really trying to befriend her.
This is all a grounded and reasonable way to construct a relationship, but it’s also boring. With a central cast this small, the interlocking relationships between characters is important, and there simply needed to be something more between Abigale and Zedaki.
Which is why, while writing this post-mortem, I went back and revised Episode 9 to give Abigale and Zedaki more time together by adding a scene where Zedaki joins Abigale as she goes to obtain Punky from Zil, who I retconned into being the raiders who are responsible for the death of Zedaki’s significant other. It doesn’t fully fix this issue, but it’s better now and makes her feel like she has a greater presence in this story and this world.
On the other end of things is Zedaki’s relationship with Jack, which I think fares far better. From their first interactions together, they already have an almost sisterly relationship, with Zedaki playfully teasing Jack mere hours after meeting her, and later spending a not-insignificant amount of time chatting with her. They are two people going through a harsh situation together, develop a connection as a pair of mortals around an immortal, and later cement their fondness by sharing a home after Abigale helps expand Madeco in Episode 15. It’s a subtler and more minor relationship, but that’s all it really needed to be, as these characters are not the protagonist we are following, and it can be implied that they do spend much of their free time talking to one another and furthering their bonds. But I also could have explored their relationship in more hard and deliberate detail than what I did in the final release.
As a whole, Zedaki needed more direction, time in the narrative oven, and general room for her to flaunt her character and supposed development. I screwed up by not including that, and her character is a bit flat despite my efforts to give her some personality via dialogue.
…Oh, right, I probably should explain where exactly I pulled her name from, even though you can easily just Google it. I picked up on the name after doing a Dragon Ball deep dive and discovering details about a 1989 attempt by Harmony Gold to bring the 1986 Dragon Ball anime to America. Which they did by butchering two films together and renaming all the characters. They gave the desert bandit supporting character, Yamcha, the name Zedaki, because that is somehow more palatable to an American audience. I liked the name, and when it came time to name characters, this is the first one that came to mind. Simple as that.
Part 5: The Psycho Bullet Babies
Once I firmly settled on the idea of PBF being a story about filicide, the next question that came to mind was who or what the children would be, and my mind immediately rushed to two conclusions. That every child would inherit one power, because that would be more interesting and when you create a ‘boss’ you typically only give them one schtick to stick with. And that despite all technically being no more than 7-years-old, they would all develop 4 times as fast as normal humans, because otherwise Abigale’s children would be these pudgy creatures with bad motor skills and few key differences in their appearance.
I never bothered explaining how Abigale’s children inherited their powers, why they got what powers they did, or why they aged so rapidly. Because that doesn’t really matter. The origins of something supernatural don’t actually matter, and what matters is how one responds to something supernatural happening to them. The same goes for Abigale herself. Where she came from and how she was born, in this context at least, doesn’t matter, because the story is about her and the current situation she is being thrown into.
But I should probably offer an explanation as to why the children were of various gender identities and had differing sexual characteristics despite being biological clones of Abigale Quinlan. This decision was inspired by a human genetics course I took in college where I learned that the expression of one’s genes would change over time, causing even identical twins to develop differences in phenotypes over time. I found the concept interesting and thought about giving Abigale’s offspring a more extreme version of that, allowing them to develop into different body types while retaining the same skin and hair color.
This, once again, was a largely unexplained trait of Abigale’s children and was done for two reasons. Because it would be super freaking boring if every character was a one-to-one clone of Abigale, and because as somebody coming to terms with her own gender identity, I liked the idea of including characters who had some undetailed ability to, in some way, influence how they looked, shaping themselves biologically in accordance to their growing sense of identity as they aged.
Now, when it came time to actually use these children, my original approach was for each of them to represent a ‘boss battle’ for Abigale to overcome, but that didn’t really happen, mostly because of Abigale’s particular powerset. Snap Burst, Super Strength and Speed, Immortality, Real Booting, and Intelligence. I was dead set on this skill set because these are the powers I gave Abigale previously, and I already made in-universe justifications for them. But they are a rather lopsided powerset because Abigale is, and always was, such an overpowered character.
Immortality, in the context of PBF, rids the character of all injuries lasting more than a handful of seconds. Real Booting is the ability to turn anything into anything if one can properly imagine it, and once it appears, then all conflicts can be averted by grabbing somebody’s face and making it literally anything but a face. Intelligence, by Abigale’s standards, makes her one of the most brilliant people in history, and a character I simply am not smart enough to write in a compelling manner.
Through the process of elimination, this made Snap Burst, which is like having a gun you fire by snapping your finger and aim with your mind, and the standard superhuman strength and speed buffs the weakest abilities in Abigale’s repertoire. Yet even with these two, she is still a force to be reckoned with and causes all future conflict to become null.
Because of this, I decided to not have any battle sequences between the Marz fight and the fight with Flare, because I could not, and still can’t, think of a good fight between somebody who can make anything and somebody who can punch through a brick wall and cause heads to pop open with a snap of their fingers and one who lacks these abilities. But let’s hold off on discussing the messy matter that is Flare until later. Instead, I would like to go over my creative process with Abigale’s children.
Starting with my approach to viewing them as characters. All of the children in Psycho Bullet Festival were written in a limited capacity, as they were effectively manufactured to die, and I did not bother devising much backstory, background, or character complexity for them, as I viewed them more as a means to an end, as plot devices more than true characters. Plot devices with basic personalities, shallow depth, no development, and minimal backstories beyond ‘they escaped the Flare Foundation and wandered the modern wasteland for months or years before stumbling into their current circumstances.‘
But to offer a more granular and in-depth approach, let’s go through these clone kids in chronological order.
Seven the Slain is my internal name for Abigale’s seventh, or technically eight, child, and their inclusion in the story is as a narrative tool. From the beginning, I wanted to open Psycho Bullet Festival coldly, with Abigale discovering her mortality after being shot repeatedly. And seeing as how I did not want Abigale to spend the rest of the story healing from bullet wounds, I needed to give her immortality pronto. I decided the best way to do this was to introduce a child she had to kill, establishing the core rules of the story, that Abigale regained her powers by killing her children, very early on.
As a storyteller, I typically like to frontload my longer projects like this, filling my first chapters with oodles of questions for a reader to chew on before explaining most of it with an exposition dump in the second chapter, and getting on with the rest of the story in chapters three and onwards. It’s how I’ve been writing stories since 2013, and I think it works pretty well.
B-17 the Bomber was imagined as a selfish child with great power who was never nurtured or disciplined. A child with the capacity for murder and no understanding of what it meant. One who viewed others as disposable, and used their natural might to muscle their way through the post-apocalyptic world of PBF. This was reflected in their speaking patterns, which mingle a frequent use of swear words with childish jargon and spoken grammatical errors, illustrating that B-17 had some greater understanding of the darker shades of the world around him, while still being a child and one who nobody has ever said no to… and lived. I enjoyed the act of writing them if only as an exercise to see how garbled I could make the dialogue I had bouncing about in my head, but I also think they play an important role in the story itself.
Due to his power being the least overpowered, at least by my estimation, B-17 was naturally placed in line as the first encounter for Abigale, and in their initial appearance, their crass and childish personality, is meant to contrast Abigale and surprise the reader with a tonal shift. But he is ultimately a serious threat, having murdered many residents of Madeco already.
Being both ill-prepared and unsure as to how hostile her children are, Abigale decides to try talking to the child after they first appear, which turns out to be a mistake, one that incapacitates Abigale, reminds her of how weak she is, and urges her to be more cunning, manipulative, and cruel in her actions, playing with her child’s emotions in order to get him to lower his defenses. But right as Abigale can claim her second kill, B-17 is instead killed by an unknown party. Both as a way to close off Episode 3 on a cliffhanger and a way to introduce Zedaki by having them accomplish a feat before Abigale could. Once again reinforcing her weakness at the moment, having been unable to even kill an opponent with arms wide open.
All in all, I think his character worked well in the story… even though I probably went a bit too far by putting him in a pair of soiled female underwear with a cartoon bear on them. Yeah, I don’t have a good explanation for why I did that. I just think it’s funny when people go potty in their pants and I think underwear with cartoon characters on it is stupid. And I like things that are funny and things that are stupid.
As for the name of B-17, it was lifted directly from the 1982 Intellivision title, B-17 Bomber, which most would be familiar with after the title was featured on a classic episode of the Angry Video Game Nerd. Which is a very odd reference for me to make, but I couldn’t think of anything better, and it’s not like the naming convention for these children was following a theme beyond their alliterated titles.
Marz the Mightiest was probably the simplest of the children conceptually. They are an individual blessed with herculean strength from birth and could keep going and fighting forever. Since they had this ability from birth and escaped the Flare Foundation long ago, I chose to express this in their character design, turning them into a massive character with rippling muscles and absurd height. Basically, a big brute mini-boss mob pulled straight out of a creatively stifled video game. For personality, I didn’t give him much, as I wanted Marz to communicate mostly through his aggression, being a problem that Abigale could only hope to defeat with violence and not words. Unlike B-17, who she did pacify momentarily.
The encounter with Marz is meant to serve as yet another wake-up call for Abigale by reminding her just how weak she currently is without her usual powers, and sees her be overpowered and overwhelmed, unable to fight back as her body is broken, fingers are torn, and her mind is overwhelmed by pain. Thus forcing her to rely on her allies to prevent her death at the hands of Marz, allowing Zedaki to whip out their sword and be a cool lady for a moment before Jack is the one who ultimately takes the kill, ending Marz’s life with a crowbar to the brain. Thereby foreshadowing Jack’s future confessions and giving her the opportunity to use the crowbar she’s been carrying around since her introduction.
It functions on several levels, I think I succeeded in making Marz seem like a mighty and imposing force, and it shows Abigale as a vulnerable and weak character. …For pretty much the last time in the entire story, as she gains the power and force of Marz, sans the resistance that comes from his girthy muscle mass. It works, but I think the execution lacks a certain level of flair to it all. Marz bursts from a wall, rushes to Abigale, beats her, Zedaki distracts him while Abigale heals, she hits Marz a few times, gets stomped on, and then Jack goes in for the crowbar kill. It’s a very matter-of-fact battle sequence, and could have been more dynamic… but I was operating through the lens of realism, and this is what I came up with.
Oh, and the name naturally comes from the Roman god of war, Mars, but with the letter Z instead of S. Because Z is a cooler letter.
Ultros the Undying was a character formed from the idea of an immortal feral child who lived in the wilderness. One who was never in danger of dying, and because of that never developed the need to interact with others, build shelter, or do much more than avoiding predators who would seek to harm them. By limiting his contact with humans and developing a more animalistic skillset and letting their linguistic skills remain at a stilted caveman-level. It’s a fairly simple concept in a lot of genre fiction, and while not complex, they do stand out as a different sort of threat for Abigale to face off against.
In regards to the core of the story, the hunt for Ultros was imagined as being less of a boss encounter and more like a chase sequence, where Abigale makes use of her newfound strength and speed, but is at an environmental disadvantage next to her child as they do things she cannot and make use of skills she lacks, namely traversing the dark forest. The chase is largely standard, gives Zedaki and Jack one more moment to shine by apprehending Ultros, further foreshadows Jack’s violent past, and in a slight bout of variation, Abigale is not technically able to kill Ultros, as one cannot truly kill that which can regenerate from any wound. A revelation that is internally consistent with what little is specified about how Abigale’s strange set of abilities work, puts emphasis on the next leg of the journey, and delays Abigale’s power boost for another chapter.
While I don’t really have any misgivings about Ultros’s character, I do suppose I should address why I decided to arbitrarily insert a bear in the middle of the chase. This was partially as a way for Abigale to test her strength on a creature, partially to reasonably delay her, partially as a reference to The Malice of Abigale Quinlan, and mostly because I love it when characters fight bears.
Ultros’s namesake, as a Google search would imply, is a reference to Ultros, a recurring comic relief antagonist from Final Fantasy VI. The namesake was borrowed partially because Ultros is a persistent unkillable threat throughout the game, and the Final Fantasy series as a whole, but the real reason I went with it was because it was the best gender-neutral name I could think of that began with a U.
When it came time to write Punky the Provider, I realized that I lacked a tragic character amongst the children of Abigale Quinlan, one who Abigale would feel qualms about killing, and one who suffered because of her gifts. Recognizing and wanting to explore this angle, I decided to make the character with arguably the most amazing power of them all, the ability to turn anything into anything using the power of her mind, into somebody who struggled to reconcile with her natural gifts due to her own developmental disability and her weakened mental state caused by an unspecified length of time fraught with hardship. Both from living on her own in a cold desolate world, and after being captured and enslaved by others.
My influences for this character came from my own experience with my developmental disability. The personal anxiety and sense of self-loathing I developed because of how I was treated due to my autism throughout grade school, where adults would frequently, in kinder words, tell me that I lacked the skills to participate in ‘real life’ and insinuating that I would struggle in higher education because of this. Whether due to the severity of their terms of choice or my own interpretations, this caused me to develop no shortage of personal insecurities about my ability to function in the ‘real world’ and my ability to accomplish even basic tasks. To the point where I can sometimes convince myself that my academic accomplishments are due to subterfuge and the compliments I receive for my work are manipulative lies.
This issue was exacerbated around the writing of PBF because I was riding in paratransit at the time, and would frequently spend hours every week around individuals with more severe disabilities than me, either physical or mental. By associating with these individuals, I developed escapist fantasies (I am being deliberate with my terminology here) where I imagined what my life would be like if adults who spoke ill of my abilities when I was younger were right. If I stopped mentally developing around the age of 10, and if I was unable to do anything properly afterward, unable to learn, improve, or develop skills, forever being a burden to those around me.
These feelings were later mingled with my history of viewing physical abuse from authority figures as another form of escapist fantasy. I would often wish that teachers would strike me when I did something incorrectly in school and that my father would beat me after I did something worthy of punishment at home. The psychological ramifications of these fantasies are a subject for another essay, and something I don’t even want to explore in great detail. I simply brought them up here so you have some semblance of an idea why I wrote a character as pitiful as Punky. One who is very much not a one-to-one translation of my insecurities, but is definitely inspired by them.
Anyway, back to the story itself, Punky as a character is meant to contrast the more violent or aggressive encounters Abigale met previously, for she is a weak and passive individual who bears no resistance when met by Abigale. Because of this, and because of the clear signs of her abuse, rape, and enslavement by Zil, Abigale cannot help but pity this young woman. Rather than doing the most efficient thing and killing her then and there, Abigale takes Punky away from her prison and aims to bring her out of the concrete city around her, in order for Punky’s final moments on this Earth to be pleasant ones around aesthetically appealing scenery. For Punky to die with a smile on her face from the knowledge that she escaped her prison and that nobody would ever abuse her again.
However, before that happens, Jack is attacked by an undetailed assailant who leaves her injured, and while Zedaki is inclined to treat the wound, Abigale panics, for she lacks her ability to mend flesh back together. Punky, despite her unspecified disability, is able to recognize this and, per her conversation with Abigale, knows the best way to help in this situation is to… end her life. She does so suddenly, her actions hastened due to the misery that has consumed her life, and she spends a final moment with Abigale before she parts this world. Content with the knowledge that while she may be gone, somebody better will take her place and do things she could only dream of.
…Yeah, that is a good character as far as I am concerned, and I don’t really have any regrets with her implementation in the story, other than how it is a bit… odd for her to be held up in a dark office building in the middle of a city. However, I was resolute about setting a chapter in a city, I thought this was the best opportunity, and this was an internally reasonable way for Zil to contain her. By using the existing infrastructure to their advantage.
Punky’s namesake comes from the protagonist of my 2014 novella, Punky’s Post-Apocalyptic Adventure. That version of Punky was an upbeat, kinda dumb, and child-like young woman with access to great powers she used effortlessly and a sense of righteousness. Originally, I planned on carrying these traits over to PBF’s Punky, but I felt that she would be redundant next to other characters in the cast, so I decided to reinvent her into her final form, keeping the name for more sentimental reasons than symbolic ones.
Athena the All-Knowing was originally going to be an enigmatic cult leader known as Izadora the Intellectual, who would have used her great wisdom to recruit the scattered masses of the world and use them to assemble a new society. The encounter with her was to involve Abigale trying to prove her as a false idol while engaging in an intellectual battle that would have ended with Abigale being forced to murder Izadora’s worshippers in order to get to her and murder her by making her head explode.
But as time went on, I decided that this concept would be a bit problematic to approach from a writing and characterization perspective, and just be hard to write, as it would need to feature an intellectual debate that I know I would struggle with. So I decided to revise my approach at some point and began asking myself what are traits of somebody who would be considered a true genius, somebody with a great expanse of knowledge both inherited and learned. I reached the conclusion that they would not be a person of malice or cruelty, but a figure capable of kindness and compassion, one who understands their place in society and ability to better the world, rather than somebody who would seek personal gain above all else. For intelligence is a strength beyond all others, and manipulation over the weak is itself a sign of weakness in and of itself, however effective it may be.
As this idea developed in my head, I decided to change the character’s name to something with a touch more meaning, and the best I could come up with was a much-echoed Greek mythology reference to the goddess of wisdom, Athena, along with the title of All-Knowing, as it was the closest proxy I had for “Intellectual” that began with the letter A. All of which is a bit of a clunky name, but I couldn’t think of anything better, so it stuck.
In regards to her character, I decided that it would be best to represent her as a college-aged woman who lived within a university library, revising and reconfiguring it to be a habitable dwelling with solar paneling and a greenhouse for food cultivation, allowing her to live a self-sufficient existence. Mostly as a means of showing her resourcefulness and eternal thirst for knowledge. I considered giving her followers in order to illustrate her understanding that humans are more efficient in societies and to show her sharing her knowledge. But I was more fond of the simplicity and directness of Abigale finding Athena, meeting her, talking to her, and finally taking her powers, relegating her followers to an unseen group supposedly learning to be self-sufficient through the upcoming winter.
Personality-wise, she is a selfless and kind individual with an immediate understanding of the situation, allowing her to recognizes her role in this story and, rather than resisting Abigale in any way, she openly offers herself to her, knowing that Abigale may use her intelligence better than she could ever hope to. Abigale is conflicted by her gesture and willingness, yet agrees with her conclusion, severing the head of Athena in a dramatic manner. Narratively, this matter-of-fact conflict resolution, however reasonable, serves as something of an underwhelming conclusion, but I thought a breather like this was needed before the introduction of the final antagonist of the story, Flare, who… is a whole rucksack of worms, poop, and muck in desperate need of unpacking.
Part 6: The Psycho Bullet Bitch – Terra Flare
Oh boy, where to start with this character… well, perhaps a truncated history into how her character evolved would be the best place to begin. Back when this project was known as Psycho Bullet Festival 2: Help Me Bury My Children, I planned on making the primary antagonist a version of Maxxie Flare. A character who I have been writing and revising since Nati’s Log in 2013, and one who I wanted to reinvent in the role of a villain. A philanthropist with an excessive amount of resources that she, like many obscenely wealthy individuals, desires power beyond that of an ordinary human and funded investigations into ways to give her god-like powers. This investigation process led the Foundation to discover, and later abduct, Abigale Quinlan, who was experimented on and tortured until she brought about the Cataclysm.
While both Maxxie Flare and her Foundation survived the affair, the process of ushering in an apocalypse ultimately shattered Maxxie’s mental state, and things only grew worse once the scientists recruited by the Foundation revealed the biological incompatibilities between Abigale Quinlan and Homo Sapiens. This ultimately led her to take out her frustrations on a newly-recruited slave of the Foundation, Jack Crowbar, who Maxxie would use as a source of relief and happiness.
Her mental state then slightly improved following the birth of Abigale’s first child, whom Maxxie adopted and named Fiona. Desperate for something to latch onto in this world, Maxxie took Fiona and began raising her in the isolation of the Foundation, keeping her a secret to all but a few members of the organization, with not even Jack Crowbar knowing of her existence. Maxxie did this to give herself something precious and that belonged to her and only her. She would raise Fiona in this isolation in order to instill her with her ideals and personality to be inherited by someone godly, someone who would live on forever, and carry on her legacy as it were. Fiona, as a child born with all of Abigale’s abilities, intellect included, understood what Maxxie was plotting, but loved her regardless and happily spent her days with Maxxie, caring not for the outside world or anyone besides the woman who raised her from the moment she was born.
Originally, both Fiona and Maxxie were to be unaware of Abigale’s departure from the Foundation until she was already kilometers away, a discovery that sent Maxxie into a deep sorrow, as she lost her opportunity to further study immortality, and lost her source for sexual relief these past few years. Seeing her mother distraught, Fiona offered her body to her mother in order to relieve her of her sexual frustration, to which Maxxie accepted. The two then lose themselves in the thralls of intercourse before, as they reach their climaxes, a latent ability of Fiona’s is triggered, causing the two to merge into one, a woman who simply went by the name of Flare. Their similar personalities gel into one, memories mingle, and physical traits mix, with Flare inheriting Maxxie’s dyed white hair as its biological color.
After realizing what happened to her and that she had finally achieved her dream, becoming a God, Flare then left the Foundation behind and soared the world, gleefully indulging in her powers. All before returning to America days later, where she happens across Abigale and initiates a variation of what became Episodes 12 and 13 of Psycho Bullet Festival: The Odyssey of Abigale Quinlan. Abigale and Flare would fight, Abigale would win, and upon comprehending her defeat, Flare was to kick her crazy meter up to 11 as she begged Abigale to kill her to free her from this unacceptable reality. To which Abigale complies, grabbing Flare by the face and throwing her into the sky before snapping her fingers, causing her antagonist to burst into a rainbow of fire.
This is all quite similar to what I ultimately went with, but at some point I completely rewrote both the ending of this encounter and the background of ‘Maxxie Flare’ after feeling like her character was lacking in depth. She was a psycho for the sake of being a psycho, and I felt like her background needed some expanding upon. Inspiration then struck me one wretchedly humid night in June of 2017.
I was in the antechamber of my university, mulling aimlessly as I waited for my vehicle to pick me up, the clock on my phone creeping past 22:30. It was then and there that I asked myself: “What if Maxxie wasn’t Maxxie? What if it was someone pretending to be Maxxie? What if it were her sister from Verde’s Doohickey, Terra Flare?”
I fixated on the idea for the rest of the evening, expanding it, working out a backstory, all before putting it to text, staying up until 1:00 that night to write down all my ideas. At the time, I thought these ideas made for a far more interesting, tragic, and compelling antagonist, one who had a better reason to do the misdeeds they did, and one with pure desires that I, on some level, found relatable.
Reading through the story again, I still like what I did with character and her background. She’s an unwanted child who was constantly compared to her beloved sister and continuously ignored by her parents, who only wanted to devote their energy into the child that was more developed and more skilled. This built a steady resentment in Terra, and whenever she tried to reach out or earn their love, she was rejected, while her sister Maxxie would always make time for her and provide her with a form of familial love that Mr. and Mrs. Flare never offered Terra.
Neglect leads to hatred, and Terra decides to act out on her desires by lashing out against her parents in a heated moment where she is not thinking clearly and does something ever so regrettable on its own, but even more when she strikes the one person she loved more than any other, her sister. Crestfallen by this, she becomes obsessed with Maxxie, desperate to keep her alive, and trying to repress her identity as much as possible accordingly. This leads her down the path of madness as she tries to keep her sister’s memory alive, only for their very mind to shatter at some point, becoming a twisted idea of her loved one.
Whatever her mind is at this point is only further muddled and twisted as Terra becomes one with Fiona. As the twisted and hurt mental state of one individual mingles with the individual she raised. The end result is that of a psychopath whose obsession with Abigale reaches new heights, leading to the Flare introduced in Episode 11.
It’s not a perfect execution by any means. There are some details I should have expanded upon, such as how Fiona and Terra’s minds mingled and what part of her personality comes from where. And the entire backstory is arguably far too complicated for an 11th hour reveal like this. However, I still like this twist and believe that it does make Flare at least a somewhat sympathetic character despite her many, many, many misdeeds, as her ultimate desire truly was just to be loved by her parents. However, in re-examining her character, I realized something so… glaringly problematic that I’m honestly embarrassed that it took me over two years to catch it.
In Verde’s Doohickey, Terra Flare is transgender, somebody assigned male at birth who identifies as female, and I decided to bring this character trait over to this incarnation, as I didn’t want to turn a transgender character cisgender. The actual implementations and ramifications of this in-story are rather minor, with Terra referring to her past self using male pronouns as a means of both shaming herself and distancing herself from her past identity, and claiming that she always wanted to be known as the name of Terra. Never in the story do I overtly say that she is transgender, and I felt that was not necessary both when I wrote it and later when I re-edited this story. However, this seemingly innocuous inclusion… is probably the most transphobic thing I have ever done.
Terra Flare is a transgender character who is unstable and deeply unwell from a psychological level. Terra Flare is a transgender character who murders her sister, takes her identity mentally, physically, and legally. Terra Flare is a transgender character who raped an underage girl as a means of stress relief. Terra Flare is a transgender character who is directly responsible for the death of most of humanity. Terra Flare is a transgender character who stole a child from their comatose mother, raised the child as their own, and then later fucked the child.
This, naturally, was not meant to be a statement towards… anything. I was not trying to make any grander statement about transgender people with this character, and if anything, it was something of an afterthought for her character. But regardless of my intentions, Terra can be interpreted as a hateful character based on negative antiquated stereotypes about transgender people, and that deeply upsets me. Once I realized she could be viewed this way, I contemplated removing this part about Terra’s identity in my 2020 revision, to change two sentences to erase this element of her character. But I decided against that.
My handling of this character was shortsighted, but this is part of her identity, and I would rather retain a problematic transgender character than rewrite her into being cisgender. I would rather be known for writing a psycho-sister-killing pedophile responsible for the greatest genocide in the history of this story’s world and she also happens to be transgender. For that is better than being known for writing a psycho sister-killing pedophile responsible for the greatest genocide in the history of this story’s world who was transgender until I later went back and ‘fixed’ her to be ‘better’.
This is not something I am doing out of my own pride as a writer, as I am more than willing to own up to my mistakes and correct them. But as a trans person, I refuse to erase a trans character out of my work, no matter how fucked up their portrayal might be.
Part 7: To Put a Psycho Bullet in This Bitch
In conclusion… Psycho Bullet Festival: The Odyssey of Abigale Quinlan is a 5.5 out of 10. It has good moments, it has some good characters, and it has some genuinely good ideas. However, due to the prolonged and delay-riddled development of this title and due to my own waning interest in the project as it teetered towards its conclusion, I did not invest the mental energy or time needed to fix various things that didn’t work and was feeling rather dispassionate about the project once I finally released it on April 27, 2018.
Since then, I have come to better appreciate the title more than I did upon release, but it is definitely my least favorite out of all the novels I’ve written, as it captures my personality the least. It was definitely a good learning experience for me, and it allowed me to get out of my TSF-flavored comfort zone for a while. But whereas I want to continue to explore and iterate on the core ideas featured in most of my prior work from Intertoids to Psycho Shatter 1985: Black Vice Re;Birth, I will probably never create a title quite like Psycho Bullet Festival: The Odyssey of Abigale Quinlan ever again.
However, that does not mean this entire story was a waste or lacks any relevance to my series of novels, The Saga of Dawn and Dusk. If anything, this may be one of the most important entries in the series. What do I mean by that? Well, you’ll have to wait until I finish my next novel, Psycho Bullet Festival 2222, coming 2022.