Subject15: Is there symbolism?

Fane in a dark abyss with the grey monster at his back
Fane and the Grey Monster

Can we talk title? Subject15 is a bit of a side step nod to V for Vendetta and the person behind the Guy Fox mask. I haven’t watched the movie in forever, but the concept of being a nameless test subject who saves the world and stood up for those suffering was big for me. My dad and I watched it twice back to back because it was that freaking good and deep. Stephen Frye’s character and the Salt Flats scene with the sheets. That spoke. I don’t know what dad thought when he watched it then, but it was that weird spark behind my sternum. That moment where I felt like I was holding a faceted orb of crystal glass in my hands. Heavy, smooth, cold, precious, fragile, slippery. All the emotions that go with holding something like that. Protective, scared, burdened, honored.

That was a couple years before I went to college. It set up this running feeling in the back of my head that all the preconceived notions and prejudices built into me from years or religion were crumbling, and that I wasn’t terrible for existing. I was scared of admitting anything, but it somehow shifted me to being open and protective about other people having the guts to admit they were in the lgbtq+ community.

At that point, I only felt safe calling myself an ally. I admired those that said ‘screw it, I’m me’ and wanted to support them after that movie. It was timing. It was beautiful. It was stark and blunt and symbolic and spoke to me. It told me that people are people. They love and hurt and feel no matter who they are, what they identify as.

This was when the concept of Christianity in my head broke, when I could hear that crack send scurrying fragmentations through everything I was raised in. It wasn’t complete. It didn’t dissolve everything in that instant. No, but looking back, I think that was when I lost my religion honestly. I usually say I lost it when I divorced, but this movie I think was that seed. When I realized that love wins. That love is love and anyone who tries to take that away, tries to call it a sin, are truly broken.

I get a vague feeling that was probably when dad and mom started down that path too. It was subtle. Some things were still habit for them that I don’t think they thought about until I pointed it out. There were changes, but not large movements at that time.

really early concept art ~2015

Where did Subject15 the story start though? Like Fyskar, a dream. Ishan kissing Fane at the party and then wham giant grey tentacle monster. I wrote out that one five paragraph scene about the party and questioned the whole tentacle thing and left it sit for months, unsure what it meant, or who the characters were or what to do with it. Then I got Polaris Skies almost wrapped up and Fyskar written out and finally broke the Subgalaxia curse when I realized who Fane was to the whole story.

For those of you who are trying to escape the memories, Who are trying to become more than your past.

Chapter 1

Find Happiness.

Well, that’s not a subtle hint to where my mind was. I needed a point A to a point B story, point be being that moment in at the party. Why? Good question. I wanted something military, cyberpunk, gritty, elegant. I wanted something different from the grey of Polaris Skies and the sepia of Fyskar. Subgalaxia to me is a dark teal shade. I wanted red and gold. That’s the colors of Subject15 to me. Black, red, and gold. Filmed in a high def true to tone, a bit more in your face rather than history fic or apocolyptic wide frame.

Yes, I write like I think – in movie frames. How it would look with the camera, what filters you’d use, where the edits would be spliced. That’s probably why I head hop and my focus swings.

The woman at the beginning and how he pays? This wraps into the chapter about his sister, at least what he knows from his files.

Here’s the thing with Fane. I know he’s pansexual. It’s how I write all my MCs. I can’t not write that type of attraction. Trying anything else sounds feels foreign and misrepresented.

Why Ishan and not someone else? Blame that on the dream and me having a crush on a brother and sister in high school from the Punjab area and an Urdu girl who was friends with the sister. All of them were freaking pretty and really nice and with English being their second language they were very precise in how they talked with low idiom usage, so I could actually follow what they were saying. Idioms I’ve gotten better at over a lot of years of work. Innuendo I get a lot easier.

The brother-sister pair’s dad was in the states, but their mom and other relatives were back in the mother country where they were born. They had already finished school there and got transferred, so they had their high school degrees, but their dad wanted them to have exposure to the school system and a degree from here too to increase their knowledge or something. All I know is they had a slight British vibe to their accent and I was enamored. Did I ever tell them this? Hah, you’re funny. No. I was in a committed relationship and thought I just super liked pretty people, but wouldn’t admit to the liked-like type of like. We had long conversations about history and philosophical stuff. The brother and I were in a few different classes together because we were in the same grade level and the sister and other girl I had a class with for English that I was a level ahead on.

This was my first real go with photoshop for drawing back in 2016-2017?

Why did I set Ishan up to be a complete jerk on first meeting? The concept of enemies to lovers was blowing itself out of proportion in the Twitter writing community at that point and I was like “yeah, I can write that, why not?”

The long hair? I’ll address that in Subgalaxia. Patience. Patience. All things come to those who wait, right?

Chapter 2

Illustrator art I did back in 2019

Ugh. Medical crap. I’ve had both knees done. I’ve had my gallbladder out. I’ve done the whole birth and tubal ligation thing. I can also chalk up the mris, ct scans, angiograms, and craniotomy to it. I’ve been poked and prodded and invaded enough times over the years. This was me just having a moment with it. The drug thing – no. I don’t get into that stuff. I don’t like the idea of losing my capacity to be responsible for myself. Only have to get drunk and taken advantage of once to figure out I don’t like giving people access to me. So, I did a deep dive on research about medical overdose and addiction drugs for the conversation.

Chapter 3

This one has a lot to do with an old movie, I think it’s called Dr. Strangelove: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, or at least my memories of watching it when I was like 9? That and the 007 movies that involve the topographic maps with movable pawns. I love that aesthetic. I know. Weird.

I wanted one of these map element things. I sort of want a d&d basement room that is full blown cold war secret-agent theme just for that aesthetic alone. Everyone else in my gaming group wants the bard tavern look thing. I can’t DM to save my life. I got scared trying to DM a My Little Pony Curse of the Statuettes game.

Well, here’s my little cold war map room.

Chapter 4

Ok. This has to do with a documentary I watched on image recognition and processing time where they put subjects in a machine and watched how their brain lit up on images. At a certain point, they started inserting images that the person didn’t realize came up on screen, but the brain picked it up and correlated to different place. That was so freaking cool. Poor Fane.

Chapter 5

I suck at the concept of writing enemies to lovers. I can’t wrap my head around the idea. I really can’t. Enemies are evil. They don’t get forgiven. Everyone else is just not someone’s cup of tea. Maybe I’m really black and white on that. I say that and I wrote Corbin Ziphle to be a grey villain, but that’s getting ahead of myself. I had to yield to my heart and instincts and make the whole business between Ishan and Orlov a misunderstanding or else I couldn’t get into writing the story. So, coffee? That seemed like a neutral way of writing a making up over a misunderstanding thing. Though I really don’t like most types of coffee, hello self insert. Read *wtf how do you flirt with normal people when the MC(me) is super socially awkward?*

Chapter 6

More art I did when fleshing out the story.

This was partly from attending business Christmas parties with Wren. That really weird awkward feeling where I don’t know anyone. I’m in a dress that doesn’t feel right. I have to have small talk with people I don’t know. I have to eat food that, though usually served fancy, is just raising the hair on the back of my neck. We get to sit through a greeting from the business owner and there’s karaoke and open bar and it’s all I can do wanting to go home.

Welcome to me not understanding how people communicate without communicating. I don’t get it. These types of conversations always feel one sided and people being angry at each other because of a misunderstanding is hard to wrap my head around.

Chapter 7

The black outfit from the chapter.

Polaris Skies and Fyskar. I didn’t get my Hero’s Journey. I didn’t get my Hero. Like hell was I writing one more story where I didn’t get to be the hero. Fane is a short spitfire (read, I am short and I wrote everyone else about 8 inches taller than me up ’til now) and I was going to make him that overpowered god I wanted in anime and manga. I wanted someone who didn’t quite get everything. Someone who could fixate. Who could be really devoted. Who hyperfocused. I wanted all of that and I wanted him to actually have the guts to be himself. A bit lost about what was going on, but a “feck it, I’m doing this thing however the chips fall” attitude I was starting to develop as a come back to having defanged my last two MCs. I wanted a guy who’d seen crap and wasn’t going to let it rule him.

The Dermatographic uticaria seems really bizarrely specific. This one, I don’t have it. I do have keratosis pilaris though that made me super self conscious about my skin since I was in second grade when some girl made fun of me for having skin acne and told me I was disgusting.

I picked at it mercilessly to get rid of it. It became a self-hatred/anxiety outlet habit for two decades. That does not help and leaves behind scars. I have tons of white freckles from where my skin no longer produces pigment.

In the last six months I’ve been improving the texture with liberal amounts of lotion. Some aromatherapy lotions help me sleep and I was using it to train myself out of picking. It’s not something that can be cured, but I can control my reaction to it.

It was a promise I made to myself. If I got my anxious pain stimulation under control and got funding from my books, I’d pay for my red tattoo bands I have on my avatar and throughout my series. I wanted to not be embarrassed going into a tattoo shop and feeling like I needed to apologize to the artist working on me.

I have a type of Japanese samurai arrow I want on my left inner arm where the feathers merge into a set of black bands around my wrist that would be measurements of 3 blanks and 3 black bands in increasing size that I can use when I’m spacing a page during drawing sessions. The right I want a set of flowers – a blue bearded iris for myself, a pair of yellow daffodils for my MIL and a pair of red impatents for my mom that would blend into a pair of black bands on that size that would be a set of metric measurements. These are random wants though. I don’t see me ever making enough money from my books to even get the red bands, but hey, it’s in my head at least.

Chapter 8

Again, nothing too symbolic in this. I just let my mind go and see where it would take me for why my MC was the way he was. Got a bit dark. These types of moments I tend to draw, just see what comes out and then write the story based on the drawing. I had a pair I had done up early on for why Fane was volatile, what would give him nightmares, and why he had scars.

Chapter 9

Basic resolution so I could quit making these two fight in that half hearted trying to make them that enemies to lovers thing that I just don’t get.

Chapter 10

Shelly. If you’ve noticed, I tend to give my stories a short brunette as some kind of a side kick. Well. They tend to be me not necessarily trying to have an evenly gendered cast of characters. They are my way of expressing frustrations about how women are treated. I want there to be strong female characters that aren’t the pined over unreciprocal love interest, but instead are representative of an even power dynamic platonic relationship. Something that all genders can have with each other if we can just get over that infernal question “can straight men have women friends?” Hell if this pansexual ftm can crush hard on a ton of people and still treat them like I don’t know, real people who have real feelings and real opinions, you can have friends too. You just get to realize that no one is obligated to be your friend back and they sure as hell aren’t responsible for your feeling of being friend zoned.

*ehem* I’ll get off my soap box for a minute.

Chapter 11

Ugh. Textures. Textures can do some weird things. I am super not partial to silk. It’s…weird and does the whole electricity in the skin thing. When people go on about having silk or sateen bedsheets or robes or blouses, I’m just over here going “how do you survive?” Not much symbolism, just a personal observation I wrote in.

Blog Book Review Subject15

Chapel Orahamm View All →

I am a writer and artist working through the Kavordian Library series. I write sci-fi, fantasy, lgbt romance.

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