Unpacking Stepping Forward

I haven’t done an “unpacking” post in several weeks. For the most part this has been due to time constraints, but as the story progressed to it’s climax I also didn’t want to give anything away. “Stepping Out” was, indeed, the climax of In The Land Of The Penny Gnomes. Let’s unpack.

Where’s the Battle?

Throughout this story Will has been the window through which we encounter the world of The Realm. Will isn’t a soldier, and going to the front lines was never going to be an option for him. He saw the effects of the war, rather than the war itself, and so that is what we saw as well.

Choosing this vantage point for Will also says something about me. When I consider warfare it is not the battles on which I fixate, it’s the long-term effects which result from the battles. Sherman’s oft-misquoted assertion “War is Hell” is actually a reflection on these effects, and the long-term impact the hell of war has on the world.

Fictive’s Motivation

Fictive is a zealot. As such, he is capable of comprehending neither nuance nor realities which do not fit in his categories. To Fictive, copyright is all. And any violation of it must be met with the full fury of The Bar in order to preserve copyright’s dominance in the Unreal Realms. When the Patent Trolls came to Fictive with news of a huge population living free of the Copyright Accords Fictive didn’t hesitate. He marshaled his firm and formed the Copyright Coalition in order to beat the rebels into line.

He is the classic villain who is the hero of his own story, a defender of the greater good and scourge of rebels everywhere.

He’s also a first-rate creep.

Will won’t forget

It’s been demonstrated Will is impervious to the Horde’s weapons. Because of this, he is also immune to fading. Even the detonation of the Penny Ore wouldn’t harm him, the release of imaginative energy would toss him back to his room. Though he would have a massive headache.

This isn’t to say Will couldn’t be hurt during his trials. Normal weapons, which don’t rely on the unreality of the Unreal Realms to function can harm Will just fine.

Nothing Happened

As I was re-reading “Stepping Forward” for this post I noticed how the moment when “nothing happens” plays off the old Monty Python Sketch. It must have been my subconscious at work.

My conscious picture, however, was the scene where Neo is revealed as “The One” in The Matrix – the moment he stops the bullets and steps into his destiny 1. Will didn’t need such grandstanding. Rather, he determined those projectiles were not in the best interest of Narrative, and expunged them from the plot. While he was at it, he decided the Horde’s ambush was also not in the best interest of Narrative 2, and he turned every firearm in camp into water pistols 3.

Will Derailed

The moment Will said goodbye to Fictive, as he became the focus of Narrative itself, the teen would have been able to cause the entire Horde to vanish. But the Narrator was right, Will wasn’t there to end stories. He was there to make sure Narrative continued. Had Will taken his moment and decided to end the Horde he would have been successful, but having made that decision he would have not been able to draw upon Narrative to heal Nobody. The Penny Ore would have detonated, and imagination itself would have faded into a new dark age. For Narrative to continue, Will had to heal, not destroy.

Sometimes its the little victories which prevent the greatest disasters.

One more thing

I’ve been telegraphing what that “one thing” is forever. But I’m not sure anyone’s figured it out. Anyone have a guess?

Poor Oscar

As the story progressed toward darkness, it became more an more of a struggle to remember this is a satire. In this scene I was able to keep two bits of out-of-place humor in the story.

First is Nobody’s rebuke of Sindy’s furious welcome of a Penny Ore detonation, “I don’t think that’s a very social attitude.” The gnome is the very image of awkward, the thought of him giving etiquette advise to anyone makes me chuckle. Much less at that moment.

The second is Oscar’s “tension breaker, had to be done” scream at the close of the scene. He’s been getting lost in the shuffle as the story approached the climax, but it’s not because he’s a throw-away character. He’s just finding himself more and more out of place as the unreal world stakes of the events unfolding around him are raised to epic levels.This poor dwarf wants nothing more than to get back to his computer terminal and stare at a screen all day. He’s seen unreality in all its splendor, and would now like it all to go away.


  1. Ruined by the next two films. 
  2. Had Will not intervened, it would have succeeded. 
  3. The explosives were transmogrified into bubble gum. Will had a sudden craving. 
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