Updates: Tasmakat

Well, Tasmakat had now told the origin story of the Lakasha to Aras and Ryo. Will that scene stay in the book? There’s one line that foreshadows the soon-to-be-revealed big problem. Is three pages of an origin story too much for that one line? Maybe. It’s a cardinal rule not to tell the reader details about the world just because they’re neat details. On the other hand … they’re neat details. So we’ll see.

Whew, anyway, we are at last juuuust about to have the big revelation I’ve been working toward all this time. A few minor scenes to set it up. Then: Big revelations, big decisions, big costs: it’s all about to come crashing down on Aras and Ryo. It’s going to be a challenge. I mean for me! Writing it will be a challenge. But I’m looking forward to it. I think we’ll get there this week, even though weekdays are just dreadful for getting anything done. I’m averaging just about 15,000 words per week, which is pretty terrible, but in light of everything going on, also pretty good.

It has (unsurprisingly) taken quite a lot of pages to get here. Those 30,000 words I cut? Yep, that many have now been added back in. Of course, that’s happened in moving forward, so that’s fine.

You know, even after all this time, it’s difficult to believe how many words it takes to get anywhere and do anything. Isn’t there a joke about how you figure a budget by assuming your project will take longer and cost more? It’s like that, but with words. Also, I kind of think I was forgetting the denouement when I was thinking about how many more words this was going to take. Although some details about the denouement are quite clear to me and have been for a long time, so I’m not sure why I wasn’t factoring that in.

I will almost certainly be saying, “Three months later, we arrived” at some point in there, between the climactic scenes and the tying-it-all-up scenes. I think we’ll have had enough long journeys by that time. Oh, maybe we can do a magic journey! Poof, we arrived! I don’t know, that might work, we’ll see.


In other news, the first Gen Bio test generated a fairly normal curve. The modal grade was indeed a C. More Fs and Ds than Bs and As, but fairly comparable. The range was from 37 to 106. In shocking news from education: skipping class is inadvisable if you are already struggling. In truly shocking news, wow, nobody studied the material in chapter three. Or not nobody, but that was pretty straightforward material — memorize a handful of facts about four broad groups of biological molecules — and I really just have no clue why people had trouble with it.

In completely different commentary about science education: why are we covering these precise topics? I’ll tell you why: because those are the topics we’ve always covered from the dawn of time and no one is ever going to reevaluate the curriculum because it would be too much trouble to revise the instructional materials and standardized tests. We therefore cover: The scientific method, very basic chemistry, very basic biochemistry, very basic cellular biology including photosynthesis and cellular respiration, mitosis, meiosis, human reproduction — a ridiculous insertion that should be left to high school health class — exceedingly basic genetics, a tiny bit about evolutionary theory, and a very superficial look at ecology.

Here’s what I would personally prefer: in this order: the scientific method, ecology, ethology, evolutionary theory and biological diversity including deep time, genetics (I really like genetics), applied biology aka medicine, and How To Evaluate Studies For Rigor. I’d insert that last component back into every unit. Here are some ecological studies; let’s evaluate their methodology. Here are some animal behavior studies; let’s evaluate their methodology. And so on. I am sick and tired of “studies” that declare that cats do great on a vegan diet — look at this owner survey that says so! Dog breed doesn’t predict behavior — look at this owner survey that says so! Hey, look here, Collies are the single most aggressive dog breed — look at this owner survey that says so! Yes, this year alone, I’ve seen “studies” that purport to show all of the above. All based on owner surveys because that’s the quickest, easiest way to get totally screwed up results. If you can call that “results.” Which you really can’t for “studies” this ludicrous.

By the way, one of the essay questions students could pick proposed a scenario and asked students to design an experiment. One student did such a splendid job on that question that I threw in two extra credit points for sheer excellence. She did far better on the essays than the multiple choice and wound up with a mid-range C. All her essay answers were good, but that one was so good that if she’d wound up with a 79, I’d have handed her one more extra credit point and bounced it to a B just on the strength of that one essay question. There’s nothing I’d like students to really take away more than an understanding of what experiments actually are and how to think about them.

Well, onward to the unit on photosynthesis and cellular respiration. Ugh. I can’t guess how many times I’ve gone over this in my life, and while yes it’s all important I suppose, it’s difficult to claim with a straight face that knowing that photosystem II comes before photosystem I, or the names of the intermediate molecules in the dark reaction, matters in any way to anyone who isn’t a botanist or biochemist or whatever. But here we are. I wonder if I can get everyone to remember that photosynthesis is the fundamental source of free oxygen? That actually is important.

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6 thoughts on “Updates: Tasmakat”

  1. Sign me up as one person who is very interested in three pages of Lakasha origin story!

    My wife is teaching high school science and English this semester (thank goodness; she’d started the semester with three sections of math and was delighted when student enrollment required the timetable switch). Some of the curriculum requirements are really puzzling to me, but that’s solely based on my memories of How We Learned Things 20 years ago in a different country.

    I’d been trying to find SFF short stories for her English class so she doesn’t have to use “classics” from 70 years ago and can actually show kids the new & interesting stuff that’s being written today. Except it’s startling how many stories I reread with an eye to introducing them to 14year olds and realize how much content parents might object to. All of the recent Hugo winners are out! And everything else I can find is too long for them to study in class (she says 1000 words or less is optimal). I can’t imagine doing anything except fanfiction in less than 1000 words, but maybe Rachel or the commenters here have some ideas?

  2. I thought the same!

    She’s doing Langston Hughes’ “Thank you Ma’am” (1343 words) and Bradbury’s “The Veldt” for now, which is…now that I look at it…4000 words, so wow, clearly I either misheard or someone miscounted. 4000 words is much more reasonable to cram a bit of SFF in, but even if it’s a classic of the genre it’s SO old that I’m still arguing for finding something more recent!

  3. If the three pages on the Lakasha origin don’t fit in the story pacing, could you put them in an appendix?
    I’d really like to get to read that.

  4. If you end up removing the origin story from Tasmakat, please please please please please consider putting it up here on the blog! Or having some sort of deleted scenes/world building extras available for purchase! Obviously I can’t say if it works where it is, but I think a lot of readers who love this series would be interested.

  5. Okay, Elise, I’ll keep that in mind. I should put comments about the series on the series page, but I haven’t figured out how and haven’t (yet) asked the people who handle the website for instructions about that.

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