This short was originally written for a website that was distributing Crazy Mary and other comics through (semi) smart phones on a pay-per download system. The site was called ROK comics and my friend and former editor John Freeman was involved. Note this pre-dates iPhones and real smart phones by a few years but Freeman was consistently ahead of the curve as far as tech went (ask me about V zones sometime). I had just finished writing a story for William Blankenship’s “Special Edition” book and we collaborated well together. William’s style, I noticed, would work spectacularly with Mary’s more creepy elements. The situation led to me writing a short and William illustrating it as a thank you for Special Edition. As you can see my instincts were spot on; William produces some of the creepiest imagery for Mary’s visions I’ve ever seen. J.K.’s interpretation is skin crawling and profoundly unsettling, William’s is borderline madness. It’s like having the best apples and oranges ever grown to pick from.
Despite its length “Deal” is brimming with references and encapsulates a lot of the arc elements I’ve worked out for Mary…
Some weren’t even intended that way.
PN 1 – “Six years ago” that being six years from when we first meet Mary in “Trail of tears”. I’m sure you figured that out.
Mary says “no” three times, yes this was intentional. The recurring threes motif and also showing Mary’s advanced state of mental anguish.
PN 2 – Col. Taurus is a character that plays a significant part in Mary’s backstory but he has yet to be seen. He is the leader of Project Dragonfly which is responsible for Mary’s condition. He has kept contact with Mary since she left the project. (This provides story vectors for Mary) The military in Mary’s world utilizes Upgrades as independent contractors for objectives the military can’t get directly involved in. Mary is on Taurus’ speed dial for that but he also does it to keep tabs on his “project”.
I gave him the name Taurus going off the bull animal totem, specifically the concept of sacrifice. This is from a google search on Bull as animal totem: A Bull totem symbolizes nourishment through its slaughter or sacrifice.
Draw your own conclusions from there.
Mary’s brainwaves are being monitored: delta, theta, beta and gamma
Delta waves are usually associated with the deep stage 3 of NREM sleep, also known as slow-wave sleep (SWS), and aid in characterizing the depth of sleep.
Mary’s Delta waves are spiking, whiles she’s awake; essentially in a dream state while awake.
Theta waves are a bit more controversial; different schools of thought link it to motor function and a mammal’s sense of location in an environment, others think learning and memory. Cortical theta waves in older children and adults tend to appear during meditative, drowsy, or sleeping states, but not during the deepest stages of sleep. Several types of brain pathology can give rise to abnormally strong or persistent cortical theta waves. After years of not knowing and letting the explanation for Crazy Mary’s BIG secret work itself out I discovered all of these interpretations and differences are valid in context of Mary’s situation. But initially the appearance during sleeping and meditative states was what I had intended.
Beta wave states are the states associated with normal waking. No wonder they are in the cellar right now.
As for Theta waves, I got this from Wikipedia: A lead article by Andreas K. Engel et al. in the journal Consciousness and Cognition (1999) that argues for temporal synchrony as the basis for consciousness, defines the gamma wave hypothesis thus:
The hypothesis is that synchronization of neuronal discharges can serve for the integration of distributed neurons into cell assemblies and that this process may underlie the selection of perceptually and behaviorally relevant information.
Or, in short, theta waves help in the interpretation of reality. So her theta waves are crashing. That means her perception of reality is substantially altered. That is a thematic element of Crazy Mary in a nutshell.
PN 3 – Sigma waves – when I wrote this sigma waves weren’t believed to exist but Sigma is next in the Greek alphabet, so it made sense that if I was to expand on already established science Sigma would be the next wave. Remember way back in “Epilogue” Tweek is experimenting on decaf coffee and the possible sigma wave emanations?
Of course the sigma waves can’t be pinned down, it’s my McGuffin.
Corporal Neti sums up everything I’ve been droning on about with waves and shit by saying “She’s lucid dreaming in reverse.”
PN 4 “…The dose?” they seem to be keeping Mary drugged up during her episodes.
PN 1 – Neti is, in Sumerian, Babylonian, and Akkadian mythology, a minor underworld god, the chief gatekeeper of the netherworld, and the servant of the goddess Ereshkigal. It should be apparent why Corporal Neti is named as such.
PN 3 – The first look at William Blankenship’s interpretation of Mary’s crazy vision. I always give the artist a lot of free reign with these panels because I imagine these panels are the kind of thing comic book artists are dying to do. I think I recall William freaking himself out a little by what he was doing here.
Sigma, Delta and Theta waves spiking when Roswell shows up.
Roswell, as usual, being obtuse – what he is saying is a mental test to test if you’re mental. “…crazy is quite subjective, isn’t it?”
PN 4 – I might have mentioned before that I am a set lighting electrician in my day job. I know I mentioned in my bio that I worked on BABYLON 5. I pay homage to that great show in this story by somehow fitting in four of the five QUESTIONS constantly asked throughout the series. Those questions are:
Who are you?
What do you want?
Why are you here?
Where are you going?
Do you have anything worth living for?
As a side note I knew about three of the questions while watching the show. When I worked on it I got to ask JMS if there were actually five questions; he said “yes” but looked like he was going to cry. Good thing I never mentioned the Lord of the rings references, he might’ve broke down by the caser’s salad.
Two of these questions are in this panel.
PN 1 – That background looks like H.R. Giger doing art for the next Doom video game.
A partnership? Yes, it’s kinda an origin story. Damn smack in the middle of an origin story, really.
PN 2 – “Who are you?” this is, in order of the B5 questions, the first but it was tough enough getting the questions into the script organically, forget about correct sequence. If there truly is such a thing as correct sequence.
PN 3 – The original version of “Chase” served as an introduction to the trinity of Roswell, Loki and Hoax. You can see that in an issue of DWP and the super rare “Trinity” collection put out by DWP. Art was by a different guy and the text had a whole internal narration by Glimmer. This short covered the same ground, just not as much info.
Roswell originally came to me in a dream which was set up like an extended film trailer. He was a lot more evil in the dream but still had the same eloquence. In good magick fashion I flipped it on him and re-imagined him with a lot less menace and trapped him in a fictional universe. He doesn’t mind seeing as how he has some form now and a major character arc. That’s why he’s mellowed considerably.
Hoax had the feeling first, her design grew as the stories progressed but that’s how I wanted her to develop; let her reveal herself as things went. Kinda odd but her essence was always there it just didn’t want to reveal itself all at once.
Loki – Comic relief and usually generates the most chaos. All I ever described him as was an imp.
PN 1 – “The codes, she knows the codes!” This line popped into my head when I was writing the story. This was a point where I still hadn’t been shown what the trinity really is. Yes, I’m intentionally using a passive verb there. Now that I know everything it makes perfect sense.
PN 2 – Beta and Gamma waves rise once she starts communicating with Roswell and talking about a deal. Her or the trinity doing it?
PN 4 – “Three choices you can make.” Guess what they are. Here Mary says “Yes?”
PN 1 – “Each can set you free, just in different ways.” Not all choices are acceptable apparently.
PN 2 – “For access” and all that implies.
PN 3 – “Where are you going?” the last of the Babylon 5 questions appearing but not the last B5 homage…
PN 4 – a call back to Chase again and a recurring theme; Choice or the illusion of choice.
PN 5 – “Be seeing you.” Roswell’s regular goodbye to Mary. B5 used that line with the Psycorp conspiracy. But he was paying homage to “The Prisoner”. I tip my hat to both by this line.
PN 2, 3 – “Deal? Real?” me being clever I guess.
PN 4, 5, 6 – Essentially a dolly back out of the room through the monitor and into the control room, common cinematic device. Obviously something happened in there but what really happened. Col. Taurus’ last line “There are no facts in this game, only interpretations.” I believe that was Josh’s addition, of course because it is Nietzsche. It’s about positivism.
Positivism holds, roughly, that the phenomena we observe through our senses are physical in nature and that they actually happen in a material world. Thus positivists take these phenomena as objective fact and use it for their world-explanation, for example by making physical laws. Nietzsche’s statement is that fundamentally, positivists are interpreting observed phenomena as physical (instead of non-physical, e.g. Berkeley), and real, when in fact they have no definite justification to do so. Thus, facts are really the subjective result of information: there is nothing necessarily “true” about them, other than how they fit into a particular interpretation.
Even though I feel putting the quote in feels a tad awkward there is no doubt that Nietzsche would grok what Crazy Mary is about.
By my friend, Hugo award winning editorial director and Semi-guru Lou Anders. Check out his musings and writing updates at www.louanders.com and @louanders Thanks Lou.
My bio may contain some fictional elements.
Friends, family, dogs, influences, video games, porn stars and more thanked.
That wraps up the annotations for “By Factory smoke and acetylene light” hope you enjoyed it and it deepened you enjoyment of the work. I’m not sure but maybe the next Mary GN will be titled “De do do do, De da da da” or “tea in the Sahara.”