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Jul 02, 2022 4:52 AM
towertopia exports its own interdimensional fiction!
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The Towertopian Interdimensional Export Review (TIER) is open for business! Its sister organization, TILES, has been reviewing literature from dimensions abroad; now this offshoot will focus on exporting Towertopian literature to interdimensional audiences, as well as potentially aggregating interdimensional reviews of such so that any potential future readers can see what others thought of these works. (TIER is not altogether sure that that part will go well, but it seems worth trying!)

Reviewers from any dimension may submit a review of any of the works listed here, just post in the thread! The ideal review format is a short description of one's thoughts on the work accompanied by a simple "recommended/not recommended" or "thumbs up/thumbs down" rating, though other methods are also accepted! (Please keep any reviews pretty strictly work-safe; if you think something may be dubious, please contact me on Discord at TowerNumberNine#3685 to check before posting.)

More works will be added as the project progresses, but one need not constrain reviews only to the most recent works to be released!

Total: 25
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A historical fiction YA novel that depicts a medieval siege from the perspective of a young squire assisting in the castle's defenses. However, the siege is neither glorious nor even necessarily all that exciting; much of the book describes the strange mixture of boredom and tension imposed by the isolation of the siege and the knowledge that the besiegers might attack at any moment. For most of the time the defenders stay within their walls and the besiegers behind their earthworks; a few isolated raids or skirmishes occur, but the protagonist –  who desperately wants to prove himself in battle but is also somewhat scared of what that may entail – is never personally involved and only hears rumors of what occurred, stories from boasting soldiers returning from a raid, and so on.

At the climax of the novel, it looks like the besiegers are about to make the full-scale assault the protagonist has both longed for and dreaded, but instead they pack up their camp and leave, having exhausted the supplies that they could easily scrounge or “forage” from the nearby countryside. In the last scene, the young protagonist views the retreating enemy with a strange feeling of disappointment – his side is victorious but it doesn’t feel like victory. A grizzled veteran consoles the protagonist with the thought that this is the best way it could have ended, but he still doesn’t fully understand.

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The Traitors to Truth, a fantasy novel about a female adventurer from a semi-religious order dedicated to finding and spreading the truth. Members of this order tell the truth in all circumstances and must answer any question posed to them by others; in return, others must answer the questions posed by members of the order or else risk being put under a ban where no one from the order will speak to them.

Faced with a scenario where a secretive group of wizards seems involved in various problems in the world but is hiding much knowledge, the protagonist and her comrades decide that the best approach is for her to temporarily leave the order so that she will no longer be bound by its rigid commitments to total honesty; once she is no longer forbidden to lie, she will be able to use this to infiltrate the wizard organization and learn their secrets, then bring them back to the order.

When word of this mission reaches the governing body of this order, the protagonist and the others who were involved in this decision are permanently expelled from the order as having betrayed the truth. The book is crafted in such a way so that its title appears to refer to the wizards for much of the story, but in the last chapter it becomes apparent that it is actually the protagonist and her comrades who are the traitors in question.

 

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A series focusing on two “competitive friends” bonded by their mutual appreciation for -- and high-level competitive rivalry at -- a certain genre of strategy game. By tacit agreement, the two intentionally don’t collaborate with one another on strategy development in order to maintain the challenge of taking one another on, but they talk online, compliment one another’s play in various places, and go out to celebrate together after the big tournaments regardless of who won.

The series describes several fictional strategy games that the two friends play, shifting from game to game over their years of rivalry. Each is a somewhat thinly veiled version of a game that actually existed and enjoyed popularity in Towertopia in the past, and the strategic development described is at least somewhat accurate to the actual way that the metagames in question evolved, with some dramatization to make the story more exciting.

After the two move through several different games and a few years have elapsed, one of the friends begins to drift away from competition as various real world job considerations grow more prevalent and he can no longer make as many tournaments and practice sessions as he once did. As they grow increasingly distanced from one another, the friends have to consider how and whether they want their relationship to evolve – should they try to preserve the friendly rivalry even as they become less and less fitting competitive matches for one another? Should they become more ordinary friends and lose some of the mutual understanding they once had? Should they abandon the friendship altogether to make a clean break of it and remember each other by the height of their rivalry rather than by what follows?

(The series is as yet unfinished, so the final resolution of this plot remains to be seen – TIER promises to release it once fully available, though!)

 

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A book about a young adventurer on a classic “hero’s journey.” The plot is entirely unremarkable and standard, but the prose is carefully crafted to repeatedly give the impression that a twist is incoming, only for things to proceed in a straightforward way. Over and over a seeming twist is foreshadowed only to not occur, and when one looks back in retrospect the foreshadowing always refers to not to any twist but rather to minor details that feature in the (relatively basic and formulaic) resolution.

Across the final few chapters, the most foreshadowing yet is used to imply that the “reformed” villain is in fact coordinating all the main character’s friends and allies to betray him, which would dramatically subvert the overall moral and thematic arcs of the story. The tension grows to an extreme level and just keeps building all the way until the very last page, where they finally reveal their plan – it turns out the weird behavior and secrecy was because they were planning a surprise party to celebrate the hero’s achievements!

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A fantasy romance novel themed around reversals of fortune. The (anti-)heroine is a talented female captain in the military of an evil kingdom. The kingdom is fighting a war of unjust conquest and is opposed by a force of heroic knights, one of whom is taken prisoner after staying behind during a battle to cover his allies’ escape.

The heroine tortures the captive knight in an attempt to make him turn on his comrades and/or become corrupt, and he struggles under her torture but manages to hold out. Just when it looks like he may break, a rescue force arrives and liberates him, capturing the heroine as well.

The situation then reverses and the heroine is now being held captive while the knight she captured tries to redeem her – however, she still attempts to corrupt (and now seduce) him in order to facilitate her escape. Tension builds for some time, but it’s primarily psychological/ideological tension – the “will they or won’t they” hinges not on anything sexual, but rather on whether either of them is going to switch sides. At one point, it seems like both the heroine and the knight are going to defect!

Ultimately though, the heroine ends up ironically seducing herself – in the course of her attempts to make the knight fall for her she winds up inadvertently falling for him instead, which alters her motivation substantially and makes her less able to hold up her side of their debate. She winds up converting to the side of Good and the story ends with the two walking down the aisle to be married.

 

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A historical fiction YA novel that depicts a medieval siege from the perspective of a young squire assisting in the castle's defenses. 

Recommended! Realistic and kind of interesting, if a bit boring! Clearly written by someone who was very annoying at fictional sieges, which is always fun.

The Traitors to Truth, a fantasy novel about a female adventurer from a semi-religious order dedicated to finding and spreading the truth.

…recommended, they suppose? It immediately sparks several dozen debates on general ethics, truth, the morality of lying to those who lie, and similar themes, which is probably good?

A series focusing on two “competitive friends” bonded by their mutual appreciation for -- and high-level competitive rivalry at -- a certain genre of strategy game. 

Recommended!! It’s very cute and bittersweet and generally emotional! The main characters are very cute together! An excellent story about how friendships change with circumstances. They’d love the next part of the series!

A book about a young adventurer on a classic “hero’s journey.” 

…recommended? Maybe? With half a dozen trigger warnings for secrecy and surprises and lying-to-friends, though! You need to add warnings for these kinds of things! The subverted foreshadowing is absolutely amazing, though. Would you like the most popular fanfiction, where the main character does a counter-betrayal only to find that his friends were attempting to happy-surprise(?) him, and he holds his friend that he killed himself as he bleeds out, and then uses his weapon on himself?

A fantasy romance novel themed around reversals of fortune. 

Recommended. It’s pretty standard, actually, which is a bit surprising considering how every other piece of fiction here subverts the genre. Enough of an alien feel to attract a small following. Some somewhat niche fanfiction where alternate outcomes occur commences; the most popular appears to be one where her love isn’t enough, and the knight and heroine kill each other on the battlefield and die in each other’s arms. 

 

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The Heralds of the Celestial Library have investigated your somewhat unorthodox deliveries and have made the following pronouncements:

Medieval Siege - Filed with the vast pile of Holberg siege diaries. Insufficiently original content to merit reward.

The Traitors To Truth - Unrealistic - human consistency is never as strong as depicted, perhaps a Herald is secretly running the Order? Sinokenon might be more interested - the truthful order is an interesting experiment in hierarchies, and she would approve of the ending. One ingot of Weltsilver has been enclosed as payment for this work.

Unfinished Rivalry Series - rejected, please resubmit when finished or abandoned.

Hero's Journey - A delightful study in archetypical literature. Greatly appreciated by the attendant Elioe and will be used as a benchmark for future hero's journey works. Two doses of Prismatic Ink have been enclosed as a token of her appreciation.

Reversal Romance - Somewhat convoluted and not particularly pleasant reading. May be popular in the Iron Confederacy? This advice constitutes full payment for this work.

They further request that should you have any non-fiction that you are interested in sending, this would be met with considerably greater enthusiasm.

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Comma House Publishing, on Ev, is always welcoming new submissions!  Well, there may be a backlog.  A really long backlog, since half of everyone in the world seems to be writing at least one book.  It may get even longer now that there're multiple worlds, though authorship seems less popular elsewhere (fortunately so, as one executive is overheard remarking).  But for now they've shoved these interdimensional submissions to the front of the backlog.

Medieval siege from the perspective of a squire - Prereader comments, "I knew war was horrible, but I hadn't thought about it being horrible in this way too!  This's so painful, and nothing happens!  I needed to read a fresh political-action novel as a palate-cleanser."  Between the pain and the lack of action, we at Comma House choose not to publish this book at this time for our general audience.  Please note we aren't disrecommending the work; it's possible it may be worth study by History-Monks trying to gain perspective, or by people interested in psychology?

The Traitors To Truth - One prereader comments on the implausibility of the order's principles; another comments they seem implausible but cites examples of similarly-weird Orders in Evite history (though none as popular as the order in this book).  Both praise the plot itself and the philosophical twist at the end, though they disagree on whether it's a fitting or unfitting ending.  We at Comma House (as always) take no official position on the subject, but we're sure it will be an interesting new contribution to the centuries-old debate on ethics in oathkeeping.  We're happy to publish this book!

Competitive friends series - Prereaders praised the friends' relationship but disagreed with each other about whether the games were exciting enough to hold their interest.  Taking their comments together, we at Comma House believe the series is long enough that our general audience's interest might flag over the course of the series.  If TIER and the original author are interested, we perhaps might publish the first volume, or (with some supplemental material) the volume where they realize how they're distanced?  Of course, in such a case, the other volumes would be available in our Backlist-On-Demand catalog.

Hero's Journey - Comparing prereaders' comments to TIER supplemental material, Comma House is sorry to say the effect is somewhat spoiled by Ev not sharing all the Towertopian tropes at work here.  However, there is some overlap, so a substantial amount of the subverted subversion came through, to loud praise from the prereaders.  We at Comma House would be willing to publish if TIER and the original author are still interested?  If so, we'd appreciate any suggestions on preface and afterward, and pitches, so as to preserve the right experience for the reader.

Fantasy romance - "This'd be just like the other romances I've read, except nothing happens here!" one prereader comments.  "The discourse is fine, but I was just waiting for them to do something! There's a war going on, and presumably politics in the background; why're they just talking with each other?  Is this a subversion of romance tropes or something?"  We at Comma House choose not to publish the book at this time.  As always, we aren't disrecommending the work; it's possible it may find an audience elsewhere.

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Please note that upvote/downvote ratios are known to be pretty sharply biased toward "down"; people who are borderline in their opinion usually don't vote at all and it's easier to determine if you're down enough to be out of the borderline range (especially if you're turned off enough to put the story down altogether) than if you're up enough to be out of the borderline range. Almost all of these are therefore slightly more popular than they might look.

Historical siege


Plotless. That's not necessarily a dealbreaker; one can construe it as a slice of life, and the "alien planet" aspect is enough to make that more interesting than it normally would be - but it means the feedback is mostly driven by whether people like the main character, and he's not a fan favorite. Up/down ratio among people who leave an opinion is 3/9.

Traitors to Truth


Almost nobody likes the ending, but the setting is very ficcable, as the order has some interesting distinguishing features from Green's House of Truth. Up/down ratio is 4/8 but that figure doesn't include the burgeoning fandom writing AUs and whatnot.

Rivalry serial


Largely panned. Totally bizarre view of friendship, and one that makes it hard to follow and frustrating to inhabit perspectives about rather than one that's interestingly alien. Needing to understand one game to follow the plot would be bad enough but there are so many of them, it's overwhelming and irritating; a lot of people drop it in disgust right when the second game is introduced. Upvote/downvote ratio epsilon/12.

"Hero's journey"


The comments on this one are almost instantly dominated by someone who skipped ahead to relieve the suspense and then left an outraged rant about the concept of surprise parties. Some people like it as a view into Towertopian psychology, or admire the prose tricks it's using to urge people to skip to the end as early as page six, but it's a 1/11.

Reversal romance


This one is weird? Not exactly in a bad way, but it's so weird. For a seduction plot that ends in a marriage it's strikingly un-horny, and readers are divided on whether it's screwed up for them to get married after all the torture, or if it would be fine if it weren't so un-horny and the genre were accordingly shifted thataway, or if it's fine regardless of genre since it's fiction anyway. The plot is fun, though; also popular are rewrites where the heroine switches to the side of good but they don't get married, retranslations that take more liberties with the narration of the ship progression to make the marriage feel more natural (though the concrete events are left intact), and a standalone essay version of the heroine's decisionmaking process in her final self-conviction. 7/5.
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Snippets of commentary from Firstplanet's global computer network, selected from spoilers-allowed threads on various forums:

Medieval siege 

Butterfly: The psychology feels a bit off but I can't tell if that's the author being wrong about soldier psychology or the soldier being a very realistic alien or me being wrong about soldier psychology or other.

Aur0r4B0r34l1s: I was in the city guard for a couple of years and it was in fact mega boring but I can't comment on the maybe-dying parts, I didn't pull that many micromorts at once while aware of it.

JackieTheGymnast: I can see wanting to know how well you would have done in a real battle?

Aur0r4B0r34l1s: That's mostly just luck, though.

Weaver_123: My opinion on this book is the same as my opinion on all historical fiction: if the author isn't a domain expert and it hasn't been edited by a domain expert I don't care. Can we get some commentary from the universe of origin in here so we're not just waving our hands around in the dark?

The Traitors To Truth

OceanDweller: I love anything with honesty oaths in it but this one almost lost me a couple times. I think I'm missing some cultural background.

Shadowmancer: To be candid, I just don't buy it at all! Why would anyone think you could temporarily exit an honesty oath! Or why there wouldn't be a known and publicly available policy on exit conditions? I realize this is set at a tech level at which long-distance communication is difficult but that's no excuse for not acting like adults.

SingingPartyOnMars: I just spent the whole time worrying it was going to end with the collapse of the whole order and a permanent loss of important social technology! So like, clear low bar get bronze star.

Shadowmancer: Yeah, I guess some things need to get learned the hard way once per universe.

Competitive friends series

Carola_wandering: So I heard some people recommend stopping after book four?

Wheelybucket4ever: Yeah, after book four it stops being about games and rivalry and starts being a sad friends-growing-apart thing.

Carola_wandering: Oh, I actually like sad friends-growing-apart stuff! 

Wheelybucket4ever: In that case I definitely recommend reading all of them. Topicswerve: does anyone have a link to that one network-based version of the game from book two, the one where they made the chips look like little gemstones and you can get a code to play with a friend? Played it on a friend-of-a-friend's box at the friend's birthday party and now I can't find it.

IronAgeCoolestAge: [Pointer]?

Wheelybucket4ever: That's the ticket! Metaphorical cookies for you!

Hero's Journey

CakeBakingCorvid: Arrrrggh, so this book would be AMAZING if I had all the CONTEXT on the literary tradition it was in conversation with! It's clearly doing an excellent reconstructed-deconstruction thing but I don't have the deconstructions it's reconstructing OR the original straightforward fics those deconstructions were deconstructing so I'm missing out on the intended experience! Now I feel like I've been spoiled on a series. Curators everywhere need to mark this as semistandalone high-context!

[The tag/warning gets implemented on most fiction curation sites due to a wave of similar complaints; TIERS is pestered repeatedly for a packet of usefully contextualizing older books.]

Fantasy romance

[20 pages of philosophical discussion spinning off from several different points in the book. Commenters switch frequently between arguing for different positions, several of which didn't come up at all in the original. Someone writes and pointers to a fanfic where the hero and heroine are replaced by two moral philosophers from Firstplanet's history, who discuss the war in terms of their theories of government.]

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Re: Antfolk reviews:

…recommended? Maybe? With half a dozen trigger warnings for secrecy and surprises and lying-to-friends, though! You need to add warnings for these kinds of things! The subverted foreshadowing is absolutely amazing, though. Would you like the most popular fanfiction, where the main character does a counter-betrayal only to find that his friends were attempting to happy-surprise(?) him, and he holds his friend that he killed himself as he bleeds out, and then uses his weapon on himself?

Our sister organization, TILES, would conceivably be willing to evaluate a version of this, but this ending would likely be found -- even with its irony -- overly bleak and tragic in a way that would likely limit its appeal to a Towertopian reader. Towertopia also strongly disapproves of suicide; insofar as the protagonist's suicide was portrayed as an awful impulsive error compounding the tragedy in question this might be acceptable, but if it were portrayed as a fitting atonement or otherwise appropriate response to the circumstances it would be rejected.

Some somewhat niche fanfiction where alternate outcomes occur commences; the most popular appears to be one where her love isn’t enough, and the knight and heroine kill each other on the battlefield and die in each other’s arms.

This would likely be quite popular with Towertopian audiences, though obviously a more tragic take on the work!

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They further request that should you have any non-fiction that you are interested in sending, this would be met with considerably greater enthusiasm.

In reply to the Celestial Library's request, TIER puts together a selection of three nonfiction books from Towertopia, each selected to be an example of a genre that is popular in Towertopia. (Anyone may of course review these if they like, not just those from the Celestial Library):


The first is a book from the "popular strategy" genre; written by a competitive strategy gamer who later went into the business world, the book discusses how certain core strategic principles can be applied to a wide range of situations, including examples from games, sports, and real life -- for example, one of the principles discussed is that it can be advantageous to make "even trades" with an opponent when you're ahead. The book describes this principle and shows how it applies to chess (trading pieces to "simplify" while having a substantial advantage), spearfencing (intentionally accepting or even going for double-touches, which give a point to both fencers, when sufficiently ahead in a bout), and military operations (dedicating some of your soldiers just to pinning down an outnumbered enemy, thus giving your other elements more freedom to act). The principles described are relatively simple, but remarkably far-reaching.


Next is a classic of the "memoirs of regret" genre, written by a great swordsman and philosopher who was acclaimed for his insight and skill. Late in life, he set out to write his principles in a sword-fighting manual that could be given to future students -- but in the process of doing so, he realized that many of his accomplishments as a swordsman had been vainglorious and immoral, and that in fact the duels he had fought and won were essentially murders -- and murders fought over matters of unnecessary pride at that. Burning his sword manual, he instead wrote and released this book, an agonized meditation on how his drive for mastery and competition had been misdirected into a form that ultimately did great harm. The author concludes that even if it meant he lived and died in obscurity and never achieved the greatness he had sought after, he would have done better never to take up the sword.


The last book is part of the "in-depth postmortem" genre, in this case discussing how a certain popular strategy game first flourished but later failed, and what decisions by the game's developers, publishers, and organized play teams led to the ultimate decline of what had been a major success at its first release. The author was a streamer who covered the game for an extended period and was known as an expert on the game, so his opinions carry some weight, though he explicitly notes some instances where he is offering conjectures and does not necessarily know definitively whether his approach would have been more effective. Overall, the impression is one of a tragedy of squandered opportunity. (Readers familiar with the "competitive friends" series from earlier may recognize this as being the game that was the focus of the second book of the series!)

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Popular strategy


Doesn't obviously seem to have needed to be an entire book? An abridged bulleted list of the concepts and their more compelling examples circulates, though. (Nonfiction is not reviewed in the same way as fiction; it's understood less holistically and therefore even harder to get people to vote whether they liked it or not.)

Regretful swordsman


This one is neat! Yeah, lethal combats between people mostly belong in fiction, and it is neat that this guy realized that. Though burning the book attracts some controversy. Surely you could just, like, put content warnings on it, or encode it, or something, rather than permanently destroying information? What if someone wanted to make a movie with really cool swordfighting in it? Can you even actually learn much about how to stab people from a book anyway?

Strategy game postmortem


Some people buy this as a sort of business manual and some people just like it because of how many moving parts it has. Nobody really hates it, but it doesn't catch on like wildfire either, the usual reaction being that this sounds like a fine book for someone who is not oneself.
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Popular strategy: this book caused a considerable problem/opportunity for us when sleeper heralds of Zakalwe who had been inserted into us as library attendants risked their position to extract a copy.

We have subsequently dealt with the infestation to the best of our knowledge, but Zakalwe has noted that should you wish to deploy the Myrmidons you may send instructions in an insert or front plate with the next strategy book, and we have been paid to pass on the message with a variety of sword manuals similar to the burnt one we were upset about.

We consider actually telling you about this potential service and our intent to cooperate with it payment for this book. In case you are unaware, the Myrmidons are an elite military unit of Zakalwe's heralds who can be called upon to help coordinate interesting manoeuvres or provide military strategic training and insight, similar in effect to Clarity of the Master Stategist but more flexible in application. 

Memoirs of regret: After the Zakalwe problem we reconsidered our intraplanar loans policy and presented a copy of this to Roshanwe, who was suitably pleased; it did prompt something of a vigorous debate between the herald dispatching the copy and the faction of Roshanwe's heralds who wholeheartedly approved the book burning, which of course is highest sacrelige to Phaleron. Enclosed are three seashells which will play extracts from that debate; once you are done transcribing them, they can also be crushed to release a boon providing clear thought and increased mathematical ability to the crew of a trading vessel for a season.

Strategy game postmortem: This book is deeply fascinating but requires substantial additional context which is unavailable to us. The 'streaming' sounds like a more widespread version of the Caucus Forum? Eternals of the Winter realm, especially Sorin the Hungry Wolf, are likely to be interested in this but we are disinclined to trade with them. Three doses of Prismatic Ink are enclosed as a token of our appreciation, not just of this book but of your attention to our request.

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A series focusing on two “competitive friends”...

gets a review by a blog whose gimmick is rating not only a work but also the work's most prominent fanfics. The reviewer enjoys the series; apparently the concept of "competitive friends" is similar to some tropes of the Global Alliance's fiction, and the blogger is interested to see another world's take on it. She rates it an "8.8/10", which seems to be some sort of meme, in context. It is recommended, with warnings for "earthfic" and "unfinished". The fanfics consist mostly of fix-it AUs and continuations; the reviewer is mostly unimpressed with the fix-it AUs but rates highly and recommends one continuation where the friends settle on the "abandon the competition but stay ordinary friends" option.

A fantasy romance novel themed around reversals of fortune...

is reviewed by a blog that focuses on romances from other universes specifically. The blogger has extremely high standards, dismissing most books he reviews as either "totally boring" or "very artistically impressive but doesn't give me the visceral feelings I'm looking for out of a romance". He praises the Towertopian romance novel as "the closest any other universe has come to getting romance right", rates it a "🥺/10", and recommends that anyone who insists on following his footsteps and reading other universes' romances pick this one, if they could pick just one.

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The first is a book from the "popular strategy" genre; written by a competitive strategy gamer who later went into the business world, the book discusses how certain core strategic principles can be applied to a wide range of situations, including examples from games, sports, and real life -- for example, one of the principles discussed is that it can be advantageous to make "even trades" with an opponent when you're ahead. The book describes this principle and shows how it applies to chess (trading pieces to "simplify" while having a substantial advantage), spearfencing (intentionally accepting or even going for double-touches, which give a point to both fencers, when sufficiently ahead in a bout), and military operations (dedicating some of your soldiers just to pinning down an outnumbered enemy, thus giving your other elements more freedom to act). The principles described are relatively simple, but remarkably far-reaching.

 

Huh, that’s kind of neat! The writing could use some more sarcasm for flavor, though.

Next is a classic of the "memoirs of regret" genre, written by a great swordsman and philosopher who was acclaimed for his insight and skill. Late in life, he set out to write his principles in a sword-fighting manual that could be given to future students -- but in the process of doing so, he realized that many of his accomplishments as a swordsman had been vainglorious and immoral, and that in fact the duels he had fought and won were essentially murders -- and murders fought over matters of unnecessary pride at that. Burning his sword manual, he instead wrote and released this book, an agonized meditation on how his drive for mastery and competition had been misdirected into a form that ultimately did great harm. The author concludes that even if it meant he lived and died in obscurity and never achieved the greatness he had sought after, he would have done better never to take up the sword.

…okay then. That’s something?? Probably dramatic duels are a genre best left to fiction, yes? Pretty cool, though.

The last book is part of the "in-depth postmortem" genre, in this case discussing how a certain popular strategy game first flourished but later failed, and what decisions by the game's developers, publishers, and organized play teams led to the ultimate decline of what had been a major success at its first release. The author was a streamer who covered the game for an extended period and was known as an expert on the game, so his opinions carry some weight, though he explicitly notes some instances where he is offering conjectures and does not necessarily know definitively whether his approach would have been more effective. Overall, the impression is one of a tragedy of squandered opportunity. (Readers familiar with the "competitive friends" series from earlier may recognize this as being the game that was the focus of the second book of the series!)
 

It’s neat that this exists, but it’s very niche and honestly kind of boring. Maybe it would be better if they actually knew the game?

 

 

 

 

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Competitive friends series - Prereaders praised the friends' relationship but disagreed with each other about whether the games were exciting enough to hold their interest.  Taking their comments together, we at Comma House believe the series is long enough that our general audience's interest might flag over the course of the series.  If TIER and the original author are interested, we perhaps might publish the first volume, or (with some supplemental material) the volume where they realize how they're distanced?  Of course, in such a case, the other volumes would be available in our Backlist-On-Demand catalog.

Publishing the first volume generally and others on demand seems fine!

Hero's Journey - Comparing prereaders' comments to TIER supplemental material, Comma House is sorry to say the effect is somewhat spoiled by Ev not sharing all the Towertopian tropes at work here.  However, there is some overlap, so a substantial amount of the subverted subversion came through, to loud praise from the prereaders.  We at Comma House would be willing to publish if TIER and the original author are still interested?  If so, we'd appreciate any suggestions on preface and afterward, and pitches, so as to preserve the right experience for the reader.

TIER and the original author are indeed still interested, though insofar as other Towertopian literature makes its way to your world it's possible this will make more sense with greater context later? Here are three more stories that might complement this one (or potentially be appealing on their own) -- as always, these are open to any reviewers who might be interested!


A steampunk novel about a secret agent, a mad scientist, and their series of conflicts over several years. The novel switches repeatedly between the two characters' perspectives as the mad scientist concocts his schemes and the agent uses all the resources she can muster to foil them. Sometimes the scientist has the advantage and sometimes the agent does, but neither ever scores a decisive victory -- the agent always foils the mad scientist's plan before it comes to complete fruition, and the scientist always escapes the agent's clutches at the last moment to plan another scheme. At first, the two make major errors in predicting what the other will do (often played for irony and humor), but each grows to better comprehend the other with each confrontation, and by the end of the story they have an excellent understanding of one another's psyches, are (accurately) thinking multiple moves in advance, and so on.

In their final confrontation, the agent finally manages to defeat and capture the mad scientist, outsmarting not only his main plan but also his backup plan and defeating him in single combat. As the scientist is taken off to prison, though, the agent begins to wistfully think about how the scientist understands her much better than anyone else in the world. The epilogue timeskips ahead to the now-reformed scientist being released from prison and the agent picking him up for their first date!

 

A classic play about two young members of rival families caught in a vendetta. The two are romantically attracted to one another but with the vendetta in its state, each tragically believes that the only way to win their counterpart is to ensure that their own family wins utterly, giving them a position of decisive advantage with which to graciously propose to the other and end the feud. This is somewhat obviously unrealistic -- the two sides are too evenly matched. A kindly priest attempts to broker an arranged marriage between the two in order to end the feud peacefully, but each family mistrusts the other and an innocent misunderstanding leads each group to fear they are being betrayed, leading to a dramatic battle between the families. The two main characters are engaged in single combat and become separated from the main group, each wounding the other with poisoned weapons. In a lull in their fight, they realize that they are both doomed and that none of this had to happen. The two reconcile, embrace, and die in each other's arms. Shortly after, the larger battle between the rest of the two families bursts into the room -- seeing the corpses' embrace the others are struck with remorse and themselves lay down their weapons to meet in reconciliation.

 

Historical fiction dramatizing a famous dispute between two rival scientists, each convinced their own paradigm was right. The protagonist is the scientist who turned out to be wrong and the narrative shows how his opponent's arguments, his own commitment to truth, and a series of clever experiments slowly but surely allowed him to overcome his error and admit his opponent's paradigm was the correct one -- the emphasis is on epistemics, reason, and willingness to admit error. The two scientists ultimately become colleagues and collaborators, making multiple other scientific discoveries together, and while they never became close friends the story ends with each quite respecting the other.

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A steampunk novel about a secret agent, a mad scientist, and their series of conflicts over several years.

Steampunk isn’t a very popular genre, but this is very well done! It enjoys a relatively small but passionate fandom.

A classic play about two young members of rival families caught in a vendetta.

WE LOVE IT. Please send more. Please. Arranged bonds are a pretty niche genre usually found in dystopias, but it looks like yours is historical. It’s great. We have made 18 other series based on the concept already. There is so much fanfiction for this play. There are three main varieties, one where the first character’s original plan works, one where the second character’s plan works, and one where the priest’s plan works. There is so much political intrigue. Many popular fanfictions, being in book and not play format, manage to add in so much more political drama. Here are the thirty most popular. 

Historical fiction dramatizing a famous dispute between two rival scientists, each convinced their own paradigm was right. 

This is a little boring, but it has a good moral and the characters are pretty cute together! We always need more fiction about realizing you’re wrong, it’s an incredibly important skill that’s aggravatingly hard to teach.

 

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A steampunk novel


Oh, this one's fun! What a lively plot that threatens, but does not follow through on, continuing forever without resolution. It would make a good musical with a lot of ironic reprises and dramatically choreographed duets. Why do so many other universes not make things musicals that obviously want to be musicals? They'll get right on that. 8/4.

A classic play


It's... okay? Kind of silly character behavior all round, the cultural concept of "priest" as understood in Towertopia doesn't translate well, and all the pretty language will be lost in translation. 3/9.

Historical fiction dramatizing a famous dispute


A little dry but, again, that's what musicals are for. Can they have more historical information on the real scientists so they can incorporate it into the musical adaptation? Bonus points if there are letters, this is looking like a semi-epistolary musical. 4/8.
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Steampunk novel about a secret agent - Some prereaders thought the (relative lack) of worldbuilding was implausible; one even wrote a short essay (attached) critiquing the resources apparently available to the mad scientist without any heightened government response.  However, others appreciated the matching of wits and the successful raising of stakes and tension and mutual understanding.  We at Comma House are not interested in the standard contract at this uncertain time, but we would be interested in a single provisional press run if agreed, in case our other Towertopian literature inspires further interest?

Two youth in a family vendetta - Prereaders were impatient with both protagonists, protesting "Why can't they just talk to each other?", "How could they really fall in love without knowing each other better than this?", and even, "If they're this stupid, they couldn't have gotten along well; good thing they both died by the end."  We at Comma House choose not to publish the book at this time.  As always, we aren't disrecommending the work; it's possible it may find an audience elsewhere.

Dispute between rival scientists - Prereaders expressed frustration that they couldn't review it for historical accuracy, and requested actual history books about the relevant period!  They praised the plot and the intellectual drama, though with some frustration they couldn't fully follow the scientific issues at stake.  We at Comma House are interested in publishing the book with a preface and afterword better explaining about the contemporary experimental process and the actual history; would TIER or the author be interested?

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A historical fiction YA novel that depicts a medieval siege 

Useful for understanding human psychology. Not blatantly deficient on surface siegecraft, even if hampered in realism by the lack of even basic magic. Recommended addition to martial academy libraries.

The Traitors to Truth, a fantasy novel about a female adventurer from a semi-religious order dedicated to finding and spreading the truth. 

Very interesting, and quite consistent with Kehanetian ethics. The human-based perspective and the fact that the magic and religion are fantastic avoids a feeling of excessive didacticism. Recommended addition to community entertainment libraries.

A series focusing on two “competitive friends” bonded by their mutual appreciation for -- and high-level competitive rivalry at -- a certain genre of strategy game.

Fairly pedestrian theme, alien perspective and technology make it hard to relate. Nothing objectionable, permitted for sale by booksellers, though unlikely to be picked up by many.

A book about a young adventurer on a classic “hero’s journey.”

Another entry in the antisocial genre that makes up far too much of the human-written literature we already have access to and need to keep away from impressionable youths. Subversion by non-subversion is a mildly interesting literary trick, but not enough to justify translation and reproduction costs to make the work available as inspiration to authors.

A fantasy romance novel themed around reversals of fortune.

Human literature is just so obsessed with romantic pairings. Sure, it's an obvious side effect of their fixed-from-birth sexes and the fact that the females carry the young instead of sensibly laying eggs, but it makes so much so hard to relate to. And the author doesn't even seem to understand that the corruption and fall of the captain is a tragedy. Doesn't need to be banned, because nobody not assigned the job of reading it is going to bother.

The first is a book from the "popular strategy" genre

Definitely worth adding to the martial academy libraries, if only for another perspective on established principles. Forwarded to the Hatchling Literature Review to determine if it is suitable for excerpting for use in primary education.

Next is a classic of the "memoirs of regret" genre

While vainglory usually doesn't reach these levels in the Empire of the Lightning Dragon, the lesson is useful. (It would be even more useful for the inhabitants of the various human realms, where vainglory does reach those levels, but our mission is not to fix the world, but make it safe for Palinexolara the Great, her scions, and the kobolds who serve them.) Added to the martial and arcane academy libraries, since their students tend to display the problem the most.

The last book is part of the "in-depth postmortem" genre

Incomprehensible. Sent the copy to the stacks of the Imperial Research Library, in case it might have some utility to scholars of the esoteric in the future.

A steampunk novel about a secret agent, a mad scientist, and their series of conflicts over several years

Another weird human romance. Copy sent to the department in charge of obtaining foreign craft guild secrets to see if any of the "steampunk" bits can help advance Imperial crafts, or give insight into what the gods-cursed gnomes might be trying.

A classic play about two young members of rival families caught in a vendetta.

And another weird human romance, with a focus on those weird "family" ties. It's really so much easier when eggs hatch in collective nurseries and the hatchlings are socialized and educated by trained personnel. Thank the gods we aren't humans.

Historical fiction dramatizing a famous dispute between two rival scientists, each convinced their own paradigm was right. 

And just when you start to despair if humans can ever care about anything important or have any comprehensible emotions, you get something like this. Kehanet's clerics are going to especially like this one (which might disgruntle some of the clerics of the eight other Nine Worthy Ministers, since that's now two for her and none for the others); it's clearly a worthy addition to community entertainment libraries.

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This one is weird? Not exactly in a bad way, but it's so weird. For a seduction plot that ends in a marriage it's strikingly un-horny, and readers are divided on whether it's screwed up for them to get married after all the torture, or if it would be fine if it weren't so un-horny and the genre were accordingly shifted thataway, or if it's fine regardless of genre since it's fiction anyway. The plot is fun, though; also popular are rewrites where the heroine switches to the side of good but they don't get married, retranslations that take more liberties with the narration of the ship progression to make the marriage feel more natural (though the concrete events are left intact), and a standalone essay version of the heroine's decisionmaking process in her final self-conviction. 7/5.

TIER finds this review itself quite weird -- why would the book be "horny?" That might appeal to prurient interests, which would be very bad. Besides, it isn't really very interesting that the two are attracted to one another because... of course they are, if they want to be? The interesting part has to do with the interaction of their personalities and ideologies and whether those will wind up compatible with one another (and if so, how?), not with whether they could be physically compatible under the proper circumstances -- the former is quite interesting while the latter is sort of a given with this premise?

Here are some more Towertopian works that deal with romance, perhaps some of them might seem less weird?

 

A novel about a love triangle where a young woman has to choose between two suitors. Tragically, she decides that she enjoys being fought over and tries to set up circumstances such that the two suitors are in extended competition for her hand. Her efforts create substantial strife and conflict until the two suitors realize that the situation is ridiculous and that a woman that is creating all this trouble for them would likely be a poor spouse. They become friends instead of rivals; ironically, their prolonged rivalry and competition means they know each other well, allowing them to make fitting "wingmen" for one another, and they help one another find more suitable partners. The novel ends with the protagonist checking her mail and finding wedding invitations from both of her former suitors, leading her to reflect on the impropriety of her actions and the irony of fate.

 

A film showing the story of two rival flying aces, one male and one female, in a fictionalized war using pre-Great Conflict technology (biplanes, airships, and the like). The pilots' respective squadrons clash repeatedly and become intense foes. As the story continues, it becomes apparent that the war is being fought for unsound reasons on both sides and the tone grows increasingly tragic. The aces' rivalry turns to obsession as they come up with tactics and counter-tactics to one another's methods; each soon sees the other as their only worthy opponent. Rumors indicate a peace treaty is in the works but the aces refuse to accept this in their obsession, confronting each other with their entire squadrons in climactic battle as a great storm brews. As the storm intensifies, the rest of the squadrons break off from the conflict but the two aces remain locked in a dogfight. Each seriously damages the other's plane and they both make crash landings on a deserted "no man's land" battlefield. Staggering from their destroyed aircraft, the two aces continue their battle with pistols, each wounding the other. Running out of ammunition, they draw their ceremonial swords, where once again they prove evenly matched, inflicting minor wounds without a conclusive result across several exchanges. The aces scream and charge each other once more, swords held high, but as their swords clash above their heads, a bolt of lightning strikes the joined blades, running through both swords and throwing each of the aces to the ground.

The film cuts to the next day. Peace has been declared and parties venture out from both sides into "no man's land" to see what happened; they find the two aces embracing one another and weeping uncontrollably amidst the wreckage, having bandaged one another's wounds. The film ends with a still image of the two former rivals at their wedding; the two have distinctively matching Lichtenberg-figure scars visible on one side of their faces (and on the bride's arm) from the lightning strike that saved them from their obsession.

 

A romantic comedy film depicting two graduate students, one male and one female. Each has mostly friends of their own gender but their strongest friendship is with one another -- they obviously like each other and would seemingly make a good couple, but both seem oblivious to it. Their friends independently try to arrange circumstances designed to get the two to realize this -- trying to set things up so that the two will unexpectedly find themselves at a romantic dinner together, for instance -- but a combination of bizarre coincidences and general obliviousness seems to disrupt every plan. After repeated failures, the students' friends grow more determined to overcome these obstacles and the two friend groups begin working together to try and set the students up. Ironically, their collaboration on these plans and commiseration over the multiple failed plots leads to multiple romantic matches blooming among the plotters! Finally, all the plotters -- many of whom are now themselves dating -- decide to hold an "intervention" and confront the prospective couple directly about it rather than trying to arrange any more coincidences.

However, they are shocked to learn that the woman they were trying to set up is actually quite interested in the "leader" of the plotters, one of the male graduate student's friends from undergrad! The leader gladly accepts her offer to go out on a date but is very confused as to why she wasn't interested in her friend after all the plotting to try and set them up together -- however, her friend laughs and reveals that he was actually in training to become a priest and had kept this secret in order to test whether he would be able to successfully conceal his identity as a priest if under persecution in a foreign country! There is a brief timeskip and the film ends with a montage of the newly-ordained priest marrying the various couples that formed among the plotters as a result of their unsuccessful meddling, with the marriage of the leader of the plotters and the female student being the last one shown!

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A novel about a love triangle where a young woman has to choose between two suitors.

The genre isn’t overwhelmingly popular, but it definitely exists! Normally it does end with some sort of dramatic courtship gesture, a tragic death where one rival holds the other as they die, or either the rivals or all three getting together, so the ending here is odd and very anticlimactic. They just set up all these nice interpersonal relationships, why are they bonding with two random background characters?? There’s trope subversion and then there’s stupidity, and this seems more the latter? Fanfiction is immediately written to rectify this problem. Otherwise a very nice story!

 

A film showing the story of two rival flying aces, one male and one female, in a fictionalized war using pre-Great Conflict technology (biplanes, airships, and the like).

This is so cute and so dramatic and there is now lots of fanfiction involving them either killing each other, having to survive on the deserted island, getting taken prisoner by the other, or entering an arranged pairbond (they have totally stolen the concept from that previous work and are RUNNING with it.

 

A romantic comedy film depicting two graduate students, one male and one female.

First, what is a priest??? Why would that in particular matter?

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TIER finds this review itself quite weird -- why would the book be "horny?"


....to take advantage of multiple fronts of possible emotional investment? What is "of course they are, if they want to be" supposed to mean. Is that how Towertopians work. That's weird. Even if that's how Towertopians work perhaps you might want to mention on screen literally at all that they are Choosing To Be Attracted Now. The exact timing and reasoning behind that decision would be an interesting if alien character moment.

A novel about a love triangle


This one is kind of cute except that most Green readers are disappointed that the rivals marry narrative nonentities instead of doing the obvious thing and marrying each other. There is fanfiction of it which becomes much more popular on Green than the original. The original gets 4/8.

A film showing the story of two rival flying aces


Blah blah fight scene BLAH blah fight scene fight scene fight scene blah blah BLAH blah contrived coincidence and a romance ending after a leadup entirely of fight scenes??? Who thought this was a good plot? The lightning scars are kind of aesthetic but it's the sort of thing you put as an element in a cool villain's backstory or something. 1/11.

A romantic comedy film depicting two graduate students


This is kind of funny but no one can figure out what being a priest has to do with not wanting to date the female lead? Why do you need to conceal being a priest? Is it like being a spy? If he's in spy training probably he should have a cover story and just claim to be asexual or something instead of telling a dozen people as soon as they confront him. It's bad infosec. 3/9.
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More romances? Of course, humans.

A novel about a love triangle where a young woman has to choose between two suitors.

Wait, humans acting sanely within the context of romance? All right, forward this to the Exports Bureau to see if they want to print up some translations and see if we can sell them to the neighboring human realms. Whether improving human sanity makes them more or less dangerous is their job to figure out, fortunately, not Klazsrihs's . . . 

A film showing the story of two rival flying aces, one male and one female, in a fictionalized war using pre-Great Conflict technology (biplanes, airships, and the like).

With the dint of substantial artisanal effort, given local difficulties with gods-imposed limits on the physics of electricity, a hand-cranked projector with a powerful magical projecting light is developed to view the filmstrip format this arrived in. Actors read the (translated) transcript along to the visuals. The visuals of the technological war are quite striking, and showings become quite a fashion for a time. After the first few showings, local opinion agrees the correct time to end the showing is immediately at the lightning strike, with the implication that both humans were killed.

A romantic comedy film depicting two graduate students, one male and one female.

Yeah, there's no need to make a second projector or have any actors rehearse this one. Everything about humans' biology-imposed romantic insanity aside, what sort of deity would ban her clerics from entering a reproduction-promoting bond, but also have them officiate at such bondings instead of leaving that task to clerics of other deities? Maybe this is a standard fictional religion constructed with tenets so self-contradictory that you don't have to worry about accidentally offending any real-but-obscure deity when portraying the fictional deity's clergy?

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