World building

World Building in Fan Fiction

I enjoyed the first Pacific Rim film. Watching it, I wanted to learn more about that world. For that, I did a little bit of reading and poking around the Internet (mainly the Wikipedia article). While that gave me a gleaning of information, I wanted to do something a little bit more.

I didn’t always like world building. It seemed tedious. But as I’ve started to create my own worlds, I’ve come to appreciate the craft of others’ worlds. It’s just that some worlds lack the specific piece I’m looking for, which is why I write fan fiction.

In the first Pacific Rim movie, I loved the design of Cherno Alpha, the Russian robotic monster-hunter Jaeger. Cherno’s pilots had a great fight scene but were handed a raw deal in the script (along with the Wei triplets and their Crimson Typhoon Jaeger, which had to be one of the coolest ideas for a robot ever). I was in the shower one morning when I got the main ideas for the Kluge twins, competitive brothers caught in the swirl of war with the Kaiju but somehow still distanced from it…until it becomes personal to one of them.

I wrote a drabble based on this personal connection (“Worth Dying For”), but here’s the backstory for the brothers, written in a world-building buzz of one sitting almost 5 years ago…

The Brothers Kluge

Ein and Albert Kluge are fraternal twins from Ulm, a city in Baden-Württemberg in Germany, born September 23, 2000, to parents Inge and Erhard Kluge, a chief engineer at Zwick Roell Group. Brash and competitive, especially with each other, the twin boys grew to adulthood in the far-reaching shadow of Kaiju attacks, each one always trying to one-up his brother for skills and smarts. Their father desired them to stay in Germany and continue their work with him at Zwick, but when they came of age, they enrolled in the Pan Pacific Defense Corps Jaeger Academy. They believed their close genetic bond would make them excellent candidates for the Ranger pilot program (q.v., Gage twins, Wei triplets). However, while their mental and physical scores were significant, they failed out in first cut, being particularly incapable of successful Drifting with one another or anyone else.

Morally winded, the Kluge twins resigned themselves to returning to Germany and their “disappointingly conventional” heritage as material testers like their father. Before they were dismissed from Kodiak Island, though, first-generation Ranger and instructor Stacker Pentecost suggested that, while their competitive nature with each other would prove disastrous in a Conn-Pod, it could be highly beneficial in a research capacity:

“It’s not all about piloting Jaegers, you know,” Pentecost said. “J-Tech Engineering needs checks and balances, too.”

Ein looked at his younger brother. Albert looked back at him with the gleam of a new grin. They turned to Pentecost at the same time, and at the same time said, “When do we start?”

Having agreed to training and assignment at the Vladivostok Shatterdome, the Kluge twins soon became Jaeger Engineers. They contributed to upgrades in design and armor on Jaegers Nova Hyperion and Cherno Alpha. During their assignment at Vladivostok, Ein developed one-sided and mostly-hidden romantic feelings for Ranger Sasha Kaidanovsky, one of the pilots of Cherno Alpha. Albert advised his brother to steer clear of both Sasha and her husband Aleksis, but Ein remained devoted:

“You’re a fool if you think you have any chance with Frau Kaidonovsky,” Albert said, snorting under his breath.

Ein wilted. “I know she will never be mine. But I cannot ignore that which beats in my heart. So I will do everything in my power to help her. With or without you, Brüderchen.”

When the Vladivostok Shatterdome was closed in 2024, Cherno Alpha and her J-Tech team, including the Kluge twins, were relocated to Hong Kong. On 8 January 2025, Hermann Gottlieb’s predicted Double Event occurred. Kaiju Leatherback and Otachi attacked, destroying the Jaegers Crimson Typhoon and Cherno Alpha.

On hearing the news of the Kaidanovskys’ deaths, Ein Kluge was never the same. Neither was his brother Albert.

 

“Worth Dying For” [Pacific Rim]

After the sealing of the Breach and the ensuing celebrations, the crews continued to work. Not to advance the cause of the Jaeger program, but to mourn and honor their dead.

The salvage crews returned to the Shatterdome what they’d managed to find of Cherno. Of Typhoon, too, though the crimson debris didn’t interest Ein so much as the burnt and twisted ochre metal.

The left leg was nearly intact. The right hand, as well. No sign of the torso, though. Or the head. Destroyed in the battle with Otachi and Leatherback, they said. The details didn’t matter. The Jaegers were gone. Their pilots were gone.

Sasha was gone.

In the week since that terrible night, he’d had time to come to grips with that fact, though it didn’t make her loss any easier to swallow. He’d never again hear the steady tread of her boots as she walked toward her Jaeger, never again smell the clean scent of her sweat as she stepped from her Conn-Pod, never again see the quirk of her red lips as she’d train to the technical beat of her Ukrainian electronica.

The rest of Cherno’s J-Tech crew hated that music, but no one ever said a disparaging word about it within Sasha’s earshot. Ein liked it, though. Sort of. That Sasha enjoyed it was enough. He’d even asked her for a sampling, to which she’d smiled – smiled! – and promised him a datapin of her favorite tracks.

He’d fallen in love with her the moment she’d smiled at him. And just standing in the shadow of Cherno Alpha, under the gaze of such a woman, had been his reason to work, and strive, and fight.

Now, the weight of her sacrifice made Ein crumple on his bunk, that same datapin full of music files clutched in his hand.

The door clanked and belched with a pressure change, but he didn’t look up, instead groaning, “Not now, Albert.”

His brother had been trying for days to coax him from his self-imposed hell, with ploys and promises more fitting the privileged, selfish boys they’d been growing up in Ulm than the men they’d become: drunken challenges along Hong Kong’s stretch of dingy dives, scavenger hunts for the K-Science teams in the seedy black market maze, even amorous adventures in the city’s red light district. It was stupid. Pointless. And it dishonored the memory of his lost Valkyrie.

But, it wasn’t Albert who’d made the door shudder open, or who called his name in a tentative, curious murmur:

“Ein?”

That high, feminine voice made his thoughts stutter. It also made him raise his head, mumbling, “Una?”

“I came to see if you were all right,” she said, floating toward his bunk with her soundless step. She settled beside him, barely disturbing the blanket or mattress.

“I’m fine.” He returned his gaze to the floor, noticing that her toes only just touched the grates beneath his boots. The sight made him smile a moment, for some reason.

“You’re not,” she said pointedly. Her hand touched his back, between his shoulders.

She’d touched him like that once before, the night Cherno hadn’t come back. He hadn’t noticed then how the light, kind press of her fingers started a faint warmth fluttering through him. This time, though, he closed his eyes, to feel it spread and multiply, and fill him with a new feeling not so lonely.

He sighed a long, low breath. “You know me a bit too well,” he said, half-lamenting but half-amused, as he looked at her again.

Una returned his faint smile. “We’ve worked together for three years.” She blinked her brown, doe-like eyes, and her smile wilted. “But, in that whole time, I’ve never been afraid for you. Until now.”

Ein pulled the air between them through his teeth. “Don’t,” he said, his vision going narrow with a frown. “I don’t want you fearing for me.” He reached out, laying his hand very tenderly upon her jaw. It wasn’t the defined and noble edge of which he’d often dreamed, but rather slender and gently sloping. Delicate, even. He stroked it with his fingers.

She didn’t react, save for a slow, sad smile. “You say that like it’s possible. Like I can just close my eyes,” she said, and did, her lashes lowering with a weight he could nearly feel in his chest. “And forget I care.”

The air shifted, and his heart stuttered, making his throat ache with a sudden dry tension. He considered – only for a second – taking his hand from her face. But it wouldn’t move.

“Una…!”

“I care for you, Ein,” she went on, as though she hadn’t heard his quiet warning. “I care for you more than anything. I know I’ll never be like Pi Kaidanovskaya. Not to you.” She shook her head, adding, “But I cannot silence what is in my heart.” Her narrow shoulders drooped with the burden of resignation. “I wouldn’t want to.”

Ein froze. He’d muttered nearly those exact same words, himself, about Sasha. When he’d said them to Albert, his brother had groaned and cursed and told him to get over his potentially damaging schoolboy crush. But, here, Ein swallowed, hard. Because it shouldn’t have been like this. He should have noticed. He should have paid attention at some point over these last three years to the brave and kind and clever little single mechanic beside him, rather than pined in hopeless solitude for the powerful, untouchable, married warrior pilot who’d known him only as a member of her Jaeger crew and not as peer or friend or—

“Liebling,” he whispered, without even thinking the word.

Una flicked her gaze up, clear but cautious.

Ein nodded, slowly. And, slowly, he smiled again. He was still holding her cheek.

She mirrored him, stroking her small hand over his prominent brow. “Darling,” she echoed, and leaned over to kiss him, only a touch of her soft and gentle lips to his, but it filled him with such fresh fire, he felt nearly consumed.

He pulled back before letting such flames fan themselves, their lips clutching only quietly, to murmur, “I’m sorry.”

She pulled away, too, curiously. “Why?”

“I never opened my eyes,” he said, drifting his gaze over the smooth lines of her face as it lit with another smile.

“I never opened my mouth,” she allowed, and chuckled, a high, warm, welcoming sound. She quickly turned silent, though, moving her whole body against his, this time, in preparation for a new kiss.

He backed away again, one hand laid upon her shoulder. It almost broke him to say so, but, with trembling tongue, he managed it: “Shouldn’t we wait? Go slowly?” He looked at her and cracked an uneven smile. “I don’t even know what music you like—”

“Chopin,” she said readily. An impish gleam shone in her eyes. “And The Pogues.”

He chuckled. “Or, your favorite food—”

“Goulash. But, only my babička’s recipe.”

His chuckling turned to laughter. “Or, oh, I don’t know…!”

She laughed, too, that most splendid of sounds he’d heard before but never so clearly as now.

“You don’t have to,” she said with a subtle shake of her head. “We’ll talk, and take our time, and get to know each other properly.” The gleam returned, brighter than before, as she brought her legs beneath her to kneel on the bunk beside him, cupping his face with both her hands. “But first,” she said, shifting one knee expertly over his lap so they sat chest-to-chest. “This.” And she kissed him again.

He knew he’d always remember Sasha Kaidonovsky, and feel a weight in his heart whenever he thought of her cool, commanding presence. He would always honor the memory of who she’d been, and what she’d done, and the countless lives she’d saved at the helm of her towering Jaeger, by the side of her husband. But this other woman, whose look and touch and kiss were meant specifically for him… This was a woman worth living for.

Metro 2033 Fanfiction: “Brotherhood of the Dead”

Logline:

When Artyom escaped from the Metro tunnels under irradiated Moscow, he thought he’d left the war, the mutants, and the horrors of the Metro’s fractured societies behind. But the dead don’t give up so easily.

 

The story behind the story:

In early 2017, a bundle sale of “Metro 2033: Redux” rekindled my interest in the “Metro 2033” games. I vaguely remembered them being based on a larger story. So I poked around the Internet about it, and I discovered the game was based on not just one book, but three books, all written by Dmitry Glukhovsky. I ordered and devoured all three books in the space of about 5 weeks. Even after I’d finished the books, my imagination was hungry for more. I read a few fanfiction stories, but very few of them followed the books, and none of those stories took the characters where I wanted to see them go. Of course, that meant I had to put my own version to paper.

“Brotherhood of the Dead” came to me in a dream of dark tunnels and monstrous shapes, and a young couple bound to each other yet struggling to connect. I wrote it in a little less than a month, during the early summer of 2017. It’s full of a different imagery and emotion than I’ve used before, as I tried to match Glukhovsky’s original style. Still, it commandeered my brain and my keyboard until I could get the whole thing down.

Here it is, for you to click on. Or not. Very few people read this story when I posted it at Archive Of Our Own and Fanfiction.Net. Fewer still are likely to read it here. But that’s okay. I enjoyed finding my!Artyom’s voice, and doing the research around the Metro stations underneath (modern-day) Moscow, old Russian folk tales, Eurasian geography, and subterranean hydroponics. And, isn’t the joy of it what truly matters?

Metro 2033: Brotherhood of the Dead

2016 Year in (Writing) Review

Whenever I feel like I haven’t produced anything in a while, I look at what stories I’ve posted. 2016 might not have been my most prolific year, but I did write – and post – a little bit over 66,000 words, across 22 stories. I’m not including the work I did on the rewrite of my sci-fi adventure story, or all of the back story snippets I hashed out when the editing wasn’t working to my liking, or the starts to stories I scrapped or set aside because I went back to editing and rewrites, because those have not been seen by eyes other than mine. They would also be a lot harder to calculate.

Not a great year for output, but not as poor as I’d originally suspected when thinking back on it.

2016wordcounts

Not every one of these stories is great, but each one represents a personal effort, and my desire to become a better storyteller. If I had to pick a favorite, I know which one I’d choose…but I won’t say because a parent playing favorites is not a good thing. 😉

For those of you who took time out of your lives to read any of these, and especially to those folks who let me know what they thought, thank you from the depths of my artist’s heart. Hearing that I’ve touched, amused, or entertained someone else with these stories keeps me going day after day.

What was your 2016 year in writing like? Any surprises, challenges, or turnarounds? Here’s looking forward to a strong 2017 in all of our writing goals!

Log in here!