Medith Riggs: Evolution of a Character
By the time a novel hits print, it may seem that the characters and the plot were planned for far in advance; which they were, of course because I am That Brilliant. — But the truth may be a little more serendipitous than that. By way of example, there’s Medith Riggs, and how she went from a voice on the other side of the door to Stildyne’s office in a scene that we can now place between “Blood Enemies” and the epilogue thereto to an important supporting role with her own voice in the “Under Jurisdiction” universe.
Medith Riggs is a relatively new character “Under Jurisdiction,” and I’d like to tell you how she came into the story and earned her place as a continuing player – because it’s how some of the best things happen to my novels. I’ll be talking about a story fragment, “The Courtship of Caren’s Father;” a vignette titled “First Contact: Thula;” the short story “Into Gonebeyond” in the Baen Free Library; the deleted plotline in the novella “Stalking Horse” (I’m calling it “Stalking Horse: Mutation”); and finally the novel “Crimes Against Humanity.”
- The Courtship of Caren’s Father (fragment) (post-“Blood Enemies”)
This first-written fragment is also marks the furthest-future point in the series chronology, and comes after “Crimes Against Humanity” but before the Epilogue in “Blood Enemies.”
- First Contact: Thula (between “Warring States” and “Blood Enemies”)
Next came a “first contact” story to explain the circumstances in which Medith had first met Stildyne and the wolf pack . . . because it had to start sometime. This is the very first look at the group dynamics shortly after Stildyne and the others arrive in Gonebeyond, a hint about how the wolf-pack is going to negotiate a new relationship with Stildyne – who has a lot to answer for, even though his crimes against their human dignity are going on seven years past by this point.
Medith, as an “outsider” who had clearly been integrated into Stildyne’s security organization for the Safehaven Medical Center when we first met, could – if she’d come in early enough – provide an external character’s POV on what bond-involuntaries suddenly freed from their governors might act like as they tried to adjust.
She could also provide a look at the wolf pack’s individual personalities starting to re-assert themselves, something Stildyne was not necessarily going to be able to communicate to a reader, since (like Andrej) he’s only ever known them under Bond, expressing significantly repressed personalities accordingly.
There would obviously be an ever-increasing number of people who interfaced with the wolf-pack as the Gonebeyond story progressed, who would have a range of reactions to them, meeting/working with them as time went by. Medith was a good person to represent the generalized Gonebeyond relationship between Gonebeyond and the thula/Stildyne/wolf-pack.
This meant that she’d be a person with a reason to meet the wolf-pack as a simple matter of every-day working relations; not a Malcontent, not a social worker, simply someone doing a physically demanding job and minding her own business, someone low-key and non-intrusive around whom the wolf-pack could relax and work with.
A cargo loading specialist, tough, strong, resilient, good enough at what she does for the thula to put in a by-name requisition for her the next time they needed cargo loading management, no prying, no questions, no challenges for men under a very great deal of stress already and trying to figure out what to do with themselves. A good fit; so I thought I’d give her a try, and I was happy with how she managed it.
- Into Gonebeyond (after First Contact, before “Blood Enemies”)
There’s a (free) story, “Into Gonebeyond,” available on the Baen site at https://www.baen.com/into_gonebeyond in which Medith Riggs shows up as the preferred cargo manager on the Malcontent’s thula Fisher Wolf and other hulls being crewed by Stildyne and the “wolf pack.”
Here Medith Riggs knows her stuff, minds her own business, and is generally speaking a good solid low-maintenance sort of personality a crew of former bond-involuntary Security slaves with serious issues to grapple with.
Medith was useful here again in providing a fresh POV on the wolf-pack and Stildyne. The idea that she and Garrity sorted well together and had begun to form what would have been the first personal relationship – friendship, even – was coming together here, a fundamental step toward the wolf-pack beginning to break free from their conditioning and open up as people.
Why Garrity? Well, why not? There’s no sexual overtones to the relationship – Medith has a sweetie of her own sex and Garrity’s been pretty much asexual all of his life, something hinted at in the novella “Jurisdiction,” among other places.
Until he meets Miss Crowned, the Malcontent intelligence agent from Canopy Base. But that’s in the future, at this point.
- “Stalking Horse: Mutation” deleted story portion (before “Crimes Against Humanity”) (filed under “Extras” for “Crimes Against Humanity)
Medith’s still a semi-marginal player in this novella; but since she’s working really well as one of the first continuing “outside” contacts the wolf-pack has, and since her role in cargo management is clearly something that would be useful, there was no reason to introduce another character here when instead we could continue the relationship between Medith and the thula.
By this time there was no question in my mind that she was a successful character, I liked her, I admired her, and she could give me lots of good character interaction as well as hold her own in the plot mechanics.
I’d had fun with her from the moment she first spoke, which is always a good sign of a good character as far as I’m concerned, because the more fun I can have with a character the more likely it is that the people who are reading about her (rather than writing about her) are going to have fun too.
There’s a “first contact” here as well: between Medith, and Andrej Koscuisko. By “Crimes Against Humanity” he clearly accepts her as someone valued by the wolf-pack, and acknowledges her authority as “access control” at least to some extent; and she knows who he is, but is fundamentally minding her own business (as she does). In this story the foundations of that relationship of mutual respect are first laid down.
As a marginally related issue: Before “Blood Enemies” I’d been contemplating an earlier notion about a mutated virus getting out of hand, so the idea was in my head; but as the action of the novella “Stalking Horse” played out, most of the traditional Protagonist Deathly Ill and Everybody Worried trappings had to be cut out, for reasons of narrative flow.
- “Crimes Against Humanity”
Now Medith has arrived in totality, to claim/expect/merit her place in the continuing story (eventually to dovetail with her debut appearance as a voice on the other side of the door to Stildyne’s office). She may be on the brink of developing a more-or-less independent aspect to her story line resulting from the fact that Stoshi thinks she’s solid useful, but I don’t know exactly where her story goes from here.
It’s clear to me that she’s had her part to play in giving Garrity a shim under the window of the locked room of his conditioning.
She’s also going to be continuing to be an “outside” POV who can share with the reader the range of different things it might mean when (camping in a clearing in a swamp, for reasons I don’t yet know except that it gives everybody a chance to hang out in their underblouses) Garrity walks casually through camp past some of his fellow crew-mates, past the Malcontent intelligence officer Miss Crownéd, past Andrej Koscuisko, with an immense catfish-analogue by the gills in one hand which he then prepares (with a dill analogue? Where would he find dill in a swamp?) and serves up on the communal table for dinner in a dish placed prominently in front of . . . Miss Crownéd.
Who, if she’s been sleeping with Andrej, won’t be any longer, for as long as it takes her to figure out exactly what might be going on between her and Garrity and whether or not she thinks whatever it is could work out. But that’ll play out in the next Jurisdiction novel, “Diaspora,” if and when there is one. Or maybe more novellas. But I digress.
Putting it all together, during the time between “Warring States” and “Blood Enemies” the wolf-pack found an efficient, reliable, and discreet cargo manager named Medith Riggs. “First Contact” between Riggs and the Malcontent’s thula Fisher Wolf came early on, but I haven’t had a place to publish that before now.
Included as “extras” for “Blood Enemies” you get First Contact between Stildyne, The Malcontent’s thula Fisher Wolf, and Medith Riggs in addition to a copy of this short essay (since the “Into Gonebeyond” story is available for free on the Baen website).
Included as “extras” for “Crimes Against Humanity” is another copy of this essay for them as missed it, the earlier “medical emergency hits too close to home” narrative that relates to that element of the plot in “Crimes Against Humanity,” and text cut from “Crimes Against Humanity” that I think I’m going to call “Extraordinary Rendition.”
I hope that you enjoy this material!