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A note from argusthecat

Some of you had questions!  Some of me had answers.

Can orbs be combined? - MrMaradok

Specifically, I think this was asked in the context of totemizing the orbs. To which the answer is, yup! The coffee machine they have is actually an example of a combined orb, though they never opened it to find out what it is.

What’s up with the double Anesh - superkamimarvin

It’s vaguely referenced in the epilogue, but for clarity, whatever Anesh did when he absorbed an orange allowed him to make a copy of himself. As of yet, no one has been able to replicate that, and no one is sure if they’d get the same effect.

Does naming things give them power, if the dungeon is powered by meaning? - Elaborate

If that’s the case, it’s probably not a great idea for Sarah to already have named it. But as to the actual answer, sort of? Maybe? From an author’s perspective, maybe I don’t know yet. Rufus and Ganesh certainly seem to have grown and evolved over time, and they have names. But we haven’t exactly had a recurring office entity to deal with that was unnamed yet. The only ones that show up more than once are, like, the tumblefeed? And that gets set on fire.

What’s outside of the window? - craxuan

The things that are trying to come through the window. Also maybe a tree.

Timing for the next book? - Hiro2000, DrMonty, Lepidolite Mica, lots of others

Probably looking at early October. I hope to have a little backlog built up by then.

What was up with the bathroom? - Askeron32

I initially intended for them to get there eventually, and have that be where Sarah and her team had gotten lost/taken. But then I shifted gears, and decided on a conference room and a hive mind thing for the showdown and rescue, and the bathrooms no longer fit the bill. They’re still there, still waiting to be explored. They’ve got free-floating chunks of porcelain and tile, flows of water that defy gravity, and a non-zero number of nasty surprises. There is no “other side” of the restrooms, they have one entrance, and they go *up*. That’s all. There might be something worthwhile at the top. There might be a dragon at the top. Why? I dunno, I like dragons. You may have noticed the abundance of dragons lately.

Why do you like dragons so much? - Someone, probably, after reading that last answer.

When I was four my parents made the mistake of buying me a stuffed dragon. I named him Dragon, he’s the fucking best dragon, and I still have him. This, most likely, started me down a long road to being a colossal fucking nerd, and was great. Also dragons are cool.

Plot threads that got lost in development? - Askeron32, EggVolks

Oh my goodness so many of them. The bathrooms, as mentioned. Just never got around to them. I was gonna do a thing where Dave betrayed them, but then Dave turned out to be more interesting, so I was gonna do it with JP, but I never got a chance to explore his character and I actually like the person I *said* he was, so I didn’t wanna. There was also sort of a thread at one point about skills being active versus passive, but I didn’t focus on that and instead settled on an internal canon that Anesh’s idea of “active” was just “things I am actively focusing on”. Frank was gonna be more of a high priest of the dungeon, or maybe just Karen specifically, but writing lines for that felt weird and awkward compared to just making him an immoral and bitter old asshole with too much power.

The big one, of course, was Secret. Secret was initially not going to happen. At all. There was going to be a thing about a hard limit of how many people they could tell, and that was gonna be it. Then I wrote two chapters while really tired, and decided I wanted Alanna in, and ALSO showed James using a weapon when he shouldn’t have been able to. My master stroke to explain these was the life form that would eventually grow into Secret. It was a last minute scramble to explain a mistake, and I couldn’t be happier with how he turned out.

And then, of course, there's the originaly ending. When I started this, The Daily Grind was supposed to be maybe, *maybe* ten chapters long. It was going to be about a young man, losing a fight with crippling depression, who found a way to cope with it through deadly encounters and adrenaline. And it was going to end with James walking into the dungeon, and never coming out. Then, instead, it turned into a story about a young man, engaged in a fight with crippling depression, winning that fight through the support of his friends.

A little on the nose, maybe.

Name for the sequel? - Askeron32

I’m honestly not sure! I feel like, if I even give it a separate name, it’d *have* to be a pun that matched any new situation or dungeon they found, right? Road To Predation is an option bouncing around my skullspace, but I haven’t settled on anything just yet.

What can the orbs NOT give a skill level in? - Thegodforce

Things that humanity has yet to have achieved. You’re not going to find a skill orb that makes it easier to use phased plasma weaponry in the forty watt range, or necromancy, or anything like that. Has to be a real skill.

Related, what exactly is a skill rank? - Several people.

An amount of ability. It's never been made clear, even to me. Though, if you were to pit two people of known skill ranks against each other, without outside context, the higher rank would always win. So, like, chess, for example. Someone with two ranks will always beat someone with one rank, assuming no outside influences. Sort of related to that, my roommate suggested that the skill ranks are actually an Elo system for all of humanity, and that by ranking up, they're just demarking who they are better than. So, if you made it to the "top", you'd be as good as the best person has ever been, but you could not go up from there. I dunno if that's how it works, but it's a funny thought.

Why so many dreams? - Terramendous

Dreamscapes are a great way to write surreal fiction, even more so than the unreality of the Office. It lets me contrast with both the real world they live in, and the unreal world they explore, by having scenes that just don’t make much sense sometimes. It also turned into a great way to have scenes with Secret, and I love Secret so much.

Are they now totally locked out of the dungeon? - Dr. Monty

Nope! Door still works! The dungeon can’t have the door not work, actually. This was another dropped plot point that stayed as internal canon; 24 hours in the Office is 24 hours on Earth, but they don’t line up perfectly. It has doors open for maybe twenty minutes total, in weird places, and while those doors are open, time is compressed into that chunk. But one day is still one day, so it equals out. Anyway, there are other doors, is the point.

Did the dungeon choose them? Or was it really just random chance? - VonWolf

The dungeon didn’t choose them. It really was just random chance. Frank knew about it pretty much the whole time, but didn’t care as long as he was getting paid. Since he wasn’t being paid for *James*, specifically, he just let James and company do their thing, and took the money, while feeding other people to Karen, and taking its money. The dungeon, being suppressed by Karen from the moment James first stepped inside, had no say in any of this.

How the hell did Dave get out of the endless void? - Lots of people.

Just as lots of people asked this question, lots of people also had their own ideas for how Dave could have survived. Pendragon was already heading in his direction, thanks to the blue that he cracked when he and James were trying to figure out how to cross that chasm (Location known, if you remember that bit). So his return trip was already booked. But as for how he got out of the void? Well, personally, I’m fond of the idea that he drifted there until he got bored, then broke the gameboy when it showed up, and used that blue. Someone also suggested that he burn the rest of his “remove half of” charges to… in some way impulse back toward an exit. I can’t remember how it was phrased, but it used some kind of wonky physics that I believe worked. But *man* were there a lot of suggestions for this one. I didn’t realize how many people were invested in Dave living.

What do the decision trees actually eat? - EggVolks

Choices. Also, electricity.

Why the love triangle? - some_dude

This one was contentious. Like, I did not expect how much hate I’d get from people just for the James and Anesh thing, much less for including Alanna in it. The reason *why* I initially planned to make James and Anesh boyfriends because I thought it was cute. They seemed to have a really good close friendship, and it was sort of wish fulfillment on my part; writing a character who rolled a better potential boyfriend than I did. And then, when I realized I wanted to expand the cast, and that Alanna was… Alanna… it just made sense for her to sort of bulldoze the relationship forward once she became comfortable with it.

I hope it doesn’t come across as too preachy here, but I really wish there were more poly relationships in fiction. I know of *two*, and they’re both in sci-fi stories that I find kinda problematic. Recent demographic surveys put between 5% to 25% of the US as some kind of poly, or interested in it, and it feels weird to me that basically every piece of genre fiction I read that has a relationship, is heterosexual and monogamous. Personally, I’m proud to be one of the few people writing good representation for something different, even if that wasn’t what I set out to do, and more just how the characters evolved and spoke to me.

What made you laugh when writing this? - lorty

I don’t normally laugh at my own jokes when I write them, but then I forget about them and reread it a month later, and just die laughing. Which is good, I guess? It’s good that my own humor amuses me. The most recent thing that springs to mind is James telling Momo that they give everything pun names, with the exception of the electric mouse, and then just that beat of silence and the unspoken question of “...pokemon?”.

Why no baby striders? - Kezdet, probably.

The Life in the dungeon can’t reproduce independently.

What are some of the potential exploits for the infinite matter of the magazine? - Lots of people, though Vorchin specifically reminded me of this one

Man, people just won’t forget about that thing. Okay. Let’s start small, then get big. First off, free paper, I guess? Like, that’s not nothing. Automate the system of removing pages, and you could set up a pulp assembly line of, like, a tree or two an hour? That is faster than trees grow naturally, so while it’s not huge, it would probably let you run a successful paper products company. But let’s think bigger. How about burning it? We already know that doesn’t “destroy” it for the orb (what the fuck even WOULD?), so what about setting it on fire, and using that heat to produce electricity? You… might not get much. Paper burns inefficiently. Even if you started a roaring inferno of Pony Things (yes I remember the name of this, but not the names of some of my friends), you’re probably not getting more than a current of a couple hundred watts, max. Let’s go bigger. What if you built a star?

Yeah, that’s right, I skipped all the boring middle ground stuff. Build a fucking star. Build a drone that removes pages and staples from the magazine, put it in deep space with some kind of paper-burning powerplant, and give it a few thousand years. Or hundred thousand years. Eventually, you’re going to have enough paper to form a gravity well. And *eventually*, enough gravity to condense the iron of the staples into a core, and initiate a fusion. And boom, entropy reversed. Fuck you, heat death of the universe. Fuck you, desert of nihilism. Me and my copy of Just Pony Things are going to build an infinite and eternal paradise.

*Ahem*

Anyway, not many practical uses, no.

Ways to make money off the dungeon? - Malarid brought this up a long time ago.

Well, the “build a star” thing probably isn’t great, fiscally. There’s a few, though. Assuming you can control hostile action from the dungeon itself, you could honestly probably use it as a game preserve. Build a hotel in there. Like, a real one. Charge wealthy old guys an obscene amount of money to let them hunt a tumblefeed or a terrorbyte. That’s sort of colonialism at its almost-worst, though. You could always do as one person suggested, and dismantle *everything* to sell on Craigslist or something. Cube walls aren’t cheap, it turns out. But that requires a lot of extra effort. Same for computer parts, which they have actually already done, but takes some effort and you have to make sure the parts aren't literal magic first.

Honestly? The easiest way to make money of this? Probably just sell it to the government. Ring, cick, hello yes is this the department of security? I have a deal for you. Obviously, not exactly how that would go, but you’re more likely to get a large lump sum of cash, and then never be allowed near anything more dangerous than string ever again.

Are you tech support in real life? - Dr Monty

Yes, for my sins.

Voices for characters for an audiobook - based on Lepidolite Mica’s comment

Honestly, I don’t think I have enough different actors and voices in my head to make a good run of this. Maybe get Ronda Rousey to voice Alanna; she’s got basically the same kind of physical and verbal *presence* that I imagine from Alanna, even if my version of the personality is a little less aggressive and a little more snarky. Beyond that, I don’t think I have anything for the others. Part of me wants to say get Steve Blum to voice someone, just… because. Maybe Frank.

How far do green orbs stretch? - lots of people

As far as the boundaries of the conceptual space they were used in. The one used in the Office itself covered that “room”, everything up to the first central wall they found. The one that Alanna used in the playground covered that playground. Same for their apartment; someone mentioned once that if they bulldoze that building, it’ll be weird that the temperature there doesn’t work properly, but in truth, if that building was destroyed, there wouldn’t be “an apartment” for the effect to be attached to.

With the skull jacks is it 100% guaranteed to hive mind you, or can they set up like firewalls to keep their individuality? - Dorrin

The skulljacks create a connection in the same way that computers do. Which is to say, two networked computers accept different inputs, and store their information separately, but at a certain level of integration, become the same device. Two humans that stayed linked long enough would cease to be two humans. The reason that Evil-Karen's hive mind was so deleterious was that it had ultimate control over it, and the people in it, and they kept their personalities intact-but-traumatized because they weren't leaning into the connection

How many people know about the dungeons, worldwide? - TerriblePerson

It’s under 10k people, for sure. Though I’d still say it’s probably a four digit number. Is that all just individuals? Maybe. Might be a few small guild-esque organizations in there. Maybe a forgotten government agency, or an exploitative corporation. But the knowledge wouldn’t be widespread just because of how the dungeons keep secrets. Which is to say; via magic in a lot of weird ways.

How, actually, do the skulljacks work? - Half of the discord server.

Cleverly.

Okay, no, there’s a few points that I wanted to bring up. Yes, information security is about to become a much more important profession. Yes, some people will undoubtedly use these for crimes. Yes, the team decided that the perks were worth it. No, you probably shouldn’t plug your brain into a corpse.

As for the actual mechanics, well, those we’ll see more of later.

Character sheets

Here.

Musical Accompaniment? - Uncle Ibex

Many of the chapters have the music I was listening to while I wrote it, but there were a few songs that I had on my playlist, that I would often compose chapters to in my head while walking. I don’t know if I could compose a full soundtrack for the whole story, but I could probably give it a shot. Anyway, here’s a few of the highlights that I really dig, and would like to share. Oddly enough, this is one of the few times that I haven’t actually had character theme songs in mind. Normally I do, but I just don’t have anything that fits James or Alanna or whatever. So, if *you guys* have any ideas, leave em in the comments!

  • Caravan Palace - Miracle : Just a really jazzy, upbeat track that I think fits the epilogue quite well.
  • Miracle of Sound - Ascension : Man, I listen to a lot of this guy. But this song, in particular, is one of his that captures that spirit of party based adventure that The Daily Grind is to me. The line, specifically “Wandering hearts, unlikely friends. Facing the fall, together.” has stuck with me, and really highlights the kind of story I wanted to write.
  • Aviators - Traveller’s Song : Same as above, really. Captures the spirit of Big Adventure, and suits perfectly those early chapters of Anesh and James poking their noses into weird places.
  • Sum 41 - The Hell Song : Just generally great fight music for any time someone is doggedly determined to not die.
  • The Interrupters - Title Holder : And if The Daily Grind were an anime, *this* would play during the opening credits.
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A note from argusthecat

And with that, I'm actually on break.  The Daily Grind will return.  Until then, look forward to more Draw of the Unknown (which I also write, and which needs a non-placeholder cover image), and maybe some short stories.


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About the author

argusthecat

Bio: I write stuff, and have a lot of thoughts about narrative structure and tropes. Some of the stuff I write is here, the rest can be found over on Reddit on my r/hfy author page. Feel free to message me if you want to talk about ideas, or just have questions about anything I made!

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