Author has written 5 stories for Mass Effect.
Me: Physics background & currently working in a lab. I spend half of my time writing technical/expertise reports, where there is not much room for creativity.
I always wanted to write stories, but never had much time for it. I still don't have much time - and probably not much talent also, judging by the amount of work I have to put in what I write just to make it readable. The result is that I'm exceedingly slow (my current story is being updated with a new chapter once every 3 months or so).
For now, I'm interested mostly in Mass Effect (RPG game by Bioware). There are so many interesting characters and possible subplots in that story and 'universe.' All of this despite the incredibly stupid and underwhelming space-magic-and-other-nonsense ending to ME3 (the third game in the trilogy - see down below after my "writer's blog" for some of my thoughts on ME3). As anybody can tell by looking at my writings, Tali (the quarian) is my favorite character in the whole Mass Effect series.
Some links for fellow Tali fans:
- Tali's gangsta rap (funny rap song with a pretty good imitation of Tali's voice) - also available on YouTube.
- Also: Marauder Shields (comic series offering an alternative - and much more interesting - ending to ME3).
- Tali face mod: a couple of video files, one with tali dancing, one with experimental Tali face.
- Tali dancing: Two short (1:43) versions with Tali dancing on "Insane (In Da Brain)."
- Dance dance Tali: longer version (13:49) than above, with Tali dancing on the tune from the Purgatory Club (on the Citadel, in ME3).
- Tali's song: Mass Effect Parody (awesome/funny lyrics with scenes from ME1 and ME2 and a good imitation of Tali's voice).
- Space age fairytale: Scenes from ME1 and ME2 in association with a Tori Amos song ("A sorta fairytale").
- And many many more vids involving Tali.
On www.deviantart.com: Lots of incredibly good drawings of Tali, including interesting non-canon looks.
My writer's blog (sort of):
July 17: Chapter 23 (Quarian with a Shotgun) has just been published. I'm quite happy with it, in fact. Work on Chapter 24 has already started, but it's mostly preliminary planning. As usual, it's going to take a while to write - a couple of months at the very least. Stay tuned.
July 11: I added a third scene to Chapter 23 (Quarian with a Shotgun); it's a short one, but it makes a better transition between the first and last scenes. I'll be re-reading and re-writing some parts of the chapter this week, while the beta-reading process follows its course. Work on chapter 24 has started, mostly planning for now.
July 4: Good news - chapter 23 (Quarian with a shotgun) is currently undergoing editing/beta reading by Vocarin, and publication appears more than likely before the end of the month.
On another note: Happy Canada Day (July 1st) and US Independence Day (July 4th). Let the Fireworks fly!
June 27: Draft of chapter 23 (Quarian with a Shotgun) is finished and the text is currently undergoing cycles of re-read/re-write. Looks good to me. It should be ready for beta-reading by next weekend or therabout. Publication date cannot be guaranteed, but should be before the end of July as the beta-reading process usually takes 2 to 3 weeks. This chapter has taken a bit too long to write, but... . Other than that, I'm taking advantage of the short but intense Canadian summer. It'll be sunny and warm today, and I'll spend some time taking care of the backyard.
June 20: Vacation time is finally here (Weeee!). What a priceless luxury!
June 14: Vacation time coming soon. Will re-start working on chapter 23 as soon as possible.
June 6: Sorry, but almost no writing in the last two weeks and probably very little will happen this week as things are crazy at work. There's just no energy or free time left to put into chapter 23 (Quarian with a Shotgun). Fortunately, I've got some time off coming up in a couple of weeks which will allow my batteries to be recharged and chapter 23 to be dealt with.
May 24: The draft to chapter 23 is two thirds written. It's coming together slowly but surely. Still lots of work, but I hope to write some more during the coming week. Cheers!
May 16: Was in good ol' USA part of last week and managed to write half of the draft version (chapter 23 - Quarian with a Shotgun). Apparently, waiting in airports is good for my writing! What I've written up to now looks solid but, without enough free time on my hands, there's not much hope for this chapter to be ready for publication in June as I originally planned. Mid-July looks like a more likely scenario. Oh well...
May 1st: Ugh. No time to write. Like in zilch, zip, nada, zero... Fortunately, a 5 day business trip to the US is coming up in a couple of weeks: I'm sure it will provide opportunities for me to make significant inroads into chapter 23 (Quarian with a Shotgun).
April 18: No time to write this past weekend, as a lot of stuff has come my way at work and I had to bring some of it home. I probably won't have time to write this coming weekend because it's tax time (deadline to submit the forms in Canada is April 30th). Better chance in May?
April 11: Research for chapter 23 (Quarian with a Shotgun) is mostly finished, and I'm about to start writing the draft version. As usual, it's going to take a few weeks before the writing is good enough for my editor to lean in. Also, it's Tax-time in Canada and filling-out these &*% forms will rob me of one week-end, at the very least... But one has to do what has to be done. Ugh.
April 4: So glad I finally got this incredibly time-consuming Fallout 4 videogame out of the way (finished the endings this past weekend), as I can now put more of my scarce free time into the writing of "Quarian with a Shotgun." There's just 4 chapters left: how hard could it be? In fact, I realize that the writing has become much more constrained by the Mass effect game scenario as it goes through the last innings: less choices of settings/mood/ambience. But it's still totally worth it!
March 28: Currently researching a few topics for the coming chapter 23 (Quarian with a Shotgun). I've set up the plan, which looks simple enough and I'm itching to start writing the draft version. It's going to be another chapter full of dialogues, but my goal is to show another scene (hopefully, an original one) while pushing the story along it's Canon path. One step at a time!
March 20: Chapter 22 (Quarian with a Shotgun) has just been published. I'm so glad I'm done with Virmire. There's so much stuff happening during that part of the ME1 game; trying to convey what's going on in any of the main characters' head in the aftermath of that battle is almost as difficult as filling out my annual income tax forms. Anyway, work will soon start on chapter 23, with the goal of publishing it before the end of June.
March 14: Chapter 22 (Quarian with a Shotgun) is almost ready. I'm currently waiting for more feedback from the beta-reader while doing some minimal adjustments to the text. I hope to publish this coming week-end, but it could be toward the end of the month if the beta-reader comes up with recommendations I can't deal with easily. Anyway, this chapter will be published before the end of the month. Meanwhile, I'm planning for chapter 23 (setting, POV, bits of dialogue, etc). The story is in fact nearing its conclusion (according to the current plan, the epilogue would be in chapter 26). However, at the rate I'm churning out chapters, it could be another year before the last chapter is written & published! (O.o)
March 7: Still working on the last dialogue (in chapter 22 of Quarian with a shotgun), which is very hard to get right. Advice from my editor helps a lot, but I still have to find the time to sort it out. The rest looks good however. I wonder what will be the reaction to the choice I made (of who comes back alive from Virmire: Kaidan or Ashley). I wish it was possible to please everybody, but that's pretty much like squaring a circle. Darn!
Feb 29: Chapter 22 (Quarian with a Shotgun) was sent to my editor/beta reader yesterday. The last part of the chapter is a long dialogue between two crewmembers, and I had a lot of trouble writing it so that it flows right and stays consistent with the characters. It still doesn't feel totally right, but I'm sure it will get there with my editor's help and some tweaking over the next few weeks. Cheers.
Feb 23: Still a few paragraphs that need a bit of additional work, but chapter 22 (Quarian with a Shotgun) is coming along nicely. It's slightly behind schedule however and I don't feel it will be good enough for beta-reading before this coming week-end. Other than that, life just goes on. Yup.
Feb 15: The draft to chapter 22 (Quarian with a Shotgun) is finished and I spent a lot of time this past week re-reading all the previous chapters and taking notes in order to make sure there won't be a contradiction with something that was said before. The problem is that the story was started so long ago that I just can't remember everything. Also, the story is nearing its end and there's a need to connect things together. I'm currently in the middle of the first cycle of re-read/re-write, with a lot of changes brought to the first part of the chapter. The last part will also need a lot of changes, but I believe I've found the right approach. I hope to be able to send a good product to my beta reader in 10 days at most. Cheers!
Feb 8: This was a productive week despite a nasty cold I got from who-knows-where, and the draft version of chapter 22 (Quarian with a Shotgun) is more than half written. I hit a snag when I tried to write the second scene of the chapter: the characters I put together just didn't want to go along with the plan (damn these unruly characters! - it's like they have a life of their own). Anyway, I changed my plan and that unsatisfying shortened scene will serve as an introduction to a longer third scene with another (and hopefully more cooperative) character. I'll try to write that third scene today and tomorrow, then I'll start the cycles of re-read/re-write to make the chapter as good as I can before sending it for beta-reading, if possible before the end of the month.
Feb 1: I'm off work starting today and was able to write one page already. The draft to Chapter 22 (Quarian with a Shotgun) is now two whole pages long. Yay, looks like the writing is back on track! If I can keep this up, I hope to have the chapter ready for beta-reading in two to three weeks at most. Cheers!
Jan 27: Still no draft ready for chapter 22 (Quarian with a Shotgun). Got swamped by work last Friday - which I had no choice but to bring home, where it completely ruined my plans for the week-end. I've got some time off starting next week: that will be the perfect opportunity to get my writing under way, with the goal of having next chapter published by mid-March.
On another note, I managed to free up some time for cross-country skiing last Saturday morning : the weather was just perfect (no wind, minus 8 Celsius) and I had a blast, despite the subpar snow cover we have around here. I just love skiing in the woods, and hear chickadees calling to one another among the trees. Glad I took the opportunity, as the skiing season looks crappy this year again, with too many warm spells turning the snow into mush. Anyway, spring will soon arrive to lift the spirits!
Oct 1: This is a short response to reviews left by readers with no account on fanfiction.net. First: thank you for reading and leaving comments on chapter 20 (Quarian with a Shotgun). To bob rijke: the idea of keeping everybody alive on Virmire is interesting, but if I really wanted to upset the readers, both Kaidan and Ashley would die... Be reassured however: I fully intend to respect canon and kill only one. To anotamous: I'm afraid the 'flying under the radar' situation is more complicated than you make it seem. The Normandy is a stealth frigate and my understanding is that it is practically invisible to usual radars (special paints/coatings that do not reflect radar signals, etc): otherwise, the ship's emission sink alone would be of little use especially at relatively short range like in a planetary system. If Joker has to go in "under the radar" to drop the Mako on Virmire, it is mainly because opening the cargo bay door probably cancels the Normandy's stealth properties (the ship's profile to radar signals probably increases enormously while said door is open). This is why I think the Normandy could have come down from orbit and land directly in front of the salarian camp without raising any alarm in Saren's base and why I think that dropping the Mako was a big mistake. In the game, after the arrival to the salarian camp, the Normandy is grounded because Shepard's fighting (while taking the Mako on a geth-killing safari) has alerted all the other AA guns in the region (these AA guns being in a state of high alert, they probably have activated more sensitive scanner/radar systems: the result is that the Normandy's stealth properties would not be enough anymore for the ship to safely lift off and go back into space).
A critique of Mass Effect 3:
Having played through ME3 thrice up to now, here are a few reflections:
Overall, ME3 is a good game considering how uneasy it is to wrap things up in the third and last installment of such an epic space-opera-type of story, with a galaxy-wide war and all that it entails. I think Bioware did a rather good job, by and large. There are a few problems however, mostly due to bad writing. The worst - I'm not the first to say so - is the ending, which is stupendously badly written and unfortunately almost makes the player forget all the good stuff in the rest of the game.
Note: extensive critics of ME3 have been done elsewhere by other people (for example, the very complete & detailed series of youtube videos made by smudboy - it's worth your time if you care about good storytelling).
Here are some issues (there are many more - I'll spare you the whole list - but these are the most irritating to me).
1- The shroud mission on Tuchanka. Parts of the mission are really badly written. Shepard and his/her convoy are stopped by some 'hole' in the road and can't reach the shroud in time. Then, the turian fighter crafts that were supposed to provide air support (as part of a diversion to draw the reaper away so that Shepard can infiltrate the shroud tower) can't abort their flight plan because their 'approach is locked,' which is completely idiotic - don't tell me there is no override button or something. Then of course a turian fighter gets shot down and falls directly on the krogan convoy (yeah, what were the odds of that happening!). For some reason, at that point the hole in the road is not so important anymore and the only two tomkah that are left standing just continue ahead, which makes the road crumble some more. Then comes the worst part. Kalros (the mother of all tresher maws) is very territorial and will pursue relentlessly the krogan tomkahs. Even if Kalros probably is able to 'feel' a tomkah from a distance of several kilometers, apparently it can't 'feel' the 160 meter high reaper destroyer stomping around the nearby shroud building. In fact, Kalros is so dumb that you actually have to summon it to the shroud proper so that it can notice the huge reaper. A reviewer (of my story 'Quarian with a Shotgun') argued (long argument through PMs) that maybe Kalros (as an apex predator) knew about the reaper but was just not too sure about attacking it (the reaper is big!), and that's why it needed the vibrations of the big hammer (some kind of challenge for Kalros) to finally make its decision. That could work, I suppose, if the game gave some hints about that. But it does not and, in the end, this confirms what I said: parts of the mission are badly written.
2- Legion's death. Because there is an error in the reaper code that it's trying to upload to the rest of the geth collective, Legion dies as it needs to 'personally disseminate itself.' WTF?! Have I missed something? Aren't geth supposed to be pure software? Tali reiterates that fact (which has been repeated all along the story) when she discusses how the geth are helping quarians adapt to Rannoch after the geth/quarian war is ended; geth are pure software and are supposed to be able to get into any device with sufficient computational power. I don't understand why Legion couldn't just copy itself and send these copies abroad. This 'dying' thing was just a ploy for dramatic purposes; I don't think it makes any sense (to 'kill' software, in my understanding, you need to erase all its copies or destroy the physical support of all the copies) and it contradicts what the game tells us about the nature of the geth up to that point. It's just bad writing. I have nothing against making Legion 'die' in a dramatic situation, but it should make actual sense.
3- The geth as Pinocchio. This is an issue that I found on AssaultSloth's profile (AssaultSloth is the author of 'Interstitium,' one of my favorite stories). The idea of the geth as a collective of interacting but independent software units, as developed in ME1 and ME2 was original and interesting, an altogether novel concept. In ME3 however, the geth were dumbed-down to wanting to become individual fully sentient units. Hence the comparison with Pinocchio, who had one main desire: to become a real little boy. It's as if the writer(s) of ME3 wanted to streamline the geth (a diffuse, immaterial collection of independent but cooperating software units) into a group of conventional robots of the usual variety, as seen for decades in science fiction: one single physical robotic chassis = one single sentient synthetic 'person' like Bender in Futurama, Marvin (the paranoid android) in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Data in Star Trek (next generation) or even something like EDI in mass effect. This is all very disappointing as the original idea of the geth could have been preserved easily, without much change to the rest of ME3's plot.
4- ME3's ending (from the final run to the beam and thereafter). Most of it is badly written. The bad part begins when your two teammates need to be evacuated. Shepard calls the Normandy for evac in a (very) hot zone; I mean there's a huge reaper shooting beams at them, killing everybody and tossing APCs around like toys! I had to laugh at that point: if it was so easy to evac people using a big ass frigate like the Normandy, why did so many people have to die to reach the beam in a wasteful ground offensive... I mean the Normandy could have flown right to the beam and dropped a Mako like on Ilos in the first game, or a freakin' regiment of soldiers (or just Chuck Norris, lol)... This evac is so stupid!
Then, what follows is the confrontation with the Illusive man (TIM). This was well done in my opinion (probably the only part of the ending that doesn't suck balls) as it seems entirely consistent with TIM's character and it ends in disaster, as most Cerberus projects did all along the ME series.
Just after that however, the stupid takes over again as the catalyst appears. There are three big issues with what the catalyst says and does. The first is the catalyst's very existence: if it was in the Citadel all along, how did it let the surviving protheans mess with its systems and the keepers after the last cycle had ended? The second big issue is the revelation of what is supposed to be the underlying big idea to the whole reaper-harvest cycles (the idea of a fundamental conflict between synthetics and organics) which is problematic for anybody with a bit of critical thinking since it doesn't fit at all with your dealings with synthetics (the geth, Legion and EDI) all along the game. In other words, the supposedly background idea creates a 'cognitive dissonance' in the player, whose first reaction will understandably be: "No way! This is bullshit!" On a more intellectual/conceptual level, I'm not sure such a fundamental conflict between synthetic and organics even makes sense (see below for more on the synthetics vs organics idea and why I think it's mostly bullshit). The third big issue with the catalyst is the 'three choices ending device,' which is a cheap/lazy way for the writer(s) to avoid making a true ending that would bring a meaningful resolution to the questions or expectations that players may have developed along the game: this probably explains players' massive complaints that the ending did not take previous choices into account. Indeed, whatever you did in the rest of the game, you still end up having to choose between the same three colors... (See below for more on the 'three choices ending device'). And of the three choices the player is given, only 'destroy' has any relationship with the lore and expectations acquired by playing ME1, ME2 and all of ME3 (until the ending part), and in that sense it is no surprise that most players prefer 'destroy' over the two other choices. Even then, that the catalyst even considers 'destroy' as an option is a contradiction with the whole synthetics vs organics idea: it's as if the catalyst was saying "oh crap, I've been wrong for all those millions of years... please just kill me." The 'control' choice also contradicts the synthetics vs organics theme, since there is no reason to believe Shepard - which would be in control the reapers - would do anything about this supposedly fundamental conflict. The third choice, 'synthesis' is just complete and utter bullshit (see below for more on why I think this is so).
After the player has made a choice, the stupid continues with the Normandy crashing on some crazy ass tropical planet... Why does it have to crash? There is no need for the Normandy to crash and then fly away again: it adds nothing to the story, it just confuses the hell out of everybody. The last scene with a kid asking an old man for another story about 'the Shepard' is even more confusing and is not even worth the time I spent writing this phrase (darn!).
Why is the ending so crappy? We'll probably never know. My take is that the writer(s) tried to make a smart, mind-blowing ending and it just blew right in their face. To me, this fiasco just shows that sometimes 'more is less' and 'less is more.' What I mean by that is that a simpler ending would have been much more manageable (see below) and more satisfying to players.
A much simpler and better ending. Why complicate things for no reason. Here's a simple and straightforward ending: your Shepard reaches the beam with his/her two teammates (no unbelievable evacuation please), you confront the illusive man (exactly as they did in ME3 - this is probably the only part of the ending that was well done), then maybe have a last confrontation with Harbinger as it tries to destroy the crucible. But you press the button just before the reaper reaches the crucible and it activates with a freakingly huge explosion of light of only one color (think of some sort of EMP with a signal tuned to make reaper nanites auto-destruct) that kills all reapers in the sol system. Then the citadel deploys and the signal is transmitted throughout the galaxy using the relay system and all the other reapers are killed. End of story. No stupid pseudo-intellectual explanation for the reapers: they're just bad. There need not be a reason for the harvests as there are at least two places in the whole trilogy (one in ME1: conversation with Sovereign on Virmire, and one in ME3: conversation with the destroyer on Rannoch) where a reaper tells Shepard that the reasons for the reapers' reaping activities are too complicated for him/her to understand. Choices throughout your play of the trilogy would determine if Shepard survives or dies in the end, and the same with other characters and/or other species. Worse case scenario: you can't activate the crucible in time (or the crucible malfunctions because it lacks a critical component) if your readiness is not sufficient and the reapers win by destroying the crucible, and everybody dies. There you are: epic story with epic straightforward ending that takes into account your choices and is free of stupid pseudo-intellectual mumbo-jumbo.
5- Synthetics life vs Organic life: Really? The catalyst states that A) the fundamental conflict between synthetics and organics originates from the fact that synthetics do not fully understand organics. It also states that B) it is inevitable for synthetic life to eventually wipe out all organic life (which is just another variant of a very common misconception that machines are inherently superior to biological organisms in absolutely all functions). I don't know about you, but the more I think about these two concepts, the more I feel they are bunk: they're not convincing and make for a poor background to the ME (or any other) story. I have issues with both of the catalyst's statements:
A) Origin of the conflict: My understanding of conflicts in general is that they usually arise between two parties not just because 'they are different,' but because there is a competition for something (most of the time, it's a resource) that is needed by each of the two... The basic resources needed by any sentient species (synthetic like the geth, or organic) are energy and raw materials. I don't see any of that coming in short supply (and thus cause a conflict) any time soon in a big galaxy like ours, especially considering the fact that the synthetics do not even need planets with breathable air, etc. In the absence of a competition between organics and synthetics, I really don't see why a 'fundamental conflict' would be inevitable between them in any foreseeable future. It's just a dumb idea.
B) Synthetics would eventually wipe organics out (?really): This argument is a bit more 'philosophical,' so brace yourself. My understanding (at this point) is that 'synthetic life' is just another approach to life. In that sense, I see no reason not to assume that the evolutionary process of life would apply to 'synthetic life' as much as it does to 'organic life,' and that the whole thing would probably just lead to more diversity. On a taxonomic diagram, so-called 'synthetic life' would then be represented by a new domain parallel to the 'organic life,' with possibly as many or maybe even more branches and subcategories. Given time, evolution acting on both 'synthetic' and 'organic' life would probably result in a kind of galactic ecosystem where the two domains ('organic' and 'synthetic') would intersect with one another in some places. In a truly integrated and dynamic system, there are niches where one form would be favored over the other, but saying that one is inherently 'superior' to the other and is going to wipe the other out is an extreme oversimplification. In the end, from such an evolutionary point of view, the idea of a fundamental conflict between 'synthetic life' and 'organic life' is just as ridiculous as the idea of a fundamental conflict between 'plant life' and 'animal life', between 'mammalian life' and 'reptilian life', or - in the context of amino acid chirality - between 'Levo- life' and 'Dextro- life'...
6- The 'three choices ending device'. This is another disappointing element of the ending to ME3. It is a problem that is separate from the dubious 'synthetic vs organic' idea, also introduced at the end. The 'three choices device' is a simple and cheap (lazy) way to end a story and could be applied to any story you may think of.
Here's how it works: The protagonist of the story (which usually is a struggle or conflict of some kind) reaches a critical point where a supreme being (that nobody even knew existed before) appears, giving him/her some choices (there could be more than 3, I suppose): a) He/She can destroy all his/her enemies, b) He/She can control all his/her enemies or c) He/She can merge his/her enemies and allies so that the conflict between the two groups (seems to) disappears.
As an exercise, let's apply this device to a well known story: "The little red riding hood." At the end, after the little girl has discovered that the big bad wolf has eaten the grandmother and taken her place in the bed, everything freezes and the 'ghost' of the grandmother appears. It explains that the grandmother in reality is an angel, fairy or other magical being and it gives the little girl 3 choices: a) destroy (red option): all the wolves in the world will die, b) control (blue option): the girl will die, but her 'spirit' will control the wolves, or c) synthesis (green option): all the little girls and wolves in the world will be transformed into hybrids wolf/girls, so there will never be wolves eating little girls anymore. There you are: pretty funny, but pretty stupid too.
More fun with other stories, where you can pick and choose the fundamental conflict you want to solve: Lord of the Rings (conflict between good and evil), 300 (conflict between Greece and Persia), etc.
7- 'Synthesis': why it's utter bullshit. The 'three choices ending device' is a stupid way of ending a story (see discussion in point 5 above). But then again, it would not be that bad if the choices made sense; unfortunately that is not the case in ME3. Of the three choices, two ('destroy' and 'control') are somewhat understandable in terms of our ability to conceptualize what happens, but the third ('synthesis') really stands out on many levels and my contention is that it is completely unacceptable in terms of the usual suspension of disbelief that characterizes science-fiction stories. In other words, my contention is that 'synthesis' is a bad bad bad idea (utter bullshit) and makes for bad bad bad (utterly shitty) science fiction.
Allow me to explain my point.
'Destroy' ending: the red explosion, pulse of energy or whatever signal it represents, kills all 'synthetics' and leaves the 'organics' unaffected. It's easy to conceptualize that, since we see similar ideas in our day to day life (for example, we use insecticides/antibiotics which kill insects/bacteria but do not affect us - or relatively little). There is a serious problem however with the idea as it is presented in the game: how does the red pulse determine what is a synthetic and what is not? Is my coffee machine (or my toaster) a synthetic? Geth are software: how does the red explosion determine what is an ordinary software and what is AI (geth) software? The same with EDI: why would the red shockwave kill EDI but leave all the rest of the Normandy's electronics unaffected? The 'destroy' option would have been more credible if the red shockwave had killed only reapers and their minions, by activating (for example) a kind of switch (maybe at the molecular level) specific to reaper tech and triggering auto-destruction.
'Control' ending: the blue explosion, pulse of energy or whatever it represents somehow 'resets' all the reaper-related stuff so the mind of the now deceased Shepard can control them. Here again, it's an easy thing to conceptualize: it's a form of remote control... The main problem is with Shepard's mind being uploaded into the citadel to be the new puppet master in lieu of the catalyst; it's a bit mysterious, but in the end it's not so hard to accept as the idea of uploading somebody's mind into a computer (or another body or object/device) has been around for some time and is not far from the very widespread concept of humans having a 'spirit' or 'soul' that survives after death.
'Synthesis' ending: the green explosion, pulse of energy or whatever it represents somehow changes all life (organic and synthetic) in the galaxy. I looked it up again (by forcing myself to listen to the catalyst's gibberish on youtube) and what it says is that all organics will fully integrate synthetic tech with a 'new DNA' and all synthetics will fully understand organics... While this idea is easy to write down, problems start to pop up as soon as one stops and starts to think a bit.
The pulse of light, instead of being just some kind of 'signal' as in the red and blue explosions, is now some mysterious magical force that actually messes with the fabric of reality itself at some fundamental level (?atoms&molecule and their organization ?sub-atomic particles ?changes in the laws of physics). I don't know how it would do that: put some gears into mitochondria (this would create some cool steampunk mitochondria!) and add sugar to electronic circuits? Synthesis is in fact so far removed from anything we can conceptualize in terms of scientific/technological feat, that it is essentially a magical (or god-like) power. Synthesis is the equivalent of having god appear and say 'SO IT SHALL BE' and then, in a puff of green god-magic, so it is. This is the main reason why, for me, 'synthesis' stands out so much compared to 'destroy' and 'control,' as an unacceptable idea for a science-fiction story. Not only that, but it is not clear how 'synthesis' would bring an end to conflicts between synthetics and organics since it apparently does not erase the differences between both: only organics appear to be fully integrated with synthetic tech... The synthetics seem to remain entirely synthetic and only acquire a 'full understanding of organics,' whatever it means. Why would that stop organics (that are now organic/synthetic hybrids) from creating more pure synthetics (that would not understand organics)? And if per chance some synthetics still wanted to eliminate all organics, wouldn't their newly acquired 'full understanding' make it even easier for them?
In the end, 'synthesis' brings the Mass Effect world into a mysterious place where the laws of physics may be altered and where we don't understand anything that may be going on. The post-'synthesis' world would be a bizarre parallel universe with which we simply can't relate at all... It's just a bad, weird and alienating idea.
8- Leviathan DLC: retconning the reapers and buttressing the 'synthetics vs organics' idea.
The Leviathan DLC (an adjunct to ME3 - needs to be bought separately) has some interesting elements: the investigation itself, traveling to different worlds, some action, the husk head that Shepard can bring in his cabin (the coolest prop ever IMO!), etc...
However, the DLC also introduces several ideas that are hard to accept and the reapers end up being retconned: from inscrutable 'each a nation, independent' as in ME1 and ME2, the reapers become just another variant of big killing machines that - as is confirmed by the catalyst at the end - have absolutely no free will. Not only that, but the Leviathan DLC in fact was made in order to support the idiotic ending to ME3, based in large part on the dubious idea of a fundamental conflict between synthetic and organic life (as discussed in point 4 above).
Here are some problematic ideas in the Leviathan DLC:
A) The originators of the reapers are still alive, unchanged after millions (?billions) of years (having survived countless cycles of harvest)... It's very surprising that, having completely eliminated every advanced civilization for countless cycles, the reapers somehow never got to harvest the leviathan completely. It's even more surprising (harder to believe) when one considers the limits due to the physical form of the leviathan: limited mobility, limited places to hide, etc...
B) This DLC recycles (once again) the 'mind control' theme that is pervasive in the Mass Effect series. I mean, on top of the reapers' indoctrination, the Thorian mind control, the rachni queen's ability to 'pluck the strings' of a dying asari and the Ardat-Yakshi's mental violation, now there's the leviathan possession?
C) Why have the reapers adopted the body shape of their originators? Is this shape 'optimal' for some purpose? And how is this related to the reapers building a human-shaped thing in ME2?
D) This is probably the most disappointing idea in the Leviathan DLC: the leviathan actually created a machine to help them understand why machines always turned against their organic masters... That machine (it's the catalyst) of course ended up turning against the leviathan species (and that's the basis of the whole stupid idea of a fundamental conflict between synthetic and organic life and also how the cycle of harvests was initiated...). What?! It's beyond pathetic that the supposedly very intelligent leviathan fell to the exact same stupid trap that they had been studying. Even Shepard makes a comment about that in the DLC if I remember correctly! This is beyond comical! It's almost as if the writers of the Leviathan DLC wanted to make fun of the whole idea of a fundamental conflict between synthetic and organic life. And maybe that's really what happened: the writers ended up revolting against the very thing they were writing about! Lol! It's a joke within a joke within a joke.
E) In the end, Shepard manages to convince the immensely powerful and intelligent leviathan to participate in the fight against the reapers and the harvest... My question here is: why? If the leviathan are so intelligent, why weren't they able to come to that conclusion by themselves? But then again, this incredible ability of Shepard to convince almost everybody is probably another form of mind control to add to all the others (see point B above)... In fact, Shepard is a superhero with only one superpower: he can convince (or intimidate) anybody into doing his bidding.