Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Pauline Saves Mario! Now in your neighborhood arcade!

As some of you probably know, a father re-programmed Nintendo's Donkey Kong game a few months ago to feature Pauline as the hero, rescuing Mario from the great ape, for his daughter. And gamers everywhere, male and female alike, ooohed and aaahed at the awesomeness that was an inverted version of an unquestionable classic with a  female protagonist. Other stodgy real-life versions of The Simpsons' "Comic Book Guy," with no sense of humor or understanding what it's like to be a minority in a genre, trolled and bitched and moaned about why it was unnecessary and how people were corrupting a classic game...but we don't give a damn about those losers. Though a YouTuber created a video compiling the best (worst) of the troll comments that will, in turns, make you laugh and lose all hope for humanity.

Well, Clay Cowgill, the owner of an arcade in Portland, Oregon, has hacked the original arcade version of the game to re-cast Pauline as well and is making it available to patrons at his arcade. Here's hoping that Nintendo will take the hint and actually begin offering this awesome inversion more universally, hopefully without biting their thumbs at their fans like Fox managed to do last week when cracking down on "unauthorized" makers of Jayne hats, sending cease and desist notices to infringing knitters everywhere (don't even get me started on that...or maybe you should, since I have some actual legal discussion to make there). Yeah, I think that'll be a topic coming up shortly. I've studied IP enough to have a unique perspective to offer there that I've not seen presented elsewhere. And I have LAW to back me up. Watch out, Fox! The little guy knows how to read, too!

Anyway, I'm digressing. Donkey Kong is awesome. And more awesome with Pauline as the hero. Now, can we get Princess Peach to save Mario from Bowser sometime soon? Or! Even BETTER! Zelda needs to save LINK, dammit!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Life in the Leaves: Reading Update (The Man in the High Castle)

The Man in the High Castle

by Phillip K. Dick

Paperback, 249 pages

Published September 6th 2001 by Penguin (first published 1962)

ISBN 0141186674 (ISBN-13: 9780141186672)

This novel comes with a rather noble science fiction pedigree, and I'm not just talking about the last name that launched a thousand movies (many of them, unfortunately, absolutely terrible). The Man in the High Castle won the Hugo Award in 1963, and continues to be considered one of the quintessential "alternate future" sci fi epics (in spite of the fact that no one's executed any movie rights yet--unless you count Iron Sky as some sort of "inspired by" space thriller--but please don't count Iron Sky. Please.).

And yet...and yet. I really haven't been terribly impressed by this. I've been wanting to read it for probably almost a decade now, and after finally picking it up, I'm left wondering if I over-hyped it to myself. Did I turn a book that has the quality of Pan's Labyrinth into a Daredevil simply by telling myself what a great book it would be for so long?

I don't really care about many of the characters. To the point that I don't remember most of them when Dick shifts back to them after being away for a while. I'm tangentially interested in Juliana Frink, Robert Childan, and Frank Frink, but I'm not really invested in them. I think I can only call my feeling "interest" due to the fact that I remember who the hell they are when I go back to reading about them. If he killed one of them off, I can't even imagine putting the book down with a terse slap, much less throwing it across the room in an angst-ridden fit (yeah, I've done it more than once).

He's alluded to the differences between their world and ours, but it's always such an obvious and drawn out, "oh, this is how it is" reveal that I don't even care anymore. The only really compelling difference so far has been (SPOILER! Highlight to read:) the fact that the average person lacks television well into the sixties.

And, on a related note, I'm really not a fan of being in people's heads for so long as they go through the obvious reflection and flashback that is a rather lazy vehicle for expressing the current state of things. Lazy, lazy, lazy. Annoyingly fucking LAZY. You should know better, Phil.

Correction: I HAVE wanted to throw this across the room. But throwing a book across the room due to the laziness of the author is an entirely different problem. And I'm reading this on my Kindle. I don't have the heart to destroy it, regardless. My sweet Kindle has given me too many great and amazing books to throw it all away on one frustration.

Really, the only thing that's compelling for me is the book-within-a-book that everyone's reading, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. The author, as well, has my attention, as the great mystery of the novel. How he's managed to live in the conquered world and write such incredible dissent is pretty fascinating. Hopefully that will develop into something to calm my disappointment (and infrequent rage) at a book that I'd built into something amazing in my head, only to read the literary equivalent of celery.

Ugh. Give me back my Vonnegut. I'm going to finish this one, but only under protest.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Random Internet Inspirations

As this blog progresses, I'll periodically post links to websites and other things I find inspiring or interesting that I want to pass on. I'd commit to doing it weekly, but then I'd have to get on a schedule, and some of you know what a pain in the ass that is for me. So I'm sorry, but you'll just have to live with "periodic" rather than "on Saturdays," okay? Good.

Batgirl from this week's Batgirl #19.

  • In case you are a luckier soul than I am and actually have a friend, enemy, or eight-year-old girl off the street willing to DM for a D&D campaign or six, you'll want to know about this amazing site that actually sells PDFs of EVERY EDITION of the old D&D games. Play it right. None of that swanky fifth edition bullshit here, no sirree! And if you're lucky enough to have snagged a few friends and a DM, are you looking for another? Please? I miss me some D&D.
  • The Great Gatsby. As a video game. You're welcome. Sadly, it lacks an opportunity to mow down Tom Buchanan.   
  • There can be almost nothing better than a Tumblr called Fuck yeah, manuscripts!, because, first of all, who couldn't love that amazing name!? Second, as a writer, I tend to fetishize the handwritten  notes and manuscripts of my favorite writers, as if seeing or touching something they saw or touched brings me closer to them(I have a thing for pens and blank books, too...DON'T JUDGE ME!). So this website is , for me, pages and pages of fangirling of epic proportions. Seriously. Writers, you get this, right? I'm not alone in this, right? Right?
  • And, because I'm feeling like an evil bitch today, get ready to have your childhood illusions completely shattered. I've gotta say, the Courage the Cowardly Dog theory makes complete sense. I can get behind that, partially because it makes the show that much more awesome. But Wall-E was a sweet and innocent robot. Screw you, theorists.
  • In case you need a nice, retro cover for that great American (or European, or Indian) pulp novel you're working on, here you go. Prepare to lose hours of your life tweaking. Your writing will hate me, and for that I'm sorry. But SO MUCH COOL .

Friday, April 12, 2013

FIG...Take 1...

Okay, so let's get the ball rolling with a random Plot from the FIG app. When I post a FIG idea, I'll also post my first "scribblings" (difficult to call it that when I'm typing, but whatever) about the idea. 

I'm going to post my actual first draft--the VERY FIRST thoughts that come out of my head as I process the idea presented--so be gentle. This isn't expected to be Beloved. Hell, I'll be elated if it turns out to be King of the Hill.

So, here we go...

Tense: Past
Narrator: Epistolary Voice (Yeah, there might be some situations that will force me to recall long-forgotten comp terminology--"epistolary voice" is a narrative written in letters or other documents)
Period: 9 Days Ago
Situation: Grief
Protagonist: A female therapist who is creative (I like the fact that they add a quirk of personality with the "who is..." part to keep you from being too stereotypical with the characters)
Supporting Character: A female interior designer who is hyperactive
Their Relationship: Misery

3 April, 2013

It's begun. I knew it would happen, but I didn't think it would be this soon.

When he left, I thought we'd have time. I thought that she'd progress through the stages of grief somewhat naturally, that I could help her grapple with it and maybe emerge with some measure of success. That maybe we could still be together, somehow, on the other side.

But when has my profession ever done any good? When has Elvie ever followed anything resembling a typical psychological path (if there is such a thing, anyway) that I could predict or even manage? No, she's erratic even for a manic-depressive.

The free interior design has been a nice bonus. My apartment is like her homework, with each room living in a different era. Right now my kitchen is mid-century modern, my living room is Rococo, and our some sort of modern-steampunk-Victorian on speed. The Rococo is giving way to south India, however, and I'm fairly certain that by the end of the week, the cherubs and chaises will be traded out for henna and Hanuman.

Yep, there's the Shankar now, blowing into the kitchen like a monsoon in August.

4 April, 2013

"But's your heritage," she whined when I made the mistake of asking about the new design. She bent down from her perch near the ceiling where she was hanging the fifteenth south Asian lantern.

She reminds me of those shinning, dark birds who take over the parking lot at the grocery store. Greebs. Like the birds, she's wiry and anxious and pushy and a little too bright for her own good.

I can only hope she doesn't light any of them. I don't trust her around fire.

"If I wanted heritage, I'd make some roti, maybe some biryani. What I really want is to talk to you about all this." I crossed my arms from the floor. I felt fifty miles away. I felt like I wouldn't be able to catch her if she fell.

She flashed me that smile. God damn I hate that smile. That quivering, pleading upturn of her lips that begs me to love her handiwork so I'll drop the subject.

Her lips, with the shape and natural pout of an opening alstroemeria.

Her lips, that haven't touched mine since he left. Since before the diagnosis, even.

She doesn't even have time to sleep anymore.

It's three in the technically the fifth, I guess...and she's still in the other room, ripping and pounding, and Anoushka singing tirelessly for her, a captured songbird inside the circuits of her cell phone.

Maybe if he'd left some sort of a note...something other than the stack of divorce papers sitting on the dining room table of their ranch house in Cottage Grove. Left behind as if he didn't care about the result.

But I can't say I entirely blame him. The papers were dated 17 March. She discovered them, and his absence, on the twenty-third. That says enough, I think. I'm sure he assumed that she wouldn't want to be dragged through the myraid therapies and treatments that were inevitably in his future. The death. Or maybe he assumed that she wouldn't stick around, which is probably true, and figured he'd beat her to the punch.

He left her everything. Everything but what she wanted, which was him. So I'm sure he assumed she'd sign without protest.

But gods, let's be fair. She wanted both of us. She wants what she always wants. Everything. At once.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Finally Giving a FIG!

I discovered something fantastic today at the Google Play store. It's an app called the Fiction Idea Generator. This is easily the most inspiring app I've yet discovered, and will probably become both the best friend and worst enemy to my writing, because it will give me mountains of ideas that will probably result in the opposite of writer's block--so many inspirations that I won't have any idea where to start.

Generic writing prompts usually drive me batty and seem far too much like writing a grade school paper to me. "Write about the first time you were kissed." Oh, FUCK that! I tried to get behind those stupid prompts so many times, and so many times, I found myself wanting to slam my head into a wall until either my skull or the plaster gave way (and not caring much about which gave in first) that there were times I even doubted whether I was a writer at all. Long story...okay, a little less long...writing prompts were more demoralizing than they were useful.

But THIS...this is different.

This app is flexible enough to allow you to follow your bliss and pursue the type of format that inspires you most. Are you in a place in your writing where you just need a good location that will add fire to that confrontation? What about a word that could break your character out of her ennui? Maybe a masterplot (which IS something like a typical writing prompt) is more your style? There are a wide variety of idea options on the Home screen: Plot, Masterplot, Character, Word...even 1st Sentence and Location. When you select, for example, Plot, a screen pops up that looks like this:

Now tell me how you can NOT be inspired with a starting point like that!?

My one quibble with the FIG is that the fantastic randomness that comes up is "use it or lose it." There's no way to save the really epic concept that shows up (selecting that fig in the middle of the screen retrieves another random plot), aside from writing it down in a journal. And if you accidentally flip back to another screen, it's lost forever, like that brilliant idea you had at 4 a.m. last week that you now couldn't remember even with the prompting of a rousing round of waterboarding. If FIG manages to figure out a way to save "Favorites," you can bet I'll be in love for life.

So look for this to be used on my blog. Probably regularly, if only for the fact that I can mock up a quick draft on here and maintain the best of my random plots. I hope it helps you create your own brand of brilliance, too.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Woman in the Machine

We're all cyborgs.

If you're reading this, you use a machine to communicate, to get your news, to listen to music, to play games. You probably use a machine to get from one place to another (yes, a bicycle counts). The banking system, negotiation and trade--almost all business--takes place over fiber optic lines, with terabytes (probably even peptabytes...exabytes?...yeah, I had to look those two up) of data floating in the Cloud. Some use machines to help them see or hear. We don't have to talk about nanotechnology (in our pants?), artificial intelligence, robots, or biotechnological implants to see how completely we are linked to our data.

The way in which we are weaved within our technology has fascinated me since childhood. I've read stories of cybermen and Martians as long as I can remember. Star WarsGargoyles and The Hobbit are just a few examples (since, as Arthur C. Clark famously argued, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic").

Chuck & Beans, from the Shoebox Blog
And now, as a writer, I have a very odd relationship with my technology. Not only is it the mechanism by which I create, it's also my greatest distraction. I can sit down, with the best intentions to be productive, and end up sucked into the Siren spell of Facebook, cute cats, geek memes, or even YouTube for hours instead. Not probably what Philip K. Dick had in mind when he talked about the machines taking over in A Scanner Darkly or one of his other quasi-dystopic and tripped-out novels (or maybe he was), but these distractions still serve to keep us from making progress on our own projects. Sometimes it can feel like this collection of circuits and light actually sucks away creativity.

So this is my resolution (yeah, I'm a little late--deal with it): I'm going to use this platform as my own leverage for my writing process. If I don't write or edit another project, I will spend at least a little bit of time each day working here, ruminating on ideas that move me (probably of a geeky/sci-fi/artistic/literary nature), writing out bits of contemplation or ideas, reviewing a book or two (or maybe even a website or movie!), or maybe even encouraging discussion once my readership allows for it. I'm going to spend some time putting my brain in that writing space each day, and this will be one of my many outlets for that process. I look forward to sharing, to thinking, to plugging in with you, and hope you enjoy the ride.

Ready for launch?