Those who’ve been around here awhile are probably already familiar with Pseudopod, but in case you’re not, they’re a terrific horror fiction podcast. I sold my first story to Pseudopod clear back in 2009, when I was still three years away from having a book out with my name on it. It remains a favorite, […]
Well, it is for me, anyway.
As much of my life is in flux right now I have no shortage of obligations. That doesn’t seem to stop me from returning to hobbies that syphon away at my productivity in deceptively harmless minutes at a time. I’m especially susceptible to these distractions when 1) things are slow at my day job, and 2) it’s raining. …I’m not sure why the rain makes me mentally listless, but it does. (Not unhappily so, but it’s clear to me that on rainy days, my productivity takes a serious hit.)
Here’s the distraction that’s occupying my thoughts right now: interactive fiction.
Anchorhead is a Lovecraftian interactive fiction game written and published by Michael S. Gentry in 1998. (I discovered this game almost 15 years later!) You control an unnamed protagonist who is investigating an ominous mystery surrounding the estate that she and her husband have recently inherited, after her husband’s distant cousin’s grim, grisly death.
The potential commands understandable by the game engine are surprisingly dynamic, but you will occasionally encounter frustrating moments where you’re unsure of how to convey the actions you want to take to the game. Fortunately, as old as Anchorhead is, there are a number of walkthroughs available online that you can use as a point of reference if you feel stuck.
Confession: I still haven’t finished it. But I still really, really enjoy the atmosphere of seeping, tenebrous dread the game creates.
Released and developed in 2013, this interactive non-fiction game is exactly what it sounds like: a depression simulator created utilizing the Twine engine. On that note, readers, please be mindful that this game is incredibly effective at simulating the mindset and emotions that characterize depression. Take a careful inventory of your mental health before taking the plunge into this game. Above all, be good to yourself.
You have the option of taking multiple forking paths in this game, but I want to stress how important it is that there is no right path to take, because (as we who have experienced depression know) there is no right way to deal with depression.
Time for something completely silly, as a nice break from the first two games I suggested, which are quite heavy for different reasons. Cat Petting Simulator is an interactive game (also created with the Twine engine) where the sole objective is to pet a cat. That’s… that’s it, really. It’s sadly not as cute as Neko Atsume, but as someone who struggled miserably throughout graduate school, this little game helped get me out of many a paper writing-induced funk.
Go on. Pet that cat.
- Fool’s Errand: Book 1 of the Tawny Man trilogy, by Robin Hobb. Narrated by James Langton.
Notes and references:
I’m not lacking for ideas so much as lacking for time as I’m in the middle of moving house–but rather than make that an excuse for my absence, I’ll just eke out time now that I’ve found it to jot down a handful of my pre-NaNoWriMo drafting and planning thoughts (for I have many).
New Persepolis: Space Ships, Cordyceps, Found (And Lost) Families, and Representation
…that’s it in a nutshell, really.
(NB: After a lot of thought, and outlining, I’ve tabled my city witch plan and will determine, at a later date, whether the idea is worth pursuing further.)
I’ve decided, after much discussion with members of my writing group (more on this later), to return to my 2013 NaNoWriMo project, New Persepolis. It is the broader novel that the short excerpt I shared a few weeks ago is set within. New Persepolis is a working title, and one I’ll probably change in the future. The idea for it has been tumbling around in my head, in multiple iterations, since at least mid-2012, and my first real stab at drafting an outline of it happened in October of 2013, just in time for NaNoWriMo that year. Prior to NP, and aside from the handful of Star Wars and Mass Effect fic I’d attempted to write in the past, I’d never attempted to create my own original science fiction story before.
In retrospect, I’m not sure why I waited so long to give it a shot, because it’s easily been one of the most rewarding world building experiences I’ve ever had. My attempts at world building fantasy universes have always been bound by some constraints that, probably, deserve their own blog post to be most effectively unpacked, so I’ll save those thoughts for another time. Since childhood, fantasy has been my ‘bread and butter’ when it came to playing in fictional universes; science fiction was always something else that I enjoyed, but couldn’t possibly create myself. I’m completely hooked now that I’ve taken the plunge, though, because with science fiction, I feel limitless in what concepts I can choose to explore, in what genre-specific conventions I can choose to adopt or reject, and in what kind of worlds I can create.
So, one of the things I’ve decided to do is blend genres. I’ve woven horror as neatly and inexorably throughout the plot as possible. That’s where the cordyceps come in. Monstrous fungi already seem to have an established following somewhat exclusive to the weird/horror genres. But I think the weird often serves as a bridge between horror and science/speculative fiction, so I’m happy to blend the deeply personal stories of my space opera characters together with the threat of a fungal infection that is indiscriminate in who it affects.
I’ll share an excerpt from the first draft now, then end, as always, with what’s on the radio. (It’s an oldie but a goodie–at least for me–this week).
I don’t miss much about the two gruelling years I spent as a graduate student. However…
…I do sometimes miss that view.
- Beyond Words: What Animals Think And Feel, by Carl Safina
I completed this audiobook today. What an unbelievably beautiful piece of nonfiction. 10/10 indoor cats agree.
Since writing the excerpt below, my vision for this world and the characters within it has changed considerably. Even in this iteration of the narrative, the characters and the story itself are different from what I envisioned in November of 2013. But I want to celebrate writing that I am proud of, and part of that celebration involves sharing it with you today.
Not knowing Republican Shee hadn’t been a hindrance in the disputed territories, but inside a government run hospital staffed almost exclusively by Shee physicians it was proving to be a real liability.
Corelli Jones stared uncomprehending at the paperwork in front of him. His skin felt hot and cold under his clothes and the terrified lump in his throat was making it hard to breathe.
The Shee attendant, who had been sitting with him patiently for three and a half minutes of unbroken silence, finally betrayed a hint of discomfort and twitched one of the long quills that had been laying comfortably still across the scaled crest of her scalp. She stilled it and said, gentle as she could, “Water? Would you like?”
It was an English word Corelli recognized. He forced a closed mouth smile and put the pen down to shift the sleeping infant in his arms. “Please,” he said. The attendant got up from her seat and left the exam room, closing the door behind her, and only when he heard the latch did Corelli exhale raggedly and lean against the table. He bore the heel of the hand not supporting Gabriella into his forehead. Alone, he bit his lip and smothered the sob before it could come out.
They knew. They had to know. No human on New Persepolis grew to adulthood without fluency in the dominant Shee dialect unless they were from the disputed territories. Crossing the border into Republic territory without submitting to immigration processing was grounds for execution. Humans with counterfeit identification papers–or none at all–were as likely to be terrorists as refugees, the prevailing thought was. Better to err, with extreme prejudice, on the side of caution. The attendant had probably gone to page security–immigration, if Corelli was very lucky. An agent if he wasn’t.
Gabriella would end up a ward of the state and grow up with no knowledge of him. There was no way to ensure she made it to Diederik without implicating him in their dangerous and illegal border crossing, and the cache of funds they’d stashed outside the city would end up in the Republic’s coffers long before it would ever be of any benefit to Gabriella. This gambit had been a risky one, but Corelli thought he had prepared for everything.
Evidently, assuming that humans would be presented with human language intake papers at the hospital had been one assumption too many. What a careless mistake.
(NB: I’ve noticed I’ve acquired a few new followers since beginning regular updates of this blog. I just wanted to let you all know that I’ve seen you, and I’m so pleased to have you along on my journey. Hi! Hello!)
During my commute in to work this morning, I caught myself mulling over similarities between one particularly daunting experience from my degree program, and a past attempt at NaNoWriMo. I figured I’d jot the thoughts down quickly.
I finished up my masters degree in archives and records management this year. In order to fulfill the requirements of my degree program, I visited my alma mater library and archives’ off-site storage facility. Off-site storage is essential for most libraries and archives due to the volume of materials acquired and accessioned during the lifetime of most institutes. It provides an adequate temperature controlled environment for material that isn’t requested with as much frequency, or material that is too fragile to circulate.
While I was there, the sheer immensity of the space was so arresting that I had to stop and take some photographs. (After obtaining permission, of course.) Please pardon the terrible quality of the pictures; my phone’s camera isn’t the best.
To allow the facility’s staff to store and retrieve materials, each range is constructed with a specially designed rail system to accommodate a forklift. You can see the rails near the ground; they’re the strips of metal next to the orange stripes. While I was there, the facility director asked if anyone wanted to ride the forklift all the way up to the highest point of the range. And while I’m not normally a daredevil, something in me made me put up my hand and volunteer.
So, up I went.
It’s a good thing I’m not afraid of heights, because that forklift rattled and shook unsteadily the faster and higher we went. Turning around to look back down at my colleagues, who from that height I could see but not hear at all, I realized just how far from the ground I was, and how it was only by the grace of a few strips of fabric that I was affixed to the forklift and not falling thirty feet to the ground. I was more frightened than I’d expected I would be, because like I said, I’m not normally afraid of heights–but I was also really proud of myself for vaulting myself dramatically out of my comfort zone in order to experience this new perspective.