Elsie Augustave on Dorothy Anne Spruzen’s mystery novel Not One of Us

From Elsie Augustave, author of the Haitian immigrant family saga The Roving Tree, which is available here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Roving-Tree-Elsie-Augustave/dp/1617751650/

Woman's face in profile, staring into the distance, with the title obscuring her eyes.

Dorothy Spruzen’s Not One of Us

Life will never be the same for the Salton Slaves after one of them has been murdered and another assaulted. The incident marks the beginning of a life changing experience for the socialite ladies. Not One of Us is the story of a community taken into hostage as they try to determine who is the cold-blooded murderer that kills everyone who gets on his way? The novel is also a story of dualities: Salton and New York, middle-class and low-class, loyalty and betrayal, violence and tenderness, all of which is expressed in the first and third person narration. Dorothy Spruzen has written a novel that provides insights into the mind of a murderer whose life is marked by childhood traumas and the need to be a respected person. It is entertaining and examines humanity in an engaged yet detached manner. Not One of Us is available here: http://www.amazon.com/Not-One-Us-D-Spruzen/dp/146102062X/

Synchronized Chaos August 2014: The Persistence of Memory

 

Greetings, readers, and welcome to August 2014’s issue of Synchronized Chaos Magazine. Even as we look to the future, we sometimes find that our pasts cast long shadows. This month, as in Salvador Dali’s famous painting with the melting clocks, we acknowledge the Persistence of Memory.

Our creative writing pieces reflect the influences of the past, cultural, historical or personal. Felino Soriano’s poetry draws inspiration from jazz music, with words scattered on the page in a style reminiscent of improvisation. Peter Jacob Streitz’ poetry mentions past revolutions and the ghosts of subtle, non-life-threatening miseries. Ed King’s narrator finds himself processing his recent breakup as he attempts to join Shanghai’s youth culture on his vacation. Darlene Campos’ piece evokes the comfort she experienced from her grandmother and the Native American reservation where her relatives lived. Carl Gridley’s elegant pieces mourn the death of people, relationships, books and the written word. And, as James Kowalczyk suggests in his story ‘Another Day, Another Victim,’ even demons with strange appetites have pasts they may wish to record in diaries.

Cristina Deptula’s poem ‘Spontaneous Grace’, an ode to kindness and happy circumstance, is a takeoff on Beatnik writer Jack Kerouac’s concept of Spontaneous Prose. Thomas Smith deals with his protagonists’ memory and grief in one of his short stories, “Jon and Beauty.” Tony Longshanks le Tigre, in his poem “Zen Master in the Cat’s Pajamas,” probes our traditional, cultural, nearly spiritual fascination with cats.

Michelle Bellon’s biotechnology suspense novel Rogue Alliance, reviewed this month by Fran Laniado, presents a romantic adventure between a traumatized, jaded Drug Enforcement Agency detective and a man who has escaped secret government genetic manipulation. Ally Nuttall’s young adult novel Spider Circus, reviewed by Sarah Melton, gives us a young teenage heroine who enters the supernatural adventure while processing rejection from peers and her parents’ divorce. While these works show characters who are both hampered and motivated by their personal pasts, James Nelson’s memoir The Trouble with Gumballs, reviewed by Susan Maciak, humorously details the author and his family’s attempts to succeed in a business representing a quaint slice of America’s supposed carefree past – the gumball machine.

Elizabeth Hughes, in her monthly Book Periscope review column, describes Lynn Snyder’s play collection Blackmail, whose contents, like the dramas of ancient days, deal with universal themes such as official corruption and tragic romance. Uniquely, though, the works are intended as much to be read in book form as to be performed. Oral performance would be more in keeping with the history of drama as an art form, but Snyder is innovating in order to make her work more accessible to more people, as live performances can be expensive. Her fresh satirical humor also makes her work unique.

Hughes also reviews Mary Mackey’s new poetry collection Travelers with No Ticket Home, which explores Mackey’s recent visits to Brazil in a dreamlike, hallucinatory manner. Mackey evokes the natural beauty of the area and the resilience of the favela town residents while acknowledging the real threats to the area from gang violence and the destruction of the rainforests. She honors Brazil’s past without romanticizing the nation.

This month’s nonfiction essays also hark back to days long ago. UC Berkeley’s Dr. Mark Goodwin, in a lecture reviewed by Cristina Deptula, outlines fossil finds within hills east of San Francisco. Ayokunle Adeleye invokes the Hippocratic Oath in a piece supporting a medical providers’ strike within Nigeria, and references the ancient divinity Janus in another essay further developing his critique of his country’s medical system. Ryan Hodge also looks back to life lessons we teach ourselves through old video games in his new column Play/Write.

Ayokunle Adeleye also encourages entrepreneurs to start early to develop a lifelong legacy by investing in land. Olga Mack and Yun Yun Huang’s infographic gives advice to business people through an illustration offering advice on how to negotiate. The concept of this work reflects old-style instructive maxims, such as Benjamin Franklin’s aphorisms and Dale Carnegie’s 1936 book How To Win Friends and Influence People. Not through the infographic’s color or style, which is a modern and friendly shade of pink, but in terms of the upbeat advice given and the concept of being able to achieve success through one’s own efforts.

Neil Ellman’s poetic responses to modern art pieces stand out within this issue because of how they reflect the theme through contrast. We see what happens when objects and sensations exist on their own, examined in themselves without context. In a somewhat similar vein, Thomas Smith, in his short story “15 Minutes” explores how reality television and instant celebrity status conferred upon random people renders social interactions false by depriving them of their natural context. Within the culture of reality shows and competitions, people are encouraged to aspire to get suddenly ‘discovered’ rather than to build up a career and legacy gradually over time. Then, once discovered, as with Thomas Smith’s protagonist, they find themselves acting in a certain way because people want to see a certain type of character or plot twist rather than having the interaction arise naturally out of their relationships.

In his short piece “Zuckerface,” Peter Jacob Streitz offers further wry reflections on social media and pop culture. In another piece, “What’s So Funny,” he points out that death and suffering are specific, graphic realities, not just parts of jokes or stereotypes, and perhaps, in his words, ‘not all that funny after all.’

Llyn Clague’s new poetry collection, The I in India and Us, as reviewed by Christopher Bernard, illuminates both the ugly poverty and creative beauty of India, as Mary Mackey does for the parts of Brazil she has visited. Also, Clague suggests that not every idea or value we hold has to be completely personal and subjective. Maybe we can adopt some of the ethos of the older days, when, some people, even if they were wrong, were less afraid to have a mission, to decide to be something specific, to say and mean something.

This month’s issue and contributors attempt to become and say something, while reaching into their personal and our collective pasts for inspiration. We invite you to join them in reflecting on how who we were has made us into who we are.

Salvador Dali's dreamscape, with the analog clocks melting over a desert landscape

Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory

 

Short story from James Kowalczyk

 

Another Year, Another Victim

Next Stop: Hell

January 1st, 2013

To be god is everything. It has been three months, two weeks, one day, and four hours. And the rain continues to weather my powers. Our head hurts. Dull and rusty, it is the same razor I’ve been carving myself with for days. The pain; however, fails to escape. The second body was found yesterday. The television said it was difficult to identify. It must be protoplasm in black goo by now. He was as a stick, when it meets vertically with mud, stuck feet first in the flats off Skagg Island next to the freeway. I had wrapped him tightly. I am getting better. I will remove the teeth before I plant the next one. For now, I will sleep. There is much work to do in the morning.

February 29th, 2013

The messenger to told me-never disobey a direct order. Once instructed, to its fruition the task must be carried out. Which can be low-hanging like an individual’s head when in the neutral position? The division of unity or the upright circle from which hangs a profound ignorance is a fact.

March 20th, 2013

Competent imbecilic behavior makes me an efficient drone. Unlike the other worker bees, all five of my eyes are functional. My boss is impressed with my fabricated ignorance but he must be eliminated. His murmuring has reached perfect pitch. He is talking about me, again. I am the alpha and the omega. At lunch I will eat his heart. And his soul will descend by the day’s end.

April 31st, 2013

It is known that unless the bidding begins at three, the result will be disappointing at best. Rather than jump, the grasshopper slithers like the rainbow slipping behind the mountain so as to never be noticed when the hunger is forced. Living with the sheer is never easy.

May 27th, 2013

At the barbeque, the meat was tender. I have perfected my technique with muscles and tendons. Brother was foolish to upset me. His teeth were difficult to extract. My envoy to the bliss abyss has arrived. Soon the little death will embrace me.

 September 31st

As the moons glows beneath the heaven that will hold us, it glows over a Nebraska plain while the California Zephyr delights in itself. Westerly influences speak to long- term change within and the aftermath mixes with excess and blood.

 

 

Christopher Bernard reviews Llyn Clague’s new poetry collection ‘The I in India and US’

The Will to Live: Little Antidotes to Despair

 

Photo of a middle aged white man with glasses sitting in a wooden chair out on a grassy lawn

Llyn Clague

The I in India and US

Poems by Llyn Clague

90 pages, $15.00

Pure Heart Press

 

A review by Christopher Bernard

Llyn Clague’s new book of poems is a charmer. It does what poetry, long expected to do, seems these days to do less and less: it tries to build a bridge – tenuous, delicate, easily breakable as it must be – between the individual and society at large, between the reader and the world.

…. Why

when it is so widely dismissed

as “all about me” – why poetry

about India?

… can poetry –

more allusive than analytic

daemonic than descriptive –

in flashes of India reveal landscapes

inside you?

Subjectivism has long been the presiding curse of modern poetry, to say nothing of modern culture, which has turned self-centeredness from the acme of sin into society’s prime motivator.

The philosophical roots of subjectivism go back to the idealism of modern thought, beginning with Descartes but finding its strongest support in Kant, who convinced many thinkers up to our time that “reality” is not directly accessible to us, that the only access we have is to the thoughts in our minds – although today even the word “mind” is suspect, and only “the brain” is scientifically correct, although even the doughtiest neuroscientist has yet to locate a thought in the brain.

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Short story from Peter Jacob Streitz

ZUCKERFACE

 

Fucking drunks! I loathe this shithole and all its chitchat. I mean, talking to today’s dipsticks is like believing that a broad’s bald pussy is womanhood. Hell, even if some bum bones the bitch . . . baby hair—if the fish ain’t gutted first—will appear in the form of whining pain in the ass if it’s not a breech birth. But then again, what the fuck do you know sittin’ there like some hoity-toity thinkin’ I can’t hold my hootch.

Ooooh, so ya don’t like my tone do you? Well, okay then—come closer and read my tweety little lips . . . no, goddamn’it I didn’t spit on you . . . that was a beery blowback from my draft, my pint . . . so dig me forming my tweety little lips into one hundred and forty characters. See, I’m all puckered up, kissey-like, meaning the first syllable is you naked as a jaybird. Nah, forget that, wrong . . . you got no character so I’ve wasted a fucking vowel.

What’ya mean that’s mean?

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Short story from Peter Jacob Streitz

 

WHAT’S SO FUNNY

by

Peter Jacob Streitz

This bar is a fucking joke. I’ve seen every kind of animal walk in here. Only yesterday the goddamned chicken returned to ask why he crossed the road, again. Sick of his shit the Rabbi and I choked him out, de-feathered the scrawny bastard, and ate his wings raw. The dumb-ass barkeep asked if we wanted some dynamite hot sauce—yeah right, like the bloody mess really needed a condiment as he staggered out the door and across the street . . . only to get flattened by the ambulance he was always chasing.

As if that crap wasn’t funny enough, this militaristic pig sitting next to me never stops talking to the freakin’ penguin about politics.

“O’bambi repeatedly called them corpsemen.”

“Called who corpsemen?”

“Corpsmen. . . in a speech before the armed forces.”

“I don’t dig,” the penguin petulantly puffed. “Is this a joke?”

“Only if he’s Commander-in-Chief.”

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Short story from Thomas Smith

 

15 Minutes

The combination of just waking up and dealing with the effects of a heavy night’s drinking made the journey from the hotel bedroom to the door seem unconquerable, but Charlie managed it – just only to be greeted by his agent, Russ, reciting the morning newspaper, with no consideration for Charlie’s hangover from hell. “Charlie Walker, the winner of the latest reality show ‘Worldwide'” Russ boomed out with pride. “Where contestants visit a new country every week, and live as locals.” Charlie was struggling to concentrate on what was being said. “Charlie survived the weekly votes, and went on to win the controversial prize of fame.”

So what does fame mean?” The girl approached Charlie in Sox, the latest in the long line of London hot spots, where Charlie was paid to make an appearance “as a prize,” the mystery woman clarified. “Basically a biography, and a film, called The Winner’s Story.” Charlie shouted above the repetitive thud of the music. “Cool. Bet you get this all the time, but, could I share a fish bowl with you?” Charlie knew why she had asked for this. He brought it on himself. In every country he visited with “Worldwide,” he would party with the locals. And the party always started the same way – with a fish bowl. On many occasions, this was greeted by a blank expression, until Charlie stepped behind the bar, and poured every spirit he could find, into a container, usually a bucket, and proudly said, “that’s a fish bowl.”

Earth to Charlie.” Charlie was brought back from the previous evening. “I’m saying that Cleo’s sold her story.” Cleo? Charlie tried to place the name. “The girl from last night?” Charlie asked, panicked by the prospect.

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Poetry from Cristina Deptula

Spontaneous Grace
At this moment I experience the desire for spontaneous grace. For the rain that
holds off till ten minutes after your hike, for the extra five minutes a friend
waits until your arrival, for the extra twenty miles your car somehow runs until
the gas station.

For the soft edges on the too-metallic recliner, for the last three rays of the
sunset, for the directions you look up at the one coffeehouse where the public
computer actually gets Wi-Fi.

For the reason why some businesspeople stop and give change to a strange
homeless person, for the reason why a receptionist smiles and lets you in too
near closing time, for the reason why people share words of support and a few
bucks to folks online without asking for proof first.

For the mirror kind enough to break and shift your image in all the right ways,
for the dandelion in the cracks that escapes the neighbor’s weed-whacker, for
the train that waits for you.

For the traffic cop who winks – just once – at the jaywalkers or the driver ten
or fifteen miles over the limit, for the single parent whose garage sale
customers tell him/her to keep the change, for the time your housemate who loves
angry talk radio actually switches on music.

For the gleam of a rainbow in the soap scum on your dishes, for the time when
your Mom actually doesn’t open her mouth when there are still dirty dishes in
your room, for the reason I still do favors for a friend everyone says could do
more for herself.

For home, for love and memories, for the grace notes at the end of the symphony.
For the extras which get and keep us up in the morning. For spontaneous grace.

— After the concept of ‘Spontaneous Prose’ and dedicated to Jack Kerouac, Neal
Cassady, Edie Kerouac, Gary Snyder, and Diane Di Prima.

 

Sandwich Poem

Lettuce, olives, and hummus.
I glance over the list of requested ingredients before spreading the garbanzo
paste over the whole grain bread, perhaps too neatly for a customer in a hurry.

Mayonnaise, tomatoes, and pesto.
He orders the same every day. Perhaps as an effort to reduce life’s complexity,
a suffocating variety present even in our deli kitchen. Some say he should try
more experiences, branch out, but some regularity is needed to make experience
possible.

Peppers, mustard, and tuna.
The woman’s children gather anxiously around her, tugging at her pant legs and
whining to go outside. As the last rays of sunlight waft in from the sliding
glass doors, I can’t say I blame them.

Cheddar, mayo, and lettuce.
She watches me work and requests more of everything, more cheese, more mayo,
more vegetables, until it becomes difficult to hold her order together. Perhaps
this is like life – not even that too much happens, but that everything mixes
together at once.

 

Short story by Thomas Smith

 

Jon and Beauty

The harsh winter had hardened the earth, but sheer determination plunged the shovel into the soil. It hadn’t been long since Jon had returned from the vets. The need to get this over with trumped his trademark procrastination. He was expecting this to happen – but expectation and reality are two different things, as Jon was discovering.

He sunk lower into the ground as the pile of dirt next to the hole grew. Jon wanted to stop. He was tired. “This is the last thing you’ll ever do for her. Do it properly.” He thought to himself. He owed her – it was his turn to give.

What is it?” Jon spoke with a mixture of innocence and excitement that only a child can access.

Come in and find out,” Jon walked into his parents room. Jon’s dad had been ill for a while and in bed for most of that time. Jon was not sure what was wrong with him. Every so often – since Jon could remember – his dad would spend a few weeks in bed. He wasn’t worried. He was angry. His latest stint in bed had meant Jon’s mom had been collecting him from school. It wasn’t the same. It had become a ritual to race down the hill on the way home. Jon would begin smiling five minutes before home time and keep smiling until he inevitably won the race.

Jon’s eyes widened as his father – the second best runner in the house– produced a beige, anime-eyed puppy from under his quilt. “This is for you.” Jon’s jaw dropped – this was amazing. “And you get to name her.” Jon almost collapsed. Getting a puppy, and he would name her! Names raced through his young mind, at a speed that made them all incomprehensible. All but one. Looking at the face of the new family member – in between being licked – it was clear. “Beauty.” His father looked at him for an explanation. “She’s got a beauty spot.” Jon had learned what a beauty spot was the previous week and still got a thrill from proving he knew what it was.

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Ryan Hodge’s new column Play/Write

 

The words play and write, with 'play' surrounded by video game characters and 'write' in a script font with a quillpen-Ryan J. Hodge

For someone who enjoys a great story, is there anything better than a narrative that engages you from the very start? Imagine a world so rich you can almost smell the scents in the air, a delivery so clever it forces you to think in a way you never thought you would. I’m Ryan J. Hodge, author, and I’d like to talk to you about…Video Games.

Yes, Video Games. Those series of ‘bloops’ and blinking lights that –at least a while ago- society had seemed to convince itself had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. In this article series, I’m going to discuss how Donkey Kong, Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty and even Candy Crush can change the way we tell stories forever.

What the arcade teaches us about changing the rules of a story

Now, I’m sure even those who would consider themselves ‘out-of-touch’ with the games industry can appreciate that the boxy, awkward ‘electronic babysitters’ of the 70s and 80s can’t hold a candle to the cutting edge graphics and Hollywood budgets of modern games. You’d probably think I’d gloss over the days when the industry was in its infancy, but those developing years were just as crucial as the current ‘console generation’. For it was in this chaotic time that the most critical aspect of game design was discovered and honed: paradigm shift.

Old screenshot from the Donkey Kong game

If it’s so easy, why can’t you beat it?

What makes us care if Pac-Man escapes the ghosts or if Mario rescues the princess? If someone were to write these stories as is on paper, they’d probably be pretty dull; just an endless series of munching dots or stomping Goombas. Yet players would remain in front of their screens, transfixed for hours; dumping their (or their parents’) hard earned money into an experience that doesn’t matter, is not particularly complicated, and has no real application or parallel in the outside world. From a pure surface level, it makes little sense why the ‘Arcade Classics’ took off, and even less in terms of how it can be applied to contemporary narrative.

But there is actually something beneath the surface; a primal appeal to the human psyche that any good story teller would itch to exploit. In traditional sports or board games (as opposed to video games), there are certain rules or logical progressions that have to occur in order for the game to be ‘fair’. In narratives about such events, the focus generally is around the ‘players’ mastery of self and spirit in order to succeed within the confines of these rules. While sometimes the ‘rule’ dynamic is changed (due to an antagonist cheating to some degree), the narrative is very rarely centered on learning and mastering the ‘rules’ themselves.

While a static rule set is also technically true for video games (after all, they have to be ‘beatable’), what makes video games unique compared to other modes of play is that ‘the rules’ themselves are not always communicated to the player from the start and sometimes new rules are added on the fly. The player investment comes from learning these rules and how to apply this knowledge to beat the game. That is the paradigm shift.

To be clear: this isn’t relative to basic instruction (i.e. move the joystick in the direction you want to go to move in that direction), I mean that the recognition of patterns are not explicitly stated anywhere, but still exist all the same. Take Pac-Man, for instance. The only rules explicitly communicated to the player are that he has to move around the maze to collect all the dots while avoiding all the ghosts. What the player isn’t told is that each ghost has a different behavior pattern. The red one will always chase him, the blue one will try to get in front of him, and the orange one moves at random. Playing without this understanding will only get the player so far but mastery of this concept is crucial to long-term progress.

Screenshot from the original

One could argue AI developed in 1980 could still put 2014’s to shame.

What does this have to do with narrative? Well, I’d like to direct your attention to John W. Campbell Jr.’s Who Goes There? (1938) which readers might better recognize from the 1951 and 1982 film adaptations The Thing from Another World and John Carpenter’s: The Thing respectively. Hailed in many circles as an exemplary specimen of SciFi Horror, the conceit of this story is that some type of alien ‘intruder’ has infiltrated an Antarctic research station. It accomplished this infiltration by mimicking the form of a sled dog and, later, members of the research team. Once the intruder has completely copied its target; it appears to be a perfect imitation with complete mastery of language and social nuances (as opposed to, say, a ‘pod person’). The entire story is the conflict surrounding how to discover and ‘deal with’ the intruder, which is accomplished by the research team slowly learning about its nature (i.e.: its ‘rules’). First they learn that the intruder exists, then, that it can copy people as well as dogs, then that every cell of the intruder organism is its own semi-independent life-form (meaning that if you chop its head off and burn the body, the head will grow legs and skitter away).

Large insect crawling out of desk

Aw, ain’t he cute!

What separates this story from a distressing amount of horror narratives is that the characters within it never do anything stupid. They never deliberately put themselves in danger (mental breakdowns notwithstanding); rather they develop a theory about how the organism works and apply protocols commensurate with that theory until a new fact (or ‘rule’) is revealed. Now, this may seem obvious; but consider how few stories even accomplish that much. Compare Who Goes There? to Prometheus (2012 Film) where so-called scientists must perpetrate nonsensical breaches in basic safety protocols (removing helmets in an alien atmosphere, making kissy faces at a beefy alien cobra analog, etc.) just for the plot to even happen. What was meant to be a thrilling story of danger and discovery becomes an unintentional comedy of errors.

Tall video game character walking through a ruined dungeon

How the hell do you get lost if you made the map!?

Sometimes the lack of effort is more blatant than that, wherein we see narratives that include some combination of chainsaws and hapless teenagers.

Humans thrive when we have an understanding of things, but all drama is lost when we, the audience, have solved the problem long before the characters in the story. What keeps a story fresh is either a changing of an established dynamic or a dynamic whose true nature remains elusive.

But far more can be learned about narrative from the supposedly ‘storyless’ early video games. For in addition to themes of obscuring rules, players were also forced to prove their mastery of core gameplay, but in different ways. For these examples, we will consider the Mega Man series and Donkey Kong series.

Donkey Kong vs Mario, two game characters shown together

I’m cheating a bit here given that these were console releases and not arcade classics…and you’re just going to have to deal with it.

 

In these games, players are given a core set of actions with which they must traverse an expansive and diverse level set, however the two go about this in different fashions. Mega Man demands a mastery of player tools…

Game selections in Mario Bros.

Every defeated boss will give you a weapon useful for defeating another.

…where Donkey Kong demands a mastery of environment.

Various levels of Donkey Kong

In both games, techniques that were linchpins of previous levels will not always be useful in the next. Further, in these games it’s literally ‘adapt or die’, as failing to master the techniques required to pass a level with result in the player character’s untimely end. The hook is learning when what approach is most useful. As such, the player’s mind and reflexes are sharpened and the game itself retains its difficulty, no matter how masterful the player is at the controls.

So how do we tie this back to narrative? Well, a sure way to raise dramatic stakes is to place your characters in a situation where everything they’ve learned or applied previously is absolutely no help. One of my personal favorite examples of this is Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy (1951-’53). In these stories, Asimov plays with numerous psychological themes as its protagonists are challenged by the fear of the inevitable and the fear of the unknown. In all cases, it is not pure physical superiority that wins the day (in fact, brute strength is the downfall of many of the antagonists) but the mental agility required to solve each unique problem in its own unique way.

It is so easy for writers in any medium to rely on a protagonist’s (or antagonist’s) previously defined attribute to carry a story (not to mention a sorry recipe for gaming). By challenging a protagonist, or player, to deal with change or to do without; the dynamic of the story itself becomes more interesting.

A swordsman may lose his hand.

Game of Thrones male character dressed in fur, climbing along a stone wall

Game of Thrones ‘Walk of Punishment’ S3, E3

Or a special power can be taken away from the hero.

Surprised, scared young male video game character

Legend of Korra ‘Endgame’ S1, E12

There are plenty of stories that already do this, and if you’d like to sort them from the bevy that don’t; be my guest and happy hunting. However, beyond the dialogue and characters, there exists a core experience that can be distilled not through words, but through action –through play. In order to feel as your protagonists would, to think as they must to overcome new obstacles; loading a catalog of Arcade Classics on your phone or tablet, picking up a DS, or dusting off your kids’ old Nintendo just might provide some valuable insight. And who knows? It just might make you a better writer.

Ryan J. Hodge is a Science Fiction author and Lead Writer & QA Manager for Konami Digital Entertainment US (SF Office). His latest book is Wounded Worlds: Nihil Novum, is available now for eBook & Paperback.

 

Media

The Last Airbender: The Legend of Korra (2012) Nickelodeon –TV

Donkey Kong (1981) d.p.Nintendo -Arcade

Donkey Kong Country (1994) d.Rare. p.Nintendo –Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

Foundation (1951) Isaac Asimov, Gnome Press

Game of Thrones (2011) HBO -TV

Mega Man (1987) d.p.Capcom –Nintendo Entertainment System

Pac-Man (1980) d.Namco p.Midway -Arcade

The Thing from Another World (1951) RKO Radio Pictures

John Carpenter’s: The Thing (1982) Universal Pictures

Who Goes There? (1938) Joseph W. Campbell Jr., Astounding Stories

Writeup of Dr. Goodwin’s talk at Oakland’s Chabot Space and Science Center on Bay Area fossils

Before the techies, yuppies, hippies and yippies, the San Francisco Bay Area was still a place of vibrant diversity and cutthroat competition. Right here, near the Caldecott Tunnel, the Aeulorodon, a huge hyena-like dog, chased and devoured the Hipparion, a pony-sized early horse. Nearby, a lionlike bear (Barbourofelis) and a wild pig (Prosthenops) and a pond turtle (Clemmys) found their own ways to exist.
We know all this because of fossil deposits from the Miocene era (between 23 and 5 million years ago) in Orinda, Moraga, and Blackhawk. This was the peak of mammalian diversity, and had a quite different climate, with year-round rain rather than the Mediterranean climate we enjoy today. Dr. Mark Goodwin, of UC Berkeley’s Museum of Paleontology, described Miocene relics while passing around 10 million-year-old rhinoceros and horse bones to the guests at June’s enrichment lecture.
Our nearby deposits range from the edge of Oakland to Orinda, and come from stream deposits (shale rock), the residue of a former deep marine basin (chert rock and shale) and volcanic deposits (sandstone and igneous rocks). We find fossils from the benthic (deep water) areas, as one-celled organisms called diatoms recrystallize in the sediment, and other tiny animals known as foraminifera secrete a silica formation. We also find the shells of bivalves, gastropods and arthropods.
As for land creatures, we find camel, horse and rhinoceros bones, and remnants of bay laurel trees. Camels and horses actually evolved in North America, we have discovered, and nearly died out before being reintroduced by the Spanish.
At the Blackhawk Ranch Quarry, near Mt. Diablo, there are some uplifted rocks that date back 75 million years. Within those rocks we see evidence of past sycamore, elm, poplar, and willow trees, and bones and fossils from horses, camels, saber-toothed cats, beavers, and the large hyena-like dogs.
Dr. Goodwin showed lots of photos of paleontologists at work throughout the entire process of excavation and fossil extraction and preparation. He pointed out that fossil preparation, that is, getting the artifact ready for exhibition, is a unique career field for which there is no academic training available, but only an apprenticeship with someone who currently holds that position at a museum.
Fossilization occurred rather quickly in the specimens we have found from the Bay Area. It happened fast enough that when researchers dissolve the bones in acid, they find the remains of soft tissues that look like blood vessels.
We can estimate the age of organic material by measuring the level of certain isotopic variations on the number of neutrons, as the atoms with extra neutrons lose them over time. Also, researchers can track pH, temperature and salinity changes over the years.
We have not yet found dinosaur remains, but that does not necessarily mean that these large reptiles did not live in the Bay Area. We lack the freshwater deposits from the Cretaceous period that would likely contain any existing dinosaur remains.
UC Berkeley’s Museum of Paleontology contains models of dinosaur bones, and several dinosaur species did roam North America. Dr. Goodwin closed his talk by inviting everyone to visit this museum during Cal Day, a Saturday in April when the it is open to the public.

 

Essay from Ayokunle Adeleye

 

The Eyes of JANUS

“I swear by Apollo, Asclepius, Hygeia, and Panacea…
and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses…
I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to
my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone…”
– The Hippocratic Oath.

Hippocrates was a man given to care and seldom receiving in return. He
was the greatest physician in antiquity, he is our Father, he is the
reason we are. He is the reason they say we ask for too much when we
ask for our rights: when we ask to be granted the same promotions and
privileges as other health workers who, ironically, say we receive too
much more than they do; when we ask to also skip level twelve of the
civil service promotion scale like the rest do who aim to remove the
“para-” from their designation; when we rise against the ridicule of a
highly esteemed title. He is the reason they scorn us.

Like a true Doctor, he led by example, taught Medicine on the Island
of Kos, Greece, some four and a half centuries before Christ, and
healed- or, helped many to heal, as those who futilely struggle to be
us would rather we say lest we be our egocentric selves again. He
became the Father of modern Medicine, and our Oath is named after him.
He provided humanitarian service, and that is why the power-hungry
ones expect charitable servitude from us…
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