roadrunnertwice: Vesta Tilley, Victorian drag king (Alternate Punchline)
I was initially skeptical about this whole Shadow Unit thing, but last night I found Chaz+Worth+Hafidha's* fictional LiveJournals, and now I'm kinda sucked in. Eep. (Well played, what with frontloading those all the way back to October.)

____
* And Todd's, but he hasn't posted anything but comments yet.

PS, View -> Page Style -> No Style is your friend.
roadrunnertwice: Vesta Tilley, Victorian drag king (Default)
So I learn from BoingBoing that the huge pile of free stories on SciFi.com is going away. This wouldn't suck so much if there wasn't so much good stuff hidden in there. If you like short SF, go save yourself some pages to look at later. (Watch out with the save-as, though; some of the stories have intro pages or are multiple pages long.)

Also, I sold the Odessa! Hurray! I can has cash money.
roadrunnertwice: Vesta Tilley, Victorian drag king (Wardings)
As I was banging away at some quick book reviews (caching out my ^didread file for January), I remembered a nearly-forgotten factor (well, web of factors) in making me largely an SF/F reader: our mom, her ongoing relationship with the Paperback Exchange, their weird and arbitrary trade-in rules, and (back to my mom again) the scorched-earth school of garage saleing tactics.

See, sometimes you seriously just have to move a hundred pounds of paperbacks OUT of your home, so they end up in your garage sale. If you get desperate, you wind up selling them by the box, and they'll cost something in the neighborhood of ten cents a book. At this point, a truly savvy buyer won't bother to search a box for things she's been looking for, and will instead just make sure there isn't widespread water damage. (And one more check, but we'll get to that in a minute.) Once the haul is safely home, she can go ahead and sift through, save any likely candidates, and then sell off the rest for in-store credit at a bookstore that offers something like a 70¢ return on paperbacks. (I forget their actual buying prices.)

This is where SF/F comes in. See, Mom doesn't read much of it; she's more of a Romance genre girl, with major forays into Mystery and the occasional one into Contemporary Lit. She IS a seriously voracious reader, and when we were on a much tighter budget than we are now, she abused that buy-low-sell-somewhat-less-low tactic for some very impressive results. But the Paperback Exchange in the South Sound has this elaborate and hierarchical caste system for trade-ins: The monetary value of their credit is all the same, but a given lump of credit is born tainted by the karma of its previous life, and can only be spent at or below the station it is born to. Romance credit is at the bottom, and while it usually served her purposes, she couldn't use it to follow one of her favorite authors out into the Mystery or General aisles.

SF and Fantasy credit, as it turns out, was the Brahman credit of the Paperback Exchange, and offered full reign of the store. So when Mom had abandoned the cherry-picking method of garage saleing for the day and was deciding which boxes of books to go for, the decision was usually based on the concentration of spaceships, dragons, animal familiars, period costume, and archaic and/or futuristic weaponry on the cover art. So that's what we had around the house whenever I was bored and went to surf through a box of books for a while.
roadrunnertwice: Vesta Tilley, Victorian drag king (Default)
Today appears to be a day for reading links from [livejournal.com profile] matociquala, the best of which was "Everything Is Better With Zombies." So I thought I'd pass it down the line.

And happy 2007, everyone. In my little world, 2006 was pretty meh, but I've got high hopes for this next one.
roadrunnertwice: Vesta Tilley, Victorian drag king (Default)
Oh, and I was meaning to post a six word story, since that seems to be making the rounds:

"Fear not!"
"You always say that."
roadrunnertwice: Vesta Tilley, Victorian drag king (Vast and solemn spaces)
This is like a tiny little self-contained short story — the hyperfiction equivalent of Hemmingway's “For sale: One pair baby shoes, never used.”

I present to you:
<ManoMac> !seen stefanh
<firebot> stefanh was last seen 1 day, 15 hours, 44 minutes and 54 seconds ago, saying ‘!seen Mano’ in #developers.

Adventure!

May. 11th, 2006 01:52 pm
roadrunnertwice: Vesta Tilley, Victorian drag king (Default)
The best stories all start with random emails from 15-year-old girls:
Subject: i found your art portfolio  
		
From: 'punky bruster*'
To: me
Apr 26, 2006

Hi!
I know this is probably really weird, but, I have
something i think might be yours. I just wanted to ask
if you're the nick fagerlund that went to macalester
college class of '05. My name is Raylynn. I live, I
think, in the house you used to live when you went to
school. When my family and I moved in my mother found
your portfolio in our attic. When I saw the artwork I
liked it a lot. Im a 15 year old student who is doing
a teen produced t.v. show called set it up for
SPNN(st. paul neighborhood network). When I found
this/your work I thought it might be a very
interesting to do a piece on this mysterious
portfolio. Our current episode is on art, our deadline
for being done with this is may 1st. So if you could
get back to me before then, that would kick ass.
                                        thanx,
                                              RayLynn


Huh.

The portfolio in question, of course, was from Drawing I, which I took in Fall of 2004. As far as I was able to remember, it contained some 5-minute figure exercises, a few still-lifes, and the bulk of a huge, soul-destroyingly difficult final project which, during crits, was almost universally panned as obtuse, abusively cryptic, emotionally distant, and technically weak. (I may have been reading between the lines for some of that.) I abandoned it in May when I moved back to Olympia. Partly because moving it would have been an enormous pain in the ass, and partly because I was feeling kind of ambiguous about its contents. I dunno; that class was Emotionally Complicated.

So I replied, she called me back, and I did this TV segment with her on Sunday the 7th. It was weird but cool, and I reclaimed a few of the pieces that I decided I still liked and left the rest with her according to the rules of Finders Keepers. Besides, it was nice to know that they had ended up somewhere where they were appreciated.

I guess that tracking me down had been this totally absurd odyssey for her, and I had become a sort of minor celebrity among the staff of SPNN. So, so, SO strange. And that's how I spent my Sunday.

_____
* That's actually my only regret from this whole business: I never remembered to ask the lass how in the hell a 15-year-old would know who Punky Brewster was. The readers are free to write this off as a Mystery Of The Universe.
roadrunnertwice: Vesta Tilley, Victorian drag king (Vast and solemn spaces)
I started thinking of Kartia (PSX; SRPG) tonight when I ran into an old review I wrote, sitting around on my HD. And damn, that game is still revolutionary. Sure, it was tediously linear, had a somewhat simplistic battle system compared to other contemporary SRPGs, sported unimpressive graphics and sound, and mostly only sold on the strength of Yoshitaka Amano's artwork. But observe:

Unconventional cast. Well, yes, you've got your young knight out to prove himself and your young noblewoman determined to do something useful and justify her existence beyond her title. But the rest of the cast? They're basically volunteer EMTs/firefighters with crappy swords. That was new. Plus, they were flawed (Posha cracks under pressure; Troy is an asshole; Kun is prime, grade-A naïve virgin), interesting,* and by-and-large likable. And Kartia had plenty of non-plot-centric character interaction, which I've gone off about before w/r/t the Tales Of games.

Villains attempting something more interesting than either ruling or destroying the world. I won't spoil it for you.

Consistent and tightly integrated game system and story world. Every RPG reuses the main battle system mechanic as the central plot macguffin, but it's NEVER thought through very well. Except here. The card-writing system that fuels all of your equipment creation and magic use actually has a purpose BESIDES kicking ass. People use it to brew coffee, start campfires, put out structure fires, do landscaping and demolition work, fabricate tools, and perform both major and minor medical procedures.** There's a licensing bureaucracy in place, and your characters' capabilities in battle are limited to what endorsements they have on their ID. (As opposed to your above-the-law enemies, who can and will summon huge amounts of a dangerous and nearly uncontrollable caliber of Phantom, and bollocks to the DOL.) And there's none of this no-Phoneix-Down-for-Aeris bidness: Any main character goes down in battle, the game's over and you start the fight over again.

Basically, the cast has to live in the game world, instead of just visiting it whenever there's some ass to kick.

Kartia is one of the only video games I've played that could hold its own as a novel, and I don't say that lightly. I think it had some tricks up its sleeves that any fantasy storyteller could learn from.


_____
* You know the stereotypical haircutting scene, whereby a female character makes some sort of vow of fortitude by giving herself an A-line cut with the nearest sword? Posha's was probably the only one of those I've ever believed in and cheered for. And she didn't magically get her act together afterwards, either; it was like pulling teeth the whole way. I think I consider her the bravest character in the whole game.

** There's this absolutely FABULOUS scene where a semi-major character is dying of massive contusions and hemorrhaging, and Posha is trying to save him. She orders the bystanders to start using Water and Iron Kartia to generate enough blood for a major transfusion, and starts using Stone cards to rebuild his crushed ribcage and probably a cracked femur. Totally fucking intense.

EDIT: Update on the Caffetto café: They DO have a bathroom, their coffee is decent, there's a new photography exhibit in here, they play awesome music, they've got baked goods from the Hard Times bakery instead of some random yahoos who use too much oil in their muffins, and they've got something like 30 different sodas. Plus their packaged sandwiches are things like hummus and gouda/veggie. I think we have a winner here, folks.
roadrunnertwice: Vesta Tilley, Victorian drag king (Default)
Got the movie bug for the first time in a while, and decided to start an account at Nicollet Village Video. (That's the grungy independent video rental joint a few blocks from my apartment. They get big points for being super-convenient and more powerful than any Blockbuster on selection; they lose big points for shelving incredibly foul anime porn mixed in with everything else. Put that shit away somewhere, man. Eew.) What spurred this? Well, I want to watch some stuff with really good fight sequences, and see if I can learn some ways that smart storytellers handle that sort of thing. It seems like a good thing to know, and besides: punches. Unfortunately, I don't know much of what to look for, other than Sonny Chiba's oeuvre. So I'm open to suggestions.

In the meantime, I had to rent something to open an account, so I just watched Aeon Flux. I liked it. More than I was expecting to. I think they made some really good choices about thematic movement, and that the atmosphere did a good job of supporting that. But then, things like secret histories and last stands and past lives have been on my mind lately.* Maybe I'll steal some of their tricks.

_____
* c.f. That Fucking Book (which is going quite swimmingly, thank you).
roadrunnertwice: Vesta Tilley, Victorian drag king (Reversal!)

SO I found this coin outside today*, in the parking lot of my building. Right outside the back door, actually, sitting in a gritty puddle.

It's the color of a badly-tarnished US penny, and it might actually be made of the same copper foil + zinc core. It's slightly bent, and I'm not sure what that says about its composition. It's smaller than a dime, and weighs just barely more than a Yennie. On both sides, the square in the center (which is bordered by half-moon scallop-cutouts, which in turn are circumscribed by a circle) is imprinted with an upper-case "M," backed by a sunburst. The ring surrounding the square-and-scallops is stamped with text: On one side ("heads"), it says "minneapolis / st . ry . co;" on the other, it says "[something indistinct written in script, which might say "Minnie"] / good for one fare."

Two more. )

Well, okay. Looks like a one-ride token for one of the streetcars operated by the Minneapolis Street Railway Company.

When the hell did Minneapolis have a streetcar system? Where did they run? Why have I never heard of them before? What happened to them? Can I still find the tracks? What's the story?

______
* 4/28, I mean. I'm having internet trouble, so you're seeing this late.
roadrunnertwice: Vesta Tilley, Victorian drag king (Default)
So as I relax here, filled with reheated lentil-potato curry, Easter jellybeans, and a few bottles of Pabst, I recommend to you the story I heard today on my bus rides to Target and the Greasepit.

"Craphound," by Cory Doctorow; audio version released by Escape Pod under a Creative Commons license. Parenthetically... )

If you've never read any of Doctorow's work aside from his posts on BoingBoing, this is a decent place to start. It's short, it's smart, it's heartfelt, it's topical (THE SUN IS OUT! GARAGE SALE SEASON!), and it's free and sitting right over there. There's also a text version available if you're spending more time in front of the computer than you are stuck on the bus with an iPod. But if you've got the bandwidth, and you have some cleaning to do, or a bike to strip, or a walk to take, or some weed to smoke, or something, I recommend the audio version, because it's pretty fantastic.

Mom, I'm recommending this story especially for you. You'll understand why as soon as you hear it.
roadrunnertwice: Vesta Tilley, Victorian drag king (Default)
So the title story of Magic For Beginners is online for your reading pleasure. I'm taking a break from it to write this. You should go read it. I'm only on the second section of it, and I'm already thrilled with it. It's full of moments of surprising prettiness, and clever flourishes, and remarkable insights. The prose is sparkly, and lucid, and quick. I am not even joking, you really want to read this story.

Some things about the voice are reminding me of Aimee Bender, but they're not actually that similar. I guess what I mean by that is that the style is just very, very twenty-first century.

ETA: Representative sentence time!
"Once Jeremy had a dream that his father combined his two careers and began reupholstering giant spiders."
Wait, that was out of context and not particularly representative. Well, whatever; it obviously deserves post-space.

ETA: Okay, HERE'S a representative passage.
Jeremy thinks about how the two quietest people he knows are named Alice and Talis. But his mother and Talis are quiet in different ways. Jeremy's mother is the kind of person who seems to be keeping something hidden, something secret. Whereas Talis just is a secret. Jeremy's mother could easily turn out to be a secret agent. But Talis is the death ray or the key to immortality or whatever it is that secret agents have to keep secret.


ETA: Just finished it and it is grand.

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