Wednesday, November 25, 2009

SnoutCast #1: ZombiePortLand

After writing one "GC Musings" blog post in September, it occurred to me that any such discussions should include my lovely wife DeeAnn, who's been an integral part of every Snout Game. She handles the budget, most of the logistics, and many other planning aspects.

As the latest of our various experiments, she has grudgingly agreed to join me in an irregular podcast about games (note lowercase "g"--we will definitely talk about puzzle hunts, but we reserve the right to digress).

Here's the first episode. It's pretty rough, but either we'll get better, or we'll stop:

[ Download mp3 ]

Oh, yeah, it's also 53 freakin' minutes long. Show notes below so you can skip all the boring stuff.

00:50 - We start with the profanity right away.
04:42 - Left 4 Dead 2 (buy from Amazon)
15:35 - Curtis' talk at Ignite Portland 7 (video and slides)
26:39 - Recap of Shinteki Field Trip: Disneyland
50:21 - Happy Thanksgiving! The end.

Music: instrumentals from "Code Monkey," "Baby Got Back," and "Re: Your Brains" by Jonathan Coulton

P.S. If you'd like to join our zombie-killing party sometime, we're sparCKL and SoleChen on Xbox Live.

CKL DeeAnn

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Flash Fiction: "Harold & Kumar Get Left 4 Dead Once Upon A Time In Mexico"

Rights holders: Please don't sue me. Here--I'll even link to all your products! Fair use! Fair use!

Read "Harold & Kumar Get Left 4 Dead Once Upon A Time In Mexico" at 512 Words or Fewer


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Thursday, November 05, 2009

The World's Only Reliable Newspaper

No, I'm not talking about The Onion; I'm talking about Weekly World News. The Onion is "America's Finest News Source." WWN is "the World's Only Reliable Newspaper." Get it straight.

Anyway, the good news is, you can now read back issues of WWN's print edition (and several other magazines) on Google Books. The bad news is, the WWN archives only span from January, 1981, to August, 2007. You could go to their web site, but it's just not the same. Call me old-fashioned, but there is a certain charm to the badly Photoshopped black-and-white tabloid layout.


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Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Flash Fiction: "Zombies vs. Aliens"

You want high concept? I'll give you high concept.

Read "Zombies vs. Aliens" at 512 Words or Fewer


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Friday, May 01, 2009

April Readings

So, what did I learn about myself this month? I tend to take breaks from reading when I'm busy (shocking, yeah?) and that the days when I finish more than one book tend to be the days when I've got a migraine that's just bad enough to make me want to lie around with earplugs in, but not so bad that I can't think at all.

Also? If I intersperse my novels with graphics, I get to look like a fast reader.

Here are the books I read in April:
  1. Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link (4/3): This is a YA story anthology. I don't know how Kelly Link manages it. Somehow, her stories manage to be both deeply weird and satisfyingly consistent at the same time. I enjoyed every story in the book, but found The Constable of Abal the most satisfying. I read it, took a deep breath, and flipped back to the beginning to read it all over again.
  2. Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner (4/6): This is a YA fantasy. It is also one of those books with a beginning that has its own undertow. I was sucked right in. After reading the prologue, I HAD to read this book. It was good story. I enjoyed reading it. But after I finished, I was... unsatisfied. So I went back and read the prologue again. The story I got was a good one, but it was not the story that prologue told me I was going to get.
  3. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (4/6): This is another YA fantasy. It's setting is a world many years after the Zombie apocalypse. The people live their lives in a village, surrounded by a fence, surrounded by a forest full of zombies. It's an absorbing world, and I enjoyed reading about the people trying to live in it. I found it interesting that, given the tense and scary situation, I was never all that afraid. The author did an excellent job of distancing the reader from the true horror of the situation.
  4. The Female Brain by Louanne Brizendine(4/11): This is a nonfiction book by a neurobiologist. It provides a lot of interesting information about how our hormones affect our brains. It felt very one-sided, not so much because the premise was that men and women end up with differently structured brains, but because the relentlessly pushes toward the idea that women's brains are somehow structured better than men's brains. While I was reading, I kept wondering why so few of the facts were backed up with data. When I got to the end, I found the list of references. Each one was matched to a chapter and a portion of a sentence. So I could go back and find out where a fact came from. Without a computerized search function, however, finding a specific references certainly wasn't easy.
  5. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (4/13): This is YA urban fantasy, and also Happily Ever After for the Twilight series. It's a big book, broken into three sections, told by Bella, Jake, and then Bella again. The Jake section is the one where Bella suffers a lot of physical torments that ultimately end up with her getting everything she wanted. If the story wrapped here, we wouldn't have perfect happiness for anyone, and the characters's lives would have some uncertainty. But this happiness was earned, and earned well. But then, we get another section--hundreds of pages long--that brings in some fine world-building and politics, as well as a whole lot of wish-fulfillment. There's a big, dramatic showdown, which ends in a stalemate. And that is where the book ends. Bella feels like she's gotten her happily ever after, but I wonder how long it can possibly last. Long-lived bad guys aren't likely to away and stay away.
  6. River of Heaven by Lee Martin (4/16): This is literary fiction. The main character of River of Heaven lives a small, lonely life, full of regret. Something terrible happened when he was a boy. My previous experience with Lee Martin was his novel The Bright Forever. It's an amazing book. I keep giving away my copy. Other people really need to read this book. This month, it finally occurred to me to get something else the author had written. I enjoyed this book, but more than anything else, it made me want to read the Bright Forever again.
  7. House of Mystery by Matthew Sturges & Bill Willingham (4/17): This a graphic novel story anthology. The framing device is that some people come into a house and can't leave it. Others come and tell their stories. Hungry Sally's story is utterly horrifying. I was so creeped out, I had trouble falling asleep after I read it. I even have nightmares about it. Weeks later, it still gives me chills.
  8. Finder: King of Cats by Carla Speed McNeil (4/18): Finder is an indie graphic novel, published by Lightspeed Press. I'm reading the stories all out of order, and I love them. I love the way the world feels so big and inexplicable. I love the page notes at the end of each book. I love the art. Mostly, I love the way the stories feel so much bigger than the little bit I actually get to read in the book. I want them all, but the Lightspeed press website gave me a page load error. Sigh.
  9. Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream by Adam Shepard (4/22): This is a memoir, of sorts. Here's the premise: the author went to a random city with $25 and a sleeping bag. He wanted to see if he could work his way out of homelessness within a year, and have a job, a working vehicle, and $2500 in the bank. Presumably, the idea is that if he could work his way out of dire straights, other people can follow in his footsteps. It's an interesting read. The part that I found most interesting about the book, however, was something that the author very rarely discusses. Wherever he was, he became the people around him. When he was homeless, he became a homeless guy, unwilling to use a washing machine, and unworried about his stink. When he upgraded to mover with a housemate, it became okay to tolerate his housemate stealing his stuff, and, ultimately, battering him into a bloody pulp on the floor of the home they shared. But then, maybe that was his point. He was willing to put up with anything, no matter how crazy or dangerous, if it got him closer to his goal. So, yeah, I think a person could follow in his footsteps. I'm just not sure why someone would want to.
  10. Skim by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki (4/23): This is a graphic novel. I found a list of Eisner nominees, and have been working my way through the interesting-sounding ones. Skim is definitely interesting, engaging, and... ultimately unsatisfying for me. As seems to be my usual, I felt like too much story was crammed into too few pages. But I've finally figured out why so many one-shot graphic novels leave me flat: there's a novel's worth of material crammed into what is, essentially, a few chapters worth of space.
  11. Finder: Mystery Date by Carla Speed McNeil (4/24): This is an indie graphic novel. After I finished this, I wanted the rest of the series, right now. But I'm lazy. is still giving me page load errors. The cache just says "it's working," which is not very helpful. And Amazon doesn't have the books. I guess I may have to give in and create an Ebay account after all. Sigh.
  12. Violent Cases by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean (4/24): This graphic novel is more than 20 years old. This is one of Neil Gaiman's dreamlike tales where the narrator tells us his story -- which part of other stories--and we have to fill in all the rest for ourselves. Dave McKean's creepy art brings it to life. Good, good stuff.
  13. The Sharing Knife: Horizon by Lois McMaster Bujold (4/25): This is a fantasy novel, the fourth in the series. By book four, the story is less about the main characters romance an more about making a place for their family to call home. We get plenty of drama and conflict, and a good, satisfying, well-earned, happy ending. It's a very satisfying conclusion to the series.
  14. Powers by Ursula K. LeGuin (4/26): This is a YA fantasy, the third in a series of novel that all take place in the same world. Like the other two books, this one stands alone just fine. In this book, a slave boy wanders through life until he finds his place in the world. It was a dreamy sort of narrative, interspersed with contrasting bits of dialogue and action. Huge, momentous, things happened--murder, mercy, betrayal in a variety of permutations--but they all flowed smoothly through the story. Fair warning: the dreamy tone may have come less from the book itself and more from the migraine I had the night I read it. That said, it was a deeply satisfying story with plenty of interesting themes.
  15. Kitty Goes to Washington by Carrie Vaughn (4/26): This is an urban fantasy, which may or may not be shelved with paranormal romance. This second book in the Kitty series was perfect reading for a day with a migraine. In this outing, our werewolf DJ protagonist is summoned to speak at a Congressional hearing in our nation's capitol. She meets others of her kind, stumbles across evil plots by some baddies, and defeats them all, and even hooks up with a tasty Brazilian guy. Reading the story was like taking a tiny vacation: escapist fun.
  16. Sly Mongoose by Tobias Buckell (4/26): This is a science fiction novel, stuffed with amazing, interesting elements. A few of the elements in this book: aliens, cities floating in the sky, a democracy where everyone votes on every governmental action, zombies, the borg (more or less), and a plot to destroy worlds. It's fascinating stuff. And then I just couldn't find my way into the story. The writing is good, the words looked good on the page, but fall into the story and have it come to life for me. I'm afraid Tobias Buckell may be like Kim Stanley Robinson for me: a great writer, with a well-deserved following, but not to my taste. I'm going to have to try another book, however, before I give up. I mean, look at those ideas!
  17. Locke & Key by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez (4/27): This is the first graphic novel I've ever read where I was upset because it was a graphic novel. I got the first four chapters of a deeply creepy horror novel. Too short! Too short! I want more.
  18. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (4/27): This is another piece of literary fiction, which makes two in one month. It may be some kind of record for me. My April theme seems to be finding a place in the world. In this case, we have a young girl named Lily who flees her home at the rocky beginning of desegregation. There's a dusty-sweet, but very well-realized sense of time and place here. The plot is almost too neat, but I really liked the way that each character is her own person, who behaves in ways that make sense for her. I especially liked it that Lily just didn't understand a lot of the things she witnessed. It's another in a long list of books that I'm glad I read.
  19. Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell (4/27): This is a graphic novel. And it took me for a ride. Even after reading most of it twice, I just couldn't figure out what was real and what wasn't. But then, I guess that was the point.

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

February Readings

This was a good month's reading. Five of the stories still ambush me while I'm petting the cats, taking a shower, making dinner, or at other, equally unexpected, times.

Here are the books I read in February:

  1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2/3): This is YA Science Fiction. I got so mad at the injustice depicted in this book that I had to put it down. I guess this means that I connected to Katniss's story on a visceral level. I still find myself thinking about it.
  2. World War Z by Max Brooks (2/6): It was interesting to read zombie fiction presented as nonfiction. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the mockumentary that the book built in my head. But the style is distancing. I found it difficult to get too worked up when the characters are just meandering on about the terrible things that happened to them.
  3. The Grand Tour by Patricia C. Wrede & Carolyn Stevermer (2/6): This is the second book in the historical fantasy series that started with Sorcery and Cecilia. Like its predecessor, this is a Letter Game book. It's an effortless, fun read: a Regency Romance with a little magic thrown in for spice.
  4. The Mislaid Magician, or Ten Years After by Patricia C. Wrede & Carolyn Stevermer (2/7): This is the third book in the historical fantasy series that started with Sorcery and Cecilia. I loved discovering how the characters' lives had changed after ten years of marriage. It's still effortless fun.
  5. Good as Lily by Derek Kim & Jesse Hamm (2/9): This is a standalone graphic novel about something strange that happened to a high school girl. The story was rich in possibilities, beautifully drawn, and interesting. As with so many other graphic novels, however, I wished that I had gotten the whole story, rather than the abridged version.
  6. Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale, Dean Hale & Nathan Hale (2/12): This is a standalone graphic novel that mashes together the Rapunzel fairytale and an American Western. It was fascinating fun to watch the fairytale and the western play off one another. I didn't feel like I got an abridged version in this story. I knew so much that I was able to bring a lot more into the experience than could be drawn on the page.
  7. The Road of the Dead by Kevin Brooks (2/22): I'm not sure whether this YA is a thriller, urban fantasy, horror, or some sort of combination of all three. Reading it is like watching one of those movies where everything that happens is horrible, but you just can't look away. The ending left me trying to figure out what would happen next.
  8. My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor (2/22): This is mostly a memoir with some brain science thrown in. For me, there was too much memoir and not enough brain science. I agree, however, that we need to celebrate what we have left after an injury--brain, or otherwise. There's no healing to be found when we spend all our time mourning what we've lost.
  9. Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Krause (2/24): This book is a YA Urban Fantasy. I thought the plot was fascinating, the world well-developed, and the characters believable. Nevertheless, I read this book impatiently, wishing that it was more satisfying. The author's storytelling skills and style got in the way of her story.
  10. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer (2/25): This is the second book in the blockbuster Twilight series, is YA urban fantasy, and is starting to grow on me. Bella does continue her twin trends of sighing her words instead of just saying them, and of telling us that something happened only to describe something else. On the positive side, Bella exhibits some semblance of free will this time around, and is treated by almost all the other characters as if she's really a person. Those things definitely helped.
  11. Austenland by Shannon Hale (2/27): This book is in the genre currently known as women's fiction. It's essentially the story of a woman who goes to a vacation LARP based on Jane Austen's work. I often found myself wanting to slap the main character. Then I realized that she just didn't know that playing "let's pretend" often spills over into our real lives. After I made that realization, it was a fun, frothy read.
  12. Madapple by Christina Meldrum (2/28): When I finished reading the book, I couldn't figure out what to call the genre. The library files it as YA fiction, which is fair enough, although I think it cuts off a significant portion of the reading audience. Whatever genre it is, Madapple is the most compelling piece of fiction I've read this year. I thought I was sucked into a nightmare fairy tale, but the true horror of the story is that everything that happened--the isolation,the torture, the brain-washing, the murder trial--could happen right here, right now. I can't decide who to send the book to first.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Heal me, Zombie Jesus!

"Not every joke worth doing is worth driving into the ground. This is one of the hardest lessons I've had to learn."
- Jane Espenson


Thursday, June 02, 2005

Summer of Sci Fi

Though the current state of genre TV is pretty abysmal, a decent number of science fiction and fantasy films are invading your local cineplex in the coming months. Some of them may even be good. I made a list for myself, and now, I'm sharing it with you. Enjoy.

Note: I require "genre" films to have some essential, fantastic element, which is why you won't see many straight horror or action flicks in this list.

Howl's Moving Castle (6/10/2005)
Witches, man!
Interest: Must See

The Adventures of Shark Boy & Lava Girl in 3-D (6/10/2005)
Like Sin City, but, you know, for kids.
Interest: Medium

Batman Begins (6/17/2005)
Some dude running around in a cape.
Interest: Must See

Land of the Dead (6/24/2005)
Dear George A. Romero: Enough with the zombies already!
Interest: Low

Bewitched (6/24/2005)
Interest: None

War of the Worlds (7/1/2005)
Some dude running away from aliens.
Interest: Must See

Undead (7/1/2005)
Some chick running away from zombies.
Interest: Medium

Fantastic Four (7/8/2005)
I only see three.
Interest: High

Dark Water (7/8/2005)
Jennifer Connelly in a wet T-shirt contest. You wish.
Interest: Low

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (7/15/2005)
Johnny Depp, you are so hot, but so freakin' weird.
Interest: High

The Island (7/22/2005)
Obi-Wan is a clone!
Interest: Low

The Brothers Grimm (7/29/2005)
Terry Gilliam finishes a movie.
Interest: Must See

Night Watch (7/29/2005)
In Soviet Russia, VAMPIRES watch YOU!
Interest: High

Sky High (7/29/2005)
Disney rips off Aaron Williams' PS238.
Interest: Medium

Stealth (7/29/2005)
Ray Charles is a fighter pilot?
Interest: Low

2046 (8/5/2005)
See those future trains runnin', watch 'em disappear...
Interest: High

The Skeleton Key (8/12/2005)
Kate Hudson don't practice Santeria, she ain't got no crystal ball...
Interest: None

Valiant (8/19/2005)
Obi-Wan is a pigeon!
Interest: Medium

The Cave (8/26/2005)
My, it's dark in here. "Black," one could say; perhaps even "pitch."
Interest: Low

A Sound of Thunder (9/2/2005)
Ray Bradbury is spinning in his grave. (UPDATE 6/3: BHB points out that Mr. Bradbury is still alive. Oops.)
Interest: None

Corpse Bride (9/23/2005)
Tim Burton directs computer animated puppets.
Interest: High

Serenity (9/30/2005)
Big Damn Movie based on Joss Whedon's FIREFLY.
Interest: Must See

Actually, I know Serenity will be good, having already seen a preview screening. Fans will love it, but who knows how it'll play in Peoria. More on that later.