Let’s Read The Tor Stories: Week 4

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It’s amazing how long a coin flip can last if you measure it from the right angle; Landing face up, revealing the labor of three purveyors of only the finest distillation of weird. Noir will have to wait its turn; Another brand of bizarre for another day. Only the strongest among the strange will survive in Week 4 of the Tor Let’s Read series.

When it comes to weird we’re holding a full house; Two transfinite ambassadors  resembling Jim Henson puppets , rebellion and sedition, sharp swords disguised as playing cards, two jacks and a not-ape. It’s turtles all the way down from here my friends…

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100. Jack and the Aktuals, Or, Physical Applications of Transfinite Set Theory by Rudy Rucker

A wild and wooly dramatization of certain principles of higher mathematics, with added talking animals, sentient pencils, and orders-of-infinity nested within one another like Russian dolls.No description can ever encompass the mind-bending experience of reading a Rudy Rucker story.

Holy shit.

Buckle up, because we’re going in deep on this one.

Jack Bohn is a retired mathematics professor chasing after his greatest intellectual revelation yet. While sitting with his wife Ulla in their living room one late winter afternoon, Jack explains his goal of writing a comprehensive paper that explains the transfinite nature of the layers of reality. He’s wrestling with the “Generalized Continuum Problem”, a paradox of discovering the truth of either Georg Cantor’s belief that transfinite numbers are well-behaved, Jack’s theory that they are wholly erratic, or some ineffable and unknown third (or fourth, or fifth, or etc…) alternative. “Dear Infinity, please help me”, Jack offers up a mathematician’s prayer for an epiphany.

His prayers are “answered” by him coughing up a smooth, crystalline USB drive shaped like an infinity sign. when inserted, the drive instigates a crash sequence wherein a infinitely regressive series of smaller and smaller task windows begin to pop up. His laptop becomes a “Turing Calculator”; calculating every possible outcome for every past paper he has ever written to culminate into his greatest achievement, titled “Physical Applications of Transfinite Set Theory”.

Then a talking pencil with backwards knees named “Stanley” and a frog in a petticoat named “Anton” (short for Antagonistic) materialize through a hoola-hoop and invite the couple to come to “Alefville” with them.

According to Rudy’s bio page on Macmillan’s site, he’s the “great-great-great grandson of the philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.” After reading “Jack and the Aktuals”, I’m couldn’t be more convinced that that’s the case. I honestly can’t be certain as to whether this was all just a shared hallucination, one man’s psychotic break ( As if Anthony Burgess wrote a hair-brained combination of A Beautiful Mind, Faust, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?), or if all this craziness is reality. Probably some Gordian knot of all three or more of those explanations.

Coincidentally, a friend of mine had just recently recommended Rucker’s most well-known work, “The Ware Tetralogy”, to me saying that it was without a doubt one of the strangest things he had ever read.  After reading “Jack and Aktuals”, I couldn’t be more excited to delve into it now. Aside from my initial bewilderment with symbolic mathematical proofs that far exceeded my sub-high school ken of modest mathematics, I was legitimately compelled to journey further into this fun house labyrinth of oddities all the way to its whimsically self-aware conclusion that evokes comparisons to a particularly good Twilight Zone episode.

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110. Making My Entrance Again With My Usual Flair by Ken Scholes

When an ex-clown tries to go into the insurance business, he gets into monkey business instead.

Merton D. Kamal is a down-on-his-luck circus clown who, after being cajoled into an interview with a former fling at an insurance company by his mother, is tasked with escorting a monkey to New Mexico. Things go about as well as can be expected.

To start, this story is an absolute breeze to read. That’s no surprise seeing how it sits comfortably at an approximate 18 pages in length. This has to be one among the shortest of the Tor Short Stories I’ve since read.

There’s not a lot to say in the way of plot synopsis that wouldn’t inadvertently render the effort in reading the actual story futile by comparison (though you should!), what I can say is that Ken has created a succinct and strange hybrid of a story that manages to provoke laughs just after making you scratch your head in abrupt confusion. For anyone that reads this blog, I know that my synopses can be rather comparison heavy. Know that it’s not done without a measure of self-awareness; Think of it as an happy accidental after-effect of a long compulsory education in binary oppositional thinking.

In any case, “Making My Entrance” felt like a mash-up of Katherine Dunn’s GEEK LOVE and Burrough’s NAKED LUNCH. I mean that entirely as a compliment, but take it as you will. It’s so short, and Scholes’ writing is just so ridiculous and funny enough to justify the length, how could I not recommend it?

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99. The Jack of Coins by Christopher Rowe

A strange, amnesiac man is befriended by a rebellious group of teenagers living in a repressive city.

Trespass. Corruption. Sedition.

All of these charges are lobbied against the mysterious  amnesiac “Jack”, an ageless man decked out in an elaborate nutcracker-esque uniform, festooned with golden buttons and wearing a face that’s both sharp and smooth.

Jack roles into a town beset by an authoritarian police force that has clenched the voice of the people in order to still any murmurs of protest or dissent, and a disillusioned generation of youth are left to scamper out in the dead of night hopelessly clashing with another, vying for some imaginary sense of power and identity. But all that’s going to change when Jack roles into town, this stranger with clumsy words and bizarre habits.

This story is probably the tamest of the three this week, and even more easy to digest than “Making My Entrance.” Jack of Coins introduces some interesting elements that I don’t think entirely culminate into an all-together satisfying conclusion. I caught myself wondering aloud, “Wait, what’s the conflict in this story again? An indifferent populace controlled by an oppressive police state? and now they care, because of this weird stranger who talks in riddled sentences and happens to have a good throwing arm?”

I’ll admit, the cover art image provided by Red Nose Studio was the main draw of why I chose this story. I wanted to look for something otherworldly, and the story flirts with that insinuation at multiple points but never resembles anything conclusive.  In a scene where a benevolent character throws Jack a pack of playing cards with which to defend himself, I imagined that the story was finally going to pick up. And it does, sort of,  only to conclude prematurely with no resolution as to who Jack was, why he was the way he was, and what his presence means to this world in particular.

It’s worth a read, never hold your reading suggestions to my opinion alone. As bizarre and crazy this world might have been, I was disappointed that the end result turned out as tame as it did. The Strange is not so strong with this one.

Phew! After successfully climbing out of that wormhole of nonsense, we can go to the wall and tally another week from the Tor Let’s Read series off. Time to shuffle the deck again and pick another three stories at random (well, more or less).

See you next Sunday, October 6th!

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Let’s Read The Tor Stories: Week 3

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In this week’s installment, there’s a rumor of angels in the city as quiet as death and heads are sure to roll. We’ve got delapidated farms in ethereal dust storms, Caribbean favelas with non-euclidean geometry, and a telepathic unicorn named Steve. The Tor Stories Let’s Read just keeps rolling on, so let’s roll with it…

9781466852709Ø. “A Rumor of Angels” by Dale Bailey

 A teenage boy walks away from his father’s wasted farm to follow the other travelers heading west where there is a rumor of angels.

Tom Carver is a young boy living with his father, a farmer, during the period of the Great American Dust Bowl. As all hope seems lost, Tom finds himself compelled by the strange “magnetism” of rumors, whispers of work not only westward but the specter of angels roaming the countryside with great and terrible power. After abandoning his father and being taken in by the Overtons, a displaced family of roaming farmers not unlike Tom’s father, the four continue to push forward west in hopes of collecting on the promise of whispers, hearsay, and myth.

Great winged monsters, they say, and they never stay for long and the more devout among them messengers from the Lord and this required no abjuration, for God had perished in the dust, in the wind-torn wheat and in those smudged handbills that fluttered across the prairie. God? God had perished in their hearts.”

Bailey’s writing is nothing short of immaculate, communicating depths of despair and hope, futility and that unique, stubborn human endurance of the spirit to bear with grace the weight of the unbearable.  Visions of Steinbeck and McCarthy by way of Mark Helprin come to mind when reading Bailey’s prose. The central driving question that hangs in the air, “Will we meet angels?”, is as ephemeral and omnipresent as the story’s namesake. I really enjoyed this one. I strongly believe that this story deserves to be read in literature courses as a sterling example of fantastic realism and how to capture the by-and-large ineffable spectrum of human emotions in a few, choice words. Tom himself is a gifted storyteller, adept at the “spendthrift flow of words” not unlike his long-dead mother. A Rumor of Angels trumpets the power that stories have to uplift us, to allow us to travel to places far beyond our physical location, drawing strength from the invisible well to which all words are in part a doorway.

Do yourself a favor today; Take some time out and read this story. You’ll thank yourself afterwards. I know I certainly did.

9781429924986140. “The City Quiet As Death” by Steven Utley & Michael Bishop

Between the incessant music of the stars and the spectre of a giant squid caught inside a locket ball, it is difficult for Don Horacio to maintain a restful mind.

Jesus-Jackrabbit-Pole-vaulting-Christ, in “The City Quiet as Death” Utley and Bishop have channeled Lovecraft’s cosmic-fueled death ramblings and done him one better. Stories like this are the reason why I even started this read through series in the first place.

Horacio Gorrión is a taciturn, reclusive misanthrope and the sole beneficiary of a massive inheritance living in the city of Infante Sagrado, the capital city of Isla Arca, a fictitious island nestled in the Caribbean Sea. For years Horracio has alone been hounded by unceasing music of the spheres, the clamorous static of the stars, the unbearable dog-tone of the Big Bang. Basically,Horacio is living inside a Lovecraftian nightmare and even makes a overt comment on this.

After his repeated, perpetually-abandoned attempts to claim his own life, his sole companion and family maid Adelaida requests the aid of Doctor Vega and Father Casares to appeal to him on behalf of his mortality and sanity. Each offers something to Horacio, either the promise of answers through business or the potential of salvation through faith. Both of these offers orbit in some way around Adelaida’s locket, a gift from her long-deceased husband who may or may not have tamed the offspring of a particular Old God and confined it within the necklace.

The prose in this story is unbelievably tight and well-written, to pick one particular passage to demonstrate the deft mastery of implied horror that Utley and Bishop possess feels like a disservice in divorcing it however momentarily from the entire piece. I seriously loved this story and have made a serious mental note to check out whatever Utley or Bishop write in the future purely on the strength of this one story alone. It covered all the paces of a satisfying supernatural horror story and in true Lovecraftian fashion, it ends in total madness.

Go check this story out. Seriously, go right now and read it.

1609368977. “Heads Will Roll” by Lish McBride

Lena’s not your typical animal trainer. And when she and her unicorn partner, Steve, decide to enter a fight, it’s definitely not your typical fight….

Lena and her unicornis companion “Phantom”, cheekily named “Steve” in reality, have entered into a dangerous cage fighting tournament that pits endangered mythological creatures against one another in order to fight for freedom from the inside. Things go successfully, though not entirely predictably, according to plan.

“That was the thing about humans. They found it so easy to discard the implausible and the unbelievable. People ignored anything that made them uncomfortable. A forgetful, ungrateful race that looked at unicorns and saw purity, and looked at me and saw the weakness they thought inherent in my sex. Gone is the memory of the unicorn as the protector of the forest, the guardian of the weak and innocent. Vanished are the warrior women of antiquity. The furies. The morrigan. The valkyries. Violence was in our blood, but humans have forgotten all that.”

McBride certainly wasn’t kidding when she titled this story. Violence, carnage, and pandemonium abound and it’s frickin’ fantastic. Lena and Steve make a wonderful pair of fantastical vigilantes bringing the fight to the people and creatures on the wrong side of celestial law, kicking ass and taking names when they have the time. I definitely would look forward to reading about more of their adventures in a longer-form narrative. I’ll have to investigate and see if McBride has anything like that in mind. Hmmmm.

And once again, another chapter in the epic saga of the Tor Let’s Read is concluded. These three have got to be some of the heaviest hitters in this series so far, I sincerely hope they only get better from here on out because this is quality of writing is nuts. I’m still up in the air as to which three stories I’ll be doing for my next installment. Weird shit or Weird Noire? Heads or Tails? A flip of the coin, a decision suspended in mid-air….

See you next Sunday, September 29th!

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter: ‘A Case To End All Cases’

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‘The Vanishing of Ethan Carter’ is a first-person, supernatural horror game from “The Astronauts“, an independent game developer that, like so many its other peers, was formed by ex-employees of a major video-game developer (in this case Epic Studios-owned “People Can Fly, creators of Painkiller and Bulletstorm). The game first showed up as a blip on my radar when Kirk Hamilton wrote a Kotaku post focusing on the developer’s impressive online promotional comic this past July.

Impressive digitally-painted panels, disillusioned noir-infused dialogue, and a beautiful  low-key piano track looping in the background do much to stir one’s initial curiosity, but do little in the way of holding one’s attention. So it got shuffled to the back of my memory. Until now.

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Our hero seems to be in a bit of trouble.

The Astronauts have released the first formal batch of screenshots for the game since their announcement and they do look gorgeous. In “The Vanishing”, players assume the role of “retired” paranormal private detective Paul Prospero (AKA the man taking it easy in the promotional comic).  

Prospero has been enlisted to investigate the disappearance of Ethan Carter, a young boy who had contacted previously about strange markings and paranormal activity in his hometown. While on the case, he must contend with foes both human and anything but to get to the heart of the truth behind Carter’s disappearance. The game is said to be built around a “Weird Fiction” angle, a sub-genre of speculative fiction centered around the absurd and disturbing erosion of an otherwise tepid reality by malicious “alien” forces.

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I suppose the main draw of my attention stems from the way the game’s presentation, from its story to its location and even to its graphics, seem to emulate the vibe and aesthetic of Remedy Entertainment’s Alan Wake, one of my favorite games of this past generation. A jaded every-man thrown into a rural setting slowly being twisted and corroded by malevolent supernatural forces that apparently only he can sense or stop? Looks like a dead ringer to me.

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But seriously though, I sure there’s more than enough variety between the two titles to differentiate them despite initial appearances. I’m hungry for an experience like Alan Wake, a psychological-horror experience laden with niche pop-cultural and classic horror literature references. Linked below is tantalizing and subtly unsettling  promo video for the game. I don’t like the looks of that teddy bear.

According to The Astronauts’ Website, “The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is inspired by the weird fiction stories and other tales of macabre of the early 20th century”, and  is a game “to be played at night, alone, and with headphones, coming to PC in 2013.”

With the release of a new generation of consoles and high-profile first party titles, I wonder how a niche horror title from a small team will fair in the last quarter of 2013. Still, I’m optimistic and look forward to seeing what The Astronauts can offer us in the months ahead.

You can check out The Astronauts’ Official Website Here, as well as the the Game’s Impressive Promo Comic Here.

Let’s Watch Legend of Korra: Season 2 Predictions

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[This post will contain spoilers for the ‘Avatar’ series up until the first episode of Season 2. This goes without saying, but even so. You have been forewarned.]

One of my favorite shows of 2012 was ‘Legend of Korra’, the successor to the Nickelodeon smash-hit series Avatar: The Last Airbender which aired from Spring 2005 to Fall 2008. The series follows the adventures of the eponymous Korra, a seventeen-year old “water bender” and the reincarnation of the previous series’ protagonist Aang.

The Avatar is a human being endowed with the ability to manipulate the forces of nature (Air, Water, Earth, Fire) and acts as a mediating force of balance between not only the separate nations of mankind, but also as the human emissary to the Spirit world. Last season, Korra came into here own by mastering all four of the elements (a trial that each Avatar must complete) and defeated Amon, the reclusive masked orchestrator  of  technologically advanced secessionist movement hell-bent on usurping the Bender-dominated government of Republic City (Avatar’s equivalent to New York/Shanghai) and installing a regime of fascism under the guise of “equality”.

One of the reasons why ‘Korra’ appealed to me so much, more even than its predecessor series,  is because it was able to astutely depict the stark philosophical dichotomy between two opposing yet complimentary forms of Fascism (Oligarchy of Natural Talents vs. Faux-Egalitarianism) all under the guise of a teen-drama animated series.

That’s damn impressive, and serves as another palpable example in the argument that animation, no matter what the intended audience, is capable of inciting significant and insightful debate and reflection in many audiences regardless of age group (if they would only give it a chance!)

But I’m digressing from the intention of this article. I’m not here to convince you to watch Legend of Korra (though a polite nudge of suggestion doesn’t hurt), but rather to offer my own predictions, hopes, and expectations for the second season, which just last Friday aired its one hour season premiere and will continue to air throughout the rest of 2013. The hour-long premiere offered the promise of multiple new faces, the return of older and more significant players, and the incitement of a Civil War waged within a larger natural disaster that Korra must face. So without further prologue, let’s get started…

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1. Koh the Face Stealer will be a major player in the struggle between the Human and Spirit world.

The title of this year’s season is “Spirits’. Every season of Avatar including the first season of Korra has been named after one of the four elements of the planet. With the conclusion of last year’s season, The Avatar must move forward to become a major player in not only the human world but also the spirit world. But there are other threats that vie to eliminate or manipulate the Avatar to further their own aims. One of the most deadly spiritual adversaries the Avatar has encountered is Koh the Face Stealer, a gigantic anthropomorphic centipede with the androgynous face of a human. Koh can adopt the face and form of whoever he consumes, and will murder and consume any person who exhibits fear or emotion within his domain.

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With the albeit totally confirmed reappearance of the giant Owl Wan Shi Tong and his ethereal library of forbidden knowledge, I think it’s safe to assume that Koh will be a major force in the conflict between the Human and Spirit world. Why?  Because he’s one of the most powerful, malevolent, and enigmatic characters in the world of Avatar, and a perfect spirit world counterpart to Korra’s uncle Unalaq in filling the void left by Amon’s departure (We’ll get to him in a sec…). He already has a known history of encounters with two previous incarnations of the Avatar, neither of which were ended on particularly pleasant terms. He’s killed the wife of one of the past incarnations of the Avatar, Korra’s water-bender predecessor Kuruk. I think it’s only a matter of time before we see this guy pop up again, and when we do it will most likely be no good.

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2. We have not seen the last of Amon and Tarrlock.

Speaking of Amon, I don’t think he’s gone yet. Or his brother Tarrlock for that matter either.  Although both of these important tragic figures died in the last episode of the previous season, in perhaps one of the darkest and unsettling moments in the entire series, I don’t believe that they’re gone for good. Why you might ask? Simple. Amon and Tarrlock live on in the spirit world, and perhaps in one way or another will come to help Korra achieve balance between the two worlds. Amon was one of the fiercest, morally-opaque and compelling villains that the show has ever produced. The initial question of his identity and his subsequent popularity among the show’s fan-base catapulted ‘Korra’ to a level of popularity not even seen by ‘Avatar’. Seeing a repentant “post-megalomaniacal” Amon living out in the spirit world is too tantalizing an opportunity to pass on. And Tarrlock…well, one can’t exist without the other, can they?

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3. Varrick will either prove to be a duplicitous snake-in-the-grass, or a surprisingly noble ally to the cause of peace.

Look at this guy’s face. His weaselly, self-serving demeanor. His utter disregard for anything other than himself. If ever I saw the face of an unapologetic snake-oil salesman, it’s Varrick. But ‘Korra’ has done nothing if not defy expectations of character morality. Asami, the tragic but stalwart advocate of peace and coexistence is a championed example of this. I could be reading Varrick all wrong, I’ll openly admit to that. The determining factor of a static or dynamic character is in evidenced in how they do or do not change throughout the course of a story. I’ve only seen about one episode of this guy; an over-enthusiastic buffoon with way too glowing an opinion of himself. I’ll suspend my skepticism until I’m proven right.

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4. Anyone’s Guess.

Anything other than that is an open-ended guess on my part. One of the major emphasis of this season will be relationships, especially those familial. Korra will have to act as a unifying force between the culturally warring factions of her people, evolve through her conflicted respect and resentment for her Air-bending mentor Tenzin, her relationship to the spirit world and her Avatar predessecors (especially that of Aang and Wang, the first Avatar), her budding yet troubled relationship with Mako,  and her relationship with herself. Getting older, wiser, assuming responsibilities. Growing up.

I’m really looking forward to the new places this season is going to bring fans of the show, both literally and thematically. And even if you’re not a ‘Korra’ fan or have never seen an episode of the original series, I highly suggest you give it a shot. Take it from a late-comer, it’s not as hard as you think to catch up on the important stuff 😉

‘SUPERHOT’ is an Inspired, Downright Infuriating Action-Puzzle Shooter

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Holy crap, that was a trip. When can I play it again?!

SUPERHOT is a short, browser-based First-Person shooter set within a white walled, unconnected set of nondescript corridors and warehouse. The main draw of the game is in its use of time and movement, namely that time will slow to a crawl and in some cases outright stop as you stand still, speeding up and resuming its natural state only when you begin moving yourself. The game had already premiered earlier this year, becoming a showcase winner at the WGK 2013 Game Developers conference, and with the effusive praise of tech writers and veteran gaming icons alike I can totally see why.


“Brilliant. FPS where time moves only when YOU move. Slick, clean, even the tutorials don’t f&#k around.”
Cliff Bleszinski, Co-creator Jazz Jackrabbit, Unreal, Gears of War.

“Like you’re playing through Quentin Tarantino’s version of the Mad Men opening credits.”
Philippa Warr, Wired

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“Imagine a FPS where time only moves when you do? Oh, it’s been done. #superhotgame”
@PeterMolydeux

“…like Braid With Guns”
Mark Serrels, Kotaku

By way of this short online proof of concept, the developers behind SUPERHOT have created the abstract minimalist video-game equivalent to a John Woo action film. SUPERHOT combines the frenetic chaos of a cinematic shootout with the meticulous precision and coordination of a puzzle game.

The developers are currently petitioning for the game to be selected for the Steam Greenlight program. If they get enough support, a full-fledged version of this game could be commercially released, and wouldn’t that just make one mistake (i.e. the absence of such a game) all right and well in the world?

Seriously, go play this game, it’s wicked fun!

http://superhotgame.com

And go vote for it on Steam Greenlight!

http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=177990278

#SUPERHOT

Let’s Read The Tor Stories: Week 2

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I think that this might just become an unofficial routine of this series. Pick one from the site’s current roster, two from the actual ebook collection. I am nothing if not a creature of habit. In this next installment we’ve got ghosts, fish tentacles, cold war threats, and mice made of dynamite!* Read on and read well, dear reader…

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Ø. “Warm Up” by V.E. Schwab

David is a man who, after surviving a terrible accident during a mountain climb, is mysteriously endowed with psychokinetic abilities. Naturally, his ressurection from “death” and his dangerously unfocused powers put a strain on his marriage and family life, with his wife Samantha taking his son and leaving him for their own safety. After 297 days of self-imposed isolation, David ventures into the outside world to continue living his life and possibly find answers. But there are other forces at work beyond David’s comprehension, many of which do not have his immediate safety as one of their priorities.

This was a pretty intriguing and simple story. The use of “29- days since…” as a narrative refrain connecting David’s past, present, and future actions was a interesting and effective way of hooking the reader’s attention, giving them a set of constants in which to piece around the chronology of the story. I feel like this sets the stage for a world with elements that are likely to be continued on in a novel, filled with super-humans battling it out to regain a shred of normalcy or carving out a new form of “post-normalcy.” Warm Up ended on a terrific cliffhanger and I can’t wait to read more of this universe in Victoria Schwab’s novel “Vicious”.

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3. “Foundation” by Ann Aguire

I think I can confidently look back and point to this story’s artwork in particular as one of the moments that seriously put Tor.com’s original content on my radar.

In Ann Aguirre’s award-winning novel, Enclave , humans have taken refuge in colonies below ground. “Foundation” is the story of what drove them there, told through the eyes of a teen who would later have vast influence over the fate of many, and who gave his heart to the one person who needed him most.

The main character, Robin Schiller, grows to make a life for herself in the enclaves. After being isolated for years alongside her mother and father, Robin comes in contact with a young boy named Austin who becomes her friend and confidante.  There are more people living in the enclave, twenty-six in total, who must learn to work together in rebuilding a sense of community and shared sanity. Disease and desperation run rampant, the world is seemingly pushed beyond the point of repair, and eventually all of those left must venture out of the confines of the enclave into a world that is so much stranger, sadder, and predatorial.

A decent enough short story, I wish that more in the way of actual events happened but given the main environment is a vacuum-sealed disease shelter one can’t reasonably complain too much. Robin seems like an interesting character, I wish I got to know a different side of her from the latter half of “Foundation”. Perhaps later I might venture reading Ann Aguire’s continuation series, “Razorland.”

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4. “The Department of Alterations” by Gennifer Albin

Karoline Swander is the wife of a high-ranking minister  in the fictional city of Arras. Arras is a obviously a profoundly patriarchal place, as women are aggressively pressured to be demure, silent, and subservient to the demands of their husbands.

 she is for some reason incapable of bearing children, and her husband resents her for compromising his social standing by “withholding” a family from him. Because of this,  Karoline has enlisted a “tailor” to perform an operation that will allow her to give birth. Things do not go entirely as expected.

Apparently this story is also a mini-prologue to a novel by the same author titled “Crewel”, and in that sense I feel that “Foundation” is superior. It would seem that one would have to have already read or been aware of the novel in order to fully understand or enjoy “Alterations”, as I felt that many vague broad strokes of world-building were implied but never fully went about “building” a world for me. I have no idea what the city of Arras is like, aside from how they treat their women.  I don’t know what a “Loom” is, I don’t know who Ambassador Cormac Patton or his army of thick-necks are, or for that matter what exactly  “The Department of Alterations” really is and how it pertains to this story.

I would have liked it if there was more in the way of this story in framing for me the severity and stakes of Karoline’s “treason”, why such an action is treasonous at all,  and perhaps other aspects that would flesh out the personality of her husband and home-life.

I wish I could say that this story was as provocative or as gorgeously macabre as the artwork, courtesy of Goni Montes. I wish I could read the story that artwork is trying to tell, because it’s not this one.  So far right now, the only incentive I might have to venture reading “Crewel” is Montes’ visuals, not Albin’s prose.

*One or more of those descriptions may have been a outright, bald-faced lie!

A little late on this one. This is what the Sunday/Monday afternoon grace deadline is for! It just so happened that coincidentally, each of these short stories was in a way a promotion for a upcoming long-form continuation. Though the success of execution varies from story to story in that regard, overall the majority of these stories were quite enjoyable. Roll on to the next batch!

See you next Sunday, September 22nd!

Kickstarter Highlight: ‘Hyper Light Drifter’

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I hope that readers won’t think that I have some superficial infatuation with dark premises, cloaked anti-heroes, neon-tinged graphics and pixelated art styles. I just thoroughly enjoy them, and think that they look cool 😉

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Should have brought a guitar…

“Hyper Light Drifter” is a top-down action platformer that feels reminiscent of SuperGiant Games’ Bastion meets the aforementioned art style of SuperBrothers’ Sword & Sworcery and thematically inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s landmark 1984 film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Naturally, that all sounds like a strong batch of delicious nerd gumbo, and all that is brought you by Alex Preston and Beau Blyth, who worked on the upcoming 2014 multiplayer samurai fighting game “Samurai Gunn” (which looks bad-ass in and of itself), and a core team including two music and sound designers (Disasterpeace and Baths).

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I think I see an Evangelion “Angel” in there somewhere…

Drifters of this world are the collectors of forgotten knowledge, lost technologies and broken histories. Our Drifter is haunted by an insatiable illness, traveling further into the lands of Buried Time, steeped in blood and treasure hoping to discover a way to quiet the vicious disease. Echos of a dark and violent past from the dead eras resonate throughout and he can’t help but listen.

The graphical design reminds me vaguely of the music video for ‘Aldgate Patterns‘ by Little People, where a nomadic wanderer with a weird geometric mask goes on a search for his long-lost memories, stored on a floppy disk.

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Automaton Golem

The game is projected to release in June of next year, and has already reached its initial goal of $27,000 as of its first day! The team is still looking for funding pledges beyond though, with stretch goals that include expanded levels, hiring additional animators, fleshing out the music score, more enemies to fight and more weapons and gear to fight them with!

If you’re interested (C’mon, how could you not be?!), Check out their Kickstarter page and consider becoming a backer.

Is that a God Warrior I see in the corner?(!)

Is that a God Warrior I see in the corner?(!)