“The Halloween Tree”: A Love-Letter to Ray Bradbury

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Portrait by Lou Romano

“We are an Impossibility in an Impossible Universe”

I don’t remember when Ray Bradbury’s stories entered my life. It’s one of those strange occurrences where an author of a book, a object that does not exist naturally but through the effort and persistence of the human need to communicate, becomes a static fixture of your life simply for having existed from so early on in it. Bradbury for me, and undoubtedly countless other readers and writers, remains an enduring testament to the power of stories and how they can reveal not only the character of their conduit (as all authors are in some way the siphon of their environment) but shape our own.

Ray Bradbury was an author with the rare talent of coaxing a particular emotion out of even the most stoic of adult hearts estranged from the whimsicality inherent in youth. He was able, through his stories and his poetry, to bend back the folds of time however temporarily and transport his readers to that mythic phantom country between the borders of childhood and adolescence.

Reading a Bradbury story we miraculously, as if by some magical force, are compelled to shed our disapproving tastes and sour dispositions as though shucking a calloused husk we have come to call adulthood. We suspend our disbelief willing and delve into worlds of both horror and honesty, of virtue and imagination. Bradbury had never, as Einstein would have put it, “lost a holy curiosity” but instead imbued that sense of precocious wonder of the unsaddled heart in each of his books.

Ray Bradbury, maybe even more so than C.S. Lewis and R.L. Stine and J.K. Rowling (Seriously, what’s up with these double-initial pen-names), first taught me how to imagine as a kid. I remember reading excerpts from Fahrenheit 451 and being awed by the vision of a kerosene-soaked fireman named Guy Montag, silhouetted against the the blazing light of a door frame torched in the radiant heat of a thousand burning books, saying nothing else but simply,

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“Why would someone ever burn a book?” I asked my teacher when she read it to my class. “Because…because ideas can scare people, Toussaint.” And looking back I love her for giving me that answer almost as much as I love Bradbury for giving me with that question.

To name Bradbury’s body of work is to name a series of enduring classics, stories as immovable and ephemeral as the gesture of pointing to the stars at night to chart the shape of constellations.

The Martian Chronicles. Fahrenheit 451. Dandelion Wine. The Illustrated Man. Death is a Lonely Business. Golden Apples of the Sun. Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Each name conjures up a memory of reading from my childhood, or of watching these stories performed in my later years, as Bradbury was a writer prolific not only for his writing but for the wide enduring love of his adapters and collaborators. But there is one book of his that I regrettably have never read in it’s entirety. However Through my off-hand occasions of catching the tail-end of an animated adaptation by chance, this story has stuck with me not only because it speaks volumes about the origin of Bradbury’s creative well but also, simply, about the stubborn enduring persistence of love and friendship.

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The Halloween Tree is the story of eight children who seek to save their mutual friend Pipkin on the eve of Halloween Night. I remember the jack-o-lantern ornaments baubled on the ends of string tied to the jutting forked branches of the Halloween Tree. I remember a child stepping perilously over the edge of a broken cathedral step only for a block of cement to rush up to meet his feet as if by magic, I remember the looming specter of Mr. Moundshroud and the barter of a year of life each for the life of a friend. I didn’t know why this story resonated with me so much, having only seen a smattering of disconnected scenes formed into an impression of understanding, but now in my young adulthood, late but never too late, I think I do.

The Halloween Tree is Ray Bradbury’s love letter to childhood, to his favorite holiday, to the simple enduring virtues of our youth and how they resonated long into our adult lives. Halloween is a time where we shed one mask and choose one of our own. For a night, we celebrate the impermanence of identities, emulate the shape of our darkest fears with some measure of reassurance of the binding of their substance. How with enough face-paint and a keen re-purposing of used clothing we can utterly transform ourselves, if only for a night.

I’m going to quote from one of my favorite shows The Venture Brothers, where at the end of a one-hour special the character of Dr. Orpheus imparts the true meaning of Halloween on a company of his supernatural compatriots,

This is a night of true magic. Halloween is the night we discover who we are. Are we people who make zombie armies. Are we those who condemn others? Or are we beautiful children in resplendent costumes collecting candy? Are our choices in costumes provocative? Do we dress up as our ideal self? Or are we not ready to decide what to be? Do you see it now? We use this one enchanted night to perform the greatest feat of magic there is. We become ourselves. Halloween is the true magic. It is the night we discover who we really are!

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I love you Ray Bradbury. We love you, and miss you dearly.

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Awesome Robo Post Recap (10/30/13)

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Hey guys. Sorry I’ve been away for so long. I was supposed to post Week 7 of the Tor Let’s Read Yesterday afternoon, but you know the song and dance by now. It’ll be up later tonight, baring unforeseen acts of calamity, but in the meantime I wanted to stay true to my word and offer the first of will likely be many recap article posts in the future. If you’re looking for a trove of posts about cool -ish to fill the space of a half-hour, here they be.

Catch you on the other side of the coin,

Toussaint

Let’s Read The Tor Stories: Week 6

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Hello Internet! My apologies for being MIA these past couple of weeks. While on route to Mars from Noir-ville, rocketing through the icky blackness in my slipspace-podship , I accidentally ricocheted down the gravitational drainpipe of a worm-hole and found myself spat out into a multi-verse of high-fantasy and  political tumult. You know what they say about “Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men.” Weeping monarchs, child clairvoyants, and young girls in love for the most worrisome of reasons. Love in all its dimensions. Hold on to your heartstrings folks, Week 6 has finally woken up.

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70. Uncle Flower’s Homecoming Waltz by Marissa K. Lingen

In the war that never ends, dreaming the future is not an unmixed blessing.

Zally is a 12-year old girl whose dreams offer snippets of the future, centuries after her lifetime. She is not alone in this; Her grandmother is a year dreamer who works in the divination sector of the capital, so she’s acquired a sort of luxury in life attached to her position. The world of ‘Homecoming Waltz’ is one where humans have found a way to alter their brain chemistry to elucidate and consciously focus their dreams in divining the future, a sort of astral projection. Zally is ecstatic for the return of her Uncle Flower, a paternal figure to her who has been away at war for nearly two thirds of her life. At Flower’s reception, Zally moves to embrace her long-absent Uncle, seeking to impress him. But Flower’s is a changed man, addled by the shell-shock of warfare and profoundly disturbed by how the manipulation of dreams has stolen the last respite of innocence from everyone, even his beloved niece.

I really liked this story, and I had a feeling I would as soon as I read the first paragraph,

My grandmother says all stories begin with a death. My grandfather says with a birth. And Aunt Albert says they’re both wrong, and stories begin with someone not getting what they want.
But no one was born, and no one died, and I got what I wanted, and that is where this story begins.

Uncle Flower’s Homecoming Waltz is captivating story about a fictional society that has monopolized and mobilized their own dreams in the service of sustaining their nation, and the assorted costs and causalities attached to such an action. Zally wants so much to prove herself an adult in the eyes of her mentor, to have him shine praise for the sacrifice of her innocence in being trained to become a seer. But Flower does not want his niece to be swallowed by the same machine of war that he himself was just narrowly spat out of. Zally is perturbed by this, feeling that she can make no choice that is her own and no one else’s. Eventually, the crossroads of life deem that they must part once again. Flower, a man changed by war. Zally, a woman changed for their encounter, standing on the cusp of it.

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117. Beauty Belongs to the Flowers by Matthew Sanborn Smith

In Miho’s world, nanos, plastic surgery, and robot girlfriends can fix just about anything…or break it.

In a future Nagasaki, Miho is a young woman who just wants to be loved by her beloved. Her father lies in a hospitable quarantined behind an air pocket of isolating fabric, a well-respected causality of a faultily contained nano-virus. His death marks the death of her family life and the death of her meager quality of life. But Miho wants nothing more than for Ichiro to love her. If only she could be beautiful or, as one of their mutual friends so delicately put it, if she didn’t look so plain and homely maybe then Ichiro might love her. And so Miho sacrifices her body for love, and tragically we all know the end to this story.

Matthew Sanborn Smith creates a beautifully engrossing portrait of ill-infatuation set against the backdrop of a living breathing city. I’ve never been to Nagasaki, but everything in this novelette felt like a plausible prediction of what a hyper-advanced eastern metropolis would look like. Water-slicked pavement doused in the reflection of looming neon billboards, seedy shops and curios burrowed out of the walls of thin, packed-in alleyways. Consumer technology so advanced and so pervasive that wanton desire becomes simultaneously a thing of the past and an all-consuming present obsession. And unfortunately for Miho, the chase for nebulous unattainable standard of “Beauty” becomes her own undoing.

True beauty fell beyond the reach of natural evolution. A lady at the salon had explained that. Nature was full of hairs and moles and flaking skin. It operated accidentally. But humans had evolved the appreciation of beauty, built from an amalgam of living samples. Humans could bring its elements together and set them in stone. Before human invention, there had been no sleek skin, no symmetry down to the micron or grace that only a digital brain and artificial muscles could achieve.

Before technology there had been no real beauty. Miho could do it all if she had the money…

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109. A Weeping Czar Beholds The Fallen Moon by Ken Scholes

After untold ages of futurity, the world is old. Regret is endless. Deceit is ubiquitous. And for the Weeping Czar, love is new.

Lord Czar Frederico XIII has just lost the thirteenth great love his life. Mistress Jazrel of the Espira region has claimed her own life with poison, plagued by the grief that her affections and love could do nothing to cure her lover of the weeping disease that has seized his family for generations. In order to belay dissent and sustain the morale of his people, the Czar conspires with his Minsters of Interior and Intelligence to implicate “The Lunar Resurgence” for the fabricated conspiratorial murder of his beloved, a faction of ascetic moon-worshipers who have long been a minority opposition to the ruling government of Espira. During an organized raid of their local temple, the troops find a shining crescent horn of unknown origin and material that shakes the Czar to his core. Through this horn, the Czar begins a liason across the folds of space and time with a young noblewoman by the name of Amal Y’Zir, daughter of the Great Blood Wizard Raj Y’Zir. And for a time, the Czar knows a feeling called ‘Love’ once again.

I really liked this story for two reasons. One, the world is an intriguing mix of feudalism and aristocratic suspense. Watching the reluctant Czar being courted off to a room of eager female suitors, only to succumb to the grief of losing Jazrel and losing himself in drunken isolation was pretty captivating. Ken Scholes has a way with language that shapes the Czar as a captivating and compassionate character despite the inequity of his official practices. His budding impossible romance with Amal was both intriguing and heartbreaking. I can’t wait to read the Psalms of Isaak series and see what else happens in this world.

I am changing. He felt more confident; found himself doubting less in his own decisions. The fog of the sadness was lifting from him now.

And it came from the slip of a girl who believed he was a ghost.

Until her, he thought, perhaps I was.

And that concludes Week 7 of the Tor Let’s Re….wait, no. No, that’s not right. Well, God damn it.

Yes, I know. I’ve now missed two weeks worth of installments in this series. The outside world (school, home, career, etc.) takes precedence. But don’t count me down and out yet, I have a surprise for you! Week 7 and Week 8 will be posted as intended throughout this next week. Look forward to two Tor Let’s Reads this Tuesday and Thursday, with some long-belated shorter pieces interspersed between the two! You know I wouldn’t leave you, Internet.

Also, If you happen to have take a choice glance at the bottom-or-so-right of this blogspace, you may have noticed somewhere in that scrolling stream of spur-of-the-moment aphorisms that, hence forth after this week, I’ve officially extended the weekly deadline for future installments in the Tor Let’s Read to Wednesdays instead of Thursdays.  It’s proven to be almost depressingly more convenient, I have more time to read these stories and comment on them during the work week than I do on the actual weekends when all I have to do is homework and the occasional social obligation *sigh*. But yeah, rest assured that nothing’s derailing this train of speculative literature. We chug along, we chug hard.

See you tomorrow, October 29th!

RE: Awesome Robo and the topic of future updates!

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Hi internet people! How have you been?

If you haven’t noticed (Which, in hindsight I don’t know how you could have possibly of noticed but still), I’ve been welcomed into the folds of the fine gentlemanly-folks at Awesome Robo! Awesome Robo is an Arts & Entertainment news blog primarily focused on showcasing the work of phenomenal digital and mixed-media artists across the Internet, super awesome animated shorts and music videos, as well as the occasional bad-ass, aesthetically unique video-game titles!

Naturally, for the past two weeks I’ve been writing for these guys, I’ve been over the moon with excitement and possessed with an even more insatiable hunger to share all the cool shit that I think is, well Awesome. But a nagging persistent thought-virus has somehow bypassed the eleven firewalls of euphoria surrounding my personal responsibility cortex, and that thought has become a question,

“What does this mean for ‘Sifting Through Patterns’?”

Naturally, I’ve had this blog-space for over two years now. At first, only sporadically posting the occasional long-form media essay, the overly effusive nerd-gushing of deft computer-mediated-communication, the long-standing but ultimately abandoned Let’s Read series of soul-crushing angst (We’re not talking about the Tor Let’s read here, we’re talking about Oryx and Crake).

So what’s the future of this blog, and where do I want to see it in the future?

The answer is that yes, I am still going to be writing long-form editorial essays nerd-gushing about all the films, books, games and other cool shit that I want. Short-form features however will be re-purposed henceforth to the Awesome Robo initiative, to feed the fuel tanks of our gigantic cavalier Jaegar-bot so that we can stand and fight against the threat of the deadly boredom-inducing Kaiju.

From time to time, I’ll post a bi-weekly update collecting all my Awesome Robo posts to parse through like so much attractive fruit at the farmers market that is the Internet. I’m still doing the Tor Let’s Read, I’m working on a new Modest Proposal following the successful reception towards my Gargoyle one (It’s gonna take awhile though), AND I have a bunch more upcoming long-form essays and feature series I want to boot up as soon as I get the monkey that is my Undergraduate college career off my damn back. And yes, there’s the elusive long-term goal of original short-form fiction writing standing aloof at the cusp of the horizon…Almost there.

As a sign of goodwill for having read-through even a tiny chunk of this post, here are the few articles I’ve posted for Awesome Robo since I’ve started;

So yeah, That’s my Ally Mc-Spiel on that! Looking forward to posting more awesome content in the immediate future, no matter where I hang my hat.

Take it easy,

Toussaint

Let’s Read The Tor Stories: Week 5

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There I was, sitting with my feet propped up on my desk one dark Monday morning, chipping away at the last third of Nick Harkaway’s Angelmaker when she walked through my door. And by “She”, I mean three new stories out of the Tor Anniversary Collection.

Each of them was a  sordid character in their own right; an assorted rogues’ gallery of lovable misfits with more stories than they cared to share. Pouting paragraphs, snarling sentences, and the shape of secrets perpetually enshrouded in the silhouette shade of Venetian blinds. I should have known they were trouble from the start. As a matter of fact, I did. But a case is a case, and week five of the Tor stories waits for no-one. Kick your feet up and sit a spell, I got a tale to spin for ya…

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47. The Strange Case of Mr. Salad Monday by G.D. Falksen

Inspector Wilde is a rabid fan of tit-tat, the broadsheet arguments that get printed several times a day; the Chief Inspector thinks he’s an idiot, but Wilde’s strange reading habits may just crack this case wide open.

The world of “Mr. Salad Monday” is a Neo-Victorian steampunk metropolis divided into a series of multi-stratified columns, all governed over by a censorship state comprised of “peace-keepers” and “special peace-keepers” who call themselves “the Legion of Peace.” Inspector Wilde is a benign cog in this otherwise lumbering totalitarian machine, occupying most of his time reading through the open-gossip columns of newspapers and chatting up the Chief Investigator’s blushing secretary Marguerite. But when a un-crackable case of supreme treason and sedition is foisted on the Legionaries, it’s Wilde’s peculiar hobby that offers him the tools to see “Justice” done.

I don’t know why, but my impression was pretty lukewarm to this story at first. That is, until I got to the meat of world-building that Falksen offers through Wilde’s clumsy yet comprehensive exposition about what exactly “Tit-Tat” is to his commanding officer. Then I was laughing my ass off.

“Tit-Tat” is basically a satirical print media equivalent  to the Internet forum phenomena (4chan, Reddit, Usenet, etc.), a series of publications that “refreshes” everyday through periodic issues posted three to four times a day. “Tit-tat” pokes fun at, or perhaps sheds an uncompromising light of truth on the habits of human conflict through written argumentation, with Tit-tat scuffles known to stretch on for days or weeks with no end in sight. People have their own inclusive acronym lingo (IMOT; ‘eye-moth: “It is my opinion that…” or IHN: “In Heaven’s name…“) Corresponding strings of response comments are tacked with code numbers (i.e. trip-codes, time-stamps), and persistent commentators attract an aura of prestige and begrudging respect for their terse insults and quippish reparte. One of these Tit-tat heavyweights is “Mr. Salad Monday”, a person of indistinguishable gender or origin seemingly as old as the Tit-tat itself, that no-one knows quite for sure who they are. Until now.

What started out as a straight-laced, albeit fantastical detective drama later became an “Existential Thriller” akin to that of G.K. Chestorton’s “The Man Who Was Thurday.” In hindsight,  I suspect that the use of week-days as a naming convention was likely intentional on Falksen’s part in order to illicit such a comparison.

But who is this mysterious Mr. Salad Monday; This socialist sympathizer, this instigator of public dissent,  champion agitator of civil liberties, health-care, and  the voice of the people?

You wouldn’t believe me even if I told you. Falksen’s definitely on my radar now, this story certainly didn’t get published by mistake.

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50. A Clean Sweep With All The Trimmings by James Alan Gardner

Award-winning science fiction author James Alan Gardner brings us Damon Runyon-esque tale of courteous guys, bulletproof dolls, and the fedora-clad spacemen that bring them together.

An un-named cleaner in a retro-futuristic New York is tasked with disposing the body of a ventilated, formerly homicidal “spaceman” in a robotic brothel. A professional; he is asked and promptly delivers the specialty of his trade, “A Clean Sweep With All The Trimmings”, cleaning up the evidence of the spaceman and planting diversionary evidence to throw the “J Edgar Hoovers” off the scent of alien blood. It’s a standard job, that is until he meets Kitty, the “bullet-proof doll.” A “Doll” like that can make a man’s head all screwy, and our unlikely hero is five different shades of smitten. Then the spacemen come.

This was a very convincing, very “noir” story with a great deal of science-fictional creative license. One thing about reading alternate history speculative fiction is that the reader is constantly coaxed into finding the fork in the road, the point where the timeline diverged down the alleyway of olive-suited, fedora-totting, green-blooded spacemen with palm lasers and a replicant woman whose physical features and abilities morph in response to external male psychic stimuli. I myself couldn’t, but it hearing pistols referred to as “John Roscoes” and an interplanetary force of G-men collectively as “Mr. J Edgar Hoover” made me chuckle something fierce.

I thought Kitty herself was an interesting twist on the Detective story dame; a perfectly oblivious, tragically flawed Ingenue in every sense of the word. Totally aware of the mutability of her own body and personality by the external thoughts of men who desire her, but specifically designed to have no desire to change it. This rings with particularly sexist overtones to me, but I’ll have to think more on the objectives of the story before reaching a conclusion as to personal opinion. She reminds me a lot of the subject of the Electric Light Orchestra song, “Yours Truly,  2095.”

“There, there,” and one thing and another, but I do not think any man alive knows how to deal with persons of a female nature in such situations. When a doll cries, it is about something very small or very big, and both ways, a guy is out of his depth.

….

I Say, “Smile,” and she smiles so brightly, it is like she has never shed a tear in her life, even though her cheeks are still drippy.. I think of other things I can tell her to do, and she will likely perform those actions too, and once again I feel as sad as a sack, although this time it is for Kitty, not me. She is a book everyone gets to write in except herself.

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103. Jack And Queens At The Green Mill by Marie Rutkoski

Few know that the Great Chicago Fire was started deliberately, as a genocide of deadly creatures called Shades. Fewer still know that they didn’t die, not quite…but one human will confront the truth when an ominous beauty makes him gamble for his life.

On October 8th, 1874, in an alternate universe, the people of Chicago orchestrated the mass extinction of a race of amorphous creatures known as the “Shade.” This genocide was disguised under the pretense of a massive firestorm that near burnt the entire city to cinders, the so-called “Great Chicago Fire.” But this was not the end of the shadow war, as another alternate universe of Shades immediately felt the excruciating absence of an aspect of themselves; a sort of “phantom-limb” sensation of the body and soul. Zephyr is one of the last of the shades in this universe and is determined to amass a stockpile of weapons to go to war for the existence of her people. The only thing between her and what she wants however happens to be a young Mafia guard with a disfigured face and a knack for sweet-talk.

I was surprised with how short this story felt overall considering its approximate 32 page length. It was a total breeze, undemanding and wholly comprehensible. The explanation of the alternate universes and how the shades’ empathetic link allows them to feel and traverse across different dimensions could have been better explained, but overall it felt like a serviceable story.

The central “conflict” and it’s “resolution” felt a bit ham-handed. Why would Zephyr spare Joe? Some reluctant affection for an individual funneled through the misguided indignation and resentment of an entire race? I don’t know. It was an okay story though. Not great, not euphorically prosaic and life-affirming, just okay. Besides, for such an average story there’s a ton of really great descriptions and line in this one. And Okay stories are…okay. They do what any story is supposed to do, to brandish the words of Stephen King, “These are great stories, and we’re lucky to have them. To read Now, and maybe again Then, later on, when we need what only a good story has the power to do: to take us away to worlds that never existed, in the company of people we wish we were… or thank God we aren’t.”

“When I step into my body, it feels like water before it hardens into ice. Like silk before it’s stretched and stitched onto a wire frame and called a lampshade.”

“Silk and ice,” he said, running the words together so that they sounded likesilken ice. “That’s you, all right.”

….

“It doesn’t exist,” she said. “Jazz was never invented. And here . . . the Green Mill has the best jazz. Your employer demands the best.”

Music floated out. It infused the night, rich as brassy ozone, light as pattering rain. An upright bass plucked throbbing notes, a drummer brushed the cymbal, cartwheeled a stick across his set. Zephyr heard the trumpeter mute his horn, and it all flowed out into the alley, a music made of the unexpected. A loose-limbered sound, one that made a philosophy of choices, highlighting the fact of them by pretending they didn’t exist, by tripping lightly from one rhythm to the next, from key to key, as if nothing was certain, improvisation was everything, and practice was for fools.

Zephyr knew better. She knew that the musicians practiced for their master. But this was their art: to make their work seem like a game.

As I walked away from the exploded shipyard warehouse thrown up in a firestorm, roaring “Everything must go!”, I was relieved. My suit jacket ventilated by stray and true bullets, ballistic nubs of coarse metal compressed hard against the mesh of my bullet-proof vest. I was exhausted, my chest as heavy as a pound of cinder blocks, the incessant pulsing ring in my ears showing no signs of failure. But I was relieved. I won. Another installment in the Tor Let’s Read Series was behind me. Another job, well-done. I lugged my way back home and collapsed into bed. There was only one thought that traced my mind before I passed out,

“I’m dreaming…of a Red planet…”

See you next Sunday, October 13th!

Reasons Why ‘Gargoyles’ Deserves A Live-Action Adaptation

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For over a decade now, the eighties has basically become the strip-mine of popular culture, with Hollywood shilling out massive production budgets and promotional campaigns to appeal to a generation who has just now come of age into the peak of their spending power. These IP’s include, but certainty aren’t limited to,

  • Transformable action figures (Transformers *duh*)
  • Graphic Novel Superheroes (The Avengers, Watchmen, Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, X-Men, etc.)
  • Saturday morning cartoons (The Smurfs)
  • Acclaimed children books (The Lorax, Horton Hears a Who, Where The Wild Things are, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, etc.)
  • Even action-adventure comedy series’ and perfectly good movies that didn’t need a remake (The A-Team, Red Dawn)
  • And of course the tremulous ghost of things to come (Future Robocop, War Games, and Videodrome remakes, not to mention the absolutely unthinkable,*shudder* an AKIRA adaptation. In NEW YORK.) and I swear if I hear one more back to the future rumor, one more time…

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‘Routine’ is like a First-Person Dead-Space, except if it was actually Scary

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I don’t know exactly where or remember when I first heard about Lunar Software’s Routine, but I definitely know it’s stuck in my mind ever since. Routine is a neon-tinged, cerebral sci-fi first-person horror game set on an abandoned Moon base.  You play as an engineer responding to a distress call (sound familiar?) Your job is to find enough data to uncover the truth behind the strange disappearance of everyone stationed on the Lunar Research Station.

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The game’s website promises an immersive, non-linear experience exploring a derelict space station, deadzone ironsight aiming with a multi-use modular pistol, and a brutally merciless Permadeath system with full-body awareness accentuated with the awesome Oculus Rift peripheral. Run, Think, Hide, Shoot, and Survive against a host of psychotic drone robots, an automated security system dedicated to liberating your skin from your skeleton, and whatever unfathomable cosmic horror that happens to be left dead and dreaming beneath the station’s crisply antiseptic veneer.

Routine’s technically-exquisite Alpha footage brings to my mind two unapolegtically favorable comparisons.  The first is obviously Dead Space, but the second is a little more obscure. Nevertheless, this game looks like  what the original Dead Space should have played like.

Where Dead Space emphasized desensitizing, gratuitous body-horror devoid of the phantasmagoric nuance of the genre’s forebears, Routine looks promising because it puts atmosphere first, stoking the terrifying long draw of brewing fear past the brink of bearability before exploding into a fierce, deliberately disadvantageous confrontation. That, and it looks like you’ll actually be doing some actual engineering in this game (e.g. computer hacking, mechanical node switching, etc.) instead of just chopping Eldtrich flesh ghouls in half with comically-overpowered laser pointers.

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My other comparison is that of the 2012 Half-Life 2 mod  BLACK SNOW by Team MONOTHETIC. The BLACK SNOW mod is probably one of the most terrifying and thoroughly satisfying horror games I’ve ever played; a brilliant homage and diligently thought-out video game equivalent to John Carpenter’s The Thing. If Routine approaches even a fraction of BLACK SNOW’s execution, I’ll call it a victory for horror fans everywhere.

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Lunar Software have yet to announce a definitive release date, but odds are pretty favorable that with their recently ramped-up press initiative, the humming neon-saturated light at the end of this game’s long development tunnel is nearly in sight. Let’s hope for a Routine-rich end to 2013!

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