Archive for March, 2012

Armchair Author 1: Hungry for a dialogue on race

While waiting for the next Uni City chapter (should be up on Friday, for those of you on the edge of your seats), I thought I’d write up a brief post. 

I saw The Hunger Games this past weekend, like most people in the world did.  I really liked it.  This was one of those rare (yet increasingly more common) movies that I liked even better than their source material. 

Anyway, I’m going to introduce a new column: Armchair Author.  I’ve read the first two books of the series and I think the author missed at least one really interesting facet of her world that could have been focused on more closely.  Namely, District 11. 

I’ve talked about this in person when I was reading, but with all this press the institutional racists have been getting by tweeting surprise over Rue’s race, I figured I’d bring it up here too.  (Don’t know what I’m talking about there?   Check out this tumblr or this write-up.)

From what I remember in the books (the first two at least) Suzanne Collins made District 11 out to be an analogue of a huge plantation for the whole nation of Panem.  This is the district tasked with tending the crops and shipping them off to the other districts.  All the characters were described as dark skinned (despite what some tweeters remember from their klan book klubs).  It’s even mentioned that the District 11ers were harshly punished if they took any food for themselves.  What does this sound like to you?

It seemed like Collins was sending a racially charged message, but then didn’t really go anywhere with it.  There’s an entire race segregated into a ghetto-district, but race was such a nonissue in the novels that self-claiming fans missed that a main character was black. 

From my armchair I can safely say that, if I were writing it, The Hunger Games would have had a lot more to say about race in the future which would reflect more of how our own society sees (or doesn’t see) race. 

The Hunger Games did deal with a lot of issues—class, privacy, freedom, innocence, just to name a few—but I feel it would have been more rich if it spent some time on race too.

I might have to come back when I get around to reading the final book if they do address race more, but the perfect time to bring it up would have been the second book when District 11 riots (which the filmmakers snuck into the movie).  I guess I’ll have to wait and see. 

So, what do you think?  Do you wish race was more directly addressed?  Can you think of other sweeping changes that would have made The Hunger Games (movie or books) better?  (Like maybe making Katniss less annoying.)  Let me know in the comment section. 

 

Until next time, Story-friends.

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Apocalypse World: Uni City Chapter 2b

[Here’s the last half of the chapter as promised. Leave a comment if you like it. I’m having a blast. Check back at the end of next week for the next installment.]

OCTOBER

The gunshots echo through the market. The handful of Uni City residents that actually have enough extra crap to sell to others start packing up; some of them pull out weapons of their own, just in case.

October looks back at Tum Tum and contorts her face into something between pitiful and desperate.

She grabs Tum Tum’s hand across the rusted shopping cart that held the goods he was willing to sell.

“Tum Tum. Come with me. I’m scared.”

Was she? She had gotten so good at making her face show the expressions she wanted that it was sometimes hard for her to tell if she was making them up or not.

Tum Tum lets go of her hand and gets to work arranging his stock to be mobile. October walks around his cart to pull at his arm.

“Hurry. Please.”

She drenched her voice with need. Need to leave, need to fuck, need to feel again. Whatever it was, it made Tum Tum move that much faster.

They all but ran, with the cart in front of them, back to the library. Only when reinforced door slams behind them does October let herself smile. She embraces Tum Tum in the doorway, making an effort to push her breasts into him.

When she lets go several of Mr. Sunset’s girls surround them and eye the cart of food. October looks at Tum Tum. He hesitates for a moment, but then opens the makeshift lid of his cart for the girls. Tum Tum frowns at the swarm of hungry prostitutes grabbing the salted feather fish and clutches of otter eggs he had spent the better part of a week collecting.

October puts her hand on his arm again. “Don’t worry, I’m going to pay you, remember?” His frown melts into nervous excitement. He really should have known that October would cost him more than one barter.

October leads Tum Tum to her own room and starts lighting some old caramel colored candles and incense. Tum Tum rubs his nose as he sits down on her bed. More a pile of several soft objects covered with silk.

She turns around and flips off all her clothes in one motion as if a strong, yet smooth, breeze had blown them away.

Tum Tum stares at her and his mind goes blank.

He comes to after some grey, dizzy amount of time has passed. Maybe a few minutes, maybe a few years. He wonders if the sun is still up outside. Or if the sun will ever set again. Tum Tum realized that October is still laying next to him when she kisses him on his bulbous nose.

(Sex move. Hold 3.)

“Will you marry me?” he says.

October smiles and tosses her clothes back on. She doesn’t say no, but her face gently tells him how flattered she is by the gesture.

“You can sleep some if you’d like. Just make sure to blow out the flame before you leave. Thanks again, Tum Tum.”

As soon as she leaves she allows her smile to finally fade. A lesser person’s jaws would hurt from all the forces grinning, but if October was anything she wasn’t a lesser person.

October strolls out to the lobby. Missing, the girl-in-training is the only one there.

“Did Mr. Sunset ever come back, honey?”

Missing shakes her head. “Yeah, but he left again. We have Dice now. She’s a prisoner. Do you want some eggs?”

October bends down a bit to look Missing in the eyes and pluck a leathery egg that Missing offers her. “I’d love one, thank you.”

She casually walks back to Mr. Sunset’s office. A tall, muscular woman is in front of his door with a sawed off shotgun.

“Hi, Franky. Mind if I talk to the prisoner?”

“Don’t think Mr. S. would like that too much.”

“Come on, I’ll give you half of my share of the food I brought in.”

(Seduce of manipulate: 9+3=Great hit)

“Give it to Missing,” Franky says and moves aside.

October smiles her thanks and goes into the office. Dice sits on one of the old couches against the wall, reading one of Mr. Sunset’s old books. Dice looks up at October and frowns.

October sits down on the couch on the other side of the room. She crosses her legs and punctures the otter egg wit her nail. “What brings you here this sunny morning, Dice? You’re not looking for some service are you?”

“No. I put my crowbar through Fuse’s skull.”

October flinches despite herself picturing the violence. That’s why she hates Dice so much. She’s so course. Not the charming, sunbaked coarseness that everyone in Uni City falls prey to to some degree or another. A different, uglier coarseness that October didn’t understand, which made her want to tame it.

October peels the thick shell of the egg in a corkscrew and talks without looking up. “I guess Mr. Millions wasn’t too happy about that.”

“You could say that.”

October uses her nail to cut a round slit into the top of the egg’s membrane. She wraps her lips around the slit and squeezes the brown, thick protein out of the egg. She closes her eyes and savors it for a few seconds.

(Hypnotize: 10+3=Great hit.)
(Hold three.)

October opens her eyes and looks at Dice. She finds the unmistakable gaze of lust. October stands up and leaves the remnants of the shell on the end table next to Dice. She looks over her shoulder has she leaves.

“Be seeing you, Dice. Stay out of trouble.”

October leaves, knowing or imagining that as soon as she leaves Dice will find herself unable to do anything but lick the trash October left. Picturing this, she smiles genuinely for the first time that day.

SCRIB

Exit walks into Mr. Millions’s back office on the top story of Coulburn Hall. He looks at Peppering, still with her baseball bat. “You stay out here.” Then at Scrib, “Why don’t you follow us.” It wasn’t a question.

Mr. Millions walks to his desk and Scrib sat next to Exit on a bench. He noticeds that it had old stains in the wood that he hoped weren’t blood.

“So, Exit, is it? Tell me why I shouldn’t kill you?”

Exit swallows hard.

Mr. Millions glances at Scrib. “Shouldn’t you be writing this down?”

He should. And so he did.

“Well,” Exit says, “I want asylum. King Barbeque is going to get everyone in the Towers killed and I’d like to not be there when he does.”

Mr. Millions sits back and takes some pride in that. “You mean when we strike aback against them for stealing our weapons. I would be scared if I were you too.”

It looks like Exit will laugh for a second. Lucky for her she didn’t.

“No. That’s not what I’m scared of. I’ve only been her, what, an hour, and I can tell that the Towers could destroy you whenever they wanted.”

Mr. Millions stands up and looks like he might throw his desk at her. Exit continues without even blinking.

“No, Barbeque took those guns and such because he plans on attacking Lockheed.”

“They can’t attack Lockheed,” Mr. Millions says as he sits back down, “we’re in the middle of the Towers and Lockheed.”

“They’ve been cutting through the Green Fire Forest to attack us, I mean the Towers, for years.”

“That’s impossible, that would break the treaty we have with Lockheed.”

“Yeah, good luck with that. We had a treaty with Lockheed too.”

“They wouldn’t break our arrangement.”

Now Exit does laugh. Mr. Millions looks at her with scorn. Then considers for a moment. A long moment. Maybe two. Then he looks at Scrib, who has been scratching in his notebook the whole time.

“Scrib, I chose Fuse to be my second in command because he nothing escaped his notice.”

Scrib looked up from his notebook and pushed his glasses up. His stomach did a little flip. He didn’t like where this was going.

“You’ve made it your purpose to document our city’s history. When I met you, I didn’t trust you, but you’ve earned my good side. Hell, you’ve taught most of us how to read, including me.”

“That means a lot to me, Mr. Millions. I’m just—“

“Don’t interrupt me.” Scrib sees a wave of rage wash over Mr. Millions’s face. It’s gone before he starts talking again. “You’re going to take Fuse’s place at my side.”

That was a job Scrib did not at all want. He hated responsibility. It was bad enough he was a slave to the words, now he’d be some fat pretend king’s toady? But Mr. Millions was too dangerous to refuse.

If Mr. Millions expected a response he didn’t wait for one. “I grant the asylum Exit wants, but now she’s your responsibility, Scrib. If she makes a mess, you clean it up.”

“I’m also going to need you to tell Flavor that her husband is dead.”

“I, uh. I’m sure that it would be more appropriate coming from her father?”

“No, I have a lot to think about. And I only like to give my daughter good news.”

“Ok. Um, sir.”

(Read a person: 7+2=hit)
(What does Mr. Millions wish Scrib would do?
Marry his daughter.)

Scrib felt like he might throw up.

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Apocalypse World: Uni City Chapter 2a

[Here’s the next chapter of my Apocalypse World game. I got a little behind, so this is only the first half. Expect Scrib and October’s section tomorrow night. Hope you enjoy!]

DICE

Dice and two of her Fixies pedal in circles around Scrib, Peppering, and their collective prisoner, Exit. Peppering pushes Exit with the end of her bat, “Keep it moving, Tower slut.”

Exit narrows her eyes over her shoulder at her. Dice wonders if anyone picks up on the irony of a prostitute calling someone a slut. Maybe Scrib does, since he fishes a worn leather note pad out of his pouches and starts jotting down something or other. Then he trots up to walk shoulder to shoulder with Exit.

He interviews her about crap Dice mostly doesn’t care about, mostly about living in the Towers. She was much more concerned about what Mr. Millions was going to say once she showed up with a prisoner.

She had to keep wondering when they got to Coulburn Hall. It was Dice and the Fixie’s job to protect Mr. Millions and Uni City, but the main entrance was suspiciously unguarded.

Dice takes her trusty crowbar out of its thong on her bike and stows her bike in the rack by the steps. Juck’s bike was still in the rack. She already had to maim Partridge today, looks like she’d have to teach another Fixie a lesson about following orders.

“Stay guard here,” Dice says to the other two Fixies that followed them. “Scrib, let’s take your bodyguard and our new buddy here up to Mr. Millions.”

The three of them climb the stone staircase but Dice silently stops them at the end of it. She hears something from the jail cell around the corner. It should be empty, but Dice can definitely hear Juck’s whimpers echoing from inside.

Dice pads to the doorway. It used to be a bathroom, but someone welded heavy bars over the door long before Dice was born. The padlock was open and she pushed the door open with the hook of her crowbar. Dice’s jaw about dropped off her head when she saw what was going on inside. Scrib, Peppering, and Exit leaned in behind her to peak inside.

Fuse, Mr. Million’s number two guy, the one that kept all lists of who owed what in Uni City, and who often kept Mr. Millions from losing his temper and killing anyone that said “no” to him. That guy that balanced the balances of power in the city had Juck bent over a cot and was going to town on him.

She couldn’t blame him, Juck was pretty hot, she would have wagered Juck more of a top though.

Dice might have just stepped back and let them finish up in private. Sure, she’d have to kick the shit out of Juck later for leaving his post, but she didn’t care who her gang fucked. Fuse’s wife might not feel the same way, but that wasn’t Dice’s business. Dice was prepared to back away and do just that, but Exit had to open her mouth.

“Which one is Mr. Millions?”

Fuse and Juck froze and looked up at them like a squirrel-fly right before you shot it. That fear in Fuse’s eye flipped to panic just as quick. Dice didn’t like panic, it often led to trouble. This was no exception.

Fuse pulled out of Juck and grabbed a handgun. Where’d that come from?

He shouted something incomprehensible, was it about his wife or maybe Mr. Millions?

(Read a charged situation: 4+1=miss)

Either way, Dice’s instincts take over. She leaps forward, covering almost half the distance between them and screams at him to lose the gun.

(Trade harm for harm)

He shoots, twice. One hits the brick wall past the swinging barred door, the other hits Dice in the shoulder.

The force of the bullet turns Dice’s entire body, but not before she expertly lobs her crowbar into the air.

Juck, having seen this move before, ducks under the cot. Fuse isn’t so lucky. The straight end of the crowbar spins through the air and finds something soft and squishy to bury itself in. Namely Fuse’s eyeball and the brains behind it.

After the thud of Fuse’s body hitting the concrete floor there is a silence that seems to last forever. Everyone is understandably shocked. ‘Cept Fuse, because he’s quite dead.

Dice and Juck blink out it the first. Their eyes look at the iron hook sticking out of Fuse’s face even as he bubbles out blood from his last breaths. Then their eyes roll toward the gun still smoking in his hand in unison. Then they look at each other.

(Seize the gun by force: 2+2=miss)

Dice dives for the gun and pries it, literally, out of Fuses cold, dead hand. Well, actually his hand was still pretty warm. She rolls over and points the gun at Juck, but he hasn’t moved from under the cot a few feet away from her.

Dice slowly gets up with the gun trained on Juck.

“What the hell just happened?” Scrib says from behind them.

“This was the one thing I loved. This was the one secret that kept me going,” Juck said. He said it with the cold, even tone of someone looking over a edge of a roof. Dice starts walking toward the door with the gun pointed at Juck, still nude on his stomach.

(Announce future badness)

“I’ve spent my life following orders and being kicked down. Fuse was the only one that gave a shit about what I felt. You took that from me. The one piece of light in this piece of shit life.”

“I hope you don’t think I’m going to start fucking you in the ass now, Juck,” Dice says before slamming the door shut and clicking the padlock closed.

“I’m going to kill everything you love,” Juck says from the now locked cell.

Dice puts the gun into a pouch that hangs from her hip and inspects her shoulder. There’s a tiny hole in her plastic body armor where she got hit. She’ll have a bruise, but nothing serious.

The two Fixies stare up at her with wide eyes from the ground. She nods slightly and they go back to their circuit around Coulburn Hall’s perimeter.

Then to Scrib, “Guess we’ll need to find somewhere else to store your friend.”

SUNSET

Millions and Mr. Sunset follow Bits to Coulburn Hall.

They hear the gunshots and start running. Millions sprints up the stairs despite his impressive bulk and is out of breath by the time he reaches Dice, Scrib, Peppering, and the stranger.

Mr. Sunset only briskly ascends the stairs. He calmly watches as Millions screams at Dice. With a few quick darts of his eyes, Sunset sees a naked Juck locked up with a dead Fuse, with Dice’s crowbar sticking out his head.

“I don’t give a shit if he shot you, you fucking killed the heir to the city and you’re going to get your ass in that cell,” Millions was screaming.

Sunset takes one look at Juck’s face within the cell and realizes what a bad idea that would be. He considers the situation for a moment and wonders what Uni City would be like if Dice was no longer in charge of its protection.

(Seduce or manipulate 6+2=hit)

“Millions. Your cell is full. I offer to take Dice into custody at the library in your stead, until you can determine what should be done with her.”

Millions takes a step closer to Sunset. “You think I can’t deal with my problems on my own?” Millions punctuates his statement with a finger in Sunset’s chest.

Sunset looks down at the intruding finger. His knuckles go white on his walking stick. He grits his teeth for a exactly three seconds before he takes a deep breath and relaxes.

“No, Millions. That’s not what I’m saying. You obviously have more important matters to consider,” Sunset gestures to Exit, “Consider it a personal favor. I’m asking your permission to aid you in dealing with Dice.”

Millions puts his arm down and considers this. Sunset knows that kowtowing is the easiest way to deal with Millions.

“Fine,” he says finally. “You deal with this and I’ll work on the actual important shit.”

“Fair enough.” Sunset takes Dice’s shoulder gently.

Millions points at Sunset again. “But don’t forget. I’m doing you a favor.”

Sunset turns his back and nods as he walks again. “I know. I won’t forget it.”

When Sunset gets back to the library with Dice Dustwich is behind the counter cooking some otter eggs. They must have gotten the food from the market already.

“Send someone out to the market, baby. We need some guns. We’re going to be guarding a prisoner for a while.”

(Finger in every pie move: 6+2=hit)

“Who?” Dustwich asks with her mouth full.

“Me,” Dice says.

Sunset takes Dice back to his office.

“You really fucked things up here,” Sunset says when they both sit down.

“You could say that,” Dice says without much emotion. She looks at the flood under Sunset’s desk.

“On the other hand, you might have saved all our lives.”

Dice looks up at Sunset. His face doesn’t convey any emotion.

“What if Mr. Millions were out of the picture? Maybe someone could convince the people that he wasn’t fit to lead us.”

“Maybe you’re right at that.”

(Dice reads a person: 8+1=hit)
(What does your character indent to do?
Replace Millions with someone that Sunset can better control.)

“Who do you think could replace him, should he have to step down?” Sunset asks.

The silence fills the room as both of their brains set into motion.

Outside, Dustwich takes her ear off the door and sneaks back to her room.

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Unsolicited Bonus Opinion #1

Hey story-friends,
Welcome to the first installment of Unsolicited Bonus Opinion. In my purely academic study of stuff white people like I ended up listening to the most recent episode of This American Life (and also just about every other episode of it for the last few years or so).
This week’s (found here) is an uncomfortable hour of Ira Glass berating this writer who performed a monologue on their show a couple months ago. That older episode had the performer, Mike Daisey, talking about his trip to an Apple factory where he saw some pretty terrible human rights violations. It’s actually pretty good, I’d still recommend listening to it. In fact, that’s the point of my bonus opinion today.
Mr. Daisey pointed out that he is a memoir writer and theater performer, not a journalist. His job is to create stories that move people, to action in this case. His story succeeds there. Sure, he bent the truth more than a journalist would, but even journalists spin their stories to one degree or another.
I can understand how the less than perfect labeling might anger some NPR listeners, but I, for one, don’t really care.
I’d rather have a great story based on a bit of truth than the other way around. But maybe that’s just me. What’s your opinion on the matter?
Until next time.

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Apocalypse World: Uni City Chapter 1

[This is the first “summary” of my Lone Wolf Theater session of Apocalypse World.  I made four characters and ran through each one separately, as you’ll see below.  I included all the rolls I made in parentheses.  Scrib is a Hoarder, Dice is a Chopper, Mr. Sunset is a Mastro’D, and October is a Skinner.  I’m still wondering if this will work, I only “played” for about an hour and I got nearly 2000 words out of it.  A bit longer than I thought.

Feedback, negative or positive, is more than welcome.

Enjoy!]

SCRIB

Scrib blinks himself awake at his desk.  In the orange morning light he can see that he has been writing in his sleep.  In fact, he’s still writing.  This isn’t anything new.  Scrib had been writing before he could talk.  As soon as his tiny hands could hold a pen words came out of him.  Most of the time it was gibberish, but much too often his writing told him things, things he couldn’t possibly know.  But he’d heard of stranger stories in the Apocalypse World.

(Open your mind to the psychic maelstrom: 5+2=hit)

Scrib folded up the sheet of paper he had been writing on and got dressed.  He lived in stacks of books from the golden age.  His collection.  Scrib tied seven shoelaces around his forehead, it was the only thing that kept his writing under control, and put on his ancient wire glasses.  Then he unfolded his paper.

“Exit from the tower approached the field with a hand on the past and an eye on the future.”

Scrib sighed and walked upstairs to Mr. Sunset’s.

The main level is pretty dead, but that’s normal for this early in the morning, not even noon.  Scrib ties up his smock and looks around.  Peppering is the only one there not otherwise occupied.  Her dark features brighten up with Scrib’s attention.

“Is Mr. Sunset around?”

“No, he’s still asleep.  I can help you if you want,” Peppering says with a bit too much enthusiasm.

Peppering wants Scrib bad.  Scrib wants October worse.  That’s the way things usually work out.  Scrib grits his teeth.  What the hell?

“Sure.  I’m headed to Garage Dee.  Need some back up.  Have anything heavy you could swing if things get ugly?”

Peppering vaults over the broken counter and grabs a rusted metal baseball bat on her way.  She trots after Scrib as he walks out the door.  The other whores don’t even seem to notice as the door to the library slams shut behind Peppering.

DICE

Dice has been awake since dawn.  She hates morning shifts, but whatever, it helps morale.  Morning duty at Garage Dee is the worst though.  She can’t even ride her bike.  If the stupid fuckers in the Towers hadn’t snuck in and robbed their armory last month, they wouldn’t have to guard the border so … boringly.

When she sees Scrib and one of Sunset’s girls walking over looking all determined, Dice smiles and blows her sandy hair out of her eyes in one puff.  Finally, some excitement.

She flips the kickstand on her fixed gear and pedals up to Scrib with her trusty crowbar over her shoulder.  She calls out, “Ka-Kaw!” to the others assigned to morning duty with her.  Five other Fixies.

“Notice anyone from the Towers, Dice?

“Morning Scrib.  None of those fuckers have the balls to come back here after last time.”  Dice looks at the bat the whore is leaning on like a cane.  She can’t be older than 16.  Is that supposed to be his bodyguard?

Scrib points over Dice’s shoulder as the other Fixies pedal behind her.  “Who’s that then?”

Dice looks behind her.  Fuck.  A woman is walking down the mall toward them—from the Towers.

“Bits, go sound the alarm,” Dice says as the other four Fixies draw their weapons.

Scrib narrows his eyes.  “Exit?”

(Scrib reads a charged situation: 9+1=hit)

(Three questions: Who’s in control here? Dice for sure.)

(What’s my enemy’s true position? Exit, the girl from the Towers, is here to bargain.  She comes in peace.)

(Who’s the biggest threat? Partridge, one of the Fixies, woke up on the wrong side of the garage.  He wants blood, doesn’t care whose.)

Exit stops walking and puts her palms up.  Her expression doesn’t change.

Before the Fixies can ride off to beat the shit out of her, Scrib stops them.  “Wait, I know her.  Let’s hear what she has to say.”

Dice considers for a minute and looks at the would-be intruder.  “Fine.”

Partridge’s jaw drops.  “The fuck, Dice?  They stole both of our rifles?  We should cave this bitch’s head in.”

“Shut up, Partridge.”

(Dice uses Pack Alpha: 6+2=hit)

Partridge slams his PVC pipe against his handlebars.  Under his breath he says, “What happens when a bitch is in charge.”

A couple of the Fixies, both male, near him laugh at the comment.

Dice casually holds her finder up to Exit, still 20 or so feet away and rides over to Partridge.  He glares at her and tightens his grip on his handle bar and pipe.  In a fluid movement, Dice slams the hook of her crowbar into Partridge’s shin.  He screams and falls off his bike.

“Looks like you won’t be riding for a while.” Then she ride back toward Exit and starts circling her.  The other three Fixies are quick to do the same, leaving Partridge groaning on the ground near Scrib.

Exit looks less sure of herself than she did before, but she surrenders to a search by the Fixies.

“I just want to see your leader.  I seek asylum.”

“Don’t know what that means,” Dice says, “but you’re clean, so I’ll take you to Mr. Millions.”

Dice points toward the Coulburn Throne as the garage’s alarm goes off behind them.  “Start walking.”

MR. SUNSET

Mr. Sunset is startled awake by some quickly forgotten nightmare.  His partner stirs beside him, but doesn’t wake up.  He takes a few seconds to admire her nude form before covering it with his stained silk sheet.

Mr. Sunset puts on his long raincoat and does his tie in the mirror.  He takes one last look at the girl in his bed, remembering some bits of last night with a smile, and then walks downstairs to the lobby.

He takes his sunglasses from the lobby and adjusts them in one of the many mirrors in the lobby.  He frowns, noticing the counter is unattended.  A little girl in a neon pink bikini runs up to him and tugs on his coat.  He looks down at her and smiles, “Missed, my dear, can I help you?”

“Mr. Sunset, we don’t have enough food for breakfast again,” she said with quivering lip.  He can tell she’s practiced this speech, but it’s still unsettling.

“Mr. Millions was supposed to resupply us last night.” He turns to two whores lounging about in the lobby, “Girls, go see if you can’t get something from the markets.”

(Barter 6+2=hit)

“They should be able to bring back something for breakfast, but I need to talk to Mr. Millions.  Did he visit Dustwich last night?”

(Looking for someone: 8+2=hit)

Missing nods and runs to get him.

Mr. Sunset takes the time to go to his back office and get comfortable.  On his way he notices that Scrib’s door to the basement is opened.  He must already be gone.  Good.

Mr. Millions saunters into Mr. Sunset’s office shirtless and fighting to buckle his belt over his impressive hair gut.

“I trust you had a good night.  I think it’s time you paid me so that I can feed my girls now.”

Mr. Millions doesn’t look up.  “No, I don’t think so, Sunset.”

Mr. Sunset steeples his fingers and leans back in his chair.  “And why is that?”

Mr. Millions finally looks at Mr. Sunset.  “Last night pays for this month’s rent.  I’m not in the business of giving my rivals my surplus.”

Mr. Sunset sighs and folds his hands on his desk.

(Seduce or manipulate: 2+2=miss)

“I’m not after your job.  We’ve been over this, so, so many times.  I just want to protect my girls and provide my services to Uni City.”

Mr. Millions puts his thumbs in his pockets and licks his lips.  “Well, maybe we can work something out.  I we could talk about some shipments from the food supply … if I could have Dustwich for another night.”

“Done.”

“With October.  Both at once.”

Mr. Sunset crosses his arms over his chest and pivots his chair back and forth for a few seconds, never taking his eyes off of the rotund man across his desk.

“Fine,” Mr. Sunset says.

Mr. Millions smiles wide, showing the gaps in his teeth.  Before he can say another word a young boy bursts into the office.  Bits from the Fixies.

“Mr. Millions, sir.  Dice has a prisoner from the Towers.  She’s taking her to Coulburn.”

OCTOBER

October slowly notices she’s awake on her stomach.  It takes her a minute to remember where she is.  She sits up and looks around with her bright orange eyes and smiles.  She pulls the silk sheets up to her face and inhales deep.  It still smells like Mr. Sunset.

She  drops her dress over her head, she’s heard some older women call it a “slip,” which October feels is pretty appropriate, and descends into the lobby.  Everyone seems to be in some kind of hubbub.  October yawns and clicks her cheek.

“Knightro, here boy.”

In a few seconds her tiny scalecat canters up to her and jumps on the counter.  October scratches the scales under his chin and he purrs, his forked tongue stabbing the air.

“Hey, Missing.  Where’s Mr. Sunset?”

“He just left with Millions.  The Fixies got into some kind of trouble.”

“Well, did they at least leave some breakfast?”

Missing frowns.  “No.  Mr. Sunset sent some girls to the market, but they didn’t come back yet.”

October combs her fingers through her thick black hair.  “Guess we’re on our own, Knightro.”

(Barter:8+1=hit)

October, with Knightro following close behind, walk up to Tum Tums booth at the edge of the market.  His weathered eyes look at her with hunger up and down.

“October, you look so hot today.  I hope I can help you with something.”

“If you have more of those otter eggs from Lake Claire, maybe enough for me and Knightro here, it would make my day.”

Tum Tum licks his lips and wrings his hands.  “And what would you be offering?”

She winks at him and hits the front of the visor of Tum Tum’s straw hat.  “You know what I’m offering.  And I want a month’s worth of those eggs.”

Tum Tum starts giggling.  “Yeah, oh yeah.  I can certainly make that deal, October.  No problem.  Let me get you today’s catch.”

“That would be great, Tum Tum, I’m starving.”

He dives into the back of his rickshaw of supplies and pulls out a bucket dripping with slime.

Then they hear the echo of a gunshot.

Both of their smiles disappear and their heads snap toward the sound of the fire.  It came from Coulburn.

,

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Brave New Words

Oh, hi there.

Hope you’ve been doing well.  I’m sure all of you, the masses that religiously followed my first two posts, are wondering why I stopped updating? Was it just standard blog-fade (that’s a term that people use, right)?  Did I somehow get a life?  Did I finally realize that my blog was pretty boring?  Was I in some terrible, crippling accident and only now—with the help of the most cutting-edge cybernetic technology money can buy—can I return to regular blogging?

Actually, all but one of those is true (I won’t tell you which one though).  The big problem was the boring part.  I know you, my droves of story-friends, are too polite to say it, but, yeah, it was boring.  Ok, I agree, the writing style was quirky and sometimes hilarious, but the subject matter could be pretty dry, even for me.  And let me tell you, blogs that bore their readers don’t last long, but blogs that bore their authors are doomed.

I’m here to hopefully rectify that situation.  I’ve been spending the last few weeks thinking of a new focus that could reinvigorate this little abandoned blog of mine.  I came up with several that I thought would be fun, but couldn’t bring myself to pick one.  That’s when it hit me—why pick just one?

Going forward, Story Friend will be a weekly (or more, depending on my free time) blog with revolving columns, each with its own focus.  Theoretically, the columns will cycle in a pattern, but more than likely a column will appear whenever I feel like writing on it.  If a pattern emerges, it will probably be by accident.

What are these newfangled columns going to be?  I’m glad you asked.  Here is a rundown of some I had in mind.  (New columns might arise in the future and some of these are sure to fall by the wayside if they get boring or they run their course.)

Re-fics: Short for “re-fictions,” this column will be re-imaginings of existing creative properties.  I will be examining what makes these stories good, what could have been better, and how I would have written them differently.  What if the Harry Potter books were set in the US?  What would the X-Men be like if they focused more on interpersonal politics?  What if the Star Wars prequels were good?  These questions and more will be answered here.

Spirits of the Staircase:  This will be a short column in which I write about real life situations in which I seize the privilege of hindsight to examine how things could have gone better.  There’s one catch though—I’ll be drinking a good share of spirits before I write this column.  Should be interesting, might not be comprehensible.

Lone Wolf Theatre:  I’ve been playing role-playing games since middle school.  RPGs with pens and paper and table-tops, not the video game kind.  Recently though, my mind was blown by this new wave of RPGs called story games which are less run-around-and-kill-dragons and more let’s-collaborate-on-an- improvisational-story.  As you might imagine, this is relevant to my interests.  The problem is that, despite trying for the last few months, I can’t get any of my friends to try these new games out with me.  To rectify this, I’m going to do what I do best—play with myself.  Wait, that came out wrong.  Anyway, in this column, I’ll be recapping the stories that I create with the rules of one of these games.  These will probably be broken up over several weeks.  Serial fiction, awesome!

Review-Friend:  Yeah, this has the weakest title so far.  I’m still working on it.  Anyway, this column will be pretty straightforward—I’ll give you some unsolicited opinions on media.  Lately, I’ve been trying to go to the theatres with my stunning romantic partner every week, so expect lots of movies.  I wouldn’t be surprised if older stuff found its way in there too.

And that’s what I have so far.  Sound good?  I can’t wait to start these.  Do you see any that might be particularly fun to read?  Let me know by commenting below.

Next week, we’ll kick things off with Lone Wolf Theatre, where I will recap what happens in my first actual game of Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse World.

Until then Story-Friends.

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