Creative Misadventures

Here you’ll find mainly short fictional works, but also dialogues, some creative non-fiction and a novella or two. And god help you if stumble upon any poetry… its simply Vogonic.



A Nightmare of Speed

This nightmare has followed me for a long time.

The nightmare happens entirely in a car, and I’m the driver.

Sometimes I’m alone, sometimes there are others. Sometimes it’s my whole family, crammed and talkative in the back seats. Sometimes it’s a friend on the passenger side, telling me about his day. Sometimes it’s an old intimate, sitting right next to me, looking outside and thinking about what went wrong and what went right.

I am always driving. Driving fast to somewhere important. A dentist’s appointment that started ten minutes ago. Going to buy butter fifteen minutes before the supermarket closes. A meeting at work that can’t start without me.

I guess those things aren’t that important after all. I have other dreams about saving the world or meeting Her by chance at the beach. These destinations aren’t like that, not life-changing, just urgent. If I don’t get there in time, something bad will happen. So I’m driving fast.

I’m a terrible driver. In the dream and in reality. I got my license when I was 18, drove my dad’s old SUV to college and then didn’t touch a steering wheel again until I was in my mid-twenties. I just never got much practice, I guess.

I don’t see why anyone even likes cars: they’re ugly, expensive and bad for the environment. I don’t get the appeal. Besides, they’re dangerous. Did you know 37 thousand people die in car accidents every year? You know how many die on bikes? Barely half a thousand. For public transport? Less than a hundred.

So I’m in this car and I see a light coming up and I go to slow down, but I press the gas instead of the brake. The light stays green. No big deal, I think, just a little embarrassing. I try to brake a little bit just to make sure I’ve figured out where it is. I hit the gas again. Now we’re going even faster.

I’m starting to really move up on the car in front of me and it’s only a matter of time till we hit … Continue Suffering

Atlantis, A Player’s Guide

A player’s guide to a custom Dungeons and Dragons setting I’ve been writing: sort of an Ancient Greek/Science-Fiction/Fantasy mash-up. Ancient Greek Gundams, Communist Dwarves, and extraterrestrial Israelites abound!

Okay, yes, that’s a bizarre combination. No, I haven’t lost my mind (well, not recently); there is a method to this madness!

I wanted to run a game where the players had a lot of control over the aesthetic of the world: realistic, traditional fantasy, science-fictional, etc. My solution was to create a charming, but undramatic, world (“Inciting Incident”? bah to that!) and allow the players to define the central conflict themselves. Perhaps they’re the first to discover magic, the first to make some technological breakthrough or the first to radically change the political landscape.

This guide introduces the Mariners, effectively an adventurer’s guild for every walk of life: soldiers, scientists, priests, politicians, farmers, and so forth. Players make a Mariner and choose their qualifying accomplishment and a personal goal they had to surrender to join. These choices enable the DM to create an adventure where the players commit the Inciting Incident.

In any case, this is still very much a work in progress, but you may enjoy perusing it anyway (or, be forced to, if you’re one of my players :P). Sharing your thoughts and feedback is also very very appreciated. You can download it below or see it online at the source.

Current Revision Goal: Right now, my main goal is to get the word count down and add more reference art. After that, I may start reorganizing to highlight the good bits… when I find some.

Age-of-Atlantis-Players-Guide-v2Download

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I Wanted To Be a Writer

I wanted to be a writer
To tell tales and make fun
Of the world and all its peril
But I was the one undone.
I wanted to be a writer
To prove that I could hum
A tune of such beauty,
It could never be unsung.
I wanted to be a writer
But I never learned to sing.
And so I sit, miscounting meters, pondering
Why I wanted to be a writer
When all I can do is cringe.

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A Villain’s Backstory

I wrapped up running a very long Dungeons and Dragons campaign last week. It’s been two years with the same characters, the same story, and the same goddamn unbearable amazing players.

For the epic finale, I wanted an engaging villain who would be more than just a hit point balloon- that would engage the players in roleplay, not just rollplay. Sadly, the adventure’s prefabricated villain wasn’t quite up to snuff. Azarr Kul, from the classic Red Hand of Doom third edition adventure, isn’t a bad villain but he’s not that complicated (think Napoleon, but he’s half dragon and worships Satan).

So I rewrote him. I kept the canon consistent, he still did all the things Dragon Napoleon did, but I wrote a backstory for him based on an incredible short story (find it free to read or listen to here) by Scott Sigler. The original story has an incredible economy of language: the paragraphs are tight, the sentences always moving the action forward. You almost feel out of breath reading it. I loved it so much, I wanted to try imitating Sigler’s style and story- so I wrote a short little origin story for the new and improved Azarr Kul.

If I did this right, it should stand alone as a mediocre (if unoriginal) piece of fiction. Enjoy (but probably not):

Coughing into the moonlit smoke around him, Angel was aware only of his fear. His eyes watered, but he could still hear. Shouting, marching, the crackle of houses burning, and, still distant, screams. The entire village was on fire.

Angel turned away from the chaos outside his home, but his mother held him at the threshold. He wanted to run behind her, hide his juvenile body behind her height. But she held him fast.

“Let go of him! We have to go and find Hector!” cried Angel’s grandfather, already peering into the fire and dark surrounding their home.

Angel’s mother would let neither of them pass. She breathed slowly, in rhythm with the pulsing light of the fires.

“My husband is … Continue Suffering

Lamprocles (Novella)

“Alas, my Child! That which saves the lives of others, proves thy destruction, even thy sire’s love; to thee thy father’s nobility has proved no boon”

Euripides, Trojan Women

 

-399 B.C.-

The first man he had brought death to was his father. He brought it to him in a dirty golden goblet, stained purple with the earthy poison it often held. His mother had forfeited the (not insubstantial) silver for the mixture, and the People had been kind enough to provide the goblet itself. Thus was Lamprocles, the fittest of his family, reduced to Death’s delivery-boy.

Despite years of similar service for his mother, he was not a very fast courier: he moved towards his destination in a cautious stabilizing tread. This was somewhat necessary, as he had to overcome the city’s most recent scars- scattered mounds of splintered stone and shredded wood. As he climbed over these remains of the Athenians’ once grand wall, he kept his goblet-hand locked and extended, so as not to spill the mixture. Were he one year younger, he would have engineered such a spill rather than avoid it. He would have run in quiet tears to his mother and claimed there was an accident on the road or an incident at the herbalist’s store. She would have consoled and lightly scolded him, then turned to her father for another loan to pay for the second dose. She would have gone herself the second time, to beg the storekeeper for another mixture at a reduced price so that her children would not be hungry while they mourned. All the shame, dishonesty, and poverty, he would have endured- if only it bought his father the time it took to deliver a second mixture.

But Lamprocles was thirteen years of age, and though not yet a man, he had begun to understand what it was that would make him so. Honor and Duty obligated him to guard the goblet with his life. He was more than willing to lay down his life- he had, in fact, planned to do so, to drink the hemlock himself … Continue Suffering

Gravity Never Changes

[A strange mutated hybrid of a short story. I wrote it for a class, but also needed to include commentary on a recent pop. scientific article, so the dialogue is a bit… extemporaneous (read: nonsensical) at times, and the story is a bit… well, odd. ]

 

As the hour grew late, Christopher Marlow watched the earth, like a ballet dancer of infinite poise, spin and move ever so slightly, obscuring the spotlight of the sun. The last shafts of dusklight pierced his study’s stained glass windows and enkindled the waves of dust that floated through the room. The room lacked any other light, and for a time, all that could be seen was Christopher Marlo in a brown tweed chair, surrounded, as if imprisoned, by horizontal pillars of radiant dust. Marlo shut his book, and the illusion dissipated with the fleeing dust. Though he read in his study by the waning sunlight nearly every day, today would be the last time his books saw sunlight. Today was unique.

As the grandfather clocks leaning on the wall chimed 7:00 PM a tall man, not three years older than Marlo and bearing a distinct resemblance to him, entered the study. He walked as if gravity had decided to play favorites- and had become particularly attached to him. With a subtle nod from Marlo, the visitor selected the nearest chair and sunk into it. The cushions rose to meet his not insignificant weight, and his feet were soon resting on a green ottoman that had caught his eye.

“Long time, no see John- or am I supposed to call you Dr. Senior Professor Emeritus Nebula award winner Johnathan Speare?” asked Marlo with a sly smile.

“Funny” said Speare flatly. “You know very well my e-mail automatically generates that signature- I’d change it if I could.”

“Only teasing- hey, it’s not like my name’s gotten any shorter since the wedding.”

“Yeah yeah, I’m just tired. You know, long day.” Speare shifted uncomfortably in his seat.  “Say how is Karen nowadays, anyway?”

“Fine. She took little Emily on vacation to Disney World … Continue Suffering

A Time Traveler at Plato’s Symposium

It really was ridiculous, the entire thing was ridiculous. Nearly one and a half hours in, everything was ridiculous to Henry. The lights were too bright, the makeup too itchy, the table too big and too short, the marble floor too uncomfortable, the couches even, so luxurious to look at, were itchy and lacked proper back support. But it was almost over: that was what most consoled Henry, but also what most concerned him.

If he failed, if he jumped over a line, if he stuttered, even if he said a sentence or two out of order, the entire thing would have to be redone. Lord Above! Whose crazy idea was it to shoot an entire damned two hour movie in one take?!? Probably that “artsy” director’s idea, accused Henry. He was some famous foreign director, long Greek name that didn’t make any sense, thick indecipherable accent, curly mustache, even that ridiculous beret; he fit the fancy director archetype to a T. Yet, he couldn’t really hate the director too much, Henry was no film critic, but he understood the importance of his own role. The director had taken liberties with the source material; Henry’s character was a new addition to the classic Symposium, endowed with the knowledge and expertise of the modern philosopher. His character was meant to represent the modern attitude, to breathe new life into a work that many believed had lost its relevance. On the other hand, Henry wasn’t one of those ridiculous “method” actors; he didn’t know and didn’t care how he was supposed to bring about this modern spin.

Henry continued his reflection, until he noticed something had changed. Some constant noise that had been droning on for the last 25 minutes had transformed into what sounded like… applause?! Smacked with an overwhelming tide of anxiety, Henry realized that Christopher (who was playing Socrates) had finished his speech and that he, like his companions, should be clapping. Henry froze. He couldn’t move. Thousands of thoughts raced through his head. Without his will, his body stood erect. He looked at the director, saw his concerned … Continue Suffering

The Breakthrough

[I was really impressed by Mark Strand’s The Prediction, so I thought I’d try writing a poem of similar theme and meter- enjoy (or not).]

The inevitable flotsam builds blocks in my cranal canals,
erecting an enormous weir, but bunching behind
the wall, that now bubbling barrier,
bright pulpy ideas, and eager sparkling juice
begin to burst through the damaged dam;
out come pouring coalescing creations, greeting
and mixing with their jetsam kin, their forms
gaining defining dimensions, the flow pushing them forward,
the children of the brain evolving into comprehension, appendages growing out of them,
detailing a nowhere universe, I am discerning them now
and am seen seeing them, and seeing this they are running away,
unto a page they splash and land, splash and might flounder.

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Lamprocles (Short Story)

“Compassion is the basis of all morality”
Arthur Schopenhauer

The first man he had brought death to was his father. He brought it to him in a dirty golden goblet, stained purple with the earthy poison it often held. His mother had forfeited the (not insubstantial) silver for the mixture, and the People had been kind enough to provide the goblet itself. Thus was Lamprocles, the fittest of his family, reduced to Death’s delivery-boy.

Despite years of similar service for his mother, he was not a very fast courier: he moved towards his destination in a cautious stabilizing tread. This was somewhat necessary, as he had to overcome the city’s most recent scars- scattered mounds of splintered stone and shredded wood. As he climbed over these remains of the Athenians’ once grand wall, he kept his goblet-hand locked and extended, so as not to spill the mixture. Were he one year younger, he would have engineered such a spill rather than avoid it. He would have run in quiet tears to his mother and claimed there was an accident on the road or an incident at the herbalist’s store. She would have consoled and lightly scolded him, then turned to her father for another loan to pay for the second dose. She would have gone herself the second time, to beg the storekeeper for another mixture at a reduced price so that her children would not be hungry while they mourned. All the shame, dishonesty, and poverty, he would have endured- if only it bought his father the time it took to deliver a second mixture.

But Lamprocles was twelve years of age, and though not yet a man, he had begun to understand what it was that would make him so. Honor and Duty obligated him to guard the goblet with his life. He was more than willing to lay down his life- he had, in fact, planned to do so, to drink the hemlock himself as soon as he acquired it and thereby save his father’s life. But, in time, he recognized this childish plan for what … Continue Suffering