50 story openings: Number 2!

It crawled underground, mountain big and dimly aware. It ate roots and bones, insects and small animals. Hungry for more, it surfaced.

Chains of black concrete slithered skywards, wrapping around the spires of steel and cement that punched through the soil. It grew webs of tarmac even as it bled glass into hollow window frames. The city shuddered and heaved, belching gray-green doors and sleekly carpeted corridors. It shrieked longly and lowly, like the whine of screeching types and bustling traffic. Birth is hard no matter the species. Panting, the newborn metropolis disgorged its plummage: strings of fairy lights looped around expensive shop fronts, smiling, dead-eyed men in velvet and glittering billboards.

And then, as quickly as it began, it was over.

The heat of new life was quickly subsumed by the night’s chill. Steam gusted from the manholes, propelled by the endless migration of subterranean trains. From a distance, the city looked dazzling: pinpoints of light smeared upon the hills. Beautiful but empty. The roads were clean of cars and racing pedestrians. But those would come later. 

"Dat’s mighty pretty for a youngin, " said Rick. "Often times, you’d gotta wait for it to settle in ‘fore you could even think of sellin’ a kiosk." 

Dave frowned and said nothing.

"I remember New York. That one was a beaut’ but she came up in chunks. Ragged and wild. Took ten whole mayors to tie ‘er down." said Rick, plaid-coated and thickly-bearded, as he pushed itself onto his feet. "You comin’? City this pretty’s gonna attract officials faster than y’can say Broadway." 

His words snapped Dave from his petulant silence. “I’m comin’.” 

Silently, the two men trotted down the mountain towards the newborn city. It needed them. Symbiosis was not an unusual evolutionary trait. 

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Ghost writer

I have words.
They come tangled, twisted, locked behind dollar signs.
I sell words by the dozen, but not a dime for a dozen.
I’ve, at least, learnt the value of a sentence -
(it’s four fifty for three, I think. We’ll see.)
Years of questioning, of relentless hammering on doors that won’t open and shouting at people who won’t listen.
"I have words," I shriek, dark-eyed and dusky-skinned.
In this place built from blue eyes and Caucasian dreams.

I have words.

I have words in six different languages.
Five more than most of you but that’s okay.
I’m not judging. My perspective is not skewed.
Words have structure, have shape and rhythm.
They are languages within languages,
things to be taught not parroted.
I have words, and they are MY words. Not yours.
My words are dusted with hyperbole, strung up with images
because my mother tongue sees in pictures.
Hieroglyphics for a modern time,
ten thousand years old but still just as bold.
It’s in our blood, you see. Written into our fathers, our mothers, our D.N.A:
The words, “Don’t be afraid. Walk forward, don’t stay.”
We build our culture on the bones of our ancestors.
Our every breath on loan, our every action rented from unborn children.
We’re not building OUR future, we’re adding to the platform
so our clans can springboard forward towards
the red sun that sits waiting to eat the last of us.

I have words even though they told me words don’t matter.
I’ve skulked through your cities, a ghost in a gray hoodie.
I’ve watched the words take shapes in your mouths, in your plays,
In your pleas, your screams, your drunken soirees,
And the bars where your writers gather like dust on
the typewriter beaten by a lack of inspiration,
It’s not my fault that they keep leaving them there,
Those words, untended and unguarded, like kittens in a basket,
Honey-sweet, viscous with meaning and promises you never intended to keep,
I took the first words from a gray-eyed man deep in his sleep,
He sighed, twisted and I could taste the half-finished sentences
he never gave to his children,
children too old to care about a father in disrespair.
I unspooled them like threads in someone’s story, slurped them like spaghetti,
He crumpled slowly, so softly, ever so quietly.
And I felt his words drain into me.

I have words.
Because talk is cheap in the big city,
They’re flung around like breadcrumbs, a trail for the cigarette-gray wolf,
Red-cherry lips smiling, watching the words as they fumble and drag through the air,
Would you be so careless if you knew they could be eaten?
I’d ask, but not one of you seem willing to listen.
"I have words." I tell the crowd, as they rush to the two o’clock,
They banter, bitch, bark and growl syllables away.
Sometimes, they’ll stop, and they’ll buy words - a poem, an apology, a maybe.
"How much?" A question, a taste.
"Three dollars a sentence, "I reply. "Four, if you want real sentiment."
The careless always rush, brushing me away, leaving a line of words behind.
And sometimes, I follow, drunk on their dismissal like wine.
"You have words," I say as I kiss their dreams and close their eyes.
And lean in to drink in their questions and their lies,
Silenced now, when their words are eaten, taken into my supply
Hidden away, for those who would buy someone else’s goodbyes.

I have words.

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50 story openings

I promised myself I’d get a piece of fiction published this year. I’m completely ambivalent as to whether it might be a piece of poetry or a novel; I just want to start writing fiction. One of my biggest issues with that is simply the fact I get discouraged halfway through. “This is a story that has been told before,” I tell myself. “It’s not worth telling.” 

But I don’t think I’m going to get anywhere if I don’t keep pushing. I’ve a lot of small ideas buzzing in my head. If I don’t start, I’ll never get anywhere. Same with everything else in life. ANYWAY. Richard Kadrey, one of my favourite authors in the world, posted 50 story openings over Twitter not too long ago. And I’m suddenly quite committed to writing something for all of them. I don’t know how many of these tales I’ll finish. Maybe, none. But. Hopefully, one of these will grow up into something worth reading, eh? 

Now, for an excerpt from the first one.

“Why are people so afraid of clowns? We’re harmless,” said Mr. Jibbers. His smile was hideous. The exorcist sighed and got back to work.

Comedians were the worst. Most ghosts are shackled by negativity, impermanent emotions like grief, rage and lust. Contrary to popular opinion, those are easy enough to separate from the discorporated individual. Murder cases were usually textbook operations: go in, exorcise presence, get out. It’s because human beings weren’t made for depression. Unhappiness was something the species acquired for itself over millenias of self-importance. But HAPPINESS? Happiness is a drug. The soul REMEMBERS dopamine, the chemical heat of ecstasy so intense that not even death can make a person quit cold turkey.

"You’re not," sighed the exorcist. He was slim-shouldered and steel-eyed, with a mop of copper-red curls. "Clowns are not harmless. Your jokes? Also, not harmless. Frankly, Hallmark and babies are evil."

Mr. Jibbers snaked closer, its painted-on grin made only more grotesque by its apparent concern. The exorcist stared back into blank, black-on-black eyes as he lit his cigarette. It was a single tendril of heat in the cold room. In life, Mr. Jibbers had been a portly man, the kind that would have graduated into a decent Santa impersonator had he been able to survive his own strangled arteries. But the years spent dead had caused that pleasant rotundness to balloon into something ghastly. Mr. Jibbers’ bulk, half rot and half ectoplasm, crowded the room.

"Babies are sweet," said Mr. Jibbers, mild as oatmeal.

"No."

The lamp above the exorcist’s head shivered.

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Carbine Studio’s upcoming sci-fi MMO lets you be anything you want — except if you’re female and don’t want to be a pretty space princess.

Halfway through writing this, I found this brilliant write-up about female objectification in Wildstar.  You should read that one. Then, you should read mine if you’re gunning to see what’d happen if someone went out into Wildstar with the intention of making a Cenobite. (Spoiler: didn’t work.)

A short eulogy

My uncle is dead.

I understand that I’ve been opening things on a rather personal note lately but it has to be said. My uncle is dead. He passed away yesterday night, his body finally succumbing to stroke’s initial attempt on his life. In some ways, the knowledge of his passing is a curious relief. According to my mother’s last report, the stroke had completely incapacitated his right side, induced severe brain damage and forced him to consume his meals through a network of tubes. Sustained existence - the notion of calling it ‘living’ bothers me on so many levels - couldn’t have been pleasant. If nothing else, at least he’s no longer caged in his own recumbent bones.  

His funeral is on Monday but I won’t be there. While they’re burying him, I’ll be on a 36-hour flight back home which kills me because, while I question the value of paying last respects to someone who is as far as from cognizance as a fish is from space travel, I’d like to have that chance to give an eulogy of some variety. So, I’m going to do it here, instead.

(I thought about discussing how Death is an elephant in the room that we all tiptoe around, how we constantly coo over games featuring realistic death scenes but fear its coming.)

My most salient memory of my uncle isn’t necessarily a flattering one. He was in need of financial assistance and had come to my family for help. My parents, in spite of the fact they did not terribly like one another, had been more than happy to lend a hand. Having nothing to give my family in return, he decided to capitalize on his one skill. He was a great English teacher. His students uniformedly got the best grades in the country. As such, he wanted to help make their oldest better an English speaker. Sometime during his visit, he asked me to sit down and began imparting his wisdom. The session lasted about two hours. In the end, he casually asked, 

"How well do you normally do?"

”.. I get over 95% every examination.” 

My parents giggled.

I remember feeling exceedingly apologetic. He looked mortified. 

"It’s the thought that counts?" I offered, meaning every word. 

He could only nod.

Is there a point to this story? Not really. Selfishly, I want you to remember him too. Each and every one of us will die twice. The first time is when our biological systems shut down and brain activity ceases. The second time is when all memory of that person fades from humanity. So, here’s to hoping at least a few of you who read this will remember my story for a little while. And that there was someone who tried hard to be worthy to his relatives.

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Video games are a lot of things, including a glimpse of immortality.

My grandfather is dying, has been dying for a while. And I’m both angry and twisted on the side. This article was supposed to be a lot longer. I wanted to discuss the rise of the zinesters, how accessibility can help make it easier to commemorate the stuff that happens in our lives. In the end, that didn’t happen but I think I got the main points across. I hope so. 

Call of Duty: Ghosts will let players shoot like a girl if they want to. And here’s why that matters.

I got frustrated at the notion that there are still people who have problems understanding why a small cosmetic option like being able to play as a woman matters.

Also, I think it’s exciting that even companies like Activision are being forced to notice it’s not just 18-35 straight white males anymore.

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Or, ‘How to Pretend You Understood What Happened at the Recent Dota 2 Championships’

Everyone went crazy about the International last week, myself included. However, somewhere in between, a friend made me remember that not everyone understood what the hell was going on. So, this is my attempt to help people pretend they are in tune with the whole Dota 2 thing.

Also, Korean casters are HILARIOUS.

Can video games be grown up without being sensationalized or sanitized?

In Chinese culture, we wear our names the way we view our priorities: the family name comes first, our ties to our sibling follow second and our personal names will always be last.

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