On Games and Gaminess

I haven’t done an actual career-related update for a while, and with several recent and upcoming articles on Entropy that I’m immoderately proud of, I figured, oh, what the hell. For writing!

Entropy is “A new website featuring literary and related non-literary content.” It’s been going strong for, oh, three weeks now, and I couldn’t be happier with the community that I’m now a part of (as a contributing editor for the site). I’ve made the acquaintance of some awesome writers who share many of my interests, and even though I don’t get to read the e-magazine as often or as thoroughly as I’d like, I can tell from what I do read that I’m in the middle of a network of great writers and thinkers.

But enough of the mushy stuff. Here’s what I’ve been doing for Entropy so far:

My first post, on March 21, was an interview with John Clowdus of Small Box Games. A small, independent card game publisher who has stayed small and independent, I really admire John’s work both as a publisher and a designer. His games tend to be small and quick but full of tense decision-making, not to mention gorgeous to look at.

On April 5, for International Tabletop Day, I wrote about  the Allure of Allegory; or, a Case for Cardboard, in which I argue passionately for a medium that I didn’t even know existed, in any serious, modern form, 2 years ago: board games.

On April 7, Janice Lee posted a piece titled Interface Culture: On Narrative & Video Games, which features a few citations from one of my previously published articles on the Black Clock blog. It’s a great, reader-friendly tying-together of modern thinking around the medium of electronic games.

And today, on April 9, I published When Play Isn’t Fun Anymore: On Games and Discomfort. It was originally three separate essays until I realized that they were all talking about the same thing: games that manage to work in spite, or because, of failing at being “fun.”

I also edited Mike Molitch-Hou’s Why-To Like Poetry and last Sunday’s list of Top 3 Unfinished Books. In the next few days, I’ll be posting Part 1 of a discussion I participated in, talking around the subject of video games and aesthetics, and there’s much more on the way, including more interviews, reviews and…wait for it…session reports!

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A New Challenger Approaches!


Sexy WIPs

I’ve added a new category to this blog: Sexy WIPs. What are Sexy WIPs? You may already have seen a few of them. They’re my own unpublished (some might say unpublishable) writing. I want to share them with you, free of charge.

As a writer, you’re always making sacrifices. Jokes, concepts, characters, and entire story arcs get thrown away in early drafts. Some stories start out promising, but never get anywhere. And sometimes, the revision process is nothing more than a gentler, more protracted, but no less exhausting way to beat a dead horse. Killing the horse might have meant something once, but a horse (or any other four-legged work animal) can only die once, and the more you beat it, the dustier and deader it gets.

There are two unpopular ideas about writing I have always clung to:

  1. Every creative work that anybody has ever written has an audience, somewhere. Some writing is better than others, and every publisher of writing has their own criteria by which they separate the multitudinous chaff from the rare germ. This means that the majority of writing will never be formally published. It does not mean that the stuff that does get published is necessarily better than the stuff that doesn’t; it’s just been deemed, by the curators of such things, to be likely to appeal to the widest possible audience of readers. I have a near endless back catalog of writing that, for whatever reason, is unlikely ever to be published in a venue in which I would be happy to see my writing appear. I hope you will enjoy reading it, regardless.
  2. Revision does not always improve a work. Revision is important in academic writing because presenting a logical, structured and persuasive argument is similar to building a watch. It requires a great deal of fine tuning and clearing away of the tiniest speck of grit. Creative writing, however, does not always come from a place of logic. Creative writing is a fever, and there’s a great deal of energy inherent in its first creation. It is sloppy energy, like a spray of colorful vomit across a pattern of linoleum tiles. You can go back in and mop it up, presenting to the reader a nice clean grid of pea-green linoleum, but you risk mopping up the same thing that made it so contagious in the first place. Inspiration is not a thesis.

Sexy WIPs are the intersection of those two beliefs. They are writing (usually fiction) that I believe are worth reading, even if I don’t think they are worth publishing. They are ephemeral, glimpses of ideas I chose not or was unable to pursue to their conclusion. Some are things I am working on today. Others date all the way back to high school, when I was full of promise and not yet bored inside my own skull. I think that there are people in the world aside from me who will enjoy them, and I sincerely hope that those people find their way to this cozy little corner of the internet.

Now excuse me while I go hork up another one.


An Extraterrestrial Orgy in L.A.

Last Bookstore FINAL 2They come in peace. Anybody who knows diddly-squat about aliens knows this, as sure as haloperidol prevents demonic possession. What most people don’t know is that aliens, well, they’ll come in just about anything. When E.T. wanted so badly to call “home,” he was really using the galactic equivalent of a phone sex hotline. “To Serve Man” is no more a cookbook than the Kama Sutra. Let me put it to you simply: our extraterrestrial visitors are up for it, all the time. They put it round, you know. This is not just another conspiracy theory filed away in some dusty FBI folder; this is bone hard medical fact. And they can do things involving reversible anuses that you wouldn’t believe.

This is the supposition at the heart of Strange Attractors: Investigations in Non-Humanoid Extraterrestrial Sexualities, the pan-media book published jointly by Encyclopedia Destructica and (appropriately) The Institute of Extraterrestrial Sexuality. The contents of the book range from prose to video, humor to post-queer theory, with the goal of pushing “beyond male and female, beyond queer, beyond any notion of gender, beyond the anthropomorphic to erotic possibilities as vastly varied as the Milky Way itself.”

Why am I telling you all this? Only by way of invitation, my dearlings. On Saturday, May 18 (a mere three days from now), there will be a confluence of Strange Attractors content in the form of a reading/screening by some of the West Coast contributors to the project, myself included. The event will take place at The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles, and will run from 7pm to 9pm (and beyond). Be there, or be limited to mere 3-dimensional geometry. This will be my first time meeting many of the contributors to the book, so I’m not sure what to expect, exactly, but I’m sure it will be a first contact to remember.

After the cut: A new alien comes on Earth! Also, what the hell have I been up to lately?

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What’s a kurungabaa?

Words words words.

Some more words.

Some final words.


Slap That Stingray! Whoo-hoo!

yeah, sure, we understand
loss, but what about
accumulation

You’ve just read the most traditionally lucid page of text to be found in Andrew Choate’s (Langquage Makes Plastic of the Body) latest book, Stingray Clapping, forthcoming–and I mean really fucking soon–from Insert Blanc Press.

Yeah, you heard me–that’s a whole page. The book has something like fifty of them. Many are shorter than the one cited above. I’d share more, but that would be spoiling a dangerously high percentage of the book entire–and this is a book that I want you to read.

Okay, one more. But this is the L A S T  O N E.

karate dinner
karate dance
karate dinner dance

If you know me–which you probably don’t, I mean c’mon, this is the Internet here–that small excerpt should be sufficient to explain why I’m already in love with this book. If you don’t know me (see above), this description from the author might help:

I’m trying to give the reader an opportunity. … I mean actually generating (imagining/writing) phrases that can be read the way one listens to a favorite record: at different times of day and with different desires actively in play.

The words in Stingray Clapping are simply words without any kind of justification: not conceptual, narrative or otherwise. I imagined them and arranged them and was pleased and surprised by them.

Now, I like narrative. Some might say I like it a little too much. My bookshelves are full of them. Hell, I have bookshelves, that should tell you all you need to know. I love a good 2000-page epic novel as much as the next lad. And anybody who’s read my reviews knows I’m a stickler for narrative integrity in the unlikeliest places: video games, horror films.

But I also know that “narrative” doesn’t always mean a three-act structure or a hero’s journey. It could be that the “narrative,” traditionally defined, is entirely ancillary to what I’m getting out of these big strapping books. Stingray Clapping does something–as yet an ill-defined something, but something–that I’ve been waiting for literature to do for a good long time. It’s something similar to what Ferdinand L’Apogee’s Aphelion does, but where Aphelion does it slowly, by accumulating non-specific but weighted meaning around its repeated ciphers (a bit like Siren with its Hanuda Cross), Stingray Clapping does it all at once–with “karate dinner dance.”

A while back, I started (and subsequently abandoned) a blog post titled “Why I Don’t Regret Watching Immortals” (in 3D!). I won’t give you the full treatment here (who knows, I might go back and finish it one day), but I believe that something in what I get out of Tarsem’s films (despite the abhorrent script and lack of all but the most basic emotional attachment) is mirrored in Stingray Clapping‘s “exact and polyvalent” (to borrow the author’s description) employment of language. I asked of Immortals: if J.R. Jones, of the Chicago Reader, is correct that “Singh is a talented and eccentric visual artist with no creative future in the movie business,” how many Hollywood-ready flops do we have to endure before we can conceive of another model of film, one that might better accommodate Tarsem and his imagery–so often situated in dreams, myth, and the imaginaries of children? While their projects and their means are clearly different, I believe Choate may have done exactly as I never got around to suggesting. Unsatisfied with a literary model in which the demands of the narrative squash or make invisible any other potential pleasures of the text (note the emphasis), rather than attempting to shoehorn his delightfully ambiguous phrases into a traditional narrative or even traditional(ly narrative) poetry, he made a new model.

Or maybe we have to go back a while farther: my call, at the end of my two-part analysis of Minecraft, for texts–good old bound-paper texts–that made room for the types of emergent narratives that make experiences like Minecraft so satisfying for so many people.

Is Stingray Clapping language in a state of emergency? Well slap my stingray and call me Irwin…it just might be, at that.


Wait, It’s Possible To Grow UP???

I’ve grown a lot of things in my day, from dachshunds to beansprouts, but up was never one of them.

That’s why I’ve got my eye on What it Means to be a Grown-up: The Complete and Definitive Answer, the new anthology from Commonplace Books (publishers of A Commonplace Book of the Weird, which–sporadically–includes my short story, “The Corpse Who Moves About”). Well, that and the fact that, according to this entertaining and informative Table of Contents, one of the first stories in the anthology is titled “My Dad the Ghost Rider,” and any story titled “My Dad the Ghost Rider” is a story I need to read. Commonplace Books’ first venture, as I mentioned in my review, featured a compelling mix of styles, from the elegant to the eclectic. Many were funny, many were beautiful, and a few were quietly disturbing; the only constancy was that almost none of them were written as Lovecraft would have probably liked.  What It Means… promises more of the same (that is to say, more of the different), bringing in authors and artists as diverse as stand-up comedians, New York Neo-Futurists, Onion A.V. Club head writer Nathan Rabin, and the editors from FoundMagazine.com.

Because I’ve tried to focus, in this blog, only on the venues where my own writing appears, I feel obligated to mention that I am not featured in What it Means to be a Grown-up. I wouldn’t know where to begin, except with the observation that I just, epiphanically, realized the double-meaning behind the title for that Pixar feature with the dogs and the dying and the stilty-birds and the zeppelins. However, Commonplace Books would like to remind you that A Commonplace Book of the Weird is still available, in print (at a discounted rate, no less) as well as Nook and Kindle e-book formats (hint: the e-books are guaranteed to include “The Corpse Who Moves About”). Why not pick up both books? Then you can learn how to be a weird grown-up.

I wish my dad was the Ghost Rider. We could eat jelly beans out of wineglasses and jump helicopters on our tricycles until the cows come home.