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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Magic - a Flash Legend

by Yours Truly

I heard this story once about two competitors hunched over a card game, eyes red, hair greasy, fingers wet with tension and lips fluttering with silent calculations. It doesn't matter who they were. It doesn't matter what color their skin was, or whether they were male or female. It doesn't matter that the winner would gain thousands of dollars, because honestly they invested thousands of dollars to get this far.

It matters that the championship was on the line. 

Picture it. Two armies on the table. Each opponent's hand hovers over a deck crafted of perfect weapons, a tower of magnificent creatures, each hunted down online or bartered for in game shops or won in competitions, each card play-tested for hundreds of hours to work together with the rest. These are more than flat paper rectangles in a pile: they're warriors who have climbed the corpses of their enemies to arrive at this mountaintop. 

A grin. Another warrior falls. Pure battle comes down to numbers, and the numbers on this card just aren't high enough. The card slips, forgotten, into the discard pile, and the attacking player leans back with a sigh of relief. The game's almost over. Attacker's side of the table has so many cards on it, the battlefield looks like a calendar, arranged in rows and ranks--while the owner of the now-dead card sits by a barren plastic desert with only one creature left. Both players are counting down their last life-points; it's the final game of the match.

The czar of the barren desert of loserdom chews a contemplative lower lip and glances from cards in hand to the card on the table. "Stand up and drop this card," reads the text in hand. "Any cards this card touches when it lands are destroyed."

"Is that game?" The attacker interrupts the desert czar's thoughts.
"No." Desert czar holds up the drop-and-destroy. Attacker's eyes glitter.
"It's still game…" Attacker says. "Even if that card manages to land on three of my best creatures, the rest still sweep and destroy you next turn."
"Maybe."

Desert czar stands. 

Each card costs: maybe hours of hunting, maybe hundreds of dollars, maybe intrigue and deceit or favors and loss, but each card costs and each plays an irreplaceable role in the army that has become each player's life. That is why each card is carefully protected in a plastic sheath.

Desert czar removes this card from its sheath.

And this player who's spent everything to get here, who cradles cards like children, begins to rip this last chance into ugly shreds.

"What the--" Silence overtakes the gasping spectators. The eyes of the judges grow to cantaloupe size. Is the player throwing a fit? Is the player admitting a loss? Is--

Desert czar's fist juts over the board like a salute, shreds of paper clutched in a grimy paw. 

The Attacker understands an instant too late.

The fist opens like a raincloud over the battlefield, and as the spectators begin to scream and the judges begin to debate and the bloggers and podcasters and internet celebrities fire up their social media with thundering aplomb, torn paper flutters onto the battlefield like hail from heaven. The attacker pretends to argue and pretends to hope, but both players know the rules well enough to know this has never been thought of and never been forbidden: this is the end of the game, for the torn card settles like snow, like hundreds of infinitesimal white doves, over every single card the attacker owns, and:

"Any cards this card touches when it lands are destroyed," repeats the desert czar. 

They say to make an omelette you have to crack a few eggs. 

Isn't this a better way to say it? 

The End.




Monday, February 15, 2016

#sonofapitch Neodymium Exodus Query For Feedback

Title: Neodymium Exodus
Age and Genre: YA SF Space Opera
Word Count: 95,000

Query:


Showdown in the ice cream parlor. Jungle-world in peril. Lem's diseased, and she's not interested in a cure. They say she's got a contagious brain infection, or maybe she's a witch, a portal for an evil energy-being invading our universe--but actually Lem's a freedom-fighter who's spent her childhood evading the paramilitary group that hunts her for talking to her invisible friend, Njandejara. Njande's kind and strange, like that odd sunbeam in the middle of a rainstorm, and he's only interested in knowing Lem better, not destroying her world.


When the paramilitary group captures Lem, she's sent to a re-education camp to be "cured." Lem resists the treatment--and fed up with her shenanigans, Lem's captors kidnap her space-lemur adopted brother, Cinta. If Lem bows, Cinta goes free. As Lem's resolve fails, Cinta warns her there's more at stake than his life: their connection to Njande might be key to saving the universe from impending thermonuclear collapse. Lem questions his sanity (and her own!) but if he's telling the truth, she'd better find a third option fast--or she'll lose someone she loves either way.

First 250 Words:


Lem wasn't a big fan of warnings, but the people who ran her life were, so she gave the meat-market businessman a loud one the moment he made eyes at her little sister.

“She ain't for sale, Skins,” she said, stirring the dregs of her shake with her straw. She said it for everyone in the ice cream parlor to hear.

The businessman's green hair puffed in offense; his slit-eyes gleamed bright as his ruby scales. “Mind yourself, witch,” he sneered.

Witch, huh? Lucky for him he didn't call her crazy.

A loud slurp silenced the whole parlor as Lem finished off her shake.

Four seconds later Lem had chopped down the businessman like an overgrown holly bush. No one interrupted. No one helped, either. The space-lemur policeman in the corner stared at the phone in his paws, ears perked even as he pretended not to see; the Wonderfrog server behind the counter tapped his bulging fingertips on his skull like desserts really worried him.

Lem tightened her grip on the meat-man's wrist, spitting through her teeth as she ground his face harder into the plastic table. “Whatever I am, everyone in here knows you're selling little girls to the greys, and one day I'll prove it and get Officer Scritch there off his duff for a change.” Her voice dropped to a husky whisper. “But the day you talk to my sister again? Officer Scritch won't be lookin' for you. Won't be a you to find.”

Meat-man grunted.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Brain Worms and White Whales

If you like space, drugs, rude humor, or out-dated literary references, you'll want in on this. It's basically the best, and it's read by this awesome guy, J.S. Arquin from the @NWOvercast, and it's on the @Escapepod, which is basically the coolest.
http://escapepod.org/2016/02/01/ep518-brain-worms-and-white-whales/ So what are you still doing here? Go click!
http://escapepod.org/2016/02/01/ep518-brain-worms-and-white-whales/


Edit: While you're listening to that, I wanted to go ahead and just drop a few thoughts here about this piece--goodies for those of you who follow this blog.

First, if you're interested in actual real Vietnamese culture and short-stories, read the true tales in The Land I Lost by Quang Nhuong Huynh. Yes, it's a children's book, and yes, it's a Harper Trophy Book because it's poignant, amazing, and tragic, and it's a great introduction into the stories I imagine Ethan's Ong noi (grandfather) telling him as he grows up in the US, separated from the roots of a heritage that will always be a part of him. I'm a child of immigrants myself, so the second-generation struggles between the culture in your blood and the culture in your face really mean something to me, and under all the silliness and dick jokes, that's what this story's about. Who are you? And then, where are you, really? What do you believe? What's real? 

Kudos, by the way, if by the end of the short you can guess who the sacred one-truth is. Enough of my blabbing--feel free to discuss your silly stories, bad jokes, and heritage in the comments below!

-Jen
I am the Truth. The Truth shall set you free. (Yochanan 14:6; 8:32)