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"What do you believe in?"

"Honesty," he answers.


He very keenly remembers that one day in sixth grade, and will remember it for the rest of his life. He was ten, and there was a playground to play on during lunch, and he remembers well the monkey bars and the swings and the sequence of events: the other kid playing on the monkey bars, the kid falling, the kid crying, and then him standing there, feeling compelled to say something as the kid looks at him, sniffling.

Instead of saying, "hey, it'll be alright," or "hey, are you okay," or "hey, [consoling and human thing here]" he says:

"Hey, don't be such a crybaby."

Of course it doesn't go over well, and he remembers the teacher glaring at him and telling him to leave, and — more importantly to him — of course Mike didn't stop crying.

The easy explanation is that he's a dick — and he probably was, especially back then — but it wasn't done out of malice. You see, he remembers feeling guilty about it afterwards, feeling confused.

If you could freeze time and ask him why he said what he did, you'd get an answer that it wasn't done out of malice, or to make fun of Mike, one of the people he'd consider almost-friends (he doesn't get real ones until high school). What it was supposed to do was make Mike aware that it was a public space, and that there were people watching, and that tears were supposed to be shed in private, not in public.

He'd probably ask you why Mike kept crying, even when, in his ten year old words, "he shouldn't have".

What he learns from that event is that he's pretty bad at understanding people, so for the next few years, he resolves to get better at it.


"When you say honesty, what do you mean?"
"A sort of overarching absolute truth, if you will, that with the knowledge of all things, there is a /right/ and there is a /wrong/, an optimal path and a bunch of suboptimal ones."

"Is there one in every situation, in every circumstance?"

"Mmmm — it's hard to say. I think, probably, the answer is that there is one, but often it's unknowable. You may try to get close to it, but you never really know for sure."

Eight years later, he's in college, sophomore year, and has a debate partner that he does well with — they individually win novice speaker awards and together manage to make the quarterfinals of some of the bigger debate tournaments despite it being their first year doing debate. They're not the best in the world — that honor is reserved for Oxford kids and maybe Harvard and MIT — but they're pretty decent, especially out of the state schools.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, they're now both in law.

It's one Saturday night at Swarthmore college where the debating is done for the day that they find themselves in "temporary accomodations". In Swarthmore's case, who aren't great with places to put visiting debaters, it happens to be on a linoleum floor in what appears to be a cafe. Not the best, certainly.

He doesn't remember what he says, really. Probably a pointed comment about something or other, but the specifics there are irrelevant.

What he remembers is what his debate partner, who has been with him now for almost eight months, says to him in return:

"You know, you're a huge dick, and no one likes you, right?"

And while he knows that, yes, sometimes he's kind of a dick, he doesn't know where this comes from. Out of the blue, and it feels like all of the strings are cut. He had painted himself a picture of success: opinions editor of the school daily newspaper, working another job with the school tech support, balancing two jobs and class and debate as an extracurricular.

But with one sentence, his debate partner tears away all of the successes and leaves him with only the failures: he realizes that he doesn't have more than a few friends, doesn't have more than a few people that he trusts — or that trusts him.

What he learns from that event is hard to say, but it leads to a reevaluation of his life, again. It leads to a year of almost failing out of college, a year of rebuilding, and eventually a move to a different coast.

The move, though, is interesting: he moves with a group of friends, a group of people that he trusts, and, perhaps, a group of people who trusts him in return.


"Is it honest, though, what you're doing? Just because it's the 'truth' — or a truth, really — what happens when you're not being honest for the sake of being honest, but instead because you're using it as a weapon?"

"Nonsense," he would've said, o
nce upon a time — ten years ago, five years ago, a year ago...perhaps even a week ago. "Honesty is an absolute value."

Now, though, he turns his palms upwards, a mea culpa.

"Nothing lives in a vacuum, and honesty doesn't exculpate someone from doing wrong."


On Friday:

"Friends are kind to one another. Friends don't push on boundaries, or prey on weaknesses. This isn't friendship.

Until you are willing to accept and acknowledge that you could stand to be kinder, not just to me but to most of those you interact with online, the pros of being your friend don't outweigh the cons."

He's initially resistant to it. "But it would be dishonest," he writes back petulantly, and lays out his philosophy in dealing with things as if this is a courtroom, as if it's a battle to be won. They trade emails.

On Saturday, a coworker calls it fair criticism, and he spends the night brooding on it, not sleeping until five in the morning.

On Sunday, he tells his roommate the story at dinner and his roommate agrees with it too, and they have a long conversation on the values of friendship, the responsibilities, the requirements, and at the end of it, he knows that he needs to apologize.

On Monday, a peer assessment lands on his desk:

"On a few occasions I've seen him do an un-company-like, un-him-like thing: take an exceedingly harsh tone with a particular individual on the team as the result of mistakes that the person made. It's not as if strong, corrective feedback wasn't needed; attention to detail and careful judgment on these cases are crucial. But I think his frustration got the better of him on these occasions, and his style crossed the line into being disrespectful on a personal level. The main effect on the recipient seemed to be shame and humiliation; in my experience, no one has gotten better by being told they suck. It was also discomfiting and disruptive for other people who were present (at least it was for me). The irony of all this is that the intensity of his response surely came from two good places: his unflinching commitment to keeping the company safe and the great well of empathy he has. He cares about this person and him to succeed."

And so he does apologize, slowly and haltingly, but it comes out. And she — well, she's a better person than he is. She gives him something to aspire to.

He knows, already, that he'll remember this weekend for the rest of his life, that it will join the other moments that his life turns on, the other sharp changes of path, the other moments that he's greatly wronged someone. He reflects that it's yet another time to reevaluate his priorities, his goals, his personality.

It's not a great feeling, to admit that you've wrong; it's even worse to know as a capital-t Truth that you've wronged someone — someone that called you a friend.

What he learns from this — well, it's too early to tell, isn't it? Perhaps he learns nothing; perhaps he changes so completely in a few years that a friend wouldn't even recognize the person that he used to be. The truth, as it were, is probably somewhere in between.


"What do you think you'll learn from this?"

"I don't know. I told a friend that I was never going to be in danger of being too nice, that I'll always slip towards being cruel, that perhaps in a week from now I'll have rationalized it all away. And he shook his head and told me that if it was going to be rationalized away, it would've happened already, that you don't stew on something like this and then decide that nothing will happen."

"And do you believe him?"

"What I believe is that the last time I messed up, I didn't have a friend like him I could talk to about it. I have people to tell me when I mess up, who are honest with me and who are willing to talk about it. So, yes, I believe him."

"And honesty?"

always be tempered with kindness — with love."
talonkarrde: (color)
Looking back at the texts and messages, he sees hints and suggestions from months ago — but for him, it starts on a Monday afternoon.

It's twelve thirty in the afternoon and he hasn't gone to work yet, because it's a fairly low-key weekday and there's nothing particularly demanding his attention there. She IMs him just as he's about to head out: she was feeling crappy and stayed home, and she's hating it — being alone with her thoughts isn't doing her any favors.

It was, unfortunately, his advice that she stay home if she wasn't feeling great — mentally or physically — and he furrows his brow for a moment before offering to grab some food with her. Her reply is quick: 'I'm not hungry, but the company would be nice.'

So he heads over and knocks on her door, she invites him in, and six hours later, he's missed work completely.

Instead, they've spent the entire time talking — he's learned a lot of her past and history, and has also shared some of his own, though it was a bit like pulling teeth, she says, later.

While sitting in class afterwards, he gets a text from her: 'For real, though - thanks for coming by'

He smiles, then stifles a laugh as her follow-up flashes on the screen: 'You're a really good friend. Don't worry - I won't tell anyone'

This, he thinks, could be the start of a really good friendship.


Their background is this: they're coworkers, they've hung out a bit outside of work, but they only recently started talking extensively (because of a crush he had on one of their mutual friends, amusingly enough). But this meeting — six hours, where they talk about love and loss and childhood troubles and there's complete honesty — is something that's much deeper than the interactions they've have before.

It also sets the tone for their future.


A week later, and he's picking her up from the airport: she's coming back from helping her boyfriend move down to LA. The two of them have had a rocky relationship for a few months now, but she wanted to give her boyfriend one more chance — and it seems like her boyfriend sees (at least for a few days) the error of his ways, because they're still in a relationship when she gets back.

He picks her up and drives her home, and then, on her front steps, they talk for a few hours, well past midnight — about her trip, about life and sundry, about hopes and dreams. Time passes, and it's getting late, and suddenly he realizes something that's been bubbling under the surface for a bit now: he likes her.

As soon as he realizes, he's caught in a dilemma — they've been incredibly honest with each other, not dodging questions and putting all cards on the table, as she puts it. And yet, for him to say anything would be a terrible time; even if she had broken up with her boyfriend — which she hadn't — now would be far from a good time.

And yet, that demand for honesty remains. It eats at him, and so even though he realizes that it's going to be the wrong move, it just won't let him leave without telling her the truth. So he does — sort of, awkwardly, not making eye contact and mentioning that it is, in fact, the worst of times — and lets her read between the lines.

Normally, he'd be telling anyone else in that position that it was a stupid crush, and he's an idiot for giving it voice, for making it awkward and screwing up a friendship.

But there are two things that are different, here, for one main reason: the same honesty that compels him to tell her also gives him hope that it isn't going to mess everything up, because they'll be able to work through it.

So he does. And then, after going home, he texts her about it, knowing that he couldn't just leave it like that, and spends an hour with her in a conversation where she brings up her negative past experiences with friends that disappear as soon as it becomes apparent that they're not going to get what they want, and he tries to show that it's not going to be like that. And he asks her to trust him, and she says she does.

Here, he thinks that whatever it is they're building, at least it's being built on the truth.


Every story she tells touches on a different facet of her life — the way that her parents raised her, the journey to college, the trips to the Middle East, and across it all, the relationships that make up the fabric of her life.

He responds in kind, sharing stories of moving frequently, of the horrors of middle school when younger than everyone else, of finally finding friends in high school, of his lackluster college days, of his family, of his relationships, too.

There's always something to talk about, always a story yet to be told.


The next couple of months pass with little fanfare but much time spent together — hour-long walks at work, meals with each other, and almost inevitably a few hours spent on Sunday night, by phone or in person. Even when they're both traveling — him to Boston, her to Chicago — they still talk just about every night. She eventually breaks up with the boyfriend, because he never starts to treat her well, but she still loves him — it's never more clear than the night that she calls him and asks that he come over because her ex and her just had a phone conversation, and she wasn't doing okay.

He goes, of course, and is her metaphorical shoulder to cry on for a few hours, and his heart breaks a little — perhaps surprisingly not because she's crying over another guy, but simply because she's crying, because she's hurt, because she's unhappy.

And there, with her, after learning about her life across the past few months, through phone calls after midnight and three hours on any given weekend, he's starting to see the shape of her life. She's learning some of his, too, in a way that few do.

They talk a lot about equality, and the strong desire and preference for it, and at one point in time she asks him whether she's being too needy — she says that she feels uncomfortable that it always seems to be her leaning on him, and if he'll ever need her for anything. He responds, rather flippantly, that her sample size is too small — it's only been a few months, after all.

But then he adds, quietly, that he enjoys every moment he spends with her; it's not exactly a terrible burden he's bearing, and in a lot of ways, he's leaning on her, too. And he is — she makes him a better person.

Another night, and it's time to leave again, after spending a few hours helping her through a protracted mess at work involving teams and transitions and entirely too much headache, after a few stories that she hasn't told anyone else, after a few vulnerabilities shared.

They're talking about something, and he's about to leave when she asks him why he likes her.

And he tells her, because what else is he to do? He stands there, for a second, and then he looks up at her and says that sometimes you meet someone amazing, someone who feels right, and you just want them to be happy. That she deserves to be happy. And that he wants to help, in any way he can.

Here, he thinks, well, maybe there's something more to this — but he doesn't dare say it out loud, not even to himself.


There's a conversation where she says to him, "I let him in, and I gave them all of me, and he didn't like what they saw and left and left me with nothing," and he understands, too well, and his heart breaks a bit more for her.

All he wants to do is hug her and promise her that it will never, ever happen again, and how could that guy — how could anyone that loved you — hurt you like that?

But that is also the nature of love, he knows, and he resolves, simply, that he will not be like that. Even, perhaps, if it happens to him.


He mentions why he likes her from time to time, and she tells him he's being masochistic from time to time, and then, on a Tuesday night, they have a fight — their first.

It starts with her telling him that she doesn't want him making a goal of her, that it makes her feel less secure about their friendship, and that when his expectations aren't met, it's going to be shitty for both of them.

He protests, of course, but he's also confused — what's changed since the first time they had this conversation? He thinks she's being rather curt, and figures that this conversation would be better over the phone anyway, and calls her.

But after a few seconds, she simply says that she'd rather not do this, and hangs up on him.

For a moment, he sits, stunned, and then reacts the only way he knows how: he accuses her of shutting him out. It's unfair, and he apologizes for it later, but in the moment, he snaps at her, and she retreats, saying that his actions are making her insecure about their friendship, and as it escalates he wonders, briefly, if all that they've built will be destroyed in a single bad night.

He still doesn't understand what prompts it.

But after some more back and forth, she takes a few minutes, and he uses that time to write something to her:

"I didn't have any expectations, you know. I just cherished our friendship for what it was, enjoyed every moment. I didn't go home wishing that things were different, I didn't think that I deserved more of your time or energy. I just thought that it was a good thing, and that it was equal, and that it was shared. And no, it's not to say that expectations wouldn't have come, but I was pretty vigilant about guarding against them. And I thought that you shared a confidence that it would persevere, despite whatever challenges, despite time and tide. Maybe I'm just arrogant enough to think that I'm different, or maybe I thought that you would trust me when I promised that it would be okay. Yes, maybe there would've been hard questions to ask one day, but the questions wouldn't have been disappointing. Or maybe they would've, but I think a few disappointing answers do not a friendship break, and are perhaps the coin to pay for the passage."

And then she comes back, and writes something back, and mutually, they take a step back, they take a breath, they apologize to each other. And then she calls him, and they're almost okay again, but for the fact that he figures that he might as well get the pain over with now:

"You're never going to like me the way I like you, are you?" he asks, softly, knowing the answer, but needing to hear it anyway.

"I don't think so," she says, and his world collapses a bit, despite all of his words, all of his bulwarks, all of his anticipations.

The next day is hell.

And here he thinks, well, maybe none of it was worth it at all, and that the closer you are, the more hurt you get, and all this honesty bullshit bought him, what, exactly?


There's a recurring question that they've asked each other more than a few times — sometimes she's the one to raise it, sometimes he is.

They're talking about the fight, and she says, "We got to that point because we were allowing ourselves to get into a mode that wasn't platonic enough. I don't have fights like that with friends, nor do I want to."

And he ponders for a moment, and asks the question again:

"Do we spend too much time together?"

But for both of them, the answer is always no — even though they've spent a lot of time together, it's always been enjoyable, always been worthwhile.

Today, she says something else: "Maybe too much of a certain kind of time. Not that either of us doesn't like it that way, but the question is whether it's appropriate or sustainable."

And he says, "Well, I think it's fine—" and she's quick to respond that of course he would, and that it's not a robust philosophy.

But he understands, suddenly, the difference between their worldviews in that moment: he would rather live fully and take the ups and downs, the triumphs with the tribulations, and fight to expand local maxima, even if it means expanding the minima as well.


A few days, or weeks more, he recovers, and more importantly, he remembers.

"Corinthians", he said, that night. And after their fight, he wrote something to her, from the Bible verse, though not the usually quoted one: "It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

And that is what he holds to, what he remembers — the way she laughs, the quiet gratitude on her face when he says goodbye, after a night spent distracting her from a bad memory or rough day, the way she sticks out her tongue, the way she slightly furrows her brow when she concentrates, the mock-exasperation when he's being obtuse, the banter shared, and all the moments in between.

He holds to the moments she's helped him, too — the times she's held him accountable in a bet with a classmate, the times she's kept him honest, made him a better person, and cheered him up when he was down, simply because she knew he was feeling down, simply because she chose to.

And he takes a moment to think about it, about the big picture, the long road to Eden, and not just the last five minutes or five days, and realizes that he's not everything to her, and may never be. But he's a close friend; he can make her laugh, he can bring her tea when she's sick, he can help her ease the pains of heartache and headache, and that's enough.

He's not everything to her, but he's a close friend. He loves her, and he wouldn't change a thing.
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You met the girl of my dreams, I want to tell him, and now you're getting married to her. You dated her for these last years, and now you're engaged, and soon enough...

It's not my place to judge, to question, to wonder, so I stop that, now. I will keep my peace, as I should: it stopped being my decision over three years ago.

So then, only this: as someone who built castles in the sky with her, I hope that you can do the same. I hope that you know that there's more to life than just keeping your feet planted firmly on the ground, that it's useful and desirable, even, to dream and wonder and explore. I hope you know that a fanciful idea can change your day, your relationship, or even your life.

I hope you read, but more than that, I hope you write. I hope you create, together, scenes beyond imagination, thoughts beyond belief, for she's one hell of a writing partner, and an amazing editor, too.

It is a little presumptuous of me: maybe she doesn't want that, maybe she's changed, as we all do. But if she does still want it, if she looks to you and asks for a prompt or for you to write with her, I hope you'll be able to weave those words and worlds, creating tales like we once did, of Madelynn and her king, of two strangers that met once and what happened after.

Even if you do, it won't quite be like those pieces, but there's no reason they should be: those are our stories, our history, and are the past. Create your own stories, your own future, and may your heroes be brave, vanquish evil, and befriend the dragon.
talonkarrde: (color)
We sit here, facing each other across this coffee table, mugs in hand. A moment passes, and then another, and one more — and nothing happens.

"Isn't it getting to be that time?" You'll eventually ask, and I will ponder the sentiment for a multitude of moments. And just when I know that you're about to tell me that, in fact, I'm definitely running out of time, I'll start speaking, and after a few words, we'll suddenly be somewhere else and the fake-familiar construct fades away, irrelevant, forgotten.

Where we are instead — well, that's why we’re here, isn't it?

It may be an endless, rolling wave of sand dunes, as I point towards the horizon, describing the silvery ships that will soon come to rain death on the defenseless colony behind us. But look closely, and you’ll see one of the pilots does not fire; she’s the one who will lead the fight against her former comrades. We'll explore her past and see why she joined up, and then turn our eyes to the future, and see how she'll start — and end — the revolution.

Another week, and it may be our future we’re walking through, yours and mine, ravaged by war or uplifted by technology, as we journey through the fallen/rebuilt/floating testaments to humanity's yearning for the stars. They are astounding creations — and yet, in the grand scope of a story, are simply set pieces that the characters we're concerned with will flit around. In story after story, we see that even the problems of just a few people do, in fact, amount to more than a hill of beans in this crazy world.

We'll dive down even further, and go inside someone's mind — a soldier, or maybe a poet — and learn of the struggles they face in their particular age and time, be it a speculative far future or historical distant past, and experience their lives as they surpass their challenges or fall victim to their trials. We'll see that conflicts inherently crystallize not around lofty ideas like freedom and liberty, but instead on specific people and their personal journeys — a small child who has his parents taken away; a brother who is estranged from his sister; two friends who fight on different sides of a war.

My goal is to tell you an interesting, provocative, different story every week. It will almost always be fiction and it will generally be fantastical, but those are guidelines, not rules. There are no rules — and no roads — where we're going. There, is, however, a hope — that eventually, when you return to this world, the real world, you'll leave the one you just left with a touch of regret, and a desire to come back for more.


Jan. 1st, 2013 08:42 pm
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2012 was a year. Not a bad year, by any means, it just doesn't seem like it will be a year that will last in my memory. My job/career/workplace/coworkers are awesome, my friends are super, and my family is wonderful; I could not ask for more.

For 2013, I want to read more and write more, I think. I still owe a few stories to a few friends, and Idol Season the Last should be this year, but more than that, I think I've spent a year - or, perhaps, many years now - absorbing and consuming, and maybe it's time to spend some time more time creating.

Happy New Year, everyone.
talonkarrde: (color)
Hey guys,

I'm doing this thing again for the holidays. I'm heading out to Austin, Texas, for a week, and I'd like to get some writing done. Last year, it was a mishmash of requests, and while I still owe some people a few (which you'll see in the next few days, I promise), I also think it was also some of my best writing — including a long form steampunk fantasy, a science-fiction exploration, and, of course, love and loss.

So, here we are again: No promises for Christmas Day, but I will say that these will be delivered before New Years (likely one a day, because I've gotten more organized). Give me a prompt, as detailed or vague as you'd like (with or without a genre/word count), and let me know if you'd like it posted here or emailed to you.

No refunds! No returns! I may refuse if you ask me to write something that I have no idea whatsoever about (but I'd much rather do research and try and make it good, so this should be quite rare). Insert other disclaimers here, yadda yadda yadda.
talonkarrde: (Default)
We reached a milestone today at work and have something to show for it. This:


I threw it up on twitter, prefacing it with three words: why we fight.


Nov. 2nd, 2012 01:02 am
talonkarrde: (color)
I feel like the new friend feed may be a bit icky because it doesn't respect personal themes, which presumably people pick for a reason... but on the other hand, it geekily allows you to navigate posts through the traditional vim J/K keys, which I find super useful (other places this can be used: Gmail, Google Reader, reddit with res). 

[As an addendum to the addendum, apparently I'm more inclined to slice-of-life posting while on business/recruiting trips where my usual distractions aren't availble to me. It's not likely to continue, for those of you missing the fiction that usually inhabits this space.]


Nov. 1st, 2012 09:31 am
talonkarrde: (Default)
Short thoughts on:

  • Cloud Atlas is really good, and I recommend you go see it. I'm actually speaking very personally here, where you is literally, you, reading this right now, as you are probably a writer, and Cloud Atlas is, at its core, a work of art for writers like us. There's an interesting framing device that the movie uses where it tells six stories with one common theme and interweaves them, whereas the book actually tells one story through six ages and nests them. Both are good, I think. Definitely Oscar material.
  • I need to see Argo; I've read the book that it was based on, and it's a heckuva story. Reviews look good.
  • Wreck it Ralph comes out tomorrow, Skyfall is the week after, Life of Pi is November 21st, and Les Miserables is coming out on Christmas day.
  • Halo 4 and Assassin's Creed 3 have both gotten excellent reviews, and are surprisingly focused on characters and interactions instead of the usual running and gunning. This is good; more focus on narrative is definitely a good thing for the industry, I think, even though gameplay always comes first.
  • Dishonored was very good — a better version of Deus Ex, with a smattering of influences from Thief to Bioshock to Mirror's Edge. There's a lot more to be said, but again, it's a good direction for the industry to go in (which it might not, as Deus Ex the first proved; the industry may quite possibly ignore the game completely). The only argument I have against it is that it doesn't have any real resource management, which Deus Ex was very good at requiring.

  • I still owe five pieces, I think, to four people. I willlllll get them done before December. Probably. 

  • Looks like the election is wrapping up; there's simply not enough time for Romney to get the 1-2% swing he needs. The hurricane was his last, best chance, and Obama has handled it flawlessly, even by Republican accounts.
  • California propositions are an interesting bunch. Apparently we like to vote on a lot of things.
  • Disney got a huge deal out of buying Lucasfilm; I'm definitely looking forward to the next Star Wars movie (just like I look forward to Pixar and Marvel movies, both of which are under Disney).
  • Going to Australia in July, which will be exciting.
talonkarrde: (color)
This last weekend, I went to the semi-annual gathering of about 70,000 people in Boston for a convention known as PAXEast — The Penny Arcade Expo, East Coast. It's a three day convention that attracts gamers of all types, showcases new and unreleased games, and has panels by some of the notable people in the industry on all sorts of topics in gaming. But that little blurb doesn't do it justice — it's a bit like describing Woodstock as a gathering of people that like music, when it's so much more than that.

One of my friends didn't know that this was the third time that I had attended (and first time enforcing, but more on that later) and only learned that I had gone. He texted me this: "What was your favorite event/booth, did you meet mike and jerry [the guys behind Penny Arcade], would you go to pax west, and recite a detailed anecdote of the moment you realized holy shit."

The last part really starts to capture a bit of the essence that makes PAX so special. There is (at least, for everyone I've asked) a point over the weekend where everyone has that moment, though when and where it happens varies depending on the flavor of the gamer. For some, it's getting that exclusive access in trying some of the newest unreleased games from huge publishers and talking to them; for others, it's talking to indie game developers and learning what the journey is like to go from gamer to creator; and for others still, it's joining a tabletop session and spending four hours with complete strangers that are welcome friends by the end.

My response to my friend who texted me was that it wasn't my first year, which essentially allowed me to dodge most of the questions. But after thinking about it some more, I realized there's actually been a 'holy shit' moment all three times that I've gone, and that these moments build on one another to why PAX is something truly unique.


When I was young, being a geek/nerd wasn't cool. It may be cool to be nerdy now, but back then, it was literally something that neatly placed you neatly into the category of 'loser'. The prevailing atmosphere was that gamers were antisocial, icky misanthropes that should be shunned. We weren't often prom kings and class presidents, and saying, "Oh, I spent the weekend playing Chrono Trigger, which is amazing," was usually met with a confused look, at best. My parents forbade me from gaming and took pretty much every opportunity to tell me it was a terrible waste of time and that I was throwing my life away; in order to play anything, I had to sneak it in before they got home, and occasionally after they went to sleep.

I didn't have many friends up through high school, until by chance I overheard two classmates having a argument about Starcraft. I don't remember what it was about specifically, but I remember butting in rather vehemently (and possibly obnoxiously) to rebut one of them, which somehow led to an invitation to a LAN party to prove my position. That led to regular LAN parties (and the internal moniker for our group of friends as the 'LAN clan') and finding, after incredibly lonely and depressing elementary and middle school years, a group of people that I could genuinely call my friends. Gaming made the difference between four more years that I would have spent alone and some of the closest friends I have today.

That was a crystallizing moment for me — I had finally found people who I could freely talk about my interests with, even if the rest of the school (and my parents) actively thought that I liked stupid things. After the LAN clan, I realized what the internet could be, and since then, I've steadily connected with people through various online games (including World of Warcraft), leading to having friends in cities across the country and world, all because I wanted — or needed — to find more people who were like me.

But even with friends made online, we were still hundreds of miles away from each other. PAX changed that, and gave us an opportunity to bring online gaming groups together, as well as play games with complete strangers that soon became new friends that I would keep in contact with.

My first 'holy shit' moment at PAX was when I got into the expo hall for the first time. I think I actually stopped dead in the middle of an intersection, which might not have been the smartest idea, though I wasn't the only one standing there in slack-jawed wonder. There was a continuous human stream of people flowing around me, flashing monitors all around showcasing the latest and greatest games, and snatches of conversation ranging from playful arguments on the age-old question of which game was better, friends telling each other they should go check a specific booth, and every once in a while, just a simple 'wow'.

But the most notable thing I remembered was this: everyone had a smile on their faces, the same 'I can't believe this is real' smile. And my 'holy shit' moment was realizing one simple fact:

Everyone here shares my interests.

And that realization was was immediately followed by this one:

I can be myself.


A few weeks before the convention, Robert Khoo (the business vizier of Penny Arcade) asked on twitter whether or not there was interest in him doing a question and answer session, something that has never happened. Apparently the demand was high enough, so he announced that he would be having one: midnight, where it would be competing with the concert and the general fatigue of most people having been at the convention for over twelve hours at that point. I don't know how many people he expected would show up.

At midnight, eight hundred people filed into the theatre, and for two hours, Khoo answered everyone's questions, with a standing ovation at both the beginning and the end. He covered the apocryphal story of how he started working for Penny Arcade, how new ideas are implemented, and general advice on how to succeed.

And I had been there for over twelve hours at this point too, so the details are a little bit fuzzy (though I hope to God someone recorded it) but I remember him answering a question on how he decides what to do and why more or less like this:

"There's a core demographic of twenty four to thirty five year olds who identify as gamers as a large part of their identity, and with everything we do, we want to add value to this group, this core demographic. Everything from Child's Play to PAX to the PA Report is done to provide more value to them."

And that mention of Child's Play brought to mind my second "holy shit" moment. Specifically, this video here, from PAX East 2010. I don't think you can hear the sniffling over the standing ovation, but I'm pretty sure you had to be dead not to have tears in your eyes at the end.

This question really gave me a brief glimpse of the future that Penny Arcade was creating, where gaming isn't stigmatized but accepted as simply another form of media, one that has the capacity for critical discourse as much as any other art form. Child's Play is only part of the long game here, as is the PA Report, but the fact that part of what Penny Arcade is doing is actively creating a better tomorrow for gamers — that was an incredible moment.


The final moment was less of a specific moment and more something that occurred through the weekend. You see, this year I worked as an enforcer, one of the volunteer staff that does just about everything that needs to be done at the show, including line manangement, entertainment, security, setup and teardown, and more.

I volunteered because PRD posted a call for enforcers on twitter, and it sounded interesting. I figured I was going anyway, and I thought that it was time that I gave back for some of what PAX had given to me.

What I got was one of the best experiences of my life.

Khoo calls enforcers the spine of the show, or, to quote, "without enforcers the show would just be a steaming turd." All I know is that it was an absolute blast in just about every way imaginable. I was working one of the theaters (Arachnid, for those curious), and got to see amazing talks (including the Ben Kuchera on PA Report), take lots of pictures, and drink applesauce through a squirt-tube. Less facetiously, I was able to direct people to where they wanted to be, keep everything safe and fun, and generally give people the same experience that I had as an attendee.

I also got to run a 64-player Starcraft II tournament that went off without a hitch (and was won by a SCII semi-pro player, which was quite cool).

It's hard to describe exactly what makes it so awesome — much like the atmosphere at PAX is something that needs to be felt, so is the camaderie of the enforcers. We were everywhere, and even if we didn't know each other or hadn't met, there was nothing that we wouldn't do for each other. I remember one of the other enforcers dropping by with food on a supply run Saturday afternoon after we had just started areally busy panel and me blurting out 'I love you' to him by instinct — and getting one in return! I remember someone coming into enforcerland (where we got to rest) after the show had closed Sunday and saying that expo hall needed more help tearing down. Most of us had been on our feet for over twelve hours every day and were as tired as hell, and yet there wasn't any real reluctance — it was just the right thing to do, so we did it, and we did it together.

Simply put, I had faith that anytime someone asked for help, they needed it; anytime someone wasn't busy and could help, they would come; and everyone was doing everything they could. I didn't get to see every panel I wanted to, nor did I get to see all the new games that I might have liked. But I wouldn't trade the experience I did have — talking to Mike and Ben briefly, getting a quiet thank you from the attendees, and trading satisfied but tired nods with the other enforcers — for anything.

And next time, I know to schedule in an extra day on either side for the set up and the afterparty.


Wil Wheaton's 'Don't Be A Dick' is the first rule of PAX, and I think it goes a long way in explaining the magic. People aren't dicks here and those who are aren't tolerated. People who harass others are warned (and kicked out if they continue), exhibitors that aren't kind are asked not to return, and overall, it never feels like a corporate event to sell more games. It simply feels like a gathering of friends and family.

This was my sixteen year old brother's first time; my parents okayed his going mainly so he could spend some more time with me, they said. Instead, I don't think we saw each other outside of the hotel for more then 30 minutes throughout all three days; I was busy enforcing and he turned into a tabletop gamer right before my eyes, learning magic and competing with miniatures. I asked him, on the drive home, whether it was the best time of his life, and he didn't hesitate at all before saying yes.

One of my other friends stayed in the expo hall pretty much the entire time, with a few detours to the Dance Central freeplay stage, and I know a few more that simply panel-hopped without ever going down to PC or console freeplay. PAX is a lot of different things to a lot of people, but unlike elsewhere, our differences do not divide us.

Outside of the convention center, there was the giant sign proclaiming that PAX East was being held. And the subtitle neatly encompassed everything PAX meant.

It said, "Welcome home."
talonkarrde: (Default)

There's a boy and girl — a man and a woman — you and me. 

And there's their last meeting, in a room, where they talk, where they kiss, and where he drives her home. The next morning, she says that she'll never see him again.

It's been almost two years since they met, since they started this journey of theirs, this relationship (albeit on and off), and it ends here, after they discuss what can be, and what can't be, and she makes a decision for the both of them. He doesn't blame her for it, though he knows what it means.

The truth — or a truth — has always swirled around them, sometimes acknowledged, sometimes buried, and it is this:

It was always going to be hard. It was always going to be the two of them in a rowboat that was leaky and had one oar, and they'd only make it to land (assuming there was land somewhere out there) if they worked together, if they had faith (the irony abounds), if they kept at it. And they did, for a while, and even when he would falter or she would despair, the other would be able to convince them to keep trying. And he thought that maybe it meant that they'd make it, them against the world, and eke out a compromise that would work for them, even if it didn't work for everyone.

And then it stopped working.


For all of it, for so long, I just thought that love was all that mattered, and...in the end, it wasn't. There were other things — tradition, acceptance, and religion, and what us being together would mean for her children, and more still. And part of it, I understand — I understand that if there are areas of her life that she is very passionate about that I am indifferent to, she may want to find someone who shares those interests.

And yet... I don't know if I do understand the sheer animosity, the sheer horror of even the idea of dating, or marrying, someone outside of the faith. We shared the same views on so much, the same outlook and worldview, and yet, the fact that I did not grow up a certain way excluded us from having a future together. The sheer fact that we kissed was wrong, because we could not have a future. 

That, I will never understand. 

talonkarrde: (color)
It's actually been quite a long time since I've written (fiction, at least) and I'm actually currently visiting family for four days (and in Arizona) and so I'm in a fairly good position to do stretch those writing muscles. Semi-inspired by [livejournal.com profile] joeymichaels, though I've been doing it for RL friends for a few years, but this is the first time offering to the internet community.

No promises for Christmas Day, but I will say that (barring unforeseen circumstances) these will be delivered before New Years. Give me a prompt, as detailed or vague as you'd like (with or without genre/word count/a specific line you want in it/anything at all), and let me know if you'd like it posted here or emailed to you.

No refunds! No returns! I reserve the right to first refusal if you ask me to write something that I have no idea whatsoever about (but if I think I can pull it off, I will most certainly do research and try and make it good). Insert other disclaimers here, to cover the fact that this is actually a bit scary to do.

Oh, and Merry Christmas, my friends; may your home be warm, your dreams close, and your family closer.



For [livejournal.com profile] yachiru: DONE
Speak Easy (Steampunk)

For [livejournal.com profile] michikatinski:
"It was a dark and scary Christmas night." (romantic comedy)

For [livejournal.com profile] takenoko:
Waking Up In Vegas

For [livejournal.com profile] rejeneration: DONE (emailed)
From the Foundations

For [livejournal.com profile] joeymichaels: DONE
Controlled Burn

For [livejournal.com profile] beautyofgrey: DONE
'A crushed rose and an empty box'

For [livejournal.com profile] attheonesix:
Underground Kings

For [livejournal.com profile] _asherah_: DONE
Christmas after tragedy

For [livejournal.com profile] crimsonplum:
Something I said, or someone I know
(involving a flash forward/flashback)
talonkarrde: (Default)
My first memory of my grandfather is when I was six or seven, perhaps, and we lived in Colorado. I remember wanting to snuggle up to him and my grandma at night in their king sized bed, right in the middle, and I would frequently leave 'my' bed and escape to theirs. It wasn't because it was more fluffy (which it was) but rather that there was something incredibly safe about being between them.

After Colorado, I think, they were getting to the age where a twelve-hour-plus cross-continent flight to the other side of the world was getting to be a bit much, but I still saw them when I traveled back — in 2000, 2003, and then 2009 for my cousin's wedding, where the pictures of the entire wedding party (I was the best man, being uniquely qualified as the only person aside from the bride that could speak the language the groom understood) are very prominent in my grandparents' home.

I don't remember anything earlier than Colorado, though — not the years that they came to visit in California, nor, in the formative years of my life, when they raised me after my parents went off to cross the Pacific without their little baby boy. My grandparents raised me for more than two years, and according to my mom, I was the one child that my grandpa was really able to raise as a baby, to bounce on his lap and coddle and spoil to all hell.

And now, twenty years from when I first left my grandfather's embrace, I am back, to see him once more. This time, though, he is in a hospital bed, and he is unlikely to ever leave it again.


I can't say I know my grandfather all that well — there was always something of a language barrier that got in the way of being able to have completely fluid conversations, and even if there wasn't, from what I do know, our worldviews aren't quite the same. Where I have lived in the suburbia of middle class all my life, my grandfather had fought in the war against the Japanese devils, as he calls them, and did well enough to be recognized by the Chinese government. 

There was a distinct conversation that I remember when I was ten or so, I think, back when I still had the summers to go back to China yearly; I asked my grandfather what he thought of America. 'Bullies!' he said to me, wagging his finger, "All they do is they bully around the weaker countries!" I protested, in my ten year old way, that America was great and grand and glorious, and he shook his head, and said that, yes, the average person was very nice (having been directed home by them variously when they used to go on walks in Colorado by themselves) but the government, they were no good at all. 

I didn't accept it at the time, but it sounds rather right, doesn't it?

Beyond that, though, I never asked, that I can remember, about his youth, or about how he met my grandma, or what his hopes and dreams and wishes were — though there's still time to do so, now that I'm here. But in the last few days, just by watching, I've still learned an incredible amount — all of the important things, maybe?
I've seen all of his children and grandchildren — my four aunts and two uncles, and their families, and my various cousins — come through and visit him. There's a steady rotation of his children who will stay the night with him, and care for him, help him to the bathroom and make sure he takes his pills, and every face that comes in is someone who has loved him and been loved by him and comes to do what they can to ease his pain.

And my grandmother, of course, who is always, always there, who, as my dad says, my grandpa can't be without. He's always been a proud man, I think, more than anything, but I've seen a bit of what's under the surface these last few days. When he goes for a CT scan, and we wheel him out of the room, he asks if she's coming, even if he'll only be away for a few minutes. And this afternoon, when my dad and I are taking over the night shift to watch him, as she leaves, he presses his palm to his mouth and sends her a kiss, and she returns the gesture, and for a moment, they simply stand there, looking at each other.


It's an odd feeling to sit here, perched on the edge of the bed, ready to spring into action at the slightest sign of discomfort and yet be comforted by the fact that my grandpa snores and speaks in his sleep. Every time he makes a noise, it's a sign that he's breathing well, and deeply, and it's... soothing, for lack of a better word, whereas normally I can't stand any noise when I'm sleeping. When he doesn't make any noise for a few seconds is when I start to worry, even if it's irrational (because he's still lucid and fine), and I hold my breath until he releases his, and only then do I start typing again.

I should be sleeping as well, actually, so that when something does happen, I can jump up and assist; he wakes every few hours, fairly regularly, and so there's little reason to simply sit, and watch, and wait, but I couldn't go to sleep even if I wanted to.

I've had experience with hospice care as part of my clinical fieldwork class for psychology, and as an EMT, I'm no stranger to working in a hospital, even with long-term patients. But this is different, of course. It's different for a multitude of reasons, mostly collapsing onto the fact that this is someone I know and love and care about not dying on a very personal level, instead of on a more clinical or even professional level. It's also different because I'm not in a professional capacity here; instead of having to give medical care, I'm simply... here. There's no protocol to follow, no one else to contact, no medicine to push.

Instead, I'm simply here to... be here, really. I'm here to lend a hand, but more than that, I'm here so my grandpa can see me, so he can comment on how, erm, 'solidly' I am built, and so he can know that he — and by extension family — is the most important thing in my, and  all of his children's lives, and adherence to that principle is why we're all here.

And we're here, of course, because it makes him happy, and the look on his face as my uncles and aunts enter, as I come in, is something that I could come back a thousand times to see.


It's 3 a.m. now, and I think for a moment of the parallelism, that here we are, three generations of us in one room (and my dad and grandpa are now competing in the snoring Olympics, and I think my dad might win this one). My grandpa looked over at me a few hours ago and said, "This is our tradition — the elderly take care of the young, at first, and then, when it is their time, they count on their children to take care of them", and I promise to myself that this will be my tradition as well.

I wonder when it will be the time for me to take care of my mother and father, or my children to take care of me. And then I realize that it's not, really, just my parents I should be worrying about, but also my uncles and aunts, my teachers and professors, and everyone I know of that generation, and I wonder, for a moment, how we deal with all of this, a loss of this magnitude, one by one, as each generation passes on. 

But it's the natural order of things, isn't it? That's the best I can come up with.

I hope that I can pass on what I have learned to the next generation, so that whenever anyone in our family is to pass on, they will do so with their family and friends around them, reminding them that they are loved and cherished. I don't know if the secret is having a large family so that the burden may be spread and thus lightened, or if it really is a cultural issue where the bonds between families, especially extended ones, are looser in America than they are over here, but I'll find out.

There's no reason that the ones you love and love you shouldn't be at your side when you start needing help to do the things you can no longer do by yourself, and no reason that your loved ones should shy away and push that burden onto another, who will care less than you will that it's done right. And even if there are those who do care who are not family, no matter how much they care, their caring will never replace a family's bonds.


I've learned something, I think, though it shames me that it took so long to learn and that I hadn't learned it beforehand. Before I came, I was worried that I wasn't going to be able to communicate well with my grandpa, that I wasn't going to say the right things or be able to reassure him in the right way, or that I would be powerless and helpless to, well, do anything. I was afraid of messing up in a million different ways, and so I asked a friend of mine what you do for those in pain, who are near the end of their lives.

And he told me a great many things, and I thanked him, and then I promptly, I think, forgot most of what he told me. I think perhaps there was a bit of difficulty in communicating, and a bit of difficulty in saying the right things, and maybe I did mess up.

But it doesn't matter — none of it matters, because I'm not here for me, and this isn't some sort of a choreographed dance. I'm here for him, for him to look at me and hug me and understand that a part of him lives on in me, and in that, I think, I have not disappointed him.

I was lucky to have such a chance, and I may be visiting again soon, if things turn worse, because even though I'll still be afraid of not being able to say what I want to say, even if I'll be afraid that my last memory of him will be him even more gaunt than he is now, if there's anything I can do to make him even a little bit happy, it's what I should do.

Thanks, grandpa, for teaching me that, for raising me, and for everything.
talonkarrde: (Default)
(for Ashley)

In some worlds, and some lives, she never made it to this college. I haven’t been able to find one where we meet in those ones; we’re (excuse the pun) worlds apart, even if we inhabit the same one. It’s just too cosmically unlikely until you get to a truly ludicrous number of quantum worlds, and well, anything’s possible once you have enough monkeys.

In other ones, she goes to college, but she doesn’t apply for the job before ever getting there, which changes the timeline unbelievably. Or maybe it’s believable if you study chaos theory and butterfly effects and whatnot, but I’m always surprised how many things change, how many friendships turn out differently — it’s a remarkably prescient decision at an early time.

It’s after those two huge divergences are taken care of that we come to the sheaf of worlds wherein we meet. Though we don’t share any classes, we work together, and thus we become good friends in most of these worlds. I’d say all, but I’d say it with a sort of look on my face, and then I’d try to fix it, and then she’s say something like ‘you need to fix your believable face’ and then we’d both laugh about it as I agreed. But I’m getting off topic; the point is that in the worlds where we don’t get along, it’s usually because I’m being an ass. 

You know, like usual, except that I’ve always had the luck of friends like her who could see past it. But that’s neither here nor there, either.

What’s here, though, right at this tributary of the giant stream, this is where it gets interesting, where the smaller tendrils of time cross and weave and create a mesh and interchangeably arrive at roughly the same place — I think it telling that even though hundreds of small details may be different (shifts we had together, time spent talking, what we were respectively better at, who we fired, which restaurant we’d drink together at...) the flow, as it were, is enough to keep us going in the same direction, in contact with one another.

But when my path changes sharply, as I change jobs pretty rapidly in a year, she follows at first... and then my path changes again, and that’s where it gets tough, and the timelines get pretty murky.

See, in some of them, she follows, and in some of them, she doesn’t, and our paths start to diverge — not much, but in a year or two, it’ll be quite different from a year ago, even if it’s still pretty close. And then a year after that, the decisions change even more things, and it’s impossible to tell anything with any probability. Prognostication isn’t an exact science; hell, it’s not even much of an art.

Anyway — in some of these timelines, she stays where she is, a single, strong thread that is relatively alone but shines on without much support until it draws others out of the area around her; in others, she retreats back to where she grew up, and curls around her family and the friends that are back there, taking strength and giving strength in equal parts. But those two options aren’t the majority.

The majority of them involve staying where she is now and dimming after a bit, after more than a few tries to change and join the other recent strands that have gone out West recently. It looks like she’s rebuffed, time and time again, and she loses hope after more than a reasonable number of tries. Those timelines join with the others, but they’re less bright — at least for a little while. Those are the majority.

But there’s also a sizable minority of potentialities where she does make it out with the others that have cast away from their homes, and it’s almost like nothing changed after college, except, of course, that they’re all changing the world now. In some of those, she takes a retail job first, in others, she moves down with her aunt, but in all of them, she takes a risk, leaps into the air...and forgets to fall, instead soaring with the others.

Granted, it’s only a minority of worlds where this happens.

But here’s the thing, the crux, the takeaway, the Truth with a capital T and an iron edge to it:

She has two things going for her, more than other people.

The first is her support structure. One of her friends may be kind of an ass, one of them is still emotionally twelve, and one of them is pretty obsessed with snow...but they play their parts. And of her sisters, one is in a tough spot, another one has drifted some, and another she didn’t really honestly care for that much...but they’re her sisters, in the end. And for her family, well, her family ties are better than most, and full of good advice. This makes a big difference.

And the second is herself — but everyone has themselves, you may be saying, and  ‘excuse me, can I finish?’ — she learns, which not everyone can claim. She’ll take a situation, in any of these worlds, and come out better for it, whether it’s going back down to the base position to learn new technical skills, moving away from everyone and then learning about what it means to live by yourself in a foreign land, or learning that making toilets isn’t what she wants to do for the rest of her life. She grows and adapts and changes and learns and loses — pounds, that is — because she has the discipline to do so.

So however it turns out, she’ll be okay, because she has herself, and us. No matter which future happens, it leads, always, into another one, a brighter one, the one that she wants to be in. It doesn’t always come easy, but it always comes: for the one of her that struggles with school, for the one that doesn’t get everything easily, for the one that can’t get into the job she wants, all of it is temporary. All the timelines flow upwards, even when a bell-shaped curve should see some of them go down.

It’s remarkable, really. Or maybe it’s just something that the rest of us should aspire to, because we all should have such powers. Hypothetically, at least. We don’t all have someone looking over the timelines and doing analytics on them, of course, but I could be persuaded— oh, right.

Here’s the thing to keep in mind. Because she learns, all she has to do is not give up. If you think about a situation where there are infinite versions of you, and you keep learning after every experience — well, even if you’ve failed, there’s a world in which you’ve already picked yourself up already, and gone on to do better things. And if you think about it as following footsteps that are already present... well, aren’t the easiest shoes to fit in your own? The possibilities, really, all collapse into one equation, where life might set her back, but she doesn’t let it keep her back — and as well she shouldn’t.

All she really needs to do is be herself, and there’s really nothing she can’t do. Or, you know, hasn’t done, or won’t do. Time’s a bit weird like that.


This was long (as in, two years) overdue, but I hope it was worth the wait.
talonkarrde: (Default)
Hey guys; I've never really used this as anything but a writing journal, and really, my life is not that interesting, but I was going to throw this out there because it is big and momentous. I've been so busy lately with everything that I haven't gotten a chance to write on the most excellent topics lately, or post the exhaustive (and seriously, I mean like 1200 word) meta post that I've been looking at/corresponding about.

Mostly, ah, because I'm moving to California. San Francisco, to be exact, to start working at a little startup that does some cloud storage. In three weeks, roughly. Which is a bit of a thing, and as such I am asking you guys for any advice whatsoever you may have on, well, moving long distances, things to bring, things to keep, things to think about.

I am thinking of doing a ten-day cross country road trip before then; there are a few people I'd like to see and a few places I'd like to visit. I intend to do this in an 1998 Honda Accord that is solid as a rock, and I think everything I'm bringing is going to fit in there, which, at this point, is clothes, my computer, and a desk. Everything else, I'll be buying in SF, where I'm looking at a few spots that are comfortably in my budget and stuff.
So um. I'm not sure what I'm really asking for, but anything you guys think would be helpful would...be helpful.
talonkarrde: (color)
I mentioned a bit earlier in one of the topics that I was working on game design - today, we ended up posting it to Kongregate, one of the largest sites out there for flash game distribution. If you guys are interested, the game is called Convergence, here's a screenshot and link.

There are three separate levels - in the screenshot, you can see the toddler player-character in the first part, the young adult in the second, and the older adult in the last. It is, as you can probably gather, a little game about life and the choices we make in them, and it's certainly more than a little bit simplified. It's not aimed at hardcore gamers but rather as a stepping stone in a (hopefully) long line of games that are approachable and relate-able, and cause people to think about and perhaps connect to what the message behind the game is. In a non-trivial way, I think what we're trying to do is push forward gaming towards art.

As for this game, it starts with a platformer and then turns into something that incorporates more gameplay through narrative, and finally ends with a mix of our best art and dialogue for the finale scenes. There are three 'true' endings and two 'perfect' endings, and a host of achievements for doing well in the first level as well as making the right choices in the second.

It took us about four months to make, and we're pretty proud with how it came out - though of course there are always improvements to any labor that is made. There are a few bug fixes (holy crap, grammar mistakes;  how could we not catch those?) that are coming through the pipe right now, and I think there are one or two final updates/small easter eggs/edits that will be made in the upcoming week or so, but it's pretty much done. When we posted it tonight, we looked at each other and said 'wow, we did this, we made...a game. An actual game.' And I have to tell you, it feels pretty amazing - especially it's just the first of many.

I hope you enjoy, and as always we welcome all and any feedback.
talonkarrde: (Default)
Hi drivers!

I'm an EMT, and I ride in and drive an ambulance sometimes, and I wanted to say something today.

From my experience with you guys, I know that most of you are in a bit of a hurry - you might be late to work, or need to go pee really badly, or have some other pressing reason you seem to be dropping bricks on your gas and brakes instead of gently easing them down.

And, well, most cars might be pretty spiffy about getting out of your way, but every once in a while, you see this big, bulky vehicle that doesn't accelerate as fast as you want us to, sometimes. It's probably frustrating to watch us go slower than you in the middle lane, or sometimes even the fast lane, and not seem to understand your high beams or your horn beeps as a sign that we should be pulling over into the slow lane. I realize that this makes you want to cut us off.

For both of our sakes, please don't.

Even though we don't always have our emergency lights on and sirens blazing, we often still have a patient in the back. We do transport people from time to time, even though it's not an 'emergency', and some of these patients we have are only barely stable, so we try and make the ride as smooth as possible. Now, if you've driven on roads, any roads at all, you realize that they are not what we spend the majority of our state and federal budgets on. You may realize, even in your nice sedan with those nice shocks, that the roads are almost always terrible and no matter how slow I'm driving, there will be bumps that are uncomfortable to ride through. This is why we sometimes prefer the middle lane, or even the fast lane, because they tend to be more smooth.

I apologize for getting in your way - but like I said before, please don't cut me off. There are a couple reasons not to.

First and foremost, my vehicle is probably triple the size of your car, and is much more massive. If you remember high school physics, you'll know that I have a lot more momentum than you, which means that if forced to decelerate quickly, there will be a lot more force applied.  If I hit you, I will most likely be able to drive away with a few scratches while you will unfortunately have a twisted piece of metal to send to the salvage yard. As a corollary, because this ambulance is so massive, I can't stop on a dime, even though we try and keep our brakes fresh. If something goes wrong, I am likely to plow into you, even though I will try to avoid it.

You see, there's a lot of paperwork involved, even if it's just a light tap between bumpers, and I hate paperwork.

But here's the kicker: being that I'm in an ambulance, I possibly have a patient in the back, even if I don't have my lights on. Sometimes, they are stable adult humans that are going to dialysis that we chat with. Other times, they are three year old toddlers that are on artificial ventilators, have trach's, and are very precariously stable. They may not be able to sit up and thus can't ride in carseats, and so are instead belted as best we can (not that well) to our stretcher. We watch them carefully and drive very carefully, avoiding potholes and choosing the lane that will give us the smoothest ride, and we go as slow as possible without endangering other motorists.

For a child like that, braking very hard very suddenly is quite possibly going to have adverse effects. As such, it's nothing personal, but if you cut in front of me and then we need to stop suddenly, I will without hesitation rather hit you and have your car's crumple zones - or whatever else - take the majority of the decelerating force than possibly hurting this child by braking too hard.

I don't like paperwork, but I'm sure you understand that I dislike significantly more having anything happen to our patient on my watch. And, of course, I sure you understand equally well that I would hate for you to be even the slightest bit responsible for any of our patients having any issues whatsoever which could result from an accident involving you.

So drive carefully around us, please, and we will continue hoping that you'll never need our services.

Your friendly neighborhood EMT,
talonkarrde: (Default)
"Why?" they ask. More commonly, they simply gaze in disgust, befuddlement, or amazement.

I can't really give them an answer they will understand, no matter how good of a communicator I am, perhaps storytelling at its heart requires the listener to be as involved as the speaker, and they have never encountered a choice like this.

Or perhaps I am simply not skilled enough with my words, not empathetic enough, and I can not lead them from what they know to what I understand.

She could, though.


I do it because of the...how did she put it? Really obnoxious, precocious children we would have. The ones that I say would rule the world.

I can see so clearly our children doing the thing where they do at age eight or nine and ask one parent for something and, when denied, go to the other parent, trying to play them against each other.

And I can see, without a doubt, our eyes meeting over the little one's head and sharing a smile, and then...we play with him - or her, drawing out the please and arguments until, because he is precocious, he realizes that we've just been stringing him along.

And he pouts, of course, and starts to work up to a tantrum until she comes over and kisses his forehead, smoothes the frown away, and then lets him have what he was asking for in the first place. Not every time, of course, but just this once, because we were teasing him and he deserves it.

I always said she'd make a wonderful mother.


"It is hard," a friend of mine says over the phone, and I interrupt — "I know; I've done some research."

"Well, your first step is to find a beth din. There's one in South Jersey, but I wouldn't advise it — they're Haredis, extremely conservative. There's another one in Elizabeth, I think..."

"Well...that's the absolute start of it, right? The start of the process, I mean. I..." pause, trying to put words to thoughts. "I don't want to jump into it and make a hasty decision. I need...a consult, in other words. Is there someone I can...speak to, without it being..."

"Well, that's sort of tricky...because of the way that—"

"I know," I interrupt again, never one for listening to how things couldn't work. I'm like House, I said to her once: I prefer to assume that what I believe is right and make decisions based on that. It makes more sense, certainly than assuming I'm wrong.

"But I can get you some numbers, I think."

And with a quiet thank you, I take a step to change my words into actions.


I do it because of the way that we have talked, honestly, always, about our hopes and dreams, about our futures and the challenges that we faced. I do it for the one afternoon we shared when we carried on the conversations from days past about what separates dying cultures from thriving ones, about converting and the cavalier way I always talked about it, about a thousand words over five hours that I don't remember anymore that simply boiled down to two people who loved each other spending time with one another.


I don't know how it'll turn out. There are so many uncertainties, so many challenges. A year is a long time, and the process, as everyone tells me, is hard. And perhaps one of us will have moved on by then, leaving the other clutching memories of a holiday afternoon. Or perhaps both of us will have moved on — that would be...second best, in my opinion.

I said once that I was unafraid, because even though the odds were against us ("don't quote me the odds", I told her) what we had, together, was solid, flawless. It was the only lie I've ever told her — I'm deathly afraid, more so than I have been of anything in my life, we'll be left with nothing but a memory of an afternoon. But it is not fear that motivates me, or even to avoid regret — I would never forgive myself if I could have done something to make this work and didn't.

I do it because I believe, above all else, in love, and a God who does not put burdens on us that we can not bear.

But it would be so much easier to shoulder if she were by my side.
talonkarrde: (Default)

We had one of those wonderful marriages where every little thing was meaningful to us — the first time that I told her she was beautiful was in the hallway of our old high school. She didn’t believe me then; she thought that I was saying it just to be nice, or worse, to tease her, but I meant it honestly. It was my fumbling way of telling her that I wanted to us be together — not that she took it that way at the time — but when we actually started dating, she told me it was the first time anyone had said that to her. I think that’s why she married me.

But it wasn’t just about the first time that I said it — when I woke up on a lazy Saturday morning and whispered it into her ear, when we finished dressing to go out, that day that we got married…I saw that small smile, just for me. And in response, she would say she loved me; the little exchange always brought a light to my eyes. I soon learned that using those words could defuse many of the arguments that we got in. Not all of them, of course, but I know that there were more than a few times where we almost started yelling at each other — about the bills, about the unplanned pregnancy, about a lot of things — and I stopped, took a deep breath, and said "I think you’re beautiful," and we both calmed down enough to work it out.

I remember the endless nights when we used to cuddle in bed, or raid together, or browse the internet and share links about stupid news stories, laughing at them. The little smiles and gestures we shared persisted much longer than our friends' had, I learned, who said they ‘grew out’ of that stage of their relationship. One of them said that it was just a slow change where the gestures don’t mean that much after they kept getting reused. I never understood how that was — every time I told her she was beautiful, it was positive reinforcement for both of us.

Maybe that’s why I never saw it coming.

I don’t know if it’s because I was oblivious or because, according to her, it never happened, but I never felt her drifting away. She tells me that she never stopped loving me, and as much as I wanted to yell bullshit at that, at the idea that you could love and be married to someone and then lie to him about another lover you had, a part of me wanted desperately to believe it. All I know is that during her affair, our schedule never changed. We kept on alternating getting food from Subway and McDonald’s when we didn’t feel like cooking after work, kept on putting the baby to sleep and then staying up all night to game or snuggle, she kept on saying she loved me and I kept doing the little things that made her smile.

Then the phone bill came in, saying that we owed another $70 on top of the usual rate, because we were hundreds of minutes over what the plan covered. I thought it was a mistake until I called them, bitching about how we were being overcharged and that there was no way this was a legitimate charge. I remember the customer service rep’s voice — polite at first, then defensive, and finally, after he told me what the minutes were from and we both realized what it meant, soft and apologetic. I remember him saying, "I’m sorry,” as if it had any meaning, and then asking if he could do anything else for me, as if he could fix anything by lessening the charges.

I was angry… but much more than that, I just wanted to know why. I wanted to know what it was about me that made her seek someone else, what I, her husband, could change to be as important to her as someone she had never met, someone she had met online. I wanted to know what the fuck I did wrong, and why she never told me so I could make it better. I confronted her about it that night, after we put our child to sleep, and all she could say was that she was sorry.

So I asked him, the person who my wife had been cheating on me with, I swallowed my pride and asked him what I did wrong, and all he could say was that she always said she still loved me — as if that made what they did okay, as if that meant our marriage was going to go back to what it was before.

I am staying with her for the sake of our child, because he deserves to be raised with two parents. It took time for me to even talk to her anymore, but we’ve restored some semblance of what we had. We still game together, even snuggle sometimes, and go out to dinner together.

I still tell her, from time to time, that she’s beautiful, and she still responds that she loves me. That little smile isn’t there any more, and those words don’t mean anything to me anymore. Perhaps it had never meant anything in the first place. But I’m afraid to stop, because even though they are empty gestures, they keep our marriage together.


Edit: Author's Note:
I'm sorry, I forgot to add this in before I submitted it. The speaker is not me, though neither is it fiction, and I would like to leave it at that.
talonkarrde: (Default)
Procrastination, forgetfulness, and a pesky time for work to become busy all of a sudden; these are the reasons why I missed the deadline. The former two are also fairly accurate descriptors of my personality, though they're balanced out by some other things like...insightfulness (well, sometimes) and...other...stuff.

In all honesty, though, I'm a firm believer in the old mantra of 'show, don't tell' and with writing in particular, I feel that the most important things are the words themselves. The less preconceptions that are held, consciously or otherwise, the better. So even if I had all the time in the world to write this first intro, and all the people in the world reading, I think I would still end here. You'll see enough of my predilections and prejudices, trials and tribulations in the upcoming weeks.


talonkarrde: (Default)

March 2017

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