Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Looking Backwards At 2011 And Laughing Like A Giddy Monkey

Another year bites the proverbial dust, another 365 days fade into history. Turns out 2011 was another year of milk and honey, prosperity, pain and tumultuousness. What can I say? Shit happens, and it seems to loom around me. I’m misfortune’s favorite customer.

Yet 2011 wasn’t all that bad, as far as years go. Looking back at the madness, I realize now I was genuinely happy. While I end the year with back problems and blood pressure higher than an air traffic controller on crank, things were relatively okay for me in ’11. I attribute this happiness to my girlfriend, who is a loving and constant companion. My Filipina sex machine has been there for the entire ride around the sun, and I wish she'll be around for many more.

Presuming the Mayans were full of shit and the world isn’t hit by an asteroid in December 2012, I hope to report new and exciting things next year.

For now, here are some of the bizarre things that happened to me in 2011:

* Sold my motherfucking house! Chateau le Schei├če is gone, outta here, and not my problem anymore, thanks to a nice woman from upstate who purchased it in October.

* Won an award from the New Jersey Press Association. This one was for a story I did on law enforcement’s efforts to stem the rising tide of drugs in the community.

* Performed three standup acts and even got paid. Now I’m a real standup comedian. Watch out, Hollywood!

* It was a busy year writing-wise. Finished writing Ravaged Earth Revised. I’m quite pleased at the final result, a year-long effort of writing and editing. Slated for a 2012 release, this new iteration of Ravaged Earth reworks powers and contains a few surprises, such as information on Martians, Martian tech, and a thrilling plot-point campaign. In addition, I also wrote four guidebooks for Ravaged Earth and four companion adventures.

* Attended Philcon and got to speak about Ravaged Earth and gaming at a few panels.

* Attended Gencon with my girlfriend and had an absolute blast. Dating a girl geek is comforting, since we share several areas of interest. I ran two Ravaged Earth games, talked about the upcoming releases from Reality Blurs (like Agents of Oblivion, which was released in October to great acclaim) and hung out with several people from the gaming industry. We even went to the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, something you should definitely do if you find yourself in Indianapolis.

* Attended my first steampunk-themed costume ball in July at Dorian’s Parlor. This is a fantastic event, a place where Victorian costumes mingle with the latest in cutting edge steam technology. Corsets, tophats and goggles. All that plus quirky bands, a fashion show and open bar make it the ultimate debonair swankfest and neo-vintage salon.

* Took my father to see Bill Cosby in concert for Father’s Day. My father introduced me to Cosby’s comedy via record albums in the 1970s. Seeing this old man on stage cracking wise and relating his own brand of homespun humor was cathartic in a way.

* Speaking of the Cos, Cosbython 2 was a rollicking success! Celebrating Bill Cosby’s birthday in July in style with ugly sweaters, pudding pops and Kids Say The Darndest Things the board game.

* Held a party celebrating Tommy Wiseau’s birthday, the longhaired, mumbling actor and director of The Room. I called the event Room-A-Palooza. We watched The Room, played board games and ate pizza. Any photos of me dressed as Wiseau have since been destroyed.

* Survived both an earthquake and a hurricane in the same week. An earthquake rumbled across New Jersey and the house shook like two elephants fucking in the parlor. Less than a few days later, Hurricane Irene swung through the eastern seaboard. We get it! God hates shoobies!

* Performed on an Internet comedy show, the Jersey Comedy Syndicate on UStream, and brought back my character, Lazlo Fink.

* Watched several movie classics from the American Film Institute’s top 100 films. While I’m not finished the list, I did make a severe dent in it, viewing such treasures as Sunset Boulevard, Casablanca, It Happened One Night, All About Eve, Double Indemnity and The Searchers.

* Recorded more lines for HG World, a zombie audio drama. The show garnered a Parsec award in 2011, making it an award-winning zombie audio drama!

Next year I hope to run away with my little pineapple Asian persuasion, get my novel published, do more standup, and demo my RPG at Gencon and who knows, maybe even Origins. Gods willing! Hail Eris! Hail Cthulhu! Let's make it happen!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Retro Gaming

Back in the primordial epoch, circa 1980, I was a greasy little urchin with copious free time and a pocketful of quarters. I whiled away countless hours in video arcades, surrounded by flashing lights, bleeping pixels and a cavalcade of Japanese electronic entertainment. The early 1980s was a boom time for video games. They lurched from their humble beginnings with Pong and Space Invaders to a more evolved state of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. At the dawn of the 21st Century, video games have advanced plots, lifelike graphics and more violence and gore than All You Can Kill Day at the Roman Colosseum.
Still, the simpler times showed us video games could be clever, friendly and outright weird.
I discovered a cabinet game at my local arcade filled with several arcade classics from the 1980s, and was transported back through time to my hometown in New Jersey. I was 11 or 12, had braces and a penchant for playing video games. Memories washed over me as I was treated to games I hadn't seen and played in almost 30 years. Nostalgic? Hells yeah!

If this arcade game were a woman, I'd marry it, then fuck it repeatedly with a shitload of quarters.

The game lets you select from the following arcade legends: 1942, 1943, Amidar, Arkanoid, Burger Time, Bomb Jack, Centipede, Congo Bongo, Crush Roller, Dig Dug, Dig Dug 2, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., Donkey Kong 3, Galaga, Galaxian, Jr. Pac-Man, Frogger, Juno First, Jumping Jack, King and Balloon, Lady Bug, Mappy, Millipede, Moon Cresta, Mr. Do, Mr. Do's Castle, Mrs. Pac-Man, New Rally X, Pac-Man, Pengo, Pinball Action, Pooyan, Pleiads, Phoenix, Qix, Scramble, Space Panic, Space Invaders, Super Break Out, Super Cobra, Super Pac-Man, Tank Battalion, Time Pilot, The End, Sho - Lin's Road, Van-Van Car, Xevious and Zaxxon. Many of these I haven't heard of, like Moon Cresta and King and Balloon. After playing them, I understand why. Some of these games are easily forgettable, but others are hidden video game gems that should stand the test of time.

Like Donkey Kong. The classic Nintendo arcade game that introduced Mario and the titular gorilla, Donkey Kong was one of my early favorites. If you play the second stage right, Mario scores with the princess while Kong falls headfirst to an ignoble if not hilarious death.

Donkey Kong Jr., the popular sequel, has players in the role of Donkey Kong's son on a mission to save daddy Donkey Kong. This game is incredibly hard, as players will be climbing vines and dodging these snap-jawed critters and aggressive birds. It's insane how many things are out to get you in this game.

If gorillas are your thing, Congo Bongo is another classic arcade game. You play a hunter who has to climb through what looks like an M.C. Escher painting of passageways, bridges and annoying monkeys. I loathe Congo Bongo because I get killed and can't finish the first level. The perspective throws me off and I end up plummeting to my doom or being skull-raped by one of those monkeys. I want to find whoever designed Congo Bongo and kill them with a shovel.

I remember playing Crush Roller (or Make Trax as it was sometimes called) at a Chi-Chi's restaurant during my youth. If that reference doesn't date me, recalling the game was freakin' hard will. You play a paint brush being chased by two flounder-looking creatures. Your task is to paint the entire maze and use two rollers to crush your pursuers. A cat, a mouse, a bird and a tire roll over your nice paint job and force you to backtrack. If you thought painting your house was a thankless, labor-intensive undertaking, play this game. This is why people should hire professional painters.

I learned more about the natural world by playing Frogger than I did in my high school life science class. Frogger has everything: a Darwinian struggle of survival in a cold and unforgiving world, where aggressive predators thrive on devouring the innocent frog, who only wants to mate, eat flies and go home. This game may look cute, but it's survival of the fittest. To paraphrase Kermit the Frog, "it's not easy being green, homey."

Mappy. Goddamn it, how I love Mappy. Holy fuck on melba toast do I love this game. One of the shining examples of arcade games from the early 1980s, Mappy puts the player in the guise of a mouse in a policeman's uniform. The goal here is to bounce through a house and snag stolen loot from a gang of cats, who desire only one thing: to devour Mappy for lunch. Fast-paced, with a pleasant musical score and challenging bonus stages, Mappy is video game Nirvana.

Mr. Do.
Jumpin' Jesus with a strap-on are you ever a weird game. One of my favorites as a kid, Mr. Do is a trippy game where you play a clown digging for cherries underground.

Mr. Do is patterned after Dig-Dug, another one of my favorite arcade games. Whoever wrote these games must've been doing some heavy acid, because this game, as I mentioned above, is really trippy. Mr. Do must dig passages underground and kill these creatures by throwing a ball at them or by squashing them with gigantic apples. Periodically, a bonus item will manifest in the middle of the screen. Snag it and a chorus of fucked-up looking Muppets will descend upon our hero. It's not a bad game if you're a student of Dada artists and stoned out of your mind.

Mr. Do was so popular, it launched a sequel - Mr. Do's Castle. This one pits Mr. Do against some unicorn creatures in a castle. The clown must knock blocks from the floors of the castle and crush his enemies. If Mr. Do wasn't motivated, he'd be called Mr. Don't. He's a badass. You know it, I know it and Mr. Do knows it. So don't fuck with him.

I never heard of Pooyan before. This game makes me so angry, I want to throw a baby in a woodchipper.

A retelling of the Three Little Pigs, Pooyan pits the player against wolves with balloons. The player is suspended from a gondola and shoots arrows at the wolves, attempting to pop the balloons before the wolves make it to the ground, where presumably, they rape the pigs.

I can't figure out how Jumping Jack got green lit. The premise of the game, to leap across the board, propelled with a bunch of seesaws and dodging pretty much everything in sight. One of the most bizarre things in the game is in the upper corner. See that character up there? The black Sambo-looking dude with giant red lips? Who programmed this game? David Duke? Was it popular to include racial stereotypes in video games in the 1980s? I realize back then, political correctness didn't run amok as it does today, but having a giant-lipped African native hurling boulders at you is wrong.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Flash Fiction Challenge

My entry in Chuck Wendig's latest flash fiction challenge: "An Affliction of Alliteration." Contestants had to write a story whose title uses alliteration.
Here's my story:


By Eric Avedissian

When things grew rough for the miners of Kingsbury Colony, when the bodies began stacking up like fucking dried cordwood in the sun, that’s when management flew into a tizzy. Too many men were lost in the bowels of this godforsaken world, buried under the rock, suffocated like dogs in an oil drum.

That’s when they brought in the scientists with their genetic splicing and cloning and diddling around with DNA.

The scientists created wombats four feet high and programmed their brains to tell time. Each wombat was given the ability through conditioning and biological programming to understand exactly when their shifts would start and end via special wristwatches strapped around their paws.

The blasted critters worked harder than any of the slackers they replaced.

The creatures stood on their hind legs and walked upright, wore dirt-covered overalls and mining helmets. They wielded pickaxes, drills and planted explosives better than most of their human counterparts.

What’s more, they made the Kingsbury Colony Mining Consortium a lot of money.

Their exploits were known throughout the Australian Confederation, from the twin planets Dingo and Walleroo to the crumbing remnants of Bixby’s Forge.

Russell Cobb, captain of class 7 ion-drive mining ship “Waltzing Matilda”, was less than thrilled.

“Bloody wombats,” Cobb muttered as he leaned against the railing overlooking the quarry. “How many of these fucking rodents you got?”

“About 200, I reckon,” said the mining overseer everybody called Snake. Snake wore goggles and covered his face with a cloth mask, protecting it from the planet’s dust storms. Kingsbury Colony was an arid, hellish world, with litter precipitation and immense sandy deserts. Snake, as his nickname suggested, felt at home here.

“The consortium likes this sort of thing?” Cobb asked.

“Consortium reassigned them offworld months ago,” Snake said, leaning back in his chair. “Thought it best to assign them less dangerous tasks. Some went to Dingo to harvest grain. Others went to the breeding pits of Bixby’s Forge to help repopulate the colony.”

“Yeah. Fair dinkum, I suppose.”

In the mine, a wombat paused, scratched its chin and extended its furry arm in front of its face. Eyeing the giant wristwatch, it saw the blinking LED display and recognized the digital numbers signified quitting time. The creature shuffled towards the lift, and pulled a lever mounted on a control panel. The hydraulic lift ascended, shimmying with a rusty groan, taking the wombat with it, up towards the mine’s surface.

Cobb drained another 12-ounce tinny of Foster’s pale lager, the brew cooling his parched throat. He cracked open another can and offered it to Snake, who declined.

“Never touch the stuff, mate. Ever since the wife birthed two ankle biters,” Snake said.

It never occurred to Cobb that Snake was a family man. He always thought Snake was an antisocial tosser with as much likability as a road accident.

Cobb turned his attention to the wombats, who marched out of the mine single-file, like a conga-line of marsupial zombies.

“I know it’s none of my bizzo, but is that normal?” Cobb asked.

“Shift’s over. Time to rest. We give ‘em six hour’s sleep and it’s back to the mines,” Snake said.
Cobb rolled his eyes.

Snake smirked behind his mask. As far as he was concerned, Cobb’s only function was hauling ore back to Bixby’s Forge.

A titanic crane scooped a dozen containers of ore, lifted them from the ground and loaded them onto the spaceship. Robots with bulbous heads and four arms each transported the containers via lift into the ship’s filthy, crowded hull. Cobb observed this from a metallic gangplank, counting the containers as the robots handled them.

Ever since the wombats took over, output increased tenfold.

The fucking furry bastards were ripper.

A straggling wombat, still staring blankly at his wristwatch, stumbled upon a few cans of Cobb’s lager.

With chaffed hands, the creature picked up the beer can and regarded it with a curious stare. It sniffed the opening, then poured some of the liquid in its mouth. its eager tongue lapped the rest of the beer with wild abandon until it emptied the can. It tossed the can, which landed on the ground with a loud metallic clatter before lunging for another one.

For the first time, one of the genetically engineered wombats was off his face. It was full. It has a gutful of piss. It was bloody rotten.

In short, it was drunk.

Another wombat approached and fumbled with a can. The second marsupial observed his compatriot tear open the tab and imbibe the strange, yeasty concoction within.

The scenario repeated itself until the wombats, every one of them, consumed at least one beer. Apparently, the alcohol tolerance of the bipedal wombat critters was embarrassingly low. Some laughed, while others chundered on each other.

When Snake saw the wombats dancing and shambling in alcohol-induced euphoria, he shouted towards the gangplank.
Cobb peered from his perch and witnessed the chaos below. He slid down the ladders and landed with thud near the mine entrance, where Snake stood, fists balled in rage.

“Look what your lager has done! They’re bloody pissed! Every one of them useless!”

“Oi! Enough earbashing! I get it!” Cobb said. “Let ‘em sober up. Be right as rain in a few.”

“That ain’t the point, mate! Alcohol destroys their programming. Unhinges whatever chemical program the scientists jiggered up in there. These things will be lucky to know how to shit,” Snake said.

Cobb reached into his holster and pulled out his Ellerson Mark V laser gun. Behind his goggles, Snake’s eyes widened.

“You can’t, man! The conglomerate…”

“They’ll make more of these abominations, mate,” Cobb said with a sneer. “We tell ‘em raiders hit the mine and you were the only survivor. Spend some time with the wife and kids. You deserve a holiday.”

Snake nodded meekly and backed away. He realized stranger things happened in this part of space.

“Good onya, mate!” Snake exclaimed, as Cobb fired.