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Commute” is a piece of interactive fiction I wrote to test out the capabilities of Twine, a program for writing interactive stories. I only scratched the surface – there are some spectacular games out there, like “KING OF BEES IN FANTASY LAND” and “Depression Quest,” and many more – that tell really great stories and play with the form and capabilities of interactive fiction. I don’t think this story does anything big with the form, but I’m happy with the way it came out.

You wake up.

Maybe that’s a little charitable. Your cell phone alarm goes off, and you have that panicked moment before you open your eyes where you realize that, yes, it is Monday morning. Whatever was left of your weekend energy drains out of you, and you feel like a limp piece of meat lying on a serving board. Well, tangled on a serving board, in wonderful, warm blankets. So soft. So comfy.

You roll over and squint at your cell phone. You have just enough time to shower, make coffee, eat a bagel, and get out to your car.

Read/Play “Commute”

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Achewood by Chris Onstad. March 5, 2003.

Achewood by Chris Onstad. March 5, 2003.

Achewood is, without a doubt, one of my favorite things. Chris Onstad’s webcomic has influenced my sense of humor and my writing, as well as providing a model for truly unique self-published work that can can an audience and a rabid fan base.

In a piece on Deadshirt.net, Max Robinson examines one of the main magic draws behind the black-and-white comic – the language. Achewood slang has entered my vernacular, but it can leave the uninitiated scratching their heads.

It’s clear that Onstad puts a staggering amount of thought and effort into considering language when writing Achewood. Not only do his turns of phrase, his word choices inform the characters that make up the strip, they give the strip as a whole a flavor of it’s own; a lyrical energy that keeps us returning in spite of delays and personal hiatuses. I don’t know that you can totally explain why something’s funny but once you get past the initial language barriers of Achewood, there’s a sweet spot you enter as a reader, where the comic genius of Ray trotting out “Horse Dogg Maniac” is enhanced a hundred-fold because now you’re in on the joke.

“‘Damn. This is a thing, isn’t it?’ The Language of Achewood” at Deadshirt.net

The Water in the Bay is an official selection for the Lewiston Auburn Film Fest (named one of the “25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World” by MovieMaker Magazine), April 4-6. This will be the second-ever screening of the film, which is based on a story by myself, Jonathan Blood and Travis Curran, and a screenplay by me.

Tickets are available now on the LAFF website – a $19 Film Festival Viewing Pass will get you into any of the films.

Learn more about the festival and The Water in the Bay. 

Jack Handey / Photo by Jeff Minton for The New York Times

A profile of one of the greats, Jack Handey.

The archetypal Jack Handey sketch is about Frankenstein, or flying saucers, or a cat who, for some reason, can drive a car. “Little-boy stuff,” Handey explained. He often worked alone on his sketches rather than team up with other writers, and he liked to work from his and Marta’s Chelsea apartment, so he would show up each week to Wednesday read-throughs with these fully formed, immaculate sketches that would freak everyone out. Franken recalled a sketch called “Giant Businessman,” about an actual giant (played by Phil Hartman) who calls the cops on the loud party next door, then is terrified when the neighbor threatens him. At the read-through, Franken laughed so long and hard at the sketch’s final beat — in which the giant asked the F.B.I., sincerely, if he might join the witness protection program — that he had to excuse himself from the crowded room because his laughter was interrupting the next sketch.

“Jack Handey Is the Envy of Every Comedy Writer in America” by Dan Kois

Driftmoon screenshot / Instant Kingdom

I haven’t played Driftmoon yet, but the RPG earned great acclaim since it was released earlier this year. Polygon has a great piece about the story behind the game – the story of married co-creators Ville and Anne Mönkkönen and how they came to work on the daunting project together:

This is a love story. It’s a tale about two people who meet, fall in love, share their lives and — through the seven-year making of a video game — find that the unique qualities which separate them as individuals are just as important as that which binds them together.

“A Game Development Love Story” by Colin Campbell

“This Native of Randolph Center, Vermont, Quit a Job as an Auto Mechanic to Return to the Family Farm” by Jane Cooper / National Archives at College Park (via Flickr)

This great story by Karin Tidbeck in the speculative fiction magazine “Strange Horizons” introduces into the lexicon (or my personal lexicon, at least) the concept of a “Sadgoat” – a literal scapegoat for all your troubles.

Dr. Andersson was in the office already. She took a chair in what was supposed to be the cosy corner: two armchairs, a little table with a box of tissues, a vase of flowers. On the wall hung a painting of a moose cresting a hilltop. Dr. Andersson looked like she usually did. Today, her bowl haircut and shapeless green muumuu were complemented by a necklace of wooden zebras. She was holding a leash. At the end of the leash, standing beside her chair, was the goat. It was small, reaching up to my knees, and jet black with floppy ears. It was nibbling on the armrest. I sat down in the opposite chair.

“This is your new treatment,” said Dr. Andersson. “It’s the latest in experimental therapy. I thought we might let you have a try, seeing as you’re a bit hesitant about ECT.”

“I see,” I said.

Dr. Andersson adjusted her glasses. “Do you know the origins of the word ‘scapegoat’?”

“Sure,” I replied. “Old Hebrew stuff. A goat sent out into the desert for everyone’s sins.”

“Exactly.” Dr. Andersson scratched the goat behind the ears. “This is a Sadgoat.”

I looked at the goat. It looked back at me, its horizontal pupils narrowing.

“I’m confused,” I said.

“I Have Placed My Sickness Upon You” by Karin Tidbeck