A wee bit more from Trafficville…

Part II – Release

Beta release – you’re playing

Chapter ~ A Sort of Good Day

It was a Saturday morning and Norman Mene rode his bicycle past Mr Verdure’s greengrocery. It was exactly the sort of bicycle you’d expect a nerd to have, right down to it being a girl’s bike with a basket set atop the handlebars. Plastic tassels hung from the rubber grips at the end of the bars. They bothered Norman more than anything else about the bike. It was actually not his bike but his sister’s. There’s been a spate of robberies in Trafficville of late and Norman’s BMX was stolen. The police have not recovered it.
And he was, at that moment, as God or whatever stared down at him, riding his borrowed bicycle exactly past what you’d expect a greengrocery that was slightly out of time and place to look like, riding it down a suburban street in a what-you’d-think-a-smallish-slightly-east-of-mid-western-town would look like. That is, if you’d never been to one and had not, did not, in fact, live in one.
So this was Trafficville…

 OR 

You can be like God, or an aeroplane, or even a camera and swoop down across Trafficville and take it all in.
Trafficville is one of those perfect little towns designed down to the last blade of grass. Even its mistakes,  like Mrs. Spooner’s dog’s whoopsies in the Town Square (that someone has to clean up), seem intentional. Everything is really, really neat. The lines of the streets are perfect, although maybe too rectilinear, and the trees that hang down in the perfectly proportioned round or rectangular little concrete-girded plots of earth… well,  those trees shimmer just so in all that wonderful Spring sunshine. It seems almost to be Spring almost all of the time, although, like Mrs. Spooner’s dog’s whoopsies, there sometimes come days of frowning storms and grey rain. They might do a little damage too, say to Mr Verdure’s grocery store, or, if you have really bad luck, maybe the hospital wing that houses the poor sick little children gets flooded and the whole town has to pitch in and help.
All the people are really neat too, though maybe they are all also creatures of habit. Aren’t we all? Take Mr. Lopez,  who comes out every morning, picks up his Trafficville Herald from the front step where Jimmy Oldson has dropped it on his paper rounds. Then he walks out to Merrie Yngland Drive, turns left (most mornings, though some mornings, just for variety, he turns right) and goes down two or three blocks past all the mock Tudor homes and turns into Windsor Park. And then he kinda disappears for a long time. Then he comes back to his front door. Somehow or other he has lost his paper and it looks like a dog has chewed on his pant’s leg. He looks sour about the world and no one is surprised when he goes in and does not come out for the rest of the day. Everyone figures he must be independently wealthy but he doesn’t have any friends or even acquaintances who can help you not to make guesses. He doesn’t seem to work, just go for a long walk every morning, lose his paper on the way, get mugged by a dog and then come back looking dumped on. Maybe this is a habit Mr. Lopez wants to break.
You can summon all kinds of info about Trafficville too. You can take it in like a dream, or have pages slowly drift past you and words drift off them, or the knowledge can just slide into your head as if you’ve lived it. Tap on the street sign and see what happens. It’s up to you.
And now you know!

Trafficville has three small elementary schools, two of them with less than 250 kids. And depending on where you are you can pick to call them elementary schools, or they are called Primary or even Junior schools. In Trafficville they are elementary and there are three of them. And there is a medium sized Junior High or Middle School (depending on where you’re from – even some people in Trafficville use them interchangeably, because Trafficville is modern and cosmopolitan) and there’s a slightly bigger High School. That’s where most of the action happens, the High School.
Trafficville High is seething, actually, and in fact one of the reasons many of the words I have just used are probably wrong. I should have said Trafficville was almost perfect. It is like a virus got in or something and infected the place with some kind of madness.
As you’re about to find out, though first we need to stop elsewhere…

Norman Mene, who has just passed the greengrocery on his borrowed, girl’s, bicycle, was on his way home from school on the first Saturday of a new school year. Norman Mene weighed 123 pounds and some ounces, exactly the average for a 16-year-old American boy.
Mr. Caine, his Math teacher, had told him this. (What he’d failed to mention was that the statistics pre-dated McDonald’s.) ‘Mene,’ he’d said, drawing out the middle ‘ee’ of Norm’s name in that awful way he did, ‘you’re exactly what your name synonymises, average.’
Mr. Caine circled the graph being data projected onto the white board. His body made huge shadows loom. Mr Caine liked the data projector and the shadows it made because it enlarged his presence. Mr Caine is shorter than most of the kids in this class. He enjoyed his big shadow for a while then he moved to the side so he could write. ‘What was it again, Mene? One twenty three pounds?’
‘And seven ounces.’ Norman said.
‘Such insignificant anomalies can be ignored, Mene. Those ounces will vary regularly.’ He drew a faint line up from 16 years on the X-axis, then he found 123 pounds on the Y-axis and drew another line across. It intersected the 16 year’s line at a point in the hatched area which represented the area everyone was supposed to be in, as defined by the miniMom and maxiMom lines. Norman, despite Mr Caine’s doubts, had followed all this clearly. The little x grimly sat smack dab in the middle of the hatched area. ‘There you go, Norm – un. Precisely what your name says. Average. The norm. The mean.’ The moustache that sat above Mr. Caine’s top lip curled up into one of his hated smiles. ‘Your parents must have had your’ – he paused – ‘weight, in mind when they named you, Norm – un… Let’s move on to another example. Smith?’

Norman, too, moved on. He bought the butter and eggs and flour his mother wanted and he rode home. The basket was very handy, even if the tassels were not. He gave the groceries to his Mom or Mum (depending on where you are from) and then he slumped wearily (the truth was that Norman was a little overweight – a tad more than his reported 123 pounds) to his room.
Where nothing much happened, until…
Norman’s memory of Mr. Caine’s lesson kicked in.
That lesson had been yesterday. Friday. What had made Norman think of it was that he’d just seen Jenny Sweet, the girl next door, and his heart had rolled over in his chest. He was looking out the window and he’d seen her moving across the lawn, taking the recycling out. He couldn’t take his eyes off her, even though he knew it was wrong to be staring at a girl through your bedroom window – particularly if the girl happened to see you staring. He crouched down on his bed, just drinking her in. She had on one of those slinky dresses that make girls – girls like Jenny, anyway – look so good. He watched the way her body flexed beneath the dress’s material as she lifted the lid on the paper bin and dropped in her Dad’s Morning Chronicle. It’d be yesterday’s, Norman thought, while she put the lid back on. Norman thought this but was still watching her move. He looked at her cornflower blue eyes and the way her silky hair flowed with her movements, in the sunshine, like an ad’ for some cool new drink, and then he started (had he ever stopped?) watching the way she simply gracefully flowed through life’s mundane tasks. Norman smacked his face with an open hand.
‘Stop it,’ he whispered. Father Sinha had talked about the sin of lust and Norman knew that this was it. But he also knew it was normal adolescent behaviour; Mrs. Hope, his science teacher, had told them so. That was last year. Norman wondered if it was normal for it to go on so long. If he was average in this respect?
That’s what had him think about being average. And that was what made him remember Mr. Caine’s embarrassing lesson the day before. He didn’t know why but Mr. Caine had, for no apparent reason, hated him from the moment he’d entered Trafficville Junior High.
Norman looked at his mildly freckled, bespectacled, C average face in the looking glass above his bureau and smiled crookedly at it. He shook his head to clear it of memories of Mr. Caine and summoned up an image of the way Jenny had moved under that dress.
He could do that any time he liked today, and that memory would last him a good week. Longer, if he drew it…
He took out his secret art book from beneath his American Birds almanac – in the drawer that Mom never looked in. He got down his pencils and set to work. He whistled as he drew. He stretched her out across the recycling bin, just the way she had looked with the flex of her lithe body both revealed and hidden. Yes indeed, it had started out to be at least a sort-of-good day.

Having fun with satire…

I have gotten right into the writing of Trafficville ~ USA… the joy of simply putting words down on paper and damn the critic and editor who sits on your right subconscious shoulder… That will come later.

Another taste: (comments welcome)

Part I: Beta

Chapter One

Report glitches

 

CHARACTER SUITE

 (All character names and bios copyright Phantom Gaming Co.)

[Image from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gr4SABSef2o; needs to be modified, as not a creative commons image.]

Read [icon]  or listen to  [icon] this text:

Characters do not define nor control your actions in the game. You define theirs!  But all characters require, of course, a foundation matrix. In a way, you’re their daddy or mummy; you make them but genetics (or at least our base programming) has had a bit of a say in what you can do with them…

          Call it engineered biology – and if this sounds like too much crap and “Hey man, we just want to get on with the game”, well, we’re with you. Go ahead and play ~ what you can and can’t do with the characters will become obvious… But hey, if it feels like you’re a god, well I guess we can proudly say we sort of agree with you too.

          So check out the characters below – and play with them. Select characters by tapping screen or with fixed stare and blink on name.

[Insert game play character table…]

What you do with your character[s] is up to you…

Some basic rules:

  • You may select to be only one character at a time.
  • Game play continues with chosen character unless that character perishes (at which time your game score reverts to zero). Or if game reset.
  • Character accrues points via rewards but rewards vary according to character. Basic reward categories are programmed into each character – players actions will determine rewards. Scores may be checked by checking out a book in the library.
  • Complete reset overrides game – all characters and storylines revert to default settings.

SIMPLE RULE – avoid resetting.

The ultimate reward is to take control of the life of your character – rewrite the programming…

*MENU selected via user control; the interactivity of the programming allows the user to determine how the menu is pulled up; this is one of the key interactive features of the game. Users will work out – INTUITIVELY – their own way[s] of opening menu commands.

#

Autorun  + reset

 (Can be reactivated by climbing the clock tower, or by petting Ms Manx’s dog.)

 

Awaken and watch.

Demonstration module 1 begins.

A window slides open; the sun is warm and bees hum. The world looks good.

Blink and you are somewhere else…

 

Two boys enter an empty room

 

     Richo Novian-Smith gently pressed the self-adhesive wireless receivers to his temples and near the corners of his mouth. He lifted his shirt and pressed some more onto his chest, just above his nipples and then, quite deliberately, slipped his hand down the front of his boxers. ‘You put ’em here too,’ he said. “You’ll find out why…It’s worth it.’  He slid up the leg of his pants and placed one on each calf. His feet were bare and he placed and pressed one tab atop each foot, just behind the toe bones.

     He gave a pack of wireless tabs to Evan Butler. He watched him put them on. Then Richo slid the new, long-awaited disk into his Phantom Game Machine. Auto-run engaged and, with the sound of a cruise missile’s launch, the game burst in upon the room…

 

     And you’re playing.

    

     Stars rush at you, a city assembles, hover cars whiz and buildings materialize. Trees, buses, prams, people of all ages appear – a whirling concoction that asks you to look here first, then there, then there and there and here and you haven’t time to speak or think. And at last it is all there before you…

Then you are back in the room.

 

     ‘Dude… Cool.’ Evan Butler said. He was – he thought – Richo’s best friend of Richo, and Richo was the richest boy in uptown Trafficville. He was so uptown he wasn’t really there. He had private tutors and didn’t really belong. Somehow, Evan wasn’t quite sure by what means, he’d been pulled into Richo’s world.

     He knew what he had to say now. And so he said cool. And Richo liked to be called dude.

 

     A 3 D boy walked across the wall. There was no town or confection of people and buses, just the boy. He looked nerdy.

     ‘My name’s Norman…’

 

     ‘Shit no,’ Richo said. The boy froze. ‘He’s for a fiery chair.’

     Evan laughed. In an earlier incarnation of the game he remembered how Richo had one day set a SIM down in a chair. The dude was smoking.  The chair suddenly burst into flame. Richo hooted.

     The fiery chair became Richo’s great game; he’d build up characters and then burn them up. Richo always did it in a chair. First he made the ordinary house they lived in, then he made the character, then he gave them dumb jobs and mousy girlfriends or nerdy boyfriends (or no boyfriend at all). He gave them bosses that were nasty. They were never bosses themselves. Then something happened and they decided to kill themselves. Usually it was that their girl dumped them or they lost their job or their folks did and they got poor. Richo figured things couldn’t get much worse than that. He always had an overstuffed chair – like the one Richo said he hated at his even richer grandparents’ house – in these poor sap’s houses. It was their aspiration to wealth. They sat down and lit a cigarette (the manufacturers claimed it was real) then somehow the chair would just erupt in flames.

     Richo whispered be gone – did something with his hand. Evan wasn’t sure what. Norman simply dissipated. The room was empty, then…

     She walked in, every teenage boys’ dream. She smiled right at Evan, flicked a blonde tendril away from an eye, and…

     Froze.

 

     ‘That’s more like it.’

     Evan briefly resented the fact that Richo hadn’t even let her speak before taking control. He was moving his hands and somehow enlarging her breasts, dropping the neckline on the Angora sweater she wore. Evan figured her breasts were perfectly fine the way God or at least the default makers had made them but hey, it wasn’t his game.

     Evan was intrigued. ‘How are you doing that?’

 

     ‘Are you satisfied with your changes?’ the teenage, drop-dead-hot girl asked them. They both just looked for a while.

     ‘You bet,’ Richo finally said.

     The girl winked at them.

 

     ‘See,’ said Richo, ‘it responds to my voice.’

     ‘You’re gorgeous,’ Richo told the girl.

 

     ‘My name is Jenny Sweet,’ she said. She wore a winsome smile. She said nothing more. Boys talked to her, not the other way around. She was simply waiting, not frozen now, just marking time.

     ‘You ain’t seen one percent of what this game can do,’ Richo said. ‘I got my Dad to buy the sales promotion DHT…’

     ‘What?’

     You know. That new Direct Hologram Technologies© stuff. Anyway I watched all the simulation stuff. This is awesome. It’s got a pre generated story chip with over 200,000 variations in it and there’s a pre-built cast of over 30 characters. And it fits in with your life – I mean, you enter all this information about yourself and stuff, by voice direct you know, so there’s none of that typing shit and the story simulations are for whatever and wherever you want them. But that ain’t the best bit. You can choose different options for the characters and actually rework parts of the story. And then you can save them to the story chip, which has got room for another 300,000 or so variations. And you can build a library of story chip stuff and have them interact.’

     ‘Like the SIMS.’

     ‘Shit no; it’s a hell of a lot better than that. I mean, there’s stories in here and the characters look like they act without you. You have the chance to watch what they do, like a movie, and then you get a chance to change what happens. And you get to play with the character’s lives and, you know, like I just did – you can change them.’

     ‘Yeah?’

     ‘Yeah. You know, like I reckon that nerdy one, I’m gonna make his life a misery… Then he’ll just want that chair.’

    Evan ventured an opinion, a favourable one. ‘The graphics are way cool.’ He pointed at the girl on the wall screen. She had taken a seat, which had somehow materialised in the cream coloured room she inhabited. And was that pot plant new? Evan couldn’t remember if the room had looked quite like that before. ‘She’s hot.’

     ‘Yeah,’ Richo said. ‘I wouldn’t say no. That’s what these tabs are for’

     He waved his hand again…

    

We all whirled into the space within his eye’s iris… And we’re all playing.

Teaser – Trafficville ~ USA

Eternal Jew cover image from http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/eternal.html

 

I have rediscovered my zeal for another of those novels I started writing a while back… called ‘Trafficville’ ( a take on virtual realities, social media, gaming, cyber-wandering and war, among other things) and am happily reworking and adding to it via Scrivener. 

Below is a teaser – a sampler of style, tone and characterisation: thoughts, criticisms and a simple answer to the question of ‘does it get you wanting more?’ would be more than welcome: 

Take Mr. Lopez [Mr. Lopez will need a chapter – we need to understand his awkward day], who comes out every morning, picks up his Trafficville Herald from the front step where Jimmy Oldson has dropped it on his paper rounds. Then he walks out to Merrie Yngland Drive, turns left (most mornings, though some mornings, just for variety, he turns right) and goes down two or three blocks past all the mock Tudor homes and turns into Windsor Park. And then he kinda disappears for a long time. Then he comes back to his front door. Somehow or other he has lost his paper and it looks like a dog has chewed on his pant’s leg. He looks sour about the world and no one is surprised when he goes in and does not come out for the rest of the day. Everyone figures he must be independently wealthy but he doesn’t have any friends or even acquaintances who can help you not to make guesses. He doesn’t seem to work, just go for a long walk every morning, lose his paper on the way, get mugged by a dog and then come back looking dumped on. Maybe this is a habit Mr. Lopez wants to break…

 

Mr Lopez was independently wealthy; in fact, so independently wealthy (huge lottery win – everyman’s and everywoman’s dream, isn’t it?) he need not have worked for a hundred life times. So why was he living on Merrie Yngland Drive, which despite its grandiose name, was not in such a good part of town, and not somewhere more salubrious, such as where Marcello lived?

Mr. Lopez remembered his madre, God rest her soul, working 20 hours a day to get them, he and his two brothers and four sisters, not such good educations in the public system that really did not care too much for aspirations in the Hispanic. It needed pool cleaners and gardeners and street sweepers and call girls with Latin eyes. So, given this context and Mr Lopez’s experiences, Mr. Lopez had taken to hating most things American (particularly big fancy houses and attitudes of contempt for those without such houses), which Mr. Lopez, had he known Marcello (which he did not), would have tarred Marcello, one time famous director, as being a fine example of… So he lived small but tidy and played a random trick on any who might be watching – and he knew there were always some.

In the mornings he dressed dapper. Chino slacks and a pressed long sleeved shirt with a bow tie. He manicured his 5’7” self and waxed his thin old fashioned moustache. He knew people would watch him.He cooked a boiled egg and had toast and muesli. Then he went out and collected his Trafficville Herald from his top step.

He wandered down his tidy short drive to the street and turned left. He felt the eyes on him. He walked and left the eyes of Merrie Yngland Drive, (and others), then he went into another street, called Tudor Rise and walked into another set of eyes and players (so Mr. Lopez called them). Then he cut down a little walkway called, funnily enough, Little Walk, and that was where the dog lived. No houses fronted this walk – it was just back yards and gardens, and Mr. Lopez had discovered the dog on just his third day in this part of Trafficville.

The dog growled low and cruel and American (in Mr. Lopez’s mind) and flung itself at the fence and bounded and slavered so near the top, so near the top of the fence, just 6 inches and the dog would get him and tear out his Hispanic throat and its sibilant servant’s tongue. Mr. Lopez took off his trousers and stood in his boxer shorts which proudly sported a Mexican flag. And Mr. Lopez showed his contempt for the American lackey dog and flung just one pant’ leg of his Chinos over the fence and the dog growled and wanted to own that trouser leg but Mr. Lopez fought off the Yankee imperialist dog and recovered that leg, torn and slobbered on, its true, but he’d won something back.

He hooted with glee and put back on his injured pants. He though he would give all the eyes that had followed him, all those times, a sad story (but wouldn’t they secretly gloat) about the poor dumb peon who always seemed to run into a mean ol’ dog…
Down Little Walk a ways was a copse of dense bushes and trees, oaks and birch, perfectly rounded, thick with spring growth. That very first day Mr. Lopez, who liked a siesta, simply camped and slept about 5 hours in that cooly, cooly spot. Then he limped home, looking to all the world like someone who is eternally dumped on.

But once inside his pretense home he did a little jig and felt good about not only himself but about his new part in the world. And thus, via myopia and the worst of motives, did Mr. Lopez learn to re-love that world. He was become, so time would have it, a child again, re-born.

Freedom vs. Rootlessness

We are, most of us, unrooted in place and time. (See pp. xxi – xxii of introduction to Nabokov’s Speak Memory.) Our obsession with stuff over substance, with the now over duration, with one-liners & tweets over discourse has seen us come unstuck (just like Billy Pilgrim).

“That this darkness is caused merely by the walls of time separating me from the free world of timelessness…” Nabokov’s remark on page 10 talks of the freedom of timelessness but I wonder if what we have (unanchored as we are) is that awful detachment of being unrooted. Post-modern angst.

Scrivener

scrivenerpopup

I was recently told about Scrivener* as a writing program which is particularly suited to longer works because it can organise all your notes and research and drafts in one place and allow you to work with split screens. I’ve only had it less than 48 hours and must admit to being most pleased. I’ve fiddled (successfully) with a longer non fiction work entitled The beguiling sins of industrial capitalism (about 35,000 words) and managed to get it organised & compiled within a couple of hours as an ePub file. (The compiling into an ePub file took less than a minute, once I’d organised the Scrivener file sections.) I also generated the opening draft of a short story (heavily reliant on character notes based on real figures and on research notes)… so it does work quite well for shorter works. 

I bought it pretty much straight away but you can download a trial version and use it for a month, I think. It’s very much worth a look…

*Rider; no prose or sense of ethics has been knowingly harmed in the naming of this programme; this is an unpaid endorsement.