Trafficville – full draft written; time to let it sit

Finished first full draft of Trafficville- dystopian cyberpunk fiction re gaming, social media and so on; it is 24,600 words, give or take. Probably merde – I’ll follow Mr. Hemingway’s advice and let it sit in my cyber kitchen drawer for a couple of weeks before I have another look.

The final chapter reads:

Chapter Forty-Three

Q and A

 

So here’s a sampling of key Q and A we here at Phantom have dealt with during the beta trial and first three weeks of full release (English version only). Feel free to send us more – remember; this game works best with your interactions built in.

 

Q from Randy in Dallas… If this is meant to be so American I don’t get how come there are no African-Americans in here?

A: I guess you just never played any bits of Trafficville with Benny Goodman, who is Normans’ best friend. He’s just one (the main one) of 17 African American characters written into the mainframe of Trafficville, and he gets a Hispanic girlfriend. Can’t get much more Yankee-doodle than that.

Surely you must have seen at least one darker than average character at some time while you played Trafficville! And no, we didn’t have the police force round them all up, nor shoot them, though that was one reality we did contemplate. Benny does get mobbed by rogue police. We didn’t put that one in – that was outside players messing with the program; we love that Trafficville can take on a life of its own.

Q from Sissy in Duluth Minnesota… How come Adolf Hitler got into the plot; I mean, that was a bit weird?

A: That actually came through one of our beta players and we were as surprised as you to see him walking down Merrie Yngland Drive. But we let it run and it worked out as a game, didn’t it? Had to have good old Norman climb the clock tower, didn’t we, to re-set. Who’d have thought we’d get that lesson in – how easy it is to become a Nazi. We liked what the game taught us with this one.

Q from Wayne in NY… I felt like the game got out of control sometimes; I mean I felt like I was just reacting, not in charge. Was that intentional?

A: Yes, and no. We’ve written so many possible pathways into this (and the lightspeed tech means they’ll run at a natural pace) that we knew the game offered stuff we hadn’t even thought of; it was meant to be like life, after all, unpredictable. We just didn’t know how life-like it could be.

I guess if you’re a real control freak that might get a bit much – but most of our feedback has been that players love that the game doesn’t repeat itself… It is good to just go with the flow… 

Trafficville ~ USA: players and played

Trafficville posits a world – a game space – of shifting possibilities; an ambiguous merging of real and not-real. A series of questions, really: Who is played and who is player? Who is in control: of themselves, of others, of place and time? Should someone be in control? Who accepts the blame should things go wrong? Is anyone responsible for the generalities of what happens? Are ethics even a question in simulated reality (think practice for a bombing run)? What is programming and who is programmed? Who?

SO… here are a few bits along those lines from the draft novel (novella, more like):

I PUT MY HEADPHONES ON

I walk out of my house and I build a wall, straight away. There’s too much out there for me to bear so I put my headphones on and listen to retro stuff; after all, we don’t need no education.
I’m not the only one, dude. Retro nuts, some of ‘em even carrying those old ghetto blasters on their shoulders, but all of us funked up with headies, walking the roads. No need to self drive those hover cars or get a hover bus and be en-canned with too many other folk. Just us, in fact just you, yourself, walking the roads and tuning out the noise.

I put my headphones on
So I can shut out the rest of humanity
I put my headphones on
So I get to live vicariously
And when I’ve got them on
Yeah!
That blues world slips away.

Who am I?
I’m a game player, baby….

 

USE OF THE I…

I like to play games. And that’s despite all the stuff they tell us about what’s wrong with on-line gaming, You know, the normal person plus anonymity plus on-line audience = idiotic behavior. They’ve got that right but you don’t have to play with the idiots. Me and my buddies (some of whom I don’t know from Adam, they might live in India for all I know, but they are still my buddies) – we rag each other but we don’t get nasty and shitty and call each other some of the stuff I’ve seen on-line and if someone new wants to join… Well, we vet them; they are on trial for a while. They know they’re on trial too, so it’s not a secret. We’ve got a good rep out there. Trafficville lets you block players, if you know how – and we do. Ryan, for example, has access to the town’s birth and death records and we could make a player simply disappear by erasing some records; it’s that easy, if you know how.
And why might you do this? Because- as one of my favorite on-line gaming commentators says – “Cheating, team-killing, entering a game but not playing, quitting before the game is over, and more, are all relatively common…’ This guru tells us that this stuff means that “normal people become f*5$^$# on-line.” And he’d know.

Girls don’t play so much as boys but I wonder if some of my gamer buddies are girls; there’s one called Des I figure might be a girl because of the way she plays – she seems to be more in touch with the characters feelings, that sounds sexist, I know, but she does and she plays different. And Des I reckon is short for Desilee (which is the name of one of my sister’s friends) or maybe Desiree and she – in the game – is this scrawny Japanese girl that moved to Trafficville after the Fukushima disaster; that’s her back-story. I reckon Des has got to be female; it’s good having a female player.

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.

Teaching a unit with historical fiction

Hatshepsut chapel image.

Ancient Egypt tells a tale

Above is a link to a little unit of work I created to teach ancient history using historical narrative; specifically a short story called Little Hatshepsut. The story is available, along with 32 other stories (and brief historical notes on each story) via Amazon in the book hiSTORY, by Stephen Kimber. You might also like to visit the site: https://www.historynarratives.com

Please note that the unit on teaching ancient history (specifically history related to ancient Egypt) is slowly unfolding on my other blog: https://historiographerplus.wordpress.com/  This act of unfolding may of course be a little different to what is on the creatavist site.