Nessie- Diary of the Loch Ness Monster, Day 3

Some Day
Dear Rock I Write On,
No one has come by for what seems like months, and I’m beginning to wonder what happened to humanity. They’re probably still out there, but I haven’t seen any of them for ages. For all their faults, they aren’t that bad. I mean, sure if they found me they’d eat me or dissect me, but that’s just in their nature. At least they make me feel wanted. It’s not as though I’ve got a family. I’ve been in this dirty lake for over four thousand years now. Rocks and plankton and seaweed and dirt and fish and me. I’ve decided I’m going to go find the humans. Wherever they are. It’s out of the lake and onto the land for Nessie, Rock! Oh, and, in the event I don’t return, I leave my possessions, (i.e. the lake) to you. I’m out of here!
Oh, dear. I seem not to possess the necessary limbs to get out of here. The flippers are fine for swimming, but I’m big, and they’re too small for me to foist myself out of here on. So I guess I’m stuck in this dirty lake for a while longer. I hope someone comes.
Until then,
Nessie

January 24, 2010 at 9:10 PM 1 comment

The Girl Detective

Fortune Cookie Magnifying Glass
“There are three kinds of food.”
Secret origins of the girl detective

Firstly, let me apologize for the long hiatus. I’ll try not to do that again. Secondly, this review will be a little different than many of my others. This is a review of a short story that, in addition to being in print, is also available as a free pdf. Therefore, this is going to be less of a spoiler-free review and more of a spoiler-filled dissection. I recommend that before you read this review, you read the story. You can download it here: http://smallbeerpress.com/creative-commons/?did=30 , and “The Girl Detective” is on p. 251 of the pdf. (The rest of the pdf is filled with the rest of the stories from the anthology Stranger Things Happen. It’s a great collection, and I heartily recommend it all!)

Alright, I’m hoping that everyone (if anyone is still reading this) has now read “The Girl Detective”. First off, this is my favorite Kelly Link story yet. It is thick with references, as you can probably tell. Nancy Drew, which seems to be the main influence, but also chinese restaurants, fortune cookies, and
The Twelve Dancing Princesses
are all overt references, but what else? There’s a Hades reference (the fourth kind of food is from the Underworld) and of course the whole Underworld. There’s also some oedipal influences and gender role confusion, as the Girl Detective represents our mothers, our daughters, our wives, our lovers. The Girl Detective could even be a man, says the narrator, or the narrator himself/herself, it actually doesn’t say which gender the narrator is, although I seem to picture the narrator as male on first impression. And there could well be more than one narrator, for all we know. I think that the “DANCE WITH BEAUTIFUL GIRLS” section is from a different point of view. I think that could be the fat man, who is also a detective, and who, we know has a dead wife. At the end of the “DANCE WITH BEAUTIFUL GIRLS” section, the narrator of that section marries one of the twelve daughters. So if there are two narrators, why not more? At least two, the main narrator, who sits in the tree, and the second narrator. Or maybe they are one.

And then there’s the housekeeper, who we know nothing about, but who seems similar to the getaway driver and the stern nightclub woman. And they seem to almost all represent the Girl Detective’s mother, or at the least the mother figure. Are they the same? Perhaps…

So there’s the Girl Detective, the stern getaway driver/housekeeper/nightclub woman/mother, the twelve princesses/daughters/bank robbers/dancers, the waiters, the fat man, the father, and the narrator. Any and all of whom could be the Girl Detective. She shares the same Day of the Week underwear as the bank robbers, she’s a detective like the fat man, she could be her own mother, as she’s certainly, at least sometimes, a mother figure, and she could be the narrator as well. After all, the Girl Detective is a master of disguises…

January 19, 2010 at 10:27 PM Leave a comment

Nessie- Diary of the Loch Ness Monster, Day II

June 4, 2009
Dear Rock I Write On,
Hello again. Today was on moderately more interesting than yesterday. One person walked by. ONE! Oh, I spat on you. Sorry, Rock, but I was annoyed. Anyway, we’re underwater. It’s no big deal. Where was I? My decreasing fame, that’s what I was talking about! No one ever wants to see me. It’s those “scientists” fault. I was telling you about them yesterday, wasn’t I? Let me check … I was … I should eat some of them! That would get me some attention, wouldn’t it? No one would deny my existence anymore. They’d all have to listen to me. And I haven’t had a good meal for ages. Only fish. And fish are boring. Just like my life. (That is to say, my life is boring. Not that my life is a fish.) Maybe I’ll go eat those scientists.
One of these years…
Nessie

June 4, 2009 at 10:03 PM Leave a comment

Nessie- Diary of the Loch Ness Monster, Day 1

June 3, 2009
Dear Rock I Write On,
Hello. Today was boring. Nothing happened, as usual. NOBODY was at the Loch. Why doesn’t anyone visit me anymore? I’m as intriguing as ever… I blame science, Rock. No one believes in me anymore. I don’t know much about this science thing, as most of the people who come here don’t mention it, but once these people came who were called “scientists.” They were always talking about “the power of science,” and how they were going to use it to discover “what, if anything, lives in the dread depths of this lake.” Well, I just hid under a rock for a few years and when I came out they were gone! I wrote about this once, at least I think I did. But it wasn’t to you. I think it was to one of the other Rocks I Wrote On. I’ve had many. Anyway, not much happened today.
Until Tomorrow,
Nessie

June 3, 2009 at 9:09 PM Leave a comment

Dungeon Crawlin’ Fools

“Clearly, you must be the leader of this team. Perhaps we could compare tactical notes.”
thog like breaking stuff.
“… Never mind.”

 “We’re magical knights!”
“No, we’re lawyers.”

“She’s wearing red leather. I mean, red leather?? Of course she’s evil!”

 Dungeon Crawlin’ Fools is the first compilation of the webcomic The Order of the Stick (www.giantitp.com). It features the comic strips 1-121, as well as a load of author commentary and bonus strips. The Order of the Stick is a webcomic, as I already mentioned. A webcomic is a comic strip where new strips are posted, usually frequently, on the internet. (These strips vary in size. In Order of the Stick, strips are usually page length. In other webcomics, such as The Unspeakable Vault (of Doom), strips are usually the size of a regular newspaper comic strip, i.e. one line. Some others, such as XKCD, have no standard size and simply vary.) There are generally considered to be two main types of webcomics, gag-a-day and plot-driven. Gag-a-day comics have no real plot. They usually have a set of main characters, but follow no plotline, instead just trying to earn laughs from the audience. Plot-driven comics have a plot, and a strong cast of characters. They may be funny, but humor is not the only goal. The Order of the Stick is interesting due to the fact that it metamorphisized from a gag-a-day comic into a plot-driven comic. And we can see the start of that in this book.

The premise of The Order of the Stick is that the protagonists are a group of adventurers in a world which follows the rules of 3.5 Edition Dungeons and Dragons. The catch is that everyone (or at least everyone intelligent) knows that those are the rules that govern the world. So, of course, they make references to them. The characters are a mixture of your stereotypical group of dungeon-crawlers and subversions of the stereotypical dungeon-crawlers. There’s the cuckoo bard, Elan, the devious female thief, Haley, the verbose ambiguously gendered elven wizard, Vaarsuvius, and the dwarven cleric, Durkon, complete with heinous Scottish accent. And there’s also Roy, the smart fighter, and Belkar, the psychopathic violent halfling.

The first 40 strips are pretty clearly gag-a-day comedy. There’s a couple quick mini-plots, but it’s still gag-a-day. And while it’s funny, it’s only funny to the sort of people who know Dungeons & Dragons, and have played it. In other words, it’s pure nerd humor. Then comes the Linear Guild. To quote the author: What seems to be a quick joke about evil twins turns out to be The Order of the Stick’s  first true plotline. And it’s true. This strip begins the transition.

And from there on out, it’s pretty straightforward. Betrayal, another brief plotline, and onto the big bad himself! Xykon, evil lich sorcerer and b*stard, and his accomplices, Redcloak, goblin cleric, and the mysterious (and childish) Monster in the Darkness. Once they’re beaten, it’s out of the dungeon. (After activating the self-destruct rune to blow the whole place sky-high.) A little bit of foreshadowing the greater forces out there (My blades will be bathed in the blood of those responsible,) and there’s the book.

It’s definitely not the high point of The Order of the Stick, but it’s still funny. With limited money, this is not the book to buy. As of now, with the commentary is near useless and the bonus comics funny but not that funny, you’d be better off spending your money on the later books and read strips 1-121 on the web at giantitp.com. Unless, of course, you’re an obsessive fan. In which case, buy the book!

My Rating: 66/100

Next Up In Order of the Stick Reviews: On The Origin of the PCs

May 17, 2009 at 6:42 PM 1 comment

Fair VII

And here’s another poem. This one’s called Fair VII.

I. Fair
the metal cups aligned against one another
both connected on a ledge
up and down they tilt
finally they stop
balanced
the scales of justice
II. Fair
could be compared to a summers day
if i thought i was a poet
could have a dazzling portrait
if i thought i was a painter
could have a novel
if i thought i was a writer
could have diamonds
if i thought i was rich
III. Fair
the wheel spins
the circle turns
the flying machines rush through the sky
the coaster dips up and down
the house bounces gelatinously in the wind
I. Fair
figures of fairness
reside at the front of the room
calmly presiding
calmly in power
in their well-oiled metal minds we hear a tick
and some can see clearly
instead of a head
the scales of the justice
II. Fair
yes you could have had this all
but i am not a poet or a painter or a writer or rich
i am none of these
and if you cant understand
i will let you go
for this fair is but on the outside
my dear
whats inside
matters more
far more
III. Fair
inside a house i creep
loud clangs i hear
i wander in
then darkness
a woosh a noise a bark a cackle
then i hear
“daddy this house isnt very fun”
IV. Fair
fair is the balance
fair is the beauty
fair is the carnival
fair is the justice
fair is the outer layer
fair is the circus
fair is rare
fair is common
fair is in between
fair is as fair does
fair is a house of darkness
fair is a scale in judgement
fair is the bestowed of favors
fair is the tangle of this braided poem
fair is a cheater
fair is a just man
fair is fair is fair
Fair…

(Edit: New spacing format!)

May 10, 2009 at 9:02 PM 2 comments

An Arsonist’s Guide to Writer’s Homes in New England

From a Professor’s Letter: In summary, then, I wish for you to burn down the Mark Twain House because Professor Ardor believes Mr. Twain to be something of a [and here you could sense the ashamed pause, lurking between the lines] female pudendum.

Then s/he pulled out a lighter, flicked it, and grabbed a clump of his/her hair. *** was setting her/himself on fire, not starting at the feet the way people at Salem did with their supposed witches, but starting with his/her hair. With his/her hair.

The Arsonist’s Guide to Writer’s Homes in New England is a brilliant work of literary fiction, as well as being incredibly funny and suspenseful. The book is a first-person narrative from the point of view of  Sam Pulsifier, a resident of Amherst who burnt down the Emily Dickinson House, one of Amherst’s most famous attractions, and in the process killed two people. He served time in a minimum-security prison in Holyoke, and then after ten years was allowed to leave. He made himself a new life, went to college, and found a wife, Anne Marie. He had two kids. But then it all came back at him.

I suppose I should tell you something of Sam’s past. When he was in prison, many people were sending him letters. There were two kinds of letters sent to him. The first kind were the predictable, “you will burn in hell for this” letters. From literary scholars, professors, and citizens of Amherst, they told him how awful everything he did was. But the second kind of letter was more interesting. They wanted him to burn down other houses. The Frost Residence, the Stowe House, the Twain House, and the lot. For most of the writer’s homes in New England, at least one person wanted them gone.

Anyway, back to the plot. Sam’s life slowly begins to fall down around him. He receives a visit from an old enemy, Thomas Coleman. Thomas’ mother was a tour guide at the Dickinson House. She was there after-hours one night, having sex with Thomas’ father on Emily’s bed. That was the night that Sam burned down the House. They didn’t survive the fire. Thomas visits Sam, vowing revenge on him. Next, a group of bond analysts who were in prison with Sam come along. They want his help burning down other writer’s houses, so they can write memoirs about it. He refuses, and they say he’ll regret it. Then, they leave. A few days later, Anne Marie kicks him out of the house. Thomas told her Sam was having an affair with his wife. He goes back to live with his parents, a dysfunctional couple. His father is a drunkard, and his mother “goes to her job” each day despite having been fired. To make matters worse, someone(s begins burning down other writer’s homes in New England. He begins to try to find out who, trying to remove suspicion from himself. This is all chock-full of twists, red herrings, and suspenseful fun. (And someone sets fire to themself!)

This book is stellar. I could barely tear myself away from it. It was both humorous and tragic. Although it’s a reviewer’s cliche, I think I’d even say It made me laugh! It made me cry! It’s a rare book that can truly do both at once. This book especially resonates if you live or have lived in Massachusetts. I live in Massachusetts, and having been to most of the book’s locations, it’s both funnier and feels more realistic. Sam is a brilliant character, entertaining, snarky, and sad. I highly recommend this. However, make sure you don’t have anything important to do the day after you start reading this. You’ll probably be up all night reading this. I was.

My Rating: 83/100

(Edit: Offensive quote removed, new quote added.)

May 10, 2009 at 8:47 PM 1 comment

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