Get a Free Short Story Mailed To You!

I am delighted to announce I am starting up a free short story service here at One Wet Sneaker.  I’m always digging up great old stories online, and want to learn to use an certain automatic email program, so I thought I’d combine them this way.  These are the best short stories I can find.  In one case, the story is so good that I’ll be typing the story in from a scanned document.  It’s in the public domain, but it’s not on the web in text format anywhere.

(This particular story was the inspiration for Neil Gaiman’s story Coraline, and in my opinion it’s a much deeper and weirder story.  It’s less spectacular, but far more strange. — But until I type it up, I have plenty of other great stories lined up.)

So, sign up and enjoy a short story mailed to you every week — free!

Published in: on July 28, 2012 at 6:52 pm  Comments (4)  
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Can You Castle Out Of Check? — And Some Basic Strategy About Making Trades

English:

No.

You cannot castle through check.  You cannot castle into check.  And you cannot castle out of check.

Since that makes for a short blog post, I’ll also say– The opening is when knights are most valuable.  This is because they do well when the board is cluttered, but it takes them a long time to cross an empty board.  Rooks and the queen become more useful as pieces are cleared off the board.  Bishops are useful throughout the game.  Therefore to trade in the opening your knight for the opponent’s bishop is a pretty good trade!

That’s very basic advice, but hey — this is a short little blog post.

Want to see something weird that has nothing to do with castling out of check? (more…)

Published in: on July 13, 2012 at 9:28 am  Comments (1)  
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Organizing Written Description of Place

English: An alcove in Navajo Sandstone near Mo...

English: An alcove in Navajo Sandstone near Moab, Utah.  Nothing to do with the text, but pretty cool.

This was useful to a few people over on intfiction.org, so I’m quoting it from that thread.

Jamespking wrote:

Quote:
The immense magma river flows below effortlessly, although slow and patiently. The whole cave is lit by its fiery belly. From here you can see the broken pillar rising from the flames like a finger pointing the sky — a sky made of crumbling rocks and metal — and the stony walls surrounding the sight like the steps of a giant arena. Below, the thin cornice cuts a distinct line on the side of it, losing itself in the distance inside a small passage to the west. The piece of quartz you are standing on has resisted the quake’s onslaught and is now holding itself onto the rock like a cat on a tree trunk. Something like steps rise from here to an alcove, up above and near the ceiling. A faint cyanotic light pulsates inside it. You can reach it to the northwest

This is TERRIBLE prose. On behalf of the author, I must say he was writing it trying to think in English not being english himself. That could lead to awkwardness.

First: every other noun has an adjective before it. It gets boring really soon.

James,

What is lacking is organization to the whole passage. Description of a place needs to develop in an organized way, just as an argument needs to, and the structure of that organization must match with the way the human mind processes and understands locale.

Visual description should be organized in a way that matches the way humans organize visual information, description of embodied feeling or emotional feeling should be organized in ways that match those senses, and so forth.

To do this, consider the way that, if you were in the location, you would direct your attention from moment to moment.

If I can be forgiven for making the attempt– Let’s look at the parts.

  • The immense magma river flows below effortlessly, although slow and patiently.
  • The whole cave is lit by its fiery belly.
  • From here you can see the broken pillar rising from the flames like a finger pointing the sky — a sky made of crumbling rocks and metal — and the stony walls surrounding the sight like the steps of a giant arena.
  • Below, the thin cornice cuts a distinct line on the side of it, losing itself in the distance inside a small passage to the west.
  • The piece of quartz you are standing on has resisted the quake’s onslaught and is now holding itself onto the rock like a cat on a tree trunk.
  • Something like steps rise from here to an alcove, up above and near the ceiling.
  • A faint cyanotic light pulsates inside it.
  • You can reach it to the northwest

The point of view this structure reveals is a DM’s point of view. It’s me looking in, considering the walls, the lighting, and working my way in to the player’s current options.

If I were there, I would probably attend to where I am, and my attention would then move outward.

Quote:
Sweltering, you stand on a piece of red-lit quartz that has survived the quake and clings to the rock like a cat to a tree. Northwest, irregular steps rise from here to an alcove near the ceiling. Inside the alcove a faint cyanotic light pulses.From the alcove, a cornice leads along the stony walls enclosing this huge arena. Far to the west, the cornice loses itself in some passage into the rock.

Red heat, so intense it feels solid, radiates from the patient magma river that flows below. A broken pillar rises from the flames like a finger, pointing to the ceiling of crumbling rocks and metal.

–Now, I don’t mean to hold myself out as an expert IF writer. My own productivity is pretty limited. And clearly as a writer you could select from among many organizational principle. The “from where I am out” basic strategy, which I picked here, is just the one I picked. You might instead pick “the environment in,” or “panning left to right,” or so forth.

But do consciously pick an organizational strategy, and stick to it in your writing. Also something I like, and therefore do, is to drop one- or two-word hints early in a passage, which details are explained later. So I dropped “red-lit” well before I described the lava river.

Conrad.

Published in: on July 10, 2012 at 6:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Timelines

I had a funny dream where I was looking at a tree that was a family tree.  But it was a physical tree in the real world.  Then I looked at it again and it was a branching diagram of _homo sapiens_.

I’ve often regretted that Homo sapiens can never really know Neanderthal man, or homo erectus, because we must compete for resources, and in the modern world we would interbreed, knitting us together.  Thus we are deprived of knowing those who are like us, and yet different from us:  human, family, but different in kind.  That would just be so cool.

So I had this dream that time travel was not possible, but communicating among contemporaneous points in alternate branches was.  Thus we could in VR walk among our cousins, and yet we would be spared the possibility of war between homo sapiens and homo nextus, or homo nextus and homo nextus nextus.

It was a very cool dream.

Published in: on June 11, 2012 at 11:59 pm  Comments (1)  

History Class

backdated

Is what you want, looking at the past, to have no worst day?

I have a worst day.  I hope and pray I won’t have to trade it down for an even worst one.

I have been thinking:  Looking back, you’ll have a worst day.  Almost undeniably.  But to focus and dwell on that worst day causes its power to loom large in your psyche.

If you’re the type to dwell on and worry over worst days, I suggest worrying about worst days in the future.  It’s easier because it’s speculative and because something can be done about it.

I always recommend to people that they study emotion and the nature of the psyche.  This is because the nature of healing begins deep within the self, within the ego, within the witness.

Anyway, I was worrying about such natural disasters, and thought to post this letter I wrote about the next Hurricane Katrina.

(more…)

Published in: on June 11, 2012 at 10:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Marriage isn’t Contract Law — It’s Partnership Law”

I’m told that marriage isn’t actually well described as contract law, but as partnership law.  Partnership law is the same area of law that governs the establishment of corporations.

Does that mean that a marriage is a legal person?

Published in: on May 12, 2012 at 3:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Weird Hamlet — retranslated from the French

Back when I was researching Hamlet for something I would later write up in Hypnotized by Hamlet, I came across reference to a French translation.

The translation of Shakespeare’s play was written by Dumas — yes, the same one who wrote Count of Monte Christo and Three Musketeers.  Since Count is a classic revenge story, I figured it would be worth a read.

But I couldn’t find it in English.  Even the miracle of inter-library loan couldn’t help me.  Finally, I had the good fortune to cross e-paths with Frank Morlock, who at that time had a nearly-completed translation.  He has since put the completed Hamlet, by Alexandre Dumas online.

If you’re curious, the Conrad he mentions is indeed me:  I nagged him to complete the project.  I was surprised to see the mention.  It was a selfish nag.

Dumas’s Hamlet is interesting in comparison to Shakespeare’s and Bellefrost’s, because both Dumas and Bellefrost wrote comparatively normal stories, whereas Shakespeare’s is pretty weird.  If you’re interested in identifying those weirdnesses, one tip is to compare with a non-weird text.

…as you can see, I don’t much go for proper academic terminology.

(I kind of want to read the Klingon Hamlet, but not badly enough to learn Klingon.  I admit I did have a copy briefly, but not knowing the language…

(If only some Klingon bilingual would take a tip from Mr. Morlock and translate the Klingon Hamlet in English!)

Published in: on May 12, 2012 at 2:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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review: The Blue Death (by Otto Grimwald / in Ramus)

http://anamnese.online.fr/site2/textallion/showcase/the_blue_death/the_blue_death_ramus.html

A nifty little game I’ve played through a few times. It’s puzzling, in the way CYOAs often are. Parsered IF tends to force the game to focus on a specific scenario, and therefore situational coherence is to some degree enforced. Not so with CYOA, as we all remember from the old playbooks: go through one door and the aliens of UFO 52-40 are traveling in time, choose another and they are heading to another planet.

The Blue Death does not change the factual basis of the story with which door you walk through, but the story does have that drifting quality. It is not a story driven by cause and effect, nor a situationally-bound series of events. The story is intentionally CYOA-like, with choices and sections unnecessarily designated by numbers. Early choices may lead to death, or may circuitously lead around to the city in which the game is mostly set. Cheating is almost endorsed, with the user prompted to roll a die and click on “I am lucky” or “I am not lucky”, with the computer able to generate a random number if desired.

Lite spoilers in this paragraph. (more…)

Published in: on April 18, 2012 at 1:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Play _Unicorn Story_ online!

I wrote a little online text game available for you to play online  (written with Ramus)!

The blurb goes–

Unicorn Story

A lyrical piece by Conrad Cook, hosted here for your pleasure. Not only it looks gorgeous, it also uses the medium in a fairly intriguing way.”

Many thanks, Felix, for the kind words and for supplying a web space for the game! This game is also mirrored, so you can play it here. Ralphmerridew hosts the mirror — thanks too!

(I’m reposting this from a comment in the Ramus announcement after it came to my attention it was effectively hiding there.)

Published in: on March 23, 2012 at 8:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Introducing Ramus! — a very nice dynamic document creator

Ramus is a nifty little document creator, created by Felix Pleșoianu, that allows you to start with a paragraph-long document and keep adding text, almost as if it were being written in front of you.  It’s designed to be an Undum lite (or a Vorple lite):  fewer features, but much easier.

And Ramus is very easy.

There are three things you need to make a basic, non-state-tracking document, like a CYOA, and those are laid out in this simple template file:

http://www.intfiction.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=4678

A more complex demo can be found at the Ramus website.

Many thanks, Felix!

Published in: on March 19, 2012 at 10:55 pm  Comments (9)  
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