written by David Steffen The Lightning Thief is a 2005 modern day fantasy story about modern-day children of the ancient Greek gods living in the United States, which was adapted into a 2010 feature film as well as a 2014 Broadway musical. Percy Jackson is a well-meaning but troubled teen who has been kicked out … Continue reading BOOK REVIEW: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
written by David Steffen This is the second in a new series that I’m very excited about wherein I examine a music video by a well-known artist as a short film, trying to identify the story arcs and the character motivations, and consider the larger implications of things that we get glimpses of in the … Continue reading MUSIC VIDEO DRILLDOWN #2: Never Really Over by Katy Perry
The first YouTube video received over seven million hits before being taken down.
A shaky camera held by a giggling friend captured a teenage boy standing in a well-tended backyard. Dressed in cargo shorts, he stared solemnly down the lens before announcing, “I’m Shyam Rangaratnam, and this is the Eat Me Drink Me Challenge.”
After taking a deep breath and a dramatic pause—as all on-line daredevils do before embarking on their potentially painful stunt—Shyam broke the seal on the familiar purple vial, and emptied the liquid onto his tongue.
An audible poof sounded as the teenager twisted and writhed, shrinking away like an ice cube under running water. The camera zoomed into the grass, swishing back and forth before discovering miniature Shyam—no bigger than a salt shaker—cavorting through the leafy green jungle he’d thrown himself into.
“Aw shit, dude,” the friend behind the camera guffawed as he stomped his sandaled foot into the grass. “Look out! I’m going to crush you!” In his over-exuberant Godzilla impression, the camera man came frighteningly close to stomping Shyam for real. Every adult watching the video cringed, astounded by how close these kids came to filming a gruesome tragedy.
“Lhálali’s bloody viscera,” Eešan cursed. She searched the cliff face for a hold and found nothing. Finally she spotted a thread-thin crack and wedged her wingtip claw in it so she could reach upward with her stubby grasping-hands.
“Watch out,” Aušidh said. “If you fall now you’ll get hurt, won’t you?” She dipped in a little swoop less than a winglength away from Eešan in the air. The shadow of her wide membranous wings rippled across the uneven stone and the little burst of wind ruffled the sparse black fur on Eešan’s back.
The others circled farther away, the curves and points of their silhouettes slowly churning the air as they gawked. Eešan was putting on enough of a spectacle that half her hatchmates had turned up to watch.
“Yes,” Eešan said tightly. It made her feel sick to have to speak her fear out loud. “If I fall, I’ll die.”
“Oh.” Aušidh circled up and around again, landing on the cliff face just beneath Eešan, her grasping-hands and wingtips confidently catching in a clean four-point landing on the irregular stone surface. “I didn’t think you were that high up yet.”
I never had a driver’s license, you see. Instead I was born blessed with epilepsy. The doctors said it was bad form to put a two-ton vehicle into the hands of a young man who could seize at any time, medication be damned. Grand mal, tonic-clonic—whatever you wanted to call it, it was the big one, and I grew up afraid to be responsible for running off the road and killing someone because of it. I tell you this simply to explain that I was completely at the mercy of the bus line when we stopped at the small town in Kansas where all the houses faced west and I met the whispery old crone who sat at the intersection of two worlds.
At the time I was suffering through a crisis of identity and ennui. It was more than just the listless, relentless boredom of youth. The side effects of the Dilantin I popped to keep the seizures at bay made me irritable, anxious, and dark—sometimes at different times, sometimes all at once. I came from a good family in Kansas City, with two parents who loved me and supported me and a sister who put up with me. I was holding down a 3.88 grade point average at the University of Kansas, and I’d just met a guy.
James was from Pueblo, Colorado. We met at school and were looking into whether or not we wanted to pursue a relationship. He brought a beautiful pair of stark blue eyes, a lingering echo of the English R.P. accent he’d developed during the first 10 years of his life, and a tolerance for my nervous flutters. We weren’t exactly dating, but there was something between us. He wasn’t the first guy I fell for, or the first that I’d had sex with, but he was the first I really started to love. When you’re already pharmaceutically primed for nervousness, anxiety, and agitation, worrying about falling in love really adds to the stress.
This is what the boogeyman looks like.
It has white eyes with no pupils and no irises. Just white all the way through. But it can see you. So I must not fall asleep as I wait outside this closet door in an empty room, in an empty house with a derelict For Sale sign in front of it, everything smaller than I remember, baseball bat gripped in my hands.
This is what the boogeyman sounds like.
Short, huffing breaths, almost snorts, like your boss calling you into his office for a chat, because you got yet another email by accident that was supposed go to the CEO, who shares your name. “And you understand,” huff huff huff, “that you obviously didn’t get the whole story with just that one email,” huff huff huff, “and the engineers are definitely going to address that problem before the product goes to market.” Huff. “We understand each other, right?” And you’re too scared of losing your job to do anything but understand.
Charlie Slawson sat alone in the transit station, watching a set of empty train tracks and wondering why the train was late. Truth be told, he hadn’t known until just then that temporal trains even could be late. He looked around the underground station—its old, brick walls lined with gaudy digital displays, advertising exciting trips … Continue reading DP FICTION #57B: “The Train to Wednesday” by Steven Fischer
Jakayla crouched in front of her dark closet. She hadn’t turned on the light because that was an awfully rude thing to do when trying to talk to the monster hidden inside.
“You gotta listen to me,” she whispered. “The news is saying really bad things, like rocks are gonna fall out of the sky and a lot of people are gonna die. You can’t stay in my closet. You gotta go to the basement. There’s dark spaces down there for you to hide in. I won’t tell no one you gone there.”
“Jakayla!” She turned to find Grandma leaning into the bedroom. “I got to run to your auntie’s house. The phone network’s down.”
“The phones don’t work?” Jakayla gasped. “Why? I didn’t think anything had fallen yet?”
“Nothing has, yet. Everyone’s trying to talk to everyone on the phone, and the system can’t handle that. Listen, girl.” Grandma waddled forward to cup Jakayla’s face. “We’re going to be just fine, you hear me? Don’t you worry. Just stay here. We’ll have everyone here together in the basement tonight.”
written by David Steffen I am trying out a new feature that I might run occasionally here, where I pick a story that I particularly liked, and pick it apart to try to figure out why it worked so well. For this first entry, I’ll be talking about “The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections” by … Continue reading STORY ANALYSIS: “The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections” by Tina Connolly
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Goodblood,
Thank you for expressing your concerns about Rodney’s First Term grade. Please understand that the highest mark of “Chosen One” is exceedingly rare, even among our exceptional student body here at Avalon. Rodney’s grade of “Stalwart” is neither a mistake nor cause for concern, but a performance about which you and he can both be proud.
As I indicated in my written evaluation, Rodney is a bright young man, although he does have room for improvement in the areas of effort and behavior. I’m told by his Warrior, Wizard, and Rogue teachers that he shows equal aptitude in all three classes, so I’m confident that with support and encouragement, his skills will continue to improve.
Teacher of Intermediate Feats & Virtues
Avalon Preparatory Academy for Adventurers