Jimmy the Fire Truck

The accident had devastated Mike and Jeanine Miller, and after the surgeries they were told that Jimmy would require ongoing life-support technology in order to survive. They discussed the cost and agonized over the decision of whether to pull the plug, but then their doctor pulled them aside and said there was a radical, untested procedure that could help him.

A man named Dr. Perkins described the emerging field of cybernetics and explained that there were techniques that could help Jimmy, and the technology was only a few years away.

Mike and Jeanine signed the papers and kissed their comatose boy goodbye as he was wheeled away. They got in their car and cried all the way home.

Days passed. Jeanine called the number that Dr. … Read the rest

Famous Castaways

History.com has 6 stories of individuals marooned at Sea

“Selkirk may have believed that a passing ship would pick him up in a matter of weeks, but he would eventually spend more than four years and four months alone on the island. He passed the time by notching the days and months on a tree, reading his Bible and chasing goats—first for food, and then merely to have something to do. All the while, he kept his eyes peeled for signs of rescue, but the few ships he saw flew the Spanish flag. On one occasion, he was even forced to hide in a tree when Spanish mariners landed on the island to resupply. Selkirk was finally rescued in February 1709, when a band of privateers … Read the rest

A Silver Bullet

I returned the following morning. I always do, or try to, after a night like last night. Sometimes I leave something behind.

Once I found my shirt hanging from a tree. I asked some local boys to throw rocks at it to knock it loose. They happily obliged.

Another time I left behind the smashed window in the door of a butcher’s shop. The next morning, the owner was taking inventory and I offered to help sweep up. He shrugged and turned away. I whispered an apology and then bought the last fresh ham from his wife. I had a bit of a stomachache, but knew I would eat it later.

But this morning at the gas station, I couldn’t find any evidence of misbehavior. In … Read the rest

A Tin Can

I was reduced to crawling through the dirt. My legs and back were done. On the upside, being near the ground meant I could better see any movement among the leaves and trash. Movement meant something living, and that meant food.

I inched along toward a wooded area and my hope grew as I neared a rotting log. I struggled to flip it and saw dozens of larvae and some larger bugs scurrying around. I gleefully reached in and got a fistfull of rotting wood and grubs and picked out the larvae one by one with my lips, as though kissing them. I didn’t chew – just let them slide down my throat.

This was the biggest meal I had had in days, but I suddenly … Read the rest

A Darker Horse

The speaker crackles and a voice says, “Hello Finn. Apologies for the circumstances. You understand how privacy is paramount. Your past assignments have shown you have the skill to erase digital histories and now I need you to erase some… for me. This job will require more… delicacy. I’m prepared to triple your rate.”

Finn smiles. “I’m all yours.”

Big Eddie finishes a call with his wife and waves Henry in. “Everything changes when you have kids. So… A very private individual we’ve worked with before asked for you. Said you were discreet.”

“I never…”

Eddie gives an address and another for the dropoff point.

“Don’t write it down. Remember it. They’re paranoid; I don’t care. It’s not my job to care. In fact, it’s … Read the rest

Discussing Sci-Fi Storytelling & World Building with Writer Jon Spaihts

A rewarding interview with one of the writers of the ‘Alien’ prequel, ‘Prometheus’, Jon Spaihts:

His bit about the central predicament defining the protagonist is obvious, yet insightful.

And he goes on about making narratives compeling:
“There are three motives of story that matter: having something that you hope for, having something that you fear, or having a burning question that you need answered. Any one of them is sufficient. If you can have more than one of them running at one time, or all three—you can be afraid of one thing and fearful of another and desperate to understand some mystery that’s been dangled in front of you, then you are maximally engaged, all three motors running.”… Read the rest


A ChoiceScript game I wrote in November 2010 has been ported to an app!

To get a taste of what it’s about, play Zebulon online, or get the iPhone or Andriod app

iTunes customers have given it 4.5 stars!

“Brings back good memories!… Back before computers and video games were common place, these books were such a fun way to spend time. Decent writing and lots of fun choices to make, about to read it again and see how it ends this time.”

“Fun adventure… Good story, a number of different choices with consequences, and a chance to name your own starship – goldfish not included. Thanks for creating a fun app!”

“Really good… I really enjoyed this adventure! It’s absolutely one of the best … Read the rest


(latest revision: 2010/12/20)

This was entered into the 9th Casual Gameplay Design Competition where it lost the 3rd-place slot by something like 1/100 of a point.

The engine is the ChoiceScript engine, which is essentially a set of JavaScript libraries and is intended for the creation of interactive naratives, somewaht similar to the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure stories from the 1980s.

There are no graphics, but there is no typing either, as there was in Zork and those other classic Infocom games. Instead, every few paragraphs the reader is presented with a multiple choice about how the plot should unfold. It’s a fascinating and unique genre.

The prior examples of ChoiceScript games I had seen were quite dramatic, so I wanted to do something more whimsical. With the 1980s … Read the rest

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones has captured a lot of attention. I’ve seen a few episodes and wonder if it’s not just Mad Men meets Lord of the Rings – a very slick and polished period soap opera set in Middle Earth.

But the intro is gorgeous. It is reminiscent of Tolkien’s books, with a map at the very beginning to show you the world the characters inhabit. Supposedly it will change over the course of the show to reflect the changes to the world.

I’ve been having trouble keeping track of all the characters, but their animal representatives help keep them in order in my head

Stark = Wolf
Targaryen = Dragon
Lannister = Lion
Baratheon = Stag
Arryn = Eagle
Greyjoy = Squid
Tully = Fish… Read the rest

A New Man

I entered NPR’s 5th three-minute fiction contest, where you have to write a “flash fiction” story in 600 words or less. The constraints were that the stories had to begin with the line, “Some people swore that the house was haunted,” and end with the line, “Nothing was ever the same again after that.”

I didn’t win, or even get into the final round, which is fine because the winning story was quite good. The winning stories in these contests tend to be more “literature” and less “popular”, which is more my style.

Regardless, here’s mine.

“A New Man”

Some people swore that the house was haunted. That didn’t bother me – it meant I was left alone.

Someone knocked at the door … Read the rest

What Can You Do in Twenty-Five Words?

NPR has a ‘3-minute fiction’ contest, which puts a word count limit at 600.
In the field, this is known as ‘flash fiction.’

The even briefer version is called ‘hint fiction’ and has a word limit of around 25.

The New Yorker has a review of a book on the subject, “Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer”


“Blind Date,” by Max Barry.
She walks in and heads turn. I’m stunned. This is my setup? She looks sixteen. Course, it’s hard to tell, through the scope.

“Houston, We Have a Problem,” by J. Matthew Zoss.
I’m sorry, but there’s not enough air in here for everyone. I’ll tell them you were a hero.Read the rest

Conversations with My Mailman III

Conversations with My Mailman III

It was a warm afternoon; the rain was ending and the Sun was coming out.

My mailman was under an awning with one bare foot on the pavement and his shoe on the mailbag. He was wringing out his sock.

I slowed when I got near him. “Step in a puddle?” I asked.

“Yeah.” He said without looking up.

After a moment he noticed I was still there and he looked up, then smiled. “Oh, Hey. I thought you was someone else. Yeah, these puddles’ll get ya. I was talking with a buddy of mine over there across the street and I stepped in the gutter when I was talking. He’s a new dad and trying to figure out what to … Read the rest