My next poem up at Sidequest, “Oregon Trail Triolet,” is exactly what it says on the tin. I’d been wanting to write a triolet for a while, although the prospect of repeating refrains in such a short line count intimidated me. But I went for it.
Last Christmas, one of my sisters gave me a handheld The Oregon Trail game. Growing up in Oregon, I’d always thought it was cool having a whole game where the goal was to get…here! So, last winter I stayed up way too late reliving those moments from my youth of stocking up on goods, wondering what calamities might befall my covered wagon, and especially coming up with punny tombstone ideas, because I’m goofy like that. One thing I’d forgotten was how hypnotic the digital hunt could be—I was feeling guilty about that, so I decided to write a poem where the animals aren’t so defenseless.
The anthology Best Indie Speculative Fiction Vol. III is available now, and I’m so honored to be included in this great lineup. Here’s the list, which by the way includes a story by Richard Zwicker that appeared in the exact same issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly as my entry:
- MRSA Me by Alicia Hilton
- Fellscorpe and the Wishing Well by Katherine Quevedo
- In My Image by Gerri Green
- Apple by L. S. Johnson
- Things Forgotten on the Cliffs of Avevig by Wendy Nikel
- A Dragon, Sat by Liam Hogan
- The Certainty of Echoes by D. A. D’Amico
- Seeking Same by H. E. Casson
- Echo of the Siren by Richard Zwicker
- The Auditor and the Exorcist by N. R. M. Roshak
- Moisés and El Malverde by Jibril Stevenson
- Penny the Poisonmonger: An Origin Story by Myna Chang
- The Rogue of Averath by Tom Jolly
- The Verandah by Jay Caselberg
I’m glad my little flash story continues to resonate. We can’t wish our mistakes away, but we can choose a better path. Usually without getting to backtrack first, but still. Go choose.
My poem “The Deku Butler’s Son” is up now at Sidequest. I based this one on The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, one of my all-time favorite video games. One aspect I love about the game is you advance by helping others, but for my poem I wanted to write about a part that frequently appears in lists of the darkest moments in the Zelda franchise. It’s a detail that infuriates and haunts me still and proves how withholding one piece of an otherwise happy ending can produce an effect ranging from irksome to devastating: the Deku Butler’s son. He’s one character you cannot save. By the end of the game, you’re equipped with all the means to heal him—if you could only reach him.
I should add that I composed “The Deku Butler’s Son” during recent incidents in the U.S. drawing greater attention to systemic racism, and I also thought of the immigrant experience within my family tree (no Deku plant pun intended there). It got me thinking that Link lives that experience, that of an immigrant, in Majora’s Mask—and through him, so do we. We enter a new land stripped of our identity and undervalued. We have to find our way, educate ourselves, befriend allies, earn trust and respect. Taking things a step further, eventually in the game we experience the privilege of being able to “pass” as different identities. I descended from four grandparents born in four different countries (Ecuador, Peru, Germany, and the U.S.), so I think about that privilege a lot.
At one point while drafting this poem, I jotted a question to myself: “give closure or be tragic?” In retrospect, that’s probably a false dichotomy. After all, the conclusion to Majora’s Mask does both.
I recently found out one of my poems has received an honorable mention in the 2020 Helen Schaible International Sonnet Contest, in the Traditional Sonnet category. I’ll be reading my Shakespearean sonnet, “Kintsugi Master Pieces,” at the awards ceremony on Sunday, November 15, at 11am PST. It will be on Zoom, so I hope you can join us for a celebration of verse and voices. For more info. about accessing the event, visit https://www.poetsandpatrons.net/sonnet-contest.
As I’m trying to plan some Halloween fun for my kids to compensate for this year’s lack of trick-or-treating, I keep reminiscing about prior Halloweens. If the Ghost of Halloween Past were to visit me—to remind me of what we may someday get back to during a less “batty” year, surely, not to instill Dickensian remorse—I expect I’d see something of the following:
- Touring the Winchester Mystery House in college, armed with a flashlight, my face painted like a cat thanks to an artistic friend.
- Going with my husband, middle sister, and brother-in-law to watch the Oregon Symphony perform the score to The Nightmare Before Christmas while the film played on a screen over the orchestra.
- The recent years of alternating between taking my kids trick-or-treating and handing out candy, plus seeing all the fun costumes roaming the neighborhood.
Sigh. I trust the Ghost of Halloween Future has plenty of fun in store.
Now for some good news, though still related to things dark and monstrous: I have a new poem up at Sidequest. “Nightmarens” came about when I was thinking about the bosses from the game NiGHTS: Into Dreams, and my mind filled with words describing them. I saw their carnival colors and their exaggerated body parts designed to incite fear, since they rule the domain of nightmares. But they’ve always been my favorite part of the game. I couldn’t think of them without fondness. For this poem, I purposely wanted to strain my voice outside of my comfort zone. I wanted dense prose, a strong style that could stand up to those titular characters.
I’ve been a fan of Tina Connolly for years, so I’m super excited that she’s narrated one of my stories for her podcast, Toasted Cake. “Exchange (A Coral Study)” is available to listen to now. This story, which first appeared in Factor Four Magazine, came about when a member of my writing group shared a challenge to incorporate 6 specific words in a story. I took some memories of visiting the Galápagos Islands and mixed it with my dad’s experience as an international student in college. I hope this tale helps show how an open mind can create a ripple effect.
In other news, my latest poem at Sidequest is up, a Spencerian sonnet about an old SEGA Genesis dungeon crawler called Shining in the Darkness. In the poem it may sound like I’m disparaging the game, but I’m actually very fond of it. I’ve always loved the storybook graphics, endless pathways forking at right angles, and over-the-top monsters. It’s just that the game’s title and premise of wandering through a maze set it up so beautifully for symbolism, I couldn’t resist.
My flash story “Fellscorpe and the Wishing Well,” from Heroic Fantasy Quarterly issue 42, has been selected for the Best Indie Speculative Fiction Volume III! This anthology series highlights some of the best stories of the prior year published by small press publishers or self-published, and I’m so honored to be included. The anthology should be available later this year. Stay tuned.
Sidequest has published another of my poems, this one inspired by Lava Reef Zone from one of my all-time favorite video games, Sonic & Knuckles. This level always stood out to me for the stark difference between Acts 1 and 2, from the colors to the music, the rapid change from fiery to crystal cool.
This poem was originally going to be about the narrator waiting for the other person to cool down, but I decided I wanted it to be more about shared culpability and recovery, so I changed it. For research I looked up terms for various cave formations, and once I started reading them the poem practically wrote itself. Like I mentioned with “The Geologist Speaks,” science can provide so much poetic terminology.
The first of my gaming poems is available now at Sidequest. Earlier this year I set a goal to write more free verse, since I tend to gravitate toward formal verse. As I was on a video game poetry kick, I brainstormed characters, settings, items, and moments from games that stood out to me from childhood. My mind fell upon the magic potion bottles from Super Mario Bros. 2. I always liked their sleek, bubbly design, and the bizarre place to which they transported you—Subspace, with its striking color palette.
But perhaps strangest of all was how you used the potion. Just throw it. That’s right, chuck the glass container of liquid onto the ground. How counterintuitive is that?
A few years back, we held a Mario themed birthday party for one of my sons. I labeled all the food and drinks with puntastic names and pictures. We had “Mix Your Own Magic Potions”—lemon lime pop, grenadine syrup, and maraschino cherries. While reminiscing about that a few months ago, I started wondering what it would be like to actually drink the potion in the game. And since this was during what’ll hopefully be the height of the COVID-19 shutdown in my area, travel and escape occupied my mind. As I said at Worldcon, sometimes the poem finds you.
Now, as wildfires rage across my state and others, the sky bears the rusty yellows and purples of a bruise, and yesterday’s afternoon sun looked like the moon during a lunar eclipse, an eerie pink dot. Plus, my power was out this morning until about 10 minutes ago. Kind of feels like I’m in Subspace right now. I hope everyone stays safe.
Want to find out the connection between my writing process and movie trailers? Or what industry the Siguenza sisters in “Sasha’s Pattern, Sonia’s Edge” were originally going to work in before I changed it to VR? Or what was the very first part of “Desert Locks” I ever wrote? You can find all that and more in my interview with Maggie Slater, in which we talk short story vending machines, COVID-19, and the power of visualizing a table of contents.