Month: March 2015

1-page novel

This is an assignment given to me in grad school, by the crazily talented Mr. Andrei Codrescu. The task: a one-page novel. This one-page novel must include the following: fast food, a person of color, a person with a disability, and a protagonist with a reputation (amongst the basics needed to qualify it as a novel, and the one-page restriction). I hereby post it here in honor of my Front Range students about to embark on their first major fiction assignment. Please to enjoy.  ~Jenn

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Last Knight

Sir Archibald the One-Legged sat at his favorite table, cupping a pewter tankard in his hand. The tankard was empty, for the fifth time in the last hour.  Sir Archibald considered ordering another.

The inn was called The Leaping Ox.  He didn’t particularly like the stew they served there (heavy, pungent, large bubbles of oil afloat next to whole, unchewable bay leaves), but it was the fastest service in the kingdom.  At least he didn’t have to wait an hour before he was fed.  Sir Archibald was nearly seventy, and lately, he felt time was of the essence.

Sir Archibald sighed a tenth time, and motioned for the serving-girl.  Pretty, robust, dark-skinned she was, and charming. Not nearly the willowy beauty the princess had been, but rounder, and her steps bounced, as did her ebony bust.  The princess’ stride had been longer, even, gliding.  The princess, ah…

The next tankard arrived just in the nick.  The princess…

It was to have been his last quest; he reinforced the thought with an eleventh sigh…The princess, ten years ago, had been the object of his last quest. There had been no more since then, and Archibald was beginning to despair.  The Quest of the Princess was the last damsel-in-distress call anyone knew of, certainly since Sir Everclear’s death at the turn of the century, and there hadn’t been so much as an orc for nearly twenty years.  All the knights-errant had either died of old age, or become accountants due to lack of business, so Archibald had gone, heroic bells on the reins of his steed.  But the princess had been expecting him.[1]

As Sir Archibald sat, his sixth ale foaming about his white-whiskered lips, a man in a violet cloak so dark it was almost black slid into the chair across from him.

Sir Archibald the One-Legged did not need a Scroll of Identify to see that the cloaked person was obviously a mage, or at least a hedge-wiz of some kind.  He was a knight, after all, and knights knew these things.

He was too drunk to greet his new table-companion with his usual courtesy, however. He drained the beer at the bottom of his tankard, all the while silently glowering at the wizard, daring him to a (praise the gods) duel to the death he would surely lose.

The mage did not blink.  He said quietly, almost without moving his lips,  “If you are tired and old and feel that honor, gallantry, and true courage have gone out of the world, what I have to show you will interest you.”

Archibald sat for a moment, staring.  “Don’t bother, wiz,” he said. “I am committing honorable suicide on the morrow.  Then, there will be no more honor left.  You’ve still got an evening.”

The mage only grinned.  It seemed to Archibald that his teeth were odd—but then he whispered,  “Are you not at all curious?”

Archibald frowned.   “What do you mean, curious?”

“My true form,” commented the wizard, and for a moment Archibald saw large jeweled eyes, long teeth, lizard’s head, and smoke, smoke…  then the mage again, smiling as before.

Sir Archibald leapt to his feet, or foot, as it were, then lost his balance and sat down hard.  He panted, his voice shook.

“Dragon.”

“Ssh,”  the dragon-mage answered, holding one finger to his lips. Then he stood, grinning, fire netting his teeth.  He turned, and walked slowly but deliberately through the crowd and out the swinging-door.redragon

Sir Archibald of the One Leg also stood,  more slowly this time.  He left gold on the table. He shouldered his gear, and strode through the still-swinging door.

Folks at the inn later remembered that old fellow with the straight back and noble face.  He had quite an imposing demeanor, for one so advanced in years.  Many thought they’d seen him before.  Others thought they’d heard of him in a song.  What was his name again…?

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[1] A damsel in distress she had not been, as he found himself attacked by her bodyguard as he approached her fortress. Her band of musketeers had been instructed to slaughter the “dirty old coot”’s horse out from under him. The horse fell on Archibald’s leg, which shattered it beyond healing.  The princess was named The Most Beautiful Woman in the Kingdom shortly thereafter in a beauty pageant.

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MiniInterview: Ethan Nicholle

More from my MiniInterview archives. This interview coincided with the coming of Nicholle’s Axe Cop vol. 3 (as well as Bad Guy Earth). Nicholle is the artist/adapter to wildly popular oddball comic series, Axe Cop. For more about the background of Axe Cop and the strange and wonderful way it is written, go here and be prepared to waste some time.   ~Jenn

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5 Questions: Ethan Nicholle     Interviewer: Jenn Zuko

1) How has Axe Cop evolved as Malachai has gotten older? How do you see him evolving as Malachai continues to get older? What’s coming up in Axe Cop’s future that we can get excited about?

Malachai’s tastes and interests are changing pretty rapidly, so Axe Cop’s attention span is at about the same rate.  Whatever is going on in Malachai’s life makes it into the story, for instance the family just got a new dog, so he called me to tell me there is a new dog character in the Axe Cop universe.  I’m as interested as anyone to see how Axe Cop changes as Malachai grows up.  I’m open to whatever works.  The most exciting thing in Axe Cop’s future, next to Volume 3 coming out on march 28th, is the new print-exclusive miniseries titled Axe Cop: President of the World which launches in July.

2) Axe Cop’s fan base exploded pretty quickly. How did this fandom affect how you composed Axe Cop? Did it affect how Malachai composed it? How about the feedback you both have been getting at conventions?

It just sort of rocketed us into making more Axe Cop and really fast.  When I first made Axe Cop I assumed it would be a fun thing to do with axecopseriesimg_1335305966Malachai whenever I visit (which is about 3 times a year).  When it blew up, I decided we should strike while the iron is hot and start making more of these things.  It became a lot of fun and quite an interesting project.  Especially working on the more long form stories with him and spending entire months with him.  We get awesome feedback from fans, the support for Axe Cop is huge and people who love it REALLY love it.  I think there are people out there who love it more than Malachai and I combined.  I think that Axe Cop popped up right when people were getting tired of the more negative, gritty and edgy style that was the “thing” for a while, and Axe Cop is such a breath of fresh air in that world.  It is totally sincere and innocent and it inadvertently parodies comics that take themselves too seriously.

3) I noticed in Volume 3, there are many “Ask Axe Cop” episodes as well as a lengthy guest appearance (on the website, there have been several more guest appearances recently as well). What are your thoughts/feelings about the collaboration? Do the guests appeal to Malachai, and does he springboard off of those?

Malachai has gotten ideas from the guest episodes.  He really liked the one where Axe Cop has little axes on his arm hairs.  He pretty much stole that concept for himself and made Axe Cop have sword arm hair.  The guest episodes are a lot of fun, especially the ones where people follow the model and team up with their own kids/nieces/nephews to make an Axe Cop story.

4) How do Axe Cop, Bad Guy Earth, and Bearmageddon inform each other? Do you have a particular favorite issue?

Well Bad Guy Earth is just more Axe Cop, but it is written in a longer format.  It’s more of our attempt at “feature length” Axe Cop story telling.  Bearomageddon I wouldn’t say is informed by Axe Cop much mainly because I created it before I created Axe Cop, I only finally started to release it after.  I think Bad Guy Earth is my favorite thing I have done so far just because it is so out of the box and such a fun/crazy experiment in creativity.  A lot went into making it.

5) Who are some of your artistic inspirations? Is there anyone you even now try to emulate in your work? What is one of your artistic dreams? (e.g. have you always wanted to draw a certain superhero/create a world that you haven’t yet?)

My biggest influences growing up were Bill Watterson, Gary Larson and the many artists who drew the Ninja Turtles.  Later I got into indie comics and became a big fan of artists like Jhonen Vasquez, Evan Dorkin, Ethan Van Sciver (who was indie back then) and Sam Keith.  I have a lot of respect for Doug TenNapel because I like that he emphasizes storytelling and he really pushes creativity and wonder in his work.  I think I try to emulate that.  I have never really dreamed of drawing other people’s characters, I have always wanted to make my own stuff.  So I don’t know what my dream project would be.  I think right now Axe and Bearmageddon are dream projects, and I’ll have other ones down the road.

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→ Here is the link to my Nerds in Babeland review of Axe Cop vol. 3: http://nerdsinbabeland.com/archives/6087

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The More You Holmes

From: 2.1

Line: MORIARTY: (text message)  Dear me, Mr. Holmes. Dear me…

dearme

 

 

 

 

 

Reference: In The Valley of Fear, Holmes receives a telegram from a sinister anonymous sender (Holmes knows it’s Moriarty) with this very message on it, just after he discovers the former Pinkerton agent tried to fake his death and hide from his pursuers. Watson laughs at the message, thinking it a joke, but Holmes knows better–and sure enough, he learns of the man’s death at sea shortly thereafter.IMG_0004

In the episode, it’s a modern equivalent of a telegram (a text message) sent from Moriarty to Mycroft, not Sherlock, Holmes, to inform him his plans are known and therefore foiled. No murders result from it, though there is lots of intrigue.

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5 Conan Doyle Stories Sherlock Should Adapt Next

My latest for Sherlock’s Home. Also my first attempt at the reblogging function in WordPress. ~Jenn

Sherlocks Home

 Written by Prof. Jenn

Sherlock is already chock-full of references to the Doyle canon (I do a series on my blog called The More You Holmes which points these out): from basing entire episodes mainly on one of the stories (A Scandal in Belgravia, The Hounds of Baskerville), to multiple rapid-fire references in passing (the series of case titles at the beginning of Scandal all are plays on Doyle stories). Mofftiss themselves have admitted they’ve covered the mainstays of the stories with The Woman, The Hound, and The Professor. But now that they’ve also covered The Sign of Four as well as A Study in Scarlet, and have provided us with the second biggest baddie in Doyle (Charles Augustus Magnusson, Milverton in Doyle) in Series Three, what could Series Four bring us? Here’s what I think.

NOTE: This is my (albeit brilliant, educated) opinion, y’all. If I left a favourite of…

View original post 584 more words

The More You Holmes

From: The BBC Casebook by Guy Adams

Line: SHERLOCK (flyleaf):

Don’t buy this book. The author has transformed what should have been a series of lectures into a gross and tasteless entertainment.

The science of deduction is a branch of human achievement requiring serious analysis and yet here I find it lavishly illustrated, disfigured with humour and infested with gossip. Apparently, this kind of sensationalism is required to engage the interest of the reading public, but it is rather like working an office romance into a paper on quantum physics. Only an idiot would be impressed. Help yourself.

Reference: Holmes often complains that Watson embellishes reality too much in his writings (one wonders why he insists Watson tag along so often), but the above particular complaints show up in two places: The Sign of Four and “The Copper Beeches.” Here are the quotes, respectively:

From the Sign of Four:

“Honestly, I cannot congratulate you upon it. Detection is, or or ought to be, an exact science and should be treated in the same unemotional manner. You have attempted to tinge it with romanticism, which produces much the same effect as if you worked a love-story or an elopement into the fifth proposition of Euclid.”

From the Copper Beeches:

“You have erred perhaps in attempting to put colour and life into each of your statements instead of confining yourself to the task of placing upon record that severe reasoning from cause to effect which is really the only notable feature about the thing. … If I claim full justice for my art, it is because it is an impersonal thing — a thing beyond myself. Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell. You have degraded what should have been a course of lectures into a series of tales.”

It is interesting to note, however, that later in the canon (very late: in The Casebook, “The IMG_0004Blanched Soldier”), when Holmes himself narrates one of his stories, he is “compelled to admit that, having taken my pen in my hand, I do begin to realize that the matter must be presented in such a way as may interest the reader.”

MiniInterview: Jeff Wills

More from my Mini-Interview archives: this of Jeff Wills, New York-based theatrical artist (and a damn good writer, too).

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5 questions: JEFF WILLS                                                Interviewer: Jenn Zuko 

1.)    What steered you towards physical theatre/clowning as you moved through your theatrical education, as opposed to a more psychological, Stanislavsky-esque style?

My undergraduate education was devoid of style work, focused mainly on Stanislavsky and Meisner techniques, but the first mainstage show I performed a major role in there was The Three Musketeers, as d’Artagnan.  It was at a time when I was trying to decide what larger purpose theatre served, and what it could do that other media couldn’t, and the human body and real things happening in real time seemed like important aspects of that.  Then in my early professional career I fell in with the commedia dell’arte and circus-theatre groups, where those ideas really carry into characterization (not to mention humor) and I was hooked.

2.)    How do you feel Commedia dell’arte has evolved since its inception in old Italy? Why do you think it works for audiences now?

This is an interesting idea, because many people will tell you the commedia dell’arte is an old, dead form, but it’s an jwillsimportant aspect of the philosophy of my troupe – Zuppa del Giorno – that it is a living tradition.  From my perspective, the influence of the commedia dell’arte can be seen in just about any timeless comedy of the last century, from the silent comedians to Judd Apatow films.  It might be impossible to summarize its evolution over the past half a millennium, but I will say that what seems to resonate for people is the ways in which the form creates a common language among its audiences right from the start by the use of character archetypes.  Everyone knows the mask they’re being presented with when a performer takes the stage or screen–whether it’s a drunkard, a merchant, a lover (or all three)–and so the story is inclusive right away.  Combine that with all the ways in which the style invites audience participation and you’re talking about creating a more community-themed catharsis than the more predictable individual experience.

David Zarko, our artistic director, likes to point out how everyone used to know the same dances.  We would get together and there would be a common forum for interacting on an unspoken emotional level.  Social interaction rarely like that anymore, but the commedia dell’arte and theatre inspired and influenced by it is one of the things we still have that invites that unique and important experience.

3.)    What artists are you inspired by? Any heroes you try to emulate in your work?

Too many, probably!  The first that comes to mind is Buster Keaton, simply because I find his comedy to be a very pure and timeless experience, and of course because he was a tremendous acrobat.  I have a real love of all silent comedy, to the extent that my particular clown character still doesn’t talk!  I love dancers of just about every variety, and have a real fondness for Gene Kelley.  In terms of contemporary artists, I take a lot of inspiration from Julie Taymor (more Titus and Lion King than Spider-Man), Bill Irwin and David Shiner.

4.)    Any interesting performance horror stories? Recounts of joyful victory? What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you onstage? The most exhilarating?

Maybe college makes for more dramatic events, somehow.  I was in a production of Julius Caesar in which I was on the charging end of Caesar’s coffin as the mob rioted.  It was hundreds of pounds on a gurney with a plywood top that I had to essentially brake as we rolled down a ramp into the vomitorium.  One matinee the lights went down a little quickly and we got disoriented and just as I was moving my hands from the sides of the gurney to the front, one corner collided with the doorway and the corner of the plywood ploughed almost all the way through my right palm.  Looking back, my whispered cries of “Medic! Medic!” backstage while holding my bleeding hand seem hilariously inapt but, at the time, it seemed war-like, I suppose.

On the fairer side of things, I once did a comedy for a small regional theatre in which I played a character who was a reincarnated dog trying to look out for the family who had owned him.  It was great fun in general – finding the physicality of a dog trying to act human – but the most fun was that the director was so on board with my physical choices and ideas that she made sure the set was adapted to them.  So, at the climax, I got to climb up and along a bookshelf on the upstage wall, jump from there onto a banister on a second-level staircase, then leap from there to the downstage center floor to clobber the bad guy.  Great.  Fun.

5.)    You (like me) are a writer as well as a performer (and a teacher). What do you enjoy most? How does one feed into and play off the other?

The enjoyment of one to the other is so different that it’s difficult to rate them, but I’d say there’s nothing I enjoy in quite the same way as performing.  The highs and lows are more extreme, so there’s a balance to that experience, but the sheer vulnerability of it and the way in which performing exists in a moment is in a way incomparable.  I love them all, of course.  They’re very different skills in my opinion – I think the best teachers have some performance instinct, but being a good performer does not in any way make one a good teacher, and the most brilliant writers can be awful, awful performers and teachers.   But all have a common root in storytelling, or narrative communication.  For me, writing satisfies the part of me that craves more control when I’m being a performer, and teaching ties both instincts together in a way that’s all about reaching out to others on their own level, and doing so with adaptivity.

I’m curious about your answers to your own questions!  Thanks,

Jeff

Latest From Sherlock’s Home

Here’s the latest of my contributions to Sherlock’s Home. This one was a collaborative effort, about some Star Trek and Sherlock connections (in the wake of the great Leonard Nimoy’s death). As usual, find an excerpt below and the full shebang at Sherlockshome.net.

Of course, if Spock is the irascible logician in Star Trek: The Original Series, android Data fills the same role in follow-up The Next Generation. Fans of that show will remember that Data, while playing at being Sherlock Holmes (with loyal friend Geordi LaForge as Watson in tow) in the holodeck, unleashes a virtual Moriarty who becomes all too real. Even as a hologram, Moriarty is intelligent and dangerous enough to warrant a full-­crew long con to render him (and a holo­Irene  Adler) no longer threatening to the Enterprise.