Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Fighting Fantasy: Deathtrap Dungeon

Last time I tried a gamebook I was deeply immersed in the truly outrageous world of fictional eighties pop star Jem. These amazing adventures were sadly cut short by remembering that I was in a band and portraying a woman, even such an outrageous one, left me feeling less than manly. To solve this problem it's time to travel to the senselessly violent world of Fighting Fantasy and take on a dungeon that has nothing to do with debauched CEOs whipping and dominating submissive women and everything to do with death served up with a side of awesome.

No costume jewelry accounts to worry about here.

The story is minimalist, but what is there delivers the goods big time. To generate commerce and tourism a local ruler decides to create a deadly underground maze that is opened once every year. Phony tough and crazy brave volunteers are then sent in, to die. This, we are told, attracts huge crowds. You would think the appeal of watching delusional individuals enter a hole in the ground never to be seen again would be somewhat limited. It would be like going to a football game, watching your team enter a closed stadium but not being allowed in yourself and three hours later hearing an announcement that they lost. Actually, that does sound a lot like most of the games I went to, with beer and grilled food added. I retract my criticism.

I like the medicine balls attached to the skeletons.

How does our hero fit into all of this, you ask? Well, I saw an announcement and thought "Hey, I'm a homicidal and suicidal lunatic, this is perfect!" Yeah, that's the story. I used one of the pregenerated characters the reprint offers. I'm a vaguely Teutonic stereotype named Arran Gottspeed. He's a big dude that might have some giant in him (mom, how could you?) and his fighting style consists of rushing forward swinging wildly and hoping for the best. The good news is he's hard to hurt, the bad news is he's going to get hurt a lot. Also, he's unlucky, but that whole "Mom might have gotten it on with a Giant" thing already told us that.

I'm pretty big, so getting through deadly traps should be no problem.

The big day arrives and I'm joined by my fellow doomed contenders: two barbarians, a knight, a sexy elf woman and a ninja. The knight draws the short straw and enters first, followed by one of the barbarians (how deflating must it be to show up only to discover there's another barbarian already entered. It's the male equivalent of when two women wear the same dress to a party.) then the ninja. Finally it's my turn. Still playing to the crowd I venture bravely into certain danger.

"You told me you were going to be a Cleric. Gah, I'm so angry with you."

Entering a dark corridor I'm greeted by the first deadly trap: a box with my name on it. Since there are no corpses of the previous entrants next to their respective boxes I decide it's safe to open. I'm rewarded with two gold pieces (for the burgeoning economy of an underground maze built to kill anyone who enters) and a mocking letter full of half-clues. I tear up the letter and strut off, feeling pretty confident after defeating a piece of paper. 

I reach a left-right turn, complete with an arrow pointing west painted on the wall. This reminds me of how they ruined the Cheese Maze at the local "Chuck E Cheese" by painting similar arrows inside it. Sure kids would get lost and a few died or became feral cannibals, but it was worth it for the "fun" of blundering around similar looking hallways before going down a slide.

Nothing says a good time like a mascot inspired by vermin.

Showing awesome non-conformity powers I take the road less traveled. I run into some sort of "obstruction" but it's too dark to tell what it is. This could be more vague, I guess. "There's something, of some sort, ahead of you. What do?" Forward.

It's a large, brown "boulder like" object that also turns out to be "spongy." Based on the "attack first and probably never bother thinking" approach that typifies a guy that might have giant DNA, I hack at it with my sword. I'm reward with a face full of spores and end up scratching my "itching lumps."

Watcha gonna do with all those spores, all those spores in a spongy boulder-like object?

Still itching my badly inflamed skin I enter a portion of tunnel where it starts getting hot. Probably nothing. I'm offered a chance to drink a "clear liquid" in some bamboo, but decide that it probably isn't super clean, considering this is a dungeon and all. I struggle on in the intense heat, because turning back isn't an option for some reason. I fail the only die roll I've made so far, fall to the "near-molten floor of the tunnel" and die. My last thoughts are of my unknown father and why he hated me so much that he ran off. Maybe with a proper male role model I wouldn't have developed an interest in death sports and would have been taught that near-molten surfaces = bad.

The critically panned video game inspired by this book. Pixelated rears =/ automatic good reviews.

And so another one of these attempts comes to a highly inglorious conclusion. Apparently the bamboo water would have saved me, or just rolling an eight or lower on two dice. Let's face it, Arran Gottspeed was basically fucked at birth. There's actually a lot of cool stuff in this book I didn't get to talk about because of my super-poor run: the blood beast, a T-Rex (!), a chance to fight the ninja, a homage to classic D&D and a lot more. Instead I got killed by heat. 

 The End.

Aaron Zehner's first novel The Foolchild Invention is available in e-book format at and Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

DotTeeVee: Backyard MMA

Remember when professional wrestling was culturally relevant? Ok, ok. I'll rephrase that. Remember when professional wrestling was popular enough that admitting you watched it didn't automatically brand you as a mentally defective troglodyte? What do mean, "No?" Fine. Remember when professional wrestling had enough popularity with the "trailer park located under power lines" crowd that youngsters with big dreams and missing chromosomes would attempt to imitate this proletarian ballet in backyards? Of course you do.

Well, those days are over. As wonderful as it was watching future meth cooks break light tubes over each other and slam themselves on shopping carts stolen from nearby Wally Marts I'm afraid that nothing gold can stay. Kids who score in the bottom third on standardized tests don't want to grow up to be Steve Austin or The Rock or Scotty Too Hotty anymore. Shed a tear, but take heart that something equally asinine and self-destructive has claimed the throne: backyard MMA.

 "Waiting for The Ultimate Fighter to call back, bro."

The first words we hear when this video starts are "look at his nipples" setting the tone for the high standard of maturity and professionalism that we'll be enjoying for the next 3 minutes and 54 seconds. The description informs us that this is a "Heavyweight Title Fight" in the "WGFC." Based on the footage that follows I'm guessing this stands for "Willard Georgia's Fat Contenders" or something along those lines. If you really care they even have their own website (!) but I'm guessing it probably redirects you to endless Ron Paul spam.

The owner of the nipples takes a moment before his huge title match with everything on the line against a human bulldozer that may well leave him crippled for life, assuming he survives, to awkwardly flirt with an unseen female, including a reveal that he'll be teaching her friend kickboxing. Based on what we're about to see I sincerely hope she just paid with "favors" and not actual currency. Anyway, Captain Nipples is actually named Geoff Melendez, which sounds like something a "Random MMA Fighter Namer" might spit out, along with Junior Dos Bisping or "The Werewolf" Donny Coleman.

We are all witnesses.

His opponent is the equally formidable Mike Kiprusoff who has decided to wear a Grateful Dead shirt over his less than impressive physique. The ring, such as it is, consists of some padding and a giant tarp. Everything about this just screams "Six Figure Lawsuit Against the UFC After My Son Died Imitating It." Let's watch.

The heavyweight champion of Crawdad County, Mississippi immediately busts out some Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon shit with an awkward flying kick that draws girlish laughter from the human wreckage viewing this mess. We are later informed he's highly trained in "some form of karate"which he combines with the already mentioned kickboxing as well as wrestling skills learned chasing pigs to be the unbeatable force that he is.

If do right can no defense.

It quickly goes to the ground and it's pretty clear his deadhead opponent is already having some second thoughts about facing such an expert fighter. Only the dream of holding the WGFC strap keeps him in it as the champ applies what might be mistaken for a relaxing massage under different circumstances. For reasons unknown he simply lets his tie-dyed nemesis up, perhaps hoping to wreck him with his ambiguous mastery of karate.

Instead they awkwardly collide like two mighty bulls, gracelessly stagger around a surface that's got freshly fallen leaves on it and then crash back to the hillbilly mat. More ineffectual punches and then Geoff lets the challenger up again. This fight is about as unpredictable as a Catholic Mass.

Must...continue...Jerry would...have wanted that.

We get an edit that probably covers about ten minutes of both gladiators trying to get their wind back, followed by another crazy flying technique from the Champion of the Rural Route. Then another take down. More editing. Cold fear washes over me as I realize what I'm watching is mostly highlights and somewhere there's probably a thirty minute video of these two. 

Back to the jury-rigged mat for what seems like the hundredth time. This time we get a nice shot of the challenger's All American beer belly. In a few years he'll probably be "choked out" by sleep apnea.

These are real athletes!

Onlookers call for their hero to "throw bombs" and compare his adversary's middle to "grape jelly." Looks more like one of those giant plastic bags of milk to my eyes. Poorly realized clobbering ensues as it's clear that we're heading toward the finish. The MMA hippie thrashes about like a bloated, freshly landed fish. The warriors are reminded to "breathe." The Champ gets tired of punching and walks off and his opponent simply gives up, providing a highly satisfying conclusion to this epic clash of skill and will. 

The champion retains and will now bask in the well-earned glory and adulation on earth before taking his rightful place in the fields of Elysium. The defeated challenger can not be called the loser, because there were no losers today, only mighty soldiers whose clash of arms shook the pillars of the world. A good man will tell his son this story. The battle of two heroes that were less than Gods but greater than men. The deeds of strength and courage that echo forever in eternity.

There were giants in the earth in those days.

Komment Korner

the dude with the trunks is a piece of shit who doesnt know what he is doing

who ever sent me a message talking shit i train at a gym in Cleveland ill send you the info come on through

Looks a bit nippy outside. (Ed: But it's hooter inside)

My dude in the red and black shorts, your opponent left himself open for countless submissions. mad naked chokes could have been applied early in the match

Aaron Zehner's first novel The Foolchild Invention is available in e-book format at and Barnes & Noble.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Jem: Jewels in the Dark

Last time in the exciting and always topical world of blogging about thirty-year-old gamebooks aimed at children we traveled back in time and used this temporal anomaly mainly to screw with the minds of primitive humanity before exposing philosophy as the empty fraud that it is and returning home having learned absolutely nothing. Today we're also going to travel in time, so to speak. Back to the glorious eighties and the pop music scene that we still can't get enough of.

It was a better time. The One Percent were heroes and role-models rather than some all-powerful boogeyman somehow causing the failure of socialism and the windmill to collapse. Outrageous meant "really good" instead of denoting that something was an outrage. And the colors, man! It was like living in a beautiful PCP-powered fantasy world all the time, minus the snake attacks and roof-jumping. The music was the best part, just great stuff about real day-to-day problems like slowly becoming Asian or trying to get sexual intercourse.

 Nothing says "essential" like Rick Astley or pre-NKOTB NKOTB.

What better to pay homage to all of the above than reading a "Find Your Fate" book following the adventures of glamorous and outrageous (the good, made-up definition) pop star Jem? A little background. Find Your Fate is basically a less inspired, less morbid, direct from a Serbian bargain bin knockoff of Choose Your Own Adventure. Jem was a line of dolls for girls, that if it came out today would probably attract a bizarre cult of socially inept, hygiene deficient male twenty-somethings. There's a little more to it than that, but let's just dive in.

We get off to an appropriately rockin' start. We're at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York (It's a real place? I thought it was just something made up to sell shirts.). The music is loud, lights are flashing, we're approximating an epileptic aura, but who cares? From the first paragraph we've begun to tap into the self-destructive lifestyle that made limp eighties pop music so unforgettable.

NKOTB's Donnie after an arson arrest. This really happened.

Surprisingly, this is not a concert but rather a "fashion shoot" intended to promote a set of precious stones called the "Langley Jewels." Why this needs to be done and for what purpose is never revealed, but on the other hand bright colors! Loud noise! Yeah! 

Oh wait, it is explained. A line of "costume jewelry" based on the genuine article is coming out. I can imagine a no good dog-of-a-man trying to pass them off as genuine to women, after refusing to buy Long John Silver's. Other than that niche group, the potential consumers for a new type of costume jewelry, even in a decade where greed and conspicuous wealth was worshiped, is probably not big enough to justify an elaborate marketing campaign. 

Make no mistake, this has been an elaborate campaign, featuring "billboards, magazine ads, television commercials" and more. Jem is less concerned about the total lack of fiscal responsibility being displayed and more focused on how exciting and glamorous it all is. Because thinking will only make your head hurt and give you wrinkles, girls. 

All is not well, however, as the "rock group that loves to hate you!" makes an unwanted appearance. That's right, it's the Misfits (!!!) consisting of evil genius Pizzazz, solid back-up assistant trouble maker Roxy and half-dead, fully-crazy Stormer (!!!). They're knocking things over, breaking stuff and making threats. Apparently we're in the same New York depicted in "Escape From New York" complete with no rule of law, all against all and roaming cannibals.

No, not these Misfits. Think Jem, bad trip version.

My eyes! I'm freaking out, man!!!

Faced with this intrusion and the apparent lack of property rights it implies we're given a choice between pulling a "You want to get nuts? Let's get nuts!!!" or keeping it cool in the pocket. With a big money costume jewelry account on the line, I play it smooth. This restraint is rewarded when security removes the gate-crashers, who go rather silently after all that build-up. I mean, what happened to you Stormer? Are you selling out to The Man and becoming domesticated? I barely even know you anymore.

Anyway, it's time for the publicity party. That's your life, endless parties, fashion shoots, rock shows and, presumably, several metric tons of white powder. The earlier victory over The Band that Loves to Hate You proves somewhat empty as they make another appearance to make a bizarre announcement about how Jem is going to steal the Langley Jewels, despite having no realistic motive for doing so and every reason not to. Plus, it's Pizzazz, a girl who wrecks things, makes lots of empty and ridiculous threats and basically behaves like an eighties version of Lindsay Lohan.

You're telling me this is just a coincidence. Come on, now.

Instead of committing grand larceny I hang out with "David Michael Springer" who is the only pop star that even comes close to my level. Yeah, take that Paul Young and Nena. He proposes that we launch a sort of "Monsters of Eighties Cock Rock" tour together and since I am, at heart, a musician first and a costume jewelry shill second, I accept.

This is more important than crass capitalism featuring a product almost no one wants.

This decision, unfortunately, ends the story. The book even bitches me out for not getting to experience this incredible and no doubt exceptionally well-written and sexy mystery by remembering that my character is in a band at the worst possible moment. Had I stuck around I would have experienced emotions many times greater than what we call "fun" but this will never be. The moving hand writes and having writ, moves on.

Roxy has no mouth-to-brain filter. Also, the walls are melting again

Aaron Zehner's first novel The Foolchild Invention is available in e-book format at and Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

DotTeeVee: Only in Russia

The other day there was a meteor, or meteorite, or falling star or something similar that hit Russia, catching everyone by surprise now that NASA is mostly a dhimmitude body uninterested with space phenomena. The best way to acknowledge this shocking and deeply troubling event is clearly to present a bizarre highlight package of Russian videos, compiled by a high-pitched American wuss. Yeah, it's one of those Youtube videos that takes existing footage that has been "contributed," adds some painfully unfunny commentary and then gets millions of views. By my best estimates in a decade the internet will be nothing but these compilations and lists with names like "six surprising facts about sexual intercourse" and "ten facts about James Madison that sound like something out of a torture porn movie (but are true!). Let us put on our shades and gaze into this bright future.

 The Russian version of Andy Capp.

We stagger out of the gate with a "please subscribe so you can see recycled, non-original content" screen and narration that suggests that some events, like the facial hair of Stalin, are unique to the Third Rome. Stalin is, of course, from Georgia instead of Russia, but I guess this is probably a common misconception among uneducated morons who combine a few videos they don't own together in one awkward package and then slap their own name all over it.

Two men, presumably Russian, awkwardly carry a heavy appliance of some sort (it turns out it's a freezer) up some stairs. Calling on your vast knowledge of Eastern Europe and the general rules of comedy, can you guess what happens next?

A) Unbelievably attractive "Olgas" emerge from the refrigerator unit provoking undignified and hilarious lust from onlookers.
B) The two men are assaulted by Tajikistanis.
C) They drop the heavy object, ruining it.
D) A meteorite or whatever you call it hits; everything is destroyed by the equivalent force of a hundred atomic bombs.

Pencils down.

 The correct answer was "C."

Our obnoxious narrator makes a heartless comment about "the fridge being ok." Still, only in Russia. I can't imagine people trying to lift something heavy and then dropping it anywhere else on this planet. 

No time to dwell on it, because the comedic genius that took existing videos and put his logo on them veers into another bizarre nationalistic rant about the dangers of driving in Russia. Apparently the land of the Tsars is even worse than China. I don't know what to make of this. Is this even a common stereotype? Bad Chinese drivers? Maybe it's something we made up so we can feel better about ourselves. Yeah they destroyed our manufacturing industry, exposed us as ignorant and lazy and they're about to put us into permanent debt slavery, but they sure can't drive, haw haw.

And 300,000,000 Kung Fu Masters.

Anyway, Russia. With the bleak Soviet apartments framing the action we get a glimpse of just how wild it can get on the roads of Volkonograd. The car we're in gets "cut off" and the other driver decides to then come to a complete stop, presumably in furtherance of direct physical violence. The only problem is the targets of his cray-cray, Chinese-style road wrath are still in their car, so you can probably guess just how extremely wacky it's about to get up in the bee-atch.

Looking at the image for awhile should cure your optimism.

Instead of the promised insanity the would-be victims simply back up and then drive off, half-heartedly clipping the still open door of the other vehicle. "Yeah, Russian drivers are ridiculous," I think to myself while I use my phone to type out this article while driving on the freeway at night with seven beers down and #8 open and half-drunk in the cup holder.

Luckily this is not the only evidence presented. A car that would be considered "beat" even by behind the iron curtain standards is revved up into reverse, causing the engine that was chained down to pop out in fairly satisfying fashion. 

In my country there is problem/And that problem is the car/They are old and non-sexy/So we remove the engine with a chain.

The technological know-how that won the race for manned space flight.

One of the "comrades" behind this amazing achievement actually responds by saying, and I quote "ha ha ha ha ha ha ha." With this sort of thing as the best available entertainment I can see how vodka got to be so popular.

Our annoying narrator is back to make a reference to "getting your tongue stuck on a flagpole" that a lot of his viewers will probably think is a reference to a certain intimate act instead of a classic movie. R-pop plays as a young man performs a back-flip into a snow drift and somehow gets his head stuck. That's the joke.

All we need is a football to hit his crotch and this would be the platonic definition of a "funny video."

We end like we began, with more shilling of appropriated content and a big thanks to people who send in clips and basically do 90% of this guy's work while not even getting thanked, let alone paid.

Komment Korner

Using the wrong noun isn't grammar. Just thought I'd point that out.

 did u copy this from someone?


only in the UK where chavs can afford computers and spread their cancer over the internet. ;)

И чо? Как бы тут не над чем смеяться. Россияне как великий народ - просран.

asian queer kid

Aaron Zehner's first novel The Foolchild Invention is available in e-book format at and Barnes & Noble.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Red Sleep

This is an excerpt from a novel I wrote years ago that has been stuck in rewrite hell ever since. Right now it's near the bottom of the list of projects I'm working on, but I think it's worth a look as it is.



You don’t want to get caught up in the Red Sleep, the violence that spreads like a virus. When it happens, human assets are lost, valuable property gets damaged, vital resources for the endless war effort are wasted and feelings get hurt.  It’s the worst in the summer, when the thermal inversions come and the heat seems to drive people into it. But here it was in the early days of winter, a chill in the air competing with the comforting warmth of the air pollution, and I was walking right into it. All because of my busy fucking mind. Too much time, ticking away.

The thing is, you can usually avoid the Red Sleep, unless people fall under the spell right next you, in which case you’re basically in for it. The only hope then is to either fight your way out, meaning you become a part of the Red Sleep yourself for all practical purposes, or to try to find some safety in the eye of the storm, so to speak, as the punching, beating, killing and possibly even foul language spreads out in a radius in all directions.

If you’re not caught in the initial flare-up, you should be fine, since random mob brawls are still enough of a novelty even in this day and age to be easily noted from a distance. This is why the typical Sleep only lasts a few minutes. Everyone involved is either on the fucking cement bleeding out like a pig or simply has no one to attack. Then the safe, highly profitable and fulfilling life we lead in the D-Zone can resume. Industry for victory, friends. We are winning!

No problem at all. I can solve the world’s problems without even trying.

Expect I’d crawled up into my head and all awareness was gone. It was worse because it was morning, well early afternoon really, but I just woke up and perception is reality. I still had bleary eyes and the dream trance that follows you out of bed until you eat and get some of the old Vitamin C, that is caffeine. I could barely feel the concrete beneath the old burglar boots I was wearing. People passed like ghosts, faces a blur. My eyes lingered in the strangest of places. Trash blowing in the wind, a jet whistling by overhead, an ancient peeling poster blasted yellow by the endless assault of the elements. It could still be read, barely:

“You can smack a Jap with scrap!”

Or get fucking smacked in the Red Sleep.

Within that numbing haze was the old inner voice, babbling away nonstop about things that seemed so important before I found myself fighting to survive. Beauty, truth, meaning, the fucking face of God, all that shit. It was like letting a room behind my eyes to some stuffed-suit professor. Take good notes, you will be tested.

Even worse the beautiful music that is the soundtrack of my life was droning away on top of it. The songs that always seem to be playing in Ronny joints and from fucking stairwell speakers had burrowed their way into the well-folded gray soil and started spreading out roots, throbbing away deep below the surface. This time it was “Too Much Time on My Hands,” which was actually rather apropos. “I got nothing to do and all day to do it.” Tell me about it. No kidding.

In between the very cool and highly insightful popular music, my internal dialogue kept droning on. Thoughts about going no where, what the future would hold and what I needed to do to make it. Just worthless shit. It took a fist bouncing off my god damn skull to act as an alarm clock, if you can handle that. Back to a state of nature, back to the only real truth. An explosion of color was followed by a wave of pain washing everything away.

Everything was a blur as I acted on animal instinct, reduced from any high-minded introspection back to the part of the mind we share with reptiles and all of that.  With my vision blurring from the five to the face I managed to make a cowardly retreat from the field of diseased honor. Showing the mighty power of self-preservation that carried the human animal through ice ages and so on I ducked behind a very convenient door. I held it shut with my shoulder and arm, pressing against the cold metal and looking through the small heavily stained glass window to the outside. I felt a sliver of rust scrape off against my arm as I applied supreme effort for the cause of preserving the self. My heart hammered in my ears and my wind returned in painful gasps.

I didn’t ask for this shit.

The good news was none of the Sleepers even bothered to try the door. In that state anything except swinging, biting and ripping is pretty much out of the question. As I watched, rubbing the growing bruise on the side of my filled-to-the-brim head, it was already winding up. Three bodies lay in growing pools of blood, two on the sidewalk and the third near the center of the narrow street. A handful of walking wounded hobbled away. The bright red on the ground was so striking in contrast to the dull colors that otherwise dominated, as if it was a touch of an artist.

In the D-Zone you notice colors, or at least the lack thereof. Do you have any idea how many different shades of gray and brown there are? If you live in the D-Zone you do, because those are for the most part the only colors you see. I’ve been told the Eskimos had nine different words for snow in their language. We need some more words for brown and gray. Even the air here is a mix of those colors. The blood on the street is almost a refreshing break from it all.

You can call me Sid. My full name is actually Sidney, but I never use it. It’s too soft, don’t you agree? Here in the D-Zone you can’t afford to show weakness, any more than you can afford to walk down the street lost in your thoughts with eyes full of morning dew. Sooner or later, this place will kill you.

I want it to be later. That’s why I was dealing in Thremeron. That’s why I had soldiers fighting for me in this fucking sewer. Most importantly, that’s why I needed to shut up the voice in my head.

It just wouldn’t go away. Even after coming close to painting the street with my ruined body the internal voice was back at it. I almost wished I’d be attacked again, to silence it, to return to the level of a beast. Give me a sensation, any sensation. I want to feel something again besides the endless numbness and apathy that wraps around me like  a cloak, chilling instead of warming.

Is it any wonder I’m not a criminal? Is it any wonder…

I was still looking at the blood on the ground.

“If you ain’t buying, get the fuck out!”

Slowly normalcy returned as the pulse in my ears hammering out a message of panic to the rest of my body in Morse code slowed and the flash of heat that danger brings faded. I turned to face the interior of the building. As luck would have it, I was just where I needed to be, more or less. A brute of a man, all fur, leather and muscles, glowered at me. Beefy hands wrapped in yellowed tape and worn bandages told the tale of many non-verbal interactions with potential patrons.

“Yeah, I’m buying.”

One last glance at the used up shells of mortality. They were still there and probably would be for awhile. Crisis over, back to normal. What could be better than the sweet embrace of the routine?


Aaron Zehner's first novel The Foolchild Invention is available in e-book format at and Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Choose Your Own Adventure #1: The Cave of Time

Last time we tried a Choose Your Own Adventure Book, a series aimed at grade school kids, we faced murder, alcoholism, home invasion, the horrifying existential nothingness that renders all we do absurd and meaningless, pistol-whippings, T.B.I., and ghoul/vampire monsters packing heat. Suffice it to say, that book was in no way representative of the series as a whole. Consider the very first book, where we'll face time travel, paradoxes, and the absurd farce that is free will, human agency and hope. Let's step into that Time Cave and encounter the exciting miseries, crimes and atrocities that make up the vast bulk of human history!

We get a little insight into the reckless nature of the pre-teen hero we'll be guiding right away, as he decided it's a good idea to enter a cave that was recently uncovered by a rock slide. I mean, what could go wrong? I guess reading page after page of slowly dying of oxygen deprivation in a collapsed cave that we foolishly entered is too bleak even for this series, or more likely that's the kind of horrible fate these books like to build up to rather than inflict right away. Emerging from this earth-hole reveals the sun is now set, the moon is in the wrong phase and there's a general sense that all is not well. "You must have fallen asleep," is the lame rationalization we get. Unless our hero is some sort of narcoleptic that seems like strainin' to do the explainin'.

Life ruining disabilities = comedy gold.

We're given a choice to simply "wait," which doesn't seem too logical, all things considered. Instead, we head back home with the naive hope that the spelunking-generated temporal anomalies will simply fix themselves if we sink deep enough into denial. I mean, I might have just fallen asleep in the middle of walking around, right? Sadly, this comforting illusion is ruined when our hero notes that the trail is different and also it's not a trail it's a river bed. Even then we lamely try to blame it on "moonlight playing tricks on the eyes." Assuming this kid somehow survives the coming nonsense he's gonna end on Dr. Phil or the non-televised equivalent as an adult, still blaming everything and everyone for his own self-constructed failure. I'm just saying.

I think we both know the moonlight is not to blame for your freebase habit.

The good news is the sun is coming up. The bad news is everything has changed and it's become so blatantly evident that no amount of double-talk is getting us out of this one. Even our watch is busted. Nevertheless, I must stay true to our character's delusional tendencies and keep heading toward "the ranch." An encounter with mountains and glaciation finally confirms what I think we knew from the start: we've been sent back to the Ice Age. Despite this setback, we still feel we can somehow get back to "familiar territory." The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, kid.

So we enter another, presumably non-fifth dimensional, cave. Here we immediately encounter stereotypical cave dwellers. As you might expect they're completely agog, because primitive humanity, never, ever, takes novel events in stride. A civilization and symbolic language-impaired gentleman approaches wielding a "vine." Here we get the classic flight or friends response and I decide to go with friends, what with my advanced frontal lobes and posture. Hell, I'll probably be in charge of this whole tribe in a month.

Assuming I don't get strangled with a vine right off, that is.

 Alternate cover embellishes the "vine" scene somewhat.

The universal language of "friendly gestures" is sufficient to make the scene with these Model-A humans. However, there still is a language barrier, which I overcome by making "drawings" on the cave wall. I want to point out that the current theory of cave paintings is that these images had religious and/or magical significance and messing with this would probably not win any points. I'm just saying this for the benefit of any of you that go into a cave and enter the Ice Age. Also, try not to wreck the present by indiscriminately killing and smashing. Follow those two rules and you should be fine.

Showing surprising adaptability for someone who is constantly trying to wish away the real world, I settle into the neolithic banality of cleaning, cooking and adding pictures to the wall. Just to mess with these human prototypes I draw airplanes, ships and cars, which their primitive minds see only as "abstract designs." So I'm a bit of a dick to the people that saved me from freezing or being devoured by a mammoth, no one's perfect. This pocket paradise of laughing into my sleeve at how backward and dumb the noble hunter-gatherer really was while pissing on their religious beliefs and generally being an ugly American time-tourist can't last, however. Cold weather is coming and with it "The Migration." Our ancestors were sort of like Canadian Geese.

Here, let me draw future objects you won't understand over this b.s.

Feeling I've taken advantage of these surprisingly hospitable hominids I use this as an excuse to try to find my way back to the cave of time and hopefully our present world of airplanes, electric razors and glory-holes. So I trudge off through the snow, all toughened up from my time as a cook, cleaner and iconoclast. Then I run into a wolf, kind of an odd choice by the author considering the plethora of more exotic Ice Age creatures. I run like hell into the cave, which conveniently enough is also right there.

Nearly ended by this.

I end up in a well-lit area of the cave, where an old man, the Keeper of Time or some shit, is waiting. Faced with this b.s. I decide to ask "who are you" rather than play along with his little games. This cuts the Gordian Knot, as Father Time or whatever is forced to admit he's a "philosopher" who chose immortality on the condition that he sits alone here, forever, contemplating chair reality and what is best in life and where does the Cave of Time fit into God's grand design and so on for all eternity. He basically admits he screwed the pooch with that choice and directs you back to your own time for the happy ending.

Overall this was an amusing enough read. Even though I just realized it contained devil-lution, evil magic, unholy immortality and false religions, thus opening the door for diabolic possession and the like. In light of that, it probably wasn't worth it. Still, the series had to start somewhere and time travel fantasy is always fun. Plus there was philosophy bashing and the futility of secular humanism, so I guess the questionable content evens out a bit. Just don't go exploring holes in that rock slide area, kids. You won't go back in time, you'll just get crushed by heavy stones.

  Don't try something like this, either.

Aaron Zehner's first novel The Foolchild Invention is available in e-book format at and Barnes & Noble.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Short Story Fragment

Just a little something for the middle of the week. More gamebooks coming on Sunday.

*     *    *    *

It was early evening, twilight, dusk, whatever you want to call that strange period that prevails for a short time between the light and dark. Mid-july, maybe the longest day of the year. I’m in the city. I’m trying to get home. It seems that particular issue comes up far too often.

You can lose track of time. The bookstore is closing at the end of the month and it was probably my last chance. A lot of it was already packed up, cardboard boxes on the floor full of yellowed pages, neat stacks of recorded thought ready to go to the dust bin, unsorted piles with colorful covers suggesting all manner of adventure on the dank insides. I got caught up sorting through it all, seeing if there might be a hidden treasure worthy on my hard-earned fed play money. I was deep in it and the time slipped by from late afternoon to the current temporal no man’s land.

I bought a few things. One was one of those social problems books, printed in an era where success still seemed like a possibly, albeit one that would require hard work and sacrifice. No one thinks like that any more, not even the true believers. We’re fucked.

Another was some sort of science fiction. I got it just for the cover, mostly. Planets and aliens and computers filling in for THE LORD, that sort of shit. I couldn’t even remember the others. It would be a big surprise, fucking holiday morning when I get home, open that mountain-climber “because it’s fucking there” backpack and find out what they are. Small pleasures, they’ll do until something better comes along.

You have to keep your eyes open. The pack attacks, the killings are nearly commonplace these days and I’m not interested in being one of the faceless victims that are quickly ushered down the memory hole with some token cluckings of disapproval. Here and there are likely suspects, peering out from between hundred-year-old buildings, thin monsters full of menace, occupying a world built by the dead and forgotten.

It’s only a few more blocks. All around cements and brick and even the occasional wood or steel. There are sirens, but I think they’re at least a mile off. You get an ear for it, like soldiers who learn to tell if that artillery shell is going to miss or if it’s time to move, to dive for that bomb proof bunker and hope for the best. That’s pretty much what I was doing too, get out of this area of danger, back to the safe haven, the enclave where nothing bad can possibly go wrong.

Coming up on a main intersection. I can see the train from here, but it’s still a fair way off. The eyes can play tricks at this time of day, like that distance distortion in the desert and that sort of shit. Don’t walk. Do anything else, but not that one particular answer. Who am I to disobey an edict delivered in unnatural glowing orange like an urban will-o-wisp? It’s a bad break, though. It means no more forward motion toward the goal and having to stand and wait, stand and be counted, noticed. Yeah, it’s already happening.

*      *     *     *

Aaron Zehner's first novel The Foolchild Invention is available now.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

DotTeeVee: Vagina Power and Penis Power

Relationships are difficult, but when your primary source of guidance in those troubled waters is a thoroughly bizarre Atlanta public access program called "Vagina Power" they might as well be impossible. The show features an outspoken, quite possibly insane, woman named Alexyss Tylor and her mother (!!!) discussing topics the mainstream media won't dare to touch, like "hitting the middle" and women who have "jackrabbits" hammering away on their area all day while at work. Through the miracle of this modern age this amazing travesty has been preserved on Youtube and five years and 1.5 million views plus later it continues to be a wonder of this brilliant new world.

I had pretty much the same expression watching this.

We pick up the action already in progress as we're told "to earn your man you've got to learn your man." Sounds like a rejected Jesse Jackson slogan. Not all is well, though, as Alexyss warns of the risk of being "caught up in a man's penis power." No, penis power is not the solution to America's energy crisis, but rather it represents the ability of a man to somehow become proficient enough at sexual intercourse that it actually controls a woman rather than driving her away. Apparently the trick is "practice." Who knew?

We digress somewhat into a discussion of flashy men: pro and contra. Apparently there are decent men that wear lots of jewelry out there, somewhere. Not to be confused with the man in a "predator mode."

Predator mode...activate!

According to Miss Tylor the main target in predator mode are lonely women with beds full of toys. I'm guessing we're not talking about Voltron action figures. The mother, who has been silent up until this point is forced to make an off-topic interjection about "what drives a woman to toys?" We're supposed to be talking about dogs that hit the walls for psychological manipulation here mom, please try to stay on topic.

"What's going on in this video...oh lawd."

It's here we learn the horrifying truth that some women actually enjoy having orgasms. In fact, many working women, according to this show, have the jackrabbit on all day at their jobs. Well, that certainly explains the poor service I got at the office max. I guess the fact that she kept moaning and rolling her eyes back in her head while I was talking about ordering toner should have been a clue that something was amiss, but it seemed fairly ordinary at the time.

Mom goes 0 for 2 in getting the point as she embarks on a semi-coherent tangent about rabbits in nature during her country childhood and their tendency to jump "from here to there." Luckily her daughter is right here to explain that we're actually talking about how science adapted this naturalistic observation to create a  mechanical device that provides a steady bludgeoning of the nether regions, much like how Da Vinci got the idea for the helicopter from falling leaves or whatever. "We are living in the 21st century," says the older woman with a mixture of resignation and awe.

After being side-tracked by the rabbit trail, no pun intended, we veer into a discussion of how some male organs feel like they're on fire. I'm pretty sure they can give you a shot for that. "All penises are not created equal," we are told. So much for that U.N. resolution of universal rights or whatever that worthless scrap of paper is called. Indeed, even a man who "ain't no good" can get unfair preferential treatment via working the "hips and buttocks" and "bending" his partner like a human gumby. Life is both unfair and profoundly ugly.

This "penis power" is more than capable of destroying lives. How bad can it get? It can reach a point where the man won't even buy Long John Silver's. That's bad enough, but "that plate worth (only) $2.99." What does the woman get instead? If you guessed a mouth and/or rectum full of a certain special bodily fluid, you're correct! Good grief.

Fine dining denied due to penis power.

Perhaps with food on the brain we're told that all these men are offering is "a side of penis." This theory is confirmed when Alexyss suggests such encounters might be occurring "at lunch." Lest we should start getting hungry too, it's time to address the issue of letting a man "hit bottom." "They don't know about the bottom!" Mom interjects with more than a little desperation. Sorry mom, they clearly do which is why shrimp platter sales are down and we've got economic hardship.

Apparently the process of journeying to the center of woman, so to speak, leaves her insane. This is linked to ejaculation somehow reaching the brain. I don't think that's anatomically feasible, but then again I don't do a horrifying, sleazy as hell public access show with my own mother about how sometimes men use a mirror while "hitting from the back," so what do I know.

Next we learn about how "screwing her into submission" is performed. It's done by "using the penis as a weapon to break her ass down." Now you know and you'll be a better person. We're told the only defense against this sort of sexual mind control is to become a prostitute. Otherwise, forget it. It's a simple matter of asking "whose vagina is it" as though you're at a lost and found or something. This breaks a woman's brain and leads to a condition called being a "come freak" and we arrive full circle by explaining that this then leads to the jackrabbit addiction after the dog of a man leaves. It's a neat little package, no pun intended. 

This "freak" condition also makes sleeping difficult, causes high blood pressure and shortness of breath, as if everything else wasn't enough. Basically what we're saying is that normal male/female relations are far more dangerous than most experimental medicines in terms of undesirable side-effects.

She's making crazy faces like this through the entire video.

What qualifies someone to do a show like this, you're probably wondering. Surprisingly, our heroine does not have an extensive educational background, apart from a "Master's Degree in Being Played By Men." If I remember correctly the "Being Played By Men" department was less than impressive at the college I attended, but than again it was a state school. Harvard's B.P.B.M. labs and faculty are top notch, I'm sure.

It's time to give the floor to Mom again, who has mostly been in shocked silence during the last rant about life destruction via intercourse. She claims to have learned a lot and will be "on the watch out" for the giant, bottom-finding, flaming hot units lurking out there. She vows to stay "prayed up." After watching this train-wreck Richard Dawkins would probably want to pray.

We wrap things up with a fairly standard closing, followed by Miss Tylor cackling like a mad woman. Some music plays and she dances in her chair in a manner that resembles a bobble-head doll. A very appropriate finish, to say the least.

 Komment Korner

I'd rather not die of alcohol poisoning...



I got to this from longboarding videos :P


Aaron Zehner's first novel The Foolchild Invention is available in e-book format at and Barnes & Noble.