Free fiction! “Attraction”

Hi there! Here’s a free drabble for you: “Attraction” by me.

***

Meteor inbound.

That’s what the readouts said. All signs pointed to a massive body hurtling toward Earth. We sent bombs—didn’t destroy it. Sent rockets—couldn’t alter its path.

I radioed the Mars colony to let them know we were changing the polarity on their radiation shield to accommodate for an upcoming solar flare. There were less humans on The Red Planet than this one.

“Ma’am?” came the reply.

“Yes?”

“I’m not seeing any danger.”

“You will soon. …Signing off.”

They relied on us. I typed the new code. The meteor would hit them instead.

I sighed and hit enter.

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Cyborg Sunday, Update 4.29.2018: Just Monika, game development daydreams, and synchronicity everywhere.

What does love sound like?

Does it sound like a heartbeat?

Or a heart breaking?

“Reality,” by yours truly.

Okay, so, I wrote about Doki Doki Literature Club! earlier this week, and its grip on my brain hasn’t let up. If anything, I’m growing more obsessed with this game after having beaten it. Yeah, I bought the fan pack. I may or may not have a playlist on my phone for DDLC-themed music. …I’m a nerd with a glitched-up brain and a penchant for reality-bending horror, sue me.

Despite the fact that a part two wouldn’t make sense, I’ve hopped on the Hype Train and would love to see its story extended–or, humor me, turned into an entirely new game genre.

Those of you who’ve played DDLC, picture this: the same principles that made the game so compelling brought into a narrative adventure game, i.e. Life is Strange or Before the Storm. Combining the intense story focus and branching decisions with, say, Nier: Automata’s ability to reprogram your character by adding/removing functions would be a seriously epic experience.

Imagine, for instance, if you had the decision to remain relatively human or augment your character with cybernetics, and doing so would grant you world-bending control over the other events? What if you could augment your decisions with a Deus Ex style CASSIE mod, gauging everyone’s moods artificially, allowing you to know exactly what they want to hear–at the expense of being able to care about the people you were talking to, or perhaps having them realize that you’re manipulating them?

Maybe you wouldn’t have Max’s time-rewinding powers, but a simple wetware hack could let you predict every possibility of somebody’s actions, winning fights before they start and preventing the next Chloe from shooting herself again, making you hard to kill and highly feared. An antagonist starts talking trash, so you mute in-game volume and the attack falls on literally deaf ears. A flashbang goes off, so you lower the gamma/brightness and up the contrast to compensate. Somebody yells in a foreign language, so you set up English subtitles that your character reads.

Narrative adventure games thrive when emotions are on the line, rather than just lives, like in other sames. I haven’t played anything recently where both you and the characters had as much at stake as in Doki Doki Literature Club!, and I’d love to see a developer explore the possibility of erasing a character from the game, but your protagonist retaining ‘memory’ from old save files–if you have them!

Or, put yourself in Monika’s shoes. What if you could program enemies out of existence, rewrite unfavorable dialogue, change people at will, at the expense of the game’s stability? Old video games kind of did this, i.e. how unpredictable life got if you kept using cheat codes in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, but a game that worked that into the plot would be revolutionary, to say the least. Let’s get a techno-pocalyptic version of Hellblade going and see what happens!

I have a LOT of ideas here, so I can only hope a game studio appreciates them and hires me on as a writer. I do have an application out with a particular developer… and I’m not sure if it means anything, but I met a woman who was basically a real-life Chloe Elizabeth Price the other day, in both looks and personality. Fingers crossed that means something!

But in the meanwhile, it’s fitting that I’m wrapping up first edits on TWO novels this week: Nova EXE and These Walls Don’t Talk, They Scream. In the first, a self-aware computer program befriends an unassuming man whose life soon spirals uncontrollably. In the latter, a woman moves back to her childhood home to reconnect with the mysterious presence there, soon finding her definition of reality shattered to pieces. Like I said, fitting, considering that Monika’s whole thing is being horrified at her own flat reality and needing to break everything to have a taste of something real.

And, on that note of having seen too much, I’ll be setting Visions from the Veil up for pre-orders this week!

Beyond that, I’m seeking representation for my award-winning screenplay, The Mirror Game. 

Busy, busy, busy! Still hoping to get that full-time job soon. I love writing, but would have no problem scaling back my personal projects to collaborate on a big team project. Writing a novel is great, but there’s something really great about working together on a bigger project. Hopefully I’ll get to join a great team soon.

Until then, you have a great day, and thanks for stopping by!

…And here’s that playlist I mentioned. A little short, but fun and energetic. Plus, if you loop it, it feeds perfectly into itself in a never-ending cycle of distorted, obsessive love.

Virus” by Andrew Stein

Doki Doki Forever” by Or30

Delete Me” by NateWantsToBattle

Just Monika” by Random Encounters feat. OR3O & Adriana Figueroa (Note: the video isn’t the same as the straight-up song)

Get Out of my Head” by TryHardNinja ft. Sailorurlove

Your Reality” cover by Cristina Vee

 

Free Fiction! “Broccoli”

Hey you! Do you like broccoli? I actually love the stuff, because I’m a weirdo who thrives off green and orange foods, but maybe you’ll identify with June. At first.

***

June slipped her leafy greens to Barkie. The Golden Retriever never refused a snack, after all. She kept this up until Barkie stopped eating.

One trip to the vet confirmed: too much fiber from too much human food damaged her intestines.

“What does that mean?” June said, old enough to know what death was, though she had no experience with it.

“The vet was very clear. He said, ‘You’ll have to put her down.’” Her dad held up a needle. “He even gave us this so we could do it at home.”

Then he stuck the needle in June’s arm.

Doki Doki Literature Club! review: A must-play game

First off: Spoiler alert.

TL;DR: This FREE meta-game that plays the player is not only an innovative manipulation of genre tropes and a punchy satire, but is also one of the most empathy-inducing games I’ve played to date, combining psychological horror and tearful poignancy in equal measure. HIGHLY recommended. In all. Freakin’. Caps.

This game’s a visual novel, so almost every single thing I could/will say is a spoiler. If you haven’t played it, do so now, and come back when you’re ready.

That said, Doki Doki Literature Club! might be, hands down, one of the best games I’ve played in recent years.

Granted, its art style was average, the dialogue predictable, and the characters fairly generic archetypes, but this game succeeds for two reasons: its plot and the fact that it plays the player.

 

If you’ve done as I told you earlier and played it, you’ll know how predictable it is that Sayori commits suicide. It’s written in every line. From the opening scene, where she runs up having overslept again, my brain went to severe clinical depression (at least, I hope it’s predictable, or that means I’ve known a strangely high amount of very unwell people). Yuri’s subsequent suicide is equally predictable. However, these moments are predictable on purpose, playing Monika becoming self-aware against her inability to do anything about it. The moments have to be obvious, because she can’t actually change her world, just exacerbate its existing qualities, like Sayori’s depression.

Monika’s self-awareness is one of the more subtle parts of the game. The meta-plot of this game–the game itself falling to pieces as the script gets destroyed and rewritten–becomes increasingly tense and horrifying. Visuals glitch, music distorts, the screen zooms in odd ways, and images flicker so quick they border on a subliminal assault on the player’s senses. Then she ‘stops’ time (or, simply draws attention to the fact that time doesn’t exist in her world), which eventually leads to you deleting her. She realizes how much it sucks to get deleted, so she restores everyone else.

Here’s why Doki Doki Literature Club! might be one of the most important games of the past year. When the game resumes and the club continues under the resurrected Sayori’s leadership, she knows everything, just as Monika did. But, if you spent as much time as possible with every available character, Monika doesn’t take over and ‘delete’ the game itself, like usual.

Sayori thanks the player for having tried to help everyone by listening to their problems and bringing them happiness. She appreciates the effort you’ve gone through by saving and loading to experience every path in one run, and says, even if you didn’t get to fall in love with someone, that’s okay.

“We all love you.”

…I can’t recall the last time any game awarded the player for empathy. These last words, full of platonic, appreciative love, aren’t about who you tried to ‘romance’ throughout the game. They’re expressing gratitude that you were a true friend to each possible person.

I’ve played a lot of disturbing games. I grew up on Silent Hill and Fatal Frame, where mutilated bodies were common–where suicide is not a possibility, but an expectation. I’ve played horror, adventure, action, shooters, and RPGs, but even games with morality systems, even the most in-depth games like Legend of Zelda, never held up to this.

Most games that encourage you to do the right thing offer rewards. In Legend of Zelda games, being a hero results in new weapons, heart containers, unlocked areas, and other rewards. Silent Hill games that offered moments to be good to others did so more to inflict horror at your failures rather than pride in your successes. The Fallout games treat morality more as a matter of convenience, as evidenced by perks that reset karma to zero so you can pretend you’ve always been a good person.

Doki Doki Literature Club! is the first time I’ve ever played a game and simply felt glad to have done the right thing. No reward involved, no drastically changed ending, just the characters saying, “Thank you.”

Perhaps its the fourth-wall breaking theme of the characters wondering about their own significance, and if they matter to anyone because they’re a game character with automated friends, but their gratitude at the end makes for a very heartwarming ending.

There aren’t a lot of games out there that encourage empathy these days. There are fewer that do it well. So, more than simply saying I enjoyed DDLC, I respect it, too. It’s a feat of gaming the player at its finest, but those who sift through the files and put in the time to treat each character well are sure to be glad they did.

Cyborg Sunday, update 4.22.2018: Writer’s life, giving up coffee, and applying for my dream job

Somehow, I thought that

Giving up coffee would suck.

It’s not all that bad.

“Doing Without” by Yours Truly

Bruce Lee once said, ““It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”

I’ve decided to put this to the test by giving up coffee. I know what you’re thinking: “Uh, Kevin, you’re a writer! How are you going to do this? Without coffee, you won’t be able to stay up into the late hours of the night, hammering away at the keys as though they owe you money, demanding your sleep-deprived consciousness provides a few words that you can trick people into believing are compelling.”

Then I’m like, “I also don’t drink or smoke,” and you’re probably thinking, “Good Lorde, man, how dare you? There is such a long, glorious tradition of writers, American or otherwise, sinking into the mire of their own self-destruction in pursuit of what it really means to be human! You betray all those who came before you by rejecting such glorious decay!”

Okay, maybe I’m being a little dramatic. Plus, I don’t know you. Maybe you didn’t think any of that, but here’s a word of advice: you don’t ever have to be miserable or sleep-deprived to write. While certainly a little less tortured, being happy and healthy will bolster your sensibilities and give you more resilience. It’ll be way easier to keep writing, especially in the face of rejection, if your body and mind are well.

As far as my writing goes, I have nothing to report this week. I subbed a poetry manuscript, but no rejections or acceptances.

BUT… I just applied for my dream job. I’d be writing with a video game company I really respect. That’s all I’ll say. Don’t like sharing too much when things are still in the works. I have a good feeling about it, though. A real good feeling. Let’s hope giving up coffee has a butterfly effect!

Along those lines, I hear coffee increases insulin resistance in Type 1 Diabetics. There’s conflicting evidence here, and paradoxically, some suggest it decreases the risk of Type 2 in non-diabetic subjects. However, other data shows it exhausts the body’s endocrine system, contributing to the development of T2D and Addison’s Disease.

This bears significantly more investigation, both in my life and otherwise, because the prevalence of autoimmune disorders in modern America is unbelievably high compared to previous decades. If mass coffee consumption is linked to the development of such issues, we could potentially treat or prevent a number of conditions by eliminating it from our diet–or insurance companies could use a coffee habit as a ‘pre-existing condition’ and deny you coverage. Wouldn’t be surprised if they did this already for heart problems and blood pressure issues.

So far, it’s only been 2 days since my last cup, but I seem to have some increased insulin sensitivity, so that’s cool. I’ve been weening off via green tea though, so I’m not sure if the caffeine in that has an effect too, or if the insulin resistance comes from coffee itself. Either way, I’m saving money, so that’s cool.

And, doubleplusgood, lower caffeine means lower stress reactions. I’m super excited waiting to hear back about this job, so kicking caffeine to the curb was great timing.

I’m off to hurry up and wait, by which I mean write. Hope you have a great week!

 

COVER REVEAL and GIVEAWAY! “Visions from the Veil” is coming soon.

The long-awaited reveal of Visions from the Veil cover art is here! Feast your eyes upon it below, but be careful. There are some things you weren’t meant to see.

Share this page and be sure to tag @TheHoltoning for a chance to win a free electronic copy!

My thanks to Mar over at The Bold Mom for the cover design.

KEVIN HOLTON_VISIONS_WRAPPING

Free fiction! “Traction,” a drabble

Tires squeal across cool pavement. It’s been raining, and cars rush around the bend too quickly to notice the dented guardrail.

Below, James scrabbles for purchase, a piece of metal in his side, big as his fist. No arteries severed, no organs shredded, but he’s bleeding out.

One foot up, two feet back. Mud slicks the incline. He tries to climb, slides on down again, finally losing grip entirely. He tumbles and lands hard against the wreck of his car.

James gasps, clutching his side. Brakes screech. A car leaps the rail. He screams as headlights plummet right toward him.

***

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