Flash Fiction Face-Off: Two weeks away!

What do you get when you take a group of campus creative writers, give them three random words, and have them write a story in five minutes or less?  In two weeks we will find out!  

In two weeks we will be holding our first ever Flash Fiction Face-Off.  Contestants will be given five minutes to write a flash fiction piece based off three randomly-selected words.  Every contestant will be given a little something for their effort, but the best stories will receive amazing prizes from some great local businesses!  If you would be interested in competing, email englishclub@uwlax.edu.  We have roughly 15 spots open for contestants, so let us know as soon as you can.

Even if you don’t want to compete, come and hang out with us as an audience member and enjoy some delicious free food! 

The basics:
When: April 25th from 5:30-7:30PM
Where: Cartwright Room 337
Why: Free food and amazing prizes!
With prizes from: Gaming Generations, Pearl Street Books, Toppers, and The Root Note

“Lois on the Loose” – A Book Review of Sorts

Now that it’s spring—even if Mother Nature doesn’t want to admit it—there’s a certain frantic trembling in my mind.  As always, the close of the spring semester brings about craziness beyond belief.  But that’s not what I’m talking about.  No, I’m talking about the anticipation of warm weather and, with it, motorcycles.  Now I haven’t always loved motorcycles.  But, frankly, I don’t know what I used to do without my little CB550.  She has a way of calming me and bringing me back to earth when I have had just about enough of everything.  The solitude I find on a motorcycle is unparalleled to anything I have experienced.  Despite my love, I have yet to go further than Chicago on my baby.  And even then it was over a two day stretch.  Which brings me to why I am rambling about this on an English Club blog.  Well here it goes:

Many of you probably don’t know Lois Pryce.  I didn’t either until my boyfriend’s uncle (Steve) had us watch a series of videos on basically “How to Ride on Really Really Really Long Trips on a Motorcycle.”  I ignored it, as I usually do.  I never had much fascination with long trips mainly because I saw it as a guy thing.  There are certain things I just don’t see as practical for myself, an allergy-ridden female in my early 20s.  Riding motorcycles around the world wasn’t something I saw myself pulling off.  That is until Steve told me that one of the DVDs was dedicated to women.  “Women on the Loose” featured Lois Pryce as the “host” of sorts for that DVD.  I was fascinated with her.  She flew from England to Alaska and rode her motorcycle (a tiny little 225 enduro) all the way down to Tierra Del Fuego.  Then, she motorcycled all the way through Africa.  She was amazing.  So, naturally, I read her book “Lois on the Loose.” (The namesake for the documentary).

It was a fascinating read!  Not only does it prove that Lois is a complete badass, but it also made me realize my goal for after college.  I never liked the traditional college>work force>retire>travel way of life.  I would much rather do something outstanding early in life.  Maybe riding a motorcycle through Central and South America is just that something for me.  Lois related the experience so colorfully with plenty of trials and treats of the road.  From a horrific crash to bike problems with altitude to the amazing views and people she met!  It was all just so real.  So full of life.  It makes me want to jump on my bike tomorrow and just go.  Though Lois may not be a professional writer, her book was just what I needed to figure out my answer to the ever burning question of “What do you wan to do when you grow up?”  It’s the best book I’ve read in years simply because of what it has made me realize about myself.  I’ll never settle for going through life, I have to actually live it… just like Lois did.

A Small Review of Bastion

originally posted on Literature After Hours

Recently I came upon a rather impressive surprise in the form of a video game named Bastion.  It’s a game I probably would never have discovered on my own: I became aware of it with the Humble Indie Bundle, a special offer name-your-own-price bundle of independently developed video games that is offered every now and then and is absolutely worth keeping an eye on.  I myself knew nothing about Bastion, but I had heard from a handful of blogs that it had a killer soundtrack and deserved paying attention to.  So when I bought the Humble Bundle, I decided to start with that game.

It of course had a lot of what I expected from the hype.  It had fantastic music, striking art, and a great deal of fun gameplay.  But in spite of it all, not everything I had come to expect would prove good.  I had assumed that it would be one of those games that was just too cool for its own good, too wrapped up in being impressive to actually deliver on anything substantial.

It’s an easy assumption to make, because if one thing drives this game, it clearly is the concept of cool.  A soundtrack made from a damn good blend of blues, folk, electronic, post rock, country, sitar and atmospheric accompaniment.  A sole narrator describing your every movement with a voice like a blend of Keith David, Morgan Freeman and Barry White all sitting around a campfire, passing around a fifth of bourbon and trading tales of the Wild West.  A setting filled with an unexplained blend of fantasy, science fiction and steampunk elements.  Weapons like an automatic crossbow made out of a small reptile skeleton, a machete that can be thrown and split into three blades, and a bellows that spits flames.  A setting consisting of ground that flies up to meet your feet rather than staying in place.  It’s easy to think that with this sort of disregard for logic in the face of greater awesomeness that things like story and character would take a back seat for smashing up “Gasfellas” and “Anklegators” with a hammer the size of the protagonist.  Which is why it came as a great surprise to me when the ending had me almost in tears.

The whole game has a shocking subtlety to it, and it develops the characters actually fairly well that they become worth saving, the efforts you put into building the eponymous Bastion seem hugely important, and your actions all feel like they have consequences.  For example, throughout most of the game, you’re beating up outlandish creatures and plants that have it in for you and disappear as soon as they’re defeated, like enemies do in most games.  But then, as you start to realize that the creatures have similar goals to you, the game hits you with a curve ball.  Without spoiling too much, the game eventually puts you against other humans.  And unlike the Windbags and Peckers and Pincushions that you battle most of the game, the humans don’t disappear when they’re killed.  It’s subtle.  It’s never mentioned.  It’s possible to miss it completely.  But when you deliver a final blow on someone who’s attacking you, and instead of flashing red and vanishing, they just fall to the ground dead, the gravity of what you’ve done hits you like a meteor hammer.   But you don’t get to stay and contemplate it right away, because the next attacker is coming for you.

This game could have so easily been an excuse to destroy exotic enemies and customize ridiculous weapons like in Borderlands or the early stages of some Final Fantasy games.  But somehow, Bastion makes an enormous impression.  A phenomenal soundtrack, incredible voice acting, a unique visual style, and challenging and enjoyable gameplay all make this a game worth playing.  But its careful use of storytelling and consequence of action make this a game worth talking about.  And that, more than anything else, is what we need right now.

The Scottish Play retold in limerick

In celebration of St. Padraig’s Day, nothing seemed more appropriate than to summarize an English play about Scotland in an Irish poetry form. So here you go: Shakespeare’s Macbeth, retold in limericks!

There once was a man named Macbeth.
Who’d have profited from the king’s death
He wasn’t aware
Til he had a big scare
And thought he was strung out on meth

 

Three weird sisters told him a story
That he would achieve certain glory
He’d be king number one
But not so his son
And from there our tale turns rather gory

 See, his pal Banquo’s sons would be kings
At least those three witches told him these things
So to keep all the throne
For the kids of his own
Mac felt Banquo’s clock should be cleaned

So he said, “I’ll just even the score
And hire two murderers for
The death of Banquo
And his son too, although,
It wouldn’t hurt to hire one more.”

 So the murderers meet up one night
They jump Banquo and start a fight
They caused a kerfluffle
But in all the scuffle
Banquo’s son got away all right.

The play jumps ahead a few years
And Scotland is wracked by its fears
Macbeth is not great
With his kingly estate
And certain war certainly nears

 Nobody likes ol’ MacB
Though how that happened we do not see.
Suffice it to say
They found out some way
That Macbeth wasn’t king innocently.

 The next couple scenes are a blur
The fighting goes by with a whirr
Though there’s talk of a knife
Macbeth tells his wife
That he sees one – wait, what about her?

I forgot! She helped stab the king’s head
But now Lady Mac walks out of bed
And while she sleepwalks
The servants all talk
to – well feck, never mind, now she’s dead.

 Well fine then, suffice it to say
Guilt got her. Let’s finish this play.
Some swords go clang clang
Some words are exchanged
Let’s hurry, we ain’t got all day. 

Some guy that I don’t think we knew
Back in Act One or even Act Two
Takes out his sword,
Claim’s Mac’s head as reward
And Banquo’s son is king now. Who knew? 

So let’s sit in fields covered with heath
And tell tales of danger and death
But no tale we know
That is filled with more woe
Than that of the Family Macbeth.