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Dawson vs. Fernando

February 19, 2009 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Setting, The Craft  6 Comments

Dawson vs. Fernando came to the Portland office as a Whole of Body case.

Mr. Dawson of Hazel Dell, Washington, owns a Boston terrier named “Skootie” (see Attachment A). Mr. Fernando, also of Hazel Dell, claimed that Skootie was “driving him absolutely mad with her incessant barking” (see Attachment B).

The Portland Office of Constitutional Enforcement received this complain earlier, and we referred Mr. Fernando to several local mediators operating in the Portland-Vancouver area. Mr. Dawson agreed to mediation. Mr. Fernando, however, claimed the mediators he talked to were too expensive to employ (see Attachment B). Mr. Fernando then repeatedly called the Portland Office for assistance.

In the Portland Office, a robust and unnecessary game of rock-paper-scissors ensued, in which I lost. Thus, the next morning I drove to Hazel Dell and waited in the neighborhood for the sun to come up, after a call to County Safety so they would not harass me in my morning barking stakeout.

I observed several interesting things on this fine spring morning (see Attachment C):

  • Mr. Fernando lives in a well-kept house in a nice suburban neighborhood, driving a modern Toyota
  • His wife, Ms. Lashmir, wore expensive clothing and drove away in a year-old Ford Mustang convertible (top down, hair in a scrunchy)
  • Her car had a Starport of Portland parking barcode on it. Doing a quick goog search, Ms. Lashmir is the Second in Command of Accounting at SoP

At 07:15, the front door to Mr. Dawson’s residence opened and Skootie immediately ran out. The door closed, and I observed (see Attachment D):

  • Skooite barks at many things. Birds, a jogger, a squirrel, the lamppost, a cat and an evil chew toy which refused to play with her
  • Skootie ran, unhindered, to a neighbor’s yard (not Mr. Fernando), and took an enthusiastic morning poop in a flowerbed
  • She then, with her back legs, tossed flowers and dirt willy-nilly, doing nothing to cover said poop but looking enormously pleased with herself
  • After running around the neighborhood for fifteen minutes, Skootie then sat by the front door of the Dawson residence
  • She whined repeatedly, looking forlorn and finally barked for five minutes until the door opened

Simialar activity occurred both in the afternoon and at night.

I repeated the Great Skootie Stakeout of Year 2 for an additional three days. I observed familiar behavior from Skootie on all the days, and did not observe at any time Mr. Dawson or Ms. Lashmir walking the Boston on a leash.

It is my judgment that Mr. Dawson is indeed in violation of the Whole of Body clause. His neglect of Skootie the dog causes inappropriate behavior that is disruptive to the neighborhood. On day three the barking was actually getting on my nerves.

I have seized Skootie to have her put down as menace animal. I handed my autopistol to Mr. Fernando, and told him he was in the right to do so and that was my Judgment. He refused.

Skootie is now orphaned through no fault of her own. For his failure to render Judgment as directed, I seized 10,000 credits from Mr. Fernando to pay for the upkeep of Skootie throughout her Boston life.

This is my Judgment, rendered with one Question. The Question is as follows:

Officer Gina: Oh my God, is that the dog? She is soooo cute! Look at that little face. I could just kiss that little face! What are you going to do with her?

Officer Scott: She’s my dog now. I’ve signed us both up for doggie training.

G: Give me the dog.

S: What? No. This is my dog.

G: You live in a high-rise apartment.

S: There is a very nice park by my building.

G: I live on five acres.

S: Gina, she’s not a big dog. Are you, Skootie? Who’s the little dog? Who is?

Skootie: Bark!

G: Scott, you are not a dog person.

S: I am too! Well, I could become one.

Skootie: Bark!

G: I Question your ability to properly give Skootie the squirrel chasing she deserves. Look at her. She is sad.

S: She’s a Boston! She looks sad even when she is happy! And are you Questioning my Judgment in this case?

G: Yes, I am.

S: Well, I will call a jury.

G: You wouldn’t dare.

S: Look, I have my PDA, I’m calling it right now.

G: I’ll give you visiting privileges.

S: Not good… um, like what?

G: Occasional weekends, no less than 1, no more than 3, a month. I will also let you walk Skootie when I have her here in the Office.

S: I want it in writing. And I want dinner when I come over. I also want the Judgment monetary seizure to go into a separate account, not your personal account.

G: Fine.

S: Fine.

Skootie: Bark!

S: How about the occasional breakfast?

G: Do I need to put that in the agreement too?

S: Only if you say yes.

Skootie: Bark!

Mr. Scott
Office of Constitution Enforcement
Portland, Oregon
May 17, 2

(from Landmark OCE Judgments of Mr. Scott, Tokyo University Press, 29)

Ms. Sylvia vs. Gary Drummond and Kari Drummond

February 05, 2009 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Not Exactly Random, Setting, The Craft  0 Comments

(from my world-building notebook)

In the matter of Sylvia, formally Sylvia Drummond of Lake Oswego, Oregon vs. Gary Drummond and Kari Drummond—also of Lake Oswego—I find for Ms. Sylvia’s claims as petitioned in totality.

Ms. Silvia, at age of thirteen, successfully made her Declaration and moved out of her childhood home. Her first action as an Adult was to claim her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Drummond, violated her Constitutional rights, specifically Whole of Body clauses. She petitioned the Portland Office of Constitutional Enforcement (OCE) and was successful in making her case.

Ms. Silvia requires extensive gene therapy to correct several abnormalities caused by in-vitro chromosome manipulation (see Attachment A) to bring about heightened intelligence and a physical appearance that can classified as “beautiful” by current societal norms.

While Ms. Silvia is indeed beautiful, and is smart, she suffers from potentially fatal grand mal seizures because of a defective nervous system that is a side effect of this particular type of DNA recoding (see Attachment B).

That her parents were paying for her medical bills as her primary caregiver, and were no longer required to when she Declared, is immaterial. The time the damage occurred to Ms. Silvia’s body is also irrelevant. The relevant facts for finding are:

  • Ms. Silvia is an Adult
  • Her biological parents caused her body on going, and potentially fatal, harm

Gary Drummond and Kari Drummond violated their daughter’s Constitutional Rights as outlined in Section 2 (Whole of Body), Clauses 1 through 4. Their actions were both short-sided and malicious; as Mr. Drummond is on record (see Attachment C) admitting, “We wanted the perfect child to run the family business.”

The mitigating circumstances of this case are, essentially, Ms. Silvia was less of a daughter and more of a tool grown in a vat and then implanted in her mother. They declined to give her gene therapy, as this could change her heightened mental capacity, and were only treating the symptoms of Ms. Sylvia’s artificial condition. Gene manipulation to create what is essentially a family slave, dependent on medical care necessitated by that very manipulation, is extremely repugnant and arguably violates the Constitution’s Whole of Body Slavery Clause, for which the penalty is Death.

Ms. Silvia, however, does not support a Death Warrant. While OCE does not require her support in a Slavery violation case, the totality of the situation requires me to set aside this potential Charge.

I have seized all of the Drummond’s assists, rendered their instruments on the trade market, and allocated them to Ms. Silvia. Because of the violation to Article 1 of Section 2 by both Mr. and Mrs. Drummond, the People at Large have suffered harm. Both parents are henceforth declared personae non gratae for the duration of thirteen years, the time Ms. Sylvia spent as their daughter and ward.

This is my Judgment rendered fully with no Question.

Mr. Scott
Office of Constitution Enforcement
Portland, Oregon
February 05, 14

(from Landmark OCE Judgments of Mr. Scott, Tokyo University Press, 29)

Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers

December 26, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Awesomesauce, Characterization, Plot, Setting, The Craft  6 Comments

cutbThis book review is for writers, specifically novelists. For general book reviews on Courtney Summers’ debut novel Cracked Up to Be, seek ye to Google. This review is spoiler free; the actual book jacket says Parker, the main character, made a bad mistake. And yes she did.

Let me warn you right now, this review starts with a tangent.

Here we go!

There is an old maxim in advanced situational training; specifically training for self-defense, firearms, law enforcement training and what have you. This is training that deals with the totality of a situation, where the dynamic flow of multiple inputs meets the processor, your brain:

“If you’re not making any mistakes, you’re not learning anything.”

Sounds simple, does it not? Simplicity aside, this is an advanced training concept. Those who push the envelope and place themselves in situations where failure is not only likely but also expected, learn a great deal. This training sharpens the mind and teaches a person how to apply one lesson learned to other things, not just their particular area of study.

It is effective because it works. If you are not making any mistakes, you are not learning anything.

Summers’ book is a keen study in this area. The plot of her book is this: Parker was a perfectionist. She carefully built a world of her choosing. You know the type—wound so tight that they snap under their own drive or reality intrudes on these people and breaks them.

And Parker is so very broken. As the book relentlessly marches along, one comes to realize, even before the revelation of what caused Parker to snap, that the real world did not just come and bite her on the ass, but ripped out chunks of her heart.

I have a minor quibble with Cracked Up to Be, but nothing that deters my glowing recommendation of this book for any teen, adults, writers and certainly novelists going after the young adult audience. As I have stated before, if you want Fair and Balanced, go watch mainstream news. Here, I am going to gush. If I do not feel like gushing, I leave the book off my review list (which, by the way, has ten books in the queue).

I hate to say it, but I would not have picked up this novel at the bookstore. Why? Because it falls into the section of the bookstore that houses a lot of crap written for girls—novels specifically tailored to entice girls to buy them because girls are a great source of book buying dollars. What makes those books crap?

They are so dishonest. They are preachy, pretentious and filled with fake angst that makes me want to puke. Teens who have sex die, get an STD, pregnant or are cast out from society (or all four!). Boys written to be either shining examples of people who do not exist, or are passive-aggressive abusers. Stereotypes and stilted dialog. Someone dies just so the main character can feel what it is like to experience grief. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. All the consequences of every single action are there for the author to preach.

I certainly stopped buying those books, and now secretly wonder where the writers who grew up with Judy Blume went. There are exceptions, but I will assert these exceptions are not exceptional.

Until now. For Cracked Up to Be is awesomesauce.

The fact that Summers’ book is going to be smooshed in that prior mentioned section just pisses me off, but I have been on a Young Adult pissy rant for like ten years now, so that is just part of who I am. Cracked Up to Be is a book so honest its hurts. That is a primary reason I recommend this book for anyone writing for the young adult market. I felt vaguely uncomfortable reading it. Parker’s hidden pain was on the same level with her mistake, and with the first-person point-of-view narration you are sharing that understated pain. Despite the fact that Parker was a total bitch, who either needed to be slapped or fucked silly (I could not decide which), I held a deep sympathy for her because Summers wrote her so raw and honest—it was heartbreaking.

“If you’re not making any mistakes, you’re not learning anything.” Does Parker learn from her mistake? Ah such a good question, not to be address here! Go read the book.

More unapologetic gushing follows.

Oh oh, oh, the voicing! Summers writing voice through her minimalist prose is relentlessly good, relentless because that is what Cracked Up to Be is. The unrelenting pacing and tension built bit-by-bit was awesome. The voicing and the pacing alone is worthy of study.

The voicing played well in other areas. Summers took me back to high school. There were no over-done descriptions. She assumed the reader remembered (or, actually was in) high school and just went from there. The lack of over-done and forced setting descriptions was a breath of fresh air. You could say I am in love with her voicing.

Novelists should also take a meta look at Cracked Up to Be. I first heard about the novel via Janet Reid’s blog, which pointed to Courtney’s blog. Her whimsical, playful entries, sometimes even silly, cracked me up. Give me silly over pretentiousness any day! I became a regular reader. When she posted the first two chapters of Cracked Up to Be, man I was hooked. Doomed. I had to have the book. Thus, I arrived at Cracked Up to Be via word of mouth through the great and mighty Interwebs. Fascinating stuff.

That Cracked Up to Be is a debut novel is awe inspiring. Her agent should be doing a little dance right about now. I await her next novel with joyful anticipation. More please!

Finally, Cracked Up to Be is a morality tale, accomplished without preaching, forced circumstances, one-dimensional characters or through a false reality. How did Summers do that? Why, she simply told an entertaining tale with believable circumstances through the eyes of an all-too-real main character. She wrote the world as it is, not what she wished it to be. She told the truth.

Stick that in your Young Adult novel writing pipe and smoke it. Please.

To Channel Your Inner Sci-Fi Moojoo, You Must Swim With the New Media

December 05, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Plot, Setting, The Craft  5 Comments

Some of the best science fiction stories lately do not come from books. While it seems that some authors are trying to grasp a straw from the playbook of the golden years of science fiction Grandmasters, there are visionary people working outside of traditional story-telling to deliver the goods. Interactively.

Take for instance, Portal. Portal is a three-dimensional puzzle computer/console game that requires spacial thinking. But it also tells a story, and is vaguely connected, in a creepy way, to another great science fiction story from a computer game, Half-Life and Half-Life 2. Set in the grand and so very bleak Half-Life universe, Portal is, at its heart, a complex tale filled with tension, foreshadowing and base malevolence hidden behind sarcastic humor. Over the course of the game, you are slowly fed this story and if you do not pay attention you can even miss it! And when you escape from the clutches of the antagonist, your are not really too sure escaping was a good idea.

My point is thus: If you want to write science fiction (and the Bunny Trouble story is science fiction which is why this subject is dear to my heart), then you have to play and understand the appeal of these games. For they are very good, and very compelling. They tell a story in such a way as to draw you in and keep you thinking about it long after it is done, much like a good science fiction book does. That is caused not just by the game itself, but in large part from the pure science fiction goodness presented to the player.  If you do not understand the appeal of the great  stories, in their complex universes, such as Half-Life 2, Portal, Mass Effect, etc., your future audience is limited, your readers left wanting for more.

Evolve or die.

Read More…

Dancing with Setting

November 24, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Atmosphere, Setting, The Craft  0 Comments

Bunny Trouble is near-future science fiction book set on the northern Washington Coast. It takes little description on my part to describe the scenery. In fact, if I told you this novel takes place in a small town on the wild and rocky Washington Coast, a town with a lighthouse and a river harbor, bordering the Olympic National Rainforest—I bet in your mind you have a really good idea of what it looks like. It might not match my idea, but when all is said and done, the picture in your mind is going to be better than anything I can describe to you.

Imagine that! I assume you’re a smart person!

The Baby Dancers is neither a contemporary nor a near-future science fiction book. It is Young Adult Fantasy that moves around to different environments, some of them quite different than the world we live in today.

This transition was not easy for me; it was a struggle, actually.

Yesterday I wrote 2,500 words in one of these environments. It felt good, as if I fell into a rhythm. I added a bit of tension, and a whole lot of action. I felt like the scenery description added a nice flare to the atmosphere and resultant action, neither understated nor overdone.

This bodes well. It was really fun, and a joy to write.

Nom!

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

November 23, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Atmosphere, Awesomesauce, Plot, Setting, The Craft  4 Comments

UnwindMy book reviews are targeted towards novelists (my prior book review can be found here).

Neal Shusterman’s Unwind is a near-future science fiction horror tale that can be summed up in one word: delicious. Quite simply, Shusterman goes where few dare to tread. If you have a love of edgy Young Adult fiction, then look no further. This book belongs on your shelf for several reasons, one of which is the intense questions that get asked, each one more thought-provoking then the last.

For an older gentleman like me, Neal Shuterman’s Unwind can be compared to a John Christopher novel written by Steven King.

The plot goes like this: abortion is illegal… on unborn children. During their teen years, parents can decide to send their child away to be “unwound” where 99.44% of their body is harvested.

The book centers on three teens that are now “unwinds”:

  • Connor, chosen to be unwound because he is a rebellious teen
  • Lev, who was born to be unwound based on his parents religious beliefs of tithing
  • Risa, chosen by the state to be unwound simply because they decided that they could not afford to keep her alive

These three escape their fates in a fortuitous freeway pile-up. Now all they need to do is survive until they are eighteen, when they no longer can be unwound. Capture means not death (so they say), because all the parts are reused, the unwind is divided into parts for a cheerfully waiting populous where the art of doctoring is rare but surgeons rule the health scene.

Sound positively hellish? Well it is. The undercurrent of unstated horror is relentless in Unwind and then BAM! It goes from the unstated to the all too real like a punch in the gut. Literally, I felt vaguely ill at the end of the novel. The subtleness of the cruelties with smiles suffered on these children builds to an epic crescendo that cumulates in one of the most terrible bits of sheer creep that I have ever read.

If you care to write edgy fiction, then look to this horror novel because that is what it is. There is little gore in Unwind worth mentioning, oh no. Like a Japanese horror movie, there is a sense of malevolence running through this sick and twisted society that looks so much like our own—yet is so different.

Or is it?

Consider if you will, the teens that were dumped at Nebraska’s hospitals. The mirrored reflection is not a dark twin of our light. Far from it, the parallels in this dystopia are sometimes all too familiar, and all too normal. And that is what makes it a chilling read for teens and adults.

For the Young Adult novelist, this study of unrelenting intensity warrants your attention. There is more here to scrutinize, than just pacing, atmosphere and plotting.

Unwind asks tough questions rarely found in a book targeted for teens. What is the beginning of life? When exactly does life end? What is the nature of consciousness? What are the consequences of anarchy when the law is so very flawed? In a world of villains, who is the true villain?

What are the ethics of compromise?

This, my friends, is a book that never talks down to the audience it was designed for, as the questions posed above compose a heady literary wine. You will be hard-pressed to find an action-packed book filled with such teen reflective goodness.

Another important part of this book is the voicing. Written in the third-person present tense, the word-smiting lends a flare not often encountered. The way the book is crafted lends itself to a sense of urgency; I was dubious going into it, but Shusterman pulls it off with his screenwriting experience shinning through.

If it seems like I am gushing, I guess I am. I do have some minor faults and quibbles with the novel, none really I feel necessary to drag out for the sake of being fair and balanced. If you write Young Adult fiction, it’s a must read simply because it does something rare: For the reluctant teen reader, it is a novel that will draw him in and leave him wanting to read more—because the type of entertainment given by Unwind can be found nowhere else. For the already fan of outstanding Young Adult fiction, it is euphoric lifeblood for the mind. There is not a bit of fluff betwixt its pages.

That’s a win-win combination of awesomeness that deserves your purchase and study. For what better result could there be for an author of Young Adult speculative fiction?

Deep conversation

November 12, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Setting, The Craft  0 Comments

Anthony: Pick a date!

Tony: No!

Anthony: Pick. A. Date.

Tony: I don’t know!

Anthony: PICK A DATE. A DATE FOR A SETTING! PICK ONE! PICK ONE!

Tony: I can’t! I don’t want to!

Antony: Don’t be a pussy. Say the first thing that comes to your mind. Say it. SAY IT. SAY IT BITCH!

Tony: 1959! (sob)

Anthony: See, that wasn’t so bad.

Tony: I don’t feel so good now.

Anthony: Uh, whatever.

Dancing to God

October 29, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Setting, The Craft  1 Comment

Interesting observation (to me): my novel The Baby Dancers has a religious background to it. Literally, when I started typing the first new chapter (in which the old first chapter became chapter eight-ish), it just spilled out as if it was some grand design from my carefully put together outline.

Only it was not. The outline for this novel runs about… fifty words. Ha.

I would like to think my inner spiritualism is shining through to my writing and I have something profound to say.

Only I do not.

Here is what I believe happened. I am quite disgusted with the Political Correctness movement. Oooo, do not talk about religion because, yanno, you might offend someone. This contempt and disdain for the PC movement bled through to my writing.

Placing a monastery in Northern Idaho without some type of religious context defied belief, so when I wrote chapters one and two I went hog-wild. In the modern theme of who we are as Americans, I made my two (awesome) protagonists religious boys. Their academic teacher is a Catholic Sister, and their parents share her Catholic roots. Their martial arts master is a Korean Christian. Big Jim, their woodsman teacher, is a Presbyterian minister Native American, while their uncle is an unapologetic Baptist. This motley group belongs to a monastery in the mountains, and they train to fight the subversive forces of evil in overt and direct ways: mainly, by hacking it with a sword. Repeatedly. Far from a forced ‘we must be diverse’ setting, this group is certainly not perfectly harmonious—but they do respect each other.

I have no idea where I am going with this now.

But as a Young Adult speculative novel it rocks.

Rocks hard.

Setting

September 29, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Setting, The Craft  1 Comment

Other then the relentless line editing of Bunny Trouble (almost done!) my thoughts turn to the setting of The Baby Dancers.

This is where my years and years of Dungeon and Dragons geek outs paid off. I have a treasure trove, nay a mountain of world-building material. Indeed, from a gaming perspective I am a world-building expert. Who knew all those years of nerding out would show benefits (other then the loads of fun at the time of the game)?

My goal for The Baby Dancers is to keep my momentum going at a serious pace. Actually, even if it were not YA Fantasy, that is a worthy goal. This is where setting, world-building in particular, collides with momentum. Can I take my setting expertise from other mediums and apply it to a fantasy novel?

Yes. I believe I can. I have a marvelous setting all ready to go. It only needs strong characters and the proper stakes. One could say I adore my setting.

How exciting this all is!