Tag Archives: games

Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Mehrota & Yuan-Innes

toys, childhood, nostalgia, fantasy, SF, fiction, short stories

Playground of Lost Toys is available through Amazon published by Exile Writers

Today, I have Rati Mehrota and Melissa Yuan-Innes. Not every tale in Playground of Lost Toys has an actual child in it, but both of these do and the children are very central. Both of these stories examine the magic we see or grasp as children, but in different ways. Rati’s “Chaya and Loony Boy” is one of the doll stories we actually accepted, and there were many.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?

It’s such an enchanting topic! The power of once-beloved toys, memories of childhood, and a speculative twist all coming together in one unique anthology. I knew at once that I wanted to read this collection when it was published. And close on the heels of that thought—hey, I have just the right story that might fit under this lovely umbrella.

  1. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?
Mehrota

Rati Mehrota, author of “Chaya and Loony Boy”

Absolutely. While the story itself is fiction, I grew up in just such a house as I have described – my grandmother’s house. I also had a doll with only one eye to whom I ascribed various magical properties. And I did lose her in the end. But my grandmother never locked me in the attic!

  1. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

The theme of otherness, of loneliness, and how we give and take power from ordinary objects to increase our own sense of control.

  1. Is there anything else you wish to mention about your story or the theme of the anthology?

Just that it was a joy to read this book. I thoroughly enjoyed every story in this collection.

  1. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?

I am currently working on a fantasy novel based in an alternative, post-apocalyptic version of Asia. I have several short stories published and upcoming in various venues—the best place to find them (or news of me) is at my blog ratiwrites.com. In particular I am very excited about the upcoming Exile anthology Clockwork Canada which will include my story “Komagata Maru.”

Melissa Yuan-Innes is a prolific writer, with many mystery/thriller novels to her name. “What Not to Expect in the Toddler Years” was a gentle tale that hitches on every adult’s fear for their child, that they will get sick. And like dvs duncan’s story “Treasure,” there is the wish that the adult might regain the lost magic of childhood.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?

Money. Fame. And the desire to join a collection of excellence.

  1. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?

In this case, I was thinking more of my son Max’s childhood. I wanted to capture his world, making the transition from toddlerhood to preschooler years: the tenderness, the stubbornness (fighting over getting his Crocs on and off!), the imperfect words.

  1. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

What if magic really existed? How would a day care worker—or an ordinary mother—react? I figured it would range the gamut from calm acceptance to fear to exploitation.

One of the sayings that resonated with me was “As a mother, you’re wearing your heart outside your body for the rest of your life.” If my son or daughter had the opportunity to learn magic, I would be excited but wary, too. Is it real? What’s the cost? Because nothing’s free, baby.

  1. Is there anything else you wish to mention about your story or the theme of the anthology?

I’m so glad that I captured Max then. He’s nine years old now! If you’re a writer or an artist as well as a parent/caregiver, I encourage you to use your talent to freeze-flash your children for a moment. I want to thank Max and Anastasia’s caregivers, and really all people who take care of our children. It’s such important work, under-recognized in our society, but it touches my heart when people truly look after my kids and get to know them as individuals instead of little widgets. I’d like to thank Liz, Gisele, Aly, Tanya, Mme. Marguerite, Catherine, Ben, and Sabrina.

This interview made me realize that I’d never read “What Not to Expect in the Toddler Years” to Max. So I did it last night. He enjoyed seeing himself. “Not bad. I’m kind of the star.”

 

Yuan

Melissa Yuan-Innes’ mystery thriller is a new release involving medicine.

One more thing. After the Can Con mini-launch of the Playground of Lost Toys, a reader named Rene told me he’s volunteered at his daughter’s day care for fifteen years, and I got the details right. We laughed about things like the fact that parent-friends will know the names of all your kids, but you’re just “Julie’s mom.” That’s your name. You don’t have any other identity now. He also liked that it seemed like a lighthearted story instead of a grim, bloody one. I assured him that it was. I have bloody stories, but I don’t write them about my fictionalized children.

  1. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?

Speaking of bloody, I write a lot of mysteries. I’m very proud of my latest Hope Sze medical thriller, Stockholm Syndrome (http://melissayuaninnes.com/), about a hostage-taking on an obstetrics ward in Montreal. If you click on that link, you can check out my TV, CBC Radio, and print interviews about it. Some readers have told me it’s my best book, which is satisfying. I like to think my skills are improving. I also have a new collection of critically acclaimed short mystery stories, Reckless Homicide: Five Tales of Death and Deception (http://melissayuaninnes.com/books/reckless-homicide-five-tales-of-death-and-deception/). I’m also proud of my werewolf thriller, Wolf Ice. http://melissayuaninnes.com/books/wolf-ice/​

Fantasy-wise, Fireside has slated my short story, “Fairy Tales are for White People,” for its February issue. It’s about the power of family, magic, and Chinese barbecue. Galen Dara has created gorgeous art for it. It may be my favourite art piece ever! http://www.firesidefiction.com/

1 Comment

Filed under Culture, family, fantasy, Publishing, Writing

Writing: Playground of Lost Toys Interview: Cockle

Lost Toys.jpg

Playground of Lost Toys, published by Exile Editions

Just in time for the holiday season is the release of Playground of Lost Toys, co-edited by Ursula Pflug and me. It is published by Canadian publisher Exile Editions, and available in trade paperback or as an ebook. This is a collection of stories by various authors that center around toys or games, a sense of something lost or found and that connects in some way to childhood.

With that premise we put out a call this year and gathered a wide range of stories from authors. At first we were getting worried. In any genre or style of story there are familiar and popular tropes. For stories about toys, we’ve seen some of these used over and over again in TV and movies, whether they’re creepy or nostalgic. Look at the Chucky horror movies and others that use creepy dolls come to life with a demonic intent. Teddy bears and stuffed animals also are imbued with a strange form of life in a thing that mimics like a living creature. Whether it’s scurrilous teddy bears like the movie Ted, or savior dolls like Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story (much rarer than devil dolls, by far), these childhood toys are very common in stories.

And so it seemed that we were going to end up with tales that did not vary greatly. Many were predictable. I refined the guidelines and we put out notice that we would take very few doll or stuffy stories. After all, the anthology was about all sorts of toys, even alien toys, but it wasn’t a collection of doll stories only. In the end we received a good range of stories, from science fiction to fantasy to horror. I won’t go on longer or I’ll run out of time but I asked the authors to answer a few interview questions. I’ll post these as I can but I’ll start today with Kevin Cockle.

1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys.

 Basically, if I’ve got an idea that fits the antho parameters, and a beginning/middle/end – I’ll submit a story.  I never leave any story I’ve written unsent.

2. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood.

God, no.  At least, nothing about the dramatic situation relates.  I HAVE had a  balero since childhood, and it is difficult to play, and I am pretty good at it, but that’s about it for similarity.

balero(1)

Kevin Cockle’s balero. Photo by Kevin

 3. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story. 

In broad terms, I was exploring the role “place” plays in identity.  Since there’s a natural tension between markets and identity, I contextualized the exploration within a world where citizenship has been privatized.  You get to stay in a place if you can afford to: you’re not entitled to stay there simply because you were born there.  Cue anxiety.

4. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology you wish to mention?

I had already been thinking about the background concepts – and I had some pre-existing story fragments written – but the “toy” aspect initially made me think I couldn’t participate in this project.  Then I remembered the balero, and was able to make the game mechanics the frame for the story.  You could say that this story in its final form was more a case of “splicing” than writing per-se.  Worked out well – prior to PoLT – I wasn’t getting anywhere with the dramatization of these ideas.

5. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year. 

My debut novel Spawning Ground will be coming out in 2016, from Tyche Books.  The background world is similar to the one I sketched in “Balero,” and once again the implications of market-norms for identity will be explored.  I also have a story coming up in Tesseracts 19, and a couple of film projects in various stages of pre-production.  The Whale – a short film I co-wrote with Mike Peterson made it into Cannes this year, so keep an eye out for that on the film-festival circuit.

Thanks to Kevin for answering the interview. The holidays are hitting but where I can I’ll post more interviews so stay tuned.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under entertainment, fantasy, horror, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

Writing: Expanding on the Playground of Lost Toys

trunk stories, submission guidelines, lost toys

Trunk stories are valid, if they actually fit the theme.

I realize that when one puts up guidelines for a themed anthology that you will always get trunk stories, those tales already written that have not yet found a home and that might just fit the theme even if not tailored toward it exactly. Trunk stories can be perfectly well-written stories that just don’t mesh with what’s out there, or they may be your B grade stories, never selling because something just didn’t gel in the telling.

I’ve sent trunk stories to anthologies before and I’ve sold some and not sold others. It’s fine to do this. And sometimes you write a story for a particular theme but it’s not accepted, so you try to sell it elsewhere. With Tesseracts 17 we saw a number of superhero stories because there had just been an anthology on superheroes. We saw a few green man stories because there had just been an anthology on the Green Man. There was a story from each of these that we nearly accepted.

playgrounds, lost toys, speculative fiction, fantasy, SF, guidelines

Now here is a great playground, and it’s made by humans. Or perhaps it’s a toy. Creative Commons: Sizuken, Flickr

The Playground of Lost Toys is experiencing this so far, to some degree. I suspect that many of the tales we’ve received were already in existence.There are tropes within all fiction and while many great tales come from them, the fact that they’re tropes mean that they’re popular themes. There are hundreds if not thousands of ghost stories. Likewise, we’re getting a lot of doll stories. It’s a toy that is universally recognized. I’m beginning to suspect that some people are also getting stuck on the “toys” aspect without really thinking about what toy means.

We will accept a few stories (possibly) about dolls or trucks but the anthology is not a doll anthology. If it was, then we would only want dolls. It’s speculative fiction so this opens quite a realm. Google some images and see if they give you an idea. Combine words that are unlikely, such as alien and playground.  Or toy and magnolia. Here are some further suggestions, to get the creative juices flowing:

  • What would be a Sasquatch’s toy?
  • Boy toys–are they cars or men who are playthings, such as in the realms of Faery (this isn’t an erotica anthology either so be careful if you use this)
  • Game consoles–maybe they change the world or the person.
  • Computers–how many games do people play on their electronic devices
  • Games–board games will be considered as toys for this
  • What would you, an animal, or an alien toy with?
  • What would an Ent find to be a toy?
  • Do snakes have toys?
  • Playgrounds have slides, swings, ladders, etc. These can all be considered toys.
  • What would be a toy’s toy?
  • Is it a toy or is it a being?
  • Sentient  or self-aware toys.
  • Are there beings where toys are sacrilegious?
  • Are there aliens with no concept of toy and on finding one they..
  • Synonyms for toy: plaything, game, model
  • Places where toys are: playgrounds, chests, rooms, stores, manufacturers, middens heaps, museums
Dr. Who, toys, SF, fantasy, anthology submissions, guidelines

Dr. Who’s sonic screwdriver. It whirs, it has lights, it’s functional, but is it a toy too? Copyright BBC

Let your imagination encompass the act of playing and see what comes up. The full guidelines are here, and you can submit your story as well: https://exilepublishing.submittable.com/submit. Note that 90% of the anthology has to be Canadian. We’re looking forward to weird and wonderful tales.

1 Comment

Filed under entertainment, fairy tales, fantasy, horror, myth, science fiction, Writing

Bizarre Entertainment: Peeing for Pleasure?

Seriously, we cannot make up stuff as strange as what is already being done. I thought it was crazed enough that there are people out there bleaching their anuses (unless you’re a porn star, who cares?) but it seems a new craze(?) is urination games. This is not to be mixed up with kinky sex, for which I will not go into here. This is in fact a small field in which companies are designing games for urinals to keep men entertained while…peeing? Do we really need games in the bathroom too? There are probably many people (especially women) who text while on the can but I guess this is keeping men’s minds from wandering during their bathroom visits.

When mentioning this bizarreness last night to some friends one person said he’d had a friend in Japan who went into the men’s washroom (note: we Canadians say washroom though some of you might use water closet or bathroom) and there was a clown head with a gaping mouth in which to pee. As the guy started peeing the lights came on and started flashing. Already creeped out, this guy was even more disturbed when the head started to move left and right.

Fun house craziness? I suppose but it wasn’t at the circus. Sega, that video game designer has made some inroads into what is called”interactive urinals.”


Creative Commons: ifitshipitshere.blogspot.com

They aren’t the only ones and shaping urinals into interesting designs has been going on awhile. While some are tacky like the giant mouths and others etheric like flower shaped urinals, China opened a giant bathroom facility (1,000 stalls) in Chongqing where some of the designs feature the Virgin Mary. Yes, China’s human rights record isnt’ very good but this seems a fairly blatant statement toward pissing on religion.

While it’s nice to have good  art and overall architectural beauty, it’s another thing to go into the bizarro world of games for which you piss to win or achieve some result. One designer, Marcel Neundorfe, said that it changed urination from “more than just a necessary nuisance….” into something fun. Wow, has our world become so freaked out about alone time that we can’t even pee in peace and relative quiet. These games are aimed more at men but supposedly they have considered women who can use a cone to direct the urine stream.

Creative Commons: Sega Wee vs the Wii?

What do these games do? Well one has a person peeing all over virtual graffiti until its wiped away, while another compares strength of the stream and accuracy to the person who was there before, giving points. Mannekin Pls. awards you points on hard and how much you can urinate. (See image on the left http://gadgetynews.com/sega-wee-to-take-on-nintendo-wii-in-the-smallest-room/) I can see it now.

Scene: Local bar, guys watching hockey game, chatting and drinking beer.

TOM: Oh! Damn. The Canucks should have had that.

MIKHAIL: They were doing good until they lost Luongo. (notices women looking at them from the next table and smiles) Hey, where’s Fritz?

TOM: (eyes still on screen) What? In the can I think.

MIKHAIL: Again? That’s the third time tonight. Game’s almost over. Maybe we should chat up those gals at the next table. (Tom tears his gaze from the screen. Fritz staggers in and falls into his chair. He guzzles back another beer and drunkenly waves to the waitress.)

TOM: Hey, man, maybe you should slow down. We were going to see if we could score with the chicks after the game. (nods towards the women)

FRITZ: Duuuude, you kidding. (burps loudly and grabs the next glass) I’m on a roll. About to win, jes need a bit more power. Urp!

MIKHAIL: For what?

FRITZ: The urinal game. I’m so stoked.

TOM: You’re so drunk. What do you win?

FRITZ: (eyes whirling) A good piss. (passes out on the floor. Tom goes back to watching the game. Mikhail shrugs and walks over to the women.)

Sigh, I’m just not so sure these games are the best idea even if urinating is a nuisance. A nuisance? It’s part of life, like eating, sleeping, washing, having sex. Oh wait, there are sex toys so why not uh…urination toys? Another game lets the urinator be the wind and try to blow up a woman’s skirt by the strength of the stream. Riiight. Next thing we know there will be a Pavlovian response and guys will pee every time they see a woman in a skirt.

But maybe it’s a good thing, having men aim for something while peeing. After all, with regular toilets, I’ve always asked how do men get women pregnant if they can’t accurately hit the larger porcelain hole? A woman using a men’s or unisex bathroom can find it a frightening experience. Of course the answer there is guidance systems. I’d love to say this wacky trend won’t catch on but humanity has done some pretty cuckoo stuff so I’m not so sure. Still, I imagine peeing into a chortling clown’s mouth is enough to give a few people nightmares.

2 Comments

Filed under Culture, entertainment, humor, technology

Childhood Games: Marbles and More

We live in such an era of media overload that the childhood games of yesteryear are all but forgotten.Video games and TV still predominate to such a degree that childhood obesity is now a problem in North America. Sure there are some sports but perhaps not enough.

And with all the media inundation, children have forgotten often how to play or to create a game out of nothing. Back when civilization consisted of making everything by hand a child was lucky to have even one toy. It might be made of clay or wood, or perhaps scraps of cloth though early clothing construction consisted of no leftover bits. The toys would be tools to imagination and the child would have to create their own games.

Years ago I went with friends to their cabin in Clinton, BC. The little nieces were out in a rustic wood cabin with no electricity, no TV and no games. They started to whine about being bored. So I said, come on, grab a towel and let’s go outside. The three little girls followed me and we ran around like superheros or jumped out of the crabapple tree. Before long, they’d forgotten about their store bought toys and were enjoying make-believe in nature.merrygoround1

There have always been complex games and simple games. Chess is a complex board game, checkers, not as much. When I was a kid in elementary school there was the usual playground equipment: teeter totters, monkey bars, a merry-go-round (the foot powered style) and that would be it. Swings were for the parks but not amongst unruly kids during recess.

But we also played another game. I think it was around grade 3 that the kids would line up against the wall of the school and play marbles. You needed a few marbles to begin. Other kids would sit with their legs in a V, with a marble or marbles lined up. Then you would stand at the predetermined line and roll your marble toward the other one. If you hit the marble you got to keep both. If you missed, the other person kept both. Some people would line up three or more, or like a bowling alley so that you would have to hit the ones in front before getting the more prized marble at the back. Some people even built cardboard arches to set their marbles in.

Cat’s eyes were the commonest type of marble, but sometimes there would be a more interesting color combo. catseyesThere were the larger sizes; I can’t remember what we called them but I think either boulders or jumbos.  Next in marbles were the sold colors, opaque or with a marblesswirl through them. And there were the clear marbles, either blue or white or green, or some other color. I remember taking some of these and frying them in the frying pan, then dropping them in water. These would form crackle marbles. They too were prized but somewhat fragile.

But the most coveted of all marbles were the steelies, ball bearings really but their silvery perfection was what every kid aimed for. You used your cat’s eyes first to hit the other marbles and tried to get more prized marbles. If you ran low on the lowly cat’s eyes, then you set up your prize marbles (but not usually your most favored) to gain more marbles. It was about collecting the coolest marbles and about the most.seagrams I even had a clay marble at some point. It was very old but not worth much to the other kids.

Almost as precious as those steelies were the bags to carry your marbles in. And the best bag of all was the purple, Seagram’s Crown Royal whiskey bag. I managed to get one. Maybe it came with some marbles, maybe from an older sibling, but it was definitely the choicest bag.

When talking recently with my siblings, my older brother and sister and my younger brother (a span of eleven years) we all remember shooting marbles and the Seagram’s bags. My younger brother said it was uncommon for girls to play, yet I remember doing it but also being unaware of whether I was in a minority of girls to boys. But it seems we played through grades 3-5. Grade 1 was too young and by grade 6 we were on our way out to junior high (grade 7 in Alberta). It was probably the most popular playground game in school.

My younger brother is a teacher and says no one plays marbles anymore. It’s too bad. It was cheap and simple and taught kids numbers, how to trade and value. I don’t remember any fights breaking out over marbles. Maybe they did from time to time but it was still a way to keep kids occupied that didn’t cost hundreds of dollars. I still like marbles as pretty pieces of glass. Perhaps, as the economy continues to slow, people will go back to simpler pastimes.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, family, home, life, memories, people