Tag Archives: nostalgia

Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Cole & Duncan

toys, childhood, nostalgia, fantasy, SF, fiction, short storiesGeoffery Cole and dvs duncan are the featured authors today in the Playground of Lost Toys. Cole’s story “Wheatiesfield in Fall” is humorous but a warning of what happens when you lose touch with the world around you and immerse yourself in games. In this case the game is woven with one’s life and when you defeat the boss, he is in fact your boss in the work world.

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

The premise worked well with one of the story ideas sitting on my “To Do” pile. The list is very long at this point, as I’ve been working on a novel for the last few years, but I will sometimes take a break from the novel if a theme anthology comes along and it meshes nicely with one of the story buds on the list.

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

 Old video games evoke a different kind of nostalgia than watching a childhood movie or reading a favourite childhood book. I had pneumonia as a kid, and as a result, I had to stay home from school for several weeks. I’m sure I watched lots of TV and read many books during my illness, but all I really remember is playing A Link to the Past on my friend Jamie’s Super Nintendo that he lent to me (we had a Sega Genesis). We’re still best friends, close to twenty-five years later. Every few years I find a SNES emulator and take ALTTP for a spin, and I’m instantly transported back to those days of banana-flavoured antibiotics and the quest for the Triforce. The music alone is enough to make me start looking for a boomerang.

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

I wanted to explore the gamification of mundane life in “Wheatiesfields in Fall.” In the future depicted in the story, every transaction or interaction is gamified: you gain gold and experience points for performing well at work, at school, playing games. Having marital relations with your spouse also rewards you with experience and gold. Gold lets you buy things in this world, and experience points determines your level, which has far-reaching impacts on your daily life. The main character, the low-level Loufis, lusts after a higher-level woman, Nurse T. By virtue of their level disparity, she is forever out of his reach.

Level determines the jobs you can get, the transportation you can take, the houses you can buys. Level also affects what happens after you die. Loufis works at an Upload Palace, a place where people have their personality uploaded to a computer. Low-level people send their copied personalities to Upland, a digital afterlife, but for higher-level people, they have the option of downloading into a new body. Extra lives, the most coveted resource in video games, become a reality for high-level people in this gamified world. Those who win extra lives also tend to own all the gold, creating a society of rampant inequality.

The antagonist of the story, Mr. Yao, has won several extra lives and has amassed a huge fortune in his centuries on Earth. As he prepares for yet another download, he sends Loufis on a quest to find a video game he played way back in his first life. For Mr. Yao, that video game symbolizes everything he’s lost in his too-many years. For Loufis, it is the key to levelling up and maybe winning Nurse T’s heart.

4. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology, you’d like to mention?

I recently learned that China has created a system that could end functioning much like the level system I described in my story. It is terrifying stuff, and I hope the Chinese people see it for what it is and shut it down.   5. What other projects do you have in the works, or pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year.

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

I have a story coming out from Nameless Digest next year, and I’ve been asked to contribute a story to Grimm Futures, which has been very fun to put together. I’ll be shopping around my novel Frozen Jellyfish Blues next year as well. Most of my published work is available through my website, www.geoffreywcole.com. Drop by and say hello.

dvs duncan, Treasure, short fiction, transformers

dvs duncan journeys into the Playground of Lost Toys

Next is dvs duncan, who wrote “Treasure,”very much a tale of loss and regret and that wish to capture something of the innocence of childhood and simpler times.

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

It liked the premise of the anthology. Perhaps I have never entirely left childhood behind. I still have a fascination with toys and jealously guard a few treasures from my youth. It seemed only natural to write about such things.

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

“Treasure” does not relate explicitly to anything in my childhood but every toy I had was imbued with magic. They were my companions and guides on incredible journeys. I have recently been reminded of this while watching my grandchildren play.

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

I think that real toys are mysterious and I love a good mystery. A real toy is not just a piece of plastic and metal and cloth. A real toy is something created out of imagination. Its bones might have been fabricated by Mattel or Hasbo, but its flesh and blood are the vision and inspiration of the child that plays with it. It was these latter aspects I wanted to explore and how they reflect our relationship with the work as a whole.

4. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology, you’d like to mention?

I hope that the anthology will inspire people to examine the meaning of toys a little more closely and, by doing so, come to know themselves better. Our toys, and the ways we play with them, tell us something fundamental about who we are.

  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 finishing edits on a novel, a story of how the Victorian village of Chandling on Wode is transported to an alien work where the stalwart Brits are forced to deal with overly inquisitive robot spiders, marauding aliens and a super intelligent computer on a mission to save the universe. Dame Hesta Electra Rutherford is utterly horrified by this unseemly translocation and will have things put to rights. She has a plan and it just might work if they can find a fresh supply of tea.

 

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Candy of an Era Past

It’s sunny and finally like spring out there and who wants to think. So I decided instead to write about candy.

I think that since I was a child candy has changed but I wouldn’t say there is more variety. Maybe some but overall there are just more chocolate bars, all a confection involving chocolate and nuts or chocolate and wafers. A few exceptions are the Lowney’s Eat More bar, molasses and nuts (okay so nuts are also a big part). I loved the Eat More’s for their chewiness. Over the years I think the nut content went down some and the chewiness lessened.

Twax bottleshe coolest items were these wax thumbs or lips. They were made of some sort of soft parafin wax (probably cancerous for all we knew) and filled with a sweet juice. You would bite into the wax and suck out the juice and often chew the wax, sometimes with the juice in your mouth so it would mix together. Maybe I swallowed the wax and maybe I spit it out; I don’t remember but it was sort of like a chewier bubble gum.

Gum itself hasn’t changed a lot. Different flavors, soft, hard, coated like a gumball, a stick like Wrigley’s or filled with jelly. Oooh, gold mine gum (gold nuggets in a cloth bag) and bubble gum cigars (pink, green and yellow). Most of these still exist as do jawbreakers. I think there was less of what I would call the adult gums then except for Wrigley’s, and that particular brand I haven’t seen in a while. If it’s still made they don’t seem to come in the stick packages like they used to. But then, I don’t like chewing gum much anymore because some types stick to my crown and the texture is…meh.

We used to be able to get packs of candy cigarettes (also gum cigarettes) but I think theycandy cigs were discontinued as being politically incorrect. There were two types, one at least had Popeye on the pack. The one type had almost a slightly fruit flavor and more chalky in texture though not chalky in flavor (akin to but not as acidic as candy necklaces) and I preferred it. The other was a harder, shinier white candy with a red tip. It was crunchier but not as flavorful.

There was also this long (like a ruler) flat piece of taffy or nougat, usually in the Neapolitan colors/flavors of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate. Something else was stringy and I have visions pink elephantof pulling off the strings of sugary goodness but I have no idea what it was. There were of course various licorices, including black licorice pipes and cigars, and strawberry shoestrings, which somehow tasted the best. And Necco wafers (still available in the US), each color tasting differently. The purple (lavender?) and black (licorice) and brown (chocolate) were the best. And of course there were Cracker Jacks, carmelized popcorn with a prize inside. But even better, Pink Elephant popcorn, sweet and pink and with some sort of cool prize.

Those were the corner store variety of candies. Oddly I really don’t remember the chocolate bars. There were still candy counters in the department stores like The Bay and Sears and Eaton’s. Chicken bones were peanut butter flavored, crunchy candies. Jordan almonds were nfruit slicesearly hard enough to crack teeth with the hard sugar coating. I was never big on jellies, jujubes or gumdrops but there were these orange and lemon slices, gumdroppy, sugared and with a rind like the real fruit but just harder sugar. The best part of these was that they had a tang like the real fruit. In later years they degenerated to just being sweet. And there were the little ice cream cones with a marshmallow in them.

Once in a while you can still find these things in a larger supermarket but they’re getting rarer. Which makes me believe we’re getting down to just varieties of chocolate bars. There are still chocolate shops, and a few more than there used to be. My favorite chocolate memory was of these Easter eggs my mother would give us. They were about the size of my hand, decorated in hard, sugar icing and when cracked open, had about four or five real chocolates in them. They were made by a chocolatier in Calgary and they were beautiful. I’ve seen some mass produced versions of late but they’re not the same.

Many of the corner store items still might exist. There is one store (with two locations) in Vancouver called the Candy Aisle. They specialize in nostalgic candy though sadly I don’t see most of the ones I remember. http://www.candyaisle.com/index1.html And one aspect of nostalgia that’s long gone is cost. Ahhh, the confections of yesteryear.

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Piggy Banks

I got talking with someone the other day about piggy banks. Her four-year-old daughter had got one for Christmas and although she didn’t ask for it was ecstatic about it, telling people she had “finally” got a piggy bank.

I mentioned how I had seen one that me and my siblings had as children. I think they were mapiggy-2ss produced in cheap plastic. It had cartoon style eyes, stood on its hind legs in overalls, and wore a cap. There was definitely no high class style to these and I think they show up from time to time in Value Village or vintage stores. These guys stood about 6-8 inches high and I know I never filled it with money, though there was the handy plug on the bottom should I need the coins.

piggyThe other piggy bank I had was a little ceramic pig, white with painted designs, similar to the one shown here (except there were no indentations). The slot was right on the top and I did store money in it, which then took some fancy maneuvering of shaking or wedging a knife in to try to get the coins to slide out. Along the way it broke, maybe from shaking it too much but it was patched back together.

Then many years later I was trying to save money to go to India. Vancouver’s West End had this area near Davie St. where people would set out items to sell. I put out various things, including books, jewellery and the old patched piggy bank. I never knew it would be such a hit. A gay guy came by and gushed all over it, how cute it was, how it was just the thing, etc. But then he left. Well I was trying to sell my stuff so when another guy came by to buy the broken pig, for all of a couple bucks I sold it. Then the first guy showed up an hour later and was incensed that I’d sold it. Hey guy, you snooze you loose.

Those are the only two piggy banks I’ve ever owned that were piggy shaped. I began to wonder why piggy banks came to be. Was it like the teddy bear, where Theodore Roosevelt played a major part. Well no, it seems that a type of clay was called pygg, and people used to save their money in pygg jars. In the 18th century the spelling changed and people made the connection, playing on the word.

According to Wikipedia the etymology of the word had a similar evolution in Indonesia with this 15th century Javanese pig. I would love to have a piggy bank that looked like this. Of course, these days I have no money to save…or it’s in the bank. WordPress has gone wacky. I’ll try to upload the picture later or you can go to Wiki and type in piggy bank.

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