Thursday, June 14, 2012

Baaad Little Kitties

     Yesterday @NikiBrandyberry on Twitter posted something about having to read about three little kittens to children.  The exchange that followed spawned the following little story.

      It was just getting dark as we made our way down the hole that led outside.  Mom would have preferred we stay in tonight, but she knew the score.  There was hunting to do and we were the ones to do it.


     Mom had told us early on about the expectations we would have to live up to.  We'd come from a long line of hunters, some famous and some unknown to all but a very few.  We, Mom had told us back then, were three who would make a difference in the world, even as young as we were, kittens maybe five or six months old.  We didn't know and neither did Mom.  We weren't full grown yet because we weren't as big as she was.

     We popped up from under the house in to the failing light of the day.  We'd all taken longer than usual naps today since we knew we'd be up most of the night.  Mom stood watch over us while we slept.  If any of the humans came around she'd distract them by rubbing against their legs and mewling.  The things she did for us.

      We stopped once we'd come up from under the house and sniffed the air.  The town was filled with scents.  Some familiar (the boy across the street, his dog, the old jalopy that raced up and down the street on weekends) and others were new.  It was these new ones, or ones them that grabbed our attention.  We headed off across the yard and climbed up the fence.  Then we made our way to the front of the house and the town beyond.

     "Smell that?" Boots asked, her whiskers twitching excitedly.

     "Yeah!" and excited Patches said, eyes bright.  "Let's get 'em, Bear!"


     Not just rats, though.  Those were easy, unless they got to you with numbers.  These were zombie rats.  Dead, desiccated, rotting rats.  The only good thing about them was the literal lack of brains.

     I'm Bear.  (I hate that name.)  Where Patches is a calico and Boots has the white paw markings on her otherwise gray coat, I'm a sort of nondescript off-white color.  I'm not that big, but my fur is long and fluffy and reminded somebody of a bear.  So, it stuck.  I want to puke every time I hear it.  Not the time for lamenting, I remind myself.

     We prowl along the street in the direction of the scent, whiskers flicking, tails tall and straight, following the rats.  We had time.  They weren't too fast.  We were quicker.

     Patches ran ahead of Boots and me, excited for the hunt and the kill.  He really should stick with us, but he could handle himself.  Patches had been in more than a few scraps he knew what the stakes were.  Us or them.

     He waited at the entrance to the alley the scent had led us to, looking back, teeth bared.  We caught up a few moments later and the three of us looked around the corner as one.

     It was rats.  Half a dozen of them.  They'd cornered a human girl.  It was hard to guess her age, but she was young, probably shouldn't have been out at night without her parents.  The rats her close to her, starting to climb up her shoes.  She smelled of fear and sweat.  The rats smelled worse.  We quickly looked at each other, nodding.  In a flash we were in action.

     I moved in on two of the zombie rats.  Did I mention they didn't have much of a brain left?  It didn't register with these rats that we weren't also rats come to joining the party.  SLASH!  SLASH!  My claws ripped through the first one cutting it in to bloody pieces.  Two more slashes and the zombie was dispatched.  I had a few seconds so I glanced at my siblings.  Patches had already shredded one of the rats in to tiny bloody pieces and was stalking the other one.  Boots was likewise finishing off the first of her rats and eyeing the second one hungrily.

     Assured that my brother and sister had things in paw, I launched myself at my other rat.  This one had a bit more brains than usual, and wasn't going to go down easy.  He dodged my first two attacks, so I decided on another tactic, leaping in to the air and landing on his back, slashing with my front claws and then raking him with my rear claws as I lept off the rat, spinning in midair to land just in front of my adversary.  He launched himself at me but was too sluggish.  I dodged to my left and then launched myself in to the air again, coming down on the rat's back and wrapping my front paws around his neck  and flipping on to my back to rake him with my rear claws again.  One, two, three rakes and the rat let out a pained squeal with each, the last one dying away quickly.  I raked him twice more to be sure he was dead then I rolled over, dropped him to the ground and took a look at the other two.

     Patches has his second rat in his mouth and was worrying it vigorously.  I could hear bones and tendons snapping as he went.  A second later he let the rat go and it flew across the alley, dead.

     Boots liked to torment her prey and this rat was no exception.  She was batting it between her front paws, teeth bared as the dazed creature squeaked with each hit.  Tired of this game, she took the rat in her mouth and bit down hard, snapping its neck.  As Patches had done, Boots flung the rat across the alley.

     As one we turned to the young girl who had been the rat's victim.  Her fear was still apparent, but amazement had joined it, the emotions warring across her face.  We strode up to her and began to rub against her legs.  Humans liked that.

     "Good kitties", she said, reaching down to pet us.  Her fear was nearly gone.  She glanced at her watch and gasped.  "I gotta get home."  She ran out of the alley and down the street.  We followed her, keeping our distance.  Once she reached her door and was greeted by her distraught parents, we settled in to cleaning ourselves, getting the stench of zombie from our fur and bits of flesh from our claws.

     Then we set out on our way.  The night was young and there was still good hunting to be had.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What Makes The Anti-Hero Tick?

@Lexcade on Twitter was wondering about the line between villain and anti-hero.  Where it was and how it was defined.  So, with my vast experience as a reader (yeah, right) I thought I'd take a shot at it.

A villain is someone who is doing whatever he is doing for personal gain no matter the cost to anyone around him.  A villain can be a bank robber or a megalomaniac bent on ruling the world. The defining point is that the character doesn't care about anyone beside himself and his goals. He'll torture, maim and kill anyone who gets in his way as he reaches for his goal.  He may or may not be sane but he is always focused on his goal.

Examples are the various Bond villains (especially the ones from the Sean Connery era), The Batman villain Joker, Superman villain Lex Luthor and Harry Potter bad guy Voldemort.  They're all focused on their goals and they're all willing to kill to get what they want.

A hero is a selfless individual who looks out for the safety and well-being of others.  He'll put his own life on the line to save a total stranger, not because he stands to gain from it, but because it's the right thing to do. The hero attempts at every turn to do no harm to bystanders and to limit damage to personal property.  He is a "boy scout" to varying degrees.

Examples of the true hero include just about every superhero from the 1940s on (there are some exceptions and we'll get to those), Joe Friday in Dragnet and just about any character played by John Wayne (again, there are exceptions).

So there's the range from bad guy to good guy.  In between we have the anti-heroes.  Their reasons for doing what he does, for saving damsels (or dudes) in distress vary greatly.  They are almost always characters who go against the grain, who have their own methods for getting things done and who tend to not stand for bureaucratic b.s.  They are often loners, usually because they feel the world doesn't understand them and that it's better to be alone than with people that they feel uncomfortable around.

Anti-heroes, unlike the villains, usually has a code to live by.  Most often this code involves what they won't do to get the job done. For example Batman has a hard and fast code against killing no matter who the person might be. Wolverine of the X-Men has a general code against harming children, going as far as telling the young Katie Power (of the Power Pack) to keep her eyes closed so she won't see him effectively disembowel the villain trying to hurt them both.

Examples of the anti-hero include Batman and Wolverine as mentioned above, Marvel Comics' Punisher, certain incarnations of James Bond, the Sylvester Stallone character John Rambo, John McClain from the Die Hard movies, and pretty much every other action hero who doesn't fit in to the true hero camp.

So, where's the line?  Essentially this: an anti-hero is a hero but without the need to uphold the law or be beholden to anyone.  The anti-hero gets the job done. It may require a high body count, it may require a great deal of visceral violence and it will probably require a few well-placed quips, but the job will get done.  An anti-hero is not a villain because, unlike the villain, the anti-hero cares if someone innocent gets hurt in the crossfire.  The anti-hero can seem to be a villain (the Punisher started out as a Spider-Man villain) but never crosses the line into being purely evil.

Sean Connery's James Bond may throw an electric heater in to a bathtub full of water, killing the henchman through electrocution, but he won't put a bystander danger of his own accord and will, in fact, go out of his way to avoid hurting people who aren't involved in his fight.

John McClain may kill hundreds of the villain's henchmen, but he won't fire in to a crowd because he might injure or kill a civilian.

Anti-heroes will work outside of the establishment if the establishment gets in their way but they'll always come back to the fold in the end because the establishment represents what's right even if it is a pain in the ass.

Boiling it down to its core the thing that sets an anti-hero apart from a villain is the anti-hero's desire to do the right thing. Save the hostages, capture the bad guy, uncover the corruption, whatever it is. The anti-hero is heroic without having to be the boy scout.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Well, it's been a while, hasn't it?  I started this blog as a way to post flash fiction. That lasted for two posts. The question I have rolling around in my brain is what to do with it now? Does it become a personal blog? A blog about writing? Maybe a bit of all that?

Here's the thing: all of the blogs/journals I've had on the Internet have been places to vent frustration about the world around me. This is true of my personal offline journals as well. The time when I feel the urge to write things down is when the world has gotten me down. As much as I've tried to write about the good things that have gone on (and there have been a few of those over the years) but it doesn't last. I suppose I'm too happy at the time and writing about it doesn't occur to me.

But I'm going to try. I'm going to try to make a point of writing the good things and the bad things that happen.


Dad spent Christmas in the hospital with pneumonia and a blood clot in his lungs. (Pneumonia in one and the clot in the other.) Got the pneumonia cleared up but had to wait over a week for the anticoagulant to build up enough so they could send him home.  (Quick background:  Dad had a tumor in his lung two years ago, went through radiation and chemotherapy and that tumor is gone, then they found another one at the beginning of last year and a procedure called Gamma Knife Radiation (essentially a extremely focused beam to cut out the tumor). That tumor is also now gone, or at least very hard to find when they do the PET scans they've been doing.

Work is work. I work at Target primarily as the Key Team Member for Signing. I prepare the silly little signs for every weeks Sunday Circular. If I'm lucky I work on the salesfloor one or two days a week. Some weeks I actually get enough hours that I can almost pay my bills. As New Year starts I may or may not have to go back on partial Unemployment to make ends meet. We'll see.


I put the current Work In Progress on the back burner during the holidays. Mostly because the holidays in retail are Hell x 100.  I intend to get back to it fairly soon. Probably in the next week or so. I'm at a good stopping point, though, so getting back in won't be a problem. I'm hoping to have the first draft done by maybe March or April depending on how much time I have. Then revision time begins. If I'm lucky I'll get the whole thing done and done by June or July.

Other Stuff

Behind the scenes I'm also a gamer. Right now I'm playing Star Wars: The Old Republic MMORPG. It's an impressive game, fully voice-acted with lots and lots of story stuff. There's still a lot of the "Kill x of y" quests, but they come as bonus missions along with the main quest.  Bioware, it seems, realized that the player is going to kill those guys anyway so there didn't need to be a large number of that type of quest.

I've also started playing the new Elder Scrolls game Skyrim. Like the other games in the series it's a open world game where you can go just about anywhere and do anything you want.  I've only played about two hours of it, but I'll get back in to it at some point.

I also play quite a few games on my iPod Touch and right now I'm addicted to the new Bejeweled and it's Diamond Mine mode.  A different challenge and it's actually a lot of fun.

I don't read much anymore.  I do listen to quite a few audiobooks, though.  It's a different way of consuming both ficiton and non-fiction and it allows me to do other things while I'm listening.  I may sometimes have to listen to a book more than once to get everything out of it, but I do that with movies and music, too.  At the moment I'm listening to Star Wars books based on the Old Republic game.  They're fun and have some interesting ideas in them.  The reader has a bad habit of mispronouncing words to an annoying degree (this, to me, is a problem that can be solved by a good director) but the overall stories are fun and not too heavy.

So, that's that. I'll try to post updates at least once a week. No promises. Have a good week!