Ya Got Stabbed! A Ruin Nation Interactive Fiction Game

CLICK HERE TO PLAY THE GAME!

I created this game in early 2020 as part of a community project organized by The Papercut Arcade, using Twine, a free and open-source tool for making interactive fiction in the form of web pages. Originally I was going to create a Spaceship Zero game but decided to go with one based on my post-apoc Mutilator tabletop roleplaying game. This had the added benefit of spurring me to create more artwork to use in both Mutilator and the interactive fiction game Ya Got Stabbed!

Stranger from “Ya Got Stabbed!” Interactive Fiction Game by Toren Atkinson

My methodology for creating the game was just to start doing it. This diving in method would help me learn the Twine tool in a trial-by-fire kind of way. It was a fun-tastic learning experience and what I would change if I had to do it all over was to plan it out better. I would also go to the next step of making a custom interface rather than just the blue text on black background that is the twine default.

I came to know the stranger in the game well enough that I decided to make a 3D print on Heroforge.

Click the link above to play the game.

Writing by me, artwork by me, voiceover by me. Thanks to Kay Slater, Carl Upsdell, Thomas Falk and all the other playtesters

Below are some of the new drawings I made for the game. SPOILER ALERT!

Let’s Talk About the Rights of Composite Beings

Although a few years back on my blog I had rated and given snarky mini-reviews of the complete Voyager series, there were a few episodes outstanding that I needed to finish up. One of those episodes was from the second season: “Tuvix.”

This episode deals with another transporter accident (*sigh*), this one involving Tuvok and Neelix, and a symbiogenetic orchid that fuses their DNA while in flux during transport. This doesn’t explain how their two uniforms are fused during transport, but let’s not dwell on minutia.

While the Doctor is working on a way to undo this process, the fused being – Tuvix – lives his life as a crewmember over the course of several weeks, and his crewmates (Janeway and Kes, primarily) try to come to terms with the whole situation.  When the “cure” is found, Tuvix refuses to submit to the procedure, stating that he “does not want to die.” After hemming and hawing, Janeway forces him to undergo the transport procedure which which ends the existence of Tuvix but restores Tuvok and Neelix.

This is an interesting episode not only for the concept but the way the writers handle Janeway and the crew. Throughout the episode we’re meant to sympathize both with Tuvix and with Kes. Without Neelix, Kes lost her loved one. Without Tuvok, his wife and children will never have a chance to be reunited with their husband/father (not that we as an audience have much investment in that, but it’s a point well made by Janeway).

Tuvix is portrayed as his own man, and it’s showcased how well he integrates into the ship (problem solving faster than Tuvik, cooking better than Neelix)

For much of the episode, Kes is understandably weirded out by Tuvix’s overtures toward her, and she distances herself from him until the last act when she reaches out to him and invites their friendship to grow. This is of course the point where the Doctor announces he’s found a way to restore Tuvok and Neelix, so we can never see the Tuvix/Kes friendship grow. When Tuvix refuses the ‘treatment’, Janeway transforms into stern executioner, complete with a scene where Tuvix is frogmarched down a corridor complete with military snare drum marching soundtrack. 

Since Voyager is an episodic show (right?) we of course have to end this episode where we began. But I can’t help wondering, what if…

What if it went for an entire season with Tuvix as part of the crew, and the crew and audience had more time to adjust. The episode focuses so much on Kes, Tuvix and Janeway that we don’t get any input from the other crew. In fact they’re just as cold to Tuvix when he is pleading for his life on the bridge. As Janeway stated in the episode, “if we had a way to separate him as soon as the merging accident happened, I wouldn’t have hesitated” — with even more time to accept Tuvix among the crew, would Janeway have honored Tuvix’ wishes when the separation option became available?

What if Tuvix had resigned as a Starfleet officer? Would Janeway still have marched him to sick bay for the procedure against his will? 

What if the merging of two crewpersons involved different genders? What if Neelix and B’elanna became B’elannix? 

It may not be accurate to say that Tuvok and Neelix died during the initial transporter accident, because in a way their memories and personalities both live on in Tuvix. But certainly as individuals they ceased to exist. And it wasn’t anyone’s fault. So does Janeway or anyone else have the right to force someone to ‘die’ (or become undone) so that two other people can be ‘resurrected?’  If Tuvix is both Neelix and Tuvok in one, then does that count as two votes? 

My take is that Janeway was wrong to force Tuvix to be separated against his will. And worse than that I think this was one of many missed opportunities this series could have made to grow and better itself. Imagine if Tuvix remained even though the procedure existed for him/them to be separated at any time. And then perhaps over the course of a season his personalities started to fight with one another, or his cells began to break down, or he started to turn into an orchid creature (sounds like something Voyager would do)… and so after coming to terms with Tuvix, now they have to come to terms with losing him, and then Tuvok and Neelix come back onto the show and they have to deal with all the fallout. I feel like this would be just as dramatic – even more so – than Janeway making the call to end Tuvix’s existence. 

But I think we all know that the only reason Tuvix died was because Voyager was episodic. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against episodic at all. Discovery & Picard made me pine for it.

10 Movies Meme (Except Not 10)

I was nominated by Mike Myhre for 1 movie a day for 10 days. No explanation, no reviews, just the poster of a film that influenced my love of films.

Except I will give very thorough explanations and reviews.
And I will not ask anyone to do the same. Who needs that kind of pressure?


Day 1: Alien

I’m not sure if I’ve seen this in the theater. In 1979 I was a child (more so than now) but whenever it was that I first saw it, it had a very lasting impression. There are three recurring dreams that I have throughout my life: Bus rides that strand me somewhere; hanging out with Jack Black, and being chased by the xenomorph(s) in Alien. I will always take an alien dream over a bus stranding dream.

I remember three scenes really stood out from my initial viewing as a young man: Sigourney Weaver’s panties (of course); the rattling chain scene where Harry Dean Stanton is looking for Jonesy (weird that there’s so much water on a space ship), and the brutal altercation with Ash.

Oh, and sure, I guess the chest bursting scene.

The film has such masterful pacing, true-to-life characters, incredible set and creature design. Of course H.R Giger was a huge influence on my own art for years, but that’s a different story. They know not to show the alien (although they probably go too far once or twice) and it’s legitimately scary partly because they never really explain where it came from (I’m looking at you Prometheus and Covenant)

It’s a 10/10 for me.


Day #2. Dark Star
Keeping in the same neighborhood as Alien, this weird movie started as a student film by John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon. It follows the crew of the Dark Star, who are 20 years into their mission to blow up unstable planets that may interfere with colonization. They are very bored and have let themselves go. They bicker amongst themselves or isolate from the rest of the crew. Dan O’Bannon plays Pinback and keeps a video log where he complains about his crew.

The film is alternately brilliant and very boring (one of the crew has set up a kind of bottle-o-phone musical instrument where he plays it badly for several excruciating minutes… but it does put you in the characters mind frame). On the other end, the scene where Lt. Doolittle tries to talk one of the planet-buster bombs out of detonating is not easily forgotten.

The scene with Pinback chasing the beachball alien around the ship inspired him to pen the original screenplay for Alien. I met O’Bannon’s wife at an HPL Convention and she was very friendly.

The uniqueness of this film had a strong affect on me creatively. It partially inspired the creation of the Spaceship Zero album by my band The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets, and the tabletop RPG that came soon after. The idea of a crew that was bored, stir crazy, with big bushy beards who had way too much time on their hands was quite appealing.

I give this film 8/10, which is probably way more than it deserves. But it’s special to me so it gets extra credit.

Day #3: Heavy Metal
For a guy who’s into animation I wasn’t much influenced by Disney or other popular animated films during my childhood. Secret of NIMH might be an exception. I was much more influenced by Saturday morning cartoons.

Heavy Metal on the other hand, definitely was for me. Monsters, mutants, zombies, warriors, magic, and sex. I was into comics and this was connected to that world. I don’t remember exactly when I saw it, but I had a friend who had an extensive amount of DVDs and we hung out a lot watching movie after movie, many of which were probably not age appropriate.

Being an anthology movie, HM had both the advantage and disadvantage of being uneven. If a section wasn’t interesting to me, it would be over in 10 minutes… Voice acting by SCTV actors. Devo and Black Sabbath. Moebius and Richard Corben (with whom I had the pleasure of working with on Spaceship Zero). And ANOTHER Dan O’Bannon connection (that’s three in a row if you’re counting).

Was it a masterpiece? No. But it was cool, and that’s something.
7/10

Day #4: Locke

Never would I have thought in a million years that I would be so glued to a 1 hour 25 minute movie that takes place entirely in a car, with the main actor talking to an otherwise unseen cast on speaker phone.

It goes to show how incredibly important writing and acting are to a film. I mean, we all inherently know this (right, 1999 George Lucas?). This is the kind of movie that could be a play. And I like many movies that are also plays (Glengarry Glen Ross, The Big Kahuna)

Now I’m not besmirching the cinematography, direction, editing of this film but it’s certainly an eye-opening exercise in film appreciation, and structure. The phone conversations were recorded in real-time, vehicle and road noise included, and they filmed the movie in 12 takes, two full takes of the film per night over 6 nights. Tom had a cold during this shoot and they worked it into the script. Really quite an achievement.

Oh yeah, Tom Holland plays his son (over the phone, of course)

9/10 from me.

Day 5: Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973)

Really I could say 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Jason and the Argonauts (1963) Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) or Clash of the Titans (1981). These are all Ray Harryhausen fantasy films that I grew up with. But I will choose Golden Voyage because although there’s monsters to love in all those films (especially the sword fight with the skeletons in Jason) I think Golden Voyage might be the most fantastical, evocative, and threatening of the bunch. The eye tattoo on the hand, the golden-masked Vizier, the animated wooden ship figurehead, the idol of Kali, the centaur vs griffin fight, the invisible wizard (Tom Baker) and the impressive, uh…costume of Caroline Munro…all the elements were in place to foster a love of film trickery, animation, and D&D.

Of course what can you say about the legendary stop motion of Ray Harryhausen? As a kid I gobbled it up…couldn’t get enough of it.

Golden Voyage 6/10
7th Voyage of Sinbad 7/10 (appropriate)
Jason and the Argonauts 7/10
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger 5/10
Clash of the Titans 4/10

Day 6: Miller’s Crossing

In 1987 Joel and Ethan Coen wrote, produced and directed Raising Arizona. In 1991 they released Barton Fink, which they wrote in 3 weeks when writer’s block prevented them from completing the writing for Miller’s Crossing.

In between these two great films they released this neo-noir tale of two rival gang bosses vying for control of their city, primarily through the machinations of their second-in-commands.

There are few movies I’ve watched as much as Miller’s Crossing. It drew me in upon first viewing with its style, cinematography, characters, and its teasingly impenetrable 20’s slang. That dialogue is part of what makes the movie so dense, but there’s so much more to it. And it’s through these multiple viewings which have allowed me to crack some of the many layers of this movie. One picks up on sound cues in the background that tell you what time of day it is… becoming accustomed to the bombastic violence after the first couple viewings frees up your attention to move towards the more subtle inferences of unseen relationships and other activities that go on before and between scenes, and their connections.

Every character is memorable in their own way, even the small walk-ons, like the fast-talking Steve Buscemi leave a bold impression. And another strong female lead role with Marcia Gay Harden.

And then there’s the score – my introduction to Carter Burwell, who the Coens have used for most of their oeuvre, a perfect fit.

10/10 for me.

Day 7: From the man who brought you Happy Feet and Babe: Pig in the City, comes Mad Max Fury Road.

Really I could have put Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior here.

So…. I don’t love the first Mad Max. It’s fine but it doesn’t get its hooks into me the way Road Warrior and Fury Road do. I love post-apocalyptic films and MM1 isn’t really post-apocalyptic enough for me.

As a storyboard artist, Fury Road is a masterclass in action storytelling. And George Miller, with the help of 5 artists, designed the film in storyboards in 1999 — before even writing the screenplay. It came out as about 3,500 panels, almost the same number of shots as in the finished film. There’s not a lot of dialogue in the film, by design, as Miller wanted the story to play visually, so even if you didn’t speak English (and with no subtitles) you could follow. Visual storytelling, baby! And even as an English speaker, there’s so much post-apoc jargon (and heavy Australian accents) that much of the dialogue went over my head the first time(s) I watched it without subtitles. War boys? Aqua Cola? Fucacima Kamakrazee?

It doesn’t bother me that the Mad Max world isn’t realistic, with gas and bullets being wasted in these souped up cars…the fantasy aesthetic works for me. And the production design is just astounding. All of those cars are working cars. those crazy acrobats are really jumping around on top of moving vehicles, the guitar really blew fire…and it really brings a verisimilitude to that world that other CGI-loaded movies can’t match.

But, Toren, there were 2000 visual effects shots! Well if you’ve watched the special features you know that a lot of those were enhancing landscapes, adding in chains and harpoon lines, getting rid of Charlize Theron’s arm, and other stuff that could never be done in picture. Sure, the giant lightning sand storm was The point is that despite the crazy action and crashes that COULD have been done in post, were done on set, and it illustrates the point of how important that is for a movie’s audience to be engaged on that level. That sort of connection to the real world is very difficult to fake. And I love that.

And that soundtrack! The perfect match for the film. Every track is gold.

My shameful personal story is that based on the first trailers it looked so amazing that I had a genuine fear that I would be let down once I sat to watch it in the theater for the first time. And even as I was watching in the theater, I was waiting, almost scowling, for that let-down moment to come, because it had to, right? It all seemed to good to be true. It’s a modern movie! It’s not going to be better than Road Warrior! …But that moment..after that adrenaline endurance test of a car chase to get away from the starting point, and you’re halfway through the movie, and then you realize the second half of the movie is them going BACK to their starting point and engage the bad guys they just got away from. That’s a ballsy move for any film, and you think it can’t get any stronger than the first chase, and then it does NOT disappoint. When the credits rolled I was in this weird state of mind like “how could I have been so wrong?” So, kudos to George Miller.

9/10

Day 8: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

1985 (or a couple years later): I remember renting “Warriors of the Wind” from the video store. Which turned out to be a heavily edited (22 minutes were cut) version of Hayao Miyazaki’s second feature film, set in a post-apocalyptic future filled with toxic jungles and giant insects, where a young woman gets mixed up in a conflict between two warring nations who both want the power of an ancient weapon.

The uncut version of the film would not be available in Canada until 2005. Could it possibly be that I didn’t see the full version until then? I was doing a lot of tape trading during the 90s so maybe I gut the uncut version before I bought the Disney dvd release.

Anyway, there’s so much I love about this movie. The design of the world, the design of the creatures, the design of the flying machines. You really feel the grandeur and of the world, but Nausicaa also makes it intimate, with her connection to it, and the movie takes enough time that you can appreciate the visuals, the sound design…you can almost smell it at times. You feel the power of the war machines and the ancient demon, and how they really outclass the simple farmers in the valley of the wind. And Nausicaa is a great character that you rally behind as much as her townsfolk. But she’s not a Mary Sue either – she has an almost magical connection with animals, and is trying to understand the nature of the toxic forest with science, but she loses control of her temper and has regrets. I identified with her as someone who is just trying to understand the world while getting caught between assholes with their power-grab agendas. But even then this movie, through Nausicaa, brings you close to these characters so that you understand their point of view, if not their actions. And when the shit hits the fan in the last act you are with Nausicaa all the way.

They say that when you are a certain age you are more impressionable and later in your life you remember things more vividly from that time. Perhaps this movie came into my life at the perfect time, and that has influenced my reaction to this film even to this day. But I think the art and the story are really undeniably great. And what a time in my life to learn what I think is the real lesson of this movie (besides the environmentalist message of most of Myazaki’s films): empathy. It’s what Nausicaa is all about, and you kind of want everyone at the end of this film to be okay. But I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it.

And let’s talk about Joe Hisaishi the composer. The film is an interesting mix of orchestral, 80s synth, and a bit of sitar thrown in. Hisaish has done a lot of great scores for Ghibli over the years, but the main theme and The Battle between Mehve and Corvette transport me every time.

I think the one and only thing in the movie that I don’t connect with is the “prophecy” angle. I don’t think it’s necessary, and it bookends the film in a way that kinda sorta feels tacked on a bit.

One of the scores of nerd shops at Nakano Broadway, Kyoto

I’ll add that when I went to Japan last year (specifically Nakano Broadway and various shops in Kyoto) I had the good fortune to see some really amazing models and toys from Nausicaa, which added a whole other layer of appreciation.

In conclusion, 10/10 – most favourite movie of all time.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) stars Sumi Shimamoto. Dir: Hayao Miyazaki

Best of 2019

In the immortal words of Strong Bad – “IT’S OVER!” Time for a brief look back at what made 2019 interesting.

Best meme: Jonathan Frakes asking questions:

Best word added to Oxford English Dictionary:
clabbydoo, n.: “A large dark mussel; esp. the northern horse mussel, Modiolus modiolus.”

Best newly discovered species: janolus flavoanulatus, a yellow ringed seaslug of the Philippines. 

Best source of ancient hunter-gatherer DNA: 5700 year old birch pitch “chewing gum” in Lolland, Denmark

Best case of poetic justice: Rhino poacher eaten by lions in Kruger National Park, South Africa

Best Movie Monster: The All-paca from Richard Stanley’s The Color Out of Space

Best Magic: The Gathering card: Bake Into A Pie (Throne of Eldraine set)

Best animated series I haven’t watched yet: Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal.

Best Star Trek release: Short Trek “The Trouble with Edward”

Best zombie film with a ‘oner’: One Cut of the Dead

Best new podcast: Toren’s Guide to Everything (plug! plug!)

The Incomplete History of the Saturday Morning Cartoon Party

Around 1998, a couple years after I moved to Vancouver, once I lived in a place with a living space big enough to accommodate guests, I organized what would become a sometimes annual tradition. The first few didn’t have themes but on or before 2001 I came up with themes and printed out the schedules. Here they are!

2001 (Fourth Annual) Theme: Robots and Automatons

2002 theme: Origin Stories

2003 (Sixth) Theme: The Supernatural

2004 (Seventh) Theme: Double Trouble

2005 (Eighth) Theme: Outer Space

2006 (Ninth) Theme: Jokes!

2007 (Tenth) Theme: Mind Games

2008 (Eleventh) theme: Time!

2009 – SMCP Goes Public

For a year or two we did weekly screenings at venues like the Rio Theater and VIVO. Then we got burned out and quit. Until….

2017 Theme: Cats (in Memoriam, Kodos)

Saturday, September 30, 2017 at 9:55 AM. Back to private functions in Toren’s living room.

I did not craft a printed schedule but here’s the itinerary:

Schoolhouse Rock: Conjunction Junction
Star Trek Animated: Mudd’s Passion
Superfriends: Attack of the Cats
Looney Tunes: Mouse Wreckers
Swat Kats: A Bright and Shiny Future
Thundercats: The Unholy Alliance
Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack: Who Let the Cats Out of the Old Bag’s House?
Adventure Time: Fiona and Cake
The Amazing World of Gumball: The World
Powerpuff Girls: Cat Man Do
Steven Universe: Cat Fingers
Mighty Mouse New Adventures: Catastrophe Cat
Samurai Jack: Imakandi
Simpsons: Citizen Kang
Ren & Stimpy: Rubber Nipple Salesmen
Thundarr: Treasure of the Moks

2018 Theme: Dreams and Nightmares

2019 Theme: Dungeons and Dragons

2020 Theme: TBD!

Maybe dinosaurs?

How to Watch Classic Doctor Who

This is your guide to what episodes to watch during the first 26 seasons from 1963 to 1989, featuring the first seven Doctors.

(In Progress)

For the first two seasons of Doctor Who and most of the third (1963–1966), each episode carries its own title. At story #26 “The Savages” episodes are simply listed as Part 1, Part 2…etc.

Episodes are about 25 minutes.

Due to the BBC’s 1970s junking policy, 97 episodes of Doctor Who from the 1960s are no longer known to exist. As a result, 26 serials are currently incomplete, with one or more episodes represented only by audio and, in many cases, clips or still frames. For commercial release, some episodes have been reconstructed using off-air audio recordings, paired to surviving visuals or newly commissioned animation.

FIRST DOCTOR: Crotchety curmudgeon William Hartnell

Years: 1963-1966
Number of Seasons: 3ish
Theme: A lot of visiting Earth history
Best companions: Susan, Barbara and Ian
What to watch:

Story #1 “An Unearthly Child.” Four episodes
Story #2 “The Daleks.” Seven episodes. First appearance of the Daleks.:

Story #9 “Planet of Giants.” Three episodes

Story # 29 “The 10th Planet.” Four episodes. First appearance of the Cybermen. Final appearance of the first Doctor

SECOND DOCTOR: “Space hobo” Patrick Troughton

Years: 1966-1969
Number of Seasons: 3
Theme: more space, more action
Best companion: Jamie
What to watch:

Story #30 “The Power of the Daleks.” The originals are lost, there is an animated version (more like a motion comic). The Doctor regenerates for the first time.

Yeti

Story #38 “The Abominable Snowmen.” Six episodes.
Story #41 “The Web of Fear” Six episodes. Introduces Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart

Story #46 “The Invasion.” Eight episodes. Introduces U.N.I.T.

THIRD DOCTOR: Aristocratic secret agent John Pertwee – IN COLOR!

Years: 1970-1974
Number of Seasons: 5
Theme: Earthbound James Bond vs Aliens
Best companion: Sarah Jane Smith
What to watch:

Story #51 “Spearhead from Space.” Get to know the new Doctor. (4 eps)

The Master

Story #55 “Terror of the Autons.” The first appearance of The Master (4 eps)

Story #65 “The Three Doctors.” The three incarnations of the Doctor (so far) reunite to thwart the revenge-seeking Omega. (4 eps)

Story #70 “The Time Warrior” Introduces Sarah Jane Smith and the Sontaran race (4 eps)

FOURTH DOCTOR: Whimsical and warm Tom Baker

Years: 1974-1981
Number of Seasons: 7
Theme: Gothic horror
Best companion: Romana
What to watch:

Story #76 “The Ark in Space.” (4 eps) – Alien before the movie Alien.
Story #78 “Genesis of the Daleks”

…TO BE CONTINUED!

The Best of 2019

In the immortal words of Strong Bad – “IT’S OVER!” Time for a brief look back at what made 2019 interesting.

Best meme: Jonathan Frakes asking questions:

Best word added to Oxford English Dictionary:
clabbydoo, n.: “A large dark mussel; esp. the northern horse mussel, Modiolus modiolus.”

Best newly discovered species: janolus flavoanulatus, a yellow ringed seaslug of the Philippines. 

Best source of ancient hunter-gatherer DNA: 5700 year old birch pitch “chewing gum” in Lolland, Denmark

Best case of poetic justice: Rhino poacher eaten by lions in Kruger National Park, South Africa

Best Movie Monster: The All-paca from Richard Stanley’s The Color Out of Space

Best Magic: The Gathering card: Bake Into A Pie (Throne of Eldraine set)

Best animated series I haven’t watched yet: Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal.

Best Star Trek release: Short Trek “The Trouble with Edward”

Best zombie film with a ‘oner’: One Cut of the Dead

Best new podcast: Toren’s Guide to Everything (plug! plug!)