My Halloween Serenity O’ Lantern [UPDATE]

I have learned today that having the audacity to wear a Firefly costume to work at Zoic Studios for Halloween will get you little but eye-rolls. (It’s the same costume I wore in 2006.)

But my first attempt at a Serenity O’ Lantern has received rave reviews.


My Serenity O’ Lantern in the “living room” at Zoic, with a slightly more accurate model in the background.


And a shot with the lights on.


And.. the original.

UPDATE


Me as Jayne Cobb, with the Serenity O’ Lantern .


And me as Jayne Cobb, posing in an actual door from the set of the film Serenity.

Ten Tales of Videogame Terror – Part 2

Originally posted on GGL Wire on 10/25/07.

And now… the final five tales of videogame TERROR:

Saw V

Nooooooo! Not House of the Dead!When Brittany awoke, every part of her lithe, tanned body ached. She tried to move her hands and feet, but they were immobile. Terrified, she opened her eyes.

She had never been inside the shack, but she recognized it from hiking through the Schwarzwald. It sat alone in a dark dell full of stunted, black-skinned elms. She had assumed it belonged to some local poacher, but now she realized the terrifying truth.

Brittany was bound hand and foot, strapped to an ancient dentist’s chair. Various implements of torture were hanging from the walls – specula, knives, drills and other shiny stainless-steel horrors of unimaginable purpose.

She vowed not to scream.

The door swung open, and a man entered – short, stocky and balding, his face hidden behind a mask which amplified the raspy wheeze of his breathing. He closed the door.

“Let me out of here!” Brittany yelled.

The man laughed, low and quiet. He walked over to a television set with built in DVD-player that sat against the wall in front of Brittany.

Slowly, with relish, the man slipped a scratched and mottled DVD into the player.

“What are you doing?” Brittany demanded.

The man spoke with a thick German accent. “Soon you vill know a horror unlike any other,” he hissed.

The screen came to life. It was a movie. Brittany didn’t recognize it at first. Was that the chick from Terminator 3? And the guy who played Ghandi?

The realization crashed down on her. Someone was screaming, screaming at the top of her lungs; and it was a moment before Brittany realized it was her.

The movie was BloodRayne. The man was Uwe Boll!

“Oh god please don’t do this to me! Why? Why?” she screamed.

Brittany had the will to survive. She made it through BloodRayne and Alone in the Dark. But by the end of Postal, her lifeless body had slumped in the chair, her face contorted into a permanent rictus of terror.

Boll dumped her body in the peat bog, and went back to lurking along the hiking trails, watching for hapless young people to kidnap and torture. So the madness continued.

The Pits of DespairThe Pits of Despair

Bobby always wanted to be a game tester, and now he had his chance.

The campus of Electronic Arts was a beautiful cluster of buildings in Playa Vista, a stone’s throw from the Pacific. Bobby’s heart tintinabulated with excitement as he parked and was checked in by security.

“So you want to work in QA?” the woman asked. She seemed pleasant enough, just another ordinary HR drone.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Then sign here and we’ll get you started.” The woman pushed a complicated-looking form across her desk.

Bobby reached for a pen, but the woman handed him a strange silver implement with a sharp tip. “Use this?”

“What do I use for ink?”

The woman took the implement and jabbed Bobby in the finger.

“Sign in blood,” she demanded.

Well, that’s weird, Bobby thought, as he bled onto the silver pen and scrawled his name across the bottom of the page with his own sanguineous humours.

The woman snatched the paper away, and locked it in a steel man-sized safe that lurked in the corner of the office. “Come with me, she said.”

Bobby followed her through the offices and down a long hallway lined with paintings of Mediterranean scenes. At the end of the corridor was an ancient freight elevator, the kind with the iron gate. That’s funny, Bobby thought, this building looks only a few years old.

They stepped into the lift, and the woman pulled the gate closed and flipped a giant electrical toggle switch.

The elevator car plummeted at an alarming rate. The sides of the car were open, and Bobby first saw several floors of the EA offices, then a long stretch of dank bedrock. The further down they went, the hotter and wetter the air became.

Suddenly they came out in a massive chamber, an ancient rent in the uttermost depths of the world. Strange gasses spewed from lava-filled rivulets. The whole cavern was lit from above by massive fluorescents that buzzed audibly. The pale white light gave Bobby an instant headache.

“Where are we?” he asked tremulously.

“QA,” the HR woman replied.

The lift hit the floor of the chamber, and two burly shirtless men in turbans grabbed Bobby forcefully and dragged him toward a cubicle. They wore cruel-looking whips on their belts.

“What’s going on?” Bobby screamed.

“You will work 20-hour days,” the HR woman intoned, like an ancient Druidic priest offering a human sacrifice to satiate a bloodthirsty deity. “Eight a.m. to 4 a.m. No bathroom breaks, no weekends, no vacations.”

Bobby wriggled, panicking, as the guards wrapped a red-hot manacle around his ankle. The cooling metal melted his flesh, and he wailed in agony.

“We’re two months behind schedule on Mail Order Monsters 2,” the woman continued, “so we’re withholding gruel and water until you catch up.”

“Let me go! I don’t want this!” Bobby cried as he was forced into his work chair.

“You signed a contract,” the woman replied coldly. Then she leaned in, and spoke with more feeling. “Besides, if you ever want to be a game designer, you have to work up through QA. Don’t you want to be a game designer?”

“Yes.” Resignedly, he put his hands on the keyboard and mouse. He cried out as a guard lashed his back.

“Get to work, slave!” the guard bellowed.

Bobby never saw his friends or family again. And it was years later, his crippled frame wracked with years of labor, he realized the truth – they would never promote him out of QA!

Hello? Anybody home?The Last Man

Robert Frisco boarded his flight in Philadelphia, eager to begin four days of fun, sun and gaming in beautiful Southern California.

He would return to his small Pennsylvania hometown impoverished – between the cost of the flight, the hotel, and the convention passes, Frisco had very little money left. But this was E for All, the biggest event of the gaming year.

Frisco was never able to attend E3, but this trip would make up for all those disappointing years reading about all the E3 action on the Internet.

The first sign that all was not as it should be came when the plane descended over Los Angeles.

The city was burning. Massive fires poured plumes of reddish ash into a sky already choked with car exhaust fumes. What had happened while Robert was in the air? Why hadn’t the pilot made an announcement?

But it’s when Frisco approached the actual convention center that his panic began.

The place was EMPTY.

E3 got 30,000 visitors a year! Where were the people? Was it a terrorist attack? Famine? Plague?

Frisco stumbled across the convention floor, looking for any sign of life. No Xbox, no Sony. Nothing at the Nintendo booth of interest but Super Smash Bros. Just a pitiful few survivors playing RockBand, undoubtedly to drive from their minds the horror of whatever cataclysm befell this place.

Something shambled at Frisco from around a darkened corner. He gasped – it was a booth babe, or what was once a booth babe, shuffling forward in her high-heeled shoes, wearing little but a tight t-shirt and skin-tight short shorts. She languidly offered Frisco a flyer for some no-name videogame resale site.

“H-haaave a flyyyy-er,” she groaned.

Frisco ran, as hard and as far as he could. He burst through a black curtain and into a vast unused space – the remainder of the convention floor that the E for All organizers couldn’t sell.

“Why?” Frisco called out to whatever foul gods still hearkened to the prayers of men. “Why????”

Alone in a vast and empty space of total desolation, Frisco fell to his knees. The despair was too much for his fragile mind, and he slumped to the floor, dead.

The Red Ring of DEATH!The Red Ring of Death

Angrily, Susan finished packing her brand new Xbox 360 back in the box. After only two days of playing Geometry Wars, her console overheated; and the button on the front lit up with the dreaded Red Ring of Death. Now her console was completely bricked, and she would have to wait weeks for Microsoft to repair the damn thing.

She left the box on the porch for the FedEx man, and went back into her apartment to watch TV. But when she pressed the “On” button on her remote, she was greeted by a terrible surprise.

At first, the TV wouldn’t some on at all. Then the screen warmed up, and an image appeared. It took Susan a moment to realize the image was not from some television program.

It was a giant Red Ring of Death.

But how is this possible? Susan asked herself. My TV shouldn’t have a red ring!

She went to the phone to call her brother, the tech expert. But when she picked up the receiver — there it was again, the red ring! The phone was otherwise dead, no signal.

Suddenly, the lights went out. Looking up at the ceiling lamp, she saw the red ring, glowing brightly in the near-dark.

Susan ran for the front door – but the red ring shone out from the doorknob. She tried to open the door, but it would not budge. The door had been bricked!

Losing her mind with terror, Susan ran into the bathroom, where natural light from outside made it possible to see. She struggled to catch her breath – there was a red ring on the bathroom scale, one on the shower faucet, even one on the bath mat. How do you brick a bath mat?

Susan turned to look at herself in the mirror, and the monstrousness of what she saw there drove her mind over the edge of insanity. There in the mirror staring back at her was herself – with two giant red rings around her eyes.

She dropped to the floor, dead. She had been bricked.

The Coral Gables SlasherThe Coral Gables Slasher

Dawn broke through the tiny cellar window, and Brendan decided to try opening the cellar door. Still clutching the tire iron he found, he moved the barricade of boxes and old furniture away from the door.

It had been hours since he last heard the Slasher, pacing in the kitchen above, muttering to himself and occasionally singing bits of hymns. Brendan hoped and prayed the lunatic had become tired of waiting, and left.

Brandishing his weapon in one hand, and fiercely clutching his copy of Manhunt 2 in the other, Brandon nudged open the cellar door. Morning light illuminated the dust motes in the stairwell leading up to the kitchen. He heard nothing.

All his friends were dead. Nikki and Elijah, strangled and burned while playing Grand Theft Auto; Clancy was found hanged, with his smashed copy of Quake 4 lying at his feet; Tim and Monica were stabbed and shot with arrows, their eyes sliced out using a broken CD of Bully.

Brandon slowly climbed the stairs, straining his ears for the slightest sound, the tiniest evidence he was not alone. Forcing himself to continue despite his terror, Brandon reached the top of the stairs to face the horror of the kitchen.

There was blood everywhere, especially on the center island, where it looked like a boar had been slaughtered. But Brandon knew it was Corinne’s blood – Corinne, the beautiful French exchange student, whose only crime was bringing the unrated French version of Indigo Prophecy into the U.S.

“Japanese videogames are the next Pearl Harbor!”

Brandon spun around to find the voice. There he stood, the Coral Gables Slasher, his absurd white hair stained with blood, his cheap suit ripped apart by the clawing human hands of his victims. His eyes burned with insanity, or at least with a serious personality disorder. He held a machete in his had.

Holding aloft his tire iron, Brandon tried to back away – but the Slasher stood in the only exit door (there was no way out through the cellar, or Brandon would have escaped hours ago).

The Sims 2 contains nipples, penises, labia, and pubic hair!” the Slasher hissed.

“What?” Brandon could not understand the old man’s ramblings. He looked about the kitchen frantically, hoping to find a better weapon.

“God is in this battle, and I am privileged to be a foot soldier!” The Slasher leapt forward, chasing Brandon around the bloody central island of the kitchen.

Brandon tried to make for the door, but The Slasher was too fast. He caught Brandon across the face with the machete, and a crimson spray shot across the wall. Brandon slipped and fell, and then the Slasher was in top of him.

“I love the smell of burning gamers in the morning!” The Slasher cried as he raised his machete for the kill.

Suddenly the front door burst open, and in seconds the kitchen was filled with armed police officers.

“Alright, what’s going on here?” one cop demanded.

“Thank God,” Brandon cried out. “This lunatic killed all my friends! Get him off me.”

To Brandon’s horror, the cop laughed. “I guess you don’t get it. We’re with him.”

The cop turned to the Slasher. “Will you finish this one up, Mr. Thompson, or shall we?”

In answer, the Slasher plunged his machete through Brandon’s neck. The last thing the young man saw before death was the Slasher smashing his copy of Manhunt 2 while the cops laughed and laughed.

Note: all Coral Gable Slasher quotes used in this story are real.


Read Part One
.

Ten Tales of Videogame Terror – Part 1

Ten Tales of Videogame TERROR!

Originally posted 10/23/07 on GGL Wire.

Greetings, friend. That most terrifying of holidays, ancient Samhain, which the ignorant call “Halloween,” is almost upon us. Across the globe, the walls between the lands of the living and the dead will fall, and the souls of the slain return to wreak their terrible vengeance on the living.

And people will dress up like Spiderman or a Naughty Nurse, bob for apples and tell ghost stories over an open fire.

Few know there are tales of horror unique to the world of videogaming. Here are ten blood-curdling tales of gaming horror and the macabre. Read on — only if you dare!

The Mobile Phone Game From Hell!The Curse of the Mobile Game

The kiosk stood alone and forlorn in the food court of the old abandoned mall. As the young boy approached, a crone appeared, her cackling laugh splitting the boy’s ears like a knife through rotted cauliflower. She bore a small silvery object in her hand, and held it aloft to glint in the sickly red moonlight.

“It’s a cell phone, boy,” she lisped through splinter stumps of ancient teeth. “And it plays games.”

The boy pulled out his cash, his fingers sticky with the sweat of terror. It was his mother’s dialysis money, but who cared? This cell phone played games!

The crone snatched the cash from his hand and bit down on it, chewing greedily on the brittle tens and twenties. Slowly, almost regretfully, she released the glinting cell phone into the boy’s shivering fingers.

He ran, as far and as fast as he could, and hid in the cellar of the old wheelhouse. Clutching his new prize in the dark, the boy held down the red key – it was sticky with some nameless ichor – until the screen spasmed to life with a sickly pale glow.

He scrolled through the games – Pac-Man, Galaga, Metal Gear Solid Mobile, Destroy All Humans. Crouched in the damp, fetid darkness, he began to play.

Soon, the horror of realization sent chills down the boy’s spine. These games were slow, awkward and ill-conceived! They bore too little relationship to the original game! The controls were clumsy with lousy responsiveness! The graphics were terrible! And the games tore through the phone’s battery life!

A low steady moan from the back of the boy’s throat rose sharply into a scream of eternal terror that rang out across the moors to awaken eldritch creatures better left slumbering. And over it all, the cackle of the evil crone drive mad those men unfortunate enough to hear it.

The Dreamcast of Unknown KadathThe Dreamcast of Unknown Kadath

“He’s quite mad, you say,” quipped Dr. Bent as he followed Dr. Whithers down the grimy hospital corridor.

“Quite,” the elder physician replied. He held an ancient linen scarf to his nose, as scant protection from the twin odors of antiseptic and human effluent that permeated the halls of St. Lucius’ Rest Home for the Mentally Deranged.

Ahead in the dim light of a single electric lamp stood the last door on the ward; Room 101. The steel-reinforced isolation room was reserved for only the most dangerous patients, and this one was the worst yet.

Dr. Whithers peered over his spectacles at the medical chart in his hand. “Charles Mooncalf, age 22. Murdered 16 persons in a rampage at his local Babbages. No known motive.”

The two medical men stopped outside the oak-and-iron door, which was featureless but for a small sliding window and a latch barred by an enormous padlock. Confidently, he pulled the window open and peered inside.

A whispered cant emerged from the darkened hole, a low guttural voice repeating over and over, “Tap on the glass. Make the Seaman dance. Tap on the glass. Make the Seaman dance…”

“What does it mean?” Dr. Bent inquired. He rose up on his toes to view the patient through the tiny aperture.

“No one knows,” Dr. Whithers replied with a sad shake of his head.

Mooncalf sat in the center of his cell, cross-legged, clutching a plastic box in his skeletal hands, scratching at it with his four-inch-long nails. Perhaps the box was once white, but now it bore the patina of years of filth and neglect.

“He beat an elderly woman to death with something called a ‘Samba de Amigo controller,’” Dr. Whithers said.

Whither’s voice roused the lunatic from his babbling. “They cancelled it,” the patient hissed. “No more support, no more new games! They cancelled my dreams!” His voice rose to a high-pitched wail.

Sadly, the doctors pulled closed the window, and continued on their rounds. There was nothing that could be done for a man whose Cast of Dreams had become a Cast of Nightmares.

Holiday of HorrorsHoliday of Horrors

Stanley was nine years old in 1982, the year his father disappeared forever.

It was the most anticipated Christmas in young Stanley’s life. That Summer, Stanley and his father had gone to see the greatest movie ever made, Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. The film’s message of love and acceptance built a special bond of friendship and affection between Stanley and his father.

And now, for Christmas, there would be something even better – the Atari 2600 game based upon the movie!

For a month, Stanley had lain awake nights, wishing the holiday could come sooner. But now it was here – Christmas Eve, when young Stanley could choose one present to open in anticipation of the next day. And Stanley knew exactly which one to choose – the small flat package wrapped in cheery Santa paper, the exact size and shape of a 2600 game box.

Neither Stanley nor his father could ever have known the terrible truth – that the Chinese factory where the game cartridge was manufactured lay upon an ancient American Indian burial ground, where laid the desiccated bones of slaughtered Navaho tribesman who became very lost on their way to a powwow and were massacred by Chinese Imperial soldiers. Their angry spirits cried out for revenge.

At his parents’ bidding, Stanley tore open the wrapped gift – it was indeed what his heart wished for, an E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial Atari 2600 cartridge! Cradling the treasure in his young hands, he excitedly pulled the cartridge from the box and, yanking out the copy of Breakout currently in the slot, pushed the game into the 2600’s cartridge slot.

The game came to life on the screen of the Sylvania color TV. An electronic version of John William’s beloved E.T. Theme came wafting from the speakers. Stanley was beside himself.

As Stanley began to play, a look of horror slowly crossed his father’s face. Stanley was too excited to notice it, but across the living room, objects began to move of their own accord, being slowly pulled toward the television screen.

“What is going on?” Stanley’s mother asked. Then one of Stanley’s other presents, a baking kit for making plastic bugs out of hot molten goo, flew across the room and into the television screen, as if it were a portal to the deepest levels of hell rather than a piece of convex glass.

The mother screamed as more objects were pulled into the TV screen. Stanley’s father yelled at him to stop, but the boy was trapped – certain he could complete the first level, unaware that this was impossible.

“Stop, Stanley! Shut it off!” the father screamed as gifts, furniture and decorations whirled around the room in an orgy of violence before disappearing into the demonic video game.

“Just a minute, dad – I have to levitate out of the pit!”

“What is going ooooooonnnnnn??? The mother screamed, clutching the chaise lounge for dear life.

“Don’t you understand,” the father cried above the din, “the game SUCKS!”

Suddenly, the family Christmas tree came loose from its base and flew towards the TV. The father leapt to grab it, and Stanley looked up in time to see his father, tree and all, sucked forever into the TV screen.

Stanley shut off the Atari 2600, and never turned it on again. But it was too late. His father was gone forever, drawn by a terrible curse into a world where delightful children’s movies became suckfests of dull incompetence.

Men from the government would come, close down the house, and take the TV away for study. The company that made the game would shut down, but Stanley’s father would never return.

The Death By A Thousand CutsThe Death By A Thousand Cuts

Claymore stood at the edge of the lake, poring over the ancient map. It was night, and he could only read the fading characters by the waning light of a gibbous moon.

It’s here, he thought. The holy grail of gaming. The free MMO. And all I have to do, he thought, is cross this lake.

Claymore stuck his toes into the black, brackish water, and his feet at once were freezing, despite his heavy leather boots. The water was colder than sin, cold like the murkiest depths of the bottomless ocean trenches, where eyeless beasts swam in a darkness too complete for even the eyes of God to penetrate.

I must cross, he said to himself, and with a deep breath, plunged himself into the chill lake.

The cold took his breath away, but he began to swim, remembering always his goal, the long-fabled free MMO. But halfway across the lake, he felt a nip, like a tiny bite, upon his knee.

Stopping for a moment and treading water, Claymore felt for the tiny wound, little more than a bug bite. Looking down into the dark liquid, he realized he could see the culprit – just below the surface, a tiny bug-eyed fish, like a piranha but much smaller, luminescing from within with a pale green light.

It’s almost cute, Claymore thought. But there’s no time. And this fish can hardly harm me.

But then Claymore felt another tiny bite, and another. Suddenly, the little fish were everywhere, hundreds of them, thousands, nibbling at his clothes and skin. He flailed his arms and kicked his legs, but the tiny predators ignored his efforts to dispel them.

Panicking, Claymore tried to swim away, but the damn creatures were everywhere. Now they were on his face, and in his mouth. He screamed, and cold water choked his lungs.

The pain of the tiny bites became torment as whole swaths of skin and muscle were relentlessly stripped away. Within a minute, only Claymore’s bones remained, his body eaten alive from inside and out – with only his bugged eyes, strangely unmolested, left to stare lifeless at the water-logged map that floated upon the stagnant water.

There, in an evil hieroglyphics that predated the first writings of Men, it warned in an eldritch tongue forgotten in these days, “BEWARE OF MICROTRANSACTIONS.”

Dialup of the DeadDialup of the Dead

Inspectors Wong and Chen found the body, sitting upright, in a chair at the Internet Café, just as the owner had reported it.

“He came in three days ago, and never left,” the woman said. “Never left the computer, never even to go to the bathroom. He just sat. And played.”

“Which game was he playing?” Inspector Chen asked, as he searched the man’s papers.

“I don’t know,” the woman replied. “One of those MMOs. The one with the little anime wuxia characters.”

Oh, Wong thought to himself sarcastically, that one.

This was the third addicted MMO gamer to drop dead in an Internet Café in the last month. Wong’s superiors at the Ministry were concerned, and ready to enact sweeping new rules that would effectively cripple one of China’s fastest-growing economic sectors. If Wong could prove the gamer were not to blame, it could give his career quite a boost.

The coroner’s office was located in what had been, before the Cultural Revolution, a mausoleum. Ancient Buddhist deities still looked down from the ceiling as Inspectors Wong and Chen arrived to inspect the body of the dead gamer.

“Obesity, and an unhealthy fascination with these Western Capitalist computer games,” Chen declared the cause of death without any concern for the facts. “A healthy diet and a firm familiarity with the Little Red Book, and this man would still be alive.”

The coroner was a wizened old doctor, not out of place amongst the crumbling idols. He poked and prodded the corpse with a variety of instruments.

“I don’t understand why you waited,” the doctor snapped.

“Waited for what?” Wong asked?

“Waited to bring this one in. If you want the cause of death, I need to see them right away.”

For some reason, a chill passed down Wong’s spine.

“He died today. We brought him right to you.”

The doctor shook his head. “Nonsense… this man has been dead three days!”

But — the Internet café proprietor saw him playing – the online records confirm it – the terrible implications swam in Wong’s head. Staring in to the man’s lifeless eyes, Wong felt his sanity slipping away. These games were turning players – into the LIVING DEAD!
Read Part 2!

My Gorram Halloween

Sorry it’s been so long since I blogged composed an entry in my web log. I’ve been busy doing important things.

On Halloween night, I went out with a bunch of people to West Hollywood. Over 500,000 people packed Santa Monica Blvd. between Doheny and La Cienega. It was the place to be if you wanted to see Kevin Federline booed off stage, or 80’s teen sensation Tiffany crowned honorary mayor.

I went as Jayne Cobb, the gunslinger/mercenary/crewmember-of-questionable-loyalty from Firefly and Serenity. Which meant, of course, dozens of people asking me why I had a funny knit hat on my head. I bought the “cunnin’ hat” on eBay, and the “Fighting Elves” t-shirt from the now-defuct Blue Sun Shirts site. The drop holster and camo pants are from a local army surplus shop.

As we were walking down Santa Monica Boulevard, a strange gay man ran up and gave me a huge bear hug. Turns out he recognized my costume, and had in fact dressed up as Jayne the previous year. Finally, a fellow flan! He asked if I was going to go to Flanvention. Although paying $500 to meet Jewel Staite would be worth every penny, I don’t have that much money lying around.

Later, at least 8 more people recognized my costume, which was very cool. I didn’t see any other Firefly characters, though. Oh well. Next year, I think I’ll go as Shaun of the Dead.