Mythology with Erin

Adventures in storytelling

Tag: Week 9

Famous Last Words: Road Trip!

What a week! In last week’s Famous Last Words, I talked about how excited I am for fall, but this week we skipped over autumn and went straight to winter! It was FREEZING! 

It was so cold, in fact, that my roommates and I hosted a hot cocoa party on Monday evening. Our apartment is walking distance from Pride Field, so after a frosty band rehearsal, most of the drumline walked over. I had Crockpot hot chocolate all ready to go, and while everyone drank that, I made red beans and rice. That warmed everyone up! I love cooking for people, so it was a lot of fun. We watched a movie, and in the middle of the movie, a delivery guy from Insomnia Cookies showed up with two boxes of cookies for us. But no one had ordered any! We eventually found out that one of my roommates’ parents had heard about our little get together and ordered us cookies all the way from Dallas. It was so sweet of them!

The rest of the week was hot and cold. I loved my work in this class this week, especially my story. I’ve always admired science fiction and space fantasy, but I’ve never written any. I enjoyed dipping my toes into the genre!

I also felt really inspired by doing my revisions in my project this week. It’s really easy for me as a writer to feel like I’m bad at writing because I don’t get feedback very often. It’s not like I shove manuscripts at my friends and ask them for line edits. However, I was uplifted by the comments on my project this week because many of them were positive, and it showed me that I am actually good at this craft that I’ve chosen. 

In a similar vein, I’m incredibly excited because I’ve decided to do Nanowrimo this year! Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and (while I have many critiques of the event and understand it’s not perfect) it was my first ever experiment with novel writing. The goal of the event is to write 50,000 words of an original novel during the month of November. That’s about 1,667 words per day! When I was in 7th grade, I decided to participate, and I wrote over 50,000 words of my first novel. That manuscript was actual garbage, but I absolutely loved writing it. Since then, I haven’t seriously participated in the event, and I feel like I need a burst of energy in my writing that Nanowrimo can help me get. The only way to get better at writing is by doing it, and as a goal/progress-oriented person, there’s no better way to motivate me than giving me a goal and a deadline. I’ve already drawn a progress bar on my bathroom mirror for me to fill in as I go. I have no idea how this is going to go or how I’m going to find the time to write 1,667 words per day, but I’m ready to give it a shot come November 1.

We played TCU this weekend, which was crazy. The Pride left at 4:30 a.m. to go to Fort Worth and we were back at 7:30 p.m. Talk about a whirlwind road trip! The game was pretty average as far as games go. I was impressed with how our defense performed after the firing of Mike Stoops. It’s definitely not a 180-degree turnaround, but that’s too much to expect after just two weeks. I was just glad to see improvement and some convincing stops! The TCU band was super nice to us, which was refreshing because their fans were pretty rude here and there. The fans also arrived super late, like after kickoff. It was sad and surprising to see the TCU band performing pregame to almost empty stands when ours are packed and roaring when we take the field. The fans also left super early, even when their team was still in the game. The student section reduced by half early during the 4th quarter. 

**See explanation below**

The best part of yesterday’s game day, though, was watching the Ohio State vs Purdue game. My dad texted me “Are you watching the game?!” and I had no clue what he was talking about because we’d just gotten back from TCU and I was cooking dinner. When I found out that unranked Purdue was solidly beating #2 Ohio State, I rushed to my room, grabbed my laptop, and had the game playing on our living room TV within two minutes. All of my roommates came in, and we watched the last quarter. Go Boilermakers! I can’t believe they won! Now Ohio State is almost completely out of the playoff picture, which is just what we need to get back in. Now we need Notre Dame to lose, either Alabama or LSU to embarrass the other in their upcoming matchup, and to defeat Texas in the Big XII Championship. What a crazy and exciting football season!

Everything that I’ve just mentioned was cool and all, but the absolute BEST thing this week happened at our Friday evening band rehearsal, which no one wanted to be at. My roommates and I were walked to the Everest practice facility. We rounded a corner, chatting about something mindless or complaining about going to rehearsal. And then mid-sentence, our eyes locked on something. Someone. My brain could barely register it. I thought I was seeing a ghost. Or hallucinating. Or just really, really confused. Because standing there, in the flesh, was KEVIN.

You have to understand how unfathomable this was: Kevin was part of our very close drumline friend group last year. He played cymbals, he worked at Roscoe’s, and he was amazing. We loved Kevin SO MUCH. But we weren’t supposed to see Kevin until 2020 because during the summer, Kevin left to go to Argentina on his mission as a member of the LDS church. The only way we could communicate with him was by email, and he only had 30 minutes a week to read all of his emails, write personal replies, and write a weekly update for his friends and family. Every day during Pride someone would sigh and say “I miss Kevin.” We bittersweetly made old jokes about him missing the bus to Texas last year and fondly recalled all of the silly things he did. We’d basically given him up for dead, except for those emails. We weren’t supposed to see him until 2020.

BUT NOW HE’S BACK. We don’t know why–it definitely doesn’t matter–but we’re happy to have our Kevin back. My roommates screamed when they saw him. I suddenly got dizzy with adrenaline. We did the running-group-hug thing. Our percussion director wasn’t mad that we were all a little late to rehearsal because Kevin was back, and that was crazy. We had been so put-out with going to rehearsal, but after seeing Kevin, we couldn’t stop smiling. I now understand the feelings that happen when a service member comes home and surprises his or her family.

I’m looking forward to some better fall temperatures this week and a fairly relaxing week as far as assignments go. I have one big assignment due tomorrow, but that’s it for the week! Boomer Sooner!

Image 1: American highway. Source – Max Pixel.

**Image 2 Explanation: This is a TCU stadium souvenir cup. One of the weird Pride traditions that no one really knows about is that a lot of Pride members collect souvenir cups from the stadiums we visit. I love collecting things, so I get super excited about getting a new cup. This is my first from TCU! I also have cups from Oklahoma State, Kansas, and Iowa State as well as our own stadium, the Rose Bowl (my favorite!) the OKC Thunder, and the 2017 Big XII championship. That last one is funny because it’s actually a Dallas Cowboys stadium cup, not the ACTUAL Big XII Championship cup. I forgot to bring cash to the game that day, so I ended up scavenging the stands for abandoned cups and could only find a Cowboys one. To make up for it, I wrote “2017 Big XII Championship: OU vs TCU” on the bottom of the cup, along with the score of the game. My biggest regret is that I didn’t know about the collecting tradition when we were at Ohio State last year, so I didn’t get one of those cups. One day I’m hoping to find one on eBay or at a garage sale, lol. As for Big XII teams, I still need to collect Kansas State, Baylor, West Virginia, and Texas Tech! Image Source: My personal photos

Week 9 Story: Space Escape

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It’s usually a dull job writing the transcripts to security tapes, but the events in this series are the highlight of my career. These tapes just came in to the USS Argofrom a captured ship of the Varknoss race.

This camera shows a long hallway deep in the belly of the ship, which doesn’t look as alien as movies would have you think. It’s pretty normal, except it’s lined with doors, each with a label and a barred glass window. This is the brig. All the lights are on, and some of the prisoners pace their cells or sleep. It makes the hair on my arms stand up to see: most of them are humans.

At the end of the hallway, two figures appear. The first is our young hero: Lieutenant Chris Rowland of the USSS Endurance, a small vessels pilot. He looks pretty beat up, though the picture is blurry from this distance. The second figure is one of the Varknoss, a tall alien creature with a long, reptilian snout, clawed hands, and such a high body temperature that they can breathe fire. The Varknoss have a tentative peace treaty with us Earthlings, but the brig of this ship proves that the race still harbors cruel intentions toward humans.

The Varknoss goon throws Rowland in one of the cells, his nostrils hissing steam to scare the other occupants of the room from the door. Then the alien leaves, and the hallway returns to its previous silence.

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This camera gives us a better shot of what’s going on in Rowland’s room. Despite his bloodied lip, the captured pilot doesn’t seem fazed as he addresses his five cellmates.

“I didn’t spend six years in officer’s school to get eaten by a dragon-man on my first transport job,” he says, pulling a small rectangle out of the interior pocket of his jacket. Is that a…cassette player?! This space-jock has watched to much Guardians of the Galaxy.

Several of the cellmates—and most of the humans in the brig—are also soldiers, and they’re sick of watching their numbers dwindle day by day as their companions are taken to satisfy vicious Varknoss appetites. If Rowland is clever enough to get them out alive, they’re in.

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This is the part of the video where we come in. Three days have passed since Rowland was taken prisoner. His commanders don’t even know he’s missing yet. But it turns out that Rowland’s little cassette player also picks up radio waves, and he knows exactly what we’re about the see on this camera, which is affixed to the exterior of the Varknoss ship, keeping watch over an airlock. Technology, huh? 

Everything seems really slow in space, so if you really closely, you’ll see a giant silver and white bullet floating across the corner of the feed. Yep, that’s the USSS Argo, completely unaware that they’re skimming the skies several hundred miles above a Varknoss ship containing dozens of illegal human prisoners. 

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We’re back in the cell with Chris Rowland, and he’s in action. In one minute, the Varknoss guard is going to deliver food, and the prisoners are ready to escape. Rowland is wearing the standard-issue military jackets of the three soldiers in the cell with him, plus his own. Why? It’s unclear, but he looks like a navy marshmallow man.

The Varknoss opens the door, and the prisoners press themselves to the far wall, but then Rowland jumps forward!

Smoke fills the air as the Varknoss lashes out with fire, but the flames have no effect of Rowland as he wrestles the reptilian alien to the ground. The layers of flame-retardant military jackets protect him. 

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While Rowland occupies the roaring guard, the rest of the prisoners stream into the hallway. Once all 46 humans are free, they dash out of the brig. Rowland disengages from his foe and sprints after them, followed closely by the alien.

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Clever Rowland chose to escape during Varknoss dinner time, so the ship’s hallways are empty as the long line of humans hurtles toward the nearest escape hatch. Rowland is still at the end of the line, and the Varknoss guard is so, so close. Close enough to grab him.

The pilot suddenly thrusts his arm into the air and uses his thumb to click a button on the cassette player he holds aloft. Funky music starts playing, with a catchy bass riff and tasty guitar licks. This man knows his enemy. The Varknoss soldier suddenly stops to dance to the groove. That’s their biggest weakness: they love music, and it holds an almost magical power over them. The Varknoss keeps dancing until Rowland and his speaker are too far away to hear. Then, the spell is broken, and the ugly creature races after his quarry.

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When the Varknoss gets close to the prisoners again, Rowland blasts the next song. Once again, the alien has to stop to dance. The lieutenant repeats this process until his group finally reaches the escape pods.

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Varknoss escape pods are strange. They can connect together in a long chain to help an escaping population stay together, which will make Rowland’s task much easier, as only three people can fit in each pod. When it’s Rowland’s turn to board the sixteenth pod, he tosses the cassette player at the Varknoss’s feet, leaving it trapped in a dancing frenzy.

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A long, straight chain of escape pods slowly crosses the distance between the Varknoss ship and the Argo. By this time, the Argo has noticed the enemy ship and hailed the pods. The Varknoss ship doesn’t stand a chance as the warship turns to rescue Rowland and his friends.

Author’s Note:

This story is based on “Why the Moon and the Stars Receive Their Light from the Sun” from West African folklore. In the original tale, Anansi and his son, Kweku Tsin, get captured by a dragon along with many other people, and Kweku helps them escape by throwing a ladder up to the gods and playing a fiddle to district the dragon and make him dance. In the end, the gods turn Kweku into the Sun because of his good deed. I changed the setting of my story because I’ve been wanting to write a story set in outer space, and this seemed like a good one to do it for. The Varknoss are a dragon-like alien race, meant to equate to the dragon in the original tale. Chris Rowland represents Kweku, and like the African hero, he is clever and quick-thinking. I still wanted to have the aspect of music to distract the dragon, so I threw in some Guardians of the Galaxy.

I wrote my story from the point of view of a person transcribing the events as seen through security cameras. This technique is inspired by one of my favorite book series, The Illuminae Files, which are written as a collection a files, many of them being security footage transcriptions. I thought it would be a creative and high-tech way of telling the story. I hope you enjoyed!

Bibliography:

West African Folktales by William H. Barker and Cecilia Sinclair with drawings by Cecilia Sinclair (1917). Web source.

Image 1: Milky Way galaxy. Source – Pxhere.

Image 2: Cassette tape. Source – Flickr.

Image 3: Artistic rendition of Earth in space. Source – Pixabay.

Week 9 Reading Notes: West Africa, Part A

How We Got the Name “Spider Tales”:

It’s interesting that Anansi (Spider) isn’t really personified as an atual, eight-legged spider. It’s almost as if he has a human form but represents spiders. How else could he take “an earthen vessel” with him on a trip? 

The clever way that Anansi traps the bees reminds me of the story about the Tiger, the Jackal, and the Brahman that we read in the first unit. I like that it plays off the pride of the targets; it’s always clever to use your enemy’s weaknesses against them rather than using brute force.

I really like how this set of stories begins with the “main character” forcing himself into being the main character. It’s actually very comedic to imagine!

How Wisdom Became the Property of the Human Race:

This sounds like it will be a Pandora’s Box kind of story.

I wonder if Anansi’s character traits will change in every story as it seems they have changed here. In the first story, Anansi was clever, cunning, and perhaps a little vain. In this story, he’s less of a mischievous trickster and more of a wise old man.

Thunder and Anansi:

I wonder what kinds of foods Anansi got from the pot. I’m not very familiar with African foods, but food seems to be a central part of the culture, as it has appeared in nearly all of the stories.

In this story, Anansi is very selfish and doesn’t seem to care much for his family. I wonder why his family isn’t described much at all. His wife is not given a name, and we don’t know anything about his children. 

Kweku Tsin has appeared in two stories now as Anansi’s son, so there is some consistency to the stories. Kweku is as clever as his father but seems to be wiser about using that cunning.

“Anansi returned, ready for his supper, and, as usual, went into his room, carefully shutting the door. He went to the hiding-place—it was empty.” The narrative pace slows down here as Anansi looks for the pot. This helps to build the tension in the story.

Why the Lizard Moves His Head Up and Down:

I’ve always liked the trope of names being an important part of a person’s identity, so I like seeing that in the naming challenge in this story. 

Tit for Tat:

Kweku has caught onto his father’s antics, and it’s kind of amusing to imagine such a father/son relationship.

These stories always describe in great detail the traps and methods that Anasi uses: he coats fruit in honey to surprise the princesses, he fills Kweku’s bag with ashes. He’s also very good at persuading people to listen to him, such as in the first story, he persuaded the snake to get near the stick and the tiger to want his eyes sewn up. He also convinced Nothing to trade clothes with him. I like the details, as it makes the stories more realistic and easy to imagine.

Bibliography:

West African Folktales by William H. Barker and Cecilia Sinclair with drawings by Cecilia Sinclair (1917). Web source.

Image 1: Landscape from Guinea in West Africa. Source – Pxhere

Image 2: A common spider from Gambia. (Also, Googling “African spider” was a big mistake. *shiver*) Source – Wikipedia.

Image 3: A big lizard. Source – Pxhere

Image 4: A map of West Africa. Source – Wikipedia.

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