Here’s another little one-shot that I got inspired to write after listening to an episode of Gunsmoke. A Western combined with a science fiction robot war? I can’t wait!
After Zero’s propensity for violence gets him demoted, he’s paired for the first time with the rookie Mega Man X. They thought their mission to deliver a data package to a technology company would be routine. But when they arrive, the office is empty. Or is it?
Sorry, it’s not erotica this time. Just a one-shot adventure I got inspired to write after seeing “The Witcher” on Netflix. I wrote it just for fun, and I hope you have fun too.
As Hyrule recovers from the Great Calamity, Link is given an old mystery. A hundred years ago, a giant golden colossus appeared over a distant village. What is it? What does it want? Is it a blessing or a curse? Is it even still there? Link is tasked to find out, but will the village even let him?
So today is the premiere of what I was working on writing-wise for the past year/year-and-a-half.
by Eric J. Juneau
A Frozen/Tangled/The Little Mermaid crossover
Three princesses. Three curses. One adventure.
Rapunzel’s magic hair spontaneously grows back, Ariel regains her mermaid tail, and winter returns to Arendelle. One year after their most meaningful trials and triumphs, something has taken away what they worked so hard to gain. As they leave the safety of their own kingdoms, fate is about to drive these strangers together across oceans, over mountains, into the depths of the sea, and even through the river of time itself. But will their differences stop them before the curse can?
The plot proper came to me when I was watching Frozen for the fifth time with my daughter. All of the sudden, the ideas came fast and furious. The problem? It’s fan fiction, and I need to be writing something publishable. But in the end, I thought “writing should be fun. It would be fun to write this. If it’s not fun, what’s the point?”
I intended to let it just be something I tinkered with between downtimes at work (like Gatecrash) but suddenly I was dedicating my lunch hour to it. Why? I guess after finishing “Defender” and trying so hard to make it publish-worthy, I needed something where I didn’t have to care what the world thought of it. I could just write like I wanted and not have to worry about rejection-resistance. Plus I wasn’t jonesing about any of my other novel ideas at the time.
The first draft was 200,000 words, so in the interest of time, I only did two drafts. I usually do four, with critiques in the middle (even when it’s fan fiction). As a result, it’s not as polished as it would usually be (see above comment about keeping it fun). I can’t name any off the top of my head, but I’m sure there are plot holes and continuity errors left in there. And that ending I was struggling with to the very end. It’s not 100% cohesive or ironclad, but it’s a serial. It’s more about the journey than the destination, n’est pas? (I don’t know what that phrase means, but it sounded right.)
So now what? Onto regular stuff. Publishable stuff, I mean. (At least writing with the intent to be published). It was nice not to have to think about “the Industry” for a while. And like I said, I’ve been in a slump lately. But I’m hoping that slump was burnout from this beast. Now that it’s in the world, let’s see what happens.
This has not been a great year for writing. I finished Defender and started sending out the queries. Only two agents bit. The rest never responded or sent rejections. This is my third novel I’ve written with intent for publication and again, no one was interested. I know most novelists don’t get their first novel published. A lot don’t get their second. But three novels with ~93 rejections a piece? I am doing something seriously wrong.
Art is one of those things where no one can tell you what you’re doing wrong. When you put together a bunch of ingredients that don’t work together, no one can tell you how to fix it, just that it doesn’t taste good. I am very frustrated. Like toeing the line of whether to give up or not. I feel like an alcoholic wondering if it’s worth it to stay sober.
Not a single acceptance for any of my short stories this year either. I only completed one new one this year, but still, my backlog should still garner attention. But again, no, it’s not to be. I’m paying $50 for my subscription to my online submission tracker, and didn’t make a dime. When no one says “yes” to you all year, it can be very disheartening. Like, what am I doing this for if no one wants to read it? I should be improving with experience, not getting worse. At one point, I had a 17% acceptance rate. Now? It’s 0%.
I spent most of my year writing Disney Princess fan fiction. After concentrating so hard on writing to be published, I needed something that wasn’t so pressurizing. For Defender, I spent a lot of time agonizing over what scenes to cut, which characters to axe, whether the plot followed, whether people liked the characters. Lots of critique analysis and contemplating what the right move is. Now I don’t worry about that. But the story got out of hand and ended up being 195,000 words. Which I expected — it’s a fan fiction serial like Gatecrash — but I didn’t need this much time taken up with it.
Yet, I must finish it. Writers finish things. And I wouldn’t want to have a whole year of my life wasted on something no one would see. Not even for free online. The problem is I had promised myself to write more publishable stuff, and I didn’t. I’d rather finish it than write a next novel, because I know I’ll get immediate feedback.
It’s not like I avoided the short stories. But like I said, I only finished one, although a handful of others are still in process. However, I keep running into the same problem. Critiquers keep saying the same thing — “I don’t get what it’s about”. One story’s supposed to be humorous metafiction. Another’s supposed to be light-hearted fantasy. Another’s a horror story about psychotic kids. This is supposed to be evolving as an author, but I can’t seem to get characters, plot, and setting into the same bowl in the right proportions.
I don’t even know what I want to write next. I could write my ski romance that I’ve been pre-writing for more than four years. I’ve finished my “research” into other skiing romance books. And most of all, I want to write it to make my wife happy. But I don’t know how to write a romance. And I still don’t have a… I don’t know what to call it. A hook? A catch? An angle? The thing that makes the book special. That distinguishes it from other books and makes it a book I’d want to write.
Unlike my second choice, which is a quest story about a naga going to pursue the boy she met as a kid, who she thinks is in trouble. I don’t know much about snakes, but the scrappy girl on a hero’s journey in a fantasy setting — I’m more in love with that idea than a ski romance, which is not my usual forte (as you can probably guess).
So there it is. An empty past, a dawdling present, and a shaky future. Just about any other job, there’s someone who every once in a while pats you on the back and says “good job”. Not in writing though. A whole year without a fragment of praise or acknowledgement or progress for my hard work? Makes me wonder if it’s worth it. Part of the reason I started writing was because A) it was something I was halfway good at and B) I wanted to feel productive with my life. I wanted to make something that would last, that could affect a wide number of people. But if no one’s interested in opening the door, if I’m moving backwards or de-evolving, am I just wasting time?
I decided to try my hand at writing some erotica again, this time with a lot more edge, a lot more filth, and a lot more offensive material. I present to you “The Upgrades”.
Mega Man asks Dr. Light to make him more biologically complete. Roll finds out and asks for the same. But what will they do when they realize they are the only two robots on Earth with genitalia?
So like Milk and Honey, take note. This is an adult story with lots of adult graphic sex and description. It’s even worse this time because it contains lots of trigger warnings like (spoilers) incest, rape, and BDSM for starters.
Yeah, you know I’m not going to do that. The truth is I usually blog when I have spare time at work, and I haven’t had any of that lately. New contracting assignments will do that to you.
Any spare time I do have has been taken up by trying to finish this one work that’s been nagging at me (and that’s in addition to my hourly lunch break writing, which is only dedicated to pieces which should be publishable). I won’t tell you what it is yet, but here’s a clue.
Sadly the story is not as epic as the picture. Nor as family-friendly.
After 53 hours and about a year of playing with my wife, trading back and forth, we finally finished The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword this Friday. And as I promised, I will give you my opinion on the full experience.
Now remember, I am a big Zelda fan. I’ve played just about every game multiple times. The only ones I’ve missed are some of the portable ones (Spirit Tracks, Phantom Hourglass, and Four Swords w/ Link’s Awakening DX), and the CD-I games (which no one counts anyway). That’s a total of twelve Zelda games. Not to mention some of the best fan fiction I’ve written has been from Zelda. When I was writing Gatecrash, I read the Link to the Past instruction manual over and over, and kept a stack of reference material by my bed. So now that you’ve got that in mind, you’re ready to hear my opinion on Skyward Sword.
Fuck this game. Fuck it. Fuck it. Fuck it. Fuck it. Fuck it. Fuck it. Fuck it. Fuck it. Fuck it. Fuck it. Fuck it. Fuck it. Fuck it. Fuck it. Fuck it. Fuck it. Fuck it. Fuck it. Fuck it right in its cold hard ass.
This game’s been a thorn in my side all year. Simply put: it is not fun. At least not the kind of fun a Zelda game should be. A Zelda game should be about exploration, about neat items, solving puzzles. It should not be about time-filling busy work and dull characters. I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s just break it down to the two major components.
First off, everything is beeping at me. My stamina meter is in a constant state of depletion. Navi Fi’s poking me about some obvious hint. My hearts are low because the game is the stingiest I’ve ever seen with grass and pots. My tracking sonar is pointing to the next maguffin. And my wiimote batteries are dying for the umpteenth time.
The difference between enemies is pretty limited. You’ve got bats, blobs, and bokoblins. There is no Ganon, so I don’t know where these guys came from or who they’re working for. Are they just wildlife? But thank god there aren’t many of them, because this obnoxious “Simon Says” game is way too picky.
There is a huge disparity in difficulty. Some enemies take one hit to kill. Some need a ridiculous amount of timing and accuracy, like the piranha plants that can only be killed a certain way, or those yellow assholes with the electric swords that paralyze you. You have never seen such frantic swinging in a game, trying to get a hit somewhere.
Here’s the problem. Say I approach a monster, with my arm centered. The monster opens its mouth horizontally. I shift my arm to the left so I can backhand swipe. But I have to do it slowly or the game’ll think I’m slashing and the monster’ll parry and I have to start over. But by the time I’m ready to attack, the monster switches to vertical. But now my arm is nowhere close to where it needs to be. Repeat process while some other monster is killing you. Some bosses are ridiculously easy and need no strategy, like the big scorpion. And some are ridiculously hard, like Ghirahim, who is as difficult as he is unpronounceable.
This is the big problem with the game — the Zelda name and art style deceive you into thinking it’s a family adventure, playable by all ages. But it’s not. You can have as many heart containers and potions as you want. But the boss will still be too fast, too picky, to get past. So your game gets stuck. Is that fun? No. My wife was bored during the entire ending because she couldn’t do anything.
You can’t aim your sword precisely enough in the chaos of battle. The game moves too fast for you to think about what you’re doing because you’re too busy getting out of the way. And you’re always fighting the camera, so expect to get stuck in a wall, and then get clobbered. I’m constantly in threat of dying, but I get no hearts.
You can’t just set a potion to a button. You’ve got to click minus, hold it down, then press the A button to drink it. Then if you need another, you need to repeat the process. Good luck with that in the middle of a boss battle. And you don’t get the bow until late in the game, so no taking them out from a distance.
But oh, yes, we will interrupt your ten minute fight with the four-armed Stalfos to let you know you’ve got some monster goo. Then it s-l-o-w-l-y slides to the menu screen to show me the grand event of its addition to my trove. This was a thing about Twilight Princess I hated — it constantly prompts when you pick up a rupee and tells you how much it’s worth. Even if you’re in the last castle. Like I never saw a rupee before in my life.
They fixed that in Skyward Sword, but then they repeated the same damn mistake with the treasure. I can’t believe after twenty-five years and sixteen games the programmers and designers are still getting little things like this wrong. I can’t believe they are so merciless with the temples and bosses (no hints, no indicators), but they still handhold you with bullshit like gossip stones and highlighted text.
Speaking of treasure, let’s talk about game length, because it’s my biggest beef re: gameplay. The box boasts fifty hours of gameplay, the longest Zelda game yet. And it achieves that, but you know how? Bullshit side quests. As bad as any MMORPG.
Every game since Wind Waker has had some kind of time-filling scavenger hunt. All you do is go from point to point. There is no challenge or effort. You can turn your brain off, because you won’t need it. In Wind Waker, it was filling out the map and Triforce charts. In Twilight Princess it was golden bugs and Poe souls. In Skyward Sword, you get both treasure and bugs. Twenty-eight types. And you need them both to have a decent chance, because they upgrade your items and potions.
That doesn’t sound like much, but this is a huge land, and bugs are pixel sized. And then once you have them, you gotta go all the way back up to Skyloft, all the way back to the bazaar, scroll through dialogue you’ve seen a hundred times, and then all the way back to wherever you were before.
You want a red potion? Fine, it fills eight hearts. You want to fill all your hearts? You can’t just spend a little more. No, you’ve got to get three kinds of bugs in certain quantities. Bull shit. Most of our gameplay time was spent searching for upgrade components because we kept dying or needed improved equipment, lest our shield break.
Long story short, the game puts unnecessary obstacles and busywork in the way to make the game feel longer. But longer is not better. Not by a long shot.
Story and Characters
I talked in my earlier review about some of the characters. Zelda is a generic anime girl. Groose is the generic anime bully. And there are other stereotypes like the wise ruler, the old mysterious lady. None of these characters have any relation to each other. They exist in their own schism. Everything feels disconnected.
Let’s take the big bad, Ghirahim. What is he trying to do. You get nothing of his character or back story, except that he’s working for someone. Who? Why is he following me around? Or am I following him? Is he trying to get magic? Why do I see him sometimes in the temples? And what is he doing when I don’t? Plus he’s so foppish and dandy he acts like the Volturi in Twilight: Breaking Dawn. How can I take a villain seriously with hair like that, that sneaks up behind me and licks my ear?
Then the big reveal is that he’s working for Demise. Who is that? Is he the big black spiky thing with the marshmallow toes? Why do I care? He’s got no relation to me. His beef is with the goddess who exiled us all to the sky in the first place. Hey, maybe I’ll lend him a hand.
Everything’s got a different theme. There’s no connection to the sky or the loftwing or the ancient factory or the volcano or the Gorons or Mogmas or any of the characters you meet. Impa is this skinny thing who comes out of nowhere. Groose is the only character who has any development. Not even Link goes through a transformation. The bird you’re supposed to have a bond with becomes another vehicle. Another slow transport through a vast expanse of time filling space.
The other characters are as obnoxious as the ones in Wind Waker. They’re constantly bugging you with their pitiful problems, like needing their house dusted or a stamina potion. And what do these rewards get you? Depends. There’s so many currency items — treasure, bugs, rupees, seeds, hearts, gratitude crystals — it takes forever to save up enough to be useful.
I want to get some items from the item check, but I have to click through dialogue after dialogue after dialogue of inane chatter about how she’s in love with me or her baby keeps her up. Bitch, just let me get my shit. I don’t even know your name. I don’t care about your hang-up. I’ve got better things to do.
I hate Zelda. She’s a complete wuss. All she does is float there and whine and whimper and be all girly. In Ocarina of Time, she was the badass Sheik. Wind Waker, she was a tuff-talking pirate. She wasn’t in much of Twilight Princess, but at least we saw her surrender her kingdom to King Zant, which takes balls. Plus we had Midna to fill in the gap of sassy-talking navigator/assistant. Not like Fi.
Oh, Fi. Fuck this guy. Fuck her right in her ass. (If she is a she. I’m not quite sure.) How do you even pronounce that name? Is it Fee or Fye? And why does Fi talk like a computer?! We never find out. She’s not a robot or a microchip or a hologram. At least she’s never revealed as such, even though there are robots in this world.
He/she is constantly interrupting me to tell me some bullshit information that we already know. Yes, I’m pretty sure there’s more than a 60% chance of the Triforce being here. Maybe because it’s on the fucking map. And if she’s not yapping about your latest obvious mission, you’ve accidentally pressed the button that summons her, because the buttons on the wiimote are so damn small.
She was a thorn in my side from day on and twice as useless. Half the ending is supposed to be this tearful farewell between the two of them, when Link replaces the sword. I couldn’t say goodbye to her fast enough.
Ugh, the ending. First off, the final boss battle (spoilers ahead) is ridiculous. Just like the rest of the game, there’s no clues how to defeat anyone. No strategy that you can deduce — you gotta suffer and die. We had to look up YouTube videos to find out. And unlike any knowledge you might have gained from the previous two battles with Ghirahim, none of it matters.
And then the battle with Not-Ganon Demise is ridiculous. Once again, it’s a sword battle. The items you spent years searching for don’t matter. And when you think you’ve killed him, that you’re going to make the fatal blow, he rolls out of the way. Then you go through the procedure again. Again, you get the prompt for the fatal blow. He rolls out of the way again.
What the fuck? You’re not supposed to be able to avoid that. No one ever has before. If we hadn’t looked online and saw that “on the third time, Demise will be too weak to roll away.” There’s no indication that he’s getting weaker. I would have thought I was using the wrong strategy. Then I would have tried doing something different, fail to kill the boss, and get stuck.
And after that, nothing is resolved. Not-Ganon Demise doesn’t even know your name, but he curses you to fight his incarnation over and over again. Then it turns out Impa and the old lady, both of whom have no backstory, are the same person. But none of that matters, because as soon as this is revealed, she disappears into the ether.
Then what happens? I sure as hell don’t know. Do they come down from the sky? Do they repopulate the earth? Why is there only one goddess instead of three? Because if there’s no Din, Farore, or Nayru, then the Triforce shouldn’t be exist, and every game’s history is now in contradiction.
But it is. You can even get the Triforce. That should be the end — it grants you the power to make infinite wishes. But when we last we see it, it’s floating above the statue of the goddess, where anyone can grab it. Shouldn’t it go to the sacred realm? Isn’t it called the ultimate power for a reason? The Triforce is the leitmotif of EVERY SINGLE FUCKING ZELDA GAME, and it’s become some little quest item.
That’s it. After this, I’m done with the Zelda series. I’ve been too uninterested in the history of Hyrule for a while. Wind Waker had some good parts, but lots of empty time gaps. Twilight Princess felt too samey — no new innovations, no risk-taking. The stuff that was new, like being a wolf, had little impact on the game. And the characters, like “The Group”, were underdeveloped and soulless.
See, in Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, it felt like what you did mattered to someone. You didn’t just get a mark on your map, go to its coordinates. You had to explore and uncover. You had to do things like blast the rocks from Milk Road, or find out why a princess was missing (and that she was in a giant fish). You had to deliver some eye drops to a giant Goron or make a guy in a windmill go crazy or unfreeze a realm of Zoras. They felt like people, not obnoxious extras. You didn’t need to go on the Internet, if you paid attention. But in Skyward Sword, it’s a necessity.
The game feels like the programmers and designers were in an orchestra with no conductor. Even the lands are disconnected — everything is set into three tight areas with no rewards for exploration or curiosity. When you’re not fighting the MotionPlus controls, you’re accidentally summoning Fi as you’re frantically hitting buttons. If you’re not taking out insignificant bats, you’re stuck in a tiny room with a bad camera and an overpowered boss. The game goes out of its way to stop you from playing it at the speed you want.
I don’t care if this is the best game for the Wii, the aggravation outweighs the fun. And by the end of it, you just don’t care about helping Zelda, beating the bad guy, or doing anything other than finishing it so you can play a different game.
Well, I’ve finished my Featured Fan Fiction series, so here’s the complete set. If you need more to whet your appetite, try looking at the authors and stories I’ve favorited on FanFiction.net. There’s more there than what I’ve featured, and it’s all worth a look.
I saved the best for last. This is not just my favorite fan fiction, this is one of my favorite stories of all time.
I love it so much that I dedicated a portion of my free time in college compiling, typesetting, and forming a print version of it for my own personal bookshelf. And this wasn’t just doing a straight print command from the browser. I wanted a nicely formatted and professional looking edition (for a three-ring binder). This was not easy. I was using Microsoft Word 95 for Christ’s sake. And I didn’t know a thing about macros then.
Think about that, for those of you who used Office for anything other than churning out a three page paper. This entailed sectionalizing each page, monkeying with the margins, altering each little space, customizing headers, dealing with multiple fonts, and repeated screw-ups when I made a global change and accidentally overwrote something. This is a 600-page document! With table of contents, title page, and appendices at the end. When it was finally done, I put it in a white binder with the image you see above.
And you know what? I never cracked it open.
Well, I’d already read it. And it was in a large binder — not exactly convenient to tote around. And you know, when I glanced at it a few years later, I realized I’d made the font too small to be comfortable, in my effort to conserve paper and space. I later used Lulu to make a real print edition and this took just about as much work. But at least I had my experience on my side.
Why? Why go through all this? How could I, for any other reason, than that I love this story so much. It takes place after the emperor Shao Kahn has invaded the Earth Realm. Everyone stands frozen in time as their souls are sucked out one by one. Only a handful of people survive — chosen heroes by the good guys — but Kahn’s extermination squads of centaurs and mutants are hunting them one by one. The heroes must survive long enough, both from the extermination squads and themselves, to get to Sanctuary, a protected area on Native American grounds. There, they can safely plan the counterattack and unite. Or will they?!
That’s the set-up and fantastic as it is, the characters are even more so. The main one is Lei Wulong — an international cop fighting alcoholism (which is not a big help when trying to survive an apocalypse). He’s a character in Tekken and about as perfectly formed as he can be. Also in play is Jun Kazama, a gentle healer. Then there’s Liu Kang, the main hero of Mortal Kombat. What’s interesting about him is that he’s not sympathetic, not friendly, and not even in the serious Bruce Lee kind of way. He’s an asshole, and he’s supposed to be one of the heroes.
That’s on the good guy side. On the bad guy side is also a stellar sub-plot, the star of whom is Lee Chaolan. Lee is the adopted brother of Kazama Mishima — Tekken’s main bad guy — who’s working for Shao Kahn. He used to be the head honcho of Big Company, but when his brother won the tournament, he got knocked down. And it’s interesting to see the characterization of a man who was once so high up, now taking orders and beatings.
But if I go on about characters, I’ll be here all day. There are so many of them, from Tekken and Mortal Kombat and some games in-between, like Killer Instinct and Soul Calibur. All the greats are here, but they’re so different, and yet so the same, and yet so awesome. There are giant martial arts battles, sorcery, betrayal, danger, romance, and action. There are fantastic plot twists only a man like Victar is capable of. The story goes from survival to character study to detective story to courtroom drama to epic frickin’ battle with dragons and ninjas to war movie.
The fun part about this fan fiction is seeing all the little easter eggs, the little character tweaks, the different situations. In the games, all you ever see of Reptile and Kabal is beating people up and shooting energy balls out their fingers. You don’t imagine Sub-Zero would be a scientist, but he is, and it works. You don’t imagine Stryker as a mute PTSD survivor or Nighwolf as a computer programmer/shaman, but it works. It’s the same reason they keep making video game movies — because every so often you see some little glint of the game you loved so much brought to real life, and you smile.
Every page is full of that. When I first opened this story, I knew all about Mortal Kombat 3, but I knew nothing about Tekken. I mean zero. I knew the game existed, but that was about it. This was a serious disadvantage, because the backdrop is from Mortal Kombat 3, but the characters and plot lean more toward Tekken. And this means I miss out on the existing character relationships. But this story is like Lord of the Rings or Les Miserables. So while the characters do have some connections with others, they are their own. Obviously, in the game, you don’t see Lei Wulong with a bottle of brandy, and you don’t see Liu Kang with a temper. What I’m saying is you don’t need to know about MK or Tekken to enjoy the story.
And it’s truly a beautiful story. On par with Patrick Rothfuss, Neil Gaiman, and George R. R. Martin. You should be reading it right now. I wish I knew what Victar was doing these days. I hope he’s still writing. Maybe he’s really Joss Whedon and Victar is his beard. Stranger things have happened.