“Eight” was first published, thanks to editor Christopher James, on 21 March 2017 in The Jellyfish Review in its Kill People special issue. To jump to the story, click here.
Here’s the thing: I have folded a lot of laundry in my day, and having three sons means I’ve also folded a lot of laundry while watching my sons play Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, and gosh all the way back to Time Splitters where each game is all about killing or getting killed, helping your buddies kill or not get killed, on and on. (I’m sure I read that these massive online multiplayer games help with reaction time, peripheral vision, and problem-solving.)
The games are, narratively, quite complex. They have story mode, multiplayer mode, mini-games mode. It’s pretty fascinating world-building. Unless you know your friends’s handles, excuse me gamer tags, you don’t know who’s in the game.
But one thing I learned is that once the kids put on their headsets, they are basically chatting off-radar with their friends. It was a few years back that every kid in town knew a classmates father had passed away before any of the grownups knew. They were all playing Call of Duty late that night.
So here is a story about a grownup who is shut off from contact with a son, and so masters the multiplayer game to open the communication channel, to connect. Not an easy trick. I mean, there are skilled players who have put in hundreds, hundreds of hours of gaming time in these worlds. It’s fascinating.
Here’s another thing: I never got used to watching my sons’s scopes go bloody and fade to death. Hard to watch, even imagine.
It’s weird, in gaming, how players can keep respawning, keep getting that second, or third, or eighth chance.
In terms of story craft, it braids together Call of Duty catch phrases with a divorced parent story. It took a long time to get the story to this point — a good year of workshopping, chopping, and collecting some good advice from Nancy Stohlmann. Then, I didn’t know where to send it! and along comes the “Kill People” special call. Whew!
But I have to dedicate this story to my sons, Jack, Ed, and AJ, who patiently allowed me to pepper them with questions while they eliminated worldwide enemies inside a game.
Here is a link to “Eight” at Jellyfish review. Thank you for stopping by my blog!