Friday, November 30, 2007

Thanks for listening, everyone!

I just wanted to thank everyone who has listened to far to Episode 40 of Drabblecast, features my two stories "Marbles" and "Shark Attack." I've gotten some really positive and flattering feedback, and some constructive feedback as well, and the whole experience has been very encouraging.

If you haven't listened yet, I encourage you to do so, and to check out the other fiction on Drabblecast as well! To read or participate in discussion on these or any other Drabblecast stories, check out the Drabblecast forums.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Not that anyone else cares...

...but the cool coincidence has just occurred that in the paper I'm writing, all of my quotes are from page 585, and at the end of my third paragraph, I have written exactly 585 words.

My story "Marbles" on Drabblecast!

As many of you already know, a little while ago I had a story submission accepted to my favorite fiction podcast, Drabblecast. As of today, the story is up on the website! You can listen to it in Quicktime format here or by visiting and signing up for an iTunes feed.

In addition my short story "Marbles," the episode also includes one of my drabbles, "Shark Attack," both excellent narrated by the one and only Norm Sherman.

If you listen and enjoy the presentation (and I highly encourage you to listen to all the other stories there as well!), please consider making a donation...that way I can get paid for my next submission.

In short: a Drabblecast presentation of "Marbles," by Ayn Sauer

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Blogging the Night of the Living Dead

Well, one paper down, two to go. I'm having trouble coming up with something meaningful to write about for my film paper...I know that I want to write about horror film (seems like it will be good practice), but I don't know what specific argument I'd like to make. I'd like to write about The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and maybe Night of the Living Dead, but I need to relate them in a meaningful way. Initially, I thought I'd do a genre analysis, but that isn't an argument, that's just a topic.

Anyway, if I really want to write about these movies I need to rewatch them. Which is why
Night of the Living Dead is in my computer right now. I'm going to "live blog" my viewing experience of the film's first sequence (except it's not really live because you don't get read it until after I'm done posting).

Consider this a
SPOILER WARNING: if you haven't already seen the film, you may want to stop reading now and wait until you've seen it.

The opening shot is a long, still long-shot of car coming toward the camera. It's got a really satisfying, calm-before-the-storm feel to it, and almost feels like a point-of-view shot.

All of these still shots of open roads provide the setting: isolated, middle-of-nowhere countryside, and they are obviously far from home. The music is minimal like the setting, and unabashedly eerie.

Shots alternate of the car coming toward the camera and away from it.

The shots, still long, get gradually closer until we end up with the nicely framed shot of the cemetery entrance. Cool.

Almost 2.5 minutes into the film before we see any people.

Johnny is such a complainer. Their relationship is strained even
before he gets zombified.

The camera angle is not quite straight for the shot of Barbara and Johnny heading into the cemetery. That combined with their quibbling and the creepy music definitely has me feeling unnerved.

I think the tilting camera through the trees is hand-held.

The shot of the two heading toward the grave feels like a PoV shot the same way the opening shot did; I think it's the tree on the right hand side of the screen that does it. That tree really unbalances the composition; J and B are centered in the frame, and the wide open sky is behind them, but with that tree trunk cutting off a significant portion of the frame the shot suddenly becomes claustrophobic, and I feel like I'm watching them from behind the tree.

I love Johnny's tie.

Speaking of Johnny, the medium shot of him exasperatedly watching Barbara pray at the grave is kind of weird, mostly because he's just so centered, framed even by the pine branches, and yet he really isn't do anything. Maybe it makes more sense given the sudden cut to a close-up of his face, illuminated by lightning, which then leads into a Johnny's-PoV shot of--the first zombie! The cut to the close up is pretty awkward; it is precipitated by the crash of thunder, and the difference in lighting makes it feel a little discontinuous. But then, a jarring effect might be exactly the intention when the next shot we get is ZOMBIE. Of course, we don't know that random rambling dude is a zombie yet, but even Johnny seems to feel that something is up; he's putting on his gloves.

Not much sense in his going to church, eh? So his soul is beyond being saved,
eh? Also, awesome how these lines of dialog lead right into Johnny's demise. But you didn't hear that from me...yet... Focusing on what we've got in front of us at the moment, we haven't cut back to Barbara since she knelt down to pray; it's been all Johnny and zombie prime. Is he being set up as the hero, or the first victim? Hey, it even happened in this very cemetery!

"They're coming to get you, Barbara..." One of my favorite lines from a movie ever. His eyes look really creepy when he sticks his face out. Barbara has raced out of the frame, and as Johnny prepares to say the line the camera closes in.

Hey, there's zombie prime in the unfocused background. We get the kids in profile, Johnny following Barbara and still being creepy.

Dude is suddenly a lot closer than he appeared. I like how the camera keeps his head out of the frame: it makes him feel larger and more imposing as well as adding to the shock factor of the sudden close-up of his face when he grabs Barbara.

The angles are all wonky again, and this time we know why--because shit is going down! Weird shit! That bizarre, aggressive fellow just killed Johnny...and now he's coming for Barbarba!

By the way, this movie is really nicely scored; instead minimalist eerieness we now have tense, screeching violins.

Shots that merely give away important bits of factual information, like Barbara's losing her shoe and the key missing from the ignition, are very short, getting just enough time to get the information across, while shots that present emotional reactions (and to which the viewer will respond more emotionally) get much more screen time.

Barbara has locked herself in the car, and the zombie is pushing frantically against her window. Just like the tree limited the frame in the graveyard shot, now the inside of the roof closes us in from the top, making the viewer just as trapped as Barbara.

Barbara's terrified expressions are terrific and innocent, like her shrieks.

This sequence ends with such high energy that the absolute silence (minus the thunder) or the inside of the farmhouse is completely jarring; what should be a respite really doesn't let us off the hook just because there was no cool-down time.

Well, THAT was exciting.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Drabble Twenty-Five

Ghosts of Avalon

From the balcony rotunda at the top of the world, we greet the full moon. Its beams, upon reaching the water, abstract until they are nothing more and nothing less than stars glittering in a second impenetrable sky.

With the arm that does not encircle my waist, you point out smugglers’ ships en route to the mainland, and we hypothesize about their cargo.

And even though it is not yet Halloween, in the ballroom behind us the phantoms twirl and step in a slow waltz around the circle of destiny to the songs that haunt their memories.

Shall we dance?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Pre-emptive excuse

In the next three weeks, I have three final papers and a philosophy essay exam to due. So, I'm going to try to spend my writing energies on those things, rather than here. Excuse the lack of posts until after that.

BUT--only a month or so later, I depart for Oaxaca, Mexico! at which point this will turn into primarily a travel journal, replete with exciting tales, anecdotes, and pictures. So, awesome things to come.

In the meaning, forgive my absence.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Airports should be called "Plane Stations"

Despite having terrible experiences in foreign places (always because of companions, never the places), I love traveling. And I actually enjoy traveling by airplane, especially by myself (a fact I've been able to realize as my last several plane flights were solo journeys). Whatever the destination, the act of traveling is exciting in and of itself for a variety of reasons. Plane travel has its own particular flavor. I took a moment after my last plane ride to document my thoughts on the matter and have reproduced them below.

Airplane travel is the closest thing we have to teleportation--the plane picks you up in one place and sets you down in another. It's nowhere near instantaneous (of course, we only guess that teleportation is), but it's a heck of a lot faster than any other method of transportation currently available.

Riding in a plane is similar to teleportation in another way (again, open for debate): presumably you are the exact same person when you arrive as you were when you departed. With a few exceptions, it seems that the average traveler on the average flight is unlikely to go through any significant changes during the journey. It's a very isolated, bubble-like kind of travel, as close to stasis as we get outside of sci-fi movies. Very little that you do on a plane has any sort of lasting consequences, mostly because you are so limited in what you are able to do. About the consequence I suffered from my last flight was feeling rather queasy fro consuming the in-flight snack.

I think this isolated character contributes to planes being good places to write. It's possible, of course, that the real advantage lies in the fact that you're stuck there--you can't turn around, can't change course, can't play on the internet. But while these are good distractions to have done with, I believe their absence merely contributes to the overall bubble atmosphere of the inside of an airplane.

"The things one does aboard an airplane seldom have consequences" seems like a dangerous statement, but I do mean it, in a way., And it contrasts sharply with the consequences I am now dealing with, of the decisions I made at either gate.

Drabble Twenty-Four

Called That for a Reason

Saying “They’re just words—they don’t mean anything” doesn’t make any sense. Having meaning is exactly what makes words words. If they had no meaning they would just be sounds.

Sounds can have meanings, too. Even if you don’t recognize a word for what it is, if it seems to be a sound, maybe it’s in a foreign language, you can derive its meaning in other ways.

But it is impossible for a word to lack meaning because that would be contrary to its definition.

So, tell me again, what exactly did you mean when you said, “I love you?”

Sorry for the lack of posts recently. Life occasionally succeeds in trumping the internet.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Some exciting words!

I've become...not addicted to, but interested in, It's a online vocab game where for every correct definition you guess, ten grains of rice are donated for the United Nations to distribute. As you play and make correct guesses, you get harder and harder words. Pretty awesome.

Here are some of the examples of why you should play FreeRice:

autarky - self-sufficiency
pulchritude - beauty
frigorific - chilling
terpsichorean - dancer

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Someone else understands trouble with going to sleep. Being that I dont, often enough or early enough. Apparently I'm in excellent company. From Neil Gaiman's most recent blog post:
Sleep beckons. Also waves. Also makes threatening gestures and hops up and down until I notice.
Which is a delightful image. Except that to me I think Sleep just cowers feebly in the corner, whining, "Have you forgotten about me entirely?"

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Not a drabble

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this photo has a higher word count than most of my fiction:

Drabble Twenty-Three

The Customer

“We’re closed!” I called.

The knocking continued.

Leaving my work, I crossed to the glass-paned door at the front of the store. A man stood there, gaunt and hungry-looking. From his sunken eye sockets, something menacing gleamed.

“We’re closed,” I repeated, tapping the sign that hung on the door.

Before my eyes, he began to change. His jaw extended, his forehead scrunched and writhed as his eyes burned in their cavernous depths.

My mind flashed on the flayed corpse lying on the back table. There’s always room for one more, I thought.

Gripping my stake tighter, I unlocked the door.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Drabble Twenty-Two

The Office Drone

When the robots were brought in, we knew we were screwed. Doomsday predictions about the effects of introducing robots into the workforce had dominated office gossip for months now.

But we’d gotten it wrong. The robots weren’t brought in to replace us—they replaced our bosses. Believe me: that was worse.

At first, things didn’t seem so different, and on the bright side there was no more sexual harassment, no more yelling.

But robots don’t know how to treat human beings. We might as well have been replaced by machines.

And it’s not like I can complain to the management.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Did anyone at all like the live-action The Grinch?

Hearkening back to an earlier thread of mine about the value (and/or offense) to be found in movie adaptations, The Onion's AV Club has a feature this week that examinations 20 movies made from books and while they fail as adaptations. Whether or not you agree with the appraisals, it is an interesting look at thee variety of ways films can fail as adaptations.

Drabble Twenty-One


“Annie, did you hear what I said?”

I gazed out over the charred landscape, what I could see of it through the clouds of smoke from the still-burning fires.

“I said: we’re losing altitude.”

I knew all the implications of those three words. Anxiously, I fingered the chips in my pocket, momentarily enjoying the plastic *clink* they made when they fell against each other before the sound turned my stomach.

His hand on my shoulder. “Annie, there are no other options. It’s simple mathematics.”

“I know.” Turning, I passed him without making eye contact and walked toward the children’s quarters.

Man, it feels good to write something again! I like to turn this into a longer story, but I'm pleased with what I was able to do within the word limit.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Submission excitement!

Thought I'd let people know that I submitted the photo from this post to National Geographic Magazine's Your Shot for possible publication online OR in the printed magazine. I have no idea what my chances, but that photo is at least as good as the others on the website, so I feel good about it. No reason not to try, anyway.

By the way, in case you were not informed, one of my stories was selected for publication on Drabblecast, which is quite exciting. As soon I as know when it's actually going to be up, I'll definitely post here.

November is, as many of you know, National Novel Writing Month (I encourage everyone to participate! Both of my roommates are!). Now, I don't write novels. But I do want to branch out and begin again to write pieces longer than 100 words. The point of my writing drabbles is rather similar to the point of (the terribly nicknamed) NaNoWriMo: to write as much as possible. But, I eventually want to get more publications, and it's difficult to find a market for drabble. Most of my other work falls in the 500-800 word range, which is still incredibly short (flash fiction is anything below 2000 words). So, perhaps I can take this month to encourge myself to draw out some stories beyond three or four pages. =)

Let's face it:

I am obsessed with zombies. Still. Or again, depending. I thought I'd gotten over it after reading World War Z and conquering my active terror of the living dead (I can sleep soundly after watching a zombie movie now, hooray! It was just a matter of forcing myself to read about it before going to bed. ANYWAY.).

But, even if I did take a bit of a break, now that I've got this academic interest in horror, and that Halloween has come and gone, I'm back on the zombie kick. Just for some examples, I watched two zombie films last weekend (Romero's classic
Night of the Living Dead and the new comedic Fido); I dreamed about, but did not follow through with, dressing as a zombie for Halloween.

Thankfully, I don't seem to be the only one with this passion. A plethora of awesome links has surfaced recently, on websites I frequent and from friends who know me well, that are playing into my fascination. I'd thought I'd share the most recent ones:
Also, as much as I do not need anymore t-shirts, I really do, in fact, need this one from A Softer World (the cross glows in the dark!):