I need to talk about narrative structure in Hamilton‘s “Satisfied.” That song is an entire Jane Austen novel squished into five minutes and twenty-nine seconds. It undoes me. I must understand why.
It is nomination season for the Hugo, Nebula, and Norton Awards. My book Nomad is eligible for such things. But self-promotion makes me squirm, so I’m going to talk about Nomad all the way down at the bottom of this post.
First I will present, for your award-nominating consideration, other Latin@ speculative fiction–most of it written by fellow Cuban-Americans.
When I was six years old I had a Super Grover exactly like this one:
I would hold him while listening to The Monster at the End of this Book. Both of my parents could manage a decent imitation of his muppety voice.
I marveled at the metafiction, felt gleefully wicked each time I turned a page, and wondered why Grover sounded so much like Yoda and the Chamberlain.
Sometimes parents get smacked with the sledgehammer of nostalgia, and then we buy things. I spotted an exact clone of my old friend in a toy store and immediately bought him. Someday soon I’ll give him to my kid. Meanwhile, to honor Worldbuilders and the Battle of Agincourt’s 600th anniversary (again), Grover and I have performed Crispin’s Day.
Many authors donated signed books (mine are in there somewhere). Cards Against Humanity is currently donating proceeds from their Fantasy-themed expansion pack. And absurd videos will go live each time they reach a fundraising milestone. John Green will gargle the first line of his next book. Neil Gaiman will sing a terrifying lullaby to his infant son. Many will attempt to read Fox in Socks.
Please donate. Earn prizes. Help people. Watch writers embarrass themselves. Build worlds with Grover on St. Crispin’s Day.
My children have invented a game, and I’m going to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt by telling you about it.
This game began as the classic “Don’t Let the Balloon Touch the Ground.” (My kids like titles that double as rulebooks.) Then we added toy swords. Inevitable, really. It’s fun to whack balloons, and a sword extends the player’s reach. Both precise swordsmanship and overextended lightsaber swings are deeply satisfying.
The kiddos call our new game “Sword Balloon.”
I call it “Ogre’s Egg.”
Ogres, giants, witches, tricksters, and sorcerers have sometimes found it useful to hide their hearts inside eggs—and then hide the eggs. If they kept life and breath somewhere else, somewhere separate from their bodies, then those bodies cannot be killed. This is the upside. The downside is that eggs are fragile. Hide them carefully.
Folklorists call the trick Aarne-Thompson motif #302. Jim Henson based an episode of The Storyteller on Asbjørnsen’s version, “The Giant Who Had No Heart In His Body.” Koschei the Deathless tried some fun variations. So did the Marquis de Carabas in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere.
I am also pretty sure that the Easter Bunny disguises his own unique and precious egg by hiding so many decoys. Find the one true egg, kids! Keep it secret. Keep it safe. Gain power over all things carved out of chocolate.
Sword Balloon is another variant of folktale motif #302, but with the words “egg” and “hide” swapped out for “balloon” and “duel.”
Every player takes up a toy sword and a balloon. Any toy sword will do. Balloons should be filled with breath, and not helium—preferably the player’s own breath and life, for maximum symbolic resonance.
Each player should have their own distinct color of balloon. If a full spectrum of colors is unavailable, each player should use a magic marker to write their name on their balloon (or draw an easily identifiable doodle, or create a recognizable coat of arms).
Use your sword—and only your sword—to keep your balloon from touching the ground.
You may whack other balloons aside, forcing your opponents to chase after them. You may attempt to spike other balloons at the ground. But note that you rely on your sword for both offense and defense. You leave your own balloon vulnerable by striking at others.
Your body is invulnerable. There is no advantage to physically smiting each other. (I am trying to keep my very young children from smiting each other.)
When a balloon touches the ground, that player turns to stone. (Several princes and princesses turn to stone in Asbjørnsen’s story of the heartless giant.) They cannot move, but they can speak and entreat an ally to knock their balloon back into the air and restore them to movement. This is kinda like Freeze-Tag. But if any balloon pops then that player stays a statue until the end of the game. Play continues until only one warrior remains mobile.
If you have a large enough group of willing players, you may opt for more organized combat. Use one balloon color per team. Distinguish individual balloons with a magic marker (write your initials, draw coats of arms, etc.). Give stirring speeches before you clash upon the field. Treat friends and foes alike with honor. Defend your balloon, and the balloons of your comrades, for each contains their vital life and breath.
And those who did not whack balloons with us
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their toy swords cheap whiles any speaks
Who smote the Ogre’s Egg on Crispin’s day!
Have fun. Happy Crispin’s Day.
Nomad, the sequel to Ambassador, comes out today. To celebrate I’m posting the very first chapter. Enjoy!