Fake Geek Girl Adventures 1-3: Lord of the Dance

Published January 24, 2016 by immaterialideal

“Thanks for coming along with us, Uncle.”

It was a rainy Sunday afternoon, and Stacy was visiting her Uncle Zhao. His family was out on their weekly shopping routine at the mall, and they decided to make a stop at the arcade.

“You kids,” mumbled Uncle, as grumpy as ever. “Can’t you play these games on your phone?”

“It’s about the experience, Dad!” cried out Ian. He and Stacy were huddled around the Pac-Man machine, excitedly watching his brother Nick maneuver through the maze.

“Just don’t spend too much time here,” he grunted impatiently. “We still got a lot of stuff to pick up today.”

Ian and Stacy were still glued to the screen behind Nick. The board was nearly clear, but the ghosts were rapidly closing in on Pac-Man.

“Aw man,” moaned Nick just as he lost his last life. “So close. We could have finally seen the third cutscene today.”

“You tried your best,” reassured Stacy.

“There’s always next time,” Ian added with a smile. “Say, Stacy, have you ever seen anyone get that far?”

“Um…maybe Uncle or one of his buddies?” Stacy replied.

The three of them turned towards Uncle, staring inquisitively.

“You think I’d remember something like that?” Uncle snapped. “That would have been a long time ago.”

Suddenly, Stacy turned her head elsewhere, to the sound of stomping feet and Europop music.

“Hey, they’ve got DDR in here!” she exclaimed. “Let’s do that next!”

“Oh heck no,” Nick responded. “I can’t dance to save my life.”

“And I don’t play games to burn off calories,” Ian added.

Stacy shrugged. “Suit yourself,” she said as she walked off to the Dance Dance Revolution machine.

—-

Stacy stomped to the closing beats of a peppy J-pop song, and the screen revealed an A grade. In front of her family, she took a bow.

“And that is how it’s done!” she boasted.

Nick and Ian clapped in amazement, but Uncle was not impressed.

“Were you trying to break the board?” he complained. “You need to be light. Graceful. You may have passed the lower level, but you’ll never keep up with the faster beats this way!”

Stacy nervously giggled. “It’s not for a trophy or anything. I know I still need a lot more practice.”

She turned to the screen, noticing a recurring name in the high score table.

“LUNE,” she muttered. “That name again. Someone seems really dedicated….”

—-

Stacy walked up to the counter, an itching question on her mind.

“Excuse me,” she asked the clerk. “Who’s the player that’s been getting all the high scores on DDR?”

“Beats me,” he responded. “I guess someone who just really likes the game. Or a cheater. You never know.”

“It’s probably just some nerd with too much free time on his hands,” Nick told her.

“What makes you so sure the player is a ‘he’?” Stacy retorted.

“It’s more likely, isn’t it?” he responded. “Girls aren’t as dedicated to these games.”

“Says who?” Stacy snapped. “Don’t you remember Lydia?”

“Oh, that girl with the pink hair from the Smash Bros tournament? Yeah, she’s pretty good, but she was one out, what, three girls there including you?”

Nick notices Stacy continuing to glare at him.

“Hey, it’s nothing personal,” he responded nervously. “I’m not saying girls can’t be good at games. I know there are a lot of great girl gamers out there. It’s just that the probability is in favour of this LUNE fellow being a guy.”

“I suppose,” Stacy sighed, disappointed. “Part of me just wishes she was a girl, that’s all. But boy or girl, I’d like to meet this master DDR player. See how the game’s really played. And maybe…even challenge him.”

“In your dreams,” Ian taunted. “You wouldn’t last a second.”

“I know,” Stacy smiled. “But it’s not about winning or losing. It’s about standing in the shadow of greatness. About seeing someone who can take the game to its fullest potential! And maybe, just maybe, I can learn his secrets to becoming a DDR master myself by following his footsteps!”

 

Nick and Ian silently stared at her. Their cousin had a penchant for saying cheesy things like that, but they sort of admired her optimism. Uncle, however, was less convinced.

“You can dream about being a dancing queen all you want,” Uncle replied drearily. “but your other work comes first. You want to be a programmer? Yes? Then you need discipline. And if you want to learn rhythm, you have the piano to do so!”

“I know, Uncle,” Stacy giggled, while her uncle frowned at her sternly. “I’m just having fun, that’s all.”

—-

The Games for Everyone club was meeting after school in the library. As they had just finished putting up the posters advertising the art show, they decided to relax for a while. Tori was playing her DS in the corner.

“I still don’t get it,” Oliver told Stacy. “Why the Farmer’s Market? Why couldn’t we just sell stuff in the school commons area?”

“It’s not just about food, you know,” answered Stacy. “Lots of people sell artwork there. And there aren’t many vendors doing manga art in this town, so we’ve got a lot of potential customers right there. A lot more than we’ll be getting if we only sell to other students.”

“If you say so,” replied Oliver, still skeptical. “I still think most people are coming for the food, but we’ll try just this once. Anyway, how was the arcade?”

“Awesome,” Stacy beamed.

“I’m so jealous. Boss had me working all weekend. And my mom doesn’t want me spending too much.”

“Sorry about work, but I can pay for you,” Stacy offered. “Tori too. Next Sunday, you should both be free, right?”

“I sure hope so,” Oliver replied, uncertain. “I hate not having a set schedule.”

Tori looked up.

“I don’t know,” she answered. “My mother’s always worried about me staying out too late.”

“Aw, c’mon Tori,” Stacy responded in disbelief. “It’s just for the afternoon. It’s not like we’re going to a nightclub.”

“Yeah, well, I’ll see what she says,” Tori replied before returning to her game, seemingly uninterested in the idea of going the arcade.

“Anyway, you got to try out DDR?” Oliver asked.

“Sure did,” Stacy grinned. “A-rank on my first try!”

Oliver was clearly not buying her claim. “On Easy, right?”

“Normal,” corrected Stacy.

Oliver shrugged. “I guess that’s better than what I could do. Still not saying much, though.”

“I know. Just let me have my moment, okay?”

She then smiled mischievously. “But there’s something else I’m interested in. Get this. There’s this player that calls himself LUNE. He’s dominated the leaderboard for almost every song, even on the highest difficulties, and no one has even come close to reaching his scores. I don’t know if they’re legit or not, but if they are, I would like to find out just who he is. Got any ideas?”

Oliver drew a blank. “No clue. Perhaps someone in the Gamer Club?”

“Hmm…maybe Ren knows something about this guy. I guess we ought to pay our rivals a visit tomorrow.”

“Um…okay,” Oliver agreed reluctantly. “I guess I’m sort of curious, too.”

At that moment, Tori sighed in disappointment.

“Oh, how am I supposed to beat this thing?”

Stacy walked over to her. “I remember this boss!” she beamed, pleasantly surprised by the game she was playing. “Here, let me walk you through it….”

—-

At noon the next day, Stacy and Oliver walked over to the Gamer Club office. Oliver nervously knocked at the door, expecting Lucas to come out, but luckily, it was just Ren.

“Oh hi, guys,” Ren greeted. “How’s your club going?”

“Hey Ren,” Oliver answered. “We haven’t got anyone new recently, but Tori’s done great work with the posters.”

“Yeah, I’ve seen those. Lucas thinks they’re stupid, but I think they’re pretty.”

“Say, Ren,” Stacy started inquiring. “How many people in the club play DDR?”

“A few,” Ren responded. “Why?”

“We’re looking for some fellow who’s been getting all the high scores at the arcade. He posts his scores under the alias LUNE. Do you know him?”

“Hmm…haven’t been paying that much attention, but I don’t know anyone in the club that could place on the leaderboard…”

Just then, Lucas arrived.

“Oh, it’s you losers again,” he smirked, facing Oliver’s direction. “What loony idea did your girlfriend come up with this time?”

Stacy did her best to conceal her annoyance and put on a smile.

“Hey Lucas,” she began. “We were just wondering, do you know anything about the top DDR player at the arcade?”

Lucas scoffed. “Me, know anything about that girly game? You must be kidding me.”

“Girly?” Stacy replied sardonically. “That’s an interesting way of saying you suck at it.”

“I don’t suck,” snapped an annoyed Lucas. “I could easily beat you any day. I’d rather spend my time on real games, that’s all.”

“Whatever,” Stacy shrugged. “You’ll always be a DDR loser, then.”

As Lucas glared, preparing to snap back, Ren interrupted.

“Okay guys, settle down,” he mediated. “Lucas, everyone’s waiting for us. Let’s go.”

Ren whispered a final “Bye, guys” to Oliver as they walked into the room. Stacy turned to Oliver.

“Men,” she mumbled.

“Hey!” Oliver retorted indignantly.

“Not you, Olly, you’re fine,” she reassured him. “But I don’t get it. What’s his problem? We girls do guy things all the time.”

“Beats me,” Oliver responded. “But anyway, we now know he’s not a part of the Gamer Club.”

“Then I guess there’s only one way to find out. We’ll have to hang out at the arcade and spot him ourselves.”

“Well, you’re on your own there. I’d like to come, but, you know, work and other stuff.”

Just then, the school bell rang as the two of them walked briskly to get to class.

“Don’t worry, Oliver,” whispered Stacy. “This part, I can take care of myself. But I’ll let you in on it once I find out.”

—-

For the rest of the week, Stacy went to the arcade right after school, watching the DDR machine closely while trying to act inconspicuous by bringing homework or playing other games. Most of the dancers she observed only showed up for a few rounds on the lower difficulties. Occasionally, she would catch a glimpse of players picking higher difficulty levels or sticking around longer, eagerly awaiting their performance, but she was always disappointed as they failed to place on the high score tables. Unfortunately for her, she couldn’t stay long, as she knew she’d never hear the end of it if she wasn’t home when her dad got back from work.

Days passed fruitlessly. But she was persistent. On Friday night, she lay in her bed planning out how to see him. Perhaps he just doesn’t come in the afternoon, she thought. She should try going there at a different time of day.

That Saturday morning, Stacy got out of bed early. Quickly rushing to the kitchen dressed in her usual grey shirt and blue jeans, she prepared herself a quick glass of milk. Suddenly, her dad arrived.

“You’re up awful early,” he remarked. “Can’t believe you got up by yourself for once.”

Stacy stood nervously for a few seconds, before thinking up an excuse.

“Uh…yeah…” she stammered. “It’s…for an important school project. Yeah, my group expects me to show up to the park bright and early.”

Dad looked at her for a few seconds.

“Project, eh?” he repeated, with suspicion. “What top-secret project are you keeping from me?”

She paused, anxiously thinking up a response. “It’s about…birds! A lot of birds only show up at this time of day, and this is our only chance to observe their behaviour!”

Dad paused for a while, thinking it over.

“Well, scram,” he said sternly, gesturing to the door. “I don’t know anything about birds, but it sounds awful important. Don’t stay out too late!”

“Thanks, Dad!” she exclaimed as she dashed off. She thought to herself, ‘Phew, it’s a good thing Dad barely ever checks my schoolwork.’

—-

She finally arrived at the arcade, soon after the place opened. She was surprised to see how empty it was, as she had never gone there at this time. But, she thought, perhaps the master DDR player is a loner. She imagined what he might look like; in her head, she saw a tall, dark, and mysterious boy hitting the arrows with perfect clockwork precision. Sighing longingly, she snuck over to the DDR machine, and immediately, she did spot a figure clad in black, skillfully matching feet to a shower of arrows to the beat of a cheerful J-pop song. But it wasn’t who she expected.

“Tori?” she muttered incredulously.

She had never seen anything like it. Almost effortlessly, Tori’s feet rapidly glided along the pads, with all but a few steps being near-perfectly timed with the music. She moved as Uncle had described: light and graceful. Finally, the machine congratulated her on her high score, as Stacy quietly clapped in excitement, and prompted her to enter her name. She began to scroll for the letters to LUNE.

“A-ha!” Stacy yelled.

“Who’s there?” Tori cried out nervously. She turned around. “Stacy? What are you doing here?”

“I was wondering the same thing!” Stacy exclaimed.

Tori paused to catch her breath. She was not expecting anyone else to be at the DDR machine at this time, let alone someone noticing her playing, but she was relieved it was just Stacy.

“I come here every week while out shopping,” she explained. She sighed dreamily. “I love music games. When I become one with the melody, I don’t think of anything else. All my troubles seem to disappear like magic. But the people who come here make me nervous, so I try to get here when no one else is around and use a different name so that no one knows it’s me. Promise you won’t tell anyone!”

Stacy was still reeling in amazement at her skills. “I can’t believe you said you weren’t good at games. You totally owned that stage!”

“But I thought music games didn’t count!”

“Who said that? Of course they do! You’re really talented. Not everyone can get high scores like that, let alone on nearly every song.”

“Really? Thanks, Stacy!” Tori blushed, then her expression became nervous. “Again, promise you won’t tell anyone I’m here?”

Stacy shook her head and looked downward.

“Sorry, Tori. I can’t do that. For a whole week now, I’ve been searching for this legendary DDR player. And now she’s standing right in front of me. Now that I know who she really is…”

Her head snapped up. “I challenge you to a duel! Right here, tomorrow afternoon!”

Tori was shocked at her friend’s sudden aggressive attitude. “But…I’ve never played in public before!”

“What’s the matter, Tori,” Stacy taunted. “Scared?”

“Yes!”

Stacy’s expression sunk, disappointed by her lack of competitive spirit. “Oh, c’mon Tori,” she pleaded. “Just one round?”

Tori was confused at Stacy’s sudden mood swing. “Could you at least…ask nicely?” she requested.

“Okay,” Stacy agreed, realizing how inappropriate her trash talk was for someone as shy as Tori. “Could you please play a round of DDR with me tomorrow afternoon? I’ve always wanted to see the game at its maximum potential, and I’d like to see just how I measure up. I know you’re nervous about playing in front of people, but trust me, it’ll be okay. All of our friends will be there to cheer you on. And the crowd will love it!”

“Well,” Tori paused for a while, dreading the prospect of playing in front of the arcade audience. “I guess if you really want to…but just one round, okay?”

“Sure thing, Tori,” Stacy responded, excited at the prospect of playing against the best DDR player in town. “2:00 pm tomorrow work for you?”

“Okay.”

“Awesome! See you then!”

As Stacy exited the room, Tori sighed, returning to her DDR game. ‘I don’t understand her sometimes,’ she thought.

—-

Word spread rapidly of the mysterious DDR player finally showing up. The arcade was packed at peak hours the next day as Stacy arrived with her friends and relatives, dressed in a tank top and sweatpants as if she was heading for the gym.

“Okay, make it quick,” Uncle demanded.

“But Dad, aren’t you excited for this?” inquired Nick.

“He is,” Aunt Zhao interjected, turning to Uncle. “You know you can’t resist a good game.”

Uncle stared at his wife, doing his best to restrain himself from smiling.

“So Ren,” Oliver whispered on another side of the crowd. “Stacy’s been telling me it’s Tori.”

“What?” Ren exclaimed incredulously as Oliver gestured at him to stay quiet. “But she doesn’t look like…I never expected…I don’t believe it! No offense, but she seems so…shy and awkward.”

“Well, we’ll have to see for ourselves when she comes in. Any time now….”

At the DDR stage, Stacy tapped her feet impatiently. Come on Tori, she thought. It’s been 5 minutes. What’s taking you so long?

“Hey Ren,” one of his Gamer Club buddies called out. “What makes you so sure Stacy isn’t just full of hot air again?”

“Wait another 5 minutes,” Ren retorted. “If the mystery gamer doesn’t show up…whoa!”

Tori stumbled past the door into the arcade, dressed in a bright red dress with white leggings. Her hair was done in braided pigtails, decorated with a matching red band featuring a cherry blossom on its side, and on her feet were ruby red dancing heels. Her glasses were conspicuously absent, with her long black eyelashes on full display.

“Sorry I’m late,” she apologized. “It took me a while to get ready.”

Stacy was speechless, astonished at how much preparation she put in just to play a game of DDR.

“You…probably should put your glasses back on,” she suggested.

Tori, relieved, pulled her glasses from her pocket and put them on as she joined Stacy on the stage.

“You look good,” Stacy complimented under her breath.

Her face turned more competitive. “Ready, Tori?”

“Not really,” she replied nervously, trying to avoid the staring eyes of the crowd.

Stacy was disappointed in this response. “You’re the top DDR player,” she whispered. “You should be a lot more confident than that.”

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

Stacy frowned. “We went over this. You’re not supposed to apologize…”

“Fellow geeks,” Oliver suddenly yelled out through a microphone. “The mysterious DDR player you’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived, and it’s time for some action! I, Oliver, will be your host for today.”

The crowd merely stared at him disapprovingly, whispering amongst themselves.

“On the left, we have our challenger, the lovely, Stacy. And on the right, we have the defending champion, the even more lovely, Tori!”

“Oliver…” Stacy muttered disapprovingly to him.

“Well it’s true,” he whispered back defensively. “I mean, look at your outfit, then look at hers.”

Stacy merely turned back towards the screen, unable to come up with a response.

“These girls have gathered for an epic battle of speed and precision,” Oliver continued. “A chance to show off their musicality and footwork…”

“Get on with it!” a crowd member jeered.

“Okay, fine,” Oliver muttered. “Stacy, Tori, do your thing.”

“Alright,” Stacy began haughtily. “I’ll let you pick the first song.”

Tori said nothing, her eyes inattentive to the people around her as she scrolled to I Love You, the opening theme of Full Moon o Sagashite, on Expert difficulty.

“Oh, crap….” Stacy’s eyes widened in dread as the song started up and the crowd cheered.

Tori stumbled a bit on the first few arrows, shaken by the roar of the crowd, but after a few seconds, she found her footing and entered some sort of trance. She looked as if she was suspended in a void as her feet glided across the pads in near-unison with the melody. Meanwhile, Stacy was frantically trying to follow the arrows. Left, right, up, down, no, left and right! Clumsily, she stomped on the pads while missing most of the beats, becoming increasingly exhausted.

The song finally ended, and those two minutes felt like the longest in Stacy’s life.

“Not even close!” Oliver announced. “The winner is…Tori!”

Finally snapping out of her trance, Tori was astonished to hear the crowd applauding and cheering for her. Even Uncle almost managed to crack a smile as he applauded her victory. She turned to Stacy, who was panting heavily.

“You okay, Stacy?” she asked.

Stacy turned to her with a big smile on her face. “That was fun, Tori! You were great up there!”

Tori was taken aback at her sudden cheerfulness.

“I know you were reluctant to play in public,” she explained. “But see? There’s no need to worry! You played just as well as you did yesterday, and everyone’s happy for you!” She extended her arm. “Good game, Tori.”

Tori paused before grasping her arm for a congratulatory handshake. She smiled.

“Thanks for playing with me, Stacy! We should do another game some time.”

“Sure thing! But next time, could we play on an easier difficulty?”

Tori giggled. “Sure. It doesn’t have to be a workout, you know.”

Stacy left the stage as Tori turned to face the crowd, who was clamouring for an encore. Emboldened by their support, she turned around to select the next song, this time with her playing solo.

—-

That night, Stacy was in her room gazing at the moon. She stared for a while, fondly reminiscing over the DDR game with Tori. Then she took out her PSP and put in her copy of Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy.

“You may be the best now, Tori, but I’ll beat you someday. Just you wait!”

Fake Geek Girl Adventures 1-2: Keeping Up With The Smiths

Published January 18, 2016 by immaterialideal

It was a beautiful Sunday morning. Unfortunately for Oliver, he had to spend that morning scrubbing the floors of the Fish N Stuff restaurant.

“Why do they have to drag us in so early?” he complained. “No one’s here anyway!”

“It just means we can get home earlier,” his mother explained. “Just do your job. The manager won’t be happy if you complain too much.”

Oliver sighed. “Yes, Mother.”

His mother, Maria Santos Palmiero, was one of the waitresses for this shift. As Oliver’s only parent, she was used to working long hours here. However, her income was so meagre that Oliver also took the job to try to make some extra money.

After what felt like hours, a pair of men arrived as their first customers.

“Welcome to the Fish N Stuff,” Ms. Palmiero greeted, putting minimal effort into a smile. “What would you like?”

“Two continental breakfasts,” answered one of the men.

“Two continental breakfasts to stay!” she called out, before turning back. “Please wait while we prepare your order.”

As she walked away, the other man whispered to his buddy, “Why did we get the ugly one?”

Oliver overheard that insult and was prepared to rush over to the table to deliver a piece of his mind, but was stopped by his mother.

“Remember what I told you,” she whispered. “Don’t say anything. It’ll only make it worse.”

Reluctantly, Oliver backed down, glaring at his mop. His mother warned him about the amount of jerks that ate at this restaurant, but hearing the constant snide remarks about his mother, both to her front and back, was no less easier now. Especially so when around noon, they came from an old adversary.

“Why do we have to eat here?” Abigail whined. “Their food sucks.”

“My dear Abby,” her mother replied. “It’s Lucas’s turn today to choose lunch. Besides, we can’t be so spendthrift. People who waste money so frivolously end up working…here.”

Mrs. Smith smirked in Ms. Palmiero’s direction before emphasizing her last word.

“What a pity,” her husband added. “Couldn’t find a man to support her, so she’s stuck doing teenager work.”

“Welcome to Fish N Stuff,” Ms. Palmiero interjected monotonously, trying to act as if she never heard their insults. “What would you like?”

“The Super Salmon Burger, if you please,” Lucas stated.

“One for me too,” Abigail added.

“The Caesar salad, dear,” Mrs. Smith requested. “It’s imperative that I watch my weight.”

“Fish and chips,” Mr. Smith finished. “Try to have it cooked properly this time.”

“Very well,” Ms. Palmiero said as she tallied up the order. “Your food will be here in 10 minutes.”

Oliver was close by, his blood boiling. I can see where Lucas gets it from, he thought.

A bored Lucas suddenly turned around to see him in his wet and dirty uniform.

“Fancy meeting Stacy’s boyfriend here,” he chuckled. “As if you couldn’t be any more of a loser.”

“At least I’m doing something other than being an ungrateful, spoiled brat,” Oliver retorted.

“Ungrateful? Moi?” Lucas sneered. “I’m plenty grateful…that I’m not stuck working in this dump. My schedule’s full enough as it is.”

Oliver looked on in shock.

“Yes, that’s right. Not just the Gamer Club, but piano lessons, soccer practice, the robotics club, my dad’s Chamber of Commerce events, should I go on?”

“Okay, fine. I get it. But that doesn’t make you good at them. We lost our last game because you kept showing off and hogging the ball.”

Lucas growled. “It’s not my fault the rest of you keep screwing up.”

“Now, now, Lucas,” Mr. Smith interjected. “Be nice to our janitor. He’s probably stuck here for the rest of his life.”

“Yes, dear,” Mrs. Smith added. “It’s a pity his mother never instilled in him a sense of personal responsibility. Laziness runs in the family, I guess.”

“His mother?” Abigail asked. “She’s our server, right?”

Oliver cringed. “Yes,” Mrs. Smith answered, and the entire family broke out in roaring laughter.

“Figures you’d also be a momma’s boy,” Lucas chortled. “You really need to stop hanging out with that Stacy girl. She’s been a bad influence on you.”

“Why don’t you just shut up?” yelled Oliver.

His words echoed throughout the restaurant. The manager, who was standing in the kitchen, rushed over to the scene to tell him off, with his worried mother following behind her.

“Please excuse us,” the manager informed the Smiths, intimidated by their contemptuous faces. “We apologize for the behaviour of our custodian. I assure you it won’t happen again.”

“Good,” Mr. Smith responded. “Your standards are low enough as they are.”

Ms. Palmiero gave her son a sad, disappointed stare as he walked off with the manager.

“Sorry for disappointing you, mom,” he replied.

She turned back to her customers, embarrassed by the scuffle.

“Has no one educated you on proper parenting?” Mrs. Smith asked in a mock-offended tone, with a wicked smile on her face. “You need to refrain from coddling that little brat.”

—-

“They did what?” Stacy yelled at Oliver, exasperated.

The Games for Everyone club had just found an empty classroom to meet in for lunch hour. Stacy and Oliver were talking about his recent mishap while Tori was quietly listening.

“Yeah, it sucks,” Oliver replied. “Luckily, it was just a warning. Next time, I’m toast.”

“It’s not fair,” Stacy complained. “You have to stand there taking all their bullcrap, but the minute you try to defend yourself, you get all the blame.”

Oliver sighed. “I hate having to work with my mother. I mean, I love her and all, but it’s embarrassing for people to point it out.”

“Look, Oliver, there’s nothing wrong with that,” Stacy reassured him. “You’re doing it because you care about her, and if some jerks think that makes you a loser, well, they’re the real losers.”

“I don’t understand why being a momma’s boy is a bad thing,” Tori added. “I think it’s nice, really, that you care about her so much.”

Oliver looked at both of them, cracking a strained smile. “Thanks, guys.”

“You’re lucky to have her,” Stacy remarked. “She’s a lot better than my dad, to say the least. Speaking of which, Lucas’s parents are a piece of work, aren’t they?”

“You thought he was bad,” Oliver answered. “He’s nothing compared to them.”

“Aren’t they those jerkwads that write for the local paper? My dad’s constantly shoving their opinion articles in my face.”

“Yep, Robert and Marilyn Smith. Still following their articles to see if there’s someone they don’t hate other than people as rich as them.”

“I have no idea why you do that to yourself.”

“Eh, it’s a bad habit. And we have to keep up with the news for Social Studies anyway.”

Tori sighed. “My mom reads that paper too.” She stared sadly at her sketchbook. “She doesn’t like to see me drawing. Says there’s no future in it.”

Oliver, seeing her sad expression, tried to comfort her. “Aww, c’mon. Your art is great. Maybe a little rough, but nothing that can’t be fixed with a bit of practice.”

“It’s not that,” she answered. “Mrs. Smith wrote an article about how no one wanted to hire students with liberal arts degrees, and Mom takes it really seriously. She’s been trying to push me to do something useful instead.” She sighed. “But I don’t know what else I’m good at….”

“I’m sure you’re good at a lot of things,” Stacy responded cheerfully. “You’ve still got plenty of time to figure out!”

“Maybe,” Tori replied, but still looking down.

Stacy went on. “Sometimes, I wish my dad would pressure me more. Whenever I tell him I want to be a programmer, he just laughs.” She mockingly imitated his deep, masculine voice. “You? A programmer? You can’t even keep your head on straight and yet you think you can handle all that code?”

Tori suddenly winced. “I’m sorry. I was being selfish, wasn’t I, complaining about my mother when your dad is like that.”

“Not at all!” Stacy answered. “I know it’s hard for you too, being told you can’t do what you love. It’s my fault for bringing up my dad.”

“Anyways,” Oliver interjected, wanting to steer the conversation someplace else. “How’s that poster coming along?”

Tori opened her backpack and pulled out her concept art. It depicted a tall, thin, and handsome man with long black hair courageously raising his sword to the moon, with a scared-looking blonde girl tugging at his side, hoping he would defend her. Both Stacy and Oliver had a puzzled expression when they saw the girl.

“Why does she look so weak?” Oliver asked.

“She’s scared,” Tori explained. “But it’s okay because she has her valiant knight to protect her. I’ve always wished that someday, a guy like that would come and rescue me.”

Oliver was still confused. “Why is that your fantasy? My daydreams are about taming dragons and scorching my enemies.”

Tori paused. “It’s all I have going for me,” she said quietly.

Stacy stared at her, nervously thinking of what to say in response. “Not that your design is bad or anything,” she began. “It’s nice. But I don’t think it’s the right fit for the club. We want to treat everyone as equal here. How about something a little more fun?”

“Like a festival, maybe?” Tori asked.

“Sure!” Stacy replied. “You’re the boss, after all.”

“Okay. I’ll work on it tonight.”

—-

“How was your day?” Lydia asked Stacy through video chat. She was wearing a long white coat over a black tank top, her hair dyed sky blue.

“Oh dear,” Stacy answered back, overwhelmed. “Oliver nearly got fired yesterday just because he yelled at Lucas’s family, even though they were mocking him and his mother first.”

“People can be so unreasonable sometimes,” Lydia commiserated. “Why is he taking that job?”

“His mother doesn’t have a lot of money, but she wants to send him to university to make a better life for himself. He’s trying to save everything he can.”

“Still, it’s going to be hard to raise the money on restaurant work alone.”

“I know. I really want to help him somehow. Set up a donation drive…or something.”

“Well, let me know what I can do to help. I’ve got a fair bit of money lying around.”

“Thanks, Lydie, but you really shouldn’t. We’ll try to raise the money ourselves.”

“Very well. But if you change your mind, let me know. I’ll be here if you need me. Say, how’s Tori?”

“She’s still working on the poster.”

Stacy paused. “You know, something bothers me about her.”

“Oh? What?”

“She said that all she had going for her was to be rescued by some handsome guy.” Stacy’s voice became quiet. “I didn’t know what to say. I know it’s her dream and she can think whatever she wants, but…it’s hard to see her with so little confidence in herself.”

Lydia paused. “It’s nice of you to respect her wishes. But yes, it is a little off-putting. She has her art going for her, doesn’t she?”

“She thinks it’s useless because she can’t get a job with it.”

“Nothing’s useless. Everyone has something to give to the world. I have computers, and my friend Willow has made a good living off her clothing store. Besides, weren’t you happy that she turned out to be an artist? Clearly, her skills are valuable to you and Oliver.”

“They are! How’d I forget about that? We’d be nowhere without her!”

Lydia smiled. “I remember when I started learning programming. It was all because of a computer scientist at the university who greatly contributed to our city planning. I wanted to be just like him; you could say, impress him. Not in that way of course.”

She paused for a while, thinking of how to continue her story. “But in the end, it’s up to you. A handsome prince can help you along the way, but you are your own person, and so is Tori. Only you can find your own way in life.”

“Who was that scientist?” Stacy asked.

Lydia was silent, with that same smile on her face. “It’s a long story. In any case, it’s been nice talking to you again. Good luck with the club.”

Stacy was unpleased by her evasive response, but smiled back anyway. “Thanks again, Lydie. Bye!”

“Hope to hear from you soon!” she said before she disconnected. “Don’t forget to send me the poster!”

Stacy stared at her blank screen while thinking about what Lydia said. Suddenly, she had an idea….

—-

The next day, Oliver, Ren, and Tori were eating lunch together in the commons area.

“So you’re Tori,” Ren greeted with a smile. “Nice to meet you. I’m Ren.”

“Um…nice to meet you too, Ren,” Tori answered nervously.

“I heard from Oliver that you’re a great artist,” he continued. “I hope you can show me someday.”

“Okay,” Tori replied. “Just don’t expect too much.”

“Hey, I’m easy to please.”

The two became silent. Tori returned to her sketchbook as Ren turned to Oliver. “Sorry about Lucas,” he told him. “Tried to talk some sense into him, but he’s ridiculously stubborn.”

“I know,” Oliver interjected.

“And yeah, his parents are pretty annoying,” Ren continued. “Ask Dad and he’ll rant about them for hours.”

“Really? He’s always so chipper in class. What did they do to him?” Oliver asked.

“Well, it’s not just one thing,” Ren explained. “The Smiths have nothing but contempt for the liberal arts, so you can imagine what they think of Dad.”

“Wow, it’s amazing you managed to be friends with Lucas then.”

“Thing is, Lucas has his problems too. He keeps complaining to me about how no one trusts his talent, how everyone thinks he just gets by on his money.”

“You mean he doesn’t?” Oliver remarked sardonically.

Ren sighed. “I know it’s hard for you to understand, but a lot of people hate the Smiths, and Lucas and his sister tend to get caught up in it. It’s especially hard for Abigail….”

Tori flinched at the name.

“You know her?” Ren asked.

“S-she’s my classmate,” Tori replied anxiously. “We don’t get along very well.”

“Oh. Sorry about that too.”

Ren looked at his watch. “Oh, I gotta go. Got band practice. See ya guys. Hope we can talk some more some time, Tori!”

“I do too! Bye!” Tori called to him.

Ren turned to Oliver for a brief moment. “By the way, don’t let the Smiths get to you. Dad said your introduction essay was great, and he understands how busy you are. He says he’d always willing to help if you get stuck.”

“Oh really?” Oliver responded, surprised. “Great to hear. I knew he was cool.”

“He is. Anyway, see ya at soccer practice!”

“Sure thing!”

As Ren ran off, Tori turned to Oliver, with a puzzled expression.

“So, why do you have to work such long hours?” she asked. “It’s your last year of high school. You should enjoy it while it lasts.”

“I know,” Oliver replied. “Trouble is, my mom and I don’t have a lot of money, but she’s determined to help me go to university. It ain’t pleasant, but you take what you can get. Hopefully one day, I can save enough money for my ticket to a better life for my mother and I.”

“What degree are you planning to take?” Tori asked.

Oliver looked nervous. “Uh, I’m still thinking about it. Not sure what I’m good at yet.”

“Oh,” Tori gasped. “You and me both.”

“It’s okay,” Oliver responded. “We still have time. Say, have you finished the poster?”

Tori took out the poster design from her backpack, now featuring a Japanese lantern festival with a cheerful boy and girl in yukata at a video game booth, greeting the viewer. “What do you think?” she asked.

“That’s amazing!” Oliver exclaimed. “I think it gets the message across perfectly, but we’ll have to see what Stacy thinks.”

Tori smiled. “Glad you like it! I wanted people to imagine some place fun, and what’s more inviting than a festival?”

A familiar obnoxious voice interrupted their conversation. “Hey there, Momma’s boy! Got yourself a new girlfriend, did you?”

Oliver glared back at Lucas and Abigail. “For your information, Lucas, Tori and I are just friends. Stacy too. I guess you wouldn’t know what that’s like, since the only girl who wants to be around you is your sister!”

Abigail fumed back at Oliver, his words having struck a nerve. “At least we have some taste in friends. I can’t believe of all people, you chose to sit with air-brain. I’m surprised you can even talk to her while she’s daydreaming about cartoon freaks.”

Lucas glanced at Tori’s poster. “You idiots still think anyone else wants to join your pathetic club?”

“Tori here just did,” Oliver snapped.

“Who else?” Abigail sneered.

Oliver paused, knowing full well that she was their only new member, but dreading having to give that answer.

“Figures you’d have to pick from the bottom of the barrel,” Abigail chuckled. “No one cool has any time left for your stupid club.”

She turned to Tori, her expression turning harsh. “Listen, you little freak. You think you’re such hot stuff, but no one is impressed by your lousy drawings. Everyone can see that you’re just a phony.”

Tori quivered in fear, tears streaming down her face. “Why do you hate me so much?” she cried.

“Why?” Abigail answered in a mocking tone. “Because you’re pathetic. You never pay attention in class, you do nothing but daydream your life away, and whenever you have to deal with any problem, all you know how to do is cry. You are the reason us girls have such a bad reputation, and I’m embarrassed to be in the same class as you.”

Tori, unable to control her tears, covered her face and turned away. Oliver was furious.

“So what?” he snapped. “You think you’re so strong, picking on Tori like that? She never did anything to you!”

Lucas, seeing the situation unfold, was getting concerned at his sister’s sheer vindictiveness. “Forget it, Abby,” he called out, trying to defuse the situation. “She’s not worth it.”

As they both started to walk away, Abigail gave one last glare to Tori as they both turned away.

Stacy suddenly entered the scene with a handful of cupcakes. “Hey guys, what did I miss?” she asked, before seeing Tori’s crying face. “Oh.”

“Lucas and his sister were just here,” Oliver explained, shaking in anger. “What she said to Tori…ugh, she’s such a…jerk!”

Stacy walked over to Tori. “It’s okay,” she reassured her. “We’re here for you. You’re better than what you think they are. We know how it feels. Lucas went after both of us, too.”

After a while, Tori started wiping away her tears. “You know, I sort of feel sorry for Abby,” she told them. “She seems so…hurt.”

Oliver was unnerved by her words. “Look, I know you want to see the good in everybody, but some people are just jerks. You need to look out for yourself too.”

“I’m sorry,” Tori cried. “That was a stupid thing to say, wasn’t it?”

“Wait, you don’t need to apologize…” Oliver retorted, taken aback.

“Oh, I’m sorry…” she immediately repeated, before blushing in embarrassment when she realized what she just said.

Stacy tried to cheer them up with a nervous giggle. “We’re…gonna have to work on that.”

—-

The trio decided to meet in Stacy’s room after school, where she was ready to announce her latest idea.

“So I was thinking of setting up a donation drive for Oliver’s university fund,” she began.

“You don’t have to, Stacy,” Oliver interrupted.

“Hey, we’re friends, right? That’s what friends do. Anyway,” she continued. “I wondered how we were going to raise money. I mean, cookies, pah, that’s so cliché. A club like ours deserves something more creative. More special. More…geeky.”

She turned to Tori. “That’s where you come in.”

“Me?” Tori responded in astonishment.

“I was thinking, we should have a craft sale. It’ll be a great way to show off what the club is about, maybe even get some people interested in joining. Obviously, you’re the best artist here; your poster is awesome by the way. Would you mind contributing some of your art?”

“But everyone hates my drawings,” Tori protested. “That’s what Abigail told me.”

“Who cares what she thinks?” she snapped. Seeing Tori flinch, she paused for a while to regain her composure and put on a smile. “Look, we thought no one would join our club in the first place, but here you are! Sure, Lucas and Abby may be stuck-up jerks, but not everyone is like that. I’m sure there are plenty of other geeks in Pollock Secondary and other schools that would love your work. We just haven’t met them yet. And we’ll never know if we don’t try.”

“Still, Stace,” Oliver added. “We’re making Tori do all the work?”

“Of course not,” Stacy responded while holding up an Origami for Dummies book. “We’ll contribute some stuff too.”

Tori thought it over. “But what if people laugh at me?”

“Tori,” Stacy demanded. “How are you ever going to become an artist if you keep everything to yourself? Don’t just think about people laughing at you. What if you missed potential fans just because you were too scared to meet them?”

“Guess you’re right,” Tori replied. She put on an awkward smile. “I’ll try my best then.”

“Awesome!” Stacy yelled. “How about you, Olly?”

“Your idea is nuts,” Oliver remarked. “We’re at the bottom of the social totem pole here, and you expect people to buy stuff from us? Then again, I guess that also means we’ve got nothing else to lose. I’m in.”

“Excellent,” she said as she smiled mischievously. “I knew you’d understand.” Stacy brought out a stack of papers, some art books, and other supplies. “Let’s get started then.”

Fake Geek Girl Adventures Episode 1-1: Like Having Friends

Published January 1, 2016 by immaterialideal

“Tori, are you listening to me?”

The entire class turned their attention to the back of the class; to a girl with black hair, wearing round-framed glasses and a black schoolgirl dress with matching leggings. It was her first class at Pollock Secondary School, and she had her eyes buried in her notebook to avoid attracting attention. Up until now, that is.

“I…I’m sorry, Ms. Rama,” she stuttered as she looked up.

A blonde girl chimed in, “I don’t think those were math notes she was writing, Ms. Rama. Clearly, she’s too smart for you.”

“That’s enough, Abigail,” Ms. Rama snapped. “I can teach the class by myself, thank you very much.”

The class sniggered as Abigail slunk back into her desk, grimacing. Ms. Rama moved over to Tori’s desk, seeing sketch lines of Aqua from Kingdom Hearts in her notebook.

“Would you mind presenting your masterpiece to the entire class, Miss Haruna?”

“Please no….” Tori cried. “I’ll behave from now on. I promise!”

“Look Tori,” Ms. Rama lectured. “Math class is not the place for your cartoon characters. Save it for after school.”

She walked back to the board as several students in the class sneered at Tori.

“Oh, she’s one of those anime freaks.”

“What a loser.”

“Betcha she’s another one of those fake geek girls,” Abigail taunted. “The ones who are only in it to get popular.”

“Okay class, I would like your attention, please,” Ms. Rama sternly stated, drawing a right triangle on the board. “The sine function is also expressed as opposite over hypotenuse. In other words…”

Tori sighed, struggling to pay attention and ignore her classmates’ mocking before her mind wandered off again.

 

 

—-

Stacy was on the phone, talking to her best friend Oliver. She was excited at the prospect of forming her own club, inspired by the suggestion Lydia gave her at the Super Smash Bros. tournament that previous summer.

“Okay, we need a cool name,” she stated. “How about…Stacy’s Funhouse?”

“Really, Stacy?” Oliver fired back.

“Fine, fine. Stacy and Oliver’s Funhouse.”

“You’re missing the point here.”

Stacy paused for a bit.

“…right. So what do you suggest then?”

“Well, what’s the point of this club?” Oliver inquired. “Why join our gaming club when one already exists?”

“You see,” Stacy explained. “The Gamer Club is for a very specific kind of player, those that are hardcore enough or whatever. Our club is open to everyone that just enjoys games; no ifs, ands, or buts.”

“That reminds me…” Oliver contemplated. “Satoru Iwata once said, ‘Video games are meant to be just one thing. Fun. Fun for everyone!’ Maybe something along those lines…”

“That’s perfect!” Stacy exclaimed. “We’ll make that our slogan! And our name: Games for Everyone.”

“Not bad,” Oliver replied. “Now for the hard part: getting people interested.”

“I’ll make the poster. What other ideas do you have in mind?”

“I’ll have to think about it. My shift starts in 10 minutes. Gotta go! Bye!”

“See ya, Olly. Have fun at your new job.”

“I wish,” Oliver sighed as he hung up.

Stacy put down the phone, sighing elatedly. Finally, she thought. The gaming club she only dreamed of being a part of. A chance to meet new friends and bond over geeky interests.

She turned to her computer, searching for images for the poster.

—-

 

 

It was the next Monday, after the bell rang for lunch hour. The Games for Everyone posters were up all across the school. Stacy and Oliver sat at their booth, waiting anxiously for new members.

“It’s been half an hour already, Stace,” Oliver complained. “No one’s even looked in our direction.”

“Then we’ll just have to be more patient,” Stacy snapped.

Soon after, two familiar faces showed up.

“Hello again, twerps,” Lucas sneered.

“Oh, it’s you.” Stacy said, annoyed. “What do you want?”

“I just thought I’d check out the competition, that’s all,” Lucas replied, barely repressing a smirk.

“We’re not competing with you, Lucas,” Stacy retorted. “This is just a club for everyone who felt the Gamer Club was too intimidating for them.”

“Oh, a club for phonies?” Abigail replied, equally as condescending. “It’s a good thing you losers aren’t competing with my brother, then. You’re not even in his league. I mean, I could come up with that poster in 5 minutes.”

“Seriously, guys,” Oliver chimed in. “Don’t you have better things to do? Like, managing your own club?”

“I’m not a part of the Gamer Club, you idiot,” Abigail replied. “I just think you two are in over your heads. Is that so unreasonable?”

They walked away as Stacy and Oliver glared at them.

“Don’t listen to them, Stacy,” Oliver said. “They’re just trying to get a rise out of you.”

“I know…” Stacy replied as she gritted her teeth.

A few minutes later, a friendlier face arrived.

“Hi, Ren!” Oliver exclaimed.

“Hey guys,” Ren replied. “Seems like an interesting club you’ve got there.”

“Wanna join?” Stacy asked.

“No can do, Stacy. Lucas will be at my throat if I did. But I might join you guys some time.”

“Lucas?” Oliver responded, exasperated. “He and his sister were just here mocking us.”

“Yeah, I heard all that. They can be quite rude sometimes. Still, he’s kind of right about the poster. Random fonts and clip-art isn’t exactly convincing.”

“I guess,” Stacy sighed. “I don’t know anything about graphic design.”

“I don’t either,” Oliver added. “Got any ideas?”

“Sorry, but I’m as clueless as you guys,” Ren answered. “But you should both keep at it anyway! Good luck with recruiting!”

“Thanks anyway for the advice, bro,” Oliver saluted.

As Ren walked away, Stacy started to become dejected.

“This is a lot harder than I thought.”

The girl in black nervously watched the pair from a distance, her back to the wall. She wanted to walk up to the booth to talk to them, but when she started to move, she froze on the spot.

I’m not good at video games, Tori thought. There’s no way they will ever accept someone like me.

Staring sadly at Stacy and Oliver, her anxiety won out as she turned to walk away.

—-

That night, Stacy was hard at work on revising the poster, furiously changing fonts and trying out multiple different backgrounds and images.

“That doesn’t work,” Stacy sighed. “Maybe if I try this…”

Suddenly, the front door opened. Stacy’s dad appeared at the door, and a chill rose up her spine as he hung up his work clothes and walked towards her room.

“How was school today, Anastasia?” her dad greeted.

“Oh hi, Dad,” she replied sarcastically. “It was a total blast.”

“Are you still trying to set up that dumb gaming club of yours?” her dad taunted. “You and your crazy ideas.”

“Yes, I know.”

“Give it up. You’re wasting your time. Stop daydreaming about your video games and do something useful.”

Stacy sighed.

“Fine, whatever you say.”

But her dad continued.

“If she was still here, your mother would be so disappointed in you, dreaming your life away.”

Stacy gritted her teeth.

“I know, Dad. I’ll get back to work,” Stacy said, though clearly wanting to say something meaner.

“That’s my girl,” he mock-complimented as he prepared to leave the room.

Stacy listened to his footsteps, and when she could hear the TV turn on downstairs, she slammed the door, with angry tears in her eyes.

“What about you then?” she yelled to the wall. “All you do is sleep in front of the TV! Do you think you’ll really bring Mother back with that attitude? Do you?!”

She stopped herself, frightened that her dad might have heard all that. But there was no response.

Stacy sighed. “Oh, now I’m out of ideas. I guess I’ll just try again tomorrow.”

She turned off her computer and the lights, and fell onto her bed, grabbing her pillow to cover her remaining tears.

—-

Days passed. Stacy and Oliver sat and sat at their booth, all across lunch break and for hours after school, with different poster designs going up every day, but no matter what they did, they received no response. Finally, it was late Friday afternoon, and everyone had already left the school. Completely defeated, they decided to pack everything up. Oliver saw how sad Stacy was, and tried to comfort her.

“You did your best, Stacy. I’m sorry I couldn’t do more. I really wanted to help, but work got in the way.”

“No, Oliver,” Stacy replied, dejected. “Don’t blame yourself. It’s all on me. It was a stupid idea in the first place. Lucas was right. Dad was right. I was never cut out to be a club leader.”

They prepared to walk out, but as they reached the door, they saw the girl in black coming towards them.

“Wait!” she cried. “Is…is it too late to sign up?”

Stacy and Oliver turned to the young girl. They were so surprised they couldn’t think of anything to say.

“I…I’m sorry I didn’t come sooner,” she stuttered. “I wanted to, since you looked…you both looked so sad and lonely. But I was…scared…because there were so many people around…and I didn’t know what they’d think of me. And…”

She started to cry.

“I know I’m not much of a gamer, but…I don’t have any friends either, and I thought…it was unfair that no one wanted to join you. It was hard…seeing you both so alone, but I didn’t think you would ever accept…someone as worthless as me.”

Stacy, who was listening intently to every word, finally spoke up.

“Look, Tori,” Stacy quietly replied. “All you have to do is ask. We don’t judge anyone’s worth on whether they’re good at games or not. There’s no entrance exam or anything.”

The girl stopped crying, wiping away her tears.

“Really?” she exclaimed.

“Yep,” Oliver answered back. “What’s your name?”

“Tori.”

“Nice to meet you, Tori. I’m Stacy.”

“And I’m Oliver.”

“And we both want to give a warm welcome to our newest member, Tori!” they proclaimed in unison.

“Say Tori,” Stacy continued. “Whatcha got in that notebook of yours?”

“Nothing,” she replied. “Just my bad manga drawings.”

Stacy and Oliver gasped, glancing at each other in excitement.

“May we take a look?” Stacy asked inquisitively.

Tori handed it over, looking away in embarrassment as Stacy and Oliver flipped through the pages.

“Tori,” Stacy began. “I think you just saved the club.”

Tori gasped. “W-What do you mean?”

“We’re… bad at art, to say the least,” Oliver explained. “You saw our posters. We could really use someone like you to polish them up.”

“But I’m not very good at drawing,” Tori claimed.

“And we’re outright terrible,” Oliver retorted. “Anything you do would be an improvement.”

“So, Tori, what do you say?” Stacy asked encouragingly.

Tori pondered for a while, stunned by their warm response.

“I-I’ll do it!”

“YES!” Stacy and Oliver cried, with Oliver fist-pumping into the air.

The three of them smiled at each other as they walked out of the school towards the setting sun.

“So Tori,” Stacy asked. “Where do you get your inspiration from?”

“Well, I’ve always liked girls’ manga, and the art is so pretty, so I wanted to try drawing it myself. Have you ever heard of…?”

—-

“Dear Lydia,

Thanks for giving me the idea to start our own gaming club. At first, we didn’t think it would succeed, but someone joined up after all! Her name is Tori, and she’s quite the artist! We’re both really glad to have her on board, and she’s willing to help fix our crappy posters. I know Games for Everyone still isn’t much, and she only joined because she felt sorry for us and wanted friends, but hey, three is better than two, right?

Yours truly,

Stacy”

Exhilarated, Stacy read over the sent email. She could only imagine what kind of poster Tori would come up with. Suddenly, she received a new message notification.

“Hey Stacy,

Your new friend sounds really cool! I can’t wait to meet her. But wasn’t your goal to bring people together who wouldn’t otherwise think of themselves as gamers? Then why do you act as if Tori feeling sorry for you is not a good reason to join, or that the club is inadequate because only one other person joined? You need to be more confident in yourself and your friends.

Regardless, good luck in your new role as leader. I’m looking forward to seeing the club grow in the coming months.

Love,

Lydia Li

李雪風

P.S. By the way, could you send me some of Tori’s artwork, especially once she finishes the poster? Pretty please?”

Stacy was delighted.

“Sure thing, Lydie. Whatever she comes up with, I’m sure it’ll be spectacular.”

Fake Geek Girl Adventures: The Series

Published December 31, 2015 by immaterialideal

The world of geeks

A world that only the young and the young at heart understand.

This place they fly to, seeking solace, seeking a greater meaning,

But perhaps something returns with them….

Not a Pokemon

Welcome to a world of unlimited possibilities.

FAKE GEEK GIRL ADVENTURES

Upcoming:

  • Episode 1-4: Sakura Bladerunner
  • Episode 1-5: Lydia’s First Date
  • Episode 1-6: Bridge to Crystalia

How much is stuff really worth?

Published November 30, 2015 by immaterialideal

I like collecting things. Whenever I have to pay with cash, I have to spend a bit of time sorting through my quarters so I don’t give away a special one. I have a lot of plushies and regularly visit craft fairs to check out the weird and wonderful things there. And even in the digital world, I can get lost for hours trying to find that rare item for a complete collection. I enjoy having something semi-permanent; a relic of that moment in time, a symbol of an event, a person, a creature, or anything, really.

So how do I reconcile that with my socialist views? I’m an anti-consumerist for many reasons. One is that an obsession with material goods is a distraction from human and spiritual connections. You don’t have to be religious to know that we’re all going to die someday, and that big expensive house or state-of-the-art gadget will mean nothing when we do. The only traces we leave behind are memories. No one’s going to remember the stuff we accumulated, but everyone is going to remember what we did to them, whether good or ill.

There’s also the matter of how that stuff gets made. Yes, I’m aware that factories for cheap goods in developing countries exist because often, that’s the best option available, but there’s no excuse for the Rana Plaza disaster and similarly dreadful working conditions. I mean, so many of us whine about having to pay a dollar more, but if that dollar is compensated in human lives? It’s unfortunate that we as consumers are so disconnected from producers that many of us never see what’s truly going on, the hidden costs of our products that we ignore due to greed and the fast pace of modern living.

And the ecosystem is another casualty that doesn’t show up in the accounting ledger. It takes a lot of power to get people to buy the same thing 10 times or more, and with fossil fuels still being our dominant form of energy, that energy goes up into the atmosphere. We can talk renewables, but really, the dirty energy exists because we use so much of it. And then we declare our stuff junk, especially the loads of plastic used to package it, and it ends up going to the great trash heap in the Pacific Ocean. That’s not even going into the sheer amount of pollutants involved with the various stages of the production chain (transportation is a big one, from emissions to oil spill risks).

So yes, mindlessly buying stuff without consideration for where it comes from or where it is headed is bad, and it’s one of the biggest factors ruining our planet. So what about me? Am I a hypocrite for not embracing an ascetic lifestyle? Maybe, but I’d like to try to argue in my defense, regardless.

I don’t like seeing things go to waste. When I buy toys, or even a USB stick, I get attached to them. Like I said, part of the appeal of collecting is the idea that it will last indefinitely; over time, you have a personal history with the object. As animistic as it sounds, you end up giving the item a soul of its own (that’s why Toy Story and Wreck-It Ralph are things, after all).

And that’s the more important part, to me, items with character. A work of art says something about the person who made it. They put a piece of their soul into that painting or artifact, capturing inspiration from nature, their interpersonal relations, or other aspects of their lives. I’m not satisfied with just passively consuming; I want to know what goes on behind the curtain, and I too am compelled to participate in the creative process whenever possible. For example, a felt snowman kit allows me to feel part of the satisfaction the original creator had in making the toy. So I do feel a personal connection when buying from a person or family running a small businesses or vendor rather than a faceless corporation. I don’t care about the monetary value of such things; that becomes irrelevant months or years down the line. The memories are where the true value lies. And by learning how things are made, we too can create memories; even cheap-looking creations can be masterpieces to those close to you because it’s your soul put into them, not someone else’s, and certainly not a faceless brand name.

So I’d like to think that sparing purchases of items meant to last a lifetime is distinct from buying things just to have it replaced the next year. But that’s not for me to decide. Regardless, the fewer things you have, the more valuable each of them becomes, so that’s one more of many reasons to maaaaybe scale it down. I mean, if your current phone works, why toss it?

Breaking down Unbreakable: The greatest statement on race that never mentions it

Published November 10, 2015 by immaterialideal

Obviously, major spoilers ahead. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, knowing the twist beforehand will lessen its impact. For those who have, here’s a refresher:

You know what the scariest thing is? To not know your place in this world. To not know why you’re here… That’s… That’s just an awful feeling.

A lot of critics have dismissed Unbreakable’s big reveal, thinking it hackneyed and trite in the vein of M. Night Shyamalan’s other movies. It’s not. For one thing, it didn’t come out of nowhere; it was foreshadowed in Elijah’s creepy fixation on David’s superpower. Wasn’t it unsettling the way he talked so casually about hundreds of people dying in the train accident, or his obsession with disasters in general?

More crucially, how you interpret the ending depends on whose perspective you’re seeing it from. Sure, by itself, the mentor really being evil isn’t a particularly original trope. But that’s the thing about tropes; it’s how you use it that counts, and here, it’s all about the characters. From David’s perspective, up until the events the movie, he was living a hollow, satisfaction-less life, and throughout the movie, he learns of his desire to help people and his newfound potential to do so. And then, in one fell swoop, the rug gets yanked under his feet. It turns out he as a hero was, in a sense, created from the lives of hundreds, and it was all just one sick game played by the person he thought was his friend and mentor. The ending shot of him simply walking away reflects how the audience feels: horrified, guilty, disgusted, conflicted, trapped.

But what’s truly brilliant (and often overlooked) about the movie is Elijah’s side of the story. And this is where the title of this entry comes in, because while the movie never once directly talks about his race, it’s no accident that he’s black to contrast the white David, and the unspoken commentary on race relations only makes his final speech all the more powerful.

Elijah is the first character we are introduced to. The opening scenes show the limitations imposed on him by his brittle bones; unable to participate in physical pursuits, he instead turns to more intellectual activities by becoming a comic book nerd and interpreting the world from that metafictional perspective. The perspective then shifting to David, he is seemingly relegated to becoming a supporting character: the magically disabled negro archetype. Throughout the movie, he acts like your typical stoic Samuel L. Jackson character; despite being bullied as a child, he seems to take it remarkably well, sparing little a thought to his disability.

But as it turns out, he was bottling up all that sadness and resentment all along, and the ending finally gives him the opportunity to let it all out. Like comic villains, at no point did he ever have to reveal his grand scheme to the hero, but he did so as a matter of pride. He’s not the magically disabled negro, and in fact, his tearful, heartfelt speech accompanied by bittersweetly triumphant music spits in the face of that burdensome expectation. He’s something greater: the true instigator of the plot’s events. And though the audience was led to believe they were following David’s story, it was really Elijah’s story all along, and he’s going to relish that fact, consequences be damned. The fact that it’s Samuel L. Jackson playing the character only adds to the shock of seeing his emotionless demeanour break apart; we’re so used to seeing him as a badass that it’s incredibly moving to see him cry.

From a minority perspective, Unbreakable’s ending especially resonates to my heart. We’re so used to being neglected in favour of the white lead characters, especially in nerd media and its fandom. Most of the time, like Elijah, we can only expect to aspire towards the sidekick role (though Marvel is starting to change that; still wish original minority superheroes would get more focus though). And fandom is so white-dominated that even a minor character being black, like Blaise Zabini from Harry Potter, is enough to start a ruckus. I instinctively get attached to Chinese or Asian characters with a prominent role, because despite the fact that we make up about half of Vancouver and 30% of Seattle and San Francisco, it’s not easy to find such characters to relate to outside of anime. When I see the ending of Unbreakable, I see a man defying his fate; becoming a greater character than the role he was given. Sure, he does it in the most horrible way possible, but that’s makes him such a great tragic villain.

Because we all want to be told we aren’t a mistake, that our life has meaning.

I should’ve known way back when, you know why, David? Because of the kids!

They called me Mr. Glass.

Legacy of Elm Street: A series review

Published October 31, 2015 by immaterialideal

It’s Halloween, and what better way to commemorate the season than with the legendary dream stalker himself, Freddy Krueger? I can credit the Nightmare on Elm Street series for solidifying me as a horror fan, and I think what makes it special is just how personal and relatable it is. Far from the throwaway schlock outsiders to the genre usually associate with slasher movies, Elm Street has a surprising amount of depth in deriving its true scares from the experience and anxiety of growing up as a young person in the suburbs. Freddy Krueger himself resembles a modernized version of the malicious, child-stealing fairies of Celtic folklore* (you can read more about them here and this is an article specifically about the Irish changeling legend); at first, you think he’s getting revenge for the kids’ parents burning him to death, but really he just gets sick pleasure out of the job with his black humour and strongly implied paedophilia (and yes, the classic fairies were just as fond of disproportionate retribution). But it’s no longer medieval Scotland or Ireland, but suburban America in the 1980s, so his punishments have changed with the times.

Which brings us to the humans. One thing that makes the series still as relevant in the millennial age as it was in the 80s is the enduring theme of generational conflict. With a few exceptions, the adults in the series are not only oblivious to Freddy Krueger’s threat, but inadvertently help him out by overruling the teenagers’ concerns with their condescending, know-it-all attitudes. Elm Street is a world only young people understand, and outside the context of the films, something that speaks to us, something we can call ours. Sure, the D&D, comic, and video game references may be cheesy, but they’re an admirable attempt to connect with youth culture (and everyone references Now I’m Playing With Power decades later, so it obviously worked). Overall, the teenagers’ concerns are treated seriously, whether they be substance abuse, bulimia, or paternal rape. Even if they’re the target of Freddy’s quips, that highlights just how vile he is and makes him more memorable as a threat; because he has no boundaries to his vindictiveness.**

But a villain needs hero(in)es to oppose him, and Elm Street certainly delivers. The strong-willed, resourceful female leads are not only emblematic of how feminist the horror genre can be, but frankly, most mainstream movies could learn from the horror genre in that regard. One of my favourite aspects of the overarching story told by the movies is the succession of survival skills from one girl to another, with everyone bonding over their shared misery in being stalked by an evil child rapist. It’s a morbid take on the power of friendship, but that’s horror for you. There’s a lot more to say about Nancy and co, but I’ll have to get into the individual movies for that.

So far, I’ve talked about the series as a whole. Yes, that includes the sequels. I know outside the fandom, they’re seen as cheap, lazy cash-ins to a masterpiece, but if Never Sleep Again is anything to go by, they were anything but lazy; the sequels suffered primarily from being rushed to come out every year or two and the production crew had to work their butts off to get them out in time. Still, the original film’s premise was solid enough a framework to support the sequels, and they all bring up interesting ideas at the very least, even if they weren’t explored as much or as well as they could have been. Besides, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master seem to define Freddy in the public consciousness more than the original movie, and for all of Wes Craven’s brilliance, I attribute that to the characters being more likable and relatable.*** I guess they’re like the Godzilla or other classic monster movie sequels; you have to be an aficionado to appreciate them for what they are.

So, what about the new Elm Street movie coming out? Honestly, I’m tired of remakes in general. If they wanted to do a new Elm Street movie, they should come up with an original story. It doesn’t even have to be connected to the original canon at all. The basic premise is a teenage girl and her friends fending off Freddy Krueger in their dreams and dysfunctional life problems while awake. You can do a lot with that framework, so why just copy what already exists? If I wanted to see the old movies, I’d watch the old movies. If only the movie business wasn’t so risk-averse in general….

So in conclusion, Elm Street is awesome. It’s more than just a slasher series; I’d go as far as to call it a modern young adult fairy tale. And in a weird way, it’s cathartic seeing teenage girls triumph over a demon who preys on your insecurities. The series even helped me understand my family problems better and improve my relationship with my parents, so I also have a vested emotional connection to the series. So hats off to Wes Craven, Robert Englund and the rest of the Elm Street crew, and may the man of our dreams remain as immortal as Dracula.

*I’ve never heard Wes Craven or anyone else specifically mention fairies, but I see a strong resemblance motif-wise.

**Aside from actually killing a child on-screen as opposed to a teenager. Even the opening of Freddy vs Jason makes it a discretion shot. Impressive that after everything else, the very act in his job description is what’s going too far for people’s tastes, though I too would be pretty uncomfortable seeing that on-screen myself.

***I think of Dream Warriors as the Elm Street answer to X-Men and The Dream Master as a magical girl anime with Freddy Krueger as the villain. And now I am obligated to explain what I mean by that.

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