The Longevity Thesis Book Video

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Game (An Interview with Jeff)

I needed some distraction in the worst way, so I called my bud Nina and had her drop me off at The Texan Lounge on the Karnellian Lunar Base. Nina's usually pretty busy, what with saving the Earth and all, but she's the only person I know in Canada who has a spaceship, and as always, she was happy to oblige.

Once past the decontam lock, I was very relieved to be able to shuck my space suit and pull in a few lungfuls of recycled air. They weren't bad at the Texan. Their filters were changed regularly, and they put a hint of mesquite in the atmosphere. At any rate, it was way better than what the suit could offer me. They also scan you on the way in, eliminating passport checks and the rest of it.

The other thing I really liked about the Texan was the way they had the place lit, so that the lighting didn't interfere with the spectacular view of the Shoshuma Nebula that slowly spiralled 30 million light years outside the transplex windows of the lounge. They had the outfit the main structure with metal reinforcements, all grey and pocked with rivets, but otherwise the joint was decorated with wooden siding and bull skulls complete with horns. The staff all wore their long hair in ponytails, strutted about in jeans, sometimes under chaps, and white shirts with string ties. Guillaume, the bartender, doesn't really fit in a Texan bar, but he knows how to make just about any drink you can imagine, so they hired him anyway. He already had a lime margarita waiting for me when I walked in.

"Salut, Chérie," he greeted me. "Ça va?"

"Hey Guillaume. Not bad. You?"

"Ah, tout va bien. Comme toujours. Hé, there is a – comment dit on? A sheark, here. Maybe you want to play against 'im? I've watched 'im win the last 9 games 'e's played. You like a challenge, non?"

I turned to follow Guillaume's line of sight, and saw a figure sitting in a dusky corner of the lounge, wearing a long, brown coat with a shoulder cape, his face covered by the wide brim of a Stetson, and a Jack and Coke in one hand. No one was in a game with him now. I noticed that Daniel Craig was sitting at a different table, taking in some other suckers. I guessed the "sheark" was too much even for him.

"Who is he?" I asked.

"All dat I know, is 'e is called 'Jeff'. 'E says 'e is from San Diego, but 'e talks like 'e is from New York." Guillaume grinned at me and pushed a set of cards and chips across the bar. He knew I couldn’t resist a good round of Hold 'Em. "Apparently, 'e is also a member of dat writers' group you used to be with. Creeters."

"Oh, Critters? Cool. Thanks, Guillaume." I picked up the card set and walked over to the table.

"Hi!" I said when I reached where he sat. "You Jeff?"

Dude looked up and a slow grin stretched across his face when he saw the silver case of chips. He kicked out a chair for me.

"Have a seat," he said. "You can deal first."

The tables at the Texan automatically link your bank account to the chips you toss onto the surface. Depending on how much you have, the chips change colour. If you're out of cash, they remain clear. My chips started staying clear alarmingly quickly. I tried to discretely scoop half of them back into the case, checking to see if Jeff had noticed. Of course he had. I pretended not to care and counted out an equal number for him. All his remained coloured. We threw in the ante, and he posted a blind as I dealt and put down the flop.

"So I hear you're with Critters," I began conversationally.

"Yeah," said Jeff. So far he seemed like a pretty relaxed guy. "I'm just in the process of shopping short stories around now, so there's nothing that I can really promote just yet. I do have – what I've been told by my readers – a twisted, little fairy tale called 'Prodigy' that I'm shopping around. Another, 'Flashpoint', is currently in edit."

"Awesome." My hand sucked, but I didn't want to let on this early, so I matched his bet and dealt the turn. "Any novels in the works?"

"I really like creating something that someone can enjoy in a short amount of time. I have more than a few novels in me, but for now I'm focused on shorter works."

Things were looking up with the turn. I matched again and put down the river. "Any super deep messages in your stuff?"

"I write to entertain. There are times when the topics are heavier, but if someone says of my work: 'that was great/fun/scary/thought provoking/etc.' then I've done my job. I'm not out to write something clever just for the sake of being clever."

Split pot. I was nervous, but at least I was still in the game. I discretely wiped my hands on my jeans as Jeff collected the cards.

"Kinda sounds like you're more into fantasy than SF."

"Yeah, dark fantasy. I really enjoy starting out with something grounded in reality and then taking it a bit off center. The 'dark' part comes in why people make the easy decision instead of the right one. I'm doing some research on a science fiction novel that has been chasing around in my brain for a while, but I'll let you know once I get to the writing on that one." He looked up and winked.

As Jeff shuffled, Daniel Craig's cell phone rang and I flinched. It was the James Bond theme. While he was talking, two more of his phones sounded off. Man, the guy had, like, five cell phones. All at once, his cell phones seemed to feed back into each other and two of them blew up, setting Daniel's white suit on fire.

Jeff laughed. "Here's to a world without cell phones!" he crowed. "You know, I tried to win those off him, just so I could smash them, but he got all offended and walked off."

The next hand proceeded. Things were looking pretty good for me after the flop, so I raised the bet. Jeff eyed me speculatively, then said, "You know, I see you haven't got much cash, but I'm sure we can make this more interesting. How 'bout I throw in the best car in the universe? My Ford Mustang."

I gave a tell when my fingers started tapping the table. I pretended I was sizing him up, when I already knew he was, how did Guillaume say? A shark. I tried to pry some information out of him, and ended up asking a really stupid question.

"A Mustang, huh? You got some kind of superpowers to go along with that?"

"Sure," said Jeff. "The ability to find a path to the best possible outcome in all situations. Nothing too big, just the sort of thing that makes people smack their head and say 'Damn, why didn't I think of that?' Just call me Captain Obvious."

Geez, this guy was good. He wasn't giving anything away.

"Well, I haven't got a fancy car. How about a really good character. Those are always useful to a writer."

Jeff shrugged. "Depends what it is."

"What kind of D&D character would you prefer?"

"One of my favorites was a hunchback thief who used to work in the circus and used to get in trouble for sticking up for the underdog."

"Uh, haven't got one of those. How about a villain?"

"It would have to be cross between Donald Trump and Bill Clinton. Neither are villains, but a driven, charming, uncle/mentor character that has dreams of world domination and a rubber chicken fetish. That and a monkey henchman – Henchmonkey? – that he's always admonishing for smoking."

"Huh. Haven't got one of those either."

"How about an extra publishing contract?" countered Jeff. "I'd like to be with Simon & Shuster. I've got Stef Penney's 'Tenderness of Wolves' sitting right next to me. This is her first novel and they've done a great job at getting the word out and producing it."

"I wish. Nope, haven't got that either. I do have a small moon out in the Toopa System. Haven't seen it yet, but the agent told me it has terellium deposits."

Jeff considered. "OK," he finally said, and the turn was tossed on the table. It was not good. Jeff was calm and relaxed. Smiling slightly. I bet he had a straight. I tried to distract him.

"So which authors are you into the most?"

"Oh, I like Richard Matheson, Stephen King, Joe Lansdale, Raymond Chandler, and James Morrow. Although the book that impressed me the most in my life was 'The Big Sleep' by Raymond Chandler. Great characters, awesome plot, and plenty of sharp dialog. He had me at: 'dead men are heavier than broken hearts.'"

"Wow. That does sound good."

"So does this," said Jeff as the river hit the table. Maybe good for him. I was one card short of a flush and didn't even have a pair. There went my moon. I stood up.

"Hey, no hard feelings?" asked Jeff. He held out his hand. He really was an OK guy.

"No, of course not. I'm just cleaned out. Good luck with the writing, eh?" I shook his hand.

As I walked out, Guillaume gave me a commiserating smile and said, "Dommage, Chérie. Meilleur chance la prochaine fois!"

You can visit Jeff (and maybe test his poker skills) at his MySpace page.


sfgirl said...

Hmmm...With your luck at cards, next time I'll get you to pay me for the ride FIRST... :)

Jennifer Rahn said...

But I just sent you a keg of beer!

sfgirl said...

True...but virtual beers just don't do it for me anymore...I've had too many...Now, Kregleg wine with fifi juice on the side...mmmmm... straight to the hypothalamus and pineal gland...WOW! Are you coming to Vcon? You can pay me then!

Jennifer Rahn said...

Hey Nina. Nope. Not making it to VCon. Too close to a big annual meeting at work that I'm not ready for. But I do get to start a mini-book tour that weekend, thanks to Justyn!