Viable Paradise: Day 0

Sunday. The day started out clear, a little on the chillier side (mid-60’s, overcast and with a breeze… good thing I had a jacket), and quiet. This was the only day to sleep in and maybe explore before the rigors of the workshop commenced.

I spent my morning rather leisurely, reading a book for my MFA class (trying to finish it before everything started), as well as doing a little writing (homework), before trekking into town. I walked to town, taking in the views as my path took me along the water, even straying off the pedestrian/bike trail to walk into nature around a pond. I took some pictures to try out the phone (will post some later in the week), did a little souvenir shopping, then had lunch at a local place, getting my check just in time to see the drizzle that was settling in over the area. It was light, just one step heavier than a mist, and while an annoyance it was far from a terrible event. I made it back to the hotel still mostly dry, and with enough time to relax a little before the festivities started.

And start it did, since this is the first chance I had to really catch up on everything here (yes, it’s been that busy).

Sunday night was the official “welcome” dinner, after which we were given our t-shirt and swag bag. The bag contained our schedules – for both workshops and 1-on-1s, a water bottle, bundle of writing supplies, notepad, some other materials (mine had a bound copy of articles, some others had plastic organizational folios). And of course, stories. The joke before we got them was “our 200 pages of reading for the week.” Then we got our bags, and they indeed held close to 200 pages of prose. (The stories we submitted for application are what would be critiqued.)

After the swag had been distributed, and discussed, we split into groups to play some games: Thing, and Mafia. The point behind the games is two fold. First, they served to give a chance to interact with other members of the group and get to know each others names; second, to have a little bit of fun (writer’s can’t be serious and brooding all the time, you know).

About the games:

The group I was in had about 15 people, including Elizabeth Bear, Steve Brust and moderated by Steve Gould, and we started with Thing. The premise – like that of the horror movie – is that the players are a group of scientists at an Antarctic research station. One of us has become infected by an alien (The Thing) who is now posing as a scientist. [The original thing: determined at random by drawing of cards – all black with one red. Whosoever gets the red starts as the Thing.] The objective: The scientists are trying to “kill” the Things before the balance shifts (Things outnumber Scientists). How it’s played: Once the Setup is completed, the players “sleep” (everyone closes their eyes and the Thing is given a chance to reveal his/herself to the moderator), the players pick two players to “test” – if the person tested is human, meh, okay, whatever. If the person picked is a Thing, they must “die a horrible death.” After the second failed guess (i.e. – human), it becomes night again (repeat the “sleeping” and the Thing selects someone else to become a thing). Then repeat – two guesses, “sleep” another scientist is turned – until either all of the Things are eliminated or there are more Things than scientists. One thing of note: IF it’s the second guess of a round and you eliminate a Thing, you can test again (and again, if eliminating another Thing – until getting a second “human”).

Sound complicated? It’s not, really… the hardest part is deciding (by committee) who to test each round. Players are allowed to bluff and misdirect (for example, Steve Brust repeatedly said “I am a Thing” for most of the rounds, even when testing revealed he wasn’t – until much later in the game). Our game went so long that it came down to only two Scientists left… I was able to stay in until the last five before being turned then ousted.

After we finished, we joined the other group (which had already finished a game of each, and had folks already calling it a night), so those interested could play another game, one called Mafia. Principle is similar to Thing – a card is dealt to each person, and depending on the card means you’re either a Villager or Mafioso, with one person as a Commandant. The Commandant is able, during the “sleep” between rounds, to indicate players to “test” them, determining if they are Mafia, potentially using that information during the “testing” in the rounds. The variance, though, is that “at night” (the “sleep” stage) the Mafia “kills” one of the Villagers; during “the day” the group offs someone else – in hopes of taking out the Mafia members. [I stayed up and played, and was a Villager, and was one of the last two villagers left when there were two Mafia left – forward moves meant Mafia won.]

After that, it was back to my room to tackle the first two stories for workshopping the next morning.

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