Tag Archives: Alexander

Stories are everywhere. Keep telling them.


In my final quarter of university, I had to take a ‘portfolio’ class. The idea behind the class was to help students tie all of their humanities learning together into something they could talk about. It was all about figuring out what we’d been doing in school and cementing those last few lessons the university was supposed to be teaching us (like how to sell our skills). Mostly it was a bollocks class that tried to teach me how to write a gods damned essay for the billionth time, we made roadmaps of our time in University of Washington Bothell (Pictures). The one thing I can credit the class with was it did help me realize that I love stories. As a mythology-focused anthropologist, writer and – at the time – game designer, I am fascinated by the stories we tell to define the world around us. As an educator, I’ve come to realize that one of the most important tools you can equip a person with is the ability to tell their own stories.

Stories are the life blood of humanity. Almost as soon as we can talk, we’re telling tales. Young children always have something they want to tell you, even if they’re literally retelling the last twenty seconds of events. But we put down these tools of imagination as we grow up, swapping them for the technical, quantifiable and testable skills of science, technology, engineering and math or abandoning them out of self-consciousness. By middle school/junior high, the kids who still fight invisible monsters and pretend to grand adventures are weird or childish. Either kids are aimed at the drama department or left to tell stories on their own time, with the implication that stories are for reading and the odd project, not real life. The script is wrong.

I have run Dungeon & Dragons, D&D, for middle schoolers, LARPed (live action roleplay) with elementary school kids in the woods and watched twelve-year olds write and draw comics far better than anything I could have done, and been paid for all of them. I’ve run programs for kids who wanted to make video games, stop motion movies, or live action movies. Seen kids who hate reading record themselves playing a game, pretending they’re Youtubers recording for an audience. Through all of them, I’ve seen kids learn how to communicate, cooperate and collaborate. They’ve learned teamwork, leadership and some sneaky math to boot. But most importantly, they learned that it’s still okay to express themselves in narrative. That ‘actual adults’ haven’t completely given up on telling stories. These groups of kids weren’t just the nerds and geeks of their peer group either. Jocks, preps and all the other social groups played D&D in the program. Even the most serious kids found a niche for themselves during the Live Action Roleplay where we pretended the camp was a feudal realm and hit each other with foam swords in the woods. The joy on their faces, especially the older ones, the ones ‘aging out’ of the world of storytelling, was a sight to see.

Now, I’m almost sure we’ve fallen trap of thinking here. How many of you kept thinking of books, comics and movies when I was talking about stories?  Maybe some of you went to plays instead, bravo. I knew the trap was there and I still fell into as I wrote this. I don’t know if we can truly avoid it with the way English is structured but the trap is still a falsehood.

There are the obvious ways to tell a story. You can write a book, an article or a poem. You can film a movie. You can act a tale. You can draw, or animate. But there are other ways, less obvious ways. Musicians, those who free style or those who play from sheet music are telling a story in the flow of the music. The composers of songs use the notes to tell the audience a tale, if you know how to listen. Dancers tell their own stories, and not just the interpretive dancers. Even the technically adherent ballerina is part of retelling a story of a choreographer. Artists of every type leave a story behind in their pieces. You can draw a literal storyboard but even the most absurdly abstract piece of art says something. That two thousandth still life study that a power art student is doing right now still describes the fruit and the moment in time, and in collection with the other thousand, the artist’s growth (or lack of). Photographers have their own maximum for it, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’.

Maybe you don’t want to be an artist though. You like all the science and maths you do. Great, but even the simple chemistry equation tells a story. Maybe not be an interesting one but it’s there. The least obvious of all storytelling techniques is the most common though. You can say it. Kids start telling stories before they start writing them, people have been telling stories since before writing existed. You do it all the time anyway, like when you talk about James from Accounting or tell your friend what you did over the weekend. The trick is realizing you’re doing it.

Tell stories on purpose. It doesn’t matter how; it doesn’t matter if they’re good; it doesn’t even matter if they’re math equations. Stories are the soul of humanity. No one has every truly stopped telling them and it’s about time we realize that.

The Crew’s Resolutions

Here at Podcast Lost in Space we are a mosh posh group of millennials at different stages in our lives trying to figure out how it all works. One time of the year when nearly everyone is working on themselves is the New Year. So we thought it was only fitting for us to share our resolutions for 2016.


Doc’s resolution is  to film and upload 1 youtube video a month. Totaling 12 videos by the end of the year.

Alexander’s resolution is to get in shape and start having adventures. He will even be working on a series of blog posts on his experience doing this called Op Respec.

Alyssa doesn’t make new year resolutions.

Newman’s resolution is to be better with finances.

Seneca’s resolution is to go on more adventures and spend more time with friends.


What are your resolutions for 2016?

Writer’s Corner: Why I don’t like NaNoWriMo

(Intentionally mildly pretentious image of me writing? Check!)

I wasn’t going to do it. You couldn’t have made me. There was no way in hell you were going to get me to throw in my hat into the “Hey guys it’s time for NaNoWriMo!” ring if you held me at gunpoint. But suddenly, here I am. Of course, it’s one of the biggest events for beginning and amateur authors of the year. Confused about what I’m talking about? No worries, it confused me at first. It’s November! Which means that NaNoWriMo is starting up (hey peeps, it already started by the time you’re reading this!). NaNoWriMo stands for National November Writing Month — go here: http://nanowrimo.org/ — The idea behind this event is to give you, the budding author, or the lazy one, a deadline and timeline to force you into writing a 50,000-word ‘novel’. It doesn’t have to be good, it doesn’t have to be trash, it just has to be 50,000-words or greater. What do you get for completing this Herculean task you ask? Why absolutely nothing, aside from the soul-affirming knowledge that you finished a 50,000-word novel in THIRTY DAYS. Oh and you have a 50,000-word novel now, of course. Why wasn’t I going to talk about this great idea some genius put together way back in 1999? Because, I don’t like it.

Now, don’t get me wrong I don’t think there is anything wrong with the program. I’ve ‘tried’ for the last three years. I have a bunch of writer friends who love it, it’s a fun sort of marathon for all us writer nerds, but it’s not for everyone.

I don’t know about any of you, dear readers, but November might be the most hectic and chaotic month of the year for me. It’s midterm season for many of the students in the US, you have Thanksgiving (American) and the whole month always seems to get really damned full. That’s the first reason I don’t like NaNoWriMo (hence forth Nanowrimo because capitals suck). November is an awfully busy month by dint  of not being December, when everyone is home with their families and being far enough from September that school tends to be really crunching down.

My second reason for not liking it? I don’t write in a way that’s conducive to Nanowrimo. I’m a procrastinator by nature –- yes, I’m sorry Sennie but this is not quite late! –- so I need deadlines and Nanowrimo’s fantastic for that, true. Yet while I have proven I can write novel length books at a George RR Martin speed (Seven years from inception to my first ever –- read: crap –- novel is pretty good in my defense) and I know I want to write novel length books, I just don’t like to focus on them. I created a rich and complex world while working on my first book and I love it dearly but it’s big enough, and I was stupid enough, that I have to create languages. Not one, multiple. The number of which will only go up as I explore this wonderful world. World-building is one of my favorite parts of writing, but the words and time I put in to world-building don’t count toward Nanowrimo. The fifteen short stories I run off to record as inspiration hits me don’t count either, sorry me. Part of this is a discipline problem, I should be able to write down the idea for those short stories and move on; I shouldn’t feel the burning desire to write a small essay about the caliber system used by the primary species in my story (because their guns don’t use bullets), or a 100-word history/bio about the pistol my main character loves… or the eight other weapons that manufacturer makes and their fire rates, ranges, accuracy, general methods of use and history. But for me, for a long time, that was fun and sometimes that’s all you need.

I wanted to –- read: want to and am still working on –- write novel length piece because it’ll show off all the wonderful world-building I love to do but Nanowrimo has proved to be an actively discouraging experience. Just because I can’t write 1600-words a day for an entire month because my life is busy or I’d rather spend that hour or two crafting a half-dozen civilian corporations that may matter later, but I’m inspired to do them now; I was starting to feel like I was less of a writer than my dear friends who were doing it with me. Which was ridiculous because if you’re not careful I have a forty-five-minute lecture on caliber (I call it TEOIS, which stands for Total Energy Output and Impact Strength) that comes all off the top of my head.

So this is me talking to all those other writers who struggle with Nanowrimo incredibly but know they can stick to a proper writing schedule. That when they sit down and focus, they can punch out a prodigious amount of words in a very short time and have already finished a writing project of some length before. It’s okay. Don’t feel bad, Nanowrimo is to help light a fire under people’s asses; it’s not a contest or a measuring stick for writers to beat themselves up with, so don’t. Cheer on your friends who really do try it, help them out and all the while keep chipping away at your own. Do what you love, and do what you’re comfortable with. And HAVE FUN (or at least enjoy emotionally torturing your readers) because that’s why we started writing. We wanted to tell stories bubbling inside of us and we found the written word as our medium.

So keep writing 300-word break downs of every star nation’s ship classes and their traditional and non-tradition tactical and strategic roles… oh. That’s just me isn’t it? Very well then. How about we end with, keep writing.

Shameless plugs:

In case you were wondering, my big writing project a 200,000-word, seven-years in the making novel that is very much not for sale and a pair of short stories on Amazon that I self-published because I could.

Check them out:

Jirvaerka Anniversary:


Project Implacable