Friday, May 29, 2015

Uncanny Valley Girl (Blog Series at MerSea Waves)

Here is Chapter One of a blog series at MerSea Waves, crossposted for your perusal. Thanks!

Betsy developed crushes with her whole heart at least once a month, involving the usual pining, and conniving among friends of her current objet d'amour to launch campaigns on her merits. The latest guy to catch her eye had shared a conference coffee with me. As recent college grads, Betsy and I dragged one another to any Con we could find that summer, convinced festivals were passéfor life beyond the playa, a.k.a. real life.

As I prepared for grad school by wrapping up my project in the robotics lab, Betsy took a part-time retail position and lived with her grandparents while searching for a job as an accountant. Her college internship had fallen apart over a coworker love relationship, which was no surprise to anyone in our circle of friends, some of whom called her “No Boundaries Betsy” behind her back.

I was sympathetic to her plight, for facing life without college roommates compels one to look harder for a partner in lieu of settling into the 20s singles culture. Since living with her grandparents, Betsy had become particularly desperate. Her bubbly personality threatened to burst into neurosis if she didn't mate soon.

So when she caught up with me in the commons swinging her swag bag, I'd already imagined the lithe professor before me would suddenly become exactly Betsy's type.

“Oh, my god! You look just like the guy in Some Kind of Wonderful!” she exploded with one gesturing hand, tossing the bag onto the table with the other, narrowly missing my free mug bearing a serpentine startup logo.

“Eric Stoltz, this is Betsy.” I smiled, cringing slightly.

“At least I don't look like the Caprica Eric.” Robert smirked.

Betsy frowned at the missed reference. “I mean your hair is totally red and you're skinny, you know, hopelessly, heart-throbbingly cute. I had such a crush on him in that movie.”

“Actually, I'm Robert Hopeless, nice to meet you, Betsy.” He rose slightly and nodded.

Betsy appeared triumphant before she caught herself. “Ugh, I'm bored, Trin,” she whined to me, her arms collapsing onto the table as she sat in an empty chair. “This dumb guy was on and on about going to Mars. Like, whatever, there's no Starbucks on Mars.”

“You might have been listening to my exciting talk, 3D Bioprinting: The Bridge Across the Uncanny Valley,” Robert retorted, running a hand through his auburn mane. “May I grab you a coffee, Betsy? How do you take it?”

“Lying down,” She answered with a grateful smile.

As soon as Robert ambled off to refill my mug and fetch one for Betsy, she leaned into my face, begging, “Please, I can haz nerd?”

“How can I deny you anything, what with your perfect grammar and adorable sniveling?” I answered, patting her hand.

Although I had prepared myself for her instant attraction, my heart dropped a bit as I realized how much I'd been enjoying Robert's banter with me, pre-Betsy. I shrugged it off as folly. I was too busy for un amour d'été. Betsy's French phrases were rubbing off on me, but she could keep her romantic subterfuge. And this summer love.

It didn't occur to me then, since attraction is not a decision of the logical mind: No matter how nobly I behaved regarding my own feelings for Robert, a selfish side of Betsy I had found easy to ignore became glaringly obvious in the way she never guessed my own attraction to him. But I admonished myself for such petty thoughts as I saw him first. If he found her as charming as I imagined he already did, jealousy served no purpose.

He returned with the coffees, and I withdrew subtly from the chatter, denying my seething regret. I mentally wadded up my list of questions about his talk and shut down my enthusiasm. Gratitude and grace covered my tracks well.

A few moments later, a dinner date with Robert secured, Betsy slinked off to her next talk, already glossing her lips for another possible encounter with geeky destiny. I wondered if Robert guessed at her endless list in which he was merely a prospect.

As we stood up to leave, he inquired about my own itinerary. “Next stop: Psychology and A.I. I'm sure it will be the most poorly attended talk of the conference. I assisted on the research as an undergrad.” I rolled my eyes. “Not exactly a mech concern.”

“No.” Robert laughed. “But of particular interest to me. Empathy is the missing link in A.I. I'm coming with you, if you don't mind.”

I blushed. “Of course, you don't need my permission.”

And in a moment of odd caprice, he took my hand and grinned. “Then let's go together.” 

- Christiane Lopez

Other Chapters:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

my hands

my hands etch down sighs, sketching this motion
along calligraphy nib on rag hair’s whisper,

my hands shape ancient arm break in air
my hands cup your phantom memory hip
--can you still them, flying away to you?

hands carving the energy forming impressions
of your need, on a night of talking with my hands 

© Christiane Lopez

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Get Your Kids to Go Outside and Play (a Game) This Holiday

Yet another assignment in my Future of Storytelling MOOC has spawned a terrific experience. This time it included a friend and her three-year-old daughter. 

The challenge
Using locations and original characters, tell a site-specific, location-based story. 

The Backstory
Melody Avise, former NASA scientist residing on the Space Coast of Florida in a post-apocalyptic techie commune, released daughter Blue to the world government's student dome in Virginia in preparation for Mars colonization. 

Blue's memory was wiped upon arrival at the dome, but before her departure years ago, Melody implanted her with a hormone-activated memory chip that would restore her memories. Meanwhile, something goes wrong with the program and Blue flees, using the memory map emerging in her mind to search for her Florida home. 

Melody's enhanced connection with her daughter (augmented intelligence resembling psychic ability) prompted her to leave concrete clues for Blue in case she returned. 

The Game
In order to help Blue remember, you will find the objects and post photos of them via social media in a public place Blue may view them to help jog her memory and bring her home. 

The first clue was left on Foursquare and shared via Facebook and Twitter.

A friend decided to pursue the game with her 3-year-old daughter.  Here are their photos posted on Facebook this morning:

Original Photo Set Above Copyright A. Anastasia 

The final cache contained a child's pearl necklace and was found under our community Christmas Tree. My friend's daughter wants to know when she can help Blue again. 

The success of the game is encouraging, and was simple enough for an adult-guided child to enjoy. The complications included unexpected crowds at the sites, making placement a bit difficult, and the limited number of possible participants. The share on social media was a huge hit, and conversations about the game are underway at the moment. This could lead to a much larger game, and an ARG is in the works!

Now it's your turn. If you want a story to get you started, you select elements from our mermaid tale below, or use an invented story or existing storybook to incite an adventure in your own neighborhood! You may be starting a new holiday tradition!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Face It, Gaming Is a Thing - A Good Thing For Writers!

Gaming. An emotional word. We are talking about playing digital games, either in an app, on a console, or online.

How do you feel about people who game? Teenagers who use TeamSpeak and collaborate with players all over the world, who team up to talk and yell online while killing zombies, are one scenario. 

Another way to play is via iPhone or Facebook, and involves apps such as Angry Birds, Farmville, Candy Crush, or my personal favorite mind break game, Flow. 

Lots of positive research is emerging about the happiness of gamers, and the increase in problem solving and social skills games teach. 

Yet gaming sounds rather bogus to some. It even makes some gamers' parents angry, because they believe that gaming does not serve as a valid activity, such as reading, watching TV, or going to a party. 

In fact many games involve all three of these things.

(Our philosophy is that mental downtime is a good thing for the brain. It's each individual's choice how to spend that time.)

What writers may not realize is that gaming relies on two very important elements, including 1. game play, or the feel of the game, and 2. story, or motivation behind the characters' action. 

If writers find publishing an eBook disheartening, there is another option now. Why not try writing a good story that gamers will want join?

We have one such story in the works. If you write science fiction, or any fiction, feel free to contact me at for more information.

There is still time to join this free MOOC, The Future of Storytelling, which I am taking with over 80,000 friends from all over the world! This week we are studying the future of computer game storytelling:

Saturday, November 16, 2013

I’m Dreaming of a Beige, no, RED Christmas!

Check out the HGTV Christmas blog, and you’ll find a disturbing trend. Perhaps we can blame anything from IKEA to the economy, but the trend toward beige as a holiday color has begun to take the festiveness out of the festivities. 

Somehow red has become too garish to those who seem embarrassed by many Americans’ favorite holiday of the year--?

Chanukah has its brilliant blue, and Christmas has its green and candy apple or beet red. That’s tradition! (So if you want to change that to boring beige, billing it as the new Christmas color, you don’t have that power, random designers.) 

Christmas red inspires my holiday cheer!
Add some silver, gold, or whatever you like, but the Christmas tradition of green and red endures in our Southern village.

Why am I so emotional about this tradition? The psychology behind a red Christmas has its basis in emotional payoff. Red is passionate and demands attention. 

Beige is neutral, lifeless, and easy to ignore. 

Are we trying to ignore Christmas? Will it make us happier or more engaged with our families and friends during the holidays to opt for a less obtrusive color?


Tell me how these holiday beads would be better in brown. Exactly. 

So you’re with me? 

OK, it’s time to deck the halls and paint the town red!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Beautiful Boats to Delight the Mermaid in You

Let's take a boating break, shall we? 

The photos above depict my son's 18th birthday voyage on our friends' Hatteras. 

The black and white photos are infrared, everything was shot with my Nikon D90. They look amazing printed on metallic paper. I'm creating a collection for our gallery at the Shoppes at Naples Bay Resort. 

Buoyant blessings!

Christiane Lopez