Writing my tie-in novella for the Wasteland 3 video game

No Way Home was written as a companion to the Wasteland 3 video game by inXile Entertainment, and explores a beloved main character’s adventures between W2 and W3. (Available as part of the Digital Deluxe Version of the game through Steam.) The other two novellas you get as part of this package are written by Matt Wallace and Ari Marmell.

Cover art for all three novellas by Brissia Jiménez

I’ve gone back and forth about when to post this for a couple of months now. On one hand, I’m impatient and excited to talk about this project. I originally got the contract in 2019, and the finished novella was accepted by my editor last November, so I’ve been waiting over a year to share the details. I couldn’t even tell people I’d worked on this specific game – inXile’s third installment in their foundational post-apocalyptic video game series – until it was released at the end of August 2020. But that was 3 months ago, so why did I keep waiting?

Spoilers, and an NDA.

In order for me to talk about the writing part of this writing project, I have to talk about the games themselves, the lore and history, which means potentially spoiling the game for people who hadn’t played it yet. Because my novella is set between W2 and W3, I have to talk a little about the game that just dropped and a lot more about the game that came before. Wasteland 2 was released in 2014, which should be plenty of time to ensure that most people who want to play it have played it, right? Well, maybe not. See, there’s some people who didn’t grow up with Wasteland, who learned about it when they heard game 3 was coming out, and who just this year started playing game 2 to prepare.

Plus, Wasteland 2 has multiple endings. I’d played it through different ways before I was even hired to write for inXile, but I still hadn’t gotten the exact ending the studio considers to be canon history for going into Wasteland 3. So when I talk about that – which I will, in this post – it’s likely to surprise at least a few people, even on a game that’s been out for six years.

I love gaming. I wouldn’t want to anyone to ruin all the surprises on a new game for me, so I definitely don’t want to do that for anyone else. Plus, I signed an NDA when I was being considered for the job, which means I can’t say anything that isn’t public already. Because of that, I had to wait until certain plot points became public knowledge, or risk breaking my contracts (which I’d never ever do). To be safe, I waited three months after the newest game became available, and when I do talk about possible-spoilers later in this post, I’ll warn you first.

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Election Day Blues (a song with actual lyrics)

I haven’t written in forever but this morning bad captions on MSNBC led to joking with Don about “election day blues” and suddenly I knew how to write that. So I did. It’s meant to be sung, and it’s as much the blues as a poor white girl from central CA can manage (which is a lot, but maybe not enough; your mileage may vary and I’m okay with that). And yes, I’ve already voted.

Election Day Blues

I woke up today and it felt like snow
And oh it’s cold, the day before the US election
It’ll all be over, for good or bad
Or it won’t and this is the beginning
Of the end of democracy

But it’s been ending, or it’s been changing
As long as we’ve all be alive
And we can make it, if we vote now
So they tell me, but Lord I don’t know

Everywhere someone will tell me I’m wrong
For believing we could ever be better than this
Or I’m wrong for saying we’re worse than we should be
And history judge us, we’re as good or as bad as
We ever were now/I don’t know
There has to be better than this

But it’s been ending, or it’s been changing
As long as we’ve all be alive
And we can fix it, if we vote now
So they tell me, but Lord I don’t know

I want to believe that a vote makes the
Dif’rence, I want us to rise up and cast out
A monster but he’s just a weak man who hates us
For not being afraid, And we all deserve better
I want to have hope/I don’t know
There has to be better than this

But it’s been ending, or it’s been changing
As long as we’ve all be alive
And we can save it, if we vote now
So they tell me, but Lord I don’t know

But it’s been ending, or it’s been changing
As long as we’ve all be alive
And we can save us, if we vote now
So they tell me, but Lord I don’t know.

Free Flash Fiction: “A Revised History of Earth”

A Revised History of Earth

Sherla was lying on her belly on her bed, one of the two tiny singles in the tiny cabin she shared with one of the research girls that just came on board. “Mattie,” she said without looking up from her nail polish, “you can keep talking if you want but I don’t really care about any of that.”

“But the tests are conclusive,” the other woman replied, waving her tablet in the air. “I’ve got it all right here.”

“Don’t care,” Sherla repeated. She applied another strip of opaque black polish to a blank nail and watched as it slowly expanded to cover her nail perfectly. The backs of her hands were criss-crossed with faint scars, leftovers from much worse damage the regen machines back at the base had almost finished repairing, before she got called up to the ship. Still, they were good hands, she thought.

Mattie wasn’t giving up though. “You don’t care that the ruins we found on Planet X are actually older than any known civilization on Earth?” she asked.

“Nope.”

Mattie sat down on the edge of her own bed with a heavy sigh. “I mean… that’s a big deal to me.”

Sherla turned her head to look Mattie in the eyes. “I care that you care, honey,” in between blowing on her nails to set the polish. “But I think we just see this two different ways.”

Mattie shook her head, barely ruffling her close-cropped curls. “How’s that?” she asked.

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Weeknotes 8.1 (August 10, 2020)

More of a thought process than an update this time…

Eight months into the year, and nine of these updates so far (if you include this one). I’m choosing to see that as a win — after all, I haven’t given up on writing these posts, even if it’s not as often as I’d hoped — instead of failure. This is the time to go easy on ourselves, to celebrate the accomplishments instead of beating ourselves up over what isn’t done yet. Find joy in the fact that we’re still here, still striving and surviving, still holding on to hope, because so many aren’t. And so many more can’t.

Step one is always survive. Surviving is always first, and of course, there are going to some days where it’s all you can manage. That’s okay, for a while. For short periods. Everyone struggles. But eventually, you have to do more than merely keep breathing. (And if you think you can’t, for months or years, but somehow you’re paying the bills and taking time for yourself and working toward your goals, then friend you’ve selfishly confused “surviving” for “getting everything I want” and those are not the same things.)

Step two is to be kind, to yourself and everyone around you.

Step three is to dream. To want. To hope. Having goals is not the same as having dreams, because too often goals are rooted in fears. You can be afraid of not achieving, and chase that as if it’s going to solve all your problems, but it’s not letting yourself imagine a better life based on being genuine and happy. Chances are pretty good that when you’re chasing your fears instead, whatever you “achieve” feels hollow, and no matter how much you keep moving those goal posts, you never feel like it’s enough.

It’s not to late to change, though.

Step four is to plan. Make a budget, enroll in a class, practice something until it’s perfect. Whatever you need to give you the foundation to turn your “want” into a “got”. Wanting isn’t enough, but you can learn almost anything, if you put in the work.

Step five is to act on those plans to achieve your dreams. We can’t always live in that last step, because life is hardest for those of us with the least, and the universe isn’t fair. But we have to do steps one and two, always. One, because otherwise we’re not surviving, and two, because otherwise we’re not living. You can’t dream if you aren’t kind to yourself. You can’t act on those dreams if you don’t have dreams, because being motivated by your fears is a quick way to harden your heart and eat away at your soul. You get bitter, and selfish, and you accomplish very little that actually makes you happy.

What a waste of this glorious opportunity for life.

So be kind to yourself, friends, and if you can’t manage that every day, at least be kind to the other people around you. Even if you don’t feel it. Especially if you don’t feel it. Practice kindness on them, until it’s a habit, and you’ll eventually find you’ve learned how to be kind to yourself too.

Need some suggestions? Start by thinking about the people who take care of you. Who does the work that supports your day-to-day? Maybe you live with people who cook for you, clean, or do the shopping. You might have someone who bakes, who brews the coffee, who changes the light bulbs, who makes sure there’s toilet paper in the bathroom. If not, do you have kids or pets? Think about who helps you to take care of them (teachers, day care working, bus drivers, the vet). Or what about the people outside of your home who lend a hand? The neighbor who watered your lawn or shoveled the snow off your walk last winter. The barista who always remembers your favorite coffee drink. The friend who sent you a handwritten letter, just because.

Start by finding ways to help them. Put aside any thought of how to get them to do what you want, or how to get something for yourself. Real kindness isn’t selfish. You give to be kind. Small things, a few minutes of your life: take out the trash or load the dishwasher without your spouse or roommate having to ask. Send an email thanking your child’s teacher for all the work they’ll have to do to keep educating during this stressful time. Give the barista an extra large tip. Leave cookies on your neighbor’s porch (bonus: buy them from a local bakery and you can support the economy while also giving away tasty treats). Reach out to a friend, just to let them know you’re still here. Give compliments more often than you criticize.

And if you think you’re already doing all that, ask what someone needs from you, and then do it.

A few minutes a day to be thoughtful and support those around you isn’t going to take away from anything you wanted to do for yourself. Failing to be kind is going to cost you far more than you’ll ever spend on showing others you care. Really, if you’re not being kind to others, are you happy? Do you wake up feeling good in the morning, knowing you’re a part of a community or a family or a neighborhood? Probably not. But if you keep at it, I promise you, your heart gets a little softer, and your life gets a little brighter. Everything will feel a bit more real than it did before, and you just might figure out how to live.

Weeknotes 6.1 (June 30, 2020)

And then half a year was gone.

It’s been two months since my last post here, and even though I know the shape of things like “months” and “years” and “half” and “two”, time’s lost a lot of meaning to me lately. I keep thinking of things I meant to have done, looking at the date of when I’d meant to do them, and then being surprised by the distance between that date and now, as if the days themselves are unconnected to everything around them. I think “oh I should have done that a few days ago” only to find I’d been telling myself that since the beginning of May.

I have done things of course. The big important ones like keeping my child clean and fed and reasonably happy, or turning in all of my freelance work on time, or figuring out ways to navigate a world that feels tiny (because we’re staying home to avoid the plague) and also massively out of control (because all this free time is giving everyone a chance to realize how truly miserably unfair the world is, and we’re all trying to speak up about it at once).

If you don’t also feel that way, all I can say is “examine your privilege” because you, friend, are floating through life on that unexamined privilege like a giant inflatable pool lounger while the rest of us are drowning.

It just got to be where there was too much going on inside of my head, so I stopped wanting to interact much with anything outside of it. Also, I’ve been in a lot of physical pain lately, though I try to manage it with diet and medication and exercise and positive fucking thinking, so I’m sleeping in short shifts, a few hours at night, a few hours nap in the afternoon if I’m lucky. It’s grinding away at my ability to do the small important things in my life, like draw, or sew, or read books. I can’t stop doing the big stuff because I have to take care of my family and make money. I can’t seem to sleep any more no matter what I try, and yes, whatever you’re about to suggest I’ve tried.

I even bought a new mattress which is being delivered today, because I can’t control that I have this damn disease but I can mitigate it by throwing money at it and since I’m finally starting to have a little money, after years and years of heartbreaking poverty, that’s what I’m going to do.

And on top of doing my work and raising a disabled child and not sleeping and juggling finances and sharing a small space with two other adult-sized people and two needy indoor-only cats and having joint inflammation severe enough to cut off my circulation making it so I randomly can’t use my hands for hours at a time, the world is a fucking trash fire. Cops thinking they’re big game hunters taking down black people like it’s a sport, transphobes trying to separate queer people into little boxes as a way to cut off support for our trans siblings, bitter fools who think public safety is the opposite of freedom, gun-toting racists who think bullets will somehow protect them from their own insecurities, sexual predators weaponizing our community to prey on their own fans, the knee-jerk reactions of their friends who think if they can shout down the victims nothing bad will have really happened in the past, the willfully ignorant people still, still, in the face of all evidence, insisting that we’re not destroying our planet so they don’t have to change anything about the way they live, and of course, and the most, our screaming baboon of a president and the people who enable him in order to bloat their bank accounts and strip away civil rights because they can’t imagine a world in which we are in any way equal to them. None of them can, not the buyers or the shooters or the predators or the politicians who allow Trump to do everything he does. It all comes down to selfishness, on such a grand scale it’s almost too big to see.

It’s all so much. In the face of all of that, who needs another blog post from me?

I didn’t, anyway. Not for a while.

But while none of the above has changed, neither have I given up. I’m still here, despite everything. Things are pretty good at home, despite everything. We’re figuring out how to find space and time for ourselves, and each other, maybe better than we did before. I’m still creating (in my head) which is bound to come out in some story or some piece of art eventually. I’m still myself, existing, standing up, for what I need and what’s right and what’s going to make the world a better place. To have all of that, despite everything, is a gift I’m choosing to give myself.

And you’re still here, reading this, which is a gift too. Thank you.

AND WHILE YOU’RE HERE…

Defund the cops already. Yes, seriously. Because black lives matter, because cops kill a disproportionate number of non-white and disabled and queer people, because our communities are provably, historically, safer when that money is spent on education and support services instead. The poverty-to-prison pipeline only benefits the people profiting from destroying lives (mostly, black lives) to create an arbitrary division between “us” and “them” that causes poor people to get poorer and creates an entirely separate system of justice for rich white people. And let’s face it: if you’re reading this, you’re probably not one of the folks that system is designed to serve and protect. Your life would, guaranteed, be better if we defunded and demilitarized the police. If you can’t do it because it’s good and right, then do it because you deserve a community where police violence and incarceration aren’t the only “solutions” to everyone’s problems. You can give yourself that gift, too.