Friday, June 4, 2021

Cyber dogs and time traveling dinosaurs

If you put a string in my son's back and programmed it to dictate his speech, the first three slots would be filled with lines about farts. (He's 11.) The fourth would be some variation on "school sucks." He does well, but he'd rather be doing something else, probably involving his Nintendo Switch, shooting street hockey balls out in the driveway, or watching YouTube. Or farting. Or farting while doing any of those other things.

We have a routine where I ask him about school, he provides almost nothing in response, then informs me school is over for the day and he doesn't want to talk about it. I've learned to ask the subtlest leading questions when he relaxes this rigid policy, and occasionally draw him out long enough for him to accidentally admit that not everything about school sucks. Sometimes it's even fun.

And then there are the days when he volunteers it without me even prodding a little. Like he did earlier this week about the story he was writing. And boy howdy did he spill the deets. (I'm informed no one says "deets." Minus 2 cred points.) It was fiction writing, and he was allowed to go nuts. And nuts he went.

Let's start with the title. The Time Traveling Dinosaur. I'm liking it already.

It opens in the year 20712, with a human (I think), named Septus, who lives in a holo-house with his cyber dog, Dramkos. There is a giant futuristic war taking place, and something has caused a photo booth to hurtle to the earth (I assume it's earth, not totally sure on that part). The photo booth turns out to be a time machine, which takes Septus and Dramkos to 2012, before glitching them to 1,000,000 B.C., where they encounter a hungry dinosaur. And fight pirates.

Never fear, everyone turns out friends in the end, though there is a bit of tension on the way.

He cranked out over 1,000 words on this time traveling tale in a single day. That part actually makes me a bit jealous. I don't have a lot of thousand-word days, and I've been at this a lot longer than he has.

He pounded out another story last spring, toward the end of last school year, about a planet where all the animals had super powers, and all the dogs in the neighborhood had to battle a particularly annoying squirrel. He was quite talkative about that one as well, which also warmed me cockles.

His stories remind me of some I wrote when I was a kid. I remember a series about a circus flea named George who was also some kind of secret agent. I'm thinking he might have been tight with James Bond, though I could be a little fuzzy on that part. There may be one or two of those that have survived time; I'll have to dig to see if I can confirm whether he had Double-0 status. There were also a couple about E.T. and Mr. T fighting intruders from another galaxy. Those were written on summer vacation while visiting my dad in Rochester, during the days when the local tourism board was pumping out ads featuring an alien named IRBIR, which was an acronym for I'd Rather Be In Rochester. My stories, not coincidentally, featured beings named IRBSE and IRNBH, which stood for I'd Rather Be Somewhere Else and I'd Rather Not Be Here, respectively. I wasn't much older than my son is now when I wrote those masterpieces.

My son's long-term plan is to write cartoons or comics. And he's actually pretty good at drawing, so he has a leg up on my stick-figure what-is-that ability. With his imagination, he's got some genuine raw materials to work with. Though it's not my place to suggest it. He's very much a kid who has to come up with the idea himself for it to be a good one. I can encourage, though, when he shares his stories and drawings with me.

At least until he outsells me. Because then he'll gloat. And even for a proud dad, that might get old in a hurry.

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