Chatroom Roleplaying Outtakes #1

Chatroom roleplaying (Chat RP) consists of improvising prose within a community, where each writer responds to another’s posts quickly, but not so fast that it totally losses quality. Settings vary from castles to battlegrounds to islands in the sky, but mostly chats take place in taverns, where extremely well thought-out characters who don’t know each other let loose. It’s less infused with magic as it is with the chaos of diverse characters and  explosive interactions.

Chat RP is  unapologetically character-focused. The writer is known as a mun, meaning “mundane,” and is only referred to through the character (“Kawika’s mun,” for example). So much attention is given to the character that most sentences are absent of the subject (the character), and references to “irises” or “orbs” just mean “her eyes.” Out of character (OOC) talk is restricted to two parentheses or brackets.

Here’s a snippet from one of my favorite (unnamed) roleplay artists:

That is so…“ eyes rounded like those of owls, straight whites flashing as she peaked around Ashley [racoon sun-burn shades remember] to spot the two rather than simply hear them, “cute, to say the least, but cocks not on my current regime, sweet ragazza,“ weren’t shy, was we?  Cheeks sunk with the thoughtfully casual pucker of glossy, vemon-stung lips, holding the menu and squinting down at it as if she couldn’t quite see the words written there, [not true, miss Alice was simply energetic] “Goid idea…how’s about a double shot og whiskey sour and a cheeseburger, no tomato,“ book of tantalizing goodies was slapped shut with two lean hands before two brows lifted and she handed the waiter the document, “what, of course.  And what’s yer name?  I want to hear it rather than read it off a tag,“ soft voice, arms folding for fingers to tap on her arms.  Maybe she wanted an app and just had to be polite first.  Maybe bois anxiety to look toward the clock was showing in the swivel of the pen, or maybe every girl needed a gay or borderline gay friend.  Guess.[d]

I’m floored by how well this mun knows her character. This post was improvised immediately, with spelling and grammar errors, but also with a grasp of a character that seems rare in published literary fiction. Her accent, her food preferences, her mannerisms, thoughts, and out of character information all go to bring this character totally alive for other muns to respond to. And all this, just because a waiter brought her a menu.

My admiration for this post may be difficult to understand as the genre is bound by community rules, making such posts both intricate and extremely confusing to outsiders.

That is so…” – Roleplay starts with an italic and underline. The bold later is for emphasis and to begin separate posts.

“straight whites flashing” – reference to her eyes.

“[racoon sun-burn shades remember] ” – the mun is reminding her fellow muns that their character’s can’t see her eyes, though she’s describing them. If another character were to respond to her eyes, it would be bad form.

“weren’t shy, was we?” – This may be a reference to a sort of Lord of the Rings Smigel dual-personality thing.

“Goid idea” – character accent.

“book of tantalizing goodies was slapped shut” – passive verbs indicate the character actions.

“an app” – probably an apple.

“Guess.” – Really, the other characters should guess why she’s doing what she’s doing. With all the elaborate ways of expressing this character, the mun still leaves room for that more alluring trait, ambiguity.

I’ll start posting these Chat RP outtakes because it pains me when I read posts by talented writers, and only a community of six or so people read it before it gets eaten by the blank space at the top of the chat room.

For a humorous look at Chat RP, check out the webcomic Elf Only Inn

On “Bored”

My short story “Bored” was published in JMWW, a journal that alongside Smokelong and decomP, convinced me that speculative flash fiction was the highest pursuit.

This story is about sex workers in turn of the century Penang, Malaysia. It’s in a way a response to Lydia Kwa’s novel, This Place Called Absence, which is about turn of the century sex workers in Singapore. Kwa’s novel centers around a queer Asian Canadian woman, Wu Lan, who desperately needs some psychological closure on her father’s death, so she imagines Chow Chat Mui and Lee Ah Choi, two sex workers in Singapore whose trials mirror Wu Lan’s own.

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Inspired by her novel, I became deeply curious as to why anyone would imagine two historic queer sex workers to resolve their own traumatic issues. So I imagined “bulging” Xia and the “withering” narrator. I played with them in my imagination from time to time between aerobics and petting my cat. Sometimes Xia would appear in her satin robe swatting pretend bees with an electric tennis racket. Sometimes they said stuff in Mandarin, I don’t know what. But mostly it was the girls staring at me, legs folded on the hostel carpet, wondering what kind of pervy fiction writer would invoke their presence.

Overall I wouldn’t suggest re-imagining turn of the century sex workers unless you seriously feel like coping with some deep shit. I wasn’t ready, but I wrote this story and now I can go back to taste-testing wine over my divan.

For the setting, I was a tourist in Georgetown a while ago, so I know everything about that place that there is to know.

The first line of dialogue I basically ripped from chat room role-players.

For the title, I was listening to Faye Wong’s “Bored,” and I was all: yeah, that’s a word.

Wang Chen-Ho’s “Rose, Rose I Love You”

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In Taiwan I stumbled upon this novel by Wang Chen-ho (王禎和) about Taiwanese brothel workers, led by a bombastic English teacher, who must undergo “cultural training” to prepare for American GIs on R&R during the Vietnam War. The text was written in Mandarin Chinese, with parts in Taiwanese and English, but the translator Howard Goldblatt (who  made his name translating Mo Yan’s corpus) deserves credit for much of the wink-wink wordplay that seems both familiar and full of Taiwanese sass (if really that’s a thing). Words like “motherhumper”  pop up frequently and seem to match the jovial game of insults. My being language-challenged (a privilege and a handicap at the same time) should make it clear that I have no idea what I’m writing about, except having read the book in translation, and enjoyed it immensely.

The book’s title is based on this song:

As the book is set around a prospective visit of American GIs to Taiwanese brothels, it’s often unsettling for American readers, who are clearly the butt of many jokes. On that note, American racism. In the introduction to the manager/pimp Black-Face Li, Wang describes

a man who looked like a stick of charcoal, with a face as dark as the bottom of an old wok, a rail-thin body (excessive masturbation, perhaps?), and his customary black martial-arts outfit. In the days to come, whenever an American GI on R&R ran into him in the Hualien bar, the startled comment would inevitably be, “Aha! So there are Chinese negroes too!” Well, our Chinese negro was standing beside Stumpy courtesan, chewing incessantly on betel nuts, his mouth stained with the red drool as if he’d vomited a bowlful of blood” (9)
This line is probably the only indication in the entire novel that the GIs will actually show up, though often the reference to future events throughout the novel never clearly come to pass. So the novel relies almost solely on its style and humor, as so often the anxieties of prostitutes expecting to sleep with Americans can just be funny, with the context there only as a catalyst for the jokes.
[The prostitutes] said things like, ‘I’m not going to sleep with no American! We don’t speak the same language, they’ve got yellow hair and blue eyes, and their noses are like beaks. You expect me to sleep with freaks like that? Aiyo! Don’t make me puke.’ (58)
The author’s interruptions and omissions remind me this is still a book about sexual exploitation, the sychophantic attitudes towards English speakers and American might, and abuse.
“(Here Big-Nose Lion went on to describe the way he punished the girls, and believe me, it’s as shocking as you might imagine. I’m not going to repeat it here–I don’t want to scare you off, and I sure don’t want to give you any ideas. Painful as it is, I’m going to delete this “stirring” passage completely. I hope you understand.)” (59)

The English teacher, Dong Siwen, pushes the brothel managers to spend countless dollars on preparing for the GIs. His admiration of American power/money makes the English teacher seem immoral, even to the extent that the abusive pimps find his proposals offensive to the gods. As in when Dong tries to convince one of the pimps to have his own son sell his sex for a prospective GI “homo case.”

In the very least, the book operates as an encyclopedia of ribald humor and prostitute banter, which can be pulled out like weeds and re-planted to upset any social conversation.

“making money is like they say in that laundry soap commercial: Two shakes and you’re ready for the next load. Isn’t that right?” (173).