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25 Remote Warehouse Science Fiction and Fantasy- Fantasy- Contemporary

World Leader Pretend

by

World Leader Pretend Cover

 

 

Excerpt

Chapter One
 
Book I: The Twins
 
RL Time: June 20-26, 2000
 
Realm Time: YR 1
 
I sit at my table
 
And wage war on myself
 
It seems like it's all, it's all for nothing
 
--r.e.m., "world leader pretend"
 
1. Have Patience.
 
Xerxes Meticula is playing a game. The game he is playing is not a 2-person game; it is not chess or checkers or Connect Four, although it has a similarly complicated strategy; nor is the game he is playing a 4-person game, like bridge or poker, or a 6-person game, or even a game for 8. The game Xerxes Meticula is playing is a game being played simultaneously by 60,000 people, people representing hundreds of countries and all seven continents on the 3rd planet from the sun. It is a game unlike any other played by the human race in recorded history, unless you consider the act of waging war a game.
 
The players of the game of which we are speaking are much more humble about their game. They see nothing particularly extraordinary about it. They have no perception of the man-hours, the acts of manipulation and persuasion, the mental energy, and the physical labor that it took for an entire species to string long strands of copper wire from one end of each continent to the other and then to hurl objects through their planet's atmosphere to connect these continents all so that they could play their game. These players, in fact, perceive themselves and are perceived by others as some sort of subclass, as losers. They do not have the respect of their peers. They are not presented with garlands or roses when they are victorious.
 
These players--these players connected to each other by copper strands of varying widths, widths that, as they increase, increase the speed at which each player can play the game; widths which correspond in modern terminology to standard telephone wires, DSL lines, cable connections, T1's and T3's--as a group tend to be very dedicated to their game. They train for their game, do research, strategize. They play their game every day. They play for hours on end--2, 4, 8, 16, 24. They sneak out in the middle of the night, leaving their husbands, wives, children, or lovers alone in their beds.
 
Xerxes Meticula, lying as he is in the bed of a bedroom whose walls are plastered with pictures that he long ago cut out of old Dungeons & Dragons guidebooks; pictures of what are called, by those familiar with fantasy novels and games, orcs; pictures of blue, bulky half-giants who rarely bother to clothe themselves; pictures of slobbering beasts with disfigured faces who carry maces and pole arms and are always threatening to kill; Xerxes Meticula knows, at this moment, as he stares at the screen of the laptop perched in front of him on his bed, exactly what he is getting himself into, but he is trying to forget, trying to forget that today is his 32nd birthday and that he has managed in one way or another to lose most of the things and people that he cares for.
 
 
Unlike her brother, Gabriella Meticula is not interested in games. She is concerned only with the words of the cross-stitching that her mother has given her, the one which hangs over her bed on her bedroom wall, the one which reads:
 
Lo, I am sending my messenger
 
To prepare the way before me.
 
Gabriella gets out of her single bed and makes her way to her bathroom mirror. She stares longer into the mirror than a normal person would, her arms dangling uselessly at her sides. She does not wash her hands or apply makeup. She does not brush her teeth or floss. She isn't even really looking into the mirror, but rather at some empty point in front of it. She doesn't do any of these things, because she is thinking, and thinking is more important to Gabriella Meticula than anything else.
 
What Gabriella Meticula is thinking about is this: she and her brother are in grave danger. As the last of the Great American Dreamers, as the last of the Great American Thinkers, as the last of Those Who Will Rebel, as the Duke and Duchess of the Arizonan Desert, they are in exile. Fraternal twins born under the sun and moon of Gemini in any other day and age, in any place other than 21st century America, would have been treated with great respect: their births would have heralded years of tremendously fertile crops; they would have been considered soothsayers, prophets, or perhaps even royalty. They would have been protected.
 
As it stands, here in 21st century America, royalty is disdained. A person like Gabriella who considers herself unique, different, gifted, or special, is labeled an egotist or worse. In 21st century America it is important to bury your talents, to not show too much intelligence or creativity or verve. The intelligent child is chastised by his peers, and oftentimes by his teachers, for being stuck up, for being too good for everyone. The creative child, the one who sits in the corner with her stack of blocks, who wants to build her towers in peace, is told to join the group, to share. The child with verve, the one that runs yelling and screaming in mad circles around the classroom, is dosed with Ritalin.
 
In the eyes of 21st century America, Xerxes and Gabriella, a pair of twins with untold powers, have caused nothing but drought. Xerxes is a failed entrepreneur who, at the age of 32, returned from San Francisco to the house of his parents, returned after wasting billions of dollars of someone else's money, and Gabriella is not even that, she is nothing but an ex-high school valedictorian who was found one night by her friends at Mills wandering the streets of Oakland in a pair of pin-striped pajamas, wandering the streets at 3 a.m. looking up at the stars and conversing with them, telling the stars that she knew who she was, and that she was awaiting the message they would surely send. These friends who she thought were her friends but were obviously not, admitted her to a mental institution where she was wrongfully accused of being diseased, where she was wrongfully accused of being diseased and where she began a pharmaceutical imprisonment that she has yet to figure out how to escape. The people here, the people in America, they don't understand destiny.
 
Gabriella reaches a hand to the mirror and pulls on it, revealing a small cabinet. She takes out four small amber plastic pill jars. She opens the childproof caps and places one pill from each jar into the palm of her hand. She thinks for a moment, no, today is my birthday, I can do without the pills. She places the pills back in their jars.
 
 
It is 6 in the morning in Rest Stop, Arizona, where Xerxes is lying on his bed interfacing with his computer. Outside his bedroom, behind a window whose shades have not been drawn, whose shades, in fact, have not been drawn since Xerxes arrived here a few weeks ago, the sun is rising. It rises alone and unnoticed like a red Wham-O Frisbee unearthed by a dog in a suburban backyard.
 
In his bed, Xerxes is wearing a chocolate brown T-shirt with the Cocoa Puffs bird printed on it; the word bubble above the bird reads: I'm cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. This is one of the three T-shirts that Xerxes has been wearing since he arrived here in Rest Stop, since he became an exile from San Francisco. His other shirts include a blue T-shirt with white block letters that reads Uncle Jeffrey, which he wears although he is not an uncle and his name is not Jeffrey, and a mustard yellow T-shirt with the outline of the state of Mississippi on it and the words We've Come This Far by Faith: The Barksfield/Lyon Reunion 1981, which he wears despite not being a Barksfield, a Lyon, a member of either extended family, nor religious.
 
In addition to the T-shirt, Xerxes is wearing a pair of Chuck Taylor high-tops, a pair of shoes which he doesn't bother to remove before getting into bed and with which he has managed to track into his bed a good deal of sand. Next to his laptop on the bed is a yellow notepad filled with algebraic formulas scribbled wildly on its pages. On the screen in front of him are the following words:
 
The Lords of the Realm have awarded you 200 acres of land and 250,000 gold coins to build your province. You have been assigned to Kingdom 12, Continent 5. The name you have chosen for your province is The Strangely Peaceful Citadel of Blue Orcs. The persona you have chosen is Lady Peace & Love but Mostly Love. Welcome to The Realm.
 
Today is the first day of the new age.
 
 
In the terminology of gamers, the game Xerxes plays is a browser-based, multiplayer, resource management, team fantasy game. This is not the type of game that most mothers of preteen males are familiar with. It does not involve the firing of virtual artillery or the amazing abilities of Barbie-shaped, sports bra-confined, virtual women. In other words, it is not a game that introduces military tactics and sexual desire to small children.
 
It is, in fact, a game that the mothers of preteen males, were they to take the time to understand it, would fully approve of. It is a game of math, patience, imagination, and most importantly, partnership. The primary objective of the game is for the 20 players who are members of one's kingdom to attain a net worth that is greater than the net worths of the 3,000 other kingdoms involved in the game. Net worth is the sum of all of one's possessions. This includes the land that one has obtained through exploration or battle, the population of one's province, the soldiers that one has trained, and the gold that one has generated through one's internal economy, traded for, stolen from one's enemies, or looted during battle.
 
One's net worth appears as a figure at the top of the screen. It changes every hour, every hour being considered a day in the time of The Realm. It is his net worth that Xerxes Meticula obsesses over, that he will stay up deep into the night calculating permutations of.
 
Because today is only the first day, there is little Xerxes can do. He and the 60,000 other provinces are all under protection, that is, they cannot attack, steal from, trade with, or otherwise affect each other's provinces for 72 hours according to the bylaws of the Lords of The Realm.
 
Xerxes consults a yellow notepad. He has written very neatly on the top,
 
• 50% of your buildings are available after building the necessary housing, farms, wizard towers, and guilds.
 
• Banks have no maximum and increase the wealth generated by your peasants by *1.5.
 
• Armories have a maximum of 30%. They decrease your military costs by *2. In the early stages of the game you will spend approximately 50% of your wealth on your military.
 
• Universities have a maximum of 20%. They decrease your science-related costs by *3. In the early stages of the game you will spend approximately 10% of your wealth on developing the sciences.
 
• Once you go OOP your thieves will account for approximately 50% of your income. (This is theoretical. Thieving, of course, increases the chances of counter-attack. The gains, however, seem to outweigh the risks.) Banks do not increase wealth generated in this fashion.
 
• Q: What percentage of banks/armories/universities is the most efficient?
 
• A: Build 30% banks/20% armories until 500 acres.
 
These numbers make no sense to you, but they make great sense to Xerxes. He plugs in his numbers. Xerxes thinks to himself: have patience; follow the rules. Xerxes logs out. The screen reads:
 
Lady Peace & Love but Mostly Love, thank you for visiting The Realm. Remember, the Lords of The Realm appreciate your time away and will reward you with a bonus if you stay away for more than 24 hours.
 
Xerxes needs the bonus that the Lords of the Realm will give him. He must find something else to do with his day.
 
 
Copyright © 2007 by James Bernard Frost. All rights reserved.

 

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

untimelydeviation, February 8, 2007 (view all comments by untimelydeviation)
I am always delighted to discover a premiere novelist who on his or her first attempt has the ability to impress literary masses. This book was recommended by a friend of a friend and I consider it a pleasure to be able to recommend it forward. The author creates a structured chaos markedly paralleled in realism and succeeds at drawing the reader into the lives and tragedy of each character involved. This is absolutely a must-read for anyone who derives pleasure from getting lost in a good book--and, indeed, getting lost inside the mind of an outstanding storyteller.
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momsmooth, December 6, 2006 (view all comments by momsmooth)
Picked it up and honestly could not put it down for a moment. Read it while waiting for the bus, riding BART, eating dinner, eating lunch, before bed....
I fell in love with all the characters from Dietrich in Antarctica to Xerxes crazy twin Gabriella to King Bonz a Thai orphan to The Serpant to Tres the Olympic skier virgin quadraplegic. I am not a gamer, have never even played an online game but could begin to understand the draw of playing. But, beyond the gaming, the stories of the lives of each of the players was what drew me in. INTENSE READ!!
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sectorsrandn, December 5, 2006 (view all comments by sectorsrandn)
This thoughtful, engaging novel is about much more than virtual gaming -- it's about the marginalization of creativity in society, and it's about the ways in which people desperately seek to connect in an increasingly fragmented world. Anyone who has ever been excited to see a comment on their blog or website will immediately relate to the themes of connection, disconnect, and definitions of reality. The prose style is vivid, with an edgy contemporary rhythm; the characters are deftly-drawn, and the book is full of heart and thought. Although it's entertaining, there is also much here for the reader to ponder long after the final page has been turned.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780312352233
Author:
Frost, James Bernard
Publisher:
Griffin
Author:
Frosh, James Bernard
Subject:
Video games
Subject:
Fantasy - Contemporary
Subject:
Virtual Reality
Subject:
Experimental fiction
Subject:
Fantasy fiction
Subject:
Science Fiction and Fantasy-Fantasy-Contemporary
Publication Date:
20070231
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
336
Dimensions:
9 x 6 x 0.75 in 0.82 lb

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Related Subjects


Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » Fantasy » Contemporary

World Leader Pretend New Trade Paper
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$19.99 In Stock
Product details 336 pages St. Martin's Griffin - English 9780312352233 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Debut novelist Frost captures the messy, human interaction of the Internet with the equally messy story of 32-year-old failed dot-commer Xerxes Meticula, who plays an online multiplayer strategy game called the Realm with allies as diverse as a technician in Antarctica and an exploited teen girl in Bangkok. Xerxes organizes his life online in ways that he cannot match in real life, where his twin sister, Gabriella, is struggling with schizophrenia and his business partner, Zahn Mendoza, is marrying Xerxes's ex-girlfriend. In the Realm, though, he is in control, until he runs into the Two-Headed Boy, a four-time game winner who's a quadriplegic former world-class skier. They set their rivalry aside after one of its online victims becomes a real-life suicide. Though Frost's year 2000 setting can feel dated and his character development occasionally schematic, he crafts an uncommon literary illustration of the split-identity common to gamers." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Debut novelist Frost captures the messy, human interaction of the Internet with the equally messy story of 32-year-old failed dot-commer Xerxes Meticula, who plays an online multiplayer strategy game called the Realm with allies as diverse as a technician in Antarctica and an exploited teen girl in Bangkok. Xerxes organizes his life online in ways that he cannot match in real life, where his twin sister, Gabriella, is struggling with schizophrenia and his business partner, Zahn Mendoza, is marrying Xerxes's ex-girlfriend. In the Realm, though, he is in control, until he runs into the Two-Headed Boy, a four-time game winner who's a quadriplegic former world-class skier. They set their rivalry aside after one of its online victims becomes a real-life suicide. Though Frost's year 2000 setting can feel dated and his character development occasionally schematic, he crafts an uncommon literary illustration of the split-identity common to gamers." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Store your copies of Infinite Jest in the basement. World Leader Pretend is this generation's Bible-slash-novel."
"Review" by , "A powerfully moving story of what it means to be human."
"Review" by , "The prose style is vivid, with an edgy contemporary rhythm; the characters are deftly-drawn, and the book full of heart."
"Synopsis" by ,
With over 100 million players world wide, virtual games are more than just a niche community, it's phenomenon. Now comes the first novel set in the world of virtual gaming World Leader Pretend.
Xeres Meticula is a failure.  A casualty of the dot.com bust, he now lives in his parents' basement and spends all day on one pursuit, winning The Realm.  Fortunately he's not alone. Joining him in his world is; Gek-Lin, an orphan in Thailand who spends her nights in an internet cafe; Dietrich Bjornson, a welder working in Antarctica; and Tres Rawling, a former Olympic skier for England whose career was cut short when an accident left him a quadriplegic; and many more. Together they communicate and connect, working to achieve virtual world dominance, but when tragedy on and off line occurs, can these real people trust each other enough to find the help they need in one another?    
World Leader Pretend is a provocative novel about virtual connection in the modern age that reads like Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night meets Indecision.
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