Friday, May 3, 2013

Notes from the Mad Science Lab: Spideroarr!

I just got off the phone with my ex-wife. Apparently there has been a slight miscommunication, and as usual she's determined to blow it entirely out of proportion.

Genius, it seems, can misunderstand as well as be misunderstood.

During his most recent visit, my son expressed his desire to create a "Giant Spideroarr" - a creature which would be half spider and half lion. And, of course, it should be giant.

This seemed to me a perfect opportunity: a chance to charm the boy with the sort of birthday present that only his father could provide. So, naturally, I went down to the lab and began designing. Once I had a good idea of what the beast should look like, I started running simulations through the sequencer. After that came the actual production, and then some time in the growth tank to get my creation up to full size in time for my son's birthday.

All of this, you understand, was no small challenge. Oh, the work itself wasn't so bad; it was trying to get it done before his birthday. I didn't have as much time for tweaking and tinkering as I normally prefer. Still, design-wise, everything came out just fine. It was even ready in time for my son's birthday party.

That, too, went exactly as I meant it to: the crate arrived, the boy opened it, and the spideroarr imprinted on him just as I'd designed it to do. My son, however, kind of freaked out.

It turns out that what he actually wanted to create was a Skylanders Giant Spideroarr. When we first discussed his idea, I'd assumed he was referring to a cartoon or somesuch; but as it happens, Skylanders Giants are characters from a particular video game. The characters are activated in the game by placing small plastic statues on some sort of sensor - the statues are sold separately, of course.

So what my son wanted to design was a new character inside an existing video game, with a corresponding plastic statue to activate it. He was not expecting a roaring, eight-legged beast roughly the size of a horse. Nor were his friends; the spideroarr's arrival apparently triggered a brief stampede of panicked fifth-graders. This was, I assure you, not my intent.

My wife's complaints were numerous. In addition to frightened children, she was bothered by the amount of webbing around the house, the fact that the spideroarr broke the bed and then the couch while trying to curl up with our son, and the amount of food required to feed a carnivore of that size. So it seems that the spideroarr will be returning here, where it can live in the cryptozoo with the results of my various other projects.

I, meanwhile, will be talking with my old college roommate to see if he's willing to hack into Activision and insert the code for a Spideroarr character. If he can manage that, creating the statue to activate the character should be comparatively simple; no doubt we can manage that in time for Christmas.


  1. I love these :D

    Have you thought about YA fiction, with a child dealing with his mad scientist father, preteenish angst, world in danger, reconciliation of the generations for The Greater Good of The Whole World, etc?

    It sound so hack when I put it like that :P But I think with actual words and a plot, it could rock.

  2. Actually, the closest I've come so far was the "Iterations of a Pony" story - an early version of it kept trying to turn into a romance featuring a Mad Scientist's ex-wife, who was trying to put her life back together while living on her parents' farm with her grade-school-age daughter. Which could have made for a fun, quirky romance novel if I thought I could write a romance novel. (It's harder than most people expect.)

  3. I believe it. Getting past the first 5 chapters has put paid to every one of my efforts. I keep trying, though. Perhaps someday -- it will definitely be never if I don't keep at it, LOL. Not saying it will ever be good, but perhaps one day one will be finished. That's enough :)


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