Our topic this week is whether we’ve ever created a game or sport for one of our books.
It’s not unusual in science fiction to develop a pastime for your characters, some larger and more dire than others – the Hunger Games, Rollerball, Ender’s Game, OASIS in Ready Player One, John Scalzi's 'Head On' or 'Brockian Ultra Cricket' from the brain of Douglas Adams. for example. I was always fascinated by the game of stars and comets in Andre Norton’s novels but alas she never gave us the rules.
In my novel TRAPPED ON TALONQUE, I needed a reason for the local rulers to keep crash landed Special Forces soldier Nate Reilly and his men alive in the beginning of the adventure, and a challenge for them to overcome, so I developed the game of sapiche. It’s based in part on ritualistic ball games played centuries ago in Central and South America, in part on gladiatorial type contests in ancient Rome and owes a nod to the ritual combat the Aztecs would sometimes put captured warriors through, where they had no real chance of winning and saving their own lives but were forced to fight anyway. Sapiche is like all ball games – there’s passing, blocking, strategy, scoring….and very high stakes. There’s also some double crossing along the way! Not only the lives of Nate and his men were on the line, but also the fate of the beautiful alien sleeping beauty the locals regarded as a goddess.
In my ancient Egyptian paranormal romances, the characters play senet, and jackals and hounds, which were real games in the Egypt of thousands of years ago but no one knows the rules for sure now. There have been efforts to come up with some fairly reliable rules for the games, based on tomb paintings, ancient writings and how similar modern games are played, and I adhere to a mix of these ‘recreated’ guidelines. Mostly.
Of course the gods play their own version of senet with real people’s lives, which makes for some interesting events (and scenes for the books).
My own favorite team sport in our real world is NFL football, although with the increasing knowledge of the damage the concussions do, it’s harder and harder for me to watch with much enjoyment. I like a beautifully executed play where there’s a long pass caught and run for a touchdown, or a handoff situation where a brilliant runner makes his way through the field to the end zone. Or best of all if there’s an interception and a huge defensive player rumbles his way to a touchdown. Those are always fun and the guy is always so delighted.
I watch much MUCH less football than I used to years ago. Maybe I catch one game a week now, and don’t pay attention to all four quarters even then.
I used to love Scrabble, Risk and Parcheesi when the family all lived at home.
Here’s an excerpt from Trapped on Talonque, related to the game of sapiche:
“…the first ball shot from the middle circle. Kalgitr’s team got possession, the two blockers sending Atletl flying. The other team’s shooter drove straight down the field and made the point in one easy motion.
Nate was livid. “All right, dammit, they got one. We can’t give up any more. Faric, you were assigned to blocking him, remember? This is for real, people, not the damn scrimmage!”
Thom caught the next ball by reflex and passed off to Faric, who failed to redeem himself, losing the ball as he worked his way toward the goal. Atletl managed to steal it back as the opposing man was taking the shot, passed it across to Thom, who scored the point off the low five hole, right between the legs of a defender.
As the third ball emerged, Atletl tripped the man who’d tackled him earlier. The ball rolled free on the sand, and a mad pileup ensued, all eight men grabbing and kicking for possession. Nate came up with it and jerked free of the tangle of bodies. He took one step, hampered by an opposing player’s arms locked around his lower legs, as a Kalgitr player made a desperate grab. Falling, Nate passed to Faric, praying the man had gotten over his earlier jitters. Instead, their new recruit fumbled the ball away, and only a lightning dive by Atletl saved the point. He flicked the ball off to bounce against the far wall and into Thom’s sure hands. Thom again made the point.
“Two to one, not bad, but don’t ease up!” Nate shouted above the roar of the crowd. “Thom, Atletl, try to stall them.”
“What the seven hells? What are you going to do?” Thom yelled as Nate raced past him. “You’re going the wrong direction!”
“Changing the damn game plan. Just hold them!” Nate charged Faric. “I think you’re playing for the wrong team, you bastard. What did they offer you?”
The man shrank back until he stumbled against the painted wall of the court. “I play for you, warrior, for the goddess!”
“I don’t think so.”
Trying to sidle away, Faric mumbled, “They offered me life, win or lose.”
As Faric broke away and ran toward the entrance to the holding area, Nate launched himself into the air and landed a knockout blow with his left foot, coming down neatly on the other side of the traitor as Faric slumped to the sand in an unconscious heap.
“Get over here and block, dammit!” Thom’s desperate shout in Basic cut through the noise of the crowd.
Nate spun but was a few yards short of the action when the other team made their second point, going right through the overmatched Thom and Atletl.
“Are you out of your fucking mind?” Thom said in between breaths as he sprinted to the other end of the court, where the final, fatal ball flew out of a red-painted circle. “You cold-cocked our teammate?”
“He was a ringer. We’re safer without the chance of him interfering. Now play!”
For more on the topic, here's a link to my post for AMAZING STORIES a while ago where I asked scifi romance authors about games and sports they'd created for their books.