Thursday, June 11, 2009


Justin Sirois wrote MLKNG SCKLS with Haneen Alshujairy, an Iraqi refugee, and when I read it for the first time I thought, Cool, a post-apocalypse story like A Boy and His Dog or Road Warrior. Then I caught myself: Wait, this is real. This is here and now. Or to be precise, this is Fallujah 2004.

That’s when Marines stormed the Iraqi city in response to a vicious and grotesque attack on four Blackwater mercenaries. Sensing the impending retaliation, many of the city's residents fled, including the characters in MLKNG SCKLS who walk a hard trip up the Euphrates. And today Fallujah is a bombed out post-apocalyptic city after all.

That isn't discussed in MLKNG SCKLS, though. The inciting incident is hauntingly absent. Instead, Sirois presents the quiet hustle of Salim and Khalil as they itch for a swim, a nap or a smoke on their trek to safety. I think it's a smart way to treat the whole thing. People should care about what happened in Iraq, and it's the strength of fiction to give a human perspective.

It's the strength of video games to give the first-person shooter perspective, and the new game "Six Days in Fallujah" is a dirty bomb to drop. It presents the early days of the fight in 2004, when 48 Marines and thousands of insurgents were killed. You play as a soldier. You walk through the rubble and decide whether or not the guy in the tracksuit is someone you should shoot.

That's where THE MLKNG SCKLS IS NOT A CALLOUS VIDEO GAME CONTEST comes in. Here are the details:

• The contest is to write back cover copy for the video game, “Six Days in Fallujah.”
• The prize for the contest is one copy of MLKNG SCKLS, an 11x17” cover illustration by Sirois and a Sirois-designed image of the video game packaging that shows your write-up (see the picture).
• Send 1-3 entries to adam at publishinggenius by June 26, the Friday before MLKNG SCKLS official release on June 30. Entry is free, judged by PGP editorial staff.

• Entries should be about 50 words long.
• They should address the events of April, 2004 in Fallujah.
• They should address the video game.
• There is no constraint on criticizing the game as a good or bad.

• An entry could be a straightforward description of the game or a description from the perspective of a civilian living in Fallujah in April, 2004.
• It could address the "Play Theory" that Johan Huizinga writes about in Homo Ludens, that playing is freedom, and is distinct from real life.
• It could be about how much fun you'll have pretending to shoot real people, if that's your thing.

• Aside from promoting MLKNG SCKLS, the purpose of this contest is to consider again the horrible situation in Fallujah, and to care about it.

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