Dennis Spielman

The real and imaginative adventures of Dennis Spielman

Fieldworks: Beyond Measure

In this video I did for Oklahoma Contemporary, Robert Bailey and Todd Stewart discuss the new exhibition, Fieldworks: Beyond Measure. Fieldworks, an interdisciplinary residency, invites artists, scholars and students to artistically respond to the presence of humans in the American Southwest. Beyond Measure presents a selection from the OU Fieldworks project’s diverse archive of objects, photographs, texts, videos and more.

Thank you to Oklahoma Contemporary for commissioning me on this project! This video first premiered on Oklahoma Contemporary’s New Light blog and I’m sharing it with you today as it’s worth a visit.

Fieldworks: Beyond Measure is on display in the third-floor Mary LeFlore Clements Oklahoma Gallery at Oklahoma Contemporary through April 19, 2021. Reserve your limited access, timed tickets here.

Visual Poetry and Water and Land at MAINSITE 2021

I was commissioned again by the Norman Arts Council to create a 20-minute video to promote their new exhibitions for January 2021. This video originally premiered during the Virtual 2nd Friday Art Work and the above YouTube is a slightly shorter but timeless version. I liked how well this video turned out and I was able to keep the pace interesting by switching between the artists on different topics. For the artist answers, I pulled quotes from different questions to summarize some of the topics too as each interview was 20 minutes, so I ended up cutting everything in half.

In this video, Executive Director, Erinn Gavaghan, shares an overview of Katherine Liontas-Warren’s “Water and Land” and “Visual Poetry on the Page: With, Within, and Without the Word,” which was curated by Crag Hill. Both Katherine and Crag also share their thoughts on the exhibitions.

Water and Land is a collection of recent works by Liontas-Warren centered on the passages, time and motion, and the symbolism water and land have come to represent in those concepts.

Visual Poetry on the Page: With, Within and Without the Word explores a movement that asks viewers to read the works as visual art. Unlike concrete, written poems, a visual poem “typically includes many other elements than alphabetic text,” including any number of mediums or artist manipulation, including painting, photos, digital manipulation or any other means to “obliterate the boundary between visual arts and literature.”

These exhibitions are open to in-person viewings from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday until Saturday, February 13, 2021.

Thank you to the Norman Arts Council for commissioning this video! 

Healthy Living: Better Balance

Physical balance is the ability to maintain your center of gravity within your base of support and it is different for everyone! Depending on your height, weight and how you walk or stand, your center of gravity might be different from the person next to you.

So…why is having better balance so important? It’s because the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injury in adults is due to accidental falling. Let’s join Maddi Stewart, Physical Therapist at Therapy in Motion, as she tells you all about your balance and how to improve it to avoid injury.

This video is from the Healthy Living Series I filmed in partnership with Therapy in Motion and the Norman YMCA. Catch more episodes on the Norman YMCA YouTube channel.

Script Thief

Detective Psychon arrives on The Glimmingdrift where he works with a client to solve who has been leaking their play scripts to the press.

NOTE: This story takes place after Who Killed The Toymaker Aboard Starbringer II? and at the same time as A Rescue Request to Santa. However, I wrote this sci-fi story to stand on its own. Enjoy!


Every piece of media and publicity Detective Psychon found about The Glimmingdrift recommended seeing a live show in the Dionysus Circle district. Spawning from a shady gambling past, the current captain revitalized the spaceship city to be a theatre lover’s paradise. Performing arts venues replaced the twelve casinos, keeping the flashy neon aesthetics and repurposing them for the arts. A neon blue holographic billboard promoting, “‘A Disastrous Carol’ Written and Directed by Scourge” briefly caught the detective’s attention as he walked deeper into the district.

Pairing with the performing arts, visitors also knew Dionysus Circle for its eclectic culinary collection of food vendors. Each booth was a work of art, often embodying the dish they best served. While the detective had no use for food, in a past life, he would’ve had a hard time picking something to eat based on all the tantalizing aromas as he strolled past them.

All the detective planned to do during his visit aboard The Glimmingdrift was to see a client.

Vertically, the district was only two to three levels tall, allowing people with wings to fly around, but no need for upper-level pedestrian walkways. The detective stopped in front mini-tower consisting of an elevator base to a circular observation deck. At the top was a penthouse suite that doubled as a living and rehearsal space for the prestigious writer and director, Canopus.

“I’m here to see Canopus,” the detective said to the private guard.

The muscular brown sasquatch with a black hoodie and jeans sized up the short-by-comparison human vampire. “What’s your business?”

“I’m the new hat designer,” the detective lied as requested by the client.

The guard looked at Psychon’s ragged black pointy hat with various hand-sewn patches adorned on it. The guard shrugged and stepped aside from the door. “Canopus is waiting for you.”

The door automatically slid open, and the detective stepped inside the freight elevator, which was large enough for a few dozen people. The elevator walls and ceiling were covered with living flowers and ivy, smelling like a spring meadow. A few of the flowers had a metallic sparkle to them. As the door closed and lifted him to the only destination, Psychon recalled his initial conversation with Canopus. They spoke on a holographic video call via their networkers.

Canopus patted her forehead with a towel using one tentacle while the second used her flower sewn hat as a fan. Her third tentacle held the networker as the last one raised a glass of ice water to her mouth. She took a sip through the rainbow swirly straw.

“Look, I need you to find out how my stories are getting leaked to the press,” Canopus said as she sat the glass down. “I don’t want to accuse my troupe falsely, and I don’t want to come across as unhinged.”

“Is it one media outlet that gets the inside details?” Psychon asked.

“No, it changes every time, but whoever gets it, it’s an exclusive.”

“That rules out any media outlet. Do you have any suspects on your team?”

“My troupe is loyal,” she said with a hateful glare with her large eyes.

The detective opted not to question her statement further and went with a different approach. “I’ll need to infiltrate your team to be sure. They may be unknowingly or unwittingly helping.”

Canopus tossed the towel aside and put her hat back on, which gave her an idea. “You could be my new hat designer.”

Psychon adjusted his pointy black hat he made himself. “I can pull that off, and I now know how to solve your problem.”

The elevator dinged open with a gentle musical melody. Like the elevator, plants covered every inch of the ceiling. Most of the walls were transparent or were windows to the outside, making the circular penthouse feel larger than it already was. Before walking on the plush green carpet, Psychon took off his boots and placed them on the shoe rack with the others.

The detective only took a couple of steps when Canopus ran up and greeted him with a tight, warm hug that lifted him from the floor. If Psychon needed to breathe, he would’ve been struggling at the moment. Instead, he grumbled, and Canopus carefully returned him to the ground.

“I’m so excited to see you,” Canopus apologized.

“I’m excited to be working with you too,” Psychon said as he straightened out his black trench coat.

Canopus turned back to her troupe of eight people working together for their latest show. Each person sat in a plush pod hung from the ceiling that formed a circle, so everyone was equal in discussion and rehearsal. All nine pods were large enough to fit Canopus, who was the largest person there. The detective noted the diversity of the troupe. From the reviews the detective gleamed about the company, the mix of ideas and cultural backgrounds was a favored trait.

Canopus returned to her pod. “Everyone, before I give out the scripts for tonight’s show, I have a special associate who I commissioned to design you each a special hat for this production.”

Psychon took off his hat, then one by one, he walked around the room, pulling out a hat from inside his hat, which was bigger on the inside. Each black and red striped hat was similar in appearance as not to cause any jealousy. However, they were different enough in size and strip width to tell each one apart. After the detective passed out all the hats, he returned to Canopus.

“I hope everyone enjoys their hats,” Psychon said as he gave the last one to Canopus.

“These are exquisite,” Canopus genuinely praised as she put on the hat. She took a rolled-up poster from her pod and unraveled it to show only Psychon. “This is for you as a thank you. You’re the first one to see the poster for tonight’s show.”

“Thank you,” Psychon said as he rolled up the poster and put it in his hat. “It’s been a pleasure working for you.”

The detective tipped his hat and returned to the elevator. Everything was going according to plan.

The detective made himself comfortable in the corner of an underwater themed bar. He sipped on his glass of blood while his networker projected live feeds from the hidden cameras placed in each of the hats. With the show starting in a few hours, no one attempted to leak any details about the production. With tentative diligence, he watched for any sleight of hand tricks as well as any outsiders who might be spying on them.

When a news alert with breaking details about Canopus’ latest show popped up on his feed, he almost didn’t want to believe it. Earlier, he scheduled his networker to push any news about the show to him. He tapped on the news box from The Daily Cork. 

The article revealed exclusive details about the plot. The story even mentioned the wardrobe and hats for the show. It included several suggestions on what to eat that paired with the show. Then down at the bottom was a witness sketch of the show poster, which Psychon plotted with Canopus to make sure only he saw it.

Psychon closed the networker video. “Time to pay The Daily Cork a visit for answers.”

The Daily Cork was a one-person operation specializing in culinary news and reviews, with the occasional story about performances, usually with food recommendations. Luckily for the detective, they had an office aboard The Glimmingdrift, but it was a private residence, which meant he couldn’t barge in.

The detective learned the residential hallways were designed without any decorations so people would get to and from home quickly without any distractions. The bright purple walls did give Psychon a sense of luxury despite the minimal architect. He knocked three times on the white door to Room 289. 

The door slid open, revealing a young 28-year-old human woman, although the snakes in her hazel hair exposed she was half-gorgon. She wore a thick, white sweater and a pair of tight red leggings. 

“Hello, Alaia,” Psychon said, forcing a warm smile. “I saw your article about Canopus’ latest show, and I wanted to see if you be interested in interviewing me about the hats I designed for it.”

Alaia beamed with excitement. “Yes, please come in.”

With the invite, Psychon stepped inside. “Thank you.”

The detective studied the white minimalist zen studio apartment room. If Alaia was hiding anything or anyone, there wasn’t much space to do it. He didn’t spy any surveillance equipment, and Alaia didn’t seem to recognize him either.

Alaia took a cross-legged seat on a mattress on the floor, which was the only piece of furniture. She sat up with an immaculate posture.

“So, tell me, what’s the story behind this show’s hats?” she asked. 

“Well, Canopus hired me to find out who was leaking details about her shows to the press, and so I made special hats with surveillance equipment to track her staff.” The snakes in Alaia’s hair rattled with nervous restlessness. Psychon held up a warning finger. “Don’t even try to turn me into stone. Vampires are immune. Now, tell me, how did you learn about the show when I saw no one contacting you?”

Alaia’s posture slouched. “I got an anonymous message. They said if I brought them some stuff, they would give an exclusive. I’ve seen other publications get exclusives, and so I took it. I thought it was a publicity stunt at first…”

“What did they want in return?” the detective questioned.

“I can’t pronounce it, but here’s the message. They want wanted me to deliver it to a dumpster out back Canopus’ place.”

The journalist brought up the demands on her networker.

The detective swiped away the screen. “That explains everything.”

Canopus and her troupe stumbled up the penthouse entrance with celebratory bottles of wine and high spirits from a successful performance. The detective stood outside with the personal security guard.

“Psychon, it’s so good to see you,” Canopus said. “Do you have good news for me?”

“Yes, I’ve learned that your troupe is loyal, and you don’t have to worry about your shows being leaked to the press again.”

“Really?” Canopus said, about to drunk cry with happiness.

“Wait, I thought you were a hat designer?” one of Canopus associates asked.

“Detective is my proper title,” Psychon said.

“How’d you fix it?” Canopus asked.

“I set it on fire.”

“Set what on fire?”

“All of your plants, specifically the aglowies. Fun Fact: aglowies are native to the Yellow Planet and illegal on all the others. They are notorious for fusing with technology. They’ve been getting fertilizer in exchange for exclusive information about your shows.”

Canopus paused to take everything explained to her. “I got that plant as a souvenir when I visited the Yellow Planet for inspiration. That’s about the time when small little details started to leak to the press.”

Psychon nodded. “And as the plant grew bigger, it was able to expand its reach.”

A realization hit Canopus. “But the aglowies covered my entire place!”

“Yes, your whole penthouse suite is currently in flames. I had to get special permission from the ship’s captain, but once I explained the danger, she gave me access.”

The detective’s client took a big swig of wine. “I guess it was time for a remodel anyway.”


Script Thief - Dionysus Circle Scene artwork by Chen Kang at Design Pickle - black and white

For January’s short story, I wanted to reveal the case Detective Psychon was heading to that he referred in Who Killed The Toymaker Aboard Starbringer II? I thought it would be fun to explore more of The Glimmingdrift featured in A Rescue Request to Santa, having both stories take place at the same time. In the Santa story, I did mention Starbringer II landing there, so I’ve planned this idea in advance. I was also inspired by a bit of dialogue from a writing prompt, which I incorporated. The prompt was, ““How’d you fix it?” “I set it on fire.””

I got to work again with Chen Kang at Design Pickle to bring Dionysus Circle to life. I incorporated the tower in the background Chen drew as Canopus’ penthouse. Huge thanks to Chen for the fantastic art!

I have to say, I love writing a detective story in a speculative fiction world with Psychon as I can give him such weird and unusual cases. If you liked this story, be sure to click on the Detective Psychon tag for more with him.

Be sure to join me on Patreon to read my works first.

Reflecting on 2020

Well…

Hello, Adventurers! Typically, I write my end of the year reflection on New Year’s Eve, but I was working with the Oklahoma City Arts Council on a big live-streaming Opening Night event. This reflection is going to be a little different, but last year was a different kind of year.

This is the part where I share numbers on how much I created, but the statistic that matters the most, I’m reminding myself, is that I made it through the year. Also, I made more videos for other people than myself. I’ve been able to help many organizations connect with their audiences through video content and live-streaming shows. I’m proud of that fact.

In the summer, I live-streamed a concert every week for the Arts Council OKC and then again in the fall, but every other week. For Oklahoma Contemporary, I made them about two videos a month. I helped take a live play Namron Players Theatre had planned and turned it into a movie for them. I worked with Therapy in Motion and the Norman YMCA to do a Healthy Living Series. I got to do a big New Year’s Eve show, which was a goal I noted in my previous reflection. Plus, I helped other businesses with some internal videos too.

To thank my clients for this year, I worked with Design Pickle and they made me this thank you card that I sent (and still sending out) to all of my major clients for the year.

The 2020 Client Thank You Card

Overall, I am grateful and proud of what I did create in the year, regardless of who it was for.

Uncovering Oklahoma in 2020

At the beginning of 2020, I raised the bar by producing videos in 4K HDR and closed captions on every episode. Pre-pandemic, I started strong with stories in Tulsa and Guthrie. I released 27 weekly episodes along with three art and event pieces.

With my growing library of content, videos I made in previous years picked up in popularity. Even though I didn’t make many new videos, the watch time in hours for the YouTube channel was 2,542.3, which was about what I got in 2019. Subscribers grew by 365, putting me over 1,000! According to my YouTube channel, these were the Top 5 watched videos in 2020.

5. Gathering Place in Tulsa
4. Magnetic Hill in Springer 
3. Black-Owned BBQ Restaurants Vol. 1
2. Press Waffle Co at The Collective
1. Great Salt Plains State Park

The title for the most-watched 2020 story goes to The Study in Oklahoma City, which was the second episode I did when the lockdowns lifted. The first story I eased myself back into filming was on the Winchester Drive-In Theatre in Oklahoma City, which was my second most popular 2020 video and most-watched via Facebook. Sergio’s Italian Bistro, Pink Elephant Coffee, Re: Earth, and The Study were the most-viewed via Facebook.

Tales Unveiled in 2020

Jeff and I got three episodes recorded before the pandemic hit. We picked up recording later in the summer and released a total of 11 episodes for our third season. Our episode on Bartlesville was our most popular. Despite the shorter season, we had quality episodes. Great stories from guests all around!

Quarter Minutes in 2020

We made one episode! Go us!

Yes! Science! and Art & Victory in 2020

Due to the audience nature of these shows, I felt it was best to postpone them until the time was right.

The 16th Phoenix Universe in 2020

What’s this? A new category? One of my personal goals was to release a new short story every week for the year. With the exception of A Killer Among the Spaceship Game Show, which was released in two parts and the first part took two weeks, I kept up with my goal. I wrote 48 short stories!

Still, no new books. They were looking good in the first half of the year, but when client work picked up, writing time got spent on short stories.

Make sure to follow the 16th Phoenix Facebook page and Reddit account for more updates.

Top Songs of 2020

According to Spotify, which is how I mostly listen to music, this was my 2020 soundtrack. As always, keep in mind I will often put a song (or playlist) on repeat when writing or for inspiration sessions. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite song?

Plans for 2021

Although it’s a new year and I’m optimistic, but I’m going to be careful with my plans as we’re still dealing with a pandemic.

For Uncovering Oklahoma, with COVID cases rising, I’m playing things safe. It’s annoying when I’m filming a restaurant and someone walks past me to go to the bathroom without a mask. On top of all that, businesses are going out left and right. I’m going to focus on retail businesses and concepts where I can control the environment to be safe. I don’t foresee me making as many episodes as I did in 2019. I hope to get back to doing collaboration episodes soon.

For Tales Unveiled, Jeff and I did leave the show open for more episodes. I would love to travel out of Oklahoma this season or next. We plan to start recording season four in the spring with a fall release. (There’s a Friday the 13th in August.)

For the studio audience shows, I honestly don’t know when I’ll start those up again. I might do them without an audience or I might do something entirely different.

For the 16th Phoenix Universe, instead of a weekly short story, they will be monthly. Writing every week has helped me build my fictional universe. I want to take some time on the stories and maybe release longer stories. I want to build upon other stories I’ve written in 2020 for 2021 and allocate writing time to other works. I plan to revisit all the 2020 stories, send them to an editor, and publish a book collection.

Also during the weekly short story creation, I’ve started two new books. One is based on A Question for the Writers and the other is from Upgrade Cave. I want to finish my other books before I get too involved in those stories.

Now, for new projects! Last year, I did start writing a feature film script although my writing time got spent on short stories. I would like to get that written out at least this year.

One of the first major projects I have in the works for the first half of the year is an interactive branching narrative that takes place in Downtown Norman. More about this later as we’re planning an April or May release.

Finally, I’m researching a project that might be a huge move I’ll make to get closer to the studio goal. Way too early for me to say anything about this publicly yet.

Thank you for following me throughout this year! You can join me on Patreon to help support these projects and get special rewards.

Here’s to happy adventures in 2021!

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