Friday, 31 October 2014

The Walking Dead


I enjoy PC games that tell stories, and games where you get pulled in, to become an actor in that story, making decisions that can change things. We all love it when we read a book or film and think: "What would I do in that situation?" With a good game you can find out.

Since it's Halloween, I decided to replay the PC game The Walking Dead (Season 1). Forget the zombies, it's an emotional tale of a man redeeming himself and protecting a young girl. By the end of the fifth and final episode many gamers reported being upset and emotional in a way they had not experienced before in a game - something more familiar to book readers. To be upset you have to care about the characters. This is a game that is all about characters, and difficult (if sometimes artificial) decisions. I couldn't help but be impressed at how this story was told. And if you enjoy The Walking Dead comics, and Romero's first three zombie films (Night, Dawn, Day), this will certainly scratch your itch. Remember the paradox: the biggest danger, but also sometimes your best help, is other people.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Readers Wanted!


Hello my discerning, intelligent, attractive friends. I'm fine, thanks. Wow, you look good today, John. That pin-stripe suit goes so well with the Fender Strat on your back. Now, if I - oh, that dress really suits your drumsticks, Susan. That's it, take a drink. I've gathered you all in my castle today to talk about my next novel, 2000 Tunes. It's nearly there. I've had good feedback from my editor, which was a cause for rejoicing. I was told the novel is well-written, immaculately plotted, and entertaining. The one issue left is that it's too long for most publishers, so needs a bit of trimming back, and a few other small touches.

"What's it about?"

Thanks for asking, Roger. It's set in the year 2000 and is about a music-obsessed young man waiting for The Hacienda to re-open. And about love. And family. And criminals. It can be read as a partner to Cold Fusion 2000, though that isn't necessary, since 2000 Tunes stands alone. It's just that if you enjoyed Cold Fusion 2000 then you should like 2000 Tunes. (Whereas if you prefer my horror stories then this probably won't be your cup of tea, or glass of Pineau des Charentes).

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Good Books


If you're looking for a good horror or sci-fi book or novella to read for Halloween, I recommend these ones from one of my Goodreads shelves.

Have you read any of them, or planned to?

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Temporary Turner cover


To celebrate Halloween this year I made a new, temporary cover for Turner (for the e-book versions only). It's based on this Gianluca image. I'll change it back once October has passed. Happy spookiness, my little gremlins!

Friday, 10 October 2014

My Childhood Home


What makes a house a home? For me it was the last house when we were a family, before Dad left, before Dad died. Red brick council estate, anonymous on the outside, all the character behind the door. The wildlife too, with mice that nibbled our power-cut candles, and maggoty caterpillars that dangled and spun from the lace in my bedroom, a part of every view.

As a kid you don't think about money. It was a great treat when Pot Noodles were launched and we had them for our tea. The first clue that money mattered was when I got a Scalextric set for Christmas. I loved racing the cars with Dad until one of us spun out. It was gone by Easter, disappearing from the top of my wardrobe one night, taken by the anti-Santa. Mum told me we needed the money. I didn't mind. We'd all give a thousand Scalextric sets to go back in time and live one week again. Family beats racing cars in the stone, paper, scissors of life. A few years later and my dad was gone too, taken in the night.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Bad Language - the roundup


I hate the way language gets mangled. I might be enjoying a nice pint of beer when a scruffy oik enters my domain and tells me that something is "addicting": he is pelted with left over jam roly-poly. The silly oaf who tells me that "Team GB did well" is kicked up the posterior and informed that the adjective comes before the noun - it is "the British team". The voluminously-robed lady who tells me her "gender is female" is forced out of the castle and into the moat, along with a sheet of papers explaining that male and female are sexes, not genders. Once they are dismissed the wolves howl and and the owls hoot during another lovely evening of refinement and System Shock.

What 3 things are wrong with the English text? 

Saturday, 4 October 2014

The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard


I recommend watching this free documentary about The Pirate Bay - the power of the big media companies in collusion with governments is terrifying.

"Oh, the judge was actually part of the organisation doing the prosecution and never announced it? Never mind, we don't see any conflict of interest there."

Watch it here or download it with subtitles for free from GOG.

No surprise that Hollywood then used US copyright laws to try and silence free speech. On principle I avoid ISPs which block The Pirate Bay (I'm with GreenISP).

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[An aside, added after publishing the post]: For background it's worth knowing that as well as a writer I am a librarian, so I make a living from my creative works AND am involved in making information available to all, which helps me see both sides. I think we're currently far too entrenched in restrictions (DRM, blocking, legal cases, take downs etc), and the multimedia industry are incredibly short-sighted and backwards. The loaning of a DVD is a good example, since if I lend a friend a hammer then the hammer industry could argue they are losing a sale, but they'd never get away with acting like Hollywood does. In some cases I've bought a CD/film/book only because I could pass it on to someone else when I'm bored with it (I try not to have too many possessions) - as soon as things are more restrictive then I just don't buy it and they lose out on a sale. Reminds me of when you buy a DVD and are forced to sit through 5 minutes of video clips accusing you of being a potential criminal, and you just wonder why you bothered buying it in the first place. Anyway, here's hoping for some sense in the future - I read this good news earlier today.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

FTL (Faster Than Light)

Things are not going well for this ship

I love stories in all their formats, not just books. Give me a good film and I'll be lost for two hours. Give me a good computer game and I can be lost for far longer. For that reason I sometimes avoid games that I know I'll love, particularly perma-death roguelikes. I recently gave in and tried FTL (Faster Than Light). It is a big mistake for productivity! It is one of those "Just one more game!" specials, because when you die you always feel you can do better, that it won't take long to play one more game, and suddenly you are lost again, being the captain of a small space ship on a tense race against time.

The game captures the atmosphere of a cross between a cut-down Star Trek and Firefly. Be a goodie. Be a baddie. No game takes too long to play, each one tells its own story. You can rename your ship and crew to make things more personal (use the names from your favourite sci-fi show or film, or those of your friends, neighbours and loved ones; it's a lovely personal touch which makes each crew member more memorable). Forget the USS Enterprise - my most successful mission so far was in the supership known around the universe as The Kitchen Sink. (I was low on inspiration that day).

Monday, 8 September 2014

Something is wrong


Something is wrong in this place.

Stares can be cruel, yes, I see that. Scar tissue does not bleed, it is a sign that things are planned, not random, yes, stories and people, the world's architect, self-evident. I see and know. I am not hurt any more. Look all you like. And I will look back at you. And we will see who is the strongest. I am bigger. Mind, body, scar tissue. Yes. I do not like "vibrations". The term is imprecise. No. It is mood I feel. Mood comes from choices. Mood comes from entities, from people and things which pass through or rest in a place. Rest, yes. All choices.

Dark panelling. A choice. Lighting that makes one area - that one by the bar - bright, that is choice, that makes shadow elsewhere, yes. The mood. It is wrong. I see. I will unravel. I see architect's plans, yes, I see.