Strange days

I have a pretty consistent writing habit. A bad day for me is any day which produces fewer than five pages. Lately I shoot for something like twenty and usually average about eight to ten (we’re talking double-spaced, by the way). Every other week or so I have what can only be described as “a really good day.” It’s less about page count and more about my level of satisfaction with the content itself. The kind of satisfaction I’m talking about here typically leads to a higher page count anyway.

random movie trailer courtesy of Youtube… you’re welcome

I’ve just had three really good days in a row. Three good days in which every direction seemed like the right one, three days in which every word I chose didn’t require second guessing. My “this just doesn’t feel like a novel” worries are quickly dissipating. I can’t remember the last time I had three good days in a row. If I had to guess, I’d say never.

Strange days, indeed. (Look, I just need an excuse for posting the Strange Days trailer.)

There have been problems with my novel. I tend to prioritize the big ones: this chapter is too boring; that chapter is too long; if I cut half of this chapter and half of that one and combine the two together it all has a smoother flow, but what the hell do I do with the chapter that was in between? In solving the bigger problems, I inevitably create a mess of smaller ones. That’s the bad news. The good news is I only have small problems left.

Other than video games, this blog is the first thing I ignore when I’m deep in my work. And right now I’m pretty damn deep into it. I’m not superstitious so I don’t mind jinxing myself: I’m pretty sure I’m about to have a fourth good day.

Jurassic World still looks like shit.

Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves: The first 26 pages

I spent a good portion of my day looking for samples of Ernest Cline’s Armada. There doesn’t appear to be any. This, however, is the next best thing.

Check it out here and check it out quick. It seems that a lot of things mysteriously disappear from Stephenson’s site.

You’re still here? You won’t be after reading the first line:

The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason.

Like I said, it’s a great hook.

Lakeview Cabin Collection is the ultimate 80s splatter camp movie in video game form

I usually deliberate whether or not to buy a game for days. And at the end of that period I usually decide against spending the money. Within minutes of finding out Lakeview Cabin Collection exists, it was in my Steam library. This is the game I’ve been anticipating for a long time, wondering why no one has really made it yet. Someone finally made it.

Before I had any real grasp on the control scheme, my player character was wasted on beer, skinny dipping in a lake. And long before I hit the ten minute mark, all my friends were dead, including the (presumably) virginal heroine who’s supposed to be invincible in movies like this. So in my second playthrough I tried to anticipate the killer, but the game just isn’t as fun if you choose this strategy (which isn’t to say there won’t be surprises anyway). No, it’s a lot more fun to roleplay the clueless teenager who’s about to be chopped into pieces, drinking beer and taking rips from a bong rather than setting up traps and hiding beneath bunks… at least until you discover a friend’s body.

Lakeview Cabin is like a mash-up of the NES’s Friday the 13th and Maniac Mansion. It’s a light puzzler with permadeath and each time you play it it’ll be different. If it had any shortcomings—and it really doesn’t, although ten bucks is a little high—they would be eclipsed by the fun and humor of it. If you still own Sleepaway Camp and The Burning on VHS, you owe it to yourself to buy this game. Just be sure to have a decent gamepad.

What is Enclave about?

I’ve expanded the information about my upcoming novel on the Current Projects page. Check it out. It’s the longest I’ve ever spent on a single project and I just wanted to talk about it some more, particularly my motivations for writing it, since I’ve been pretty secretive about it with everyone I know. I don’t call myself introverted for nothing.

Is the wait for the newest episode of Game of Thrones killing anyone else? Well, that’s probably a dumb question. Of course it is.

The new Descent: Underground trailer will make your nipples hard

Here’s the Kickstarter campaign. As of posting this, there are 8 hours to go and it’s $44,000 away from its $600,000 goal. (Update: 8 hours later, it met its goal with a little over a thousand bucks to spare.)

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Don’t forget: Daredevil just premiered on Netflix today. I’ve seen the first three episodes and while I thought it was going to be a little more R-rated, it’s pretty good. There’s an action sequence towards the end of the second episode which is obviously inspired by the hallway scene in Old Boy and it was surprising to see that level of choreography in a television show. This is definitely more like Batman Begins than Marvel’s other stuff.

Nobody’s hotter than Atari this summer

My parents didn’t get us an 8-bit Nintendo until well after all my friends had one (yeah, I know, cry me a river, right?) so I was strictly an Atari kid in the beginning of my life. I never owned a 5200, but weren’t commercials just better when ad executives were still on cocaine?

I confess to a certain level of nostalgia for Atari. I can only hope the upcoming (and pointless) Blade Runner sequel retains the original’s vision of the future, in which Atari not only still exists, it warrants prominent advertising on the streets. I never really loved Atari’s Pac-Man or many of the other arcade ports, but there’s something endearing about games like Adventure (which I didn’t have) and Combat (which I did have) that show that all kids needed back then was a handful of squares and a healthy imagination. Just look at this simplicity:
The funny thing about the Atari 2600 is I always played it on a black & white television set. I didn’t even know it had color until I was a teenager.
The older I get, the less fun I have with modern games. I miss the sounds. I miss the graphics. I miss the fact that you could buy it, bring it home, and it was complete. Timed DLC sucks.

Five books to check out this summer

Boy, I live for the summer. What follows is a list of books I’m anticipating in the next few months. The summaries and release dates (which could change) are lifted from Amazon.

April 30th
Multiverse: Exploring Poul Anderon’s Worlds

Poul Anderson (1926-2001) was one of the seminal figures of 20th century science fiction. Named a Grand Master by the SFWA in 1997, he produced an enormous body of standalone novels (Brain Wave, Tau Zero) and series fiction (Time Patrol, the Dominic Flandry books) and was equally at home in the fields of heroic fantasy and hard SF. He was a meticulous craftsman and a gifted storyteller, and the impact of his finest work continues, undiminished, to this day.

I’m still on the fence about this one because I don’t read many anthologies anymore (I have a ton I haven’t even cracked yet), but it’s worth noting I own more books by Poul Anderson than any other writer. Brain Wave and The High Crusade are two of my favorite novels ever. Greg Bear (Anderson’s son-in-law) and anthology-master Gardner Dozois edited this collection of stories paying tribute to the writer.

May 19th
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Anathem, Reamde, and Cryptonomicon comes an exciting and thought-provoking science fiction epic—a grand story of annihilation and survival spanning five thousand years.

I’ll be reading this one for sure. Insanely long and no doubt full of all the amusing meanderings we expect, it’s a story in which Earth’s moon explodes for no apparent reason. Frankly, you had me at Neal Stephenson, but what a hook!

May 19th
The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker

The Scarlet Gospels takes readers back many years to the early days of two of Barker’s most iconic characters in a battle of good and evil as old as time: The long-beleaguered detective Harry D’Amour, investigator of all supernatural, magical, and malevolent crimes faces off against his formidable, and intensely evil rival, Pinhead, the priest of hell. Barker devotees have been waiting for The Scarlet Gospels with bated breath for years, and it’s everything they’ve begged for and more. Bloody, terrifying, and brilliantly complex, fans and newcomers alike will not be disappointed by the epic, visionary tale that is The Scarlet Gospels. Barker’s horror will make your worst nightmares seem like bedtime stories. The Gospels are coming. Are you ready?

Detective D’Amour meets Pinhead. This is history in the making, folks. It’s like Mayweather/Pacquiao for horror fans.

July 7th
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

A major new novel from one of science fiction’s most powerful voices, AURORA tells the incredible story of our first voyage beyond the solar system.

I’m not sure why, but I missed out on Robinson’s 2312. I’ll try to check this one out when it hits paperback.

July 28th
Armada by Ernest Cline

It’s just another day of high school for Zack Lightman. He’s daydreaming through another boring math class, with just one more month to go until graduation and freedom—if he can make it that long without getting suspended again.

Then he glances out his classroom window and spots the flying saucer.

If it’s half as easy to read (and enjoy) as Cline’s Ready Player One, I’m all in. The eighties nostalgia angle in RPO initially turned me off, but it quickly became apparent that Cline was more genuine than gimmicky. I think back to that book more than I thought I would, but maybe that’s only because Cline seems to be everywhere these days. Nonetheless, I’m probably looking forward to this one more than the rest even though I typically don’t love lite SF. According to this Verge article, Universal Pictures has already bought the film rights.

GRRM on this year’s Hugos

After reading so many misguided emotions from writers and bloggers I otherwise admire, it was refreshing to find someone who pretty much feels the same way about The Hugo situation as I do. From George R.R. Martin’s Not A Blog:

You can’t call it cheating, though. It was all within the rules.

But many things can be legal, and still bad… and this is one of those, from where I sit.

Read the rest here. (Since I originally posted this yesterday, GRRM has posted three more times on the subject. It’s refreshingly level-minded stuff.)
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Last night I was bitten by a cat who thought my convertible top was down for his amusement. I can honestly say it’s the first time I’ve felt a fang scrape any of my bones. I have a friend who went to the E.R. for cat scratch fever (it’s not just an annoying song) so I didn’t mess around getting it checked out by a professional. The swelling isn’t too bad, but it hurts like hell all over my hand and especially in the joints of my thumb. I can barely even type and my text messages are a mess.
The bitch of the situation is I used to like cats. Not anymore. Not for a while, anyway. Considering this cat also attacked my dog once, I’m investing in a Super Soaker.
Since typing hurts, I might be taking a break from working on my novel tonight. Which sucks because I had some really good ideas for how to tie up some loose ends when I was waiting (for several hours) in the urgent care clinic. 

The Bullshit Awards

Right now, there’s some unfortunate bullshit involving The Hugo Awards. Every time I start reading about this particular story, my eyes come unfocused and I realize it’s yet another insignificant controversy nobody will give a shit about in a few months’ time. There really isn’t a lot of unbiased information on this topic out there, just a lot of name-calling bullshit. They’ll tell me how I should feel about the issue, but not why. Look, I don’t like what the Sad/Rabid Puppies did either, but hold the fucking phone here. The correct response is not the equal and opposite reaction.

Politics aside, it looks like the real problem has always existed: The Hugos are designed to be gamed—or, more accurately, they were designed in such a way they could be gamed provided your co-conspirators have the forty bucks to do it—and it sounds like neither side of the debate is completely innocent of taking advantage of that. Maybe it’s not right, but it’s just the fact of the matter. Another fact is people have a right to say, write, and publish whatever the hell they want. It really doesn’t matter how hateful, stupid, or offensive other people think it is. And if an awards ceremony can be so easily (and legally) gamed by these participants, then they have a right to do that, too. It’s almost like this ceremony is put on in a country that protects free speech.

While I’m far from agreeing with everything this guy says, I think in this paragraph he hits the nail on the head:

In the postwar period, conservatives like Robert Heinlein and liberals like Isaac Asimov were both among the leading figures of science fiction. Political tolerance, an idea loathed by radical activists, has ever been the norm in the community, and it has thrived because of it. 

Philip K. Dick said the reason he enjoyed writing SF is because readers of the genre are more willing to accept unorthodox ideas than any other kind of reader. We’re the weirdos who lug around yellowing paperbacks with goofy looking tentacle monsters and funny looking spaceships on the covers—we’re inherently tolerant of the kinds of ideas that “normal” people with their black & white politics would never even pause to consider. So it’s a real shame that these black & white social groups had to come fucking about in a genre that works best when it’s dealing in several shades of gray.

Can we just go back to judging authors’ works on the quality of the story told and look past all this other noise? I want left- and right-wing science fiction writers and everyone in between. I crave the kind of stuff that makes me uncomfortable and challenges my beliefs. And right now I believe if anyone can game the system, then everyone should be able to game the system. Bigots like OSC, who I’m sure isn’t innocent of any kind of campaigning, have written works that were deserving of the award as well. Speaker for the Dead is one of the most beautiful arguments for acceptance the genre has ever turned out, even if the author himself doesn’t believe it on a conscious level. (I keep that book on the same shelf as the books by Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, and Ursula K. Le Guin, all of whom I’m more likely to agree with politically.)

Science fiction always worked best when it wasn’t lazy propaganda, when it was written by individuals rather than mob mentalities with simplistic agendas, when watchdogs weren’t actively trying to suppress the stuff they don’t like. Goddamn it, I want more works I disagree with. I want more books that offend me. If any of the fad groups involved in this situation get their way, science fiction will be just a little bit poorer because of it.

Actually, that’s giving these people far too much credit.

I haven’t voted for The Hugos before and if I had the time to read all of the nominees I probably would. I know a lot of people are planning to ignore the stuff the Puppies are responsible for putting on the ballot (none of which are novel nominations, by the way), but a commentator on io9 suggested that at least some of the nominated parties were not notified they were going to get an endorsement from the Sad/Rabid Puppies.

I’m just wondering: if you’re planning on voting and haven’t yet learned which nominations resulted from the Puppies, would it really matter if you didn’t find out before you did vote?