Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Moving to Wordpress....

From RIGHT NOW onwards, you can find this blog over at Wordpress:

See you there!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Y the last issue??

It's been a good year for books so far. I've somehow managed to read three (well, five, I suppose, as one is a trilogy - although another is as long-running comic series, comprising ten trades...let's just forget the numbers), all of which have all leaped quickly into my 'all-time favourites' list.

His Dark Materials

I received these for Christmas - Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. Surprisingly, I can't help but think the American title of The Golden Compass is more fitting for the first book, slotting in nicely with the 'objects of power' theme in the other titles.

Having been deemed slightly too old to read them when they were first released, they'd gone rather beneath my radar. My mum, who worked in the school library at the time, certainly seemed impressed with them, but I knew little else. It was only when the movie was nearing release and the denser end of the religious spectrum started trumpeting that I paid attention. If there's one thing that'll encourage me to investigate something, it's if reactionary religious evangelists dislike it.

Great stuff, as everyone knows, although the ending really did leave me with a rather gaping hole in the heart. Yes, it's important for events this epic to have resonance and consequences (I've always thought LotR's main flaw is that everyone gets off rather lightly...). Yes, it makes for a more memorable story. But...couldn't they all have just lived happily ever after?

p.s. I also thought the movie was good, though covered with dirty studio-meddling fingerprints.

Rendezvous With Rama
That it's taken me nearly 28 years to read this is rather unforgiveable. Despite loving good ol' hard sci-fi, loving Asimov as a kid and then Kim Stanley Robinson as a 'young adult', for some reason I never really discovered Arthur C Clarke.

I read a collection of his short stories a while back and then zipped through Earthlight while in hospital in 200...5? Rendezvous With Rama is one of the biggies, though, and thankfully it didn't disappoint. Clarke's power to describe something completely alien and bring it to vivid life is really quite enviable - I feel like I've been to Rama, like I know exactly what it looks like, in all its massive scale. I have memories of traversing the staircase and staring up at the sky/ground and the circular sea.

Y: The Last Man
Finally, I just this evening finished the last issue of Y: The Last Man. I am now in a mission to hunt down everything else written by Brian K Vaughan. I'm quite glad that I read the series over the last couple of years in the trades, rather than issue-by-issue since 2002. If I'd been invested for that long, the ending would really have been too difficult to bear. Not because it's sad (though it is, in some ways), but because it means there's no more.

No more tales of Yorick's bumbling foolery, no more ass kicking (and repressed feelings) from 355, no more disapproving glances from Dr Mann. No more poo throwing from Ampersand.

There's only one solution really: I'll just have to start re-reading the whole thing from the beginning.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Piece by piece

We're building the set for the FXhome Film up at work at the moment. I've never really done anything quite like it (not being the DIY type) and it's rather fun, seeing it taking shape piece by piece, each beam or panel making it seem more and more like a space station and less like a bunch of chopped up trees. I've really no idea what it'll look like once completed, in terms of quality. Will it be Battlestar Galactica or Doctor Who quality?

Talking of which, Battlestar's mid-season break was fairly astounding. It really is the best show since Babylon 5, for me. I'm still not entirely sure how it manages to be consistently better than any cinema scifi of the last 10-or-so years (Starship Troopers and Serenity excepted, of course).

Mass Effect continues to be rather captivating, perhaps a little too much.


Pages: 219
Words: 81,357

I must be approximately two thirds of the way in now. Our heroes are crossing the mountains en route to Aviar, where they will find many surprises. Everything's going to be gradually slotting into place for the finale from here. While I thought setting up the plot, setting and characters was a crazy juggling act, getting everything positioned naturally for the climax is looking like it's going to be just as tricky.

What I'm actually looking forward to the most currently - other than finishing the first damn draft - is the editing process. That's when I can really start to tighten all the strings, make sure all the themes are in and developing properly, iron out any plot creases and, hopefully, end up with a properly readable book.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mass Effect

The problem with being a PC gamer is that, while you sometimes get better versions of games, you tend to be writing about them a year-or-so after the rest of the planet. PC scoops are often old news to everyone else.

Which brings me to Mass Effect, a game that 360ers have been enjoying for a good long while already. The PC version is prettier, more stable and has better combat, while retaining all the good stuff from the console version. If you want to know more, it's probably best just to Google.

In an effort to raise a smile (or pitying shake of the head), above you can see my attempt to create a character that looks a little bit like me, if I happened to have a more heroically chiselled jaw.

In other news: I'm going to try to write my first legit gaming article soon, so that I can start pushing it aggressively in editors' faces. Not sure that's how it works, but the worst they can do is call the police.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Bring Firefly Back!!

That was all I had to say. I'd rather be Zoe than Kaylee..

You are Kaylee Frye (Ship Mechanic)

Kaylee Frye (Ship Mechanic)
Zoe Washburne (Second-in-command)
Malcolm Reynolds (Captain)
Dr. Simon Tam (Ship Medic)
Derrial Book (Shepherd)
Inara Serra (Companion)
Wash (Ship Pilot)
Jayne Cobb (Mercenary)
River (Stowaway)
A Reaver (Cannibal)

You are good at fixing things.
You are usually cheerful.
You appreciate being treated
with delicacy and specialness.

Click here to take the Serenity Firefly Personality Test

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Future history

I first came across the term 'future history' inside the pages of an Asimov novel - most likely one of the Foundations and almost certainly a reprint, probably containing one of the man's excellent introductions. Apparently it was coined by Heinlein as the title of a short story and was then co-opted by John W. Campbell (who else?) as an actual term.

By 'apparently', I do of course mean 'according to Wikipedia'.

It's something I've always enjoyed reading as well as writing - hence my vast collection of notes, historical timelines, character bios and maps for Evinden (though I suppose that isn't a future history, rather a fantasy history). Even for the 'Detective' stories that I wrote as part of the creative writing course we did last year (links on the right!) I worked out a simple history, both of the world and the character: The progression of robot development, the rise of anti-robot sentiments, how the detective's parents had effectively had their lives made irrelevant by the robotic march, thus fueling his hatred.

I find it fairly essential with sci-fi, as the kind of sci-fi I like to roll around in is all about ideas, often relating to technical advances or discoveries, and you simply can't do it without knowing what's what. This isn't to say that characters, story and structure aren't just as important - probably more so in most cases. But you can have the best characters in the genre and it won't matter one jot if they're emoting within an empty world, or - even worse - and inconsistent or clearly made-up-on-the-spot world.

The reason I'm gabbing on about this is that I spent a brief part of this afternoon indulging in some flagrant future history writing for the FXhome Film Project, carefully filling in the fictional details of the story's mining operation (well, prospecting operation, to be precise). Tomorrow we're opening up some of the design to the community to see if they can come up with some cool visual concepts, and I felt this background was essential for them to have a context, given that we're not releasing the actual script at this stage. I can't wait to see what they contribute.

On another note, we went to the gym this evening for the first (proper) time. Good god it was knackering. Fun, though, and I'm looking forward to the next one. Good to be focused and regimented from time to time, methinks.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Plot hole diary

The big experiment begins this week - can we crew the film project partially with community members? It'll be interesting to see what happens. Completed this round of video interviews today (the one with the writer went extremely well - he's a very enthusiastic chappy), although I'm still waiting on the director to get me his in the post. Alas, the making-of budget doesn't cover flight expenses for me to go down there in person. ;)

In even more exciting news - I've finally resolved my Evinden plot hole! It all came about due to a idea that came to me rather suddenly and inconveniently while writing a recent chapter. Bearing in mind I'm over halfway through the book now (probably...), this idea was awkward in that it fundamentally changed the relationship between a couple of major characters (and, thusly, it also changed much of their impact on the story and world), which isn't normally something I'd want to contend with having already written so much. I couldn't get the idea out of my head, however, as it's simply a rather delicious plot twist - not in a Sixth Sensey kind of way, but more in an undermining-a-character's-faith kind of way. It's a mean, unpleasant plot twist that should make the reader wince with sympathy while simultaneously giggling with evil glee (actually, that might only be the prerogative of the writer).

The trick was that the plot twist rather invalidated a couple of earlier chapters, including a major sequence involving the introduction of the Tarn character. Typically, this introduction has always been a particularly favourite scene of mine, having been present in every single draft of the novel (and, prior to that, the film script). But, as they say, sometimes the scenes you love the most are the ones you need to cut.

Having wrestled valiantly to resolve the plot hole created by the plot twist via some cunning retcon, instead I've opted to completely re-write that earlier section of the book. I think it'll actually be for the better, resulting in a much more realistic couple of chapters at quite a crucial part of the book. That the favourite scene has been there from the beginning is probably a good indication that it hails from a time when the story - and my writing skills - were considerably less advanced than they are now.

It's all worth it, though. The plot twist is awesome. You'll see, one day!