ReadingRay Bradbury, RIP

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Jun 062012
 

It was a quiet morning, the town covered over with darkness and at ease in bed. Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing of the world was long and warm and slow. You had only to rise, lean from your window, and know that this indeed was the first real time of freedom and living, this was the first morning of summer.

Douglas Spaulding, twelve, freshly wakened, let summer idle him on its early-morning stream. Lying in his third-story cupola bedroom, he felt the tall power it gave him, riding high in the June wind, the grandest tower in town. At night, when the trees washed together, he flashed his gaze like a beacon from this lighthouse in all directions over swarming seas of elm and oak and maple. Now . . .

“Boy,” whispered Douglas.

- Dandelion Wine

ReadingTobias Buckell kickstarter for a new novel

 Posted by (Visited 11553 times)  Reading  Tagged with: , ,
Sep 192011
 

Those of you who hung around Metaplace may recall that one of the guest speakers we brought in to the lecture series was science fiction writer Tobias Buckell, author of Halo: The Cole Protocol (there, your obligatory videogame connection).

I’ve always been more interested, though, in his original science fiction work. In particular, his Xenowealth novels Crystal Rain, Ragamuffin, and Sly Mongoose. They feature fast-paced action in a space opera sort of setting, sure, but with a unique flavor that comes from Toby’s Caribbean background. (You can read my brief review of Crystal Rain here — Toby himself describes it as “steampunk Aztecs invading a Caribbean lost colony world”).

Well, the publishing industry being what it is, the Xenowealth books are no longer forthcoming as traditional big publishing books. (You can read a bit about why here; Toby blogs a lot about the business of writing).

That doesn’t mean that there’s no hope for those of us who want to read more in the Xenowealth universe, though! Today Toby announced The Apocalypse Ocean by Tobias Buckell — Kickstarter. That link has a preview trailer — and at the end of the trailer, a video from Toby that explains the Kickstarter project. The plan includes eBook and hardcover editions, as well as extra perks for higher pledge levels, like being written into the book as a planet or a spaceship name.

This sort of thing seems like a highly logical alternative for a writer with a devoted following and enough tech chops to get out there independent of major publishers. Since we seem to be heading for a future where all artists in all media will likely have to be “on tour” to support themselves, you may as well get a jump start on it now and support this Kickstarter, because darn it, I want to know what Pepper does next. :)

 

 

Game talkBartle talks (virtual) religion

 Posted by (Visited 8579 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Mar 282011
 

If you "play god" is it blasphemous, or is it fulfilling the notion of being created in god's image?Dr Bartle has uploaded slides from a recent talk that is for “those who wish to see a definition of hubris incarnate” as he puts it: a disquisition on how creating virtual realities opens up religious questions. It’s quite interesting.

The basic premise is that realities are realities — just because one is a relatively crude construct doesn’t mean it isn’t a full-blown reality. Therefore, those who create said realities are gods.

By the time it gets to creating AIs that are self-aware but not knowing whether they are creations, we’re into fairly familiar territory. But it goes beyond that into the notion that perhaps you could create afterlives for these AIs, or allow them to visit your plane of reality using “waldoes” of a sort — a notion that resonates with Ted Chiang’s wonderful novella “The Lifecycle of Software Objects.”

 

Game talkThe world, virtual

 Posted by (Visited 15383 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , , ,
Jan 072011
 

Lately it has been hard for me not to see recent trends ranging from gamification to the increasing prevalence of robots in the household as a sign of the way the real world is starting to imitate a virtual world.

  • We’re adding friends lists via well, everything
  • And bots via robots
  • and reputations via LinkedIn
  • and auction houses via eBay
  • and secure trade via Craigslist
  • and profiles via Facebook
  • and virtual currency with Facebook Credits
  • and quests via serious games
  • and points for meaningless grinding via gamification
  • and strategy guides via Quora
  • and guild chat via status updates
  • And stats to ourselves via ‘quantified self’ approaches
  • And classes and skills via the march of specialization in job roles

Now, you may say that all of these are things that existed before. Yes, and we then built adapted versions of them for the virtual world that accommodated the fact that they were being simulated in a virtual space. And now those adaptations are being ported back to meatspace. We could call these three stages of development:

  1. real world, inhabited by people
  2. virtual world, inhabited by users
  3. wold virtual inhabited by userplayers

Take a look at Leigh Alexander’s hilarious and spot-on critique of Foursquare:

Continue reading »

Game talkReadingFor The Win

 Posted by (Visited 9674 times)  Game talk, Reading  Tagged with: , , ,
May 112010
 

For the Win, Cory Doctorow’s new novel, is out today (in bookstores and also as a free download). And it’s about gaming, and its consequences.

Now, you know I am biased, because not only is Cory a friend, but I even supplied a blurb for the book’s back cover. I also reviewed the manuscript for him and supplied gaming advice. That said, this is a book that people into MMOs and virtual worlds should read.

Why? Because it isn’t about what happens inside the worlds, it’s about what repercussions they have outside them. The story is sort of a large-scale version of his short story “Anda’s Game” (which was collected in Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present and also published on Salon.com), in which guilds are organized on multiple sides of the gold farming wars: a guild to kill gold farmers to protect the game,  a guild to defend them so that they can earn their subsistence wage…

In For The Win all this is taken to a larger scale. Essentially, it extrapolates gold farming into a multinational corporate phenomenon, and looks at what this means for the lives of the people on the front lines — kids, usually, living in India or China, looking to make money but finding that the act of grinding gold “for the man” becomes all too literal in sweatshops. And the upshot is that they organize. As in unions.

As in unions modeled explicitly on the Wobblies, in fact. The novel wears its politics on its sleeve, certainly, and that may be a turnoff for those who don’t see unions as a natural stage in the evolution from free-for-all robber-baron economics to a more mature model. That said, the book comes down pretty hard on all forms of totalitarianism

The in-game stuff is dead-on. But as I said, the book is more about the ripples the games cause, than about the games themselves, because that is where the real psychological action is. It is more about the relationship between a gamer kid in San Diego and his parents who don’t understand his hobby, than it is about the stuff he does inside the game (which does include a pretty awesome boss battle near the beginning). It’s about the ways in which running a guild teaches a girl who barely has any education how to organize large groups of people in real life. In the end, the book argues a point similar to Bartle’s Designing Virtual Worlds: the characters come to know themselves better because of their hobby, and it enables them to take real steps into adulthood.

ReadingHow the world changes!

 Posted by (Visited 4135 times)  Reading  Tagged with:
Oct 032009
 

I think this is the first time I have ever seen someone claim that science fiction used to be mainstream and isn’t anymore!

John Mullan, Naughtie’s fellow judge for this year’s prize and professor of English at University College London, said that he “was not aware of science fiction,” arguing that science fiction has become a “self-enclosed world”.

“When I was 18 it was a genre as accepted as other genres,” he said, but now “it is in a special room in book shops, bought by a special kind of person who has special weird things they go to and meet each other.”

via Science fiction author hits out at Booker judges | Books | guardian.co.uk.

ReadingToby Buckell Q&A log

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Jun 162009
 

If you didn’t show up for the Tobias Buckell event in Metaplace, you missed out. We had a great hour-long conversation, along the lines of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” only with a writer. :) The full chatlog is up on Posterous, but here’s a sample:

Sunchaser: You were born in the Caribbean, and now live in the US. How does your childhood in the Caribbean influence your story telling?

tobiasbuckell: Well, one thing I didn’t find much of in the science fiction I was reading were positive portrayels (sp?) of people from the developing world
tobiasbuckell: so I set out to bring more of that
tobiasbuckell: the Cyberpunk writers really inspired me to feel comfortable about being an SF/F author, as Bruce Sterling set 1/3 of a book of his
tobiasbuckell: in Grenada, where I grew up
tobiasbuckell: so I wanted to infuse my SF/F, a genre I adored, and add this aspect to it
tobiasbuckell: a lot of people act as if multiculturalism is a burden or ‘PC’ thing, but it seemed to me that the future is cosmopolitan and aried and mixed, so I wanted to see more of that

Sunchaser: I’m sure you get this question all the time, but what led you to science fiction in the first place?

tobiasbuckell: SF/F became my love when I started reading very young, I remember reading Clarke’s Childhood’s End at 6 or 7
tobiasbuckell: blew my little mind
tobiasbuckell: so I wanted to recapture more of that, and looked for that genre after a while

Sunchaser: I felt that way the first time I read about the red planet

tobiasbuckell: it’s the heroin addiction theory of Literature

We’re running this Creative Series biweekly, so stay tuned for more…

ReadingHugo nominees: a great slate!

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Mar 192009
 

Hugo Nominations are out, and oof, I don’t think I could pick Best Novel from this bunch! Besides, I know three of the authors, one of them might beat me up if I favor the others.

The comics category is equally tough, with Fables and Y: The Last Man‘s conclusion both up as well as Girl Genius Volume 8, which isn’t actually quite out yet in book form, which means that a webcomic is nominated this year!

Oh, and Dr. Horrible in the Short Form Dramatic category.

ReadingWhere are Asimov’s children?

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Aug 262008
 

Saturn's Children

I just finished reading Saturn’s Children, and enjoyed it quite a lot — Charlie Stross manages to nail the late Heinlein voice quite thoroughly, and although some of the late Heinlein books are vilified in some quarters, I liked quite a lot of them. Here Stross is clearly going after Friday.

There’s quite a lot of Heinlein’s children around these days; not just stuff like the recent Variable Star posthumous collaboration, but also stuff like Scalzi’s “Old Man’s War” books (the latest of which, Zoe’s Tale, I haven’t read yet), and of course the outright homages than John Varley has been writing ever since Steel Beach.

Now, Charlie dedicates Saturn’s Children to both Heinlein and Asimov, and it made me wonder — who is writing the Asimov homages? I mean, aside from a few of Cory Doctorow’s short stories (thinking here of “I, Rowboat,” one of my favorites of his shorts, though of course “I,Robot”, also in that book, is a more direct homage), it doesn’t seem like there are a lot of folks who consciously work in this mode. Charlie is after exploring Asimovian ideas, just in Heinleinian dress, but you don’t see Asimovian dress these days.

I grew up reading them both. I fact, I make the claim to having read everything of Heinlein’s — yes, even Take Back Your Government and Tramp Royale, every short story, everything; and every scrap of Asimov fiction, even all the Lucky Starr books and all the Black Widowers (though I think I may prefer The Union Club Mysteries), even Murder at the ABA (reading all the non-fiction being unattainable).

To me, they have always represented two poles of SF. Is the Asimovian style simply more dated, or is it that the other influences of Heinlein, such as his politics and quotability, have made him more prominent in an Internet-based world and culture?

BTW, Charlie swears to me that few people get the terrible terrible pun about the chicken. Keep an eye out, and don’t be drinking something when you reach the page with the chibi dwarf ninja attack.