Ray 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

Tobias Buckell kickstarter for a new novel

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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. 🙂



Bartle talks (virtual) religion

 Posted by (Visited 11705 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.”


The world, virtual

 Posted by (Visited 17930 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 »

For The Win

 Posted by (Visited 11808 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.