Well, it’s been a long time since I posted on this blog – inkle has been keeping me pretty busy. But there’s a couple of releases to report, both on active content for Kindle (so US-only!), and both appearing on the same day, as luck would have it.
I seem to have accidentally written a horror story, or close enough to one that it’s coming out in Black Static‘s latest issue, in a week or so. Here’s the cover splash, courtesy of TTA.
For fans of the genre, Black Static gets consistently great reviews from around the horror zine scene, so it’s an honour to appear there. The big question will be, will I have the nerve to read the rest of the issue?
In other fiction-writing news, my story from last year Sleepers has been picked up to appear… elsewhere. Details on that when it comes out.
If you watched the remake of Battlestar Galactica, you’ll know that after two or three years of escaping murderous robots with LED eyes and their sleazy-nightclub-owner-type owners, the last surviving humans were faced with the terrible threat of the Final Five. Five last Cylons who could yet destroy everything. Hard to pin down, hard to defeat, hard to negotiate with…
It’s something that anyone who’s worked on long projects can sympathise with. Projects can be easy or hard, but every project ends with that final 5%: the final 5% that nearly kills you.
The last light has gone. The stars are coming out in the black sea above. Many are hidden by ice-fingered winds. My father is still not returned and the fire is almost gone.
But this is how life is: always an edge. A thin sheet on a diving-deep pool.
I hope he will return soon. I cannot summon him.
Merry Christmas, and if you’ve just unwrapped a new game, here’s a sobering puppy-for-life type statistic which is urban legend in the games industry, and might even be true: the majority of console games are played once.
So what? you might think. Most books are read once, most DVDs are watched once, most Christmas cakes eaten once… But I don’t mean finished, I mean played. The majority of console games are opened, installed, booted up, played for a single session (possibly of several hours), then never booted up again. Even though games can afford tens of hours of entertainment; and even though games cost four times as much as books or films.
And that isn’t true of books, or DVDs, or Christmas cake. So why the difference? Is it just because people can get stuck on games?
I don’t think so. I think it’s deeper than that. In fact, I’m not sure there is a difference between the consumption pattern for a DVD, book or a game. I think instead that the difference is in what we mean by the word finished. (And, what is inkle going to do about it?)
I recently picked up a copy of Rich Horton’s 2011 SF anthology, and was really excited to see my story The History of Poly-V in the recommended list at the back.
But the story’s a little inconvenient to get hold of, so I’ve put together an ebook version for Kindle.
I’m calling it a “sci-fi single”. Title track on the A-side, and a slighter, previously unpublished B-side story to go with. There’s also a short set of “liner notes” that discuss a little of the inspiration and history of both stories.
If you’re interested, it’s live on Amazon now; just choose your flavour.
Yesterday was Book Hack Day, organised by Perera Media, Idno and GeekCamp. A group of hackers, writers, designers and publishers braved a few closed Tube stations to meet at the Free Word Centre in Farringdon with their laptops (80:20 Apple:Linux, I think) to talk and work on the future of the book in the digital age.
A few weeks ago I blogged about a Kindle ebook I’d produced and put on Amazon. It was a simple “click the links” CYOA story with one cunning twist: a limited ability to store information about what the player had done, and use that information to alter game text and game choices.
That ebook was built using a custom tool – that tool is now getting its version 1 release. While it needs some validation and error checking to help diagnose typos and simple coding mistakes, it is fully functional and capable of producing working CYOA ebooks.
Full documentation and download on the Kindliser page.
For a new hypertext story I decided to try and actually plan the whole thing before starting out on writing. Partly because the story is going to be complex, with multiple protagonists and plots with twists, turns and reveals, and partly to try and ensure a solid level of interactivity throughout.
This is a big deal for me. I rarely plan stories. I let them grow and then pummel them into shape. But when you’re coding something as well as writing, that takes a lot more time and you throw a lot away. (And you father many, many bugs.)
That iteration is healthy if you’re finding your feet; with a new interface, say, or a narrative gimmick. But in this case, I know what I’m writing – an Undum-based hypertext along the lines of the (as yet unreleased) No Space to Breathe. So instead the experiment is in taking a more organised approach to story development.
Here’s how it went.