The whirlwind that was 2014 for me had one huge event threaded through the majority of its constituent months: the creation of The Space Hero’s Guide to Glory: How to Get Off Your Podunk Planet and Master the Final Frontier. A book which is, finally, almost out in the world.
The Shining had a big effect on me when I read it as a teenager, so I was excited for its sequel, despite that, as King himself points out in the afterword, it’s hard for a sequel to stand up to something that you remember scaring you at some point in the past.
And yeah, Doctor Sleep is more one of those King books that’s not scary so much as interesting, the way I felt his Cell became at about halfway through, where things stop being so heavy on danger to the characters or the unknown evil workings of the antagonists. Still, it was engaging, although if there was something that felt like an underused opportunity in Doctor Sleep, it was Dan Torrance’s alcoholism.
Welp, 2014 is at an end, and it’s been an intense year in which my blogging experiment was put on indefinite hold. A lot of stuff happened, most of it kinda … bad.
Eventually, I mean to maybe unpack all that here, including the things that I learned and the things that I struggle(d) to deal with. In the meantime, since I’ve been out of it for a while, I figure I’ll highlight a few of the movies, books, stories and games I encountered in the last year that I rather enjoyed.
Up first is what is quite possibly my favorite game of 2014: Alien: Isolation.
Over the last five or so years, I’ve slowly been figuring out more and more what I want each Christmas to be like. Caitlin and I haven’t been able to travel home for the last couple of years — what with getting married and all this year (eventually I mean to talk about that here) — so after all the phone and Skype calls are made, there’s not a whole lot else to do.
So it becomes movie time.
Generally, I can’t stand Christmas movies. Even the best of them descend into sappiness in the end, and the real trouble is that it’s all the exact same sappiness. You can basically flip on any Christmas movie for five minutes, assess where you are in the story, and fill in the blanks from there. The key differences are generally whether you’re watching Bill Murray, Jimmy Stewart, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or something made of clay. (Side note: Wait, are there really no Christmas movies with women leads, or am I just blanking on them?)
I try to skip Rudolph, Charlie Brown and anything that involves Santa. That might sound like the makings of Regular Movie Christmas, but there are a few titles that deserve recognition for their ultimate undefinable Christmasiness, while also side-stepping the awful. Here now is the watch list I’ve been cultivating for several years. It’s ever-evolving, but so far, this is the definitive iteration.
I stumbled back through Rapture last week in BioShock Infinite’s “Burial at Sea” DLC, and the game did that annoying thing where it talked down to me for playing it.
It’s one of those things that video games have been trying to do lately, and it’s kind of sort of infuriating.
Today officially kicked off a new phase in development of The Next Big Thing I’m working on along with Nick Hurwitch.
That’s right, it’s a new book, titled,
Set Phasers to Stunning: The Space Hero’s Guide to Space The Space Hero’s Guide to Glory: How to Get Off Your Podunk Planet and Master the Final Frontier. A spiritual successor to So You Created a Wormhole, we’re looking to do with space travel what we did with time travel — explain it, make fun of it, reference a lot of science fiction that we love, and make fun of that, too.
Last year’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown was one of my favorite games, largely because it left so much room for play sessions to turn into their own little emergent stories.
This week, a huge expansion to the game, called Enemy Within, was launched, and I’ve delved back into the game to try out the new stuff. The other night, I suddenly found myself playing until about 3 a.m. because one mission grabbed my attention and arrested my ability to think of anything else for a good hour — the emergent narrative, about my squad of soldiers fighting to repel an alien invasion of Earth, was in many ways akin to the horror and tragedy of films like Aliens.
Since it was so tense, my favorite experience with the game so far, I ended up laying it out on Twitter across something like 30 updates. I didn’t realize it would be as long as it was until I was midway into it, but I couldn’t just stop in the middle — I still found it too compelling. Because it seems like such a great example of some of the very interesting storytelling only games can do, I thought I’d put it up here, with a little more context.
In an attempt to get back into the swing of posting here, I thought I’d share an article I worked on for Game Front that gives a little behind-the-scenes treatment to how game sites go about putting together game reviews.
The start of 2013 has been pretty stupidly hectic. I haven’t been able to spare the time to get much written here lately, but hopefully I’ll be able to spend some time in the coming weeks explaining all the cool reasons why that is.
The subject of this post is one of the most recent of those reasons. It’s a video Nick and I have been working on as a marketing tool for So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel. We’re fans of doing videos when we can, but they always end up being much more work and much more time-consuming than one would initially expect. That’s the case here: We filmed a video to promote the book right after its release, nearly a year ago (jeez, a year ago?!), but a bunch of issues kept it from reaching completion — namely, we didn’t know what we were doing, and when you work with friends and volunteers, getting things done in a timely manner is tough when things like the need to feed and clothe yourself intervene.
Finally and after some delay, Nick and I were able to track down the original footage of the video in hopes of finding someone to edit it for us, since neither of us has any technical proficiency in that regard. That was a struggle, too, with scheduling difficulties and even some technical difficulties getting in the way (“We formatted this external hard drive as Mac, but it won’t work on PC! What year is this?”).
At long last, armed with a trial version of some fairly nifty editing software, I decided to try cutting the video together myself.
Been a bit since I was able to get over here, but with good excuses!
Lots of work, that’s what. In fact, I don’t really have time to write a whole lot here, but what I can do is dump a bunch of the stuff I’ve been working on that’s keeping me from complaining about video games or discussing writing tips I make up. Here’s a big rundown of everything I’ve been writing lately.