Category Archives: Uncategorized

I am Busy Today But Do Not Wish to Leave You With Nothing Here on Whatever, So Please Enjoy This Picture of a Cat in a Bathtub

And Lopsided Cat is all, “What? Can’t a cat have a little private time? With his favorite sponge?” Hey, man. I don’t judge.

How’s your Monday?

Today’s Thing I’ve Never Seen Before

It’s a large print edition of Redshirts, in a library binding and everything. I’m not 100% sure but I suspect this is the first book of mine in large print (the Hugo award may have helped it get into the format). At the very least it’s the first book of mine that I’ve seen in the format. I think it’s kind of neat, personally.

New Books and ARCs, 2/13/15

A double-header of new books and ARCs today. These were ones that came in before I headed off on the JoCo Cruise last week. On Monday, I’ll catch up with some of the ones that have come in since. In the meantime, some excellent stuff here. See anything you like? Tell me about it in the comments.

There She Goes

Athena, driving herself to school for the very first time. A strangely melancholy moment here. On one hand, now I’ll get to regularly sleep in on school days for the first time in over a decade. On the other hand, my brain has started this song on a loop.

So there’s that. They do grow up, they do.

The 2015 SF/F Fans Award Recommendation Thread

The Nebula Award nomination period ends on February 15, and the Hugo/Campbell Award nomination period is well underway, and several other awards are in their consideration periods as well. Which makes right now an excellent time for fans of the science fiction and fantasy genre to make their recommendations for books, stories, art, movies and TV shows, fanzines and podcasts to nominate for this year’s slate of awards.

And so, here’s have a thread to make those recommendations. I’ve done this for a few years now, and every year it offers up recommendations worth considering when the time comes to make one’s own award nominations.

What and how should you recommend? Here are the thread rules:

1. Please make sure that what you’re suggesting, work or person, is actually eligible for awards consideration this year. Generally speaking that means the work was published (or otherwise produced) in the last calendar year (i.e., 2014); for the Campbell, it means someone who has been professionally published in the SF/F field in the last two years (2013, 2014). If you’re not sure what you’re suggesting is eligible, please check. Otherwise you’re wasting your time and the time of everyone reading the thread for recommendations.

Also, it’s helpful if, when making a suggestion, you identify the category the work would be eligible for; so if you were going to suggest a novel, writing “Best Novel: [name of work, author of work]” up front would be awesome. This is especially useful in short fiction categories, where there are short stories, novelettes and novellas.

With regard to the Hugos, here’s a list of current categories (The Campbell Award for Best New Writer is not noted there but is present on the Hugo nomination form). However, this thread is not just for Nebulas and Hugos. Feel free to recommend for other awards as well. I would particularly note that SFWA also has a YA award called the Norton. So YA/MG recommendations would be useful here as well.

2. If the work you’re suggesting is (legally) readable online, feel free to provide a link, but note that too many links in one post (usually three or more) might send your post into the moderation queue, from whence I will have to free it in order for it to show up. If this happens, don’t panic, I’ll be going through the moderation queue frequently today to let posts out.

3. Only suggest the work of others. Self-suggestions will be deleted from the thread. This should not dissuade writers and creators from recommend other people’s work, of course. Please do!

4. Don’t suggest my work, please. I’ve already posted here about what of mine is eligible; this thread is for everything else.

5. The comment thread is only for making recommendations, not for commentary on the suggestions others are making or anything else. Extraneous, not-on-topic posts will be snipped out of the thread.

6. Likewise, please don’t cut and paste lists and slates from elsewhere. This is about your recommendations, from the things you have read/viewed and enjoyed and wish to recommend to others.

There you have it.

And now: What do you recommend for science fiction and fantasy awards this year? Please share. The more people know what’s out there, the better the overall field of nominees has the potential to be. Thank you!

JoCo Cruise Celebrity Artemis, In Which It Is Revealed I Am an Incompetent Captain

This is me playing Celebrity Artemis, as the captain of the USS Redshits (not a typo), with Steve Jackson as my engineer, Wil Wheaton at the helm, JoCo Cruise intern Joel Pattison on weapons (with every other intern pestering him), Ted Leo on science and Mikey Neumann on communications. Everything goes to hell very quickly, and it’s worth watching the whole thing to see the utter chaos that goes down, but if you must scan through for the highlights, fast forward to 12:00, where Ted Leo dramatically (and awesomely) drops the mic, and to 14:20, when I strangle Wil Wheaton; keep watching to see what I do to his corpse.

Seriously, I am a terrible starship captain. Never let me captain your ship.

For contrast, here’s the first ship of evening, captained and crewed far more competently by Jean Grae and friends:

And here’s the ship crewed by the Royal Carribean folks, who were, quite frankly, utterly amazing in how into it they were. It was like watching the UK version of The Office in space:

If you want to play Artemis for yourself, this is where you can get it. Try not to strangle any of your crew.

Lock In an Audie Award Finalist + Other Award Notes

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First, look at that: Lock In is finalist for an Audie, in the Science Fiction category. Sweet! The graphic here notes Wil Wheaton as the reader (plus a full cast for “Unlocked,” which was included in the Lock In audio package), but the finalist notation in the “all finalists” press release (pdf link) also includes Amber Benson, as it should, because she turned in a terrific version of the novel. I don’t know why she didn’t make the display graphic but obviously I wanted to make sure I noted her, and her contribution. If the book wins the Audie, a big chunk of that award will belong to her. Congratulations to her, to Wil, and to all the other authors and narrators in this and other categories. Awards are fun.

With that said, four quick notes regarding awards:

1. If you’re a SFWA member, the deadline to nominate for the Nebula Awards is this Sunday, February 15th. Get to it, folks. Your former president thanks you for your cooperation.

2. A reminder that Hugo nominating is open for about another month, so while you have some time on those, if you’re planning to nominate, it’s a good time to start thinking of your nomination lists for categories.

3. On that note, tomorrow I’ll put up my post for people to list the works/people they think merit award consideration this year. Which will hopefully give you some excellent things to read while you think about who and what you want to nominate.

4. I’ve been asked off and on if I have any thoughts about the various dramas surrounding science fiction and fantasy award nominations this year. Aside from the occasional Twitter snark, no, not really, except that it’s tiring and mostly pretty silly and I’m not sure why I would want to think about any of it very much. I know what I plan to nominate this year, and I’m nominating because I think the work is (and/or the people behind the work are) worth the artistic consideration. If you’re nominating this year, I suggest you do the same.

Aaaaaand that’s pretty much it.

Announcing the Audie Award Finalists for Fantasy, 2015!

The folks at the Audie Awards asked me if I would be willing to announce the finalists for the Fantasy category of awards, and of course I was delighted to. The Audie Award, for those of you not aware, are the awards given out for excellence in audiobook achievement. This year, the finalists in the category of Fantasy are:

Fantasy edited

If for some reason you’re having difficulty seeing the image, the finalists are:

Cress; by Marissa Meyer; Narrated by Rebecca Soler;

The Emperor’s Blades; by Brian Staveley; Narrated by Simon Vance;

Hawk; by Steven Brust; Narrated by Bernard Setaro Clark;

The Queen of the Tearling; by Erika Johansen; Narrated by Katherine Kellgren;

Words of Radiance; by Brandon Sanderson; Narrated by Kate Reading and Michael Kramer.

The Audie Awards will be given out May 28. Congratulations to all the finalists in Fantasy category, whom I have had the honor to announce, and to all finalist in every other category as well!

Subterranean Scalzi Super Bundle Available for a Limited Time

A couple of years ago, Subterranean Press released a “super bundle” of short stories and non-fiction books from me, perfect for completists who want to get lots of stuff of mine for a nice, low price. SubPress has revived the super bundle for a limited time with three new works in it: “To Sue The World,” a short story set in the Redshirts universe (those of you who saw me on that book tour will remember me reading it with Wil Wheaton, Paul Sabourin and other friends); “Lock In Lost Chapters,” featuring two chapters from a previous (and unreleased) version of the novel Lock In; and The Mallet of Loving Correction, my second collection of Whatever entries. All for $8.99, and all DRM-free.

Why release it now? Because Subterranean Press wants to give the proceeds to a local non-profit: A fencing studio (that’s the fencing with swords, not with, uh, fences) which is looking to upgrade its facilities and programs. I can get behind that, so I’ll be donating my share as well. So, it’s a chance to get a lot of cool stories at a good price while helping folks.

Here’s the whole list of contents for the SubPress Scalzi Super Bundle:

  • To Sue the World (an original, very short Redshirts story available nowhere else)
  • Muse of Fire
  • Mallet of Loving Correction
  • Lock In, Lost Chapters (available nowhere else)
  • How I Proposed To My Wife: An Alien Sex Story
  • An Election
  • Judge Sn Goes Golfing
  • Questions for a Soldier
  • The Sagan Diary
  • The Tale of the Wicked
  • The God Engines
  • You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop

Again: This is available only for a limited time (about two weeks), so if you want it, come and get it. Thanks!

How I Spent My JoCo Cruise 2015

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JoCo musicians in practice for the final show. From left: Jim Boggia, Aimee Mann, Molly Lewis, John Roderick, Storm DiCostanzo, Ted Leo, Christian Cassan, Paul Sabourin, Jonathan Coulton (not pictured here but performing in final show: Jean Grae)

My thoughts, in no particular order.

* I stand on dry land, I feel like I’m swaying. This is what a week and a day on a boat will do to you. It happens every time I come back from the JoCo Cruise. It’s a little weird, but it’s also kind of nice. Like the most innocuous hangover you can have.

Also, I only gained a pound on this trip. Considering the unfathomable amount of food I ate on the cruise, this is well nigh impossible. I must have a tapeworm. Either that or constantly walking up and down stairs actually burned some calories. I suspect tapeworm, however.

* I’ve been on the JoCo Cruise three times now, but this year was the first year I was “on staff” — I was a featured guest as well as running the brand new writing track on the boat. And yes, it made a bit of difference in how I experienced the cruise, in mostly positive ways. I like being busy and I like entertaining people, so programming a writing track with nine events, all of which I participated in one way or another, kept me from being bored — which would have been a possibility this year, as unfortunately my family was not able to come on the cruise with me. It also meant I got to know the performers better, because I was able to integrate many of them into writing track events. And it meant I was able to mix with the Seamonkeys (the self-applied term for JoCo Cruise attendees) a bit more as they came to events, and then sought me out to comment on them. It was fun! And I had fun doing it.

* More importantly (for me, anyway), I think the Seamonkeys had fun with the writing track in general. This being the first year, we threw a bunch of things against the wall to see what would stick. And as it turns out, almost all of it stuck. An event on bullshit in which four writers made up “reasonable” answers to ridiculous Seamonkey questions? Jam packed into its space and a huge hit. A panel on comedy at 9am in the friggin’ morning, on the last day of the cruise when everyone was partying until 3am the night before? 80 people showed up for that. I mean, I’m not gonna lie: at that hour I don’t think that I would have showed up for it if I wasn’t on it (and I would have missed out, since the panel, with Rhea Butcher and Hari Kondabolu, was fantastic) The enthusiasm for the writing track events was pretty cool — and made me feel relieved that I actually helped to add a positive to the cruise.

* My favorite event of the writing track, if I had to name one, would be the songwriting panel, which featured Aimee Mann and Ted Leo (who were on the ship performing as The Both), John Roderick and Jean Grae. With a line up like that, all I had to do as the moderator was get out of their way and let them talk, which I mostly did (the one time I didn’t, I ended up violating my “all questions must be in the form of a question” rule, which was deeply embarrassing). It was in many ways a perfect example of what a panel event could and should be: Four people with a vast range of experiences in their field, coming in from different and diverse angles, in conversation with each other, for the benefit of the audience. It’s hard to see how it could have been better. This was closely followed by the comedy panel, and then the bullshit panel, because, well. That one was just silly fun.

* But enough of the writing track! What about the rest of it? Well, as always, the JoCo Cruise Main Stage line-up was terrific, the usual combination of people I knew I already liked (JoCo and Paul & Storm, The Both, Pat Rothfuss, Matthew Inman, John Roderick and Merlin Mann) plus people I didn’t know I liked yet (Jean Grae, Rhea Butcher and Hari Kondabolu). I like that the folks running the JoCo Cruise do this — drop in new people doing awesome things outside of my usual scope of interests, because then it means my usual scope of interest expands (additionally, they get a thumbs up for bringing in new performers who are diverse in their awesomeness, because that’s a thing worth doing too). All the main stage shows were a blast; in terms of sheer entertainment value to one’s dollar, it’s difficult to see anyone giving a better ratio than the JoCo Cruise.

* The year’s Watkins Award (given to the new performer who just blows everyone away, named after Sara Watkins, who last year made everyone else step up their game with her show) goes hands down to Jean Grae. She didn’t just make all the other performers step up, she made the audience step up as well — she didn’t let them just sit in their seats but made them get down in front of the stage and move and take part. And they did! Because she was just that good. Runner up was Hari Kondabolu, who was almost giddy that he could make a Jonathan Swift reference in a joke and nearly everyone in the house would get it. Yup, it’s that sort of crowd.

Opus Moreschi, in happier times. Photo by Linda Abbott, who is clearly a fabulous photographer and who, if you are in the Los Angeles area, you should totally hire to photograph your wedding.

* One disappointment of the cruise was that we didn’t get a lot of one of our featured performers, Opus Moreschi, because the poor fellow developed appendicitis on the second day and had to be taken off the ship for treatment. However, his spirit hovered over the entire cruise, like the benevolent, sarcastic ghost of someone who wasn’t actually dead but who had rather experienced the joys of Caribbean-style surgery — which is just like surgery elsewhere except possibly they give you painkillers in a hollowed out pineapple with little paper umbrellas in it. The details are hazy, honestly. The point is that Opus is now okay, if roughly two ounces lighter on a permanent basis, and we missed having him among us. Come back on the cruise, Opus! Next year we’ll work on your liver!

* Also one personal bit of mopery was that for various scheduling reasons, Krissy and Athena could not come on the cruise with me, so I was sad that I would be alone, so alone, for the cruise. I mentioned this to friends when I landed in Florida to get on the cruise, and it was pointed out to me that Sara Scrimshaw, who is stage manager for the JoCo Cruise, was also sans spouse for the duration of the cruise (Joseph Scrimshaw staying at home to, oh, let’s say, fight crime). And so it became that Sara and I pledged ourselves to a week of being each other’s “salt spouse,” a special personal relationship valid only on the seas, in which we did various (but not all, you dirty-minded people, sheesh) spousy things, such as go to dinners and beaches together, make sure sunscreen was applied, and generally check in on the other. And it was good!

And then Opus’ appendicitis hit. Opus brought his friend Linda Abbott on the cruise with him, and after he was taken off the ship, he encouraged her to stay on the ship and enjoy herself. The problem was she knew almost no one on the ship, and none very well. So I was asked by the JoCo folks (and also, I was inclined because I chatted with her a bit at dinner one night before Opus had to leave and found that she was a delightful human being, and I was personally concerned for her) to be available to hang out with her, bring her to dinner and generally keep her entertained — a prospect which was made easier, I should note, once it was clear Opus was going to be okay. Naturally I had to clear this with my salt spouse, who assured me that she was often busy, so it would be more than fine if I took on another salt spouse.

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Sara Scrimshaw and Linda Abbott, salt spouses

And so, on the waves of the Caribbean, I was happily saltypoly with Sara and Linda, who as it turned out were crazy about each other as people as well. Since they both live in the same town in the real world, they have plans to become totally be each other’s best friends forever now, which of course I approve of, not that it matters what I think, back here on the land.

Now, all of this sounds very silly, I’m sure, and of course it was. I was surrounded by friends and I wasn’t alone, and I was having a good time. But anyone who is has been happily married for a while knows the little bit of sadness that’s there when your spouse isn’t with you. Hanging out with Sara and Linda and doing the little kindnesses for each other that come naturally with long-time relationships and friendships made the cruise happier for each of us. And the good news is that back in the real world, I have made a new friend in Linda and have become better friends with Sara, and they have become friends with each other. And that’s a lovely thing.

The Wedding I officated on the cruise. From left: Jean Grae, Molly Lewis, Renee Nejo (bride), me, Will Courtney (groom), Jonathan Coulton. I look smaller than everyone else because I am further back, honest. Photo by Andy Steigleder
The Wedding I officiated on the cruise. From left: Jean Grae, Molly Lewis, Renee Nejo (bride), me, Will Courtney (groom), Jonathan Coulton. I look smaller than everyone else because I am further back, honest. Photo by Andy Steigleder

* Tangentally related, did I mention I married some people on the seas? No, not the “salt spouse” thing. I mean, I actually officiated a marriage ceremony. Turns out that two of the seamonkeys brought a marriage license on board were planning to simply sign it on the cruise, in the ship’s chapel, with some friends around. But then it was decided that a small ceremony would be nice, and someone remembered I was a minister in the Universal Life Church and asked if I would officiate. And I thought, sure, why not. But then one thing led to another and instead of a small ceremony with the two in the ship’s chapel, among a small circle of friends, I married the two of them on the stage of the ship’s main theater, in front of hundreds of Seamonkeys, with Jonathan Coulton standing for the groom, Molly Lewis standing for the bride, Jean Grae singing for the couple, and the Monarch of the Seas giving her blessing to the whole affair. For something that was literally thrown together at the last minute, it came together pretty well.

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I strangle Wil Wheaton live onstage while Steve Jackson (right) and one of the JoCo Cruise Singing Interns (left) look on with varying expressions of horror. Photo: Steve Petrucelli

* Oh, and I strangled Wil Wheaton. This happened during Celebrity Artemis, in which the JoCo performers do a late-night session pretending to be the bridge crew of a starship, usually whilst drinking. I was a captain this year, and decided to be the most incompetent captain possible. Which earned me quite a lot of snark from my helmsman, Wil Wheaton. Continually demoting him all the way down to “scullery lad” did not stop his haranguing, so of course eventually I had to murder him, on stage, in front of hundrends of witnesses, and then kick his lifeless corpse, which was then eventually dragged off the stage. I also made Ted Leo quit his Science Officer position in frustration, and in doing so he did the best “fuck all y’all — with science!” soliloquy perhaps in the entire history of the world. It was brilliant, and I want to be Ted Leo when I grow up. And then, being Ted Leo, strangle Wil Wheaton.

Despite all of that, we were not anywhere near the funniest Celebrity Artemis crew. That went, hands down, to the crew of Royal Caribbean staff who came in and schooled everyone on how to do drunken fake starshippery. Seriously, they were at a “I think I may be peeing myself because I’m laughing so hard” level. You can’t compete with that, you can only stand in awe. That said, I had to follow those guys. Thus: murdering Wil Wheaton. It seemed the rational thing to do at the time.

* And so on. I could tell you about the amazingness of the final concert, or how the clear affection between Aimee Mann and Ted Leo took their already brilliant set to another level, or how Rhea and Hari nailed their spotlights, or how Jim Boggia made “meow” the Word of the Cruise, or the amazing acapella interns, or how David Rees made Taylor Swift the cruise’s unofficial mascot, or the pleasant constant buzz of the gaming track and the gaming room (sponsored by Steve Jackson Games!) or how Seamonkey Gavin Verhey became as unto a god by being left behind on St. Kitts and somehow managing to get back on the ship in Haiti, which has never happened before in the history of Royal Carribean, or any other number of moments.

But I think you get the gist: This was a great year for a cruise that, in my experience of it, has always been great. If you were on it, you know. And if you weren’t on it, there’s always next year, and you should go.

The view from the stage, after the final show. See you next year, Seamonkeys!
The view from the stage, after the final show. See you next year, Seamonkeys!

Ships of the Line

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Behold the Independence of the Seas and the Grandeur of the Seas, the two Royal Caribbean ships docked at RC’s private resort of Labadee, in Haiti. People noted, once they got out of the darkish corridor created by the towering presence of the two ships, that the Grandeur looked kind of small compared to the Independence. They were not wrong, but it’s also worth noting that the Grandeur is longer, taller at the beam and grosses more tonnage than the Titanic. Also worth noting that the Independence is not Royal Carribean’s largest boat; that distinction belongs to the Quantum of the Seas. We live in an interesting age, we do.

This is likely to be my last post until sometime Monday, as today is packed with events and tomorrow is packed with travel. See you on the other side, folks.

Pictures From the JoCo Cruise, Part the Third

Just a couple of days left in the cruise now. Here are some more pictures!

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St. Kitts, as we were steaming out from it. A pretty little island.

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The ever-popular Jim Boggia, leading an ukulele jam to (of course) Paul McCartney.

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San Juan, Puerto Rico. We were here when Midnight Star came out, so I didn’t manage to get off the boat at all for it. My loss.

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Aimee Mann and Ted Leo, aka The Both, who had a terrific set.

In other news: It’s Friday! Get through your workday and have a fine weekend, folks.

Midnight Star Available NOW Worldwide on iOS

First, the relevant information and linkage: Midnight Star, the video game for which I created the overarching story and whose development I otherwise contributed to, is up and now available worldwide on iOS in the iTunes store. The game is free to play, with the ability to make in-app purchases (the game can be played without them if you so choose, however). The game is a science fictional first person shooter game, designed specifically for mobile platforms and how people use them. I’m fantastically proud of this game. It’s also a heck of a lot of fun. Try it!

Second, some longer thoughts about the game and how I came to be a part of Industrial Toys, the team that made it.

I love video games. I’ve played them since the Magnavox Odyssey days, when a console was a big chunk of plastic with two knobs, that you used to play Pong (or whatever the non-trademarked version of the game was). I’m particularly fond of first person shooters, games in which the point of view is your very own head, and you wander around the game maps, taking aim at all the creatures who are hell-bent on killing you in some shape or form. These games have been a part of my entertainment and imagination for decades, and I always wanted a chance to make one, one day.

Fortunately for me, I know Alex Seropian, and Alex Seropian knows me. Alex, in case you don’t know him, co-founded Bungie and co-created Halo, which is a game that, unless you’ve spent the last decade in Amish splendor, I’m almost certain you’ve heard about. But even before Halo Alex and Bungie were making great games — I remember many a long evening playing Marathon, one of the earliest first person shooter games for the Mac.

 

Even if all Alex had ever done was Halo and Marathon, he’d go down in history as one of the primary architects and influences of the modern era of video games. But as it turns out Alex isn’t interested in being an “influence,” he’s still interested in shaping the industry. And in this case he was thinking about was first person shooters and mobile platforms.

Video games don’t exist independently of their technological platform, and — provided you wish to have a successful video game — you have to take into account the strengths and weaknesses of the platform you’re using. You can port games into different platforms, of course, but when you do that the game still comes with the legacy of that previous platform; it’s an adaptation. That process can be done well or poorly but it’s still an adaptation. Likewise, a game can be made for a platform, but if the designer is thinking about it using old design metaphors, it’ll feel like an adaptation — it won’t take advantage of what that new platform can do.

There are a fair number of first person shooters on mobile devices and tablets these days. Many are adaptations from console or PC games; some are designed for the mobile platform but use design and control elements derived from console and PC platforms. What Alex wanted to do — and what he co-founded Industrial Toys to do — was to create games that had mobile computing at the core of their design philosophy: Make a game that is meant to be mobile, in other words, and takes advantage of how people use their mobile devices today.

What does that mean? In the case of Midnight Star, it means (among other things) that you can control all aspects of the game with one hand: You can shoot, block, reload and do other actions through pointing, swiping and pressing — in other words, all the actions you already do with your mobile devices, at this point almost instinctually. It also means that individual encounters in the game are quick to get into and quick to get out of — because we use our mobile devices in bursts, when we’re in line to get coffee, while we’re waiting for friends, when we’re on the subway on the way to work, and so on. You can fire up the game, have a blast for a minute or two, put it away, and then catch up again when you have another spare minute.

These are only two examples of thinking mobile first; there are others you’ll discover as you play the game. The point is that Midnight Star isn’t just on your phone or tablet — Industrial Toys (Alex, Tim Harris and their entire staff) made it for your phone and tablet, and for you, when you’re on your mobile devices.

Which I think is pretty cool. When I’m playing a video game, what I don’t want to be doing is fighting with the tech platform or the controls of the game; I want the game to suck me in and make me a part of its world. That doesn’t happen without smart people thinking deeply about game design. Industrial Toys is packed with people who do just that — and have applied it to my favorite genre of video game to boot.

So when Alex called and said, hey, we’re making this game, do you want in on this, my response was pretty much you had me at ‘hello.’ What, make a first person shooter with the guy who had created two of the best and most significant shooters in the history of the industry? Yeah, let me think about that. Let me think about that real hard. Saying “yes” to this gig was one of the easiest professional decisions I’ve ever made.

We’ve been working on this game for a couple three years now. Most of my part of it was early on, in the initial worldbuilding and character creation. Alex, Tim and everyone else knew what they wanted to do with game mechanics, and my job was to give them a story to hang all the cool stuff on. We ended up doing so much worldbuilding for the project that we simultaneously developed the graphic novel Midnight Rises, which came out last week. I wrote Midnight Rises directly; Midnight Star’s dialogue and other bits were written by folks on the Industral Toys team with me coming in to do editing, to give character notes and to otherwise offer advice and thoughts. The universe that both Star and Rises exist in has whole lot of me in it, and it’s very cool to see the thoughts that I had in my head turned into a game I really like playing.

Creating the game was also a satisfying work experience. When I write novels, it’s just me and a keyboard; I’m responsible for every choice and every line. With Midnight Star, I was part of a team and not the head of it — Alex and Tim had those jobs. My job was to help make their job easier, and to give everyone at Industrial Toys something that would make the game they wanted to create better. The ego in this project, in other words, was in making sure I did my part as a team member, not just in showing off my writing chops.

It’s easy to be the person who wants to drive the bus. But the thing was, writing and worldbuilding are only a small part of this overall project, and there are a lot of other things about the project that I can’t do, aren’t qualified to do and frankly shouldn’t do. This would be the case with any video game I might ever make, not only this one. If I ever wanted to write a video game, at any point — a video game that I as a gamer would like to play — there would have to be a team of people with whom I would work.

And the fact is I got really lucky with the team at Industrial Toys. The shop is packed with people who are, simply, spectacularly good at what they do. It’s a great thing when you can do work, hand it off to people, and trust them to make something amazing with your work as part of it. My role in making Midnight Star was big to me, but the truth of the matter is I had the easy part. It was the team in the shop who made it happen. I get to call it “my” video game when I talk about it, but believe me when I say that “my” video game is really about so many other people, all of whom I can’t thank enough for allowing me to take part in the ride with them.

Finally: people, I can’t wait for you to play this thing. Dig the cool art by Mike Choi and Prashant Patil. Groove to the score by Serj Tankian. Thrill to the game architecture and play by Alex and his crew of game nuts. Every time I fire the game up, what I mostly think is, how cool is this. I would play the hell out of this game even if I had nothing to do with it. This is very very close to the game I always wanted to make. And now it’s here.

Come play our game. And I hope you love it as much as I do.

Update: A piece on the game is up on VentureBeat.

Pictures From JoCo Cruise, Part the Second

Morning, folks. Hope you’re doing well. I’m on a boat! Here are some more pictures from it to amuse you.
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This picture while we were at sea, taken by shooting straight down from my balcony. I suspect this is what Homer met when he was talking about the “wine dark sea.”
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The beach at St. Maarten. This where I found out what parts of my body I didn’t manage to get sunscreen on!
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Another shot of St. Maarten from the boat. It’s a pretty island.
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Jim Boggia (far right) leads Jonathan Coulton, Paul & Storm and Greg Benson in a singalong.

Life on the boat is lovely so far and we’re all having a fine time. I will of course give you more detail when I’m back on shore. Until then enjoy the photos.

Also, swing back tomorrow — Midnight Star, the video game I worked on, is coming out then, and I’m going to geek out about it here. You won’t want to miss that.

Lock In an Alex Award Winner

Well, this is pretty cool: Lock In has gotten an Alex Award from the ALA (and their youth division, YALSA). The Alex is given to ten books each year that are written for adults but have appeal to younger readers.

Here’s the entire list of Alex Award winners for 2015:

“All the Light We Cannot See,” by Anthony Doerr, published by Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

“Bellweather Rhapsody,” by Kate Racculia, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

“Bingo’s Run,” by James A. Levine, published by Spiegel & Grau, an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.

“Confessions,” by Kanae Minato, translated by Stephen Snyder, published by Mulholland Books, an imprint of Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

“Everything I Never Told You,” by Celeste Ng, published by The Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.

“Lock In,” by John Scalzi, a Tor Book published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.

“The Martian,” by Andy Weir, published by Crown Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.

“The Terrorist’s Son: A Story of Choice,” by Zak Ebrahim with Jeff Giles, published by TED Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

“Those Who Wish Me Dead,” by Michael Koryta, published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

“Wolf in White Van,” by John Darnielle, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

That’s some good company to be in.

The full press release — which also includes winners of the Newberry, Caldecott and Printz awards, is here (pdf link)

Congratulations to my nine fellow Alex award winners! And thank you ALA and YALSA.

Also, if this day is any indication, clearly I should go on cruises more often. They’re good for my books.

Also, maybe I should write an actual YA book at some point. Hmmmmm.

Lock In One of ALA’s “Best Reads” In SF and on The Locus Recommended List + Yesterday’s Sunset

Yesterday’s sunset first, as it happened somewhere in the Atlantic:

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Hard to beat.

Second, Lock In is one of the American Library Association’s “Best in Genre Fiction” selections for the last year, in the category of science fiction. Their short list in the category:

“The Martian” by Andy Weir (Crown) — The winning book in the category;
“Annihilation” by Jeff Vandermeer (FSG Originals)
“Fortune’s Pawn” by Rachel Bach (Orbit)
“Lock In” by John Scalzi (Tor)
“Shovel Ready” by Adam Sternbergh (Crown)

In the Fantasy category, the short list is thus:

“The Goblin Emperor” by Katerine Addison (Tor) — The winning book in this category;
“Half a King” by Joe Abercrombie (Del Rey)
“Hot Lead, Cold Iron” by Ari Marmell (Titan)
“The Paper Magician” by Charlie N. Holmberg (47 North)
“Queen of the Tearling” by Erika Johansen (HarperCollins)

Also congratulations to Lauren Beukes and Jo Walton, whose books Broken Monsters and My Real Children won in the “Adrenaline” and “Women’s Fiction” categories, respectively.

Lock In also made Locus magazine’s recommended reading list in the category of Science Fiction, which is also pretty damn nifty, if you ask me. The list is longer than the ALA category short list, so let me recommend you follow this link to see the full list as well as the lists in other categories.

That’s not a bad Monday, actually. Thank you, librarians and Locus!

Pictures From JoCo Cruise

Morning! This post services as a test of my terrible, terrible Internet connection here in the middle of the Atlantic, and as a way to make you jealous of all the fun you’re not having here on the cruise right now. So please to enjoy the following photos.

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Yesterday’s sunset as we left Florida.

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Jonathan Coulton and band performing “Re: Your Brains”. The crowd, naturally, has turned itself into a pile of shambling zombies. As they would.

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This morning out at sea. There looks to be a little rain on the horizon.

The online Internet connection is in fact as terrible as advertised. I tried simply sending these pictures to Flickr and the Internet connection choked on them because the files were too big. In order to get them to you I had to sideload them from my phone to my laptop via bluetooth, make smaller versions in Photoshop, and then upload those to WordPress’ media tool. There’s probably a simpler way to do things, which I will figure out presently (before anyone notes it, I could just make them lower resolution when I take them, but I’d actually like to have decent-sized pictures of the trip, not just ones I can immediately upload), but at the moment it’s kinda silly complicated, so, again, don’t expect too much this week (also, and again, I expect to be busy here on the boat in any event).

Before I go, however, check out this awesome shirt from Deirdre Saorise Moen, based on my Twitter reputation as a “Universal Blame Accepter” (i.e., if you need someone to blame for something, go ahead and blame me, since I already get blamed for a lot of ridiculous things anyway). You better believe I’m getting one when I get back to the world.

Enjoy your Sunday!

Farewell From Florida

Hello! Just a quick reminder for everyone that for the next week or so I will be on a the Nerd Boat (i.e., the JoCo Cruise), on which a) I will be running a writing track for the amusement and edification of the seamonkeys, b) will be busy with the pleasures of various Caribbean paradises, c) will have terrible, terrible Internet connectivity in any event, so my appearances here will be pretty sparse. There will be a Big Idea on Tuesday, and I will be promoting the heck out of Midnight Star (the video game I worked on) on Thursday. Other than that, I might post a picture or two if the cruise’s terrible, terrible Internet connectivity allows it. But mostly? I’ll be on a boat, on a nice working vacation. I figure you’ll be okay with that.

Enjoy your next week! I know I will.

(P.S.: Because I’ll be on a boat with terrible, terrible Internet connectivity, I’m also trimming back commenting here for two days per article. This will close up commenting on some previous entries, obviously. When I’m back I’ll return commenting to the usual two week window.)

Midnight Rises, My Graphic Novel, Out NOW on iOS!

Today’s the day: Midnight Rises, my first ever graphic novel, is out today, for iOS devices, via a downloadable app. I wrote it, and Mike Choi illustrates it. It also includes music by Serj Tankian (System of a Down). The first chapter of the graphic novel is free, with the subsequent two chapters available in-app for just 99 cents (and for fans of Mike Choi’s fantastic artwork, alternate covers are available for $1.99). I’m super proud of it, and of the world it introduces, which will be further explored in the video game Midnight Star, which debuts very soon. But Midnight Rises doesn’t just introduce the characters and situations of Midnight Star — the choices you make as you read Rises influence what happens for you in the game.

You have questions. Let me answer them.

What’s going on in Midnight Rises?

It tells the story of Charlie Campbell, the character you will play as in Midnight Star, and the crew of the science vessel Joplin, who support Charlie and share their knowledge and skills with him. Before the events of the game, Charlie and the crew have another adventure — a race against time to solve a mystery involving the Joplin and a shadowy group that will stop at nothing to disrupt the ship’s mission… a mission that could change humanity’s understanding of its place in the universe.

Why is Midnight Rises its own app, and not in one of the online comics stores?

Because Midnight Rises was designed from the ground up to take advantage of the mobile computing interface and all the things it can do. We’re not just talking about “motion comics” — we looked at all the advantages the mobile platform could provide us for visual storytelling and baked that into how we designed the graphic novel. Which meant giving Midnight Rises its own app — its own environment to do everything it can do.

What do you mean that choices you make in the graphic novel influence the game?

This is one of those “capabilities of the mobile platform” things — In the story we’ve put places for you to explore and to make choices for Charlie Campbell. If you play Midnight Star, the game will talk to the graphic novel, see the choices and explorations you’ve made, and tweak things in the game to reflect those choices. There’s no downside to any exploration — you’re not penalized for one choice or another, including the choice to simply read through the story. It just means that when you play the game, it’s personalized for you. Which is kind of cool, and again, something that reflects that both the graphic novel and the game are built for the mobile experience, not just on phones and tablets.

Why make a graphic novel at all?

When we did the initial worldbuilding — me and Alex Seropian and Tim Harris and all the folks at Industrial Toys — we knew that we were creating more than we could put into the scope of a single mobile experience. The motto of Industrial Toys is “Mobile to the Core” — and we didn’t see why that motto had to be confined to video games. We wanted to give people more things to explore in this universe we created. So when we started developing the game, we also started developing the graphic novel. Which is to say one was not the offshoot of the other; they were developed concurrently, with each informing the development of the other.

Also, personally, I’d never done a graphic novel before, and so this was a chance to try something new, with folks who knew what they were doing. Mike Choi in particular has tons of experience in comics and graphic novels. There’s a special joy in working with people who are at the top of their games.

Do you have to read Midnight Rises to play Midnight Star?

Nope. We designed both Midnight Rises and Midnight Star to be unique standalone experiences. You don’t have to experience one to enjoy the other. That said, if you experience both, you know more about the universe we created, and the characters who live in it. Like I mentioned before, we did a lot of worldbuilding. I think you’ll have a blast exploring both the graphic novel and the game.

When will Midnight Star be available?

Soooooooooon. I’m waiting for clearance to tell you the exact date. But! Soon!

Any other thing you want to tell us about Midnight Rises?

Yes!

One, that as a project I rank this right up there with one of my novels, in terms of its importance to me — this is something I’ve been working on for a couple of years now, with Mike and with the whole Industrial Toys crew, so finally having it out in the world is something that makes me very happy.

Two, if you have an iOS device, please download it and check it out! As noted, the first chapter is entirely free (and the two subsequent chapters are pretty cheap!) and the more people who download and experience it, the happier I will be.

Three, please feel free to tell every single person you know about it. It’s fun and it’s cool and I think people are going to love this story. Let them know! And thank you.

Four, it’s been an honor and a privilege working with the Mike, Alex, Tim and all of the Industrial Toys crew on the graphic novel, and also on the game (which I did a lot of work on too, but more on that… later). Midnight Rises is Industrial Toys’ official first release, and I’m delighted that something I wrote gets to carry the flag for the company. They’re good people.

So: Midnight Rises! Out now! Check it! And thanks.