News from the font

I am a firm believer in the theory that there are key events in people's lives, pivotal moments that change everything and send people in new directions. One such moment, for me, was when the police walked into my house and arrested me.

That's not an entirely accurate way to phrase it, though. For one, they weren't the police, they were an army. An actual army, paid out of your taxes. Not "our" taxes, you'll note, which is one of the reasons they were paying me a visit. The other was that my house was more of a fortress. A fortress of doom, if I may be so theatrical. Nice location on a volcanic island, natural harbour with sharks and everything. They weren't so much walking inside either. It was more of a light jog, zig-zagging between cover, returning fire and taking out the automated defences. "Storming" is the proper term, now that I think of it.


500 / 50000 words. 1% done!

I grew up in Apex Jerusalem, an independent sovereign state in orbit above Tyr. My mother was the Tyrese ambassador to Apex J, my father I never knew. He was a cloneson who had, to hear it from my mother, never lived up to his potential. With my mother busy with the affairs of the embassy, that meant I was raised partially by myself and partially by my grandmother. She had opted to go digital years before I was born, so my formative years were guided by her many handrones. Her ability to multi-task effectively made her an attentive, if somewhat doting, guardian.

Robin's Sun

490 / 20000 words. 2% done!

"Howdy," said the door-opener, a short girl of no more than sixteen years of age. She wore, quite simply, a grey jumpsuit covered in smears of oil and a pair of large goggles around her neck.

"Hello," replied Joanna. She was, of course, wearing the kind of nice clothes one wears for a job interview. She faltered, not really knowing what else to say, so she opted for the obvious. "You're American?"

"You're not?" It sounded like the young girl was genuinely surprised. In unison, both of them peered around the other to see what could be lurking behind.

The Luminal Magnifier

341 / 25000 words. 1% done!

Words per moment

I can type at seventy-five words per minute when copying text, despite the fact that I only use my two index fingers to type. According to Wikipedia, bastion of dubious knowledge, I should be at around 27wpm instead. In fact, 75wpm is ranked as "typist" speed.

I'm not sure how fast I type when I'm not copying text, but I'd assume that it's somewhere around 80-85wpm. This has done nothing but give me the notion that if I could touch-type, I would be pushing 120wpm - perhaps more.

For the sake of argument, let's assume my maximum speed means I can write 5000 words every hour. That means, working flat out, I could complete a NaNoWriMo in a day. A solid year of working 10 hours a day, every day, sees me topping 18 million words.

So really all this tells me is that I should learn to touch-type (which would mean over 27 million words per year) and that I should work even harder. Such is life.

(no subject)

With a little help from the wards, he got to his feet and lurched unsteadily into the main street. Somehow the fear of sibling reprisal instilled enough strength in his legs to propel him into a tram car, and then out again when it reached Kip Street. From there it was merely a hop, skip and a stumble to land face-down in front of the domicile complex that he reluctantly called home.

"Jack-bro, you are the livin' end," said an angelic voice that grabbed him by the collar and pulled him inside.

"You wound me, Kari-sis," Jack replied. "Also today I caught fire and hit the ground, possibly in that order, so please stop scraping me along the floor."


1833 / 20000 words. 9% done!

"I am wondering," he said slowly, making a show of shuffling the papers on his desk to draw out the pause, "why you felt the need to lie about your age."

"Lie?" Tomboy's expression of shock and outrage would have been convincing to anyone else.

"There are dozens of little signs, little tell-tale hints that — individually — are just suspicions, but together weave a strong fabric of truth. Most people would spot one, two, maybe even three. I like to spot them all."

"Yes, but..."

"For example, here on your resumé, each letter I is dotted with a tiny heart."



500 / 20000 words. 3% done!
captain's cross

(no subject)

I thought I'd try keeping people updated with the various things I work on. It'd give me something to update with, certainly.

Jack Finch was a bright young lad who was, at present, flying backwards through the air. This was good, because the rushing air had whipped out the flames that had been consuming his clothes. Yet it was somewhat not good as well. What chain of events had led up to this, Jack could not remember at present. This was probably because he was unconscious. This was also partly good, because it meant he didn't feel anything when he hit the ground and skidded ten feet across rough concrete.


350 / 20000 words. 2% done!
fat pigeon

"You never smile"

That is what was said to me last night. "You never smile," she said, after waking me up at two in the morning to tell me that she'd broken the toilet and it wouldn't be fixed for days.

For some reason, possibly due to having been awake for a total of three minutes when this information was presented to me, I assumed that the thing was blocked. So when I walked down the hall and felt an atrociously squishy carpet underfoot, to say I felt nauseated was perhaps an understatement. A minute later, now with footwear, I noticed that my horror was misplaced. I had not trodden in carpet soaked with the fetid water from a blocked-up toilet. I had, in fact, trodden in carpet soaked in clean water that should have been in the cistern.

If the word escapes you for the moment, the cistern is the big blocky thing situated behind the seat. Its function is to store the water needed for the flush. This one is split from top to bottom, dry as a bone since the water inside spilled out all over the floor.

I have to admit, I was impressed. I'm not entirely sure what the Hell either of my flatmates could have been doing in there to essentially shatter the thing, but I know from experience that it takes a lot of force. (Being the most physically able member of my immediate family who doesn't have a bad back, I am called upon to do a lot of grunt work.)

This isn't the first time they've managed to screw with the plumbing - they've blocked up the sink and managed to remove the toilet's seat before - but the first time it's looked like it took a crowbar to do the job. I'm not actually that angry about it, for some reason, which is in fact slightly irritating because it's very inconvenient and liable to disrupt my entire weekend and then some.

I have a little more to update about, concerning other interesting happenings, but I think that the day the toilet died is worthy of a little entry all of its own.


I hven't updated in a while, what with everything I'd feel comfortable divulging about my life being rather quite boring. What I don't want to talk about is mostly boring too, with a few exceptions.

But now I find myself hammering away at a metallic keyboard attached to an Internet workstation in Heathrow's departure lounge. To say the least, my life is becoming a bit more intriguing.

Despite the fact that my plan should have, in fact, departed already (delayed, typical) I'm doing okay. My first time flying solo has not gone too awry! If I don't miss my connection in Chicago, which actually may happen if anything further goes wrong, then I should be at my intended destination before the day is (technically) done!

For all my American friends, I have put comment screening on, so you can post your phone numbers without fear of any unscrupulous Illuminti types getting ahold of them. That way I can ring you up and annoy you!

Expanding my répertoire.

Things I have experimented with recently:
  • Stratagus - A freeware RTS engine. I found the documentation for this to be narrow, obtuse and downright condescending at times. Despite being an engine with which you are to make your own games, the FAQ essentially tells you not to make any. I'm rather miffed that it managed to be restrictive in even getting to the coding, since I would have liked to experiment more. I suppose I shall have to wait for a better RTS engine development program to turn up.

  • The Doom Engine - Surely I neither need to link to or explain this. This little foray into the world of first-person shooters (the historical world of first-person shooters, I mean) was cut short by the incomprehensible nature of the third-party tools I downloaded. I have a feeling I just downloaded the wrong sort, and I may come back to this, but I'm not so sure. The Doom Engine may be good for mindless romps through blocky terrain, but it's not got much in the way of storytelling capability, which is why I'm experimenting with things in the first place.

  • RPG Maker XP - A program for making 2D role-playing games in old-school SNES style. In theory. Couldn't even get it to run and I don't know why. Having used RPG Maker 2003 before, though, I think it probably wasn't wise to even bother downloading it. The 2003 version was very deeply mired in JRPG tropes and had a baffling gargantuan array of spells that I disliked. Who knows, maybe if I work on it I could make things a little less cliché-ridden and a little more interesting, but it does seem pretty much geared to relentless grindfests.

  • ADRIFT - A program so good I paid money for it. It makes text adventure games. I have been using this for a long while and I have to say, I love it. The basics of making a game are so easy to get to grips with and use it's amazing, and with tinkering you can not only make incredibly complicated stuff, but that's easy too. It's a little limited, since it only makes text adventure games and isn't so hot on stuff like images, but what it can do is pretty good.

  • Adventure Game Studio - For designing LucasArts style point-and-click affairs. I'm in two minds over this thing. On the one hand, a couple of hours tooling around got me to grips with the basics of making a simple test game. One room with some variable lighting and a character that moved nicely around with a little animation. However, if I wanted to throw in dialogue, objects or puzzles? Probably take me a few more days of experimentation, if not weeks, and I don't really want to throw all my spare time into learning how to make point-and-click adventure games when there's the other problem to consider: artwork. I do know a shocking number of artists, some who are even not so busy that they'll talk to me, but I think that while backgrounds are easily within their forté, character animations may not be. I could be wrong, though. I'd have to wait and see. In the mean time, I'll try and get better at pixel work myself.
I'm starting to get a better handle on what it means to write for video games. In the meantime, however, I shall continue writing good old non-interactive fiction.
falling out of the world

Modern sci-fi versus old school sci-fi

Back in the day, British television used to be the home of the grim sci-fi. The grungy sci-fi. Oh, you can knock the flimsy sets and the rubber outfits, but old school British sci-fi would stone cold kill a bitch right in front of you. Just to see if you'd flinch. Blake's 7 was full of delicious moral ambiguity, Quatermass dared suppose that the human race were all just little shits one step away from wholesale genocide and Martian law.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, you had Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, whose first idea in any situation was to bare his manly chest for all to see. You had Battlestar Galactica with a fluffy robot dog - nothing like the cold, metal and wholly soulless K9, I shall have you know. Star Trek, as good as it was, was utopian and happy. Regardless of the quality of the show, American television liked upbeat stuff.

But now that's all changed. America is exporting sci-fi that's not only grim, but good. It started a while ago, too. We've been getting dark sci-fi for years now. Hell, the remake of Battlestar Galactica - the show with the fluffy robot dog, for God's sake - is now as depressing and morose as dark sci-fi can get. People die by the millions! Planets wasted! Humanity a flickering, dying ember in the darkness! An implacable enemy that walks among us! Even the upbeat stuff they're making - Heroes, for example - is full of the grim stuff. Conspiracy and moral ambiguity and the like.

Britain is sadly lagging behind in the sci-fi race. Somehow we lost our way as a proud, sci-fi producing nation. We're down to... well, very little indeed. ITV's given us one thing of note, Primeval, which takes the geeky ideal of a team of monster-hunting academics and somehow manages to not do very well with it. Still, it's miles ahead of the BBC's offerings. We've got Doctor Who, which has shamed its forerunners and become a ridiculous pantomime sham, full of gurning faces and villains who are on a "10 BAD PUN 20 LAUGH 30 GOTO 10" loop. Not to mention ham-fisted social commentary with the subtlety of a brick to the face and atrocious writing that makes people fawn over the "good" episodes, even though they'd only be rated average if the bad episodes didn't exist. (But if the bad episodes didn't exist, we'd have two episodes a season.)

Don't even get me started on Torchwood, which somehow has missed the fact that, no, Americans didn't invent gritty sci-fi and even if they had you're doing all wrong anyway. It's embarrassing to watch, like a student film that tries to act like a Hollywood blockbuster and takes itself seriously despite a tiny budget. Sci-fi isn't interesting to watch because you've got weirdy aliens flopping about killing people and there's some kind of mystery to it all, why not. That's not it at all. Sci-fi is no different to any other genre, insofar as it's the human interaction and the characterisation that drives the audience to care and to keep with it. Torchwood's cast is all flat and dull, their motivation either "sex" or "sex", much like how Doctor Who has a cast with the much more PG motivation of "love".

So while Britain's always been a bit shy about getting involved in producing television shows which aren't "sitcom", "soap" or "gritty true crime drama", at least it got stuck in with some serious... seriousness back in the day. It made sci-fi that distanced itself from the old raygun serials of yesteryear. But now it's just making shit, basically, and the production giant that is the American entertainment industry has swooped in on what was once Britain's territory. I suppose we're lucky, in a way, that anything besides a never-ending cavalcade of "police drama", "hospital drama", "amateur detective drama", "even more fucking police drama" and "people who work with the police but who aren't actually the police drama".

Wait, no it's not, because what little we get is basically crapped upon us from on high by worthless, know-nothing morons who believe that producing a good sci-fi show basically involves taking some of the more worn-out clichés from American stuff and wearing them out even more.

I can only hope that the new generation of writers (of which I am a part) can do something to change this and improve matters, bringing the British tradition of dark sci-fi back to our screens and ending the reign of the camp Time Lord and his legion of monsters-of-the-week. Well, I mean if we all don't just bugger off to America where we'll be appreciated rather than chastised for not writing more bloody police drama.

On writing.

I have something of a goal these days, in regards to my writing. That goal is money. Admittedly I have always liked money before, and endeavoured to attain it, but now I need it for something more pressing and tangible. So as the need for money has become more urgent, so has the need to write stuff that I can sell for said money.

However, I am not entirely content to become a shill willing to pump out any old crap for a quick buck. I may be a filthy, greedy little man eager to get his hands on some cold currency, but I am also an artist with standards. I shall be making money my own way, which may explain how grumpy and exasperated I will become over the coming months as it is decidedly harder to earn through creativity and originality than it is via pumping out dross for the lowest common denominator.

The thing is, what do I like to write? I have a penchant for hard fantasy and soft sci-fi, where I can conjure up all manner of things from the depths of my mind. Up until a while ago, I saw this as a flaw, so I tried experimenting with stories that I had to do research for and that kind of thing. But, why? My imagination is not something I should have to work around! It is an asset! Yes, I have had my fill of trying to round myself out for the time being and I am now embracing my creativity wholesale.

Although I haven't given up improving my work, I hasten to add. That would be dumb.

Right now my grand plans are suffering a minor setback in the form of my ever-trusty desktop having taken another turn and screwed something up, leaving me in the lurch until it is fixed. That doesn't look like it's going to happen anytime soon, so I am stuck using my rather cute little laptop for anything and everything. Even though it's rather old, it's still performing admirably so far with what I'm requiring of it. But it does tend to chug when I give it too much to cope with, and without a DVD player it's unlikely I'll be watching any movies until the desktop is resurrected.

Lastly, with the onset of things going on in my life and what is hopefully the beginning of my writing career, I also think I may start posting more than one journal entry per month.

If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere.

Things are going... well, surprisingly good for me. I have made the analogy, no less than four times so far, that it's like I have a new writer in charge of my life. The old stuff has been written out, forgotten, and a whole new direction picked. It's a good direction! I like it. It's definitely a vast improvement on the old direction, which was a bit too grim for my liking.

To be honest, it was a little jarring to suddenly have everything coming up roses after so long of struggling through life. Still, I'm not complaining. I'd be a fool to do so! Things really are improving for me in a variety of ways. When I'm not feeling confused at this sudden reversal of fortune, I'm being genuinely happy for the first time in a while. That's good.

Perhaps because I've suddenly been cut a massive break, I've started improving myself a bit. Keeping my room clean, doing all work on time, cooking proper meals and being generally a whole lot more outgoing than I was. It's a good direction, I hope I won't fall back into what I used to do, which was go "I can't be bothered to cook" one night - then another, then another, until I've survived on crisps and fast food for several months. No thanks, not this time. I'll prefer to be scurvy-free.

All that's left is for me to get back into my writing properly. I haven't been giving all too much time to it for a while, and now there's all this change in the air. It seems like a good time to start again. Who knows? With this new direction my life is taking, I may find eerie new writing powers that propel me to super-stardom within weeks. Or at least allow me to get some stuff done already, sheesh.