IÂ have been a fan of writer Alex Irvine for a few months, first hearing about him through Facebook. The first thing written by him I read was Iron Man Rapture which was, in my opinion, pretty okay. Since then I have read a few of his short stories and I recently got his novel AÂ Scattering of Jades which is next on my reading list. Earlier this week I was able to find his email address and get him to agree to do an interview via email. Here is the interview, enjoy.
Who inspired you as a writer?
When I was a kid, I had certain books that I went back to over and over. The Lord of the Rings and Narnia, of course. But also I read almost all of the Hardy Boys books, tons of science fiction, and adventure novels. There was a shelf of SF and fantasy novels upstairs in the house we lived in when I was a kidâI donât know whether they belonged to my parents or whether they were there when we moved inâand I chowed my way right through it. Some of the titles I remember being on that shelf: Dangerous Visions, The Black Cloud, Luciferâs Hammer, To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Le Guinâs Earthsea books, Moorcockâs Elric saga… The typical self-education of a geek kid in the early 80s, probably. Three books that I really remember that might not be on everyoneâs list are Space Angel, by John Madox Roberts, and two books by Robb WhiteâDeathwatch and Up Periscope. I wore those books out.
As an adult, when I really started thinking more seriously about writing, I loved Philip K. Dick, Cervantes, Twain, Barthelme, Robbe-Grillet, Tim Powers, Pynchon, Max Frisch, Jonathan Lethemâs early stuff, Karen Joy Fowler, Rushdie, Toni Morrison, the Romantic poets. Probably if you asked me the same question again next week there would be a couple of different names on the list.
Do you approach all your writing projects the same? Whether it is for a comic, a novel, or a game?
I wish I had more of a system. Sometimes a line or a title will float into my head and Iâll write it down waiting for the rest of the story to come together around it. Other times Iâll read something or hear a news story on the radio and itâll spark an idea. Stories come from anywhere. Once I get the feeling that the initial spark is a real story, I scribble and fiddle until I have an idea of what the whole thing might look like. Usually I donât really start writing until I have an idea of where a piece is going to end. For me that helps give the whole project a shape. Without a sense of the ending, I tend to get lost somewhere along the way.
Novels and comics and games do demand a different process to a certain extent because the ways of delivering the story are so different. Avengers Alliance, for example, has a ton of story but it all is delivered in lines of dialogue that are a particular length because thatâs how the gameplay and story came into balance during development. Itâs a new kind of thing for a social game and Iâve been really gratified by how people are responding to it. For comics I usually sketch out rough panels and then write the script from my sense of how the page might look, but after that itâs of course up to the artist to draw whatever he or she thinks is the best way to tell the story. Thatâs one important difference between fiction and comics: in fiction, you write it how you want it, and thatâs it, whereas in comics you write a sort of proposal to an artist. Unless you draw your own stuff (and I wish I drew well enough to do that), comics are fundamentally collaborative in a way that fiction isnât.
What existing franchise/character you would like to write a story for that you haven’t already?
Dr. Strange and the Challengers of the Unknown are the first two that pop to mind. Also the Micronauts, Devil Dinosaur, Batman, Nightcrawlerâ¦
Last month on your blog you let your fans know that the Star Wars book you were working on will not appear. Was the story already written? If so is there any chance that you would release it as a fan fiction (non-canon) e-book?
The story was written, yeah. I wouldnât put it out on my own out of respect for Lucasfilmâs and Del Reyâs decision. Between when they commissioned the book and when I finished it, they decided that they wanted to do some different things with the era it was set in. Thatâs their prerogative.
Did you read comics as a child? If so what were some of your favorite series?
My all-time favorite comic series was Starstream, a short-lived anthology series adapting science fiction stories. Man, I loved those books. I read Spider-Man, Thor, Dr. Strange, whatever my friends were getting. Also Tintin and Asterix. And I still have a deranged love for some of the licensed stuff Marvel was doing during those years: Godzilla, the Micronauts, ROM the Spaceknight. My love of transmedia was developed at an early age.
What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
I used to be an English professor, teaching mostly creative writing, and I told all my students (and anyone else who asked) that the two things you need to do if you want to be a writer are read and write. Theyâre equally important. Too many beginning writers donât read, which baffles me. How can you try to join a conversation without knowing whatâs already talked about? Read everything. Read outside the genres you prefer. Read like a writer, which is to say read to try to figure out how a particular story works and why it has an effect on you. Then put those lessons into practice in your own writing.
Do you have any projects coming out in the next few months that your fans should watch for?
Iâve been putting most of my time over the last year into Avengers Alliance, which has tons of new content coming over the next few months and beyond. Players should also be sure to check out Marvel XP, which has a lot of cool stuff and will have more. Other than that, Iâve got a novella called Mare Ultima coming out any minute now and Iâll have at least one novel coming out in 2013. Thereâs other stuff in the works too, but nothing I can talk about yet.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Was it something you have wanted to do as a child?
I wrote a piece of fiction about the Hundred Yearsâ War as an assignment in a freshman history class in high school (for a teacher named Ayres, who claimed that the family name was bestowed by some medieval English king after his helmet was caved in and her ancestor pried it off, allowing him to breathe again). Also in high school I wrote poetry to impress girls and did a goofy comic called Superdude with a friend, Kevin Saari. But I didnât start taking writing seriously until after college. I started putting stuff in the mail in my early twenties and sold my first story, âRossetti Song,â to F&SF in 1998, although it didnât appear until 2000. My first novel, A Scattering of Jades, came out in 2002. I guess Iâve been pretty serious about it since then.
How many books/stories have you written? Do you have a favorite?
A bunch. Iâve published seven original novels and novellas, another dozen tie-in books, about fifty short stories, and then thereâs the comics and games. Favorites are tough to decide. I wouldnât publish something if I didnât like it, but on the other hand when I go back to something after itâs out, I can almost always think of things I wish Iâd done differently. A Scattering of Jades, because it was my first try at writing a novel, will always hold a special place, but as books I think The Narrows and Buyout are my favorites. Among the novellas and stories, Iâd say the ones that are closest to being exactly what I wanted them to be are âWizardâs Six,â âVandoise and the Bone Monster,â âMystery Hill,â âJimmy Guangâs House of Gladmech,â âGus Dreams of Biting the Mailmanââ¦but again, ask me next week and Iâd choose different stories. Someone new to my work should hit The Narrows and Buyout first, though.
What types of books do you read for enjoyment?
When I was a kid Iâd read the back of a cereal box if that was what was in front of me. Iâll read anything. Right now Iâm reading a biography of John Ford, a history of the years after the death of Alexander the Great, Amitav Ghoshâs Sea of Poppies, Danilo Kisâ collection Encyclopedia of the Dead, Murakamiâs 1Q84, and a bunch of stuff for research. Next on the list are new novels from Tim Powers, Stan Robinson, Mark Leynerâ¦
Do you base the characters in your novels on people you know?
Sometimes, sure. Everyone does. (Donât they?) The people you know are the raw material for your characters. Usually what happens is you borrow certain qualities or characteristics from people you know and remix them, along with a bunch of other ideas and thoughts you have that come from the rest of the story. But my friends and family, Iâm sure, recognize bits of themselves in my books.
When I saw this, my mind was ablaze with it’s awesomeness, I just HAD to repost it. It’s critical for GM’s and players alike to see. (this was originally posted on reddit.com, in the /r/rpg section by the person known as Wraithstrike.
This is my official manifesto as a GM: I am a gamemaster. I create worlds for players to inhabit and partake in great adventures in them. Without the players, I am nothing. In order to ensure a proper balance between myself and the players, I pledge to do the following:
1.I pledge to give you a rich world to play in. Whether it is created solely by me or expanded upon from an existing universe, my games will always have a world to play in, where adventures can happen, enemies and friends can be made, and fun can be had.
2. I pledge to let the players have input in the creation of the world. Before the game even begins, I will give my players a chance to effect the cosmology of the world. Have you discovered some interesting fact about the world that I overlooked? Let me know and if I like it, I’ll work it in. Do you think there’s a good reason for villain group X to hate villain group Y? Let me know.
3. I pledge to help you understand the rules. I do not claim to have perfect knowledge of how the rules function. However, between us, we can work out any issues you have.
4. I pledge to help you with character creation. This means I will help you select useful power abilities, if you so ask. However, it also means explaining my reasoning for not allowing “Special Snowflake” characters. If I can make you see why your character does and doesn’t fit in the campaign world and get you to make a better one, it’s a good day for me.
5. I pledge to offer you a challenge. I will not hold your hand in the game, but neither will I try to murder your characters. I will give you encounters that will make you think, and make you celebrate when you beat them. I will give you many chances to fight and prove your ability.
6. I pledge to give you a sandbox, not a railroad. * Do you want to leave the big city and find a new location? I’ll do my best to have something you can do, even if I have to wing it.
7. I pledge to say “Yes” “Yes,But” and “No, But” but never “No.” If you have an idea for something unusual to do, I’ll use one of these three phrases. I will use the first if I find it interesting, the second to offer a complication to your clever plan, and the third if the option you’ve come up with won’t work, but it is close to one that will.
8. I pledge to not play favorites. I will not show special favors to a single player for any reason. Everyone will have a chance to shine.
9. I pledge that the story will have a beginning, middle and end. All things must come to an end, but I will make it great with your help.
10. I pledge to let you be awesome. Gaming is not about numbers and armor classes. If you have an idea for an amazing stunt, I want to hear it. If it wows me, you’ll get a chance to pull it off.
11. I pledge to listen to your issues. Do you have an issue with another player’s actions in or out of game? We’ll talk about it. Do you feel uncomfortable doing a certain type of scene? Tell me and I’ll drop it or make it easier to handle.
12. I pledge that there will be no rape in my games. I find the act reprehensible, so there will never be a time when an NPC attempts to rape a PC. If a PC attempts rape another PC or NPC, I will ask them to drop the idea. If they persist, I will ask that they leave the table.
13. I pledge that while a character may not survive, a replacement character will have no trouble joining in. I will not penalize a replacement character or expect them to earn what their predecessor had. After a few minutes of in character talk, they will be up to speed.
14. I pledge to make the game about you, the players. This is your world. This is your adventure. I will never use a GMPC or Mary-Sue character to make you feel inadequate.
Earlier this week I restarted my computer after upgrading Ubuntu from 11.10 to the 12.04 Version, when I did the hard drive would not boot back up. The first thing I did was tear up a little and panic because of the amount of data on the hard drive that I have not learned to make back-ups of yet. After the initial panic I remembered reading something about a boot repair utility that could help fix the problem, provided the hard drive just hadn’t decided to die.
Below I will put the links to the programs used and for further help if needed from the Ubuntu website.
So I first had to check to see if the hard drive was still readable which I did by using the utility UNetbootin to install Ubuntu onto a thumb drive. Once the thumb drive was ready I plugged it into the computer and booted into Ubuntu off of it. I checked to see if I could get to the data on the hard drive and thankfully I could.
My next step was to get Boot-Repair onto the computer and run it. To do this you must open up a terminal and type sudo add-apt-repository ppa:yannubuntu/boot-repair && sudo apt-get update. When it is done you can then install the program by typing sudo apt-get install -y boot-repair. After the installation is complete you just need to type boot-repair into the terminal and the program will open.
Once the program opens click the Recommended Repair button. When it is finished shut off the computer, remove the thumb drive, and try to boot off the hard drive.
For me it worked and I rejoiced. However if the repair is unsuccessful it tells you to copy and paste the url the program will give you in the Ubuntu forums and ask for further assistance.
This past Monday, March 12th 2012, internet web portal Yahoo filed a suit against social media giant Facebook saying that Facebook is infringing upon 10 of Yahoo’s patents. The patents range from advertising to privacy control to the social aspect of the site.
Is this just an attempt from dying giant Yahoo to find a way to prolong its life by riding the coat tails of a business partner and then as the partner is about to see an influx of money through an IPO do what it can to get a substantial “piece of that pie?” It is a desperate act by a once great corporation as it falls deeper into its downward spiral.
Facebook has stated it would fight the charges of the rather broad patents Yahoo has and they are going to stand behind their own patents which hopefully will seal the final resting place of Yahoo.
Instead of paying a settlement, which is the case of most of these trials, Facebook should use some of the money it is raising to purchase Yahoo and fold it into the Facebook family. I am sure if the IPO is successful Facebook will have the capital to purchase Yahoo several times over. I am looking forward to see how all of this eventually plays out.
Okay this post isn’t really about which TV show is better, I just couldn’t think of another name for it. It is, however, my opinion on Smash and how it may or may not resemble Glee.
When Smash was first introduced the people associated with it said it would not be anything like Glee with the exception of it being a musical. In my opinion it has distanced itself a little from Glee being able to have more adult oriented plot lines since the characters are not in high school. My main gripe with the show is its music choices.
With the vast catalogue of music out there it seems to use some of the same numbers that Glee has used. This is not distancing itself from the show it is, I think, trying to take some of its momentum and fanbase doing the same music albeit in some cases more provocatively. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy both shows immensely and will continue to watch them for as long as they air, but for the love of all that is holy Smash please diversify the music. DO NOT pick the same songs Glee has covered.
Most every week you can pick out a song on Smash that was first covered on Glee. In some cases Smash does it better in other’s Glee. Here is how I rate the covers both shows have covered.
Over The Rainbow - Smash. Katherine McPhee’s version was good. I don’t really like the Matthew Morrison version of the song although the use of the Ukelele is interesting when he does it.
Beautiful - Tie. Both Katherine McPhee and Amber Riley do exceptional versions of this song.
Rumour Has It - Glee. Even though the Glee version is really a mash-up I still preferred it to the Smash version. And I liked both Smash and Glee over Adele’s version.
It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World - Glee. Both show’s did an amazing job on this song, however I gave Glee the win because Dianna Agron sings the cover and she is flawless. The Smash version was more seductive since it had Katharine McPhee undressing a little so no complaints about that version.
Below are the two versions of It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World. The Glee version has the talking dubbed over in Spanish but once the song starts it is back to Dianna Agron singing.
In an anti-utopic future two rival gangs battle each other for a desolate wasteland nicknamed the FP. However these battles, some of which are to the death, are not done with guns or knives or any other primitive/futuristic weapon. The battles are done using Beat Beat Generation, a game similar to Dance Dance Revolution.
After watching the trailer and first 10 minutes of this movie I can honestly say that if I watch this movie I will need subtitles. Not because they speak a foreign language but because they speak as the younger generation does. I believe the dialect used is called “pop gangsta” because most everyone does it. For realz dawg!
This movie has already developed a cult following after debuting at the 2011 SXSW Festival. It will also get a limited theatrical release starting March 16, 2012 with no date set yet for a DVD release.