The Fire Is Dead, The Room Is Cold


I spend a lot of time thinking about video game narrative. So as soon as I found out that I would be writing regularly for the Unstuck blog, I knew that I wanted to interview the person who made A Dark RoomThat person is Michael Townsend, and you can read our conversation here. The interview is spoiler-free, but I still recommend playing through the game before reading the interview. It’s a great game for a wintery day.

I am snowed in today, so I’m going to spend the afternoon reading for Interfictions, which is open for submissions for the next few days. Later, I’ll send out some of my own work. Later still? Well, probably some video games. I’m working my way through Closure right and thinking about light instead of narrative.

Mass Effect 3 and the Trouble with Branching Narrative

Obviously, spoilers abound.  This was written with the assumption that anyone reading this has played through the entire Mass Effect series.  Ready?  You sure?  Then let’s get to it.

This is my Shepard.

She is dark skinned and has a shaved head.   She was born in an overcrowded city on Earth.  Some time after joining the military, she found herself the sole survivor of a mission on Akuze.  The rest of her team was eaten by thresher maws.

In the first Mass Effect game, she didn’t shoot Wrex on Vmire.  She saved the Rachni queen, and later sacrificed the Destiny Ascension during a space battle with a entity called Sovereign.  She saved the galaxy.

In the second game, she recruited a squad and went on a suicide mission to a collector base.  Despite the odds, everybody lived.  She saved the galaxy.

In the third game, Shepard cured the krogan genophage.  She brokered peace between the quarians and the geth.  She killed a reaper with a space laser.  Not everybody lived, but most of them did.  She is trying to save the galaxy.

My Shepard is not your Shepard. Continue reading

Hey, Internet: Vol. 6

I’ve actually been writing lately, so expect some kind of process post in the near future.  In the meantime, more links, including some 2011 lists that you can read from the comfort of early 2012.

The Alternative, The Underground, The Oh-Yes-That-One List of Favorite Books of 2011

A roundup gleaned from The Millions’ excellent Year in Reading series.  I loved the Year in Reading series, partially because it focused on favorite books read, not favorite books published, in 2011.  I should really get around to posting a similar essay.  Unfortunately, I only recently started tracking my reads on Goodreads again after a long hiatus and it turns out I can’t place my readings in time at all without some kind of record.

Kill Screen’s High Scores: Best of 2011

Kill Screen writes about video games differently than most other place write about video games, so it makes sense that their “best of 2011” ranking system and results would also be a little different.  Includes links to all of their lovely reviews.  The game itself didn’t make their list, but I found Kirk Hamilton’s review of L.A. Noire to be particularly great.

The Ghosts of Sex and the City

I find the idea of real places merging with or being superseded by fictional places to be exceptionally interesting and creepy.  There’s a good metafictional existential horror story lurking in there.

THE LONELY VOICE #14: Isaac Babel, Every Grief Soaked Word 

I’ve been working my way through the archives of The Lonely Voice column over on The Rumpus.  It is about short stories, and, as you may know, I really like short stories.

Red Cavalry is one of my favorite collections anywhere, in any language.  Read Babel in Russian if you can, but many of the English translations are okay.  “The orange sun is rolling across the sky like a severed head.” That is a good line in every language.

William Gibson, The Art of Fiction No. 211

As always, I am endlessly fascinated by other people’s processes.  And, of course, William Gibson.

 Tina May Hall’s “Visitations”

My friend J. recently encouraged me to reread this story, and I did, and I was reminded of how much I like it.  It’s a good story to read when you live in a small, freezing house and keep trying to stay warm by drinking innumerable cups of coffee and restlessly cooking things on your gas stove.

Hey, Internet: Vol. 5

Full disclosure.  I’m probably not going to be linking to many stories in Hey, Internet for a while.  This is because I may (may) soon be contributing to a column about great story finds on the web for a particular publication that I just finished interning for.  Maybe.  Essentially, I’m going to be hoarding all the good stories for myself for a while, in the off chance I want to write about them elsewhere.  Sorry.  In the meantime, have some very interesting essays.

Leave Luck to Heaven

Brian Oliu has completed his collection of lyric essays about video games.  I read a few of these essays when they appeared in Hobart, and I’m quite excited to find out that there are more of them.  Oliu links to the ones that have appeared online, so go read a few for yourself.

Towards A More Complete Measure of Excellence

Roxane Gay points out that major presses rule the “best of” lists.  As usual, she is super astute. Small presses are often razor sharp.  They give your brain paper cuts.  I get really excited every time The Collagist comes out.  Or PANK.  I’m submitting my short shorts to Wigleaf.  I’m saving up for a subscription to Hobart.

Poems about Superheroes

Stephen Burt talks about superheroes as poetic subject and point of cultural reference.  A wonderfully well-researched, insightful piece.

An Interview with Lore Segal

Lore Segal’s “Reverse Bug” is one of my favorite short stories. In other places where you’ve discussed this, in the interviews excerpted in Into the Arms of Strangers, you say that for years you replaced the statement (and it is a statement), “Isn’t this intolerable?” with “Isn’t this interesting?”

VQR Fall 2011: The Soviet Ghost

The Virginia Quarterly Review commemorates the twentieth anniversary of the dissolution of the Soviet Union with a themed issue.  Ed Ou’s essay “Under a Nuclear Cloud” is one of many excellent pieces of writing to be found in it.  There’s also short fiction in there.  But, shhh, you didn’t hear about it from me.

Defunct Girl Gangs of North American Drive-Ins

All right, one story.  Just one.  I can’t resist.  Luke Geddes’ latest is one of those stories that I really wish I had written myself.  The title says it all.

Hey, Internet: Vol. 4

BERG Cloud Little Printer

As seen above. This reminds of the internet with things essay I linked to a while back. I’m still forming opinions on the whole papernet concept.   On one hand, working with small presses has gotten me into the idea of texts as tangible, beautiful objects.  On the other hand, I feel like I would end up with lots of little bits of paper cluttering up my house. Either way, I’m still in love with the Little Printer’s design.

The Disappointment Author: Lethem vs. Wood

Metacritical smackdown!  There’s not much I can say about this article besides, “Oh, snap!”  Also, I love this quote. “When the critical work is at its finest, the audience is like a crew of medical students standing around a doctor at work — even when we disagree with the way things are being handled, we can still see the body of evidence and draw our own conclusions.”  Yes!

Unpacking My Library Six different authors discuss their book collections. I’ll admit, I mostly read this for the Gary Shteyngart stuff. “I’m big on sniffing books.” What a dreamboat.

Reasons Not to Self-Publish in 2011-2012: A List I’m leaning heavily on The Millions this week, but my excuse is that The Millions publishes a lot of really great stuff.  I’m always fascinated by the shifting possibilities and markets in the publishing industry, both as a writer and as someone who works for small presses.  Edan Lepucki tells it like it is.

David Foster Wallace’s Syllabi More neat stuff from the Harry Ransom Center’s archive. Can it just be a running joke that every time I post a bunch of links, at least one of them will be about DFW?

Things I Ate in Skyrim Lovely.  Good writing about video games always warms the cockles of my withered, cynical little heart.

SPEKTRMODULE 01: Fire Axes in SpaceWarren Ellis made a little musical audio show broadcast thing recently.  I’m really enjoying it.  It makes me want to write about space ships.  Ghost ships.  Ghost space ships.