Tuesday, December 04, 2007

We're sorry to interrupt your scheduled programming for…

I don’t have long.

They'll be coming soon.

Who?

Them.





I'm just messing with you.

I'm painfully aware it's been *checks calendar* just over a month since I last posted. Lack of net access, time and my laptop not working has pretty much destroyed my plans for the month for a fair few things. I'm writing this at a pub right now, with my laptop working as long as I don’t move it while I type (although it's working better now the keyboard is fixed and hinges/screen aren’t damaged – cheers Sanj!) but I'm left with the wonderful dilemma of not having much time to do anything that I want for this site right now. Expect that to change as Christmas approaches and I get a tad more time, infinite more net access and hopefully my laptop issues sorted (cheers Sanj!).

Joy to the world.

But thanks to those who've been still looking in here every few days or so and reading the archives. I'll have some properly fresh content soon enough. Lord knows I've plenty to write about.

One thing I've noticed, however, is the post I made nearly one year ago: http://cbrotherson.blogspot.com/2006/12/warning-following-programme-contains.html

In some ways, very little has changed and in other ways, everything has changed.

And that's all my ominous clues used up for today.

Hopefully catch you again in a couple weeks…

C.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Games column: Why the sky's no limit for Mario Galaxy and Wii


At this year's E3, a cursory look around the internet yielded an interesting popular opinion:

Super Mario Galaxy was one of the games of the show.

This comes from people who've played it as well as those who have watched the numerous videos of footage and demonstrations. It's a rather telling statement on its potential quality that so many are holding the Wii platformer in such high regard through its generally surprising nature and overall charm - taking in mind other titles, such as Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Killzone 2 and Mass Effect were stunning gamers as well.

Given the pedigree of the Mario franchise, all this may not appear to be a massive shock. But Galaxy was somewhat lost in the build-up to E3, pushed aside in favour of numerous unannounced titles and other high buzz games. Not only that, but it's clear the rather mixed reception of prequel, Super Mario Sunshine, also had a negative effect on the anticipation of Galaxy. It's fair to say Wii's first true Mario game was expected to be perhaps more of the same but better, with whatever new possibilities the Wii remote would offer being the crux of its gameplay. But as it turns out, Galaxy is much more than that, exciting on a level that already exceeds its predecessor by some margin and breathes life into its genre in fresh and previously unexplored ways.

It's significant that NOA President Reginald Fils-Aime declared Galaxy rather slyly as "the first worthy successor to Super Mario 64". Fan-pleasing hyperbole it may be, but it's still an admission that the Nintendo 64 original's follow-up failed to meet expectations, something Galaxy aims to rectify with its smaller, more focused levels (although still allowing for large sprawling efforts by the sound of things), innovative use of gravity and inertia, and a return to 'Mario suits' that were so often the power-up of choice back in the days when the moustachioed plumber was merely a 2D sprite. The disregarding of Sunshine on that level, as oblique as Fils-Aime was on the subject, is a watershed for the Super Mario series, a thinly veiled statement that Nintendo will not let such an important intellectual property fall below whatever high standards it deems, again.

However, such demonising of Super Mario Sunshine is arguably unjust. The GameCube title had its fair share of problems, but it was hardly the fall of the franchise, as the occasional hardcore fan may declare it. If anything, Sunshine was victim to a handful of major factors, some of which it had no real control over.


The first of such was that it had to follow Super Mario 64, which to this day remains one of the most highly acclaimed videogames in the medium's history. Whether or not you feel this is deserved is beside the point; the N64 killer-app did something which was believed near impossible and brought the previously two-dimensional platform genre jumping into 3D without skipping a beat in terms of gameplay, design, mechanics and atmosphere, while still remaining distinctly Mario. It redefined a whole generation of titles and paved the way forward, while other games of the era (such as Sony PlayStation's Jumping Flash!) were still only taking baby steps. Sunshine came out with the same hopes wrongly pilled upon it, when a whole era of 3D platformers had already stolen the genre's thunder and was making headway in different directions. With designer and Mario brainchild, Shigeru Miyamoto, taking a less hands-on approach as well, Sunshine had an uphill battle from the start, compounded by ultimately being less than stellar on arrival.

Secondly, there's no denying Sunshine was rushed out in comparison to typical Nintendo games, something that was symptomatic of some in-house GameCube titles. N64 suffered from its lack of third-party support, which left it relying on first and second-party offerings for a long duration of the machine's lifespan. The problem with that being Nintendo was not the sort of company to push out anything before it was considered 'ready' which usually meant around a year or two later than everyone else's projection. But the common factor that linked all these perennially delayed titles was that they were worth the wait and typically the best of their respective genres.

However, the backlash of N64s long delays without any big name software, especially in comparison to the third-party favourite, PlayStation, meant come GameCube's launch Nintendo had took to task its own long development times. The constant bellyaching of fans who wanted their Marios and Zeldas et al as quickly as possible had an effect on the big N, which subsequently rushed its favourites to the shelves to stop more moaning and try and beat PlayStation2 to the punch with a succession of heavy hitters. What happened instead was PS2 steamrollered over GameCube anyway and the little purple box became victim of first-party efforts that lacked that Nintendo-driven sheen and patience. Wind Waker was among the most notable of them (and here's a fun fact for you; it was me who personally asked Miyamoto what was left out of the game, which led to the previously unknown revelation that at least two dungeons were missing from the final product), while Mario Sunshine became known not for its flashes of inspiration and generally excellent gameplay, but its bugs, uneven level design and rather patchy game mechanics. None of which ruined the platform romp as much as we're sometimes led to believe, but certainly left many with a bad taste in the mouth. And in an age where we're quick to neglect all the qualifiers between extremes of 'genius' and 'crap' (to use a more publishable euphemism), Sunshine was labelled all too readily in the latter.

Which leads me to the third factor of Sunshine's rather painful dismissal; the subsequent backlash which was disproportionate to the actual flaws of the game. There's no doubt it wasn't the game many wished it was, but the witch-hunt furore that followed Sunshine's release managed to drown out the sparkles of quality the platformer brought to the table. With such a high lineage behind it, the criticism was that of those who expected more from their Mario titles, rather than that of a normal videogame, and so like a gifted child who suddenly got a 'B-' instead of an 'A+', Sunshine was treated far worse than it arguably deserved.


All of which helped the imminent Super Mario Galaxy slip under so many radars but also made sure Nintendo put as much effort into recapturing some sense of freshness and 'magic' experienced in Mario 64. Judging by the reactions of those who saw Galaxy at E3, the only thing that came close to matching its imagination was the refreshing and wonderful looking LittleBigPlanet on PlayStation3, and even that seems to have been near-swallowed by hype of Mario's latest outing.

It's easy to underestimate Galaxy's importance as a Wii title. Mario may not hold the same sway of influence he used to, but a good iteration of the long running series carries sales and critical influence. Not that Wii currently needs anything to keep its strong retail momentum, but a superlative Mario game signifies a number of things. For one, it shows Nintendo is utterly serious in maintaining a potent sense of value for its hardcore catalogue, something all the more imperative given the number of Chicken Littles declaring the sky is falling and it's all Wii Fit's fault. Given both Fit and Galaxy are both Miyamoto's priorities, all eyes will be watching for any hint of production bias for either, to claim casual/core gamer 'victory'. Should they equally emerge as killer apps, it may help allay such snobbery in the short term, especially given the demands on Galaxy to be nothing less than amazing.

Also resting on the shoulders of the space-bound title is the prospect of it being a showcase for the Wii remote and indeed, Wii's capabilities on a whole. From what's been on show, there doesn’t seem to be a vast amount of action which screams 'Wii remote justification', but that's questionably beside the point – in its use of attacks and a two-player style function, motion control appears to compliment the gameplay rather than boss it, which may leave some crying "gimmick", but having the balance to keep Mario enthusiasts happy while not alienating new gamers is tricky. If it means shifting certain moves to the remote, then as long as it feels intuitive (which it apparently does) then complaints should be fairly low.

What's more clear cut is the reaction to Galaxy's visuals. Impressive on many levels, the most common utterance that seems to emerge after exposure to the game's beautiful, colourful and dynamic look is something along the lines of "Wii can do THIS?" Oh yes, Wii CAN do this. And once Nintendo launches its anticipated title, there will be fewer excuses for developers to hide behind in making their titles look as half-hearted as some have. Superb art direction aside, Galaxy raises the graphical bar high and proud, proving the little white machine can indeed perform optical wonders under the right guidance, which will hopefully usher in a second generation of great looking Wii software. Pre-launch jitters and time constraints are a thing of the past, and if Galaxy (along with the great looking Metroid Prime 3 and Smash Bros. Brawl) doesn't spur straggling third-parties into pushing themselves, little else will.


Alas, therein lies the irony of Super Mario Galaxy's existence: to help show the way for many, in a glow that few may not be able to compete with in the first place. Should it fulfil its potential, Galaxy will not only be a headliner for Wii, but an ambassador for gaming in a climate where photo-realistic High Definition visuals, scapegoat violence and an ever changing market focus are on the tip of tongues everywhere. And while it bypasses all those buzz topics with its cartoony style, happy-go-lucky tone and experienced gamer core, it'll still be likely used for the argument that third-parties don’t stand a chance against the Nintendo juggernauts.

It's an argument that's starting to bleed holes of light via Sunshine's failings, recent retail evidence and the increasing quality of rival titles -across all formats- that overshadowed Nintendo's own, pre-E3. If Galaxy succeeds -and early reviews, such as 1-UP's 9.5 rated example, appear to suggest it's more than possible- of it will be through its own persistence for excellence, but as long as others put in the effort there'll always be plenty of space for more like it.

Team-up

Okay, so this is all taking longer than expected.

Sorry about that. But currently my only reliable net access is a) at work (which obviously I can't really entertain) and b) at a nearby wi-fi bar close to where I'm currently living. And while that gives me an excuse to sit around, drink rum and Guinness while I'm online, my laptop battery lasts all 2 hours before I have to leave and recharge it, at which point (pint?) I don’t want to venture back to the bar because I really can't afford to buy any more rum and Guinness (London prices!) and I don’t think owners of said bar would be too happy with me lounging around leeching their internet connection without actually buying anything.

So I'm left to moments like now where I'm back in B'ham, furiously typing in the limited time I have before London takes me back into her busy bosom.

But it DOES mean I have a tad more to talk about between absences.

First bit of news: a publisher who I can't name right now recently decided to give me the green light to search for an artist for a series I pitched to it. Both a good and bad thing, really. I'm very happy that the series has a chance to live, but if you've been reading this blog for any duration of time, you'll know me and artist-hunts tend to be a bit of a painstaking pain in the big butt of pain situation. So a-hunting I will go, although I at least I have the carrot of money to offer should we get things finished, which is more than I can usually offer simply because the publisher's got a good head sitting on its shoulders. But as usual, if you're reading this and are thinking you may be up to the task, give me a shout.

Next bit of news, also comic related. One of my other series' has now got a cover and several pages lettered to go with it. Check out the first few inked and now lettered pages of The Teams over here: http://www.new-bold-creations.com/indev.cfm. While I'm very, very happy to see the lettered pages coming through (next stop is colouring), I'm irrationally ecstatic at seeing my name on the cover as the writer. It probably wont mean anything to you per se, but it's the first time I'll have had my name on the front of a book, written by me. It's the equivalent of a new author seeing the cover of his book for the first time and realising 'maybe this IS all going to happen'. A strange sense of creative ownership and makes it all seem a bit more real. It's a nice feeling.

In any case, I hope you like the preview there now that you can actually read some of the story that goes with the pretty art. Admittedly, it's a bit hard to re-read myself (mainly because I feel first issues on a whole tend to be fairly unrefined compared to what comes after it and I wrote it over a year ago where I was a lot greener than I am now 13 issues and several other series' later) but I'll be very happy to see it fully done and on sale, whenever that may be. I'll be shouting very loudly of any official announcments, don't you worry.

Hopefully this time next year I'll be writing more about the series, several issues in. And hopefully without being shanked by fandom, too.

Another gaming column is due on here soon, so expect an update a bit quicker than the gap between this and last. I'm planning to get all the editing and legwork done now before I'm relegated to the net bar again (bring on the rum!), so like my cub-scout self 20 years ago I shall be oh-so prepared.

Maybe.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Gone SCEE-ing

I'm still here.

Although I seem to have made a fatal error in not being able to have net access at home… which wouldn’t be a problem if my articles were obtainable outside my laptop.

Which they're not.

So I'm left with several articles on a laptop which currently doesn’t have net access.

Sigh.

Normal service will resume once this tricky issue is resolved. Which will probably mean when I come back to B'ham in a couple weeks. But I'm happy to say things are going well, at least, and there may even be some good comic book related news around the corner. Wish me luck...

Until then, same bat-channel, not so much same bat-time.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Games column: Why Wii is the perfect Fit for the games industry (or: 'Wii Fit > the Anti-Christ')

What does Wii Fit mean for the games industry?

Everything and nothing.

That's it, column over.



What? There's still 1, 484 words left to fill?

Oh. Okay. Let's go a little more in-depth, then.

Wii Fit has caused more than its fair share of outrage and bile since its grand unveiling at this year's E3, where the Nintendo developed software was seen as the latest attack on hardcore gamers' market share, patience and pride. After a lacklustre conference, the company's coup de grace of a health-based title which not only boasted a wealth of *gasp* mini-games but also a new peripheral was just too much for some, who went on to declare Fit was the anti-christ and a clear harbinger of the End of Days.



She can smell your fear, Halo fiend.


Months later, and things have settled down somewhat. But the 'sting' of Wii Fit still remains, even with the lovely hardcore endorphins of Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Smash Bros. Brawl and others imminent. As intimidations go, the exercise and fitness disc is hardly the most pronounced – I've yet to see any promotional material which threatens to "pump *clap* YOU up" or even a burly moustached man asking me if I'm "ready for pain", "ready for suffering", or ready for "Captain Freedom's workout". Indeed, the rather gentle screenshots of faceless virtual avatars doing basic stretches and the like, complete with obligatory real-life people mimicking the moves is about as innocuous as it comes, designed to appeal to the widest of audiences. All fairly ironic given we hardcore gamers are used to scowling gun-totting marines and gangsters (hell, even pink blob mascot Kirby gets painted with a mean mug for his Western packshots – compare them to Japanese ones and you'll see the hilarious truth) but get all worried by some leotard wearing smilers who want to join our hobby and lifestyle.

Casual gaming: serious business.






Wii Fit: It will kill you and all you love. While you sleep. With fire.



Of course I'm being facetious about this all. How can you not? I know exactly the reason why this course taken by gaming frightens the daylights out of some to the extent it has. Gone are the days where our genres appealed to a fixed demographic and where gaming design geniuses like Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto were dedicated just to creating software aimed at our likes. I understand that the growth of genres away from our established norms could mean less of what 'we like', limiting 'our' choice and potentially stunting 'our' types of games. But in some respects, this has always been happening, merely on a more agreeable level.

I remember the first time Luigi's Mansion and Pikmin were unveiled on GameCube, and remaining distinctly unimpressed (even if the graphics were nice); and I wasn’t the only one. Pikmin? Pah, I already played Command and Conquer, thanks. As for Luigi's Mansion, well if Nintendo thought this was to satisfy my longing for a Mario game, the company had another thought coming. Were these titles really what Miyamoto was working on? Where was MY Zelda? MY Mario Kart? MY StarFox? MY F-Zero?






With. Fire.



Naturally, when I played these games, hubris slapped me in the face repeatedly because they were actually great. But the point was, anything which took a company I had personal investment in away from what my tastes deemed relevant or familiar, became am equally personal affront on my supposed sensibilities. As a publisher's audience expands, it seeks to increase that expansion to bring in new blood just as it captured you in the first place. And if that means a new direction, new properties and artistic growth, then that is exactly where they'll go.




Understand that I'm not directly comparing Wii Fit to Pikmin or Luigi's Mansion. They're obviously different in many ways. However, each one of those titles exist to help push beyond what is established for their relevant format and ideals, extracting resources and talent from one aspect of development that we often take for granted, and moving them into another. The reactions now are far more diverse to what they have been years ago, but it's because we had titles that pushed those envelopes, even a tiny bit, that we have such a large and dedicated audience to disparage the likes of Fit et al in the first place. Risks are necessary to any medium, regardless of success or not, and in six or seven years time when another set of games become relatively new, those who grew up on the likes of Wii Fit will probably be saying something similar to what we're saying now. Because everyone starts off a casual gamer, yet not everyone has the time to become a hardcore one. It's nothing but divisive to exclude someone when they just want to enjoy what we do, albeit to a different and arguably less time consuming degree.

Earlier this year I read a Nintendo World Report interview with Silicon Knights President, Denis 'Eternal Darkness'/'Too Human' Dyack, where he said something that inavertedly related to all this: "the film industry went through a very similar thing where at first… all the movies that they did would be like trains running into cameras and just the whole spectacle. It was very spectacle-driven. People wouldn’t even come in at the beginning of the movie because there was no story, they would just come in to see the spectacle and the technology of these moving pictures. They were enamoured with it, it was the biggest thing. But then after a while, when people, the technology levelled out and people started becoming more critical and started saying, 'What am I getting out of this? Why am I going to this? I’ve seen trains running into cameras'. People actually started telling stories and it really started to be considered an art form."



There Dyack is referring to how games criticism is expanding, but looking at the statement another way it relates to how gaming's genres are growing in a fashion similar to other entertainment mediums. Movies went from single event spectacle, to silent narratives, to fully blown story tales, to music-motivated film, to colour, to genre exploration, to what we have now where any of the above are used, but there's invention of various kinds happening every year; both technology and artistically driven. Same with music and art itself, where what is considered acceptable is pushed and changed as the audience and possibilities change with it. Videogames are no different. And regardless of whether we like it or not, genres will expand in directions of all kinds to match the diversity and scope of film, books, music, TV and others. I doubt some who grew up watching the evolution of movies were overwhelmingly happy to see the first fully animated film… and I certainly remember brief reactions of those who grew up on animated film baulk at the first CGI laden movies, complaining they "just weren’t the same" and "took away the soft-rendered humanity of it all, replaced with lifeless, blocky 'real' 3D". I was one of them.



However, like John Lasseter (Toy Story) and Brad Bird (The Incredibles/Ratatouille) changed many sceptics' minds over what can be done with the CGI movie, I imagine many gamers will eventually be won over by this new type of game, if not by the likes of Wii Fit then maybe something else down the line. Rarely do cynics and unbelievers find themselves altered by the opening generation of a new genre or medium, as usually those examples are not the best of what's to come. By comparison to latter offerings, they're typically crude, relatively simple and reasonably one-note. But without those brave pioneers, they can't grow to fulfil their full potential. And by that we're denying numerous generations of inevitably exceptional titles in the future.



In the meantime, Wii Fit's presence and likely success will herald further possibilities and avenues of developer creation, not to mention the potential held by the Balance Board alone. Those moaning that Fit is different from the likes of Brain Age and such, and thus unlikely to sell as well, are being obtuse. In the eyes of the general public there's little difference – they're effectively the same currency in this ever widening world of gaming (and Wii is already seen as a 'beneficial gaming alternative' in some circles anyway). Not to mention there are plenty little side games from the 40 activities built-in, putting to rest ill-judged cries a limited and short-lived style of play.




Hardcore gamers' kryptonite. Apparently.



Of equal significance, Wii Fit will provide a healthy shot in the arm to gaming's overall PR, offering a stark contrast to the relatively unfair and frequent attacks garnered via titles such as Manhunt 2. Whether the medium needs such a fix is really not the point – anything which broadens the appeal of gaming and helps break down the misconceptions and barriers to what the close-minded think of our hobby is a good thing. It may not be an immediate effect by all means, but it's certainly a step in right direction and the more people converted, the less sensationalistic "Nintendo killed my son" headlines we'll see. And barring any "Nintendo turned my son into a frenzied fitness freak" front page replacements, isn’t that something as gamers we can all benefit from?

A moment of clarity

Okay, so here's the situation.

Next week I step back into the inescapable rabbit hole that is the Games Industry -capitals for she who must be obeyed- full-time. Having been knocking around its flashing coloured district for the past six years (the last two being freelance) it's strange to think I've been working for the media as long as I have without going slightly more insane than I already am. But back I go. And mercifully, it's one of the more sensible and adult decisions I've made this year -you can count those on the fingers of one hand, by the way.

However, it also means my games freelancing days are totally over. Which in turn means no more rambling at length about whatever the heck I want about whatever console that's fallen within my gaze, while being paid for it.

So it's likely the videogames slant that's been slightly marginalised in The Writer's Block will re-emerge a bit more in the coming months to allow me to express matters I'm unable to cover in my full-time role. In-between me pleading (pleading!) for you to buy my forthcoming brain haemorrhages spilled out on flat dead trees, of course.

Fortunately, I have content in that area that can be used to kick off this direction. Some of you may have noticed the lack of Wii Chat articles over the past few months. Don't ask me why, because frankly, I (and the other writers of the site) don't know the reasons. I'm secretly hoping the editor hasn’t fallen off a cliff or anything equally as perilous. But in any case, I had a backlog of articles written that never saw print, and seeing as they're still my own intellectual property I thought I may as well start posting them here in all their verbose, tangent sparking glory. This site could do with more content of that kind, and if I'm going back to my games roots full-time I may as well begin things with some good ol' fashioned column roughage as breakfast to this new 'day'.

So thanks for sticking with me; see you on the other side…

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Man-o-pause

"Let me have that ammo crate."

"It's yours."

"Anyway, like you were saying. Are you serious?"

"I sh*t you not. His Dad's brother turned out to be his actual Dad. F*cked up, I know. When that got out in school, all the kids were calling him "The Man from Uncle".



I'm going through a few changes this month. No, not THE change – I'm a tad too young for that, still. But these changes will be duly reflected on the site in time. Part of all that is I'll be moving back to London, which has naturally caused some pause for thought given I left The Smoke barely a few years back for a multitude of reasons. Some of you will know exactly why I'm moving back, but for those who don’t there'll be fairly large 'clues' on this site's switches in the next few weeks.

But what it'll also mean is I may not have a net connection to update as often as I'd like (erm, not you'll probably notice any difference, given the irregularity I'm updating of late). So yeah, lots of shifting and jumping in the coming weeks, hopefully all for the better. Enthusiasm tempered with caution.

Anyhoo, as promised, another extract from Silly Games (as was the opening exchange, in case you were wondering). This one's language is a little more… colourful. So naturally beware of the salt that is profanity in this entry. All the same, it's not too explicit, especially compared to the rest of the novel, but I made the realisation that most of its 'cheerier' parts were quite obscene and I didn’t want to have a downbeat extract again for this week (although if I included the end of the chapter, the tone of this passage would be far different to what you have here).


Just a warning...



SILLY GAMES EXTRACT 2



15 odd games, several pizzas, far too much alcohol and profanity later, Gee and I took a time out as the evening winded down. Neither of us had drunk as much as the others -especially the twins, who were clearly revelling in their newfound 'legal adulthood'- and were taking a quiet moment in the kitchen to catch-up a bit more in-depth.

"So, you really okay, Gee? I mean, really."


A sad smile emerged on her face as she pushed herself up onto the left side of the galley. "Yeah… it's… yeah, I'm fine. Just disappointed. I think that's what hurt the most, you know? I thought she was interested in me. Fed me all this spiel about not getting to meet many women that she could 'connect' with where she came from and all that bull. Then she just drops the, 'I thought you're into that sort of thing' crap. Been hard enough few years coming out to everyone as it is, fighting so many misconceptions, you just about start thinking everything's butter smooth, then…"

"Yeah."

"But hey, live and learn, right? It's all we do these days. Live and learn. Then screw it all up over again."


I felt a slight flush of embarrassment. "That's my job."

Gee patted my shoulder. "Like I said before, it's fine." Pause. "So, how's things with you? All this time, I've barely even asked."

I think my expression kept on the rueful side. "Argh, you know. Work's sh*t, I'm stupid with my money, I make bad social faux pas'…" -Gee smirked- "Biz as usual."

"Nothing new?"

"Some things here and there… bit too early to say though."

"Oooh, mysterious…"

"Nah, not really. I tell you I started a blog?"

Gee guffawed. "You hate blogs!"

"I know… but… necessary evil."


"Hypocrite."

"Don’t deny it."

We went into the main computer room where I showed her my slapdash efforts. She gave me a few tips on my design and how to draw in an audience, to which she directed me to a small side project site which involved several scantily clad, heavily bosomed female anime characters standing on a dance stage to an empty auditorium, looking decidedly bored. I turned to Gee. "Erm…"

"Shhh," she grinned. She went through a couple pages of unintelligible routines, then clicked on a 'contribute' button, entered a PayPal amount of £5 and then said, "watch this."

Her site returned and the characters on the screen suddenly started writhing slowly around each other to some generic Europop. Then as the tempo started to speed up, the music turned into some sort of J-pop variant and the characters started to dance manically, jiggling their numerous animated bits rhythmically, but as per anime conventions, never dropping out of their barely apparent clothing. Flashes of Gary's crotch dance from days before came worryingly back before my eyebrows rose several feet off my head. "Gee, what the hell is-"

She put a finger over my lips. "Shhh… wait."

I continued to watch the animated women bounce and jiggle and writhe, singing along to the crazed soundtrack. Then bizarrely, a male avatar walked on to the screen and sat down. A little speech bubble popped up: "Glad 2 see you back online, thought u were gone 4ever."

The song changed. Something contemporary poppy, not totally sure, but the dancers seamlessly switches rhythm and tempo to match. Then another man appeared and sat down. His speech bubble was just " :) ". Then another. And another. We watched for minutes as the previously empty seats filled with oglers.

"So, wait," I said, "these guys are paying for this?"

"At the moment it's a small contribution – they come in, pay whatever and then have about 10 minutes to play whatever song they want while my characters do their biz."

One man's speech bubble suddenly came up: "Take it off, baby!"

Yow. I silently turned to Gee who was rolling her eyes. "Expected, but no, before you ask, they never get naked – the tease is part of the attraction."

"And they just what, sing and dance? That's it?"

There was a slight skewing of Gee's eyes. "Well, that's part of it… I've kinda got a deal with a few sites… well, actually, no, let me rephrase. I've got a deal with some friends… hackers… who work within a few sites where there's thriving virtual communities. Places where people hang out online with their virtual lives. They've created this underground server which patches on to their virtual world and that's where we test out stuff deemed too risqué or outside the community's terms of service. Few people know about it, because obviously, if word gets out and we all get caught, we're in the poo, but there's enough of a keen side audience who's willing to play along. My contribution was this – a tame but very specifically geared interactive go-go bar.


"I took it offline for a bit because, frankly, it was boring. And many of the sites we piggybacked have started to venture into this stuff anyway. We're about one step away from interactive CGI porn, so this is nothing, really. But I seem to have a dedicated group who can't get enough. So I guess if you tap the right people with the right product the loyalty makes itself. The money goes to my usual charities and I get a good experiment to boot."

I was incredulous. "I love your intentions, but, Christ, how do you get away with…" I pointed to the overt jiggy jiggy, "…this?"

"Male dominated field, baby," said Gee. "Better yet, male dominated field of geeks. Geek women are hot. Face it, I could crap on a page, rub it in water and most of you would cream yourself at the subtext."

I shook my head, laughing in disbelief. "Jesus…"

"No offence, but guys… guys are huge lump sacks of walking procreation hormones. Women control the undercurrent of everything you know. Your world is a big ol' sham because you worship these," she grabbed her breasts theatrically, "and pray with this," she waved an imaginary penis from her groin. "Accept that and everything else is sweet vanilla ice cream. As long as you remember that we're the ones providing the milk."




"You're so wasted at your company."

Sunday, September 23, 2007

"But I’ve got no time to live this love/No, I’ve got no time to-play-your..."



"When you're at a crossroads in life, where you don’t know which way to go, anything is a sign. A black cat crossing your path twice on one day to work ends up making you quit your job. A certain love song comes on the radio when you're haggling whether to ask a girl out on a date, earns you a slap and broken heart. That sort of thing. Humans are fragile creatures. We search for meaning and sense in places where there probably isn’t any. So it's no surprise we do this. Try to take control out of our hands and place it in the mitts of Fate, God, The Next Door Neighbour, anyone, anything to make the choice easier. Or better, not give us any choice at all.


"But the funny thing is, we spend most of our lives bemoaning our lack of choice. Not having the ability to do something or the other. The ever-increasing desire for want. Doesn’t matter what it is, there's something. We take our options for granted, telling it to sod off and make its own choice when the chance comes. And then, when we DO decide, too many of use leave it too late. In trying to take a bite of both cakes, we end up with none. So is it any surprise we keep f*cking things up? That we keep making the wrong choice, which is to destroy our privilege of choice in the first place?"


I'm ringing a late dinner bell, I know. And I also know there's a Pavlov's Dog metaphor here, just waiting to be used, but I refuse to… use… oh.

The above is an extract from a long running project of mine that's taken some rather large strides the past year. Silly Games is essentially a novel about my accumulated experiences in the short 28 years of my life. That's not to say it's an autobiography or actually based off my own life. I'm not THAT interesting, believe me. But, as any book on writing will tell you, you write what you know. And after writing 30,000 words of this fiction, I realised the following:

"Wow. I know a hell of a lot of swearing."

Okay, so there's more to it than that. Silly Games is about growth, perspective, relationships, games of all kinds, and to coin a well-known phrase, "life, death and everything in-between". Thematically it covers a lot more, but that's to go into a later date. As promised, this entry will be an extract of this work which started, for all intents and purposes, over ten years ago. Even though technically I only started it this year. Long story short – the plot, themes and various other important parts were created in the past couple years, but certain memes, sayings, thoughts and recollections were added from The Ever Increasing Note Book which I started when I was 16, containing all sorts of random observations, thoughts and events that have no particular story associated with them. Silly Games is very much a home for them, which is somewhat appropriate. Heck, maybe you're in here and don’t even realise.

So over the next few entries, I'm going to use a few selected extracts here and there. Hopefully it'll be of some interest. Maybe it won't. But at least they'll probably be on time. Probably. I'm rolling dice, here...


Oh, and if you're wondering what the picture has to do with anything here, well, the answer is: nothing. I just needed something to balance out the general downbeat tone of the extract (and if you get the pop culture reference the image is from, you'll likely find it funny). Next sample will be cheerier, I promise.



SILLY GAMES EXTRACT 1


Tuesday, September 200X

There was no warning when my Mother passed away.

No real build up or alarm or anything.

One day she was there, the next day she just…

It may be 'easier' to write about it now compared to yesterday or the days before, but years on it's still something that part of me freezes whenever I try think about it too much. But I can't help but think about it.

And I guess, I hope, that in writing something down this time I can maybe help me… I don’t know. Something.

Yesterday was the third anniversary.

I hate using that term. 'Anniversary'. Not to describe something like this. That word should be used for happy occasions, stuff you remember with smiles and presents. I'm guessing it's used to make sure we never forget. I'm not sure. Who would ever forget something like this?

Mum was a quiet woman. The sort of person who would be fairly unassuming to most, rarely ever speaking unless it was necessary, but whenever she did it was worth listening to. Maybe she just did it for effect. I never got to ask her.

She was tall, elegant and light skinned and despite being quiet always had a smile on her, the sort of smile certain people have that's instantly contagious even though you never really knew what they were smiling about. I didn’t inherent many of those traits, as I'm short and mildly stocky, slightly clumsy and only really smile when I'm actually happy. Mum just had one of those faces where you couldn’t truly tell what was going on beneath the surface. She just smiled.

I was barely 20 when she went into hospital for what should have been a routine check-up. Some sort of flu kept her there for a couple more days before the doctors discovered she had ovarian cancer. Apparently it's difficult to spot until the latter stages of it. There's a 90% survival rate for the first five years after a person is diagnosed at stage one.

Mum was at stage three.

I barely remember what I felt when we found out. Just emptiness. Nothingness. Then pain and rage and…

I spent a lot of the time being angry. Dad handled it with typical non-emotion in public, but I could tell he felt the same. Yet we tried to be brave for the one woman in the middle of it all, enduring surgery, medication, chemotherapy, medication, sickness, more medication to battle the sickness given to her via the first medication and even more chemotherapy. She didn’t complain or shout or moan or fuss. She just smiled.

One memory that stood out during that period of time was when I started getting replies back from prospective universities, mostly rejections. We sat in our garden, taking in the world and she was seemingly getting better and the treatments were just a thing we had to do on a regular basis. And just when things started to go our way, I hit a brick wall that no university was going to let me in to do my degree. I think I boiled over with the frustration of it all, the injustice of it all, never truly realising how selfish I may have sounded to Mum. And after everything I just said, all the rage and emotion and bile and spit, she stared at me, and then just gazed skywards. Without looking back at me, she said: "Look up". It took me a few seconds to bite back the reflex that was telling me to ignore her, before I slowly tilted my head.

Blue. Just vast blue.

Before I could even make a typical, childish, pissy response, she calmly uttered, "No stars. No shining, gleaming, beautiful stars." Confused, I said nothing, looking into her eyes. A sad smile appeared on her face. Her deep brown irises twinkled. "The stars can't shine properly in daylight. Just in darkness.

"Especially in darkness."

She paused, the smile still shining. Then she kissed me softly on the head. And walked inside.

One week later I got an acceptance from Portsmouth University to do my degree.

And then six weeks later Mum went into remission and passed away.

We all thought she was getting better. But I guess false hope kept us all going. I'd barely started uni when it happened. I managed to get back to her in time. For that I'm forever grateful. Part of me refused to go back to Portsmouth after the funeral. Dad and I got into an argument. Several arguments. I wanted to stay and be with him, he wanted me to go back and finish the degree. He said it's what she would have wanted me to do. And eventually, that's what I did.

I came back when I could, visiting Dad as much as I could. But… I don’t know. We drifted. I don’t know why. I should never have left. Maybe we really weren’t that close before Mum went, he never was as supportive as her, but if anything I thought we'd be closer from all this. And I can't help but think if I'd stayed…

I just don’t know. Maybe I never will.

Yesterday I woke up not wanting to visit the cemetery. I felt like I just wanted to stay at the house and hope the day would pass, leaving me to pay my respects alone with no human contact. But I struggled out to a light littering of snow from the night before, reaching Perry Barr cemetery with my usual bouquet of flowers and remembering the past couple times I was here. Cemeteries around Christmas are particularly beautiful; a poignant mixture of harsh, terrible reality and beauty. Because around Christmas is the only time of year where most of the cemetery will be covered with flowers and reefs from all those wanting to wish their departed season's greetings. There's no other time which is as consistent for the expression of emotion and sentiment, in a place of eternal emotion and sentiment. It's simultaneously sad and wonderful. A spread of colours laid across lovingly kept beds of mortality; a wake of haunting splendour.

Sporadically littered between holly reefs, flowers and gifts, lie the bare graves of those temporarily forgotten during the giving season. It's those poor, flowerless graves that become more a majority through the year, during times like yesterday; the trail end of summer where freak weather of rain, wind and snow caused the presents of loved ones to be blown or wilted away. I planted my flowers among the relatively fresh ones that had been left by other family members and friends, kissed the gravestone and waited.

When Dad appeared, wearing a long black coat and hat, three roses in hand, I felt an urge to leave. Not from not wanting to be there, just a sense of… difficulty. Overwhelming difficulty. On a day where emotions hang in the air.

It started to snow again.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Pay no attention to the man behind the-- hey, where did the curtain go?

I've given up trying to do this on a regular day, now.

Life at the moment is a little… sporadic. And as usual, when so much is going on in my head and around me, there's little time to settle into routine. So from this point, I'm going to just update this whenever the heck I feel like and let nature take its course.

However, I do feel a little bad for letting things linger longer than I intended, and there's been a strange influx of visitors the past week, which suggests fate and luck are gently blowing in an amiable direction. To that end, the next couple updates are going to be VERY early preview bits, all things going well.

My originally planned preview was an extract from a novel half written (currently around 30,000 words) and something that taps into a rather personal feeling that's particularly relevant to me this month. But after mulling it over in my head for a bit, I've decided to hold on to that and save it for a later date. It's probably a little too raw, currently, despite the fact it's not autobiographical – it's just the fact the extract itself taps into thoughts and emotions that are quite negative and sensitive, and right now there's more than enough of that to dwell on, outside of fiction.

So instead (in an effort to be a bit more positive), I'm going to break a personal rule and show off an (unlettered) page of a project that's a long way off being unleashed upon the world at large, yet in a state of near completion all the same. The title of the story, its artist and where it's going to be published are going to remain totally off limits for now, but in the air of mystery that will surround it, I'll offer the pages of script that accompany the artwork (which is utterly beautiful and unique in its animation cel-like quality – I'm very excited about working with this artist; he's brilliant in every way possible).

Naturally parts of the script will be changed, for the above reasons, but so you know exactly what's going on, I'll keep the panel descriptions as a glimpse into the workings of how a comic is typically put together when the writer passes the work over to the artist. In fact, I'll take each panel separately, then show you what the whole thing looks like in full, after. It'll probably be a bit jarring, and the 'panel jump' effect (unique to comics) wont work, however, that's one of the reasons this is an early preview rather than a proper one. But I'm sure you get the idea - and the great artwork will likely distract you from such problems (in a good way), in any case...

As usual, no recreation of these without my permission, thanks.


PANEL ONE



We see Eve, in full gear, unarmed. Just in her glowing armour. She's looking slightly nervous, but in a readied martial arts stance. She's surrounded by four darkly cloaked figures, none of which we can see their faces, but they're beings of shadow. Wraiths of sorts. We can see their shadowy finger and wrists from the sleeves. This is a dusky mid-morning, in a barren plains setting, although a cave lingers ominously in the background. Eve's goal is to get to that cave, but it seems being suddenly set upon by this gang of wraith-like beings has stopped her and now she's having to deal with it.

EVE CAPTION:
"Morning class.

EVE DIALOGUE:
Well.


PANEL TWO


Change over panel. Same angle and framing as last panel, but this time Eve is in a classroom and looking smartly dressed, but quite stern, with her class in front of her. She's talking, but we'll keep the words in caption form as to not confuse the cross-overs and relate everything to present tense.

EVE CAPTION:
"Now if you've done your homework you'll have some examples of where perception and reality wildly differ --



PANEL THREE

Back to the fantasy costumed Eve, but closer in. She's still holding the same stance as Panel one, and showing determination on her features, although there's a clear sense of apprehension in her eyes.

EVE CAPTION:
"-- within Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

EVE DIALOGUE:
Still no words?


PANEL FOUR


Back to the classroom, same angle and framing as Panel three. There's anger in her eyes, the look of a pissed off teacher.

EVE CAPTION:
"Of course, many of you haven’t.

EVE CAPTION:
"Again."




PANEL FIVE


A look at a few of the students (13 years old). They're a mixture of boredom and disinterest. The central one is yawning theatrically.



PANEL SIX

In the fantasy world, we see one of the wraith's head on. Much like a mimic of the student in the last panel, we see a red light glow/spark from where its eyes should be in the hood. That and a widening mouth of red, as if it's yawning, but the bright red of the light its mouth and eyes emit in the remaining darkness of the hood makes this seem extremely threatening. Frightening, even.

EVE CAPTION:
Not the first time I've felt like an ass.


WHOLE PAGE

Monday, September 03, 2007

Penny for the Guy?

Sorry.

This is taking far longer than I ever imagined, and the sheer amount of stuff I've had to juggle the past few weeks has left me floundering a little. To say I'm in the middle of a transitional phase would be a very kind understatement. So while all this 'behind the scenes' stuff gets done, this site suffers a tad. Apologies. The good thing I can say is that when more stuff starts coming out (each month gets me closer to that approximation, even though the goalposts keep shifting) I'll at least have an abundance to talk about, even if the time may be a little sporadic to talk about it.

As it stands, my full year as a fiction writer has passed with only a few hiccups, for which I'm grateful. There's a sore temptation to start another series, but that would be utterly stupid given the sheer amount of writing I'm dealing with at the moment; currently three series' are going (2 on a monthly deadline), with a fourth currently being looked over by a publisher who will likely give me a 'yay' or 'nay' in the next couple months. Should that one get accepted, it'll bring the tally up to four, on top of a few other projects and my other work. If my brain explodes, there will be no output except blood, matter, itty bitty bits of skull and the small alien called Lispso who controls my whole body, so my overzealous ambitions will have to wait for now.

On a slight side-note, you can help me out a little if you have the time and are so inclined. As random as this may seem, is there a particular romance/drama/love story that stands out for you that you may have read or seen? If so, what did you like about it? Doesn’t matter if it's Romeo and Juliet or Titanic, throw some titles at me and why, and I'll take a look. It's all part of my research and will be appreciated :)

Oh, and if you heard loud, booming laughter yesterday, that was probably me, cackling at the Aston Villa/Chelsea score. 'Tis the stuff footballing dreams are made of, for this Villa fan... and likely many others too. The Martin O'Neill/Randy Lerner revolution continues...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Giving the dog a bone

Apologies on the really late update – time is not on my side right now and I'm working away on-site for a bit which is going to make things difficult. So consider this a temporary hiatus until I can juggle things around.

As a slight way of apology, I'm throwing out a very VERY early preview of one of the strips due for publication soon. This is just one in a series of them, written by myself and drawn by the brilliant cartoonist, Stephanie O'Donnell.

The series is called L33tspeak. It's something that's been knocking around for the better part of two years now, but this is the first time they've been given the chance to air. It's all videogame related comedy, so if you're not too savvy on videogames it may well pass you by, but 'tis the nature of niche comedy. It's a 3-panel series, in tried and tested newspaper strip style, which is terribly difficult to write for (first panel = set-up, second panel = joke pre-emption, third panel = punchline - 'economic pacing' doesnt even begin to describe it) and caused many headaches to get into the mode of. And to be frank, 'pure' comedy is intensely difficult to write anyway; I don't know how so many pros do it. I'm likely to do a detailed breakdown of how the whole thing came about, once it all gets released.

But anyway: preview, owned by myself and the lovely Ms. O'Donnell, so no replication without our permission, thanks! Click on the strip to enlarge it.

See you in around 9 days…


L33tspeak
'A Nintendog's not just for Christmas…'
By Corey Brotherson and Stephanie O'Donnell(Click to enlarge)

Monday, August 06, 2007

One year later...

Is it that time already?

I've spent most the past seven days doing my usual work and such, only to have the week sneak up on me and leave me wondering what the heck I'm going to put here now in the continuous and irritating lieu of no previews. As it stands, there are actually a couple things I can mention this week. Phew.

The first is that, surprisingly, this is the month where I've officially reached a full year of becoming a 'professional' (merely in the sense I get paid money for it, as I'm still very much a neophyte in experience terms) script writer. Which is all shades of weird considering this time last year I was sweating over the sample and research for my first full blown series which is now 12 issues strong. I'm now writing two full series' for one company, another series for another indie company, and several shorts due for release sometime in the next 8 months. It's a nice reminder why the hell I spend all this time locked in a room by myself, hitting a keyboard for hours on end.

Of course, there's the grand irony that despite my milestone, the first issue of series one has yet to launch (but the pages look great so far), series two and three are a longer way off, and the short stories are all delayed, but it's a far cry from a couple years ago where I had lots of stuff on but very little finished at all. A good friend of mine, who's far more experienced and talented a writer than me, said I should write every day and always have something completed to show. And he's utterly right. Having stuff in the metaphorical drawer is all well and good, but until you've done and dusted a story, had someone read it and then experienced the frankly terrifying fear that you may be utterly destroyed by people who are paying real money for it, it's largely academic. So it's nice to go from lots of half-created ideas to having to write at least a couple scripts per month, where I'm constantly dealing with the problems and trials of continuous storytelling, as well as creating single, smaller stories across numerous genres, all of which forces a new challenge.

It's also ironic that I've become poorer than I've ever been since my student days, and can't actually afford to celebrate this in any real way. Ah well.

The second bit of news is the availability of some more artwork previews, to brighten up these tedious pages of my words slammed together. One of the first 'proper' stories I wrote was a vampire short called, Death of a Salesman, taking its thematic inspiration from the Arthur Miller play of the same name. It was originally due for release early 2006, but a series of unfortunate events crippled it, such as... well, the publisher going bust. It turned into a blessing in disguise, as I went back to the script and realised it could have been taken the wrong way in terms of message and theme, so I re-wrote it, another talented artist came along to draw it, and now it's back on track, hopefully due for launch along with several other tales for early next year.

I had these panel sketches sent via my phone this weekend from the artist working on it, which was a very pleasant surprise. Apologies for the low resolution (my poor little Nokia cant bump quality for a PC screen) but you get an idea of the construction for the first page as it flows.








There's a definite Ben Templesmith feel to the line-work and shading (which has got me fairly excited seeing as -for me- Templesmith is one of the best horror artists going right now -http://www.templesmith.com/faze3/- he helped create 30 Days of Night, which will see a movie translation later this year).



So for Death of a Salesman to take that sort of visual cue and inspiration is great, and I'm really happy to have another excellent artist working with me on this mildly cursed story. Hopefully it will see the light of day this time. I'll start naming all these poor artistic souls who are working with me when we're a bit closer to finishing everything off (erm, just as long as you realise the talent behind Death of a Salesman isn't actually Ben Templesmith, just in case I wasn’t very clear).

Anyway, enough rambling. Thanks for sticking with me during this long (and still continuous) transition. Hopefully this time next year will show an even larger amount of progress... but knowing the irritating world of publishing, I wouldn't bet on it. Besides, I haven't the money to, anyway ;-)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Well, there goes the neighbourhood

Last week was a mixture of chaos and random events, and as usual am I able to say much about them? Noooooooo. Sorry. In a month's time I may be able to, at which point there may be a big change around the corner. Nothing I've planned, mind, just a bizarre yet valuable opportunity. Maybe two. Just as well - I need something to balance the slowly developing yet fairly predictable let-downs this month.

So instead of exciting developments, all I can write about right now is the fact I have my monthly script deadlines hitting this week ("it's the first of the moooonth") and between that and my new project (not to mention a few older ones) I'm a tad too manic to do a big update today. I'm so late writing this that another week will have nearly passed soon after anyway and I'll be able to dedicate a bit more time by then.

In the meantime, I've a day of script editing, rewrites, plot planning and ticking off all the outgoings on my horrific bank statement that just came in the post (no doubt my bank manager is wringing his/her hands at the fact I've spent another month in my overdraft).

Don’t let J.K Rowling's well deserved success fool you – 90% of other writers in the world are doing the exact same thing. Rock and roll lifestyle!


PS. I still haven’t got a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Albeit, the only reason why is because I've been trying to get a cheap one from Asda (£5! Even I can afford that!). I'm also sans copy of Warren Ellis' Crooked Little Vein, which is damn near essential, as far as I'm concerned. You can preview the first chapter here:
http://g-ec2.images-amazon.com/images/G/01/books/a-plus/Chapter_One_Crooked_Little_Vein._V31846486_.pdf

Although a word of warning: it's not for the faint hearted. Especially once you realise what the title potentially alludes to...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A sign of things to come

It's preview week!

As promised, a sneak peak into a few things that are coming down the line in the not too far flung future, with any luck. I'm not saying much about them as I'd rather let the artwork speak for itself (and indeed it does, because it's all superb) but the following snippets and early sketches are taken from forthcoming works, drawn by the very talented S. Catley, S.Calvert and S.O'Donnell. The names don’t necessarily correspond to the order of images and I've left off first names until everything is 100% and done, but needless to say these guys are very VERY good at what they do and I'm extremely privileged to be working with them.











Expect more in the coming months as we build towards the next dreaded publishing dates of the year.

Another preview of another kind (hopefully) next week.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The fine art of misdirecti-- *disappears*


Sorry about the lack of updates or even the lack of surprises I had planned originally. Let's just say the week got away from me and things didn't quite play out as I wanted. But still, lots of good things happened. Just stuff I can't say much about.

Yet.

In the meantime, feel free to check out a couple of my more recent features over at Wii Chat. Plenty coming up, we're just experiencing a bottleneck at the moment. One column which seems to have opened up interesting discourse is my look into our speed obsessed culture and how this affects the gaming landscape:

"However, one thing that has become increasingly apparent is that we're looking in the wrong places to attribute culpability when it comes to the growing number of shorter, 'small' games. We blame casuals, non-gamers and Nintendo via Wii for supposedly pandering to them.

"But we're burning the wrong witch.

"If you're looking for someone to blame, don’t point a finger at them. Instead, invert that twitchy little RSI fated digit to yourself and you'll find the culprit.

"Because we're all to blame. Every single one of us. "

You can read the rest here: http://www.wiichat.com/nintendo-wii-articles/32332-short-games-mini-games-whos-blame.html


Other than that, I'm hoping what I wanted to show last week will be available this week. We'll see.


PS. Oh look, comics! http://www.new-bold-creations.com/titles.cfm


*smiles*

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Pray… for… Mojo…


It's my birthday today!

Ok, it isn't. Just seeing if you were paying attention. It was actually my first full week without hayfever in ages…

…but it ended up being a week where I got food poisoning instead. Hn. At least I didn’t have to worry too much about a runny nose.

Actually, besides being 'bowl-bound' for most of the 7 days, I was pleasantly surprised with a few things.

- My PayPal account issues have finally been solved, meaning my bank balance is now only slightly in the red instead of being an out and out blood bath. Just as well, seeing as I'm re-entering birthday-season and will be spending more money that I dont have. Bring the pain. And gin.

- Another work opp came up, and best of all,

- My artist hunt has turned up several very talented individuals for my stories due in the third and final Futurius Tales From the Plex anthology due Christmas this year. I'd almost given up the prospect of getting anything done as the submission deadline is painfully close and I've had numerous artists disappear on me without word or reason over the past few months (despite the fact the actual scripts were long done). Which wasn’t exactly convenient. So I went from having 4 stories coming out this year, to none, and now back to about 4 – as long as everyone can get everything done in time. But you know what they say; the quickest way to get a project cancelled is to talk too much about it before it's completed…

We'll see. This time next week I'll either be fairly excited or back to wanting to smash things out of frustration again. And this time next month my head will have either exploded from joy or disappointment. Stay tuned, bat-fans.

But in compensation for such a short entry, I should have something to show in a few days time. Cross those fingers.

I don’t care about your chronic arthritis, I said cross them, stumpy!

See you again in a few…

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Where Angels Dare to Tread - Extract 2




Chapter 3


Anima both hated and loved hospitals.

She could never understand this conflict of feeling, but in the fog of uncertainty her duality was one clear thing. Which in itself was a nice sensation. Certainty was not a constant in her life, by any means, so Anima grabbed what she could as long as it was agreeable. She was never too bothered by contradictions.

The familiar noises of Tannoy announcements, machines, beeping hearts and other aural chatter enveloped her as she walked down the corridor, coupled by the staid smells of chemicals, plastics and anaesthetics. Polite nods exchanged with the passing nurses and a few patients as well. In truth, it wasn’t just through open friendliness. It was partly because Anima had spent the last few minutes pacing through the same corridors to delay reaching her father's room. Ordinarily, such behaviour noticed by others would inspire suspicion, especially during such a paranoid political climate. Yet something kept everyone at ease around Anima during her trips to hospitals. Had she realised, she may have put it down in the 'pros' column of why she liked such places. Instead, Anima remained blissfully unaware as she eventually summoned the courage to peek her head into the door where her father rested, stretched out on his bed of sparkling white sheets. His eyes were closed, with only the pale tint of his pallid albino skin showing; the rest of his bulky frame was covered, giving an almost ethereal look to him. Despite having seen her father like this many times, Anima still felt her gut tighten a modicum. And this was just him sleeping.

"Are you goin' t' stand there or actually come in, daughter dearest?"

The deep rumble of his voice caught Anima off-guard. He hadn’t even opened his eyes. Had there been anyone else in the room they may have wondered what power exactly he had over her as she tensely stepped in. "Hey Dad." She tentatively pulled up a grey plastic chair and sat at the bottom of the bed.

"What, I've got leprosy now? Git up here." He still kept his eyes closed. Clearly his hearing was as keen as ever.

Anima shuffled awkwardly to the side of the bed, and sat down again, back straight and her hands pursed on her lap. She stared at her father's still features, almost unmoving if it wasn’t for his breathing. And even that was so deep and slow that it took whole seconds to register to his daughter's naked eye. She felt the very sudden urge to light a cigarette, even though she gave up smoking years ago.

"Keepin' well?"

"Mm," was the response. After a couple more seconds, she said, "You?"

There was a grunt, almost a snort. "You already know the answer. I like how you always try to humour me."

"Things change."

"Yes…" he exhaled pointedly."They do. But not this."

"Yeah, well, the rest of us manage." She immediately realised it was the exact wrong thing to say, but a clamp-like feeling around her throat stopped her from saying anything else.

Still without opening his eyes, her father's brow furrowed, showing wrinkles on a face whose years were impossible to tell beyond a generic 'middle aged'. "You think this is easy f' me? Decades of splutterin' and coughin' and not knowin' when my time is? The uncertainty, the pain, the-" he stopped and breathed out again, taking in a deeper, more measured breath. He next words were far calmer. "Oh, how I envy you, you ungrateful child. You don’t know how lucky you are."

The cigarette craving was getting worse. "You make it sound like you're dying."

"I am."

Anima cursed under her breath, hoping it wasn’t audible. "You're all like you were turned mortal yesterday, for fuc-"

"Don’t you dare swear!" He sighed. "Your mother-"

"-took her 'affliction' with far more grace than you ever have." Anima wondered where this raft of courage had come from, hoping that she didn’t drown in the surrounding sea of trepidation. "Look, Dad… I… know it's not easy for you. Sure as heck wasn’t easy for Mum. But this needs to stop. You can't keep having Zeal help 'convince' people here to take you in every time you wish you were an angel again. I don’t even know why you'd want to be in a place like this anyway."

"Just… reminiscing. You wouldn’t understand."

"Oh, of course not. I'm just your mortal daughter. I've not lived for an eternity. My life is but a speck. Bollocks. Spare me the usual crap, Magus."

At the mention of his name, Magus' eyes shot open. His irises were deep red, shining brightly outside his bone white face. He stared at Anima for duration, no words coming from his tightly pursed lips. His daughter glared back, despite a powerful desire to leave the room. But she stayed fast in her seat, matching eyes for what seemed like hours in the seconds that passed. Then, finally, he closed them again.

There was a whole minute of silence between the two before Anima decided to break it. "Why do you always find it so hard to look at me?"

Magus' voice broke slightly with the first sound before he tried speaking again. "I…" there was a flicker of movement underneath his eyelids."I like the darkness. Sometimes. Reminds me of… before."

The longing for tobacco started to rise again in Anima's veins. Or at least, she thought it was for tobacco. She let the moment hang tensely and thick in the air for a few long seconds before she spoke again with equally heavy intent. "You know, parents are usually far more tactful when they repeatedly tell their child they were an accident."

A pained expression broke on Magus' face. Again he seemed to have problems in enunciating his words fully. His daughter could feel something inside her chest get tighter and her eyes start to burn. But she refused to move or give release to what was building. Eventually Magus said, "I didn’t mean it like that."

Anima's throat tensed. "No… you didn’t, did you." She looked over her father, lying in his pure white sheets, and shook her head minutely. Forcing the next words out, she said, "What did you bring me here for."

Magus' stifled a sigh with an awkward pause of breath. "When was the last time you used them?"

The words came from Anima, but they were slow and stupid. "Used what."

"Don’t play games with me, Annie. You know exactly what."

"Oh, for fuc- that's all you dragged me here fo-" Anima stood up and started to head towards the door. "Don’t worry, I'll just keep on suppressing all the things you've given me since birth. My abilities, my heritage, my full name – that's Anima, by the way… anything else you want to hammer down to the decks of the Titanic?"

Still Magus' eyes did not open. "Listen to me. Zeal came to me last night. Said something is wrong."

Anima stopped her pace just short of the exit. "Zeal always says that. I've had the delight of his company all day so far. Which is rare." She increased the spite in her voice. "He's never been much of a Godparent."

If there was any reaction to the barb, Magus hid it. "Something is happening. Things are changing. Whatever it is, you need to stay low."

"I've been staying low all my damn life, thanks."

"NO." Magus realised his voice had taken a sharp resonance that echoed around the room. He reduced it, but kept the severity of his original tone. "No. This is different. If Zeal is telling me, it's different."

She kept near the door but didn’t edge closer to it. "Different how."

"Zeal's tryin' to find out. Lot of rumours an' hearsay right now. And the Kingdoms don’t deal with rumours an' hearsay, which means problems. Something's got them anxious."

Anima could feel a dislike of herself from her reactions, but found it difficult to curb the rising petulance. Her emotions were running too hot. "And this has what to do with me, exactly? No one's going to come looking for me as long as I'm apparently not using the things I've not ever used throughout my shallow existence. And I have a negligent shadow demon to at least mock my lack of life direction. Far as I'm concerned, you're just telling me to do what I've always been doing: fuck all."

"Don’t you DARE swear in my presence again, you hear me? Don’t ever swear near me!" Magus snarled. "All I want is that-"

"All you want is for me to become a shadow," spat Anima, her father unable to force his verbal attempts of intervention between her venom. "That's all I've ever been. A reminder of a mistake you made with Mum all those years ago that got you in trouble. Well be happy. The Powers That Be may be up to something, but guess what; you're not immortal anymore, Mum's dead and I'm just the failed mortal progeny of two rejected angels. No one gives a shit about us. We're all just shadows. But at least you weren’t born one."

Anima turned to walk away, but stopped. There was no sound from her father; not in reply to her lambaste, nor in an attempt to stop her. Anima's body felt tired. Her head throbbed with pressure. Still she refused tears as she said softly, "This is the longest conversation we've had in ages. You know that, Dad?"

Without turning around, she waited for a response. When none came after a few seconds, a sense of deflation spilled from her lungs. Followed by her final words to her father. "Yeah. That's what I thought too."

And then she left.

***



[Copyright Corey Brotherson 2007. All rights reserved and cannot be used without permission. Thank you.]

Waiting for Godot / (they do not move)


Well, my audience figures have been skyrocketing the past two days, and I have no real idea why. Seems that Manhunt images are in at the moment which makes sense, but what makes less sense is people being directed to here looking for "man", "m" and "manhu". Bizarre.

But seeing as you're here, welcome anyway – have a beer, take a look around and I think there's some pie left on the window to cool, if no one's taken off with it yet. There's plenty of 'm' here (here comes one now! Oh, it's just left), one 'man' (although he arguably has the mind of a child) and erm, not so much 'manhu', but when I work out what it is, I'm sure I'll be able to provide it. Maybe.

Anyway, to this week's entry, something that's been requested although likely to be of little to no interest to those who are coming here via inexplicable traffic spikes (unless you're a publishing agent and/or editor looking for digressing writers/clients - in which case, email me *wink wink*): another sample of one of my many fiction projects. No pictures, sadly, as it's prose, but I have a very new comic project that I should be able to show off in a month's time. I'm also approaching my first full year as a 'professional' (in the sense that's it's a steady job, rather than me being particularly great at it) comic book series writer. Ironically, I'll probably have no money to actually celebrate it, so I'll work some more, and then just before I go to bed I'll confine myself to a room and drink rum until I'm so ill that it just FEELS like I've been out to celebrate. Bit like my 22nd birthday, then. Ahh. "Misty water-coloured meeeeeemories, of the way we were…"

Anyway, extract. This barely formed novel is currently untitled, but the previous chapter can be found here -http://cbrotherson.blogspot.com/2006/09/game-of-you-and-sometimes-me.html- to refresh yourself. I'll post it in a separate entry, for ease of reading. Let me know what you think if you have time, and see you next week, where the whimsy will probably be as low as the page hits once people get fed up of looking for 'manhu'. Such is life.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Manhunt 2 mess

A bit aside from my planned entry today (the Angels/Demons extract will come next week, don’t worry) – really just wanted to focus on the whole Manhunt 2 ban issue/debate that's managed to span across the mainstream press this week.

I've written a column over at Wii Chat regarding it:


'I didn’t want to write about this.

But the topic seems to have blown up to epic proportions, and it would seem a little churlish to avoid it.


So, the Manhunt 2 ban. Good lord, what an unholy mess. While I've seen games come and go, hit over the head with the 'ban-stick' across numerous territories and generations, I can't remember a time where things have turned into a total landslide of chaos as we've witnessed with Rockstar's super violent action thriller.


For those who've been sleeping soundly under a very large rock the past week, let's quickly review what happened. First, Manhunt 2 gets banned in the U.K for both Wii and PlayStation2 (bizarrely, no mention was made of the PlayStation Portable version).

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) rejected the game for release after going through its content and deciding it crossed a moral line via its "unremitting bleakness and callousness of tone in an overall game context which constantly encourages visceral killing with exceptionally little alleviation or distancing". In other words, it showed 'immoral behaviour' that, while fitting within the game's story and established tone, was relentless and more than likely beyond what the medium has asked a player to actively participate in before. True to the first Manhunt, then, it would seem…'

You can read the rest here: http://www.wiichat.com/nintendo-wii-articles/30606-manhunt-2-ban-explained.html

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Taking a load off. On me.


A bird took its afternoon break on me today.

That's to say, it decided the precise moment I was walking underneath it, it would unload the discarded contents of its breakfast upon my head.

It's a funny thing, having an avian dump on you. Strange thoughts pass through your head. Like, 'was that just water?'

Then, 'oh God, please let it not be bird crap'.

Swiftly followed by, 'is that liquid green...? Ahhh man, it IS bird droppings. $*&*!. Did anyone see?'

Which precedes, 'I'm in the middle of a city, at lunch-time, covered in bird poo, I really need to get to a toilet fast… wait, that's somewhat ironic… anyway, toilet, fast, clean-up… but lots of people will see me… oh no…'

Soon replaced by, 'what were the chances of me walking past at that precise moment?'

And then finally:

'Isn't this supposed to be lucky?'


Stream of consciousness is funny like that.

Which was pretty much how I approached this entry.

I've a million things floating around my head at the moment, some which I can't talk about, some which I can. For example:

- How I've managed to gain RSI in my wrist/forearm from laptop overuse (it pays not to type like you're some errant Spider-Man, legs akimbo and arms sitting through said akimbo legs).

- How I managed to stay outside my overdraft for exactly 3 weeks, before taking a total nosedive into again.

- How PayPal is quite possibly the most frustrating company ever ('please allow us to ring you up to verify your account and thus let you withdraw several weeks' worth of your wages and help out with aforementioned overdraft' *one phone call and security code input later* 'we're sorry, the phone number does not match with our database – you'll now have to wait 9 days for us to send a letter for you to do THE EXACT SAME THING YOU JUST DID').

- How my laptop started acting strangely, its backlight cutting out one night leaving me to hard reset it because I could no longer see what I was doing. I'm now faced with the quandary of choosing whether to send it off for an early case replacement (poor thing is falling apart, to be fair) and risk losing a few days of work and email contact, or keep on battling on in the hope it doesn’t clap out on me for whatever reason.

Hmm.

You wouldn’t believe the amount of stuff I typed and discarded for this paragraph. Prolonged rants and moans, of sorts. But it all got a bit too preachy in the end and I couldnt be bothered. I really need to talk more about my projects at hand, but there's that usual problem of it being too early or against my contracts to do so. Ack. And the artwork I have from them is sooooo good, too. Must... wait... a bit... longer...

Instead, here's a few links to recent reviews, columns and features.

New Warriors #1 Review: http://www.comixfan.com/xfan/forums/showthread.php?t=42276

Smash Bros. Brawl – Wii's Most Important Game Of 2007?: http://www.wiichat.com/nintendo-wii-articles/28221-smash-bros-brawl-wiis-most-important-game-2007-a.html

Wii's New Best Friend - Electronic Arts: http://www.wiichat.com/nintendo-wii-articles/28100-wiis-new-best-friend-electronic-arts.html

Wii Summer Line-up: Manhunt 2, Resident Evil 4, Scarface And More: http://www.wiichat.com/nintendo-wii-articles/29652-wii-summer-line-up-manhunt-2-resident-evil-4-scarface-more.html


I'm tempted to run another chapter of the Angels/Devils novel, but it may be a little too long since the last one. Will think about it over the week in the absence of anything else worth posting.

And hopefully it won't be about another of 'nature's toilet' experience.

(Clearly for the birds.)