Monday, 29 December 2014

My Obsession With Horror

In my teenage years I devoured King and Koontz books.

I discovered Dean Koontz when I was given a second hand copy of Phantoms by my grandmother. I was gripped from the very first page, and although I'd read scary stories before, I'd never read anything so absorbing. I curled up in an armchair and just kept reading. In fact, I think Phantoms and Midnight are my two favourite Koontz novels (though others such as Intensity are great at "doing what they say on the tin", an impressive match of form and theme). I loved the way Koontz novels would open with either action or tension, then ramp them both up along with the stakes throughout the novel. The ideas also grabbed me. Ever-living protoplasmic beings of unstoppable power? Human-computer interfaces for emotionless killers? Wow!

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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs


I recently finished playing Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs (which came after Amnesia: The Dark Descent). A criticism I'd heard was that A Machine For Pigs was "less of a game" than The Dark Descent; it's true in part. A Machine For Pigs focusses much more on telling a story, to the extent that it removes many gamey elements such as the need to light candles; oil supplies for your lantern; injuries and healing; and physics-based puzzles. In their place is another disturbing story, but the tense way it unravels and the nature of it more than make up for the loss of some of the interactivity. It's the story that kept me playing, made up of many elements, some of which resonated more strongly with me.

I'll avoid specifics but there are strong and as-relevant-as-ever themes of suffering, treating other beings as resources, cultures of inhumanity, loss, mechanisation and industrialisation. I can't really talk about some of the most upsetting parts for me without giving away spoilers, but the premise is discovered fairly early on: it's the very end of the nineteenth century; you wake in a bed with a cage around it worried about your children; your mansion seems to be unoccupied, but you don't feel like you are alone, and there are strange red stains in some areas; and the house is part of a compound that includes a sausage factory. There's enough there to make you uneasy, and believe me, the game's reality is worse.

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Friday, 12 December 2014

That Time Of Year

I last celebrated xmas about 20 years ago. As such, I recommend this article The Gift of Death by George Monbiot. And this poem by Benjamin Zephaniah, performed here. And if you wore a jumper for Save The Children, consider this.

You want more? Here's a silly story I wrote back in 2000. It's not one that'll ever published, just a bit of unedited whimsy, but what do you expect for free? :-)



The Importance Of Being Humbug


December 22nd. Magnificent golden light shone horizontally across the silent library in the burg of Hushingdon. Peace was settled on that little place dedicated to the gathering of knowledge and dust, which swirled and danced in the shafts of light. The only sound was the turning of pages.
The Librarian sat at the Enquiry Desk, deciphering the Holy Trinity of mysteries that were Dewey, USMARC and XML. He knew that there was only one other person in the library – a trendy-looking blonde girl who had asked where The New Statesman was kept. Since then she had been sat in the centre of the reading room, surrounded by a dead forest of empty desks. She was intent and intense, and The Librarian couldn’t help but look over at her, for indeed, she was beautiful. Beautiful in a cold way – the beauty of a bright Winter’s morning, or the Ice Queen. Austere and something to worship, but possibly unforgiving.
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