Thursday, November 15, 2007

Premium Games

Here's a post on what's going on with me and all the media coverage it's been getting. Pretty exciting stuff.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

San Francisco

Long time no post. I've been here in San Francisco a little more than a month now, living in a little Studio apartment in the South of Market district.

San Francisco is a lovely city in a lot of ways. I just happen to live in the ugly part. No, really, it's actually not that bad. It's actually been good for me. I've always been kind of a coddled middle-class white boy, so being thrust in the middle of what someone has referred to as one of the few "bad" parts of San Francisco has been enlightening. A few things I've learned:

1) Just because it's a poorer neighborhood, doesn't mean someone's going to jump out of the shadows and kill you for your iPod.

2)This is San Francisco. The bad neighborhood is two blocks away from the really good neighborhood.

3)Homeless people are not scary. They're tired and hungry. Sometimes strung out.

4)Just because a street is unclean doesn't mean it's unsafe.

5)The open-air market at the UN Plaza on Sundays is a great place to buy nectarines.

6)I've rediscovered how much I love going to the library. Especially since there's a really big one near me.

7)Being able to walk to work is unbelievably awesome. I walk to work ten minutes every day.

8)It's only warm when it's sunny, and only cold when it's windy.

9)You can open your windows in San Francisco without letting in a million bugs. Take that, Atlanta!

10)Not having a car in a major city isn't that bad. Until you need something specific.

11)Two movie theaters right across the street from each other isn't a joke. It's a temptation.

The biggest change isn't that it's San Francisco...but that I'm living in the heart of a major city. It's always bustling and busy. Loud. About ten percent of everyone you see has something wrong with them, but then you realize that's up to par with the're just seeing a lot more people at once.

And the city really is beautiful. When it's a sunny, warm day walking down the street I'll pass a beautiful little park with a waterfall behind the Metreon on the way to work.
The breeze will stir just right, the sun will hit my face and I'll think "Here I am." And that's nice.

The job's going well, too, hopefully I'll have more to share on that later. I miss my wife a lot, but she's coming to visit in four days, so that's be great. I hope she learns to like San Francisco as well. Right now I've been writing this to try to get out of writing the chapter of a game writing book I've been assigned, but I guess I'd better get to it.


Friday, August 17, 2007

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Leaving Adult Swim

(Largely copied from the Adult Swim Message Board)

It makes me very sad to say this, but as of August 22, I will no longer be working at Adult Swim. It was a very difficult decision for me to make, but starting next month I will be the new Creative Director of Games for

This is likely to be insanely long, as I’m a writer and can never get enough of hearing myself type, but please bear with me.

I remember four years ago, waiting in the lobby at Williams Street for the interview that would determine whether or not I got an internship with Adult Swim. There was a set of nice glass double doors with the logo for Cartoon Network printed on them. I sat there in awe, not quite believing where I was. I had been a fan of Cartoon Network for years and had watched Adult Swim from the very first night it aired, so to me just being in the building was an overwhelming experience, whether I got the internship or not.

The doors opened and I was greeted by Karen and Matt. (Karen is now a producer at CourtTV and Matt is the Narrative Director of FusionFall.) They led me past the double doors and into the Rosie Room. (Now demolished; the new tape library sits in its place.) There were some comfortable couches, a plasma TV, glass display cases with Cartoon Network toys in them, and a life-sized wooden replica of Rosie the Robot from the Jetsons with a computer monitor in her chest. It was totally awesome. Kind of a Willie Wonka feeling, you know?

Well, obviously the interview went well and even before I got back home I had an email offering me the internship. Before I knew it I had a cubicle, two computers and a job to do. I think I did it well; they seemed most surprised to learn that I did indeed have some writing chops and my internship abruptly changed. During that time I was really just a junior junior writer. I never had to do any of the crap intern work many interns are forced to do, which is a great thing about how Cartoon handles its interns. After my internship was over I got a call from Chip (Who now works for the kids side of Cartoon), the creative director of, and he offered me a contract job as a writer. That eventually turned into a full-time position.

It was crazy. But in the years that followed I never really lost that feeling of waking up and thinking “Oh my God. I work for Adult Swim.” I’ll miss that.

The people here have been wonderful. Many of the people who were here when I first started have moved on to other things (Hockey Chicken is the only remaining staff member from that era) but they were all just wonderful while they were here. As I leave, I feel confident that the site is in capable hands. Jeff is a fantastic creative director who isn’t afraid to dive headfirst into new things. Casper has a great creative sense and his contributions to the games have been and will be invaluable. Liz is a consummate producer and has whipped us all into shape far better than I could have hoped. Merrill is Merrill, take him or leave him. (I’m kidding, he’s a great creative mind who’s done a lot for show support on the site.) Vanessa seems to have boundless energy. Brandon is just inherently a funny person, I think. Terry is a fantastic animator. Win is exactly what the site needed in a head technical person and in general just a really cool guy. Drew is a great developer who brings with him an amazing sense of fannish enthusiasm. I’ve worked with Dave C. the longest now, and he’s always blown me away with his great design sense and outspoken approach to sitebuilding. Jordan has a unique appreciation for the weird and the strange and manages to design things that are both while still making everything useable (at times, he also sports a huge mountain-man beard which you can’t help but have respect for.) Dave B. has been a great editor and is always fair game for a nice, random nonsensical conversation. I’ve hardly had a chance to get to know Justin or Ken, but they both struck me as both skilled and invaluable. And of course, Mike L., who I have actually found in many ways to be inspiring. I used to think he was this terrifying, rampaging madman (and he still sort of is) but once I got a chance to work with him I quickly realized that he was a brilliant anti-executive. I learned a lot about pushing boundaries from him and I can honestly say I enjoyed the last year of working under him immensely.

Kongregate's really cool. It’s a kind of “YouTube for games” where anyone can upload a Flash game and wrap it in community functionality like chat, high scores, badges and gamer points while taking in a share of the ad revenue. I’m very excited to be directing their premium/sponsored game effort. I think Kongregate has the right idea by creating a community-driven and community-centric site that will hopefully be a showcase for the best in Flash games on the net.

So here goes. Off to San Francisco!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Darkness

I'd seen several trailers for The Darkness a while back and it was never something I found interesting. Mobsters with demon powers? Meh. But then I saw some gameplay footage on Monday that showed something we're thinking about doing for a game at, so I ran out and picked it up the next day to see how they handled it.

I haven't finished it yet, so this isn't a formal review or anything, but this game is badass. The opening car chase scene was incredibly grabbing and did some amazing immersive things that as a writer had me literally on the edge of my couch. The realism to many of the conversations is great; in the car chase scene the two mafiosos in the front seat carry on full conversations that you really can't hear for all the shooting and crashing, but that's what so cool about it. They're not saying these things just for your benefit, which is a great step towards realistic characters and situations.

Later I watched in writerly glee as Jackie (the protagonist) visited his girlfriend. You could actually sit on the couch and watch TV with her (which earns you the Romantic Achievement) until she falls asleep on you. There is such common ground there, such human sympathy, that I actually felt guilty for finally getting up and leaving.

Even subway train riders have their own personality. You can see them walking around, throwing away trash, picking their noses...all ways in which they're in their own world, not simply existing for you to talk to them. Unfortunately that illusion is broken if you try to talk to most of them, when they say some inexplicable variation of "Are we good?" but it's impressive nonetheless.

Add to that two badass demon eels coming out of your back that do your bidding and I found the game incredibly satisfying.

It's not perfect and there are some clear holes (like why Jackie isn't the least bit surprised to find that he has demonic eels growing out of his back.) but all in all this is one of the best surprise plays of the year for me. I'm sitting here at work just wishing I was home playing it, which doesn't happen to me all that often.

Now if only the multiplayer weren't so damn laggy.

Monday, June 25, 2007

A $24.95 Value!

I got this email the other day. It was to let me know that I, as a BellSouth customer, am very important to BellSouth. They appreciate my business. And in light of said appreciation they, BellSouth, would like to offer me, valued customer and all-around great guy, a free gift! Amazing! Since I am such the aforementioned great guy and swell customer they're prepared to give me a free personality test! A $24.95 value!

Wait, what?

Since when is a personality test a twenty five dollar value? Since when are they not, Did I miss some sort of revolution in internet personality quizzes? The next time I want to know what kind of Power Ranger I am, am I going to need to pony up five bucks? Whenever I desperately need to know what Firefly character I'm most like am I going to need to swipe my card for a buck fifty? A type personalities get charged ten bucks but B types get charged more cause you know they'll do whatever you want them to?

Clearly I'm now out of my depth on the internet. Next, I'll be getting Flickr galleries of LOLcats as a reward for using Verizon. A $30 value.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Xbox Live Account Restored!

My faith in huge multinational corporations has been restored! My Gamertag has been returned to me!

Also, thanks to my wife, who spent a day bitching the huge multinational corporation out. ;)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Bible Fight

At we just launched our second original game, Bible Fight. So far it's gotten a lot of attention, though the buildup of traffic has been slower than it was for Five Minutes to Kill (Yourself).

The road to this game was actually very long. When we decided to do original games, we put out a call for original pitches from some of our more trusted game developers. One of our best developers, Pop&Co., came back with a number of pitches for original games. One of the standout ideas was Bible Fight. Lazzo liked it and it seemed like it was a go. But then there was some internal disagreement and some personnel reshuffling and all in all the game was almost a year from conception to launch...which is incredibly long for most Flash games.

I've been googling the game and reading some of the comments people have about it, most of which are very positive. A lot of the very Christian replies were the most interesting, as some take it in stride and actually find it funny, while some are mortally offended. I won't try to convince anyone about it, but I found it funny and thought it was a worthwhile game to pursue. There were actually some very vocal internal disagreements about it, though, so we didn't make it lightly. We discussed it for hours on end, but I think we made the right choice to go ahead with it.

Anyway. I'm proud of the final result. I think it's one of the better fighting games on the internet. I just hope everyone who plays it can just have some fun with it and not take everything so seriously. ;)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Xbox Live Account Lost

So about a month ago my Xbox 360 started getting the infamous Red Ring of Death. It wasn't completely surprising -- mine was one of the earlier 360s and more prone to malfunctions than the later ones, though up to now I'd had no problems -- but dismaying, since I'd just gotten back into playing Gears of War online. I'd remembered that Costco had a fantastic return policy that I figured would be easier than sending the console away (thanks, Costco!) so I switched it out for a new one. The problem was that they wouldn't let me keep my hard drive. Something about serial numbers needing to match. Okay, whatever. I didn't care about old game saves and any Live Arcade stuff I'd gotten I could just re-download, right?

Yeah. I get the new box home, set it up and start inputting my Xbox Live info. Wait...what password did I use again? Jeez, it was like a year and a half ago that I set this up... ah ha! It was my old Comcast email account I used back when I had Comcast! Crap! What's the password? I tried all the passwords I could ever remember using, and nothing. Then I get locked out. I've tried logging in too many times and now I'll have to reset my password. Which would be fine...except I no longer have access to that email! It was a Comcast-provided email address and I'd switched to BellSouth about seven months ago.

Okay. So I call Xbox. They can't help me, it's all run through their Windows Live ID service. Alright, I go to the website they direct me to, fill out all the forms and wait for them to get back to me. The answer I get is a very obviously cut-and-pasted "To reset your password...blah blah blah." I write back that I can't reset my password, which is the real problem here. I get someone new as a response and I explain the situation again. I get another -- yes ANOTHER new person and by now I'm getting exasperated. I plead with them to verify any other information they want, credit card, phone number, whatever, just please, switch my account to my current email! They respond -- I should call the XBox people. They could verify my credit card number.

And of course they can't. I spend half an hour speaking to a very nice Customer Service supervisor, begging to be connected to anyone who works at the Windows Live ID service, but she has no phone number for them. It's like they're this ghost department that no one can really contact except by email. I demand to speak to someone further up but it becomes clear that they're just an outsourced company with no real ties to Microsoft. They don't know anything.

So I send a long, impassioned plea back to the Windows Live ID people. And apparently they've stopped replying to me. I decide to bite the bullet and even subscribed to Comcast internet for a month to get access to that email account back. Turns out that somehow during the time that I've no longer had Comcast, someone's come along and taken that email out from under me. SO that's a bust.

After I got back from my vacation today I called the direct Microsoft number and got directed to literally seven different people. Please, I said. Just connect me with anyone who happens to have a phone at their desk in the Windows Live ID department. The last guy I speak to tries to lay on me that the Windows Live ID service doesn't have phone support because it's a free service. I have to ask if so little support is going to be made available for it, why tie it into services that are NOT free? I'm out a year's subscription to XBox Live and several games and TV shows. So he offers to put me on the line to Microsoft Corporate. I say great! Let me talk to the suits. So I hear "Please wait while I transfer you to 1-800-Micrsoft!" and I almost squeeze the phone apart. That was the number I called to begin with.

I mean, jeez, am I being unreasonable here? What's worse, is that it's actually part of my job to play these games. I run the games department for and it's actually fairly imperative that I stay on top of what's going on in gaming. I just don't know what else to do here!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

GDC '07

So the Game Developer's Conference for 2007 is over. Oh my God, that was a long week.

Day 0

Sunday. I fly out at ten...which meant that I missed my neice's first birthday party. Wow, did I feel like a tool for not having gotten a later flight. I still feel bad about that. But the flight itself was pretty uneventful. The seats each had built-in TVs you could order movies and watch TV on, which was a welcome entertainment addition, though most of the flight I just watched Mike Judge's Idiocracy on my iPod. (Which I'd give a six out of ten. Kind of funny, but not entirely original and not really up to the Office Space legacy.) I struck up a brief conversation with a nice French lady who was flying straight from a vacation in Africa to meet her copatriots in San Fransisco. Apparantly she worked for eBay France.

I landed, took a really expensive taxi to the hotel, thought I saw the Golden Gate bridge but didn't, and settled in to my week in San Fransisco.

San Fransisco is a beautiful city. It's antique and modern all at the same time. I remember thinking how much I wished I could stay and extra week just on vacation. Just a very unique place, and I thought immediately that this was one of my favorite cities I had ever been to.

I bought some pizza, had a fantastic rasperry gelato and ate dinner at a place called Max's. Then back to the hotel for sleeping.

Day 1

Monday. I followed a large group of dorky-looking people (believe me, I blended right in) to the Moscone Center, registered, grabbed a rice crispy treat and a pear from the cafe and went to my assigned room.

The first two days of the GDC are for "Tutorials." These can be classes, mini-conferences, whatever. Most people don't go and just fly in for the big Wednesday show. I wanted to catch the tutorials because I wanted to learn more about game design. So I took the Game Design Tutorial. It was a blast, really. I had no idea redesigning board games could be so entertaining. (I created the absolute best four-player version of "Three Musketeers" that has ever been made. It balanced perfectly, was perfectly symmetrical and I actually had a great time playing it. Maybe I'll post instructions later.)

I met a game designer from Longtail Studios named AJ, and we hung out a little afterwards. He's a nice guy, but has a total naive view on whether or not first-person shooters will be a good fit for the Wii. ;)

Walking back from the bar where I'd met AJ and one of his co-workers, I got lost in the Tenderloin.

I get lost everywhere I go. It's like a trip hasn't started until I get lost, and I started this one early. It was pretty seedy, with more massage parlors than homeless people (which there were also plenty of.) It took me twenty minutes before I realized I had turned the wrong way on Geary and turned around, trying to look as mean and intimidating as I possibly could, until the mild Tenderloin squalor abruptly dead-ended into the polished, tourist sheen of Union Square. Really a very odd thing, both those places being pretty much back-to back. But I made it back and fell asleep with no real trouble.

Day 2

Tuesday. More Game design tutorial. Starting to get brain-dead and grumpy. The last exercise of the day, I almost chewed this woman's head off because she made us spend half an hour making lists about what we could do for the assignment rather than just picking something and iterating on it.

I also met with Nik from Tiny Mantis, the game company that did "Go Right!" for us. Hopefully they'll be making some games that don't suck with us. ;)

On an odd note, I ran into Michael Sinterniklaas standing in the lunch line. Mike is the voice of Dean Venture from the Venture Bros. and a million other voices. He owns his own recording studio in New York called "New York Post," which I had visited on my trip to New York last year. He was there on an Audio Pass, trying to network and gather business from the game industry. Later that night I met him at the East meets West party, which he helped me crash. I played pool with a college student, chatted with Mike for a bit, talked with Stephanie Sheh of Eureka Seven and Bleach fame, then called it a night. It should be clear by now, I'm not a big partier.

Day 3

Wednesday. The first day of the conference proper. Chris Kelly flew in the night before and I hung with him most of the day. Highlights: Susan O'Connor's talk on writing for Gears of War, and the Sony Presentation.

Here's my opinion on Playstation Home. I don't see the point. It's a Second-Life knockoff that will be limited to the few people who actually have PS3s. It takes things literally to an awkward extreme: why should I have to walk into a room and sort, closet-like, to view my achievements when I could just pull up a list, which lends itself to comparisons with friends and other simple data display techniques. It just seems like a stupidly obvious thing to do, so I don't know why everyone's raving about it so much.

LittleBigPlanet, however, looks nothing short of amazing. Almost worth my six hundred bucks. Almost.

During the day we met with some new game vendors who wanted ask us questions about our games strategy. That night I went to the Minna Mingle party for Casual Game developers and met with the guys from Pop, who are doing the upcoming game Bible Fight for us. I was so exhausted by this point, though, I only stayed for about half an hour.

Day 4

Thursday. Oh my god, was I tired. I was sore all over from all the walking. Went to a few roundtables, a few writer sessions, trolled the Expo. Met with some more game vendors. If you can tell, toward the end of the week it all started to blur together, so I'm having difficulty recalling what exactly happened when. Miyamoto's speach at the Nintendo keynote was interesting, but kind of lacked much more than a reiteration of Nintendo's party line of "Taking risks." Refused an invitation to hang out with AJ again and crashed to an instant sleep at 8pm.

Day 5

Friday. I'm having a hard time remembering what happened Friday, to be honest. I went to a roundtable about web games and community, which reaffirmed my belief that no one was thinking about doing the sort of things I'm thinking about doing in that space. Which is either good news for me, or just shows that I'm thinking the wrong way. We'll have to see which. I went to a very memorable lecture/roundtable on emotion in gaming, which coincidentally enough came to a few emotionally-charged shouting matches on whether gameplay and story were equally important. Very informative and entertaining.

That night we went to the Zuni Cafe and had dinner. It was good, I just wished there had been more of it. Took the subway back to the hotel. Fell asleep.

Day 6

Saturday. Over. Came home. Feels good. Rented Casino Royale on the plane and wished I hadn't. I like the movie alright, but I hated that I paid five bucks for something I'd already seen. Watched an episode of the fairly mediocre Robin Hood on BBC America.

Now it's back to work to apply everything I've learned. Which I hope will eventually all come back to me. All in all I had a great time, but what a draining week.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Hi, everyone. After a lot of thought and a few conversations with a few people, I've decided to stop doing RunBinary.

Why? I think it can be best summed up in an email conversation I had with Cory Doctorow. Basically, he was advising me that all releasing your work online does is to allow you a way to evangelize fans. You have to be able to push your work onto other people and have them want to turn someone else on to it. You kind of have to be this taste-making marketing machine (my words, not his.) I'm just not very good at that. Better in my case, I think, to concentrate on actually writing things and not trying to "network" the site everywhere, because all that does is leave a bad taste in my mouth.

So I think I'll stick with submitting my work to print publishers. As much as I would have loved to be on the forefront of the digital literature revolution, I just don't think I'm cut out for it.

I'm still going to keep the blog up, as I kind of enjoy writing in it from time to time. I'm happy with what the RunBinary experience did for me; I've got some new stories and it's helped me to get work done on my own deadlines. Perhaps one day I'll come back to it, but for now it's just not a good fit for me.

Thanks to everyone that read my stories.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Today I would like to announce that with 1157 page impressions and 2 clicks, I have now made $.01 from the good people at Google Adsense.

It's hard to know who to thank at a time like this. When I initially decided to put adsense banners up, it was on the off chance that if for some reason I had an unexpected (and unlikely) avalanche of traffic that would put me out of pocket on bandwidth I could at least recoup a little money back...but this is totally unexpected. This is just a completely spontaneous windfall for me. I mean...what do I do with it?

Well, if a hundred times more people visited I could conceivably buy something off the McDonald's dollar menu, but by the time it happened I think inflation and the rising cost of processed meat would make that a financially unsound investment. If fifty times as many visited I could get through the toll on GA-400, but I never really use 400 anyway (but I never have enough change to get through anyway, so perhaps this would be a wiser move that I would have initially thought.) If two hundred thousand times as many people came I could finally buy a Wii! That sounds like a good goal to shoot for.

Not that it matters yet. Google won't release any money to you until you've made $100 anyway, so I have a little while to plan.

Thank you, Google Adsense!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tales From Music School: Part One

Many people who know me now are surprised to learn that I used to be a jazz musician. Or at least, a jazz musician in training. I went to Georgia State University for two years for jazz, then transferred to the very prestigious University of North Florida for another two. It's a fascinating culture filled with some very interesting people and I've always wanted an excuse to write about it.

First, I want to start with what was a very influential precursor to my college career, the GHP program. If you've never heard of it, it's a summer program in Georgia that takes rising juniors and seniors and basically puts them into a University setting for six weeks. You live in the dorms, you take classes. I got in through the jazz program, taught by a funny little man named Fritz. I had elected to go there instead of on a trip to Canada with the rest of my high school band, which I kind of regretted at the time.

My roomate was this little puckish guy named Michael. He was this sort of rebellious Catholic intellectual who described his religion as "sandpapering your soul" whenever you did something bad. He was there for Social Studies I think. We used to discuss philosophy in the way only pretentious teenagers can; vigorously and very knowingly. We had cable in our room (a new experience for me. Back home in rural Georgia I was just ecstatic to get the UHF channels) and he and I discovered Space Ghost together.

[Side Note: it's actually amazing how influential something like that could be. We thought Space Ghost was the fucking greatest thing in the world. The. Fucking. Greatest. I actually went in some of my free time to look on the internet for more information about it. It was only the second time I'd ever been on the internet and to think that when I looked at the Space Ghost site that was up then I was looking into my own future. I ended up working with many of the people who were responsible for that site and what would be the first glimmerings of Adult Swim. If I had never watched that show with Michael, where would I be now?]

The jazz program itself was a mishmash of egos and more egos. It comes with the territory. I was a flashy, prideful trumpet player back then. I was into Clifford Brown and Arturo Sandoval. High notes and fast lines. Problem was, I never learned how to improvise the right way. It was unfathomable to me at that time that someone could actually read every single chord change and improvise to it. So like any pretentious ass would, I took shortcuts. The chromatic scale was my friend because no matter what you played, you were only a half step away from the right note. And I could play it fast. So the first night we were there we had a jam session.

A note about jam sessions. Later I would realize what they really were: masturbation sessions where instrumentalists got to pull their cocks out and compare sizes. The song we played that night was Dizzy Gillespie's A Night in Tunisia, as cliche a jam session song as you could ask for. It also featured a nice break in between choruses so those of us who couldn't keep up with the changes would know where were were.

I came out blazing. I stepped up, put my Harmon mute in ("yeah," they said, only because they'd seen Miles with a Harmon and that meant it was the Real Deal) and played as fast and as high as I could. People were floored, I think, with my speed and seeming virtuosity. It wasn't until two weeks later that the whole thing collapsed when someone thought to ask "Hey...are you just playing the chromatic scale?"

I met two people there that would be a great influence on me later on in college. The first was the other trumpet player, Tommy. He was a jerk, but a nice guy. If you know somebody like him you'll know what I mean. He spent the entire time calling out "Nice!" whenever someone made a mistake. He was pretty funny, so we didn't mind.

The second was Clyde, a tenor saxophonist from south Georgia. In an act of very uncharacteristic gregariousness, I invited myself to sit with him at lunch one day because I liked the way he played and he seemed like a cool guy. He seemed to have kept to himself until then. From that point on Clyde was one of my closest friends. He knew I was a faker, but he hung out with me anyway.

Other vague memories of GHP: Fritz used to sing the drum parts out like "Kang ta kang, ta gonk gonk," which was hilarious. I took a philosophy course as one of my minors and learned about Immanuel Kant. Read "The Island of Dr. Moreau" in another English minor class and somehow, while discussing it, revealed the ending of Phenomenon -- which apparently most of the class had not seen and now, because of me, never would. There was a young alto sax player named Dusty who was kind of a hotshot and took twenty minute solos. The other alto sax player, Reed, looked exactly like me. It was uncanny. One or two of the other kids from my school left the program early, apparently unable to deal with six weeks away from home.

One of the things I remember best about the whole experience (and I'll wrap it up with this) is hanging out with Michael and the small group of friends we accumulated. It may be difficult to understand why that was so remarkable, but in the circles I was in back in high school, things just didn't work that way. You had friends, but they were callous and funny, never thoughtful and nice. On July 19th, my birthday, I had to skip lunch because we had a rehearsal for something or other. Turns out Michael and the rest had planned a little birthday party for me, which I couldn't go to. They got me a card and everything. I was just blown away by it, and to date it's still one of the nicest, most unexpected things anyone's ever done for me.

Anyway, that's all for GHP. Not a lot to really say there, except that it really helped formulate my college years, which is where things really gets more interesting.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Digg Me!

Hey, somebody's put in a Digg story about the site. How awesome is that? So...digg me already!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Review: The Android's Dream

Every year at Christmas I get gift cards from various family members who A) either remember my great love of reading or B) are heavily prompted by yours truly as soon as the temperature starts to drop that damn it, I've run out of books again! So, armed with about $100 in Barnes & Noble gift cards I stormed the bookstore down the street from work the day after Christmas, ready to fill up my reading calender for the next six months.

I left with no money and only three books.

I could blame the fact that there's almost nothing of value being written in science fiction these days (somewhat true), but it's really because the three books I found were kind of expensive, but I couldn't think of one I didn't desperately want to read. I got Mathematicians in Love by Rudy Rucker, The Android's Dream, by John Scalzi and Game Writing: Narrative for Video Games, by a few members of the IGDA Writers' Special Interest Group. But it's Android's Dream I want to talk about now.

This was a very entertaining book. My tastes of late have been kind of dark and angsty, so it was nice to delve into what Scalzi calls on his site his "popcorn book." It most definitely is that. I came away from the novel not dissatisfied, but not full, either. Let me put it this way: Android's Dream is no classic. But I had a lot of fun reading it, and I would encourage anyone who likes words to check it out.

Basically, Harry Creek works for the government, telling people (and aliens) bad news. Why? Mainly because his Army training leave him unfazed in the face of distraught extraterrestrials, but also because he's got a buddy higher up in the government, Ben Javna, who at the beginning of this book very desperately has need of Creek's unique skill set. Creek has to find a particular sheep so that he can save the world from a mass alien invasion.

What I found really ironic was how much this book smacked of Battlefield Earth. Ironic, because featured prominently in the novel is the Church of the Evolved Lamb, a religious sect based on the rambling prophecies of a bad science fiction writer (of course the Church in Android knows the prophecies are crap. They just want to see if they can make the prophecies come true.) It's nowhere the length or scope of Battlefield, and is considerably better written, but I can't shake the feeling of similarity, especially as the book starts to wind down.

Anyway, to sum up, this was a good, if mildly fluffy, read. Better than Mathematicians in Love, for sure. The characters seem human, and so do the aliens, which is always a nice touch in a funny book. The only thing better than laughing at our own foibles is laughing at those same foibles in things different from us. I'll give this one a "Sure, you should read it."

Thursday, February 8, 2007


So after seeing some videos of the nifty new Beryl desktop for Linux, I thought I'd give it a try. I'd never used Linux before, but every computer geek I know seems to swear by it. After talking to my friend Austin, I downloaded Knoppix and gave it a try.

Knoppix was cool, though I couldn't get Beryl to run on my laptop since no one makes 3D Acceleration drivers for my crappy little SiS graphics chipset. So I brought it in to work and gave it a try on my more powerful machine here. Success! I played with the cool 3D Desktop stuff for a bit, but running an OS off a CD isn't really designed for speed and it was hanging up a lot. The multiple desktops mapped on a 3D cube was really cool, but would have been more useful at home where I don't have dual monitors.

Since I'd found Linux somewhat interesting I decided to dual-boot Ubuntu with my XP on my laptop. I backed up my files, but restructuring my partitions was pretty nerve-wracking. I didn't want to have to reinstall everything if I screwed this up. But I got it all working fine and now my laptop dual-boots XP and Ubuntu.

One thing I can say about Linux is that in no way is it user-friendly. Really, all these people giving out Linux CDs in front of Microsoft events are deluded. For ease of use, Windows wins that battle hands down. Almost everything works in Windows automatically, with Linux I have to customize it all myself just to make the graphics cards and the wireless cards work the way they're supposed to. No way in the world the casual computer user will ever convert to Linux until more processes are automated. Even the "Human-minded" Ubuntu takes a serious investment of time to get running properly. Honestly, I've spent most of my time trying to get Linux configured how I need it to run and haven't actually done any work on the machine.

So I spent the better part of a day trying to see if there was a way to trick my crappy laptop into running 3D Acceleration, only to fail miserably. At the end of the day I couldn't even run glxinfo without the machine crashing. So I decided to install it on my desktop HP computer at home that has a much better graphics card, even though it's a bit older. I got it all installed last night and it looks like I'll be able to install Beryl, but I had to go to sleep before I could do it.

This morning my wife complained to me that my laptop is running really slowly and froze on the screen saver. I checked it and it was being pretty sluggish. I wonder if I took too much disk space away from the Windows partition. I'll probably uninstall if from my laptop for now until I get the desktop version working. If I end up using Linux all the time after I've got it where I want it, maybe I'll re-install.

All in all, for me the jury's still out on Linux. Check with me in a week or two and we'll see if I really like it or not.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007


The second RunBinary story is now up. Month Two is now covered. Whew.

"Emoticon" started from a mix of two things: first, some really cool mobile phone design concepts I saw on Digg. They could be twisted and wrapped around things and velcroed on to you. I just thought they were cool, and represented where we'll really start popularizing wearable technology. I tried to find the link, but I can't. Second was a line that popped into my head as I was walking upstairs one night. "She smiled at me, so I sent her an orgasm on my mobile." This is often how I'll get story ideas; one line just comes to me and I build a narrative around that core idea. The line never actually made it into the story, but it should be clear from reading what I extrapolated from it. Intimacy at more than arm's length.

I'm very happily married, so it's really not my scene, but I've watched people surfing social networks like MySpace, trolling for any kind of relationship they could find. I figured if the social networks move fully into the mobile space (as they already are in Japan) then that aspect would survive and most likely even thrive on the transition. Love, once removed and casual.

Anyway, that was the basis of the story, but in actuality it became far different. I hate when authors try to explain everything about their work, so I won't. I'd love to hear what people infer from it. Just, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


The next RunBinary story is done and ready to go out! I'm still not 100% happy with it, but I never am. It's called "Emoticon" and it should go up around midnight February 1. I started working last night on the next story, which I'm tentatively calling "TwoPont." It's a hugely ambitious project, and I'm frankly not sure I can get it all done in a month. If not, I have an older story I might do a quick re-write on that fits the RunBinary theme called "Excommunication" for March and put "TwoPont" out in April.

This is actually turning out to be a lot harder than I thought. Not just the scheduling and the writing, but staying on the RunBinary theme all the time is kind of limiting. Still, it's doing what I wanted it to do: forcing me to write and come up with new expressions of similar ideas. Guess we'll see in a couple of months if I can keep it up.

Friday, January 26, 2007

First Draft Done!

The first draft of my next RunBinary story, "Emoticon," is done. Yep, I'm cutting it a little close, but I think with the weekend I'll have plenty of time to revise. I don't know if I'm happy with it. Like I always do I'll probably look at it tomorrow and think "What the hell did I write that for?" Then a week after that I'll look at it again and think "Why, that's the greatest thing ever written!" And the cycle will repeat until I've forgotten I've written the story. It's a little long for my tastes and kind of meandering, so for the revision I'll be looking to cut some material and tighten the points. Only five+ days left!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Cirque Du Soleil

My wife and I went to see Cirque Du Soleil on Saturday. It was the first time either of us had ever been, so in spite of its comically-serious reputation we were excited to see it. We showed up just a few minutes late, so we had to be seated after the first act, about ten minutes in, three rows from the stage. The big tent they erected in Atlantic Station at Midtown is pretty intimate, so we were pretty much flush against the stage.

I always feel bad when I get front-row seats at things that this. I'm very tall and I know this has got to piss off whomever is behind me. When I go to crowded movie theaters and sit down, invariably I hear a distraught sigh. Even in the stadium seats! So I turned around during intermission and apologized to the people behind me for being so tall. I know, I know, I paid for the tickets just like they did and it's not my fault I'm tall, but still.

The show was pretty amazing. Lots of high-wire acts, acrobats and jugglers. As entertaining as the show was, I ended up musing more about the life of a Cirque performer. Are they recruited? Do they try out? What's it like having to perform perfectly every night or risk having you or someone else seriously injured? Are they all wannabe ballerinas or serious about French theater? There were a few technical mishaps; the jugglers lost two rings, which rolled into the crowd, and during a particularly spectacular acrobatic act with a square frame in the midle, one of the outer bars snapped loose, nearly throwing the acrobat off.

It ended up feeling shorter than I had expected, even with the thirty minute intermission, but all in all I had a great time. (The asinine parking system at Atlantic Station could be a completely different blog post.) It actually game me some great ideas about a game I pitched at work, so I'll have some interesting new stuff to add if Lazzo greenlights it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Diamond Age...and Sci-Fi?

Apparently, George Clooney and the Sci-Fi Channel are teaming up to produce a miniseries of Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age. (Link) My first reaction was "Cool, Stephenson's awesome!" Then I remembered.

Did any of you catch Riverworld, the Alex Proyas adaptation of Philip Jose Farmer's brilliant cycle of books? I did, actually before I read them, and even though the movie was a horrible pile of crap, I was convinced to give them a chance after reading the short story "Riders of the Purple Wage" in Dangerous Visions. Sci-Fi butchered that story beyond simile. What about Earthsea? Dune? (I actually liked their version of Dune pretty well, except that the lighting, sets and compositing were all incredibly horrible.) My point is...they're going to ruin it.

Maybe it's because I still haven't forgiven them for canceling Farscape, but any classic story Sci-Fi touches seems bound for mass-market dumbing. Karen, our former supervising producer, and I snuck into the Comic-con Sci-Fi party with some other Cartoon Network friends in San Diego last year. It was on the rooftop of a posh hotel. Everyone there was dressed to the nines. Teal'c from Stargate SG-1 was hitting on women -- more than one at the same time. People in suits and slinky dresses were mingling and networking. Some guy from Battlestar Galactica (which I have yet to watch) tried desperately to suck up to us in an ultimately futile attempt to get on Family Guy. It hardly seemed possible that anyone there was a real bona fide sci-fi geek.

(I do have to mention that one of the more pleasant people I've ever met at one of those things was the lead actor from Eureka. Karen had seen the pilot only a few days before and had begun talking to him about it when he was pulled away by someone else. About half an hour later he actually sought her out, apologized for being pulled away and we engaged in what turned out to be a forty-five minute conversation about the show. Very nice man, I need to watch that show.)

My point is, I'm not sure the people at Sci-Fi have more than a marketing manager's understanding of the genre. When you stepped into (or rather on, as it was held on a boat) the Adult Swim party, the whole Adult Swim vibe was there in spades. Minimalist, strange and a little grungy. The Sci-Fi party was all flash and plastic, which unfortunately shows exactly what their attitude towards science fiction is. Shallow and marketable.

Though Diamond Age isn't my favorite Stephenson work (Snow Crash? Cryptinomicon?) I think I'm going to hate what they and George Clooney do to it.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Progress and Broken Glass

Work on the next RunBinary story is steaming along -- note that I said steaming and remember that steam engines aren't all that fast. It's actually turned into a more plot-driven story than I originally intended, which means that the draft is running longer and longer as I plot out the narrative. This is exactly why I rarely outline before writing. It's usually two or three pages in before I know what the story's really about. But I'm fairly happy with the results and hope that I get the bulk of it done in time to do a revision or two before February 1. I had actually hoped to get this story done early so I could have extra time with the next one, which is already a lot more involved in my head for a variety of reasons, but I guess you can't rush this stuff.

Over the weekend my wife car was broken into outside our house. Tammie has been off on a shoot all this past week (she's a film student) and she's borrowed my Element, so I'm the one stuck with the green '97 Geo Prizm with no driver-side window. That's not really true; I did get the window fixed about five hours after it happened, but the window people messed up the lock and don't have time to fix it until Saturday, so I'm still reserving the right to bitch. The thing that gets me is that whoever broke into the Prizm tried to steal the radio, but only managed to get the detachable face off. I just have no clue why you'd break into a car to steal a radio when you have absolutely no idea how to actually steal a radio. Not to mention the fact that that radio is, like six years old. You couldn't trade that thing for a week-old plate of hummus. Still, I guess it's a good thing a lot of criminals are stupid. Got to give our education system props for that, I guess.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Something New in Games

The other day I walked across the street to take a look at the new space all my old cohorts at just moved into. It's very nice -- cube farm, but nice and new. A bit corporate for my tastes, but hey, where I work there's a Santa Claus chained to a pole with candy canes shoved through his eyes, so perhaps my view is a bit skewed. While I was there I ran into my friend Matt, who's the head writer on the upcoming Cartoon MMO project. We talked about video games for a bit and he made the comment that while all these next-gen games like Gears of War are really well done, he's waiting for something new.

I bring this up because it's something I hear all the time. On nearly every game site I visit there's some journalist there bemoaning the lack of innovation in gaming -- why the hell doesn't someone come out with anything innovative, damn it! So when Matt brought up the fact that he was tired of playing the same old thing over and over, it got me thinking about that again. What is this need for something new?

The novel was invented somewhere around a thousand years ago, and has yet to see any significant improvements beyond the printing press ("just a gimmick!" I imagine some Renaissance scrivener sneering. "A delivery system does not good content make!"). Basketball, Football and Baseball have been around for decades and people are still playing it. Think about that. The exact same game being played for decades without getting old. With very small variances, the same game passed down from father to son. The feature film shares a similar pedigree of non-innovation yet enjoys healthy attendance. Why?

Because, in my opinion, it's not about the method of play, it's about the experience. No new game genres have been invented for the last ten years. Honestly, I think that's a good thing. I think it's unnecessarily dismissive to say that, for instance, the First Person Shooter has been done to perfection when it's only been fifteen years or so since it arrived on the scene. Every FPS may just be a variation on a theme, but that doesn't stop each one from being a unique chance to do something actually new with the content inside. Just as Seven Samurai is Magnificent Seven is A Bug's Life, there can be wildly different, and equally viable, takes on the same theme.

But why would the lack of innovation be good? Because now people can actually start working on doing new and original things in previously established genres without the rug being pulled out from under them. Imagine trying to write a book where the rules keep changing ("Write right to left, no, left to right --no, everyone's writing in spirals these days!"). You'd end up with a muddled mess that had to copy anything that achieved any kind of success in the new format, which is why there are so many space marines and humanoid mutant aliens with machine guns in FPS games. I think Assassin's Creed is a great example of how games can still be innovative while not breaking the platformer genre wide open. Introduce more freedom, add realistic quirks that make you feel like more of a badass (cutting down platforms to cover your tracks) and develop complex AI behaviors like social stealthing and you've got what looks like an amazing experience to play -- that isn't anything actually "new."

I just think the continuous call for innovation stems from growing up in a time of lightning-fast growth in the gaming indstry. So much changed so fast that we're like ravenous rabbits with ADD. Give us more, more, more! When, in fact, we're not really even done with what we've been given already. Many gamers bemoan their 8- and 16-bit glory days, but for me, games have never been as good, or had as much potential, as they do right now.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Houston Ft Worth?

I've been meaning to tell this story for a while. It's embarrassing, but it's still pretty funny, so I think it's worth airing out (before someone else does.)

A couple of months ago I flew to visit FUNimation in Ft. Worth Texas for an as-yet unlaunched project for work. I was jonesing pretty hard to get the project approved, so as a cost-cutting measure I decided to fly out there, get what I needed and fly back in the same day. I had done it once before, in my Behind the Scenes of Fullmetal Alchemist feature and while I'm pretty sure I had thought it was a bad idea then, I did it again anyway.

To start with, this was the worst flight I'd ever had in my life. I'm a big guy, 6'6", not skinny by any stretch, and the plane I was flying out seemed like it was built for Kentucky Derby jockeys. I had to duck and lean my head 50 degrees just to walk in aisle. I had a window seat, which I usually like, because I can rest my head on the wall (I'm too tall to be able to comfortably use the seat pillows) but the slope of the plane side was so sharp that I had to continue to bend my head the wrong way at an unnatural angle. Plus, of course, no leg room and a pretty robust seat neighbor, and I was getting pretty claustrophobic.

Then the kicking began.

Oh, the kicking. This kid, around four or five I guess, was directly behind me, kicking in sophisticated, asynchronous rhythms on the back of my seat. And chanting. Chanting. "Oom ba doom ba doom ba doom!" And this kid had endurance. She had a methodical persistence the snare players in the New York Philharmonic would have envied. The entire flight. Two whole hours. To the apparent delight or apathy of her mother, who must have learned to tune it out months ago. Then finally, great hulking relief! The pilot announced that soon we would be landing in the Houston airport.

Wait. Dallas/Ft. Worth!

Flashback. Me booking the flight in my old cube pausing briefly to call to my cube neighbors "Hey. It's Houston/Ft. Worth, right?" and having received no answer, assuming I was right.

The agony of turning to the guy next to me: "Erp. Um. Where uh...where is Ft. Worth? From Houston? Is it close?"

"About four hours north."

Yes, I'm the biggest moron on the planet. As soon as the plane set down I saw that I had a message from Jill at FUNimation, who was picking me up. "That flight number you gave me is going to Houston. I hope that wrong." No. No, Jill. It wasn't. And I was supposed to meet with the core group of people I'd be working with at two and here it was, noon. And more good news! They can't find the bag they had made me stow, which had a lot of expensive equipment in it! Thankfully they did find it (a tag had ripped off of it) and I could finally leave the plane after about ten minutes of arguing that I had indeed boarded the plane with just such a bag. I frantically booked a connecting flight to Dallas/Ft. Worth, called my wife to tell her what happened, endured her laughter, picked up my oddly soaked bad from baggage claim (it had been raining in Atlanta, but bright and sunny in Texas) and rechecked it at the gate next door. Fortunately this plane was much nicer and I was comfortable enough to be able to think clearly about what a moron I was.

I met with everyone at FUNimation just in the nick of time and the project went pretty smoothly, if hurried. They had a few jokes at my expense, but I deserved them. After only about two and a half hours I had to leave once again to catch my return flight, only to find out that the flight was delayed two hours. At this point I welcomed the rest and broke out some of the advance screener DVDs they'd given me (the job does have its perks.) The flight boarded and everything went smoothly going back.

Once I got back to the office I was surprised to find no one making fun of me about it. I mean if anyone deserved it, I did. So I thought it was over with until Keith Crofford (the big business guy of Adult Swim) saw the extra flight charges on my expense report. He then spoke to Karen, our then-supervising producer and asked what I'm sure was on everyone's mind: "Is he a moron or something?"

After I heard that I sent an apology to Keith and offered to pay for the difference myself, but he was cool about it in his stern way and just told me to never let it happen again.

You better believe I won't. I'm flying to San Francisco in March and you can be sure...I checked the name of the city twice.

Anonymous Comments

I've just realized that the comments on this blog were set to "logged-in only." And, you know...screw that. So now anyone can post anything. Isn't that wonderful?

Monday, January 8, 2007

Children of Men

My wife and I saw Children of Men tonight. If you haven't seen the trailer, watch it. I've been looking forward to this movie since I first saw the trailer a few months ago and it didn't disappoint. It was the perfect use of film science fiction.

Too often in movies, science fiction is an easy out, or an attractive special effect. Hollywood too often makes it shallow, or escapist, or dressed-up fantasy (Star Wars, I'm looking at you.) There have been a few films recently that have used it to its most effective purpose: metaphor and meaningful speculation. Another film that recently used SF to this higher end was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In Eternal, there is only a drop of science fiction in it, the technology used in order to erase memories, but only this small drop enables the film to delve into a broader message about relationships and the barriers we put up between ourselves and the ones we love.

In that regard Children of Men did exactly that. By supposing simply that humankind is suddenly no longer able to reproduce, a whole world of metaphor opens up about survival and what procreation means in the grand scheme of our lives. ***SPOILERS***There is a great personal story here as well, as Theo (Clive Owen) learns to overcome the death of his son by trying to bring the first new life in almost twenty years into a bleak, hopeless world.***/SPOILERS***

The action was fantastic, and even more importantly, believable. For science fiction to truly do its metaphorical job, a writer or director can't be sloppy about the real-life details. The action scenes had the gritty, on-the-ground feel that made Saving Private Ryan so effective and the movie keeps its own pace, never rushing to get to the next explosion. There was nothing unreal or laughingly unlikely about it, which is something most SF fails utterly at -- which is why few SF films will pull you in like Children of Men does.

All and all, it's a crime that this film will ultimately be overlooked by everyone. But at least it was made and I got to watch it, which is good enough for me.

Friday, January 5, 2007


I've posted the existence of this place on the boards over at and the feedback has been largely positive, for which I'm very grateful. There's always that moment of tension where you're not sure anyone's going to like something you've done, but thanks to the users at that's passed. They may just be humoring me because I work for Adult Swim, but I appreciate it anyway.

One user did leave a comment on my Fan Collective blog about me kind of going overkill with the self-promotion. He or she may have just been kidding (or maybe not) but it actually struck a bit of a nerve. Self-promotion is something I'm horrible at. I hate doing it, I hate trying to tout myself or my work at all, because it brings a caustic level of scrutiny to bear on whatever it is you're promoting. When I first started this, that was something I dreaded. But what's the point of putting up stories on the net if you can't get people to read them? It ruins the whole idea of bypassing traditional publishers if no one reads it. But maybe that'll be my answer; that traditional publishers serve a purpose and that this isn't the way to get your work read. But until that's clear I'll promote RunBinary at least once on as many places as I know. Once some people know it exists I'll be happy, even if they don't continue to visit, because that will be a true test of whether or not my writing is any kind of quality at all.

Still, self-promotion sucks. Wish I didn't have to do it.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

RunBinary Launches

A couple of days ago I launched my little pet project, RunBinary. It was about three or four months in the making, ever since I decided that I wanted to create a webzine with the theme of exploring the social impact of the internet in science fiction. Exactly one day later I realized I was too broke to pay for any other stories but mine, so I sat on the idea for a little while until I read Cory Doctorow's article in Wired about giving fiction away. I realized he had the right idea. So I'm going to write one story a month and put them up on this website for free.

I mean, what are short stories for, anyway? Why do we as writers try so hard to get in print? It's not the money. Magazines pay very little for the amount of effort that goes into each story. It's the recognition. That someone who has been deemed an Expert by the publishers had selected your work out for quality, thus proving to everyone who could have dared doubt that you are worth reading?

I know what it's like to be in an editor's shoes, so don't think I'm ragging on them. At work I'm in charge of vetting game pitches; I more or less choose what gets made and what doesn't (of course my boss has the final say, but I'm the first line of defense, so to speak). It bothers me sometimes what little quirks of concept or gameplay differentiate a winning pitch and one that's going to end up in my "rejected" bin. Luckily, short stories are almost by nature a solitary endeavor. I don't need to pay artists and animators and programmers to make them happen. I don't need a budget. While going through some more pitches I came to the realization: I don't need the approval of some editor somewhere. I just need to get my stuff out there and let people vote with their eyeballs. If it goes well, maybe I'll get some fans out of it. If it goes badly, I've just wasted 12 stories - which must have not been all that good anyway. I can always write more stories.

Not that I'm abandoning traditional ink publishers. I've got quite a good story that doesn't fit the RunBinary theme, so I'll continue to submit it and others like it to traditional publishers. I'm honestly just so damned lazy when it comes to formatting the story, printing it, putting it into an envelope and mailing it that this website is a more attractive option. The writing's the fun part. Mailing...not so much.

Well, if anyone ever sees this little experiment, thanks for coming. I guess we'll see how it goes.