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.