Thursday, 15 April 2010

From Your Blogosphere Correspondent (15/04/10)

My oh my, it has been a while, hasn't it?

Well, fair readers: never fear. As of today, Your Blogosphere Correspondent is back. I'm afraid I just don't have it in me to catch you all up on everything that's happened since the last round-up, but all the same, there's a whole host of stuff on the agenda, so let's get right to it.

The iPad came out - at least in the US - and while buying first-generation Apple hardware is never, to my knowledge, a terribly smart thing to do, I was right there with everyone during the big reveal. I'd be in the territory of porky pies and pickled lies were I to say I couldn't see the appeal; I do. Or at least, I did. But before I get to that, I'd be interested to know: who bought one? Go on, everyone, confess your consumer sins...

Yesterday, however, news broke that the iPad's UK release would be delayed until the end of May due to - apparently - overwhelming demand for the glorified tablet PC in the States. How Apple could possibly have failed to anticipate this I don't know - nor, indeed, do I care. Not a sausage. Because I have desire. An HTC Desire, that is, which is to say: the first so-called iPhone (and thereby iPad) killer I've actually believed might have a hope in hell of living up to its ledeline. I could spend this entire round-up burbling about how the Desire kicks the iPhone's shiny mechanical ass, but I'll spare you. The only downside of going against the tide, as admittedly I'm often wont to do - I still refuse to drop the big bucks on an iPod - is that the support isn't quite there yet. The Android app store, though it ticks all the boxes in theory, just isn't up to scratch compared to the Apple marketplace, but all good things in time, I think.

In the meantime, my lovely little Droid does everything I could possibly want it to. And though I certainly didn't buy it to read ebooks on, to my surprise I came across a wonderful little app called Aldiko preloaded with public domain fiction that worked so well that... well, I went and bought my first ebook. Congrats to Peter V Brett! As an ode to the author's idiosyncratic composition of The Painted Man, I thought its recently released sequel, The Desert Spear, would be the perfect fodder with which to pop my e-reading cherry. I'll report back on the particulars of my first experience with paperless fiction just as soon as I can.

Not only that, but my HTC Desire displays comics like a dream, too. As if I really needed the door opened to a medium of entertainment I'd done away with largely on the premise that physical comics simply took up too much space!

Anyway. Enough about my gorgeous new gadget. Here's a trailer for Gears of War 3:

Best thing about that? I mean, other than the fact Gears of War 3 - as if we didn't all know that it'd be along sooner than later - will be out in April 2011? Surely, it's got to be the music. Which, in fact, is very much in keeping with the trailers for the first two games of Epic's franchise. The first had Gary Jules' heartbreaking cover of "Mad World," and the Gears of War 2 campaign introduced me to DeVotchka - though I've not found a single song of theirs up to the bar set by "How It Ends". This latest trailer features music by a folk rock group going by the name Sun Kil Moon which... well, I'm just going to have investigate further, aren't I? "Heron Blue" is certainly beautiful enough to warrant a bit of legwork.

There's been interesting video game news breaking all over the place since Your Blogosphere Correspondent last wrote, in fact - and a bunch of it bearing, fortuitously, on the speculative fiction we all love so much. For starters, Richard Morgan, author of the likes of Altered Carbon and The Steel Remains, talked some smack about the quality of writing in the Halo games, which the internet, in its infinite wisdom - and not helped by some irresponsible journalism over at Kotaku - proceeded to explode over. He said:

"I don’t like the Halo series at all. Okay, Halo is not actually bad, it's just, you know, average. The reason that its fiction doesn't work has nothing to do with the fact that you don’t get to see Master Chief’s face, it's because of lines like ‘Okay... I’m gonna get up there and kill those guys'. Halo is full of these bullshit archetypal characters and there's no real emotional effect."

Of course, the Halo fanboys took Morgan's comments out of context and blew them entirely out of proportion. If you ask me, the man's spot-on. Storytelling in videogames only very, very rarely approaches the caliber of more accomplished media, and the Halo games, however polished and satisfying the gameplay mechanics are, are simply not amongst the select few games - Bioshock and Heavy Rain come to mind - which have accomplished such excellence. Which isn't to say the universe isn't well and truly ripe for a good writer to come along and exploit it properly; much as Morgan intends to do for Crysis 2 later this year - though we'll see how that goes.

By all accounts, a couple of recent announcements suggest that 2010 could well be the year in which videogame worlds become that much more legitimate. None other than award-winning sci-fi author Greg Bear has penned, speak of the devil, a Halo novel, the first in a trilogy documenting the time of the Forerunners so often referred to in the games proper. It's coming from Tor in the US this Autumn. Or Fall. Whichever season floats your goat, really. I for one am chomping at the bit to see what he's come up with.

Not only that, Tor just broke the news that they'll have an original Dead Space novel coming out in late Summer - presumably as a precursor to the release of Dead Space 2 later in the year. None of which is particularly exciting, except for the fact that Brian K Evenson, author of last year's hugely acclaimed horror novel Last Days, is writing it. Now I'm not often one for tie-ins, but as far as Dead Space: Martyr and Greg Bear's Halo novel go, I can hardly wait.

But that more than enough videogame talk. There have been books, too. There was a whole convention full of them, in fact - Eastercon, which cannily occurred over the Easter weekend this year - and though I sadly wasn't able to attend this year, Niall Harrison (hereafter known as The Other Niall) posted an excellent, involved write-up of his impressions of the gathering of geeks over on the excellent Torque Control. I'd advise you all pop over there and see what all the fuss was about. I'm really hoping to make it to a con one of these days. Come on, organisers: get something together for us misbegotten Scottish souls, why don't you?

Recent reports of Mark Charan Newton's internet demise have been exaggerated, it seems. The pot-stirrer himself returned to his rightful place at the fore of debate in and around the blogosphere with a typically insightful post on Book Factories, which you can get caught up on here. I've been skeptical of authors who release new work with such alarming regularity myself. Stephen King comes suddenly to mind. If there's not a new book bearing his name each and every Winter, I'll eat my feet. Truly, I'd rather he took his time composing better novels than those to have come out since the excellent Duma Key.

And last for today - but by no means least - Gav from the ubiquitous NextRead has kicked off Book Bloggers, a forum in the hope of keeping book bloggers such as myself from talking shop on our blogs. I've joined - though I fundamentally disagree with the premise that there's no place on blogs for discussions of blogging (nor, as Aidan of A Dribble of Ink pointed out, for discussions of not blogging about blogging on blogs) - and if you keep a blog yourself, I'd heartily recommend you do too.

Right. No news in briefs today. In fact, no more news in briefs until I've designed a spiffy image of a newspaper clad in underpants to go alongside it. So that's your lot From Your Blogosphere Correspondent today. Hope you enjoyed!

In the immortal words of - who was it again? Ernest Shackleton? - I'll be back!

Till then, what's your take on the apparent legitimisation of videogames through genre literature? Are we talking from the frying pan to the fire here, in terms of mainstream perception? And I'll ask again: are they any amongst us with an iPad? Come out come out wherever you are...


  1. I wrote on Graeme's blog yesterday about my excitement for this Dead Space book, and I still am looking forward to it. But on the whole, I steer clear of the video game literature. A video game novel has to be very special to warrant time and devotion, because it suffers from having no game-play fun-factor. Part of the thrill of Dead Space is the FPS action, which would definitely be lost in a book version. I only plan to read Dead Space: Martyr because I consider the game as one of my all-time favorites.

    However, I just don't see the general public picking up a book based off a video game. In fact, I see the general public loathing us video game nerds even more...

  2. I take it you haven't read Under The Dome yet!

    And surely one book a year isn't too much to ask - some release quite a few more than that. If you write 2000 words a day, you've got nearly three quarters of a million down a year, and from that it's not unreasonable to be able to carve out 3-4 novel drafts each year. For those with an established track record and 40 years of experience (like King), that seems about right to me.

  3. @Adam Christopher - Actually, I have indeed. Spent a couple of weeks over Christmas lugging that behemoth of a book around, but I'm afraid - though I'm usually a staunch King defender - Under the Dome just didn't click with me. There were some great ideas, no doubt about it, but I felt they were few and far between amongst the morass of repetition and repurposed characters from King's backlist. Not to mention that dreadful deus ex machina conclusion. Would that I could take those two weeks of reading back.

  4. I'll probably check out the deadspace book because it stars a geophysicist - I'm a geologist by day. I'm no gamer, so I really don't have clue about the backgroung otherwise.

    I'd missed Gav's attempt at a book blogger forum. I'll check it out if I can find the time. It's been tried before (Dragon Federation, and it failed, so I doubt this will have any staying power.