Thursday, 22 April 2010

From Your Blogosphere Correspondent (22/04/10)

Didn't think Your Blogosphere Correspondent would be back so soon? Well, no - neither did I. But then, there's been so much news this week that I'd be drowning trying to round it all up alongside whatever else happens between today and the provisional date I'd planned to get my correspondence on. So. Hello again!

First on the agenda, as with the last edition, has to be... more Apple news. I know, I know. Now that I've found my way around the gorgeous new HTC Desire that I discussed last week, in fact, I know especially what a tremendous turn-off yet another round of iPad and iPhone gossip can be. But it just keeps on coming, and whether or not you or I care particularly, there're plenty of tiddlypeeps out there who do. Thus.

In the wake of the month-long delay of the iPad's launch in the UK, this week saw some truly terrifying news for those gadget fans with an eye to buying a giant iPhone. It's strictly rumour yet, but one reseller - Newton Systems - has priced the entry model (which retails for $499 in the US) at £599, with the 64GB, 3G-enabled iPad looking to fetch £749 hereabouts versus the infinitely more reasonable Stateside price-tag of $699. All of which - if there's any truth to it - is absolutely scandalous. Here in the UK, we're pretty used to being paying over the odds for foreign tech, but this - and for the veiled denials by way of the statement that official pricing has not yet been disclosed, it's as likely truth as fabrication - this is just taking the piss.

In happier Apple news, a new iPhone iteration has been inadvertently revealed. Gizmodo have the specs and such here. The story of how they came into possession of the 4G model makes for vastly more interesting reading, however. You can read all about it here - needless to say, German ale is largely to blame - though I'd stress that this isn't completely honest reporting: the Giz paid the big bucks to get their hands on this new iPhone, and they gloss over that part of the story entirely; though every other detail, it seems, is fair game. Hmmm.

But enough of all the iNews!

Roget Ebert, noted film critic, has once again been enflaming the debate over whether video games can ever be considered art. Note that I say "film critic" rather than "art critic." The man knows his stuff, and he makes several fine points, but in the making misses the pivotal point entirely. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, art is - in all its forms - an entirely subjective entity, and Ebert allows no room for interpretation. And it is in the interpretation, surely, that a thing becomes art. I might turn up my nose at Damien Hirst or some other modernist nonsense filthing up gallery walls, but I wouldn't for a second deny other people their own readings. Ebert, on the other hand, seems perfectly content that his opinion - that "video games can never be art" - is THE opinion. It is not. He is mistaken. And he deigns, in his infinite wisdom, not to experience any of the various games that could challenge his misconception.

What he forgets, as Mr Shivers author Robert J. Bennett asserts in a considered rebuttal on his blog, is that though most video games are of course commercial products, the actual experience of them is not at all dictated by profit margins or executive interference. No two people play a single game in exactly the same way. The differences might be superficial, but their experiences are no less unique for the strict path some games insist their players take. And even if they were, no-one's taking film to task for being, in Bennett's terminology, a dead medium, static and utterly closed. Why should video games have to measure up to a difference standard? And come to that, why should commercial considerations be such a damning factor? Does cinema simply happen somehow, somewhere outside the real world?

It's all a bit ridiculous, really. Ebert is resolutely old guard and I don't expect his opinion to change any time soon, no matter how many times you show him Flower or Braid. He was right in one thing, at least: to have resisted stepping into this arena for so long. Nor would I welcome him back into it if he remains so unprepared to take the challenges put to him seriously. Of course video games are art - even the worst of them are, in much the same way as the likes of Transformers is to film: they are pop art. But their popularity does not exclude them from any other interpretation.

Since we're talking video games, a few related tidbits have broken this past week. Firstly, two voice actors have outed some of the villains we'll be seeing in Batman: Arkham Asylum 2, the inevitable sequel to perhaps the best game of last year. We'll be graced with some of the most interesting characters in the Batman mythology: Talia al Ghul, daughter of the great Ra's, and Mr Freeze, unfairly derided because of Arnold's campy portrayal in the movie which must not be named.

I'm psyched. The Arkham Asylum engine was incredibly strong, and Rocksteady clearly hold old Batsy near and dear to their hearts. I don't doubt they'll do these two characters justice. The interminable wait continues...

Meanwhile, all signs point to the next Silent Hill game being a first-person shooter. Not at all sure how I feel about that. This is a franchise I've loved since I was but an ickle Scotsman, and it's had a rough time - to say the least - since Team Silent, its original developers, moved on. And with the news of Akira Yamaoka's departure from Konami entirely, the last correlation between the Silent Hill of old and the Silent Hill we've seen in Origins and lately Shattered Memories is gone. I'll miss his wonderfully atmospheric soundtracks, I'm sure. Here's hoping Vatra can do something less destructive with their iteration of the franchise than giving some misbegotten fool a gun and setting them to massacre a horde of monsters.

But books. Remember those? Your Blogosphere Correspondent certainly hasn't forgotten about them. In that spirit, here's a lovely trailer for Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess' forthcoming Instructions:

Wasn't that lovely?

In other news, the shortlist for the Locus awards has been announced, and unlike the American Idol of speculative fiction ceremonies - ie the Hugos - these are awards I can get behind. And not least because they've nominated Jeff Vandermeer's brilliant Finch. Once again, however, I'm surprised to see Boneshaker in the running. Was I alone in thinking Cherie Priest's first Clockwork Century novel a bit of harmless fluff? In any case, if you want to know more, head on over to SF Signal, which has a handy list with links to all the nominated fiction available for free online.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Paulo Bacigalupi of The Windup Girl renown has joined forces with Tobias Buckell of... err, something else fame (sorry) to give us The Alchemist & The Executioness, an audio-book only - for now - pairing of novellas coming sometime this summer. The Yeti what stomps on stuff has all the tasty details. I'm in.

And now, news in briefs:

I know. It's rubbish, isn't it? Well, what can you do...
Philip Pullman, having just published The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, has taken his anti-religion vitriol a step further, calling for "the wretched Catholic church [to] vanish entirely." I do not love the church - not in principle, nor as it is - but I do not agree. Let us leave it at that.

The New Yorker has a fascinating write-up on the future of literary industry. Publish or Perish is here. Read it. Go on.

The Guardian, meanwhile, have taken note of the debate surrounding the David Gemmell Legend award. If you aren't all caught up on this engaging question, start reading here, with a piece on Speculative Horizons. Congrats to James - the recognition certainly isn't anything less than deserved!

Stephen's Lot is a new blog from the pen of Adam Christopher which I'd advise you all add to your RSS readers of choice as soon as humanly possible. Our opinions of Under the Dome rather diverge, but I'll be fascinated to follow Adam on his epic journey through King's backlist (in chronological order) and see if perhaps he comes around to my way of thinking once the gent has that base of knowledge behind him. It's not that I thought Under the Dome was a bad book at all - excepting perhaps the awful ending - but in many ways it was the same book, albeit bigger, that King has been writing for decades now.

Anyway. Last of all, Joss Whedon is apparently directing The Avengers movie for Marvel. Would that he could spend his talent on something more worthwhile, but I guess he has in the past, and look at all that effort has wrought. About time the man got a bit more recognition than cult status; he surely deserves it. Werthead has the story.
That's it From Your Blogosphere Correspondent this week. I'll be back to round up all of next week's news... next week!

1 comment:

  1. Ebert merely identified a well-known obstacle. Many games use the interactiviy in a psychologically relevant way. But perhaps he's right that old people won't find art in games yet.