For some time now, I’ve been working behind the scenes on illustrations for the ebook collection of Rob’s
Postcards From Lepari. I’ve still got some work left to do, but I just finished outlining the cover art for the
book today and I wanted to share it with you all.
For some time now, I’ve been working behind the scenes on illustrations for the ebook collection of Rob’s
There was something strange about the sleek #000000 vessel carving its way through the harsh glare of the datasea. Sairyn shielded her eyes and peered at the approaching ship; it was unusual to encounter another blazer this far outside the core, and no ordinary prog could survive the unrelenting decompilation of the churning ocean. Even as she watched, she could feel the shifting electrons beneath her hull, repelled only by the force of her will as she skipped the waves. As a blazer she existed as both captain and ship, two individual threads of her runtime. If her attention faltered, the datasea would not hesitate to devour her.
‘Trouble?’ asked Enfi from amidships.
‘Perhaps.’ Sairyn glanced back at the precursor. He was too young for this; she should never have agreed to take him blazing with her until he’d proven that he could survive on his own beyond the core. If he fell overboard now, User forbid, he’d decompile in a nanosec. But it was too late to second-guess herself now, with an unknown ship running with the datastream on an intercept course too fast to outrun even if she hadn’t been weighed down with a cache full of location data. She’d barely believed her luck when Enfi had spotted land, an uninhabited node just waiting to be connected to the net; but there was no way for a blazer to initiate a connection. That remained the privilege of the core systems.
Enfi joined her at the prow. ‘Does your hull do that?’ he asked after studying their pursuer.
‘Do what?’ she asked.
‘Flux. It’s in constant superposition between decompilation and reconstruction.’
Sairyn peered closer, cursing herself for not spotting it earlier. ‘Pirates,’ she hissed. ‘Compile a weapon!’
Sex is many things to many people. Sex is love, power, release, revenge, an endless affirmation of lifelong companionship or an urgent night of lust between strangers. Sex is a defining moment, or a comfortable constant, or a swirling haze of passion and snatched recollection as time quickens and slows with reckless abandon. It’s a spectrum of wants and desires stretching beyond the horizon in every direction, an intrinsic part of our cultural existence.
Yet while sex may be the underlying theme of 90 percent of popular music and countless novels and movies hailed as classics, videogames have struggled to keep up.
It’s no surprise that gaming and sex have a dysfunctional relationship. Even as the average age of the gaming population has soared upward, videogames have remained mired in immaturity. When a player’s interactions with their world are limited to increasingly graphic displays of violence, slow-motion headshots and decapitations, sex can never be more than a distraction from the chaos, God of War‘s ridiculous vase-breaking QTE merely a brief moment of vapid titillation between tearing the heads from mythology’s finest creations.
Even if game developers want to broach the topic, the enjoyable elements of sex are notoriously difficult to reproduce in isolation, entwined so deeply with emotion, connection and the specific desires of the individual; the very idea of translating such an act in full into satisfying game mechanics seems both futile and more than a little creepy to modern sensibilities. So if the physicality of sex has no place in modern mainstream games, what about its emotional elements? What about sex as a narrative device, a lens to draw focus onto a character and their relationships with others?
It’s Day 6 of Thirty Memories, and so far I have six memories written down in a book with varying levels of detail and specificity, as planned. So far, though, it hasn’t been the written memories which have surprised me; it’s been how starting my day trying to recall something from my past jumpstarts my memory for the rest of the morning. I’ve been walking to work each day this week with my mind racing, picking up fragments that I’d forgotten and piecing them together into some sort of in-progress jigsaw.
Some of the memories I’d have been quite happy to forget, yet it’s been an oddly therapeutic experience overall so far. I may not have always reacted to events in a way that I would’ve wanted, but with the benefit of hindsight, and viewing such reactions in the wider context of who I was at the time and how I’ve changed, I can at least understand why the person I was then made those mistakes, and reassure myself that in the same situation now I’d react differently. Perhaps in that understanding I can accept those memories as part of who I was, rather than continuing to feel embarrassed about my younger self’s reactions to events.
It means a lot to hear about those of you joining in on this little experiment, and I hope your recall is proving to be a positive experience. Here’s to Week 2!
To round out this first week, I found a couple of memory-related links which are worth a look:
Finally, an intriguing TED lecture about the increasing role of external tools – such as smartphones and the internet – to outsource human processes such as memory:
It’s April 1st, so today is the start of Thirty Memories! Over the following month, I’ll be writing down thirty memories, one per day. I’ll be starting with things that I can already recall, but hopefully I’ll begin recalling things lost to me as I immerse myself in memory.
I’ll be using the hashtag #30memories on Twitter for any discussions or updates, so if you fancy joining in, no doubt I’ll see you there! While I encourage you to explore your memories and see what you can find, I’ll be posting occasional memory prompts on Twitter as an optional starting point, something to springboard off if your mind goes blank, and I’ll be sharing links to articles and videos related to the topic that I come across.
If you fancy joining in, please note the previously-mentioned guidelines, particularly with regard to sharing personal memories. I want this month to be a positive experience for everyone involved, and that we can all relearn a little about ourselves as a result.
Time to delve into memory!
When I decided to write down my memories, I knew I wanted to do it longhand – I spend so much of my time at keyboards and screens that any break from that would be welcome – but I’d need the right book. Like most writers I’ve built up a small hoard of notebooks of myriad shapes, colours and sizes, but none of them seemed appropriate.
I was just about to go notebook shopping when I mentioned my plight to a good friend. She immediately dashed off, only to return with an exceedingly interesting green-gold notebook, full of rough, hand-made pages:
I love it. It’s shiny and soft, and the imperfections in the paper should make it a totally different prospect from typing on a keyboard.
Where are you going to record your memories? On a keyboard, or a phone, or on scraps of paper to be dashed into the fire? Or do you have a carefully-chosen or fortuitously-obtained notebook saved for a worthwhile purpose?
It’s less than a week until April, and Thirty Memories has snuck up on me faster than I could’ve imagined. The response I’ve had to the idea so far has been fantastic, and I’ve been delighted by the different directions people have chosen to take the idea in. Jenny’s going to be phoning her 97-year-old Grandma and writing down her tales. I’ll be using it as an excuse to practice writing from my own experience, as well as rediscovering lost memories.
I’ll be posting regularly over the next week, counting down to the start of April, trying to build a little more awareness of this project, and seeing whether anyone else is interested in joining in. Full guidelines are provided in the post linked above, but feel free to deviate into whatever aspect interests you the most.
Tomorrow: the book of memories!
In the window of my local used-game emporium sits a boxed Collector’s Edition of Tabula Rasa, its ragged price-tag scrawled in faded permanent marker. An unwanted fragment of gaming history, a treasured memory for the few who immersed themselves in the worlds of Foreas and Arieki, rendered unplayable when NCSoft switched off the servers in 2009. Tabula Rasa lived for a brief eighteen months, and now all we’re left with are relics and memories.
The question of how to preserve virtual worlds has become one of growing prominence in the 21st century, the subject of research by Stanford University and the Library of Congress amongst others. If we agree that much can be learned about a culture from its art and media, then it stands to reason that massively-multiplayer online games – as a form of media built primarily on the interactions of multiple players and the creation of ad-hoc communities – could be an invaluable source of anthropological data for any future historians trying to understand the values and mores of society in the first two decades of the new millennium. Digital preservation of games previously focused on recovering code from decaying floppy discs – and ensuring the survival of outdated hardware or emulation to run it on. That may be enough, but only as long as a game is playable on a single machine. With the rise of online play, digital preservation suddenly became a whole lot more challenging.
This moment lives in my memory. I’ve walked this road before, with these companions by my side. While for them it’s the first time – the only time – I know different. In the ruined city at the end of the road one of them will die and there is nothing I can do about it. There is no other story. It is fate, destiny; it is written. Aeris dies.
To go on is to condemn an innocent to death. It will not be my hand on the blade, but if it is my insistence on continuing – when I could turn away from destiny, ignore what was written, spend my life in simpler pursuits – is her death not equally on my hands?
I pause, then turn and walk back the way I came. She lives. Now I have two memories of this moment, held in endless superposition.
Splashing through the waves, I scramble onto the island. My head pounds with adrenaline and smoke inhalation in equal measure as I stare up at the lighthouse. It bathes in the flickering firelight of the burning sea left in my wake. Step by painful step, I press on, stumbling through ornate doors beneath a looming golden statue. No gods or kings. Only man. I’ve heard of this place, so many recorded voices describing its glories; so many tales told in wonder and delight around a bar room table; praise, plaudits, pledges of allegiance, the congregation proclaiming the name of their new cult:
Memory is a strange thing; triggered by smells, sounds, faces glimpsed in reflections in shop windows, recalling emotions and events from years ago back to the present. I’ve always been fascinated by the whimsical, often unreliable nature of both short-term and long-term memory, the tension of having information you once knew on the tip of your tongue – as if your brain has located the void where the correct memory should’ve been but has yet to locate the memory itself – and the euphoria of filling in that blank, followed by a rush of connected information.
How many memories have I formed in my lifetime? I can’t keep track of everything; not all of it is relevant to the person I am now. How many memories have I forgotten? It’s been on my mind recently, especially in light of an unpleasant streak of early-onset Alzheimers in my extended family: if my memory is fallible, I want to find a way of keeping my most important memories safe.
To finish off this week’s HeavenWard art, a poster of the main cast. Thanks for looking!
I wanted the first thing you notice to be his half-mask. His perceived destiny is heavily influenced by the prophecy of the next Buddha leading the world into a new age, and so I wanted that mask to reflect the neutral, enlightened expression commonly found on the faces of Buddha statues. I thought it unnerving to have the mask of inner peace on part of the face while the eyes were still visible to betray Maitreya’s actual emotions.
Oh, and while I gave him a robe, I left his chest bare because I was sick of women getting to be the only ones to be showing some skin in video games ;)