Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles is a case study in overcoming adversity. Born from the chaos of Square Enix’s merger and Nintendo’s brief obsession with inter-console connectivity, this multiplayer-focused title launched to critical acclaim in 2004, at the height of the Gamecube’s popularity. Not since the days of the SNES had Nintendo fans had a notable JRPG to call their own, an absence which Crystal Chronicles was perfectly poised to capitalise on.
Announced in the wake of Final Fantasy 10, it rapidly became apparent that developer The Game Designers Studio – one of Square’s internal teams, rebranded in an act of corporate sleight-of-hand to circumvent the ongoing exclusivity deal with Sony – intended this to be a very different game to the Final Fantasies which had come before.
The Franz Kafka Award for Best Desk Job Simulation: Papers, Please
Papers, Please is weaponized monotony. Endless lines of hard-faced immigrants, labyrinthine regulations governing who is permitted to enter the glorious republic of Arstotzka, and a ticking clock counting down the seconds until the end of your shift and your inevitable confrontation with the icy fingers and empty bellies of the loving family your inattention to detail has failed. It’s spot-the-difference at an obsessive level; every passport you approve is accompanied by the fear that you’ve erred, that after five seconds of holding your breath that accursed printer will whir into action, spitting its damning citations across your already-crowded desk.
So absorbing are the minutiae that the stories creep up on you: lovers separated by barbed wire and high walls; separatists and their conspiracies; the ever-present threat of your neighbors and superiors rooting out corruption and disloyalty in the ranks; and morning newspapers full of murderers, attempted coups and the chaotic detritus of a crumbling regime. Papers, Please is at its best when it forces you to face the human cost of your petty compromises, and instead of being defined by their documents, the grim masses queuing at the border resolve once more into people.
- Rob Haines
His name is Malik. He sits across from me in one of the many identical chambers of the Shifting House, seeking a reunion. By the pearlescent light that glimmers from the lamp above our heads I can see the valleys carved by his tears, aging flesh eroded by the ravages of time and sorrow. He tries to hide his grief with a speckled grey beard, but all it conceals are the faded creases of long-lost laughter about his lips. He is sumptuously dressed in robes of purple and orange silk, clearly a man of renown outside these walls, but all men are brought low by grief. All are equal before the Sisters of the Shifting House.
He has brought me a relic: a brooch, an ornate silver rose bedecked with sapphires. A rich man’s gift. I suspect it’s worth more than everything I’ve ever owned, but any urge to covet it is driven away by the wash of emotions as I cradle it. Every object has a story, every handful of ash which trickles through my fingers has an owner. The brooch’s owner may be no more, but it remembers her, each curve of its filigree resonating with emotion’s echo. I take a deep breath, close my eyes and lower my barriers, letting the memory of desire climb my arms like tendrils of ivy, twining around my chest, choking my skin as my bones itch, realigning as my flesh melds into a form which is no longer mine.
Malik inhales sharply in recognition as I peek out from behind new eyes.
It’s been a year since I challenged myself to create the initial HeavenWard concepts in the space of only a couple of months.
Since then, the desire to turn this story into a comic has only gotten stronger, and luckily Rob’s keen on writing it. To begin with,
my original (and slightly rushed) concept art needed to be revisited and overhauled.
And so, I’d like to (re-)introduce the main character of HeavenWard, Tara!
This past weekend Rob (my loyal art sherpa) and I attended Bristolcon!
First of all, a huge thank you to all the Bristolcon staff for all their hard work! Last year was my first time attending, and this year my first time displaying my artwork, and both times now the convention has maintained a small, relaxed and incredibly friendly atmosphere. I was delighted by the number of people I’d met for whom this was their first-ever convention – both writers and fans of lovely geeky things – and time and time again they told me that everyone there was so friendly and that they felt welcome. It was a wonderful feeling to be part of an event that so positively reflected our shared interests as geeks and held no intimidation to new attendees.
Also, thank you to everyone who stopped by my table and made me feel so welcome! The time absolutely flew by chatting about steampunk monkeys, Supernatural, Dalek plushies, art, anime/manga, etc.
For anyone who didn’t get a chance to purchase one of my prints (‘The Hunting of Ducks was a big draw for many) you can find them for sale at my Big Cartel shop, along with other prints such as my Postcard From Lepari illustrations, or the Chrono Trigger piece I created specially for The Drunken Moogle.
And finally, if anyone would like to commission me, please read my guidelines first and drop me an email; I’d love to hear from you!
If you’re going to WFC, look for me and Rob there – I dunno about Rob’s plans, but you’ll likely find me running around Brighton Pier eating ice cream and taunting seagulls.
It feels like forever ago that Jenny & I attended any conventions, whereas in reality it’s almost exactly a year since BristolCon, a delightfully cosy and welcoming little convention not too far from our own shores. But feverish preparations and the annual buying of new jumpers heralds the rapid approach of this year’s conventions!
First up, we’ve got this year’s BristolCon, on Saturday Oct 26th. We’ve got a more participatory role this time around: I’ll be a panellist on the My World Is Not Your Sandpit panel alongside such fine folks as Juliet McKenna and Dave Gullen at 11am in Programme Room 2, discussing whether or not readers have the right to use existing IP to create their own spinoff works, after which point I’ll most probably be found propping up the bar for the rest of the day.
Jenny, meanwhile, will be attending as an artist and will be selling her work in the corridor outside the art room. In addition to postcards and prints, she’ll also be selling the special edition of our recently-released Postcards From Lepari ebook on a custom USB drive, available for the first time at BristolCon!
The following weekend – Oct 31st to Nov 2nd – is the World Fantasy Convention 2013 in Brighton. Apparently the only thing better than one convention in a week is two, so we’ll be haunting the halls of the Brighton Hilton Metropole all four days of WFC, hoping to get re-acquainted with previous con-friends and meet a whole bunch of new folks. I may even venture onto Brighton Pier for an ultimate confrontation with my feathered nemesis!
Provided I survive the epic battle, at 10am on the Sunday morning Fox Spirit Books and Editor Mhairi Simpson will be having a launch party for the Tales of Eve anthology, which I was lucky enough to have a story in. If you’re at WFC, why not stop by Signing Alley and join in the fun!
It’s going to be busy, but most of all it’s going to be tremendously exciting! Perhaps we’ll see you there.
Happy Mogtoberfest everyone! It’s 4 years since The Drunken Moogle opened its swingy saloon doors and became the place to go for geeky cocktail recipes and drinking accessories. To celebrate, the site is holding a week-long event featuring recipes, art, crafts and giveaways. I contributed some art, as well as a bonus cocktail recipe to match. To see it, click on Ayla below to head on over to The Drunken Moogle!
Halloween-time is too hectic this year for a spooky project, so consider this Skullkid my creepy contribution!
An alternate version of the illustration for “Beasts”, from the Postcards From Lepari ebook