April 23, 2014, Durham, NC: Thanks to a generous last-minute press pass, I had a chance to stop by day one of ECGC – the East Coast Game Conference – this morning at the Raleigh Convention Center. I’ve been to a half-dozen? conventions of various kinds (science fiction, health and fitness, anime, etc.) at this venue and each has taken advantage of the space in different ways. Here, the ECGC is well-laid-out, with branding stickers on the (many!) glass-surfaced entrances into the convention space and plenty of room and people to handle registration without fuss or backups.
After registering I headed straight for the Expo, which starts as an in-hallway affair before expanding into the Expo Hall Proper. Here, schools pitch their programs and specialties and game companies pitch both their projects and open positions as well as their engines and platforms. In the hall, the two which most caught my eye — though “swag of the day” goes to the Magic 8-ball from Insomniac Games — were Wake Tech’s Simulation and Game Development program as well as a “Goat Simulator” game showcasing Epic Games‘ Unreal Engine. Getting hands-on with the goat simulator, I was encouraged to perform a backflip, but instead got carried away with running my goat forward for a hard stop to force a pretty nice “skid stop” animation; this eventually led to darting my goat out of an alley and into a street just in time to be killed and thump-thump-thump run-over by a very large truck. (I think I earned some bonus points, somehow, for this spectacular method of demise.) Read the rest of this entry »
Interview by Richard Dansky:
Think “Gothic” and you might not immediately think Minnesota, but Wendy Webb is working on changing that perception. Building on a writing career that began as a journalist for a Twin Cities arts & entertainment weekly, she’s published three critically and commercially successful gothic novels set in her home state. The third, The Vanishing [ebook], was released in January 2014, and in support of the book, she’s visiting Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill on Saturday, February 1st for an early reading at 11 am [Facebook event] in one of three North Carolina events on her current tour [the others include Thursday, Jan 30 at Charlotte's PARK ROAD BOOKS and Saturday evening at Asheville's MALAPROPS]. Ahead of that visit, she was kind enough to take a few minutes to answer some questions. From the “Devil’s Toy Box” to the influence of Downton Abbey, here’s a few questions with Wendy Webb.
Can you tell us a little bit about The Vanishing?
All of my novels feature long-buried family secrets that bubble to the surface in big, old mansions. The Vanishing is the story of Julia, who receives an intriguing job offer when her life seems to be falling apart around her. A man, Adrian Sinclair, asks Julia to be a companion to his elderly mother, a famous horror novelist who the whole world thinks is dead. For reasons unknown, this novelist chose to vanish from public life and now lives in her magnificent estate in the middle of the wilderness. Intrigued, Julia accepts the position. But when she arrives at Havenwood, she begins to wonder whether this too-good-to-be-true job offer is exactly that.
The gothic as a genre is usually associated with windswept moors and craggy mountains. What was the inspiration for setting The Vanishing in northern Minnesota? Read the rest of this entry »
By Richard Dansky:
26 novels (and 1 solo album) into his career, Steven Brust still isn’t afraid to take chances. Visiting Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill on October 2nd in support of his new novel, The Incrementalists — co-written with Skyler White — Brust is best known for his centuries-spanning Dragaera series. But with a bibliography that includes everything from a high fantasy retelling of Paradise Lost (To Reign In Hell) to an Ohio vampire story (Agyar) to a multiple volume tribute to the works of Dumas (The Phoenix Guards), Brust remains a master of confounding expectation. Here he is, in his own words:
Q: The Incrementalists is your second shot at more or less straightforward science fiction, after Cowboy Feng’s. Why come back to it after all this time? Read the rest of this entry »
[Editor's note: this is the first in a new, hopefully-many-more-where-this-came-from series in which authors and other creators "coming to town" for an event answer a few questions for the website. I hope you enjoy! -Sam]
By Richard Dansky:
Five books into his wildly popular and critically acclaimed Sandman Slim series, Richard Kadrey is a significant voice in urban fantasy. Coming to Flyleaf Books on Thursday August 29th in the wake of Kill City Blues, the fifth book in the Sandman Slim cycle, Kadrey also has an unrelated novel, Dead Set, coming out this fall. While this would be more than enough for most writers, Kadrey has an extensive track record as a cyberpunk author, futurist with publications in Wired and Discovery Online, comics scripter, and animation writer. And yes, he has also been turned into an action figure.
Ahead of his visit to the Triangle, Mr. Kadrey was kind enough to answer a few questions about his work, his approach to book tours and, perhaps most importantly, how you kill an unkillable wizard with his name:
With Kill City Blues, the Sandman Slim series is now five books in. Can a new reader just jump right in and read it as a self-contained story, or do they really need to go back and pick it up from the beginning (which, to be fair, they ought to do anyway)? Read the rest of this entry »
Durham author Richard Dansky has helped hawk Bull Spec to passers-by at the Bimbe Cultural Arts Festival while wearing a vintage Montreal Expos shirt; he let me excerpt his novel, Firefly Rain, in Bull Spec #2; he’s been pressed to participate in several NC Speculative Fiction Night events, most recently in April, where he read from his new collection Snowbird Gothic; and he’s written a long list of reviews, interviews, and articles for Bull Spec, most recently a tribute to the late Ray Bradbury in issue #8. Here, Rich takes part in the guest author series “The Hardest Part” as it applies to his just-released novel, Vaporware.
Vaporware by Richard Dansky
JournalStone, May 2013
By Richard Dansky:
The hardest part of writing Vaporware was knowing where to draw lines.
It’s the subject matter that made things difficult, as well as interesting. Vaporware is set at a video game company, and I am a video game developer by trade. I have been for fourteen years, give or take, with four years in-house at a tabletop game company before that. That’s a lot of years spent making games, a lot of games worked on, and a lot of years hanging out with other people who make games.
And here’s something that probably shouldn’t be a surprise: not every game development cycle goes smoothly. Even the best ones demand long hours, hard work, and sacrifice of personal time. As for the ones that aren’t the best, well, the less said about those, the better. I’ve seen good and I’ve seen bad, and just as importantly, I’ve swapped stories with friends and professional peers. I’ve heard their stories of the good, the bad, the ugly, the really ugly, and the “why did this not produce an armed insurrection?”
All of which is an extremely long-winded and ominous way of saying that I know a fair bit about how video games get made, the people who make them, and what it takes to get a game from “I have an idea! Let’s have the game star a robot ninja Dimetrodon!” to finished product. Not everything, not by a long shot, and I’m constantly aware that different studios have different ways of doing things so that no experience is universal, but it’s something I feel comfortable talking and writing about.
Which is where the notion of lines comes in, and yes, I said “lines”, as in “plural”. Because on this project, there was the creative line that had to be drawn, and there was the professional line, and there was the emotional line.
The creative line took the longest to draw, but in a lot of ways, it was the easiest. Basically, it’s the manifestation of the question: How much accuracy is too much. Sure, there are technothrillers that drown the reader in jargon; that’s part of the appeal to an audience that likes that sort of thing. But there are other audiences that don’t like it, or who get overwhelmed by it, and while the urge to get every last detail juuuuust right was strong, so was the urge to not frighten off readers who don’t necessarily want to internalize data check-in procedures along with their fiction. So a line had to be drawn there, one that delineated how much realism was too much for readers who weren’t subject matter experts, and how little was too little for people to understand what goes on during game development. So one draft had a little too much inside baseball and confused people; another didn’t have enough and genericized the game development aspect of the book too much. It was, as they say, a process.
The professional line that had to be drawn was about what I could or couldn’t say. The book was never intended as a roman a clef about my employer, and I didn’t want it to be taken that way. I also felt I had a professional obligation not to whitewash some of the craziness that happens making games; to do less would be to do a disservice to my peers. But again, the question was “how much is too much” – how much could I include without doing my profession a disservice, or creating misapprehensions about what I was trying to do.
Then there was the personal line – how much of myself was I willing to put out there before it was too much. Vaporware was in many places a difficult book to write, dredging up some old memories and rough patches. And when you’re writing material you’re intimately familiar with, what goes in may not be what you intended. I don’t view the book as autobiographical, and I don’t view the protagonist – who is not, in my opinion, a hero – as a stand in for yours truly. But in writing him, in watching the behaviors that he exhibited, it was easy to see echoes of my own in there, or of places I could have gone. Self-examination was unavoidable and, to be honest, not particularly pleasant.
In the end, I think it was worth it to wrestle long and hard with the question of how much to show – of the biz, of the details, of myself. It wasn’t fun, and it wasn’t easy. But if you wanted to hear about the easiest part of writing the book, well, that’s a whole other piece.
Briefly known as the world’s greatest living authority on Denebian Slime Devils (a true fact), Richard Dansky works as the Central Clancy Writer for Red Storm/Ubisoft. In 2009 he was named one of the Top 20 Videogame Writers by Gamasutra, and his numerous credits include the acclaimed Splinter Cell: Conviction, Far Cry, and Rainbow Six: Black Arrow. A prolific fiction author as well, Richard has published five novels and a short fiction collection, Snowbird Gothic. His latest novel, Vaporware, was released in May by JournalStone, and he writes regularly for magazines such as Bull Spec and Green Man Review.