Archive for April, 2013


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The original text-based adventure game, Adventure by Will Crowther.

Imagination is a key element in any kind of video game, movie, novel and indeed, any creative art. With advancing technology our creative arts have found support in many new tools, making it easier for an audience to experience our visions that much more easily, but even in this age of technology, the imagination is still a vital part of experiencing this art.

When I was a kid, video-games were in their infancy, yet they still attracted my interest and kept it there as long as the photo-realistic, fast moving and beautifully crafted games of today. Games then were spasmodic blocks of monotone colour, or not even that, just plain text, but they didn’t suffer from their graphical limitations, but very possibly gained something from them. That’s not to say there weren’t bad games and that my imagination would fill in the blanks or overlook pallid art or design – far from it: imagination has to be engaged or captured, before it can be exploited, and not every game has that level of craft.

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Ear of a KingWell, in short, he’s a monkey – though you’ve probably figured that out already. More specifically, he’s a White-headed Capuchin monkey, named Xerxes and a somewhat angry, kleptomaniac, tongueless one at that. He is the companion of the “hero” of a series of stories I started to write seven years ago.  Yeah, I know you’ve heard that story before. I’ve probably told it several times on this blog already, each time about a different project.   But at least with this one, there is an end in sight, or hopefully, a new beginning for it, as I’m hoping to kick it out of the door as an e-book called “The Ear of a King.”

“The Ear of a King” grew out of a response to G.R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire.”  Though I enjoyed the series, I was frustrated with the rate of his storytelling and in some way I wanted to lampoon his work and his style.  There are still some slight barbs toward Mr. Martin’s work, but it turns out I didn’t really have it in me, and the project grew into its own kind of twisted sapling. Though this probably had  lot more to do with the tone, colours and wretched squalor of Terry Gilliam’s film “Jabberwocky” of which I’ve been a long time fan. In particular, Max Wall’s performance as a tired, disinterested King and the inner workings of his courtroom, the by the book herald and the zealous, unflappable guards, gave me the starting point I needed to put pen to paper. Metaphorically speaking, anyway, since it was a laptop computer, using Circus Ponies’ Notebook and MS Word, rather than pen and paper.

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“I saw the angel in the marble, and carved until I set it free.”

what he was aiming for

The Vision. What he was aiming for…

Michelangelo believed that he could see his subject in the material that he’d use to sculpt. Taking his philosophy as creative people we might envision our art through the medium we work with. With regards to writing – and to some extent, the world building of many disciplines – the story might be contained in its themes, characters and ideas, but deeper still, in the very words we use to “sculpt” them. The selection of these would dictate what we can create with them.

When one begins to write, the creator must have that same vision that Michelangelo had for his statues – to see the story beyond the words they are about to use. The writer takes their themes, characters, action – their ideas – and begins to sculpt. But inevitably there is a time when the material, whether it be word or stone, leads to something that the writer/sculptor didn’t see. A fracture hidden deep in the marble, a character suddenly confronting a decision that needed to be made though wouldn’t make sense. The work ends up in a form the creator didn’t intend to shape.

What then? What does the creator do when their creation starts walking away from their vision of it?

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Turns out this is a bad week for SF fans. I owe a lot of my current fascination with space opera to Iain (M) Banks, and so the news of his condition was like a knife twisting in my gut. I’m glad he still has things to look forward to with his marriage and honeymoon, but he deserves much better.

At the time I had started reading Consider Phlebas, his first Culture novel, I hadn’t read SF for about six years, and actually reading very little. I was also separated from my wife at that time and generally in a demented mental state. Tough times. I took a chance on Consider Phlebas after seeing it many times at Bakka Books, seduced by its cover and the staff’s recommendations. The opening quotes and the first three pages hooked me as few novels do, and the rest of its pages jacked open my skull and dominated my brain for years to come.  The man is a living mountain of SFA few years later, I realized that he was the forefront of “the New Space Opera” and I feel he still is.

He is a blessing to science fiction, tearing down what was once a dismissed artform and reinvigorating it to such a degree that its audience has grown widespread and most importantly, the genre respected again.  Iain brought us hard science, compelling ideas, stunning creativity and scoops of the irreverence and thought provoking themes that make his work so damn likable and hard to put aside.

I tip my hat to his creative soul and wish him all the best in the face of this disturbing news.

Deepest regards,

–Ken

 

To Iain,

Thanks for creating something that turned my life around, and gave me something precious: a new horizon to explore.

— Ken

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