I'm taking part in a fiction-writing collective called "WriteWeekly" but this has some relevance as well:
Blick Shared Studios, Malone Rd, Belfast
7-9pm, Thursday 4th, 11th, 18th, 25th November 2010
Suggested donation: £1
Every November (Novel-writing Month), Studio NI hosts a series of
get-togethers to help participants write a 50,000 word novel in a 30-day
period. We'll be holding a write-in every Thursday in November at Blick Studios,
with a series of published authors as guest speakers.
If you’re interested in the challenge, sign up at http://www.nanowrimo.org
and come along to our kick-off session on Thursday 28th October.
[I am taking part in a weekly writing task with some friends. The first seed for this assignment was the opening line from Dune by Frank Herbert: "A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct."]
The pump would need repaired. During the wet seasons the housings had become eroded and the vibrations caused with the pumping had caused them to crack. It was not yet serious but every time the children filled the pails, a lot of water would spill. Water that was still a precious resource. Though his back was sore and his hands chafed from the fields, Salo plodded back to the homestead, barrow in tow, and began to unload the crops into the corrugated iron store. There was still another hour of light left and that would be enough to fix the pump.
Tools in hand he trudged across to the pump and closed off the valve. He worked until the last sliver of daylight slipped below the horizon. The pump would not leak and he had done his days portion. He caught a scent on the wind; the aroma of freshly cooked food.
His daughter Kesho came to the door to call him for dinner. Her hands were stained with saffron and her feet were bare. Kesho had been raised, with her brother and sister, to know the value of things, to know how things work. Though young, Salo knew Kesho would far exceed her brother and sister.
Salo Mbaye died an old man by the standards of the day, well into his fifties. Among his contemporaries he was well-educated and in good health and he bequeathed these benefits to his children; Baako, Kesho and the youngest, Ayotunde. Baako took over the running of the homestead and Ayotunde married a mining engineer from Dakar. Kesho lived at the homestead until Baako married and then she moved to Touba to found the first Mbaye school.
Page 23, "Mbaye Schools - A Beginning"
The Project in Whitechapel was formed in September 1941 as a subsection of the Special Operations Executive (SOE). The SOE was directed to encourage espionage behind enemy lines and build the core of a resistance cell in the event of a land invasion. As a result, they were entirely dependent upon the security of radio transmissions and a lot of resource was allocated to eliminating the circumstances which would lead to a break in communications. Better radio sets, more secure operating procedures and the development of proper ciphers all aided their mission.
The ISRB (Inter Service Research Bureau) operated as a cover for the SOE and was responsible for developing modern clandestine technology as well as recruiting agents for the SOE. The Frythe Estate near Welwyn Garden City was the initial test ground for the use of psychics in espionage under the guise of a wireless research unit code-named "Special Signals". Later, it became Station IX, a weapons development centre and the Special Signals group was moved to a small building on Fieldgate Street in Whitechapel. The SOE was dissolved in 1946 and most of their operational functions absorbed by MI6. The Special Signals group, however, survived. Their staff roster was filled out with German scientists, recruited from the post-war skirmish between the Allies for their knowledge.
Dr Saul Benedict had been head of Special Signals since it's inception and guided the group through the post-war political turmoil by forming a significant attachment to the then-prime minister, Clement Attlee. While Attlee could not be convinced of the need for the SOE, the Special Signals group were able to secure their own future and Attlee consulted with precogs and telepaths regularly. He became known as an extremely effective politician and possible the most effective Prime Minister to date. Their consultations helped him decide the correct course of action and also how to build a cabinet of people he could trust. In return he pledged support for Benedict's special interests and permitted the Project in Whitechapel far-reaching authority.
The establishment of the National Health Service in 1948 paved the way for regular screening of the population for psychic potential and the Whitechapel Project enjoyed a regular stream of enthusiastic recruits, young, cheerful and ready to do their bit for king and country. A centre for psychic research was opened in Huntingdon, funded by the NHS rather than the Special Signals group. When Churchill succeeded Attlee he was astounded his own words were so prophetic when he had accused Labour of introducing "some form of Gestapo, no doubt humanely administered in the first instance". One of his first actions was to restrict NHS funding to Huntingdon and from that moment on Benedict and his advisors realised their remit had a wider reach than the ephemeral governments
Wednesday afternoon I popped round to Paul's house for a quick chat (and a couple of headache tablets) and I saw a demo of MurderDrome, the first iteration of a new comic application for the iPhone.
There have been a few comic reader apps for the iPhone/iPod touch out there, most notably ClickWheel Comic Reader which gives access to a lot of content produced for 2000AD.
The Murderdrome iPhone comic demoed to me that day had a few very startling and fresh ideas.
The content was perfectly sized for the high res (160 dpi) screen of the iPod touch and iPhone. The side-side swipe of the finger moved from page to page but the UP-DOWN swipe of a finger took you through the content on that page. It removed colour, then inking, then brought the images down to the base wireframe. You could see the process on how it was made. You can, at a touch, remove or re-add speech bubbles and there are other settings (greyscale etc) which I didn't have time to play with.
Paul (art, letters, colour) and Al (writer) have collaborated to make Murderdrome specially for the iPhone/iPod touch screen. The code was written by Philip Orr who you'll also recognise as one of the names behind infurious. Watch Phil's Blue Pilot for some very interesting developments soon.
See the Youtube video for more
The business model is simple. Aiming for a $1.99 price for a standard comic (equivalent to 22 pages in a standard American size comic), Apple take 30% of the money as their commission. InfuriousComics take 10% and the remaining 60% goes to the creators. Seem harsh? Not so much when you hear tales of how much comic creators get when their comics are sold - sometimes they have to sell in excess of 9000 copies just to break even - even if carried by a major publisher. This new model would mean creators get paid for every book they produce. If you sell 200 copes, you get 60% of cover. If you sell 3000 copies you get 60% of cover. That's a lot better than the rates offered in print.
MURDERDROME has been banned from the App Store for breaking rules about content. Please view the video and show some support for content being made available on the App Store by commenting on the article here.
You'll also find links to other coverage of this cool new application.
Why is this relevant to LateGaming?
Apart from my association with Paul and Philip and subsequent involvement in InfuriousComics, there has been discussion about using their cool reader technology to build 'decision tree books' or as we used to call them 'Choose your path' style books. That has interest to me!
The Narrator of the book was close to one of the arrival sites but this was not necessarily the most active site. He also spent more than two weeks (or a three week invasion) hiding in a collapsed house. He was not the first to discover the dead Martians at the end of the invasion and perhaps was even one of the last. We have to speculate what else happened during the time he was hiding and we have only the barest hints from the book
This period is overshadowed by killing and destruction as the Martians make their presence known and start to cow the human populace and deter any efforts of the Military to gain any meaningful intelligence on their movements. The Martians spend this time constructing their machines to defend themselves and then set about building their towers and handling machines. The Humans, when they are roused from their overconfidence in the stability of their way of life are immediately routed and the roads fill with refugees. Some individuals attempt to hide among the ruins. Others still try to fight, joining the hundreds who have become an informal militia, both under-equipped and relatively low of morale considering the onslaught of crushing defeats. Armed with only relatively static and heavy guns, the defenders have to face the physical might of the Fighting Machines as well as the dreadful gaze of the Heat Ray and worse, the deadly caress of the Black Smoke.
The Martians start to establish themselves and build their main factories. They shift their production facilities at the cylinders to constructing Handling Machines which process their raw materials as well as herd their 'food'. They have built great cages into which the Fighting Machines deliver hundreds of frightened humans daily. The Handling Machines also start to collect and manufacture food for their human herds, raiding homes and shops at first and then upon analysis, producing it from the earth itself. These captive humans are under constant threat of death but after the first few days of captivity, their cries and wails die down as they become resigned to their fate. For those who misbehave, food and water are withheld from an entire group and that quickly becomes the leveller. Most relevantly, the Martians have exhausted all other food sources and start to feed upon their herds.
The Martians are already deep in decline and the Red Weed itself seems to be suffering from a similar malady. Though the Martians never managed to adapt to our gravity, it is noted that they have become excessively lethargic, even their Handling and Fighting machine seem to spend long periods resembling statues. And in some cases, their installations are completely abandoned. Cage farms quickly become the domains of petty warlords, those who are strong and charismatic enough to mobilise a breakout and take control. At the same time, the remnants of a once-proud military nation start to creep back to their cities and resume their lives to find domains carved out of neighbourhoods, the destruction of homes and landmarks, the looting of food and valuables. There is also the opportunity cost as the British Empire is upon it's knees at home and lifting it's head once more just as news of it's fall was reaching the colonies.
TUAW has a link about Subversion for Writers.
Subversion is a popular open source version control system. "It allows you to work collaboratively with folks on the same files (in most cases code) without fear of overwriting the work of others. Subversion tracks all the changes made to those files, and who did them, and allows you to rollback changes or branch off into different directions with having to worry about mucking up the entire project."
The instructions are a little hairy if you're not used to the Terminal but you can always get someone to help you set it up and host it for you.
(Now, wouldn't it be neat if you could find a collaborative text editor (like SubEthaEdit) which also had automagical Subversion built in?)
Title taken from the Tom Waits track.
This blossomed into a scenario where the PCs were sent to investigate a murder. A newcomer to a quiet US suburb was found beaten to death in his home. The house is trashed. And no-one else in the suburb heard or saw anything...
Anyone else have done something similar? Created a scenario out of a song? (And let's face it. this song is pretty much the entire inspiration for Desperate Housewives. Imagine the pitch - "It's like that Tom Waits track....but with boobs!"
I don't blame anyone really. Sometimes I get angry or depressed and curse my friends, my family, the company, the system, the church and anyone else I can name. But it's a short madness and like all things, it will pass.
I haven't slept very well in the last few days. Bouts of lethargy and a resolute stubbornness seem to possess me on these cold mornings. The coffee is too bitter and the crispy flakes of golden corn taste like ashes and feel like razorblades. It has been the same with every meal in the last week. The meat is dry and powdery, the vegetables hollow and watery. I leave most of my food untouched, I clean the plates and I plan my next repast.
I read my mail in the morning but today I let it wait until after lunch. Such is my decadence and freedom. There were some offers of cut-price firmware, live-feed porn and a flyer advertising pressurised space on a new station about five million miles from me. We wouldn't be alone in the dark any more.
Of course, none of it does me any fucking good.
This station won't go online for about two years and I'll be long gone. I logged onto ChatNet and scrolled through the thousands of messages. One read, "Space Age Boy seeks Earthy Girl for Zero-G Hijinks". That made me smile. Ten million years of evolution and still men were firing out crap chat up lines to lonely women. Was this more or less effective than a wooden club?
There was a long thread about some poor shithead stuck out in the dark, spinning around Jupiter in a damaged pod and a quickly decaying orbit. Some pitied him, some laughed and I really wanted to say something smart, something cutting that would make them blush, make them shut up, make them think. Someone had even managed to get a picture. It was a poor likeness, stupid office party from six years ago. One another thread they were running a numbers game on how long it would take for the pod to burst, how long it would be until Jupiter was seeded with my blood, sweat, piss and tears. I took a few moments and used a few tears. Nothing dramatic.
The problem with this situation is that there'll be nothing left. I hadn't been to the Clinic, hadn't left my legacy in a little cup so there wouldn't be another me. There wouldn't be enough left of the pod to scratch an obituary and so the ChatNet onlookers would be my only witnesses. I tapped out a quick message to anyone who could read. Something simple, something regal. It would take a week to hit the Net but by then I'd be spread into a fine mist by hurricane winds in the upper atmosphere of a star that nearly was.
I can't be saved.
Earth and Mars are months away. The closest transport could get here in time but then wouldn't have the fuel or the facilities to effect a rescue. And if they tried, they'd join me in this slow doom. At least they are close enough to actually talk to me. I hate the heavily punctuated conversations with my family on Earth. My family haven't called in two days. I was the black sheep of the family when I took the job and staying i touch seemed nothing more than a formality. The Company was good enough to provide me with a Counselor. She's in her mid-forties and very good at her job, telling me to express myself, that it's alright to cry and that it's wrong to bottle up my anguish. After the third session even she stopped calling.
There's a girl on that transport. She's lovely. I know she's just trying to comfort me but we have long talks in the evenings, we play chess and I dream of her when fatigue finally overtakes me, Her signal is getting weaker as Jupiter creates too much radio noise. I'll see her tonight, tell her I love her and say goodbye. I've never said that to anyone before. Never wanted to. Never needed to. But if I don't say it tonight then I never ever will.
Through the three-inch reinforced plastic windows I can see Jupiter with it's great glaring red eye. I've never seen it so large, stretching to create an everlasting dusky plain beneath me. I'm not within the orbit of Callisto on the way down. Spiralling down.
I got this from the blog of reknowned comic artist PJ Holden
So you want to be a writer? Or do you want to make a living as a writer?