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New Story Alert: The Finest, Fullest Flowering

Just arrived in the June issue of Nightmare Magazine, “The Finest, Fullest Flowering.” It lurks behind a paywall until June 15th, which is not coincidentally the day I will be reading at the KGB Bar. Prior to that time, you can pay a pittance to read the entire issue, or, for a slightly larger pittance, subscribe for a year. I will post again when it goes live. Hopefully that opening paragraph proves so tantalizing you can’t resist supporting the Nightmare Empire with some inexpensive clicking.

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Various Egos

I have fleshed out the Interviews page with links to a number of interviews I have given over the years. (Which reminds me I also need to find a place to put interviews I have done with other people, such as this one with Misha Nogha.)

I also posted my old article “The Egos at id,” the feature I wrote for Wired Magazine about id Software and the making of Quake.

 

 

Old School Selfie

When David Garnett was putting together New Worlds 2, he asked the authors to provide photographs of themselves to go with their contributions. For my story of ominous darkroom procedures, “Great Breakthroughs in Darkness,” I descended into my own ominous darkroom and put together this image by printing a negative through several layers of transparent collages while also moving physical objects through the beam to cast photograms. I’m still no good with Photoshop however.

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Infinite Selfies

“Just look at that narcissist taking photos of himself, ” I posted, completely ironically I assure you, on my website devoted to me, after failing to capture him by pretending to take a selfie of my own.

And by the way, when you want to take candid photos of people these days, just go ahead and take an ordinary old-fashioned photo, pointing your camera right at them. As long as you pose and throw in some duck-lips while you’re doing it, they will assume you’re taking a picture of yourself.

Jacob T. Nicholson, R.I.P.

I was saddened and stunned to learn that one of Half-Life 2’s unsung and underappreciated creators passed away earlier this month at the age of 40. I was proud to work with Jake Nicholson on some of the most memorable and personally satisfying set-pieces of that game. I knew Jake as an animator, a core member of the “Choreo Team”–a group focused on the scenes where animation, character performances, level design and gameplay were most thoroughly integrated. I understood that Jake was an animator, but he was continually surprising and delighting me with touches of genius that went beyond what I thought of (in my limited way) as animation.

When we were making Half-Life 1, every time we wanted to give the player a new weapon, it had to be strategically placed on a table or a crate or simply on the floor. We had a crazy dream that maybe Barney could actually hand you a gun at some point, but it never happened. When, a few years later, I brought up this crazy dream again, I did so out of habit; it was just an old complaint that I had long since stopped taking seriously.

Then one morning I came in to Valve, fired up the latest version of the Black Mesa East scene, and there was Alyx Vance holding out the gravity gun. (It would be a while yet before she said, “You can call it the Zero Point Energy Field Manipulator if you really want to.”) I moved up to her and…she passed it to me. This sounds obvious now, and perhaps this kind of moment has become standard in first-person games, but at the time it was pure magic. It was code and animation, yes, but it was mainly magic. Jake understood the point of code and animation, the technical work, was to create moments of magic. That magic was pure Jake.

He put dozens of little touches like this into the game, inventive bits of detail and polish that were part of every scene he worked on. His character work was convincing and looked so natural; he brought Barney and others to life.

I was never close to Jake outside of work, but I sure enjoyed his company whenever we worked together–which, at that time, was often. He worked so hard, and was so unpretentious. I remember that we both played and beat Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga around the same time, and spent an afternoon sharing our enthusiasm for the “best evar” animated cut-scene at the end. I enjoyed the fact that a skilled 3D animator like Jake could go completely nuts for a 2D title sequence. He left Valve not long after Half-Life 2 shipped, went off to care for an ailing parent, and also I am told went back to school and gathered some more advanced degrees. I knew he was doing good things, but I missed working with him. And now I really miss him.

Aaaaand Scene

I think this is it for now. It’s getting too miscellaneous, and I’m ready to drop. I’m sure there are more errors in the latest batch, but I can now take my time cleaning them up all in one place, instead of digging through moldy files.

A few old ones that first saw print years ago:

  • Nutrimancer (my Neuromancer parody)
  • Your Style Guide–Use It Wisely (from Semiotext[e], one that people come up to me regularly and tell me they’ve read, even if they’ve read nothing else of mine)
  • Terror Fan (originally “Terror’s Biggest Fan,” a title I hate)

And then some first timers:

  • Dollchurch (style over substance as only a 19 year old can manage)
  • Rattleground (as promised, the one Reg Bretnor bought but which was later bounced from The Future at War)
  • Nether Reaches (a weird sf-horror piece I wrote to be read aloud about 20 years ago, never before in print)

If you see me posting more old stories at this point, feel free to slap me. The only exception is if I can find a copy of “Total Conversion,” a story I had in F&SF that I’m not seeing in the expected location, which means it is probably in a box inside another box inside a mystery wrapped in bacon…

 

 

All My Favorite Fruit

Camper Van Beethoven is up there in the top few of my all-time favorite bands. I was lucky enough to get the chance to interview lead singer and songwriter David Lowery at the end of the Key Lime Pie tour, and the fruit of that conversation was an article in Mondo 2000. But I recently came across the complete transcript of the interview, most of which has not seen print until now.