Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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.

great_break

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.

 

Some of Dis, Samizdat

I’ve never really self-published anything of mine, but I have engaged in a bit of self-samizdat. Which is to say, first I banned a work of mine from publication (well, ok, I couldn’t sell it), then I circulated it privately in manuscript form to a handful of friends (at their request…I didn’t force these things on anyone).

Here are three that I passed around but have never made public until now. I don’t believe they are publishable. But they’re passable.

Written around the same time as the Hamptons story, another spurred by my immersion in Long Island history. This one was published in a small press magazine, but was riddled with OCR scan errors and I never got a chance to proof it. So this version is, at least in that sense, improved.

 

 

Five Easy Reader Pieces

Five more stories posted today. Several of these were written in the last two decades for a change, so I already had digital copies. The grueling task of cleaning up scans might be approaching its end. (Well…except for the novels. But I can’t bear to think about those just yet.)

  • Great Breakthroughs in Darkness
    • The weirdest of my photography themed stories. Written for the resurrected New Worlds.
  • To Lie Between the Loins of Perky Pat
    • The only salvageable bit of an old novel featuring Philip K. Dick, which was also my first internet publication, as it was posted on the Dark Carnival Online site in the early days of posting things on the internet. Best viewed with Netscape Navigator!
  • The Frigid Ilk of Sarn Kathool
    • A rare excuse to goof around in Clark Ashton Smith mode.
  • Forget You
    • A story entirely inspired by cats getting in and out of laps.
  • Bonfires
    • A story entirely inspired by a hiphop song about having fun on the beach at night. I like to think this story is the complete opposite of that.

 

The Gargoyle’s Handbook

I have posted the complete run of stories of Gorlen Vizenfirthe, bard with a gargoyle’s hand, and his former-nemesis-now-buddy Spar, gargoyle with a bard’s hand. They’re posted here in chronological order, earliest first, which is also basically the order in which they were written.

This is all there are so far.¬† I’ve got another in progress but it has been kicking my ass for a couple years and seems bent on continuing to do so.