July 8th, 2010

Hated Tropes and Pushing the Envelope

Here are two paragraphs I posted over at Torque Control that I figured were worth cross-posting here:

Joe Sherry writes: "I don’t care how good the story is or who wrote it, I’m shutting down the moment I see catmen. I freaking hate catmen."

I reply: "Hi Joe. I often meet people who detest a particular fantasy notion, whether it’s elves or zombies or unicorns or time travel or talking cats or whatever. And of course all too often I meet people who hate any fantasy notion whatsoever. So it goes. Personally I love all fantasy notions with heedless abandon, even the cheesiest of them ... perhaps even especially the cheesiest of them. 'Catmen' stories, whether it’s Larry Niven or Brian Jacques or yes, Thundercats, have meant a great deal to me, and I would hate to see them, or any other idea, banished forever from our stories."

Jonathan McCalmont writes: "I must admit to not understanding why one would write stuff that didn’t consciously push the envelope."

I reply: "Hi Jonathan. As to why would anyone ever want to write something that doesn’t consciously push the envelope ... I dunno, maybe because often there’s some really great stuff that fits just fine in the envelope. When I think of my favorite books and stories, a fairly high percentage of them don’t 'push the envelope' in any way that I can identify -- they’re just great stories about characters that I care about. And many of my favorite books and stories do 'push the envelope.' And I’m glad to have both. Requiring that everything push the envelope all the time would seem to me to lead to a pointlessly escalating cycle of grotesquery and obscurantism, in a way that would deprive us of the wonderful variety of potential stories."

New Alpha Workshop Website

Hey, looks like the Alpha workshop has a brand new website. How about that. It's always nice when stuff like that just happens without me having to do anything. Thanks to former student Sarah Brand for setting this up. And here's the new logo, designed by former student Gillian Conahan:

alpha science fiction writers workshop logo

One feature of the new site is a list of alumni publications & awards. Here are the ones that are free to read online:

Elena Gleason, 2005 & 2006
“Erased,” Fantasy Magazine, April 2008
“Whisper’s Voice,” Fantasy Magazine, April 2010

Shivaun Hoad, 2006
“The Fairy’s Challenge,” Cicada, March/April 2009

Richard Larson
"Last Call," Eclectica Magazine Vol. 13 No. 3, July 2009
"Up in the Air," Strange Horizons, November 2008
"Notice," Vibrant Gray #2, February 2008
"Night and Day," Pindeldyboz, September 2007

Rachel Sobel, 2008 & 2009
“The Loyalty of Birds,” Clarkesworld Magazine

Emily Tersoff
“The White Part of the Apple,” Fantasy Magazine, September 2009

Jeannette Westwood, 2005 & 2006
“The Banyan Tree,” Fantasy Magazine, October 2008

Monkey Island 2 Special Edition for the Mac?

So the Monkey Island 2: Special Edition came out yesterday ... but NOT FOR THE MAC. WTF, LucasArts? It's been widely reported online that the game would be on the Mac, but so far nothing, and LucasArts has given no indication whatsoever on when or if the Mac version is coming. I can only describe their behavior on this as ass-clownish in the extreme.

The game is currently available for the iPhone, so I got that. (I half suspect they're delaying the Mac release to exploit all the Mac users like me who will, out of desperation, buy the iPhone version and then later the Mac version too, and if this is the case then I DO NOT APPRECIATE IT AT ALL.)

Anyway, I've been playing the iPhone version. One of the big draws of the Special Edition is the new high definition art -- which serves no purpose whatsoever on the iPhone, as the screen is way too small to appreciate the level of detail. Since there's no mouse, you play the game by touching the screen. This works okay for the most part, but is often INSANELY frustrating. Even though I know exactly what I'm supposed to do, it often takes me upwards of 15 tries to get it to work using the touchscreen. (I played for about half an hour without talking to Wally the cartographer because I just could not get this simple command to work at all.) I can't imagine anyone wanting to play this game for the first time on the iPhone.

Though it is nice to be able to play Monkey Island at the beach, as I did yesterday. They have an iPad version too, and I can imagine that being pretty cool, though I don't have an iPad, so who knows?

Yeah, so anyway, playing Monkey Island on the iPhone is basically like listening to someone belch the Star-Spangled Banner. It's amazing that it works at all, but it's not like it's a good rendition or anything.