Monthly Archives: April 2011

Eastercon 2011 & Managing a Minecraft Habit

It must be a sign that you are developing a problematic addiction to a computer game when you change your computer’s windows manager so that the game runs faster. On my Linux desktop instead of using Gnome I am now using xfce. It’s a far more minimal environment. I have gone through periods of using it heavily before. It lets me play Minecraft with a much higher frame rate than I was playing it with under Gnome. Also in full screen mode, which a very good way to lose track of time and end up playing a solid fifty minutes and let a mug of coffee go cold right in front of you. More importantly this machine is getting quite old and under this windows manager everything is a lot more responsive than it was under Gnome. I will probably keep using Gnome until the lack of native support for all my Gnome keyboard shortcuts for dealing with Rhythmbox, an iTunes clone, irritates me.

Recent activities in Minecraft include building a glass fronted house near the deep cave system I explored this evening. Also finding my first redstone ore and also a few blocks of gold ore. I don’t have any grand building project in Minecraft at the moment. The phase where I was excited and built and underwater house is over. My habits in this game are at the moment all about finding the deepest caves and exploring them for the rare materials inside.

There is an environmental lesson that can be learned while playing Minecraft. I’m sure of it.

I have decided that the most liberating object you can craft in Minecraft is your first compass. The ability to always be able to find home makes me feel much more comfortable just going for a wander to see the sights.

Last Saturday I took a break from playing Minecraft and went to Eastercon, the UK’s largest SF convention, at a hotel on the site of the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. Below is the post I made to Whitechapel’sVile Hugging Thread” about an hour after getting back home. To give you an idea how much food cost at the Hilton Metropole the burger I had in the evening cost me £15 and the total I spent on all the books mentioned below was about that much.

I went to Eastercon today. The usual tradition of missing junctions and getting lost on the way to conventions happened twice today. I blame tiredness. While there I spent far too much money, mostly on expensive food, but I did buy some books: J.G. Ballard’s High Rise, Harlan Ellison’s Shatterday, a copy of New Worlds 2 and M John Harrison’s Parietal Games. The copy of Shatterday was a bargain at £1 for a “tatty” hardback. Although the best deal of the day was being sold a new copy of Parietal Games for £6 instead of some of the eye-watering prices its available for online. Parietal Games is essential reading. My mind is blown right now. Utterly exhausted and kinda content.

I didn’t go to any panels, but I did watch Doctor Who in a room filled with hundreds of other people. That was a strange experience. Also didn’t find out anything about the new New Worlds. Sorry.

Edit: At this point I’m just mashing on keys at random until some meaning emerges.

Now I’m going to read The Dead and try to go for a run in the morning.

April’s Two Games

Recently I’ve been neglecting this website in favour of preparation for job interviews and playing two video games. The job interviews were important, even though I didn’t get the jobs in the end, and the two games are: Fallout: New Vegas and Minecraft. One of these games I’m in love with and the other I’m feeling ambivalent about.

I’m in love with Minecraft. This game might, in its own way, be the most masculine game yet. (It appeals to women as well. So true greatness.) Sure, there’s no murdering funny looking aliens, but there’s digging and ploughing and lumber jacking. All that and DIY. Also exploration of an immense procedurally generated game world that exists both above and below ground. I love this game and I’m proud to be addicted to it.

I’ve also built an underwater house! How cool is that?

Fallout: New Vegas I’m less in love with. It isn’t bad. It’s mostly the same as Fallout 3, which wasn’t a bad game. The pattern of gameplay is you play a lone wanderer on a quest where you are diverted by warring factions or troubled communities to solve their problems. Like Bioware’s games there seems to be a master formula applied here. So the predictable nature of New Vegas doesn’t work for me. And while the game seems to be trying hard to offer me lots of choice to hide the basic pattern, there’s no real consequences for the decisions I make, as I don’t care about any of the characters in the game.

So why am I still playing Fallout: New Vegas? There’s only one reason. The atmosphere. It seems that while the events of New Vegas are forgettable the pleasure of wandering around Cormac McCarthy land keeps me coming back to the Xbox.

Next post I write here will either be about the books I’ve been reading lately (Climbers & Dubliners) or about my trip to Eastercon later today.

Burial – Street Halo

The EP with this single on will be finding its way into my car for the drive to Eastercon. Because science fiction conventions held in an airport’s hotel — in this case Birmingham and sadly not Heathrow — requires music with the proper haunted mechanical feel. Something Ballardian. Never mind the fact this video is leaking more strangeness than most (all?) military science fiction ever published.

I think you can guess my feelings about the convention’s theme of military SF.

“Merchants of extraordinary tea & coffee.”

Still waiting for a response from a second interview. The sound of a broken exhaust muffler rumbling in the garage. Driving into the city after the rush hour. Enjoying the perfect light. Reading M. John Harrison’s Climbers while waiting for an interview at the job centre. Watching someone being scammed out of their benefits by the job centre. Being given details for a tax office job where applications close today. Finding that I maybe don’t have to sign on for two weeks. Escaping from the job centre without coming to harm. Wandering around the city centre looking for a place to get a coffee. Deciding to buy a unit of culture. Avoiding Dark Side because it feels deflated of enthusiasm. Avoiding cultural quarter just because. Finding myself in Waterstone Market Street browsing the general fiction stacks. Being tempted by Ferenc Karinthy and Yasunari Kawabata. Noticing a slim girl dressed in black reading. Her face covered by long tangled black hair. Pink converse trainers. Leaving Waterstones to find coffee. Trying to decide between buying a book and a copy of The Fountain. Discovering a new place will open in St. Martins in May.”Merchants of extraordinary tea & coffee.” Wandering back to Market Street. Looking at Karinthy and Kawabata again. Finding Joyce on the same shelf. Buying a copy of The Dubliners. Walking up the street to my favourite sandwich shop. Buying an egg and cress doorstop. Walk back to the car through Highcross. Remembering when I last visited Dublin. Deciding to spend the day reading Joyce in the garden and drinking Yerba maté. Arrive home still needing a coffee.

The Stalin Stormsker Schröedinger Solution…

The Stalin Stormsker Schröedinger Solution… by Nordic Interstitial Thresholds on Mixcloud

The latest podcast from Nordic Interstitial Thresholds is all about a proposal put to me a Mr William Ellwood about what sort of music i would be playing to my cat if i were conducting truth experiments on the poor thing. And yes my cat is called Stalin…

Well the end result would be a mixture of 1980’s gothic post punk, some angular electronics and some rather ghostly dubstep trance. The sort of music i imagine would be on Mr Frankensteins MP3 player while fooling around sewing up bits of dead flesh.

For further information about this podcast and for more music in general, please go to the sister site for this podcast You know you want to really…

Naturally I have no memory of suggesting this, but it does sound like the sort of thing I’d suggest, so we shall assume Comrade Cluness is telling the truth and not about to be sent to the Gulags by Stalin.

Ian Rankin Qualities of a Writer

What qualities does it actually take to be a writer? “To be a novelist,” says Rankin, with the assuredness of wisdom, “you have to be a sympathetic, empathetic human being, a people watcher.” When writing a crime novel, you start with a type then make them more three-dimensional, and you do that through trial and error, through “practice, practice, practice”, and learning from the great writers who know how to do it. “Then, you start to find your own voice and own themes that haven’t been tackled.

“They say there are only seven plots in the world, but stories keep coming at us,” he says. “It’s a bit like the 26 letters of the alphabet – out of those, anyone can write a sentence that’s never been written before. How amazing is that? You can write a sentence that’s never before been written in the history of mankind. I think that’s phenomenal. I love that. Stories are inexhaustible because human beings are inexhaustible.

“I’m interested in what makes us tick. Sadly, I’m interested in the kind of darker side of what makes us tick. I would find it harder to write a Mills and Boon or comedy of manners set in a posh English boarding school. I’d much rather write about losers and loners and people who’ve done bad things along the way.”

The National Arts Interview with Ian Rankin