Wednesday, May 21, 2008

my books should mean nothing to me and everything to the reader

yeah, but Mike, you HATE THE READER.
Do I?
Well hasn't somebody been taking notes like a good little marketing donkey?

Well, listen to this. I hope no interviewers start asking me, "Mike, what are your books supposed to be saying about your view of the literary world, or the financial world, or the moral world or the religious world? Where's your perspective?"

I don't need one. That's what all the fools who read Hertzan Chimera aka Mike Philbin always forget. When I write, I write to theme and task ONLY. I don't exist. The reader doesn't exist. Yes, I hate the reader, in that he/she is a viral entity that not only feeds off but thinks it can affect anything about the way I look at the world or depict it in my crazy-adult ways.

When I say that 'my books should mean nothing to me and everything to the reader' I'm stressing the importance of the private journey. It's something that came naturally when I was an artist of psycho-figurative life-size oil paintings in the 80's and 90's. During the openings for these one-man shows, clients would come up to me and tell me the story of the painting as they saw it, what it meant to them. They were wrong, I don't even know what most of those (destroyed) paintings ever meant, but the viewer inserted him/herself into the picture.

There have been many a writer/artist/composer whose MOST MEMORABLE work is the work they themselves didn't love the most. I could do a little more research into this but my vague belief is enough to keep me going on this. I mean, I'll be adamant here and say I will not do the research for you guys, the evidence is all about you. You just have to look. Read enough biographies or letters from 'the stars of the imaginational medium' and you'll see that their favourite piece paled into comparison with their most famous piece. There seems no point in thinking you've just completed 'your most amazing book yet' if it doesn't resonate with the reader on some personal level ... and by this I don't mean, it looks a lot like the last book I read in that vein and I HATE to change my eye-diet.

What I'm saying is you can never second-guess the reader - he's a fucking mystery. What I'm also saying is, yes, you might enjoy what you're writing. To put the passion into the theme/task, you have to. But the book that means EVERYTHING to the read can't mean the same to the writer. It's impossible. If we linearly extrapolate to infinity we find the the more a book has meaning to a reader the less it can have meaning to the writer. The personal journey ensures that the mutual meaning is stretched to a one-dimensional extremeness.

Therefore, though we might think what we write is good (though it's mostly not) we can't expect a book that has meaning to the reader to have any meaning to us. We're just the conveyors of the message. It's the reader who makes something of the books we write. Their own appraisal of your work will be its undoing or its journey into history.

I hope my Silverthought books "Bukkakeworld" and "Planet of the Owls" - due in trade paperback, July 2008 - can find more meaning in the reader than they do to this writer because that's the real mark of MASS MARKET penetration.

UPDATE: this rant has barely been up a day and OUTSIDER WRITERS has asked permission to host this post on their subversive literature site. I gave them permission and it's live already - you can vote for it and leave a comment. Join the non-mainstream debate, fuckers.

Mirror's Edge aka skeleton under the camera

A long time ago, I posted a blog called FPS GAME MAKERS ARE ASLEEP, it was about the PS3 launch title Resistance (Fall of Man's lack of a skeleton under their supposedly-first-person camera). Two years later, if we can believe the pre-press hype, EA DICE a Swedish operation with very classy-looking offices and an even classier looking game called "Mirror's Edge" have pulled out their FPS finger and seem to have thrown a skeletal model under their forthcoming game. I love the game's art style using minimalist architecture, key colour and LOADS of texture resolution but how integrated into the game is their 'skeleton'? Does the player move the head of his 'actor' and the body follows, degree by degree with relevant constraint/adjustment down the hierarchic chain to the feet? Or is it just a clever marketing gimmick?

You can now share with me this vision running in the game engine for the very first time.

The general concensus among my gaming colleagues and I is this is 'twitch gaming', with an instant response from a button press - whereas there was loads of potential in the investigation of other methods of world navigation. I'd personally liked to have seen less of the fancy Sonic speedlines and more effort expended in the interface, e.g. a head control interface where the player can a) feel the weight of the skeleton under his fps camera and b) pre-mark hand/foot holds as he traverses the assault course that is the city.

if you were one of the few hundred readers who tuned into this blog yesterday, you're gonna miss this. Maybe your friends will tell you about it and you'll come back. I was thinking that this heads-up interface might be a little like the way one plays REZ or PANZER DRAGOON. And it does, except for one very important feature. The rails are free-form.

The game already knows your physical abilities/limitations, it knows if you can kick open the first gate, it knows how high you can currently jump and whether you'd need to put a foot on a wall to scale it, it knows if you have enough stamina/speed to run along the yellow wall and whether you'll clear the final jump in the demo.

And it shows you. By using the red-foot, red-hand, red-action iconography of the design itself projected onto the game world.

Let's give it a try. Stand on a gravelly roof top and look around, it's as simple as moving your mouse/thumbstick. What does the interface show you? Nothing. You can affect nothing from where you are. Why? You're not moving. Push forward to walk/ jog/run suddenly the interface shows you that AT THIS SPEED, (there's a line of ghostly red feet from where you are in the direction that you're looking) you have a slight chance of making that jump from the edge of the building to the building across the way. Look around and you'll see that the transparent footsteps leading to the edge get more opaque as you 'look' towards a special jumping area. Slow down to a walk and the footsteps to the jump area fade to nothing.

Basically it works by 'projecting ahead' and applying your current stats/speed/direction to the task in situ, at the location you're looking towards.

Take, for example, that red pipe Faith lands on in the demo at such an oblique angle late in the demo. No way! It wouldn't even turn red until she was pointing in the correct head-look + movement vector. There're so many reasons why no real parkourist would even attempt that pipe walk like that. A real parcourist would scrape to a stop before attempting such a risky maneouvre. Yes, stopping, that can be used to enhance this form of gameplay. They'd line themselves up properly with the pipe THEN accelerate across it once they'd established their momentum.

There should be other jumps where you'd have to stop at the edge (to highlight the interface) to get the best grip with two feet, jumping off one foot would lead to a death drop as the rolling friction far exceeded the standing friction of your (seemingly 100% friction) shoe - that's what 'real' parkourists would do. I know, I've watched them do it. Imagine trying to run across a metal pipe, having just scrambled across a gravelly rooftop. Imagine gripping onto a swing rope with wet hands. These are issues that have already been addressed in driving simulators but will also be issues in future skeletal games.

LOOK AHEAD is a dead simple interface that shows you the likelihood of success of the current rail you're creating. It allows you to PUZZLE SOLVE on the move.

Back to the demo, I don't like the way she shoots that handgun through her own thigh, oh, and a reflection of the runner in reflective glass would have been a great idea. Not happy to be stating the obvious. A representative of EA Dice yesterday refused to talk about the issues brought up in this post which probably means the 'press up now' and 'press down now' game control model is one that isn't broken and doesn't need fixing (yet) as they put it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Oxford Gargoyles

this lunchtime, I thought I'd take some shots of the Gargoyles of Oxford

bit of fun

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Great Global Warming Swindle

it's part two of I-don't-know-how-many but it says just enough so I can't be bothered looking for the other parts - if it bugs you, you'll do some work yourself instead of waiting to be spoon-fed your diet of non-propaganda. Here's the first part of "The Great Global Warming Swindle". Turns out the U.N. is bad-boy behind the biggest lie the global media has ever told. Yeah, I know.

"The greatest scam in history." - John Coleman, Founder, The Weather Channel.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Silverthought Press - Mike Philbin - Youtube

with only two months to go until the release of my two Silverthought novels in trade paperback, it's time to summaries, in the form of streaming video. Yes, a couple of Youtube vids I put together to talk a little about the anti-corporate-horror novel "Bukkakeworld" and sci-fi-besitality novel "Planet of the Owls". Remember, I write short novels, short sharp shocks.

April snow, I couldn't resist rushing out into the snow-covered hills and shooting this mischievous to-camera about "Bukkakeworld".

This second video was shot in the chilly-breeze of Wytham Woods which is near to where I live and where some of the action of "Planet of the Owls" takes place.

Lovers of subversive literature, mark this date in your calendars, July 2008. The world will be able to finally sample not one but two new novels from the man who thought naming one of his writing personas Hertzan Chimera would be a good idea. Share my shame, relish my pain.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

how not to use Natural Motion's EUPHORIA Grand Theft Auto 4 (with its hideous 'leaning into any corner like a twat' implementation) Star Wars: Force Unleashed (with its ridiculous 'grab any joint but don't grab it, just stick like Velcro' implementation) and see exactly how not to use Natural Motion's EUPHORIA.

I mean, it's probably understandable that the only people (it seems) to correctly use Natural Motion's realtime software Euphoria is the company who invented it, Natural Motion. Here's a TACKLE ALLEY MOVIE (in high res and high impact) from their in-house-developed Back Breaker game. Watch this, games developers, and learn that if it's used right, it looks right.

update: new record - I returned home last night from the Writers in Oxford A.G.M. to find that this blog had received more than 600 reads from the Zero Punctuation gaming forum. That's the most readers this blog's ever had IN ONE DAY. Keep it up, guys, spread the message about subversive literature. Ha!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

South East Walker - cover article

South East Walker magazine arrived in the post today, containing a cover article by yours truly - SECRET TREASURE, the splendour of Wytham Woods. Spread across three pages it's a teaser, for walkers, who're looking for hikes that are a little off the beaten tourist path. All the photos were mine, too - pity, if I'd have been able to deliver the photos as was originally planned, they would have been teeming with the signs of Spring - as it was I had to race over there and snap a few images before the flowers bloomed to meet a brought-forward deadline. According to the editorial, this might be the last issue of South East Walker in this glossy paper format - it might go more 'newslettery' in future issues, included in the Rambler's Association postal updates.

Here are images of my article in the mag, taken at 1024 by 768 so there should be enough pixels to read the text.

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Capturing Kind - now online over at Silverthought

this is my first submission/acceptance to the (paying) online sci-fi arm of Silverthought press, a story called THE CAPTURING KIND (yeah, it's vaguely inspired by the William Gibson story 'The Belonging Kind' but only in the 'twist'y end).