morsla: (lookin)
Eclipse Phase is due out some time this year, from Catalyst Game Labs. From the primary author, Rob Boyle:
The game has a post-apocalyptic, post-singularity transhumanist setting. It’s influenced a lot by sci-fi by authors like Richard Morgan, Charlie Stross, Ken Macleod, Alistair Reynolds, Bruce Sterling, and Peter Hamilton. It’s a bit darker than Transhuman Space, and while we do try and stick close to a hard science approach, it does include things like psi and wormhole gates. It takes place primarily in the Solar system, with a few extrasolar colonies and opportunities to explore beyond via wormholes gates.

There’s an emphasis on backing up your mind and downloading into new bodies of different types (biological, synthetic, or mixed), allowing for character “save points” as well as optimizing your character’s abilities for specific missions.

More under the cut... )
I like the setting, but I'm a bit underwhelmed by the comment that "The game system is a simple d100 variant, optimized for quick resolution so people can focus on the setting more than mechanics." Sure, I love a detailed game setting, but a good system that helps to support the style of the game is also a selling point for me. If I just wanted a setting, I'd keep reading the source material.

Speaking of which, I've just downloaded a Creative Commons version of Accelerando, and I found another "how did I miss that one?" book in the shape of Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon. Once I finish my next project (and get paid) I see an Amazon order in my future...

On a different note, if you enjoyed The Atrocity Archives and have a geeky roleplaying past, you should read some of this thread on RPG.net. Sometime after GenCon, I'd like to run a short version of PROJECT LONG STAIR.
morsla: (vnv)
Just very, very busy. Final corrections on the last book should be finished tomorrow morning, and after that I'm done for the year.

Thanks to all the people who suggested authors and books in my last post. After looking for it in at least four countries, [livejournal.com profile] mousebane lent me a copy of Perdido Street Station - which I'm happy to say has lived up to all the hype. The detail in Miéville's story is astounding - his city lives and breathes, built with countless threads that are deftly woven into his story, giving the impression that none of that detail is ever casually left for the reader to find. Every chance reference, every name or event overheard in a snippet of gossip will cross and re-cross the paths of the characters. Scattered throughout the chapters it would make the story stunted, predictable. Instead, it forms a relentless tide of information that gives life to the setting - populating the vast cityscape with all the bustle you would expect to find in a steampunk quasi-London.

The most surprising part has been discovering such a tight narrative woven through such verbosity. Descriptions of the city (seen from a river barge, a train, or walking down narrow streets) drip with so much detail that a character's momentary glance out a window can draw you into a rolling tide of prose. It's language to be seen and heard, spoken, tasted. I found myself reading aloud for most of the trip to Blackwood, to share the story and revel in the language.

Enough gushing about the book from me - although I could ramble on about it for hours, I lack the language to properly do justice to what I'd want to say. Instead, here are some words from the author, about what he thinks he's doing...

"Basically, I don't think there's anything inherently escapist about fantasy. The reason people think there is because so much has been derived from Tolkien and Dungeons and Dragons and has degenerated into something of the continual repetition of its own cliché - a kind of comfort food - but that's not intrinsic to the form.

Gormanghast is a fantasy, Max Ernst, but these are not escapist. The corollary of this idea is that realism narrowly conceived is unescapism. That's bullshit! You read someone like Anita Brookner or what Banks calls Hampstead novels. This is a novel about a middle class world where the people are hermetically sealed from the rest of the world. That's escapism. You compare that with Mary Gentle's Rats and Gargoyles or Mike Moorcock or M John Harrison or whatever, where you have the fantastic completely penetrated with real material concerns, men and women, gender, economics… there's nothing intrinsically escapist about this literature at all.

Anyone who tries to write escapist fantasy is kidding themselves. You might think you're being escapist but you're not escaping anything. It's like people who say, I don't have a theory, I just use common sense. It's an ideologically impossible position. It's the same with much putative escapist literature. It thinks it's escaping but it's rampantly ideological. I figure that you might as well acknowledge this and then use the fantastic to riff off the shit that's all around us. Any fiction -- any art -- becomes fucked when it becomes mannerism.

A lot of literary fiction has become its own cliché and it's become very mannered. Of course there's a lot of appallingly bad pulp fiction but when this stuff finds something new and locates itself as part of the tradition it's as good as anything. There are some writers in that tradition in terms of their use of language who as prose stylists are the equal of anyone alive. I'm thinking of people like John Crowley, M John Harrison, Gene Wolfe. There are also a load of writers who evade easy classification. I'm currently very interested in Lovecraft, the pope of horror pulp: by all reasonable standards his prose style is terrible. But you can't put it down. There's something compelling about it. This neurotic fascination with language and what I like in fiction -- in any form -- is fiction that is conscious of its own use of language. Some pulp, and some non-pulp, uses language basically just to pass on information, which is a bit boring. What Lovecraft ironically shares with the Modernists like Joyce is the absolute physical awareness of the shape of the language itself. They do it in very different ways."

(From an interview with 3AM back in 2003)
morsla: (troll)
It's been ages since I read much fiction. I think it's partly due to no longer having travel time to and from work, but it's also because of a growing despair that good stories are getting harder to find.

I love Of Science and Swords, but their latest catalogue doesn't give me much hope for the state of my bookshelves. Either the store is cultivating a niche as premier supplier of legitimised Mary Sue fanfiction, or the whole fantasy/SciFi/horror market has already gone to hell. I really hope it's just the former.

[livejournal.com profile] aeliel and I have been playing the Mary Sue game - read a blurb out loud with the protagonist's name swapped out. It makes most new releases sound like part of a vast, vomit-inducing series, sprawling across space and time. Visit a world of wonder and imagination, where only our spunky brain-surgeon-vampire-hunter-private-detective-werewolf-starship-pilot-dragonriding-tomb-raider-archmage-princess can save the day against impossible odds! Surely there are still good books out there, floating atop the cesspit. Right?
...however, one major problem remains: Mary Sue, the only android survivor of blahblahblah's cybernetic empire. Outwardly indistinguishable from a human woman, Mary Sue has superhuman strength and speed, and perhaps even deadlier capabilities left unknown...

...Exorcism isn't a job, it's a calling - and a curse. Just ask Mary Sue, a woman who has a stronger aura than any Demon - or so she thought...

...Vampire Mary Sue has become a Watcher - one of the supernatural world's enforcers - even as she fights to control her vampiric rage. But if there is one thing Mary Sue has always been able to find, it's trouble...

...While vacationing in Tokyo, archaeologist Mary Sue is approached by a man who desperately needs her help. blahblahblah, the last descendant of an ancient warrior family, is trying to locate a stolen artifact...

...on the brink of civil war and mass starvation, the city turns to an inexperienced new Mistress, an orphan who has risen from the slums to claim the power of blahblahblah. Can Mary Sue harness her survival skills and save blahblahblah from ultimate destruction?...
And of course, a classic -
...follow Mary Sue from her beginnings as a travelling mage, to the tragic collapse of an elven empire, and on to a personal turning point that could have sent her down a path to corruption and darkness...
Yeuchh. When people start naming characters 'Dante Valentine' and 'Halcyon Blythe', I think I've accidentally wandered into a Mills & Boon catalogue.

Please, LJ - tell me what books and authors I should be looking for. Genre doesn't matter as much as decent writing - I'm happy to read outside my usual habits if it will lead me to a good story. Still, I'd like to believe that a publishing house somewhere is still producing some good speculative fiction though...

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