HyperbOlympics

We are now a few days into the 2012 Olympics in London. (Actually, it’s not all in London, but I’d be surprised if most people outside the country realise that.) I just watched the first gold being won by Great Britain and once again something struck me: the hyperbole.

I could go on about how the Olympics is not what it used to be (and sound old), but I won’t. What is (and has) driving me nuts is the hype. Hype usually drives me nuts, but this is hype about what is supposed to be an amateur sporting event! What are we doing?!

The worst infraction I’ve encountered is the use of the word “historic.” Last week, every time I walked past a TV with commentary on the Olympics, someone was describing something as historic. Someone described it as a historic event when Sir Bruce Forsythe (an old game show host for those unaware) did a stint carrying the Olympic flame. What? How is that “historic”? And today’s medal win was “historic” because it was the first time Britain has managed to get a gold in women’s rowing. Huh? (Don’t get me wrong, these girls did fantastically well. They wiped the floor (lake) with the opposition. They deserve all the kudos they can get. But “historic”?)

Historic is 9/11. Historic is the elimination of smallpox. Historic is the moon landing or even the arrival of intelligent aliens (should that ever happen). Historic is not an old comedian running with a burning stick. Hype-culture is killing my enthusiasm for just about everything and I think it may be atrophying people’s brains.

Say No to the HyperbOlympics!

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Out here in Random Post Land

Aside

So, I’ve been quiet for a while and I thought I’d pop in and give a progress report, and raise my viewing figures via the simple expedient of mentioning the three most popular search terms I’ve been getting. In no order these are:

  • Julia Dietze and some reference to underwear – Yes, that one’s still very popular.
  • The Secret World, especially referencing Tabula Raza.
  • Succubus Porn – I’ll drop a picture in at the bottom of the post just to give the guys searching for that something to look at.

The last week or so, I’ve been slacking off my Thaumatology duties and resurrecting an old character which I created long ago. She’s a vampire, really quite a good character, and I stopped trying to write her story because of Twilight. What was the point of writing vampire novels when everyone and their pet vampire pooch was also writing vampire novels. Well, stuff that, Helena was cool, and still is, and I’m giving her another outing while I recharge myself for the final rush on Book 9 of Thaumatology.

In other news, the Smashwords sale continues. Go here http://www.smashwords.com/books/category/1/newest/1, buy books, read books! You know you need to.

After the cut… succubus porn!

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Today we Celebrate our Independence Day!

Okay, so over here we don’t, but somewhere in the world a country is celebrating the day they said, “Hey England, we’ve given you lung cancer and high-starch foods, our work here is done! And by the way, we hate tea!” Our main concern was that we had lost a place to ship convicts to, but no worries, we discovered Australia and shipped them there.

In the Thaumatology universe, Britain is probably pretty happy they lost the American colonies considering what happened after World War II. Half the country is now owned by the native Americans who had a greater affinity for magic than the European interlopers. On the other hand, the US did get the bit of Canada that’s actually habitable and not full of monsters. There’s a lot more about the state of play in Thaumatology America in Eagle’s Shadow, which I’d have released today if I had an ounce of marketing sense.

A few other things that happened today back in time:

  • Chinese and Arab astronomers spotted a supernova in the area of Zeta Tauri in 1054.
  • The Treaty of Lancaster in 1744 grants Iroquois land to the British.
  • That declaration of independence happens in 1776.
  • West Point military academy is founded in 1802.
  • A year later, the Louisiana Purchase is announced.
  • In 1826 both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams die.
  • The year after that, the state of New York abolishes slavery.
  • In 1862 one Lewis Carroll tells a young lady named Alice a story and n the same day in 1865 that story is published as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
  • The Battle of Kursk began today in 1943; the largest full-scale battle in history.
  • And, in 2012, the announcement of the probable discovery of the Higgs Boson is announced at CERN.

If you’re celebrating July 4th, then have a great day. If, like me, you’re working… I empathise.

The Secret World, Review Redux

Well, another beta weekend is swinging to an end and I delved into The Secret World again, perhaps because I’m desperate, I don’t know. This time I did some running around the non-combat areas to see what I could see.

There is a building called Tabula Rasa in the London area which, given the name and the general lack of content, appears to have been set aside for socialising. I say socialising rather than role-play because it’s small and a bar. Compared to the original Pocket D in City of Heroes, Tabula Rasa is minute; it’s a handwave to non-combat gaming. I was unable to find anything similar in Seoul or New York. (New York seemed very under-developed in general, nowhere near as detailed as the other cities, though the scenery was kind of good.)

For secret societies of mystic awesomeness, the various factions are pretty damn visible. The Templers occupy a huge area of London with great big flags hung all over the place. That seemed odd. Not very secret. The Secret World seems more like The Appears On the Nightly News World.

The stability seemed better. Better, but by no means perfect. I still had one total machine crash and several freezes in a few hours of playing. On the bright side, I actually managed to die due to my own stupidity this time around. There’s supposed to be a built-in web browser which you can use to research clues on investigative missions. It didn’t work and I had to resort to checking for something on my laptop.

I doubt many people would follow my recommendation on this, but I’d wait for a few patches before jumping into this game. Better yet, wait until they decide to go free-to-play, because they will. The storylines seem engaging, though I get the feeling the execution would bug me after a while. They’ve gone for atmosphere over logic, which is going to work for all the folks who couldn’t care less about the world as long as they get to head-shoot zombies.

The Secret World, an Urban Fantasy MMO Review

So, this weekend I spent some time gaming for about the first time in a year. I’ve been keeping an eye onThe Secret Worldfor a while since it seemed like something a bit different and, to be honest, it is. So, here’s my views on the beta which I played through some of Saturday.

The Setting: The Secret World is a Lovecraftian hidden secrets setting, modernised with liberal use of sex and violence. The violence is to be expected; this is an MMO, violence is basically what these games are about. The sex… well, also to be expected to some extent. It’s a Funcom game. Funcom pretty much sold Conan on exposed nipples, so a bit of titilation is to be expected. It’s handled with humour, but this is still a game which is probably not for the young or the prudish.

The plotline seems interesting in an apocalyptic way. The stores seem well put together and hold your interest. I could see me trying to play through the game to find out what happens.

Gameplay: I rather enjoyed the skill progression system, which features a rather more flexible mechanism than is typical among MMOs. MMOs (Computer RPGs in general) were developed by people who played first edition D&D. Pen and Paper RPGs have progressed hugely since those days, but CRPGs are still stuck in the “gain a level, increase you hit points and abilities” school. The skill progression in TSW is point-based, but there is still a level-oriented mechanism to it, which is disappointing.

Combat is positional and fairly advanced. It’s fairly fast moving too. My character kicked butt! She died exactly twice, but more of that later. (If anyone was playing and spotted Ceridwyn Brent running around the opening zones, yes, that was me, I was having trouble coming up with a name no one had grabbed.)

The Problems: The game crashed three or four times, once under circumstances which left my character to die. (Happily it’s an MMO so she just got up again.) However, the blue screen crash was more disturbing than any of the assertion failures. BSODs are not supposed to happen in production code. Beyond that, the game froze a lot. Running: game locks up. Click on an object: game locks up. Fighting: game locks up. These seemed like server-end problems too. Not infrequently the game would inform you that it had lost contact with the server and would you like to migrate to another. I’m worried that they would put in a mechanism to handle this kind of thing; it implies it happens a lot. The other character death I had was as the result of a freeze. I encountered no in-game bugs, but the code seemed unstable.

Now, this was a beta, you expect problems, but the game goes live in a week or two and I’d be hoping for more stable code than this. I seem to recall Conan was similarly flaky when they made it live.

The other big problem I have with TSW, and again it seems to be a Funcom thing, is that they just haven’t got anywhere to role-play. World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, City of Heroes, they have areas where people can meet and chatter, and they are bright enough to set up a chat system which is useful for taling to other characters. Role-players, if they like an MMO, are a wonderful thing. They take longer to finish content, they stick around even though they have run out of content, they keep paying money to play when the gamers have left for the next big thing. Funcom appear to have no idea at all about role-playing and role-players (everyone else knows about us, they just treat us like shit).

I doubt I’ll be picking up the TSW when it goes live. I’d prefer it if they fixed the bugs. If you fancy being molested by a tentacle or two, you can findThe Secret Worldon Facebook.

Beauty in the Eyes

So, there’s a story behind this render and it got me thinking about beauty. That means you have to sit through the rambling monologue before you get to the good stuff. The good stuff is the render of Lily in a harem outfit, and the story goes like this:

There I was, checking DAZ’s web site, as I usually do, and they had a new clothing model, Katya, which is a nicely designed harem-girl outfit with a veil and head jewellery. Obviously I thought of Lily. Lily would love that outfit. I simply had to render Lily in that outfit (otherwise she would hear about it and hurt me). So, I duely purchased it for her and got her on the photo set and there she is.

However, since she gets rendered slowly, over the course of several hours, from the top and working down a block at a time. (The hair and faces take the longest; more edges to bounce light off, more calculations required.) I went into the little office at the back of the house to check on how she was doing and there they were; her eyes. They were looking out from the screen, deep and dark, from behind her hair and the veil. Awesome. Really, go to my Deviant Art page, click-through to the full size image and look her in the eyes. She’s smiling; you can’t see it because of the veil, but you can see it in her eyes. They’re beautiful.

So, back to the point. Beauty, what is it? Lily’s an attractive woman. I’ve rendered her in next to nothing and there’s a lot of flesh on show there, but really it’s the eyes that make the picture. I guess you’d call them “sultry” or “playful.” There are obviously a lot of other things about Lil that are attractive; I sculpted her that way. Lily was designed to be a little artificial, a collection of features designed to hit man’s built-in sexual triggers. Her hips are wider than average, her breasts larger (using a morph on the Genesis model called “Breasts Implant,” so while she’s all natural, she looks like there’s silicon in there). She’s a half-succubus, evolved to attract sexual partners. Of course, everyone has their preferences and Lily is not to everyone’s tastes.

And beauty is not always physical. Another thing I love about Lily is her personality. She’s a free spirit. She does what she wants and doesn’t care what others think of her. (Partially, I wish I could be the same, but I’m as insecure as the next guy.) An old character of mine in an MMO used to fall in love with people because of their personalities. It was a superhero MMO (City of Heroes) and everyone was attractive, if not stunning. If you just went by looks you’d be falling in love, or at least lust, with just about everyone you saw, so how can you really differentiate? A winning personality, or even just some little difference which seems attractive, can make all the difference. Even in real life that’s true. Relationships can start with looks, but they probably can’t keep on going without something else. Or can they?

Any thoughts, folks? What do you find attractive?

Oh yeah… I said you could have the good bit at the end. Enjoy.

Coming Up Behind Myself

If you’ve been reading the Thaumatology books (which would be very nice of you, I appreciate it a lot) then you’ll know that the first of them takes place in 2010 and then they proceed through time from there. Since I’m writing them relatively swiftly, I’ve been steadily catching up on myself until, at the moment, while writing book 8, Ancient, I’m actually more or less writing in real time.

It’s weird! On Sunday I was writing stuff that was happening on Sunday. Yesterday I wrote a scene which took place yesterday. Today I’ll be writing a rather big finale scene which happens today! I dunno, it feels kind of strange when I write in a date and I don’t have to check the calendar I have in my notes because it’s today. Today, Ceri and Lily are going to… Yeah, not going to say what they’re up to, but if I don’t think about it hard I can sort of imagine popping down to London and there they would be, walking into a club in Mayfair.

Oh well, I can dream.

Iron Sky, or How can you possibly go wrong with Space Nazis?

I’m having a few days off and a bit of movie watching is a must so I picked up Iron Sky on Blue-Ray. I have no idea how widely available this thing is, but if you can get a copy and you’re into the mildly absurd, watch it.

Basic premise: At the end of World War II a bunch of Nazis fled Germany and built a base on the far side of the moon. There they have been biding their time, ready to come back and take over the world.

Our heroine is a German actress named Julia Dietze, who is gorgeous, playing Renate Richter, a teacher who has been brought up to believe Nazi rhetoric. She actually believes that they are going to return to Earth to bring peace and harmony. To indicate how daft this film can get, in one of her earlier scenes she gets sucked through an airlock and half her clothes get sucked off; it’s so Benny Hill my sides hurt. My one regret, however, was that Udo Kier did not have a slightly larger role. Kier plays the Moon Führer (I’m not kidding!) and the man is awesome; typecast, but awesome.

The movie is cynical, funny, and jam-packed with retro-tech sci-fi. Good fun. I enjoyed it.

The Perils of Imagination

I’m having trouble with my writing. What kind of trouble? Imagination. It’s terrible. Ideas are a terrible thing when you have work to do. So, I thought you might like to meet the girl who’s been stopping me writing about Ceri and Lily.

This is Alexis (the one on the left) and the hulking brute behind her as a villain. The render was done so I could get the scale right. I’ve been hitting a bit of a slow patch writing book 8 and Alexis is giving me a rest.

Some of the people who know me might think she looks familiar. Alexis is an incarnation of a City of Heroes MMO character I used to play a lot. She’s a cyborg with odd eyes. She is a little different from that old character, but she does have a talent for electronics and a big gun. If I can get her story right, it might make it into print, though it’s a lot different from the Thaumatology books. Don’t worry, Ceri and Lily will be back on my word processor soon enough.

Happy Beltaine

The one big thing I dislike Communism for is turning May Day into a labour related, or downright communist, festival. (Yes, the threat of nuclear war and stuff, but that didn’t happen and I’ve heard people arguing that May Day holidays should be banned as cummunist!)

May Day, Beltaine, goes back a lot further than Soviet Russia and I think we should reclaim it. It’s half-way through the Celtic year. It’s a fire and fertility fastival. Virgins were probably not sacrificed, but virginity may have been on occasion. In the fictional world of the Thaumatology universe, Ceri and Lily would have been up on the roof of their home at dawn celebrating (and then they would have gone down to their bedroom to continue celebrating). So if you’ve got someone to celebrate the coming summer with, why wait?! Light a candle or two and… celebrate some fertility!