Friday, December 7, 2012

City of Heroes: In Memoriam

Last weekend, I lost an old friend. City of Heroes, the longest running, most popular, and best superhero MMORPG, was killed by its publisher, NCSoft. The reasons don't make sense to anyone outside NCSoft's corporate offices and are so bizarre that one wonders if they even make sense there.

There's been plenty written on the seeming stupidity of shutting down a franchise that's still making you money, and I won't go into that here (although I reserve the right to so do at a later date). Right now, I just want to reflect on what City of Heroes meant to me and to so many others.

I started playing the game in June 2004, about two months after launch, after reading a very favorable review in a PC gaming magazine. I was hooked from the start. I only made one or two characters before creating the Fire Blast/Fire Manipulation Blaster who would become my main character. Hellguard was his name, and I already miss him terribly. I have recreated him in Champions Online, DC Universe Online, and even World of Warcraft, but it's just not the same.

City of Heroes didn't have the biggest MMORPG community, of course, but I think it can be argued that it was the best. While helpful players and developer interaction can be found in most online games, there was an abundance of each in CoH. Although I was a loner, as I am in most of my online adventures, I still have many pleasant memories of my interactions with fellow heroes and villains.
  There are still ongoing efforts underway to resurrect the game, either by lobbying other companies to buy the property from NCSoft (although reported attempts to do just this were turned down by NCSoft while the game was still running) or by creating a "spiritual successor" to City of Heroes.  While I remain hopeful that my heroes (and villains) will one day again take to the skies of Paragon City or the Rogue Isles, I'm doubtful that any of these efforts will actually come to fruition.  As much as I hate to admit it, I don't think Hellguard -- the REAL Hellguard -- will ever again see the light of day.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Procrastination, again

So, a few months ago I wrote about how I was going to be turning over a new leaf, about how I was going to actually start finishing stuff instead of coming up with a bunch of ideas that never go anywhere.  Since I haven't updated this blog since a couple of weeks after that post, you can probably figure out how that new leaf has turned out.

Why is it so hard to get the words out?  I read an interview with George R.R. Martin, of Game of Thrones fame, where he talks about everything about writing being hard, including "the words."  He was speaking specifically about how your writing almost never comes out as you dreamed it would, but that's not even my problem.  I know "the first draft of anything is shit," as Hemingway famously said, but I can't even seem to manage to get the "shit" on the page in the first place.

I'm easily distracted, which I know is a problem for many writers.  The internet, TV, etc., make it hard for me to concentrate on what should be my primary focus when I'm at my desk.  I need to set a writing schedule and stick to it, I think.

There is some hope, however.  The last few days has seen some productivity out of me.  I'm currently working on a story that I'll submit to Glimmer Train for a contest this month, and I'm revising an old science fiction story of mine that I'll send around to various markets.  I also wrote a new article about Windows 8 over at HubPages and an article for my Examiner MMORPG column.

I've got some ideas for forcing myself to get the words out.  One of these ideas is to regularly update this blog with the progress of my progress.  We'll see how this goes.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

25 years in the making

I just realized this morning that my upcoming novel, SACROSANCT, was "born" 25 years ago this year. It started as an art assignment in my 7th grade year at West Jr. High School.  The assignment was to imagine what the world of the future might be like.  Obviously, the story's gone through a lot of changes since I was 13 years old, but part of the basic premise, as well as character traits of some of the characters, are still in its current incarnation.

The book has gone through many iterations over the years, reflecting my growth as a writer and my discoveries of what the future may really have in store for us.  A big part of the reason why SACROSANCT hasn't seen the light of day so far is that I've never really been completely satisfied with the entire storyline.  I suppose that's typical of most writers; I doubt most writers are ever absolutely happy with how everything in their stories turn out.  This time is different, though, and I can't wait to finally shove SACROSANCT out the door and see how it does in the wild.

My son, who's shown creative urges in the past, is busy working on his own story of the future right now.  I'm not sure if I'm inspiring him or not, but I think it's interesting that he's the same age that I was when I first started coming up with the story that is now SACROSANCT.  I'm doing my best to encourage him; I'm very excited to be finishing my book and publishing it.  Who knows where his may take him?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Science Fiction and the Singularity

The technological singularity is a point in time coming sometime in the relatively near future in which we'll see the creation of superhuman intelligence through technological means.  Popularized by science fiction writer Vernor Vinge (who coined the term) and futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil, the technological singularity presents a huge challenge to science fiction writers who want to tell stories about the future.

The very nature of the technological singularity means it's impossible to predict what life will be like once said singularity occurs.  Implications range from true artificial intelligence, with computers operating at faster speeds and greater efficiency than the human brain, to more advanced space travel, to the possibilities of incredibly long (possibly immortal) life spans for human beings.  Most science fiction taking place in the future hasn't truly dealt with the implications of the technological singularity, but that's not all that surprising.  Again, it's hard to write about something that's impossible to predict.

People have a hard time thinking about the possibilities of future technological advancement because our brains process such thoughts in a linear fashion.  But technological advancement doesn't happen linearly; it's exponential.

Most singularity proponents think the event will occur sometime in the 21st century.  Kurzweil, in his book, The Singularity is Near, puts the date around 2045, at which point he believes a $1000 computer will be a billion times more powerful than the combined sum of all human intelligence today.

My original plan was to set my upcoming novel Sacrosanct in the 22nd century (because, in my linear way of thinking, I didn't think technology would be at the necessary stage for the events of the book until at least 150 years from now), but after thinking about the implications of the technological singularity, I'll be moving the date up quite a bit.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

SACROSANCT

I just set up a Facebook page for my upcoming novel, SACROSANCT.  Check it out here.  There's not much there, yet, of course, but it'll be the go to place for info on its development, teasers, and publication info.

Glad I got this book at a bargain price...

As an atheist and freethinker, I try to check out any "big" books on the subjects, especially by big-name authors.  About a year ago, Divinity of Doubt came out, written by Vincent Bugliosi.  In it, Bugliosi, the man who prosecuted OJ Simpson, argues that agnosticism is the only sensible answer when it comes to the question of God's existence.

I don't even really disagree with that sentiment.  Not many people who call themselves atheists would even say that they KNOW that God doesn't exist, just that, given the evidence that we have, there's no good reason to believe that he/she/it does.  Most atheists would probably be agnostics, given Bugliosi's definitions.

I have two main problems (so far) with Divinity of Doubt.  Firstly, Bugliosi misrepresents atheism's top thinkers -- Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris.  In examining their major works on the subject of atheism (Hitchens' God is Not Great, Dawkins' The God Delusion, and Harris' The End of Faith), Bugliosi doesn't even seem to understand what they were trying to accomplish.  He seems disappointed that Hitchens and Harris aren't actually making an argument for atheism (they're actually just describing ways in which they think organized religion is harmful).  In the case of Dawkins, he most certainly makes his case for why he doesn't think there is a God; it's just that Bugliosi doesn't agree with that case.

Secondly, it's obvious that Bugliosi doesn't have even a basic, layman's understanding of evolution and cosmology.  Some of his statements on these subjects (which are of great importance in the God debate) are embarrassing, particularly when it comes to evolution.  He even uses the old creationist standby: "If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?!"  He does this while even quoting Darwin as saying that man and ape evolved from a common, ape-like ancestor.  In other words, nothing in evolution says we evolved from monkeys.

Most of the book seems to focus on why theism is an incorrect answer to the God question, and for his arguments there he's using many of the same tactics that actual atheists use to disprove the ideas and concepts of organized religions.    I haven't finished the book yet, so I may write more when I have.  Hopefully I'll get past the cringe-inducing scientific ignorance parts soon enough.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Procrastination

So, obviously I'm a writer.  That's kind of the whole point of this blog.  I write nonfiction articles for Examiner.com, for which I get paid (a little bit).  I've even had one paid fiction sale.  I've got a couple of dozen short stories in various stages of development, and the same can be said for a few novels.  But I have trouble finishing anything, and I'm just not that aggressive with marketing or submitting even the stuff that I have finished.

When I began realizing how easy it was to get your work out there with Amazon's Kindle publishing program (and programs from other e-reader makers), I was very excited.  Sure, I was worried my work might get lost among all the other self-published novels and short story collections out there, but I could worry about that after I posted it for sale.  The thing that excited me most was that I wouldn't have to go through the grueling process of submission to and rejection from major publishing houses.  And even if a book of mine was accepted for publication, it could take a year or more to actually see print from the mainstream publishers, many of whom don't even do much marketing for beginning novelists anymore.

Instant gratification, and the chance to market my work in the way I see fit.  What could be better?

Of course, reality set in, and I haven't to date produced anything that's ready for Kindle (or other e-reader) publication.  Why is this?

Part of it is other, non-writerly obligations.  I work a full-time job and have family commitments, but that's not the real reason.  I waste a lot of time on the Internet, visiting sites like 9Gag and Reddit, and posting funny stuff or anti-religion links on Facebook.  That's time I could be spending on writing, on working towards my eventual goal of being able to quit my day job.

So, this is me saying I'm going to turn over a new leaf (again).  From this point forward, I'm going to attempt to carve some time out of my silly Internet diversions for writing.  I have a vacation from work next week, and I'll be starting work on a novel that I hope to have finished in 90 days.  I will periodically update my progress here so that I can be cheered on or shamed into doing what I need to be doing. :)

Article roundup 4/10/12

My Examiner.com columns have seen quite a bit of activity lately.  Here's a list of my articles for each over the last week or so.

MMORPG
MMORPG news roundup for April 1
Felicia Day's new video channels says MMORPG players are cool
How to use World of Warcraft's new Scroll of Resurrection
Big events coming for Star Trek Online this week
Celebrate Noblegarden in World of Warcraft
City of Heroes Issue 23 enters VIP beta

Freethought
Zombie Jesus Day is April 8th
Pagan roots of Easter traditions
What happened on Easter?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Article Roundup, 1/25/12

I've been pretty active on HubPages over the last few days.  Here's a listing of my recently published articles there:

All about the Kindle Fire
Must-have Kindle Fire apps
Coping with your loss of faith
Poem: BeLIEf
Five things not to repost on Facebook

Also, my Examiner MMORPG column has some breaking news about this year's BlizzCon, or lack thereof...

Check 'em out, if you're so inclined, and let me know what you think.