Unexpected Visitor

This started as a short story crossover between Les Miserables and War of the Worlds. I felt it had potential as an interactive story in which readers could make decisions and take different paths as the play the part of the main character.

At different times I’ve changed the look of the game, and even added my own voice to narrate it, and got as far as making the first stage playable (click the image below to play):

war1.jpeg

From the map below you can see that a much more extensive game was planned, and there was a design document made detailing some of this.

visitor-map-twine.png

Realising I might never get around to finishing it I entered what I’d worked on so far into a competition for unfinished projects and it received several encouraging reviews:

“Love the use of spoken narration in a game that evokes a radio play! This story looks really ambitious; … Really promising work!”

“I enjoyed the game more because of the audio. … would love to see you take that aspect further, … You might not be a voice actor, but the audio gave it a real War of the Worlds feel, and I thought you did a pretty darn good job. … Good work on the technical end and the recordings – bravo there.”

“Amazing concept!”

“I love the general idea this presents of mashing up two classical works, and even the specific idea this presents of mashing up other works with “The War of the Worlds”. I also really like both the voiceover option and the ability to turn it off; … in summary I’d enjoy seeing this continue.”

And from Emily Short, the venerable interactive fiction writer herself:

“In contrast with some read-aloud IF, it feels as though this game was created for this kind of presentation; the sentences are meant for reading. The reader performs them with gusto, too. … it was definitely on the more compelling end among audio IF stories I’ve experienced.

… I was enjoying the rest of the presentation enough that I kind of wished I could sit back and just listen.”

PicoDiver

I coded a demake of the secret “Booty” easter-egg game, originally created by John F. Cain for the ZX Spectrum in 1984, and recreated by me for the Pico-8.

“You play again as Jim the Cabin Boy, but your mission this time is to dive under the pirate ships floating above you, collecting 20 goldfish before your oxygen runs out. Luckily, you can get up to the surface to get some more air, and you can’t actually die in this mini-game, but colliding with the fishes and other underwater lifeforms will make you lose all your goldfish.”

It is playable here:

picodiver_screen2

Or here:

picodiver_screen

And the source code is on Github

Pristine

Although I still have a some revising to do, I uploaded the first three chapters of my latest novel, Pristine. It is the story of a young woman who lives in a world in which reputation is everything, and she has carefully crafted a Pristine level of social credit her whole life, only to suddenly lose it.

Pristine

Who Competitions

I wrote a little Doctor Who fan fiction in May for an online competition.

Toward the end of June I entered a major competition to write a story for Doctor Who that would be produced as an audio episode (by Big Finnish who do official Who radio adventures) .

It didn’t win the competition, but I received a very encouraging response from the editor:

“Thanks for writing in. We had hundreds of submissions again this year, and although I couldn’t respond to them all, in a few cases I’d wanted to get in touch because even if the work didn’t quite make the final shortlist, it was close. I really liked the idea of The Diary, drawing on a known Doctor Who object but spinning out a wonderfully human story. We had a lot of stories taking a new person’s perspective on the Doctor’s life and they were very rarely done as well as this. Best wishes and do keep on writing!”

500yeardiary

Bootyful Demake

Back in the mid-1980s I bought a ZX Spectrum computer game with my pocket money called Booty. I found playing the game to be both fun and infuriating.

Fast forward to 2017 and I discovered the Pico-8 virtual game console, which allowed me to go back in time and create the retro 8-bit video games I wanted to back when I was younger.

While working on my own game design I realized it used some similar concepts to Booty, so decided to recreate one of it’s levels as an experiment and got carried away until I’d almost replicated the whole game (with a few differences to make it more easily completable).

booty-demake-screenshot

Yesterday I released the game on the web at Itch.Io, playable within the web browser. I also put the source code (messy as it was) up on Github.

booty-demake-instructions

PiWrite Linux

Like many a System Administrator I have highly customized versions of Linux for the server or desktop, and I’ve used and altered the Linux-based Raspberry Pi system for many purposes. One of those projects was setting it up as writer’s computer, with all the tools someone might need to produce a novel. This ultimately produced a custom Linux distribution for that platform, with a different graphical environment, with many useful writing applications and tools. I called it PiWrite and have made it available to anyone who might be interested.

PiWrite

The Mysterious Traveling Market

Doctor Who is the first television programme I can remember watching, my father watched the first episode of Doctor Who in 1963 at age seventeen, and I watched what I thought might be the last episode in 1989 when I was seventeen. The Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker, 1974-81) was my first Doctor. I watched the show as a boy in Canada on an American public TV station, and it was my link to the country I was born in (and to the many alien creatures, worlds and ideas it introduced me to).

Waiting to watch episodes on television didn’t give me enough access to the world of the Time Lord, and so I sought out books wherever I could find them. These paperback retellings of earlier Doctor’s adventures were the only way for me to experience those stories, long before the advent of them on video. I dreamt of one day writing such stories myself. I’d imagine where the Doctor might go next and other beings he might encounter on far off planets.

Doctor Who returned to television screens in 2005 and has continued to the time of writing (2016), but to fans – who followed it’s stories in books, audio dramas, and comics – it never ceased. But as the BBC doesn’t accept unsolicited scripts, and I don’t yet have any recognition as a writer of science fiction, I am unlikely to get a call from the producers asking me to pen them an episode. What I do have is my imagination and an eagerness to explore the possibilities of a Doctor Who story that could be, which could revisit some familiar territory, but also speculate about the Doctor’s history, his people, and his purpose.

In May I began writing a little novelette, firstly as a script, mostly dialogue between the Doctor, his companion and occasionally other characters. It was split between the brief descriptions of the scenes they encountered and the actions that took place. I’ve added some additional text to help make it more readable, but it was never intended to be published.

Doctor Who Market

This is the story I would’ve liked to have made for my children and friends who love the programme. It is a homage to aspects of the show I have enjoyed and which have interested me, although I hope it will be of interest to others too.

JavaScript Course

Since the age of fourteen I’ve been programming. It’s never been my full time job, but I have been able to use the coding skills I’ve learnt often in different technical jobs I’ve held.

From the early days of the web I’ve been making web pages using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. But, after I completed the Code Academy & Code School lessons for that language, I found that both those courses were lacking in one area: teaching how to change web page elements natively (without any special libraries like JQuery). So I decided to create my own little course to help those interested.

In the past I’ve done video training for the log monitoring application Splunk too.

I, Butterfly

I entered the Ludum Dare 48 hour game creation competition and sort-of completed it.

My interactive fiction game was loosely based on a short story I wrote titled, “I, Butterfly”.

The planned game mechanics were over-ambitious, and in the end I had to simplify it greatly to get it done in time. But I did finish the semblance of a game, and learned a great deal about planning, coding and testing.

iButterfly_Story-Paths-134x300

I have been playing interactive fiction (or text adventures games as we called them in the UK) in different forms since I was fourteen, and over the last couple of years have been helping others create Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style books and games.

Since then I have been playing and studying many such hypertext and parser-based novels as well as collected and testing different platforms and features for developing my own. I’ve even uploaded guides to help others generally and specifically those using a game creation utility called Twine.

My First Novel

This was my first novel, although I did write a few chapters of one when I was about fifteen, but they were lost by my English teacher. A year after that I wrote a work of interactive fiction and was close to completion when all of the paperwork and backups were lost.

I returned to writing a few short stories when I was twenty, but became discouraged when someone told me writing wasn’t a proper profession and I should forget about it. It wasn’t until 2012 at the age of forty that I began to write again, at which time I wrote several short stories.

I first had the idea for this book in 2013, but didn’t consider it seriously until early the next year. This story was originally called “Downline”, which describes the structure of the community the book is about, but I discovered that there was already a book called that. I can’t remember where I first heard the phrase “Cotton Covered World”, and I can’t find a specific origin for it, but I’ve seen it in numerous places since to describe when someone insulates themselves from the real world, and that seemed a perfection summary of the book to me.

By the summer of 2014 I’d planned to write this novel in the late autumn as part of the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) competition. It would give me a deadline and a daily expectation of my progress. So in just under 3 weeks (19 days) I somehow wrote over 50,000 words.

Cotton Covered World

UPDATE:

The first three chapters of my novel are available to read online:

Cotton Covered World, Part 1