Supporter List for Ten Little Astronauts Closing Imminently!

If you’d like to support Ten Little Astronauts but haven’t already, this is your absolute last chance. The supporter list will close at midnight on September 17th, UK time. If you’ve never even heard of this book before, here’s a video – filmed on board a submarine – to tell you what it’s all about:

Everybody who supports a book at Unbound gets their name listed in the back to record their contribution. But with Ten Little Astronauts set to launch next month, the thing has to be typeset and printed which means – inevitably – they have to call time on adding new supporters.

If you’re reading this before the deadline, please do consider spreading the news however you can. Post it on Facebook. Send out a tweet. Print out this blog post, fold it into a dainty origami swan and foist it on somebody while shouting “HONK! HONK!” I promise I won’t judge you (though can’t speak for anyone else).

Remember: if your name’s not on the list by midnight on the 17th, it won’t be in the book!

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Blacklight 1995 and Unicorn Deathmatch Shortlisted for Wonderbox Digital Fiction Competition

I’ve been pretty heavily focused on getting Ten Little Astronauts ready for publication recently, which might be why I never noticed that two of my interactive fiction games were on the People’s Choice shortlist for Wonderbox’s Opening Up Digital Fiction Competition.

You can play either one by clicking its icon above.

I sent in a whole bunch of games back when the competition was open for submissions, but wasn’t particularly confident in any of them making the cut. To see two in there is a real surprise, especially since these two in particular are very different in tone.

Because I discovered this pretty late on, not only has voting now closed but the winners have already been announced! Sadly neither of my games are amongst them, but there was some pretty serious competition: the winners look absolutely top notch, and I encourage you to check them out.

This is hardly the first time something I’ve worked on has been up for a prize, but it is the first time it’s happened specifically for an interactive piece that wasn’t a team project. It just goes to show that it’s usually worth taking a chance on these things even if you’re not sure what will come of it. Also, do keep an eye on Wonderbox specifically: the competition is annual so if you’d like to take a shot at it yourself then you’ll have a chance next year!

The Garden of Eleven on Hospital Radio Basingstoke

If you’ve subscribed to my newsletter, you might have already had a chance to read The Garden of Eleven, the flash fiction piece I submitted to the final Hampshire Writers’ Society competition of their 2017-2018 season. That piece went on to take first place, and it’s now going on to be broadcast on Hospital Radio Basingstoke: one of the top five hospital radio stations in the UK.

https://i2.wp.com/www.hrbasingstoke.co.uk/wp-content/themes/HRB_Theme_Apr_2018/images/object989177796.png

If you’d like to have a listen online, it’ll be on sometime between 15:00 and 16:00 UK time on Wednesday 22nd of August 2018 (ie. coming up soon!). But time zones are difficult, so if you don’t know when that is for you, keep an eye on my Twitter feed: I’ll try and squawk about it an hour or so in advance.

I think this is the first time something of mine has gone out as audio like this, but we’re hoping it could become a regular thing for HWS – with the winning competition entry being broadcast every month.

Supporting Authors

I saw this tweet today, and after several failed attempts to come up with a response in 280 characters I figured it was probably worth making it a blog post.

Edit: The tweet itself has since been deleted – apologies if any links no longer work.

The thing that really stood out to me here wasn’t so much the original tweet as the majority of responses to it:

On the one hand, I feel as though these people are missing the point of the original tweet: if nobody supports authors financially, they will not be able to write. On the other, I’m not sure that point was particularly well made in the first place.

Buying books on sale isn’t the same as buying from charity shops, which isn’t the same as ARCs (advance reading copies), which isn’t the same as piracy. I’d like to be able to say “what all these things have in common is that they don’t give the author any money,” but buying books on sale does. The best I can say is “what all these things have in common is that they give the author less money than they might get otherwise, at a time when it’s already almost impossible to make a living from book royalties,” and that’s considerably less snappy.

Basically, this is why I opted for a blog post rather than a tweet. I think Twitter’s demand for brevity is partly why people are (I believe) getting the wrong end of the stick, and why Sarah Bennett felt it necessary to expand upon the charity shops point specifically a few hours later:

If you read through the response to this post, common points raised are:

  1. New books are expensive.
  2. Charity shops offer a low-cost alternative for people with little disposable income.
  3. Second-hand books guarantee that somebody is paying for the author’s work in a way that free ARCs and piracy don’t.
  4. It’s unfair to lump charity shops and piracy together.
  5. Not everybody has access to libraries.

These are all perfectly reasonable things to point out. However, a lot of the things said in favour of charity shops could be (and often are) said about piracy:

Some of these I seriously agree with: if a reader prompts someone else to buy a book then it barely matters where they got it, and if they can’t afford to buy it then the same thing could be said. Others are completely ludicrous: money may not be more important than art, but it sure does make it easier for authors to continue, you know, writing books instead of dying in the gutter.

But one point seems to be consistently overlooked: financially, it makes no difference to the author if one reader buys a paperback that gets donated and sold through five charity shops in succession or if one pirate buys an ebook and five readers download it for free. It makes no difference if one person buys a copy and five family members read it as well. Each of these scenarios represents six people reading one book sold.

I think what’s most striking to me about the whole thing is this:

  • People seem to care deeply about the value of books, but are largely unconcerned about whether any of their money reaches the author.
  • People firmly believe that everyone should be able to read what they want, but if you can’t afford to buy it new then you’ve got to wait for someone wealthier to sell or donate their copy.
  • People want everyone to have access to books, but if you want to write them then you’d better have enough money to sustain that as a hobby.

The ideal solution here would be to make sure that libraries were well stocked and widespread, but at this point that’s looking like a very long-term goal. In the more immediate future, I think a more achievable aim would be this: please buy new books if you can afford to. If you can’t, don’t worry about it. Also, and most importantly, please leave reviews and share the things you love – however you get hold of them.

And on that note, if you care about this sort of thing then you might be interested in Common People: An Anthology of Working Class Writers. Making books available for everyone to read is a worthy goal, but it’ll have much more of an impact if a wide range of people are writing them too.

IntroComp 2018

This year, for the first time, I’ve entered IntroComp: an interactive fiction competition for which participants submit an excerpt of a work-in-progress rather than a finished piece. It’s an unconventional idea, but fortunately I had plenty of works-in-progress to choose from so bunging something in was a no-brainer.

The rules specify that entrants can’t canvass for votes, so I’m going to play it safe and not even tell you which entry is mine! You’ll just have to read through all of them (or as many as you like) and guess* which I submitted. And vote! Voting is open until August 31st.

*It’s possible my name is in there. I don’t know. I can’t remember.

Have fun! And if you write interactive fiction yourself, do keep an eye out for next year’s event. It’s a wonderful idea and I’d love to see it get more entries next time around.

Damon L. Wakes’ Stuck-in-a-Library Simulator

I got stuck in a library for about an hour yesterday so I used the time to write a Twine game on my tiny, Frankensteined-together netbook. That game is Damon L. Wakes’ Stuck-in-a-Library Simulator.

Yeah. This is my life now. And you get to experience it too! Through the medium of interactive text. Fun.

Announcing Wolf at the Door

Back in May I set up Codename Caerus: a game project bringing a team of people together to make something better than any of us could have produced individually. That something is still in the works – it’ll take more than a couple of months to see it through to the end – but we’ve made great progress and Codename Caerus now has a title: Wolf at the Door.

Our efforts so far have been focused on getting a demo prepared for submission to AdventureX. At this stage, it’s not in good enough shape to share – this one’s just to demonstrate that we have the bare bones of a working game – but it can be played start to finish and most of the gameplay that’ll appear in the finished version is already present in some form or another. In some ways it’s already more ambitious than what I first planned, as we’ve got in-game sound: something I wasn’t even sure was possible to do in Twine back when I organised this! Continue reading

Ultraviolent Unicorn Deathmatch of Destiny 2: Aquatic Boogaloo

Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 31

Challenge #14: Write a story that includes a criminal character and is not set on dry land. It may be a 369er, an epistolary narrative, or a work of interactive fiction.

A hyperlinked version of this story is available here.

1

You are Wishes O’Houlihan, top agent of the International Leprechaun Police. Riding atop your mighty steed – a unicorn with a chainsaw for a horn – you are unstoppable.

Your mission is to take down Captain Blokebeard, the most notorious pirate of the North Specific.

…but how?

Parachute in! 2

Speedboat chase! 3

Launch yourself from a cannon! 4 Continue reading

California James and the Chapel of Rome

Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 30

“Come on, Squat Runt!”

“Can we rethink my nickname, Doctor James? I feel as though it crosses the line from affectionately disparaging to actually hurtful.”

“There’s no time! We have to reach the Sistine Chapel before that albino monk gets—”

A hooded figure stepped out from the doorframe. “My ears are burning,” said the monk.

“Well, I’m not surprised,” said California James. “It is an exceptionally sunny day.” Continue reading