Quarantine Quest Available to Play in Southampton Game Jam 2020 @ Home

For two weeks now the organisers of the Southampton Global Game Jam have been running Southampton Game Jam 2020 @ Home to help give people something to do while stuck at home due to the Covid-19 lockdown. That’s exactly seven times as long as the usual 48-hour event that takes place every year, but with everything else that’s been going on (and having just rushed GUNBABY into the Spring Thing Festival) I found I couldn’t quite manage to produce a game of my own.

I did, however, end up making some small contributions to G. Deyke’s Quarantine Quest: a Twine game set during a futuristic pandemic. The theme for the jam was “Alone/Together” and, while I might be biased, I think this one tackles it quite neatly.

There were 15 submissions for the jam altogether in the end, so do check those out too. I can personally recommend Gestalt, Journal, and Robotic Anxieties. (Robotic Anxieties is, as far as I’m aware, the only other interactive fiction piece produced for this event so if that’s your sort of thing then be sure to give that one a look.) You’ll also be able to catch a live showcase of all the games on Twitch from 7pm Southampton time – exactly an hour from when this was posted!

GUNBABY Available to Play in Spring Thing Festival

If you follow me on Twitter, you might already have heard about GUNBABY, the narrative game about a baby with a lot of guns. Well, I’m happy to announce that it’s now available to play as part of 2020’s Spring Thing Festival!

If you’re looking for something calm and gentle to play during these tough times of ours…this isn’t it. However, if you fancy an interactive tale of comedic ultraviolence and not much else then this might be just your sort of thing all the same. You can click here to jump straight into the game. Continue reading

I Am a Reclusive Author

Yes, yes, I know. You’ve seen me at Reading, Winchester, and Portsmouth Comic Con. I’ve appeared in EGX’s Fringe Theatre lineup twice. I’ve spoken at the International Agatha Christie Festival, Portsmouth BookFest, the Hampshire Writers’ Society, and basically any local event that will have me, no matter how small.

“A recluse?” you might be asking. “Are you high?”

The answer is yes (and yes).

You see, the truth is that I’m simply not a people person. It’s not that I’m antisocial – I just don’t like talking to people, or even being around them for that matter. The reason I’ve put up with it so far is, essentially, that I wasn’t famous enough not to. Sure, it’s easier to avoid people if nobody knows you exist, but it’s also way less fun. There’s no challenge! But now – having appeared on panels at some of the larger local events and some of the more niche national ones – I think I’m finally in a position to become a hermit. That’s why I’ve cancelled all my upcoming appearances.

Also, now that I’m a big-shot reclusive author, I have a few eccentric demands:

  • Stay at least two metres away from me at all times. I mean, preferably much farther, but definitely no less than that.
  • In fact, stay at least two metres away from everybody else too. I don’t like crowds.
  • No handshakes (even if your arms are somehow long enough). But wash your hands anyway. With soap.
  • Stay at home unless you’re buying food or, like, absolutely have to go to work (and can’t work from home). I guess you can go out for one walk a day too. Just try to do it at a time when I’m not around.
  • Seriously: wash your hands, you filthy gremlins.

I realise some of these points might seem like a big ask, but bear in mind I was at Portsmouth Comic Con – barely more than 70 miles out of London. That makes me approximately as famous as the extras from Star Wars, and my whims should be treated with all the gravity that entails.

It’s natural that you’ll have questions at this time, so I’d like to take the opportunity to assure you that it would be best to keep those to yourself. I’m much too eccentric and reclusive to answer them. Don’t worry, though: you’ll hear from me again just as soon as The Simpsons offers the inevitable cameo appearance.

March Update

I’ve been meaning to write some kind of update for a while now, but never quite managed to find the time to cover everything. I figured the simplest thing to do was record a video instead, and anything I didn’t think to mention was probably safe to forget about.

For anyone who doesn’t have two minutes to spare, here are the main things to mention:

  • A lot of stuff I was due to turn up at has been cancelled due to Coronavirus. Today in particular, I was due to appear on an author panel at Winchester Comic Con. It’s not exactly that big a surprise, though, which is partly why I didn’t announce that I’d be there ahead of time: the cancellation was looking likely well before the organisers actually made the call.
  • Face of Glass is currently being serialised by The Pigeonhole. If you fancy four more days of free fantasy goodness (four staves are already available to read), grab your slot here.
  • I have a job! Or possibly two jobs for the same employer. I guess it depends how you count. I’m able to work from home so although there’s been a certain amount of disruption (including an annoying level of panic-buying clearing out the local shops) things are actually not too chaotic for me personally.
  • Partly because I’ve got steady work, some of my creative projects have got held back a bit. 2019’s Flash Fiction Month anthology – Smallholding – is actually available already, though only as an ebook so far.
  • GUNBABY may or may not be finished in time for the Spring Thing deadline. If it isn’t, I’ll most likely try and submit it to IFComp instead. You can find very occasional development updates on Twitter.

There’s more, but clearly it wasn’t important enough for me to think of just now. Stay safe, wash your hands, and if you feel like following along with the Face of Glass serial, here’s that link again.

Face of Glass Pigeonhole Serial

A serialised version of my prehistoric fantasy novel, Face of Glass, will be running on The Pigeonhole from the 18th of March 2020. You can sign up free through this link, but be quick! There are only so many slots available.

You might recall that The Pigeonhole serialised Ten Little Astronauts shortly before the book launched. That was a really interesting few days, and if you didn’t grab a slot that time, I highly recommend giving it a go for Face of Glass. It isn’t just an opportunity to read the book for free: you’ll have the option to leave comments in the margin, and I’ll be following along myself to answer any questions.

Because there’s a community coming together to read the book all at the same time – which will be released in eight staves, one each day – the whole thing is a bit of an event. If that’s not your cup of tea, you can just enjoy the book and never open up the comments. But if you fancy getting involved and/or seeing other readers’ takes on the story as it unfolds, it’s well worth getting a slot even if you’ve read Face of Glass already.

Finally, regardless of whether or not you plan to sign up for a slot yourself, if you’d care to share this news around then you’d really be doing me a favour. I’m just one guy – I don’t have some big publicity department to help me out – and with events like this especially it can be a challenge to get the word out before it’s come and gone. It would be great to see as many people as possible all making a start on Face of Glass when the first stave goes out on March 18th!

Mash Mash Restoration

This weekend was Global Game Jam 2020, and although I had planned to tackle my fifth consecutive attempt at the event over in Brighton (back where I first started), I ended up going for a third year at the University of Southampton. The weekend was bookended by work on Friday and a competition deadline on Monday so all in all it was easier to avoid any long journeys. I took a fairly relaxed approach to the challenge (not sleeping under a computer desk like last year) and, with the help of Paul Robins, put together a project I’m really quite happy with. The theme this year was “repair.”

Mash Mash Restoration is the first Game Jam project I’ve taken the lead in that wasn’t made in Twine. I put it together in GDevelop 5 (much like Flappy Bard, Cookie Cracker and Bananarchy). As the title mich suggest, it’s (almost) a rhythm game in which you use three different sorts of repair tools spread across three conveyor belts in order to fix an endless stream of broken(?) robots. Continue reading

Ten Little Astronauts Review by Sara L. Uckelman

Sara L. Uckleman has posted a review of Ten Little Astronauts over on SFF Reviews, and amazingly that’s a review of the book as a whole rather than just the main novella! For those who aren’t familiar with it, Ten Little Astronauts (the book) actually includes three separate pieces of writing, each of which gets its own post on the site:

The second of these sometimes get passed over (particularly by ebook readers, who don’t have physical pages offering a clue as to the extra content in the book). That’s a shame, because Six Years Stolen – a tech noir crime thriller that’s been described as “Blade Runner meets Phone Booth” – seems to have been a real hit with pretty much everyone who’s found it so far!

If you’re looking for more short fiction, by the way, you really should check out some more posts on SFF Reviews. The site originally came to my attention through a review of every single story included in Jessica Augustsson’s Myths, Monsters, Mutations: it’s rare to see both that kind of focus on short fiction specifically, and such a dedication to it!

Hear Me on Voice FM Tonight

I got a chance to show Bananarchy at a game developers’ event in Southampton last night, and as you might expect its fruit-based control scheme attracted a fair bit of attention.

Later on in the evening I did a quick interview with Voice FM, which you should be able to catch sometime around 7pm tonight. You can tune in on 103.9 FM if you’re in the area, or use the “listen live” option online if you’re farther afield. At least a couple of other games people I know were also interviewed, so it should be well worth watching out for!

EDIT: The programme is now available on Catch Up through this link. My interview begins at 1:34:00, but do have a listen to the other developers featured in the second hour: they’re working on some fantastic things!

Ten Little Astronauts One-Year Anniversary

Ten Little Astronauts was released one year ago today! I’ve got a post about that over on the publisher’s website, and don’t want to repeat too much of that over here, but I think it’s worth just saying – once again – thanks to everybody who helped get the book to where it is today. The book has had a great response and is incredibly close to 100 ratings over on Goodreads: it could well be the first of my works to reach that milestone!

Up until now I’ve tried to post updates about book events and whatnot on Unbound directly as well as over here, but the further Ten Little Astronauts‘ initial launch fades into the past, the more important it becomes to have some other way of reaching people. With that in mind, I’m going to do my best to put out regular newsletters from 2020 onwards.

If you haven’t already heard about them (and it’s not something I’ve ever put a huge amount of effort into promoting), my newsletters are a summary of everything I’ve done in the previous month, sent out (ideally) once a month. You can also subscribe to notifications whenever I release a new work, though in practice I don’t tend to send those out as it usually coincides with a regular newsletter: there’s not a lot of sense sending two emails. I’ve neglected to send one the last few months, but if anybody is reading this and thinking “Hey, I would like to keep up with this sort of thing (but don’t want to have to sift through loads of social media notifications)!” then please do sign up: having a few more people on the list would do wonders keeping me motivated to send them out!

Ten Little Astronauts in Unbound Sci-Fi Bundle

Unbound has opened up a special Christmas Shop of books and bundles that would make good festive gifts, and Ten Little Astronauts is among them! This bundle would be perfect for anybody you know who loves sci-fi so much they’d definitely get through more than one book before New Year.

This is currently the second most ordered bundle, which I realise isn’t saying much as the shop has only just opened and most have yet to see any orders at all, but still seems like a pretty promising start. Most books have an RRP of around £10, so four for £25.99 is a bit of a bargain. Also, if you order before the 17th of December (from within the UK) the bundle should arrive in time for Christmas.

Even if you’re not shopping for sci-fi, do check out the full selection of books and bundles: there’s quite a range on offer!