The Road Up


After getting Burt Rutan to finally get his spacecraft flying after dropping hints for a decade, the X-Prize organization is turning its all-enabling gaze to the Space Elevator. What’s interesting about this is not just the ambient interest in the Space Elevator and its nature as a bridge to the rest of the universe; this is citizen space exploration. “Space is a place, not a program,” as they say.

Imagine a world where these things are all over the place. Where taking an elevator to space is like a cruise, where manufacturing is done in orbit and you can just go up there and check out the facilities, where the Moon is a matter of time, not billions of dollars, away.

This is the universe next door.

The Ten Top Science Fiction Movies that Never Existed

Revenge of the Jedi

This is a funny and pointed article about the sad state of science fiction movies today. It talks to a great extent about how cynical and ignorant concerns took over the artistic concerns of movies that were never made but should have been, or were made much weaker than their conception would have indicated.

It’s a bit like sex.

Rudy Rucker sticks out his lip.

Rudy Rucker, author of the first science fiction book I read that featured sex and drugs, has started a new fiction blog called Flurb. Quoth the man, “Flurbbing is a bit like sex, and a bit like blending things together, an apt word for the off-kilter strange tales I hope to be printing here.”

It’s fun, Rucker-style stuff. Kooky stories about sentient math and psylocybes. I’ve only read the first story, Elves of the Subdimensions, and it’s just what I’d hope for.

It sounds like he’s going for a quarterly publication. I look forward to a steady stream of weird. Now, if only Chairman Bruce would get back to writing science fiction, too.

Sharing Soapboxes

Soapbox cars

Hooray! My new forum is up and running! It serves several functions:

1: It’s a place where I can provide support for my games in a different way than my Forge Forum does.

2: It’s a place to discuss book design for game designers. I want your book to look good. I want you to make a thing of beauty, and I want you to be able to charge what you need to charge to do it. Let’s discuss. Joshua Bishop-Roby, Luke Crane, Matts Wilson and Snyder, I greatly appreciate your input.

3: This is a big one for me: it’s a place to share science fiction you’ve written for critique, analysis, and enjoyment. Some of it will be directly inspired by Shock: and some of it won’t. But as long as your fiction’s concerned with the social, human aspects of science fiction, it will fit there nicely. Ben Lehman’s agreed to help me with moderation and he’s put up some rules there for submissions.

I’m really excited about #3 there. I got no less than three inquiries about publishing an anthology of Shock: based stories in the last day, and now I’m holding you responsible for your interest. This is the world of independent media; you want something, you make it. Rob, Justin, and Mike, when you put up an idea like this, you own it. I’m holding you responsible. Write something and make this be.

There’s a place over there for putting up works in progress for critique, and another for discussion of the ideas in your fiction.

To some extent, this is a lead-in to a possible anthology of stories. I make absolutely no promises as to whether I’m going to actually make that project fly, and I’m certainly not promising that I’ll put your fiction in the eventual and purely hypothetical anthology. But I also make no claims to your work’s ownership. You own it; it’s just my server it’s living on. Should I want your piece in the volume, we’ll negotiate whatever we can when it’s time for that.

In the meantime, consider it a zine in the punk rock sense; make something with me that’s good. Trade cassettes here for a while until you create Wax Trax, and I’ll provide the mixing board in the loft.

By the way: I’m new to Vanilla, the software this forum’s running on. If you can help me out here and there, that would be awesome. Kitkowski, I’m looking in your direction. Nixon, my wall-eye is looking in yours.

Collecting Myself

I have a lot to talk about from GenCon, but I was only home for two days before having to take off again, and my computer’s been fuxx0rd, so hold on and I’ll get back to posting in a day or two!

Preparing to Tile My Bathroom

Joshua A.C. Newman signs and numbers the pre-ordered copies of Shock: Social Science Fiction

Those of you who requested so in the last post are getting your copies of Shock: mailed tomorrow morning before I leave for GenCon. Pictured above is me signing and numbering the pre-orders (and, given the look on my face, trying to figure out who I missed). A lot of people I expect to see at GenCon, so I’m bringing your pre-signed copies along. Don’t pester Brennan, though, if you’ve pre-ordered a copy; only I know which Michael the books go to, for instance. I mean, pester him if you want to buy another copy, but not for your signed and numbered pre-ordered copy.

In other news, I saw Vincent’s Mechaton books today. I love its tone. The instructions are all questions and answers. He’ll be selling the rules for $7 and a kit with a bunch of mecha for like $45 (I don’t remember exactly).

I built a new mecha just for GenCon. It’s badass. It gets Yellows from its command flags. I’m pleased about that. You wanna see it, you better come play with us.

70 lbs. of Orange Squares

Shock spines

70 lbs. of orange squares just showed up on my doorstep. I’m really frickin’ happy with them. Really happy. If you’d like your copy sent out before GenCon, drop me a line. I may be able to send some out on Monday! Otherwise, you’ll have to wait a week to get them from me or through IPR. Also, if you want to order one from me now for shipping on Monday, even if you didn’t pre-order, order away!

Kwaidan: kwaidone!

Kwaidan cover

The first supplement for The Mountain Witch will be at GenCon this year, Kwaidan: Tales of Ghostly Japan. It’s a collection of Lafcadio Hearn’s stories and poetry edited by Timothy Walters Kleinert with book design by me. You could consider it an extended bestiary for The Mountain Witch, which is how Timothy considers it. I’m very happy with the way the book turned out, in no small part due to the extraordinary cover illustration by W. Don Flores, whose work graces the pages of the game itself.

It’ll be available at GenCon at the Forge booth, #1237, alongside The Mountain Witch, Shock:, Under the Bed, Dogs in the Vineyard, The Princes’ Kingdom, The Shadow of Yesterday, and lots of other good stuff (that, unlike these, I don’t have my fingers in). Come visit us, play some demos, and pick up some creator-owned games!

All Debts Come Due

GenCon logo
I owe a bunch of people pre-ordered copies of Shock:
I’m really happy about that because it means that I was able to pay for my print run (and might even do a bigger one now).
But that also means that, because it took so long to finish, I won’t have actual games to ship until just before GenCon. So, if you’re going to be at GenCon, come over to pick up your game! Come to me directly at booth 1237 — anyone working at the booth will know my face, so just ask — and I’ll get you your copy. Don’t worry Brennan (the Quaker at the register) with it; he won’t know what to do. Come straight to me so I can thank you, sign your book, and mark you off my list.

One fine Monday Morning in 2003.

My Forge joining date

Three years ago last Friday I joined The Forge, a community for independent game designers. Two years ago, I did book design for Dogs in the Vineyard with Vincent. Last year I released Under the Bed and designed the book for The Mountain Witch. This year, my name is in: Under the Bed, Shock: Social Science Fiction, Dogs in the Vineyard (though Vincent has moved on to a different and better page design), The Mountain Witch, Kwaidan (assuming we get it printed in time), The Prince’s Kingdom, and The Shadow of Yesterday.

I never looked back. This is a great experience for me. It’s the most excellent thing you can imagine, to be making work of your own that does what you want it to do, and working with other, brilliant, wonderful people who are doing the same thing, each in their own, unique, passionate, and contradictory way.

The Beats

We’re making something good, you dig? It’s like the fucking Beats (with less serious drug problems) or Parisian Bohemians circa 1890. We’re making something new, something that changes the way people see. We’re making art and the art is good.

Right now, Vincent is off in Berlin with Ron Edwards at a convention, organized by Ron, of Cold War spy geeks. He’s made a game, Spione, that is part of the broad activity he’s encouraging. He’s breaking new ground and a lot of us are watching closely to see what he unearths. I’m happy with him taking the risks on this; if he’s right, there will be plenty of gold pie to dig up and everyone can have a piece; if he’s wrong, it costs me nothing to learn from his mistakes.

A Scanner Darkly

I just got back from A Scanner Darkly last night, thinking about how well it worked as a Philip K. Dick story; the paranoia, the floaty perspective on reality. I read the Wikipedia article on the book and it really got me thinking: What did it cost Dick to write that story? For Del Rey to publish it? A few thousand dollars? Tens? And this movie, which took years and years to make (and it paid off. It’s great.) cost hundreds of thousands or millions. And they say the same thing. Naturally, the book is more subtle and the movie is more visually impactful.

What did I learn?

Storytelling is fucking cutting edge. What we’re doing now, making systems for storytelling, is the application of actual social technologies directly to our nervous systems. The effects we generate, the gnarliness of the stories themselves, the bang:buck is huge. Maybe Ben Lehman is right: maybe our society has crippled our ability to tell stories. Maybe Ron is right, that a lot of us are brain damaged because we’ve learned systems that deprived us of our storytelling tools.

But I think what we’re doing is new ground. We’re opening fresh wounds in the hide of the mediocrity that sells itself to us, that would purport to sell us meaning. We’re making our own fun, making our own meaning, making our own reality.

It’s like drugs that we’ve made out of our friends’ relationships with us. We all get to share the hallucination and learn from it together. We learn things about ourselves, each other, and the world. It’s a psychedelic experience of the best kind, where set and setting pre-approved, your friends at hand urging you to new arenas and you returning the favor.

The last three years have taught me a lot about art, a lot about craft, a lot about friends and mutualism. I raise my cup to Luke, Vincent, Clinton, Ron, Keith the mutherfucker, and my other companions in this Great Work. I wish your art power, your lives passion, and your deaths meaning.