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So when I discovered that I could work on games, this was when I finally felt I had found my path.

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The form is too protean. There are so many kinds of games. Something unique crops up almost every day. I like to work on games where I can tinker with storytelling techniques, but even that is not for the sake of pushing storytelling into games. What motivates you to write? What made writing the thing that you wanted to do? I know you met Ray Bradbury as a child — did he pass on the Holy Ghost when tousling your hair, or something more? This goes back too far for me to nail down precisely.

I was always a writer.


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I was writing stories, doing comics, plays, movies, from a young age. I started approaching it as a profession when I was about ten.

I was vaguely aware there were these people called writers who created the books I loved. I wrote and wrote and sent stuff in, got the usual batch of fifty or so rejection slips, and finally started selling stories in fanzines, and made my first couple of professional sales to Omni Magazine, and to Ramsey Campbell in my senior year of high school. So I got all the early years of struggle out of the way early. Of course, at this age I had absolutely nothing original to write about. So the stories were absolute shit. I think the only stuff I did then that was any good was just where I found a kind of original voice and stuck with that.

The satirical stuff tended to work better than the overwrought dramatic attempts. To me, with Stand on Zanzibar Brunner inadvertently showed that sufficiently prescient science fiction can become redundant. When I read it years ago, I was thrilled with his vision of the future; but now it seems like a period piece, because much of it has happened.

Does that worry you about the worlds you create, that their impact will diminish? Is that just a threat to SF? I kind of took the opposite approach at one point—I deliberately wrote stuff that felt topical, stuff that would self-destruct with the passage of time. Because it seemed pointless to try writing things that would live through the ages. Things that survive are random. In the future, plastic caps from aspirin bottles will outlast the works of whoever wins the Nobel Prize for literature. William Gibson wrote somewhere about the pleasure of poorly aged science fiction; you can take aesthetic pleasure from that in the same way that an old barn, with its weathered, peeled paint is more interesting to look at than a freshly painted prefab barn.

Games have this built-in obsolescence which you have to embrace. I find all this stuff perversely satisfying. Our way of seeing has changed. Like Brunner, you had the luck to be reading Philip K. Dick as he was writing. Do we miss his innovative voice these days or did he say everything he needed to? What did you draw from him? Phil Dick was quite an idiosyncratic presence when I first became aware of him.

I mean, all the science fiction writers were these outrageous characters. They wrote about each other in a way where they were mythologizing one another. Asimov would write about Ellison, Ellison would write about himself. You could go to conventions and meet them.

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But I never met PKD. That said, the field is still full of characters—or those who will seem as if they were characters 30 years from now. There are other writers in the exact same position right now, doing remarkable work for which they may or may not ever be appreciated. The problem is, how do you find them? Sladek is known for his sly satire. Do you try to insert that into your work? Oh, I love Sladek. I loved all his parodies. What was your attraction to him? But strangely…I just finished a draft of a longish story and one of my friends read it and mentioned that it reminded him of Dunsany.

Will you ever issue a collection, so we actually get to read them? In high school I wrote a fantasy novel called Mistress of Shadows, which was about this wandering bard character Gorlen who interrupts a ritual meant to turn back a tide of darkness that has gone from eating the stars to devouring the world… and since he messed up the ceremony, he now has to take care of it personally. So the priests chop a finger off and replace it with the stone finger of a gargoyle; and every time he turns from his quest, the stone spreads to claim more of his body.

By the time he grudgingly saves the world, his whole hand is stone. The novel was his origin story, but at some point in my early 20s I threw it away, destroyed all the different versions.

The Half Life of Stars by Louise Wener - Books - Hachette Australia

So I picked up his story and started writing new chapters. Teamed up with the brilliant Jim Murray, a few hours of work for me turned into months of labor for him.


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Which is any easier thing to be than a successful one. It is a lot of work—hard work. Having worked alongside Jim and Mike Oeming, I can tell you it is a lot of really hard work. Do you ever regret that transition? No way! I envied my few writer friends such as Rudy Rucker who had careers in fields they were passionate about, but my jobs tended to be soulless clerical work.

How Old is the Universe?

So when I discovered that I could work on games, this was when I finally felt I had found my path. The form is too protean. There are so many kinds of games.

Something unique crops up almost every day. I like to work on games where I can tinker with storytelling techniques, but even that is not for the sake of pushing storytelling into games. What motivates you to write? What made writing the thing that you wanted to do? I know you met Ray Bradbury as a child — did he pass on the Holy Ghost when tousling your hair, or something more?

This goes back too far for me to nail down precisely. I was always a writer. I was writing stories, doing comics, plays, movies, from a young age. I started approaching it as a profession when I was about ten.

The Sun Is Also A Star – Book Review

I was vaguely aware there were these people called writers who created the books I loved. I wrote and wrote and sent stuff in, got the usual batch of fifty or so rejection slips, and finally started selling stories in fanzines, and made my first couple of professional sales to Omni Magazine, and to Ramsey Campbell in my senior year of high school. So I got all the early years of struggle out of the way early. Of course, at this age I had absolutely nothing original to write about. So the stories were absolute shit.

I think the only stuff I did then that was any good was just where I found a kind of original voice and stuck with that.