Updates and News!

Hey folks! How’ve you been?

I know, I know, I’ve been quiet this week. There’s a good reason for that, actually. and it has to do with out first bit of news here. Basically, I’ve been away from my keyboard and desktop a lot this week. At least, during my working hours.

Sounds odd, right? After all, shouldn’t I be at the keyboard? Normally, yes (and don’t worry, the lack of writing bugs me too). But there’s a good reason: Starforge is coming. And so I’ve been reading through Colony and Jungle all week, getting myself  caught up on every little detail and nuance before I start work on the big finale. I’ve finished Colony already, and I’m blistering my way through Jungle at the moment.

By the way, I’ve been doing this with a new ereader (the absolutely awfully named, but otherwise fine, “Boox Poke2) which means I’ve been using the Kindle App rather than my old Kindle (both are still e-ink, however). Anyway, this newer reader has a feature for Kindle that’s quite nice: Estimated reading time. When you start a book, it shows you the average reader time to completion, and then adjusts it to match whatever pace you set.

Jungle? The average was something like 29-35 hours. The thing is a titan of words.

Actually, that’s only one of the amusing things I learned reading through Colony and Jungle this week. The other was … Well, for those of you who don’t read ebooks often, Kindle has a neat feature where readers can highlight passages from books, and if enough people highlight the same passage, a small dotted, light-grey line will show up in everyone else’s copy (if the feature is turned on) to show that people have marked the passage. Originally this was created with the intent of helping folks perusing non-fiction texts find relevant sections (like students searching for a date) but has since become a staple for a lot of fiction readers for favorite quotes, insightful lines, etc.

Anyway, I was both surprised and elated to find Colony now bearing such markers! A milestone I didn’t even realize was there until it arrived, but it did make me feel a nice inner glow to see a number of people marking moments in my work as insightful and worth referencing. Time to see how many I find (if any yet) in Jungle!

So, what else is there to talk about? Why, Fireteam Freelance of course? Yes, there will be a new episode tomorrow. Episode 10, Swift Tilt, will go live tomorrow morning at 8 AM mountain time (unless I bork AM and PM again like I did that one Saturday it was late). Anyway, if you’ve been reading Freelance so far, you know things have undergone a monumental shift in the past few episodes for the team, and Swift Tilt isn’t about to let that rest. With only a few episodes left in the series, things are tipping toward the inevitable conclusion, so if you’re a fan of Adah, Anvil, Owl, or Urse, be sure to see what’s coming for the team!

Now, to other, less fun news. The book world is in an absolute frenzy over an open letter signed by more than a hundred famous authors, editors, historians, and journalists, among others. Titled A Letter on Justice and Open Debate (which you can read at the link, and I highly recommend you do if you’re at all curious about this) addressing the “stifling atmosphere” rooted in intolerance, public shaming, and “blinding moral certainty.” many have since referred to it as a letter concerning “cancel culture” … and well, you can probably predict the results.

It’s been a firestorm. Almost within minutes of posting the letter, many of those that had signed their names to it found themselves under attack, accused of bigotry, transphobia, racism … Many fixated on the one name: JK Rowling, who has been in the media lately for comments on transgender people that have seen her come under fire, but rather than focusing on Rowling, used her name on the letter to attack anyone else’s name on the letter, directly accusing them of being guilty of all the same things by association.

All in all, it’s been a massive firestorm across certain circles. Sands, this morning I awoke to a post in a subreddit I follow demanding that any references to the letter needed to be removed from the sub, and the ability of those who had posted on the topic to participate in the sub be questioned and perhaps removed. In the name of “freedom of speech.”

Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed, the post was downvoted to oblivion, the mods publicly replied they would have none of that as it was clearly not freedom of speech in any way, shape, or form, and that they would continue to delete posts that violated rules of personal attacks, language, and hate speech, but not for discussing a letter that the poster clearly felt attacked by … though why it was fairly obvious, as they were advocating for exactly what the letter decried against. Said poster (along with others) then publicly announced they’d be leaving the sub for being so “hateful.”

Did I say cooler heads prevailed? Among the moderators, at least.

Ultimately, the ensuing storm has swept over a lot of book circles, dragging old skeletons and arguments back out into the light but once again proving a hot topic. Personally, I think the letter has a great point: There are far too many instances I’ve seen where that “blinding moral certainty” has driven people to make, say, or excuse all kinds of horrible behavior. Sands, last year for example a young author had her first published work canceled after a social shaming backlash for daring to have slavery in her Asia-based fantasy. Nevermind, that it was based on the Asian slave trade, and furthermore on experiences her own ancestors had undergone being in that trade (and IIRC, not as dealers, if you get my meaning).

Anyway, the letter is worth a read regardless of where you stand on the issue, if for no other reason than to explore different viewpoints on the subject.

Now, that’s some downer news, so how about some unrelated news entirely? It’s been a while since I’ve chatted about any games or gaming here, since usually it doesn’t come up, but occasionally I’ll break from that and today is one of those days.

Basically, when I haven’t been reading Colony/Jungle these last few days or biking, I’ve been occupying my evenings with one game: Subnautica. Yes, at long last I’ve picked up this submarine-based survival game (grabbed it during the Steam Summer Sale) and it dug its hooks into me hard. It’s an absolute delight though.

For those who haven’t heard of it, Subnautica is a survival game placing the player in the wetsuit of a spaceship worker (what role they had we’re never really told) who managed to make it to an escape pod as some unknown calamity downs the ship they were aboard. They (you) wake up drifting in the life pod in the middle of a massive ocean, suffering from a concussion, and oh yeah, it’s a massive alien ocean, filled with all kinds of crazy creatures.

If the idea of what lurks below the ocean surface is terrifying or even concerning to you, this game becomes a bonafide horror-journey.

Anyway, from there it’s a fairly expected survival game. Using the life-pod’s fabricator, you start collecting small bits of food, water, and various ores to try and hold out and survive until rescue comes, staring with the basics and slowly working your way up to “Why don’t I have a submarine yet?” What happens I won’t spoil, but I will say along the way I’ve done a lot of swimming, exploring, panicking (The right thumbstick click is the screenshot button, and I have a lot of accidental screenshots of gaping maws of teeth coming to swallow me whole. As a friend says: it’s not a bug, but a feature), and in general having a blast. It’ll end eventually, but for now I’m content to plumb the depths again and again.

And no, just in case anyone asks, I didn’t name any of the subs I’ve built (two were swallowed) after anything from Colony. It was a temptation, but felt entirely too self-effacing for my own taste. My third little sub is named Minnow 1, and despite the number in the name, hasn’t had to be replaced by a Minnow 2 yet (a close call last night notwithstanding).

All in all it’s a blast, and though it does require a bit of a rig to play … I do recommend it, so if it sounds like something you might enjoy, give it a look.

All right, I need to get back to reading Jungle now, readers. Don’t forget, Fireteam Freelance tomorrow and …

Oh yes! I almost forgot! Axtara – Banking and Finance updates! Phew! Well, as of (checks) right now, two Alpha Readers have already finished the Alpha, and they have loved it. I think my predictions (and many readers) about how much fun they’ll have with this one are well-justified. In addition, one more Alpha Reader is almost done, and the comments I’m seeing are overwhelmingly positive. This story is a delight, it seems. Next Monday I’ll start moving through the comments, cleaning, tucking, refining, and getting Axtara one step (or wing-beat maybe) closer to Beta. Still trying to get a cover hashed out, but we’ll see if the artist wants money. Most do, and I have money, so hopefully we’ll be able to come to a trade of some kind. I really want this artist for the cover (this is the picture that made me realize Axtara would be best served with their artwork).

Okay, that’s the last of the news. Back to the jungles of planet K-247-2 now!

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