Planet Mira called

I’m getting back on the writing wagon-horse-thing slowly. The manuscript is at 50k. If you had told me that I could do it, I’d agree that it was possible but doubtful I could spend more time on yet another solitary hobby. Well, I want this story done justice. I have a small word count goal this month, though, because I’m working on some book recommendations on a deadline and am playing Xenoblade Chronicles X for the Wii U because I enjoy getting slaughtered by alien squirrel-kittens and sauropods when I try to place observational probes. It’s eating almost all of my writing time. The other eater of time is a persistent fatigue dealing with my health and medications.

I’ve been reading Stephen Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. I don’t agree with his evolutionary bio/psychology arguments, but the mountain of stats don’t seem especially massaged, except for some historical death tolls that we don’t have great records for and are thus controversial. The random person born into this world today is a lot less likely to encounter violence of any sort than its ancestors.

There are a few elements on this site I’d like to facelift, and I’ll ask some people who like UI for help. It may be a little too stark or Lost In Space. I may want to migrate to WordPress. The further changes should wait, though. Wait until my backlog of recs and reviews are done, at the very least! I want to set a goal for myself again: review a book or game every two weeks! Some of them might not appear here since I am reviewing all of the Anna Hackett ever. Maybe I will make an aggregate post of those so you can peruse at your leisure.

End-of-year trip East reading and gaming

Boston has been about seventy degrees for Christmas. This is all highly anomalous and the house I stayed at was been stuffy and warm. I’ve gotten some reading done and some gaming and plenty of knitting.

The reading’s pretty all over the place:

  • Sidney Halston’s Laid Out, contemporary romance
  • Frostbound by Sharon Ashwood, paranormal romance
  • NK Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, fantasy
  • Clockwork Samurai by Jeannie Lin, alternate history
  • Quantum Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner by Yu Godai, science fiction
  • Sweet Ruin by Kresley Cole, paranormal romance

I haven’t the wherewithal for full reviews of all of these, but I’ll make a few comments. I enjoyed Laid Out, but I wanted to punch everyone involved because they were too-human idiots. Believable flaws, but our protagonists are going to need to work hard for their future. Survivor’s guilt doesn’t just resolve in three months.

Frostbound wraps up, for now, Sharon Ashwood’s intriguing Dark Forgotten world. The hellhound hero is an excellent idea, and the heroine could really use some supernatural help for once. Although I could figure out the mysteries from a mile away, the pacing and some personal dynamics made it a fun read.

Go read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms if you haven’t already and can stand fantasy. Original ideas and world, fascinating characters, delicious layered plot. It was a library read but I went and bought the trilogy immediately afterwards.

Once upon a time I loathed steampunk for its Anglocentrism. Since then, lots of authors presented me with wonderful other slants on clocks, zeppelins, and the time of the Industrial Revolution. Clockwork Samurai is Chinese steampunk, set during an alternate Opium War. Lin presents wonderful ideas of acupuncture versus medicine, what patriotism means, and shows us the freaky isolationism that sadly dominated China and Japan during that era. There’s a bit of sweet romance for those who want it, even if it’s not resolved. I await the next novel eagerly.

Avatar Tuner is a light novel which was by the writer for Digital Devil Saga, retelling the story with some changes so far. DDS is one of my favorite games EVAR, so this book is a fun trip down memory lane. Hindu cyberpunk bizarre trip action plus wonderful cannibalism and existential questions. The translator never lets us forget how wonderful and horrible it would be to eat. This book’s part of the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. Yay!

My favorite cover of the year is the one on Sweet Ruin. I didn’t understand the red feather until late in the story, but I love how it’s integrated. Cole twists her formula a bit in that this time it’s the lady seeking her mate. Josephine is an excellent heroine whose emotional issues could fill several more books. Her man, Rune, is a bit tortured-hero-jerk, but he manages to redeem himself. The emphasis on familial relationships here is awesome.

As for games, I finally beat Pokemon Y. It’s a lovely adorable game that has me gardening and playing petting zoo and running around in grass and putting on cute outfits with my beloved pets. Perhaps this is because I do not have real pets? I have a special weakness for Pokemon and buy one game every few generations. This game was one of the bigger upgrades over past generations, and I find it satisfying just to toodle around and talk to people and their Pokemon. So cute!

Have you heard of Cinders? It’s a visual novel which retells Cinderella, except you can give our titular character some agency and choose her fate. The stepsisters and stepmother are pretty cool characters, as are the voodoo priestess, shady character, and love interests. Cinders can have several different personalities, and the art is gorgeous. I recommend it without reservations.

Happy new year. May it be one of creativity, joy, and discovery.

Did I long for alienation?

Last Saturday I went to Penny Arcade Expo. I’d never been before, but most of my friends have. I was less aghast by commercial pressures than I might have been. The Square Enix section had demos of Final Fantasy XV, which looked slick as expected, and Life is Strange, which I’ve yet to play but intend to someday. I was too depressed about Bioware not supporting anything further for PS3/X360 in their Dragon Age DLCs and updates to investigate what they had. Nintendo had lots of Mario Maker on display and a cool demo of Xenoblade Chronicles X.

Nice surprises came in the Indie Megabooth. I got to speak with Christine Love of Love Conquers All Games and play a demo of her upcoming game/visual novel Ladykiller in a Bind. I love that the characters don’t have names, just titles. It makes us project our ideas of beastliness and nerdiness onto the characters, and because our ideas of these stereotypes may differ in nuance, we create extra layers to the characters. Love and I agreed that Korean history doesn’t get anywhere near as much attention as Chinese or Japanese, despite its richness and relative population. She said this was part of what inspired Analogue: a Hate Story. Anyway, I told Christine she was super cute, because she is. She wants to make the world cuter and she’s doing more than her part.

I also found Playsets, a virtual tabletop geared to remote tabletop RPGs. It’s system-agnostic, and is mostly there to provide visual representation of what’s going on. This is great for people like me who are terrible at remembering how big a building is. The sets are the tilesets You can make our own dungeons or buy some prefabs. They don’t have a science fiction set yet, but it’s a common request. I’d buy that.

Sunday I fired up the PS3 and played Tales of Xillia for the first time in eight months. I don’t know if I will finish it by the new year what with writing as a hobby, but if I do I have plenty of other games in my backlog before I ever get the the games I saw at PAX…