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    I'm a video game writer working on my debut novel.

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  1. Warning: This article contains spoilers for the most recent season of Love, Death and Robots. Read at your own risk. As a writer of short fiction, I've been an avid follower of Netflix's Love, Death and Robots. There aren't many avenues for short works to be adapted, especially as faithfully as the aforementioned anthology series. I wanted to take a look at the stories that inspired the latest season of the show. Unlike previous seasons, which featured only episodes based on short stories, season 3 mixed it up by including original short films as well. "Jibaro" and "Night of the Mini Dead" were both completely original, and "Three Robots: Exit Strategies" featured an original screenplay by John Scalzi, the author of Season 1's "Three Robots." Those three aside, I was able to track down all the source stories for the remaining episodes. "Bad Travelling" by Neal Asher (Originally Published in Full Throttle Space Tales Vol #1) David Fincher's adaptation of "Bad Travelling," which features a pirate who makes a deal with a giant crab-like monster to save himself at the expense of his crew, was my favorite episode of the season. It's not surprising that the short story written by series veteran Neal Asher holds up. One interesting difference between the story and the episode is the morality of the protagonist. In the animated adaptation, the protagonist, Torrin, feeds the crew to the monster because they voted to take it to the inhabited Phaiden Island, as opposed to attempting to trick it by dropping it off on a deserted island. In the story, Torrin's choice lacks that moral context, making him more of an anti-hero. Which was better? It's a close call, but I personally liked the Fincher adaptation since the crew's death is a result of their own immoral decision. Want more? If you liked "Bad Travelling," Neal Asher has written another story set in the same world called "Jable Sharks" that is worth checking out. "The Very Pulse of the Machine" by Micheal Swanwick (Originally Published in Clarkesworld) While the imagery of astronaut Martha Kivelson dragging her deceased companion across the surface of the Jovian moon, Io, was stunning, the plot coherency left a little to be desired. I was hoping the short story would give more context to the odd reveal at the end of the episode that Io is in fact a chemical machine left in our solar system by an unknown alien race. Unfortunately, I felt like the reveal was as much of an odd turn on the page as it was on the screen. Despite that, I really enjoyed Kivelson's internal monologue in the story, as it filled in more details of her relationship with Burton, the woman whose body she was towing across the lunar landscape. Which was better? Objectively, it's probably a toss up between the stunning visuals of the animated short film and the strong internal monologue of the story, but for me personally the story felt more coherent and provided a more satisfying character arc. Want more? "The Very Pulse of the Machine" is a stand alone short story, but it was clearly inspired by this poem from William Wordsworth. "Kill Team Kill" by Justin Coates (Originally Published in SNAFU) The story of a team of green berets who searched for a squad that was lost in the forest was almost a scene for scene adaptation from the story. That being said, it was surprising how much better the comedy of the story came across when voiced by actors and how much more exciting the action of the green berets fighting the half-bear, half-robot who killed the missing squad was on the screen versus the page. Which was better? In this case, the animated short wins, no question. Want more? "Kill Team Kill" is a stand alone short story, but you can see more of Justin Coates military sci-fi in his short story "The Deicide Machine," also published in SNAFU. "Swarm" by Bruce Sterling (Originally Published in The Magazine of F&SF) This was another very faithful adaptation. The short followed the story of Dr. Afriel as he immerses himself into the insect-like space faring race, the swarm, almost scene for scene. In fact, they included some scenes like a conversation with the investor who gives Afriel a ride to the colony that would be better left on the cutting room floor. The biggest difference between the two is one of context. In the story it is mentioned, as part of Dr. Afriel's backstory, that he is part of a posthuman genetically altered community called the Shapers, who are at war with the cybernetic Mechanists. In the television episode, this contextual information was left out. While this detail does not directly affect the action of the story, it helps make sense of the otherwise confusing final twist. Which was better? The story just barely edges out its adaptation. Want more? Sterling has published several additional works in the Shaper / Mechanist universe: the novel Schismatrix and the short stories "Spider Rose," "Cicada Queen," "Sunken Gardens", and "Twenty Evocations." "Mason's Rats" by Neal Asher (Originally Published in Mason's Rats) This story, was also written by Neal Asher who penned the aforementioned story "Bad Travelling." The two tales couldn't be more different. While they both pit a man against an unwanted pest, "Mason's Rats", which features a man who sends a pest-destroying cyborg after the rats in his barn who have evolved the intelligence to use basic weapons, tackles the subject with absurdity and humor as opposed to the stark terror of "Bad Travelling." The story version of "Mason's Rats" is much shorter than the animated film. While the film goes through several cycles of Mason trying to get rid of the rats only to have them get smarter each time, the story pretty much focuses on the one occurrence. We also don't see too much of the rats in the story itself, versus the adaptation which features them not only building weapons and tools, but also outsmarting the increasingly ridiculous contraptions. Which was better? The additional visuals in the animated short add emotional depth and humor to the already charming short story. Want more? The collected anthology has two additional stories dealing with Mason and his titular rats. "In Vaulted Halls Entombed" by Alan Baxter (Originally Published in SNAFU) Of the two military action focused entries this season, this story of soldiers in Afghanistan who find Lovecraftian horrors in subterranean caves underneath Kandahar is definitely the weaker. The animated short looks like a cheaply made video game and has the story to match. There's little to no character development; the four soldiers just go into a cave, discover some monsters, and that's it. I was hoping reading the story would add additional context, either about the soldiers or the horrors they encounter, but sadly I was out of luck. Which was better? Neither. Both the story and its adaptation are lacking the necessary depth to make this a worthy entry in the series. Want more? Served Cold is an anthology collecting sixteen of Alan Baxter's most lauded works.
  2. Warning: This article is coming later than anticipated, and for oddly relevant reasons... Just as I prepared to write a review of Sam Raimi's latest jaunt into the superhero genre, my water broke and I gave birth to two beautiful twin boys. So you would think I, more than anyone, would understand Wanda Maximoff's struggle as she tries desperately to get back to her own twins, Billy and Tommy. Unfortunately, like many, I found her journey forced -- a bad rehash of the character arc she went through much more believably in WandaVision. While watching the movie, I asked myself, why did her motivation here fall flat when they worked so well on the small screen? If you keep up with MCU news, you've no doubt run across articles that blame sexism. These pieces state that, like Daenerys Targaryen before her, Hollywood just can't write female villains without falling back on sexist tropes. Whether or not this is true, I think both heroines turned villains actually suffer from a much more common Hollywood failing that plagues almost every comic book movie ever written, and that is the two dimensional villain. This problem is particularly noticeable with Wanda, as we've seen what her story looks like when she's treated as the protagonist. In WandaVision, Wanda wants to live an idyllic suburban life with the deceased Vision. This causes her to mind control the entire population of a small town to play parts in her family sitcom fantasy -- but, she doesn't realize that the harm she's causing others. This version of Wanda is lost in the madness of grief. She does horrible things, but is ultimately relatable because of the emotions that ground her actions. When this Wanda realized what she was doing to the citizens of Westview, she couldn't bring herself to continue. The Wanda of Dr. Strange isn't like that. Because she's framed as the antagonist, the film doesn't even bother to try to make her relatable. She's willing to knowingly murder a teenage girl, as well as an alternate universe version of herself, to get what she wants. Sure, they give her a "good reason" for acting the way she does; she's a mother who wants to see her kids. On the surface this is a relatable reason, but it falls apart when given closer scrutiny. We don't see her emotional arc, which makes her motivation not a relatable flaw, but a single minded obsession. We don't see the Wanda of Dr. Strange struggle with her difficult decisions until the very end of the film when it's dramatically mandated. We don't feel her pain. Instead we get some BS about how she was corrupted by an evil spell book. To be clear, the problem that I'm talking about is not exclusive to Wanda. It can be applied to every bad villain both in and out of the comic book genre. It's only more obvious because WandaVision showed how the exact same arc works when you treat the villain like a protagonist…which brings me to my last point. How do you avoid creating a two dimensional villain in your own work? While the trope may seem easy to avoid, we've all fallen into the pattern of simplifying an antagonist either to make the plot work or to highlight the protagonist's virtues, but despite being common it's lazy writing. Writing a multi-dimensional antagonist, one that the readers/viewers can root for, is crucial for not only suspension of disbelief, but also for forcing the protagonist to challenge their own views and morals. And the way to do that? I like to make a version of my outline where the antagonist is the protagonist and vice versa. Basically create your own Wicked to your Wizard of Oz, your own WandaVision to your Dr Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. While this work doesn't necessarily make its way into the final book/script, it helps to truly understand your villain as a person. Because if you don't, who will?
  3. Hi, I'm Olivia Frias -- video game writer and general nerd / F&SF enthusiast. I thought I'd use this first post as an opportunity to both introduce myself and to give a little background on what I do (and how you can do it too!). I got into writing for games as a sort of happy accident after moving to LA in 2011 while trying to become a screenwriter. Back then, there weren't many dedicated game writers (also known as "narrative designers"). Most of the people who wrote games were contracted screenwriters and novelists hired through agencies. I was only able to get my first position as a production assistant working at Sony, which eventually lead to my first writing job, because I was willing to work for $10 an hour. Today the landscape has changed. It is a growing field with a lot of open positions for part time contract work or a full time stable "day job" for novelists. There's a lot of material out there about learning how to write for games, and why game writing is different from writing for novels or tv / film. A good starting primer is this quick read from the Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines writer, https://www.gamedeveloper.com/design/a-practical-guide-to-game-writing While there's lots of information on game writing craft, there is far less information on how to actually get a job writing games.The first thing I wish I had known going in was that, unlike TV, you don't need an agent or an industry connection to find out about positions. You can literally just apply online like a regular job. Search for "game writer" or "narrative designer" on sites like Indeed or LinkedIn, and you'll find a lot of options. Now that you know how to find jobs, how do you stand out from the crowd? Write the Right Resume - The first thing you'll want to do is highlight your published works first. For a lot of studios, published, or even self-published, novels are a huge plus. Focus less on day jobs that are not writing or games related. Learn the Tools of the Trade - If you haven't worked as a game writer before, it's very important to have interactive samples. Twine is a good learning tool and a great way to make your first interactive short story. Make sure to include a link to the game in your resume or cover letter. Be a Gamer - In your interview, you will be asked what sort of games you play. You'll need an answer. If you're not up on current trends, some games that narrative designers tend to love are Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War (2018), Life is Strange, Disco Elysium, and old-school point and clicks like the Monkey Island games. I'd suggest checking them out. Of course, if you're already a gamer, talk about your own preferences here. Target the Right Studios - While it doesn't hurt to cast a wide net, you're unlikely to get a job at a major AAA studio on your first try. Never fear though, there are a lot of smaller studios. For novelists, a great place to start would be a studio that makes visual novels. These companies care less about games experience and more about solid writing. Some of these studios are Pocket Gems (Episode app), Pixelberry (Choices app), and Crazy Maple (Chapters app). Some of these contracts are not especially well paid, but getting a few under your belt really helps you get noticed by larger studios. Anyway, that's my spiel for now. Let me know if you have questions in the comments down below. Stay tuned for my review of Doctor Strange 2, coming this weekend. About the Author Olivia Frias is a former Disney Imagineer and videogame game/interactive fiction writer. She is currently working on the upcoming social MMO Palia. Her previous credits include Star Wars: Jedi Challenges, Pirates of the Caribbean: Tides of War, Disney Heroes, Katy Perry POP, and the award-winning History Adventures series.
  4. Title: The Frozen War, Book 1 of The Dragonsilk Sea series Genre: Adult Fantasy with Romance elements (about 115,000 word) Comps: Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson, Cold Magic by Kate Elliot When raiders from the frozen South capture sea dragons with the power to teleport long distances, they go from being a local menace to a worldwide threat. After Astra’s village is pillaged by the raiders and her sister is kidnaped, she sets out with her fiancé, Taryl, to break into the enemy stronghold and save her sister. Before they can succeed, they are discovered, and Taryl is mortally wounded during their escape. In his final moments, Astra intertwines her hands with his to save his soul, in a ritual known as a soul bond. His thoughts and memories become a part of her. Meanwhile on the other side of the world, Phoebus is a pariah because can’t share his soul through his hands. He sets out to find Loa, the legendary home of dragons where sea dragons enter silk cocoons to become spirit beings with the power to cure any ill. There he makes a deal with a mother dragon. She’ll give him what he wants if he saves her young from the raiders. Phoebus seeks out Astra, now the chief of her village, based on stories that she faced the raiders and lived. Despite finding him initially intolerable, she agrees to act his guide and help him infiltrate the raiders’ stronghold since Phoebus has a magical item she needs to exact her vengeance. During the journey, they are drawn to each other, but can Astra be with Phoebus without betraying the man who is still part of her soul? And will Phoebus be willing to expose his secret condition? Most importantly, will they succeed in freeing the dragons or will the raiders conquer the Dragonsilk Sea?
  5. Opening scenes – Introduces one of the co-protagonists, world/setting, voice. Experiments with new plot elements developed during the conference. The frigid wind choked Astra. Her body burned with intense cold. Despite growing up in the Giant's Fingers, the frozen islands that stretched out like fingers from the Great Southern Glacier at the edge of the world, Astra had never been as cold as she was on the three months journey from her fishing village in Myrt to the harsh Skyrlish tunda. Luckily, she'd had Taryl to keep her warm. The chief's daughter turned to her fire haired companion, who hid behind an obelisk of smooth obsidian-colored stone. He was using the spyglass he'd made to make objects look closer to spy on the enemy Stronghold, but it didn't seem like he was having much luck. "Can you see the spire?" Astra asked. While she'd never seen it herself, she'd heard Svengaard, the man who led the raid that burned her family's farm and took half her village as thralls, had built himself a great palace out of the mysterious black stones that grew from the frozen tundra like black rocky vines "No, the Dragonsilk wall is so high, I can't see past it. In fact, I can barely tell there's a wall there at all." Taryl's eyes, the light lilac of a lupus flower, look worried. He passed Astra the spy glass. She took her turn looking through it. Taryl was right as always. One would hardly know the Stronghold was there if it weren't for the conspicuous absence of stars. "Do you have the claw?"Taryl asked. Astra patted the doeskin bag she attached to her waist, "I've got it." Much to her father's dismay, Astra had used the money that was put aside for her dowry to buy a pubescent dragon's silk claw from a traveling Zhangorese merchant. He was the only merchant she'd ever seen from that part of the world, and she couldn't pass up the opportunity to get the one thing that could penetrate dragonsilk. As much as she wanted to marry Taryl, their bonding could wait until after the Skryl were defeated. Astra owed as much to her mother and brother who'd died in their latest raid, and her sister who'd been taken. "Good," Taryl looked relieved. "So we'll go in the dead of night when they're all asleep, cut a hole in the wall, and infiltrate the wyrmling stables. Simple as that." Taryl repeated the plan they'd both told each other a thousand times. The Skryl used dragon wyrms to conduct raids up and down the coast of the Giant's Fingers and southern Andria. Without them, the infamous marauders would be reliant on boats and the wind to travel, just like everyone else. If they could steal the pre-pubescent dragons for Myrt, the tides of war would turn in their favor. During the day, the wyrms ruled the ocean, and were impossible to catch. But at night, the aquatic beasts slept on land and could be safely approached. Taryl had been studying the hand signals used by the Skryl to control the wyrmlings. He believed he could coax one to let him ride it and the others to follow him. "Should we go tonight?" Astra asked, dreading the answer. "No," Taryl focused his spyglass on the horizon. "It's already the first light." Taryl pointed across the waves to the small bit of violet peeking out between two sheets of midnight blue. "We'll have to wait until tomorrow." "I can't say I'm disappointed," Astra nuzzled herself into her fiance's furs. She was shaking and this time not because of the cold. "I know you're scared, but we can do this." Taryl kissed Astra's forehead lovingly. "How can you be so sure? No one else has ever entered a Skyrlish Stronghold and lived to tell about it." "No one who's tried has been me." Astra swore Taryl's smile could melt the great Southern Glacier. She let Taryl kiss her. His lips felt like a bath in a summer hot spring. Taryl brought his gloved hand to hers, mimicking the behavior of a soul bound. "You know one of these days I'm going to get you out of those gloves…" Astra blushed as bright as langoustine flesh. When two people wed, they took off their gloves and intertwined their hands to combine their Light, the material component of the soul. During the bond, they would share thoughts, feelings, and even ways of thinking. It was all Astra could do not to peel Taryl's glove off with her teeth right now. She loved him so much, and she wanted to be one with him. She wanted to know how his brain worked. Think through problems like he did. She wanted to know how it felt to have his heart. To feel his love for her as acutely as she felt her love for him. But they had to wait…if they bonded too early and the Fathers found out, they would be put to death in the town's square. "But for now, why don't I just get you out of those clothes?" Taryl read Astra's mind. It was as if they were already bonded. He picked her up and took her to the bed furs. Skin to skin contact was the best cure for frostbite after all.
  6. Story Statement: In a world where people can share thoughts and feelings with the touch of a hand, a young man without this ability seeks love and acceptance, while also trying to hide his disability from the world. Antagonists: There are three main factors keeping Phoebus, the primary protagonist, from reaching his goal. Achamal - A priest who believes all those with Phoebus’s condition are cursed and must devote their lives to God to redeem themselves. He simultaneously shows the readers how society, in general, responds to people like Phoebus while also providing a genuine obstacle in Act 1 of the story when Phoebus’s goal is to escape his role as a servant to the priesthood. Tikazoma - Phoebus’ first love interest. Knowing his condition, Tikazoma treats Phoebus poorly. She constantly points out that he is physically incapable of solidifying their romantic bond, and thus requires him to prove his love to her in other ways. As a result, Phoebus puts himself in danger time and time again to impress this woman who will never see him as her equal. Internalized Self-Hatred - When Phoebus does meet people he can connect with, he often pushes them away for fear they will discover who he really is. Title: The Dragonsilk Sea Route Genre and Comps: Genre: Adult Fantasy with Romance elements Comps: Cold Steel, Kate Elliot (Worldbuilding) Warbreaker, Brandon Sanderson (Magic Systems) A Court of Thorns and Roses, Sarah J Maas (Romance) Logline: Attempting to run away from the societal consequences of having a magical disability, Phoebus seeks a nomadic life where he can comfortably have few personal attachments as a merchant sailor along the famed Dragonsilk Sea Route; however, he is forced to confront his past when he finds himself drawn to an enigmatic young woman from the other side of the world. Conflict: Inner Conflict: Growing up, Phoebus was taught that the fact he couldn’t “share souls” meant he was less than human – a member of an underclass called the Lightless. He is told that because he can't communicate his thoughts with a touch like everyone else, he is doomed to live a lonely life where no one can really know him. These fears are confirmed when the first woman he falls in love with treats him poorly because of his condition. After escaping the priesthood who treated him like a slave, Phoebus is determined to do whatever he can to avoid his condition being discovered. Everyone wears gloves to save themselves from sharing souls accidentally, but as a Lightless child, he was not allowed to. So the first thing Phoebus does when he escapes is to get a pair of gloves. For Phoebus, those gloves become a sort of emotional armor. Phoebus eventually falls in love a second time, this time with a woman the reader knows would accept him as he is, but he ends the relationship because he doesn’t want to take his gloves off for her. He can't bear the thought of her knowing he's Lightless. Secondary Conflict: Phoebus’s job as a merchant sailor (and occasional magic smuggler) exposes him to a variety of societies and societal taboos, including those that mirror his own. For example, he meets people who have gone mad from sharing their soul too many times and a woman who would face death if her family knew she had shared her soul with a man outside of marriage. Phoebus’s own history has caused him to be irreverent towards such rules and taboos. As a result, he tends to leave chaos wherever he goes and is wanted in several countries. Setting: The book takes place in a secondary world that technology-wise roughly mirrors our late medieval or early Renaissance period. The physical substance of the soul is called “Light.” Light is studied as a science and can be used to perform a variety of magic. The most common expression of this magic is when people touch hands and share souls. This allows both people to immediately share each other’s memories, thoughts, and ways of thinking. Inspired loosely by the silk road, the book takes place along a trade route that primarily focuses on getting magical goods from one side of the world to another. Phoebus was born in the Imperial Capital of a country that takes inspiration both from ancient Rome and Mesoamerica circa 1400. He eventually travels to countries loosely inspired by India, China, North Africa, and Scandinavia. In addition to a story of self-discovery and romance, The Dragonsilk Sea Route is meant to be a bit of a fantasy travel
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