Spares by Alec McQuay

In the future, the homeless shall beg you for a spare pinky instead of change.

If you’re looking for something bizarre and amazing, something between a horror vein and a real new twist on science fiction, check out “Spares” by Alec McQuay and published by Fox Spirit Books. 

That’s Alec with a C, not X.

Taking place in a world after a viral-war, no one dies. Everyone lives forever. But to get by, they need fresh body parts grafted on. The description I gave to this story is ‘fleshpunk’, a biological twist on William Gibson’s cyberpunk. 

If you like horror, unusual sci-fi or just a damn fine story, check out McQuay’s tale. Available in EPUB/MOBI format at Wizard Tower Books.

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Brink and Writing

Safety cop says wear your kevlar, or I'll pistol whip you for your own good!

Safety cop says wear your kevlar, or I'll pistol whip you for your own good!

So a lightning sale put Brink and all the DLC for it onto my Steam cloud.

I’ve coveted Brink since its release, but held back because I purchased Fallout: New Vegas about the time it became available. Mindful of my budget, I decided to wait. Now it’s mine for less than $7.

Of course, I don’t even know if people still play it. The servers could very well be dead.

For those of you who don’t know, Brink is a game set on the Ark, a futuristic city in the ocean that was made to be totally self sustaining. However, the theory of climate change rings true and the sea levels rises, damaging much of the rest of the world. The Ark soon swells with refugees, overburdening the system. Frustrated and angry with their living conditions, a resistance faction brews within the Ark’s slums. The security forces cannot allow cannot allow this resistance to inflict harm on the public. The rest of the game is about that conflict, told on both sides.

I only played a few moments on a single player challenge before I had to head out. The controls weren’t as intuitive as I thought they’d be. I switched crouching/sliding from the C key to left-shift and am still deciding how I’d like to change a few other buttons. I also want to switch the iron-sights to another key and put melee on the mouse-2.

However, I really like the S.M.A.R.T. system, a feature that makes the environment highly interactive. I spent some time running towards boxes and letting my character parkour his way up. A lot of games just don’t make the environment as useful as this, and when they do it’s only for the sake of cover. Although the game isn’t as amazing as this, here’s a video of some of the action so you can at least see the developer’s vision.

But playing the game is only half the reason I wanted Brink.

In truth, ever since I watched the back story to Brink, I saw huge potential for writing. Despite the relatively small scale of Brink‘s world, what struck me was its very fertile background. The setting is in the future, but there are still a lot of modern urban-cultural roots there, even if they’ve blended somewhat. I look at this and say, “I can make a great story with this.”

As I parsed through the customization options for my character, I noticed something. A guy in a creepy, sack cloth mask like the Scarecrow from Batman Begins probably isn’t fighting for justice and freedom. When a character wears tattoos and face paint of skulls, they’re probably looking for a fight. The so called good guys and bad guys aren’t necessarily all on just one side.

On the outside, the Resistance and Security forces probably look like idealistically driven factions with some semblance of honor to their objectives. But on the inside, there has to be tons of infighting and self-absorbed characters, ranging from gangs and posses who are looking out for their own, conflict-strained family relations perhaps caught on both sides, and psychopaths (on both sides) who really just enjoy hurting people.

History might paint civil wars as romantic struggles between opposing philosophies. Reality reminds us that revolutions are the fruits of unhappy people unimpressed with their government, and with a lot of bad blood to spill. But of course, the victors write history.

Brink is, on many levels, ahead of its time. It maybe speculative sci-fi, but it draws its roots from urban culture and struggle, such as the Occupy Wall Street movement. It’s S.M.A.R.T. system can revolutionize the FPS genre with more work. And there are fertile grounds for more story to develop. I think it would be great to write a comic series or novel about Brink someday.

Someday soon.

And Rejection

Yesterday, I received my first rejection letter.

I’m sure many are to come. But what surprised me was the speed of which I received it. I had submitted that particularly sci fi story only a few days before and I was used to seeing warnings to the tune of 5 weeks, 60 to 90 day periods, so on. The haste of this rejection was clear: This is not what we’re looking for in the least.

Well, after my shock wore off I found another published who seemed a few degrees more open to the concept of my story and submitted it there. But as I looked over my portfolio of finished works, I accept that I have to establish a good pace of writing, editing and submitting (this takes time too, because you can to come up with a cover letter, make sure that your submission fits their criteria, etc).

Hey, Dead Space 2 is down to $20 on Steam. Temptations abound…

 

A Viral Idea

“What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea. Resilient… highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed – fully understood – that sticks; right in there somewhere.” Leonardo DiCaprio as Walter Cobb, Inception

A classic.

A classic.

About a month ago, I was wandering the new and used DVD bins of FYE and came across a sci-fi classic. Yesterday night, I threw it in the player and enjoyed one of my favorite movies from my childhood. There were differences of course, as this was the director’s cut version. But the film was still rewarding to see, especially after a long absence from my mind.

That movie was Dark City.

I wouldn’t blame you if you’ve never heard of it. Its opening weekend competed with another flick called Titanic. When you think about the shadow that movie cast, you’d realize how ironically appropriate the name Dark City really is.

But you would have to live in a cave not to have heard of The Matrix or Inception. In an interview with the Los Angelos Time, Christopher Nolan was asked about Inceptions connection to movies like Avatar or Surrogates. He responded:

“The whole concept of avatars and living life as someone else, there’s a relationship to what we’re doing, but I think when I first started trying to make this film happen it was very much pulled from that era of movies where you had ‘The Matrix,’ you had ‘Dark City,’ you had ‘The Thirteenth Floor‘ and, to a certain extent, you had ‘Memento’ too. They were based in the principles that the world around you might not be real.”

I have to make a note to check out The Thirteenth Floor.

Dark City financially failed. But it planted the seed of an idea in our minds. Inspiration and creativity come from places we sometimes forget. Stories we used to hear, the movies we watch, all are sources of ideas. Sometimes the greatest ideas just aren’t well told the first time, like a draft in need of improvement. And sometimes, even the worst ideas make for great stories. Like Don Quixote. Sometimes, a terrible idea is the start of a great story to write. Whether or not you throw in a character who opposes that idea is up to you.