Batman: Arkham City is the best video game I’ve played in recent memory. Mass Effect 2 and Portal 2 are close contenders, but Arkham City still takes the top spot. I don’t think I’ve been quite as enthralled by a game since Half-Life 2 came out. They’ve captured the spirit of Batman perfectly, distilling the Dark Knight and his gallery of villains to their essence.
The Penny Arcade Report has a fascinating interview up with Gabe Newell, co-founder and managing director of Valve Software, the company behind Half-Life, Portal, Left for Dead, and the Steam gaming platform. Newell talks about everything from wearable computing to DRM. The “Where is Half-Life 2: Episode 3/Half-Life 3?” question is only referenced obliquely, and Newell pretty much confirmed that they haven’t announced anything because they’re not far enough along with whatever Half-Life follow-up they’re working on:
[...][P]art of the reason that we backed off talking so much about what was happening in the future is that when we’ve done that in the past, you know, with Half Life 1 it was a year after we originally said it would be, Half Life 2 basically if you go and read the forum posts apparently took us fifty or sixty years to get done so we’re trying to be careful not to get people too excited and then have to go and disappoint them. So we’re sort of reacting in the other direction and saying “okay, well let’s have things a little more baked before we start getting people all excited about it.
Half-Life 3 aside, this interview seems to imply that Valve is more focused on the big picture — on delivering something new and game-changing — than on producing a Half-Life follow-up, which might be a great thing. The Penny Arcade Report also has a photo tour of Valve’s offices, which will make you hate your guidance counselor/college adviser for not explaining that working for a video game company was a viable, lucrative, satisfying career.
Casual Brandon Sanderson readers may not have picked up on this yet, but all of his adult fantasy fiction novels, regardless of their apparent differences, share the same universe: the “Cosmere.” In his usual comprehensive manner, Adam Werthead of the Wertzone summarizes Sanderson’s planned 36 book mega-series in a helpful primer for those unfamiliar with the subject. This announcement will no doubt seem more than a bit remedial to the folks over at the 17th Shard.
The fact that all of Sanderson’s fantasy series share a universe is based on the existence of common characters, concepts, and statements by the author himself. Sanderson’s meticulous planning combined with the fact that his planned legendarium is far from finished has created a lot of fodder for the theorists.
As much as I want to (finally) found out how the Wheel of Time ends, I’m more excited to see where Sanderson goes with his own work. He’s unmatched in secondary worldbuilding and the development of magic systems, and The Way of Kings was a good read.
This is awesome in so many ways it eludes summarization. SeanWard.net put a guy in a Batman suit and sent him out into the streets of Toronto, originally with the intention of making a “Shit Batman Says” video. It became more of a social phenomenon. Watch and learn and watch again. WHERE ARE THEY?!?
Published in the US in 2009, Peter V. Brett’s debut novel The Warded Man (titled The Painted Man in the UK and elsewhere) was released to broad acclaim, considered one of the best debut novels in years. I’ve become somewhat cautious about epic fantasy in recent years. I have less time to read than I once did and I fear, perhaps irrationally, getting bogged down in a mediocre series that the completist in me will feel obligated to finish. I often find myself waiting until the hubbub dies down before reading a well-received book. It avoids the possibility of being caught up in fan fervor (which I am vulnerable to when it comes to fantasy), and I find I am able to keep a more level head that way.
When I finally picked up The Warded Man, I had no preconceptions of it, which meant I had accomplished my goal of avoiding hype. What I found was a strong, if flawed debut novel that strikes a refreshing balance between the classic elements of fantasy and the newer, darker trend the subgenre is currently riding.
Criticism has changed. Today no one dares set out the differences between master and amateur, between good and bad literature. Publishers don’t want to get involved; they are almost guaranteed to lose money on a good writer, and make money on a bad one. Critics hold their fire, scared of being accused of elitism. Critics have had the rug pulled out from under them in any case. No longer bound by ethics or competence, they don’t even know what they’re supposed to talk about anymore. University literature departments don’t set out the differences – literature has turned into cultural studies in any case. Literary theorists have little to say on the subject – literary theory is on its deathbed, and the offshoot that tried to establish “aesthetic” values long in the grave. Critics writing for daily newspapers don’t set out the differences – they’re poorly paid, and literature doesn’t get much column space in newspapers full-stop. Literary magazines are so few as to be of no use, and when and where they do exist, they are so expensive that bookshops don’t want to stock them. Tracy Emin’s bratty retort – What if I am illiterate? I still have the right to a voice! – is the revolutionary slogan of a new literary age. The only thing that reminds us that literature was once a complex system with in-built institutions – of appraisal, classification, and hierarchy, a system that incorporated literary history, literary theory, literary criticism, schools of literary thought, literary genres, genders, and epochs – are the blurbs that try and place works of contemporary literature alongside the greats of the canon. Vladimir Nabokov is the most blurbable of names. But if so many contemporary books and their authors are Nabokov-like, it just means that literature has become karaoke-like.
Tor announced today that the 14th and final volume in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, A Memory of Light, will be released on January 8, 2013. That is all.
Money-grubbing 3D re-release of The Phantom Menace got you down? Here’s John Scalzi on why we should all just shut up and learn to accept the fact that the Star Wars films aren’t going anywhere:
Star Wars has the books, games, merchandising, and so on, but at the end of the day the movies are at the heart of the universe, and Lucas is smart enough to know he has to engage each new generation with them. In that respect, the theatrical re-releases aren’t aimed at the people who saw the films when they were originally in the theaters; they’re aimed at the ones who have never seen them there — or indeed possibly have not seen them at all. Lucas is explicitly taking a page from Disney, which before the age of home video would re-release its classic movies every seven years or so in order to bring in a new crop of fans to Snow White and Pinocchio and Dumbo (and which is also using 3D right now to do the same trick — note the recent releases of The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast).
To be blunt about it, if you’re an older Star Wars fan, your exasperation at the 3D release of The Phantom Menace – and the future 3D versions of the other five films in the series — is almost totally irrelevant, because you’re not really the intended audience. Your kid is. And, speaking as the father of a 13-year-old girl, I can assure you that your child finds your exasperation quaint and adorable. The good news here is that in 10 to 12 years, when a new Star Wars release is out, you’ll smile when your child has his or her own nerd rage about how the films have been changed. It’s the nerd circle of life.
Variety and io9 reported yesterday that Mythology Entertainment, a new production company formed by Brad Fischer (producer of Black Swan, Shutter Island, and Zodiac), Laeta Kalogridis (producer, Shutter Island; executive producer of Avatar), and James Vanderbilt (screenwriter of Shutter Island, Zodiac; producer, Zodiac), have purchased film rights to Richard Morgan’s classic cyberpunk noir novel Altered Carbon.
The production team obviously has some chops, but I agree with io9: this makes me nervous. This is an important book. Too important to screw up (much like the long-rumored, long-dreaded adaptation of William Gibson’s Neuromancer). If the producers are willing to make a movie with a hard ‘R’ rating, then they will be on the right track, but turn this into a PG-13 effects fest and the spirit of the novel will be lost.