Thursday, December 22, 2005

Any 'King's Quest' fans out there?

I'm hesitant to post this, because the extent of my geekdom will finally be revealed, but maybe it's too late to try and hide it, anyway.

I just found out today that a King's Quest IX will be released as freeware sometime next year! Hurrah! It is particularly exciting because it has been written by some ardent fans of the series who were disappointed that Sierra (the original developer) turned their back on the series after the disappointing sales of King's Quest VIII. (but it only failed because they left the essential ingredients of King's Quest- an interesting narrative, a sense of humour, and characters that you care about- behind to jump on the 'shoot em up/violence' bend of RPG's that is pretty much all that is left of this once great genre and that I have absolutely no interest in. Hmph.)

These fan fiction writers/developers are writing/designing a trilogy that ties together all the loose ends of the Kingdom of Daventry mythology once and for all. It should be fantastic because they will be keen to preserve the essence of the original games/stories. You can check out their website, if you're interested.

The King's Quest series would have to be included amongst the great narratives of my childhood. When I was about 7 or 8 my family 'baby-sat' my dad's friend's computer while he was overseas (before we got our own). He had the original King's Quest, and I have fond memories of hours spent trying to figure out the 'language' required to get that little VGA man to interact with the other characters and objects in his world (before 'point and click' interfaces were invented, obviously). I loved exploring the sprawling worlds, extending the narrative by solving the puzzles, meeting the new characters. I realise now that this series constitutes some of my earliest experiences of hypertext/non-linear narratives, which have become increasingly interesting to me and that I want to explore in my own writing. The series also included a couple of the very few female protagonists in adventure games (or any, for that matter).

So, I'm looking forward to it! The screenshots already out there look great, and include some familiar landscapes and characters from the original series.

A Drowning

This is the one song everyone
would like to learn: the song
that is irresistible:
the song that forces men
to leap overboard in squadrons
even though they see the beached skulls
the song nobody knows
because anyone who has heard it
is dead, and the others can’t remember.
-M. Atwood, "Siren Song"
“Why don’t they ever notice until it is too late?”
“The victims.”
“They do notice, they just think that they are strong enough to resist it.”
“Haven’t they heard the stories?”
“The stories are part of the charm. They all want to prove that they are stronger than the one who came before.”
“Why? Why don’t they take the safe route across the bay, instead of coming along the coastline? The only dangers that they have to watch for in the bay are the sharks and the sea monsters. Those dangers are far less than what they face here.”
“They are adventurers. They think that everything on this earth can be conquered by them, and that they are invincible.”
“They are wrong though, aren’t they?”
“Yes, they are wrong.”
“I wonder what it would be like to be one of them.”
“Why would you want to waste time wondering that? It would be awful not to be able to control your own thoughts and desires.”
Yes, I know you must be right, but I would still like to meet one of them one day, and ask them why they continue to come.”
“Well, that will never happen, none of them will ever make it here alive.”
“I used to watch them and think that the next one would be the one to make it, that the next one would be the one to overcome the danger. I don’t think that any more, I have found too many of them washed up on the rocks.”
“You need to stop thinking of them as something to value, as something to want to keep. They are just like tiny grains of sand. There are piles and piles of them, and they will keep coming, no matter how many are lost. You can’t lose sleep over it. Many of them would still be lost, even if we were not here. Our contribution really makes little difference.”
“Yes, I know. I just wish...”
“I used to be like you, when I was just starting out. But I became numb after a time. You will too, once you have seen a few more drownings.”
“Look, here comes one now. See the little speck on the horizon? I love it when they appear at sunset, they look so pretty against the red and purple stripes that cross the sky.”
“It is a large one too, it must be carrying a lot of them.”
“It has pretty sails, don’t you think?”
“Come on, it is time.”
“Oh, can’t we just wait a moment longer? I want to be able to see their faces.”
“That is enough of that kind of talk, it is time to concentrate now. You will never make it in our profession if you are too busy watching the victims to put your heart into your song.”
“I am sorry, it’s just so exciting. I can hardly believe that I am finally going to get the chance to put everything that I have learnt from you and the elders into practice. You are such a good teacher that I am sure that I will succeed on my very first attempt. Can you sing first, please? I want to watch.”
“Alright, but pay attention. You still have a lot to learn.”
“Can you use Apollo’s melody today? His is the most beautiful of all.”
“Hush, be quiet. I am going to begin now.”
“The ship is coming closer, I can make them out now. They are all standing on the deck, looking at us. I love it when I can see the wonder on their faces. I think the one in red will dive first, he is looking at us like he has been searching for us all his life. I can tell by the light in his eyes, they all get that light in their eyes before they go. He has made up his mind now, he is standing on the edge. Oh, he looks so handsome with the wind rushing through his dark hair, and his muscles straining against the ones that are trying to hold him back. He is in the air now. He looks so free, like he is flying. His red shirt is rippling in the wind as he falls. He is in the water now, he is swimming towards us. Oh sister, I really think that he might be the one to make it, he is so much stronger and more handsome than the ones who have come before. If he makes it, can he be mine? I will warm him with my songs and feed him the delicious golden apples that grow on our island. No, do not stop singing sister, he will drown if you do! Oh no, the waves are getting bigger now, they are crashing over his head, and making his ebony hair drip down over his shoulders. The freezing, tossing waves are turning his beautiful lips blue. I wish that I could go out there and get him and warm up his lips and pull him into the shore. Why can’t I sister, just this once? No, don’t stop singing, he will drown! His arms are getting weaker now, his strokes are slowing down. The look in his eyes is so desperate, as if he knows what is going to happen to him. I wish I could spare him that, at least. Oh, the sea has swallowed him, the weight of the water is pulling him down to the seabed below. He is fighting it, he has come up again. I can see his head bobbing amongst the waves. Isn’t he brave? No, don’t answer me sister, keep singing! He has sunk again… keep singing sister, and he will resurface!”
“It is finished now. He will not return to the surface. It is over.”
“No, don’t say that! He has not been under too long, he could still make it! Please, sing Apollo’s melody again!”
“That would not help, it is too late. They all succumb to it in the end. It just took this one a little longer than usual, that is all.”
“Why didn’t you tell me it would be like this, why didn’t you warn me? How could you let this happen, time after time? Is this what we train for, for years on end? You have spent hours teaching me the most beautiful melodies ever created. All for this… this horror! Why do we use something so beautiful to kill, and to destroy? Didn’t you see his face? He knew, at the end, that he was going to die! All he wanted was to be closer to the beauty of this place, and we let the music kill him!”
“That was not all he wanted, sister. I know that it is hard to come to terms with at first, and I know what it is like to sometimes feel a connection to them, but this is the way of our world. This is the way it has always been, and always will be for us.”
“It just hurts so much. I really wanted this one to make it.”
“We all want that at some point along the line. You will get over it in time, we all do. Soon they will all blur together, and become one and the same. Then you will not feel sad, and you can concentrate on producing the most beautiful, evocative melody that you possibly can. That is what your job is. That is what you were born to do. It is sad, but that is life, and soon you will see that it can be beautiful too. Come, let us go and wait for him to wash up on the rocks.”
“What about the rest of them?”
“We will leave them for now. You have had enough excitement for one day. They will come back another day, they always do. We will sing to them when they return.”
“Can I sing for the next one?”
“Maybe. We will see. Come. Hurry, or else the mermaids will steal him from the rocks before you can say goodbye. They are very sneaky that way. You are lucky that you were not born to be one of them.”
“I know.”

(I stumbled across this short piece that I wrote for an exercise in a writing workshop a couple of years ago. We had to describe a drowning using only dialogue. It later turned into a story, but this is its 'raw' form. Just felt like putting some writing out there.)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Atwood, Winterson, and Byatt to come... what could be better?

Looks like my summer reading is taken care of... Of course, there's plenty of other things that I need to be reading as well, but Canongate's new myth series is definitely on my Xmas list. I haven't managed to locate Winterson's in the bookshops yet, but Atwood's take on Homer's Odyssey from the perspective of the neglected Penelope looks fantastic. And hey, it makes my masters seem positively trendy...

writing = words = images = sounds = spaces = learning =

I am having a bit of a go at writing a digital narrative at the moment, combining images, words on screen, oral words, movement, music. It ain't easy. It seems to be making all the inherent complications in my usual writing process (words on a page/screen)more... obvious. Which is really interesting. But also difficult. Trying to draw different together in different modes... trying not to think of them as distinct threads while I'm writing, but connected and interwoven... trying not to make it seem too contrived... trying to avoid linearity...
Listening to some spoken word poetry over the past few days has added to the complexity, because I'm more aware of sound and how that can create/add meaning. Too much to grapple with.

I'm probably over thinking it.

Why am I doing this?

Oh, no particular reason...