Category: Constrained Writing

I started a tinyletter for recommending youtube channels two and a half years ago but then I was like, wait, I have a blog

If you are one of the six people who signed up for said tinyletter then I am sorry I never sent a second emission from it; I might still use it someday. (The same goes for my neglected dreamwidth account.) But I feel like I’ve got a little writing momentum here on NFD and I’d like to keep that up for a minute. So here’s a plug for an incomprehensibly deep dive into video games that I didn’t even really like that much when they were the only ones I had!

There are a lot of white dudes who like to talk about old nerd media in videos on the Internet, but mostly what they do is offer their own opinions, at best seasoned with a little intro lifted from Wikipedia. I find it hard to spend minutes of my one precious life absorbing those opinions. I have too many opinions already. What I value, instead, is the dudes who can explain and explore something I don’t understand in a way that makes me feel like I do understand it (although I very much still don’t).

This is why I subscribe to a channel with the mildly concering name of Displaced Gamers, which is not about gamers or being displaced. It’s a series of exegeses on the assembly code that composes old video games, mostly NES games, and the startling things that tiny changes in that code can bring about. I myself could not read assembly code if my life were at stake, but the channel creator’s steady, patient narration helps me feel like I can almost follow along in real time. I’m thinking in particular of these most recent two videos, about how and why one can glitch into unplanned memory areas in Super Mario Bros to find the apocryphal Minus World…

… And then discovering 256 completely new Minus Worlds in the Super Mario All-Stars iteration of the game, using only three Game Genie Codes. (!)

It’s that last bit that really gets me. I had a Game Genie for our Super Nintendo when I was young, and I made heavy use of it, which is to say that I never got to be good at video games. I never had a solid grasp on the device’s methods of operation or how to explore a game’s code with it. I was not, as noted above, an ardent Mario fan (I preferred Mario Kart and the RPG spinoffs) though I respect the ground the games broke and their own interesting design constraints. But this particular video essayist earns my attention not only because he’s doing original research in the history of software—a field which, I will keep shouting forever, is ahistorical to the ongoing detriment of the entire world—but because he keeps at the work until he can fit his proof of concept into the “you can do this with your own Game Genie” constraint. That’s powerful Brendan-bait.

General Clap

Hey, I finally discovered that back in May I placed in the 2018 Lyttle Lytton contest! Specifically I placed with an entry in the Found division—just scroll down to where my name is spelled wrong. I am proud even though it’s not like I wrote anything for it. But the reason the biggest category on this old blog is called “connections” is that I still delight in plugging one thing (a bad sentence I read) into another thing (a web site I love).

And there are a lot of connections that really worked for me in this year’s list! It’s good company to be in. Not only did another Found winner pull an egregious bit from my most hated episode of one of my all-time favorite shows, but there’s an entry under the Perennials that recalls my first entry. There are bullet journal and Engagement Chicken jokes too (hi Kat). But the thing that really rang my bell was seeing a semi-vanished webcomic writer—someone I still admire—pop in with a brilliant entry, and Adam Cadre give her a wink and a nod. I don’t chase the Internet as hard as I used to, but I’m glad the cool-kid serendipity of a decade ago isn’t all gone.

“Nobody expects to be punched in the face by a man’s beard.”

This is linked on his guest post but it needs additional emphasis! After years of my pestering him about it, Bill O’Neil has FUCKING FINALLY gotten around to setting up a dedicated story blog. Bill/William/whoever was making me want to shred everything I ever wrote and set it on fire in a toilet while he was still in high school, so I’m (mostly) glad to finally be able to slot him into Google Reader. If you don’t do the same then you’ll just have to accept that you and I have different tastes!

Anacrusis

Anacrusis/Ommatidia is done! I started it in July of 2003, wrote 2003 stories, and now it is my 30th birthday and my present to myself is, I don’t have to do it anymore. (Landing on this date is only sort of a coincidence: I calculated the timing versus post count last summer, and you have probably noticed some bonus stories appearing on weekends since.)

The website won’t go away, but the every-weekday part of the project is over. You will probably see the occasional story pop up in future, if you keep the feed in your reader, and I’ll try to do a bit of curation and shuffling. I may end up keeping Anacrusis as the chronological record and Ommatidia as more of a categorized library. Or: not.

Now follows a list of things I got out of this deal.

  • About 266 subscribers on Google Reader, which is to say, by my estimate, 133 total readers
  • Some useful characters
  • A lot more confidence about my word choice
  • Very little confidence about my plotting
  • A great deal of evidence that I thought stupid things were clever at 1:30 in the morning
  • A name-drop in a doctoral dissertation that I’m not allowed to read
  • A gig writing for one of my favorite comic artists
  • Some really nice letters from cool people
  • Approximately 2003 fewer hours of free time

If you read and enjoyed this thing, thanks, and I’m glad. I owe a debt to Holly Gramazio, Sumana Harihareswara, Leonard Richardson, Andrew Cole, John Dixon, Stephen Heintz, William O’Neil, Kevan Davis, Ben Wray, Riana Pfefferkorn, Joe McDaldno, Tim Coe, Dave Michalak, Ben Carson, the indefatigable Geoffrey Pieper, Christin Clatterbuck, Kris Straub, Penny Arcade, and all the regulars from the LJ/FB feeds for putting the occasional gleam on my raw monument to doggedness. Many of these people have done me the additional kindness of writing guest stories! I’ll be posting them over the next couple of weeks.

I look forward to having my evenings back so I can devote more time to writing code and also homoerotic fanfiction about Inception characters. You think that’s a joke but it’s not.

It’s a threat.

Tracermancy

If you’re enjoying the Ashlock stories, you will definitely want to follow along with Wolverton, a fantastic series in the same world and format that Ben Carson is posting on a matching schedule. He also keeps coming up with cooler and more exciting twists, which is great, not at all like he’s making me look bad and had better WATCH HIS ASS OR ANYTHING CARSON

I am a lot better at Javascript than I was a few months ago

I am, under normal circumstances, a very reliable exhibit of the human behavior pattern that goes “my stupid system sort of works so I will never change it.” But there are times–rare ones–when my desperation to avoid writing fiction actually overcomes my desperation to avoid writing code. Tonight, after three years of counting words for Anacrusis with a hacky PHP script I wrote in 2007, I finally reached one such point.

This is the word counter I’m going to use from here on out. Unlike the old script, which I was reluctant to publicize because it involved processing user-submitted text on the server side, this is all Javascript and it updates in real time. You can also click the little tab at the bottom if you want to see what the hell it thinks it’s doing.

Stories We Tell, The

My dear friend Joe Mcdaldno–writer, game designer, and fascinating Renaissance human–was kind enough to interview me about Anacrusis for his nascent radio show/podcast, The Stories We Tell. This marks the third podcast to feature me, and my second time on Canadian radio. Soon, listening to my nasal drone trail off in the middle of half-baked jokes will be completely unavoidable!

Incidentally, the term I can’t think of at around 16:45 is syllepsis (and more generally zeugma).