Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Adventure of the London Waterworks

The formal title of this puzzle book is The Sherlock Holmes Escape Book: The Adventure of the London Waterworks by Ormond Sacker. Yes, genre labels are always terrible; "escape book" is what people are calling them these days. And yes, "Ormond Sacker" is a pseudonym. The puzzle and text were created by David Whiteland, who created the Planetarium web puzzle that I reviewed... oh, jeez, I wrote that review exactly twenty years ago.
At any rate! You are Holmes, investigating dastardly goings-on at the Kew Bridge Waterworks. (A historical location, now the London Museum of Water and Steam.) Watson follows you around with his revolver and his reliably dunderheaded commentary. Okay, that's not fair. He points out clues as often as he misses them, and he tends to roll his eyes at your snottiness when you're not looking.

Friday, November 15, 2019

John M. Ford is coming back into print

I woke up to the news that John M. Ford's books are coming back into print, starting next year. His unfinished opus Aspects will appear, as far as it exists, in 2021.
Mike Ford (so-called by all his friends) died in 2006, leaving SF fan communities shocked and in grief -- for the man and for the words we'd abruptly lost. I was not a personal friend. I'd met him at a couple of conventions; I'd donated to help cover his health care costs. I'd assumed he would write forever, which is an absurd thing to believe of a man whose kidney I helped replace, but that's how you think of such wellsprings.
Then Something Happened with his will and his literary estate. Everyone said: "His family got the rights. They didn't approve of his writing. They didn't approve of his partner. So they won't reprint his work." Some of the books remained in print for a while, or a long while, due to existing publishing contracts. Then it was mostly gone, except for his two Star Trek novels (rights owned by Paramount) and a fountain of archived blog comments and unpublished whimsy.
And that was it for John M. Ford. Except, it turns out, no story about him is that facile or that easily summarized. We should have known.
Journalist Isaac Butler went digging for the details. He found... some. Not everybody is talking and not everything they said has come out. The article is worth a read. Butler wound up talking to both Ford's family and his friends -- by which I mean Ford's other family. (His editors and publishers were family.) In finding the story, the journalist was able to connect everybody up.
[...] after a year of delicate back-and-forth spearheaded by Beth Meacham, Tor and the family have reached an agreement that will gradually bring all of his books back into print, plus a new volume of stories, poems, Christmas cards, and other uncollected material. First up, in fall 2020, is the book that introduced me to Ford, The Dragon Waiting. Then, in 2021, Tor will publish—at long last—the unfinished Aspects, with an introduction by Neil Gaiman.
I'm trying to express how much Ford's writing meant to me. I'm doing it slant and in the corner of your vision -- that's how it is. In 2007, I began a project to analyze The Dragon Waiting; I selfishly wanted to understand every word in that one novel, at least. I don't think I succeeded, but it helped.
I meant that project as a tribute, obviously. Everything else I've written has been a tribute also -- not just to Ford -- to many writers; Ford is always there. I still feel uncomfortable referring to him as just plain "Mike". As Butler says, his endings were always messy.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Current crowdfunds

Speaking of crowdfunding, Aaron Reed's Subcutanean is at about 70% of its (modest) goal. This is not an interactive work, but it is a dynamically-generated text: every printed copy will be different within an authored space. Aaron has written a series of blog posts describing his writing (and implementation) process. He's also progressively posting one edition online -- see the project page for links.
I have not read any version of this; I'm waiting for my own unique edition before I jump in. However, it hits any number of my story kinks. Surreal spaces, unbounded architures, labyrinths... I'm excited about this and I encourage you to help the project succeed.

The other crowdfunding project of the month is, of course IFComp's Colossal Fund. This is our third year raising money for IFComp prizes. This year we've raised the goal to $10000, which is ambitious -- but we're almost 85% of the way there.
The prize fund is set up to reward a wide spectrum of games, not just a couple of top vote-getters. This year, if we hit our goal, we expect to give out over 50 cash prizes ranging from $10 up to $415. So please help us support diverse forms of interactive fiction!
(And if you can't contribute money, you can still donate other prizes. And vote on games! That's important too!)
IFComp voting ends on the 15th, so that's the deadline for the fundraiser as well. (We'll take your money after the 15th, but it will go into the IFComp 2020 prize pool.)
Fair note: the Colossal Fund is also an IFTF fundraiser. 80% of the money goes to IFComp prizes. The rest goes to IFTF operational costs, including web hosting, legal support, and the snazzy illustration above.