Video games and books. Games first:
SPORE is a beautiful thing – but I don’t know if it’s a good game or not yet. Regardless of the game, however, the tools the game provides for creating content are monumental in both their scope and effectiveness…and, hopefully, their influence. The whole user-created content / mod idea has been trending slooowly towards the mainstream of games. It will be interesting to see how LittleBigPlanet does, and whether these two games form a trend or merely two outliers.
SPECTROMANCER, as recommended by Greenhouse, is like Magic, only designed to be played on the computer. Go try the demo now.
Now, books. I got a MILLION BOOKS for my birthday. Of the subset that I’ve read so far, I can say that Paul Auster’s TRAVELS IN THE SCRIPTORUM is a good, Brian-Aldiss sort of piece of literature…or of science fiction, depending on how you want to look at it. The chief difference between the two is that literature doesn’t tell you how things work. Science fiction, on the other hand, does – and the Harlan Ellision edited DANGEROUS VISIONS is an exceptional collection of sci-fi short stories from the 60s. It dates slightly, and a number of stories suffer from “Gotcha!” syndrome, but it is both a fine collection and an important piece of history.
I also finished with THE ESSENTIAL MCLUHAN, and I can now conclude that Marshall McLuhan was a very intelligent man, with profound insights into our culture…and he was also bit of a nutcase. The less nutcasey bits are, however, very interesting. Oliver Sacks is not a nutcase, but his latest book, MUSICOPHELIA, is very good. It never ceases to amaze me how little we know about our individual brains and our collective culture.
On the comics side, I’ve gone through THE FILTH, by the maddest man in Britain, Grant Morrison…and I must say that, yes, he is STILL MAD. I’m still iffy on Morrison – he’s working with his usual set of zen cultural conspiracies here, and that’s not really my thing. But, at the same time, the series has cursing dolphins, floating city-states, and giant, killer sperm. What’s not to like?
Jon Hickman’s PAX ROMANA, on the other hand, is still lovely. It would be nice, however, if it came out more than once every six months. You hear that, Image?