Mar 13, 2015

Mars One and "Pictures from an Expedition"

2003: I write a story called "Pictures from an Expedition," in which a private-sector Mars expedition is partially funded by entertainment licensing and degenerates into a reality-TV spectacle.

2015: The PBS Idea Channel makes this video, asking the question "Is Reality TV the Future of Space Travel?"


This means James Cameron is going to call me up so he can make a movie out of "Pictures from an Expedition," right? 

Feb 3, 2015

In Which I Get to Know Batman Again

Since it's listed on various web sites, I guess I can say that I have a Batman novel coming out in June from the swell folks at Titan Books! It's called The Riddler's Gambit, and it takes place between Arkham City and the forthcoming Arkham Knight video game. Here's a not-final cover:

It's been almost ten years since I wrote Batman: Inferno (eek), and it was good to get back in touch with Bruce...and cook up some fiendish Riddler plots. Also, don't forget: Once you read The Riddler's Gambit, make sure you check out Marv Wolfman's novelization of Arkham Knight next.

Jan 14, 2015

Off-the-Cuff Thoughts on a Tweet About Video Gaming and Childhood

This tweet by the estimable Leigh Alexander got me thinking...

...and I think she's getting at something generational in the way people love/appreciate/experience games and gaming. Or at least what she said framed something about my own personal childhood experience of gaming -- which isn't empirically true for anyone but me, of course, but I think I'm not the only one who feels this way.

When I was a little kid, video games were brand new. Me and my friends who played them were doing something nobody had ever done before. Our parents (with rare exceptions*) didn't do it. Our teachers didn't do it. Lots of other kids didn't do it. It wasn't a subculture, because it hadn't existed long enough to be a subculture yet. Video games, from Pong and Combat and Space Invaders and Asteroids right up to, oh, maybe Gauntlet (but even that's too late)** -- those games, when they were new, were markers of being in a place and time to experience something completely different as it was born and began to grow, just as we were beginning to grow. If you have that experience as a kid, every game you ever play hearkens back to that, and every game you ever play is measured by the standards of that childlike amazement.

I just reacquired (thanks to my sharp-eyed wife) an Atari 2600, and even though those games are rudimentary by contemporary standards, I still love them in a way I'll never love Fallout or Skyrim or Diablo. Gamer culture, as it has evolved in the past 15-20 years, is a completely different thing than what we experienced in the late 70s and early 80s. If you aren't old enough to have seen Pong on your neighbor's black-and-white TV, the thunderclap of that experience isn't easily relatable. Younger people grew up waiting for the next game in a long line of games that stretched back into their prehistory, and have a shared experience of online gaming that has bred (for better and worse) a tight (insular, defensive) community. For people my age, that sense of community is very different. There is no game prehistory because we predate games, and the birth of video gaming coincides with and is part of our experience of childhood. Games, to me, still mean wonder. So if people -- particularly people who are, say, over 40 -- cling to the games of their childhoods, maybe that's one reason why. And I think it's okay.

Now back to Dragon Age: Inquisition and Avengers Alliance and Kingdom Rush...oh, and some work.

*One of my dad's (post-)hippie friends had a computer, and they played a moon landing game on it. The game was hard as hell. You had to calculate your burn rates and angles of descent, and get your speed just right or your lander would be destroyed. I remember seeing that game around 1980 or so, but I have no idea what it was called. My attention was divided because the guy whose house it was had a bunch of M-80s and we went outside to blow stuff up.

**By this time, video arcades had spread widely enough that there wasn't anything special about them anymore. When all the cool kids started playing them in the arcades, video games acquired all of the same social markers and pressures as everything else in adolescence, and that early wonder was overwritten by those pressures. That was my experience, anyway. But it didn't stop me from spending all my money at the Putt-Putt on Washtenaw, or Mickey Rat's Video Circus upstairs off William, or the side-door place on Packard and Platt where the older kids divided their time between playing games and scoring weed in the alley out back.

Jan 5, 2015

Two New Books Out Tomorrow

Behold the slick cover art for Thor and The Incredible Hulk, the next two books in my series of junior novelizations of Marvel's Phase One movies. They're out tomorrow!

...and in a couple of months you'll be able to add The Avengers to your collection.

Dec 18, 2014

2014 Writing Recap

An Atlantic Monthly-style rundown of my keyboard activities during the year almost past...

Words of prose fiction written: approximately 400,000
SpecOps scripts written for Avengers Alliance: 8
Season 2 chapter scripts written for Avengers Alliance: 5
New episodes of Marvel Puzzle Quest written: 5
New Raid Event scripts written for Marvel War of Heroes: 13
Other things written for Marvel War of Heroes: 100+
Animation episodes written: 1 (Transformers: Robots in Disguise)
Books published: 6 (X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Sleepy Hollow: The Secret Journal of Ichabod Crane, Marvel Vehicles Owners Workshop Manual, Marvel Phase One: Captain America, Marvel Phase One: Iron Man)*
Books finished that will appear in 2015: 4 (Marvel Secret Wars, Marvel Phase One: The Hulk, Marvel Phase One: Thor, Marvel Phase One: The Avengers)*
Books unfinished that will appear in 2015: 3 as of now
Conventions attended: 3 (SDCC, NYCC, BangPop!)
TV shows appeared on: 1 (Top Chef, very briefly)
Radio shows appeared on: 1 (Maine Calling Book Club, discussing Carrie)
Words of original fiction published: 0 (first time since 2000; will be rectified in 2015)**

*Note: Amazon links included for convenience. I encourage you to buy my books (and all books) from your local independent store. Find the closest one via IndieBound.

**My story "For All of Us Down Here" appeared in F&SF's January/February 2014 issue, but that issue appeared in December 2013. So, you know, technically...

Dec 6, 2014

Holiday Shopping Note: Signed Books

If you happen to be planning to buy a book I wrote for a holiday gift, please buy it from a local store. If you would like a signed copy of a book I wrote, buy it from Longfellow Books in Portland and I'll go over there and sign it.

(This offer good year-round, but I like to mention it at the holidays.)

Nov 25, 2014

My Letter Advocating Police Cameras

Dear [Elected Representative],

This letter is a call for congressional action to mandate that every police officer in this nation be outfitted with body cameras. Further, I call for the disabling or loss of those cameras to be made an actionable offense. Outfitting officers with cameras will provide a powerful disincentive for rogue behavior and also make citizens aware that their interactions with police are being recorded. When all parties are on video, situations are much less likely to escalate to the point of violence.

In those jurisdictions where officers already wear cameras, both police violence and citizen complaints have been reduced. The presence of a camera keeps all parties—officer and citizen alike—accountable. Complaints about surveillance from police are disingenuous; if an officer is not acting improperly, he or she should have no objection to the existence of a video record of his or her actions. Those concerns are also outweighed by the imperative to maintain citizen trust in law enforcement, which is eroding everywhere and already nonexistent in many minority communities. Complaints about cost are also disingenuous in view of police departments’ eager spending on military-style hardware, which contributes to a dangerous oppositional mindset among officers and alienates them from the people they are supposed to serve and protect.

Police officers are certainly entitled to the prerogative of self-defense, but it is apparent that this prerogative operates quite differently during interactions with African-Americans than during other situations. When young white men can massacre people in movie theaters and schools and at political gatherings without suffering police violence, yet black men—and boys—are routinely gunned down on the merest suspicion of hostility, something is badly out of balance in the conduct of law enforcement in this country.

I challenge you as an elected representative of the people of this country—all of the people—to do the right thing for both the police officers of this country and the citizens who all too often find themselves without fair redress.


Alex Irvine


I am sending copies of this letter to Chellie Pingree, Bruce Poliquin, Angus King, Susan Collins, Eric Holder, and Barack Obama today. If you want to use all or part of it as the basis for your own letter, feel free.

Nov 20, 2014

Ursula K. Le Guin's Speech at the NBA Ceremony

I know I already talked about this, but if you are a writer or a reader or someone who has any interest in American arts and culture, you really should watch this speech.

Nov 10, 2014

The Luxury of a Messy First Draft

One of the things I have occasion to think about, a lot and in great depth (or at least the kind of focus that one hopes will result in great depth), is the difference between working on original and licensed fiction. I do a great deal of the latter, and enjoy it; I do not very much of the former, and would enjoy doing more.

Today I took an afternoon and sat with a pen and notebook working on a novel, all mine mine mine--and during the course of that work I started thinking about a signal difference in the composition process of a licensed novel when compared to an original novel. With disclaimers abounding about how every project is different etc. etc., here is the conclusion at which I arrived:

The great thing about an original novel is that your first draft can be an utter disaster.

With a licensed book you don't have time for the first draft to be a mess. You have to zero in, lock in, make something like a recognizable novel as you're going through in the early stages--or else you're never going to hit the deadline.

Con- (or ob-) versely, in the original novel I'm working on, I've got a notebook full of about 75 pages of stuff. I've got other notebooks for this novel too, but this is the one I'm working in right now because I dedicated it specifically to one portion of the book. (Why? That will make more sense when you read the book, which I hope will be in 2016.) In that 75 pages, I've written all kinds of stuff, and in that all kinds of stuff are three different versions of a crucial scene. I arrived at all of them in a completely organic and comfortable fashion, and I have no idea which of them will be in the finished book. But it seemed remarkable to me when I figured this out, because in a licensed book I would have written that scene the first time, called it good, and then started figuring out how to make everything else fit with it.

Not, I hasten to clarify, because I care less about one kind of book. (Although the kind of caring is certainly different). The reason for pulling the trigger on a scene after you've written it once, instead of semi-accidentally exploring it three different ways, is simple:

Time pressure.

Licensed books come in with insane deadlines, and the process of drafting them has to reflect that. Only in an original book, without external strictures or a pressing deadline, do you have the luxury of a messy first draft.

And a messy first draft is an absolute delight. I enjoyed this afternoon.

Now I'll get back to working out the licensed stuff, because I've got a book, wait, two...I mean, four.

Nov 3, 2014

Audio Version of "Wizard's Six"

Clarkesworld has done an audio version of my story "Wizard's Six," recently reprinted there after its original appearance in F&SF back in 2007. Have a listen...

...and if you like it, you can head over to PS Publishing and pick up Mare Ultima (print | ebook), a novella-length expansion of "Wizard's Six" and another story, "Dragon's Teeth," also from F&SF.