Nintendo dislikes “strange” relationships

An interesting story coming out of the Register and from Kotaku this week, apparently a new Tamogatchi game, which is Nintendo’s answer to the Sims, allowed gay relationships, marriage and children – at least, gay relationships between men in anycase.

Despite making a lot of noise, most of it positive, this “feature’ has been removed in an update patch as a bug, stating (depending on your translation) that it removes “Human relations that have become strange/funny”.  Nintendo have stated categorically that this was a bug, and never and intended feature.

This will no doubt be disappointing for anyone who bought the game with this in mind, and i’m sure there will be some. It’s disappointing in general to see a company as influential as Nintendo taking this sort of stance – particularly given that very mainstream games such as The Sims, Mass Effect, Dragons Age and Fable have all featured gay relationship options in their various romance segments.


Scribd get greedy

The other day I was looking about the net for a couple of free books that I knew were around somewhere.  I had copies backed up somewhere on my file server, but I had a pretty good idea of where to find them on the net and downloading only takes a moment, so it just seemed simpler to do it that way.  I’m lazy like that.

The books in question? A series of non-fiction on writing, written by S.L. Viehl.  She has written an excellent series that includes some planning worksheets that i’ve found useful in the past and kindly made them available free online.

I tracked them down on Scribd, where they have always lived, and was quite surprised to find I couldn’t download them. Apparently their policies have changed and in order to download, i’d have to pay a fee.  I could still read online however.  This was annoying, but I still had copies somewhere on my server, and – as it turns out – my own transcribed copies of the worksheets anyway.  I shrugged and went about my business.

A few days later, I came across this.

It turns out that Scribd has started doing this to the authors of free works, but neglected to tell them!

This, then, is somewhat more serious.  Scribd has, in effect, begun to sell work that it has no right to sell, profiting of the copyright’s of others without permission.  It’s quite nefarious, in some ways, to build up a name as a provider of free hosting and then capture the intellectual property of your users and sell it for profit.  Make no mistake, whatever their justifications that is what they have done.

In the meantime, if you have works you wish to make public and freely downloadable, try Google Docs.

Shock Totem 2 is a go

Hey everyone,

Its been a while since my last posts as things have been obscenely busy at work and I really haven’t had much time to write anything at all.  One thing that has happened over this time though is the publication (at last!) of issue 2 of Shock Totem magazine, which features, amongst other great works, a short story I wrote last year.

This is my first professional fiction publication and I’m quite excited.  The issue has been out a little while now but I was waiting to see my copy before I announced it and I must say – it’s an impressive looking little magazine.  They’ve really done a good job with the production values.

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Ken and the other Shock Totem staff who work hard and do such a great job putting the magazine together.  It was a pleasure working with them and I hope to do so again some time in the future.

In the meantime, go out at buy it!  Links to buy are at:

It’s available directly from the publisher and also from Amazon and Barnes & Noble online bookstores.

Edit: If you want to know more, the Journal of Always has the first review up!

Read it?  Let me know what you think in the comments.

What you have to give up to write

Apparently an “aspiring novelist’s letter” inspired a post over at Whatever yesterday- whoever that was, I bet they were -awesome-.

That aside, the post is an excellent comment on what is actually a significant problem: the prevalent idea that you must be willing to sacrifice everything in order to be a professional writer.

There are people who write sheerly for the enjoyment of it, but far and away the majority of people write to one day see themselves in print, and many dream of giving up their day job and being a full time writer themselves.

To these people the words of those who have “Made It”, the John Scalzi’s and Lawrence Block’s, mean a great deal – and there are a lot of writers out there who are writing books, blogs and articles aimed at these aspiring novelists.

A lot of these books are full of stories about the pain that it can take to become a writer. I think some people probably think they are doing a kindness by preparing others for the pain that there dreams may lead them through: but some of the stories are horrific. They tend to go something like this:

A friend of mine quit his job to become a writer. His first book sucked but he kept trying. He ran out of money but he got a subsistence job to live on and kept trying. His wife left him and took the kids, and his dog died and he was living under a bridge but he kept trying and then his twentieth book took off and now he’s living the dream!

Sure, this is an extreme example (but not -that- extreme, compared to some of the similar stories out there), but there are a lot of them. It has bled into sort of a global belief that in order to be a writer you have to be willing to sacrifice everything – kids, wife, house, your entire life. Only then are you dedicated enough to being a writer, to your dreams and your art, that you can fight your way through the struggle.

At an intellectual level, I don’t believe that. I believe that with hard consistent work and a supportive family you can one day live the dream without having to sacrifice all else that you love. But it is this sort of irrational belief that curls up in your stomach like one of Conan’s serpents and squeezes the confidence out of you, the courage from your heart, until at midnight you are sweating in your bed and staring at the ceiling and you realise that you really -don’t- want it enough to give up your family.

I had that moment. I’ll say it without reservation, there is -nothing- in this world that I want enough to give up my family. I get up in the morning, go to work and slog through anything they throw at my purely so I can go home and see my daughter’s smile and talk with my wife.

So a big thank you to Scalzi for saying what we already knew, but needed to hear someone else say.

I am reminded of an anecdote I read once, went something like this:

A man with a burning desire to play violin met a traveling violin master and begged the master to listen to him play.

“If you tell me I have potential”, he said, “I will devote my life to the violin, but I would never want to do that if I had no chance of success.”

He played and the Master sat, and afterwards said. “I am sorry, you do not have the fire.”

The man went away bitterly dejected.

Years later their paths crossed again and the man shook the Master’s hand and said, “Thankyou, I have become a successful businessman and am glad I didn’t waste my life. I am glad you were able to recognise that I had no talent.”

And the Master said, “I didn’t listen to you play.”

The man was shocked, “Why?” He asked, “Why would you have done that? I could have been great! I could have been a master myself by now!”

“Because,” said the Master, “I tell everyone they lack the fire. If you had the fire, what I said should have made no difference.”

I guess we need to remember that in the end, no matter what anyone else says, it’s down to us.

Go read Scalzi:

Consumers and their Limited Resources


It is beyond my understanding how, even after so long, with so many people pointing out that the emperor has no clothes, the big media companies are still able to claim that every download is a lost sale and that illegal downloads are destroying music/movies/books/their-ability-to-make-billions-off-their-artists.

Well, that last one might be true.

The bottom line is, or at least should be, that not business model has any intrinsic ‘right’ to succeed. If the market changes, and it certainly has changed, and your business model no longer works to make you money then you need to adapt.

And yes, I am aware that convincing governments to pass laws making your business model sacrosanct and then having your customers arrested, charged in civil suits, and forced to give you money is in fact adapting. It might be better to adapt into something with a bit more long term survival.

If you keep biting the masses, eventually they’ll bite back.

Google tackles the eBook Market

Slashdot Technology Story | Google Set To Tackle eBook Market

As a long-term ebook reader myself, I have been both excited by Amazon’s entry into the market raising the profile and the usage of ebooks, and disappointed in Amazon’s heavy-handed tactics and DRM, a side of the retail giant that is quickly becomming “business as usual”.

So I for one welcome our google overlord’s entry into the ebook market.  By pushing a free standard and open access, hopefully we will see some decent kindle competition – because nothing breaks down unnecessary and greedy restrictions like open competition (come on Android come on!).

In a related note, the best ebook reader programs I have found so far are uBook (micro-book) for the pocket-pc, an excellent little program that worked very well on my old iPaq, and Bookshelf for the iPhone, which is the application I currently use and makes the most of your own file formats and the beautifully clear resolution of the iPhone screen.  Reading on the iPhone is convenient and a pleasure and I generally carry half a library in my pocket at all times.

Chaser’s Censorship (or Much Ado About Nothing)

Well, I finally got around to watching the second episode of the third season of Chaser’s War On Everything, the current whipping boy of Australia’s Moral Guardians and Supreme Example Of All That Is Wrong With The Media Today.

To recap, Chaser performed a sketch entitled “Make a realistic wish foundation” which involves presenting pencil cases and a stick to children in a parody of the make a wish foundation. It ended with the now infamous line that prompted complaints, a two week ban and the censoring of all future repeats of the episode. “Why spend a lot of money on them, when they’re going to die anyway.”

I feel like a bit of disclosure is due at this point, I myself have spent some time in contact with disabled and dying children and my wife has devoted her career and a large amount of her life to them. Personally I think the make a wish foundation does a wonderful job of providing some small comfort to the children and their parents, who have to face continuing after their death. It is not a fun situation, it is very serious and painful.

I hate censorship and would be here defending them regardless of what they said. With all I said above I sat down with my wife and we watched the show fully prepared to be completely offended.

How surprised was I then that the skit was incredibly short, and made me giggle. It wasn’t roaring funny but neither was it this filthy searing insult to sick children everywhere. It was obviously an irreverent poke at a revered institution. I did wince at the end line, I do think it was in bad taste, but without the controversy I would have forgotten it minutes after it was over.

Sure it was bad taste, but it’s chaser. If you don’t like bad taste humour you’re watching the wrong show, and it’s not like all Australia doesn’t know what they’re like by now.

It’s well overblown, astonishingly so, and it’s disgusting that we have all spent so much time on this issue. It’s also insane how many comments on this issue begin “I haven’t seen the show but…” and then go on to denigrate and abuse them based purely on hearsay, from which you would almost be expecting them to be assaulting sick children in their beds.

To my mind they’ve done far worse in the past and have done nothing but upset the over sensative now. As George Carlin famously said, there is no subject so sacrosanct that you can’t joke about it. He punctuated this with a quite funny routine about rape that elicited much the same response.

That was about thirty years ago. Guess we haven’t come all that far after all have we.

Grow up Australia. If you don’t like it, turn off.