Sunday, 17 November 2019

CROATOAN

One of the things I did last year was write a novel. It's called Croatoan. It took about six months from start to finish, not counting the time I spent planning and thinking about it beforehand, or the bits and pieces of failed older projects that went into it. Here is the marketing blurb I wrote for it -

"Croatoan is a crime novel about petty thieves, crooked cops, alien abductions, Blackbeard's gold and the secret history of Atlantis - like Elmore Leonard meets Umberto Eco, or Dan Brown by way of the Coen brothers. Set in Washington, DC, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina, it pits a retired burglar against mad preachers, Caribbean drug cartels, Deleuze-quoting hitmen, the CIA, and at least one deranged serial killer in a race to find an all-powerful sunken treasure that may or may not actually exist."

You can now buy it here, from Lulu, for about four bucks. You can also read the first three chapters on Medium here, so you can decide whether you like it or not. If you like this blog, and if you like slowly descending into a labyrinthine hell of conspiracy and UFO madness, you'll probably like it.

Also, since I haven't actually mentioned it yet, I'm on Twitter at @circusarmy. You can find me there if you want more of me shilling my book, working out my extremely specific opinions about radical left politics in the Australian state of Queensland and talking about which Pokemon I would like to have sex with.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Ecologies of Space

Students of cosmobiology should be aware that there is no exhaustive textbook on the subject. Space spans a dazzling array of extremes: bitter cold of void; fuming chaos of reentry; irradiant calm of an unshielded sun. Threat and boundless opportunity form a darwinian brawl that, plighted by human genetic meddling, holds form too bountiful to count.

Even the largest long-haul ships would struggle to maintain this diversity in vacuum;
this sample is from the liquid core of a comet mine in the house of Taurus

The primary categorisation for a newly discovered lifeform denotes the source of its energy supply.

The most common 'pest' organisms on spacecraft are chemotrophs, and these complex habitats are where they are most commonly found. They may take their energy from raw chemical sources, like the rainbow varieties of plastic-eating bacteria and shipworm. Others prey on other organisms, be they herbivorous teacup crabs or the voracious glass eel. Not all are considered pests, however. Barnacles are often assumed to be a sign of smooth reentry and good luck. Cheaper than a mechanic is a box of shipwright 'mites, dumped into damage to help patch leaks (though they'll eventually hollow the whole hull into an airy nest). 

Chemotrophs are characteristically the organisms most complex, most embedded in their ecosystem, and least likely to survive solar flares, dust storms and reentry. Some simply hunker down into ablative, carbonised shells. Others structure their life-cycles to the schedule of their hosts, like the near-indestructible micro-elvers of many eels and the hurriedly-buried eggs of roaches. The most complex webs of life blossom when undisturbed. Long-haul ships build whole ecosystems, many of which beneficially catch and recycle light and nutrients for the use of the ship.

Phototrophs draw their life from the sun, or other radiant bodies. Some phototrophs may bask in lights on a ridden ship. Some are even grown commercially. Bamboo, potato, spacegrape; sheathed swaddles of roots projecting bizarre appendages into space. Many of those that seem to rely only on the sun in truth would not survive without the thin atmospheres of leaky, ionic spacecraft. 

The most common phototrophs are cyanobacteria, algae and lichens, with many species that are happy riding asteroids or cosmic dust, or simply spinning alone in space until they bump into a host. A growth of more than a few centimetres height is a strong indicator that the organism requires atmosphere, whether leaked from the ship or drive, caught in gravitic or electric potential wells, or clouding lagrange points. Phototrophs are categorised as such when gathering most of their energy from the sun, even if engaging in some predation on other organisms.

Other sources, etheric or plainly odd, feed xenotrophs. By far the most common, though rare enough still, are those that plunder magnetic turbulences. Electrochemical 'ferns', cyberglinidae worms and tiny-shelled fluxoyster have populations preserved in parks around some of the major massdrivers through the system, while more exotic breeds unfurl in the umbrella of Jupiter's magnetosphere.

Many species of xenotroph are wrapped in mystery and mystique. The neutronic 'pearl' of the blackbox clam is claimed to detect ghosts. The 'antenna-eyes' of urban myth (in truth, deepspace cryptographs use not human brains but only optic nerves, from raptors, owls, even mantis shrimp). Caution should be used when registering new lifeforms as xenotrophs. An organism simply not making genetic sense, or being built from a different clade of atoms entirely, does not qualify it as a xenotroph if it is more properly carnivorous, etc.

Stowaways such as this skipjack mussel are considered
pests by shipping companies and delicacies by sailors.

Organisms are secondarily categorised as a function of their environment.

Cataclysmic waves of heat and pressure wash from the prow of a body entering an atmosphere. Even when the apocalyptic forces of reentry are not enough to kill an organism, exposure to the weight and erosion of a world often finish the job. Despite these ferocious hurdles - and sometimes because of them - some life thrives on the rhythm of reentry. Most species of space barnacle are utterly unperturbed by fire and brimstone, and appreciate the burst of fresh gases gleaned from new air. Many species have adapted to suit very tight niches; the regular schedule of certain inter-moon couriers, the atmosphere-skimming flights of Jovian weather balloons. 

Most dedicated reentrant organisms require some consistency from their environment. All recorded species of glass eel require a reentry event soon after spawning, while tiny elvers can shrug off staggering decelerations and heat blooms, and before they're eaten by their parents. There are some creatures - roaches, diamond-backed crabs, screwdriver snails and "star hogs" (more properly macrotardigradum) - that are not considered true reentrants, having no particular taste for sonic booms and pesky gravity, but will nevertheless survive an event, and thrive in the space and resource left behind by one.

In more permanently spacefaring climates, diurnal environments are, narrowly, the most densely populated. With permanent exposure to the sun (or another powerful source of radiation), the challenge in these environments is not obtaining energy, but releasing it. Cold-blooded arthropods sabotage the efficiency of their own bodies, locking excess heat in chemical effluent. Fungal friar's cap grows only on the edge of light, mycelium crawling back into shadow to bleed heat. Many diurnal phototrophs express extreme tropism, contorting white belly to the sun and turning black back on the void. 

The rich wash of energy allows for an explosion of phototrophic life, and in a small pastoral irony one of the great boons of this life is its shadow. Tiny helmeted jesterfish will only leave their host plant in bursts of a few hot seconds. Miasmic morays, ever the bane of propulsion mechanics, expose only their sensitive nose to the heat of sol. And of course that most enduring, taxonomically elusive clade, the manifold forms of life that lurk about spilled reactors, soaking in what bare minimum of high-energy radiation will let them survive, enduring the genetic rebellion caused by this disappetising diet.

A surfeit of chemotrophs, in particular, excel in nocturnal environments with sufficient other sources of food. The seething soup of reactive chemistry that pours out of drives and waste vents, especially on larger ships, holds uncounted microbes: bacteria, algae and nematodes; sizzling stains of RNA and simple rogue enzymes. A whole host of secondary feeders filters this life, from flatworms and hydras, anemones and jellies, to jet-propelled jackboot clams. 

While many species of crab love to sunbathe, they gorge contendely in dark, dense pits protected from solar rays. Even diurnal organisms may need some somnolent shade, and animals such as the greenback spider prey almost exclusively on light-loving creatures that slip into the darkness to rest or nest. Very few nocturnal organisms leave their environment willingly, and though several diurnal species lay their eggs in the protection of perpetual night, most nocturnal embryos would be destroyed if exposed to the light.

The classification crepuscular is reserved specifically for environments with a light cycle, most commonly ship or substrate spinning with respect to the sun. The definition wanders, however. This 'environment' may well be another larger organism, from sky coral to massed lichens to the perennially hibernating floatoad. Habitats may be orbited by lights, periodically submersed by a reflecting moon, or lit by yet more inscrutable means. 

The exceedingly rare xenotroph "Euclides' stone" grows only in tidally locked night, feeding from a wheeling zodiac of neutron stars. It is important to note that faster spinning substrates have a more dispersed atmosphere, increasing livable altitude of atmosphere in strongly dielectric and/or polar environments, while usually reducing it when particulates are primarily held by gravity. These properties are just one reason why lichens and ship-side corals carry so much information about the history of a vessel.


Closeup of a styro-core hull shows colonisation by dark blue gloeophoria in sections of a lichenous growth that have been repeatedly electrocuted by reactor hitch

There is still contention over when an organism itself may blur these definitions. Across all environments are recorded so called obligatory nomads, which must travel continuously across their little world, seeking darkness or light or the perfect balance of both. In this text we will categorise creatures according to the environments they make for themselves. New moon mantis shrimp, ever scrabbling into darkness, are considered nocturnal. Feedstock shrimp, though they must escape the sun's disapproving glare to perform the intricate bioluminescent dance of their mating, are ultimately considered diurnal.

Many organisms require additional, sometimes extremely precise conditions to thrive. Compositions of atmosphere, water, gravity, charge and magnetism are painted in portmanteau throughout the solar system. The next chapters of this work will cover all of these environments in greater detail, with an additional chapter dedicated to some of the pioneer lifeforms that construct their own ecologies, from the complex mutualisms of a shipwright 'mite hive to the soap bubble-world cupped in the body of a solar jelly.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

The Collector

Couple of things here.

New short story called The Collector. I wanted to write about a curiosity shop, mostly because it's very easy to write about curiosity shops - you can fill whole paragraphs very easily just by sitting down and listing things. It took me a while to get beyond the setting and work out what the actual story was I wanted to tell.

I've also been getting some vaguely political thinkpieces published, in the Australian journals Flood and Overland. They are:

Lost Creatures, on the WWI tank in the Queensland Museum. Patrick gets a mention in this.

Monsters of the Unknown, on the weird horny mysticism of Jordan Peterson and D. H. Lawrence.

Marx, Ramsay and the ghosts of the Western canon, on Australian conservatives' obsession with Western Civilisation and Marx' essay The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.

So there those are. The stuff about Marx and vampires I think is probably gameable. Dracula shows up, you can always find something to do with Dracula. Somebody put a game together where you fight Dracula and undead Napoleon in Paris during the 1848 revolution, I'll play it. I've been reading a bit of Victor Hugo as well and it all fits together.


Friday, 18 October 2019

a peeper deeper

READY TO HARVEST IN THE WITCH'S GARDEN
roll a d4, +0 for summer, +3 for fall, etc, or whatever precision suits your calendar
rolls 13+ wrap back to start of table

1
spring, summer
birdnests, plucked from the bough just when their chicks are fledged
can be held over the mouth to filter noxious airs
burnt, their smudged smoke is insufferable to any spirit of great age
7
winter, fall
eyecap mushrooms grow in pairs
eat one to see out the other
eat both to go blind for a day
2
summer
manyams are plucked before they grow too ripe and boisterous
they can be stored anywhere they are sealed from the light, but are most productive when put to work straight away
do not let them unionise
8
winter
dug up from between the roots of trees and sucked on
frozen toad confers a rapturous nostalgia, claimed by addicts to give great insight
the venom, extracted, inflicts the same effect
3
summer
malodorous skunk cabbage draws pollinating beetles and the hungry dead
the peppery leaves announce their deadly poison with swells and burns on contact
careful doses cause numbness, can treat burns or constipation
9
winter
when held in the mouth, black cockerel eggs corporealise a possession within their victim's flesh
when baked they make devilish good cakes
4
summer, fall
after slow and careful drying through summer, broomsticks are best trained in fall gusts
it's wisest to spend the first season simply sweeping with a new broom, but they can yet be ridden, given enough skill or determination
10
winter, spring
holding last grasps of frost, hoary aurgelmir grows in thick lichenous beards on bowed trees
its tea cools fever
its essence, drops wrung from the bale, can douse campfires
5
fall
salmon eggs can be collected by the bucket, though this is inadvisable as they attract bears
crushed with herbs and birdsnests they're a rejuvenating tonic
left to rot, a dispeptic binding agent for curses and troll cakes
11
spring
false fir cones crack when burnt or struck, mouselike seeds wiggling backwards from their pod
great impersonations, make adroit messengers, spies
remember everything heard, even when they're trees grown
6
fall
pumpkin-spice leaves dry out on the vine
by mid fall crumble readily into a powerful desiccant powder
the powder, heated, smells irresistibly delicious
12
spring
bathwater is most potent if not collected every spring
reliable cleaning agent for most household stains
functionally the same as holy water


FOODWEB GENERATOR
animals eat whatever's rolled immediately after them. definitely add branches!
however you roll will change characteristics of the ecosystems you can generate:
 - to make more real ecosystems, decrease your die size after every roll (bunching up the lower orders of life) and add the result of your roll to depth (no bear-eating grasses here!)
 - get a lil more hectic by adding less than the die-size each roll (more role reversals), and using larger dice (blurrier categories for life)

normal underfoot kooky space
1 humanoid gopher bear crab
2 canid rat boa tick
3 felid mole sloth eel
4 bird spider chokeoak bacterium
5 mustelid millipede wolve clam
6 deer ant stag ant
7 spider worm wasp krill
8 bird beetle orchidfungus
9 bug ant toad epiphyte
10 grub worm wurm  coral
11 vine bacterium blackfly  algae
12+ tree fungus humans  bacteria


CATACOMBS
If you're down here with the blessing of a priest you just go through each room in order. Otherwise, I'd go ahead and roll separate d4s for graves, goods and guardians on each level. Spooky!
Potential plot hook: someone in town wailing that their beloved has been buried alive for political reasons

grave gravegood guardian
1 natural rock, thickly worked in charcoal and ochre. herds of careful-sketched ancient beasts come alive in the torchlight stone arrow heads, lumpy wooden figures, a misshapen pot. all given potency by uncounted aeons sabretoothed spirits prowl through charcoal arcs. touch the walls and face possession by primordial hungers
2 stonemason's shaft, letting air and workers into the lower levels without disturbing the shallow older tombs pickaxes, buckets, chisels and carts. some nice chunks of pyrite holy mason, dustmask insulated with layer of scripture. better handle on architecture than current politics
3 hollow walls and the occasional pit. ingenious traps rotted away to mildew and stone jars of depressurised acid, a basket full of snake bones. meticulous, illegible plans for marvellous, lethal devices angry dust. made up more of dirt than actual body. hates having the air disturbed, would be very happy if you trapped it in a bag
4 descriptions of the underworld in faded paint. a little cartoonish, but still bittersweet beautiful stone-eyed scultpures of leering beastial gods. carefully-wrapped creatures, cats and birds and a few apex predators bone-dry mummies. arms bound in thin bronze torcs, hands clutching thin bronze spears, still sharp after a thousand years 
5 stacked stones and piles of enemy skulls. graven runes render grim prophecy a cache of silver icons and a grinning gilded mask. great stacks of antlers and a mound of mouldy hides forgotten kings, iron armour corroded half to dust, arguing as to who has precedence in cutting off your head.
6 grandiose histories carved into the walls, obsessive, speculative genealogies and misattributed floods a chest of ancient currency; tiny copper tools and weapons. a lacquered library of rotten scrolls a warring emperor, sealed in a silver suit. plots against the spiders and cave crickets that infiltrate their domain
7 stacked headstones, piles of charred skulls. mass graves jumbled full of bones  melted rings and blackened jewels. beds, straw and velvet both, hastily interred while still occupied an apparition of crickets, one true bug for every dozen empty husks, the whole haunted by pestilential spirits
8 elaborate frescoes mural the walls, of themes more recognisable to the modern eye snuff boxes and moth-bitten purses, spectacles and flimsy ceremonial weapons gentrified skeletons bemoan the turpitude of the modern age, call down stone gendarmes to deal with trespassers and teens
9 tasteful stone enclaves hold shy the curious dead. rows of urns carved into the rock on every corpse a purse of two tin coins, some with earrings or other things of sentiment old dried souls shamble in idle confusion. when bumped will turn and press you, hungrily, for news of their lost life
10+ corpses laid out for their year before cremation. nameplates box in the ash of those burnt a tastefully disguised closet, chemicals and tools for cleaning and preserving a lone soul wanders among these newest corpses, little gibbets of flesh in their teeth, insisting that they aren't yet dead

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

The Club

Posted another short story to Medium. This one is called The Club. Inspired by the detective novels of John Dickson Carr - his detective, Gideon Fell, was also a big fat jolly English guy, inspired by the real-life figure of G. K. Chesterton, whose own detective was a small anonymous Catholic priest.

The interwar period - the 20s and 30s - is the classic Lovecraft setting, obviously. I've posted about that here and here. There's a lot of easy cliched material you can use - in America, flappers and gangsters and bootleggers, in England, Agatha Christie and P. G. Woodhouse. There's also a lot of deep political and artistic weirdness going on - modernism and futurism, fascism and communism - which contrasts interestingly with the whole Victorian adventure-fiction tradition, still very much alive and well at the time. 

So on the one hand you have plucky British heroes stealing rubies from the eyes of Indian temples - on the other hand you have Ulysses and Italian guys writing odes to the motor car. The cool white cubist surrealism of Picasso and le Corbusier, which would come to define the aesthetic of the 20th century, vs. sailing ships and pagan death cults. Which is basically what Lovecraft is about.

Not that this story is about Lovecraft at all. But I've tried to capture some of the weirdness of the interwar setting and hopefully demonstrate why I think it's so productive for writers and game designers.

My first story, The Strange Fate of Captain Strathclyde, is still here if you want to read it again.

hi, i'm g. k. chesterton
atheism is a nightmare, to me
also, japanese people are elves

Monday, 23 September 2019

the depths

ZONE
stop rolling d4s when you get to the crater


terrain encounter
1 lake, the water tinted wrong. steaming banks swarmed thick by bloated flies toads as big as dogs. d3+4 of them, with d3+4 legs each, twitching grumpily. their venom causes hallucinations of an earth destroyed and reborn. seizures at higher dose
2 pines. mostly toppled. caught like pick-up-sticks in each others arms deer blasted into after-images. skittish. flickering blackwhite silhouettes leap away over the brush. if a buck runs through you your bones glow through your skin like an xray
3 heath. wildflowers in a thousand coruscating shades, each a tiny atomic sunset brainwolves. lobes bared like teeth from the top of their head, spilled from the hollow where eyes should be. only d4+1 left in the pack, their minds meshed in howling psychic echolocation
4 crater punched hard into the rock, cracks still sizzling with radioactive heat armoured personnel, bodies helplessly melted into their truck, souls fused in the plutonium forge. their chassis is irreparably torn, engine near liquid with heat. hunting officers, scientists and politicians
5 crater angered earth. the bomb lodged in its chest a nuclear heart, overflown with hateful passion. titanic fists obliterate themselves against anything it can reach. it scoops a handful of dirt and screams at it until the atoms burn off
6+ crater torn reality. something is visible on the other side. god, probably. an alien world and your childhood home. reality has been undone, memetic tumours are all that's left. it's every burning future all at once. a perfect void but no vacuum; you realise that our world is hollow now too


HYPERAUSTRALIS
best way to get back to earth is to climb the nearest mountain, wait for a snowstorm, then jump off a cliff
roll d6s, adjust depth as instructed, minimum 0

1 playful platypus, as long as your arm and twice as friendly. its fur is worth an inestimable fortune. its venom could kill you in seconds
depth +1
2 herd of brumbies. shaggy steppe ponies grown huge and wild in hyperaustralian air. stumbled in from somewhere in the himalayas, they're breeding out of control and wreaking havoc in this alien ecosystem
depth +1
3 lyrebird skulks just out of sight. tired of scratching in the dirt for bugs it calls to you, testing cries and words to find what sequence of sounds might encourage you towards a clumsy death
depth +1, and the bird follows you
4 hundred-strong mob of roo grazes, indolent but fiercely territorial. one of the larger will sway up to you to pick a fight. the legs hit like a log trap, though if you can knock it down the rest will let you pass without issue
defeat a roo or depth -1
5 lone echidna, bear-sized, snuffles in the dirt. its quills are said to carry great potency of an unspecified kind. follow it long enough, collecting dropped barbs, and it will lead you far, far from its nest and your path
depth -2 if you follow it, else depth +1
6 the wombat is nowhere to be seen, though its den is impossible to miss. earth gouged by paws fatter than your torso. soft square spoor the size of your fist. the cool breeze wafting from the tunnel suggests it may lead just where you're headed
depth -2+d4 if you take the tunnel. encounter a pissed off diprotodon if you come back through
otherwise, depth +1
7 crimson rosellas, their wings a dozen shades of snowstorm blue. they squawk and giggle in the trees, the first flakes of snow falling around them. somewhere between beautiful and ear-splittingly annoying. if you try to camp near them you won't sleep a wink
depth +1
8 the rock here is bare, thin snow failing to congeal in the near-constant wind. this peak is not yet high enough, though the view is quite beautiful
depth -1
9 finally the snow thickens, trackless and serene. just under the surface pygmy possums lair. too much weight on the crust and you'll punch through into their den. their swarming bites are rarely lethal, so long as someone helps pulls you out
depth +1
10+ the peak is flat, almost disappointing, uneventful until night falls. the aurora australis roars overhead, colours calling to you even in your dreams. too much time spent up here, before the snows come to open a path back home, and you might never want to leave 


THE ANCIENT PAST
start at depth 1. instead of just +1 per step add the result of your d6. if you go off the end of the table you wrap back around to the start

1 present day. five minutes have passed every time you go through a whole loop
2 bronze age. arching sandstone cities in the distance, lit by a sumptuous purple sky. to either side a sweating, confused gladiator, their duel interrupted
3 ice age. sleet sheets cuts through cloth like a sickle. from the bones of your feet comes thunder - a mammoth stampede driven before pelt-draped hunters
4 meteor impact. sky is thick with smog, white-hot trails cutting through from the ruination flying overhead 
5 triassic jungle. towering ferns busied by mosquitoes big as birds. behind you a trex, sniffing curiously
6 flooded. warm, shallow sea. skittering clockwork arthopods bicker below. the 10ft of water above your head teems with motes of near-microscopic life
7 mossworld. utterly tranquil, though the air is a little thin. sky a light, fresh blue. nothing but mosses and extremely dumb bugs.
8 endless rains. the rock hot underfoot, only recently cooled enough to let liquid water form. high above are all the world's oceans, still a broiling cloud thick with lightning
9 molten earth. a tiny promontory of basalt thrust up from seas of magma, slowly tipping back down into the heat
10 time engine. hazmat suited figures with bulging heads and the wrong number of fingers. they fiddle with knobs and radio in for timemarines to stop your nefarious meddling


DEPTH TABBLES
d10s

1 okay so you like add 'depth' to your roll to indicate that you're moving through something? 11 oh christ and variance is a whole thing?? the smaller the die you're rolling the higher chance of doubles, and the less likely to miss things
2 wait so you've only got one chance to see the first thing on the table? it better be a special one... 12 can always double up entries, too, to smooth out the progression
3 but like you could still roll doubles, or get something that was higher up than what you just rolled; things can't be expected to occur in order 13 double ups in one column but not another? like the landscape column doesn't change much but encounters do
4 oh right and it doesn't have to be spatial. it could be temporal, or like stages of a disease or the passing of seasons 14 or, jeepers, different columns are different lengths?? like you have to get to a certain depth on one to get the really crazy shit, but the other column probably cuts you short?
5 huh you could even have the table be a loop, that you just keep wrapping around 15 you could even roll different sized dice but that sounds kind of fucked
6 and entries could totally tell you how much to change depth by 16 you definitely want to preroll everything if you're doing a spatial one. it's more like procedural generation at that point
7 or wow even just jump you to a specific point on the table 17 but the more reactive ones.. you could maybe do social encounters through them, even build a generalised one, like peril dice or whatever 
8 obviously you can give it multiple columns, to get some of that sweet precious permutation going 18 every table probably does need specific rules. how to handle doubles, which of all these weird permutations it employs
9 or damn even multiple axes, so you can go deeper in different directions along, let's be real, probably just a grid 19 okay what if you simply reduced all human activity down to several thousand vectors, and all pc activities are coded into these at appropriate depth...
10 okay yeah what if the table doesn't even end at the point you've trying to get to? you can overshoot and then realise you have to backtrack or w/e 20 ...and then u apply a depth mechanic to the process of developing depth mechanics, so u can depth mechanic while u

Friday, 6 September 2019

The Strange Fate of Captain Strathclyde

I'm trying a new thing where I write horror stories and put them on Medium.

The first one is called The Strange Fate of Captain Strathclyde. It's about a guy who takes a job as personal assistant to a reclusive novelist, in a creepy old house in the Appalachians, and finds that extremely creepy things start happening.

One of the strangest things about the 21st-century internet is the complete lack of places to publish good short fiction. I assume they exist - the old sci-fi magazines still all seem to be going on, somewhere or other - but I don't read them and neither do you. They don't have any actual cultural reach. And the existence of blogging platforms has made their publishing model obsolete in a way that nobody at all seems to have reckoned with.

In the old days, if you wanted to get published, you needed to persuade somebody with a printing press to actually, physically put it down on a piece of paper and deliver it to bookstores and newsagents across the nation. Hence Lovecraft having to go through Weird Tales, Steven King publishing in... I think it's all these small magazines with names like Startling Mystery Stories that don't exist any more, because why would they? Now you just whack it online.

Nobody needs to approve of what you write. The only hiccup is that you need to build a social-media following on your own, which can be tricky. The best way to do it is to have an existing community of people who do similar stuff. The OSR blogging sphere has obviously been good, although harder to use since G+ died. But we haven't done a lot of actual storytelling - it has always seemed to me like a weirdly dead art, at this point in history.

We do a lot of incredible fiction but very little of it is narrative. And nobody else is doing it either, at least not a way I'm interested in. I remember when I made my Twine game A Thing Called Dracula I struggled to find a way to popularise it, or people who were interested in talking about it and building on it. There is a gap here that someone needs to fill.

I'm interested in Twilight Zone-style horror stories, detective and crime stories, weird tales with some creepy little ironic twist at the end. It's kind of a deliberately old-fashioned project. I want to do a couple more of these and see where it goes. I also wrote a book last year - a crime novel called Croatoan, about conspiracy theories, the pitch being Elmore Leonard does the X-Files - and if I can't get it published traditionally I'll start trying to sell it online as an e-book. So there's that.