A(nother) Whiny Rant Wondering Where All the New Horror Books Are

Ok, there will be a review up later, in the meantime “enjoy” this whiny semi-coherent rant.

Last year, when doing my October month of horror fiction (and likely at least once before that) I’ve mentioned the difficulty I’ve had in finding and locating new and interesting horror fiction. While my reading has been slow this month I struggled again this year in trying to track down horror fiction to read. In the course of my brief and hardly comprehensive search for new fiction of the supernatural and macabre I’ve still struggled to find titles.

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Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory: A Fallout 3 Post

Warning! Vaguely rambling nerd rant ahead!

Anyone visiting here knows I love Fallout 3.  In 2008/2009  THE most enjoyable gaming experience I had.  Indeed, it soaked up almost as much of my time as this year’s Dragon Age, perhaps more since I paid for more of the DLC for Fallout 3 then I have for Dragon Age.  This year, after an Easter visit to the Washington D.C. area the desire to play the game stuck me once again.  After arriving home I eventually dug out my DVD and reinstalled on my PC running Windows 7 (having ditched the clunky Vista this year).  Things went smoothly, I took a deep breath and reinstalled the Games For Windows Live client, and even purchased Point Lookout and Mothership Zeta since I had yet to play either of those DLC packs.  Once everything was installed and patched I loaded up the game and, on arriving at the main menu, clicked New Game.  Despite having played the opening section of Fallout 3 a number of times I couldn’t quite shake the tingle of anticipation and the wash of nostalgia as I remembered that first step from Vault to Wasteland.  The loading screen popped and then blackness.

I stared blinking at the nothingness on my screen and waited…and waited.  I’m sure it was bare minutes but it felt longer when, with a sigh, I mashed CTRL-ALT-DEL (as an experienced PC Gamer an act that is near reflex, can be done in the dark, and requires only one hand) and popped open the task manager.  The “Not Responding” sitting next to Fallout 3 seemed to mock me.  I ended the task.  I tried again.  Same results.  With trepidation I opened up Firefox and began to delve into the muck and mire of the gaming forums.  Turns out Fallout 3 does not support Windows 7 at all. Indeed Bethesda doesn’t seem inclined, or are at least silent, on whether it ever fill.  As game at least a year old the development process is over and patching the game can’t be a priority.  The first sentence means that whatever problems I have I won’t get any help from Bethesda.  Digging deeper into forums I find a host of other problems, not all related to Windows 7 (if that is even the root of my problem), crashes and other bugs mostly on variety of systems powerful, moderate, and mediocre.  I manage to track down a couple a threads about the Fallout 3 Black Screen of Death and perform those arcane incantations and ritual sacrifices (disabling an odd video codec, updating GFWL, reinstalling, uninstalling over video codecs, etc., etc., etc.) that requires.  Nothing works.  I haven’t quite given up, a copy of gparted, a Vista install disc, and a cavernous second hard drive stare at me even now…though I hope those will only be a last ditch effort.

I am fully understanding of the complexities of PC Gaming.  OS, processor, motherboard, graphics card, and sound card are, absent RAM and hard drive, the 5 main components of a computer.  Just those five components creates a staggering number of possible hardware configurations.  No studio can plan for every possible permutation of PC thus no PC Game is perfect.  The possibilities are just too great.  But developers typically try to roll out the broadest, and most stable game they can (at least in an ideal world).   Amidst the cacophony of praise heaped upon Fallout 3 I see little mention of it’s monumental failure at stability.  The game is just about 18 months old now so it isn’t exactly fresh in peoples’ minds, but the marketing machine trundles forward thanks to continuing development of Fallout: New Vegas over at ObsidianFallout: New Vegas will be using the same game engine as Fallout 3 New Vegas is being developed by a developer whose catalog of games, while certainly entertaining, are among some of the less stable in recent memory; Neverwinter Nights 2 in particular was not the most polished of creations.  So to say I’m worried, as a PC Gamer, as to exactly how stable Fallout: New Vegas will be is probably something of an understatement.

None of that is really helps with the $100 worth of software (game plus dlc) that is sitting more-or-less useless on my hard drive.   To make my issue more bizarre are the other forum-goers claiming that Fallout 3 is working just fine on Windows 7 for them.  Now I know that Windows 7 is relatively new but according to the most recent Steam Hardware Survey (an unknown sample size, unfortunately) 24% of participants are running Windows 7 64-bit, combined with 32-bit Windows 7 brings the total to 35%; just 3% behind Windows XP and 12% more then Windows Vista.  Furthermore, according to netmarketshare Windows 7 has climbed just past the 10% in overall OS market share, trailing the older Vista by only about 5.75% (again, XP still dominates amongst windows users).  I know that most games don’t get patches 18 months (Diablo II being the most notable exception) out but that doesn’t make the pill any easier to swallow.

I still hold out a barely glimmering hope that I will get Fallout 3 working again but this has so far been a painful embittering experience and the only thing that keeps me tied to the PC is my burning hatred for console controls.

On Roleplaying

It’s time to Ramble On.

-Led Zeppelin

As I sat in a comfy chair last night, wearing my free Dragon Age t-shirt acquired at PAX ’07, and playing through the opening scenes of Mass Effect 2 (my Mass Effect t-shit was, unfortunately, in the laundry) I cringed as a notice popped up about earning +4 to my Renegade rating.  I stopped for a minute reviewing the conversation I, or rather Commander Shepherd, just had.  I didn’t recall saying anything particularly “bad.”   I let the moment of sick panic pass and pushed onward secure my good deeds would erase whatever slight misstep I had taken.

You see in every Bioware game I’ve ever played I’ve always been good.  Multiple play-throughs of Baldur’s Gate 2, Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic, etc.  All good.  I’ve tried to play evil.  I have, really.  But something always stops me short.  A sick sensation in the pit of my stomach as I lie, cheat and extort.  A cold sweat that breaks out as I exploit the weak  or turn my back on the downtrodden.  I always abandon the efforts, returning to my goody two-shoes tendencies.  With Mass Effect 2 there is a faint curiosity that pulls me towards the glowing orange of the Renegade.  Part of it is a function of story.  I died.  I was brought back.  Two years of my life are gone.  The world around me has changed.  But, have I?  Distrust still exists amongst the various races.  The Alliance left me for dead but Cerebus, whose scientists I slaughtered as a Spectre, brought me back.  The Council sits on its hands unable to act while humanity is threatened.  They’ve turned a blind eye towards the threat the Reapers represent.  Did my old tactics of cooperation and open handed assistance even matter?

I repeat, I’m only three hours into the game.  Maybe it’s nothing Bioware did.  Maybe it’s me.  But I find myself, more than any other game recently, involved on an emotional level with what’s happening.  But I find myself wishing that Bioware made it harder to know precisely how my actions will affect my “alignment.”  Perhaps it’s a holdover from earlier games but more so than any other time I could remember I wish the game would let me just choose without the knowledge of precisely what the nature of those decisions might be.  Mass Effect’s Paragon/Renegade alignment system is fascinating but the foreknowledge of how your words and actions will affect that scale robs me of a certain level of investment in the preceding.  The system is visible, allowing me too much leeway to telegraph my actions to reach the outcome I desire.  The decisions don’t really feel like mine.

I still don’t know why I can’t be evil.  You see.  If you have ever gamed with me at the table you might be surprised to learn about my inability to be even the slightest bit mean.   Scratch that.  You would definitely be surprised to learn that.  Truth be told, you might even refuse to believe me at all since  absolutely none of my tabletop D&D characters has ever been GOOD.  Ever.

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Of holes, pockets and fire.

WARNING:  This starts tame and mutates into a full on rant.  Oops.

The U.K. gets all sorts of genre awesomeness before us yanks and I hate them for it.  Oddly enough the Gollancz printing of The Necronomicon: the Best Weird Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft managed to receive a trade paper “export” edition, which I discovered at work yesterday.  The book, with its black cover and Cthulhu cover set off the my sexy alarm.  The store had only two copies left so I picked up, even knowing I’d end up importing a hardcover if it existed.  It does, and I am now anxiously awaiting its arrival.

At just over 1000 pages it has all of Lovecraft’s classic which, while I already own in the fantastic Penguin editions annoted by Lovecraftian/Weird Tale scholar S.T. Joshi, are finally bound together here and bookended by a scanned version of Lovecraft’s “History of the Necronomicon” and what looks like a hand-drawn map of Providence.  Just shy of a Subterranean level production quality.

To make matters worse I decided to preorder the other U.K. first titles including The Steel Remains (this August in the U.K. and February!!!!!! in the U.S.), Toll the Hounds (September trade paper in the States, July 1st hardcover in the U.K.), and Return of the Crimson Guard (August in the U.K., maybe September in the states).

Four books.  After shipping and handling (more expensive because I want the books as they come out rather than all at once) that is roughly 72 pounds.  At an exchnage rate just shy of $2 USD to 1 pound that is over $140.  For four books.  All of which, I should at, are discounted by 30-50%.  Mostly I blame the weak US dollar, and my own nigh uncontrollable book lust, but is there someone out there in the publishing world that can explain to me why the fuck, in an age of near instantaneous communication, in countries that share the same fucking language, that fantasy books take so much longer to get here!?

I suspect it has to do with castles.  There has to be some strange formula involving the number of castles.   It certainly can’t be quality.  Terry fucking Goodkind gets his shit here quick as can be (though still in the U.K.) first and gave up on that hack years ago.  It can’t be do to author nationality.  Richard Morgan is british sure, but Erikson is Canadian and George R. R. Martin was born in fucking New Jersey (Storm of Swords was released in August of 2000 in the UK, and November of 2000 in the States, A Feast for Crows was October 2005 in the UK and November 2005 in the States, close but not close enough).  Someone really needs to explain this shit to me.