Grim Fandango Remastered

The Writing of Grim Fandango

So, I do loves me some video games. And video games occasionally deliver some truly stellar story-telling – none more so than the best adventure games.

Little history here: point-and-click adventures were a crazy popular genre, back when I was a kid. They were all about the story – you played a character, who could walk around and talk to other characters and whose entire mission was to solve some puzzle, advance the plot, and experience the story. The best of these games are legends in their own right, beloved by gamers everywhere and thought of fondly even now, years later.

Some of the absolute best were created by Tim Schafer when he was working at LucasArts, and his best was Grim Fandango.

Living in the Past

Some time ago, I decided that I wanted to keep up with the press releases of the various New York publishing houses. Mostly I wanted to know what they thought was important enough to issue press releases about, and I thought it would be enough to simply subscribe to their RSS feeds or something.

Except I can’t. What I found was that most of them don’t have RSS feeds for their press releases. They don’t have a method of subscribing to their press releases for people who may be interested. I mean… good grief. What century are you living in? I only have a WordPress blog and I have two feeds available at least.

Anyway – that’s not really want I wanted to talk about. What I’m really interested in is the way that the big publishing houses seem to be flailing about on the Internet like drunken soccer hooligans when it comes to social media.

Fire Eyes, Shadowblade

Fire Eyes, Shadowblade

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not really very good at titles. I’m good at writing long things. Short things, eh, not so much.

That said – I’ve procrastinated long enough. Time to put my money where my mouth is, or something. I’m announcing the title of my first book – my first real story. The first of a trilogy. This has been too long coming, but I have to commit at some point. So here it is, along with a short blurb that I will inevitably change later.

fifty-shades-of-grey

It’s Valentine’s Day and I Can’t Even

Yep. I just Can’t Even. Today’s the day that Fifty Shades of Grey is released in the cinema. Predictably enough, it’s set to break every box office record from here to Jupiter.

Perhaps I shouldn’t take it personally, you know? And yet I do, because I’m a writer. Because stories matter, in a way that nothing else does. I have a theory – and admittedly, it’s probably something that someone has come up with before – on storytelling.

Rift swords

Take Sword, Add Protrusions

There must be some kind of law about fantasy swords in video games. There’s a recipe to them, if you know what I mean. It’s not enough for a sword to be a long piece of sharp metal. It’s got to have… extra stuff, extra colors, extra everything! Presumably this is because normal swords are boring, or something.

I can’t quite fathom why various different blades designed purely to kill people real good might be considered boring, but there you have it.

Rift swords

Exotic Weapons in Fantasy Adventure

So, part of the reason why I started training in the salle is that I needed to know how to fight, like I’ve said before. But I also needed to know the limits and purposes of various weapons – whether a dagger would be effective against a polearm or a longsword, what techniques would be appropriate in a pitched battle, that kind of thing. I wanted to avoid ‘unrealistic’ representations of combat.

Of course, I’ve since realized that it really doesn’t matter as long as the combat serves the story, but I still appreciate the richness of my education, and how it allows me to write combat with more conviction. It informs how and why things work the way they do, in armies and in one-on-one fights, when I’m doing world-building. But it presents a whole host of problems when you realize that the fantasy weapons you’ve spent so much time on are now completely wrong!

Yes, this is my longsword.

Being a Swordfighter

Today, I will have been a swordfighter for exactly one year.

Sometimes it feels like I’ve been one forever, and sometimes it feels like only a moment. I can remember feeling very out of place, initially, when I first stepped into the Warrior Fundamentals class in Academie Duello. That lasted until I actually picked up a longsword, and truly began to learn.

I’ve been in Vancouver for four years. Time, opportunity, and, cheesy as it sounds, a New Year’s resolution finally got me in the salle; I needed the exercise, above all else, but I also needed knowledge. I write fantasy adventure, the kind of stuff that wouldn’t look out of place next to Lord of the Rings, and there’s only so far you can go with fight scenes before you really need some actual experience of fighting.

I’m not sure what I expected. What I found, though, is that there is a difference between learning how to swing a long piece of steel, and actually being a swordfighter.

fifty-shades-of-grey

Fifty Shades of Crap

FSOG (Fifty Shades of Grey) is, hands down, one of the worst things to ever happen to the BDSM scene, even though it’s probably one of the best things to happen to erotica writers. With the movie coming out soon, I feel like I should do my part and rant like it’s 1999 on just how utterly BLEARGH this whole series is.

Allll the BLEARGHs. I’m not so good with words any time I ever get onto the topic of Fifty Shades.

Lightsaber duel

Let’s Talk about the Bind

Two fighters size each other up. They strike and parry, back and forth, then their swords lock together dramatically as they hurl snappy one-liners at each other. They shove and circle around, and split apart again, and the fight continues!

Except… nah. This is the Hollywood parry, something you’ll see in all the Star Wars movies at least. Like many things in Hollywood, it’s not a bad thing because it’s unrealistic (though it is that) but because it’s boring and stupidly overused.

English Longbow

Lars Anderson – not a revolutionary in archery

Okay, remember how I posted about Lars Anderson? He’s the archer whose video has been blowing up the interwebs for the last few days. I would be remiss if I didn’t now post an update, after hearing from the experts.

As I’ve mentioned before, I train swordplay in Academie Duello. I’ve also had the opportunity to pick up an archery class with Patricia Gonsalves of Lykopis Archery. And it was awesome! I was so stoked about it that I was already pricing up a bow of my own. Then Lars’ video came out, and I had to pick my jaw up off the floor – but. BUT. The first thing on my mind was “What do the experts think?”

I’m doubly glad that, if I need to know anything at all about medieval weaponry, I’m at most one conversation or Facebook post away from getting an informed opinion.

Buster sword

Why Swords of Power(TM) Don’t Work

Here’s a thought – what do you think of as the ultimate sword?

This is another trope that shows up quite often in all kinds of media: the concept of the ultimate blade, the Sword of Power, the mystical weapon before which all others go crying to their mommies. Frequently it’s got some kind of marking or decoration to distinguish it from others as well, and it’s either in the hands of the bad guy, or it’s stuck in a dungeon somewhere (the Legend of Zelda option), or it’s being hidden or carried around by someone ‘worthy’.

samurai-jack-vs-aku

The Swordmaster Trope

So here’s the common trope: there is a master swordsman. This swordsman has a single Sword of Power(TM) and has never been defeated in battle. There can be only one, etc etc. The swordsman will face many opponents with many different kinds of weapons, and emerge victorious every time.

Duncan McCloud from Highlander. Too many examples from anime and manga to count. Jaime Lannister from A Game of Thrones, apparently. Drizzt Do’Urden. Zorro. They just pop up everywhere, when you think about it. The idea of the swordmaster is a very powerful, romantic one.

The problem is that one swordmaster does not an army make, and although it serves for good storytelling SOMETIMES, it doesn’t make for good tactics.

larsanderson

Archery Level: Godlike

Okay, we’ve all seen Legolas do some pretty crazy shit, alright? Well, trust me, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Meet Lars Anderson, a Danish archer who apparently went back through a lot of old manuscripts, started with the notion that everything in them (even the stuff that modern archers said was impossible) was totally true and not just invented to make a guy look good, and then trained for years. This is the result.

Combat Archery.

Buster sword

Video Games Swordfighting Fun

You know, I spend a lot of time talking about movie swordplay, but do you know what’s really awesome? Video game swordfighting. For pure silliness, you just can’t beat the balls-out crazy that usually goes into game combat. Movies can get away with their silliness because of the requirements of story and characterization and all that, but games? Oh man, they’re on another level. There is almost nothing about video game swordplay that makes sense from the perspective of true swordplay.

Yes, this is my longsword.

Let’s talk about sword weight!

This is my longsword.

It’s 51 inches long, 38-inch blade. Leather wrapped hilt, scent-stopper pommel, unusual triple fuller. It’s loosely based on the 15th century Oakeshott Type XVIIIb longsword, so it’s basically a regular hand-and-a-half sword with an extra long hilt. Made by Szymon Chlebowski, a very talented Polish swordsmith. (It does not have a name, and I refuse to give it one, so don’t ask!)

It’s about 3.5lbs, and that puts it on the HEAVY side for a longsword.

First of all – yes, it is possible to hold it out straight in one hand. I do it all the time! But you can’ t do it for longer than a minute before your arm starts burning like it’s been dunked in lava. 3.5lbs doesn’t seem like a lot, but holding it out like that is hard! It puts a huge strain on your bicep and forearm.