50 Years of Text Games

Book 4

Aaron Reed, who has been in the Interactive Fiction (IF) community for many years, created an awesome substack called 50 Years of Text Games. It's a history of the medium calling out some of the most influential games including Adventure, Zork, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Curses, Photopia and a recent favorite, Universal Paperclips.

Now he's turned that substack into an even more compelling book. It's available now on Kickstarter. You can get the electronic version, softcover or deluxe hardcover version. I'm looking forward to this. It really looks fabulous. There's also a bonus 60 page addendum that covers additional games not in the original substack. 

Aaron is also the author of several excellent books and IF games including Blue Lacuna, one of the largest games ever, and Creating Interactive Fiction in Inform7.

Book 2


Eaten By A Grue

Eaten by a grue

If you have any interest in the classic Infocom Interactive Fiction games of the 80s, you should check out the wonderful podcast "Eaten by a Grue" where computer historians Kay Savetz and Carrington Vanston make their way through every Infocom game ever made. It's a fun show, with plenty of insightful analysis, witty banter and hints well covered by spoiler fences.  There's also a great interview with master game designer Steve Meretzky and also reviews of post-Infocom games that came out of the IF community. 

I hope they'll give Chris Huang's An Act of Murder a try! 

I'm almost tempted to fire up Inform7 and get back to work on my long-stalled game The Z-Machine Matter. Or maybe I should get back to work on the sequel to my novel "The Man from Mittelwerk." 


#TechForUkraine

TechForUkraine

A few days ago, Gatsby, the company I work for, took the unusual precedent to condemn the military invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Why is a small tech company making such a statement? As has been often said, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.

Ukraine is a country with a rich history of technology and entrepreneurship. There are tens of thousands of entrepreneurs, developers, designers, scientists and engineers employed in the technology industry. Ukraine has become part of the global technology industry. They have shown great leadership and innovation with companies such as Affirm, Gitlab, Grammarly, JustAnswers, PandaDoc, Preply, Sisense and many others.

Gatsby, though a small company, is also global, with employees and customers in many countries around the world. We are part of an open source movement that enables anyone to use our technology to build web sites.

Global technology and open source software enable the world to be a better place for everyone, providing opportunities for developers in every country. We believe in the forward progress of technology to enable people to develop better lives for themselves, their families and their communities.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is a threat not only to Ukraine but to worldwide democracy. The attack upon Ukraine is destroying the lives of millions of innocent people.

In the world of tech, we have witnessed the immense constructive power of open sharing of ideas, and voluntary collaboration. We have built models where people can disagree yet productively work together across the globe.

We believe in a world with a level playing field where anyone can aspire to become the best version of themselves. A civilization where ideas and opinions can clash but people respect each other.

The war initiated on 24 February 2022 by Russia against Ukraine is not only an attempt at subduing one nation, it is an assault on democracy. It is an ugly strike against the rule of law. As Martin Luther King reminded us: injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

That is why we are now speaking up. What we are witnessing is an assault on everything we believe in. At risk is the very foundation that societal progress has been built on over the past 80 years. We cannot stand by and ignore these actions.

We are taking action today to condemn this invasion. We are making a donation to Unicef to support the people of Ukraine and I encourage others in our community to do the same by donating to one of the many organizations that are helping.

The future of democracy is playing out right now in the streets of Kyiv. It matters to each and every one of us. Do not look away. Remember the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.

Where to Donate


Support in the Tech Community
We will update this list with additional statements of support over time.

#TechForUkraine
#StopTheWar


James Kestrel's Five Decembers

Five decembers TC 3a

Every now and then a book comes along that you have to tell people about. It grabs you, holds on to you and the only way to release the energy is to share it with others. Five Decembers by James Kestrel is that kind of book. It's the best book I've read this year. 

The book starts as you might expect in a noir crime novel. But that's not giving Kestrel full credit. He's a student of the genre and, like his main character Honolulu Police Detective Joe McGrady, he knows what he's doing. Kestrel is laying the scene in the first couple of chapters as McGrady investigates a murder. But really, he's setting McGrady up for a fall.

It's November 1941 and the book is imbued with the atmosphere of pre-war Hawaii. There's a tension in the air and Kestrel paints an apt picture of Chinatown, the seedy harbor brothels and the sweat and smoke of the police station right down to the captain's 15c benzedrine inhaler. Given the navy build-up you might think you know where things are going, but like McGrady, you haven't a clue. I'll I can say is he lands in Hong Kong December 7, 1941. And from there, it becomes a very different story. Yes it's a noir crime story, but it's much more than that. It's an epic story of love and war and faith and betrayal. 

Although this is the first book under this name, this isn't Kestrel's first rodeo. He studied at the world-renowned Interlochen Arts Academy writing program under Jack Driscoll. He's written six other well-received novels. As historic noir fiction, Five Decembers was a departure and two-dozen publishers turned it down before Charles Ardai at Hard Case Crime took it. Although the path could have been easier for Kestrel, I'm glad it landed with Hard Case Crime. Ardai is also a student of the genre and he likely understood and appreciated the significance of the book more than others. 

Five decembers TC 1I've read a lot of Hard Case Crime over the years, starting with their first book in 2004 by Lawrence Block. They've published some great authors including Stephen King, Max Allen Collins, Michael Crichton, Donald Westlake, Ariel S. Winter, Scott Von Doviak and others. Kestrel is right up there. In fact, I'd say Five Decembers is the best book Hard Case Crime has ever published. No surprise, he's got great reviews in the New York Times, Kirkus, Publisher's Weekly and elsewhere. This book would make one helluva movie. 

With this book, James Kestrel earns his spot as one of the "Three K's of Historic Fiction" alongside Philipp Kerr (Berlin Noir) and Joseph Kanon (The Good German).

Bottom line, this is an absolute page turner. Buy it now and put it at the top of your reading list.


The Reincarnationist Papers

Reincarnationist papers

Tech executive D. Eric Maikranz hit the jackpot with his novel The Reincarnationist Papers which was made into the film Infinite starring Mark Wahlberg. Maikranz self-published the novel back in 2009 with an innovative crowd-sourced reward to anyone who helped him land a film deal. By chance a copy of the book was discovered in a hostel in Nepal by Rafi Crohn, who worked at a Hollywood production company. After many twists and turns over ten years, it was turned into an explosive over-the-top sci-fi adventure. I first heard about Maikranz' publishing journey on the Bestseller Experiment podcast hosted by authors Mark Stay and Mark Desvaux

Maikranz's novel asks the question: "What if... you could live forever?" I mean, what could be more captivating than that?

The Reincarnationist Papers is a stunning and original first novel that exposes you to a fantastical world of people who live forever via reincarnation. You can't help but wonder how you would cope with the situations the narrator faces, whether it's his troubled life before he understands his reincarnations or the temptations of hedonism, lust and greed. If you liked Ken Grimwood's Replay, you will find this equally intriguing. It's a breezy summertime read, perfect for airport travel or hanging out at a beach.

Maikranz is working on a sequel, which will be a welcome follow-up to the slightly enigmatic ending. 

The book is published by Blackstone and is also available on Audible.