Hey, gang. Apologies that I haven’t been posting as regularly. I’ve been surprisingly busy. I can’t complain about it. It’s a good thing for my career if I have a bunch of projects going on. It’s an exciting time to be me, and I guess that means if you’re a fan, then it can be a little bit exciting for you too. Or not. I don’t expect you to live vicariously through me. Though you’re certainly welcome to try.
Anyway, I’m still working on my top secret project I’m not allowed to talk about. So why bring it up? Because what’s the point of working on a top secret project if you can’t mention it? This is probably why I’d be a lousy spy. The details will remain undisclosed, but I’m optimistic at this stage that this could be awesome. I could be wrong. It’s happened once or twice before.
But while I have a free moment, I figured I’d drop by, confirm that I am still alive, and maybe share some random thoughts. People do seem to like that sort of thing. Maybe because as a sort of famous person, they’re under the illusion I have something interesting to say. Or maybe we all have something interesting to say, and I just happen to be lucky enough to have an audience.
So I’ve been playing Skylanders on my Wii. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s a video game with a gimmick. You get a wireless “portal” device that connects to your system and when you put the Skylander figures onto the portal, they appear in your game as characters for you to control. Think of it as Pokemon, but without having to capture the damn things and instead just going out and buying them. It is a gimmick, and psychologically, it should be annoying that you’re basically paying to unlock things that are already in the game. But it’s a tremendously charming game with a lot going for it.
For one thing, the game is a bit old school and aimed at a younger audience. It’s not tremendously difficult and most of the levels are straightforward, even if there is a bit of puzzles here and there. For some reason, Skylanders reminds me a lot of that old classic Gauntlet. Only instead of running around in a dungeon with four characters to choose from, there are 32 different Skylanders (if you should happen to buy them all).
What elevates this beyond a gimmick for me is that the game is genuinely fun to play. And each character has their own unique style. They aren’t just interchangeable with different special effects. Trigger Happy carries a pair of pistols that shoot gold coins and can spray the screen with a deadly barrage. Meanwhile, Terrafin is a landshark who can swim through rock and punch the enemy with tremendous force. The more you play the game, the more you unlock on the characters. It’s all a very elaborate system of enticement, but so cleverly done that it seems rewarding rather than manipulative.
It’s the difference between a game with a gimmick and a gimmicky game. Skylanders is certainly designed to sell collectible figures, but they went above and beyond to create a fun experience that continues to reward me. If I were less secure, I might feel weird admitting how much I’m enjoying a game aimed at kids, but I’m a professional novelologist. And I fear the day I can’t see the beauty of playing a game where I can be anything from a rock dinosaur to a cyber dragon to a very angry tree who spits out giant spiked acorns that he rolls over the forces of evil.
Meanwhile, I’ve also been enjoying Castle Empire Online, a free online game that’s about managing a small kingdom. It’s a different animal than Skylanders, but fun. Worth checking out, if you’re so inclined. I play under the name EmperorMollusk. Send me a friend request. Maybe I’ll trade you some fish for coal. (I’m always short on coal.)
But what about the real world? What’s going on there?
How quaint of you to ask.
Got that secret project thing. Hush hush. But it’s coming along.
Working on Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest, my next manuscript (prob out in 2013).
Oh, and that Mack Megaton story…it’s still coming. I promise.
Finally, I’d like to offer my thoughts on the topic of skepticism. The problem with your average person’s view of skepticism is that it seems to mean “Non-Believer”. When I say I’m skeptical of ghosts, for instance, it’s often assumed I don’t believe ghosts exist. In point of fact, I am a genuine skeptic when it comes to the paranormal. I remain unconvinced but open to it.
And, yes, I understand there there is “evidence” for the paranormal. It’s just not very good evidence. And it certainly isn’t very convincing evidence for any particular claim. This isn’t to say that those claims are wrong. It’s just that they remain so ill-defined as to honestly admit they are specious at best. The difficulty I have with “the paranormal” is that no one who believes it genuinely seems to be investigating it in an open way. Instead, they have their pet theory that they are trying to prove. That’s just bad research.
For example, perhaps electronic voice phenomenon is a real thing, and we are managing to record the voices of invisible beings around us. This could mean a hundred things though. Perhaps there are alien entities from another dimension trying to make contact with us. Perhaps mischievous imps are playing tricks on us. Or perhaps they are psychic imprints created by the will of the living investigators. When it comes to the paranormal, none of these explanations seems unreasonable to me. Or they could all be wrong.
This is why I am skeptical. Even if you capture a genuine EVP, it could be something we haven’t even thought of yet. There are so many possibilities, the only genuinely honest thing to do is to record the result and keep investigating.
Inevitably, someone will tell me I am being too closed minded. But it’s actually the opposite. I’m so open minded about what it COULD be that I have a hard time just declaring what it is as if I actually knew. The believer is often the one who seems closed minded to me, willing to stretch any and all evidence toward their pet theory, ignoring any possibility outside of that.
As an experiment, I suggest watching different ghost hunting shows. What’s most surprising about the shows isn’t that they find “evidence”, but the type of “evidence” they find. Each show tends to find the kind of ghosts they’re looking for, regardless of their location. The less dangerous spirits of Ghost Hunters never seem to cross paths with the more terrifying specters of Ghost Adventures. And the outright malevolent forces of Paranormal State never seem to show up in any episodes of Fact or Faked.
Skeptically, it could be argued that perhaps that’s the way the supernatural works. Perhaps different facets of the paranormal respond to different people. Perhaps my very skepticism is what prevents me from seeing any evidence for myself. Or perhaps it’s all just our primitive imagination responding to spooky sounds and unfamiliar locations. Or perhaps we’re all just brains floating in a giant shared simulation and some people have their experience settings dialed to monster.
That’s skepticism. Far too extreme to be practical, of course. But just want to put it out there.
My general rule is that if the evidence could just as easily apply to leprechauns, then I remain unconvinced. Lights in the skies could be alien spaceships. Or the fey folk playing tricks on us. Until we actually have a flying saucer or a faerie in our possession, we can’t know for sure.
Although I do still believe that Bigfoot is just Chupacapbra in a suit.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,