Serious Sam 4: Planet Badass (teaser)

In case you haven’t seen it, Croteam have released a teaser for Serious Sam 4: Planet Badass. I’ve been so insanely busy this year (Serious Sam 4, Phoenix Point, The Council of Crows, plus several other games) that I haven’t managed to update this blog at all, but trust me – all the stuff I’ve been working on for so long is finally coming, or at least moving forward rapidly. And it is such a relief.

More soon.

Writing Advice

Writing requires both talent and craft. Talent is something you are born with (the recent tendency to reject this comes from confusion regarding the origin of human value), but it’s worthless without the hard work of learning the craft.

Having a talent does not make you a better or more valuable person. But it is a gift, a calling, and you should treat it with reverence.

Story is more important than ego. Make the choices the story needs, not the choices that make you look good. You are not trying to impress, you are trying to create.

Never write for the market. Write for God, for the Muses, for the City of Dreams. Even if you don’t believe in any of that. We don’t get enough transcendence in this world as it is; don’t give away the little scrap that you’ve been blessed with.

Challenge yourself. Read constantly. Read outside your field. Read obscure theoretical texts. Obsess about history. Read silly stuff, too. Never only read one kind of thing, or your brain will rot.

Think about structure. Spatial relationships between bits of text. Shapes in the reader’s mind. A text is like a building, and if you don’t get the design right, it’ll collapse.

Writing is music. Sentences have rhythm, melody. Words are sounds even when they’re not spoken. You’re not just describing events, you’re telling a story, like a bard or an epic poet of old. Even on paper, this is a performance, and aesthetics matter.

Demand more of yourself. Compare your work to the classics. Be insanely ambitious. You might fail, but so what? Try harder next time. Strive for greatness. This is your contribution to humanity. All the authors of the great classics were also just people like you. Why should you aspire to less?

Take your work seriously. Do not take yourself seriously. Do not wink at the reader. Do not bullshit the reader. Whether you’re writing a magnum opus or a one-liner, a powerful drama or a light comedy, make it as good as it can be, and never apologize.

Never listen to writing advice. Not from the internet, not from books, not from famous authors, and especially not from teachers or academics. You can listen to feedback (critically), but never listen to how other people think writing should be done. Even when they’re right, as I am.

The Games Themselves

This is a topic that I’ve written about before, but it continues to be a source of frustration, so I’ll give it another go.

Critical/analytical writing about games is almost never about the actual games. That is, despite claiming to be game criticism, it is built on the assumption (sometimes consciously, sometimes not) that games cannot be interesting as works unto themselves. Setting aside the role of authorial intent in interpretation for a moment, the problem is that games are treated as if no intent ever went into their creation; as if they are not the products of human beings deliberately participating in the artistic process, but merely artefacts for the critic to bounce off certain ideas. In the worst cases, one suspects that games have merely been chosen because there was funding for a “digital humanities” project; but even in many of the better essays, there is still the sense of the games not being engaged with on their own terms.

This is not a problem unique to games, of course, except perhaps in its degree. The issue is deeply rooted in contemporary tendencies in literary studies and academia in general. Artistic value is frequently no longer perceived in aesthetics or in illumination of philosophical or political issues (that would be the dreaded “metanarratives” we must all reject), or even in a harder-to-articulate visionary quality, but either in various forms of self-awareness (what does it tell us about art? what does it tell us about the author?) or, more recently, in various manifestations of identity politics (the work features a representative character, the author is representative of a group).

In games, this generally manifests as these types of essays:

  • the game interpreted in regards to the medium of gaming
  • the game interpreted in regards to authorship
  • the game as starting point for autobiographical reflection

There are, no doubt, some games that are themselves made in the postmodern tradition, and so can correctly be interpreted in terms of “meta” issues such as their comments on the medium or authorship. It is, to be clear, my personal opinion that this kind of subject matter is insufferably dull and narcissistic; but it certainly does exist. So, however, do a lot of other things, and this is where the immense disservice current criticism does to the work of game developers sets in: games are almost exclusively interpreted only in these terms. That is to say, if there is something of value in a game, it must be either in what it makes us think about games or about authorship, or in how it allows the writer to reflect on an entirely unrelated issue; and generally this type of interpretation is forcefully imposed on a game no matter what else it might contain. Meaning, then, can only be found in the critic, never in the work itself.

In fact, to go a little deeper, there is an assumption evident in most such criticism that games simply do not or cannot have the same literary complexity (of ideas, of links and responses to the worlds of history, politics, and of course the arts) that one might expect of a novel. This means that critics never need to engage with the details of a game’s text; it means they never even need to consider the possibility of an accomplished work of interactive art existing, and can safely push any interpretation onto the material. After all, in this view, any type of academic interpretation is doing the game a favour, imbuing it with meaning it did not have by itself. This also means that the more complex and ambitious a game, the less likely are academics to engage with it; we’re more likely to get meditations on Flappy Bird. (Sorry, Ian.)

It is not particularly shocking or surprising to note that the vast majority of games are piles of steaming excrement, or that some games praised for their stories are superficial garbage. This is an obvious byproduct of the cultural and socio-economic situation we find ourselves in. But to stop at noting that is not good enough, because it is to suggest that the “spamming” encouraged by the logic of capitalism reflects something inherent about the artform itself, and that is simply false. Nor does it make any sense, as totalizing a system as capitalism may be, to assume that simply because games are produced inside this system (and at this particular point of degeneration and crisis), they are all somehow impossibly flawed. Human beings produce valuable work even under the worst of circumstances, even with the crudest of tools, and human beings are producing valuable works of art in this medium as well.

If critics want to write meaningfully about games, they need to begin with the premise that artists are consciously choosing this medium; that works of high quality exist or can exist; that works must be engaged with on their own terms. Artistic quality in a game is not a side-effect, an accident, an oddity that the clever academic has impressively managed to mine for a surprising insight into society; it is the result of the same artistic inspiration that produces a poem or a film or a painting. If a game fails to be interesting, it is better to discard it – as you would discard a terrible book without discarding the concept of the novel – and look for something more interesting.

There are real gems to find, if only someone tried.

Sex Work: Moralism, Markets & Marxism

The issue of sex work and how it should be treated by society has long been controversial, particularly on the Left. While generally rejecting the conservative view that sex workers are themselves immoral (and filthy, dangerous, evil, etc.), progressives and liberals of various stripes have nevertheless struggled to find a common approach. Even in feminist circles, radically different views continue to clash on this subject. Meanwhile, as academics and activists debate morality, sex workers continue to be faced with violence and exploitation.

This is where the socialist – or more accurately, Marxist – approach to sex work becomes relevant.

It would be impossible to talk about every single political approach to sex work there is, but I think it’s fair to identify two broad streams of thought. In their extreme forms (which are common), they go like this:

  • [The Moralistic Approach] All sex workers are inherently victims. All sex work is inherently violent. There is no difference between sex trafficking, prostitution and pornography.
  • [The Market Approach] There is a clear distinction between sex workers and victims of sex trafficking. Sex workers have agency and choose to do the work they do. Sex work is just another capitalist market.

Proponents of the former view (frequently radical feminists) favour a variety of solutions; many support laws that criminalize sex work, some support laws that semi-decriminalize it (like the Nordic model), while a few support fully decriminalizing it. Proponents of the latter (frequently sex workers or activists) generally favour decriminalization.

Both approaches present certain problems.

The flaws of the criminalization approach – including the Nordic model, which “only” criminalizes paying for sex – are fairly obvious: it utterly fails to protect sex workers, pushing their work underground and making them much easier to harm and exploit, stigmatizes them on a personal/cultural level, and even normalizes violence against sex workers (since it doesn’t distinguish between sex work and rape). Decriminalization allows for regulation, safety standards, legal recourse in case of violence, and has many other benefits that make a sex worker’s life safer and easier. Moralists who condemn sex work may argue that this normalizes an abusive practice, but not only do they utterly fail to account for women’s agency, they also fail to account for the fact that trying to ban sex work simply doesn’t stop it. Thus we have to ask ourselves whether the goal is to actually protect women – or to perform a ritual of public condemnation to prove one’s progressive credentials.

The second approach, while certainly far less hypocritical, does come with some flaws as well. In a capitalist economy where the basic rights of people are not guaranteed, where unemployment is high and jobs are scarce, a person’s choices are not necessarily as voluntary as they appear. When the alternatives are starvation or homelessness (for yourself or your children), freedom is an illusion. It is not a coincidence that increased austerity results in increased sex work: people need work, and when they don’t have a choice, they’ll do sex work as well. That’s not to say all people who do sex work do it for that reason; but it’s impossible to argue that it’s not a common reason. There is a danger of ignoring this aspect of the problem when (justifiably) trying to address the unjust socio-cultural treatment of sex workers.

Proponents of decriminalization disagree on another issue: legalization. It’s possible to get rid of laws that criminalize sex work without actually making new laws that control it specifically. While laws can create health and safety frameworks that make a huge difference to sex workers, some argue that this creates a two-tier system which leaves all those who don’t meet the correct criteria (such as illegal immigrants) in a vulnerable position. This is partially true, but even if sex work is treated as simply another job in the national capitalist system, without any specific regulation, that doesn’t make those particularly vulnerable groups (which, statistically speaking, are often involved in sex work) any safer. That the existing type of nation state is bad at regulating something does not mean that market-based chaos is a better or more humane alternative.

The Marxist approach to sex work is simple in its universality and humanism: the part of “sex worker” that matters to Marxists is worker. Marxism fundamentally rejects any and all attempts to impose moralistic beliefs about sexuality on people, and especially the notion that people should be categorized around such issues in political or socio-economic terms. It’s not that Marxism is pro-sex or anti-sex: it’s that it places the freedom of the individual above such concerns. As far as Marxist theory is concerned, sex workers are doing a job, and the purpose of Marxism is to end the exploitation of all workers, no matter what their jobs are. (Note, however, that “exploitation” here has a very specific meaning: not unfairness or immorality, but the capitalist’s theft of the surplus value produced by the worker. In other words, you don’t get paid for the work you do.) Whether the worker is being exploited by a factory owner or a strip club owner makes no difference – the economic mechanics are the same.

But Marxism also has no illusions in the nation state, and makes no distinction between workers from this country or that, legal or illegal. The scope of its vision is what makes it challenging to implement, but it’s also what makes it actually capable of causing meaningful change. Marxism isn’t trying to help this one group of sex workers as opposed to the rest. It’s not trying to make a moral argument to those in power that they should be nicer to sex workers. It is radically, steadfastly dedicated to the rights of workers, to organizing workers, to giving workers control over their own lives and their own jobs. Its power is precisely in refusing to exclude sex workers, much as it must refuse to exclude illegal immigrants or anyone else whose work falls into a category that makes them easier to exploit.

In the end, the needs of sex workers are the needs of all workers: self-determination, health, safety, leisure, social equality. Will people still choose to be sex workers once they have achieved these things? The Marxist answer is a shrug. Who cares? If the conditions exist for people to be able to freely choose, then it’s not up to anyone to judge them. If they don’t have that freedom, then the only correct attitude towards sex workers is the same we have towards every other worker, from the factory labourer to the programmer: unconditional solidarity.

This universalism is both goal and necessity for the socialist movement. Without rejecting divisions, it’s impossible to build a movement that can seriously challenge the fundamental structure of the global economy. But building this movement based on our common, objective needs is also our very best chance to overcome centuries of propaganda and prejudice. The fact that our lives are so defined by our work is what oppresses us, but it’s also what can free us, what can overcome the walls that have been built between us.

Any movement that calls itself socialist or Marxist that fails to embrace the full radicalism of such a universalist perspective is not only untrue to the systems of thought it claims to stand for, but also doomed to fail.

Game Texture and Liminal Spaces

Years ago Michael Brough gave a talk in which he used the concept of working with or against a game’s grain. That idea, of thinking about game design in such physical terms – a game’s texture, grain, surface, shape – has fascinated me, particularly given my own thoughts about the centrality of structure to game narratives. This notion has been on my mind again lately, particularly with the release of Omegaland, a game that it would be fair to describe as deliberately rough around the edges.

Omegaland takes a great deal of inspiration from older games, but – despite what you might think at first glance – it’s not intended to look like Super Mario. If anything, it’s meant to look like a Super Mario clone. Let me explain.

I’ve played a lot of strange little games over the years. When I was a kid, we weren’t exactly rich, and getting a new game was relatively rare. Computers were also evolving so rapidly at that point that even if you had the money, to play the latest games you needed the latest hardware. So I played a lot of freeware and shareware games. Some of them I got from the internet (waiting hours for a download that would take under a second now), but most I got from various collections of “5500 FREE GAMES!” and the like – or maybe from a CD burned by a friend, who’d gotten it from a cousin, who’d gotten it from a schoolmate, who’d… you get the picture.

I don’t remember a lot of these games very clearly. I was young, my language skills were limited, and half the time it was impossible to even get the games to run properly. So these games were a mystery to me – a mystery that grew in my mind, as I imagined all the great things surely hidden somewhere in there. These half-remembered games were one of the origins of The Sea Will Claim Everything, and they’re an even bigger influence on The Council of Crows.

There was this one game… sort of an adventure/RPG, where you moved from one static screen to the next by following the cardinal directions, and… I think there was a dragon in your village that you had to defeat? I also remember some kind of dwarf. You had stats to increase, and possibly objects to find. It was crude as hell, but somewhere – on the credits screen, maybe – there was a message from the people who’d made it, possibly also a low-res photo. And it made me realize – hold on, regular people made this. Which means I can make this. And I can make it better. The crudeness of it, in an odd way, made it easier to imagine making games of my own.

But where that game was genuinely crude, others were rough in a different sense. To go back to that idea of imagining games as physical objects, some of these games were absolutely brilliant in their own way, they simply had a different texture. You hear a lot of people talking about polish. Well, some works of art look best when polished. Other look best when the surface is left rough.

It’s very important to me that this not be taken dogmatically. Around the time indie games started being a “scene” (which was odd to me because I’d been making them for years), there were a lot of debates in which people took very extreme, inflexible positions that never made any sense to me. On the one hand you had the idea that games needed to be perfectly polished, that this was what distinguished the pros from the amateurs, and on the other you had people arguing that anything polished was bourgeois and the rougher a game, the more punk rock it was. Which is a bit like saying that all paintings should be painted the same way, all books should be written in the same voice, all music should sound the same. But different works of art have different requirements – that’s part of the fun!

There can, under the right conditions, be something magical about what seems to be an imperfection. The Lands of Dream games could never work without Verena’s graphics, because if they were more polished, the sheer weirdness of the world would feel incongruous. The flaws – which are deliberate, a result of making the graphics in this particular way – create an entirely different imaginary space than more polished graphics would. The metaphorical cracks in the material combine with the words to become tiny gateways to another world, where mushrooms can be communists and an object can smell of mathematics. To employ an overused and potentially pretentious term for a moment, the key here is the liminality created by a certain degree of “roughness” in the game’s design and presentation, which allows the game to evolve in strange and unexpected directions in ways that a more settled/consistent design and presentation do not allow.

Thus, when working on Omegaland, I wasn’t mainly thinking about Super Mario, although Super Mario Land 2 was definitely an influence. Rather, I was thinking about the many odd little platform games I played over the years, some of them made long before indie games were a thing. (I wish I could remember all their names – I’ve searched and searched for some of them.) The very first version of Omegaland, in fact, used SpriteLib for its graphics – the same graphics used in HappyLand Adventures, a freeware game by Johan Peitz that I played to death in the early 2000s. The only reason I eventually asked Verena to make some graphics (“can you make graphics that will look like a cheap but enthusiastic Mario clone?”) was because the result felt too much like I was stealing from Johan’s game.

When approached as an artistic tool rather than as dogmatic prescription, considering a game’s texture – whether rough or polished – opens up a range of possibilities in the kind of experiences we can create. Personally, I find this exhilarating, and I’m lucky enough to be able to explore both ends of the spectrum via my own games and the games I make with other people. I’m amazed by some of the breathtakingly beautiful, aesthetically superb games people are producing. There’s nothing wrong with those. But sometimes I do miss the weird, janky games of the past and their strange sense of possibility.

I think this is another reason that a broader, more inclusive awareness of the history of the medium is invaluable to us as artists. Instead of looking only to the handful of landmark games that have been mythologized as the games that defined the medium, we should always be willing to check out the weird, flawed, fascinating games people have been making for decades. Art isn’t about a linear evolution from primitive to complex forms – it’s actually a tree with thousands of branches, rich for the picking.

Caution, though: some of the fruit is hallucinogenic.



  1. Of course, it’s essential that we differentiate between doing something badly or screwing something up (which happens to me all the time) and deliberately trying to create a rougher texture. A bug is still a bug.
  2. I could have called this “Ludic Texture and Liminal Spaces” but then I would die of embarrassment.


Omegaland is now available! I wrote this about its history:

Omegaland has been a long-term side project for me. I’ve been very lucky to get to work on some big projects like The Talos Principle, Serious Sam 4, and Phoenix Point, but sometimes I missed the strange freedom we had when making Flash games. Everything was extremely low-budget, we had severe size constraints, but somehow the whole atmosphere of games then seemed more relaxed. I got to make games that were both fun and weird, like Alphaland or Traitor, and audiences on sites like Newgrounds and Kongregate were surprisingly positive even when those games contained some unusual material here and there. I wanted to make something in that spirit again. I took inspiration from various old platform games that I enjoyed – not just the obvious console classics (like Super Mario Land 2 on the Game Boy), but also freeware games that I loved back in the day, like Happyland Adventures (also made with very few resources, but so much fun). In the end, what I really hoped to accomplish was to make the kind of game you might stumble upon at random, get because it’s really cheap, and end up enjoying more than you’d expected.

As the name implies, this has a connection to Alphaland, but you don’t need to have played Alphaland to enjoy this game.

I must admit that I have no idea how to market Omegaland, because I genuinely hate the hype that surrounds everything now – I think it creates an incredibly unpleasant atmosphere, in which the games themselves end up disappearing from the discussion, and all we end up talking about is the marketing. And it’s incredibly unhealthy from the artistic side of things too, this constant pressure to sell yourself, to make yourself and your “product” look cool. Well, Omegaland isn’t cool. It isn’t going to change your life or kill all other platformers. I think it’s pretty good, but at the same time I’d much rather see people approaching it in a relaxed sort of way than trying to convince them it’s the Next Big Thing.

And if you find interesting stuff in there, well, then let that be part of the experience, not the marketing. Enjoy!

Everything You Give Them Can And Will Be Used Against You

There’s a reason that unconditional support for the concept of free speech has been a defining characteristic of left-wing thought for centuries. Beyond the principle of the thing – and the principle certainly matters – there is the matter of power. And there’s a very simple fact about power: when power is given, power will be used.

Those now making arguments against free speech, ostensibly from a “left-wing” position, are seeking to expand the authority of the system – a system they themselves on other occasions will characterize as oppressive, inherently reactionary, and so on. Yet somehow they imagine that when they give more power to that system to control speech, to prohibit “offensive” ideas, to punish verbal transgressions in a material way (such as taking away someone’s ability to make a living), that this additional authority will be used for progressive purposes only.

One is reminded of those defending President Obama’s expansion of the surveillance apparatus who were then shocked to realize said apparatus would be inherited by President Trump, desperately urging Obama in the last days of his presidency to dismantle what he’d spent years building. As it turned out, political structures that are useful to the system don’t just go away when the superficial flavour of politics changes. Systems don’t let go of power.

Every inch of ground you cede on the matter of free speech will come back to haunt you. Every “victory” against a despised individual will turn to ten people whose work you value being fired for views you never thought were controversial. Every protection against hate speech will be used to silence criticism of those who thrive on hate.

There are countless examples already. There will be many, many more as the world slides deeper and deeper into crises that cannot be resolved without systemic change.

The structures of authority in this world are not on your side. Whether it’s the government or the university board – their interests are not your interests. Yes, they will happily go along with your campaign when it’s convenient. They’ll tell you just how much they oppose sexism and racism, and how these new regulations will make everything better while coincidentally giving them more power to clamp down on expression.

Until you say something about police violence. Or Israel. Or a pipeline. Or the latest war. Or any of the dozens of topics that have gotten left-wing people fired or punished.

And do you think the far right will stay away from the tools you’ve handed the very system that helped create them? Do you think they won’t present themselves as the victims of violence and persecution? Do you think the system won’t find some “respectable” fascists who don’t deserve your intolerant liberal abuse? What could make anyone think that, when faced with an existential crisis, an inherently right-wing system will swing towards the left? When two groups are claiming to be oppressed and persecuted, why would the system ever support the one that is critical of so many aspects of society? Why not go with the law-and-order option? Why not go with those willing to defend the absolute rule of capital?

(Did you know that Germany, a country with open censorship of the arts, has a domestic security agency called the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, which amongst other things is meant to fight Neonazis? Do you know what they actually do? They harass left-wing groups while funding and protecting Neonazis, even when they murder people. Germany, in many ways, is the perfect example of what English and American liberals want to create. Google “Alternative für Deutschland” to see how well that works.)

If you want to seize power and change the system at its core, defeat the opposition structurally, politically, and intellectually – go ahead, I’m with you. But if you think you can win by petitioning the existing system, by adding to its authority, then you are handing ammunition to the very forces that are going to destroy you.

Unless you compromise, of course. Those who oppose free speech most frequently do so because they don’t have anything to say.

Semper Fidelis / The Second Step

Here are two more stories I wrote for Phoenix Point.

  • Semper Fidelis. An ex-marine finds himself reenacting history in Antarctica.
  • The Second Step. A journalist interviews two radical scientists in Moscow while the world teeters on the brink of catastrophe.

Someone commented to me on the amount of effort going into these stories, given that they’re essentially just background material for a game, and as such will probably never get the amount of attention that a “proper” short story can get. And… yeah, that’s probably true. But!

  1. I believe in always producing high-quality work. Even the tiniest bit of filler should be as good as you can make it.
  2. This is Phoenix Point! A new X-COM-style game by Julian freaking Gollop. If it goes well, it’ll be a piece of history. Even if no-one pays any attention, every bit of it should be great.

Anyway, the crowdfunding campaign is almost over, but if you still want to pledge, you can do so here.

Nature, Ability, and Value

Perhaps nowhere do the great philosophical issues of civilization become more evident than in how society treats the disabled.

Take the current obsession with the notion of the “natural”, for instance. Human civilization is repeatedly criticized for being unnatural; the natural world is taken to be morally superior. But what would be the fate of a disabled individual in this supposedly desirable state of nature? The answer is simple: death. A disability such as blindness or abasia (the inability to walk) is, in evolutionary terms, a distinct disadvantage. The disabled individual performs its tasks less well, and will therefore be eliminated from the gene pool via natural selection. Life is perpetual competition, and value is derived solely from the ability to outcompete others.

Many who promote “natural” values would be horrified by the prospect of letting the disabled die; this points to the philosophical errors that are at the very core of a great deal of Green ideology. Nature is neither kind nor balanced; to the degree that capital-N Nature is even a useful concept at all, it is a process characterized by violence and randomness.

A common attempt at asserting the value of disabled people is to emphasize alternate forms of ability through euphemisms such as “differently abled”. Apart from the political consequences of this approach, which I’ve written about before, we must also consider its philosophical foundations. To put the emphasis on ability – even if it takes an alternate form – is to maintain the very “natural” logic so many would otherwise reject. After all, it is to argue that value is still derived from ability, which in turn implies that those without ability are without value. It is a more inclusive definition, but it changes nothing about the logic of brutal competition at the heart of this philosophy. As such, it is not surprising that it has been taken up widely by those representing the socially liberal part of capitalism, which seeks wider inclusion of a diverse workforce without altering the material relations at the system’s core.

(This is particularly important when we consider those who, for a variety of reasons, are genuinely and fully disabled, unable to produce value. Their stories are ignored in favour of more convenient stories of exceptional individuals.)

What is the proper origin of value, then? I would argue that the most foundational characteristic of human society’s understanding of value is that it is not based on ability, but is considered to be intrinsic. We do not choose to help disabled individuals because they are somehow useful, but because we assert that all human beings are inherently valuable. We take care of the old, the disabled, the sick, because we assert that it is the right thing to do, because it is the kind of world we want to live in, not because we hope to get something out of it. In other words, the basis of civilization is a rejection of Nature’s endless and meaningless optimization of the gene pool to fit constantly shifting parameters.

Capitalism, of course, takes society back towards the very logic we had rejected. In this lies both its tremendous creative and disruptive power, which undid the staid hierarchies of feudalism and drove forward human thought and productivity, and its terrible danger, which we see now as the competing factions threaten to eradicate civilization and perhaps even the species itself. Like Nature, capitalism is perpetual competition, characterized by violence and randomness, and measures value in terms that contradict the essence of civilization. This is why it is impossible to fight for the rights of disabled individuals in cultural terms; to do so will only improve the chances of those with exceptional abilities (as measured in the ability to generate a profit) to rise to the top of a system that rejects the very notion of intrinsic value.

If, philosophically speaking, we do not wish to return to a state of nature, but to continue the great human project that is civilization, the struggle for the rights of the disabled is an essential part of that project; but it is a struggle that can only be won by seizing conscious control of the system, as we once seized control of the natural environment in a way no other species had before, and asserting the inherent value of all human beings not only in cultural, but material terms. Socialism, then, is not only a political necessity, but also a philosophical one.

Far Out There

Far Out There is another short story I wrote for Phoenix Point. This one is a bit shorter, but it has a flavour all of its own. (The most important aspect of writing a story, I’ve always felt, is voice. I can’t write a story without having found the right voice. This is the reason it takes me a long time to get going, and why I write very carefully and precisely; the advantage is that I don’t need to edit as much.)

Here’s a fun bit of trivia: this story, while fitting perfectly into the game’s mythos, is partially inspired by the most terrifying dream I’ve ever had. The details are quite different, but the central experience, of the encounter that forms the story’s climax, is drawn from my own life. Except it wasn’t real. I hope.