Reminiscence and Ranting Ramblings

I was awake until about 3am thinking and ranting to myself. While Kira decides what she’s going to do next, here is a diluted version of my ramblings:

Somewhere around this time in 2007, I was leaving college with a shiny HNC. Unfortunately, that was the highest qualification the college was allowed to give us for the course – Interactive Computer Entertainment (ICE) – even though it was, according to the lecturers, a degree-level course in terms of modules and other terms I didn’t understand. But anyway, I had one. With distinction. That’s a lie. We could only pass or fail the course, but I got plenty of distinctions in the individual assignments, so it’s a lie I will perpetuate in a self-important manner.

From here, I went into Incubation, which is basically an office run by a company called NORIBIC, for start up companies. I was going to make games! Computer games, obviously. There were two of us, and neither of us could program, but that didn’t matter. The course coordinator, who was a programmer, told us to get on with the 3D side of and he would do the programming for us when it came to it. For the purposes of this rant, I shall call him Dick, which is a completely random name, and certainly not chosen for reasons that shall become apparent.

So we got to work creating. We would make a demo of one or two levels as proof of concept, and try to get funding with it. Then we needed programming. We had characters animated, but we needed them to walk about. We needed scripted events. So we asked nearly every day for about three weeks, until finally Dick came to ‘have a look’. By this time I had blindly stumbled my way through some of the programming and got some switches and whatnot working. He looked at this code and all was well, apparently. He then went to have a look at the built in code to see how he’d go about doing what we needed.

He stared at the code. He stared at the code some more. He drummed his fingers and stared at the code. He sipped his coffee and stared at the code. Then he said, ‘I don’t know what any of this is’, and walked out. And that was the last we saw or heard of Dick concerning our programming.

So that was that. All that time. All those months. It must have been at least a year we were working on everything, and Dick pretty much destroyed it in one move. We could have perhaps found a programmer from somewhere to do what we needed done, but we let ourselves go into a downward spiral of crappy game ideas that only postponed the need for a programmer, and then my partner disappeared to Belfast without a word and I never saw him again.

In hindsight, I realise I was the only one taking it seriously. He was only there to feel like he was doing something with his life, without actually doing anything with his life. So I don’t know what would have happened even if Dick hadn’t exaggerated his skills and willingness to help.

So I’m left with dozens of 3D models I can’t use for anything, and that no one else can use because they had to be so low poly in order to not crash the crap game engine we were using, and questions of ‘what if’. We worked on three games in the time we had, and two of them would have been pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. But it wasn’t to be.

At least the memory of Dick led me to the memories of the ICE course, and how much I enjoyed it. I went from knowing just about nothing about game design to being one of only six people to pass the course, getting distinctions and merits left, right and, on occasion, centre. Mine became the name most called out in class when people were in need of help, rather than the lecturers’. And perhaps the thing that raises a smile most when I remember it: the music assignment. I put together a music track for our main music assignment and when the lecturer heard it, he told me I wouldn’t even get a pass. It was too late to change it, so I just submitted it. Then came the day we had to go and collect our assignments. I went in expecting the fail he told me I’d get only for him to ask to shake my hand, and give me the only distinction that he’d given out that year. Apparently the write-up that accompanied the music track changed his mind. And now…I am a writer.

Anyhoo, luckily for all of you, some unfortunate news while writing this has ended my urge to write anything or rant any further, so…bye.

Artificial Absolutes – BBB

This time, because the sequel has recently been released, I’m posting two in one! So here’s the first:

Artificial Absolutes


Mary Fan

Artificial Absolutes

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

Release Date: February 25, 2013

Genre: Science Fiction (Space Opera/Cyberpunk/New Adult)

I have been reading this for the past few months (I am a very slow reader, and haven’t had much chances to read). I’d hoped to be able to write a review of it, but I’m only about halfway through. So far, though, I am enjoying it. It’s far from the typical know-everything hero travelling the galaxy, and apart from anything else, this helps makes action scenes far more tense. She has no training to fall back on; no experience. I’m looking forward to continuing when I get the chance, and I already have the sequel, Synthetic Illusions, ready for when I do.


Jane Colt is just another recent college grad working as an Interstellar Confederation office drone—until the day she witnesses her best friend, Adam, kidnapped by a mysterious criminal. An extensive cover-up thwarts her efforts to report the crime, shaking her trust in the authorities. Only her older brother, Devin, believes her account.

Devin hopes to leave behind his violent past and find peace in a marriage to the woman he loves. That hope shatters when he discovers a shocking secret that causes him to be framed for murder.

With little more than a cocky attitude, Jane leaves everything she knows to flee with Devin, racing throughthe most lawless corners of the galaxy as she searches for Adam and proof of her brother’s innocence. Her journey uncovers truths about both of them, leading her to wonder just how much she doesn’t know about the people she loves.

Purchase Links:


Amazon US

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble




Amazon US

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble


“I’d have to say this book combines some of the best robotic AI, like Asimov… It is unlike anything I’ve read before on this subject.”
James M. Butler, author of the “New Dawn” sci-fi series

“…Engaging characters and a story with conflicts and struggles that are universal to all humans across time…”
BigAl, reviewer for BigAl’s Books and Pals

“A cracking tale of fights and escapes and conspiracies, set in a wonderfully and intricately evoked future world. The story rattles along at a fine pace, twisting and turning its way to and fro across the galaxy.”
Mark Roman, author of “The Ultimate Inferior Beings”

“One hell of a sci-fi ride… The mystery in this story was incredible and really kept me at the edge of my seat… It really goes beyond the some other sci-fi reads.”
Diana, reviewer for Offbeat Vagabond

“Artificial Absolutes is much more thanspaceships and robots… It is a timeless exploration of the complexity of family dynamics, the conflicts between faith and non-belief, and what truly defines a human being.”
Julie H. Hughs, reviewer for Random Musingsof a Curious Mind

Synthetic Illusions


Mary Fan

Illusion is the only reality.

Synthetic Illusions

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

Release Date: January 4, 2014

Genre: Science Fiction (Space Opera/Cyberpunk/New Adult)


Jane’s new career as a composer is a dream come true, but her blossoming relationship with Adam is marred by his terrifying nightmares. When Jane receives a warning that a shadowy agency is targeting Adam’s seminary school, she rescues him in the nick of time, but the only way she can protect him from such a powerful enemy is to run.

In a shocking betrayal, her brother wasn’t the one who warned her about the attack on Adam. Instead, Devin was leading it. As Jane struggles to keep one step ahead of Devin, Adam’s exhaustion gives way to horror: His nightmares have begun to touch the real world.

Jane can’t abandon Adam to a fate worse than death, and far more than Adam’s life hangs in the balance. As Jane pushes further into the dark unknown, she must challenge everything she once believed in, and she faces the most wrenching decision of her life: choosing between the two people she loves most.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK and US

Barnes & Noble


About the Author

Mary Fan

Mary Fan lives in New Jersey, where she is currently working in financial marketing. She has also resided in North Carolina, Hong Kong, and Beijing, China. She has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember and especially enjoys the infinite possibilities and out-of-this-world experiences of science fiction and fantasy.

Mary has a B.A. in Music, specializing in composition, from Princeton University and enjoys writing songs as much as writing stories. She also enjoys kickboxing, opera singing, and exploring new things—she’ll try almost anything once.

Author Links:



Facebook (author page)

Facebook (book page)






Other Works From Mary Fan:

Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil (Perhaps one of the best titles I’ve ever seen, and immediately screams ‘best seller’)

Publisher: Glass House Press

Release Date: Summer 2014

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Dystopia

Part dystopia and part high fantasy, Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil is the first book in a YA series that follows a spirited teen’s efforts to overthrow an evil government while battling supernatural beasts.

Long ago, the evil Lord of the Underworld ravaged the Earth. The Enchanters, magical guardians of the Earth, defeated him, but his monsters lingered. Nearly a century later, the Enchanters have turned the former United States into the totalitarian Triumvirate, where non-magical humans, known as Norms, are treated as second class citizens.

Flynn, a Norm boy, was ten years old when he witnessed his mother’s death at the hands of an undead giant. No one would tell him where the giant had come from or what his mother had been doing that night. After six years of wondering, he finally finds a clue and is determined to uncover the truth – whatever the consequences. His journey takes an unexpected turn when he accidentally commits an act considered terrorism by the Triumvirate. He soon finds himself hunted not only by the government, but also by supernatural monsters and a man with power over the undead. Rescued by underground rebels, he is enticed by their vision of a better world and joins their revolution. But as he struggles to reconcile what he sees with what they tell him, he starts to realize that the rebellion is not everything it seems.

The Firedragon

Publisher: Glass House Press

Release Date: 2014

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Dystopia (Novella)

Before she fought the Triumvirate with Flynn, Aurelia “the Firedragon” Sun the star Cadet at the Academy of Supernatural Defense. This is her story.

Almost a hundred years ago, the Enchanters defeated the Lord of the Underworld in one of the most fearsome wars the world had ever seen. The public thinks that this victory means the people are safe. But they’re wrong. The supernatural beasts the Lord unleashed remain on the earth, multiplying and ravaging what’s left of civilization. As long as these monsters exist, mankind will be in danger. And though the government, ruled by the magic-wielding Enchanters, seeks to protect their people, they are too few in number. They need the Defenders – a special class of non-magical humans – to fight the monsters. The Defenders are an elite force, and mankind’s only hope against the horrors that live beyond their gates.

Fourteen-year-old Aurelia “the Firedragon” Sun has been training since she could walk to become a Defender, and her extraordinary combat skills have earned the attention of the powerful government. In fact, she’s been tapped to represent her nation in an international monster-fighting competition, which pits champions from across the globe against creatures of the Underworld in a violent spectacle. If she wins, she will become a full-fledged member of the Defender force.

But as Aurelia moves deeper into the competition, she realizes that all is not as it appears. There’s something sinister behind the competition, something that could change the way she sees everything … and the Enchanters, it seems, are not the heroes she thought. Aurelia begins to ask questions. But before she can discover the truth, she is pitted against the most dangerous monster in the competition – one that will take her life if it can.

The Next Generation

I am going to talk (moan) about something completely unrelated to books – because I’ve never done that before…

I want to talk briefly about next gen console gaming.

The jump from Xbox to Xbox 360 was very exciting for me. The jump from Playstation 2 to PS3 not so much, in my case, because it was just too expensive. The leap in graphics was amazing and the kinds of games that were being shown were very impressive.

This time, I’m not too excited about it. There’s the usual feeling of getting something brand new, but I don’t think there’s a lot to be excited about, unfortunately. Graphically, there won’t be as big a leap as there was to the current gen. But it’s more than that.

My concern is that developers won’t make the kind of effort required to truly move into a new generation of gaming. Next gen, to me at least, should be about more than just pretty scenery, more happening on screen at once, and all with a smoother frame rate (and considering that Knack, one of the games shown at the unveiling suffered from slow down in a pretty simple-looking section, even that is a bit iffy).

To me, next gen is about the opportunity to make much more in-depth games. Games with proper stories, proper acting, real choices. I suppose games that are entirely ‘run from point A to point B and shoot anything in between’ have their place, but games will never evolve much by sticking to those.

I don’t just mean RPGs. Take the latest Tomb Raider. It details how Lara Croft went from innocent, starry-eyed teenager to hardened killer and survivor of any situation. For me, it failed to deliver the emotional impact it tried to simply because the characters she cared about (and that were meant to too) were never properly developed, but I won’t go into that. It was for the most part a fairly emotional storyline (whether it fully delivered it or not) that was not there simply as an excuse for shooting everything that moved.

Tomb Raider is also a good example of subtle detail that I think should be in all next gen games. Lara’s facial expression changed the longer the game went on. From wide eyed deer in the headlights, to glary eyes and ‘don’t test me’ frown. It may have been my imagination, I’m not sure, but I think the longer the game went on, the less girly a manner she held the handgun. Those are good touches. Little things like that will help make next gen. Or should.

So to me, developers need to start making sure writing and acting is top notch, and not rely on the ‘well it looks pretty, so it’ll sell’ angle. The new technology should, in my mind, be used to give the player a much deeper experience, even more so than a good looking one.

When I talk about choice, I don’t just mean in a (pre-ME3) Mass Effect or KOTOR kind of way. Being able to choose your path through a level, or choose the way you take on (or not) the enemy, too. Having plenty of things going on in the background, that isn’t necessarily a part of the story that can be interacted with and investigated. Basically, making the game more than just the facade of a world.

And my concern is that most developers don’t share that view of the next generation. Judging by the small amount we’ve seen so far, it’s going to be more of the same. Just nicer looking. Killzone 4 we’ve already seen. Battlefield 4 is being unveiled soon. It’s more of the same. More ‘Let’s make our way through this deserted area of town…I wonder where everyone is…oh, what a very big surprise, we’ve been ambushed…let’s shoot anything that moves then do it again in the next area’. There’s a degree of mindless entertainment in such games, but they get extremely boring very quickly.

Think of the best films you’ve ever seen. Clever, emotional, exciting. The kind that end and you realise you’ve been sat an inch above the seat, leaning towards the screen for the past hour with your mouth wide open. How many games are like that? Yet they’re interactive. Surely they should have more of an impact. Where are the Inceptions? The Dark Knights, the [insert brilliant movie comparison]…

Where is the real writing? The real acting? The real depth?

The games industry is bigger than Hollywood, and yet it isn’t taken seriously. The media still blames it for just about everything. If there were less mindless kill everything games, and more intelligent, story-driven games, wouldn’t the industry start being recognised for what it really is? Or can be.

Even Heavy Rain, which is basically an interactive movie, had terrible acting. Developers need to realise that they can’t just drag in anyone off the street to do their voice acting. They need real voice actors. People who can actually act.

But, I think so-called ‘next gen’ will be more of the same. And as a gamer, I find that depressing.

Kindling [insert witty second word]

I was going to rant about Firefly and why the hell those inept morons at Fox got away with airing it out of order and then cancelling it…but then I saw another post on the subject and decided to leave it.

Instead, I’ll announce that I am now the owner of a Kindle 3G!

I didn’t have one until yesterday, when I bought one, and now I have one. And that’s not the end of the anecdote! I very nearly bought a little Archos tablet instead, since it was cheaper and had android so I could read epubs as well as Kindle, but when I gave it a try, it was ridiculously slow. So I didn’t get it. THAT’S the end of the anecdote.

I got it mainly so that I could test my books out on it before publishing, to ensure that they display correctly. However, I find that I have 2 pages worth of books on there already, and I’m halfway through one of them. I like my new Kindle.

I would rather have an actual book in my hands, but for books that I’m not sure about, or am not hugely interested in but still want to read, it is useful to have the Kindle to store them on and keep my actual bookshelf free for Terry Pratchett.

I like the way, when you put it into sleep mode, it comes up with a new picture every time. I like the way that when I looked at it in the shop, the picture was there, but the battery was so low, that the thing wouldn’t turn on. That’s how little battery power it uses! Dead battery, and it’s still on! I don’t know how the screen works, but it works well – it really does look like the words are just printed right onto it.

I still want a tablet, but I think my Kindle will be sticking around even then.

Bring back Firefly!