Paul O'Brian writes about Watchmen, trivia, albums, interactive fiction, and more.


Opportunity kicks

“Sometimes it seems like I’ve been here before
When I hear opportunity kicking in my door.”
— Marillion

My goodness, this has been quite an overwhelming couple of weeks. Opportunities and events have been hailing down on me, some of them great and some of them challenging. In fact, some of it I can’t quite talk about yet, because it’s not quite official. Here, though, is a sampling of the rest of it.

* I’ve agreed to design a game for a startup interactive fiction company. This company is taking a pretty unusual approach to game creation — it splits the design, writing, and coding duties between three different people. It reminds me a bit of the way some comics are created by collaboration between a writer, a penciler, and an inker. I have no idea whether it will work — it could be an awesome way to expedite game creation, or it could be an utter disaster. I really hemmed and hawed over this decision — the pros and cons felt about evenly balanced, and in fact they still do. What finally tipped the balance for me was that after sitting with it for a while, an idea came to me that I really wanted to use, and given the current structure of my life, I couldn’t really hope to actually design, write, and code it. If I can just design it, perhaps it will be able to see the light of day after all, maybe even better than I could have made it on my own. The writer I’m teaming up with is somebody whose work I definitely respect, so it’s possible that we’ll hit a creative synergy. And if it turns out I make a few bucks off it, hey, that’d be great.

* Laura and I have agreed to participate, with Dante, in a local research project focusing on speech-delayed kids. Basically, once a month for six months, we outfit Dante with some clothes that conceal a device a little bigger than an iPod nano. That device records how many words are spoken to him, how many words he speaks, and how many conversational “turns” (i.e. alternating speaking with listening to another person) occur in his day. In addition, he gets evaluated at the beginning and the end of the study period by one of their speech therapists, and in a couple of the months we do two extra recording sesions. Our motivation is not altruism in the interest of science: we’re well-compensated for our trouble. If all goes well, we should earn a little over a thousand dollars by the end, which should make a nice addition to his college fund. He just had his first recording session last week.

* Laura’s car is a 1992 Ford Escort, with over 100,000 miles. This car was not designed to go over 100,000 miles. We know this because after 99,999 its odometer rolled back over to zero. Tons of little things on it have broken over the years. Its gas gauge doesn’t work. One of the doors won’t open from the inside. One of the doors won’t open from the outside OR the inside. The trunk also won’t open from the outside. The little plastic piece that holds the driver’s-side lap belt in place is broken, so you always have to fish around beside the seat for a few minutes to snag it. Et cetera. Well, recently she reported that a few times she felt like the car had hit a pothole, when in fact there was no pothole. We took it in to our trusted mechanic, who reported that the front struts were just about to break, and the back ones were deteriorating too. All in all, it would be a $900 repair, which is a bit ridiculous on such an old car. It was the death knell. Time for a new car for Laura. The only question was whether we would try to leap into action and get one immediately, or get the front shocks fixed and buy ourselves some time. We opted for the latter, partly because of all the other craziness that’s been going down. It feels a bit silly to do a $450 repair on a car that we’ll soon be getting rid of, but to me it’s worth the trade-off for not having to frantically rush through a big purchase, and not having to try to dispose of the car while worrying that the wheels are about to snap off.

* Oh, and today, Dante fractured his arm. Sheesh.


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  1. Anonymous

    We’re all curious how the TextFyre thing is going to turn out. Perhaps Dave has finally found the traction that eluded him in the past.

    It sounds like he accosted you and pitched and pitched until you relented. Is what what happened?

    • Not at all — I didn’t mean to make it sound like that. What happened was he sent me an email asking if I was interested in writing a science fiction series for Textfyre. I wrote back with a bajillion questions, which he answered. I signed an NDA to look at samples of Textfyre works in progress, and he told me that Christopher Huang had signed on as a writer. Then several more iterations of me asking questions and him answering, then a lot of me dithering and sitting with it and asking my brain if it had any ideas that it wanted to work on.

      After my idea developed, I pitched it to Dave, who liked it. Chris said he felt comfortable writing it, and gave me some good feedback. I finally got off the fence and told Dave to go ahead and send me a contract, and that he could announce my involvement. Then he made that announcement, though on the blog he announced a series title he’d just made up without ever discussing it with me, and at my request he withdrew that.

      I myself am curious how the TextFyre thing is going to turn out. I feel like the good and the bad signs are about evenly balanced. I was hesitant to jump into a business relationship with Dave, because he and I have had our conflicts in the past, but after grilling him a whole bunch on what approach he’s planning to take, I decided it had a shot at working as long as I was fairly good at asserting myself. We’ll see.

  2. Hey, congratulations on the Textfyre thing. I’ll be interested to hear how your experience is. And sorry about Dante. I can sympathize about the agony of your kid hurting himself on your watch.

    As for the car, it can be well worth $450 to let you car shop in leisure. Car salespeople can smell desperation and need. It smells like newly-minted $100 bills.

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