On Top of Dubai

I’ve played video games my whole life. I mean, I literally played that home version of Pong when I was three years old. Somewhere along the lines, classic arcade games moved over for all kinds of interesting strategy and first-person shooter games, until we were hit with such a deluge of copycat games, it became hard to tell one from another, save the occasional brilliant twist in game mechanics.

On even rarer occasion, a storyline would blow me away. In the last several years, this is happening more and more often. I partly attribute this to the accessibility of game-making tools and the influx of indie developers. But I think there is more to it than that: as video games become more prolific, more mainstream, there arises a challenge to make them unique. To bring them to the level of books and film – to make them art.

Some games are obvious art. Dear Esther comes to mind as one that challenges the notion of even being a game. There are many others that push that same boundary, but I recently discovered one that I had not expected. Not even close.

I’m writing this now somewhat behind the times. Spec Ops: The Line was released in 2012, three years ago. So why should I bother reviewing it now? Well, I guess because I just discovered it, I feel compelled to spread the word in what little way I can. Maybe you’ve already played it. If that’s the case, I hope you’re reading this and want to talk more about it. Because I’m fucking obsessed with it right now.


I’m a huge fan of all the Mad Max movies. I grew up in the 80s, and my introduction to the series was The Road Warrior. It’s one of those movies that I’ve seen too many times to count – up there with Star Wars, Pulp Fiction, and Aliens. Later I went back and watched the first Mad Max and appreciated it for its dark and tense downward spiral. And when I saw Beyond Thunderdome, I accepted the film’s campiness and loved it unconditionally because it extended the story of the wastelands.

So when George Miller announced the plans to release a fourth film, I knew I would see it no matter what. As the opening date drew closer and the previews appeared, I grew intensely hungry, and the morning of the release date, a Thursday, I bought tickets for me and my wife, to ensure we’d get a seat in the theater.

The hype had gotten to my head, it seemed: we arrived at the theater a good 45 minutes in advance to get a seat, and by the time the movie started, it was only one quarter full. This was more in line with my reality: my love for Mad Max is shared by many, but we are a fringe group. The movie blew me away. I couldn’t have been happier when I walked out of the theater, and took comfort that me and the other freaks that love this kind of thing got a film that was at least as good as The Road Warrior. The drive home was … hairy.

Then a weird thing happened. Other people saw the film that weekend. People with less predilection for wasteland violence than I were loving it. Were telling their friends how good it was. Blog posts were dropping into my radar extolling the virtues of this amazing film. People who have never seen The Road Warrior (or as I call them, the Unenlightened) went to see Fury Road and came away praising its glory.

So I took a step back from my fanboyism and looked at Fury Road through the eyes of the Unenlightened. What was it that storyteller George Miller and his team nailed so perfectly to enlighten them? What follows are just a few of the key story elements that I think contributed to the film’s success.

*** Spoilers ahead. ***

Hey sci-fi lovers! It’s been three weeks since the digital release of Unexpected Rain. I hope you’re enjoying it!

Just a quick post to highlight what’s been going on for me in the last three weeks:

Once again, if you haven’t picked up Unexpected Rain yet, the ebook is only $3.99, so give it a shot! Here are a couple of early reviews:

What’s next?

I’m currently working on revisions to the sequel to Unexpected Rain. I can’t share the title just yet, but I can tell you this: I’m really excited to be bringing back Runstom in his unending quest to Do The Right Thing, Jax in his unending quest to Stop Getting Arrested and/or Killed, and last but not least, Dava in her unending quest to Kill Everyone That Breathes Her Air. A lot of people have told me how much they like this character, so I’m here to let them know: there is a whole lot more Dava in this book!

That’s it for now – sign up for the newsletter below if you want to keep up-to-date. Thanks!

My wife and I are huge fans of Futurama. There’s an episode where all the robots in the world rebel (and it turns out everything is a robot in the 31st century), and humans are reduced to living like savages. Fry struggles to open a can with an old-fashioned can-opener, and after snapping it open with his claw, Zoidberg is elated for the opportunity to pitch in. While his ragged companions huddle wretchedly around a campfire, he declares, “I’m having a wonderful time!”

42I was thumbing through the calendar, hoping to create some “countdown” dates for my upcoming novel, Unexpected Rain, and I discovered that today it’s 42 days from release.

Of course, countdown numbers are all arbitrary anyway, aren’t they? What was I hoping for? 50 days from release, 30 days from release – you know, nice round numbers. But here it is before me: a number that means something. A number that means … well, it’s the answer to life, the universe, and everything!

I have a lot of sci-fi heroes, but I’m afraid they all have to move over when it comes down to it, because Douglas Adams is The Author. You know. The. Author. The one that made me want to be a writer. I didn’t have the fortune of meeting him in person and being inspired, as Neil Gaiman did at the age of 22, but when I was a teenager, I consumed his work voraciously. Over and over again. And later as an adult. Over and over again.

And since I missed Douglas Adams’s birthday a couple weeks ago, this seems like an opportune time to celebrate the influence DNA had on my path to becoming a writer. I shall do so in two ways:

First, I’m donating 42 GBP to DNA’s favorite non-profit, Save the Rhino. I was going to do it in USD but the form only accepts GBP and I’m not going to sit here and do a bunch of currency math like some accountant.

Second, I will celebrate with the grand Vogon tradition of poetry. (Vogon poetry is of course the third worst in the Universe.) Strap yourselves into the Poetry Appreciation chairs and we’ll begin with a miserable little piece I concocted to celebrate the last 42 days before I mutate into a Published Novelist.

stink_faceMy darlsenpoof, you strope me
With unrellefant peietry
That sprudles from the plast of your woosuff,
With your hangelious thrush of kilf
And shuftles hooptiously
Down to the gobberwarts,
On through until reaching the bits that were disintegrated.


That’s the worst I can do, I’m afraid. I’ll defer to Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz for an example of truly horrific poetry, in case you’re not yet jibbering:

“Oh freddled gruntbuggly,
Thy micturations are to me
As plurdled gabbleblotchits on a lurgid bee.
Groop, I implore thee, my foonting turlingdromes,
And hooptiously drangle me with crinkly bindlewurdles,
Or I will rend thee in the gobberwarts
With my blurglecruncheon, see if I don’t!”

– exsqueezed from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams


If you’re still conscious, then I weep for you, because you’re no doubt in agonizing pain. If I had an airlock, I’d throw you out of it and release you from your dolor.

But I don’t have an airlock. All I have is this not-very-funny-but-still-adventurous sci-fi murder mystery coming out in 42 days. And if you don’t pre-order it, I’m going to recite more Vogon poetry at you.