Articles Worth Looking At (The Week of 17 June)

Hullo, everyone! Today, I would like to share a few of my favourite articles from across the internet! #EverythingIsContent!

I’ve been reading Gene Wolfe and it’s been a beautiful adventure. The Shadow of the Torturer is complex and full of mystery, a world far in our future, dark and hard, subjected to rules and laws I haven’t begun to grasp. For anyone who, like me, has an interest in reading Wolfe’s work, Neil Gaiman has offered up this guide: https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/neil-gaiman-gene-wolfe-folio-society/

This key to Wolfe’s work goes well beyond The Book of the New Sun and it’s worth the read if you want to get familiarised with the works of one of the most lauded Grandmasters of SFF.

There may not be a wrong way to read a book, but if you will indulge me, I will offer advice on how to read the books of Gene Wolfe. It helps to have a key, or it can. The first book of his I learnt to read was the novel Peace. The first time I read it, in my late teens, I read a gentle memoir of Midwestern life. The second time, in my early twenties, I discovered that if, as you read it, you realize that its narrator has been dead for many years, and you look for deaths in the text, particularly deaths he might have been in some way involved in, the shape of the novel changes. It becomes darker and more precise. I had learnt that, in reading Wolfe, every word matters.

If you’re feeling an itch far less literary, something more based in the land of fantasy gaming — whether computer of role-playing tabletop — then perhaps you’ll be interested to learn more about Larian Studios and Wizards of the Coast‘s wonderful collaboration in bringing the much hoped-for third game in the Baldur’s Gate series. Great changes are afoot for the ranger class but that’s far from the only thing discussed in this podcast/article, published by Kotaku.

One of the things that’s been nice is that [Baldur’s Gate 3 developer Larian and D&D steward Wizards of the Coast] have a very similar design culture. So there was one instance where, as we look at our character classes, we look at feedback we get in the tabletop space. There was one class we were working on at that got a lot of negative feedback, so I shot an email over to Nick [Pechenin, systems designer] about “Hey, we’re looking at making some changes, potentially playtesting some new material for this class in tabletop, just to let you guys know.” And he actually got back to me and said, “Hey for this class, actually that same exact issue has come up, and here’s what we’re looking at doing.” It was almost like we had already shared notes.

I love the team at Larian Studios and I’m really fond of the excellent work Wizard of the Coast has been doing with D&D 5e. Their collaboration is a recipe for greatness. What strategems will they deploy in order to make mindflayers of us all?

Speaking of strategems, I came across a six-part series that I’ve only began exploring, about a historian’s views on The Siege of Gondor. I’m a large history nerd and this is such an illuminating read, with a lot of strategic terms to educate the reader. I could read a book by Bret Devereaux talking through all the different engagements from Lord of the Rings without any trouble at all.

…the immediate operational goal of Sauron’s army is getting the army, intact, to Minas Tirith to lay siege to it; in comparison, the strategic goal of the campaign is the destruction of the Kingdom of Gondor through the capture of its capital and primary defense (Minas Tirith).

This set of objectives and the means chosen to achieve them are immediately historically plausible.  Pre-modern states – like the Kingdom of Gondor – often had a very limited administrative apparatus which was focused in a single place (it is hard to distribute your administration when the best communications technology you have is “man on horse”).  The destruction of that administrative center might very well be enough to end the war.

What else, what else?

Sea of Solitude image, courtesy of RPS

Sea of Solitude looks promising enough, doesn’t it? Apparently, it’s rather a unique game in that it aims to tell a deeply personal story about solitude, loneliness; creator Cornelia Geppert’s purpose is to explore the effect of these through the interactive medium. An article by RockPaperShotgun goes in-depth:

The screen is deliberately and serenely free of any user interface or button prompts. Being alone can be quite beautiful. The clue is in the title, Geppert says. “Solitude is for me the positive form of being alone.”

But at its heart Sea Of Solitude is exploring loneliness. One of the things I liked most was that at the very start Kay said to herself: “I have family. I have friends. And yet here I am, feeling lonely. Again.” There is an understanding that, just as being by yourself is not synonymous with being lonely, you can be surrounded by loved ones and still experience loneliness. In the immediate aftermath of my most recent break up, I found it difficult to talk to anyone when I was sad about it. Geppert related. She hummed agreement. “Mmmm! You feel lonely even though the other person is right in front of you telling you how much he loves you.”

Some of these monsters are, Geppert explained, humans at their core, changed by their extreme loneliness. It is changing Kay too: she is covered in black fur, and her eyes are red. In Geppert’s first concept she imagined scribbling with pen on paper to just let the anger and frustration out, creating a bundle of strange lines. “You always struggle with, ‘Am I wrong? What is going on? I’m so different from everybody else.’ When you feel lonely you always feel excluded,” Geppert said. “That was very clear for me so I wanted to tell the story like: loneliness represented as monsters.”

I don’t know about you lot but to me, this sounds like a wonderful way to explore and add to the conversation about human loneliness. After reading this article, I’m terribly excited to see how Sea of Solitude does.

That’s it for this week, the most interesting articles I read on the Internet. Hope you enjoyed some or all of them, dear reader! Until next time.

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