Author has written 33 stories for Elder Scroll series, Half-Life, Fallout, Left 4 Dead, and Portal.
End of February, 2014. Non-disclosure agreement for ESO is over, but there's not much good news to tell. It still regularly jams, bugs out, and generally sh*ts the carpet. For such a, well, lovely game, that's a crying shame. But I guess it's company tradition. Bethesda has always been saved by its unpaid modders. They seem to have forgotten that you can't mod an MMO. Ooopsies.
Mid-February, 2014. I should have known that if I helped beta-test Elder Scrolls Online, it would make a run at me. Now I'm off to the Molag Bal Follies. PS: Don't ask me about ESO right now. There's a non-disclosure agreement that we have to follow. More, perhaps, after it's released.
Early February, 2014. Ill again. It doesn't stop me writing, but it fragments my attention, so things get finished more slowly.
December 14, 2013: Ah, epiphanies. Got to love them. I sat back and closed my eyes late this afternoon, and to my surprise found myself watching the climactic scene of "The Hearts of the Falmer." Or at least of one of the two stories that's gotten tangled up there, and which I probably can't separate without killing at least one of them. The first climax also implies what the second must be, and the ending, thank goodness. That makes up a bit for the downer of the week, taking a new custom-built computer home to find out that the custom builders have forgotten to install the hard drive...yeesh. And I thought I was absent-minded.
Early December 2013: I've been slowed down by poor health, but the next part of the Falmer story is putting itself together.
Mid-October 2013: I swear they like to make me look a fool. I try to nail the lid down on the "Tales," and it comes back to life on me. My fault, I suppose, for putting in a character as lively as the Khajiit tease Zahana in the last few chapters. She kicked her way through the lid and demanded something extra long in compensation for writing her off in such a cavalier manner. So I end up producing more than 15,000 words in a week just so that she can be a hero. Oh, and she slaps one of the Daedric Lords in the face as well (not Molag Bal -- that would just be too good to be true). Don't blame me. I only write these things down. And I hope she'll shut up for a while now. I won't say "And that will be that" this time. It only provokes her.
I write stories occasionally on game themes, mostly Half-Life 2 series, Fallout 3, and Elder Scrolls. I would like to go through the game as a skinny, nervous teenage girl, but the character builder won't let me.
(The person to the left now is one of my characters from Elder Scrolls Online -- which is shaping up to be a magnificent game if they only get some computer programmers who know which end is up. Right now, it's a beautiful, jamming, buggy mess, and it's a month to launch. Time for divine intervention.)
Actually it's better to say I take dictation than I "write." Writing for me begins when a set of characters gets into my head and begins to throw tantrums until I indulge them. Spoiled children, all of them. And yes, I'm looking in your direction, Zahana.
My latest completed story goes in a new direction for me -- my first story in the Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) universe, the world of Skyrim a thousand years before Skyrim takes place. There's a civil war going on, and the Lord of Domination, Molag Bal, is trying to drag Tamriel into his own realm of Coldharbor. When I first read the outline for ESO, it struck me that if Molag Bal made any such attempt, he would be poaching on Mehrunes Dagon's territory -- or at least what Mehrunes Dagon, Lord of Destruction, has always claimed is his territory. And Daedric Lords don't hesitate to pull dirty tricks on each other, as Jyggalag, Lord of Order, can tell you. So... WWDD (What Would Dagon Do?) becomes the question of the day. It isn't entirely answered by the story, but I think I made a start on it.
Work in progress, with the first three chapters published, includes another Skyrim story entitled "The Hearts of the Falmer," which began from the observation that the Falmer seem to have human servants or slaves who are loyal to the death to them. What this might imply led me into the whole question of the crippling of the Falmer and what future they might have. I was quite annoyed when I found that there were going to be real live snow elves in Dawnguard, but it turned out the story there does not seriously conflict with what I have been working on. (Note: "The Battlemage's Tale" has a bit more detail on this separate story.)
In the mean time, I have also reposted several stories that have appeared elsewhere, some with revisions. So if you recognize something, no, I am not plagiarizing "dongzhongshu" on DeviantArt. I am that person. I'm publishing here because DA seems primarily oriented toward graphic art and I hope to reach some critical eyes that don't spend time there. There is one advantage to the copies posted on DA: the later ones are in portable document format (.pdf), and may include typographical features/graphics that cannot be reproduced here.
Some of the stories have personal roots or family memories behind them. The massacre of Combine prisoners in "Following Freeman," for instance, parallels an incident witnessed by my father in Belgium in 1918 just before the end of the First World War. (It involved about twenty-five German prisoners; my father saw the order given and the return of the person carrying it out minus the ammo drum on his Lewis gun, not the shooting itself.)
And how did he manage to fight in the First World War? Our family dithers about having children, quite a bit, so our "generation gap" works out to nearly fifty years rather than twenty. My father's father, for instance, was born while Abraham Lincoln was still president, in 1864. Apart from that, the only distinction our family enjoys is that a relative on my grandmother's side was the only person ever to be accidentally killed in a professional baseball game. I used that as an excuse to skip P.E. for years.
One thing I should note is that I usually don't read fanfic in my areas. This might seem arrogant, but I have a reason. My mind is a bit of a vacuum cleaner and I don't like to unintentionally steal other people's ideas. I've learned, especially when writing, to stay away from other people's shiny things, lest they end up in my pockets. I must be part magpie.
Last but not least, I don't include in canon DLC that is too far off the wall or has the potential to grossly unbalance the main game. That means that for the Elder Scrolls, all the DLC so far are fine, though my Dawnguard experience is hard-won (it crashes my Skyrim constantly) and I have had to be cautious fitting Dragonborn in. In the Fallout 3 universe, I only include Point Lookout, the Pitt, and Broken Steel (no ray guns and aliens, please), and for Fallout: New Vegas, Dead Money, Honest Hearts, and Lonesome Road, reluctantly excluding Old World Blues (because the potential of the Big Mountain research labs is too great, and the Big Mountain Transportalponder is one deux ex machina too far, at least for me).
Note on Dawnguard-related crashes
I just about deinstalled Dawnguard because the game's stability was atrocious when it was present, but a suggestion on a technical blog (I'm sorry I've forgotten which, but I'd just like to make it clear it wasn't an original idea) has helped immensely.
After you start Skyrim, send it to the background (I know, and pray you don't get the double cursor bug) and open Device Manager. Right-click TESV.exe, the one using all the memory, and select Priority. Set it to Above Average; if that still isn't enough, set it to High. That seems to be enough to prevent other processes from grabbing off parts of the memory and/or processor cycles at the wrong time and thus crashing Skyrim. The only bad effect it seems to have is that saves sometimes become much slower, presumably because you've made your hard drive a bit unresponsive.
And yes, you will still crash. Just a lot less. Maybe.
And you have to do it every damned time you start up, because there is no way to save this setting. Oh well.
[April 2013 note: Recent patches seem to have ironed out a lot of the problems and this fix may no longer be necessary.]
Note on alt-tabbing out
One of the frustrations of many of Bethseda's games is that alt-tabbing to return to the desktop, an utterly standard move on PCs and one that rarely causes trouble elsewhere, is liable to produce results ranging from a complete crash or freeze to Skyrim's "double cursor bug," where going back to the program leaves both the in-game cursor and the standard Windows cursor visible on the screen. I recently found this method to avoid such annoyances (again, I read it somewhere that I now forget; the technique isn't by any means my own discovery).
1) Open up an in-game window -- by pushing Tab, perhaps
Note on instability with high-level characters in Skyrim
I have often found Skyrim to become less and less stable after my character reaches level 55 or so. After several experiments, I think this is due to the game being unable to handle very large numbers of in-game objects. I am a maniac alchemist, and I have found that if I indulge myself in potionmaking to the point that the sheer number of potions greatly surpasses my ability to dispose of them by use or sale, the game will begin to freeze or CTD.
On the gender-free nature of daedra
Someone has objected to my using the term "daedric princess" for one of the daedra that always, as far as we know, manifests as female. The daedra are genderless, it is argued, and so "princess" is inappropriate.
The problem with this is the casual assumption that "prince" is a genderless term. It isn't. It is very definitely male. If someone gave you a picture of a "Prince," you would expect to see a man, not a woman. So if "princess" is not to be used because it is gender-marked, then "prince" would have to be discarded because of the same objection. English has no gender-free designation for a ruler of this sort (though some terms for other types of ruler -- "President" for instance -- are in themselves entirely genderless).
I am applying a simple rule of common sense. If a being habitually manifested as a certain gender, it would surely be though of as having that gender, even though purists warned us that if we checked under the hood, so to speak, there would be nothing to justify the assumption. Azura, for instance, seems to have some need to manifest as a woman, and we are being both perverse and contradictory if we say both "no, you can't say princess because princesses are female and daedra are genderless" and "all the daedra should be called princes." We should be past the point by now where a clearly male-gendered term like "prince" is assumed to be sexless.
Yes, it's good. Especially Apocrypha and its master, the Daedric Prince of Knowledge, Hermaeus Mora. (Check out his appearance; it's nightmare nasty, as is appropriate.) The Bethesda team hasn't managed to produce a true sense of horror yet -- I wish they would hire the guys from Frictional Gaming in Sweden to do a DLC in the style of Amnesia: The Dark Descent -- but Dragonborn has a unique and fitting ambiance. If you're a librarian, or dislike tentacles, it will probably make you wake up screaming a few times.
I didn't think Dawnguard was as pathetic as reviews tended to indicate, but it was a bit... empty. Great if you like long, peaceful, deadly dull hikes through snowy mountains in the virtual world, though. Dragonborn has enough content and enough going on that you can completely ignore the main quest line for a long time and just futz around in I-Wonder-What's-In-There mode (always the best way to play an Elder Scrolls game). And to ignore the dragon riding, which stinks. They had to fall on their faces somewhere; I think Bethesda must write a pledge to that effect into their contracts.
The problem with Dragonborn is the problem with many DLC: overdoing things. Actually, there's two related problems. The first is that after you sweep up all the new bling, your character becomes grossly overpowered. The second is that it and Dawnguard have the potential to damage the main story line, which we need for a coherent shift to TES VI, the main-line successor to Skyrim. The first is a matter of opinion -- try it and see -- but I'll say a few words about the second below.
What is the difference that makes Dawnguard/Dragonborn inferior in a story sense to the gold standard of TES DLC, Oblivion's The Shivering Isles? In brief, Dawnguard and Dragonborn have consequences that will drastically affect the main story line, while The Shivering Isles runs in parallel to Oblivion, rather than growing out of it. In Dawnguard, you can turn the Dragonborn into a vampire lord -- rather a sharp fork in the narrative there, don't you think? Far more significant that the relatively minor worries about whether past heroes were male or female and that sort of detail work. In Dragonborn, if Miraak were ignored, he should logically have taken over the world, or at least made a pretty good try. Again, very significant to the main line. In The Shivering Isles, on the other hand, if Jyggalag succeeds in the Greymarch one more time, no one in Tamriel will have any problems with it, or even know that it's happened. Tough on Sheogorath, but the welfare of his personal slice of Oblivion is not your primary concern. Whether you do it or ignore it, and what happens in it, is fascinating in itself but does not affect the events of the succeeding game, Skyrim, at all. That's good. It evades a whole bucketful of extremely messy loose ends.
Also, Jyggalag is a much more powerfully written bad guy than either Lord Harkon or Miraak. Those two -- you don't give a damn about them. Whacking them is like whacking a cockroach. The emotion they are most likely to evoke is irritation. Jyggalag, on the other hand, is at the center of a genuine tragedy, a Sisyphus-like curse that leaves you feeling sorry for the guy who was supposed to have been the villain. He's three-dimensional and emotionally engaging in a way Boring Vampire Lord With Crap 1995 Facial Animation and Boring Sometime Dragon Priest With A Ghastly Wardrobe aren't.
You can cry at the end of The Shivering Isles at the dirty trick that was played on Jyggalag by his fellow Daedric Princes. At the end of Dawnguard or Dragonborn, all you feel like doing is mistreating the corpses.
I'm beginning to notice a third problem with Dawnguard/Dragonborn. They both violate a basic rule of Elder Scrolls games: Thou Shalt Not Nag The Player. In the main Skyrim quest, you can dawdle as much as you want, even when such dawdling is strictly speaking absurd. I've spent six months of in-game time carrying that damn axe back and forth to Windhelm, for instance. I've been half a dozen times into Dragonsreach with General Tullius' message to Jarl Balgruf without delivering it, to use the enchanter's table or buy something from Whats'is'face the wizard there, or wandered all over Solitude when I was supposed to be off posthaste to Whiterun. And no one slams me against the wall, sticks a sword under my nose, and asks me what the efff I think I'm doing taking so long about my mission.
With Dawnguard/Dragonborn, especially with Dawnguard, this rule was violated. You are more or less compelled to conclude the Dawnguard main quest, because if you don't, you will be attacked by an unending stream of vampires whose function is more or less bluntly to force you to get on with it. I can sort of understand why. Dawnguard's main quest line is dull even by Elder Scrolls standards, and unlike the case with Dragonborn, there's not much available in the way of side quests. But still, the game is leaning on you and it's damned annoying. It's trying to get you to abandon the chief fun in ES games, futzing around seeing what's over the next hill. Dragonborn doesn't lean quite as hard, but you are still pushed towards starting it, and ending it, by random nuisance attacks. Fortunately, it tends to balance the situation out, at least partially, since it's possible for vampires and cultists to arrive on the scene at the same time, and then they end up fighting each other and anyone else in the area. Once or twice I've witnessed wonderful tangles between vampires, cultists, Thalmor patrols, and bears or wolves, all going at each other while I perch on the nearest crag and laugh my guts out. There's nothing quite as fun as watching one of these all-in brawls until the last survivor is staggering around, say a Thalmor wizard, and then Shouting him off the nearest cliff. But it doesn't make up for the nagging.
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