MiniClip is a website offereing free Shockwave games. There are a whole lot of games there – more than I checked out – but you should:
Some of the larger, more complicated games require registration and/or a download like Runescape, Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates and Robot Rage.
StoryCode is a database of story characteristics used to recommend similar books you might like. Readers rate a book on a number of points including genre & characters, plot, setting, atmosphere and personal views. Each trait includes a left/right slider allowing you to record your own impression. Then, the engine add your results to the collective and recommend a list of similar books that have similar values on those traits. Or, if you are shy about rating the book, you can simply get a recommendation by searching for a book you like and clicking the recommendations link.
This is a cool idea. I’ve seen other collaborative filtering engines that do similar things, but this seems more deterministic. In the matching up, anyway – the ratings in each characteristic are all subjective, natch. And there are a buttload of sliders to rate the book theoretically resulting in a better match. One of the random recommendations on their home page said:
[Iain Banks’]The Algebraist shows an 83% StoryCode Match with [Frank Herbert’s] Dune.
Not having read the Banks book, I’m not sure how accurate that is. But, I guess like any database, the quality of the results all depends on the information that gets put there – garbage in, garbage out.
| Thursday, March 31st, 2005 at 2:25 pm
I knew that Fantasy Flight Games was coming out with a board game version of World of Warcraft (they’ve already done two games based on Warcraft III), but I just learned that it will be in a box the size of Twilight Imperium 3! For those who don’t know, TI3 comes in a REALLY big box (bigger than a bread box, but smaller than, say a pool table.) Alas, I have to links or screen shots to include.
| Thursday, March 31st, 2005 at 12:23 pm
Did we just get a visit from the future Mr. Scott? Because someone seemed to have come up with the formula for the infamous “transparent aluminum” a la Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
One for the George R.R. Martin fans…
A report from the Boskone convention (see entry #57), which GRRM attended, says that A Feast for Crows is still not complete but will be soon. The book will be about 1300 pages long when completed and will most likely be available in the UK first. The book has 19 point-of-view characters (the earlier books had 8, 9 and 10 respectively). There are many more details about the books in the link so fans will want to check it out.
I have yet to read any of the 3 books in the Song of Ice & Fire series but several friends have raved about it and I am anxious to get to it. But 1300 pages…Wow!
A previous post on bloated fantasy mentioned GRRM one of the violators. He is the one author who, until the bloated fantasy article, I never heard associated with bloated fantasy. (Solar Flare agrees.) What surprises me is that these books have not become the target of booksplitting.
[Link to The Citadel, the archive of A Song of Ice and Fire lore, via Professor Bainbridge]
Seriously, we’re going to need a Cthulhu category soon.
[Link via Asimov’s Forums]
I think there is a general consensus that, over the years, heroic fantasy has porked out a bit. What used to be lean, mean tales of adventure have become bloated, overbearing doorstops. In his candid article, Seán Harnett examines this very problem and swings the accusation as to the cause of it from Tolkien to Moorcock. And just don’t get him started on Robert Jordan.
This is a refreshing read if for no other reason than Harnett is not afraid to slam what he thinks is tripe. The guy just doesn’t mince words.
[Link via Alien Editor’s Blog]
REVIEW SUMMARY: The promise of the intriguing premise failed to materialize into something interesting.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Under threat of extinction from an unfortunate placement of their planet’s three suns, the centaur-like natives of Ishtar attack the natives of the safer regions while visiting humans, with their superior technology, look on.
PROS: Interesting backdrop with intriguing planetary mechanics.
CONS: Story lacked interest for me; slow-moving; hard to read.
BOTTOM LINE: I gave up reading this after 75 pages (27% of the way through)
Read the rest of this entry
By JP Frantz
| Tuesday, March 29th, 2005 at 1:05 pm
Two great tastes that taste great together. Star Wars and M&Ms. See the rise of the M&M’S® Chocolate MPire. Be sure to catch the ending, with a re-imagining of John’s favorite part of the Star Wars teaser trailer….
Bob Wallace wants a blaster and a sword. His reflections on sense of wonder, imagination and Edgar Rice Burroughs is a pretty good read. I think it resembles the early reading experiences of many science fiction and fantasy fans.
Alas, there is no one standout book in my own past that opened the floodgates of sf. It was more of a gradual thing. In sixth grade we read Tolkien’s The Hobbit. I liked it enough to start Lord of the Rings outside of class but, if memory serves, I didn’t finish it then. (I did about ten years later.) The first science fiction books I remember reading are Larry Niven’s Ringworld and Asimov’s Caves of Steel and Foundation. I’m sure there were others but my memory fails me. It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that I remembered my love for science fiction and the way in which it left me awestruck. I’m making up for lots of lost reading time now, though. I will occasionally read a classic and find myself like that proverbial 11 year old, mouth agape, furiously turning pages. Oddly, classic award winners are hit & miss with me; some of them I just don’t care much for. But I still love the flavor of older science fiction.
So, which science fiction books made you a fan?
There’s a quickie-link from s1ngularity about sf author Michael A. Burstein’s examination of readability. His reference is Fiction Writer’s Barainstormer by James V. Smith, Jr. And for purposes of his discussion, Smith defines readability (measured by the Flesch-Kincaid scale) as the ability of the reader to understand what is being written.
The Flesch-Kincaid scale rates prose on two fronts: a percentage and a grade-level. An example from the link:
A story with a 75% readability will be understood by 75% of readers. A story with a grade level of 8 will be understood by anyone with an 8th grade education or higher.
(Is it me, or does this other grade-level rating validate our recurring infatuation with SF Signal’s Lix score?)
The result of the Smith’s study was essentially that bestselling fiction rates an average 83% readability score and a 4.4 grade level.
Some take issue with Burstein’s subsequent likening of readability to quality.
Personally, I think the word “readability” is misused. “Accessible” might be more accurate. To me, and to Merriam-Webster, readability is more than just using a set of monosyllabic vocabulary words. (Does anyone else get a kick out of the fact that “monosyllabic” is such a polysyllabic word?) There is also the author’s prose to consider.
Some works use sentences that are just awkwardly constructed. Some writers craft the prose to be lyrical. Particularly in genre fiction, the text could be weighed down with made up language. This prose construction is independent of whether or not the writer is using a bunch of 50 cent words in the process. Sometimes, like with my current read as I’m coming to realize, a book is just too hard to wade through. Or maybe better stated: it requires more work than the payoff it gives. Readability is a must if you want to make your reading accessible – it’s the doorway to the story. If something is not readable, a reader is not going to bother.