Author Archive

GAME REVIEW: Super Meat Boy

Super Meat Boy is an unforgiving fast-paced platform-jumper game published by Team Meat in 2010.

Meat Boy is the name of our protagonist. No, it’ s not a lewd stage name. Meat Boy is literally a cube of raw red meat with arms, legs, and a face. The love of his life is Bandage Girl who, as you might guess, is an anthropomorphic Band-Aid. If you’re confused, so am I. I feel like I’m missing a joke. Are these two paired because Meat Boy is literally dripping blood and Bandage Girl is an item meant to absorb blood? I don’t know.
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GAME REVIEW: Machinarium

Machinarium is a point-and-click puzzle game published by Amanita Design in 2009. In the game you are a robot who has been dismantled and dumped from the robot city into the endless junkyard beyond. You had lived happily with your friends until a gang of thugs came and split you up, using each of you for your own devices. Now you need to find your way back into the city, rescue your friends, and keep the gang from doing anything like that again.
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The final installment of my Best Podcast Fiction of All Time List, is finally here, revealing the top ten. You can find  the individual posts as they were posted #41-50 here,  #31-40 here,  #21-30 here, and #11-20 here.  For those who just want to get to the Top Ten already I’ve listed that first.  For ease of reference, I’ve also included the entire list of fifty at the bottom of the post so if you want to refer people to the list, you can just link here.

These are (my opinion of) what is the best of the best, the most epic of the most epic.  Load them all up and have an awesome road trip, or ration them out over months of liistening.

I would love if other fiction podcast fans would comment here and say what their own favorites are and why.

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GAME REVIEW: Limbo


Limbo is a sidescroller puzzle game published by Playdead in 2010 with a very sharp visual style. Your character is a silhouette of a boy interacting with silhouettes of environmental objects with a grayscale background, trying to safely traverse a dangerous environment to… well, the game never really explains that. You wake in a field of grass and then you get the controls, no explanation, text, dialog, anything to give you a story other than the events of what you see on the screen.

So, you make the most of things and start wandering, and soon you discover that this is a very dangerous place when you get chopped in half by a bear trap, fall onto spike pits, and get speared by the leg of a giant spider.

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The penultimate installment of my Best Podcast Fiction of All Time List, covering #11-20. You can find #41-50 here,  #31-40 here, and #21-30 here.

Just one more list to go!

It was very hard to pick out my favorites among all the great stuff out there.  Now I want to listen to them all again!

Please comment, follow along, share this list with your friends.
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GAME REVIEW: The Stanley Parable

How do I describe The Stanley Parable? To say it as briefly as possible I’d say it’s a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure comedic meta-narrative built on an FPS engine–I will elaborate on what I mean by that. It was developed by Davey Wreden and released in 2011, and then was expanded for further release that included distribution on Steam in 2013.

You are Stanley. You work at a desk where you are give instructions to press keys on your keyboard one after another. One day you notice you realize you’ve been there for an hour without receiving any instructions. You get up to ask your colleagues if they’re experiencing similar interruptions in workflow, only to discover that their desks are empty. You set out to find someone and find that the whole building is apparently devoid of life apart from you. Unless, of course, you count the British voiceover that’s narrating your every action and telling you what you’re going to do next.
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GAME REVIEW: Braid

Braid is a sidescroller puzzle game released by Number None in 2008. It’s gotten a lot of buzz over the last few years, including placing #94 on G4TV’S Top 100 Video Games of All Time in 2013. That ranking surprised me as I watched that list, considering that, at a glance, it appeared to be using Super Nintendo era technology. Not that I mind an older look (I love me some retro gaming), but that kind of list tends toward the new and trendy and whizbang hardware-limit-pushing stuff. So I wondered, what exactly made this game so special?
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BOOK REVIEW: Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

Raising Steam is the newest of the sprawling Discworld series of satirical comedic fantasy written by Terry Pratchett, the fortieth to be published.

If you haven’t read any of the Discworld series, you really should give it a try. It takes place on Discworld, a world that is (as you might suspect from the name) a flat disc that spins on the back of four great elephants who stand on the back of Great A’Tuin, a spacefaring sea turtle. My favorites in the series include Small Gods, Interesting Times, The Hogfather, and Feet of Clay. The series as a whole is linked only by the world, not always by characters or countries or time periods, though there are kind of sub-series within the main series that follow certain groups of characters to give them an arc. But you can read the books in pretty much any order (you’ll just appreciate some of the little things more if you’re aware of where the series has already been.

Raising Steam, like most of the books in the series, mostly takes place in Ankh-Morpork, the melting pot city-state that reminds me of a mixture of New York City and Los Angeles, ruled by the semi-benevolent demi-tyrannical Patrician.
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This is my third installment of my Best Podcast Fiction of All Time List, covering #21-30. You can find #41-50 here and #31-40 here.  This is the middle list of the five pack–just two more to go!  I hope some of you are tuning in and listening to them all–would make for an epic road trip (though many of the stories are not suitable for children so probably not a whole family road trip).

Please comment, follow along, share this list with your friends.
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WRITERS’ RETREAT:
ABANDON YOUR LIFE FOR THREE MONTHS.
Just disappear.
Leave behind everything that keeps you from creating your masterpiece.
Your job and family and home, all those obligations and distractions–
Put them on hold for three months.
Live with like-minded people in a setting that supports total immersion in your work.  Food and lodging included free for those who qualify.  Gamble a small fraction of your life on the chance to create a new future as a professional poet, novelist, screenwriter.
Before it’s too late, live the life you dream about.  Spaces very limited.

That’s the ad that starts it all, in Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk (most well-known for authoring Fight Club), which gathers a group of writers together, locked into a house for three months, with just the contents of a suitcase.
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I don’t usually have a lot of time for gaming, but when I saw a link to an early access version of Hack ‘n’ Slash by Double Fine Productions on Steam, I impulse-bought it.

At a glance, it looks a lot like a SNES-era Legend of Zelda game. Green-tuniced, sword-wielding adventurer wandering around and fighting wizards and etc. The similarities are big enough that it has to be an intentional tribute — boomerangs and bombs, a little flying companion who gives you advice, and lost woods. That’s fine, I don’t mind a tribute to Zelda.

But what really makes the game interesting is the twist added to it. Instead of a good old-fashioned sharp-edged sword, you have a hacking sword that looks rather like a USB thumb drive that you can use to alter the internal variables of creatures and objects in the world. You can change an enemy to be friendly or to move in a different pattern when idle. You can unlock a door, or change how far a rock will move when you push it.

Programming and adventure game combined–count me interested!

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This is my second installment of my Best Podcast Fiction of All Time List, covering #31-40. You can find #41-50 here. The list is picked from thousands of episodes of the backlog of seventeen short fiction podcasts. There are many more episodes that I love, but these are the cream of the cream of the cream. All of the stories on this list are ones for which I have epic love, so it was a matter of trying to rank them based on fine gradations of that epic love.

Please comment, follow along, share this list with your friends.
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In my first article here at SF Signal, I provided a brief introduction to fiction podcasts, including reasons why they are my primary source of fiction and a list of places where you can find more fiction podcasts. That was just an introduction, to break the ice, to get things going.

Anyone who knows me from Diabolical Plots knows that I love to make lists of my favorite podcast fiction stories. Since 2009 I have listened voraciously to more than 1000 episodes from 17 different podcasts, 12 that I’m still keeping up with, and I’ve written up a bunch of Best Of lists over the course of those five years.

Since I’m new here at SF Signal, I was thinking of how I could get this series of articles kicked off with a bang. I love podcast fiction. I love lists. But I wanted something new, something I’d never done before, something epic. And then I thought: I’ve never made a cross-podcast list. I’ve only compared a podcast’s episodes to its own episodes. I myself didn’t even know which of the podcasts had the most epsiodes I’d liked because each publishes great material but each has found its own style niche.

So here it is, the epic Best Podcast Fiction of All Time list.

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David Steffen is a writer and editor and software engineer and a voracious consumer of podcast fiction. He’s the founder and editor of the fanzine Diabolical Plots, run with Anthony Sullivan. Diabolical Plots provides the free writer’s tool The Submission Grinder which helps writers track their submissions and find markets for their work. You can find his bibliography on the DP site. Besides writing and editing, David is writing a text adventure, gaming, and cross-stitching, among other things. When David grows up, he plans to do ALL THE THINGS.

Intro to Fiction Podcasts

by David Steffen

This is the first of a series of articles about fiction podcasts. In this one I’m just going to talk about why audio is such a great medium for fiction, and how you can find fiction podcasts to listen to. In the next article, I’ll list out the current podcasts I listen to and some that have stopped producing but still provide their backlog of episodes.

I started listening to fiction podcasts in 2009, when I made my very first fiction sale to Pseudopod and decided that I should listen to some of the back episodes and see what this venue was actually like. I grabbed the most recent episode at the time which happened to be Pseudopod 153: “The Hay Devils” by Colin P. Davies. From Alasdair Stuart’s intro, to the story itself, to Alasdair’s always-insightful comments after the show that time on, I was hooked.
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