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What's inspiring me - August 2021

· Video Games,Writing,inspirations

Research, research, research - I'm knee deep in the new book by now, and as always happens with these projects, I really start to get an understanding of what I have still to research by writing it. It's a very layered process for me, starting with a concept, doing the initial background reading, reshaping my concept  based on what I learn. Once I have a concept, I've only scratched the surface of what I'll ultimately need to know to write the thing, but rather than spending endless hours reading (and forgetting about) minutiae that may or may not prove relevant, I like to dive into the writing first, and discover which deep wells are actually worth exploring. I expect to get shit wrong in a rough draft, but I find it's much easier to wrangle the facts and historical details that bring texture to the writing once I have the story and character beats in rough, working shape.

Lately I've been reading C.V. Wedgewood's extremely readable history of The Thirty Years War. She paints vivid, memorable pictures even of the most minor of players. For example, her description of Emperor Rudolf: "Here he passed the darkening later years of his reign among the astrolabes and celestial diagrams of his laboratories, filling the stables with horses he never rode, and the imperial apartments with concubines he seldom saw and never touched."

But I'm also digging into sources on seventeenth century Judaism and on the medical knowledge of the time period, which rests in the fascinating middle ground between medieval conceptions of the body and modern ones.

Returnal - I've also been playing a lot of Returnal, a game that got its hooks into me with its snappy combat and isolated exploration through a hostile alien world, absolutely awed me with some of its boss fights and a brilliant mid-game twist, but has now started to frustrate me quite a bit. I blazed through the first area and first boss of the game's second half, but now I've stalled out, losing too many runs on what feel like cheap/unlucky miniboss spawns. I'm determined to crack it, although I wish its story seemed like it was shaping up to be more than the bog standard "all of this is thinly disguised a metaphor for trauma" that so many video games seem to go after these days. Dear game writers, what if your cool alien world was ... literal? But I've not finished it yet, so who knows. Maybe it will surprise me.

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