Vote Update + Conversation with Lincoln Michel of Gigantic Worlds
We are now so deep into this campaign that Kickstarter has begun to count down in hours (65) instead of days. So if you've been meaning to share Boss Fight with any family, friends, or forums, this weekend is the time to do it!
Meanwhile in the comments section, it remains an extremely close race between two worthy frontrunners: Chrono Trigger and Zelda. (Metroid's a now-distant third but could always rally if something big happens.) Only one of these titles can reign supreme, and it's up to you to determine which becomes the subject of Book #6.
Finally, this week I got a chance to chat over email with the writer/editor Lincoln Michel, who is running a very cool Kickstarter campaign for his Science Fiction Anthology, Gigantic Worlds. We were both excited about each others' projects, and had no trouble finding the common ground between sci-fi and video games. Our chat is below.
Thanks so much for your continued support! Your enthusiasm for this series makes the work so much more enjoyable.
Conversation between Gabe Durham of Boss Fight Books and Lincoln Michel of Gigantic Worlds
Gabe Durham: What good sci-fi novels/stories have been turned into games? It seems like a no-brainer but can you think of any?
Lincoln Michel: The first two that spring to mind are Frank Herbert's Dune (and sequels) and the Cthulhu mythos of H. P. Lovecraft. Both are fantastic works of literature, and both have been adapted into numerous video games of varying quality.
However, the craziest science fiction story turned game has to be "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream." The Harlan Ellison story (and 90s point-and-click adventure game) are about the last five people on Earth trapped in a gigantic, psychotic computer that tortures them for its own amusement after wiping out the rest of humanity. Am I missing any big ones?
G: No! I guess most of the time if you're making a sci-fi game, you either pay for a license based on a movie like Star Wars, which is guaranteed to make money no matter what, or you just create your own franchise for free. (By the way, have you ever read up on this Famicom bastardization of Star Wars? It's literally the only Star Wars game where Darth Vader keeps turning into animals.)
L: Ha, that's great! There must be some Star Wars games based on "Expanded Universe" Star Wars novels, right? But perhaps the tables have flipped and now we are in an era when it makes more sense financially to write novels based on video games. In fact, one of my favorite contemporary writers, Brian Evenson, writes novels for the game series Dead Space under the name B. K. Evenson.
G: What were the sci-fi books that did it for you as a kid? And what sci-fi do you gravitate toward now?
L: I remember loving Frank Herbert's Dune as a kid (and LOVING Lynch's film version, which is maybe a weird thing for a kid to be into). When I was in high school, I think the authors who meant the most to me--and perhaps still mean the most to me--where authors that might be called "slipstream." Literary authors with speculative bent (or vice versa): Kafka, Vonnegut, Calvino, Borges. On a more pure science fiction side, I remember really loving Ursula K. Le Guin gender-probing novel The Left Hand of Darkness.
As an adult, I still love great SF writers like Le Guin, Dick, and Gene Wolfe. And my favorite work is still probably by genre straddling or unclassifiable authors like Kafka, Borges, Kobo Abe, Angela Carter, or Brian Evenson. In general, I increasingly care less about what "genre" an author writes in, and increasingly think of genres as different tool kits for authors (or artists or game makers or directors) to play with. I love how Stanley Kubrick could direct one of the greatest science fiction films, one of the best war films, and the greatest horror film, among other things. As a writer, I'd like to be able to do that. And as an editor, I'm interested in seeing authors do that. Gigantic Worlds will have a mix of writers who mainly write SF alongside writers in other genres trying their hands at something new.
G: How did you get a hold of uncollected stories by both Phillip K. Dick and J.G. Ballard? That's huge!
L: Thanks! We are really excited about both. Basically, we had the idea that some uncollected work must exist and we--or, in this case, Michael Barron--tracked them down.
Now some questions for you: Your book series is called Boss Fight Books, which is a great name, but of course makes me want to ask what game had the most memorable boss fights for you? (And I'll just toss out that mine are definitely the bosses in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.)
G: Ooh, I know I beat Symphony of the Night when it came out but I'm forgetting the bosses somehow! I'd love to play that again.
L: One of Castlevania's bosses is literally a gigantic ball of naked, screaming people.
G: Some favorites: Andross in Star Fox 64, all the bosses in Chrono Trigger but especially Magus and Lavos, the level bosses in Kung Fu, Bowser's illegitimate children in Super Mario 3, all the metroids you hunt down in Metroid 2, the woman in the jungle in Goldeneye 007, and the many terrifying bosses in Resident Evil 4.
L: The first two books in your series are Earthbound and Galaga, both science fiction games. Was there something about the era of "classic" gaming that lent itself to science fiction and fantasy games? Have we lost some of that today, where it seems that more "realistic" games are popular?
G: Anna Anthropy's first book hits on this better than I can, but much of gaming to this day is heavy influenced by the tastes of early game designers. These guys largely did not fancy themselves artists, they were coders: brilliant math and science dudes who were nerds before nerddom got cool, coding before coding got easier. And what did they love? Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings, and maybe most of all, D&D.
It doesn't seem to me that this has gone away at all, but instead that culture has caught up with those early game designers so that you feel fine reading Game of Thrones on the subway, seeing Man of Steel on a date, or playing Halo with friends. Tastewise, I'm like you: Individual genres don't hold a lot of sway with me--it's all about what they're doing with it.
L: Last year the MoMA announced it acquired 14 classic video games to put in the museum. Have we reached the tipping point in video games being considered art? Or is the entire question somewhat silly?
G: Actually, Lincoln, "Video Games Now Considered Art" was Boss Fight Books' $35,000 stretch goal on Kickstarter, and we hit it two days ago!!! I've got it all written up in a legally binding document that will become official as soon as it gets the signatures of both Jonathan Blow and John Leguizamo (who played Luigi in "Super Mario Bros.").
The truth is: Video games were always art. It's just that for awhile we were all having too much fun to notice.
L: Have you considered doing a spin off series of shorter books (Kindle singles?) titled Miniboss Fight Books?
G: That's not a bad idea at all, sir! And one more question for you: What's next for Gigantic after this anthology?
L: Well, before the anthology we have will have our fifth print issue, Gigantic Talk, come out. As for Gigantic Books, this was some of an experiment so we will have to see how it goes. However, the response has been really exciting and energizing! We have some pretty awesome ideas for future titles, but we will probably keep them under wraps until Gigantic Worlds is finished. Congrats again on your successful and awesome campaign!