Cory's latest short story — CC-licensed, on Salon, all about gaming

It's been a long time since I've written any short stories. I've been concentrating on novels and on nonfiction, and the blog, and the dayjob. But short stories are my first and best love: writing them is amazing mental exercise and I'm always pleased with the result.

Salon has just published a brand-new short story of mine, called "Anda's Game," which is a riff on the way that property-rights are coming to games, and on the bizarre spectacle of sweat-shops in which children are paid to play the game all day in order to generate eBay-able game-wealth. When I was a kid, there were arcade kings who would play up Gauntlet characters to maximum health and weapons and then sell their games to nearby players for a dollar or two — netting them about $0.02 an hour — but this is a very different proposition indeed.

There are a lot of firsts in this story:

  • It's the first story I've written since moving to the UK, and the story is told from the point of view of an English girl
  • It's the first in a series of stories I'm writing that riff on the titles of famous SF novels and stories (this one is a play on Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game" — also coming are "I, Robot," "The Man Who Sold the Moon," "Jeffty is Five," and "True Names" — this last with Ben Rosenbaum). This started as a response to Ray Bradbury's assertion that Michael Moore was a "thief" and a "horrible human being" for using the word "Fahrenheit" in the title of his last movie — but now I'm just finding it fun to deconstruct the stories of the writers who came before me.
  • It's the first story that Salon has ever published under a Creative Commons license — which means that you can put it on a P2P network or email it to a friend without running afoul of the law.

I'm really proud of this one: I read it to an audience at the WorldCon last September and the response was really warm and enthusiastic. I hope you like it too:

"Get down," Lucy said in her headset. "I'm gonna use the BFG."

Every game had one — the Big Friendly Gun, the generic term for the baddest-arse weapon in the world. Lucy had rented this one from the Clan armory for a small fortune in gold and Anda had laughed and called her paranoid, but now Anda helped Lucy set it up and thanked the gamegods for her foresight. It was a huge, demented flaming crossbow that fired five-metre bolts that exploded on impact. It was a beast to arm and a beast to aim, but they had a nice, dug-in position of their own at the bottom of the hill and it was there that they got the BFG set up, deployed, armed and ranged.

"Fire!" Lucy called, and the game did this amazing and cool animation that it rewarded you with whenever you loosed a bolt from the BFG, making the gamelight dim towards the sizzling bolt as though it were sucking the illumination out of the world as it arced up the hillside, trailing a comet-tail of sparks. The game played them a groan of dismay from their enemies, and then the bolt hit home with a crash that made her point-of-view vibrate like an earthquake. The roar in her headphones was deafening, and behind it she could hear Lucy on the voice-chat, cheering it on.

"Nuke 'em till they glow and shoot 'em in the dark! Yee-haw!" Lucy called, and Anda laughed and pounded her fist on the desk. Gobbets of former enemy sailed over the treeline dramatically, dripping hyper-red blood and ichor.

In her bedroom, Anda caressed the controller-pad and her avatar punched the air and did a little rugby victory dance that the All-Blacks had released as a limited edition promo after they won the World Cup.


Update: Aaman's posted a great review of the story to his blog!