Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Non-Random Tandem: Presenting a Virtual Book Tour Visit by Kirby Crow and Reya Starck

I am soooo excited for Bitch Factor 10 to be a stop on the Circuit Theory Virtual Book Tour. Circuit Theory, written by Kirby Crow and Reya Starck, takes place in a virtual world, much like our own. Wait, no, this is the real world. Kirby and Reya are real world authors. Yet, I am... ok, maybe I better ponder that another time. Now, I hand BF10 over to Reya for a guest post. Stay tuned at the end of Reya's post for a Circuit Theory blurb and don't forget to leave a comment and your email addy to be entered in the CT giveaway.

Game Worlds as Inspiration

Reya Starck

As I write this I’m sheltering under a gilt-trimmed gazebo from a violent thunderstorm that blew in across the vertiginous canyon walls that surround me. A small cloud of fireflies is keeping me company and providing some comforting light as the rain pelts onto the metal canopy of the gazebo and I shiver under the blackened clouds in my t-shirt and jeans.

The storm departs as quickly as it arrived, and I step out into a miraculously dry world, taking my fireflies with me. Following a winding path built along what appears to be a dry riverbed, I find myself in a clearing, surrounded by the strangest plants (at least, I hope they’re plants!) I have ever seen.

They look like floating brains with straggling, jellyfish-like tentacles, and they are just as unreal as the bulbous green tubes that sporadically puff out golden spores a little farther along the clearing, and just as unlikely as the angular black creatures that are dangling from the overhang of the canyon walls: the ones I’m trying not to look too closely at.

I am, of course, not in any place that can be found on Earth. In fact, I’m in a place called Eder Kemo, one of the garden ages in the online world of URU Live, and if I keep walking past the floating brains and puffing plants I will pass through a low stone tunnel and arrive at my destination.

It’s just one small area of this virtual world: a peaceful pond with stepping stones leading to the exit of this age. Above it, a massive stone causeway soars, casting a deep shadow across the water. It’s here that I stop, because this is the place I have logged in for.

It never changes (apart from the regular, but short-lived storms) and its tranquillity and atmosphere are exactly what I need for a scene in a story that I’m writing. My headphones are clamped to my ears, and the game sounds are perfect: the soft slap of water against rock, the chirring of insects, the sigh of wind high above me as it follows the same canyon path that I’ve just taken. I bring my text file to the fore: URU window on the left of my widescreen monitor, Word on the right, and I begin typing.

A few days later, I log in again, but this time I head to the derelict ‘pod age’ of Tetsonot. A creaking, rusting observation chamber filled with darkness, dripping water, and the occasional last-gasp flash of dying red lights. My main character is in a prison and, while it’s not as battered and neglected as this area of the game, it’s what I’m feeling as I stand in there that’s important.

I don’t like total darkness, so fear is edging its way around me, looking for a way in. The pod is hollow, the drips echo, the staccato flashes of light startle me. I’m unsettled, in a place that I desperately want to escape from. It’s every prison, everywhere. This time I’m not here for my eyes; I’m here for my gut.

It can be difficult to explain to a non-gamer the level of immersion that’s possible, but if you’ve ever been late for work or bed because you got lost in a good book, or you’ve exited a movie theatre and been blindsided by having to fit your cinematically-altered peg back into the hole of real life, then you’ll understand that it’s perfectly possible to stand on a virtual beach under a virtual sunset with virtual waves crashing, and experience a very real kind of relaxation.

All writers end up with folders on their computers that are stuffed full of inspirational images. Writers who are also gamers often have additional folders full of game screen grabs which, while they don’t find their way into stories in their game format, nonetheless lurk in the writer’s mind as they type. The shimmering green mosaic roof of an in-game temple may end up as a translucent blue mosaic window in the home of a healer; and the primitive carvings on a canyon wall might become stylised hints of a visiting alien salvage company on the outside of a rusting spaceship’s hulk.

Some might think that using parts of game worlds to inspire creative writing is a form of cheating, and indeed it would be if images were lifted wholesale from the coded world and dropped into the written one without any further creative thought given to them. But there is no more deception involved in loving that green mosaic roof and transmuting it into a blue mosaic window than there is in any form of art over the centuries.

Creative people have always found inspiration in whatever world they inhabit. Rand and Robyn Miller, the creators of the original Myst series on which URU Live is based, took hundreds of real world photographs, parts of which they later used as textures in their games. And Myst itself was the forerunner of all Steampunk games; its look and feel and even its music inspiring a new generation of game-creators.

We pick and we sift. A bit of rock from here, the gleam of mosaic glass from there, the annoying habit of a work colleague, and the scent of mildew in an old library. We stir it with a pen, let it simmer in our minds, and then dish it up on the page.

We hope you enjoy your meal.


Attraction is Binary.

Dante and Byron are avatars. Driven by human beings, yet still only digital representations of their ideal selves. In reality, they live far apart, but share most of their waking and working hours together in a virtual world called Synth.

In Synth, like in most code, the laws are infinitely more simple and infinitely more complex. Navigating the system rules of virtual lovers is like steering through a minefield of deceit, suspicion, heartbreak, and half-truths.

Under pressure, Dante makes a friendship that trips Byron’s warning bells, disrupting their carefully-ordered lives and calling into question the wisdom of trusting your heart to a man you can never touch in the flesh.

Kirby Crow worked as an entertainment editor and ghostwriter for several years before happily giving it up to bake more brownies, read more yaoi, play more video games, and write her own novels.

Kirby is a 2010 winner of the Epic Award and a two-time winner of the Rainbow Award for her published works in fiction.

Her published novels are:
Prisoner of the Raven (historical romance, Torquere Press, 2005)
Scarlet and the White Wolf: The Pedlar and the Bandit King (fantasy romance, Torquere Press, 2006)
Scarlet and the White Wolf: Mariner's Luck (fantasy romance, Torquere Press, 2007)
Scarlet and the White Wolf: The Land of Night (fantasy romance, Torquere Press, 2007)
Angels of the Deep (paranormal/horror, MLR Press, 2009)
Circuit Theory (scifi, Riptide, 2012)

Reya Starck lives in England, never gets quite enough sleep, and is a professional procrastinator and consumer of chocolate. By day she is an intrepid bacteriologist, eradicating microbes for a better world order. By night she writes wonderfully queer stories featuring an array of lovely men.

My thanks go out to Reya and Kirby for including Bitch Factor 10 in the Circuit Theory Virtual Book Tour. I'll (virtually) see everyone later!


  1. Thanks so much for hosting us on our virtual book tour, Emme. I had great fun writing this guest post!

  2. Thank you - really interesting read :) Circuit Theory is in my tbr pile - I loved the excerpt on the Riptide website!

  3. Reya-- a thousand thank yous for visiting BF10 today. Come back any time. And hey, let's meet up in some virtual world sometime and hangout. *grin*

    Pointycat-- hey! Thanks for dropping by again. Were you going to leave your addy to enter the contest?

    Circuit Theory was affecting me on each and every page-- for several different reasons you'll discover when you read it. :-)

  4. I enjoyed the visual imagery that your posting inspired while reading it - canyon walls, stormy weather, floating brains etc. Being a non-gamer, I found your gaming/writers posting very informational.

    strive4bst at yahoo dot com

  5. I'm interested in the ambiguity between virtual reality and everyday life...this sounds very cool.


  6. @Emme: Loved being here! And yes, we definitely should hang out in the pixel sometime.

    Bring your SL avatar to Book Island at 7pm SLT on Wednesdays and join in with the Writer's Chat, if you can. It's a nice hour of general writing chatter, and sometimes we help out fellow writers who are stuck or need ideas. It'd be great to see you there. :)

    @Jbst: Thank you! I love standing around in various game areas, just soaking up the atmosphere. I find it really helps with some aspects of my writing.

    @vitajex: The lines can definitely get blurred sometimes. For example: I had a house with an open side in one virtual world, and I actually felt uncomfortable when my avatar's back was turned to that open side. Once I'd put a wall there, the discomfort vanished. Bizarre, but intriguing.

  7. Awesome post! Loved the part at the end where you talk about your inspiration as a writer - it's so accurate! I completely have a stack of images saved on my laptop to prompt me :D

    owlsforbrionyjae@gmail.com :)


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