Learning From Clyde, The Sensitive Pac-Man Ghost


I’m a Classic Era Gamer when it comes to video games. I was four years old when Space Invaders landed, and seven when Pac-Man began its relentless quarter-munching campaign. I vividly recall the first time I saw a Pac-Man cabinet at Straw Hat Pizza in Malibu. I thought it was the coolest thing ever invented, like a cartoon come to life with a joystick attached.

Pac-Man and its sequel Ms. Pac-Man remain my games of choice to this day, with Dig-Dug right behind. These are the only video games I can play that will cause people to come over to watch.

Over those many years of playing Pac-Man and its sequels, I’ve given serious thought to Clyde, one of the four multi-colored ghosts in the original game. Clyde is the orange ghost. Aka “Pokey.” The “random one.” The “stupid one.” No matter what nicknames he may attract, I adore Clyde and his twin sister Sue, who takes his place in Ms. Pac-Man—probably because Clyde was reluctant to show up a second time. I’m going to dress up as Clyde for Halloween. If I buy a Pac-Man T-shirt (bound to happen one day) it’s gonna be a Clyde shirt.

Only recently have I started to grasp fully why I like Clyde the most of the four ghosts. I know how his programming operates, but watching his behavior in the game has given me something to contemplate. So let’s have a little talk about him. Caution: I’m going to take a bit of a serious direction with this eventually.
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The Best of Edmond Hamilton and Leigh Brackett

best-of-edmond-hamilton-leigh-brackettEarlier this year, I wrote an article about The Best of Edmond Hamilton, one of the volumes of DelRey’s influential “Classics of Science Fiction” paperback line from the 1970s. Black Gate was running a series of articles written by James McGlothlin covering all of the DelRey series. Since I had recently completed reading the Edmond Hamilton collection, I asked James if he wouldn’t mind if I contributed an entry. James not only didn’t mind, he was excited to have help with the endeavor. I also checked with Black Gate‘s editor John O’Neill because he’s often stated that Edmond Hamilton is his favorite pulp SF author.

I discovered it was impossible to write about The Best of Edmond Hamilton without also writing about Leigh Brackett, his wife and one of the great science-fantasy authors of the twentieth century. Not only did Brackett edit the collection celebrating her husband’s work—providing an unusually close perspective rarely found in anthologies—but Hamilton in turn edited The Best of Leigh Brackett that DelRey released a few months later. It was an important double tribute. Both writers died soon after, leaving the two collections as an interesting swap of letters of admiration.

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Download “Farewell to Tyrn” Free for a Limited Time

Farewell to Tyrn Cover 185x247For a limited time, my novelette “Farewell to Tyrn” will be available for free download from the Kindle Store. (Regular price 99¢.) This is an excellent entry point to my Ahn-Tarqa science-fiction setting. Read what one Amazon reviewer called, “The best fantasy world I have read about since the silos in Hugh Howey’s Wool.

“Farewell to Tyrn” will be free to download September 25–29.

Navajo Joe: Not Burt Reynolds’s Favorite Flick, But I Like It

When Burt Reynolds died earlier this month at age eighty-two, I went directly home to watch Navajo Joe. Not Deliverance. Not White Lightning. Not even Smokey and the Bandit, which Amazon Prime loaded up only the week before. Nope, none of the classics. Instead, I went to a 1966 Italian Western that Burt Reynolds rarely had anything positive to say about.

When he hit the talk show circuit in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Reynolds liked to joke about Navajo Joe as a movie only shown in prisons and on airplanes because the audience couldn’t walk out. He often told a story about how he thought he was signing up for a film directed by Sergio Leone when he accepted producer Dino de Laurentiis’s offer, only to discover it was Sergio Corbucci. “Wrong Sergio,” he’d crack.

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Dream Tower Media Interview About Edgar Rice Burroughs

A few years ago, my friend Robert Zoltan started an ambitious project: The Literary Wonder & Adventure Podcast, an interview program where fantasy and science-fiction authors discussed great figures of the genre. John O’Neill described it as “no typical podcast, but an imaginatively designed (and frequently hilarious) radio show set in the windswept Dream Tower (with a talking raven).”

For his first interview, Robert chose to speak to … me. (Hey, I was available and only a thirty-minute drive away.) The subject was Edgar Rice Burroughs, a writer I have some familiarity with. You can hear the results above. I plan to say much more about Edgar Rice Burroughs later—he’s one of my essential authors—but if you want a good ERB primer, not to mention a fun and slickly-edited conversation between two fans and old friends, this video will take good care of you. I also talk about my Ahn-Tarqa stories and the inspiration behind them.

A Website Keeper’s Journey; Or, Why This New Site Exists

This may go long, but I need to get a few things into the open to explain why I’ve started a new website and blog.

Re-launching my author website was a long-overdue project. I had to say goodbye to a crusty, cranky old friend, the Blogger site I started 2007 but have hardly touched since 2014. It wasn’t even my first website: I’ve toyed with personal websites and blogs since the early 2000s, almost from the moment I even knew what a “blog” was. (Yes, Angelfire was involved.) Over those nearly twenty years—something honestly terrifying to write—I changed as a writer and discovered what I wanted from an author website and blog.

The first time I created a blog was with (shudder) LiveJournal. It was crude, and I wasn’t a published author yet with any clue about how to represent myself. When I started the Blogger site, I was more ambitious about publication, but the blog remained a wandering thing of shreds and patches. I’d ramble about bits of my life, haphazardly review a movie or book, post photos of my newborn nephew, and fill posts with more random blather. The site was a combination of a lark and a someone trying to hone his skill as a nonfiction writer. Not a combo that could work for long.

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Welcome to Black Spires, The New Website

I finally got around to it …

After four years of living with (and ignoring) a stagnant website, I’m cleaning up and starting fresh. “Black Spires” is my new online fortress, named after my first published story, “An Acolyte of Black Spires.” I have exciting news and projects to announce in near future, which is one reason I decided to stop thinking about restarting my online presence and actually do it. The other reasons I’ll share in more detail in the next post.

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