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Preparing for Develop:Brighton 2024

I’m heading to Develop on the 11th, which means I need an updated business card.

Back in 1994 I had a program called Anagram Genius on a 3.5″ floppy disc for my Acorn A3000, which I bought because its magazine advert informed me that an anagram of “Michael Portillo” (at that point a prominent Tory MP) is “A Cool, Limp Hitler”. I instantly put the program to work on the names of everyone I met, and so I have known for decades that the best anagram you can make of my name is “Nice Algorithm”. I am very pleased that this information is finally having its time in the sun.

NB. The developer of Anagram Genius, William Tunstall-Pedoe, is still releasing new versions. He is probably better known for developing Evi, a voice assistant technology that was acquired by Amazon and became Alexa.

Current work: Prim

Full-length cartoon portrait of game protagonist Prim

This week I’m focused on directing voices for Gothic comedy adventure, Prim by Common Colours.

The Tim Burton and Terry Pratchett influences are pretty clear, and it’s fun working in such an arch comic fantasy register. The voice cast features a number of actors with a track record in narrative and adventure games, including Ivy Dupler (Genshin Impact), Rhiannon Moushall (Warhammer 40k: Rogue Trader), Jason Hall (Dragonheir: Silent Gods), Stephanie Cannon (Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes), Toby Longworth (Judge Dredd: Dredd vs Death, Broken Sword), Adrian Vaughan (Armello: The Dragon Clan), and Sally Beaumont (Lucy Dreaming, Mutropolis, Heaven’s Vault). Our lead, Prim, is voiced by Maria Pendolino (Pagan: Online).

I’m not privy to the release date, but I suspect it will be out in the last quarter of 2024 / first quarter of 2025 on Steam, GOG, and all other reputable platforms. Publisher is Application Systems Heidelberg.

Current Writing Music: The Deep Ark

The soundtrack to my writing at the moment is being absolutely dominated by this expertly curated, diligently mixed (and in some cases re-mixed), eight-hour session called The Deep Ark. It’s a selection of pastoral British electronica that absolutely hits the spot if you came of age in the English countryside in the 1990s. It features ?-Ziq, Autechre, Future Sound of London, Sabres of Paradise, an amazing Funkstörung remix of Björk, and some really tripped-out deconstructions of Saint Etienne. Oh, and of course a number of tracks from Aphex Twin (and his various aliases) and Brian Eno. The digital liner notes are exhaustive, and include a justification for each individual track along with a lot of history of the scene that produced these sounds. It is clearly an absolute labour of love for mysterious DJ The Arkitekt, who assembled the whole thing, commissioned photos, and even published a book about the mix with Broken Sleep Press.

New Pye Corner Audio

I’ve been so busy that I didn’t notice one of my favourite hauntological synth musicians released a new album. Pye Corner Audio’s fifth album, The Endless Echo has been out since 5th April.

As per usual, it’s a miasma of unheimlich cinematic analogue synths floating over a bed of satisfyingly crunchy beats. Absolutely the score for the subterranean Middle English hauntological dystopia film I yearn to make.

Castilian Westworld

The Conecta festival and the city of Toledo were fantastic and I’m going to write a little about my experiences in a later post. One of the stranger things we encountered during a pre-conference day of round-table discussions was the Toledo branch of the Puy de Fou historical theme parks. Founded in 1977 by notorious rightwing politician and novelist Philippe de Villiers as an offshoot of his historical drama TV show Cinéscénie, the original Puy de Fou in Les Epesses became the fourth most-visited theme park in France after the two Disney parks and Parc Astérix.

At night the park stages a performance in which various historical tales are re-enacted in grand mythic style. Columbus sails to the new world, Knights Templar crusade, Visigoths battle Romans. It is a deeply uncanny place, especially the brand-new ancient castles with perfectly pointed brickwork. The park is right in the middle of in a region so rich in real ancient castles it is called Castilla-La Mancha.

I had been wondering about the potential for using this place as a location for a fanciful and historically inaccurate TV series of my own, but when fellow writer Pierre Puget told me about de Villiers’ political positions – he is an apologist for ‘illiberal democratic’ populists like Hungary’s Orbán – I rather lost interest.

We Stay Behind demo, story trailer released

I’m absolutely delighted to be working on narrative design, English localisation, and directing voices for this beautiful mystery narrative game set in the Pacific Northwest. Marcus and the rest of the Backwoods development team just released a new demo for the game, and a trailer teasing the story. Both demo and trailer feature the voices of our talented cast, including Amy Quick (Unforeseen Incidents, Eve: Valkyrie), Morgan Taylor (Choo-Choo Charles), Alan Adelberg (Marvel Avengers Academy, Iron Fist), Terrance Addison (Dragon Siege, Mafia City) and Francesca Meaux (Hades, Dunk Lords, The Riftbreaker).

Evening sun, Toledo

I’m already seeing what Buñuel saw in this place. Just around the corner is a small shop selling marzipan made by nuns and staffed by nuns.

In Buñuel’s footsteps

I’m going to be in Toledo all next week attending the Conecta European TV networking event, and sticking around a couple of days afterwards for a little city break which will probably involve bicycles at some point.

When I mentioned to my friend Svitlana that I was going there, she told me the city was beloved by Luis Buñuel. A little digging, and it turns out before the Spanish Civil War, when they were all alive and on speaking terms, Buñuel, Dalí and Lorca visited Toledo and, “fascinated by the mysterious air it gave off,” were moved to invent their own semi-satirical religious order/artists collective, the Order of Toledo. More about it in this article by Roberto Majano.

The principle activity of the order was “to wander in search of personal adventures” and the induction ceremony was to be stranded alone in the darkness of Toldeo at the toll of the 1am bell. This reads to me very much like a precursor to the Situationist activity of dériving around Paris. Perhaps Guy Debord drew inspiration from Buñuel?

Bonus anecdote: Buñuel hired a sex worker in the city, not apparently for sex, but in order to hypnotise her, because surrealist research doesn’t have to answer to ethics committees.

Þingvallakirkja

View through window of Þingvallakirkja, Iceland, 17th August 2017, Fuji X-T20.

Exterior of Þingvallakirkja, Iceland, 17th August 2017, Fuji X-T20.