Left 4 Dead 2 lead writer Chet Faliszek is the featured interview guest on the premiere episode of The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy a new podcast talk show here on Tor.com. In this episode, your hosts John Joseph Adams and David Barr Kirtley take on zombies and the apocalypse in video games, popular culture, and literature. They discuss Valve Software‘s history of story-focused games and talk to Chet about zombies and video games and contingency plans, then discuss their own strategies for surviving the coming zombie apocalypse, and give their opinions of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.
00:00 Introduction by Tor.com
00:38 Dave and John introduce the show
John and Dave talk about Valve Software
01:05 Valve Software, background and their ground-breaking games Half-Life and Portal.
06:20 Valve’s emphasis on strong writing, and the role of science fiction author Mark Laidlaw in creating Half-Life.
07:09 The third-party mod community’s role in Valve’s development.
Interview – Chet Faliszek, lead writer/game designer on Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2
9:13 John and Dave introduce Chet Faliszek
10:15 Chet talks about getting his start in writing for magazines and websites, such as OldManMurray.com, and making the leap to Valve Software.
10:58 The writing process at Valve
11: 46 Origins of Left 4 Dead at Turtle Rock Studios, Chet’s role in its development, and what a true group effort it is to create a Valve game.
14:04 Chet weighs in on which games he thinks have the strongest writing outside of Valve: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Grand Theft Auto 4, Bioshock.
15:42 Advice for listeners who want to write for video games.
17:38 The introduction of melee weapons into Left 4 Dead 2.
19:31 Valve and Hollywood
20:53 Will we ever hear the end of any of Ellis’s stories?
21:30 How developers’ experiences in the southeastern United States helped to shape the setting and the story.
23:04 Researching Left For Dead 2
23:58 Deciding how challenging to make Left 4 Dead 2
25:44 The Special Infected, the origins of the virus, and the future of Left 4 Dead
29:19 How Chet would survive the zombie apocalypse.
30:22 Dave and John speculate about rumors of Portal 2
31:57 Dave talks about a prankster who called into a radio show pretending to be Gordon Freeman, the main character from Half-Life.
33:35 Dave and John discuss the all-important question of their contingency plans for surviving the Zombie Apocalypse, including comparison of the relative merits of handgun vs. shotgun.
39:22 Left 4 Dead in “Versus Mode” – John talks about playing Survivors vs. Infected against Stephen Gould, author of Jumper, and about online play as networking.
John and Dave talk about their early exposure, influences, and favorites in post-apocalyptic media
42:00 John and Dave continue the discussion started with Chet about which games they think feature good writing, citing the Fallout series and Ultima 4.
44:02 Dave talks about Wasteland, and a moment that changed his expectations of story-telling in video games.
46:56 Ron Gilbert’s Secret of Monkey Island, its connections to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, and their mutual debt to the novel On Stranger Tides, by Tim Powers.
47:20 Dave talks about Richard Garrett’s Ultima series, and his ground-breaking turn in Ultima 4, in which character counts.
49:17 John and Dave discuss Cormac McCarthy‘s The Road, now a major motion picture.
52:35 Dave and John discuss their favorite pieces of post-apocalyptic fiction: Day of the Triffids, Earth Abides, “A Boy and His Dog.” John talks about A Canticle for Liebowitz, by Walter M. Miller, Jr. and its place as the definitive post-apocalyptic novel, and Dave tells us why he admires “Adam and No Eve” by Alfred Bester.
John Joseph Adams (www.johnjosephadams.com) is an anthologist, a writer, and a geek. He is the editor of the anthologies By Blood We Live, Federations, The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Living Dead (a World Fantasy Award finalist), Seeds of Change, and Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse. He is currently assembling several other anthologies, including Brave New Worlds, The Living Dead 2, The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, and The Way of the Wizard. He worked for more than eight years as an editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and is currently the fiction editor of Lightspeed Magazine, which launches in June 2010.
David Barr Kirtley (www.davidbarrkirtley.com) is a writer living in New York who has been called “one of the newest and freshest voices in sf.” His short fiction appears in magazines such as Realms of Fantasy and Weird Tales, and in anthologies such as The Living Dead, New Voices in Science Fiction, and Fantasy: The Best of the Year, 2008 Edition.