Never stake more than you can afford to lose.
We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from The Knave of Secrets by Alex Livingston, out from Solaris on June 7.
Successful transitions from the video game medium to movies or television have been few. Having been burned by this ineffable truth so many times before, my conditioned response to hearing there was a Castlevania series coming out on Netflix was to shudder and look away. The game and its sequels feature a centuries-spanning conflict between a dynasty of well-armed monster hunters and the evil forces of Dracula. (For a very accessible history of the franchise—as well as one of the purest expressions of human joy I have ever borne witness to—I recommend this podcast episode.) Having played many of the games several times, especially the triumphant Symphony of the Night, I was prepared to completely ignore what was sure to be a pale mockery of the series: a cobbled-together TV show in vaguely anime style would only disappoint.
So, here’s the odd thing about it: the Netflix series is actually really good.
Games drawn from fiction obsess me: Quidditch, Sabacc, anything made up by Yoon Ha Lee, et cetera. So when it came to my attention that Patrick Rothfuss had partnered with a game designer to make a real-world version of Tak, one of the games Kvothe plays in The Wise Man’s Fear, I had to check it out. (The story of how it came about is pretty funny, and very Rothfuss.)
There’s a lot to say about the game—the worldbuilding fiction that has been built around it in the Tak Companion Book, the on- and off-line communities that have developed—but today, let’s explore how well the board game by James Ernest fits with the descriptions in the book.
As a writer, when you come up with an element like a game or a similar novel form of sport or entertainment, especially in fantasy, you need to make it sound like it has a full set of rules, strategies, variants, etc. So does Ernest’s Tak correspond to the drips and drabs of description that we get about the game in the book? And how well does it fit with the world Rothfuss created?
“So, she pulls out this book…” The way my friend turns on his barstool and smiles tells me this is going to be something good.
We’re sitting at a quiet bar, chatting about his latest acting gig—Much Ado About Nothing. The ‘she’ in question is the director, and the book is Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare. Being well aware of my proclivities, he assumed I would want to know that Isaac Asimov once wrote a two-volume handbook to understanding each and every single one of the Bard’s plays (plus two of his poems), including plot summaries, fact-checks against historical events, definitions of outdated terms, and explanations of the jokes that don’t make as much sense after four centuries; in short, everything an obsessive word nerd could want as a companion to Shakespeare. I bought a copy online immediately and then ordered another beer.
While I had heard nothing about this book, the connection immediately seemed obvious. Of course the voracious Asimov decided one day that he wanted to get every reference in all of Shakespeare’s works, and of course he wrote his findings into a book so others could share his excitement.
Our cyberpunk near-future has a voice in my head, and it’s Ken Liu’s fault.
My phone, the black-mirrored device that connects me to everything and everyone at all times, sent a digital file through the air to my car’s audio system as I drove to work one bright morning. It was a short fiction podcast from Lightspeed featuring “The Perfect Match” by Ken Liu. The story is about a law office employee and his kooky neighbor. And it’s about a personal assistant app called Centillion which may or may not be the end of the human experience as we know it.