Conscious Choice cover

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Pioneer 2140CC Kickstarter campaign shuts down

An announcement from Aaron Jenkin, creator and producer the video game proposal, Pioneer 2140CC, based on my science fiction novel Pioneer:
————————————————————
To everyone here on Behind the Black,

We covered a lot of topics in our Kickstarter update, but I wanted to give a special thanks to you all for following us on our journey, for your helpful feedback, and for your support on Kickstarter. This isn’t the outcome we had hoped for, but we’re hopeful it’s not the end of the road in our effort to expand on the world envisioned by Mr. Zimmerman in his fast-paced, 1983 sci-fi novel Pioneer.

In the meantime, please enjoy this wallpaper featuring characters from the game and book. From left to right: Saunders Maxwell, Jane Barlow, Becky Lightman, Michael Addiono, Alex Barlow, Morgan Callahan, and Harry Nickerson.

Pioneer game wallpaper
Click for full resolution.

I’d also like to thank Mr. Zimmerman for taking a chance on us and this project. He’s built up a distinguished career and it would have been easy to brush us off. But instead he welcomed us and did everything he could to help us succeed. We really appreciate that. Hopefully one day soon we can meet face-to-face for a hike or cave trip and talk about the adventure!

One problem we faced that we mentioned before was related to other people’s fear of being blacklisted. I can imagine that’s something a lot of you here would like to hear more about, and it’s something that I’d like to talk about, so we’ll have to get into that one day.

As far as moving forward is concerned… I’m a Creative Director, but I lost my main client at the end of the year due to a merger. That ended up being a good thing at the time because I was able to focus more on Pioneer. But now with the Kickstarter not panning out, I need to pick up new work. My plan is to fall back on one of my strong skills, video editing. I’m thinking that will leave me more time to devote to whatever comes next with Pioneer. If you need a video editor, please get in touch!

Thanks again for your support, and thanks for being such a great community!
Aaron
———————————————————

From my perspective, this outcome is incredibly sad, especially because of the blackballing of Aaron and the project behind the scenes because of my politics. I have no idea if the project failed because of this blacklisting, but it certainly acted as a dead weight. Some of it was vicious. Some was simply fear, holding no animus to Aaron, the book, or my politics. Such people simply did not wish to help promote the game or participate in making it because they feared the consequences to themselves if it was learned they had worked on a project by someone with conservative values.

That such fear permeates our culture now so deeply bodes ill for the future. Very ill indeed.

Readers!
 

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22 comments

  • Thanks for the plug Mr. Zimmerman and for all the patience along the way!

    We’re anxiously optimistic. Today we are putting some finishing touches on the project page, doing some final calculations, and pushing to spread the word. All the help we can get is appreciated.

    And thanks to everyone who signed up for the newsletter and played the demo. Andi, I hope you were able to get it to run.

    Looking forward to the launch!
    Aaron

  • sippin_bourbon

    Best of luck in this. Not much of a gamer much anymore (no time) but I hope this does well.

  • Joe

    I’ve backed this project. Hope it succeeds beyond your wildest dreams.

  • Jeff Wright

    Aupicious timing…the Endurance has been found.

  • Andrew R

    I’m reading Pioneer right now. Just got to part 2: Hellfire. A great read so far.

    I’m not too keen on manga-like characters, but still I might download the demo to see what it’s like. Haven’t gamed in years.

  • Andrew R: Thank you for the kind words about “Pioneer.” Much appreciated.

  • Robert Pratt

    As broke as we are, Isabel surprised me by saying we should back the game. However she didn’t understand that the kickstarter system is not an investment per se in the game in which we would receive financial benefit if successful. Then we went over the kickstarter donation levels more closely and were rather astounded that it appears that we only get a percentage “discount” off the game if produced. Even at a $100, which due to cancel culture is a lot to us now, the wording appears we would just get a discount off two copies of the game.

    Maybe I misunderstand this but as a marketer for four decades I must say it isn’t very clear AND seems almost a gross injustice to not provide a copy of the product to each early backer. For $100 advance on development we should be guaranteed a copy of the game.

    I provided this in summary to the survey.

    Also, as someone older who hasn’t played video games in over 20 years (but would if of interest) the Japanese-style art tends to make me think the game is more of a cartoon than what I would expect. I have a close electrical engineer friend who is a huge fan of anime and collects original drawings of such thus, I’m familiar with the artwork and like it. But that familiarity seems to be behind my initial reaction that the game looks like an anime cartoon with user directed pathways. That may be what games are like today but does not match my idea of a game that would be a fun sci-fi adventure.

    Just providing this feedback as a friend to help. Take it for what it is worth. We would like to back it but not if I then have to buy the game all over again if produced.

    One other thing: The demo might dispel some concerns but in selling to an older audience realize that many of us can’t even seem to find the time to download or interact with the demo.

  • Joe Rosario

    Happy to support any media version of the book. Board-game, comic book, video game,… I’ve read it 3 times through and have enjoyed it every time. Best of luck Aaron!

  • Joe Rosario: Did you click on the link and do the survey itself? That’s the information that Aaron really needs right now.

  • Joe Rosario

    Robert, I completed the survey prior to my post. While a comic book style retelling of the story had occurred to me as a possibility, a board game had not. I like the idea as a partner to the video game or even something offered in its stead. I’m happy to support whatever chooses to do with your book. Wishing you all the best, Robert!

  • Hi everyone,

    Thanks for taking the time to fill out the survey. We really appreciate the honest and straight-forward feedback.

    sippin_bourbon & Joe: Thank you!

    Jeff Wright: The Endurance images are amazing aren’t they, with the water being so clear.

    Andrew R: If you play the demo, let us know what you think! I’m really curious if you end up liking it since like you said you’re not so keen on manga-like characters. Interestingly, that may be one of the points I think we messed up on. The characters may be too manga-like for some players, but not manga-like enough for others.

    Robert Pratt: That’s really kind to hear Isabel was willing to support us even with money being tight. To clarify your concern, the tiers do in fact give you the game itself, not only a percentage off the game. Thanks for catching this and pointing it out. It very well could be a big reason why we’ve had trouble picking up supporters. I cut the original wording down for simplicity’s sake, which I see now resulted in it becoming too vague. Now, unfortunately with the project launched, Kickstarter will not allow us to edit any tiers with backers. Still, I’ll find a way to address this the best I can.

    Joe Rosario: Thanks for the support!

  • t-dub

    I just went back and looked at the Kickstarter campaign again because I also was under the impression that by backing the project you only received a 20% discount off the retail price of the game. I reread every reward level, looked at every single graphic, and no where does it state you get the game for free by backing the project. All that is promised is a discount 20% off of the retail price. If this is not the case then a very large mistake has been made and could very well be the reason that response has been below expectations. Even after reading the note added to the campaign, and the FAQ, it is still confusing because these two pieces of information are contradictory.

  • Hi everyone,

    Unfortunately Kickstarter does not give us the ability to change a tier description once a backer is in the tier, but we’ve reworked all the tier graphics on the project page to help clarify that you do get a copy of the game when you back for $9 or more.

    t-dub: Thanks for letting us know this was confusing for you too.

  • I’m not much of a gamer since, well, a very long time ago. On the other hand, I did buy a gaming computer (mostly out of spite, since CO banned it) and it doesn’t hurt to give a free demo a try. Downloading (I did take the survey)…

  • I think I may not be a good demo participant. I can’t tell what is demo/prototype and what’s going to remain, so I’m not sure what feedback is desired and what is premature nit-picking. I also got bored with the intro. A few notes:

    The beginning framing shot lasted too long. It needs to zoom into where on that behemoth station “my” room is located.

    The crawling text has a slider control – make the maximum much faster. This may be a fine default, but for a fast reader, it’s painful. I’m assuming the phone call will be voice, not text, in the final version. That will really help move things along.

    First-person is HARD. The best (as far as I got) scenes were the phone call when I saw what “I” saw. The view of “my” room was terrible. I’m supposed to be lying on the bed and I’m looking across the room at it. Show the room from my perspective – having the blue, LED clock (overly specific if it’s not relevant in some way) in the frame would be good – and then you can delete the description of it in the slowly crawling text.

    Show more, tell less. There is too much rehashing internal dialog when it is supposed to be ME, which means I would already know it. I might briefly think about something, but I’m not going to have a minutes long flashback while talking on the phone. Some of it’s difficult to get rid of, but low hanging fruit: Instead of the semi-flashback to the grandfather’s mission, work it into the phone dialog.
    “After three failed missions to find grandpa, you’re going back, again?”
    “I hardly think the original prospectors not attempting a rescue because they didn’t have the delta-v to even search counts as a ‘mission’.”
    “but, but, my grandfather…”
    “He was a prospector. All five of them should have known better than to go chasing after a rogue asteroid. It’s a wonder only two were lost.”
    Etc…

    Definitely cut the Trojan War recap. If someone doesn’t know, telling him is not going to enlighten him as to the significance of the idiom; it’s just preaching. I knew the “crossing the Rubicon” phrase long before I’d ever heard of Julius Caesar. If you think the idiom/metaphor is dead, don’t use it.

    I’m not sure if the Lunar War (battle?) serves a purpose or not. I didn’t stick around to find out. If it is going to matter later, bring it up then and, again, show, don’t tell. “Can you do X for us?” “Sure, no problem, back in the Lunar War I was a tube-rat scouting and scavenging in the lava tubes; this will be no problem.”

    Why was the face of the guy I owed money to separated from his body? He was standing in front of me wearing a helmet with an opaque faceplate and his face was in the lower right with expressions. What’s going on there?

    For a least-time/cost playable game, the intro is far too long. I have no idea if the game play is any good because I didn’t make it that far.

    Sorry if that’s overly critical for a demo, but it’s the feedback I’d give an author whose first draft I had I read.

  • That post is not meant to scare anyone away. It’s more of a “please reply with an expectation-setting explanation of what ‘demo’ means” prompt.

    The graphics are good. I have a YUGE monitor with a 32×10 aspect ratio and everything was in the right place without any weird stretching artifacts or letterboxing.

    The background music is fun.

    The premise looks good and the story is interesting, but cut, cut, cut the intro to the bare minimum.

  • Hi markedup2,

    Thanks for the straight shooting feedback. If I had to guess, I’d say I was talking to a a fellow filmmaker (that’s my background). I wanted to write real quick to say don’t worry about scaring me! I’ll spend some time thinking on what you said and give you a proper reply later.

    Much appreciated!

  • Lee S

    I’m sorry this project isn’t working out according to plan… I could have done more to spread the word, and indeed will do amongst my son and his friends… they are all into Japanese manga stuff… ( some completely not safe for work… but he’s 17 … I remember being 17 also!)
    The problem, in my opinion is that manga style games might be all the rage amongst the teens, but it’s all us oldies that have the cash to support a kickstarter campaign… and most of us have stopped serious gaming. Perhaps if the game was very retro you could tap into the market found here, and the market that has the the assets to support the game, but a game that doesn’t “click” with the market is not going to fund a kick-starter.
    Back in the 80’s I did graphics on a few computer games, I know it was a different world then, but we put a decent demo of what we were working on, then touted it around the big boys, ( we were a 4 man team… but we only had 48k less screen to work with!) , but we sold the games, they got us an advance, we got finished and published… and we all got paid handsomely.. ( I had more money than any other 16 year old I knew..)
    My suggestion is that you tout it around the current big boys, and if you get taken up, bite the bullet and accept your going to earn less than if published independently. Just make sure your “developed by” tag is front and center. That’s your CV right there.

    Sorry if I’m preaching to the faithful, but it worked for us…. Well, my neighbour Stuart now works for a large software company and earns big bucks… I now drive a forklift… and earn a living,

    Better to trust a big company to support and market a new game than hope for a kick-start from oldies that don’t “get it”

    Just my pennies worth…

  • Lee S

    Just as a side note… to any oldies here… we were working on the zx spectrum… 48k of memory,but 16k was screen, so we had 32 kilobytes to get the code and graphics squeezed into… and if you are into retro, check out 1K chess on the ZX81… an AI chess game writen in 1 kilobyte of memory! Certanly the most compact bit of code ever written.

  • markedup2: Even though the game didn’t get funded on Kickstarter, I wanted to reply. Thanks for all the notes, giving me feedback as if reading a first draft, like you put it.

    You said you might not be a good demo participant, but I beg to differ. It gave me a chance to see where someone new to visual novels would run into problems, and that was important for our intended goal of expanding the audience of this genre. I was also glad to get some feedback on problem points with the story writing, so thanks!

    Regarding “game play”, in a visual novel you’re basically just reading the text on the screen and making choices. That’s all the game play is, so you didn’t miss anything.

    And to answer your question about the face separated from the guy’s body – that’s a technique often used in visual novels, but I knew it might be weird for first-time players. So before we committed to it, we tried a version where the helmet visors were more transparent. But you couldn’t see enough of the face because of how the helmets were designed. And ultimately we decided against changing the helmet design. So that’s where we ended up.

    I’ll keep your points in mind as we move forward. Thank you for the critical feedback, and keeping it constructive!

  • Lee S: That was great to hear about your experience making games in the 80’s. Thanks for sharing! What a time to be alive – making a game at 16 and getting paid handsomely. I’d like to watch that as a movie!

    I’d be absolutely fine with one of the “big boys” taking a chunk to help make our game a reality. Thanks for the advice.

    BTW, you might appreciate this… last month I went to a Pac-Man exhibit in Yokohama. They had original hand-painted game art on display as well as notebooks with original game ideas and designs. It was very cool to see video games designed on paper in such detail. We also had a chance to play the games on the old school arcade machines, for free and for as long as we liked. Was a great time!

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