Max Brooks on surviving zombies, Bigfoot and Minecraft
Speaker 1: Author BS. Brooks is our latest guest at the CNET book club. Of course he is the author of world war Z devolution and not one, but two officially licensed Minecraft novels, the original, the island and his brand new follow up the mountain. I'm excited to talk to Matt Brooks, max Brooks, who has done not only obviously great novels, everybody loves like world war Z and devolution, which I'm a big [00:00:30] fan of, uh, but is also writing books about possibly one of the greatest beneficiaries of the COVID era. And that is Minecraft, which so many people are sitting home and playing and, and, you know, real authors are writing licensed Mindcraft books. And I find that so fascinating. I, I, I just have to ask how, how, how did this start to come across, you know, your plate a couple of years ago when you did the first one? It's it's not the, it, it's not the most obvious thing in, in a lot of cases. Speaker 2: No, but when I first started playing [00:01:00] it with my son, uh, I knew that this was not just special, but this is potentially world changing. And, and I'm not, not exaggerating when I say that, I think that Minecraft has the potential to be the greatest teaching tool. Since Gutenberg's printing press. What I mean is the school that you and I went to the education model that we, we floundered through, that was the depression model, right? That was standardization. That was memorization [00:01:30] regurgitation all under a ticking clock. And that came about because of the industrial revolution, suddenly the world was changing and there, there had to be a new way of thinking. I had to be brain training for individual individuals and societies to thrive in the, in this new game called the industrial revolution and it worked. And now it doesn't because the industrial model is over. It's as dead as the Dodo. And we are in this whole new world where we need to be [00:02:00] creative. We need to be resilient. We need to, you think is individuals and try to solve problems our own way, but there's no model for that. Now you ain't gonna find that in school. Speaker 1: It's true. You have to teach kids to be people that kids have to learn through being creative and learning how to, whether it's make their own Minecraft levels or Roblox or any kind of programming, which every school is trying to get kids through. I don't know if they're doing it entirely successful. Lee is at least a step in the direction of, of, of changing, you know, from the memorization and the [00:02:30] going through the social studies and decade by decade. And it takes me back to the earliest, uh, growing up as a kid in the Bronx, in the, uh, seventies and eighties, where we're all about the same age here, we had a lab of apple, two CS, and you know what? One thing I ever remember from all that is learning how to make my own games in basic. And, and here, here I am, you know, writing about computers, uh, after after many, um, you know, twist and turns along the way, decades and decades later. So that creativity fueling learning. I totally agree with that. Speaker 2: Well, [00:03:00] think about the video games we grew up in the video games that we played as kids perfectly mirrored, the depression model, right? There was only one right way to solve a problem. No matter what it was solve the problem, get bumped up to the next level, then the next and the next then win the game. I mean, wasn't that supposed to be life, right? You get good grades, get bumped up, go to good college, get a good job, win the game of life. Not anymore. When I first saw Minecraft, I was like, oh my God. So here's a problem, [00:03:30] right? In Minecraft, don't starve, but there's a thousand ways not to starve and a thousand ways to do those thousand ways. So it trains your reigned and think, well, how can I as an individual, figure out my own creative solutions to the problem, which is exactly what young people are gonna have to do in the 21st century. Speaker 2: Right? I mean, you've got, I feel, I don't know about you as a gen Xer, but I feel bad for the generation coming up behind it is they were still trained in that model. And they're wandering around the world going, well, [00:04:00] wait a minute. What? But I, I got good grades and I did do SATs. And I got, what, where, where is it where where's my game that I won. So yeah, my, so Minecraft, when I saw that, I said, oh my God, this is it. But obviously I had nothing to do except just played the game. And then later they reached out to me publishing house and we are, we're launching a line of Minecraft, licensed novels, would you be interested? And I was like, are you kidding? [00:04:30] Yes. So that's why I agreed to do this. Speaker 1: I mean, I mean, that's amazing that you were already familiar with the game. You understood how important it was. Um, I have, uh, I, I don't have physical copy with the new one here, but I have of my, my son's dogeared copy of the island right here. And I will tell you, he said to me early on, when this first came out, uh, in favor, I got it for him. He was very concerned that the protagonist, when, when the, when the book started was such a new, that they would not know how to survive and how to build things. And I was like, well, that's the, [00:05:00] that's the hero's journey, man. You gotta kind of, you know, I, I, he, he, he was a little young to understand that kind of, you know, you end up at a different place in the book than where you start, Speaker 2: Which is, which is how I go about all my books. I mean, pretty much every book I ever write, no matter how eclectic they all seem, it's all the same theme. It's all about survival. And it could be a survival of individual. It could be survival of countries, but it's really about, here's how we do things. It's working, it's working, Ooh, here comes change. It. [00:05:30] Ain't working no more. I gotta change too. Speaker 1: Now, Scott, uh, your kids play Speaker 3: Minecraft, you know, not as much now, but it's interesting. They're playing around it. And I think like the idea is when you start talking about what you were imagining with that pressure model of education, you know, I'm thinking about that from two different ways. Now, like one we're we're in virtual schooling and a lot of the system has collapsed and, you know, you're, you're, you're seeing breakages everywhere and not a lot of [00:06:00] creative thought. And also, you know, we've companies where I, I look at a lot of things like VR or other immersive teaching tools, and everyone's heading their heads against the wall of what you do yeah. To try to virtualize. And then at the same time, my kids going and playing Fortnite, creative mode, these going to, and they're doing Roblox and they're doing so they're doing squads and teams and building. And I think that spirit is sort of like that Minecraft spirit where, you know, I'm thinking that they're developing a virtual world. And I was curious [00:06:30] about your thoughts on this, you know, and that seems like what you're talking about, that there's a virtual world being creative, a virtual mindset. And meanwhile, the schools are, are still kind of figuring that out. Oh Speaker 2: No. Yeah. I, I think, I think at this point, the old guard, they're kind of like the old cavalry officers of world war I, who grew up in sort of the Napoleonic or the colonial age. And they went charging with their SAS into Barb wire and machine guts. You know, every now that's, that's a story of history is something disruptive come, uh, a war, a plague, or [00:07:00] just new technology. And the old guard is just like, I, what, yeah. I mean, the reason that schools are struggling now is cuz of our generation, cause we grew up in the eighties when Japan was eating us for breakfast, remember that? And everyone thought, oh well, it's just cause they're working harder. They're, they're not, they're not of playing on the weekends and they're just getting tutors and they're working till they fall asleep and they study and they study well now we know that this generation of Japanese is working harder than they ever have and they're spinning their wheels. They call [00:07:30] 'em Japan's lost generation because they were not taught creativity. They were taught to Outre in the Russians, which they did and now it doesn't work. So I think these kids they're ready, they're hungry. They want to be creative. They also wanna be, uh, cooperative. They wanna build teams and societies and develop new rules. So the soil is there. It's for us old farts, you know, who grew up thinkings that, you know, thinking that when Chung was a real band, we have to adapt [00:08:00] and we need to build a better world for them. Speaker 1: You it's interesting to me how this past year, where especially kids are, are away from so much of what was previously familiar and are rethinking, you know, how to go to school, how to learn, how to interact with their friends. And they're doing a lot of it through technology. Uh, they're already, you know, tech natives by the of time, they're, you know, four or five years old, but this is forcing them into understanding, you know, how to do remote stuff and how to do remote socialization and how to make your own [00:08:30] social circles online and study online and communicate with your teachers. It's, it's terrible in the short run, but maybe it's a, it's, it's a very interesting strong break with the pen, asked in the long run and kids today, whether they're preteens or, or, uh, you know, early teens or 8, 9, 7, they're gonna learn so much from this and end up jumping leapfrogging a generation because of all Speaker 2: This. I hope so. And I, and I think the potential for it is there because it does suck [00:09:00] for these kids now, but a little bit of suckage I think is exactly what every generation needs in order to grow. I think, I think one of the problems is we've been too soft for too long. You know, when, when the cold war ended, we were told, literal said it was the end of history. Remember like there's not gonna be any more wars or challenges. It's star fleet now everything's cool. So therefore you don't need survival skills. You just need to be awesome. And the world will recognize your awesomeness. Well, someone forgot [00:09:30] to tell history. And so I think that the young kids now the ones who have to sit at home and like deal with pandemic and, and with zoom schooling, they're gonna be a lot more resilience. Uh, my son said to me, the other day, he goes, you know what, dad, I don't, and he he's 15. He goes, I don't think there's gonna be any more snow days. And I was like, whoa, oh, you're right. The death of the American snow day. Speaker 1: You know, I, I think we were just talking about that because it's been snowing here in New York and [00:10:00] all the kids are doing remote school. So, so that's it. You, you gotta keep going no matter what. Speaker 2: Oh yeah. I, I think every generation has to have its unique challenges. Hopefully it's not like world war II, but you know, a little bit of having to be in pain struggle and be frustrated. You gotta do that. That's that's survival skills and we all need that. Speaker 1: I mean, you do, you force yourself to survive and find ways to when kids are locked up, not able to hang out and play with other kids. It's just amazing how with games [00:10:30] like Minecraft, but also roadblocks and Fortnite, the three of which go through sort of monthly cycles in my house, at least which was, and which one is suddenly Roblox is lane right now, next month is gonna be the greatest thing ever again. Uh, you know, and now all these, all these, uh, nine year olds know how to use, uh, discord and, and Facebook messenger and iCloud. And they know which platforms their friends are on. And who has parents who let them have their own discord account. It it's this huge, I kids are, I hate to say two growing up fast, but I mean, Scott's got older [00:11:00] kids than me. I'm sure he experiences this twice as much as I do. Speaker 2: Yeah. Speaker 3: I'll start. Go on. No, so yeah. I, I just agree. Yeah. They're, they're coming up with solutions. Well, beyond me, you know, at this point I'm, I'm, I'm just catching up and hearing what they're up to and making sure they don't, uh, get into too much trouble. But yeah, it's basically now they're surprised if I have any idea about the tools they're Speaker 2: Using. I, that was one of the greatest lessons I put in Minecraft, the island where, you know, our character wakes up and the game has changed. The world has changed [00:11:30] and he has to relearn everything. Now that really happened to me cause I was playing Minecraft and I knew what I was doing. And I was sort of, I was grooving. And then one day I sit down with the computer, bam, everything has changed. And initially I was like mother, but then I realized, wait a minute, that's an incredible metaphor for life. You know, one day you wake up and some sort of new technology, new system has taken your skillset and flushed it down the turt. And you have to change when the world changes. You have to change with it. Minecraft [00:12:00] teaches you, which by the way, that happened on the new book, Minecraft, the mountain, I literally was writing it, forget outlining it. Like I was in it. I'm writing the first draft. I'm almost ready to do act three. I sit down on my computer, everything has changed. And I suddenly had to like pull the emergency break, go back and rewrite the entire third act because the world has changed. Speaker 1: Yeah. That's you almost have to patch your books later because of software changes on, on the front [00:12:30] end. Uh, I used to get quizzes all the time, uh, for my son on like, okay, if I wanna make, you know, Baca light, which you don't have the game, but yeah. You know, how many bricks of this do I need? How many of that, uh, and that sort of insider knowledge. And, and if you have old references in your book, when it comes out, I, I can imagine, uh, you know, game fans are, are among the most. I'm not gonna say picky, but they're very, uh, you know, they're very involved. They, they know what they're talking about. Speaker 2: I, and I'm [00:13:00] Orthodox that way. I, I mean, that's my fear. Oh, in every book I write, you know, all these Bigfoot, no matter, I'm always terrified. Somebody's gonna say, listen, I lived what you write about, you know, what you're talking about. So I, I mean, in my last book, devolution, the big football, I actually had to do everything. My characters did. I'm at home trying to make these weapons without any tools to see if they could do it. And please, you, you wanna talk about tech and obsolescence? You know, I got my master's degree in obsolescence. I did now. They didn't call [00:13:30] it that they called it film production. Speaker 1: Oh, I I'm. I'm right there with you. Uh, I, I went to film school and, uh, right. And, and media studies master. Yes, we, yes. Oh, Speaker 2: The, the film, the cutting, the steam. Yes. The lab costs. And by the way, the economics, remember when they said to us, you have to go to films, film, uh, festivals, cause festivals, if you don't go to festivals, nobody people ever see you're movie. Well, basically what I did take all my parents hard earned money and light it on fire [00:14:00] because I got outta film school in like 1997, when everything changed. Oh, look, here's my film studio right here. And here's my film desk. I can put it up on the internet. Obsolescence. I have a masters. Speaker 1: Yep. Why I, when I was, uh, uh, graduating from, from, uh, undergrad, we had just gotten our very first amiga video toaster. And we were so excited that it had, I think, like one and a half gigs of storage of, of internal storage space for your morphing effects. Speaker 3: [00:14:30] Oh my God. I went to theater. I'll put, Speaker 1: Wanted to videotape to edit it. Yeah. Speaker 3: To it theater through the.com bubble. Cause I knew at that point it was already obsolete. I wanted to pick something that was like, I was like, eh, things are all changing, uh, pick an ancient art. Um, yeah. And Speaker 2: It's funny, you said that my wife's a playwright, her last play opened the weekend of the COVID lockdown. And so now she's doing zoom plays. Now it's all about doing the zoom play, but, and, but [00:15:00] you can't just point a camera and say, go, I mean, it's a whole other art form, a whole way of directing. You have to develop a whole new, you know, means of bringing theater, people, Speaker 3: That type of theater production between people who I've been talking to people, working on it in VR and people who are doing zoom and seeing some things at the gin and LA JOA play. And some other places they're doing it is interesting cuz there's like a whole new language that, um, was kind of in the works already. I feel like this was already happening in video games. It was happening in VR. Now [00:15:30] the rest of the feels like it's wrangling with it with zoom where we're, we're all trying to figure out these dynamics and, and even the, even the financial models. Um, yeah, it makes me think about how it's gonna influence, well, not just storytelling, but also particularly video games, things like Minecraft, you know, once they're, you know, that brings my question to also you you're, you're working on these books, um, you know, what, what is the, what is the identity of it? How does it begin to shift now that we've been through the, the [00:16:00] pandemic and, and what, what other levels does it carry? Speaker 2: Oh, well, you know, the, the first book the island is all about this character, learning how to live with himself, you know, what makes me tick know thyself, but the next one, when he re and he leaves the island, you can't grow in a comfort zone. You gotta leave your comfort zone, gets the boat paddles to a whole new frozen continent and meets another cast away and has to learn about, uh, friendship and compromise and communication, give and take, [00:16:30] uh, which I think is going to be in short supply. When all these kids have to go back to school, you know, suddenly they're gonna have to reintegrate. And that's a year is a really long time when you're a kid, remember, that's like, you know, that's like a 10th of your life. Uh, I think those social skills reintegration are, it's gonna to be tough. And so I did not intend the timing of this to be for the second book. It just sort of happened to happen. Speaker 3: [00:17:00] It may help people psychologically relate to it, which I think Speaker 2: I hope so. You know, I, I hope that kids read this and go, oh wow. I'm not the only one struggling with, with face to face friendship. Speaker 1: Yeah. Every kid is like their own island now, uh, you know, it's funny, you, you, you, you mentioned devolution and I really wanna talk about that because it's so fascinating. It's this story, um, about this, it's not a commune, it's a bunch of people in sort of these Seattle to SF sort of tech card or who decide [00:17:30] to basically move out to the, they go glamping in a way, uh, you know, they're getting away from all, but they're bringing it all with them. They have their community, but it's not really self-sustaining. They have owned by drone every week. Then there's a volcano that cuts them off and also big foot. Maybe they prefer to be called big feet, uh, fat squash eye. Uh, but the, the, the, the hubris in a way of saying, because I have some money and can move out to this, uh, you know, [00:18:00] uh, fancy, fancy, outer, outer wilds environment, but still have all the creature comforts and still have wifi and, and have literal really Amazon drone deliveries. Uh, you know, but I think I'm roughing it, uh, is, is, is so, uh, I feel it's so of the moment. Uh, and, and, and I really, and I really enjoy that. And, and I would love to hear, uh, you know, kind of how you approach that, uh, uh, are, are the people over, isn't a story of hubris basically gone wrong and, and, and, and technology, uh, [00:18:30] God, yeah, Speaker 2: He's getting well. The, the, the folks in devolution, they're all based on real people, they live in this sort of high tech, Levi town. It's sort of the, the new, how do you, how do you make the green revolution work? You know, well, the green new deal, well, these people believe they can have it all from technology. And I know these tech people, I've been very lucky through my work, uh, at two think tanks, the modern war Institute at west point and the Atlantic council's Brett scope, cross center for strategy and security, I've been able to be [00:19:00] embedded with the tech crowd and, oh my God, the arrogance, the, the narrow mindedness. Now I get it. Now I get what it must have been like at Los Alamos when they were building the Adam bomb. And to them, it was just a little puzzle. Ooh, can we do this? Speaker 2: Can we do? And then the bomb goes off in the desert and Oppenheimer goes, what have we done? You didn't know that you had, you waited for the bomb to go off, to realize what have we done. I seen, I see this at all these tech conferences that I in [00:19:30] evolution, I, I actually have a story of a guy who shows you how he hacked his hand, put electrodes up there. He didn't know how to play the piano, but he programmed it. So he could, and he said, he said, I can do a cyber suit. Imagine what that would mean. And then somebody raised their hand and goes, yeah, what if your whole cyber suit is hacked? And you pick up your perfectly legal assault rifle and walk down to the local preschool, never crosses mind. That really happened. I was at this tech conference and I was the one who raised my head. Uh, [00:20:00] they never get. And so they never think about what could go wrong. I mean, look, what's happening right now. The new tech crazes, driverless cars forgetting anything network can be hacked. And also the number one tool of international terrorists is not bombs or AK 47 S it's driving cars into GRS. So basically, uh, nobody's thinking about a manual kill switch, right? You just pull the lever, cut the power. We don't do that. [00:20:30] So we're getting ready to put what a million guided missiles on the roads, you know, good luck, farmers markets. Speaker 1: I mean, that's even a step beyond the, the, the AI ethical considerations that people always talk about when it comes to self-driving cars. You know, that how, how does the cars solve the, you know, the trolley problem with the, with the two tracks? Um, that's that, that's a step. Even beyond that, I, I think people aren't even prepared to think about, uh, problem B, they're still struggling with problem Speaker 2: A they are, and they don't [00:21:00] naturally cause these people, as you know, the reason they are successful in their fields is cuz they're hyper positive. You know, they're always feel what can go, right? What can go right? Move fast and break things. It never occurs to if they were the kind of people that thought about what could go wrong, they might not have risen up the top. I mean, you look at Zuckerberg with this sort of deer in the headlights and he's like, um, well, you don't understand. I'm just like, I'm just like a college Ivy league. Douch by who just like had a website to rate women. [00:21:30] And then I was making like gazillions. I didn't realize. And, and quite frankly, I don't care. And none of them do. Yes. Speaker 1: Yeah. Speaker 2: I mean, this is one of the problems we wrestle with, uh, at these think tanks is that American tech companies are global Chinese tech companies, Russian tech companies are Chinese and Russian. So if you're in a tech company in Moscow or Beijing, you're thinking about how does this benefit my country? How does this benefit? My people, my [00:22:00] government, how do I keep them safe? I am Russian. I am Chinese American tech companies are like we're citizens of the world. You know, remember when Tim cook, when the FBI needed to go into that terrorist phone, after he shot that workplace, he's like, Hey, Hey, we put the privacy of our customers first before anything else. He's not an American anymore. He's thinking his customers are global. So this is something that tech companies in this country have to wrestle [00:22:30] with, uh, because there still are countries and different countries have different agendas. And if you want to, if we saw it, we saw how Russia came this close in the last four years to dissembling NATO without firing a shot. Oh yeah, yeah. This is something we need to understand that the end of history has Speaker 1: It's it's the yes. Yes. It's it it's, it's shifted. And the threats are, are harder to, to quantify and, and harder to explain to people, uh, [00:23:00] because they're the things that, I mean, Facebook is both the greatest benefit and BA and greatest threat at the same time. Right. Uh, but it's run completely sort of ethnically ethically. Uh, and, and, and the people in charge are often criticized for simply not, not being concerned with what the, with what the outcomes are, which is the same thing you could say about the people programming self-driving Speaker 2: Cars, right. Well, and their attitude is, you know, well, who are we like? Well, you're the people creating this and they [00:23:30] have no excuse where they say things like I actually was, oh God, I was at an Atlantic council conference once on information warfare. Cause the Russians are 20 years ahead of fus. And we had a guy working for, he had been in the Obama administration. He was transitioning to the tech sector, right? Like those generals who get out of the Pentagon and they go to work for, you know, the military industrial complex, same thing. And this bag said, and I'm not, uh, he literally said like, Hey, Hey, we just make the carton. We're not responsible [00:24:00] for the eggs that go inside. Yes you are. Are yes, you are. When you make a technical, a tech platform and some homegrown terrorist network uses it to coordinate and attack on our capital. right. You're responsible. Speaker 1: That's funny. Yeah. That, that, and that brings me back to devolution where there's a disconnect between what these people think they can achieve out in the woods and what actually happened into what they're responsible for and not responsible for. And sometimes, you know, the [00:24:30] random, the random number generator comes through and your number is up. And sometimes that number is the squash. Speaker 2: Yeah. And, and it doesn't mean you have to be paranoid and hide outta your bed with beans and bullets. You know, it just means you have to build in an insurance policy, which by the way, we used to do that, you know, we, when we were on the up and up, when the reason this country rocketed to world dominance is because we did build in our insurance policy. So when things went wrong, everything didn't crash, right? [00:25:00] You could still move on. I do a lot of work with cybersecurity and the fact that we have the tools to prevent big hacks, we just don't have a doctrine. So we don't have to spend trillions getting cybersecurity in place. All we need to do is get a bunch of international lawyers in a room, lock 'em in and say, you don't get to come out. Nope. You gotta pee in a bucket until you have hammered out a treaty the same way you've hammered out a nuclear treaty. And we could do this. It's like fire codes, right? Every [00:25:30] building has to have a fire code. Well, every company, private sector needs to have a cyber hygiene code, you know, sorry, guys, you need to spend this amount of your budget to ensure that your company is protected. So cyber command doesn't have to jump in every time. It's that simple. Speaker 1: Yeah. But it's cheaper for the company's to simply send out an email letter, say, uh, email later saying, oh, we take your privacy very seriously. And we're very sorry than it is for them to prevent what happened in the first place. Speaker 2: You, you see it now with what, [00:26:00] with what's happening with Texas. This is not new. We have had snow, I think for some time now. And, but the government at that point said, but we don't wanna invest in infrastructure. We don't wanna invest in emergency services. We don't wanna train the people. Uh, you know, actually I was at a conference where we talked about what would happen if terrorists or Russians or whomever hacked the power grid and the CEO of, I think one of the largest power companies in the world said, we have the tech [00:26:30] to do this. We could have people sent out to every power station with a walkie talkie and literally manually working the power grid. The issue is money, cuz you gotta train those people to do that. And that costs a lot of money to come in on weekends and coordinate with each other. So it's not a techno fix. It is a financial and a will fix Speaker 1: The event. You know, companies obviously always want to spend, you know, the least amount possible and, and, and create sort of the [00:27:00] illusion of security. Uh, we've at least trained people to believe in two factor authentication, which is not nearly as effective as you may think it is, but it's a small bit of personal tech hygiene. Uh, but I know that people working remotely, uh, not necessarily at, at the organization Scott, I work at, but I talked to a lot of people working remotely who were just so annoyed at, uh, uh, at, at all these security things they have to do now to log into their work tools or to authenticate or to, you know, just follow some basic rules [00:27:30] cuz we're all using their home machines now. Um, and I think, you know, if you're not as tech literate, as somebody, people who've been involved in this for years, you're gonna find that very aggravating and look for ways to shortcut that. But that's like, you know, not putting on your seatbelt when you get in the Speaker 2: Car. I'm so glad you said that because that's exactly what the solutions, the conclusions we came to in the think tank world is that the big tech companies today are where the auto companies were in the fifties and sixties, same exact excuse, right? The auto companies said, [00:28:00] Hey, listen, we don't, we're not responsible for making safer cars. You're responsible for driving them safely. And if you can't drive them, well, that's not our problem. So the tech company, the auto companies had to be dragged, kicking and screaming to actually put in things like seatbelts, crash, tests, airbags, all these things they have now, uh, cuz they ain't gonna do it voluntarily. And that's the only solution with the tech companies. They're not gonna do this outta the kindness of their hearts. We as voters, we as taxpayers, we [00:28:30] have the power to say, Hey, you're still American companies. And if you wanna do business here, I demand that your product is safe for my children. Speaker 1: And here you thought we were just gonna talk about Minecraft. Speaker 2: I know, I know it's easy. See how deep we get real deep, real fast. Yeah. Speaker 1: That is that, that, that is true. I I'm fed to, to swing it back something a little more, a little lighthearted for a second. Like how besides Minecraft, how deeply involved are you as gen Xers? We, a lot of us are in video games [00:29:00] and what's happening right now because it's been such a big year for that. Speaker 2: Oh my God. Well, you know, for me, I, Minecraft is, is so great. Uh, my problem in the video game world right now and I, and I'm gonna be, I'm gonna be brutally honest ice win. Dale two has yet to come out for the iPad and I'm furious about this. All right. I there's just so many times I can play ice, win Dale one, even with heart of winter, with the add on, come on people, you know, I'm [00:29:30] waiting, I'm waiting for this. Speaker 1: Put bald on there. You could play, uh, Knight in the Oprah public. You, Speaker 2: I mean, I've got, I played Balder's gate 1, 2, 3, you know, I'm there man. I'm waiting ice. Windale two, you know, from your bone here. Speaker 1: I, you know, it's funny cuz it's got this a ton of iPad gaming. I can't do it because I can't see even on an iPad screen, I can't see anything anymore. It's a lot bigger than a switch screen, you know? That's true. But um, yeah, it's Speaker 2: All relative. [00:30:00] You know, I, I have, I have my standard games that I go to, like, you know, the Balders gate ice Springdale also my big favorite from college is Sid Myers SI games. Of course. Oh my God. I, I have encouraged every military strategist to play that because you wanna talk about asymmetric warfare. Wow. Uh, now still once again, iPad, come on, Sid. You know, I love you. We gotta do this. As a matter of fact, you know, I wore gamed out world [00:30:30] war Z in the Civ two editor because the old Civ two game had an amazing sandbox. You could basically build your own games. And so I, I wore game out a zombie play back in like 97, 98 way back in the day and that morphed into world war Z. Speaker 1: Oh wow. That cool. That's amazing because there's, I was just playing around with, um, it's called like something total battle simulator where you can take different forces from different periods of history and you have a certain number of points to spend [00:31:00] on each side, as you do in like a, uh, a war game and you just, but then the AI controls them. Once you set them up, then they know at each other and you could say, oh on my, you know, I'm gonna give my, um, um, this group of Vikings over here, all archers and like two catapults. And over here, I'm gonna have some world war I soldiers and they have the same, you know, but a, a gun cost, 10 points, whereas a bone arrow plus three points and you just let, 'em go and you watch em, zoom the camera around it and see what happens. Speaker 2: Oh, that's awesome. You know, I mean, I've always, [00:31:30] I've always get gotten way too deep into these video games whenever I play them. In fact, the Minecraft books, I hate to say it are not the first video game novel ever wrote. I have an unpublished novel of colonization. Ooh. That I wrote in the nineties where it was the diary. It was like a, it was like a, remember that miniseries Centennial, where they take you through the old west for like 10 generations or like roots. I did that. It was the diary of a family that colonized a [00:32:00] new world and it's like all the sun grants of a great, great, great grandson just down and down and down because I was so enmeshed in colonization at the time. I'm the kid in the early in the eighties that when I played silent service and my sub got hit. Yeah, yeah. I on the shower on hot, you know, so we'd have to water in the steam and I'd have to fix the leak. I oh no. I could go on for hours about how dorky and deep I get in these games. Speaker 1: I, I, I totally played [00:32:30] that. I did. It's funny. Um, when, um, um, if, if you've read ready player one, there's a great reference in there early on to one of the first games I ever played on my old TRS ad color computer Dungeons of DRA, which gets a great shoutout in ready player one. And I was like, wait a minute. Speaker 2: Yeah. What it's they were playing that off Speaker 1: A cassette tape. Speaker 2: And this is, this is why I loved Minecraft because the graphics are not amazing. I don't care about the graphics. I don't really care about. [00:33:00] I've got an imagination for that. What I care about is the freedom and the gameplay and the excitement of that. I don't need it to look slick and sexy. That that's what my brain is for. I can imagine what it was like to live in a Minecraft world. So for me, it's, it's about the gameplay always. Speaker 3: What other, uh, what other dream books would you wanna have, uh, based on video games? Are there any projects that you you'd wanna adapt? Speaker 2: Oh my God. Well, I, I wrote, I wrote a novel in [00:33:30] college, which I never published because it sucked as did almost everything I wrote, uh, where I took all my world war II games. I took silence service and got, I took, uh, great Naval battle Pacific. Uh, I took ACEs 1942 and it was a giant Pacific war, epic, uh, which I, you know, maybe, maybe I'll bring it back, but uh, wouldn't that be? Wouldn't that be fun personally? I think, [00:34:00] I think the Civ, there's a great Civ one. Remember where you're on Mars and it's different, basically we've colonized Mars, but we've just put like different countries have put different toeholds on Mars and suddenly communication with earth just stops and they're cut off. And so these D different sort of pro civilizations have to survive. And I thought now that's a group of novels. Good Lord. Speaker 3: It gives me vibes [00:34:30] of, uh, seven Eves. I feel like that's the first thing that comes to mind that, uh, Neil Stevenson novel 5,000 years from now. Oh my God. Imagining how people communicate. Speaker 2: Yeah. Well the I'm not of those great sci-fi guys I'd like to be in man. I mean, I, I remember as a kid in my twenties reading early Harry, turtledove being like, wow, I'm in long business. Speaker 3: Well, yeah. What, um, actually speaking of which, you know, what were your, you know, influences when you read, you know, Harry turtledove you mentioned like, or, you know, what did you, [00:35:00] what did you grow up thinking? You know, this is, I love is what I'm absorbed in. This is what I'm reading or even what you're reading right now. Yeah. Speaker 2: Clancy Clancy was the big one, uh, because I'm very, very dyslexic. So school was really hard for me. I really struggled, struggled just desperately in school. And so I had to get my education wherever I could find it. And I remember, uh, red October was the first book I ever bought on my own. I didn't, I didn't really read for pleasure until I was about 16. So my own money. And I [00:35:30] went and I bought him through October and I sat down and I felt so much smarter because Clancy took that in Fleming psychosexual, masturbatory, middle aged, white male porn of James Bond. And he flushed it. He said enough, you know, as a nerd, as a wannabe Clancy was like, I wanna know how the real CIA works, how to real submarines work. The real world is interesting enough without the Q gadgets. [00:36:00] And so when I read October, I walked away feeling like I'm educated. Wow. I'm so much smarter than when I open page one. And I realized that's the kind of author I want to be. I wanna infuse everything that I write with real facts, uh, and educate as well as enter entertained. Speaker 3: When I think about you were mentioning film school and you go back to like how every, the rules have been rewritten and everything. Now, you know, the landscape and media has changed a lot, but think about those Minecraft [00:36:30] books. Would you think about adapting them in, into a game format or would you think about something more immersive or interacting ever, would you, or would you just wanna keep them as is, or do you, you know, how do you think of those in terms of like, Speaker 2: Well, I, I think, I think the first, I think the first book clearly lends itself to a game. Obviously you're on the island. You gotta survive. You gotta learn. You gotta be, you know, you gotta be a new, uh, I think actually the second one probably make a great movie [00:37:00] much more than the first one. The first one is sort of him by himself with his animal friends and the conversations he's having are really projecting his own thoughts into the animals, but that's not cinematically as interesting as two human beings interacting. I mean, I, I think the second Minecraft book really could be, its uh, could be a movie on its own. Speaker 3: I feel like we're just getting to that point where, well, I feel like I keep saying this throughout my entire life, when we talk about the video games being adapted into films and we're like, we're there [00:37:30] it's happened, it's happening. It's about to happen. And um, it, it would be interesting to see something, take that leap and be more, you know, emotional be something that's like a, I feel like we're ready for that, but Speaker 1: Do you do it live action or do you do it in, in the game engine as people in the, you know, early to mid two thousands did to create their own, you know, stories? I, I forget what they used to call that, but they had like red versus blue and all these other shows that were done, [00:38:00] you know, in the game engine. Speaker 2: You know, I wonder because you know, I, I have no problem with watching a video game as a movie. I would have no problem with the, I mean, my God, we grew up with Hannah Barbar cartoons. Like the laziest, just my God, the animation was so lame. I remember when I saw my first AE, I was like, oh my gods star blazers. So I, I think that there is a tolerance for this. And I do think unfortunately [00:38:30] now, but the problem with movies, as we know nowadays, there's no more medium sized movies anymore. Movies have sort of split into either like super indie film or like massive tent pole movies. Uh, and we'll be curious to see how the plague has changed that because those big tent pole movies depend on getting lots and lots of people cramed into movie theaters. So I wonder if that's a sustainable model anymore. Are we gonna go back to just shows on Netflix that [00:39:00] you can just binge? We shall see, Speaker 3: I like the Speaker 1: Model of it. The genie's never going back in the bottle on the people gonna the movie theater all the time. Now that every new movie is going straight to HBO, max. Speaker 3: Yeah. I love the model of six episode, uh, high product. And you know, essentially it's a film, you know, like, you know, I guess it changes the structure of what you, how you, um, pace and, and, um, present it. But also if it's all being done in one package and you're watching it in, in sequence, I imagine it's kind of a similar process [00:39:30] if you're going to be doing that. Speaker 2: Yeah. We, we grew up on mini series and they were great. My God, I mean, my son, his to, to this day, his favorite movie or TV show of all times is roots and you watch it all and you go, oh my God, this is great. And we had the blue and the gray, uh, mini series were a great art form. And then they sort of went away. They're coming back. And I think, I think that's great. You know, cuz unfortunately, sometimes you see some TV shows where they've told the story, they want to tell by like the end of season three [00:40:00] and then they're like, but we're still making money. We gotta keep doing it. And then they just drag it out, water it down. But I think a limited series for certain stories, beginning, middle and end, you're done. You're satisfied Speaker 3: V was one of my favorite mini series growing up that made serious mark on me. Speaker 2: Just saw that. Just watched it again because I was watching an old horror film. Oh yeah. Of GRI grizzly. Remember that one where the grizzly. Oh, with the bear, the bear. Oh and the [00:40:30] helicopter pilot. I realized that Steven from V oh and incidentally really Easter in Minecraft, the island, Minecraft, the island, when he's going to war inside the mine shaft and he pours the lava on the spider spawner, he says Sega night, hot shot directly taken from when ham Tyler takes a whole packet of red dust and dumps it on Steven's face. Speaker 3: Oh my God. Speaker 1: [00:41:00] Next week on our back memories appreciation podcast, we'll be there. Speaker 3: Yeah. V is great. V is still great. It's got cheesy moments, but I have the DVDs and like the production Speaker 1: Value isn't that they went to some far and they took it to a series after the first two mini series, they did a regular series and then it just out immediately the series wasn't there have the limited thing. That's what I think Disney plus is doing well with Mandalorian and wa division you'd know it's only like eight episodes and like that's it Speaker 2: Just say it. Yeah, because if you draw it out, [00:41:30] I think V and Vita final battle was actually a very profound story about what it means to have soft occupation, because that's what the Chinese, by the way are doing around the world right now, they're doing it in Africa and Latin America. Uh, they are, they are using soft power to occupy these countries, you know, friendly and nice. Supposedly like we're giving this to a, our African brothers, but they're just raping the resources of the third world in a way that like the Europeans in the 19th century could have never [00:42:00] dreamed, well, we see the model for that in V. Remember it's when John comes down initially and he's like, I will give you cure to all known forms of cancer. And then before you know, it it's like, oh, they're taking our neighbors in the middle of the night. Speaker 1: Yep. And sucking up the Speaker 2: Oceans. Yeah. Oh, what a, I'm gonna put it. We talk about Speaker 1: The, all right. We gotta go find, we gotta find with that. Speaker 3: Seriously. I'm glad I have the DVDs up there. We're gonna watch 'em again later. Speaker 1: All right. I, I think, I think we are, we are, we are running short on the clock here, [00:42:30] but wow. What a, what an amazing, uh, convers this has been, we we've gone all over the place, uh, which frankly is, as Scott will tell you what usually happens with these, uh, we, we just have so much fun talking about, you know, anything that, that comes to mind and, and writing about, you know, technology. Yeah, go ahead. Can Speaker 3: I make a request? I'm gonna, I'm gonna say this would be a fascinating match. W would you write an animal crossing novel? I wanna see your mind in animal crossing. You mean like farm? No. The, uh, the, the Nintendo game, like [00:43:00] the Nintendo online, your, your, your outlook matched with animal crossing would be Speaker 2: Fascinating. I'm not an expert in, in animal crossing, but I will tell you this ahead, when I go deep into a video game, I mean, I could, I can live there. You know, I can imagine everything. And now I've got the greatest asset ever. I've got a great editor from the Minecraft books and she's, she's such a nerd. We we've geeked out over the John carpenter's movie. [00:43:30] The thing of course. Yeah. So she, I knew right away, like, you know, Kirk, the spot to my Kirk. And she was like, when you're in the MicroCraft, well, what does it smell? Like, what does it feel like? What does the food taste like? And I'm like, okay, okay. We can, we can keep living there. Cause that's where my brain works. I'll I'll go there. Shoot. I would go into Palm and I can envision a movie of, you know, will Ferrell, you know, versus versus Josh Brolin in P Speaker 1: [00:44:00] It's basically updated roller ball. Speaker 3: That's what I was thinking. It's the return of that. Yeah. It's I I'm getting that in my mind with Brolin, Speaker 1: I think. Okay. That's it? That, that's our big project pong, the movie, uh, 20, 24. When we finally get back to the movie theaters, Speaker 2: I'm there. Speaker 1: All right. Thank you. Thank you, max Brooks. Thank you, Scott. This has been just a fascinating conversation and I love that we're able to do this, even though we're all sort of semi locked up. And, uh, Scott and I live vicariously through our giant bookshelves. Speaker 2: Oh, please look at [00:44:30] me. I, I am working in a six by eight room, you know, with whiteboard. So I gotta have a whiteboard pinch. If you work hard, one day you two can have a six by eight room with fluorescent light with your own whiteboard, your, my own whiteboard. And I can write on an erase. Yes, I've made it.
The future of AI is weird, broken and sometimes full of wonder
The future of AI is weird, broken and sometimes full of wonder
CNET Book Club: Jeff VanderMeer on his new novel Dead Astronauts
CNET Book Club: Jeff VanderMeer on his new novel Dead Astronauts
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