Game Write is a recurring series dedicated to the fiction of game industry veterans. From the best-selling titles of Drew Karpyshyn and Austin Grossman, to the obscure classics of Jane Jensen and Sheldon Pacotti, this series hopes to unearth both the gems and the trash we tend to leave buried in the credits. In this entry, we look at Sheldon Pacotti’s short story collection, Experiments in Belief — featuring a variety of science fiction stories written throughout the ’90s on the complex interplay of science, ethics, religion, and politics.
It’s easy to see the quality horror fans attribute to Barker’s early work. He’s an excellent writer, and his ideas are jaw-droppingly creative and original, at times.
Personally, however, I don’t connect much with it. After a couple of his books, it’s hard to put my finger on why. Part of it, I think, is I find his prose too clinical and passive, his use of uncommon words and phrases too hand-me-that-Thesaurus. Some of his stories are affected by personal pathos, too. There’re no interesting or realistic female characters in any of his early stories that I’ve read, for example: They all amount to being described as worthless whores not just by characters, but by the omniscient narration itself. Their only personality traits are being dumb and craving sex with everything. (Granted, in a lot of Barker stories, you’ll find all anyone craves is sexual depravity, but at least one gender is granted a will.)