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Long read: The beauty and drama of video games and their clouds

"It's a little bit hard to work out without knowing the altitude of that dragon..."

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Off-Topic: Weird futures in Vermilion Sands

Palm Springs eternal.

In the morning, his lawn is covered with poems, which take the form of ribbon and coloured streamers. His neighbor is a poet, so that narrows things down a bit. Inevitably, he goes to complain.

I've been reading Vermilion Sands this past week, a collection of short stories by JG Ballard that are all based in a fictitious desert holiday community - Palm Springs or the scorched armpits of Arizona - at some point in the nebulous future. It's a short book but I'm eking it out. I don't want it to end. I knew I was going to love it - there's Ballard, of course, but it's also hard not feel something for a paperback that comes with its own 3D glasses for viewing the fractal depths of the cover art.

Vermilion Sands is an unusual place, shot through with Ballard's arty menace. In the first story a trio of friends make fun for themselves by sculpting portraits out of the "tissue" of the clouds. In another, a beautiful character with insects for eyes takes a liking to a dangerous plant. Themes emerge - this is an artist's colony, so there's lots of stuff about what we'll do for culture in the years ahead, and there's also a steady focus on a classic Ballard riff, fraught, distanced encounters between foolish men and terrifying women.

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