Tuesday, 22 June 2010

The Most Important Question in Geekdom :o

Today I must ask you the most important question in geekdom. Are you ready? Okay. Brace yourself.

Place the following science-fiction franchises in order of greatness:

Star Trek

Star Wars

Doctor Who

You might be able to guess my own preferences by the order in which I have already placed them, but here are some points to consider.

All three have been hugely influential to the field. All three have die-hard fans who are able to quote reams of dialogue, episode names, and inside leg measurements of lead actors. All three are pretty bloody brilliant, in my opinion.

All three have also had their dodgy moments. I grew up with the TNG crew and learnt to love the Original series of Star Trek, but gawd help me I am still to this day violently bored within minutes of most DS9 episodes, and I never felt like Enterprise was really Star Trek (Voyager is a sort of guilty pleasure; yes there was a lot of dreck but when it’s on I find myself strangely drawn to it…).

Star Wars- well, do I need to tell you where the crap set in? Jar Jar Binks and midichlorians and jedi moppets. The original trilogy gave us three of the best films ever made, and had an immeasurable impact on cinema and science-fiction in general. The prequels gave us boredom, disappointment and enough cringing to cause cramp.

As someone quite wise and possibly drunk pointed out to me a while ago, at its worst Doctor Who is a “bit silly”. At its best, it is some of the most thought provoking science-fiction we have on our telly. I don’t have the connection to Who that most fans will have, since I only saw two episodes of the McCoy Doctor growing up, and they scared the wotsits out of me, but I am a fan of the newer incarnations, which have done a fantastic job of creating future geeks in the children brave enough to watch it. Who has been going for so long that of course it has it’s weak moments, that for my mind largely involve female companions in questionable clothes running along bumpy quarries, and having witnessed the episode that is Delta and the Bannermen, I’m amazed anyone ever watched it again.

But yes. Three of the greats- I ask you, which is the greatest?

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Alt Fiction 2010

So this weekend gone was Alt Fiction weekend, and a marvellous time was had by all.

I won’t say too much about it, because I suspect it has already been blogged to infinity and back by better bloggers than I, but I will just run down a few personal highlights.

This was the first “big” convention I’d been to, and I don’t think I could have chosen a better one to start with- it was well organised, with no huge geek pile-ups, and plenty of room for people to sit comfortably in all the talks, and there was a general relaxed atmosphere that added to the friendliness of the event. There was a cafe/bar on the ground floor that served as a great “Let’s have a bit of a rest here and oh, go and talk to so and so…” area, and we ended up spending a remarkably long day having quite a jolly old time.

Things I particularly enjoyed:

Pete Crowther (publisher and writer and apparently very lovely chap) introduced the con, and then appeared on many panels, and was immediately tremendously friendly and enthusiastic. I think I could have happily followed him from panel to panel all day and had a most informative and enjoyable time.

The Hack and Slash vs Sparkly Vampires panel, where Kari Spelling (fantasy author and fan of duels) described the Angry Boner Man character apparently very popular in Paranormal Romance. I had no idea about Angry Boner Man, but described in that way I suddenly am able to spot Angry Boner Man cropping up everywhere. So to speak.

The How to Get Published Panel, which featured lots of great advice from John Jarrold and Stephen Jones and others. It was both inspiring and vaguely terrifying, realising not just how much work was involved, but also how much luck is needed to get anywhere. I’m not sure if I was exhilarated or depressed coming out of that discussion, but I did feel like I had more of an idea of how the whole thing works. (Jon Weir was on the panel too, that nice young man from Gollancz, and I had that creeping feeling of “Oh no, I’m fairly sure I spoke to you before when I was quite drunk….”)

And then there was the general chatting and meeting of people that forms so much of these things, all of which was a delight. I was tremendously impressed by the lovely hair of Mark Charon Newton (the charming author of Nights of Villjamur) , and amazed that Simon Guerrier (writes lots of things, but most excitingly for me, Being Human books) remembered talking to me at a previous thingy (again, I was quite drunk). I met the lovely Alasdair Stuart (The Hub and Angry Robot Books) while I was rather over excitedly buying a copy of Black Static and had a groovy chat about short story writing. And I am pleased to tell you that Paul Cornell (Doctor Who, comics, Pulse… many many things) likes the name of this blog. So there you go.

A great weekend, and in truth, there were too many lovely moments to list them all here. But a big thank you to everyone who took the time to have a chat with me, and I hope to not be quite so painfully shy at the next one.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

7am is early for me, okay?

Some things I am excited about this week:

At this very moment, the next issue of Black Static is winging its merry way towards me, bringing with it all the Campaign for Real Fear stories- including mine. I am very much looking forward to seeing it in print, of course, but I’m also excited to read the other stories and see what statistics were thrown up by the entries. You can find out about the Campaign here, if you’re not familiar with it: http://campaignforrealfear.wordpress.com/

I’ve started a new writing schedule, which involves me getting up brain meltingly early (well, 7am) and carting myself and my notebook off to a local Library, where I take up part of their Quiet Study area working on The Steel Walk (I’d feel slightly bad about this if it weren’t for the fact that everyone else appears to be there to read the newspapers). I’m hoping to do this as often as possible, because against all reasonable sense, I seem to produce some vaguely decent writing at that time of the day. Perhaps it’s the lack of distractions, or perhaps I’m in so much shock at being up early I forget to be tired; either way, The Steel Walk is chuntering on again, thankfully.

And on Saturday I’m going to Alt Fiction! Where I will get to mingle about with other writerly types, and many, many twitter peeps, and hopefully hear lots of interesting talks about genre writing. I will learn things! I will meet people! I will (quite possibly) get drunk! I haven’t been to many conventions, and this one looks like it will be both hectic and brilliant fun. Now, if I can only decide which of the talks to go to…

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Fevre Dreams

I recently finished reading Fevre Dream by George R.R Martin, and I thought I’d spend a little time on here recommending it as highly as possible to all of you. Yes indeed.

I don’t often do book reviews on my blog, partly because as an amateur writer myself I find it a bit rude to criticise the work of other writers (I know that might be a little silly) and partly because I tend to be reading back and forth through backlists- does anyone care, at this point, what I thought of The Stars My Destination? It came out quite a while ago, after all.

(This is especially daft because I love reading book blogs, no matter if they’re reviewing new or old stuff. Perhaps truthfully it is because I don’t think I’m very good at it)

And besides, I can’t say all that much about Fevre Dream without giving away all the juicy bits to people who have yet to read it. I think I’m safe in saying that it is about vampires, and it is set in the latter half of the nineteenth century, along the Mississippi river. If that feels a bit Interview with the Vampire-ish, then I suppose it is a little, but that’s really where the similarities end.

I wanted to say a couple of things about this book. Mainly, that I love the main character, Abner Marsh. A larger than life steamboat captain with a bristling black beard, warts, and a tendency to shout at people and poke them with his hickory stick, Abner is the sort of character that you might expect in a supporting role. When he turned up in the first chapter, I admit I thought, “Well okay, I suppose the dashingly handsome hero will turn up in the next scene”, but Abner is about as heroic a character as you can get, warts and all.

He reminds me of Martin’s other great hero-in-disguise, Tyrion Lannister from the Song of Ice and Fire books. Technically Tyrion is a dastardly Lannister, and you spend much of A Game of Thrones thinking you really ought to hate him along with Cersei and Jamie… but if you’re me, by the end of book two, he was fighting out the top spot for favourite character along with Jon Snow and Arya Stark.

Martin excels at the flawed, human characters, the ones who make mistakes and do bad things but then make it up in brave, human ways. They are the ones you root for in the end, and the ones that stay with you once you’ve finished the book, as Abner and his hickory stick will.