NineWorlds 2014

September 11, 2014 Leave a comment

I’ve already written a report on NineWorlds GeekFest for my wise masters at the venerable and ancient Starburst Magazine but of course a formal report for the press is a different sort of beast to a blog post.

This is the bimbling, slightly personal account of events that no one asked for, but I’m going to give you anyway.

Nine Worlds is an event that Anne (my lovely wife) and I had planned to go last year. It was actually going to be our mini-honeymoon of sorts. Sadly it was on the weekend directly after the wedding and it become pretty obvious after that special occasion that we weren’t going to make it, simply due to exhaustion and excitement.

So it was with some anticipation and keen that we planned to do NineWorlds this year. The plan was pretty simple; I’d turn up with my various recording devices and shorthand notepad to do the words and interviews, and Anne would take photos. 1

We arrived late Thursday at the hotel just up the road from the venue. The Radisson doesn’t have a pool but our hotel did and we took full advantage. This mean we missed registration, which was a little bit annoying; we expected it to be running till quite late, surmising that people from across the country probably planned to come in after work. This meant we spent the Thursday evening without our event badges, which felt oddly distancing. We caught up with a handful of friends and had a nose round the venue itself.

We weren’t the only ones to do so and interrupted a rather drunken couple who we’re pretty sure weren’t event attendees themselves.2 We humoured the idiots until they went away, let an organiser know and then continued to explore.

At conventions, we both make a point of trying to stand apart from the crowd in terms of dress. Anne was in a natty waistcoat and I myself in business casual. I like dressing that way because in theory, I am at work and a shirt and tie are my work clothes.3 Sadly, without a convention badge we really do just look like everyone else; which meant we did keep getting challenged by other attendees. Luckily, friendliness and mutual geekiness is worth much more than any badge, and we were able to work out where we needed to be for the various panels we’d been invited too and the other events we want to be at.

On the Friday, things went very smoothly indeed. Registration was quite quick and I got a very nice goodie bag with the usual sort of tat including a programmed and some free books4.

The Cosplay was great.

The Cosplay was great.

Highlights for me included:

– The BookWorm Podcast. We did a live show at the event. We had a nerve wracking moment in which we thought no one was going to turn up and thankfully, fellow podcasters arrived to provide some moral support. Lots of thanks to James Simms, Marguerite Kenner and Alasdair Stuart; they rocked and indeed, continue to rock. You can hear it online via iTunes or direct download here.

– The Podcasting Track in general was deeply awesome. We learned a lot and met some thoroughly lovely people. Hugo nominated podcaster Emma Newman was especially kind and very informative, but the entire experience was great and we met some brilliant people.

– Moderating a panel for All The Books. I think I did a good job; certainly very few people left5, everyone had questions and the panellists had fun. The subject was likeable villains, and there was someone dressed as Deadpool in the front row. I think that says it all.

– Meeting people. Writing and reporting is a distancing exercise and it was very, very pleasant to actually put names to faces. Far too many people to name check without missing someone, but it was bloody lovely.

– Call Of Cthullhu as a spectator game. A very good team, and Scott Lynch was particularly entertaining.

– The Small Gods and Theology talk. Only at Nine Worlds. Very well done.

– At a cutting edge tech lecture, suddenly unveiling (to a crowd of people) my super villain style thinking, and being appropiately applauded for a very carefully phrased question.

– Si Spurrier and Kieron Gillen’s talk. Si’s lectures are always entertaining and I have always come away having learned something, or at least with substantial food for thought. Kieron’s talk on The Watchmen was hastily arranged and inspirational; more akin to a good solid pub rant than anything else. I’m afraid I caught up with Kieron later and talked some guff at him and B-Theory and Eternalism. Sorry about that.

I do have some niggles. The entire event does feel as if they’ve drawn a lot of their guests from London only, leading to what felt like some small cliques. As the event gains a reputation I’m sure this will change and it didn’t effect most of the panels. It did damage a couple of the streams a bit though; everyone seemed to know each other and everyone also appeared to be roughly of the same age and mindset. Though that makes for a cracking coffee morning, it makes for dull panels and I was itching for some truly diverse and different perspectives, especially the ones that crossed over into comics.

I am so going again next year, in fact I’m already booked.


1: I gather we achieved those things quite well, which is nice.
2: Seriously; not only did they both had the facial expressions of naughty school children but they talked utter cobblers about why they were there. Also no convention badges, but we didn’t have any either. We didn’t say anything, they just talked at us and left. It was funny in a slightly alarming way and I feel a little guilty that we probably interrupted some planned drunken snogging, but that’s what hotel rooms are for.
3: Of course, a black jacket, white shirt and red tie are right out; that would be cosplay.
4: Yay! Books!
5: People come in and out of talks at these things all the time. It’s how they’re meant to work.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Guardians of The Galaxy – The Movie

August 5, 2014 1 comment

When the Guardians of The Galaxy movie was announced, I was quite hesistant; as I’ve said before I’m a fan1 of both the old school and re-imagined comics. My mantra for the new movie can be best summarised as “Please, please don’t be rubbish”.

Went to see the huge summer block-buster as part of the treats myself and my lovely other half gave ourselves for our paper wedding anniversary. Because ‘cinema tickets’ totally counts as paper.

It is a very good movie. The right mix of action, humour, cool looking aliens and cheese. I adore space opera and I was in a very happy place. I suspect everyone will rave about Rocket and Groot (as well they should) but I really want to see Drax get his own movie3.

I must admit I made a little happy sound when they got to certain key intergalactic locations, both for the pun and because one particular hive of scum and villainy is really cool. I do hope we see more of it (and it’s traditional caretaker) in more movies.

Slightly disappointed that the cameo at the end didn’t hint at any greater arc plot (at least I hope it doesn’t), but apart from that, I am a very, very happy geek.


1: As a kid, comic books came in bundles. You could get a big pile of them for pocket money from a shop near the docks. Rom The Spaceknight, Guardians of The Galaxy and Doctor Strange were all mis-matched treasures in the that bundle.

2: That mantra will start again in the run-up to the Doctor Strange movie, if it ever happens.

3: Namely one based on his own mini-series. He picks up a plucky kid called Cammi along the way and it works on the page. As a friend pointed out, a “Hound & Arya” style movie with Drax and Cammi sounds like fun.

Categories: Movies

Starburst 400

May 7, 2014 1 comment

So, Starburst Magazine has made it to issue 400. That’s a grand old age for a monthly magazine, especially one filled with sci-fi, fantasy and horror content. It’s a bit of honour to be involved and it’s still a thrill to walk into the offices of Starburst Towers, which is a bizarre and wonderful haven of all things geek. (One of these days I’ll get someone to draw up a proper schematic of the building to give you an idea of what the place looks like. Might need a fold out bit to accommodate all the rocket planes and quantum flange generators though.1)

This issue is filled with the usual goodies (including a column from myself), and some background and history on the magazine itself, as well as a spot of Star Wars news (just like the first ever issue). It also has a bit of my short fiction, which I’m absurdly proud of. I’ve had short fiction published before of course, but it feels a bit liked I’ve joined some sort of club with this one.

Starburst Issue 400

The cover is a shout out to the first ever issue of the magazine

This post is a little late in coming, so issue 401 will be out very soon as well. You may want to hurry to your local newsagents.


1: What ever happened to Tharg’s spaceship after 2000AD moved out of King’s Reach Tower?

Categories: Comic Books

The Lime In the Coconut

March 11, 2014 Leave a comment

I was listening to the Reservoir Dogs Soundtrack recently, a collection of music that many people who happened to be teenagers in the 90’s happen to own, partially because Reservoir Dogs was the coolest movie ever back in the 90’s and mostly because it’s a really good collection of songs. Anyway, after I’d finished my dive into nostalgia by jumping up and down around the room to Blue Swede’s Hooked On A Feeling, I started to ponder the question of my generation.

What the hell is Harry Nilsson’s song Coconut all about?

It doesn’t mean anything1. There’s no subtle message to the song, no hidden meaning. The simple truth is that both coconuts and limes are things that people eat when they’re feeling a little bit ill. Both bits of food are packed full of stuff that’s good for you (apparently) and the words have nice feel to them. The lyrics are sung in a very specific way and it’s fun to wrap your laughing gear round co-co-nut, preferably whilst shaking your bum and having fun.

"I love humans. Always seeing patterns in things that aren't there"

“I love humans. Always seeing patterns in things that aren’t there”

That hasn’t stopped people from endlessly deciding that it must mean something. There’s something about humanity’s ability to take a simple song about nothing of real consequence and decide that it must contain the wisdom of the ages. For some of us it’s not enough to simply wiggle our bodies about and have a giggle, everything has to mean something. This makes everything terribly serious, even having fun becomes an academic endeavour.

“It means nothing” is as a valid and important meaning as any other.2 Sometimes simple is good. The world is filled with meaning and context after all, not everything needs layers. If you really need a meaning, try this one on for size; Coconut is a request to shut up and dance. Stop your jaw from flapping and your chin from pondering and have a little jiggle.


1: Okay, we could make a serious argument between Authorial Intent and Critical Response, but honestly if you’re critical response to a silly song about fruit is to turn it into something dark and mysterious then you’ve pretty much left the realms of valid criticism and moved into the mystical land of pulling stuff out of your arse.

2: As a response, it’s almost as important as that great and powerful answer “No one knows”, though the response to that should always be “well let’s find out”, even if the answer turns out to be a cosmic shrug of the shoulders.

Categories: Rants

A Game of Clones

February 27, 2014 Leave a comment

They are currently about a dozen novels sitting on my ‘To Be Read’ shelf at the moment. 1. Given that fantasy is ‘in’, roughly two-thirds of those are fantasy novels. Can you guess what it says on the back of all but one of those books?

They all claim that if you like A Game of Thrones or George RR Martin then I’ll love this book. Not only is this boring, it’s also utterly useless as a piece of promotional material. I don’t believe a word of it, think “ho hum” and skip past the blurb. An opportunity wasted all due to a lack of originality. Then I get snarky.

For a start, in what way like A Game of Thrones is it? Does it feature a vast and complex fantasy world with warring family factions? Incestuous characters? Extremely awkward sex scenes? Or am I to assume that the novel series is going to take a long time to get to a conclusion? Also, how like George RR Martin. His body of work is pretty broad – I assume they mean his popular fantasy series but they may be implying it’s a clever anthology series or proto-urban fantasy. His style has evolved over the years, which George RR Martin do they mean?

I wonder how many stud animals are called Winter?

I wonder how many stud animals are called Winter?

I get why blurbs are written this way. A Game of Thrones is very popular right now and marketing types want to grab a little bit of that success in order to shift units. The problem is that over using a limited number of names makes a nonsense of the process. They can’t all be identical and I am hoping they aren’t. It also diminishes us all. It insults the famous author by implying that their unique and popular voice is easily mimicked. It insults the creator of the novel by implying that the book is derivative and most of all it insults the reader by assuming that we will only recognise a limited number of names.

Comparing things to other things is a valid way of describing anything, but you have to assume a broad palette. Good blurbs that name check other writers use lots of different names. If a book claims to be reminiscent of four or five different people, I have a better chance of recognising who some of them are, and get a better feel for what the work is like. Using less well known authors also celebrates and promotes the diversity of writing styles out there, and surely getting the word out there is the aim of game?


1: I say shelf, it’s a stack. I tend to keep all the board-games, DVDs, books and other physical objects awaiting critical evaluation in one place in order to keep a track of what’s going on. E-books and the like means that I can’t really tell at a glance how much work I’ve got to do, but it’s a handy rule of thumb. A dozen is a good number, busy without being too busy.

Categories: Books

Life Sized Imperial Knight Titan, anyone?

February 24, 2014 Leave a comment

So if you’re a massive Warhammer 40,000 nerd (which you may have noticed that I am) then you won’t have missed the fact that they’ve recently launched models of the Knight Titans. These are meant to nine-metre tall walking robots that do the scouting and skirmish work for much larger giant robotic killing machines.

I am a big fan of this idea, and it got me thinking about Zoids, those robotic skirmishing toys from the 80’s which happened to also have a great comic strip written by none other than Grant Morrison. They too were meant to be dinosaur sized, the smaller ones clearing the way for the bigger ones.

Someone even made a huge model of the big daddy of all Zoids, Zoidzilla. It was on Blue Peter and did the rounds at various fayres and festivals of the time. It roared and looked cool.

This is the only picture I could find of it. A family snap of chap called Alex Light. He doesn't look like that anymore :)

This is the only picture I could find of it , a family snap of chap called Alex Light. He doesn’t look like that any more 🙂

So this got me to thinking; maybe someone will make life-sized Imperial Knight? They’ve done Drop-Pods and tanks in the post, how difficult would it be to make a giant killy robot statue? (Probably very, but still).

Wouldn't fit in the back garden, sadly.

Wouldn’t fit in the back garden, sadly.

Categories: Geek

True Believers

February 23, 2014 Leave a comment

On today’s show we talked to Stuart Mulrain, who is organising The True Believers Convention.

The plan is to create a regular UK based Comic Convention at the famous Cheltenham Racecourse in early February. If they pull it off, this will make a rather splendid start to the convention season. This will also nicely book-end the Leed’s based Thought Bubble, which happens in November, which feels like way too long to wait.

Looks super, thanks for asking.

Looks super, thanks for asking.

You can find out more on oktruebelievers.com and they’re currently running a Kickstarter with some interesting rewards.

Categories: Comic Books