Monday, 29 August 2016

A Day at ShemFest.

First off I must apologize as this post is a day late because even though I am almost in my forties, I cannot handle hangovers very well and spent most of yesterday dealing with it. Don't get me wrong, I had a great time at the event but my god did I pay for it. As for the event itself? Me and those of us who attended had an excellent time and I must congratulate Shemmie and Mike for what was a well organized and fun occasion, aside from some technical hiccups with the live streams that were hosted at the end (but I believe that was down to the venue) the atmosphere was that of fun.

I met up with a couple of other attendees in Birmingham train station and we made our way down to the venue, the street that led to it literally looked like a set from the Walking Dead series and was hauntingly empty, I did wonder at one point if we were going to get jumped as we progressed down it. We reached the venue and met many familiar faces and sure enough, the conversations and drinks were flowing as well as the retro gaming was well underway. This was where I was caught by surprise because I was expecting to see a bunch of retro consoles with the monitors but instead, we had a bunch of Rasberry Pi computers filled with emulators of these wonderful games many of us had grown up with along with some SNES style controllers, small PC monitors, and a small speaker for each. It was an awesome setup and I promised myself I would have to get one and ram it full of games, it will save me a shit ton of money compared to buying the old consoles themselves and hunting down the games.
One of the best parts for me was meeting Kate Russell.
Miss Russell is a tech journalist and works for the BBC, appearing on the tech program Click and on the ITV program Daybreak. She has written the book Working the Cloud, another book, Elite Dangerous: Mostly Harmless and has had columns published in National Geographic Traveller. I was expecting her to show up part way through the event and give her talk but as I was playing a game of Cards against Humanity (which Shemmie won) I realized she was sitting opposite me. She was wearing a denim skirt and a very cool comic book style T-shirt and I shook hands with her and was quite surprised and delighted when I realized that it was her. To say she was a lovely and pleasant person is putting it mildly and talking with her was not only lovely but also quite enlightening as she told me about being at E3 and playing builds of approaching games like Sea of Thieves. I only mention what she was wearing because I was stupidly expecting her to show up in a suit or something like that to give her talk due to where she worked but that brought me to a wonderful realization:
She was one of us gamers.

That photo was taken after her talk which was a joy to listen to as she happily spoke about her career and took questions from the crowd, finishing off with how being at the event was her idea of fun. It was also taken after the gaming tournament which took place where we all played Sensible World of Soccer. I can't speak for the other players but I hadn't played the game for about twenty years and I couldn't shoot for shit, my first game I won 1-0, somehow, and came back to play against a really cool dude who gave me a run for my money. We played three games and drew each one, drawing 0-0, 1-1 and 0-0 again and as a result, we had to change the game to Mortal Kombat 2 so there could be no chance of a draw. I won that and the following game and was crowned Shemworld 2016 Champion, but I had to be honest that it was won with luck on my side some of the time. When I showed it to my kids the next day, they thought I was a gaming legend and as much as I tried to tell them that I got lucky in places, they didn't listen. I took pleasure from it though I must admit, any father out there who reads this probably knows what I'm talking about as it's nice to thought of as a hero by your children.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Allum Bokhari, known to many of us as a writer and co-editor for Breitbart Tech. I was a fan of his writing and introduced myself to him and found him to be a warm gentleman and someone who was quite happy to have a conversation with a stranger like myself. Much later on when we were all out drinking he even brought me my first drink (he got it as part of an offer but hey) and we all hung out and talked part of the night away before I checked myself out due to slight drunkenness and tiredness setting in. As I wrote earlier I am almost 40 and evidently I cannot handle my drink like I used to and the hangover was horrible the next day, when I told a friend what I had in particular what I had been drinking, like Desperados, he cringed and said "WHY would you be drinking that stuff?" Good question.

All in all, I had a great time. It is always fun to meet up with people year after year, celebrate this thing we all took part in together and continue to maintain our own community and network, I personally have formed many friendships with people over these last two years and long may it continue. I have drifted away from games and as I have written before, I speak up on the situation in comics and at the event, there were people there, like the wonderful Doc and Homebuck, who agreed with me on the whole thing. This will be an ongoing battle for many of us, we will always be there to speak up against this crap where ever it may surface, be it in comics, games or in movies and my involvement in this had been such a pleasure due to the people I have met at events like this.
Job well done, Shemmie and Mike, job well done.

I can only wonder what Five Guys must think of all this, I'm sure they must have made a fortune over the last couple of years.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Mary Jane, Dan Slott and Double Standards.

Recently it was announced that in the new Spiderman film the new version of Mary Jane is to be played by Zendaya, a black actress. Some fans have voiced criticism and it is understandable as it is yet another instance of where a gender or skin colour of a character has been changed for a film or comic and people have been told by the press that it is a good thing. Anyone who doesn't like it could and have been in the past labelled as either sexists or racists as a way of shutting the conversation down. Someone one on my Twitter feed pointed out that he had not seen much mentions of it and wondered why; this led me to think about this myself and after I had dwelled on it for a while I came to a rather simple conclusion.

I really didn't care.

When it comes to comic book films, I have only seen two at the cinema this year: Deadpool and The Killing Joke, add to that that I have only been to the cinema two times this year in total because frankly there has been nothing worth seeing. I want to see Suicide Squad but life has not allowed me the time which I suppose is part of being a parent, at least they put some effort into the trailers, unlike another certain film that came out this year. When it comes to Marvel and DC films, particularly Marvel ones, is that you can be certain of some big fight scenes, an acceptable but predictable story which works out well in the end and maybe some good acting, but that's it.

All style, very little substance.

I realised that I had lost interest in the Marvel universe almost completely, the only things I take interest in now are the Netflix series of Dare Devil and the approaching Punisher series because the right people are involved and they certainly appear to respect the source material, especially Jon Bernthal who was a brilliant Punisher and clearly researched the part as he discussed in an interview with Conan O'Brien. When someone with Bernthal's commitment is cast in a role it can almost be assured that we the viewer are in for a treat. But are we the fans sexist or racist for being critical of such castings that go against the source material? No, most of us grew up with Marvel comics and when you do grow up with something as such a fondness is developed for it and you don't like seeing it messed with and we have a right to criticise it.

That being said, being blatantly racist, sexist about it or even going as far and as stupid to send death threats is quite frankly as such, so please don't do any of those. Even if one idiot does any one or all of those things it can be guaranteed that the media will use it as a stick to bash everyone with so just don't give them the ammunition for it.

Marvel's comic sales have dropped massively, especially with the titles where title character has been changed for progressive reasons etc and in fact, only two of their titles have sold over 100,000 units last month, both Civil War 2 titles. It is not something I take pleasure in seeing but with some of the people working there now I do take a little satisfaction in it, especially the way some of them behave on social media. Marguerite Bennett's writing on Angela Queen of Hel was quite frankly a joke and that series wasn't so much as cancelled but really put out of its misery, fans of the original Angela that I have spoken to have told of their disgust at the changes Marvel made to the character and I don't blame them. The new Captain America Steve Rogers, written by Nick Spencer, has dropped around 35,000 units since issue one after fan's disgust as the character's treatment and it is hardly surprising, it is another case of Marvel using a gimmick to sell comics and it has bit them in the ass. Even Chris Evans himself did not react positively to this news and who could blame him, but at least Spencer acknowledged it.

Jason Aaron's run on (fem) Thor started out well when the first issue sold just over 150,000 units but after that, the sales numbers dropped to just over 86,000 units before the series was restarted as The Mighty Thor, last month's issue selling for just shy of 49,000 units. Tom Taylor's writing on All-New Wolverine was below average at best and again the sales numbers showed how fans felt about it, issue one sold for almost 120,000 units, last month's issue sold for just over 38,000. The series Old Man Logan is still outselling it by around 20,000 units.

But then there is Dan Slott.

Whilst it must be mentioned that his writing on Amazing Spiderman has won him awards and is one of the better selling Marvel titles, his behaviour online is quite frankly immature. The YouTuber The Main Event tells the story in this video how he and Slott clashed in what was quite frankly an immature and pathetic behaviour by Slott and I found the whole thing strange so I asked Main Event about this on Twitter one day. I wasn't nasty about it (although I did refer to Slott as a dick at one point) I was quite relaxed in my criticism of him, you can see the conversation here. Notice that I didn't tag him in the conversation at all? A few days later I decided to take a peak at Slott's Twitter profile to see what he was talking about. I was greeted with this:

I was highly amused by such a display of immaturity from a grown man but none the less I shrugged it off and moved on, not wanting to bother with someone who clearly name searches himself. Slott managed to add his opinions with the Mary Jane casting and was quite negative towards those who voiced their criticisms of such in this article. It was even more amusing that when one user on Twitter addressed with him about it being ok to change one character's race but not another, Slott referred to it as racism. It is no surprise that his run on Amazing Spiderman, whilst still pretty good, are not as good as they once were as issue one of the current Amazing Spiderman sold almost 600,000 units. The current issue's sales? Just shy of 88,000.
By the way, Dan, if you do happen to read this: Grow up. I have seen children act more mature online that you.

I realised that with people like the above behind the scenes and now in charge of writing these once wonderful characters, I really had no problem leaving it all behind and not caring what they did with it. As I have repeatedly said before, independent publishers are the way forward now I think and companies like Marvel are relying on gimmicks and gender & race swaps to get sales as it seems they really have run out of ideas and as said above, we're racists or sexists if we say anything about it. I addressed this whole thing with a friend of mine, his name is Matthew and he is black. I told him about the changes Marvel had made to their characters, especially Iron Man soon to be a black teenage girl and Mary Jane now being black for the new film, at one point I thought he was going to knock me out as he was so annoyed, but then he simply said "Why can't they just leave shit as it is?"
Good question.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

So I Read... The Black Monday Murders.

In most cases, I tend to write about complete story arcs but today I was presented with my first example in which to write about something that has just been released. I was about to leave my local comic shop when I spotted issue one of The Black Monday Murders on the shelf and picked it up, asking the owner, Jeff: "Hey, what's this?"
"It's Hickman, what more do you need to know?" Jeff replied. An exchange of funds between us followed and I strolled out of the shop, very much looking forward to the read.

What I read certainly did not disappoint in the slightest, not only is it a wonderful and dark opening to what looks to be a very promising story but it is also a TRIPLE SIZED ISSUE. I love it when a series opens up like this, we the readers and the paying customers get a large chunk of the story which tells us more than enough and makes us want to come back for more, whilst charging a reasonable price for it.

A highlight of this new series is something that I feel needs to be brought to attention as it is an absolute rarity in this day and age: The are no variant covers for this issue, not one at all and that is so nice to see. Hickman's other series for Image that I read, East of West and The Dying and the Dead do have them (TDATD has only one, East of West has 21) but in this market and these modern times, to launch a series without a variant is nice because maybe, just maybe, the story comes first.
Pick it up.


Friday, 19 August 2016

So I Watched.... Preacher.

It appears that these days, the best place to find the most interesting tv shows to watch are often found on the pay monthly services such as Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. Netflix has Dare Devil and forthcoming Punisher (no, I'm not mentioning Jessica Jones... shit, I just did) and Amazon has Bosch and now Preacher. I loved Dare Devil and Bosch, my feelings on Jessica Jones speak for themselves I should imagine, but Preacher was something I thought I should check out. I read the graphic novels many moons ago and it was a great read, I loved Ennis' story telling (whom I met at a convention a few years ago) and Dillon's art is in a league of its own so I was keen to see how it was translated onto the small screen.

Normally right at this point, I would be summing up the story of the series for this piece but even thinking about what was done to it for the sake of adaptation makes me want to grind my teeth. Apparently, the series serves as a prologue of sorts to the story but it was a combination of dark, moody, boring and seemingly dragged out story telling that I had a job to get through. The creators of the show tell a tale which involves some of the most unlikable and loathsome characters that I have ever seen in a TV show, Dominic Cooper is well cast as Jessie, Joseph Gilgun is the show's high point as Cassidy and his entrance in the show is amusing and Jackie Earle Haley is even more amusing as Odin Quinncannon. That for me were the only things that I liked about the show, I wanted to like it, I really did but the rest of the characters really just killed it for me. In particular, it was Ruth Negga as Tulip that annoyed me the most.

Apparently, the casting is supposed to be one to be celebrated as "positive" and so on, but I am always will be someone who believes that the source material should not be altered to suit a different audience and will remain as such. Tulip's character was changed from a very damaged white woman who is looking for her own answers for the pain she has been through in life to a badass black hitwoman, who tells some children at the beginning that a woman "needs to know how to be strong, to stand on her own" but then spends almost the whole series plotting a revenge mission she constantly bugs Jessie to join her on and hangs around like a delinquent teenager in the mean time because he won't.

I would go into more detail but in a nutshell: I won't be watching season two and I feel some relief as I write that. As was with the case before with Jessica Jones, the series suffers because who was involved in bringing it to the small screen and it doesn't take long to point my finger in the right direction. Seth Rogen, a man who plays the same character in almost all of his films and now a born again feminist it seems, was a cause for concern by many I have spoken to and it looks like they have been proven right. A lot of us remember that advertisment he took part in with Amy Schumer and the stories of allowing "feminist consultants" on Neighbors 2 and the signs of trouble were clearly there but hind sight is a wonderful thing I guess.

But why am I writing this when really I should be avoiding giving it more attention than what this series deserves? Well, as I said previously, I met Garth Ennis at a convention and sat in on a question and answer session with him, Jamie Delano, Peter Hogan and Phil Winslade, you can even see me sitting in the front row with my son. I asked the panel a question about comics being adapted into films and so on, quite badly I might add, but I remembered what he said about Preacher being adapted and it made me wonder. The video is on Youtube and I invite all to fast forward to 27:00 on the counter listen to me ask and fluff the question right at the end (when I mention Constantine) and then listen to what Ennis says about Preacher when it is optioned:

"The options on Preacher and The Boys sell regularly but nothing ever happens. This works great."

I watch the video and cringe at my younger self and smile at my son in his younger days but when I listen to Ennis say that quote over and over again, I am left with the burning question:

What happened?

It is most likely that we the viewers will never know so the best way I can wrap this up is to simply advise that you avoid this show because it may have Preacher's name, it may wear it's skin, but it sure as hell isn't Preacher.


Wednesday, 17 August 2016

So I Read.... Tokyo Ghost: The Atomic Garden.

An online buddy of mine, Holly, made a video for her YouTube channel about a month ago where she gave some of her recommendations for good reads in the comic world. Holly is someone I think very highly of and we had a fun debate over comics and what they are currently like in a stream I hosted a little while ago and it is one that I look back on with utter fondness. Whilst some of her recommendations were not for me personally (that's not saying I think they are crap, just not up my alley) in one way or another, Tokyo Ghost intrigued me so I went to my local shop and picked up the trade paperback.

Was it good? Oh yes, and it certainly ticked a lot of boxes for me. To describe it without giving anything away, it is the year 2089 and as the back of the cover states: Humanity is addicted to technology, a population of unemployed leisure seekers blissfully distracted from toxic contamination, who borrow, steal, and kill to buy their next digital fix.
The two main characters are both interesting and ones you can root for because they are both having to carry on even though they are both damaged in their own way, Led Dent is a man hooked on this technology and is losing himself to it whilst his partner and girlfriend, Debbie Decay painfully watches him go through this, uses him as a weapon when she has to and then tries to bring him back from the abyss afterward. They are ordered to go to Tokyo by their sleazy boss to carry out what could be their "last job" but as you would expect this does not go down so well, especially with the natives who are not thrilled to see them.

I cannot fault the writing, the art or the colours at all, they are all brilliant and in my opinion are at their strongest when showing the nature scenery or when the two main characters have their tender moments together alone with such beautiful backgrounds. For those who, like myself have too many variant covers as the main gripe with the industry today, the series does have them but they are literally one per issue and that is not only commendable but it is also a nice example of restraint on such a thing.

This series is a good example as far as I am concerned, that Image and the other independant companies are where its at these days. Series like this reenforce my choice to abandon the likes of Marvel as I seriesly doubt there could be this sort of story told there as it avoids a lot of the PC politics that Marvel appears to have taken on and tells a story that warns of nature's destruction as we consume more technology. It is a story of voilence, addiction, sex, brutality and discovering lost identity when away from it all. Well worth a read.
Good call Holly.

Final Verdict: 4 out of 5.

Monday, 15 August 2016

In Defence of The Killing Joke

I wrote a review of this film back when I was writing for digifira and my feelings of it have not changed at all, I still quite happily stick up for it when I have the chance. I even got hold of the limited edition from Amazon and took great delight in showing it to my wife who was quite keen to see it. I had told her enough about it as the film's one-night release approached which I went to but she was quite happy to wait for me to buy it as getting a babysitter for the children so she could come with me was a massive ballache on a weeknight.

She was not fussed over the "controversial" sex scene (or the beginnings of it) at all and when I told her about the stink people had kicked up over it, she was just confused. In retrospect, I will always appreciate that the filmmakers were quite respectful of the source material as far as I was concerned and I always think that the beginning complimented it. It strikes me though that the same critics that were doing their best to defend the likes of Ghostbusters were also the ones who had their knives out for this film because of Barbara Gordon's fate but this is where me and a lot of other people will disagree: I always thought she should have stayed as Oracle and not regained the ability to walk because to me it was a better character.
One of the most influential people in my life when I was growing up, was my grandmother and it was in her house that I first started writing stories; this blog is named after her. She was disabled for the last years of her life but she was full of character and I never remember her moaning about it. Be it walking with the aid of crutches or using a wheelchair she just got on with life until she passed on sixteen years ago at the time of writing this. Characters like Oracle always remind me of her and also are an example of however many modern feminists complain about women in comics (even though the men are treated much worse) but I do not think I have ever seen them complain about disabled characters. I am in full agreement with the author Gina Misiroglu when she observed in her book that when compared to the likes of Professor X and Dare Devil (who came with disabilities to begin with) "Gordon stands tall as the most empowering disabled superhero. Readers witnessed her tragedy and watched her rise above it."

I know that Alan Moore does not look back kindly on The Killing Joke and that's fair enough but for me, I think he did a good thing with the story. I stand by something that I wrote a long time ago with the character in that the war on crime does not take any prisoners and a bullet really doesn't care what your gender is. I know there will be people out there who will disagree and I really have no problem with that, I love the debate on these things but to me, a character who goes through something like what Barbara Gordon did only to reverse it years later is the result of a cop out and a missed opportunity in what could have been some interesting stories.

It is like Kirk said in Star Trek five: "I don't want my pain taken away, I need my pain!"

Sure, Barbara Gordon went back to being Bat Girl but I will always prefer her as Oracle, I know I may get some criticism for saying that but bare in mind that even Tara Strong herself has defended The Killing Joke and Barbara's portrayal, I'll take the word of Barbara herself over that of the idiot/s from Bleeding Cool News any day of the week.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Two Years and the Continuing War

At the time of writing this, we are almost at the two year anniversary of what was the start of the biggest culture war ever seen. A war where gamers were thrown under the bus by their own media, where they were also called sexist and where feminist critics and certain indie devs gained more standing in the industry than they should have. There are those out there like myself who believe that the contempt with the gaming media and the way they operated had been brewing for some time and when the August 28th articles dropped it was like a flame to a growing pool of petrol, it's a belief I will always have and the way the media addressed the whole situation always serves as a confirmation of this to me.

The above image will always have a certain grimness to it for me but it is also one of the most accurate, the gamers finally took a stand against these culture critics, these hipsters with degrees and they pushed back when they were told that they were over by their own media, the very people who were supposed to have defended them the entire time. Towards the end of 2015 I took part in a live stream with some friends where we talked about it towards the end and I made the announcement that I was to move on from the whole thing because in my mind it was done and I didn't think there was more to do in this fight we've all been in. I faded away from the gaming scene this year because I chose to get rid of my Xbox One and switch to PC but I also switched my focus to comics and my own writing only to find that the politics of these hipsters, these Social Justice Warriors, was there too and my heart sank for a while. The thing was that comics were more personal to me so I focused on that and wrote about them for digifira for a while. It is noticeable though with comics though that the SJW set of politics have not gone down well with the readers as sales have bombed of pretty much every title that has adopted them. Take a bow, Marvel.

The whole time I was doing this I constantly kept looking over my shoulder at what gaming was up to and it was always a look of concern. I didn't want to leave it behind because the community was one I had always cared about and hated seeing it trampled on by these people but watching this happen came to me with the conclusion that I had been wrong about a few things.
A situation took place recently where some of these SJWs did their best to dox and reveal the identity of a Twitter user and Gamergate supporter by the name of mombot. They were so convinced they had done so until it turned out that it had been a ruse pulled off by mombot herself and it showed these people exactly for what they were. Journalists Brad Glasgow and Allum Bokhari reported on this for and Breitbart and I would suggest reading their pieces as they describe it better than I ever could but I still decided to share my thoughts on it. I spoke with a good friend about it and he told me of a story about how Eskimos used to hunt and kill wolves: they would take a razor sharp knife, coat it in seal blood, freeze it and repeat the process until they had an ice lolly of sorts and then dig it in the snow. A wolf would come along and find it and lick away until the knife would carve up its tongue but it wouldn't notice because of the seal blood and bleed to death, therefor the Eskimos used the animal's nature against it and that is exactly what mombot did so well. Mombot and I follow each other on Twitter and messaged her saying that I was going to write about it and was there anything she wanted to add, she was kind enough to give me this statement:

"I don't want any of the would-be doxers to lose their jobs. Them just being themselves is punishment enough."

Notice I address mombot as "her".
We do not know each other at all but I know what I believe I know about her. I believe that she is indeed a woman and I also believe that she is a sharp minded and smart individual, it is why she was about to pull off this ruse and pull the likes of Matt Myers, Izzy Galvez and even a Ubisoft employee into the burning light. Those involved has mostly shrunk back but they did so whilst throwing their rattle out of their prams but keen as ever to get some attention from it, Brianna Wu, the answer to the question nobody asked, even had an exchange with Brad Glasgow over Twitter about it.

As I thought about this particular event and its revelations something struck me. I had been wrong along time ago, this fight was far from over back when I thought it was. These SJWs are still out there and flooding their views into gaming, films, comics and pushing back against their politics was a series of battles in a prolonged war. It struck me that myself and those like me hadn't really left this fight at all, we simply went about our own thing for a while as games were poorly received, comics sales dropped and films flopped at the box office. We will always be here, watching and waiting to say our piece about something we perceive as wrong because that is our right, we know the entertainment industry better than these SJWs as we have been the ones who have paid for their products and we refused to put our money in when we didn't like what we saw.

But what about the gaming press themselves and those who were involved in all this? Leigh Alexander left games journalism after Offworld bombed but still writes for the Guardian, Brandon Boyer resigned as the IGF chairman due to health, Laura Kate Dale was fired from Destructoid after they closed their UK branch, Kris Ligman was replaced by Zoya Street as Editor in Cheif of Critical Distance but still writes for the site, Danielle Riendeau is no longer with Polygon but still writes with Zam and podcasts with Idle Thumbs, Jenn Frank apparently "left" journalism but still works at Paste, Jonathan Holmes was demoted from Editor in Cheif of Destructoid and also shut down his "Sup, Holmes?" video series, Ben Kuchera did stop covering games for a while but is still with Polygon, Cara Ellison was fired from Rock, Paper, Shotgun but is still freelance writing. As for the Kotaku crew? Well, their future is uncertain after Gawker was successfully sued by Hulk Hogan earlier this year but I hope little sympathy for any of them at this point. Patrick Klepek jumped off of the sinking ship and is off doing something I don't care to know about and good riddance to him. I will watch with some amusement to see what happens to Kotaku as granted, Gamergate was not responsible for the killing blow but it did inflict the first.

This looks to be a long-running culture war, one where battles need to carefully be chosen before jumping in but it must be remembered that these SJW progressive types will strike at any bad behaviour or idiot that gives them good reason to. The scenario with Alison Rapp proved that some people did go too far in not only getting her fired from her job but apparently also exposing her as a sex worker. The lengths they went to, how and where they posted about it and who they used to help get Rapp fired have left an unsavoury taste in mine and a few other mouths which can still be felt today. We must also be careful when it comes to championing these muckraking bloggers that come along and try to be our spokesman, I forget the slob's name now but as I recall he didn't do too well after the hashtag faded for a while and even had to open a Patreon account to help keep his blog site going or something along those lines. Really trying to remember his name now but its just gone. Oh well.

After all this time the ride is still going, they will push against us, we will push back but we have to remember to be better than them, as mombot has shown, or all this will be for nothing in the end. The Wikipedia entry has been changed on this at least four times by my count and leaves out a lot of information and as a result is biased against Gamergate, the media attacks gamers whenever they can to this day and yet we are still here, still pushing back against the flow of misinformation but we have suffered along the way.

However, I offer this in closing for those who will admire the irony of all this. Gawker will start to be auctioned off on the 16th of this month, exactly two years to the date The Zoe Post was published online.
Someone pass me a beer.

Friday, 12 August 2016

A Belief in Story Telling

Nowadays we have the Politically Correct brigade out in full force these days and when they see or hear about something that has happened in the fictional world... the rest of us are going to hear about it to no end. It had an effect on me at one point when I was writing my book and without saying what though as I (potentially) don't want to spoil it, I nearly took that element out as part of me (perhaps the big headed part) thought that I did not want to deal with the hassle. But then I sat and gave it some considerable thought, I literally took time out of writing the book to address it and consider if I were to actually care about any negative reaction from these Social Justice Warriors in any form.

I realized that after some considerable time pondering on it that I would not give the tiniest shit on what these people had to say. A conversation I had with the wonderful Peta, my book's cover artist over the some of the feedback she had received on some of her art and she had told me stories of her reactions to some of the shitty remarks she had taken. To cut a long story short: if it was unhelpful or it was abusive she would ignore it completely and focus on that which she thought could help her improve her craft. I decided to adopt the same stance because I wasn't going to be intimidated by these people and I sure as hell wasn't going to pander to them because the fate of a certain writer who did something they didn't like speaks for itself.

Oh yes. After throwing his hat in with the likes of Anita Sarkeesian, Joss Whedon made Avengers: Age of Ultron. The film wasn't a total train wreck but it wasn't brilliant either. Many women did not like the way the likes of Black Widow, Hawkeye's wife and so on were shown in the film and they took to Twitter to show it. Those of us that remember it almost took a small bit of amusement in seeing these women tweeting harsh language at him up until the point he quit Twitter but not amusement at the latter mind you, amusement it came from the very same people he had sided with in this culture war. Of course, whilst some news outlets did report this there were those who tried to deny it also but they forget those of us who saw it with our own eyes. As a popular saying on Twitter goes: SJWs always eat their own.

It is also annoying to me to see advertisements for the likes of the new Star Trek series where they advertise that the main character is a woman and that there will be a gay character in there too as a way to draw people in.

So What if they are a woman or gay? So what?

What happened to the days of just telling a story without using political baiting to draw an audience in? It annoys me no end to see this whenever it pops up as when they build this kind of a character or characters up and something happens to them that the viewers don't like you can almost bet on a negative reaction. A perfect example of this is what happened with the tv series The 100 when they killed off the character Lexa, a lesbian. The outrage was so great that it forced an apology out of the series show runner and when I saw this and just shook my head in sadness for how things have become.

I believe that the story comes first and that the characters should compliment that story. Granted the characters should be interesting themselves as a dull character can kill a story in my mind but like I said: story comes first. Lately, it seems to be the other way around as it is with this in mind that sales of Marvel comics have bombed so much lately, especially when they killed Wolverine and then had X23 take over the role. I decided to make sure it was a path that I will never go down, I will keep the story as a primary focus in my mind and hopefully tell a good one but I guess feedback from readers will tell me if I did a good job or not.

Amusingly I write this as if I am an expert in all this but I am really not. Right now I am just a dreamer who wants his work out there but at the same time really does not want to make the mistakes of those who have come before him. The campaign to get my book published through Kindle Scout has been active for a few days at the time of writing this and I won't know how many votes I received until it has finished, but I remain hopeful. This blog entry is pretty much my pledge on how I will proceed with my craft and that you won't catch me pandering to anybody, I will tell these stories any way I damn well want to and if people don't like it.... don't damn well read it.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Looking Forward to Shemfest

Disclosure: This blog piece is about friends of mine. This piece is a cross between promotion and celebration of various things including the topic as well as talking about some fond memories.

So a long time ago when Gamergate was in full swing there were various meetups taking place in different parts of the world. America was where a lot of them were taking place but there were also meet ups in places like Australia and right here in the UK. I went along to the meet up which took place on Gamergate's anniversary in Birmingham and got to meet many cool people there; it was the first blog piece I wrote for Metaleater many moons ago and I look back on that piece and the event itself with utter fondness. I even streamed about the meetups with Shemmie, the host of the one I went to, Nicole Sund who hosted one in America and my man mister Wombat who hosted one in Australia; we even had Cathy Young on as a guest star as she attended the big one in Washington DC. The stream was a lot of fun and I saw why they were so much fun to do.

Now Shemfest is on the horizon, three weeks away at the time of writing this and I cannot wait to attend but it should be pointed out that this is not a Gamergate related meetup but one purely for gaming. Not only is it a chance to see people again who I haven't seen in a while but it is also a chance to see some of the treats and special guests Shemmie has in for us all. It will be the second time this year that some of us have gotten together as Nicole came over from America on her holiday and we got to meet each other after speaking on Twitter and streams for almost two years. She was a lovely and wonderful lady and meeting her was an absolute honour. She and the rest of us got drunk together well into the early hours of the morning and it was awesome and as funny as hell, especially when the fine Irish gentleman that is Shabaz arrived. I'm still unsure how I managed to get back to my hotel, I think Google Maps may have helped but my hangover that I woke up with lasted all goddammed day.

Sign of a good night I believe.

As for the guests in store for those of us who are attending, oh wow we have a fine selection. First off we have Kate Russell, a tech reporter and author who will be giving a talk on the topic of Women in Tech, Mark Kern will be giving a talk via the internet about game developement and Mercedes Carrera will also be joining via internet to give a talk on being a woman gamer and the STEM background shes in. The co organiser of the event, MegaMike, has pointed out in the stream he, I and Shemmie did that she is there for that talk and NO OTHER REASON. Just thought I should point that out before anyone gets any ideas.

There will also be a selection of retro gaming consoles and computers to get involved in and enjoy but those who are attending I would advise to try them first as I will steal them the first chance I get, especially if I see a Super Nintendo.

For me more than anything though I will be going to see everyone again and catch up over a beer, a Five Guys or what ever because when we all got together almost a year ago now it was nothing but fun and my memories of it will always just that. More than anything though it was about a community coming together and I will always celebrate this community any way I can instead of those who would do their best to dump on it; something I promised myself I would always do no matter what. I shall finish this by leaving with a picture of the occasion that I blatantly stole from the shemfest info site, one which will always smile when ever I see it.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Critics vs The Fans

These days I have trouble reading reviews on almost anything, Gamergate showed the true nature of the games media and now it appears the movie critics are starting to be frowned upon just as much. Ghostbusters came out last month and just about every critic loved it and wanted the consumer to know about it. Of course, those of us that questioned these reviews were labeled "sexists", "manbabies" and so on as was the fate of The Angry Videogame Nerd when he refused to see it. It's an effective way to try and shut down the conversation on the whole thing but the consumer ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb tell a different story as a lot of the general public really didn't like the film. The fact of the matter is that at the time of writing this, even though there are those out there who claim the movie isn't a flop because it has made back it's production budget, really it still is because even the director himself has said it needed to make five hundred million.

Have I seen it though?

No, and nor will I.

For those who would think to call me a sexist and so on, it is a stance I took with the Robocop reboot and the Total Recall reboot. I made the mistake of going to see Terminator Genisys (I hate that stupid spelling) and my god did I regret it, the story was crap, Jai Courtney was like watching cardboard move, Arnie really was too old for that shit and Emilia Clarke was just too painful to watch. The amusing irony of that film though? A little while before it came out, Clarke was alleged to have said she would not do any more nude scenes because she wanted to be known for her acting and not her breasts. Granted it not proven Clarke actually did say that but after the film came out and had a poor reception, she was nude again in the next season of Game of Thrones.
Best laid plans eh?

Now Suicide Squad has come out and the critics are doing their best to pan it mainly down to the sexy representation of Harley Quinn. Fans that I have seen speaking about it, including a great review by Angry Joe himself, have enjoyed the film and been supportive of it, again the score on Rotten Tomatoes tells a different story to that of the critics. It almost comes across as these critics are mad at people for not liking or supporting Ghostbusters so their knives are out for anything they think the public will like. They did the same thing with the adaptation of The Killing Joke only a lot of the public agreed with them but, that is a story for another time.

We now appear to live in an age where the gap between the media and the public is growing and filled with mistrust, where they will use a click bait title to draw a reader in and slip some crappy writing down their throat. But where can people go for a good review or an honest opinion though? I cannot choose for you, that is something we must all choose for ourselves but I do admit the options are limited. I personally go to Youtube critics because (unless it's a paid promo video) their opinion tends to be quite an honest one because they themselves are the paying customer and they do it with the noble cause of taking a hit so we don't have to. Consumers helping consumers, that's the way I like to look at is as and perhaps I will continue to do so but each to their own on this one, anyone who should ask for my advice on a good review source I shall point them in that direction.

At the time of writing this article, things to do not appear to be getting any better with films on the horizon as it has just been announced that Hollywood is remaking Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Not only that but they are again doing the gender swap and will have Rebel fucking Wilson in a lead part.
I weep for the future.

Kindle Scout

So today I submitted my finished novel to the Kindle Scout program to see if I could get it out there for you wonderful people to read. At the time of writing, this it has not been given the green light yet but a dreamer like me can only remain hopeful that it will do. The best way to look at it I think is kind of like a Kickstarter but without the need to stump up some cash beforehand but perhaps given the way some of the more well-known Kickstarters have gone (Mighty Number 9, Tropes vs Women, Revolution 60, A Feminist Deck, Ouya, you name it) have ended up, maybe that's not the best way to put it.

You are helping someone like me achieve something I've been dreaming about for most of my life, something that brings me joy no matter what kind of mood or low point in time that I have been in. To me nothing beats sitting in front of my laptop and pouring my imagination through my fingers and onto the screen, to see a story come to life is both a joy and a thrill that I have yet to top and my book is what I hope will be one of many end results.

The catch with the Kindle Scout program is that the book will see the light of day if it receives enough votes (as I understand it) so once it is out there I will shill the link here and on my Twitter feed and shall ask friends of mine to do the same where ever they can. I ask all those that follow me to cast their votes if they want to and give me the opportunity to entertain an audience with my writing as often as I possibly can.

Finally, as either a treat or a tease (you decide) I offer the cover of my book for you to see, illustrated by the lovely and wonderful Peta-Lynn Fraser.

Friday, 5 August 2016

A Series of Thank yous.

This blog would not be in existence had it not been for certain people who I have either worked for, spoken to, taken advice from or all of the above. This post is a massive Thank you to those people, who they were to me, and why they are mentioned.

Tony Antunovich
I worked for Tony at Metaleater for almost a year and he was a steady and guiding hand as I wrote about gaming and the various issues and so on in that universe. He was an easy going, kind and helpful dude and writing for him was a pleasure in the time I spent at the site but in the end I chose to leave. It was not because of Tony at all, I looked at the gaming industry one day and I didn't like what I saw anymore as it had become a place where it's own press was determined to dump on it, where the releases were shallow on content and did their best to milk gamers of their money and provide crappy DLC at disgustingly high prices. I have taken time out from gaming and concentrate on my writing and have strangely found that I do not miss it but I will always be thankful to Tony and what I learned from him.

Brian Niemeier
Brian was someone I started speaking to through Twitter and often asked him for advice on writing, it was he who recommended using Blogger to set up my own blog and I will always be grateful to him for doing so as I prefer this site now as opposed to Wordpress. He himself is a widely regarded science fiction author and his books are well worth a look, hopefully I can get him in a live stream some time to talk about writing from his perspective and he will always be an inspiration to me.

Karen Long
Karen is someone who's work I came across because I followed the Self Publisher's Showcase on Twitter. It had been quite a while since I had read a good police story and when I saw a summery of her first book I downloaded it to see what it was like. I enjoyed the story and downloaded her second book to see what she did with the characters from the first, one day a friend on Twitter asked what people were reading and I responded and tagged Karen in the tweet. Karen saw the tweet, responded with "hope you enjoy" and followed me, something I always take as a compliment when someone does so. We struck up a friendship, chatted often, live streamed together and she had both encouraged me and supported me often, her work is brilliant and I advise all to read it.

Trever Bierschbach
Trever was the first guest on my very first live stream many moons ago, he and I share many views on writing and comics and talking with him for so long has been a pleasure. When he mentioned he was giving up Marvel comics after twenty odd years and I agreed with him because I had recently dumped Marvel. He invited me onto a live stream through his website, Frags and Beer, to talk about the whole thing and it was a fun discussion, he is also a published author and his work is available on Amazon.

Thor Holt and Jon Mollison
Thor has a podcast which is available on iTunes and so on called Write with Courage. He followed me one day and I decided to check out his show because as I said, when someone follows me on Twitter I take it as a compliment. The podcast is an awesome one: he chats with various writers about why they do what they do and offers encouragement to wannabes at the same time. Because I became quite a fan of the show and was quite vocal in my support of it, he gave me a shout out in one of his episodes and I was blown away and continued to listen and support. I tweeted one day that I was attempting to set up this blog but needed help and someone to talk me through setting the whole thing up. Thor saw my tweet and quoted it whilst asking for someone to help me out and what happened next is something I will always take as an example of what can happen when the internet does something good. Jon saw the tweet and followed me, we spoke over DMs at first and then over Skype and he talked me through it step by step and his helpfulness was wonderful. He is a guy whom I have never spoken with, who lives in Hawaii and took half an hour out of his working day to help a total stranger set up a blog. Think about that for a moment and if that doesn't make you smile then I do not know what will.

Explain the name.

Most weekends my parents would take me and my brothers to my grandmother's when we were younger and in the days it was cool to visit your relatives. My auntie lived my gran and acted as her carer because she was disabled and whilst she also was happy to have us children around to visit; when we were bored we began to fidget and that annoyed her. One weekend which I now think of as a fateful one, my auntie became annoyed at my fidgeting and handed me an A4 notepad and a pen and said: "here, write a story or something will you." I looked at the pad for a while and tried to think of something to write about but nothing came to me at first because it was new ground I was treading on; nothing was coming at all.

But then I thought about my computer games.

I had been playing computer games for a while and had gotten into them shortly after comics, I always loved to have a story running in my head when I played them. One that I had played on my Commodore 64 was called The Ninja Warriors, a one or two player game where you took up the role of a cyborg ninja or ninjas who have to break into the headquarters of and kill an evil megalomaniac. I wrote my version of the story of the game, accompanied it with some crappy pencil drawings, drew it a front cover and tied it all together with some knitting wool and looked at it with some pride. I continued to write little stories when I got home with the terrible handwriting I still have today (my wife calls it Chicken Scratch) and eventually I was brought a typewriter as encouragement and the sound of that little device became a familiar sound from my bedroom. Most of the stories that I wrote when I was younger have long since disappeared but I found one the other day in a package of things my parents sent over, it is called The Hand of Houngan and it is quite cringeworthy to read but it is also a reminder of when I started writing and as a result resides in my desk.

So why do this blog?

I took a massive break from gaming at the beginning of 2016 and fully returned to comic collecting after ten plus years because I had a family with a wonderful woman who knows me better than I know myself. Comics were always my first love and as I picked up my own writing again I looked at what was happening to them and felt so disappointed. The big two, Marvel and DC, have either screwed up their characters and continuity, chased off their fans in favour of these Social Justice Warriors, or both. It angers me that these idiots, who most likely do not even buy comics (the drop in sales numbers back this up) now not only can dictate the content but have now gotten into (or infected) the business and have helped ruin some of the best characters out there. So whilst I was writing my own book I decided to take a stand against this sort of thing, be it in comics, movies, books or games and this blog will be home to my writings of each one. I will do my own reviews or thought pieces on these things and hope that people like them enough to keep coming back. Maybe even a piece or two about my own writing may pop in along the way, who knows but either way, I will be grateful to anyone who visits this blog to read because unlike some of the people at Marvel, DC and so on, I will not insult my own audience. I will cherish them.