Tuesday, 29 September 2009

The Man Himself: Ray Harryhausen

It's hard to describe what standing in the presence of Ray Harryhausen feels like - he's gentle, funny, sharp and insightful and yet he can still make me feel like I'm twelve years old and in need of a Werther's Original.

In six years at Forbidden Planet, there have been few guests who have reduced me to tongue-tied fangirl - and I'm not ashamed to admit that Ray is one of them.

In 2003, he was the Guest of Honour at the launch of the FP Megastore; a few months later, his was the very first signing I ran. Afterwards, I had the enormous privilege of escorting him home in his cab and listening to him talk - not about the skeleton sequence in Jason, but about how it felt to be in LA during the war, his family, and his horror at the arrival of CGI.

The cabby, also, was unable to find a word.

I've been to his home, been entranced by the pictures, by every little knick-knack that sits beside his kitchen table - a wealth of history and experience that just leaves me overwhelmed.

He's a rock star - mischievous still - and he shows almost no signs of slowing down.

For this reason, welcoming him back to Forbidden Planet is very special. He'll be in the London store on Saturday 24th October at 1pm, signing the softcover of 'An Animated Life'.

I won't bore you, or insult him, with the press release.

You know who he is.

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Monday, 21 September 2009

And Another Thing

In a record-breaking event in 1980, the late, great Douglas Adams did a legendary signing at Forbidden Planet on Denmark Street, London – a signing that took up half-a-dozen pages in his biography.

It’s a very special moment for us to be welcoming Eoin Colfer, signing the sixth book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy And Another Thing at the Forbidden Planet Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR, on Wednesday 14th October 6 – 7pm.

Adams himself said that the Hitchhiker’s series deserved a sixth book to end the story on an upbeat note; Eoin Colfer, best known for his wonderful Artemis Fowl series, is true follower of Adams’ legacy with his views of the absurdities of life, the universe and everything. There is no better person to be taking Arthur, Zaphod and Marvin out into pastures new.

A lifelong Hitchhiker fan, he said, 'Being given the chance to write this book is like suddenly being offered the superpower of your choice. For years I have been finishing this incredible story in my head and now I have the opportunity to do it in the real world.' Prepare to be amazed!

To commemorate Forbidden’s Planet’s affection for Hitchhiker, Penguin Books are kindly offering a FREE signed poster to the first 150 guests.

Towels and Beeblebears are, of course, welcome.

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Friday, 18 September 2009

Vintage Geek Genius!

Following the photo of Torquemada outside Forbidden Planet Denmark Street, the wonderful Dom Sutton has sent me on the rest of the photostrip.

And as Pat Mills is signing in London tomorrow, I thought I'd share it.

Bless you, 2000AD - and bless you Pat Mills. That is pure, vintage geek genius.

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Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Angry Robot UK Launch

Forbidden Planet are delighted to be hosting the UK Launch of Angry Robot Books on Saturday 10th October at the Forbidden Planet Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8JR.

Angry Robot is a new imprint, a wickedly fresh take on the SF, F and WTF industry. Publishing the best in dark and edgy fiction from renowned authors and the hottest in up-and-coming new talent, the Robot brings you: teenage serial killers, zombie detectives, howling axes, sex-crazed vampires, murderous gods and steampunk swordfights. And that’s for starters.

Featured guests Dan Abnett 'Triumff', Andy Remic 'Kell’s Legend' and Colin Harvey 'Winter Song' will be there to allay (or possibly enhance) fears, chat to fans, answer questions and sign copies of their Angry Robot titles. There will be a chance to meet Marco, Lee and Chris - plus free prints of the Larry Rostant cover of 'Triumff' and the 'Kell’s Legend' promotional video… up close and personal. There will also be a wide range of Angry Robot’s other titles available.

Not to mention some down'n'dirty rumours about Mister Remic's axe...

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Monday, 14 September 2009

So: Just What IS The Collective Noun for Twitterers?

As a teenager, I had the best English teacher.

The syllabus didn’t really interest him; he taught us useful stuff. A good vocabulary (the difference between ‘undulate’ and ‘ungulate’), a good memory (I can still recite large chunks of 'Ozymandias’), respect (if we yawned in his class, he’d sent the whole pack of us on a run to the school gates). He also introduced us to one of the greatest quirks of the English language – the Collective Noun.

Yesterday, I stumbled across a ‘create your own’ site for these. I took a moment to laugh my arse off – and to tweet out the link.

And discovered that other people are equally intrigued by this bizarre linguistic anomaly. So: just what IS the correct Collective Noun for Twitterers?

Here are some of the suggestions: -

@berinkinsman – an Ashton
@davedevereux – a Whale
@denny – a wail
@gt_p a byte
@paulgrahamraven – a nest
@sconsult – a procrastination
@solobasssteve – a bonfire (think about it)
@peacockpete – a crash
@rhiarti – a prattling

The final tallies from my twitterstream put ‘whale’ and ‘procrastination’ at the top of the list. (My own suggestion, ‘a Britney’, didn’t last beyond the first round – funny, that!)

The results were collated by @collectivenouns and listed here.

This is one of the things I love about twitter - no, not that other people actually get my love for the bizarre, but the global sense of humour, the desire to throw creative ideas round on a Sunday afternoon because... well, because we can. Seems a 'procrastination' is uncomfortably true (whodathinkit?) not to mention @elucid8's 'sleep-deprivation'!

Wordle courtesy of http://www.wordle.net/

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Friday, 11 September 2009

Silent Bob - In Someone Else's Stash!

KEVIN SMITH will be signing 'Shootin’ the Sh*t – The Best of SModcast' at the Forbidden Planet Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR, on Tuesday 6th October 6 – 7pm.

Collecting the finest moments of Smith’s ‘SModcast’ conversations with Scott Mosier, this lewd, crude and hilariously rude book exposes the humorous highs and lows of Kevin Smith’s compulsive and pop-cultural verbal commentary. Discover the genesis of Stalin’s Monkey Soldier army, the horrifying tale of Kevin vs. Steak Tartare, how to make bukkake eggs, the lengths to which Jason Mewes would go for a free comic, and how Kevin was once willing to let Alanis Morissette get mugged… Silent Bob has a whole lot to say – and it’s well worth the listen!

Kevin Smith sold his comic book collection to fund 'Clerks' – and bought them straight back after the film became a hit. He was the producer of the Oscar-winning 'Good Will Hunting' and has written and directed 'Mallrats', 'Chasing Amy', 'Dogma', 'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back', 'Jersey Girl', 'Clerks II' and 'Zack and Miri Make A Porno'. He’s also both author and comics writer. 'Shootin’ the Sh*t' follows the enormous success of his New York Times bestseller 'My Boring-Ass Life', also published by Titan Books.

No prizes for guessing that this event is going to be very busy. Turn up early, and bring things to entertain yourself in the queue!

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Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Geek Hypocrisy: When It's Okay To Take The Piss

Bless the magic of Google Alerts – the other day, they turned up this.

It’s genius – pure comic book nostalgia and it made me laugh my arse off. But it also got me thinking – why is that funny, while the reaction of geek culture to Ms. Laverne showed nothing but outrage?

The answer turned up on The Box Room podcast, an episode in which I guested a couple of weeks ago, though the input (sadly!) wasn’t mine. The sharp insight came from @ourobouros54, talking about how any sub-culture is perceived from the outside.

When I look at Reality TV, I see the breakdown of popular culture. Programmes like Big Brother elevate to national heroism people who are actively encouraged to betray and backstab members of their – albeit artificial – community. Their audience is baying for them to bitch, to manipulate, to cause each other emotional trauma and breakdown, to ostracise and victimise. Will Self compared such behaviour to the Gladiatorial Arena and I absolutely agree – with one exception. If we armed these people with nets and tridents and loosed a few large predators, hell, at least it would be fucking honest. Instead, we have a system that actively rewards dishonourable, community-damaging behaviour. I can’t express how much I loathe it.

And yet.

This is a sub-culture I witness from the outside. Much as I would love to give them all the Charlie Brooker treatment, the original Big Brother was a wonderful concept – ground-breaking, dream-fulfilling, inspiring a generation. It promotes the idea of public involvement – a democratic vote in which everyone (apparently!) has a fair say. The BBC even went as far as to ponder whether it could pull young people out of their political apathy.

I’m rambling (sorry, this is a bugbear of mine); the point is: when you’re outside a particular sub-culture, you see it in its worst light. If you’re not a geek, then all you see are the clich├ęs - sweaty comic book fans and badly dressed cosplayers – and the media will play to that perception (Ourobouros called it ‘The Lunatic Fringe’) to gain sensation and elevate reading/viewing figures through mass appeal. It’s only when you’re on the inside that the culture opens out and you can see so much more.

Coming full-circle, then, the picture of Torquemada outside FP Denmark Street is funny because it’s self-referential – it’s a cliquey, insider-knowledge comment, lampoon-humour born from affection - and we can laugh because we know it's made with grains of both love and truth. We know our own culture, thank you.

But if an outsider makes a gag like that? It's made from a lack of awareness and understanding - and watch how the geeks close ranks.

And I ask: does that make us hypocritical?

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Monday, 7 September 2009

Iain Banks signing Transition

IAIN BANKS will be signing his new novel Transition at the Forbidden Planet Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR, on Saturday 3rd October 1 - 2pm.

A world hangs suspended between triumph and catastrophe, frozen in the shadow of suicide terrorism and global financial collapse – Transition is set in a world that needs a firm hand. Instead, it has is the Concern, an all-powerful organisation with a malevolent presiding genius and numberless invisible operatives. Among these are Temudjin Oh, an unkillable assassin and a faceless torturer known only as the Philosopher. And then there's the renegade, rebel-recruiting Mrs Mulverhill, and Patient 8262, hiding out from a dirty past in a forgotten hospital ward. As these vivid, strange and sensuous worlds circle and collide, the implications of turning traitor to the Concern become horribly apparent, and an unstable universe is set on a dizzying course.

Hugo Award winner Iain was born in Fife and educated at Stirling University where he read English Literature, Philosophy and Psychology. He gained widespread and controversial public notice in 1984 with his first novel, The Wasp Factory and went on to create of SFs best-loved fictional settings – the ‘Culture’ in novels such as Consider Phlebas and Player of Games. He’s almost unique in achieving success in two genres: mainstream, literary fiction, and science fiction.

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Friday, 4 September 2009

Time Lady Romana!

MARY TAMM will be signing her autobiography First Generation at the Forbidden Planet Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR, on Saturday 12th September 1 – 2pm.

In the 1970s, she travelled the universe aboard the TARDIS… 30 years on, actress Mary Tamm now recounts the story of her own, earthbound, adventures.

Born to Estonian parents in 1950s Bradford, her rise to fame took her from a Northern childhood to life in the fast lane: via TV appearances in Coronation Street and Girls of Slender Means to leading roles in feature films – including the cult Tales that Witness Madness, and The Odessa File which pitched her career into the international arena.

In 1978, Mary became part of essential Saturday night television as she joined the cast of Doctor Who alongside Tom Baker, as the superlative Time Lady, Romana. Packed with recollections and exclusive photographs, this autobiography features a foreword by Colin Baker and follows Mary on a journey of self-discovery to her parents’ homeland of Estonia, where she finally comes to terms with her true identity.

I'm told she's popped up in EastEnders recently too...

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Thursday, 3 September 2009

The Lunartik Fringe

My partner doesn’t get art toys.

Ironic, given he’s a long-time gamer and war-gamer and has painted more miniatures that I’ve ever owned. He had a garage full of tiny artworks – each one a character in a world far wider than our combined imaginations.

I’ve tried to entice him with the occasional piece I’ve brought home – at least the Bondage Labbit got a laugh – but to no avail. Gaming miniatures are all one-offs, he says; they’re not ‘limited editions’ and you don’t have to open twenty identical boxes to locate the one soldier you’re missing. Each one is sculpted, customised and painted with love and detail; ink-washed by your own hand.

Cue Matt ‘Lunartik’ JOnes, setting up his Custom Tea Tour in the front window of Forbidden Planet London.

It’s quite a thing to behold. The propage and set-up, like the character of Lunartik himself, is so wonderfully, quintessentially English – lace tablecloths, chests of drawers – this is a whole new take on a phenomenon that’s held to Japanese origins and American street-culture.

It should be quaint – but it manages to hold an ephemeral sense of cool that just pure Ice-T.

Framed by live Posca Pan art on the window itself, Matt begins the unboxing. I stand outside with my trusty little Lumix; it’s like watching the unpacking of a treasure chest. The staff at FP London are taking every chance to pop out and wonder at the creatures, creations and customs that are being revealed… and passers-by are stopping to stare in amazement. ‘I don’t know what they are,’ one lady comments to her husband, ‘but aren’t they beautiful’.


Matt has done a spectacular job; he’s really put some thought into the design and layout of the display and he’s rounded up some of the best names in the business. There are interpretations by art toy culture giants Jon Burgerman and Pete Fowler, plus a delicious selection of conversions by numerous other UK artists. The wonderful thing about the basic 3D vinyl canvas is that that there’s so much you can do with him – and he’s still recognisable, sat always in his Cup of Tea.

Once home, I’m dutifully loading the pictures into my Flickr account and showing off my very own ‘The Earl’ limited edition vinyl figure – and (insert squeeee here) I find the other half has finally found something he can break out the biscuits for.

My son falls in love with Lunartik instantly – he wants to actually make Tea for him to stand in. Derailed from this fatali-tea at the last minute, he sits entranced as we all look through the pics.

They’re creative. They’re beautiful. They’re original. They’re one-off. Each one is a characterful customisation of the original figure – yet remains true to the 3D vinyl canvas. He’s still recognisable. To a long-time wargamer, it’s a positive army of Cups of Tea (stat that one!), each one with name and face and individualism; each one made with love and artistic skill. He loves Lunartik’s wide eyes, his blending of cute and controversial in true art toy fashion. And he loves his true English taste.

And this, of course, then extends to the shelf-full of little vinyl figures that I have above my desk. They’re the prints, I tell him. What you’re seeing are the originals – but each and every 3D print still carries that feeling.

And that’s why I collect art toys.

It seems, after all, they’re just his cup of Rosie Lee.

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