Monday, 27 September 2010

'Blue Bum': What's in a Nickname?

I went back to Norwich last weekend – to catch up with some of my oldest mates. Mates from carefree days of deadend jobs, shared houses, Viking re-enactment and loooong nights of gaming. Mates with whom I’ve shared dreams beyond the describing of them.

In that time, we acquired many nicknames. Among mine: Mog, Authentika the lycra Viker (something about wearing a swimsuit with a swordbelt, (hey I was young!)) and yes, the lovely piece of calligraphy above, done by my friend Alan. It actually says Danie Ware Blue Bum (another swimsuit story, this one to do with a hot day and chemical toilet and a barely-covered arse...)

@Danacea, btw, is a mix of Danie, Danae and Panacea. The only person who ever twigged it first time was Frank Wu. Go figure!

Posting this gift of art and memory on twitter last night raised some interesting responses: -

@tomiwk - in the next episode of "Neon Genesis Evangelion"...
@tompl - Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.
@Disrepdog - it's from the underground, says "mind the gap" :)
@Surfingsue - I reckon it's subliminal advertising 'Buy more comics' ;-)
@mkhall - "Objects in trousers are smaller than they appear."
@Loudmouthman - Its clearly an extract from the ancient chinese love text showing sex positions
@125f8 - 'good time down town tonight' ..
@DavidTouchette - If it's yellow, let it mellow. ??
@geosteph - Hare today, Goon tomorrow (from "little bunny Foo Foo)
@clobberTr0n - it means "Jedi love with your favourite song"
@neverwhere - おなまえわ?でも ダニワレが谷吾じゃなあいですね ;-)
@DC_Zol - "Off to the Pub, Dinner is in the Panda"? (sorry, thinking Ranma 1/2)
@AnnOhio - Three guys walk into a bar....
@twig84 - the language settings on your iPhone are fucked.
@Nubenu - "All men are bastards"?
@Herne - "May you live in interesting times" ? ;P
@daphneblake - 'Lord Voldemort will rise again and sell Jaff cakes at the market'?

Plus a particular mention for Paul Cornell for not hitting too wide of the mark: -

@Paul_Cornell - there's three and blue in there.

Seeing all these got me wondering… why do people pick particular combinations of initials and/or dates? Why do people choose to go just with their own names, or with a nickname? Why do others go with the modern textspk principle of abbreviation, numeration and punctuation… was it just because the name they wanted had already gone?

Rhetorical question :)

Anyway, the winner is @Disrepdog, not only because her own choice of nickname is so cool – but because ‘mind the gap’ is entirely appropriate to the whole ‘chemical toilet’ incident...

The moral of the story? Other people will not necessarily give you the nicknames you’d choose for yourself… but they remain, down the years, and can bring you back the best of memories.

Danie Blue Bum
A nickname that's still engraved on my old Zippo lighter.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

New Tricks!

There are (ironically really) a thousand and one different websites that will tell you how a short story differs from a novel.

In keeping with the theme, it can be distilled down to one word: -


Narrative format, single incident, character that reveals itself at a critical point in the storyline… I’m sure we’ve all studied this stuff.

The point is: this is where your close analysis kicks in - you don’t have room to fuck about. All that artsy scenic description and character motivation and exploration and development and yadda yadda… sod all of that, get to the point.

So – I will.

The guys at GeekPlanet have been kind enough to host my short story, ‘Valkyrie’, here.

This is completely new – not only the story itself, but the fact that it’s read aloud – a creative venture that’s been fun to undertake. It’s a very short short story, hearkening back to my wannabe-warrior-maiden days in the Vike… and hence seemed to lend itself to an oral (aural?) tradition.

Music is courtesy of Thumpermonkey and my despicably talented friend Mike Woodman – check out the full album here.

Oh - and forgive (enjoy?) the polished public school tones…

…some things you just never grow out of.

Monday, 13 September 2010

What the Fuck Happened?!

You ever have one of those days when you wonder what the fuck happened? When you wonder what the you-of-a-decade ago would’ve thought? When several things, good or bad, all sneak up on you at once and you find yourself looking at your hands/screen/surroundings and wondering quite how you got where you are? (And no, I don’t mean waking up on a mystery couch at 6am).

You know what I mean – yeah, one of those.

I’m having a morning like that. Never mind that it’s Monday, never mind that the not-FP Danie has been sailing the choppy seas of Divine Amusement recently… never mind any of that shit. I’m up to my ears in a sudden and wondrous feeling of gobsmacked surreality.

And what I’m looking at is this:

Pat Mills and Clint Langley
Rob Rankin
Brian Froud
Guillermo del Toro
Iain M Banks
William Gibson
Michael Moorcock
Bryan Hitch
Simon Pegg

And there are still more coming - look out for Bryan Talbot in December.

I mean, seriously. I read down that list and my eyes nearly fall out – our signings diary has gone up by a third year-on-year for the last couple of years, but that? That’s a list of childhood heroes and modern-day rock stars that’s verging on scary.

What the fuck happened? I’m not sure I know - but I do know that it's down to more people than I can list or name, who all work together to make this shit real.

Come on, gobsmacked or no, you got to love it!

Friday, 10 September 2010

The Black Library Invade!

They may have left their bolters at home and checked the Dreadnought at the door… but you can’t underestimate the efficiency and passion of the boys – and girl – from the Black Library.

Writing warriors all, every one of them has an incredible enthusiasm for the stories and characters, which comes across with everything they do. I’m guessing this is why the Forbidden Planet ‘open plan’ event malarkey absolutely suited Dan Abnett, James Swallow, Graham McNeill, Nick Kyme, Nik Vincent and Sandy Mitchell – all of whom were good enough to work their socks off last night.

And it suited the fans too. The chance to actually ‘mingle’ with the authors and creators of the mythology was a new thing to them – they’re not standing in front of a table, they’re actually on ground level and can talk about the characters and the books that they love… as an equal. To me, that’s completely the point.

I’ve ranted about this before.

We had a great night. In the office before the event began, Sandy was talking about kids’ love for gaming, in particular his seven-year-old daughter and her Barbie-pink Tyranid army… and in the pub afterwards, Dan was telling wondrous tales from the ‘set’ (you know what I mean) of the Ultramarines movie. From school kids to international movie releases – nothing illustrates more effectively just how wide a range of appeal the mythology really has.

And between these points, you have two New York Times bestselling authors both still gobsmacked by their own success… and, more importantly, delighted for the profile and credibility it’s brought to all of them, and to the tales they, too, loved as kids.

With every person they spoke to, every interview they undertook, you could see that all six of these writers would be nowhere else. Their own Forbidden Planets are alive, bristling with new potential – and it was all there to be seen our books department last night. Perhaps that’s how the WarHammer worlds get an appeal that goes from children to filmset.

A final thank you to the crew for showing military efficiency in signing so many books for us (I was half-expecting to hear Dan bark, ‘ONE, two, three ONE!’ and have everybody sign in sync). Watching last night work so well was fantastic – as Invasions go, you lot can come again!

Monday, 6 September 2010

Save The Words

Language is organic.

In an accelerating age of instant communication, word and sentence structure adapt faster than ever, almost too fast for us to keep track. Abbreviations more suitable to text and IM creep steadily into everyday use; looking deeper, this change is led by a younger generation. As our education system prioritises new criteria, so our language changes with each passing year. Love it or hate it, it’s inevitable.

When my son acquires his first mobile, I doubt I’ll even understand his text messages.

And I’m sure that’s part of the point.

Yet the ghost of my English teacher haunts me still. Bless Jock Craig, that man taught a wonder and joy in the versatility and beauty of our language that has never left me. Despite his stern humour, he had a passion for his craft that infected all of us. From Beowulf to Chaucer to Milton to modernity, I defy any Ardinian taught by Jock to have come away texting lolcat.

In a week that’s seen the demise of the printed Oxford English Dictionary – is the traditional edifice of our language crumbling? Whither its remnant now?

Well, apparently, it’s here.

This is Save The Words. A site where you can show your love of the depth and richness – and downright bloody stupidity – of the English language by ‘adopting’ a word and promising to use it in day-to-day conversation.

Here are some of my favourites: -

Snobographer – one who writes about snobs
Perantique – very old or ancient
Vadosity – shallow body of water that can be crossed by wading
Quadragintireme – vessel with forty pairs of oars
Lubency – willingness, pleasure

The list goes ever on – it’s mesmeric and compelling.

If you choose to adopt a word, the site will tell you that 90% of everything we write is communicated by only 7,000 words – and I’m guessing that’s not including txtspk. Here is Oxford taking up the challenge, adapting with the times and bringing our language full-circle – using the very digital technology that’s causing the change to ride it and move with it.

Go on: adopt a word. Tell a friend, opt into the word-a-day email. Pick up your own word-banner and make sure it’s seen and heard.

No-one says you can’t like lolcats. But take a moment to think about where they came from.