Saturday, 11 December 2010

Culture Shock

Culture Shock is a very strange beast.

It’s not the big stuff – the high-rise Miami condos and the golden beach – that’s expected, absorbed parts of the background noise. In a Brit’s constant exposure to American culture, both tele-visual and through Twitter, some stuff just sinks into your subconscious.

No, it’s the little stuff that has the power.

Some of it’s half-expected, but still humorous – driving on the wrong side of the road, overhead traffic lights and ceaseless intersections, fire-hydrants and strip-malls, the guys who put their bikes on the front of the bus (yeah, that one absolutely foxed me). Some of it’s sheer ‘I-don’t-fucking-believe-this’ comedy – the juxtaposition of sunshine and palm trees with Christmas decorations. Sign-spinners (tell me they’re not real)… and what is it about the denizens of Miami and bloody pom-pom dogs?

Some of it, though; some of it just brought me to a dead stop.

Partially it’s the poverty. There’s no shortage of it in central London, but seeing it another context is both surreal and, rather uncomfortably, too real for words. The suburbs are a tessellation of street-art, chickenwire and urban decay; over them, the skeletal overlords of the empty skyscrapers stand grim against flawless blue. Miami smells like concrete, like sun-baked stucco; I hadn’t realised how much the absence of rivers and parks bothered me until I got home.

In a city built on a swamp, where hurricanes are a fact of everyday life, such ‘urban’ things as I take for granted are luxuries. That’s kind of an eye-opener.

Coming back to the tele-visual thing – I seemed to be forever walking into filmsets. The Tobacco Road bar was waiting for Arnie and a shotgun; the very poverty itself was straight out of Robocop. The fantastic, 50s ‘Art Deco’ buildings seemed two-dimensional – had I leaned far enough over, I could’ve nudged them to fall flat. Seeing white bird feathers decorating a grave… it took a minute for me to realise that the ritual employed had, yes, been absolutely sincere.

No Danie, just because it’s a churchless graveyard doesn’t mean it’s an episode of Buffy…

The tourist in me took in The Everglades (damn those ‘gators are big!), the Coral Castle, the KidRobot store, and wandered along the sprawling pretentiousness of Art Basel… evidence of which was washing up on the beach a couple days later. Plus a shout, here, to the wonderful Tate of Tate’s Comics and Videos – when he realised who I worked for, he and his team granted me Ambassadorial status. That’s a whole new and different form of Culture Shock!

In all of this though, there’s one thing that stands out as the greatest Culture Shock of all.

Twitter has made the world smaller; broken it into bite-size pieces and allowed everyone to find their own involvement. It’s also become saturated with spammers and life coaches and soulless marketeers – it’s very bloody noisy.

And it’s all too easy to lose track of your friends.

The opportunity to meet some of those friends – people I’ve been talking to for nearly four years, people from the Little Blue Bird’s first nesting days – was a wondrous thing; I have no words to really do it justice. However small the world may shrink and however swiftly its changes may pass us by, some things are worth taking a moment to remember, and to take a hold of.

Just like the city itself, they have to be done in person.

And that’s not just Culture Shock. It's magic.

You can read another viewpint on my visit here.

Monday, 29 November 2010

That 'All-Boys' School' Thing: The Ardingly Reunion

When you tell people you went to an all-boys’ school, their reaction is somewhere between envy and disbelief… or a nudge and a wink and a ‘that must’ve been fun, love’.

In fact, it was one hell of an experience – but not for the reasons you’d think.

In 1982, Ardingly took in nine girls in the ‘Shell’ year (we were 13). Unable to board, we were firmly ensconced under the Headmaster’s House, in a study of our own where James and Mary Flecker, the Headmaster and his wife, could keep a bead on us. Mary was protector and defender; Mum and Aunt and big sister. We were going to get into trouble (it was inevitable) but she was there to deal with it.

In retrospect, it was a fucking crazy thing to do – as an adult, the boldness and sheer bloody dangerousness of the manoeuvre awes me. We were what?? There were those among the staff, public school tutors of long-standing tradition, who were opposed to our presence – GIRLS??!! - we were invading their territory, stalwart British standards were about to come tumbling down…

They cut us no quarter – but they were never unfair. We were expected to work and train and sport just as sodding hard as the boys did. And that was normal to us; it made us. I wonder how such treatment would be received in modern schooling?

The point to all this reminiscence and waffle?

Last Thursday, we had a school reunion – at the House of Commons, no less. It’s an astonishing building – exquisite, with a heavyweight of impeccably polite security more familiar to an episode of ‘Spooks’ – but it has a chill feel, an emptiness, that’s palpable. In spite of breathless beauty, paintings, plaques in the floor and vaults in the ceiling, it feels hollow.

But we didn’t linger long in the echoing-cold Corridors of Power.

Instead, we found ourselves at the very back of the building, right by the River… and twenty-three years in the past.

Coming full-circle, it was system-shock to see so many familiar faces that had changed so little. Badge peering was prevalent, wine was free-flowing and sneaking out for an illicit smoke brought back many memories (though the scenery was better). It was uncanny, too, that the old social groups drifted back together. Teenage tensions may have passed, the scenery may be spectacular… but friendship and character in many ways remain unchanged.

The thing that had changed the most was the generation gap – or the lack of one. When we were teens, James and Mary, Lady Whitmore, many others, were our teachers and caregivers, far more so at a public school than teachers at the modern comprehensive. At forty-plus, standing in the Houses of Parliament themselves, these shapers of our lives are no longer ‘masters’, they’re just people. In many ways, they’re equally unchanged (though the urge to call James ‘Sir’ is almost too deeply programmed to shift); they may be shocked by our age and treating us with choice anecdotes of our teenage years – but their affection remains. It’s enormous, and very moving.

We wouldn’t be who were are without these people, and the way they have touched our lives.

As the evening ended, we wound our way into the cold London night promising we would stay in touch, and come back next year.

I hope we will – and I hope the reunion continues to expand, bringing in more years and more OAs. In this world of FaceBook, you forget how catching up with people’s faces is so important.

Thanks to Jen for the inspiration, and Jane for making it all happen.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Facebook and 'Targeted Advertising'

(Rant Warning!!)

So, Facebook, I’ve changed my relationship status.

Yes, I’m a forty-plus year-old woman, and it now says that horrifying, mortifying word – ‘single’. Apparently, I’ve shifted demographic and found myself in Hell.

No longer am I a happy and successful Mum, career professional, writer, fighter, fitness fanatic; no longer am I exactly what I was a word-replacement ago. That one change, that one little thing, has torn a massive hole in my feminine credibility.

And through it seethe the advertisers, minions of Cthulhu.

I can cope with the dating site ads – I’ve no wish to sign up to Zoosk at the minute, but I understand why they're there. Fairy snuff.

What really fucking bugs me are these: -

eHarmony – no, I’m not looking for a life-partner. Perhaps I may be in the future, but for the moment, I’m enjoying my independence. Do single guys get eHarmony ads? Or is this the adult version of Jackie magazine – all girls really want is a boyfriend? I think someone’s been watching too much Twilight.

Dress ads for ‘plus’ sizes – when I changed status, I didn’t automatically gain five stone. I could put an upright and a guy line in the dresses you’re offering me and use them as tents. In fact, offering me the tent would far be more sodding useful.

Self-help books – you fucking what now? So, I’m looking for a life-partner while comfort-eating cream cakes and reading ‘How To Start Over Yet Again’. Are you seriously scanning my keywords or have your malfunctioned here?

Wedding advice – this one left me speechless. Because I’m a single woman, I must want to get married. Would this be before or after I fit the size 32 dress?

Fertility treatment – my absolute favourite. It has to be a mistake – I’m single and over forty and it’s offering me what..?! I’m only guessing that after I gain five stone, fit the hot tent-dress, finish the self-help book and get married, then 2.2 children (all right 1.2 children) will complete my life.

Oh look, I’m a formula. That’s so much easier to manage!

Seriously, marketeer or no, this is too much. It’s assumptive, it’s insulting and it skating closely round the edge of outright sexist. Yes, I realise that demographic streamlining has become a part of our existence and that we all get boxed into corners who’s angles don’t fit – but if you’re going to target ads, that for chrissakes target them efficiently.

And that means I’m an individual. I’m exactly the same individual that I was when I had that diamond on my finger.

If this is your ‘targeted advertising’, then you may want to adjust your sights.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

#MADMONTH! BristolCon and Other Stories

Every so often, life at Forbidden Planet goes balls-to-the-wall crazy.

We’ve done Star Wars Days and Hallowe’en Celebrations, we’ve had signings with some of the most exciting names in the industry and we’ve taken our butts and our books to the Bristol Ramada and drunk far too much beer at BristolCon… and had a great time doing all of it. No matter how busy the business may be, there’s a sense of involvement that keep the energy levels high.

As Doctor Tim, manager of the Bristol Megastore said: we do it because we love it.

Honest, guv’nor.!

Seriously, though, sometimes, this stuff is just a privilege. From the wondrous (and hair-raising) tales of Michael Moorcock’s youthful antics, to stealing William Gibson’s ebook signing pen (erm… sorry about that), to remembering the basement days of Denmark Street with Iain Banks, to rediscovering the warm and open friendliness of Simon Pegg… there’s never a dull moment. The tales of Denmark Street remind me that all of these people started in exactly the same place as the rest of us – and each one still values the opinion and input of every single one of his fans. Props to the lot of them!

The #madmonth has ended with a day at BristolCon – a new venture for the local SF/F collective and a perfectly slotted-together event. In the Dealers’ Room as ever, it was still good to see a full and engaging programme of events (we at least got to Nick’s pub quiz – Walters, you’ve missed your calling as a stage comedian!) and (inevitably) to the bar… plus we got to chat to a guest list, all local, that all pitched in to make the event a success.

And the ‘local’ is absolutely the event’s hand-on win. There’s a strong genre family in Bristol, a gathering of authors and bloggers and podcasters and fans who’ve helped build a city hub that’s become big enough to host a Con of its own – and to make it a success. The atmosphere was very chilled - and there was a togetherness to it that can be missing from larger gatherings.

As with the signings at the Megastore – it’s gone to underline that we’re all the same at the root, and we all have the same things dear to our hearts. At the risk of sounding a scrape too cheesy… do we all do it because we love it?

So - props to Jo and her team for a fantastic event that will grow into something even better next year. It was absolutely bigger on the inside!

And yes, we will be back!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Toy Launch: Lunartik at Forbidden Planet!


We're delighted to be hosting the Launch Event for Matt ‘Lunartik’ JOnes’ latest range of vinyl figures Lunartik in a Cup of Tea: Mini Series 1 at the Forbidden Planet Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8JR.

Matt JOnes’ debut figure, Lunartik In A Cup Of Tea, was an instant and refreshing success to the UK art toy world; Lunartik was the base design for the gorgeous Custom Tea Tour involving such artists as Pete Fowler and Jon Burgerman, which also made its debut at Forbidden Planet. Now, Matt JOnes brings us his first set of blind-boxed mini collectibles, including 12 fresh favours and four hidden special brews!

And from 1pm on Saturday 20th November, Matt ‘Lunartik’ JOnes will be in our store to make you a cup of tea – as only he knows how – along with beautiful cakes supplied by Hidden Crumbs.

Matt JOnes is also the designer of the 3D version of our famous ‘rocket’ brand, originally created by Rian Hughes.

Forbidden Planet has always been on the forefront of the art toy sensation in the UK, hosting events with Tara McPherson, Jon Burgerman, Pete Fowler and James Jarvis as well as being the only UK venue on the Custom Bart Qee Tour in 2007 and raising money for the Alzheimer’s Research Trust with the MonQee Project, as supported by Terry Pratchett and Toy2R.

Visit Matt's portfolio at:

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Dark Fiction Magazine

Dark Fiction Magazine is pleased to announce the launch of a new service for fans of genre fiction. Beginning Oct 31st (Hallowe'en), Dark Fiction Magazine will be launching a monthly magazine of audio short stories. This is a free service designed to promote genre short fiction to an audience of podcast and radio listeners. A cross between an audio book, an anthology and a podcast, Dark Fiction Magazine is designed to take the enjoyment of short genre fiction in a new and exciting direction.

Dark Fiction Magazine publishes at least four short stories a month: a mix of award-winning shorts and brand new stories from both established genre authors and emerging writers. Each episode will have a monthly theme and feature complementary tales from the three main genres – science fiction, fantasy and horror.

Co-founder Del Lakin-Smith said: "I love reading short stories, and with the increased uptake of mobile and portable devices this really is a growth area. But like many I find I don't have as much time as I would like to read, so I tend to listen to many podcasts on the go. The idea of replacing my podcasts with high quality, well performed audio short stories is something I find highly appealing, so Sharon and I set about making that a reality."

Sharon Ring, co-founder of Dark Fiction Magazine, said: “From technophobe to technophile in less than two years; I spend a great deal of time working online. To while away those hours, I like to listen to podcasts and drink copious amounts of strong coffee. Now, while I don’t recommend you drink as much coffee as I, I do recommend you check out what Del and I have created. We love podcasts; we love genre fiction; we built a site to bring the two together.”

The theme of Dark Fiction Magazine’s first episode is The Darkness Descends and will feature four fantastical stories:

  • ‘Maybe Then I’ll Fade Away’ by Joseph D’Lacey (exclusive to Dark Fiction Magazine)
  • ‘Pumpkin Night’ by Gary McMahon
  • ‘Do You See?’ by Sarah Pinborough (awarded the 2009 British Fantasy Society Short Story Award)
  • ‘Perhaps The Last’ by Conrad Williams

Lined up for future episodes are Pat Cadigan, Cory Doctorow, Jon Courtenay, Grimwood, Ramsey Campbell, Rob Shearman, Kim Lakin-Smith, Ian Whates, Lauren Beukes, Mark Morris, Adam Nevill, Gareth L Powell, Jeremy C Shipp, Adam Christopher, and Jennifer Williams, among others.

With a team of dedicated and passionate narrators, a central recording facility and a love of genre, Dark Fiction Magazine delivers a truly outstanding aural experience.

Dark Fiction Magazine will also be producing special editions with seasonal stories and topical issues, competitions, flash fiction episodes and novel excerpts. Each episode aims to shock and delight, to horrify and confound as Dark Fiction Magazine takes its listeners on an aural tour through the world of genre fiction.

Dark Fiction Magazine is a collaborative project, created and developed by Del Lakin-Smith and Sharon Ring. For further information, contact Del or Sharon at

Thanks Sharon and Del, and good luck with the project. My own Public School tones may not be too far away!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

The Imperial March

They never tire of it.

The frightened little ones, the loud-mouthed pre-teens, the squealing girls and the enthusiastic Dads – everywhere the Garrison go, you see the same kaleidoscope of reactions. All the hot girls love a Stormtrooper, all the geeks make jokes about droids, and all the smart arses end up on the pavement with their hands behind their heads.

Hell, I never tire of it either.

And we’ve had a few new discoveries this time. Working with us at Bristol and Southampton to promote our exclusive book-plated edition of Star Wars: The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, the UK Garrison do seem to like Forbidden Planet. Lord Vader himself came to inspect Bristol, where he absolutely refrained from throttling anyone (unless they really deserved it) and loomed outside the store, silent and menacing and breathing as only Vader can. Surrounded by a plethora of flashing cameras, eagerly costumed children and wide-eyed tittering Mums.

The UKG absolutely excel at the Comedy Photo Op. They will pose for days and the passing public will never let them go… but there’s also something surreal and hilarious about any Stormtrooper doing something that’s essentially mundane. Trooper reads menu, Trooper goes into shop – it’s a win every time. Faceless and humourless, voices both mechanical and polite, all they have to do is stop by the front of a market stall and people turn and point.

And they never, ever, tire of it.

Today, though, we’ve had a moment.

Spotting a pair of smartly kilted bagpipers on Southampton High Street, the Troopers naturally had to investigate. The public were naturally entertained. The piper naturally made an attempt at The Imperial March on his chanter, and promised solemnly he would ‘learn it’ for the next time.

Fair enough, we thought.

Imagine our wonder, then, when the ‘next time’ turned out to be two hours later, when both pipers came down to Forbidden Planet Southampton. As promised, he played, fucking flawlessly, the Imperial March.

We were, Troopers and store and onlookers alike, absolutely gobsmacked.

Check this out…

Piper at the Gates of... from Danie Ware on Vimeo.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Who're You Calling A Quitter?!

There’s only one piece of advice to give a writer:

Put arse in chair; get on with it (variation in chair and choice of toolage may apply).

But when do you give up? How many years does it take before the ‘day job’ becomes the ‘career’? Before you eventually grow bored or distracted? Do you eventually tire of firing your passions and seeing them flare and fade, of throwing yourself at the page and sliding to the floor?

How long can your obsession survive when your alarm cuts through it at seven every morning?

At thirty (thereabouts), I quit. I didn’t mean to. I had two completed novels and umpteen other, smaller projects that I’d waved randomly at the industry from a safe distance… and equally randomly at long-suffering friends, a little closer to home. Yet somehow I’d never quite broken beyond those boundaries and my attention…



It took a long break before my arse went back in that bloody chair.

So – today is a minor victory. It’s taken a little longer than the Writer’s Workshops of my early twenties reckoned, but hey, that’s what quitting did for me.

Find 'Cure', my first ever paid-for piece of short fiction here, on Hub Fiction. (Thank you Alasdair for the invitation and publication).

The moral of this story?

Never Give Up, Never Surrender.

The picture is Rodney Matthews' 'Terrestrial Voyager'. Read the bloody story, already, and you'll get why it's here, okay?

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Film Trailer: Get Well Soon

This is an utterly shameless plug for a despicably talented mate: -

"Janet Fisk has been supporting her husband, Theodore, through his experience of breast cancer -- but now that he is in remission, she realises that their relationship has been empty for some time. Her secret discovery that she is pregnant is the final straw. More trapped than ever, the bathroom becomes her refuge, and her prison. As the pressure mounts, inexplicable things start to happen in the house -- all leading back to the bath.

Starring Gresby Nash (The IT Crowd) and Laura Howard (Midsomer Murders), 'GET WELL SOON' is a taut psychological horror is the first short film from directors Ian Baigent and Jack Burnford, and writer Michael Woodman.

The film is produced by Gregory Rinaldi and Alison Baxter of BRAG Productions, and brings together the talents of crew who have worked on projects as diverse as Fantastic Mr. Fox, Luther, Heartless, Quantum of Solace, and Alice in Wonderland. It will be entering festivals in late 2010.

Follow Michael Woodman's blog on the BRAG Productions website, which discusses the process of making a short film on a tight budget, and also tackles DOP Rory Moles' experience of shooting with the Canon 5D."

Well done guys - that absolutely fucking rocks!!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

My '15 Books' List

Stephen Donaldson ‘The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant’

Two people have ever rendered me speechless when they’ve guested at FP… and the other one was Ray Harryhausen. I was 14 when I fell in love with Land, and (while Covenant remains an irritating twat), that love has never, ever left me… and distils to my own writing to this day.

Eugene O’Neill ‘The Iceman Cometh’

I love the play – and the moral dichotomy. When the Iceman breaks the fabricated reality of the rather lost cast of characters… does he do the right thing? It cuts very close to the bone, and I still don’t know the answer.

Douglas Adams ‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’

Oh my GODS the continuity!! Simply the most finely wrought, beautifully convoluted timeline… I love the Hitchhiker series as much as the next (wo)man, but this… is a thing of beauty.

Kurt Vonnegut ‘Galapagos’

In VIth form, my English teacher recommended this as his favourite book ever. He wasn’t wrong. Again, the gloriously wrought timeline – plus Vonnegut’s dry sense of humour shown in true shrewd, sharp style with the wonderfully bizarre cast.

Michael Marshall Smith ‘Only Forward’

I think I embarrassed MMS when I told him how much I enjoyed this book. It’s absolutely off-the-wall, clever, insightful and breakneck downhill. And it has cats.

John Milton ‘Paradise Lost’

I know, its cheesy – but I can’t do this without adding at least one Major English Work and I love it. It big, it’s bold, it’s ludicrously OTT… but as allegorical works go, it’s the fucking Daddy.

Peter Mathiessen ‘The Snow Leopard’

A tale about discovery – about going looking for one thing and finding completely something else. The only religious text you’ll ever need.

Tony Ballantyne ‘Twisted Metal’

It’s DIFFERENT. It’s new, it’s brutal, it’s vicious; it takes no prisoners. It’s almost a concept book - no-one has ever written robots like this. My absolutely top book of last year; it absolutely blew me away. If you haven’t read it – why not??

Tom Stoppard ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead’

Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads.

William Golding ‘The Lord of the Flies’

Another core text – but with good reason. The boys’ descent into brutality is drawn in both blood and pity; and the scene of the dead man in the parachute haunts me to this day. There are echoes of Golding's voice in David Moody's 'Hater' - another book I really enjoyed.

Lord Dunsany ‘The Kind of Elfland’s Daughter’

Much as I love LOTR, its presence is too predictable - and this was written in the 1920’s. It’s simple, it’s beautiful; it’s elegant, the imagery is massively powerful and absolutely sincere. A fontspring for the genre.

T. H. White ‘The Once and Future King’

Add to this one ‘Le Morte d’Arthur’ and ‘The Mists of Avalon’ and several more besides… I went through a phase of being smitten with the whole thing. I guess there’s always been a part of me that’d like to believe it has its feet in the truth. Saxon, maybe?

Robert Holdstock ‘Mythago Wood’

My copy of Mythago Wood was pressed into my hands by Rob Holdstock in person – shocked when I ‘fessed that I’d never read it. I promised him solemnly that I would – but hadn’t started it when he died a month or so later. I’m sorry I never got the chance to tell him how dream-woven, poignant and lovely the story really is.

Andy Remic ‘War Machine’

An odd choice to close – but absolutely belongs in this list. War Machine was my Pivot Book, the one that made me realise that I ‘could do this’. It was the book that started me writing again (seriously) after an eight-year drought. One day, I will blog about this properly...

Apologies - this was only posted here because Nick tagged me to 'fess up and Facebook's being an arse. Because of my job, I made a professional choice: I DON'T write book reviews!

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.