When Titans Attack

June 1, 2018 Leave a comment

The Attack on Titan series proves the point that you can make even the most ridiculous idea and make it all dark and serious.1. I watched the first season ages ago, and enjoyed it for the high-tension nonsense that it was. I also got to interview Bryce Papenbrook, who does the English dub for the shows main character, Eren Yeager.

The interview is somewhere out there in the Starburst archives, but the thing that stuck in my mind is the Bryce was very proud of his ability to act and shout at the same time.

In case you’ve no idea what I’m on about, The Attack on Titan series is a pseudo flintlock fantasy world which takes place in a vaguely German like country. Mankind is under siege and lives in a massive walled city, with the upper classes living in the thickest wall in the center, with thinner walled bits of the city protecting the peasants.   

The threat everyone is hiding from are giant man-baby monsters2 with grotesque heads that walk like toddlers and eat people whole.  These are the titular ‘Titans’. It’s utterly daft and the animated TV show and accompanying comic books are hugely popular across the world, especially in their native Japan. 

The main protagonist is a chap called Eren, who shouts a lot and hates Titans. He works with a team of scouts who swing around on gas powered grappling hooks smacking the monsters in their weak spots with huge swords.

The Roar Of Awakening is the third ‘movie’ instalment of the series. You may note that I’d only seen the first season at this point, though I’d read some of the manga (comic books) and felt up to speed. I was wrong. Between the blood, the shouting and the silly plot twists I had no idea what was going on.

‘Roar’ ramps up the conspiracy and paranoia, but it’s mostly lots of characters jabbering on at each other about nothing until another fight scene happens.

This is because Attack on Titan: The Roar of Awakening is a compressed and re-edited version of season two of the TV series.  The editing makes for some interesting scenes; dramatic freeze frame with some dialogue over the top is used quite a bit in order to stitch the narrative into something vaguely understandable. The result is action scene after action scene, with lots of dramatic music, shouting, violence and the more shouting. The animation really shines at these points, with some great cinematic scenes of huge monsters punching normal sized people. Then eating them.

The problem is that if you didn’t know any about the series going in, well this is part three in an ongoing series; this is going to make no sense .  It’s hard to really understand what this is for. Fans of Attack on Titan will want to five the full series a watch, rather than this butchered shorthand. At two-hours, it’s a heck of a long recap.

Though I get why these things exist, I really wish they didn’t. Honestly, if you’re going to watch this weird and macabre thing, you need to invest the time into it.


1: Genuinely not a good thing. Not everything has to be dark and edgy, after all.

2: Yes you read that right.

Categories: Old Reviews, Reviews, TV

BANANAMAN – The Musical

I first heard of an adaptation of Bananaman in the works a couple of years ago. Originally intended as a movie, they aimed much lower as it developed and turned it into a musical.

We are currently living in a world where comic-books are king. However, notably, missing from the huge roster of comic book reboots are characters from The Beano.1 This national treasure has never taken itself seriously and is packed with very silly fun. Enter Bananaman The Musical, an attempt to add this unique voice in the world of comics to growing chorus of superhero stories. The result is highly pleasing; A hilarious musical for Generation X and their kids.

For those who weren’t lucky enough to be young in 80’s Britain, Bananaman is a deeply silly take on boyish power fantasy comics such as Bill Parker’s Shazam, Siegel & Shuster’s Superman or Mick Anglo’s Marvelman. Eric Wimp is a schoolboy who, when he eats a banana, turns into a yellow and blue musclebound idiot who can bend steel and fly. Many of us will remember the 1983 cartoon, featuring the vocal talents of the Goodies. Sightline Entertainment, the producers of this show certainly did. As we entered the Southwark Playhouse’s main stage, the interlude music was a collection of 80’s kids TV show theme tunes.

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The show opens with an explanation of how boring Eric Wimp’s life is, how dull Acacia Road and introduces the characters. Notably, Fiona the Newsreporter is re-imagined as a schoolgirl reporter with own YouTube channel, and is an actual character rather than a prop. In proper Beano style the girls are just as awesome as the guys, thank you very much.

Jodie Jacobs tackles the difficult task of Crow exceptionally well. This is a crow that flaps around and sings, and the puppet is very charming, very witty and carries much of the narrative on its slender feathered shoulders. Mark Newnham sells the earnest rubbishness of Eric Wimp perfectly, and Matthew McKenna is clearly having the time of his life as Bananaman. His comic timing his perfect.2

The show is stolen, in part, by the villains. Which is exactly what you want. Marc Pickering is Doctor Gloom, and chews the scenery as the smartest buffoon in the room and has all the best songs. Carl Mullaney’s General Blight tempers Pickering’s performance with an absurd sense of manic outrage and the two bounce off each of as cackling baddies throughout.

The songs are fun, cracking and catchy. They tell the story but are the sort of songs you’d listen to again and again. They mock the recent seriousness of the superhero genre with a playful sense of fun and are quite memorable.

They are some flaws with the storytelling; Eric’s intelligence is established early on, in fact his nerd and geek credentials have their own song. When Eric turns into Bananaman, fans know that the hero has the muscles of twenty men and brains of twenty mussels, but this isn’t established until much later. It’s a minor detail, but one that could be easily fixed. The scenes at the end rush slightly too quickly, but that’s fine. By now you’ve climbed aboard the Banana boat of fun and are laughing so hard it’s tricky to keep up with the gags.

The venue also delivered a few sound issues early on, but these where swiftly resolved. That said, this isn’t a super-slick production and nor should it be. The source material is chaotic and silly and that’s part of the appeal. A highly professional production throughout though one with a deliberately anarchic vibe.

I particularly loved the way some of the ensemble cast where dressed as ‘brown-coat and flat cap’ janitors when moving bits of the set around, and that they were actual character.

A splendid fourth-wall shout out that was instantly recognisable to the target audience. Costume Supervisors Nia Evans and Daisy Woodroffe have done an amazing job getting the look the characters spot on, right down to the socks and the titular hero looks as silly as he does wonderful. They are some lovely Easter Eggs in the show’s design, from the mortar-board hat on the teachers to a sign pointing to Bash Street. Director Mark Perry has nailed it; this is The Beano come to life.

Bananaman The Musical is a lovely ripe banana, dipped in nostalgia and fun, served with glee and manic silliness. Sadly it looks like it won’t tour. The press junket we attended seemed focused mostly on the London theatre scene, and this is definetly a show aimed more firmly at what marketing types call ‘Facebook Families’3.

This sort of thing is exactly what British Theatre needs – fun, friendly and commercial. It’s a huge shame that not even the soundtrack is available anymore. Hopefully someone will bring it back to life.


1: A fine and fun kids comic from DC Thompson, and an amazing example of British humour.

2: I confess that the first quick-change caught me unawares and I was utterly impressed. Then I realised that Wimp and Bannanman are played by different people. I am a muppet.

3: Middle Class families looking for something for the kids that won’t bore the adults. But cost is king. We all know a Facebook Family, they’re the ones with their little ‘uns in the profile.

Categories: Geek, Old Reviews, Theatre

Book Review – 84K

April 2, 2018 Leave a comment

Claire North1 is always a delight. Her book The Sudden Appearance of Hope ended up on the short list for Brave New Words Award, and The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is one of my favourites, it being my short of time-travel what-if weird.

84K is anti-utopian fiction set in a near future, and extrapolates current British politics to an utterly bleak (and seemingly inevitable) conclusion. A world where freedom is just another word and every life has a price tag, assessed, stamped and added to a spreadsheet. The story revolves around a man who is called Theo Miller. He works at the Criminal Audit Office, an organisation owned by The Company. But then everything is.

Theo’s life is one spent under the radar, never running too fast or raising his voice. He assesses the cost of individual crimes for a living. This is a world where those with little or no money are sent to work menial roles to pay off the cost of the simplest misdemeanours. It also means that those who can pay can pretty much do what they like. Inevitably, he finds himself in a situation where the books cannot be balanced, and his past, long held in check, drives him to act.

It is a thrilling read; taut and well balanced. This is both literary fiction and science-fiction, in the same vein as A Handmaids Tale or 1984. 2 Given the title, comparisons to Orwell’s 1984 are inevitable, and though they are some strong similarities in tone and approach, North’s writing is brighter, sharper and much more engaging than Orwell’s.

The narrative is tighter and though the tone and message are just as bleak, the story is more resonant and relevant. 84K has the advantage of being a new story set in a recognisable world, of course, but it every bit as thought provoking as other dystopian classics such as Farenheit 451 and Brave New World.

There is no Big Brother in North’s world; instead The Company fills the omnipresent space. Theo Miller is a deeper and more motivated character than Winston Smith and so on. They are parallels, certainly but 84K is more relevant, more vital and much harder to ignore. It’s also much, much more angry. There’s a really rage underneath the page, a powerful stab at current heartlessness and greed of our modern world. This makes the work truly gripping, though if you’re in the process of despairing over UK politics, you’ll either find the cathartic or a just a little bit much.

This is a dystopian anthem for modern activist, a warning of an all to near future and a wake-up call for anyone who believes justice should not come with a price tag. 84K is an important book but also a cracking thriller and a great bit of near-future speculative fiction.

A version of this review appeared in Starburst Magazine. This is a revised version.

1: Aka Catherine Webb, AKA Kate Griffin. Writers with multiple names are always a delight, especially when we have them on the podcast, because we can claim we have multiple guests.
2: Books can of course be more than one genre; those who tell you otherwise are trying to sell you something.

Categories: Books

Brave New Words Award 2018

March 31, 2018 Leave a comment

So 2018 saw me be the head judge for Starburst Magazine’s Brave New Words Award.

It was an interesting experience, if I’m honest. Essentially, an awards panel is a super-specific book club where you and a bunch of people you respect read the same books and then get super specific in their opinions of the book.  It all came down to a rather extended chat over skype.

And I honestly didn’t know where  we’d end up by the end of it. It was super close. It was super fun to judge.

The Winner was Margret Helgadottir for Pacific Monsters. The prize (Starburst’s iconic Roboto) went on a fantastic journey, from Manchester, to Wales and finally to Norway.

Categories: Uncategorized

On awards and clever titles

February 7, 2018 1 comment

So this Monday1 Starburst, that magazine I write for, announced the nominees for the Brave New Words Award, which can be found here.

It’s a bit exciting. It’s also a bit different, in terms of its aims. It’s not a simple best2 book award. For a start, it’s not for a work. It’s for an individual, based on their work3. It’s also based around the name; Brave, New and Words.

Before I break that down though, let me explain how the award came about:

Back in 2016, Starburst had a film festival. It was rather special. Like many of the adventures that magazine has taken me on, it wasn’t the smoothest of affairs. However, it was also pretty amazing. People came from all over the world to show quirky and different genre movies. Stuff that was new and interesting. I met a whole load of actors, directors, FX types and of course script writers. It was a ‘2am in the morning, talking nonsense with interesting strangers’ sort of affair.

And amidst the more mainstream panels and movie showings, were some brilliantly curated gems.  Features like Blood of Tribades, a valiantly silly homage to 70’s Italian horror movies. Or Good Tidings, a flick about a rampage of killer Santas.  The latter won  ‘Best  Feature’ at the festival’s award ceremony.

But what really caught my eye was the Independents Day4 Award, given to  Christian Nicolson for This Giant Papier Mache Boulder is Actually Really Heavy. Nicolson’s movie is a gem. It’s from New Zealand and it’s a different sort of low budget sci-fi comedy. It does things that mainstream movies would never dare try and it’s clearly cobbled together with love and grit. Of course it won.

PapierMacheBoulder-1-1000x600

Papier Mache Boulder has done quite well at festivals

I walked away from the festival reminded that since it’s rebirth in Manchester, Starburst’s mission has been about encouraging and highlighting new talent.  After all, it’s first ever issue was founded on an indie movie, and it’s been promoting brave and clever stuff ever since. I knew then that we needed an award for people who wrote rather than people who acted or directed. Naming the award after the magazine’s book column, Brave New Words5, seemed obvious, and that helped define what the award would be about.

The ‘Words’ bit is obvious. We wanted written works. To widen it out though, the idea was to make it cross-discipline. We got a good variety of entries this year, which is encouraging as the award is in its first year and ‘what it’s for’ isn’t really set in people’s minds as yet.

‘New’ was easy as well; works from the previous year 6. But also new as in different, new as in fresh. New as in eye-catching.  New of course, doesn’t automatically mean debut. We have some quite illustrious types on our shortlist, because they’re all doing stuff that’s fresh and exciting with their writing.

‘Brave’ is perhaps the most nebulous. In a way, we mean striking. Different. Clever. Something that stretches the scope of the genre. Boundary pushing. Or simply something that needed writing that no one else seems to have written.

I think this award will fit in well with its fellow Starburst awards.  This year’s Starburst Festival should be fun.

In the meantime, I have six works to critically analyse, and an amazing panel of judges to debate with. See some of you at Starburst’s Media City Festival, for the results of the inaugural winner.

BNWshort

The shortlist for the Brave New Words Award, courtesy of the BNW Instagram.


1: As I write this.  Chances are you’re reading this in the future. Always check the dates. This applies as much to blog posts as it does to bacon.

2: There’s nothing wrong with ‘best’, of course. Except simply saying ‘best’ tends to obscure criteria. Besides, the name of the award rather tells you what it’s for.

3: Simply put, making the prize about the writer not the work makes it harder for the prize to become predictable over the years.

4: Independents Day is the name of a regular feature in the magazine.

5: Brave New Words is also the name of a podcast. Which is eligible for the Best Fancast, if you’re the sort of person who nominates Hugos. Just saying.

6: The Sudden Appearance of Hope got in thanks to the paperback version coming out in 2017. We’ll probably tighten that next year.  

Bonus Note: By the way, if want more cool book related pictures, check out the Instagram feed for the Brave New Words podcast.

Categories: Brave New Words

On Interviewing Authors

January 30, 2018 Leave a comment

I host a podcast and radio show for Starburst Magazine called Brave New Words1. It’s about books and the format can be summed up as “Ed tries to review a book. The other team members try to stop him”.2 Towards the end of the show there’s a section that’s come to be known as ‘an interview with a Lovely Author’ .

It’s an opportunity for an author to promote their work. It’s recorded separately 3, usually over skype. We’ve had a huge range of writers on the show, from Neil Gaiman, George RR Martin and Robin Hobb to a host of debut authors for whom I’m their first ever promotional interview. For all the ‘light and frothy’ nature of the show, we’re the book-business-part of a hugely popular national magazine with thousands of followers, listeners and readers4. The magazine has been around for decades, and has the cultural reach that brings.

I’ve recorded over a hundred of these conversations now, and I’ve always been delighted to help new writers get involved. With all that being said it seems time to throw out a few tips and some advice. Hopefully this will make things less nerve racking for all involved. Of course, writers tend to over think everything, so I’m not sure how much this will all help. Still, here goes:

Relax – The hard bit was writing the book. This is a chat about the book. With a stranger who’s really into books and who has already taken the time to find out more about your book. Chill. This is just a bit of promotion; it won’t make or break the book. It’s useful and important, but it’s really just a friendly chat. Take a moment to enjoy the achievement. Interviews can be fun!

Be On Time – It can be a haphazard affair, the life of a debut author. For most, it’s a hobby that’s gotten out of hand and/or the first step in pursuit of a life-long dream. Regardless, you probably have a day job and your work/life balance is likely enjoying a bit of a knock as you gear up to launch your book. Remember that most book bloggers/podcasters etc also have day jobs. So when a time is agreed on, stick to it. If it’s in the evening, make sure you’ve figured out enough time to eat/relax before the interview. Don’t try and do an interview on the bus, or while shopping, jet-lagged or anything else that will lead to you being not on the top of your game.5 As the person interviewing you, I want you to be relaxed and chill. 6

On air sign and microphone

Old photo from the old studio. Our current set up has more books

Set your expectations – A bit of media exposure is not going to catapult you into a world of glitz and glamour. Just have fun with it.

Be You – One of the most frequent occurrences from an author or their agent is a request to see a list of questions in advance. I understand the logic behind this, but it isn’t happening. Instead, I tend to reassure the author as to what the general vibe is going to be. For Brave New Words, we ask the author to talk about their work, talk a bit about why they write and then ask some ‘deep’ questions that aren’t really that deep, followed by some stupid ‘finishing off’ questions about The Simpsons or Doctor Who. The reason there isn’t a script is because we don’t want you sounding like a robot. This is a chance to meet, virtually, a bunch of amazing people who listen to the show. So we want you to be natural. It’s fine if you don’t know how to do that yet.

Plan –Here’s a useful tip; work out how to explain your book to an elderly relative. If your Nanna is going to wander off halfway through your pitch, re-think it. You’ve spent months or even years working on the book, so don’t worry about being over familiar or over rehearsed. Just figure out a way to ‘elevator pitch’ the thing. No work is so complicated that you can’t squeeze it into a pitch 7

Do-Overs are fine – Check first, but yeah, do-overs are fine. Stopping and restarting is fine. Taking a minute is fine. If you’re not up for it on the day, don’t worry about cancelling. We are here to help, so we want you to be full of vim and happy to go ahead.

Check your kit –Make sure your mic works, that Skype doesn’t need updating and that you can actually talk. If not, re-schedule.

If you are uncomfortable, stop – I’ve never had this happen to me, but if you’re not happy with a question or anything else, stop. Sanity and safety first.

Expect the unexpected – You’ll get a question that will cause your brain to freeze, or the microphone will fall off your desk. The dog will run off with your phone or a small child will suddenly decide to join in. These things go wrong, it’s not the end of the world. It will be fine. Laughter is good.

Ed and Si recording a show

Also making podcasts is really fun


1: Because it’s the season for these things: We are eligible as Best Fancast for the Hugo Award nominations. If you like the show and you do the WSFS/Worldcon stuff, gives us a nom. Fun fact : Despite being around for 40 years, nothing directly Starburst Magazine related has ever come close to winning a rocket.


2: This is doubly true for the live shows, where we get guest authors to join in as cast, rather than people to interview. The rather talented RJ Barker is especially good at stopping me in my tracks. Check out the Sledge Lit 2017 show here.


3: This is mostly due to logistics. The podcast is a labour of love and doing it all in one gulp is simply not practical. The podcast is not my proper job (*cough* hence the Hugo eligibility) but it is something I really like doing.

4: Oh, and that’s not including the radio station, Fab, which the show also airs on.

5: Avoiding excessive background noise is a good idea as well.

6: In the early days of the podcast, syncing up interviews with bigger names was tricky. I seem to recall interviewing Sarah Pinborough over the phone whilst huddling in the smokers’ shelter between shift changes. I was very lucky with the sound quality, and Sarah seemed to think it was all hilarious, which was nice.

7: That whirring sound is George Orwell spinning in his grave. Misery guts reckoned you couldn’t do a book review in under 400 words. Which is weird because I’ve heard many people review Fifty Shades of Grey in just one. Regardless, short pitches are a possible thing. Even if it’s the next Gravity’s Rainbow or The Dubliners.


Bonus foot note: The show used to be called The Bookworm. I always hated the name, and now it’s got a  cooler name with a better format.

Categories: Brave New Words

Goodbye to The Nice Guy ™

January 21, 2018 Leave a comment

Friends and random internet denizens; it’s time we got rid of the term ‘The Nice Guy’. For those of you lucky enough to have missed it, it’s a dating stereotype that has evolved, grown then devolved over the years.

So much so that not only is it now a pretty useless time, it’s also toxic.
Let me break it down.

Back in the 80’s1 and 90s, ‘The Nice Guy’ was a chap who could never get past the first or second date. They’d ask a person out on a date and then never get beyond a nice evening, being let down gently2 with the words “You’re nice, but”3. Such gents would seek advice after the nth rejection. Idiots would tell them things like ‘treat ‘em mean keep ‘em keen’, others would point out that maybe have a bath would help. Mileage varied. But the Nice Guy in this case was something of a doormat. Unremarkable and in media, the target of gentle mockery.

At some point, The Nice Guy turned into someone who didn’t even ask people out on dates. Instead, they mooned round after the target of their affections instead. Romantically incompetent and prone to whining that the people they fancy never fancy them back. Filled with fear and bad advice, this version is a common target of hilarious romantic comedies.4

That prick Ross from Friends.

Ross from Friends. Not your Role Model.

It was then a short hop and a jump to something a lot more creepy. It became Nice Guy™, someone who feigned affection in order to achieve goals, had an almost narcissistic expectation for people to like them and thought of other people as objects. This lead to a whole ‘people aren’t vending machines’ meme, in which everyone was helpfully informed that being nice to someone doesn’t mean they owe you anything.5

So what we have here is a mess. A shift in perspective from the shy and clueless to a mean and entitled predator. None of which addresses the issue. What we need, instead of Hollywood stereotypes and memes is a frank and brutal conversation about romantic intentions and expectations.

You see, I understand Romantic Incompetence. Dating is, for many of us, terrifying. It’s not just rejection; for every charming tale of love and adventure they are many real world anecdotes of embarrassment, harassment and bodily harm. Ending a date and simply being told ‘You’re nice but no’ is, in fact, a reasonable if not terribly satisfying ending.

But of course, when you’re young and filled with nerves and conflicting emotions, that is impossible to see.

It’s all made worse by the fact that others take to it easily. We are surrounded by love stories that make no sense when examined closely. Attraction, love and lust are highly individual things and humans like ‘one size fits all’ solutions. The lovely tale of how your grand-parents met might be someone else’s worst date ever, or the premise of horror novel.

We need to drop the notion of the ‘Nice Guy’. All versions of him. For a start, nice isn’t really a thing to aspire to. Nice is the lowest level of remarkable, it sits in the same set of words as okay and reasonable. People expect nice, so aiming for ‘above nice’ should be the target. Nice is a bit too close to boring, and that’s not something most of us want. Like anything worth doing, relationships can be hard work6 and we need to start being blunt about that. Men, Women and all points in-between need to have a frank and honest chat about their hearts. We need to stop laughing at the lonely, and stop pretending that it’s easy.

We need to work together to make a world where dating is less scary7, and romantic comedies are less awful.


1: I’m grew up in the 80’s. My timing is probably off, but this seems a decent yardstick.
2: No one like rejection, no matter how gentle. It’s easy to see how, after a while, frustration sets in.
3: “You’re nice but you don’t have a nice butt”
4: It becomes more common if you flip it so the Nice Guy is a Nice Gal.
Because Hollywood.
5: It makes me sad that it needed saying, but then the obvious often needs to be stated repeatedly. Look at traffic signs – people need to be reminded of basic things.
6: Though to be mushy for a moment, so much worth it.

7: This would be that ‘smash the patriarchy’ thing people keep talking about. But that’s another blog post.


Bonus Note From 2021 Ed: Goodness me, this is a little smug. I’m a middle aged, happily married, Bi and very privileged man. I really need to re-write this.

Categories: Rants

Not The Actor You Are Looking For…

December 14, 2015 Leave a comment

So, we1 made a little mini-vlog comedy YouTube thing. It’s called
Confessions of a Storm Trooper
and as you can probably tell from the title, it’s inspired by Star Wars. More accurately, the convention scene.

The UK has gone crazy for conventions recently, mostly in the gate-show2 ‘Comic-Con’ style. This tends to mean that you get lots of older actors from classic sci-fi and fantasy movies doing signings and if you’re lucky, the odd panel or two.

I’ve spent a good chunk of 2015 going to these things, and also going to more traditional3 style fantasy/sci-fi conventions, which are also on the rise thanks to the popularity of all things geeky. Anyway, we were inspired to make this short movie. I hope you enjoy it.


1 – And by we, I mean myself and Anne-Louise. We have a very small (bijou, even) production company called Truly Outrageous.  This will be our first film project.
2 – Gate Show style ‘comic cons’ tend to be for profit and ‘pay on the day’ affairs. (Hence the name ‘Gate Show’, as in pay on the gate’. They have famous people as attractions and lots of stalls, cosplayers and loads of people. They’re a lot of fun, and MCM and SciFi Scarbs are great examples of the type.
3- Traditional conventions tend to more about the fans than fame. The attraction is catching up with like minded types first. You tend to buy the ticket in advance and there’s usually a schedule of talks and lectures over a few days.  More a conference than a convention, but with cosplayers, stalls and the odd famous person.  NineWorlds is my favourite traditional event.

Categories: Uncategorized

Sad Puppies and the Hugo Awards – A Summary

April 6, 2015 Leave a comment

Okay, so if you listen to Starburst’s BookWorm Podcast, or if you follow genre-related book news in general, you may have heard that 2015’s list of Hugo Nominations were a bit unusual. You may have even heard some wailing and gnashing of teeth, or some crowing and bragging, depending on what parts of the web you spend time on.

You may also have no idea what this is all about. I’ll try and break it down into steps, to give you an idea of what’s going on.

The Hugo Awards are an international award, presented at an event called Worldcon, an fan-run Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention. They’re grand affairs, but are more about fans talking to fans than anything else, and revolve around the literary side of things mostly.  Worldcon’s have been happening for over 70 years, and the Hugo Ceremony is the cool thing that happens at the end of convention. The Hugo Awards are voted for by their members.

Worldcon Membership is split (broadly) into two types: Attending and supporting. Attending membership lets you attend the event. It also lets you nominate and vote in the Hugo Awards. Supporting membership does all that, except you can’t attend the event. Because Worldcon changes venue every year, supporting memberships allow fans to remain part of the event without spending huge sums of money to go to around the world.

The 2014 Hugo Awards were notable for their progressive and interesting content. Prizes went to a wide spread of creators from diverse backgrounds. It’s also worth noting that the bulk of the winners were already quite successful and quite popular, both in critical and commercial terms.

John Scalzi  is an outspoken science fiction author who is also very well regarded and very successful. He (and I quote here) believes that “women are entitled to the same rights and privileges as men, with everything that implies in terms of access to education, economic opportunity and personal liberty.”  He is also credited by some for helping raise awareness about less known but interesting authors, and some say the 2014 awards list is his doing. Many disagree.

Vox Day aka Theodore Beale is an outspoken science fiction author, who describes himself as a “Christian libertarian opinion columnist” and creationist. He was expelled from the organisation the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA).  If you want to go down that rabbit hole, the reasons why can be found here.

GamerGate is the name of a campaign about sexism in video games. It’s more complex than that, but for our purposes; they are a large number of sexist, misogynistic, anti-liberal, right-wing types in the GamerGate movement. It’s a loose organisation, so for every GamerGater who knows and is acting on the Hugos, they are many who have never heard of it and aren’t acting on it. (I have little idea as to how you’d get exact figures.)

The Sad Puppies is the name of a Hugo Awards campaign organised by Brad R. Torgersen, Larry Correia. They felt that they weren’t being represented by the Hugo Awards. They arranged a Hugo Slate (which can be found here). It was mostly composed of stuff they or their friends produced. It is a very narrow slice of the broader world of Science Fiction lit. The name, by the way, comes from a rant that can be found here.

The Rabid Puppies is the Vox Day’s version of the Sad Puppies slate. They’re very, very similar. The Rabid Puppies  recruited friends and members of GamerGate to vote in the Hugos.

The 2015 Hugo Shortlist  (a version of which can be found here) is very similar to the Sad Puppies Slate. The Sad Puppies and their right wings allies are currently declaring victory.

No Award is an option on the Hugo Ballot. It’s a run-off voting system. A running gag is to refer to the hot tipped 2015 Hugo Winner as Noah Ward.

Sir Terry Pratchett was a well loved science fiction and fantasy author who passed away recently. Upon the announcement of the 2015 Hugo Nominees, Sad Puppy supporters claimed that Pratchett never got nominated for a Hugo. This isn’t true; he was nominated for Going Postal in 2005. (If you want to read more on that, you can read it here.) It’s worth noting that Sir Terry was a regular at Worldcon events, and well loved by that niche.

George RR Martin is also a well known and well loved science fiction and fantasy author. He’s been to many, many Worldcons, and is well known figure in that community, and is also a regular at the Hugo Awards ceremony. He has blogged extensively about the whole affair, and you can read more here.

Trufan is the unofficial term for a fan of Worldcon and similar conventions. A JOF is a trufan who organises Worldcon and similar events, a SMOF is a trufan who organises the JOF’s and the events themselves. (Don’t assume there’s a hierarchy here, there really isn’t.) All these terms come from the in-jokey humour common in the community.

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A lot of fuss about a little rocket.


I’ve probably missed a tonne of nuance here, but those are the footnotes.

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Haterz

January 15, 2015 Leave a comment

James Goss is better known for his work on various Doctor Who related novels and audios and technological thriller Haterz is his first crime novel, and a very impressive one at that.

This clever polemic at the modern world focuses on Dave, a social media junkie who also happens to have rather good acting and technical skills. Driven to the edge of reason by a friends incessant hectoring via social media, he commits homicide. Thus begins the live of Dave the Serial Killer, a person who actually goes out kills all those awful people who wind you when you browse the web.

haterz

Goss writes with a razor sharp wit and uses it to cut internet culture to the bone. The central character is brilliantly thought out; utterly loathsome in many regards, and yet at the same time we’re constantly cheering him on as he hunts down and destroys the monsters of the modern age. Each chapter focuses on a specific internet phenomena; trolls on twitter, con-artists on Facebook, agit-prop columnists on news websites and so on. Each element is treated with an equal amount of venom and humour.

Of particular interest to book lovers are the scenes that involve a twitter storm. If the tale of one minor personality using twitter to attack the host of a popular genre convention sounds familiar, you will find yourself laughing very hard at the Haterz version of events. Goss carefully blends a wide variety of online phenomena and nothing is held sacred. This is extremely refreshing satire, told in a bold and clever way.

If you’ve ever written anything unwise on the internet, or felt that social media is just too dominant in our lives, this will appeal to you. Partially an angry polemic against the way technology has shaped our worldview but mostly a very clever social satire, Haterz is technological thriller that actually understands how the world wide web has changed people. Funny, clever and shocking this book, somewhat ironically, deserves to go viral.

Categories: Uncategorized