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.

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.

hugo-2014-front480n

A lot of fuss about a little rocket.


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

Categories: Uncategorized

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

Loncon 3 and other things

December 22, 2014 Leave a comment

The report I did for Starburst Magazine on Loncon3 can be found at Starburst Magazine.

At that same event, I got to interview George RR Martin, and the interview was part of the BookWorm Podcast. You can find it here on iTunes as well as Mixcloud or as aDirect Download.

I was also lucky enough to talk to Robin Hobb, and we made that into a different show. Again, it’s available in load of different ways: iTunes or Mixcloud or Direct Download .

If you do go via iTunes, don’t forget to comment/like/subscribe. If you want to, that is.

edgrr

Taken during Loncon. Very odd weekend, very nice to meet some top authors.

Categories: Uncategorized

NineWorlds

September 11, 2014 Leave a comment

I’ve already written a report on NineWorlds GeekFest for my wise masters at the venerable and ancient Starburst Magazine but of course a formal report for the press is a different sort of beast to a blog post.

This is the bimbling, slightly personal account of events that no one asked for, but I’m going to give you anyway.

Nine Worlds is an event that Anne (my lovely wife) and I had planned to go last year. It was actually going to be our mini-honeymoon of sorts. Sadly it was on the weekend directly after the wedding and it become pretty obvious after that special occasion that we weren’t going to make it, simply due to exhaustion and excitement.

So it was with some anticipation and keen that we planned to do NineWorlds this year. The plan was pretty simple; I’d turn up with my various recording devices and shorthand notepad to do the words and interviews, and Anne would take photos. 1

We arrived late Thursday at the hotel just up the road from the venue. The Radisson doesn’t have a pool but our hotel did and we took full advantage. This mean we missed registration, which was a little bit annoying; we expected it to be running till quite late, surmising that people from across the country probably planned to come in after work. This meant we spent the Thursday evening without our event badges, which felt oddly distancing. We caught up with a handful of friends and had a nose round the venue itself.

We weren’t the only ones to do so and interrupted a rather drunken couple who we’re pretty sure weren’t event attendees themselves.2 We humoured the idiots until they went away, let an organiser know and then continued to explore.

At conventions, we both make a point of trying to stand apart from the crowd in terms of dress. Anne was in a natty waistcoat and I myself in business casual. I like dressing that way because in theory, I am at work and a shirt and tie are my work clothes.3 Sadly, without a convention badge we really do just look like everyone else; which meant we did keep getting challenged by other attendees. Luckily, friendliness and mutual geekiness is worth much more than any badge, and we were able to work out where we needed to be for the various panels we’d been invited too and the other events we want to be at.

On the Friday, things went very smoothly indeed. Registration was quite quick and I got a very nice goodie bag with the usual sort of tat including a programmed and some free books4.

The Cosplay was great.

The Cosplay was great.

Highlights for me included:

– The BookWorm Podcast. We did a live show at the event. We had a nerve wracking moment in which we thought no one was going to turn up and thankfully, fellow podcasters arrived to provide some moral support. Lots of thanks to James Simms, Marguerite Kenner and Alasdair Stuart; they rocked and indeed, continue to rock. You can hear it online via iTunes or direct download here.

– The Podcasting Track in general was deeply awesome. We learned a lot and met some thoroughly lovely people. Hugo nominated podcaster Emma Newman was especially kind and very informative, but the entire experience was great and we met some brilliant people.

– Moderating a panel for All The Books. I think I did a good job; certainly very few people left5, everyone had questions and the panellists had fun. The subject was likeable villains, and there was someone dressed as Deadpool in the front row. I think that says it all.

– Meeting people. Writing and reporting is a distancing exercise and it was very, very pleasant to actually put names to faces. Far too many people to name check without missing someone, but it was bloody lovely.

– Call Of Cthullhu as a spectator game. A very good team, and Scott Lynch was particularly entertaining.

– The Small Gods and Theology talk. Only at Nine Worlds. Very well done.

– At a cutting edge tech lecture, suddenly unveiling (to a crowd of people) my super villain style thinking, and being appropiately applauded for a very carefully phrased question.

– Si Spurrier and Kieron Gillen’s talk. Si’s lectures are always entertaining and I have always come away having learned something, or at least with substantial food for thought. Kieron’s talk on The Watchmen was hastily arranged and inspirational; more akin to a good solid pub rant than anything else. I’m afraid I caught up with Kieron later and talked some guff at him and B-Theory and Eternalism. Sorry about that.

I do have some niggles. The entire event does feel as if they’ve drawn a lot of their guests from London only, leading to what felt like some small cliques. As the event gains a reputation I’m sure this will change and it didn’t effect most of the panels. It did damage a couple of the streams a bit though; everyone seemed to know each other and everyone also appeared to be roughly of the same age and mindset. Though that makes for a cracking coffee morning, it makes for dull panels and I was itching for some truly diverse and different perspectives, especially the ones that crossed over into comics.

I am so going again next year, in fact I’m already booked.


1: I gather we achieved those things quite well, which is nice.
2: Seriously; not only did they both had the facial expressions of naughty school children but they talked utter cobblers about why they were there. Also no convention badges, but we didn’t have any either. We didn’t say anything, they just talked at us and left. It was funny in a slightly alarming way and I feel a little guilty that we probably interrupted some planned drunken snogging, but that’s what hotel rooms are for.
3: Of course, a black jacket, white shirt and red tie are right out; that would be cosplay.
4: Yay! Books!
5: People come in and out of talks at these things all the time. It’s how they’re meant to work.

Categories: Uncategorized

Guardians of The Galaxy – The Movie

August 5, 2014 1 comment

When the Guardians of The Galaxy movie was announced, I was quite hesistant; as I’ve said before I’m a fan1 of both the old school and re-imagined comics. My mantra for the new movie can be best summarised as “Please, please don’t be rubbish”.

Went to see the huge summer block-buster as part of the treats myself and my lovely other half gave ourselves for our paper wedding anniversary. Because ‘cinema tickets’ totally counts as paper.

It is a very good movie. The right mix of action, humour, cool looking aliens and cheese. I adore space opera and I was in a very happy place. I suspect everyone will rave about Rocket and Groot (as well they should) but I really want to see Drax get his own movie3.

I must admit I made a little happy sound when they got to certain key intergalactic locations, both for the pun and because one particular hive of scum and villainy is really cool. I do hope we see more of it (and it’s traditional caretaker) in more movies.

Slightly disappointed that the cameo at the end didn’t hint at any greater arc plot (at least I hope it doesn’t), but apart from that, I am a very, very happy geek.


1: As a kid, comic books came in bundles. You could get a big pile of them for pocket money from a shop near the docks. Rom The Spaceknight, Guardians of The Galaxy and Doctor Strange were all mis-matched treasures in the that bundle.

2: That mantra will start again in the run-up to the Doctor Strange movie, if it ever happens.

3: Namely one based on his own mini-series. He picks up a plucky kid called Cammi along the way and it works on the page. As a friend pointed out, a “Hound & Arya” style movie with Drax and Cammi sounds like fun.

Categories: Movies

Starburst 400

May 7, 2014 1 comment

So, Starburst Magazine has made it to issue 400. That’s a grand old age for a monthly magazine, especially one filled with sci-fi, fantasy and horror content. It’s a bit of honour to be involved and it’s still a thrill to walk into the offices of Starburst Towers, which is a bizarre and wonderful haven of all things geek. (One of these days I’ll get someone to draw up a proper schematic of the building to give you an idea of what the place looks like. Might need a fold out bit to accommodate all the rocket planes and quantum flange generators though.1)

This issue is filled with the usual goodies (including a column from myself), and some background and history on the magazine itself, as well as a spot of Star Wars news (just like the first ever issue). It also has a bit of my short fiction, which I’m absurdly proud of. I’ve had short fiction published before of course, but it feels a bit liked I’ve joined some sort of club with this one.

Starburst Issue 400

The cover is a shout out to the first ever issue of the magazine

This post is a little late in coming, so issue 401 will be out very soon as well. You may want to hurry to your local newsagents.


1: What ever happened to Tharg’s spaceship after 2000AD moved out of King’s Reach Tower?

Categories: Comic Books

The Lime In the Coconut

March 11, 2014 Leave a comment

I was listening to the Reservoir Dogs Soundtrack recently, a collection of music that many people who happened to be teenagers in the 90’s happen to own, partially because Reservoir Dogs was the coolest movie ever back in the 90’s and mostly because it’s a really good collection of songs. Anyway, after I’d finished my dive into nostalgia by jumping up and down around the room to Blue Swede’s Hooked On A Feeling, I started to ponder the question of my generation.

What the hell is Harry Nilsson’s song Coconut all about?

It doesn’t mean anything1. There’s no subtle message to the song, no hidden meaning. The simple truth is that both coconuts and limes are things that people eat when they’re feeling a little bit ill. Both bits of food are packed full of stuff that’s good for you (apparently) and the words have nice feel to them. The lyrics are sung in a very specific way and it’s fun to wrap your laughing gear round co-co-nut, preferably whilst shaking your bum and having fun.

"I love humans. Always seeing patterns in things that aren't there"

“I love humans. Always seeing patterns in things that aren’t there”

That hasn’t stopped people from endlessly deciding that it must mean something. There’s something about humanity’s ability to take a simple song about nothing of real consequence and decide that it must contain the wisdom of the ages. For some of us it’s not enough to simply wiggle our bodies about and have a giggle, everything has to mean something. This makes everything terribly serious, even having fun becomes an academic endeavour.

“It means nothing” is as a valid and important meaning as any other.2 Sometimes simple is good. The world is filled with meaning and context after all, not everything needs layers. If you really need a meaning, try this one on for size; Coconut is a request to shut up and dance. Stop your jaw from flapping and your chin from pondering and have a little jiggle.


1: Okay, we could make a serious argument between Authorial Intent and Critical Response, but honestly if you’re critical response to a silly song about fruit is to turn it into something dark and mysterious then you’ve pretty much left the realms of valid criticism and moved into the mystical land of pulling stuff out of your arse.

2: As a response, it’s almost as important as that great and powerful answer “No one knows”, though the response to that should always be “well let’s find out”, even if the answer turns out to be a cosmic shrug of the shoulders.

Categories: Rants

Controversy Goblins

March 3, 2014 Leave a comment

I’m not going to talk about the Jonathan Ross/Hugo Awards debacle, or at least not come down on a side and try to analyse it. There’s been plenty of coverage both from the Geek and mainstream media, but long story short: Ross was announced as the host of the latest Hugo awards and then pulled out 8 hours later after twitter became filled with people objecting.

I ended up catching up on this particular rain of bird-poo1 after all the excitement was over, and one of the things I noticed wasn’t so much the insults, but the preening.

After a certain point, it would have been clear to anyone (especially the target of the attacks) that the LonCon’s choice of Master of Ceremonies was making people unhappy and yet people continued to join in to throw a stone or two; the barrage even continued after Ross stepped down. It had stopped being about the issue and had become about being seen to be involved.

What helped me understand why people kept throwing @ shaped stones after the fact was noticing how many made massively sweeping assumptions people were making so they could personally tie the events to themselves. In most cases this was done quickly with poor research and the most shaky of justifications, such was the rush to be seen as being involved.

Twitter is at least partially about ego; you make pithy statements in order to get people to ‘follow’ you and the more followers you get can equal a sort of approval rating.

It’s addictive, this sort of approval. Whereas web forums have their trolls, Twitter has the power to make even the meekest of person a sort of fast moving, rampantly self-involved creature desperate for the approval of others; a controversy goblin if you will.

Given the number of controversies the genre community has had recently, I’m rather worried that many of us have become addicted to goblinisation. That would be a shame; it’s a great community. Perhaps by looking out for such behaviour in the future, we can all avoid unleashing the little monster inside us and actually debate the issues like the forward thinking people we claim to be.

But then, I am an optimist.


1: There has to be a better phrase than ‘tweet-storm’ for these pointless fights.

Categories: Rants