Monday, April 14, 2014

Titanfall - or "How I learned to stop worrying and love the Big Stompy Robots"

Big Stompy Robots are definitely up there in the top half of my Super Special Top 100 List of Ace Things – If memory serves, they replaced “Medium to large sized Dinosaurs” back in the late eighties. So, I was quite excited about the early announcements of the videogame Titanfall – being, at its heart, a game about Big Stompy Robots. The screenshots looked brilliant and some of the game-play footage from e3 looked like it'd be something quite special.

An exclusive excerpt from my Super Special Top 100 List of Ace Things.  Spoiler Alert: Number 12 is Thousand Island Dressing.

In Titanfall you play a Pilot working for either the IMC (The Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation) or the Militia. I’d have stuck a respective “boo” or “hooray” against those names but the plot is pretty vague about which lot are the bad guys and which lot are the good guys – there’s no clear cut Empire Versus Rebellion here, unless I missed something.

And let me tell you, it’s easy to miss something. The plot reveals itself during the game itself in the form of little snippets of dialogue or little picture-in-picture clips of something imprecise happening somewhere even more indefinite that may or may not be very important™. During the game. While your attention really is dedicated to trying to shoot stuff, or – more precisely in my case - while you’re being shot.

It’s difficult to pay attention to the nuances of the script when you’re being torn into fragments of bloody meat by an assault rifle.

"Dear Diary. Making some lovely friends.  One Titan seems insistent on giving me a really big hug" *head pops*
And it’s the subject of being shot that nearly put me off buying Titanfall. It’s multiplayer only which – according to your perspective – is either
  • A bold and brave new radical approach to game releases.
  • A lazy developer excuse not to write some decent AI routines and not have to bother sticking a single player campaign in.
..but my big drawback of multiplayer games?

I suck at multiplayer shooters. Honestly, I’m fucking rubbish.

It doesn’t help that Titanfall has possibly the worst matchmaking I've seen outside of the Television show “Take me out”. Apparently paying little heed to your skill level or how long you've been playing the game in whatever hopefully inadequate algorithm its using, it’ll happily stick you inside a mission against six guys who've lapped the game eight times over and know every inch of the map off by heart. Every new mission is a blind leap into the unknown where – if you’re lucky – a reasonable player might have a fighting chance.

Unfortunately, I am a far from reasonable player.

"Dear Diary. Just taken control of my very own Titan! I'll stand a much better chance on the battlefield n-" *BOOM*
I am to First Person Shooters what my cat Aslan is to testicular ownership. I’d like to blame my old man reactions (only any good for quickly shaking walking sticks at children) but truth is – outside of a fortunate couple of months in Goldeneye or Halo – I'm utterly bobbins.

I'm that player on the leader-board who’s never quite at the bottom but is often only spared that ignominy and humiliation because the player at the bottom is a household pet who’d logged onto Xbox live by accident or it's somebody who either died in real life as the match started or whose internet connection dropped off 8 seconds into play. I'm like an eager terrier (or again, my cat Aslan when he was a kitten whenever he saw the dustmen drive past in their van) in that I'm happily smiling running alongside my companions and going through the motions but I haven’t really got a clue what i going on.

Your pilot character is a spritely little chap in a 6 versus 6 match on a battlefield also populated by less agile and able grunts and Spectres (variants of Johnny 5 with an auto-rifle, essentially). You can zip around the map at a phenomenal rate of knots, jet-packing about and wall-running like those bonkers French parkour chaps you see throwing themselves off motorway flyovers whilst wearing tiny backpacks.

The Titans of the title are huge robots being built in orbit - heavily armoured humanoid tanks with thick hulls and devastating weaponry. Every kill you make takes seconds off the default construction time (from a default two minutes) until eventually you can call your Titan down from orbit, clamber into its cockpit and raise merry hell for as long as your armour holds out. Eject to safety upon your Titans destruction, and repeat until fade.

The end game comes when - in standard death-match or "attrition" -  one team hits a certain number of points and wins. The losers have to made a desperate mad dash to an evacuation point to escape safely, whilst the winners try to pick them off before they do so - or if they're lucky pump enough missiles into the escape vehicle so it explodes before they can get away.

It looks and sounds awesome, the maps are varied and large (with a lot of height, that makes a change for multiplayer games). You're never that far away from a frenzied gun battle, and it's balanced that you even stand a reasonable chance against a Titan if you're lucky and you're not me. And even when you're doing badly, it's damn good fun.

Honestly, I'm so bad at it it's not even funny any more. But I still keep playing and slowly grinding up through the levels - I laughably say "level up" but you can take that in much the same way as a drip of water will eventually soften rock if you leave it alone for several million years.

I can even cite a recent example - yesterday I was on what I laughably call "a winning streak" - as in I'd managed to survive more than 60 seconds without dying and I'd luckily killed an opponent by calling a Titan in which had landed on his head.  I ran into a room to find an opponent facing away from me in the window happily sniping my colleagues.

I had all the time in the world. I could simply have wandered in a straight line until I was behind him and a single simple melee attack would have broken his neck and killed him instantly. "But that'd be too easy", thought the tactical part of my brain, "What I should really do here is miss him at point blank range - several times, mind - until the very noise of me firing at him annoys him so much he'll turn around and pop a pistol shot between my eyes just to put me out of both of our respective miseries."

So if you ever play Titanfall, you may well see me. Maybe Folds5 will come blundering through a room towards your soldier and spend several seconds spraying SMG bullets into every single thing between the ceiling and floor that isn't you. Possibly you’ll wonder what that member of the opposition is playing at as he spins in circles angrily punching the empty air two metres to your right. Perhaps you’ll catch a last glimpse of me in another room as I throw that Arc-grenade that bounces off the door-frame and lands back at my feet.

But then one day you'll stand in one place for too long - more than likely caused by you dropping your joy-pad - and you'll give me the precious long seconds I need to perform my kill.  Or you'll be exactly in the wrong spot at the wrong time as I reverse in my Titan to avoid a missile and I accidentally tread on you. Or you'll run into the room just as I'm about to commit suicide with a poorly thrown grenade. Or the nuclear explosion that my Titan makes when it explodes takes you out because you're standing too close.

And then, my friends, revenge will be sweet. And only slightly dampened when you make me pay for it by blasting me to scarlet paste.

Regular readers of the blog will have noted that it's been an age since I posted anything, for which I can only apologise. I've been trying to finish my novel - last act now, so hoping to have it finished in a couple of weeks - so normal service should resume ASAP.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

My Mad Fat Teenage Diary

The following post is a guest submission from a source who wishes to remain anonymous. Once again I'm humbled that somebody has chosen my blog as a forum to post this, and it's an incredibly honest and brave piece of writing. Accompanying photographs at sources request for the simple reason that "people need kittens and puppies in pyjamas when dealing with this shite."
Trigger warning: Abuse.

This started as a way for me to deal with my experiences of domestic violence. As I wrote, it became the truth that I have managed to hide for most of my adult life. I have kept this anonymous because I don't want to upset people who don't know the full story, and because I am not brave enough to face the world with this over my head. Perhaps one day, but not yet.

I was 15, it was summer and I was pissed off. My best mate had met a bloke, and suddenly my (previously quite promising) social life seemed to consist of sitting in his living room, smoking fags, drinking special brew and trying to drown out the sounds of them fumbling away upstairs by the power of Pointedly Loud Telly. It wasn't working. I wasn't happy, and finally I snapped. I was fed up of listening to her witter on about her boyfriend, and fed up of being boring. I needed a change. 

I think that's why she introduced me to him. 'He's nearly the same age as us, and he has a car, it'll be a laugh'. I was a bit reluctant, I definitely didn't fancy him, and I knew mum would never approve. But I was 15, an idiot, and he had a CAR.

'He' was my best friend's uncle and he groomed me.

At first things were normal. He was at college, and as far as I knew he was 18. He had a flat. We used to eat Chinese food and watch films. More often than not, Amy and her boyfriend would be there. There was no pressure. He was actually the perfect boyfriend. He met mum and dad and they liked him. He bought me daft presents and told me the kind of stupid stuff that 15 year old girls want to hear.

I became besotted with him. Looking back it all seems so bloody obvious. Although I was intelligent, clever and outwardly confident, I was incredibly naive, insecure, and needy. Oh so needy. I'd been abused and I had also been bullied quite badly. I had just started to blossom - I had good friends but a damaged, fragile ego. I was ripe for the picking. He made me feel like I was the centre of the universe and that only he could see it. He made me need him. 

Our relationship became sexual. I thought the things he wanted to do were normal. He watched a lot of porn, and he would get me to watch it with him. He'd make suggestions, and not wanting to disappoint, I went along with them. Because he loved me, and that's what people who love each other do. I felt mature. Adult. Special.

I'd never questioned his age, and Amy never mentioned it. It didn't occur to me to be worried, but one day during a conversation with my mum, he let slip that he turned four the year she got married. He was 24, nearly ten years older than me. Mum was horrified and to this day I don't know how she stayed as calm as she did. I think she realised that if she had reacted the way she wanted to, she would have lost me. I don't know whether to thank my parents for the way they dealt with it, or to scream at them for being so daft. A little of both, perhaps. Because mum was right, by that point nothing else mattered to me beside him. Forbidding me to see him would have made it worse, and she hoped it would fizzle out. She had no idea, and I can't blame her for that. I thought it made me sophisticated, put me above my peers. I was in a proper relationship, not an immature school romance. He picked me up from school in his battered Montego, and I felt awesome. 

We were together for a few months when the cracks started to show. At first it was subtle. He would talk about his ex, how she wore her hair, and how he thought I would suit the same hairstyle. He would comment in passing about how pretty she was, how she still smiled at him in she wanted him back. Then one day he told me that he thought we should try an open relationship, because I wasn't enough for him. I wasn't giving him what he needed. I was heartbroken, but it agreed. I didn't want to lose him. He went back to his ex. He played us off against each other, and to my shame I went along with it. I accepted that he told her I was his friends daughter that he was babysitting. He lied about my age, making me out to be younger than I was. It didn't matter, he was still with me. We were still having sex. He still told me he loved me. Eventually they split. I'd won. He came back to me because he loved me most. 

Wasn't I lucky?

I remember the first time he hit me. We were play fighting with my brother, and he offered to teach me how to punch someone. He punched me, full pelt on my arm. He was a bodybuilder, and though he had run to fat, he still had some clout. It hurt, and I cried. He couldn't apologise enough, and swore it was an accident, and he'd never do it again. I forgave him, because it was a silly accident. He didn't mean it. I brushed it off and forgot about it. The criticisms got worse. I couldn't get anything right. I needed to lose weight, change my hair, change my clothes, By now I had started college, five minutes away from his flat. He began insisting that I called to see him before I started lessons, which on some mornings meant that I had to get up before 6am just to get to his flat. I was exhausted, and trapped. He would tell me how my parents controlled my life, how my dad was too controlling, too aggressive, my mum favoured my brother, and how I should leave them and move in with him. 

The 'accidental' slaps because deliberate kicks and punches, and I never ever knew what would trigger it. That was actually worse than the violence. The fear and not-knowing. I haven't ever forgotten it, and I'm not sure I ever will. The older I got, the more adult I appeared, the worse the violence got. He stopped pretending to care about what people thought. He would openly criticise me in front of people and when we were alone, he would lash out for the littlest thing. He would hold his hand over my mouth but tell me that it didn't matter if I screamed, nobody cared - nobody would come to get someone as worthless as me. I believed him.

I became skilled at lying to my friends, my family and myself. I became an expert at covering up bruises and marks. He would encourage my eating disorders, rewarding my 'self-control', and punishing me if I failed. He would lavish attention on my friends (notably anyone who looked younger than me), telling me I should be more like them. The abuse both physical and verbal got worse and worse and my life spiralled out of control. I tried to leave, I really did. As I grew older, I realised that this wasn't right, it wasn't how things should be. I wanted to be a normal teenager, I wanted my life back. I wanted to just be a kid. He always talked me round, but when this began to fail, when I was getting strong enough to stand up to him, tell him that what he'd done was way out of line, he did something that even my shattered psyche couldn't comprehend.

He raped me.

I couldn't tell anyone. Nobody would believe me. My friend was in the room next door, and I didn't scream. He was my boyfriend, he was just doing what I'd allowed him to for 18 months, and now I was crying rape. Boyfriends don't rape girlfriends, same as husbands couldn't rape wives - I'd already consented the first time. It can't really have been rape, he wouldn't do that. Not so long ago he'd helped one of my friends through a traumatic time following her rape, he couldn't have done that to me. That's all I kept telling myself, over and over again. Afterwards he made a cup of tea and we sat and watched telly. He acted like nothing had happened, and dropped me off at home that night without saying a word about it. You know the stupid, insane thing? I stayed. I stayed even when I found out that he'd been showing people videos of us having sex. I stayed when I found out that some of those people were my friends, people who I went to college with. I stayed after he beat me so badly that I couldn't cover the bruising up and I had to admit my shame to my employer when I turned up to work looking like I'd been in a pub brawl. I defended him to a wonderful friend who cleaned me up, holding cold compresses to my face to stop the swelling. I stayed when he battered my head against the stairs in my parents' house so badly that I ended up with concussion and blurred vision. I stayed with him because he'd stripped me of any self-worth. Everything I had was down to him, he ruled my social life, he told me how to dress, how to behave, he told me that I was lucky that he wanted me because nobody else would. I was exhausted, and there was nothing left inside me. I was ashamed to admit that I had been wrong, that I was so weak, that I couldn't get anything right any more. That this man who I believed I still loved, didn't think me worthy of him, and that I let him hurt me because it was the only thing left I could feel. I began to drink, and drink and drink. I spent a lot of that time with a bottle of vodka in my college bag, and far too many nights drinking until I didn't care what happened to me.

I couldn't tell you what finally brought me to my senses. I don't know what happened to trigger it. I was round at his flat, and something was said. I can't remember what. It was a threat of some kind, and I saw red. I threw my hot cup of tea on his crotch, and I punched him harder than I've ever hit anything before or since. I broke his nose, and I actually FRIGHTENED him. He called my parents, told my dad how I'd beaten him and that they should come and pick me up because I'd 'gone mental'. Dad never said a word, and it wasn't until years afterward that Dad told me what had been said. He had told my dad that I was taking drugs with my friends, how he was worried about my 'violent mood swings', how he was trying to keep me safe. My poor parents had been worried sick. A couple of weeks later, and I ended things completely. He'd blamed me for a burst tyre on the car (if I'd not made him stop at the shop, he would never have driven on the glass', and when he looked to hit me, I stood my ground. With too many witnesses, he drove off and left me there. Instead of the sheer panic that comes with knowing that you are going to suffer the consequences later, I made the decision that there would not be a 'later'. I went to a friend's party, a proper teenage party with loud music, drinking and normal people who were my friends. That night was one of the best nights of my life. I was finally FREE. I danced till dawn, and I never wanted it to end.

I never told my parents what had actually happened. They know that I'd been hit once. I was too ashamed to tell them them the truth of it, and now…well, it serves no purpose to drag it up. I am a mother myself, and I know how it would hurt them. I can't face doing that to them, it isn't fair.

As for me? 21 years of referring to him as 'my first serious boyfriend', or 'my ex', several relationships (most of them healthy), one child, and a wedding later, and my brain and body have finally decided that it is time to fix things. After years of flashbacks and nightmares and falling in and out of bulimia, my mental health deteriorated to the point where after months of dragging myself through days where I felt as though I was made of lead, of days where I could't connect with anyone or anything, feelings of paranoia, misery and panic, where I didn't care whether I was alive or dead, I found myself in front of a CPN who told me that I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In black and white on my care plan, it said that this was more than likely the result of child abuse. The first time I went to see a therapist, she explained 'it's not just the incidents when you were little. What happened to you as a teenager was child abuse. You were a child, he was an adult. He was old enough to know it was wrong, you were not, and it was not your fault'. I want so desperately to believe her. I hope in time I will.

Why do I find it so hard to accept that it wasn't my fault? Because all too often I hear people ask 'If it's so bad, why can't they just leave?', or say things like 'She's an idiot, she deserves it if she's going to put up with it', or 'She's 15, but acts older, look at the way she dresses'. There's a lot of interest in Operation Yewtree, but what terrifies me most is the number of girls who have been groomed and abused and are ignored. For every case that hits the headlines, there are hundreds more that don't. It's not about class, race, religion or culture, it is the inability of the agencies and the adults who are supposed to protect these children to grasp that these children are not making informed choices. Time and time again the victims step forward and say that they were ignored, that 'nobody gave a toss'. These girls were believed to be making an informed decision, that they were working as prostitutes through choice, and should be allowed to continue. That they were so morally deficient that they'd sleep with a man for a free kebab or a bottle of vodka. That reinforces the notion that there is a 'grey area'. That women like me were complicit in our abuse, that we allowed it to happen. That it's a little morally dubious, but not actually child abuse. There's more than a few people who hold that view, and when you disagree you find that to defend your view you have to prove you earned your right to survivor status. That you have to prove that you were taken advantage of, that you were innocent of any sexual advances. It feels like being abused all over again, so we slink away and lick our wounds and come back a little more scarred, until we just give up and accept that it must be our fault.

That's not how it should be. That is not the world I want my son growing up in. He is a teenager now, and his female friends have not a care in the world beyond their GCSEs and spots. I envy them, and I hope that every single one of them gets to enjoy the end of their childhood the way they should - but if they are in trouble, I hope to the gods that they are able to talk to someone who will LISTEN to them and keep them safe.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Lawgiver: A Celebration of all things Dredd

The lovely people at Rule32 Cafe are hosting a celebration of Dredd on Monday the 5th of May (Bank Holiday Monday) which will feature such luminaries as John Wagner, the creator of Dredd and a whole host of writers and artists who've contributed to the characters illustrious 37 year history.

There will also be a showing of the Dredd movie (the decent one) as well as Judge Minty presented by the director himself - which the more astute amongst you may have caught me mentioning once or twice.  It promises to be an excellent day - Eddies is a great venue - and you'll get the opportunity to see me accompanied by Judges Pal and Lemmy.

Tickets are available from here.  Come along - it'd be great to see you.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Ellen Page. And why it's a big deal.

I'm equally heartened and saddened by the online reaction to Ellen Page publicly "coming out" at a conference on teenage homosexuality hosted by the Human Rights campaign, which lobbies for the rights of those in same-sex relationships.

Heartened from an immense wave of support that I've seen (from some unusual and unexpected sources) but saddened by some of the comments about it (that have come from some unusual and unexpected sources as well).  And I've got a blog, and feel damn strongly enough about it, that I feel I want to say something. I've found myself getting angry, and I rarely get angry.

I realise I'm in an incredibly privileged* position. I'm writing this as a straight male, and was aware of quite how straight I was surprisingly early (except for a bit of a man crush on Antonio Banderas and Idris Elba, but thats beside the point).

I've never struggled with my sexuality or been faced with the potential shame of having to tell my parents that I fancied women. I've never had to worry about being beaten up coming out of straight night clubs, or felt pressured into hiding my affections for my loved one in public for the attention it might bring, or had to keep my love hidden and underground. Nobody has ever needed to campaign for my marriage to be as equally recognised to be the same as somebody else's marriage, and no church has ever proudly admitted to being able to cure my condition.  Gangs don't roam the streets looking to beat me up, and I've never had to campaign to have what sex I am legally accepted.

Nobody has to have a conference to discuss my rights.

The suicide rates amongst the LGBT community, even in the so called "enlightened" West is comparatively higher compared to the general population. Whether we like it or not, we still live in a heterocentric culture and institutionalised homophobia is still prevalent in schools, workplaces and social media.  At school children who come out as gay or admit to being questioning are bullied three time more than straight children, and LGBT Youth are four times more likely to kill themselves than their heterosexual peers.

Somebody far better a writer than I summed it up perfectly;

Ellen coming out is a big deal, and it means a lot to a great many scared and persecuted people. And if you don't care who she chooses to sleep with? Well done, you. Personally can't think of many better places to come out than at a conference on teenage homosexuality, and she has nothing but my admiration. But this is all coming from a privileged straight guy - which, to be fair, is playing life at the very lowest difficulty level that there is.

* As an aside, I'm aware of the incredibly loaded meaning behind the word 'privilege' and hope you take it as I present it.

Friday, February 14, 2014

That's Novel

Great news! Fear's Accomplice, the book I contributed a short story towards (humbly sharing it with writers much superior to myself) is now on sale through Amazon.  Buy it, read it, enjoy it and make a whole heap of excellent authors very happy.

Oh, and I promise I'll sign your copy of it.

In other writing news, progress is still being made on my debut novel "Version Control" which I hope to have released in the first half of this year.  From my synopsis of the plot I'd estimated that it'd be around 70 to 75 thousand words but from the way it is going that may have been quite an underestimation.  I'm just about to hit 55 thousand words and am just finishing the second of three acts, so I suspect it'll wind up at around 90 thousand.

My original synopsis for it was David Cronenberg writes a horror superhero comic, but it's evolved beyond that now.

I've included an excerpt from it - namely the first chapter - below. I hope you enjoy it and it whets your appetite enough for you to want to buy it when it's finally finished, edited and released!

Version Control
Chapter 1
Then - 1917

Wallace angrily threw the papers onto the desk where they scattered randomly across it and the carpeted concrete floor below. His secretary gasped having never seen him so much as raise his voice in anger and yet despite the surprise continued to stand against the wall in complete silence.

She bit her lip and stared at the floor, desperate not to show any emotion.

She’d been sworn to secrecy as had every occupant of this secret underground bunker, all seconded to this location from their work for King and Country in The Great War. To this end she had taken particular effort to avoid seeing things she shouldn’t but in the array of papers she caught glimpses of calculations and saw symbols, shapes, formulae and arcane patterns scrawled across the randomly arranged sheets. There were words in her own language that she did not know – for that matter there were words in languages she didn’t even recognise.

She felt uncomfortable staring at Wallace, tormented as he was, so instead concentrated on the wall. Much of it was dominated by a large golden mural which depicted Argos from Greek Mythology – Argus Panoptes, often drawn or sculpted as the 100 eyed Giant, the Eternal Watchman of Io. Beneath it in huge letters the legend respice adspice prospice - “examine the past, present and future”. She’d felt so ignorant in her first days here having recognised neither statue nor text, but Wallace had been kind to her and had explained both in great detail.

Wallace had been kind to her in a great many ways – they had spent many long evenings working together, and his long suffering and patient wife would not be happy to hear of the ways in which Wallace had been kind.

None were permitted to speak of what roles they inhabited outside these four underground walls but it was only human nature of all of them to pick up a little; Body language, mannerism and turns of phrase all spoke volumes. The wedding ring that he often forgot to remove was proof enough of Wallaces secrets and on that of that she suspected Wallace to be a mathematician of sorts – that Greek legends and writings in Latin were his interest or hobby, not his actual career outside these four underground walls.

“This is impossible” Wallace muttered, slumping into his chair and removing his thin wire-framed spectacles, bowing his head into his hands.

He looked up with tired, baggy and bloodshot eyes, exhaustion etched upon his face. He went to speak but his expression implied he’d then thought better of it. A few seconds of pause and an uncharacteristic burst of fire in his eyes and he spoke regardless.

“Good God, man. You’re asking us for nothing short of a miracle - to predict the future when we don’t even have the basic tools.”

In a futile and self-defeating act of frustrated defiance Wallace swept his hands across the table sending the few dozen sheets that remained scattering across the floor to join the rest. He dejectedly placed his elbows on the now empty table and sank his face into his hands, emotionally and physically spent.

His voice was muffled, almost too quiet to hear now. “You ask too much, Sir. I’m not a simple black box into which you can put these..”

The briefest of a pause and a break in his voice. Were those tears that Wallace was hiding?

“..these impossible values - and expect a result in return.”

He lifted his head back up, staring across the room. There was defiance in his eyes, a glimmer of nerve.

“This would be the work of a hundred men. And a hundred better men than I, Sir.”

He stared at his feet, nervously awaiting a response. He’d suffered in silence up to this point and had no idea what the reaction would be. There was no reaction from the figure at the far end of the table, from the man who had sat watching from the shadows for the entirety of what they always laughably referred to as “a meeting”.

The figure slowly casually placed his hands on the arms of his chair and lifted himself up slowly and precisely. Wallace could hear a wince of pain from the individual as though the very act of movement were unnatural or painful to him.

A silhouetted fist was made and slowly raised. For the longest of times it remained still, but then came down quickly onto the table hitting it with such force that it could be heard splintering along the underside.

He spoke both calmly quietly, the tone in his voice inconsistent with coming from the same individual who had nearly broken the table. There was a hint of South American to his voice – Argentinian? Wallace could never quite place the accent.

“Too much, you say?”

Both fists were raised now and then came down with such force that the already weakened table could stand it no further. With a long drawn out splintering groan it collapsed in on itself, the remainder of the reams of paper now decorating the ornately carpeted floor.

“Perhaps you would like to go up there to the men and women who are dying to give us time and tell them that, eh? I have it on good authority you have the mind of a hundred men. And I defy you to prove me wrong.”

The room went silent and Wallace could hear the familiar muffled noises of gunfire and explosions in the distance.  He contemplated his options.

“You have all the tools you need, Wallace. You have the rest of eternity to work with. With every event, the more we know. With every event, the more tools we have. Your job is to not just to see the patterns but tell us what shapes these patterns will form. I have more faith in you than you will ever have in yourself.”

Wallace replaced his glasses on his face and stood up. He knelt on the floor and nervously began collecting the papers together knowing that his angry outburst would have caused several hours delay as he’d now be forced to put them all back into some semblance of order before work could begin again. The sequence of the papers was almost as critical as the contents. For a moment or so he dallied with the idea of asking for assistance with this task, but knew that he could do it himself as quickly as explain it to lesser men.

And such a request would undoubtedly be refused, and Wallace couldn’t face that.

“I can only try my best” he said. “And I fear that will not be good enough.”

“All we ask is your best, Wallace. All we ask from any of our teams working around the globe to achieve this common aim. With every iteration, the process improves. The Prime Algorithm is as old as human knowledge and all we can ever hope to do is refine it. And hope to complete it whilst we still can. We are writing The Prime Algorithm for engines, machines and contraptions that do not exist.”

“But they will exist one day.”

The room shook violently as a dull soaring whooomph could be heard overhead. From the corridor came the sound of automatic gunfire followed by unearthly shrieks and screams.

Wallace flinched. Men were dying outside this very room, mere feet away from where he knelt. Crumbs of sandstone and plaster fell from the ceiling, and the complex shook as though it had been slammed by an angry God.

With a voice betraying the slightest hint of emotion - disappointment and sadness - the shadowed man spoke.

“This team has failed. Let us pray the others fare better. We are ended.”

The door to the room burst open - metal and wood wrenched apart in a single motion accompanied by an ugly symphony of cracks and eruptions - and Wallace caught the glimpse of something there in the frame – a human figure. It was too late.

Like most things that had ever occurred in this complex, this moment had been adequately prepared for.

Explosive charges in the floors and ceiling violently exploded into life – flames of an unearthly temperature filled every corridor and room in an instant. Papers, furniture and people alike became ash and all life within the complex was incinerated in the blink of an eye. Wallace held his hands out to protect himself from the blast and the last thought he experienced was the dismay at the sight of his form reduced to blackened bone.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dear Orange Network Automated Lady Voice

Dear Orange Network Automated Lady Voice,

I'll be straight with you - my dads old mobile phone was rubbish.  Those v-tech laptops from Argos had more functionality.  Because I'm a loving and caring son, I thought I'd treat him to a new one for Christmas with a new Orange Sim - because I think he wants to come kicking and screaming into the 21st century by having access to his emails and the web so he can stare at his mobile phone screen for hours when out having dinner as well.

It started badly when I tried to put some credit on it - The web-link in the little brochure that came with the phone came back with a "404 - Page not found".

So I looked on the website for the phone number to ring, and was told by a polite lady that the number I'd called didn't exist anymore and she gave me another number (you know, you might want to put that new number on your website to replace the non-existent one - just saying).

So, trying this new number, I spoke to you.

You were polite and helpful, telling me that at any stage I could speak my answers or type them in. I'll forgive you for lying about the 'typing them in' bit, because you can't do that really, can you?

You asked me for his postcode, and after a couple of goes you got that right.  But congratulations where they're due - you got his house number first time.

But then you wanted the surname, and then things started going very wrong.

It's not Port.  Or Paul.  Or Calder.  And its definitely not Courtney.  You were beginning to make me feel like I had a speech impediment.

I could tell you were getting fed up after the fourth time - although to your automated credit, there wasn't a hint of it in your tone -  because you calmly said that my call would be passed to an actual human person.  Nice as it was speaking to you, there's nothing like speaking to a real human, is there?

Well, you tried.  But then you told me that I couldn't be transferred, because there wasn't any credit on the phone.  And then you hung up.

I could have told you about the no credit on the phone bit - you may recall that that was why I was ringing up.

You must have thought me a stalker as I called you again and again, but you still persisted in having problems with the surname. And you were insistent that we couldn't carry on talking if I didn't give that bit.

So I'm sorry to say - it's not you but it's me - but I had to seek help elsewhere.  I didn't bother looking in the out of date brochure but looked online instead.  You told me I could create a new account so I tried to do just that.

You asked me for the phone number which I'm afraid to say I didn't know.  Ordinarily I'd call another number from it to find out, but no credit, remember?

You told me I could do a free text to a phone number with the message 'my number' and you'd send me it back. And I was as surprised as anybody when this worked.

I even checked by calling that number from my mobile and my fathers new mobile phone rang!  Joy to the world!

So I tried to create a new account and you prompted me for the phone number, which I dutifully typed in and pressed Okay.  And you then told me that you didn't recognise the phone number.

And I'm really sorry because it all went downhill a little then - I called you from my mobile (which has credit) and spoke to an actual human person.  I may have spent a good five minutes ranting about how somebody should sort out their fucking website and how more difficult would Orange like to make it for me to give them some cunting money.  I swore a fair bit.  I'm not proud.  And it turned out that she wasn't any help whatsoever any way and just told me to use the website.

It slightly amused me that the number she gave me to ring was the one that doesn't exist anymore.

So, I think we're going to have to start seeing other people.  I really tried to make it work, but I can't see a future between us.

I'm sorry.

David Port Paul Calder Courtney

P.S. And while we're on a customer services theme, you may recall a post in the past I did called DPD Couriers Are Shit.  Well, imagine my dismay when something I ordered turned out to be delivered by them - and it couldn't have gone better.  You're given a delivery date and time and a website shows you the progress of the courier, what drop number you are and where they are at the moment. Utterly brilliant and the best service I've had from a courier in a long time.   It only falls slightly short of telling you what he's listening to in the van, his star sign and what he's having/had for dinner.  So I'd like to officially say that DPD Couriers are not shit. But Orange/Everything Everywhere - whatever they're calling themselves now - are.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Playing this shit so you don't have to - Aliens: Colonial Marines

My mother (God rest her soul) always told me that if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. Actually, she didn't ever say that, but let's say she did for the purpose of a laboured gag and it's the sort of things Mums say* isn't it?

So anyway - where we we?  My mother always told me that if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. So, the video game Aliens: Colonial Marines released by Sega last year...



The cover art is quite nice. It's a silhouette of an alien head with some bad-ass marines inside it. Have a look. It's nice. It'd make quite a good poster or a design for a T-shirt.

Give me a minute, I'll find something else.


The box isn't coated with poison. It's got one of those proper couple-of-page old fashioned manuals that you never find anymore which tell you the controls and stuff. Aliens: Colonal Marines also has, to the best of my knowledge, never slept with anybodies wife, stole anybodies christmas club funds or spilled anybodies pint.

The disk actually loads when you put it into your console.

Actually, in hindsight, that last one is a really bad thing.

Slating Aliens: Colonial Marines (henceforth to be referred to as 'the game') is too easy and is like shooting fish in a barrel. Or like shooting the Aliens in this game, thanks to their sophisticated A.I. that I've replicated below in a handy flowchart.

Click to embiggen. (C) Sega 2012/2013
Yes, it's refreshing to see that the cunning ("What do you mean they cut the power, man?  They're animals") xenomorphs - as referred to by Bilbo Baggins in Alien as "a survivor, unclouded by conscience, remorse or delusions of morality" have been reduced to brainless cannon fodder hurtling themselves into your gunfire. This terrifying perfect killing machine is never any real threat and during the course of the game you will kill hundreds of them.

That is, anyway, in the rare bits of the game where you are actually confronted with Aliens and not Weyland Yutani soldiers. They have the same A.I. as the Aliens only they shoot a bit and are all suffer from a complete lack of direction or spacial awareness - which can lead to some humorous sections where you're both popping up from behind cover about 2 feet away from each other. Police Squad, anybody?

But it's not all bad. To their credit the developers have taken some of my very favourite moments of the plot and pay loyal homage to it here.

Remember the bit where Apone ordered the marines into the reactor but they all got stuck in the doorway and had to weirdly teleport in and out of existence so they could all fit through?  Me too.  Gripping, wasn't it?

Or the bit in the vents where everybody was running away from the Aliens and Ripley and Hicks got to the door at the end but it wouldn't open because there was still an Alien they hadn't killed five minutes ago, so they had to traipse all the way back to the start - with the dramatic music still playing - and kill it so they could slog all the way back and open the door.  The James Horner Aliens score has never been used more effectively, especially when its the same three minute being repeated over and over again in a twenty minute level. Gives me goosebumps, that one.

Another good thing; The hole in the centre of the disk makes a very
reasonable and affordable pickled onion display stand (Pickled Onions not included)
And when Ripley was in the powerloader but she kept randomly falling out of it and being prompted to press a button that did nothing? "Get away from her, you bitch" means very little when we're talking collision detection in a game of this calibre.

Your very favourite bits, right?

I found Aliens: Colonial Marines in a bargain bucket in Game and paid one earth pound for it. I feel like I've been ripped off somewhere. It's an embarrassing half-finished pile of utter crud that does more damage to the franchise than Alien: Resurrection managed, and thats saying something.

I'd comment on the online multiplayer but there is the possibility that I might have to share online time with people who paid full price for it, and I imagine they're very angry and I don't want to hear the swearing.

Rating: 3.1 Chestburster impregnated FoldsFives from a total of 117,012.25.

EDIT: Due to masochistic tendencies and a vague sense of unease, I've forced myself to play the final level of Aliens: Colonial Marines and I'm pleased to say it redeemed itself. The final Queen battle was an excellent piece of level design and was both tense and well balanced. Oh no, hang on, no it wasn't. It involved running around a badly designed level pushing five buttons culminating with a cut scene that ended half way through a piece of dialogue.

Game over, man.  This is Game Over.

True Unrelated Mum Fact: Despite loving Animal Hospital, my mother never liked Rolf Harris. And in her own words "I can't put my finger on it, there's just something about it".  I'd like to think that events of 2013 (and that remain to unfold throughout 2014) have vindicated my mothers dislike of Rolf. 

Mum, you were right.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013: An end of year review

And as we approach the end of 2013, 2014 steadily advances towards us like a panting dog dragging its arse across the carpet of time as the Mayan prediction for the end of time becomes increasingly more inaccurate.

It's been an odd one in that on a personal note I've properly fell in love with writing again and have gathered together enough material for a book of short stories - The Shadow Cast By The World - available for as cheap as I'm allowed to give it away on Amazon, fact fans. And the good news at the end of the year is that one of my short stories will be printed in a horror anthology coming out in the New Year called "Fear's Accomplice" which I'll clearly spam the living fuck out of when it's released, and I know you'd expect no less of me. I'm currently working on my first novel (tentatively titled Version Control) of which I'm about a tenth of the way through - My synopsis for it is "David Cronenberg writes a superhero story".

It's been a year of good conventions - The Convention formerly known as the SFX weekender (now known as the Sci-Fi weekender) in February in which I got to spend way too long in costume and got to properly meet the awesome Liam (Judge Lemmy) and Victoria Matthew who I'd briefly met and befriended at the event the year before. The London Super Comic Con in May was excellent and the largest gathering of Judges we'd managed yet. Highlights included patrolling the queues for artist Brian Bolland, and having a cup of coffee bought for me by Dredd co-creator John Wagner who I escorted on stage for one of the 2000ad panels. The most recent was in Birmingham which definitely WAS the largest gathering of Judges yet - both the comic and movie varieties. And with my new movie armour coming any.. day.. soon... 2014 promises to be a good year for conventions as well.

It's been an odd one for movies and telly - After the first one I was dead excited for Star Trek Into Darkness but it turned out to be a plot-hole laden nonsensical pile of mediocre space crap.  But it was okay because then Gravity came out and renewed my love for cinema and showed me that 3D doesn't have to be a shit gimmick. We had the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who which was marked by the wonderful Docudrama "An adventure in Space and Time" and the excellent 50th Anniversary episode "Day of the Doctor" (which was then followed by the dreadful Christmas episode, but you can't have everything).

The biggest highlight of the year on a personal note was to see my best friends Tom and Fran get married and to have the honour of being their best man.  Nervousness about speech aside, it was a fantastic day (following a brilliant Stag Do in Cologne which I was incredibly remiss in not blogging about).  

On the gaming front we had two of the best games I've played in my life  The Last Of Us which I still can't rave about enough - which had not just one but two blog posts and the wonderful GTA V.

It's been the year in which my wife started her excellent blog The Little Ginger That Could after going from just contributing a few excellent pieces here. She writes a blog far braver, painfully honest and helpful than I could ever dream of doing, and she makes me incredibly proud. With her depression it's been an incredibly tough year for the both of us, but 2014 can only be better.

So, thanks for sticking with the blog despite its recent scarcity of content, and let all of us have a fantastic 2014.

"Resolve to make at least one person happy every day, and then in ten years you may have made three thousand, six hundred and fifty persons happy, or brightened a small town by your contribution to the fund of general enjoyment" - Sydney Smith

Friday, December 13, 2013

Wud-be righter sekes Editor/Prufe-reader; Applely within.

Apologies for a lack of blog updates in the last few weeks; Christmas shopping, work and a variety of other real-life things have interrupted the normal flow :)

A big thank you to all those who have either purchased my debut collection of short Stories The Shadow Cast By The World or downloaded it on one of the (sadly) rare promotional days - and extra big thanks from the heart of my bottom bottom of my heart for those lovely souls who've reviewed it on Amazon (Ian, Gill, Neil, Steph, Paul and Steve - you're genuinely the best and you're definitely going in the credits of the next thing I release). It's doing relatively healthily, and that's a nice thing.

Amazon only allow me five promotional days per book and I genuinely wish they'd offer me more - I'd happily give it away for free because I just want it to be read, but Amazon don't permit me to do so for the Kindle.  If you want it as the raw word document pop me an email and I'll let you have a copy.

But.. the next step. Over the last couple of days I think I've got enough raw material and penciled in ideas to approach the writing of my first full length novel but - and this a big but - those of you who've read my stuff will be aware that I'm my own worst editor and proof-reader. My short stories are pretty much a stream of consciousness that I struggle to identify any errors with and rarely revisit.

So, any editors/proof-readers out there who'll be willing to work for a percentage of royalties? I'd love the opportunity to run this stuff - as I write it - through somebody else, but the risk you'll have is that it may well be that nobody buys it. But if three and a half billion people buy it, we'll chink our glasses of daiquiri together on that tropical island in 2016 and laugh about such days.

If you think you're up to it - and can handle reading through my rubbish - then drop me a line in the comments of this blog. This is a project I'm genuinely excited about starting - it's just one I'm more than conscious of my own failings in.

EDIT: Hurrah!  The power of the internet!  Proof-reader/editor has been found.  Thanks for all your help :)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

That was the Doctor Who that was - A 50th Anniversary Post

From the outset, I make no apologies for any spoilers in this post. You really should have watched the Doctor Who 50th anniversary stuff by now, and if you haven't and go any further, you deserve everything you get.

So, the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who and all the associated shenanigans.

Ultimately, what a load of old rubbish.

The plot made absolutely no sense - who are these "Gallifresians" that they keep banging on about? That Wurzel Gummidge chap Jonathan Pertwee wasn't even given any lines which is absolutely unforgivable being as he was the longest Doctor Who ever for the eight years before 1948 and 1956, and the continuity people didn't even give Tom Baker the right coloured hair or a funny long scarf. They had David Tennants doctor running about even though I definitely remember him "rejuvenating" (See, I know all the terms) into Matthew Smith (the guy who wrote Maniac Miner for the Spectrum 48k) back in 2002 or something, and for some reason they had Kane from Alien wandering about calling himself the "Wart Doctor". And why do they have to bring back the Daleks over and over again? What's wrong with using some of the classic villains like The Hood or Zelda and Yung-Star? What a load of old bollocky nonsense - Michael Grade had the right idea putting it on the TV schedule against Crossroads years back so it would die a natural death - Stephen Muffet is terrible and shouldn't be allowed anywhere near Doctor Who. Bring back Russell T. Davison - he never got anything wrong, especially when he did that great one ("Loving Monsters?") with Peter Kay.

So I hear - I didn't even watch it. It's a kids show anyway.

But of course, that's not true at all, is it? I thought the pinnacle of the 50th celebrations would have been "An Adventure in Space and Time", a wonderful dramatisation of the creation of the series back in 1963. Poignant and made with a level of loving detail that you don't see very often, it was clearly Mark Gatiss writing a love letter to a show that is clearly so dear to him.

But the big event of the celebrations was the 50th Anniversary episode "The Day of the Doctor". Excitement had already begin building to fever pitch after the mini episode prequel in which we got to see Paul McGann playing the doctor again and regeneration into John Hurt, but this episode carried the weight of a great deal of expectation.

And did it deliver?

Oh yes. Again, one of those scripts that dazzled you and left you breathless and didn't give you time to think about the occasional pothole "Hey, hang on, didn't he just--? Whoa! Explosions and daleks!", but overall a cracking 50th anniversary episode. The production values made it feel big but rather than go the Michael Bay route of style over substance there were enough moments of contemplation and poignancy and a tendency to enjoy and celebrate the damn history of the thing that it carried itself nicely. With an ending that almost mirrors the doctors habit of regenerating by regenerating the series itself, giving it a new sense of purpose and urgency that it's been lacking in recent seasons.

Splendid telly. Here's to the 100th.

..and for those of you around in 2063 (which is unlikely to include me) I want you to do me a favour. Seriously. Do it for me.

When you're on whatever the internet is called then (probably the SuperHyperBrainNet, or something) and you see someone talking about the impending 100th Doctor Who Anniversary episode and they're moaning about what little they know of the plot and are suggesting a myriad of ways in which it could be improved if they were in charge, then please copy and paste the following chunk of text in response to it:

Hi there. Its more than likely that I'm dead now, but somebody has done me the favour of copying and pasting my catch-all response here, and I think it'll probably apply. I'm sorry to say that - even  though I'm a Star Wars fan - I've never known such a pissy and entitled group of fans as those who watch Doctor Who. Can you please for one second stop fucking whining about what should be a wonderful celebration of a well loved program and have a little faith that the program makers will get it right? And If you're stating three weeks in advance you're not going to watch it because it'll be shit, that your friends hold you to that and if you dare start enthusing about it five minutes after it finishes then they're given my posthumous permission to beat your face into a sloppy pulp.

And stop writing pissing script ideas that you think would make it better. You can't even tell the difference between "could have" and "could of" so you'll forgive me in not holding my breath (joke, I'm dead) for you to come up with some wonderful BAFTA winning Doctor Who script.

In short, piss off and start enjoying it.

You doing this small favour for me is the closest I'll ever get to time travelling. Thanks in advance.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How Novel... those of you who're interested - or for those of you who perhaps have easily pleased relatives who don't have the patience for fiction that isn't in the form of short stories - my first collection of tales is available in digital form from Amazon.  Click here or on the big book cover to the left to go to my author page from where you can preview a couple of pages.

Much as I'd like to give it away for nothing, the Amazon marketplace doesn't permit it so I've had to stick it on there for the cheapest price they'll allow, namely 99 cents. If you've read my stuff before on Readwave and like it, then I promise you a go on my Ferrari when I'm a millionaire author if you stick a nice review on there.

Alternatively, if you seem to believe that you're my arch-nemesis or something, it'd be really mean to pop a terrible review on there. I'd like to think you know into which camp you fall.

Anyway, pop by, have a look - and if you buy it, I hope you don't consider that 99 cents was a terrible waste of money for it.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Gravity - a spoiler-free review

The screen goes black and some ominous white writing appears, giving us some Super-awesome Spacey Facts™ with "Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly mindbogglingly big it is. I mean you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space" (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) sadly not being one of them.

And then we're treated to an awe-inspring shot of Earth, looking more beautiful and vibrant than you've ever seen it, and then we're quickly closing in on a distant scene of Astronauts working on the Hubble telescope in one unbroken 17 minute shot.  

Director Alfonso CuarĂ³n is responsible for my favourite film of all time in Children of Men, which is an absolute tour-de-force of Cinema (and I'm not just saying that because it features a wonderful performance from Clive Owen, fellow Cov Kid). From a variety of wonderfully shot scenes one particular one stands out in that - one which follows our lead characters travelling in their car and driving into - and escaping - an ambush in one brilliantly choreographed shot which is so long and so perfect you have no idea how anybody could achieve that. The opening of Gravity takes that scene and laughs heartily in its face like a nutter.

The opening (and the length of it) is vital because it's where Gravity quickly establishes it's rules - The concepts of up and down are useless out in space, and our two main characters are Ryan Stone, a medical engineer on her first trip into space (a never-better Sandra Bullock putting in the performance of a lifetime) and Matt Kowalksi, a veteran astronaut on his last (George Clooney).

And the repair job on Hubble goes without a hitch and they both safely land on Earth in their shuttle and the remaining 73 minutes is a delightful romantic comedy about how they both fall in love despite their apparent differences, learning a little bit about each other - and a lot about themselves - on the way.

...but of course that isn't what really happens. The call comes through from NASA that a debris field from a destroyed Russian satellite is caught in Earths orbit and is heading towards them.  Dozens of pieces of spinning razor sharp shrapnel each travelling at the speed of a bullet. It's wiped out satellites along the way and they'll shortly lose communication with Earth.

And what remains is what can only be described as 73 minutes of incredible spectacle that'll leave your heart in your mouth and you'll have to remind yourself to keep breathing. The plot won't be up for any screenwriting nominations but it keeps the pace moving nicely and is just tight enough to keep the perpetual sequence of disasters believable enough.

Sandra Bullock is absolutely remarkable in it. The part was originally going to go to Angelina Jolie but I'm so glad that she didn't get it - Bullock is an everywoman - albeit an everywoman with astronaut training. She's new to the terrors of space and we experience them with her. Jolie is a bit too Hollywood for my liking, and couldn't have brought the same level of depth to the rule that Bullock manages. And that's not a sentence I thought I'd ever write about Sandra Bullock.

So, Film of the year? Definitely. In the top 10 list of all time favourite films? A big yes to that at well. Favourite film ever? It's up there, but It'd work hard to topple Children of Men - but it may just be that my two favourite films ever now share the same director.

Go see it, and go see it on the biggest screen you can in 3D. It deserves to be seen of the big screen because it will lose nearly all impact on television screens - It'd be like riding a rollercoaster with a motorcycle helmet on.

And it's great that a film can be called Gravity and not feature much of the stuff at all.  It'd be like calling the next Big Mommas House film "Comedy" or the next Michael Bay film "Subtlety".

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Project Tegenaria

Professor Black took another frantic look in the rear view mirror.  He couldn't see particularly clearly due to the driving rain and the speed he was travelling, but he was sure they couldn't be far behind.

The Foundation had served him well since his graduation in '69, however his work since the day he was given the role of Project Lead would be for naught if they caught him now.  He pressed a little harder on the accelerator.

Back in '69 he was practically a child.  His research was good; he knew that.  The Foundation were taking a risk employing him as project lead at such a young age.  The very sound of it both excited and terrified him: a forty year project.  A project that would test his patience, his scientific skill and his humanity.  Professor Black took another look over his shoulder.  He could see lights in the distance - were they closing in?  He watched as the speedometer flicked over 100, remembering back to his first year on the project.  Damn, if he could only have seen then what a fool he'd been.

It had taken him almost six months to set up.  The legalities of covert surveillance were tricky and not his forte, but he had support from the Foundation's legal division.  "As long as you're related we're covered" was the crux of it.  His own family it was, then.  Every meal, both of his children's entire childhood, every time he and his wife had made love; all caught on camera and logged.  Every second of sleep observed and analysed by his own team.  He was fucked if he was going to let all this go to waste.  He may have managed to keep it from the people closest to him for almost half a century, but the public needed to know.  He took out his phone and clicked on the blue and white 'F' logo.  Thank God for technology.  If he could just release the final data, that might be enough.  His eyes flicked between the blurred white lines of the road and his phone, as he pressed the 'Status update' button.  The progress bar began to fill.  He put the phone on the dashboard as he frantically pulled off his lab coat and tossed it into the back seat.

He wanted to publish all his findings.  He wanted desperately to tell the public about that first incident, eighteen years into the project.  The phone call at 4.15.  Incident T-16.  Specimen T-16-1.  He had seen that footage so many times it was burnt into his memory.  His own wife, shifting in her sleep as the moment approached, completely unaware of what was about to happen.  He would know, but she could never find out.  "No time" he thought. It had been so difficult to keep all this inside for so long.  With his left hand on the wheel and the phone in his right, he began to type.

His phone sent the message and he relaxed slightly.  It was the first time he had eased off since his meeting with the Foundation's board that morning.  Those fucking cunts, well he'd show them.  Now the whole fucking world would know.  Even if it was through word of mouth they'd know.  Even if not a single paper was released, every record shredded, every video erased, each and every person in the country would find out.

They were right behind him now.  So close he could almost make out their features.  He took a deep breath and turned the wheel slightly to the right.

The blurred outline of the truck approached and he checked his phone for the last time.  As the cab of the articulated wagon forced its way into his car, he smiled as he recited his words: 'The average person will eat three spiders in their lifetime'.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Army of the Stupid

"Must.. buy.. puppy.."
There’s a scene in the (quite average) World War Z where a horde of quite nippy (and quite peeved) zombies are scaling the walls of Jerusalem and humanity is struggling to repel them and is quite literally overwhelmed by their sheer numbers.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a laboured metaphor for a very real war that we’re fighting on a daily basis, a never-ending conflict that is raging around us.

The war against the stupid.

My fellow soldiers – and I class you as an ally purely by the good sense and intelligence you have shown by reading my blog - their numbers are great and they are legion. They outnumber us 10 to 1 and they have a great advantage over us – like the zombie who can keep on coming even after being riddled with bullets, they will not cease in their fighting because they are literally too stupid to know when they have lost.

Your witty retorts, sarcastic remarks and snide asides will bounce off them for they are protected by the most powerful armour of all – complete fucking ignorance. That carefully crafted sarcastic turn of phrase? Much to your chagrin, they’ll interpret this as you agreeing with them. I hope now you can fully appreciate the seriousness of the conflict in which we find ourselves.

Tesco released a Christmas brochure which has caused somewhat of a furore amongst the camp of the terminally bewildered. On one page there is a small photograph of a blurred child running past a blackboard that clearly states “All I want for Christmas is a puppy”.

And the armies of the stupid leapt into action quicker than if they’d seen a shared fake web post from a facebook page called “Tescoes” offering them a free £250 voucher.

Keyboards across the land were sprayed with spit and keys jabbed at slowly and furiously by a fuming horde of indignant animal lovers (names changed to protect the stupid).

I am totatlly disgusted with Tesco, first the ad man/woman who thought it a good idea to have that written on the blackboard then a proof reader allowed it through for publication! Get those magazines out of stores tonight or loose yet more customers. I for one will never ever shop in Tesco again.
Mandy Pillock

Now we've all exhibited various levels of disgust in our lives, but none of us can honestly say we've ever quite hit the pinnacle of being totatlly disgusted. It’s good and very astute of Mandy that she can understand that both men and women can work in advertising, but she seems overly concerned with the tautness and/or flaccidity of Tesco customers – and have you ever noticed that the phrase “I for one” is mostly used in complaints?

What's this I hear about plastic bags with badgers on ??? and adverts with children wanting puppies for Christmas.?? What is the matter with you Tesco???
Kevin Cock-for-brains (esq)

What at first may seem like phrases randomly generated by the cut-up technique employed by William S. Burroughs are in fact a plea for help. Kevins fragile grip on reality has been severed by the Tesco advert (and plastic bags with badgers on) and this is a heartfelt plea for help. In the name of all that is holy, what IS the matter with you, Tesco?

As an intelligent person you can probably appreciate that the picture is an innocent portrayal of a typical childs wish for Christmas and is nothing more than a charming festive scene, a small throwaway picture in the corner of a brochure to be mostly ignored, used as cat litter tray lining, rolled up to swat a bothersome fly or used as a solid base for a cup based spider transportation device.

BUT THE STUPID PEOPLE ARE ANGRY. How dare Tesco promote getting a dog for Christmas (which they aren't) in an advert (which it isn't)? Do they not know that eighteen squillion puppies a year are left abandoned on Boxing day?

Here’s the trick. Your children are not the fucking Midwich Cuckoos, capable of telepathically controlling your every thought and whim. If they happen to see the photograph (which, incidentally, thanks to the Stupid people is being reposted and reprinted in every fucking news outlet thanks to their vehement complaining - congratulations there, Einstein) and ask you for a puppy at Christmas because they somehow weirdly associate themselves with a blurry child, I have some advice for you.

Say “No”

It’s a very easy two letter word which, Stupid people, you probably already know. It’s coincidentally the very word you’d use as the answer to the question, “Do you have any fucking sense whatsoever?

Lifestyle pictures in a glossy picture don’t abandon dogs at Christmas. Shit dog owners and crap parents do.

But the tsunami of stupidity continues to batter at the walls of sense, and their armies are ever growing.

But, my fellow soldiers, all is not lost. If we remain patient and steadfast, we may well yet triumph. For the armies of the Stupid have a remarkable Darwinian predilection for destroying themselves - falling off ladders, scalding themselves to death after misinterpreting the "stand in boiling water" instructions on the side of a sponge pudding, dying from starvation when captivated by the "concentrate" label on the side of a bottle of squash, etc.

We may yet triumph. Stand strong, my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Stranger than Fiction

Apologies for the tardiness in not updating the blog for a while - This is down to that heady combination of a lack of inspiration and the life-eating genius that is GTA V.

It's also because I've been spending a bit of time contributing to the excellent website ReadWave - which is essentially a website that exists for writers to post their works to get feedback. My stuff is predominantly Flashfic, and some of it you may have read on this blog already.

There's my short horror story The Shadow Cast By The World from April of last year (which is still my personal favourite) along with the short poem The Lantern from June of 2011. Rounding off works repeated from here is The Dossier from 2011 as well.

Pieces written specifically for ReadWave are a couple of short works - There's a silly time travel short called The (pen)ultimate solution, and two fantasy based short works called The evil at the Edge of the Woods and The Glorious Quest.

My latest is a slightly longer Science Fiction piece (but one that's still short enough to be classed as a short story)  - Into The Great Wide Open.

There are also two pieces (the first of which was written for the weekly ReadWave challenge which in this case was to write a letter to your 13 year old self) very close to my heart because they're about my Mum - these are Dear David and She's gone.

So, why not have a look? There's some great stories on there and it's a great way to spend half an hour scanning through peoples works and offering feedback

..and I assure you that normal levels of sweary cynical geekery will resume shortly.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Worra Lully Cuppill!

My wife showing her typical lack of  respect for authority
at Forbidden Planets 35th birthday celebrations.
I'm writing this at the end of an utterly fantastic bank holiday weekend which saw me promoting the 35th birthday of Forbidden Planet but one which more importantly saw two of my best friends in the world getting married and me fulfilling the great honour of being the grooms best man. Occasional guest writer Druid (better known as Tom White) and Frances Grainger have now become the symbiotic entity known as Tom and Frances Grainger-White (the artists formerly known as the Fran/Tom Menace) and I couldn't be happier for the pair of them.

It was an utterly wonderful weekend at a beautiful venue (Warwickshires incredible hidden gem of Wethele Manor) with wonderful scenery, wonderful food, wonderful drink (hic) and wonderful people - all gathered together for a wonderful event. It's always nice to catch up with old friends - but it's even better when you're together for such a special reason.

Nerves were slightly frayed when the photographer wasn't on site and the Bridal party were delayed by a traffic jam - two of our friends Gerry and Kevin valiantly offered to step into the fray to do photography and our friend Steven bravely offered up his services as a replacement Fran if the worst came to the worst - but everybody turned up in plenty of time and it turned out that Tom and I didn't know that Hannah, the photographer, was travelling with the bridal party all along.


It was a brilliant ceremony with the temperamental weather deciding to remain sunny, and a fantastic wedding breakfast of curried goods was absolutely perfect - the drinks were flowing, although I'll admit that other than a drop of Cava and a sip of Cobra I barely touched a drop - I was way too nervous about the speech especially after the phenomenal one delivered by Frans dad Harry after which there was barely a dry eye in the house ("Fran and Tom do crosswords. They don't do crossed words").

And then the speech - repeated here verbatim for your pleasure cricitism; 

The cake toppers that Tara and I made for the
wedding cake - kept as a complete surprise for Tom!
Good afternoon everybody.

For those who don’t know me, my name is David and I have the great honour of being Toms best man. For those of you who do know me - the previous statement still applies.

I couldn’t believe it when during a New Year party several years ago Tom asked me to be his best man. I’d like to point out – for the record, m’lud - that we were all in fancy dress at the time – he was dressed in a schoolboys uniform as Angus Young from AC/DC and I in a oversized papier mache head- so it’s quite possible that he asked the wrong person and has been too proud or embarrassed to subsequently correct his mistake. That said he was my best man at my wedding several years back, so this might just be petty revenge. And knowing how fiercely competitive Tom is, it must really have hurt him to hand over the Best Man title.

But Tom, mate. Don’t look on this as a best man’s speech, more of it as a right to reply.

In all honesty though, it’s such a great honour and a sign of our friendship and it genuinely means a great deal to be asked. But as they say, every silver lining has a cloud and for me - this speech is it. It’ll only be a short one though because of my throat - If I go on too long, Tom and Fran have threatened to cut it.

But firstly, on behalf of everyone here I would like to say congratulations to Tom and Frances and to thank you both for making us all feel very welcome and allowing us to be a part of your special day.

Thanks must also go to John & Pat and Harry & Barbara for such a wonderful day so far. On a day like today looking at this lovely building I can’t help but think about history, and especially how history repeats itself. I mean it must have only around 25 years ago Fran was going to bed with a dummy, yet here we are again...

But anyway, to the matter at hand, I’d like to tell you all about one of the best blokes I know, but tradition dictates I talk about Tom.

Now this is a story all about how 
Toms life got flipped-turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute,
Just sit right there
And I’ll tell you how he met and married Frances Graing-er.

I’m sure those of you who know Tom know – and have often remarked - how uncannily his life parallels that of the actor, producer and rap artist Will Smith with but a few subtle – but interesting - differences. Whereas Willard Christopher Smith Junior, to use his full name, was born and raised in West Philadelphia, Thomas Susan Norman Stanley Fletcher White, to use his full name, was born and raised elsewhere.

Will Smith has enjoyed great success in television, film and music and in April 2007 Newsweek called him the most powerful actor in Hollywood. He’s been nominated for four Golden Globe awards, two academy awards and has won four Grammy Awards.

Thomas White has done some buildings and some bridges and some water pipes and stuff.

And there the similarities end.

I met Tom 7 years back and the two of us have been great friends ever since. We found we had many interests in common – drinking, crappy monster movies, video games, multi-packs of crisps and exaggerating about numbers to name just 27.

Once a year Tom throws what is affectionately termed a “pie bash” where a large group of our friends gather together, the only rule being that every person there needs to have brought along a pie that they have made. It’s like Fight Club only with no – well, less - fighting and more of an emphasis on shortcrust. It was at one of these events where Tom and Fran first properly met - It could be said that their pies met across a crowded room.

I once asked Tom when he first knew he was in love with Fran. He told me that he knew from the very first moment she told him he was.

But sincerely, anyone here like me who has been lucky enough to spend time in their company knows what a great couple they are, perfectly complementing each other in many, many ways. Fran is both an excellent cook and baker, and Tom loves eating and being complementary about food. And now they’re a perfect couple, for better, for worse. Tom couldn’t have done any better, and Fran couldn’t have….


In closing I’d like to wish Tom and Frances all the happiness in the world. They are the most perfectly suited couple in every way and it is incredibly reassuring to know that two of my best friends in the world will be spending the rest of their lives happily together. It now gives me immense pleasure - not to mention relief - to say that all that remains for me to do is to ask you to charge your glasses, stand and join me in wishing Mr & Mrs Grainger-White a long, prosperous and happy life together.

"Take my wife."
Ladies and gentlemen please raise your glasses – to the new Mr. and Mrs. Grainger-White; Fran & Tom!

It seemed to go down quite well, despite my nervous rapid-fire delivery. They laughed at the bits I wanted them to laugh at, and all was well. And I've never drunk three glasses of white wine so quickly. I had catching up to do. And boy, did I catch up.

The rest of the day was awesome - the weather remained absolutely perfect although it would appear that Wethele Manor was also hosting some manner of Wasp convention that they hadn't warned us about - there were hundreds of the little buzzing Nazi wannabe-bee bastards, all paying particular interest in their awesome Wedding cake.

Beer and wine poured thick and fast, the awesome Jakamo played a blinder of a gig and my wife Tara ended the night with an excellent playlist of tunes and didn't even get slightly grumpy and play "Hang the DJ" when the venue owners threatened to cut short her set.

Overall, a fantastic weekend and a lovely day of celebrating the marriage of great friends. If any couple belong together, it's Tom and Fran. I wish them all the happiness in the world.