Redemption Schedule

I shall be at friendly multimedia convention Redemption this weekend in Sheffield. Here’s the panels wot I am on, and the times wot they are currently scheduled to happen:

Friday 24th 

11am: Super Flashing Arrow Legends
Just why are the Berlanti DC shows so awesome? May include geekery about the late 80s DC comics universe.

3pm: Defending the indefensible
Light-hearted panel show.

It. Is. Defended!

7pm: Universal Monsters
Boris Karloff’s version of the Frankenstein Monster is the most easily recognisable – but with a new universe of Universal Monsters coming up, the panel takes a look at why they are so enduring in popular culture.

8pmFuture Fascism
We look at how fascism has been treated in SF. I intend to bring up The Iron Dream, whether you want me to or not.

Saturday 25th

11am: How to tame your panellists
If you’ve never moderated a panel before, how might you keep things moving along politely and without rancour? May include tips on how to deal with audience members who don’t have a question, it’s more of a comment really. A very long comment.

5pm: Artificial People
Cylons in Galactica, the Hosts of Westworld… what does it mean to be a person of non-biological origin?

Sunday 26th

2pm: Constructing the Robot cool wall.
Some robots are cool. Some are sexy. Others are… less so.

4pmMilitary Top Trumps
With the help of the audience, we will decide once and for all who the most awesome military force in all of science fiction are.  No backsies, this is it. Finally. For ever.

Seriously. If you’re not here and voting and you don’t like who gets voted in as our most awesome SF military pals, well, sucks to be you.

8pmThe Ideal Holmes Exhibition
Of all the incarnations of Sherlock Holmes, is there such a thing as a platonic ideal? Or does the canon trump all?

10pm: SF Westerns
Firefly, Westworld, Star Trek. You can’t move without hitting a Space Western. Why is the trope such an enduring SF phenomenon?

If you’re around, come say hi!

Monsters

The Jurassic Chronicles coverRawr!

Happy to be able to say that I have a story called Monsters in this very fine anthology of dinosaur tales known as The Jurassic Chronicles.

The book is being released on January 29th.

I lit a candle today.

I lit a candle today.

It was blue. The colour of a summer sky. The kind of sky that you lie on your back on the green next to your friends and loved ones with, and look up into, and know that it goes on for ever.

That kind of blue. The kind that comes for a few days or weeks every summer. The kind of blue that you can look up into and think: How lucky am I, that I can be here and talk about nothing of consequence and feel the warmth of the sun on my face and think about how beautiful and wonderful it is that of all the possible worlds, I am in this one, and I am happy, and it is so good to be alive.

I lit a candle today.

Because today a man with a gun and a knife decided that it was more important for him to hold onto his beliefs than for a woman to live. Because a woman did her job in the open. Helped folk to fix their problems. Tried to make the world a better place.

And then a man killed her for it.

I lit a candle today.

Because for the last ten years or more it has seemed as if few people in the world are capable of speaking the truth:

That the best of times feel further away now than they ever have.
That the world is a terrible and fearsome place.
That we don’t know how to make it better.

I lit a candle today.

Because the rage I hold inside right now has no outlet. Because I’m sick and tired of this fucking world, and the way it makes me feel. Because I’m scared. Because I think this may not even be the worst of it. Because there are people who preach hatred of the Other, and these people are not called out for being the bastards they are. Because the gap between the rich and the poor is the worst that it has been since records began. Because we’re told that it’s the poor people, the migrants, the people that aren’t like us that are the cause of our problems. Because those lies are being believed.

I lit a candle today.

In the summer, in the centre of the city, you can still lie on the green with your friends, and look up at the blue, and think how lucky it is that you’re alive, that you have friends, that you have food in your belly and a roof above your head.

But the day ends. And I’m scared of what the night may bring.

I lit a candle today.

Melting blue onto the stone by the side of the green, dripping melted wax there to hold it upright. A base. Something to stand upon, to hold it tight so it could burn. As the sky started to fade, a light to see us through the darkness.

I lit a candle today.

Because I knew that I needed to do something.  Even if I was scared, and enraged, and didn’t know what to do, I could still do this,  I could still say there is still hope, there is light, even in this darkness.

I lit a candle today.

 

I didn’t think they’d want to keep him.

A little over two years ago I wrote on this very blog that if Nick Clegg didn’t resign as LibDem leader before the 2015 election, the party would be destroyed as a political force in this country.

Well, that worked out pretty much as expected.

My other prediction in that short essay, though, was not borne out. It said, basically: “Nick Clegg is not a stupid man. He can see the writing on the wall and will resign before the election.”

I found out today that he attempted to resign a year before the election, but was advised not to.

So my respect for him has gone up, and my respect for Paddy Ashdown and Tim Farron has gone down.

Still shoulda gone. But at least now I understand why he didn’t.

The Simulation Interrogation

I recently finished a spec for The Big Bang Theory.

I know that writing specs for currently-airing shows is considered a bit passé these days but I a) needed a spec of a particular US comedy to put into the Nickelodeon Writing Program, and this was my favourite of the ones on offer and b) I hadn’t actually written a spec for ages and needed to get back on the horse. I like writing for other people’s characters, especially ones I love. It’s fun.

Naturally the one that went to the Nickelodeon Writing Program was the one with the typos and missing character names. Sigh. Never mind.

After a little bit of tidying up it’s been out to readers and had a table read before a quick rewrite and punch-up, and the general conclusion seems to be that it’s reasonably funny. Which is what you want from a comedy, really.

As I say, though, no-one in the UK reads specs for airing shows, and very few people in the US do these days either.

Should you fancy going against the flow and checking one out, you can read the first ten pages of my Big Bang Theory spec here, or drop me an email and I’ll send you the whole thing.

And to answer an FAQ: There are no scenes  F, G, or I; that’s the same way it is in scripts for the show.

The People Who Show Up

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The Hugo Awards are one of Science Fiction’s best-known trophies. Shaped like giant phalluses in the form of rocket ships (as opposed to giant phalluses shaped like golden men), the Hugos are the Oscars of the science fiction world.

Now, in the last couple of years, more diverse fiction has been being awarded Hugos. This isn’t a good thing, or a bad thing. It’s just a thing.

Some people, such as author Larry Correia believe that this is because the people who vote in the Hugo Awards – which is, essentially, those fans who go to or purchase a supporting membership for WorldCon, the World Science Fiction Convention – is composed actually a clique of people all voting for their friends, and does not reflect the tastes of SF fandom as a whole.

(Personally, I don’t believe that there is a secret clique of Social Justice Warriors, plotting in a dark room to ensure that only literary SF works make it through to the ballot. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.” If this happened For Reals, we’d know about it. But anyway…)

To rectify this perceived injustice, Larry set up what’s become known as the Sad Puppies Campaign. In essence, it’s very simple. He encouraged you to

  1. Buy a supporting membership for WorldCon.
  2. Nominate works that you think should be on the ballot.

In that way, books that you like get to be eligible for the Hugos, and books that you don’t, don’t!

Huzzah, amirite?

This year, Larry and author Brad Torgerson went a little further, putting together a slate of works that they thought were deserving of the award, and encouraging people to vote for them.

All common, fair, above board. It had never been done before, and they were perfectly within their rights to do so.

Notorious asshat and genuinely terrible person Vox Day also got involved – think of him as the right-wing equivalent of Requires Hate, and you’ll not only be in the right ballpark, you’ll have made it to first base – with his own slate of Rabid Puppies, not associated with the Sad Puppies.

(Vox went ahead and put himself at the top of each of his list of suggested authors, which, again, is completely within the rules.)

The Sad and Rabid Puppies slates swept the nomination process this year.

Now, what this means for the Hugos is that many people won’t have the chance to vote for who they like, because the work isn’t on the shortlist. And the reason it isn’t on the shortlist, is because the Sad Puppies showed up. They organised. They voted. And they have a slateful of nominations.

Well, good for them. This is how democracy works.

There’s a lot of whining at the moment about how, well, it goes against the spirit of the Hugo Awards.

Bollocks to the spirit of the Hugo Awards. Care about this? Buy a membership. Vote. Vote for No Award this year, if you don’t think any of the works are worthwhile. Vote for works you do think are worthwhile on the slate. Encourage other people to do the same.

Just fucking vote.

Because if you’re not organised, you can be damn sure that people whose opinions you despise are.

Which brings me to the present.

Here in the UK, there’s a General Election in just over three weeks. If you’ve not registered to vote, you can’t. And if the shitbags get in? (Whoever your personal brand of shitbag is.) Then the result is on you.

Organise. Register to vote.  It takes about three minutes. You’ve got until the 20th of April to do so.

If you don’t like the way things are going, for the love of Christ make a difference. And vote.

Redemption Schedule

I’ll be at cuddlesome and friendly SF con Redemption this coming weekend up in Coventry. Should you be around and about, here’s the panels I’m on…

Stargate – Gone and Forgotten?
3pm, Friday
Basically, why Stargate the TV series is dead good.

Imaginary Friends
7pm, Friday

Six, Harvey, Harvey, Hopkirk (Deceased) and more – what function do people who only one character and the audience can see serve?

Doing the Time Loop
10pm, Friday
Episodes which repeat. Episodes which repeat. Episodes which repeat. Episodes which repeat.

The Prisoner: What was it all about?
11am, Saturday
I have a theory, and it is mine. OK, probably some other people’s too.

Creativity Workshop
2pm, Saturday
I’ll be running my workshop on how to improve your creativity again.

What Makes a Great Villain?
Sunday, 6pm
Contrast and revelation. Probably.

So, if that lot’s not enough to keep me busy, I’ve also taken on the job of editing the newsletter, so if you want to help out, come see me!

(And if you want some stuff that’s not me, you can look at the full programme here (PDF).)

Tickets available on the door, should you fancy that little lot and find yourself free.

 

FATE Combat Cheat Sheet

My Tuesday Night RPG group has been playing Zeitgeist for the last couple of years. It’s a steampunk fantasy game, and it’s got a great story. Strong recommend here.

We started off playing it in 4th Edition D&D, but after a while it became clear that the system wasn’t supporting the cinematic playstyle that we were using. And every time a combat happened, the whole thing just ground to a halt. So we switched to FATE – a fast-moving pulp-inspired system that was exactly what we needed.

The only problem was while the game is actually great, the rulebook keeps all of the rules for combat scattered throughout it. So we always ended up having to look things up using one of the half-a-dozen post-its and bookmarks scattered throughout the book. Which was a bugger.

So, if you’re playing FATE and have the same problem, here’s a helpful cheat sheet that I created for combat.

FATE Combat Cheat Sheet

Feel free to use, copy, share, print, pass on, and adapt for your own games.

This is a picture of the prophet Muhammad.

At the top of this post is a picture. It is a stick figure. It says: “Hello. I am the prophet Muhammad.”

The drawing is crude. It could be of anyone. The picture is not a caricature. There is no judgement attached to it.

However, the word-bubble attached to it makes clear, explicitly and absolutely, that it is a drawing of the prophet Muhammad.

This is my line in the sand.

If you are scared of killers, I am not. I am an atheist, and I am willing to die for my beliefs.

There are people in the world who believe that drawing or publishing an image of the Prophet is blasphemous and should be punishable by death.

I have done both. This is my line in the sand.