Friday, 30 January 2009

Is This the Beginning of a New Golden Age of Fandom?

As a kid, I was berated, mocked and heckled because of my interests. I loved Star Trek: The Next Generation, X-Men comics, Doctor Who, Spider-Man and countless other gloriously entertaining, thought-provoking and exciting things like them. I was forever labelled as the nerd, the geek, the saddo, yet I continued to love what I loved, and found some solace in the adventures I watched and read about.

This was maybe four or five years before the internet really took hold, and despite the magazines that were available, I couldn't help but feel rather isolated. When I got online, I discovered that I was far from alone, but still it would be a while until my interests were to become the focus of the mass media.

With the year 2000 there seemed to be a definite shift in perceptions of the science fiction and fantasy genre, and the slew of films, TV series, books and comics that came out at the start of the new millennium did indeed herald a new age of acceptance for the fantastic. Superheroes, spaceships, the unknown and the paranormal were once again at the forefront of the cultural consciousness, and people like me were suddenly fountains of knowledge that people wanted to mine for facts and figures. Vindication was sweet, but it was also rather odd.

Suddenly, the world that had been ours and ours alone had become the playground of millions more people, and it didn't feel quite so secret or special any more. That feeling, for me at least, didn't last too long, and I grew accustomed to a new cultural landscape where I wasn't frowned at for the things I liked so much. It would have been easy, many times over, to just cry out "I told you so!" at everyone, but there has always been the danger that it all may go wrong any minute.

Thankfully, the makers of these wonderful new films, shows and books have upped their game to a point where the product is always improving. Sure, there are huge mis-fires (Enterprise, anyone?), but on the whole, science fiction and fantasy that is available to the masses is improving a great deal.

This will hopefully mean that the trend will continue and we will be treated to more and more quality material from movie studios and publishers. Is this a new golden age we are enjoying? perhaps. I have a feeling that the best is yet to come, and we will be further vindicated for enjoying good storytelling, exciting characters, and having our imaginations stretched. here's to fandom, and all that it entails.


Andrew writes for the popular []movie and pop culture memorabilia site STARSTORE and their many blogs, as well as being a globally published music journalist and SF author. For the latest updates on the world of movies, TV, comics, collectibles and geek culture, visit====]

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Tuesday, 20 January 2009

THRASH METAL – Back to the old school

I'm having a bit of trouble coming to terms with this whole new thrash movement. Y'see, when the first thrash movement had taken the metal world by storm, I was coming up to be the same age as many fans of the new wave of thrash are now. I guess what I'm saying is, you're making me feel old, you young gits. Mind you, I'm only 30. I missed out on enjoying the first wave of thrash as, by the time I was old enough to really get into it, the world had become obsessed with grunge and metal was very difficult to come by. It never died, it just vanished into the underground until the tides turned once again, which they obviously have done now.

Hacks (including myself) have always said that fashions in music are cyclic (Christ, does that mean in 20 years there'll be today's emo/scene kids complaining that their kids are getting the posing wrong? Yikes), and thus we have been vindicated with the whole 80s retro movement that has been boring the arse off of many people for a while now. Pretty much the only bit of this movement has been the resurgence in interest in old school thrash metal. While the denim and patches may be new facsimiles of the originals, the enthusiasm is the same as it ever was.

Here was a movement that eschewed image in favour of riffs and an atmosphere of excitement, and while many thrash bands just wanted to party, there were even more that had a genuine message, be it social, political or otherwise. It was a movement in which musicians were pushed to the limits of their skills, or conversely, just having as much fun as possible through making a GREAT BIG NOISE. Thrash was exciting. That's the thing. It was EXCITING. Remembering classic albums by Forbidden, Kreator, Exodus, Onslaught, Over Kill, Testament and all the others fills many metalheads with nostalgia, while those same albums are inspiring a brand new generation of synchronised headbangers to come up with the ultimate pit anthems.

Thanks to bands like Municipal Waste, Evile, Gama Bomb and their peers the excitement is back, the spirit of those early years is back and they are also pointing new fans at the classic masters of the genre.

Welcome back, Thrash Metal. Right, nostaligia done with. 1,2,3,4...


Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Striking a balance

I'm working on the STOLEN FATE novel right now, and after writing so much in the way of character building, hints at a bigger picture, red herrings and suchlike, getting to write a MASSIVE action scene full of all manner of chaos is proving to be a hell of a lot of fun. The novel is coming along very well, but the challenge of writing something 70,000+ words in length after concentrating on short stories for so long is not easy.

Striking a balance between character, action and plot is imperative if you want a story to work. Now, I'm saying that as a reader instead of a writer. I don't know everything about the craft and I never will, but as a fiction consumer, the mix has to be just right. If there's too much action and not enough plot or characterization, the book is hollow and lifeless. If there are too many character building scenes and not enough actually happening, then the story goes nowhere and ultimately fizzles out.

And how does a writer learn to strike that balance? Practice. There are countless popular authors out there who will say 'write' when people ask them how they get ahead in the business. Maybe they're on to something. I am going to do my very best to see of their advice rings true. I may not be a household name, but I am having a blast learning how these things work.

Anyway, if you'll excuse me, I have chaos to orchestrate.

Monday, 5 January 2009

The Rise of New Media

As economic problems loom ever larger in the lives of us all, it is becoming more apparent that the media landscape needs to change in order to survive. It is doing so to a certain extent, but there is still a way to go if big companies wish to keep up with demand and changing tastes. With the scaling-back of many large publishers, it is clear that the book industry needs to slim down its running costs and embrace a new way of thinking. The same goes for the TV and film industries. This is where New Media comes in, as there are countless people that have been barging ahead and progressing in online culture for years now, and the big guys are starting to try and catch up.

The simple fact is, things can’t go on as they have been doing, and new means of keeping the entertainment industries alive must be explored in full. While some companies will complain that electronic books, mp3s, movie downloads and the like are cutting into their profits due to the lower prices for these types of media, they seem to be missing the point a little.

If someone buys an album in mp3 form, or a movie, or a book, then there is minimal cost in producing the content they download, as opposed to making books, CDs, DVDs, packaging and inserts. It cuts back on the cost of physical storage, pollution, display, advertising and all of the other costs of putting out new material.

While the traditional means of entertainment, be they paper books, magazines, DVDs or whatever will not fade away, for the time being at least these alternative methods of getting the content are proving to be cheaper, more efficient and a positive thing. The choice of digital media is staggering, and growing all the time. Not only that, but the methods with which to enjoy it are improving too, with all kinds of media able to be viewed/used on phones, iPods, handheld devices, ebook readers and home computers.

Many creators are taking note of this, and instead of going the traditional route to getting published or released, are taking the task on themselves. Self-publishing has become much more inexpensive in recent years thanks to Print-On-Demand sites, mp3s have become the new singles, and audiences have a world of entertainment at their fingertips for very little cost.

This year I will be joining in with this movement to a much greater extent, with three books coming out in multiple inexpensive formats (including various FREE versions). Attitudes are changing in the creative world too, in conjunction with the changing nature of the entertainment industry. Less people are expecting to make millions. More people are creating more honest, real content instead of trying to pander to the whims of the mass-market, and many are content to receive very little in monetary reimbursement for their troubles. Much of this great new world of online content is created for the love of creation, not for the love of a sack of cash. So, even in these hard times, maybe we will all benefit from what is on offer.


PS: happy new year to all of my readers! I wish you all the very best for 2009. There's plenty of new stuff to come from me this year: new novel, new anthology, a special edition of my previous book and much more. So, let's get started...