Monday, 30 November 2009

NaNoWriMo Winner!

Just to let you know that I have actually managed to write 50,064 words of another novel this month, as part of the NaNoWriMo festivities :)

I failed last year, but knuckled down this year and have done my best to earn the picture you see here (click on the image to see my verified wwordcount at my NaNo profiile).

Actually, with everything else I do, I have actually written close to 100k this month, so you can see it's been more than a little difficult!

Now, all I have to do next is finish editing the book I wrote before this one, finish this one (its sequel) and sell them.

If anyone can recommend a good agent who deals with SF and urban (but certainly non vampire/werewolf/romance) fantasy, let me know :)

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Ain't It Cool? Yes, It Still Is.

Letting my geek flag fly high here. I got online for the first time in July 1999, after finally giving in to the notion that the internet was a good thing. The net was very much a different prospect back then, but one of the first things I latched onto was this fun little film site you may have heard of - Ain't It Cool News. Now, a decade later, I'm still visiting the site two or three times a day, and I still love the place. Okay, so they get scooped now and again by other sites, but in terms of the place being run by true film lovers, you'll find nowhere better.

It is the talkative and friendly nature of their columns and contributors that has kept me going back there year after year. Harry Knowles and the gang write in the same manner people write emails and IMs to each other, just with less typos. I love the fact that these people, Quint, Capone and so on, talk to us like the film addicts they know we are.

I even love the Talkbacks. Sure, those gargantuan spaces beneath each article are full of people threatening to each each other's firstborn children and shouting about who sucks the most. but that's an essential part of popular culture, and I love it to bits. The fact that people can be so passionate, not to mention petty, in those talkbacks shows you just what a powerful medium film still is.

Yes, it annoys the hell out of me when some idiot posts a whacking great link and stretches the talkback screen out, but I still have a blast reading the various flame wars along with the actual decent comments. I take part in those talkbacks now and again (I'm foreverguardian on the boards if you're curious), but only when there's something I really want to take part in. I'm not one of the talkbackers who go in just to correct people and be an ass. Trolling ain't a good thing, people.

Ain't It Cool News is the place that made me want to get into pop culture blogging, and they have been the biggest single influence on the way I write for the sites I'm part of. The key to that site's power is the fact that everyone who takes part in it, be they the creators of the place themselves or the overenthusiastic visitors like me, are all largely on the same wavelength. We feel passionate about these flicks and their effects on our lives, and having somewhere to go and wag our fingers and have arguments in public is very cool indeed.

I also love the fact that the site doesn't just feature big stories. Their comics, anime, DVD and soundtrack columns are all great fun, as are the random posts regarding random aspects of the lifestyle and the hobby. The interviews they run are always interesting reads, even if you loathe the person being interviewed.

If you want to know more about how the site came about, I'd definitely recommend the book Harry wrote about the early years of the site and its influence on the movie industry, along with keeping up the habit of going there a few times a day to see what's going on and who's flaming who. It's the nexus of finding out about all the things that make the movie world so good right now, along with a few of them that aren't so cool (remakes? GAAAAHHHH). Long may it reign, and long may it remain my most visited bookmark. AICN, I salute you.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Mmmm, Shelf Porn

Of late I have developed a fascination with looking at pictures of bookshelves and DVD racks that are filled with all manner of goodies. This may make me sound very odd indeed, but I am not alone. There is a big interest in checking out another geek's collection, and that isn't confined to just comic geeks and movie buffs like myself and my friends.

Oh no, this is much more widespread than that, and you will find anyone with a penchant for collecting things is happy to show off their collection to other like-minded individuals (just don't touch anything or you'll ruin the Nm rating and I'll have to get everything slabbed again... you get the picture). It could be a morbid fascination with seeing what other people do with their collections that interests me, I dunno.

I love seeing how people display graphic novels, books and DVDs in their home. I am very much of the opinion that books and suchlike are pieces of furniture as well as sources of entertainment and enlightenment. They bring life to a room, and there is little I find more satisfying than arranging and rearranging my various collections. There is something remarkably soothing about it. Nerd Zen, if you will. It also makes me want to buy more. Mmm, books.

You see, there's a marketing strategy for publishers to get in on- show people a bunch of books in a row. Guaranteed to get any bibliophile/mental completist flinging cash at you. Why do you think Waterstones and their ilk get so much custom? Because they display their wares in a tantalizing fashion.

Shelf porn is a wondrous, beautiful thing that can elicit various reactions, from the usual 'Holy crap, that's an AWESOME collection' to the 'Why the hell would anyone want a full run of THAT?' right down to 'My God, that guy's got a kitchen full of comics' (that last one is true by the way- there's a stunning Shelf Porn thread online where a guy has the biggest collection of manga I've ever seen, and it fills literally every bit of his place).

Are we Shelf Porn addicts interested in hoarding for the sake of it? Hell no, we just love to gather and arrange and display the things we love in a manner we find inspiring and reassuring. Geeks are wonderfully odd like that. I love being one, even though my own system of displaying stuff kinds of fits rather too well with the crazy-paved state of mind I'm usually in.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

When Geeks Get Old

I'm getting old. I know I am. I must be. The lack of hair and the growing distaste with what passes for popular music might be a bit of a giveaway. Actually you know what? Pop music is as crap now as it has always been (aside from Lady GaGa, who is awesome, but I'll defend that statement at a later date), and I'm not old. It's just I have an internet connection, and as we all know, an internet connection can lead to some marvellously entertaining, if completely useless, procrastination. YouTube, Daily Motion and suchlike are the main dens of sin for me right now. For example, earlier today I found myself following link after link on YouTube, watching old 1980s adverts for Cadbury's Flakes.

A random train of thought (You know the sort) had me looking for pictures of the old Photon toys from the 80s, which then led to me looking up the Photon novels, which in turn led to me finding episodes of the 80s Photon TV series uploaded on YouTube. The madness continued long into the night (This is what happened when my girlfriend is away for a few days. I regress into being a student), and before I knew it, I was eyeing up hideously overpriced old Max Headroom VHS tapes on Amazon and watching clips of the Captain Power TV series wherever I could find them.

I couldn't get enough, and it felt GOOD, DAMMIT!!! Although, once the caffeine had worn off, the sun had come up and I had remembered to change my clothes from the batch I'd slept face down on our sofa in, I took a break from hitting F5 while on Facebook, shut down TweetDeck, and realized what a sad case I was. It had actually happened. The stuff I thought was cool as a kid was now far enough in the past to warrant nostalgia (and appropriate mockery). Dear friend, I did fall to my knees and scream to almighty Zod.

Hello, I am Andrew Hawnt, and I am an ageing geek. There, I said it. I am proud of the fact, too. Mind you, my tendency to wear comics and film related t-shirts might make me look like I'm nicking style tips from scene kids. I'm not. I'm just a big old nerd that likes to watch movie trailers on the internet and puts DVDs and videos in a semi-autobiographical/mood related order.

You know what? I am going to revel in it. Trying to be sensible and grown up can go hang. I am a mature, intelligent person, I know I am, but I have every right to want comics and toys and shirts that say 'All Your Base Are Belong To Us' on them. I'm just at the age now where I can stop worrying about what's cool and just enjoy what I enjoy. Believe me, there is some serious crap that I have enjoyed in my time, but hey, each to their own, y'know? Well, that statement does have its limits. Anyone who is obsessed by things such as X-factor and its ilk still need their heads washing out with the blood of Aliens in my opinion, but for the rest of humanity, it stands.

I could say geekery is a state of mind, but it's not really a state of mind that you choose to put yourself into. You just start thinking 'Wow, that's FANTASTIC' sometime during childhood and it goes from there. Before you know it, you're writing shopping lists in Klingon and using 'Frakking' or 'Frelling' as expletives. Ah, the joys of being a bit odd. It's a good thing though. Appreciating something that excites, informs or uplifts us on various levels is a great thing to have in your life, no matter your age. Now, I must be off as someone has put my Doctor Who DVDs out of chronological order of Doctor and series. Here's to all of us having a life that is NM, or at least VGC.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Riese - The Steampunk inspired web series begins

Kudos to the makers of Riese, who have eschewed the traditional method of getting a series seen through a network in favour of releasing it themselves online. I love this approach. Taking out the middle man like this is a brave step, and one that I hope pays off for the people behind this ambitious new web series. With character deigns and settings that are sure to please the Steampunk fans, it does seem to have more to it than just pretty imagery. Granted, I've only seen the first ten minute episode so far, but it looks promising.

Occasionally you are reminded that it is a web series and made on a limited budget, but these moments are only fleeting, as the series has been shot with such style that it looks much more expensive than it really is. Set in a post apocalyptic world stuffed with Steampunk inspired costumes and devices, Riese tells the story of a young woman who is hounded by a strange religious sect as she tries to piece together her past. The plot, while not original in the slightest, should nevertheless be just about enough to keep people revisiting the series (in addition, or course, to those great visuals).

I'm just wondering though, is a large audience ready to take on Steampunk concepts? The genre doesn't always translate that well to the screen, and while I love what I've seen, I'm curious to see what other people think about it. Steampunk is big in the SF literature scene, and has been for a while, but will its status as a recent gimmick be enough to sustain a series? In all honesty I would imagine so. The genre has some great ideas, but thankfully Riese doesn't appear to be using Steampunk as the crux of the whole thing. This is a good thing, as the moment a show starts to point out what it is in big letters to its audience, its days are numbered.

Riese may not be to everyone's tastes, but it is a fun piece of independent science fiction, and that is to be applauded. Whether or not it garners millions of viewers isn't really the point- it is already a success in that it has successfully been made, features a superb cast and an interesting visual identity, and is providing a section of fandom with something they have wanted to see on screen for a long time. I for one shall be watching the whole run of Riese, and I must applaud the cast and crew for their big brass (steam powered) balls for setting out to make it.

Visit the Riese website

Watch Riese on YouTube

Saturday, 14 November 2009

COMING SOON: ACCESS NO AREAS

Next month will see the release of ACCESS NO AREAS, a collection of blog posts and articles on geekery of many flavours, including science fiction, movies, writing, music, books and new media.

It also includes a selection of material from my personal journals along with new artciles and a BRAND NEW ESSAY. The book also includes an extensive archive of reviews that have never been published in print before.

More news on this project soon.

Right, back to beating my keyboard into submission in the name of NaNoWriMo...

Monday, 2 November 2009

John Hughes: The brat pack films that defined an era- part four: WEIRD SCIENCE

My series of articles on the mid-eighties films of John Hughes continues!

Weird Science was my first exposure to John Hughes' teen films. I'd seen the non-brat pack comedies before seeing this, but it was definitely Weird Science that changed everything for me, way back when. Here was a film about geeks who were constantly bullied while getting nowhere with ladies.

It was my teenage years in film form, well, minus the computer-created lady of course. Gary and Wyatt were the movie embodiment of my tortured teenage self. Woefully shy and nervous, yet desperate to be involved with the whole teenage thing. I'm actually kinda glad it was that way though, judging from how some of the other people I was at school and college with have turned out.

So then, onto Weird Science. The film follows the two aforementioned nerds, Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith), two woefully unpopular boys who are desperate to get girlfriends and some popularity. Their nemeses are played by Robert Downey Jr and Robert Rustler, along with Wyatt's irritating and violent brother, played with great glee by Bill Paxton.

Life isn't going too well for Gary and Wyatt, and ever more desperate to learn how to pick up girls, they decide to simulate one on Wyatt's computer. They hook it up to all manner of supercomputers and BOOM- a bizarre reaction causes the computerized lady to become real, and she appears in a doorway in Wyatt's bedroom clad in very little. Thus their adventure of self discovery begins!

Legend has it that Weird Science was written by Hughes in just three days, and it does have something of a stream-of-conciousness feel to it in some places, especially the mental final act when the post-apocalyptic freaks appear in Wyatt's family home and lay waste to it on motorbikes, or when Chet is transformed into a lump of poo, or the catatonic grandparents grinning spookily in a closet.

Far and away the strangest of John Hughes' famous eighties films, Weird Science holds a special place in the hearts of many people who could always relate to Gary and Wyatt, or people who just wanted to be able to generate their own Kelly Le Brock in a little pair of pants. After all, people can be weird.

Kelly le Brock is great as Lisa, the product of the boys' computerized shenanigans. At first she is the smouldering beauty they always dreamed of, and then as the film progresses, her almost big sisterly characteristics are incredibly endearing. It must have been a blast to play the character of Lisa, I mean, who wouldn't want to be able to turn people into turds and have hair the size of a small planet?

Mixed in with all of the chaos and the bizarre set pieces is a typically John Hughes-style story of two misfits trying to figure out how this 'life' thing works, which is an element of the film that works really well. While the fashions and the effects have dated to a massive extent, the message is still powerful and the film is still just as lovable as it always was.

It is a much more light-hearted film than The Breakfast Club before it, which was a good move on Hughes' part, keeping his format fresh. It has the gloriously anarchic humour and bizarre situations that were the trademark touch of a John Hughes flick, and it most certainly earned its place as one of the most loved teen films of the mid eighties.