Archive for the ‘Buffy’ Tag

One Day To Sci Fi Weekender

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Tomorrow I’m off to my first convention of the year – the fifth Sci Fi Weekender, in North Wales.

It’s the third year I’ve attended this Con, and I always look forward to it.  It’s a Con to celebrate all things geeky in TV, film and books, and it actively encourages Cosplay.  Seeing all the incredible costumes is always a highlight of the Con.

This year I’m looking forward to it all the more as I am on several panels.  As it happens they are all on Saturday afternoon – at least I get them all out of the way at once.  At 2pm I am on a panel called ‘Does Crime Pay’, exploring the concept that ‘crime is the new black’.  Then I’ve got a bit of a break, but can’t go too far as at 3pm I’m moderating the ‘Blurred Lines’ panel discussing cross-genre.  And I still haven’t come up with questions for the panel yet.  So I know what I shall be doing tonight.

And following that I’m on the next panel too, which is exploring what makes science fiction – ‘from Space Opera to Dystopian Futures’, the panel description says.  I suspect it was my public declaration of love for Star Wars that got me on that one.

With only a day to go, the usual dilemma has reared its head – what to wear for a Con?  I’m not organised enough to put a costume together.  The usual fall-back Con wear is jeans and a Geek t-shirt.  However, I have recently realised that I literally have a drawer full of Geek t-shirts, reflecting an array of geeky interests – Star Wars; Buffy; Dr Who.  I’ve even got a Resident Evil 4 t-shirt.  So which ones do I pack?  My favourite Con t-shirt is the girlie pink one with the cartoon grim reaper on that says ‘Horror Writer’.  But I wore that at the last Con.  Can a self-respecting geek be seen in public wearing the same t-shirt at every Con?

If you’re going to be at the convention, do stop by and say hello.  And if you’re not – well, I’ll catch up with you when I return to normal life.

In the meantime, I’m off to go ransack my t-shirt drawer and think up intelligent questions for my panel.


Geekfest 2013 – The Lowdown

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

This past weekend saw the first ever Nineworld Geekfest Con, held in London.

The Con was billed as a celebration of all things geeky, and an excuse to have a really big party, and it was held in two hotels at London Heathrow airport – the Renaissance and the Radisson.  I was impressed by the fact that a Con without a track record was able to secure not one but two major airport hotels.

Though I was looking forward to the Con, with it being new I was expecting a few hiccups.  I have to say I was impressed with the level of organisation.  And the amount of choice.  There were so many tracks running, we were all spoilt for choice.  There was a creative writing track, a Tolkien track, a Dr Who track, a Geek Feminism track, a video games track, an LRP track, a board games track – to name just a few.  it was impossible to do everything.

There were some comments about the cost.  I think possibly this is relative – I’m used to London prices, where everything is more expensive anyway.  Although the Con itself wasn’t that expensive – depending on when you booked, £75 could get you a weekend ticket to just about everything, which I thought was reasonable.  The hotel cost no more than I paid for my hotel room at the Brighton Cons I have attended the last few years.  The room was decent, the air conditioning worked, the bed was comfortable.  Yes we had to pay for parking, but £10 for 24 hours didn’t seem overly expensive considering we pay £6 or more to park the car in Croydon for an afternoon of shopping.  Yes, the hotel bar was expensive.  But £5 for a glass of wine is not uncommon in a London hotel bar.  Sometimes bars are subsidised at Con hotels.  Genre Con-goers seem to have the ability to imbibe a lot more alcohol and yet still remain well behaved and less aggressive than your average non-geek after a few pints.  If the hotel manages to figure this out, maybe a deal will be struck for next year.

The T Party Writers’ Group had arranged to do a critiquing workshop on manuscripts that had been submitted in advance, and this was scheduled for 1:30 on Saturday afternoon.  Since we drove up to the Con on Saturday and hit traffic, we didn’t have much time to do anything else before this was on.  So hubby went off to the “In Conversation with Chris Barrie” programme item and I sought out the workshop.

We’d had seven submitted manuscripts split into two crit groups – one group dealing with historical and other-world fantasy and the other group (my group) critting the stories with more contemporary settings.  The crit session went quite well and no one ran off screaming after their crit, which is always a relief.

We finished earlier than expected and I was hoping to catch the second half of the panel on women in the Whedon universe.  But sadly this panel was so full they were letting no one else in, so I went off to take a look around the dealer room instead.  I caught up with Hubby here, who spent a happy half an hour spending money on the stall with all the old D&D modules.  I was distracted by many geeky t-shirts and jewellery, in the end deciding to spend my money on a pretty dragon pendant from the Pagan jewellery dealer I see at pretty much every Con I go to these days.

We left around noon on Sunday, and I left wishing I could have caught a few more panels.  But with so much going on, I think everyone came away wishing they could have seen more.

Buffy singalong. Picture credit: Nineworlds Geekfest

Buffy singalong. Picture credit: Nineworlds Geekfest

The highlight of my Con experience was the Buffy sing-along in the Saturday night, where we all gathered round a chap playing piano and went through every song featured in “Once More With Feeling”.  And because we finished faster than expected, when he got to the end of the music book, he started again from the beginning.  You can see me singing away in this picture – I’m there near the front in the pink t-shirt.  The t-shirt actually says ‘horror writer’ on it and has an image of a cartoon grim reaper on it, but sadly you can’t see it in the photo.  I let down my Buffy fangirl credentials by having to refer to the lyrics at some point for most of the songs.  There were some die-hard fans that knew every word.

There was a lot of Cosplay at this Con, and even if you don’t participate in this yourself, it’s fascinating to see the array of costumes, and see if you can correctly guess the geek reference.  Some of them were obvious to me – Dr Who characters; Marvel characters; the Alien.  Others I suspected were Manga characters, and these I am not as familiar with.

GeekFest made a point of making this Con accessible to everyone – regardless of gender, creed, orientation, physical ability, or anything else.  Children were welcome – there were many families at the Con.  Any item that was deemed to be for adults only was clearly labelled as such in the programme.  It was a Con where you could be who you wanted to be, not necessarily who you were born as.  The name labels were blank so you could fill in whatever name you wanted to be that particular weekend.  Many people stayed in costume – and in character – all weekend.  There was an LGBT track running all weekend.  There were even gender neutral toilets.  I have a lot of respect for the organisers for this.  This was a Con where everyone was welcome.  You could wear whatever you wanted, be  whoever you chose to be, and be accepted and welcomed, without the labels of ‘geek’, ‘freak’, ‘weirdo’ that so many of us have to deal with for being in some way different from what society perceives as ‘normal’.

In summary, this is a Con I thoroughly recommend for anyone who has any remotely geeky tendencies.  Next year’s Con has already been confirmed at the same venue, 8-10 August 2014.  Tickets are available, so book up now before the price goes up.

Fellow geeks, I shall see you there…

Women in Horror #1: Buffy

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

February is Women in Horror month, where we officially pay homage to the importance that women play in the horror genre.

This year I am going to be doing a series of posts acknowledging those kick-ass heroines who redefine the role of women in horror.


buffyOK, so let’s start at the top. I am a HUGE Buffy fan.There are so many reasons why she is such a great role model. Joss Whedon said that the inspiration for Buffy came from the fact that in the horror films he grew up with, the blonde girl was always the one to creep alone down the corridor and get eaten by the monster. He decided the blonde girl should fight back. So he created his teenage California girl who had superpowers. Who was chosen to kick vampire butt.

There are a thousand reasons why I love Buffy. It’s the only show I will make a point of watching reruns of when they are on. The only show where I can start watching a random episode and know within five minutes not only which series it is, but which episode it it. It has irony. It has real, flawed characters who are affected by the world around them and change from series to series. One of the great things I loved from the beginning was the way it handled adolescence with sensitivity and wry humour. Anyone who’s been a teenager knows the hell that is High School. Every kid has to fight demons in high school. For most of us, those demons are metaphorical. Buffy’s demons just happen to be literal. As well as having to deal with the usual adolescent angst of not being popular, whether she’ll have a date for the dance, getting into trouble with her folks for staying out late, bullies, jocks vs geeks and so on, she also has to save the world from demons, vampires and the occasional apocalypse. And she still manages to graduate from high school (well, after she saves everyone from the ancient snake demon posing as the Mayor).

People who don’t understand my obsession with Buffy have said: “if you like Buffy, you must like Twilight. They’re both about girls in love with a vampire”. If you can’t get the difference, I can’t begin to explain it to you. Just watch this terrific video. Yes, I know I’ve posted it before, but it so proves a point.

Yes, Buffy loves Angel. But at the end of season 2, when she has to kill Angel to save the world, she does it. Even though she loves him. Because a true heroine has that kind of strength of character. And that’s another reason I love Buffy.

Happy December

Well, it’s December. Which means I can no longer put off attempting to get into a festive frame of mind. It’s time to buy Xmas presents, do my Xmas card list, and venture into the attic to retrieve the tree and decorations.

Two years ago I did a blog post on why I don’t like the festive season. This Scrooge-like view is shared by many of my friends, but I have to say it seems to completely baffle my family. “You used to love Christmas”, my sister said to me recently. Yes, I did, when I was a kid and it was all about getting presents.

However, in an attempt to redress the balance – and to a certain degree bow to the inevitable and try to let in some festive cheer – I have decided this year to do a post on what I do like about the festive season.

Starbucks Gingerbread Latte:
I don’t drink coffee. The only coffee I like is Starbucks soya lattes – and most coffee drinkers say that Starbucks coffee doesn’t actually taste like coffee, which is probably why I like it. But I do love gingerbread, and Starbucks gingerbread lattes are one of the best things about this time of year.  Along with my customary stem ginger muffin, the gingerbread lattes have become part of the breakfast treat that accompanies my early-morning writing sessions.

I love marzipan. When I was a kid I waited anxiously for my mother to decorate the Christmas cake. My sister and I would both get a lump of marzipan each to eat on its own. I would roll mine out like Play Dough and nibble it, in an attempt to make it last as long as possible.

When the Christmas cake has been cut and handed around, I’ll still go for one of the corner pieces that has more icing sugar and marzipan than cake. Because in fact I prefer the marzipan to the cake.

Ten Days Off Work:
Because I work for an organisation that closes down for the season, we knock off at noon on the last working day before 25 December, with a couple of glasses of champagne, and that’s it for us until the first working day of January. This generally amounts to ten (sometimes eleven) days of not having to crawl out of bed at 6am and trek through the cold and the dark to get to work. Ah, bliss.

The Wizard of Oz:
When I was a kid, cable TV had not been invented. Never mind DVDs, we didn’t even have video players in those days. Throughout most of the 1970s, “The Wizard of Oz” was on TV on Christmas Day. It was never on any other time of year, and there was no other way of watching it back then.

Hubby also fondly remembers looking forward to watching “The Wizard of Oz” at Christmas as a child.  So much so that we now have it on Blue Ray DVD, and we make a point of sitting down to watch it together, at some point over the holidays.

Yes, I still like presents. I think everyone likes getting presents, even though we’re not supposed to admit it.

As a kid, I hated getting clothes – I thought they were boring presents. I preferred getting toys. Not much has changed, actually. I still like ‘toys’ – preferably those with a Star Wars or Buffy theme – and get more excited about these kinds of gifts than I do about scarves or make-up kits or any of the other things that girls are supposed like.

Having a valid excuse to eat and drink too much:
Whatever one’s religious beliefs, this time of year is a time for feasting. That means being able to forget the diet, and gorge on chocolate and all things fattening. Especially mince pies.  I love mince pies.

It’s also an excuse to drink lots of alcohol with all your friends, and nobody frowns on you if you start the year with a killer hangover, because that means you had a good time on New Years’ Eve.

It hasn’t escaped my notice that most of the above points involve food. It’s time to eat, drink and be merry. I shall do my best to be cheerful as 25 December rapidly approaches.  I think I’ll have another mince pie…

Why I Don’t Read Fantasy

(Cross-posted from the WriteClub blog)

When I was a little girl, boys were an alien species, to be avoided at all costs. I didn’t understand them, I didn’t want to talk to them, and I certainly didn’t want to read about them. Hence, I tended to gravitate towards books that had female protagonists. If there were boys in the book as well, I would put up with it, but there had to be a girl in there I could identify and empathise with.

When I hit puberty, boys became marginally more interesting, but when I was in high school, all the boys seemed horrendously immature and shallow. Needless to say I didn’t date much. No surprise that I completely identified with the girl in LABYRINTH (who was also called Sarah), who didn’t go out on dates, spent all her time immersed in a fantasy world and who was burdened with babysitting a baby half-sibling she found a trial.

Anyway, I digress. The point here is that I only wanted to read stories about girls. When I was young I wanted stories about girls who were isolated; different; alone. When I grew out of the angsty teenage phase I wanted to read books about independent-minded, intelligent, courageous women who could hold their own in the world of men.

When I developed my obsession with STAR WARS, in my early teens, I had a brief flirtation with reading science fiction. Most of it didn’t really grab me – there was a distinct lack of decent female characters. And this, when we come down to it, is the reason why I’ve never read fantasy. There are a lot of fantasy films I’ve seen and enjoyed (the aforementioned LABYRINTH being one – THE PRINCESS BRIDE is another one of my favourites). But I’ve never got into reading the genre. When I went through my sf phase I picked up a shabby copy of THE SWORD OF SHANNARA at a second hand book shop. I thought it was so dreadful, I never finished it – even at age 14, when my reading tastes were a lot less sophisticated. In retrospect, this is probably another reason why I never felt the urge to pick up another fantasy book.

Admittedly, the genre has come a long way since the 1980s. The stories are not full of insipid, two-dimensional women these days. There are a lot of female fantasy writers who I am reliably informed write books about strong-willed, intelligent women who know their own mind and are looking for more than just a handsome man to marry. But I have never read any of these books. My own prejudices are hard to shake. Plenty of people have said to me, about a particular fantasy author, “you’ll like her books, they have a strong female protagonist.” But as well as strong women, I like books filled with mystery and suspense, and most importantly, at least one gruesome death. Browsing in the book shops I always gravitate back to the crime and horror sections, even if my intention is to go to the fantasy section. I still go back to those books with the moody black covers and blood spatters. I’m comfortable with routine. That’s why I always go back to the violence in the end.

Geek Toys

This cuddly Chewbacca, to the left of this picture, is my latest geek toy, found in HMV on a recent shopping trip. I think he’s adorable. And if you press his belly, he makes Chewie growls.

I thought I would put him on the shelf to keep Gizmo the Mogwai company. Gizmo (from ‘Gremlins’) is cool, too. Switch him on and he sings and sways about. But he does require batteries, so I don’t keep him switched on all the time.

I have a growing collection of ‘geek toys’. Most of them share shelf space with the books, but that’s only because we don’t have shelves in our house that aren’t crammed with books. Gizmo and Chewbacca are cohabiting with the science fiction section, as you can see.

I’ve always been a sucker for dolls and soft toys, though I find as an adult I’m gravitating more towards toys with a ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Buffy’ theme. I have a 12″ high Buffy doll, and one of ‘Evil Willow’ that I am rather fond of.

Who says you have to be a grown-up when you become an adult? Another definition of ‘geek’, I think, is someone who spends more money on toys as an adult than they ever did as a child…

Geek Heaven

Further proof, if it was needed, that I am a geeky girl. I am getting very excited by this website. Hubby discovered this site when he was looking to buy me Christmas presents last year – he got me the Sunnydale High School T-shirt.

There are so many wonderfully geeky things on this website, I can’t choose my favourite. I do rather like the T-virus T-shirt. Of course, all Resident Evil fans know how quickly the T-virus spreads. You put this shirt in your drawer, and before you know it, all your T-shirts will be turning into zombies and going off on a murderous rampage…

I also like the “+20 shirt of smiting”. That would come in handy on the underground, when I can’t get a seat.

If none of this makes any sense to you, you’re not a geek. I, on the other hand, want to buy everything on the “ThinkGeek” website. And this comes after a week of wandering around clothes shops on Oxford Street looking at dresses, and failing to find anything I was inspired to buy.

Again, I repeat the mantra: Say it clear, and say it loud. I am a geek, and I am proud.

Buffy Vs Edward

(Cross posted from WriteClub blog)

I’m going back to Buffy for this week’s post. It must be no secret by now, even to those new to this blog, that I’m a sad geeky Buffy fan.

Non-geeks, however, sometimes make the mistake of assuming if I like Buffy, I also like Twilight. After all, they’re both about teenage girls who fall in love with sexy vampires, aren’t they?

To a Buffy geek, this is a sacrilege. I could go on at length about why Buffy is miles away from Twilight, without even touching the quality of the writing.

Buffy is an independent minded young woman who kicks vampire butt. One of the main themes of at least the first few seasons is that she’s not only the Chosen One, she’s also an ordinary teenage girl dealing with the demons of High School. For most people, the demons of High School are metaphorical. Hers happen to be literal.

Yes, Buffy loves a vampire. But in the end she realises that the relationship is going nowhere and she has to leave him (and I am talking about Angel here – I never really believed Buffy was in love with Spike, but we’ll leave that argument for another time). On the other hand, I believe Bella ends up marrying her vampire, even though a human/vampire relationship is problematic at best (and I’ve discussed that on this blog before).

But really, I think the best argument for proving why Buffy is better than Twilight can be found in the wonderful YouTube video ‘Buffy vs Edward’.

I present Exhibit A.

Why Vampires Make Bad Boyfriends

(Crossed-posted from the WriteClub blog)

Writers of any genre involving paranormal creatures are united in their fondness for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. And sooner or later, amongst Buffy fans (at least the female ones), the question invariably arises: which of Buffy’s boyfriends is best?

Fans of Spike and Angel seem fairly evenly divided. I, however, have always gone for Riley. Yes, I know, he’s usually considered boring. I rather like ‘boring’. Riley was solid, dependable, reliable, trustworthy (well most of the time, anyway). And he had a healthy respect for independent-minded women. And, most importantly, he was human.

I do understand what the whole ‘sexy vampire’ thing is all about. Vampires are the ultimate Bad Boys, and a lot of women are attracted to bad boys. For some reason, I never have been. The only ‘bad boy’ I ever had a thing for was Han Solo, and when I wrote my Star Wars fan fiction, at age 14, the alter ego I created to put myself in the Star Wars universe was Han Solo’s half sister – even at that age, I had worked out that dating someone like him would lead to trouble.

But let’s look at why vampires make bad boyfriends. First of all, there’s the whole ‘immortality’ thing. If you want someone to grow old with, don’t choose a vampire because they don’t. He’s still going to be looking young and sexy when you’re old and wrinkly and drawing your pension.

Then there’s the issue of not being able to go out in sunlight. You won’t be able to go on beach holidays with your beloved. Or for picnics in the park. Or anywhere, in fact, that requires going out in daylight. That’s going to be problematic in any relationship.

Another thing that occurs to me is that actually, it shouldn’t technically be possible for a vampire – a male one, anyway – to have sex. Vampires don’t have heart beats, and without a beating heart the blood does not flow through the body, and…well, let’s just point out that blood flow is a key factor in being able to have sex, at least for men. But OK, vampires aren’t real, we are talking fantasy, and the act of sucking blood has been equated with sex since Bram Stoker wrote “Dracula”. So I am prepared to suspend my belief for this one, at least.

But ultimately, human/vampire relationships are doomed to failure, and even Buffy realised this in the end – it’s why she accepted her relationship with Angel was over.

Maybe I’m far too sensible for my own good, and that’s why I’ve never gone for the ‘bad boy’ idea. But I’m happy to let all the other Buffy girls fight over Angel and Spike. I’ll take Riley. I prefer ‘boring and dependable’ over ‘exciting and dangerous’ even when it comes to fantasy men.

I accept I’m in the minority here. Maybe I’m just weird. I’ll take a geek over a bad boy any day. In the long term, they’ll cause less heartache.

Returning to Crime

I am getting bored of sexy vampires. This has probably come about from reading so much urban fantasy, which I have only been doing because that’s what I’m currently writing.

‘Buffy’ was one of the trailblazers for urban fantasy, to my mind, including sexy vampires (though I think I must be the only woman in the country who didn’t fancy Spike – bad boys don’t do it for me). But to me, ‘Buffy’ was about a lot more than sexy vampires – it was about a young woman who could kick demon butt, but she had more trouble dealing with the trials and tribulations of growing up – high school, not fitting in, leaving home, and so on.

I absolutely adore Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books, and Mike Carey’s Felix Castor books, both of which feature a flawed but engaging main character (though male). They have sexy vampires of sorts (well Mike Carey has a succubus in his, but it’s the same concept), but the reader’s never allowed to forget that vampires are Bad News. A relationship with them never enters the equation.

Female writers of urban fantasy seem to have fun exploring the darkest desires of their main characters. The problem is, there’s too many otherwise independent-minded women in urban fantasy making poor choices when it comes to sexual partners. Buffy eventually realised, by the end of Season 3, what all urban fantasy heroines need to accept – humans and vampires cannot have relationships, irrespective of whether or not love is involved. They have to forget him and move on. It might be painful, but life isn’t fair and that’s just the way it goes. I just find myself getting irritated by these women making the same mistakes over again.

Unfortunately the consequence of all this is I’ve gone off my own sexy vampire story, which probably explains why I’ve been struggling to do any work on it for months.

Since coming back from Winchester, I’ve been at a loss as to what to work on, and every time I lament this to someone, they ask the same question: “what writing project do you feel most passionate about?”

The answer, resoundingly, is my amateur sleuth, who is still far and away my favourite character. So, I am putting the urban fantasy novel aside for a while, and I’m going to return to being a crime writer. I’m going to haul out the crime novel and revise it again. I’m going to develop a plot outline for the next couple of books in the series. And then I’m going to start on Book 2.

So I return to crime. It feels comforting in a way. Like going back to visit an old friend I’ve not seen for a while.