Archive for the ‘geekiness’ Tag

THE WHISPERING DEATH Finds a Home

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

I am pleased to be able to announce that my new horror novel, THE WHISPERING DEATH, has sold to British small press horror publisher Kensington Gore. There’s an exciting announcement about it over on their website.

THE WHISPERING DEATH is about a group of live action role-players who unwittingly release an ancient evil loose upon the world during a game. I am particularly fond of this novel because it is effectively about a group of geeks, and I was able to incorporate all the geeky things I love into the novel. LRP. Dungeons & Dragons. Video games. Zombie films. And it’s got a kick-ass heroine who’s also a geek girl. I had such a good time writing about her.

And it’s a novel that at one point I lost faith in. It had gone through several rewrites when I first started subbing it, last year. After getting fairly consistent feedback along with the rejections I decided it needed rewriting. But the rewrite took it to a place where the ending I wanted wasn’t going to work and I got quite depressed about it.

But it just goes to show you should never give up. Have faith and keep collecting those rejections. Eventually, acceptance will come. And sometimes you have to believe in your own writing, even when it seems no one else does.

THE WHISPERING DEATH is scheduled for release later this year, which means I am expecting edits to come my way very soon. And this one will be out in paperback as well as electronic format. Yay!

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…

If I Were Famous…

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Occasionally I fantasise about what I’d do if I became a rich and famous writer.  And I’m not talking rich enough to give up the day job and pay off the mortgage.  I’m talking about rich beyond the realms of reasonable possibility.  JK-Rowling-sort-of rich and famous.

The first thing I’d do is buy a house with an indoor swimming pool, so I could do daily laps without having the general public get in my way.  And the pool must be heated to 35c all the time. I’m a wimp – I hate getting into cold water.  Of course I would also need to hire a Pool Boy – heated swimming pools require a lot of maintenance.

In this fantasy house there would be at least two gaming rooms, each with a couple of types of consoles and a 50″ flat screen TV.  This is so at least two multi-player games could be going on at the same time.  There would also be a retro games room, full of old arcade machines, including the original Space Invaders.  There will also be a juke box in there, belting out 80s hits.  In fact, I’ll just recreate Flynn’s arcade from TRON, and I’ll be set.

There will be a bar, of course.  Stocked with plenty of bottles of Cloudy Bay.  And a bartender to make cocktails.

While we’re on the subject of staff, I’ll need to have a housekeeper who will do all the chores, including the ironing, making the bed and changing the sheets weekly.  And there’ll be a chef.  I like to eat nice food, but I’m rubbish at cooking.

Sigh.  Guess it’s time to stop daydreaming.

What things do you fantasise about buying, if money were no object?

Smells Like Chaotic Neutral

I came across these RPG scented oils from ThinkGeek, and I think they are a great idea. Dab a little behind your ears and smell like your favourite rogue. This is supposed to bring a touch of extra realism to your tabletop games.  Somewhat idealised, perhaps. Having done live action role playing, I can say with authority that after a weekend of tramping through the woods with a band of sweaty adventurers, with kit that doesn’t get washed between games and shower facilities few and far between, most members of the party end up smelling the same, regardless of character class.

edda_rpg_class_scented_oilsI think this is a really cool idea, though. What does chaos smell like? According to this product, “a whirling mélange of multicolored musks with wasabi, rooibos, heliotrope, and mastic.” Not even sure what half those ingredients are, but it sounds impressive. I like the sound of the rogue scent: “Soft, well-worn black leather, hemp, and rosin”. My favourite D&D character is a rogue called Kaylia. I played her for years. She was chaotic neutral, and this does sound rather appropriate for her.

I like Think Geek’s comments on this product about what they delightfully refer to as “Nerd whiff”  never being completely eradicated “as there will always be that guy who rates his need for gaming above his need for a shower”.

I’ve been a tabletop roleplayer for nearly 30 years. Trust me, I’ve met this guy a few times…

What I’m Doing At EasterCon

The schedule for this year’s EasterCon – otherwise known as EightSquared Con – has now been confirmed. I am very excited because I shall be doing my first panel.

There has been some last minute shuffling due to confusions in availability, but I can now confirm that this is my schedule:

Saturday 30 March, 12pm – Genre Get Together (Fantasy)
Sunday 31 March, 1pm – Head to Head Panel:  Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker.

The Genre Get Together is billed as an opportunity for fans to meet authors and get books signed. I’m currently having recurring nightmares that all the other authors involved in this will have long queues of adoring fans waiting to talk to them, whilst I’ll be standing there alone like Billy No Mates.  So, if you’re going to EasterCon, and you’ve got a copy of SOUL SCREAMS or SIBLINGS or anything else with one of my stories in, do come along and get it signed. Even if you don’t, just come along for a chat, and stave off my nightmare.

The panel has been a last minute change, but I am immensely looking forward to it. Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker – two greats of gothic horror fiction, and I could talk for hours about these two writers. Finding things to say really won’t be a problem. More of an issue is the need to refrain from hogging the panel.

It goes without saying that there is much, much more to look forward to than just my panel debut. There are all the usual pleasures of a Con. Spending hours in the bar with fellow spec fiction fans, conversing cheerily about much geekery. The wondrous things for sale in the dealer room. The chance to meet other – more famous – writers. The chance to catch up with all the fellow geeks I only ever meet in person at conventions.

And, let’s not forget, the first episode of the new season Doctor Who, which is always broadcast on the big screen at Eastercon and is one of the Con highlights.

I am already bouncing up and down in anticipation. Four more sleeps!

On Being Weird

When I was a child, I was very girlie – into dolls and dresses and such things. I didn’t climb trees, and I didn’t like getting dirty (this is still true, and one reason why I never got into gardening). I never really thought I was ‘different’. Then when I was 10 I was displaced from my home and moved to Canada, and suddenly everything was different. My new classmates talked differently, dressed differently, watched different TV shows, had different cultural references. When I moved back to England eight years later I was still the odd one out, because things had moved on in that time and I had become, to a certain extent, ‘Canadianised’.

I’ve been the odd one out ever since. It took me a while to accept it, but I’m OK with that now. My colleagues have always thought I was weird. I don’t like football, I don’t like curry (going out for curry is a Great British Pastime), and I don’t watch the same TV shows they do. The other week I joined my colleagues at the pub for someone’s birthday lunch, and they were talking about some reality show – which I don’t watch. The conversation went on for 20 minutes without me being able to contribute a word, because I had no clue who any of the people they were talking about were.

My social circle consists of people who I have met through common interests – writing; love of horror and crime books; amateur dramatics; D&D and live action role playing. But even amongst my friends I often feel I am still the ‘odd one out’. Most of my writing group are fans of fantasy and science fiction. They all read the same novels growing up. I didn’t. If you’ve been following the ‘My Life in Books’ posts, you may have noticed that THE LORD OF THE RINGS has not been mentioned. That’s because I’ve never read it. My tastes in books were fairly mainstream until I discovered Stephen King, age 14, and then discovered VI Warshawski at age 19 which triggered my love of crime featuring kick-ass women. I like fantasy and science fiction films, but I don’t really read books in these genres. I dabbled in SF for a while in my teenage years, but I never got into fantasy.

Whenever I meet with fellow members of the British Fantasy Society and we talk about TV shows such as Warehouse 13, The Walking Dead, and Grimm, and they all know what I’m on about. The BFS social nights are always fabulous evenings, and I meet an array of interesting people. I will emphasise that when the BFS was started in the 70s, ‘fantasy’ was a term that embraced anything containing supernatural or other wordly beings. It still promotes British horror, fantasy and SF writers and film makers, even though ‘fantasy’ is no longer a generic term to cover all these genres. I joined initially because of its support for horror writers.

Friday night was the BFS Christmas social gathering. As ever, when you put a bunch of writers into a room with a bar they drink a lot. It was fairly late in the evening and the booze had been flowing, I was sitting with a couple of fellow T Party writers when a lady asked to sit in the vacant chair at our table. She looked vaguely familar, and I assumed I’d seen her before at previous BFS events – you often see the same faces there. She joined us, introduced herself as Pat, and started the conversation by asking if we were all writers. We said we were. She was an actress, she told us. When we asked her what she’d done, she said that her most well known film was “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. Then I suddenly realised why I recognised her. She was Patricia Quinn, who played Magenta.

I’ve never ‘got’ his particular film. I’ve started watching it on numerous occasions. I even tried watching it late one night whilst drunk, having come back from a party. It didn’t help. Every time, I get about half an hour in, decide it’s just too weird, and switch off. I just don’t get it. It’s not scary, and I wouldn’t classify it as horror. I don’t find it particularly funny, so it’s not a comedy. It’s just weird.

I did vocalise these thoughts (perhaps unwisely, but I’ve never been one to hold back), and Pat looked a bit taken aback. At gatherings of SF/fantasy/horror fans, she probably doesn’t meet too many people who don’t like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. A conversation ensued about why geeks love this film, and I started to understand its appeal. Those who grow up feeling like the odd ones out, go to see the Rocky Horror show and suddenly find an audience full of like-minded weirdos. And they realise they’ve found their tribe. They belong.

This hasn’t happened to me. The geeks and weirdos find me a bit too mainstream to fit in with this particular tribe. But the mainstream crowd think I’m a weirdo.

What do I conclude from this? Maybe I don’t have a ‘tribe’. Even the people I have things in common with find me a bit of an oddball. Perhaps I’m just a lone wolf. A unique brand of weirdo.

And that’s OK. I am me. I am comfortable with who I am. If it means I am forever destined to walk out of step with absolutely everyone else, I’m OK with that, too.

And incidentally I had a fabulous night at the BFS open night, Patricia Quinn was lovely, and we all had a very interesting chat. I do hope she wasn’t too offended by my not liking the film that made her famous. Tact has never been my strong point…

Geek Games

I started playing Dungeons & Dragons in the 1980s, right at the height of its popularity. There was a D&D club at my high school. We used to play on Mondays, after classes, in one of the science labs. I was 15. I developed a crush on the DM (that’s Dungeon Master, for the uninitiated – the person who runs the game), who was a classmate of mine. Sadly, beyond the fact that we played D&D together every week, he barely knew I existed, and my affection was entirely unrequited.

I first met my husband 22 years ago, also through playing D&D. He, too, was my DM. Clearly I have a thing for DMs. I think it’s all about the power. The DM has god-like power, controlling the game and having final say over what happens to the characters. If you’re staring down a dragon and you fail all your saving throws, the DM has control over whether your character lives or dies.

We still play D&D, and my husband is still the DM. About once a month, generally on a Sunday afternoon, our dining room table becomes the games station, covered in coffee-stained character sheets, dice, lead figures, pencils, and snacks. Don’t forget the snacks. They are a vital part of table top role playing. The unhealthier, the better.

I have noticed that the vast majority of table top role players are my generation – those of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s when D&D was all the rage. The generations that have come after are more interested in the online role playing games than those that require dice, pencils and calculators. There’s also a trend amongst 13-year-boys nowadays for Warhammer, which seems to have come out of D&D, but is more about building an army big and powerful enough to smash your opponents, and less about strategy.

D&D Game In Progress

D&D is more than just combat. It’s also about strategy, decision making and role playing. And the role playing is a big part of its appeal. When you play a D&D character, you can become someone you’re not. It’s all about escapism. My current D&D character is a kick-ass warrior woman. She has incredible strength, she wears plate mail, specialises in the quarter staff and is a one-woman killing machine. She wades through the beasties smashing them to a pulp whilst barely breaking a sweat. The down side is, she really isn’t very bright. So when the group is discussing strategy, I sometimes have to remember to keep quiet. Sara might have this idea, but Hylla probably wouldn’t. Therefore I should stay in character and not vocalise it.

Playing a character that’s so far removed from me, though, is rather fun. And orc-bashing is a great stress reliever – almost as good as zombie slaying.

Geek Excitement: Resident Evil 6

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

If you’ve been following this blog a while, you will know I have something of an obsession with playing ‘Resident Evil 4’.

We have ‘Resident Evil 5’ as well, but in my view it’s just not as good. Sure, the graphics are better – RE4 is only available on the Nintendo Wii, and it was never really designed to be a superior graphics machine. But I prefer the Wii controls to the PS3 controls. I am a hopeless shot. The Wii controls are gentler on those who are crap shots.

But the game itself just has more atmosphere than its sequel. In RE4, Leon spends a lot of time runing around alone (apart from occasional cut scene interactions with NPCs, and of course the interactions with the very annoying Ashley) in a lonely and creepy part of rural Spain, being attacked by zombies and other unnatural beasties, on a dark rainy night. RE5, set in the daytime under the baking sun of Africa, just doesn’t have the same atmosphere.

And then, of course, the game has Leon. Leon is hot. I have a solid faction of female friends who all drool over Leon. The main character in RE5 is Chris Redfield, who doesn’t have the same lust factor.

‘Resident Evil’ as a series has been around for years. Not being familiar with the game before RE4, I can’t say anything about what earlier games were like, but I gather that the same characters have been popping up periodically throughout the series – Chris and his sister Claire; Leon; Krauser; Jill Valentine; Ada Wong. Each game progresses the plot along, with points from the previous series occasionally referred to. The films follow through with this. I hear rumour there’s a new film in development – live action this time – that will feature all of the series’ characters. Including Leon. Can’t wait for that one.

Anyway, more exciting than that is the news that ‘Resident Evil 6’ is being released later this year. It’s on the PS3, not the Wii, so I will have to get a handle on the awkward controls. But the graphics will be great. And, more relevant, this game features Leon. In full PS3 CGI glory. Woohoo!

For a taster, here’s the trailer: Resident Evil 6 official trailer.

How To Survive a Zombie Apocalypse

I was quite amused by this article that appeared on the BBC News website recently, where Leicester City Council admitted to being “unprepared for a zombie attack”, following a letter from “a concerned citizen”.

I thnk perhaps the person that wrote the letter was being facetious, but you never know. The thing about being a geek who watches zombie films is that intellectually you know zombies don’t exist, but there’s some small part of you that keeps insisting, “but what if they do?”.

However, if zombies do attack then a geek is best person to know, because we’ve watched all the films and played all the games and we’re subsequently the best prepared for zombie attack.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about how to survive a zombie attack.

1. Zombies traditionally move slowly. Learn how to run fast, or better yet, use transport and you can out-run them. Unfortunately zombies in contemporary zombie films seem to move much quicker. So this might not necessarily be a hard and fast rule.

2. The only way to kill a zombie is to get it in the head. Preferably with a big gun. A hit to any other part of the zombie’s body will be ineffective.

3. Anyone who gets bitten by a zombie will turn into one. Don’t listen to the infected person’s desperate relatives who plead to spare them. The infected person will inevitably turn into a zombie and go rampaging through your hideout. Chuck them out into the zombie horde the minute you find out they’ve been bitten. There’s no room for sentiment when it’s a matter of survival.

4. Zombies aren’t very bright and it takes them a while to figure out how to get through locks. Make sure your hideout is well secured. Preferably several storeys up. Zombies often seem to have trouble with stairs.

5. If you’ve found yourself a nice secure hideout on the fifteenth floor, and you’ve got plenty of food and water supplies to last you, then stay there. Don’t be persuaded by the fellow survivors who turn up at your hideout and try to convince you that the best thing to do is to leave and head south/north/east/west, because they know that there are other survivors there. Whenever that happens it films, it never ends well.

6. Get yourself a weapon. Preferably a big gun (see point 2). This is more difficult in the UK than in the US, because we have stricter gun laws. But since all the shops will be abandoned, you could plan a raid on the nearest gun shop. According to Resident Evil games, shotguns are most effective. Or rocket launchers.

Of course, being able to play zombie games doesn’t necessarily mean you’d be any good in a real zombie apocalypse. When I die playing Resident Evil 4, I can restart the game and try again. I am, even playing games, a terrible shot, and it’s only through repeated practice that I can kill any zombies at all. And there’s a difference between sitting in one’s living room shooting with a games console and shooting a real gun. I have tried this, and I’m an even worse shot with the real thing.

And I feel I should point out that this is all hypothetical anyway. I don’t really believe that there’s going to be a zombie apocalypse. At least I don’t most of the time… 🙂