Wednesday, 28 April 2010

An Election of Personalities

For those of who live somewhere else on this planet of ours, Great Britain aka the United Kingdom aka England...bloody hell, why do we have so many names?! ...Anyway, we British types are about to have our general election.

On May 6th people all over the country will be entering a polling booth and putting a mark next to their candidate of choice and so will a new government be born, we hope. However, one theme that I keep hearing from journalists, print, radio & television, is their concern that politics, and more specifically the election, is fast becoming a game of personalities over policies. This is generally spoken of in what I feel is a rather superior, smug tone that tells you in no uncertain terms that they will be voting based solely on the candidates policies.

Well, how lovely for them. I started thinking, what do I look for in a candidate? Am I persuaded by personality or policy or both? And if it is personality alone that hooks me, is that a bad thing?

No, I don't believe it is a bad thing. I believe an ideal would be to pay close attention to both but if I make my decision based on my perception of their personality it is a valid use of my vote. Why? Well, a big part of our personalities is our collection of values, morals and beliefs with which we face the world and make decisions. In an ever changing world I use the moral compass that my upbringing, learning and experience has given me to decide what's right, what's wrong and what's somewhere inbetween.

When I base my voting decision on personality, it isn't a case of 'ooh he has a nice smile'. It's about my belief that this candidate seems to share my values, my view of the world. I say belief because we never entirely know what goes on in what Terry Pratchett so poetically calls 'the darkness behind the eyes'.

Today's news is full of Gordon Brown's microphone gaff in which, forgetting that he had a mic pinned to his lapel, made a critical remark about a voter he had just spent some time with. This has of course created an uproar about the difference between his public and private face. Let me tell you something, our public faces are no less a part of us than our private faces. Ian Dunt, editor of the excellent, has written a very eloquent article addressing the hypocrisy of the media in holding Mr. Brown to standards that few human beings achieve in a lifetime.

Okay, I'm getting off my point so back to it.

My point is this, policies change, the world is ever changing. Basing my vote purely on policies that may well prove unrealistic, no longer necessary or even based upon flawed reasoning seems foolish. However, if I choose a candidate based on my perception of his/her personality or put another way, the collection of values and beliefs that forms the core of their decision making selves then at least I know that regardless of what the world throws at us this person will make a decision based upon a similar set of values to my own.

What more can I realistically ask for in so uncertain a world?

Saturday, 17 April 2010

DearthCon 2010

I know it's been a short while since I last posted but rumours of my death were greatly exaggerated. I've been really busy and, if I'm honest, trying to recover from a touch of burnout.

Okay, now that I've made my excuses I can get to my point. No, I'm not announcing a new convention in the UK as the title of this post may suggest.

I am in fact mourning the utter dearth of good scifi/fantasy conventions in this part of the world with my own inimitable literary excretions. I have searched this great interwebs of ours to see what was on offer and recently came across one that gave me some hope. Eastercon 2010 a.k.a Odyssey 2010 at the Radisson Edwardian Hotel near Heathrow in London. I couldn't go for the first two days but I was hoping to go on the Sunday with some like minded friends.

So, the night before we checked out the following day's programme to see what we could look forward to...well long story short. Nothing. Unless of course I wanted classes in BDSM, yes seriously. What the hell that has to do with SciFi or fantasy I have no idea but there it was on the schedule along with Ikea classes and other assorted nonsense. Most of the good talks were over and done with on day one of the convention followed by two more days of almost unbroken banality. My narrowly avoided experience is echoed by this blog post written by author extraordinaire Graham McNeill.

The convention before that, for me anyway, was the MCM Expo. I went there very excited and returned thoroughly underwhelmed. I was worried about spending too much money, I needn't have. There was nothing there worth buying. In the end I bought a hardback copy of the Watchmen graphic novel just so I could pretend excitement about the whole day.

To be honest some of this is a case of "take a cell/mobile phone into a third world village for the first time" syndrome. What I mean is that before I was made aware of what the world has to offer in terms of conventions, and by 'the world' I mean the ol' US of A, my standards and expectations were set really low. However, now that I maintain an online 'connection' with the likes of Felicia Day, Wil Wheaton, Scott Kurtz, Mike & Jerry at Penny Arcade (all convention stalwarts) and see the amazing...yeah I'll say it, inspiring conventions that they attend and in the case of Penny Arcade Expo, make, and frankly my old two cans and piece of string setup just don't cut it anymore. I want an all singing, all dancing mobile phone! Or, metaphor aside, a decent convention with decent guests about more than just SciFi/fantasy books!

Convention organisers, how about paying attention to the ever growing gaming culture, whether computer/console or tabletop? I think I remember Jerry Holkins (it may have been Mike Krahulik) once saying that Penny Arcade Expo aka PAX was the convention that should have existed but didn't. Sadly we in the UK lack the visionary types like Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik to make the convention that is so sorely lacking here.

I think the reality is that geeks, already a (vocal) minority, are really small in the UK compared to the States. I think convention organisers look at their marketing numbers and give up. I think they're wrong.

There are more of us than you think. You build a decent convention that really represents the geek scene, invite some of the names I've mentioned above and we will come. In a comment I left on her blog, Felicia Day told me that she would love to come to the UK for a convention appearance.

Would someone please make the convention that doesn't exist but really should here in the UK? I would, I've honestly thought about it, but my time is spoken for.

Is it only the Americans that have what it takes to celebrate everything geek?