Sunday, 26 September 2010

Games Day UK 2010

I'm freshly returned from Games Workshop's annual main event, Games Day. I'm exhausted as only other convention goers know and I must now head over to some dive bar in Camden Town for a friends leaving party as he's heading off for warmer climes. What a day.

First off a small confession, I spent a boatload of money. This means that food is going to be scarce in the coming month but I laugh in the face of hardship...particularly when it's self-inflicted. My upcoming fast aside, it was a great day for a number of reasons which if you'll stick around, I'll now share with you.

Firstly, shiny new toys; but if the truth be told shiny new toys are buyable all year round and when added to the teeth-grindingly-frustrating queueing snafu's it means that next year I'll be ordering my stuff online and spending less time in queues that moveth not. Well done Forgeworld for putting office weenies in charge of an immensely busy retail stand while experienced retail staff were rolling posters...not your finest hour.

Secondly, I used to work for Games Workshop so it was a rare chance to catch up, face to face, with a couple of friends with whom I used to work and together foam at the mouth about all the exciting new things that the hobby is a rate guaranteed to bankrupt me before I learn anything approaching self control.

However, it was a real and truly rare pleasure to meet with all of my favourite authors in one place. For anyone new to this blog, I write book reviews and conduct author interviews for a really great website, BSC; the books I review are mostly, though not all, from Black Library's dark and dust coated halls and seeing as how Black Library is Games Workshop's publishing arm all of the authors whose books I've reviewed were there. Including awesome newcomer Aaron Dembski Bowden with whom I recently did an interview.

But here's the cool thing, I had expected to have to introduce myself to all of them. Bear in mind, this is the internet, I'd never met any of these people. Our 'relationships' were entirely confined to email and yet...each and every one of them recognised me instantly! The astonishing weirdness of being recognised by people whose work I've admired is hard to describe. There was only one person to whom I needed to introduce myself as I'd expected, Dan Abnett.

This was entirely as it should be.

I've been inspired by this man's writing for a very very long time and for this reason I've yet to review one of his books. I was afraid that my words would be nothing more than the frothy ravings of a fanboy and therefore of little use to anyone else. However, I recently decided it was time to bite the bullet and talk about my experience of one of his books in what is commonly called a 'review'. I believe objectivity to be a myth, my reviews are simply a record of my reading experience...

Anyhoo, not having done a review of his work and having only spoken through email he was unlikely to have come across my scratchings online and so I had to say hi and explain who I was. I've got to tell you all, the sheer warmth and down-to-earth nature of this man really moved me. This feeling was already engendered while I was queueing elsewhere and watching him speak to people lining up to get his autograph, each one was greeted warmly and the greeting then mirrored by his wife, another extraordinary writing talent by the name of Nik Vincent, who was equally warm and unassuming. If there were any two writers more able to rest on their laurels it's Dan Abnett and Nik Vincent, but the only thing on show was humility.

I had a chance to chat to them both later as Mr. Abnett and I discussed the options for my upcoming interview with him and was again struck by how helpful and generous he was. Alright, time to stop frothing but it's so nice to meet a hero and have him/her be all you hoped and more.

And here's another really cool thing, this was one of a number of amazing chats with authors whose work I've reviewed and their gift, admired. Mark Newton, who in his day job works for Black Library and in the cold watches of the night is better known as Mark Charan Newton, fantasy author extraordinaire. He was a real pleasure to talk to, quiet and unassuming and yet very clearly a talent to be reckoned with. I'm currently reading his second novel City of Ruin with a review to follow and hopefully soon after with an eInterview for BSC review. All in all I've got a busy few months ahead with reviews and interviews galore...I know that's only two interviews I've mentioned but there are a few more on the cards which I'm going to keep to myself for now.

I'm not going to recall the details of every conversation with all the authors I had the privilege of speaking to today, though Chris Wraight was a real gentleman and I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation; plus I had the chance to chat with Andy Hoare about Deathwatch and pick his brain for some insights I can use when running a game...I said I wasn't going to recount them all so I'll stop there.

The other little joy of the day was finding myself surrounded by people who share many of my more geek like passions, little chats together while queueing, passing comments while looking at the same cabinet filled with shiny new toy soldiers for all of us man-children.

Having the opportunity to reconnect with old friends, to meet face to face with some personal heroes all while fellow geeks thronged around us. What a day, I'm almost worried I won't be able to sleep tonight...

...I'll likely be unconscious before my head hits the pillow :)

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Going postal over Going Postal!

I'm going to assume that you're all big fans of Terry Pratchett and have read his masterpiece, Going Postal. If you haven't, consider this a spoiler warning. I'm going to talk about the book and the recent television adaptation, there may well be an impassioned rant. You have been warned.

Sky One recently did an adaptation of Terry Pratchett's discworld novel Going Postal for TV which has recently been released on DVD. I bought the special edition post haste and sat down to watch it with barely controlled glee. This is one of my favourite discworld novels, the characters are all fascinating, the comedy both hilarious and insightful as only Terry Pratchett knows how and the story is grab-you-by-the...appendage-of-choice fantastic. An adaptation for television created in close collaboration with the master himself, well, this is the stuff of dreams. This wasn't the first that Sky One had done, they had also made Hogfather which was very enjoyable and stayed mostly true to the book.

With my hopes suitably high I, as mentioned above, sat down to watch. Initially it seemed that they would stay true to the book which, combined with some stunning visuals and an in-the-flesh Sergeant Angua, made me really pleased...and then they took this masterpiece and utterly destroyed it with a cruelty enhanced by the hope that had been initially engendered!

Bastards! The protagonist, Moist Von Lipwig (yes, he's heard every possible joke) is a complex and charming character who's grossly simplified in this televisual excretion and worse still a story of magnificent depth is reduced to a dumbed down made-for-TV farce that farts in the general direction of the book from which it was snatched!

Sir Terry, I am moved to ask, what on earth were you all thinking?! You got it so right the first time, why have you reduced it to such a dumb and dumber moronfest?! Reacher Gilt is supposed to be a rakishly charming, master con-artiste but is reduced to a barely sane blithering idiot whose hammed performance made watching him a problem for this Jewish boy, I don't do ham!

The relationship between Moist and Adora, which in the book is a subtle and refreshingly realistic one is made into a will-they-won't-they ride reminiscent of the worst that Hollywood would throw at us. Even more insulting you chuck in an unsubtle and patronising message about the dangers of smoking!

I realise that changes are going to be made when adapting a novel for the screen but this was an utter annihilation of what should have become an instant classic. It should have been serialised into around 6 episodes so that the true depth of the story could be appreciated by all. Of course I also realise that there was not unlimited funds and so characters and parts had to be cut, but the cut parts were replaced with such banal simplicity! Moist is told to win the race or be hanged, what the hell?! Do you really imagine your audience to be so pathetic? Must you try to pull on all the most cliched levers to get people interested, whatever happened to trusting your audience? And so subtlety and nuance are sacrificed on the altar of 'drama' aimed at the lowest common denominator!

I started to read the book again shortly after finishing the DVD, I needed to restore my sense of the story as it should have been. It has only highlighted for me what a terrible shame, a waste, this tv adaptation has been. The book is replete with powerful and emotive themes that are completely missing in the film or have been changed into an unsubtle morality lecture for the deeply stupid.

I could honestly go on and on about what was wrong with this...mess but I think my point is fairly clear. On a more positive note, honourable mention must go to Andrew Sach's excellent portrayal of Junior Postman Groat and generally speaking the casting was spot on. Charles Dance as Vetinari was a master stroke (dyed black hair would have cinched it), Richard Coyle as Moist is perfect and Claire Foy's Adora Belle Dearheart seemed to jump off the page and onto the screen. It's just a shame that such talent was wasted on a pale, pale shadow of a great story.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Jack of some trades, Master of nothing-at-all

I think it's time to accept something. I'm not a frequent poster.

I wish I was, I truly do. Unfortunately I suffer from jack-of-all-trades syndrome. I want to do everything, I keep discovering new things I enjoy doing, and seem to have a knack for, only to be distracted by something else. If I were to settle down to do a limited number of things I might begin to achieve some sort of mastery but nooo. My kitten-like attention span will outlast my interests every time. One of the stages of growing up is learning to close the circle of ones existence. To recognise the limits of time and choose what will be your life's pursuits and, importantly, what there will realistically never be time for. I can't seem to do this.

I recently decided that since I enjoyed drawing with pencils and whatnot (also a relatively recent discovery) I might get my hands on a Tablet and draw on the old PC. I figured it would take a while to get used to drawing like that but lo and behold I settled to it like a duck to water. I then added a book on cartoon drawing, which was my aim to start with, and the results of my first experiment lie below.

If you're wondering why he's wearing, what would appear to be, a pseudo-Starfleet dress uniform then your guess is as good as mine, it just kind of happened. I was only supposed to draw the head but the stylus just kept on going.

I'm describing what is, for me, an ongoing frustration.

I've also only recently tried writing as any regular readers will know, have I continued to pursue it? Nope. I started a story which got some really good feedback and which I really enjoyed, have I even looked at it in months, no. AAARRRGGHHH!!! Annoying much?

The primary reason is that the inspiration died; but a true artist pushes through that, tries to find it again rather than waiting for it to strike but since these are hobbies I find I move on with barely a whimper. Only to find myself regretting my lack of discipline a few months later. I also play the flute, something I was getting really good at before the inspiration died. Now, I've picked it back up again and am kicking myself because the flute requires the development of muscles in the lips to form what's called the embouchure, and since I've slacked off so have the muscles and I must develop them all over again...until of course I lose the will and move on to something else!

I have more hobbies and interests than any twenty people I know but lack the maturity or discipline to develop any of them to a level that my profoundly perfectionist self is happy with. I've been sitting here toying with the idea of starting a webcomic but know that it will die before it even starts, or worse still, once I've gotten going. And yet I know it's something I might do well if I could stick to it. Well, that or the any of the hundred other things I've learned about myself.

I have, over the last few years, discovered a great many talents that I never knew I had or had been told I'd never be good at. It sometimes feels like I was asleep for thirty years and have only just recently awoken to myself. As a matter of fact this is more true than I really want to admit.

I take some comfort from my work as a therapist, which continues to develop and grow. It's a rare field of endeavour where the personal and professional are often one and the same.

It seems that for the moment at least, I must continue to discover things and then watch them disappear until I am able to close the circle and discover what my life is really going to be about both beyond my professional activities and within them. The bugger is, I'm 35 and feel that I should be well past this stage but alas, it seems I still have a ways to go.

It's both a fascinating journey and source of immense frustration.