Monday, 30 July 2012

Sitting Under the Shade of the Tree: A Clash of Kings

I've been building up to this bad boy since April, oh that fateful day in April where I came face to face with the man himself, George R.R. Martin. At that point, I had only read the first novel in the Song of Ice and Fire series, A Game of Thrones. So naturally, I bought the second in the series, a beautiful hardcover and had it signed. However, I vowed that I would be fair to all the other books that were in my reading pile and get through them first before reaching A Clash of Kings. Finally, early this morning, two weeks after I started reading it, I reached the end. And so, it is time to share my thoughts.

I will warn and apologise now, some spoilers for the events of A Game of Thrones may follow. You have been forewarned.

Now on with the show!

Let's take stock for a second. At the end of the first book, there are no less than four kings in the Seven Kingdoms. Here's the rundown: Joffrey Baratheon, "heir" to King Robert Baratheon and "rightful" king of the Seven Kingdoms, except that he's the bastard child of Ser Jaime Lannister and his sister, Queen Cersei Lannister. Ew. *Shudder*. Next up we have Stannis Baratheon, Lord of Dragonstone and brother to Robert Baratheon. He was the first to discover the truth of Joffrey's birth, but buggered off to Dragonstone before doing anything about it. So with his brother dead and the throne rightfully his, he decides to finally get off his butt, with a creepy Red Priestess at his side. But there's a twist.

His far more popular brother, Renly Baratheon, Lord of Storm's End, has declared himself king and even married the maiden daughter of Lord Mace Tyrell, the Lord of Highgarden, thus bringing with his claim to the Iron Throne the vast majority of the southern lords. Not only are the Lannisters, who are naturally all rallied around King Joffrey, more than a little disconcerted by this, Stannis isn't too happy either.

Finally, there's Robb Stark, Lord of Winterfell upon his father's execution in A Game of Thrones, declared by his lords and bannermen as King in the North. He's won himself a neat little victory against Ser Jaime Lannister, taking the famed "Kingslayer" hostage, giving the Lannisters a little bit of pause for thought. So far he's pretty much the only one of the kings who doesn't want the Iron Throne.

Now I could try and sum up the plot...but good gods, that's a lot of information to try and distil into a small collection of paragraphs. You know how people joke about how you've "written an essay" when you write something ridiculously long in a space generally reserved for smaller trains of thought? This would be a thesis. So instead, I shall run through some of the characters (my favourites mostly) and through them hopefully some semblance of the plot.

I'll start with our dearly beloved favourite, Tyrion Lannister. As far as I'm concerned, he's the only forgivable member of House Lannister. As of A Clash of Kings, Tyrion has been sent to King's Landing to act as Hand of the King, despite the fact that his father Lord Tywin had been named to the post. In this position...well, he is just so brilliantly Tyrion. Plotting, scheming, having the back-stabbing Commander of the City Watch shipped off to the Wall to become a Sworn Brother of the Night's Watch. And credit to Tyrion, he does his best to keep order while his nephew shows how much of a sociopath he is and his mother, Tyrion's "sweet sister", plots and schemes to keep Joffrey on the Iron Throne and the knowledge of her union with Jaime Lannister a neat little secret. All the way through, Tyrion never fails to be an intriguing, devious little character that I just love rooting for. If I was reading before going to sleep, I would finish a chapter, find the next one was a Tyrion chapter and have to read on.

But Tyrion's not the only compelling character. One of the continuing surprises in the compelling character category is Sandor Clegane, a.k.a. "The Hound", Joffrey Baratheon's loyal bodyguard. Seen only through the eyes of Sansa Stark, held pretty much prisoner in King's Landing, The Hound confounds and confuses. He's this brutish thug, only just a step above a murderer. And even though he's spending ninety percent of his scenes ruining Sansa's illusions of knights and chivalry, he's really opening her eyes. Now I'll admit, I didn't like Sansa in A Game of Thrones, but she's really matured in A Clash of Kings, starting to see the truth of the world. I wonder how much of that is due to The Hound's harsh, yet wise words.

Speaking of the Starks, there's Arya. Let's face it, she's my favourite of the trueborn Stark children (because the bastard Jon Snow stands in a class of his own) and her arc...well. She's turning into quite the little warrior. A sneaky little warrior. Having escaped King's Landing with Yoren, a Brother of the Night's Watch, she and Yoren's band of miscreants bound for the Wall manage to fall afoul of the war for the Iron Throne. But wait a second, the Night's Watch takes no part in any wars, right? Try telling that to the frakking Lannisters. No sooner than Yoren, Arya and co run into Lannister men, they are all but massacred and end up at the cursed fortress of Harrenhal. Now I must restrain from saying too much here, as when I met (for all of five seconds) George R.R. Martin, while waiting in line to get my book signed, I overheard the future of Arya's arc. And from what I read in A Clash of Kings...oh gods I can't wait to see where this ends up going! Yeah, I'm rooting for Arya Stark here. She's badass.

Of course, no rambling of thoughts and feelings on a Song of Ice and Fire book would be complete without rambling a little bit about my personal choice to take the Iron Throne, Daenerys Targaryen.

Let's face it. Daenerys has dragons. Not just as the sigil of her house, but...godsdamnit, the girl has three actual dragons! Now my friend Wench pointed out that dragons shouldn't really be the entitlement to the Iron Throne, but...watching Daenerys come from this scared little girl to mature into such a strong leader...okay, so she doesn't have a host of thousands like the Lannisters, the Starks or Renly Baratheon, but she has spirit, determination and...well...DRAGONS! Daenerys is spending most of her time in Qarth, with people flocking around her, all but trying to buy her dragons from her. And she's having none of it. Sucks for her, because she wants an army, then want the dragons...nobody's getting what they want here. But Daenerys will find a way. She better, because I really want her to become Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. While others are fighting each other to gain the throne, Daenerys is running across half of Essos, enduring the loss of her beloved husband Khal Drogo and stillbirth of her son, Rhaego. I just feel that Daenerys' personal trial of fire (pun not intended now that I realise it) is earning her, slowly but surely, her right to claim the Iron Throne. That and by the time she gets her ass to Westeros, chances are everyone will have killed everyone else. Though I'm hoping Robb Stark survives and Daenerys lets him remain King in the North. I just think it would be cool.

Also, personal theory...the Red Priests/Priestesses of Asshai are totally behind the whole war for the Iron Throne. Seriously. The clues are there...or I'm reading far, far too much into it. Guess we'll find out. I've already started reading A Storm of Swords and I have all the books up to A Dance with Dragons. And I'm just going to power through them all, one after the other. I would be fair to my other books, but the way A Clash of Kings ended...I have to keep going! Then I imagine the end of A Dance with Dragons will torture me even further. Like I say, we'll see. Until then, this has been my ramble about A Clash of Kings.

Oh and during conversation with Thief during the writing of this blog, I have invented a new word: Tyrionical. Similar to Machiavellian, it relates to any plan/scheme that involves an exceptional displays of cunning, deviousness and brilliance. Just like Tyrion Lannister, the word's namesake.

So there you have it. Tyrionical. Use the word well.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

I have an entire phalanx of machines that go ping!

I've been meaning to do this one for a while. In fact, I had planned to do it here and had the title reflect that it was going to be about my top ten favourite tech guys. And girls. Since I've been feeling like I'm a little behind on my random rambling, I decided to do this one today. Finally. After all this time.

Naturally, as is my custom, the title of this post comes from the mind of Joss Whedon. Or at least from one of his shows - this one from Dollhouse, from the mouth of one Topher Brink, one of my favourite tech persons. But where does he come into this? Read on and find out!

But first, just for Thief, here's a palm tree:

Now on with the show!

10. Marco Pacella (The 4400)

He's kind of in the classic mould of a tech guy - glasses, unashamed geekiness, socially awkward. But underneath it all, Marco Pacella of the National Threat Assessment Command is a pretty cool dude. As head of NTAC's Theory Room (a name I have adapted for my own room), he was Tom Baldwin and Diana Skouris' first point of call for theories about the eponymous 4400 and their related abilities. show's end...spoiler alert (highlight to read): he gains the ability to teleport!

9. David Levinson (Independence Day)

He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to become a cable repairman. Not the type with a van, mind you. No, David Levinson (wonderfully portrayed by Jeff Goldblum) was Independence Day's arbitrary disaster movie everyman main character. But with a degree from MIT and the smarts to suss out the alien's nefarious scheme to blow up every major city on Earth. Though this is a Roland Emmerich film, so they all still blow up. But he does later show that he's smarter than the Area 51 scientist portrayed by Brent Spiner. Kudos.

8. jPod (jPod)

Shown here by the cast of the short-lived Canadian TV show adaptation of the Canadian novel jPod and most about the TV show characters, the jPod are probably the most successful slackers in the videogame industry. In their thirteen episode run, they manage to acquaint themselves with Chinese Mafia kingpins (the wonderful Kam Fong), suffer through one boss who is kidnapped and shipped off to China while the other hijacks them for his own personal project before blowing himself up. And this is just skimming the surface of their hi-jinks. They also gave me the phrase "The F-Bomb". Seek out and watch episode two, "A Fine Bro-Mance", for the context.

7. Douglas Fargo (A Town Called Eureka)

One of numerous techies and engineers resident to the mysterious town of Eureka, Douglas Fargo quite possibly has the distinction of being the most accident prone. His inventions routinely turn on him (see "H.O.U.S.E. Rules" for a good example) and apparently, his file at Global Dynamics uses the phrase "inappropriately pushed button" some thirty-eight times. While these things don't inspire the usual round of confidence you would like to have in the world's scientific elite, Fargo is no less of a wonderful and endearing character. Such is the life of the comic foil, it would seem. But he is still a genius. One day he'll invent something that will work perfectly and not be misappropriated.

6. Alyx Vance (Half-Life 2)

Our only entry for a videogame character, Alyx Vance, daughter of physicist and Black Mesa researcher Doctor Eli Vance is the erstwhile companion of everyone's favourite tight-lipped theoretical physicist, Doctor Gordon Freeman. Despite the fact that Freeman is a physicist, his overuse of the trusty crowbar appears to render him unable to use computers and his MIT education to navigate obstacles. Here is where Alyx is an indispensible ally - she hacks into computers, uses her sparking gadget thing to open doors and makes you play fetch with her pet robot, Dog. A robot her father built, then she added to. The end result is very impressive. Her resilience, resourcefulness and great company earn Alyx Vance the number six spot.

5. Q (the James Bond Franchise)

Alas not the John de Lancie Q of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame, this is the Q that kept James Bond alive for so many films. A divisive issue it may be, increasing Bond's survivability, but nonetheless, Q's appearances in the first twenty or so Bond films were scenes to look forward to and cherish. Ably played by the late Desmond Llewellyn, Q could easily match and outwit his reckless colleague while providing him with the means to defeat the bad guys. Despite what the gritty Daniel Craig Bond films will have you believe, Bond couldn't really ever be without Q.

4. The Lone Gunmen (The X-Files, The Lone Gunmen)

While their spin-off show might have slightly...well...tanked, their appearances in their parent show The X-Files were often the highlight of an episode. The oddball combination of John Fitzgerald Byers, Melvin Frohike and Richard Langly provided invaluable assistance to Mulder and Scully during their investigations. While in their first appearance in "E.B.E." they're set up as ridiculously paranoid conspiracy nuts, they became three of the most endearing characters in the entire series. Enough to get their own, aforementioned short-lived series.

3. Tony Stark (Iron Man)

"A genius, billionaire playboy philanthropist." Tony Stark's own words summing him up beautifully. This man graduated from MIT when he was seventeen and built a crude, but functional, powered armour suit in a remote Afghan cave with little more than "a box of scraps", as Obadiah Stane yelled at a poor, unfortunate scientist nowhere near a brilliant engineer as Tony Stark. His techie achievements and marvels are too numerous list in their entirety, so will stick with the miniaturised arc reactor and the Iron Man suit.

2. Topher Brink (Dollhouse)

Here is, the man behind this blog entry's title! Although I haven't watched all of Dollhouse YET, Topher made quite the impression as the strangely endearing, slightly amoral tech king supreme of the Los Angeles Dollhouse. Topher's best moments include noticing Victor's "man reaction" (and resulting investigation with Doctor Saunders) and his brilliant reaction to an experimental memory drug in the episode "Echoes". A genuinely funny turn. Makes you want a drawer of inappropriate starches...

1. Claudia Donovan (Warehouse 13)

Feisty hacker chick with deviantly coloured hair. When describing Claudia to my friends, I use those words. They roll their eyes, knowing my affinity to that kind of girl. No surprise really that Claudia snags the top spot here. As the youngest member of the Warehouse, Claudia strives and struggles to bring the reality of 21st Century technology into the Warehouse, much to the consternation of her boss, Artie. The hi-jinks that oft ensue from Claudia's tampering and tinkering are a delight and pleasure to watch. As are her constant pop culture references and her text alert on her phone - a Cylon voice proclaiming "By your command". And you can't help but find it cute when she genuinely exclaims "Zoinks!"


Tuesday, 17 July 2012

I need spaceships or I get cranky

I've been building up to this one for a couple of days. Partly active social life/work consuming time related. There should be a special theory of relativity for that...putting this on my to do list. Invent time machine and give the idea to Einstein.

Okay, I'm digressing. Big time. So, to explain, the title of this blog...well, it's not a quote from the Whedonverse like most of my blog entries. No, these are words straight from the man himself.

This entry is, once regarding the pain and anguish of not going to San Diego ComicCon, specifically the awesome Firefly 10th Anniversary Reunion Panel. But also...this is about Firefly and what it means to me. As always, this will follow the usual format - chronological context of how and when I came to Firefly, followed by lots of ramblings and personal anecdotes, maybe even a little bit of gushing about stuff here and there.

As the presenter of the Panel, Jeff Jensen, said - "Let's get on with the thrilling heroics".

It was 2005, the tail end of. I was watching Film 2005, hosted back then by old Jonathan Ross. It was their "Film of the Year" show and Serenity netted the top prize. I saw the clips they played, Joss Whedon's acceptance speech and I was thinking "Hey, I actually have a total lack of awesome spaceship sci-fi. I should get this on DVD when it comes out, it looks totally cool". Roll on February 2006. I pre-ordered Serenity. It arrived...on a Wednesday, I think. I was in my penultimate year of secondary school, I was thinking about university. As soon as I came home from school, found that Serenity had been delivered, I broke open that package, put the DVD in my Xbox, played the DVD.

I fell in love.

Pure and simple here, kids. I fell in love with this movie. In the space of Serenity's two hours, I had a new favourite film. It's still my favourite film, of all time. It even beats Joss's latest epic, Avengers. Which was bad ass. But it can't hold a candle to Serenity.

Like the Hero of Canton, my love for it now, ain't hard to explain. It was the characters, the warmth, the soul of the film. It's not an epic...well, it is, but it is by not trying to be an EPIC, it's not trying to be a mind-expanding exploration of the human soul, it's not a summer blockbuster. It just is. It's a beautiful piece of simple writing, with amazing performances bringing life to characters that you absolutely truly believe are a family. It's...incredible.

And heck, kids, this is just Serenity.

Funnily enough, shortly after falling in love with Serenity, I obtained Firefly. I fell even further and deeper in love. I knew true heartbreak about the fate of certain unnamed characters. I became even more attached to the characters. And when I learned the true nature of Firefly's fate, Joss Whedon became my idol.

As a writer, you have to learn to deal with rejection. Like I said, in 2006 I was getting towards thinking about university. I previously mentioned in a prior blog post about The Writerverse that I decided, when I was 15, that I wanted to be a writer. By the time I was 17, I was coming closer to understand the trials that writers undergo and finding my idols, people to admire and hold as inspiration. Joss Whedon's refusal to let Firefly die and giving me my favourite film of all time was that inspiration. Added to that the brilliance and wit of the dialogue of his writing, the darkly beautiful humour that slips into the most serious of episodes...I have taken that and introduced it into my writing. During the days of workshops at university, it was mentioned, often positively. I owe you, Joss Whedon, for teaching me that there's always a place for dry witticism.

But this isn't the end, it's not just about the influence the show and the film had on my writing, how Joss Whedon became an inspiration. It's about the people Firefly has helped me to meet.

Ladies and menfolk, my fellow Browncoats.

It was university. By this time, I had my beloved Serenity t-shirt. To this day, one of my most complimented t-shirts. And largely due to this t-shirt, I met many, many fellow Browncoats. There are so many of us. So, so many of us. We do have a lot of other major interests, but...well...we largely came together because of Firefly, because we are Browncoats. It was that curious fact that you come across, that exclamation of "You like Firefly? So do I! That's awesome", which spirals into a much deeper, more meaningful friendship. And from that very starting point, some of my best friendships have developed. If I had not watched Serenity and fallen in love with it, who is to say I would have met these people and become such great friends? Well, might be a slight over-exaggeration, but still. Being a Browncoat has brought me closer to some wonderful people.

But the story isn't just the influence on my writing or the fellow Browncoats I've met.

I work in a café. It's been mentioned before. Now while I am determined I will be a successful writer in some shape or form...I've contemplated a back-up plan. A café. A geek café, in Bath, because I just feel there's a sad lack of a major hub of geek congregation in Bath. There's a comic book shop, but it's small. We need something bigger. With tea and coffee.

To this end, my back-up plan - Leaf on the Wind. Two-fold reference: obviously, Wash's beautiful, if slightly tragic, line from Serenity. Secondly, a reference to the fact that only loose leaf tea would be sold in this café. It would emulate the fusion of Western and Eastern furniture seen in Firefly. There would be a memorial to our most beloved, fallen character. There would be an alcohol license so we could serve, probably only late in the evenings, the cocktail, the Sereni-Tea. I would be able to justify and write-off all QMx purchases of awesome Firefly collectibles as business expenses. The only permitted expletive for staff would be "gorram". There would be a pool table, with a sign next to it saying "Management not responsible for ball failure" with the notice repeated in Mandarin underneath. All the menu boards would be in English and Mandarin. Staff would be encouraged to say "Shiny".

I would go utterly mad with power, just as I seem to have gone mad with ideas.

But then again, this is all about what Firefly means to me,'s to be expected.

Ladies and menfolk, I am a Browncoat, proud and tall. I aim to misbehave.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Sitting Under the Shade of the Tree: L.A. Confidential

It's time for a slight divergence from my usual sci-fi, a bit of infinite diversity in infinite combinations to spice things up. The following instalment of Sitting Under the Shade of the Tree features a hard-boiled detective thriller, James Ellroy's L.A. Confidential.

Some of you may remember that back when I rambled about The Man in the High Castle, I mentioned having previously "demolished" a James Ellroy book. That was The Big Nowhere, book two of Ellroy's LA Quartet. L.A. Confidential is book three and, in an ironic twist, the book that actually started it all for me. Allow to put things into context.

It may be common(ish) knowledge that in 1997, L.A. Confidential was adapted into a film, directed by Curtis Hanson and starring Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey, James Cromwell, Kim Basinger and Danny DeVito. To name but a few of the names cropping up in the movie. It was here that my inevitable journey to reading the LA Quartet began. I loved the film. When I discovered it was based on a book, I decided I had to read it. I then discovered that, as aforementioned, it's book three of four and being borderline OCD, I had to read book one (The Black Dahlia) first.

Eventually, last year, I bought The Black Dahlia and then, round about the beginning(ish) of this year, my reading pile finally decreased to the point where I was able to read it. Instantly impressed and engrossed by Ellroy's writing, I went out and bought The Big Nowhere and L.A. Confidential. Last week, I finally finished the book I'd been building up to for so long.

Now. Enough context. Time for some substance.

To set the scene, it's Christmas 1951 in Los Angeles. Three LAPD officers are about to be set on an inevitable collision course that will shatter their lives apart - ambitious ladder-climber Sergeant Edmund Exley, brute force thug Officer Wendell "Bud" White and flash celebrity narcotics hound Sergeant Jack Vincennes. They're all caught up in Bloody Christmas, a scandal that gives the LAPD a black eye, only this is merely the start of spiral downwards for the three officers. From the ashes of Bloody Christmas comes the Nite Owl Massacre, a heinous crime that brings the three into conflict, then eventually a bizarre partnership as they peel back the layers of deception the crime is veiled in, threatening their careers and their lives in the process.

Ellroy's novels are incredibly compelling. I'm used to crime thrillers that focus on the crime, the evidence, the nail-biting cat-and-mouse game between criminals and the cops. But with Ellroy...well. His novels are pretty much a journey into the heart of darkness that resides inside these cops - usually all inevitably crooked or corruptible in some way. And these journeys, they're frakking intense. I'll admit, L.A. Confidential wasn't as intense as The Big Nowhere (that was some dark stuff right there, but no less brilliant and awesome a novel), but nonetheless, it was a compelling read, but also for the similarities to the movie. It was brilliant to see how all the actors in the movie perfectly suited the characters in the book and even more gleeful when I found lines of dialogue that I recognised from the movie. A lot of the time it was in an entirely different context, spoken by an entirely different character, but I still had a little smile and a little "Hey, I remember that".

In reference to the movie and the similarities, I think one of the most intriguing things I found in reading L.A. Confidential is how the screenwriters managed to take the source material - the third in a quadrilogy - and make a stand-alone movie from it, but still make it recognisable enough that (I imagine) fans of the book wouldn't be tearing their hair and screaming "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU PLAYING AT?" Okay, so in fairness I did the whole thing a bit backwards, movie then book, much like I did with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, but I have very good reasons for that. Digression aside, I'm still impressed by the job the screenwriters did. Ellroy's book is a beautifully twisted tale and while the screenwriters couldn't fit everything in, they did a fine job of get the bare bones across, with the actors filling in the rest and making a brilliant film noir-esque journey into the corrupt heart of the 1950s Los Angeles Police Department.

So there you have it. Fans of the film, read the book. It's so much grittier and darker and sheds so much more light (ironically) on the motivations of the characters. Fans of the book, if you haven't seen it, fear not the film. It does well.

Until next reading pile grows ever larger, with the entire volumes one to five of the Song of Ice and Fire series due on Wednesday. I'll have plenty of books to keep writing about.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Life is Pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something

Life is pain, but not the in the context our dear Westley meant. No, today, as I forgo the words of Joss Whedon for the words of The Princess Bride, I'm not talking about heartbreak...oh wait, yes I am. But not heartbreak and pain as Westley understood it. No, for today I talk about something that has been tormenting my soul for the last couple of weeks.

San Diego ComicCon 2012.

It's a simple dream, held by many a geek the world over. One day to have the money to attend San Diego ComicCon. To those geeks who are going, who have the money and resources, I salute you in my near Hulk-like greenness of envy. If there was ever a year to go to San Diego ComicCon, it would appear to be 2012.

Perhaps this is mostly because I've become far more clued into the happenings of the geek community since starting up this blog in January. You see, before then, I didn't use Twitter except for a dark time in my third year known as "Professional Writing" and didn't follow as many fan pages on Facebook. But thanks to this blog and a certain school friend and Caerdydd-based "Landshark", I am, as aforementioned, far more clued in.

And it's torturing me.

Let's start with Quantum Mechanix. These beautiful, wonderful people have been the light of my growing geek collectibles collection and bane of my bank account since July 2011, when I obtained the River Tam Big Damn Heroes maquette and my beloved Browncoats t-shirt. As is to be excepted of geeks of their talents, artistry and prominence, they have a booth at San Diego ComicCon, (hereafter abbreviated SDCC, because while I'm OCD enough to keep saying San Diego ComicCon, it'll probably be easier on your eyes if I say SDCC). At this booth...oh lords, oh lords, the goodies! Pictures are abounding Facebook and Twitter. The key source of torment? These. Dogtags. Firefly dogtags. Oh, they say it's just prototypes, the Futurama Fry meme goes - "SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!" Come on, QMx, you know you have it. I might as well just set up a direct debit, you take monthly instalments and just send me your awesome stuff. Please? Pretty please?

Then there's the panels. Doctor Who. I know I'm British, I know I only live an hour's train ride from Cardiff (and have friends there too!), but you know, I've never seen much of Doctor Who outside of the episodes on TV. Oh and once, Sylvester McCoy (the Seventh Doctor), regularly visited my workplace while performing at Bath's Theatre Royal. So I've been in the presence of the Seventh Doctor, but that's it. And let's face it, he does not have a companion as drop dead gorgeous as Karen Gillan. So maybe I would want to see the Doctor Who panel just for her.

But then there's an Iron Man 3 panel! Tantalising promises of panels from industry professionals! As a writer, that last part intrigues me most - don't get me wrong, an Iron Man 3 panel with the likelihood of Robert Downey, Jr popping in for a quick stage-stealing appearance? Hell yes! aforementioned, I'm a writer. It's twenty to three in the morning here. I'm babbling about the heartbreak of not being able to attend SDCC 2012. One day, my wish is be on one of those SDCC panels. So I best get writing.

And it's not just panels either. I mentioned Quantum Mechanix and their goodies. A while ago, back in April, I stumbled upon a link someone had posted on Thief's wall. It was about ALL COLOUR versions of Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim series. Guess what's going to be at SDCC 2012.

However, I'm not quite finished here. Oh no. For you see, I've saved the real kicker, the real heartbreaker of not being able to go to San Diego ComicCon 2012 until last.

The 10th Anniversary Reunion of Firefly.

This article, where I'm getting a lot of my heart-wrenching info on what's happening at SDCC, reckons there won't be a dry eye in the house when those guys get back up on stage together. I agree. I don't know if my eyes would be dry. Throats are probably going to be raw screaming approval. Women swooning over Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk. Men swooning over Jewel Staite and Morena Baccarin. The sheer awesomeness of the momentous occasion.

I cannot adequately express how much I could be there. Even if I was crammed in, way at the back of the room, struggling to see, I wish I could be there. There's only one thing in the world I wish for more and believe me, between Firefly reunion and that unspecified thing, it's one frakkin' tough call!

However, although I'm going to miss out on a lot of these awesome things, I'm determined not to entirely languish in self-pity. I may not be attending SDCC for a long, long time due to not having near enough money to fly out to California, I'm going to have my own little geek-fest I think. I can't pretend it'll be anywhere near as epic or awesome as San Diego ComicCon, but if the best I can do is curl up with my favourite geeky movies this weekend to try and numb the pain, then by the gods it's what I'll do.

For those lucky enough to be attending, once again, I salute and envy you. San Diego ComicCon 2012 is yours. Bring back some great stories, kids. You owe us that much!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Sitting Under the Shade of the Tree: Embassytown

I've been a lot more active with my literary segment lately and I'm pretty determined to keep up with it. So despite the fact that I finished this book last week, I think it's time I shared my thoughts on my latest read. Today, it's another helping of China Miéville (as seen here), but this time one of his more recent works - the 2011 novel Embassytown.

I mentioned in my thoughts and feelings on Perdido Street Station that I couldn't remember on what whim I purchased that book. With Embassytown, I have very distinct recollections. I was having a book spree. It was marked with a 25% off sticker. I'd enjoyed The City & The City so much that I thought "what the heck" and indulged. I like these whims, even if my bank account doesn't.

So, anyway, to the point. Embassytown.

I feel, somewhat naturally, that I have to draw from what I blogged about Perdido Street Station in relation to Embassytown. See, China Miéville is an intriguing and fascinating writer. He is credited as part of the "New Weird" literary movement and I heartily agree. This is good. Weird is very, very good, as well as being a typographically pleasant word to look at. In Perdido Street Station, we were treated to the weirdness of New Crobuzon, the almost organic feeling of this insane city and its mixture of races. Miéville achieved this through what I would regard as his trademark use of language, his wordsmith mastery twisting the English language to suit his needs.

In Embassytown, he not only twists the English language in weird ways to achieve his goals, but puts the concept of language at the heart of the book - the weird and wonderful character unto itself, much as New Crobuzon was virtually a character of its own in Perdido Street Station.

So, a brief summary - Embassytown follows the trials and tribulations of Avice Benner Cho, a native of the eponymous Embassytown on the planet Arieka. She's a rarity among Embassytowners - she's an immerser, someone who travels on the immer, which appears to be a sort of hyperspace, an organic sea connecting regions of space together. Avice is human, but humans are not native to Arieka - the native aliens are reverently referred to as "the Hosts", a race of aliens who cannot lie. Now I could attempt here to describe how their language (or, as it is written in Embassytown, Language - the capital L is very important here), but my words...I know they'd fail to do Miéville's words justice. Suffice it to say, communication with the Hosts can only be handled by specially trained Ambassadors - essentially two cloned individuals whose minds are linked together, but it's far, far more complicated than that. Read the book and you shall discover this.

Anyway. Avice. Not only is she an immerser, but she's a simile. The Hosts, their Language so intriguing and intricate, actually seem to require humans to perform certain strange actions so they can use them as similes in Language. It carries with it a certain celebrity, which is how Avice, not only a rarity as an immerser, becomes so embroiled in the chaos that Miéville kicks off with the introduction of the mysterious and unprecedented Ambassador EzRa. And we see all of this through her eyes, her thoughts and interpretations.

When all is said and done, Embassytown is another triumph of the weird and wonderful. Miéville beautifully weaves together an intricate narrative, sucking you into yet another strange world he's created. So far, Embassytown is only my third helping of China Miéville's writing and I can't wait to read more. Next up I think is The Scar, book two of the Bas-Lag Trilogy. I'm looking forward to seeing what else the world of Bas-Lag has to offer.

Until then, dear readers, go forth, buy, read and enjoy Embassytown. It's weird in the best of ways.