Category Archives: Personal

Into The Dark – Birmingham Horror Con 2017

Hello!

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So, on the 4th of February this year I ventured to a UK city I’ve never been to before, Birmingham! Specifically, the massive Edgbaston Cricket Ground, the venue for the 2017 Birmingham Horror Convention. I’ve already posted some pictures of the trip (including the joy of finding a Primark in Birmingham!) on Twitter and Instagram, but the con itself was wonderful.

As always with these things, I had a few ambitions for the event: things to buy, people to meet etc. There were actually three of my fanboy crushes in attendance: those Divas of Dread, the immensely talented CL Raven had one of the traders’ tables, and although I’ve met them previously at Sheffield Horror Con in 2016, it’s always a pleasure to catch up with them and of course, always a bonus to get my hands on more of their books and merchandise. This time around I bought some badges (I love badges!), a copy of their short story anthology Romance Is Dead (which they very kindly signed), and a print and keyring of the cover of their novel The Malignant Dead. I’m reading The Malignant Dead at the moment, and I can thoroughly recommend it as one of the best, most unsettling Horror novels I’ve ever read.

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My other fanboy crush was none other than the beautiful and charming Caroline Munro, a genre legend who’s appeared in a lot of my favourite movies: The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, The Spy Who Loved Me, Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter and of course my ALL TIME FAVOURITE MOVIE OF ALL TIME, the gaudy and insane genius of Starcrash, an incredible Italian Star Wars style epic in which Caroline plays Stella Star, the best pilot in the galaxy.

I’ll be honest, I could write blog post after blog post about how much I love this movie, but I should probably keep on-topic here (or at least try). When I met her, Caroline couldn’t have been any more gracious and charming to my swooning fanboy self, and I’ll treasure the moment where she asked me to whom she should sign an autographed photo. I told her, and she clarified the spelling by saying (in that voice!), so … “Babe, but with a J?” and to be honest I’m bloody signing EVERYTHING like that now!

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One unexpected reunion of sorts was with the exhibition of snakes and spiders that I first encountered at Sheffield Horror Con, and the photo here is of me making a new friend called Texas. Rather sadly, I learned that Willow, one of the beautiful snakes I enjoyed meeting last year, had passed away recently, and I was glad I got the opportunity to meet her.

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As always, there were lots of exciting things to see at the con, including this amazing scene in which one could share a sofa covered in human flesh with the likes of Chucky, Freddy, Jason, and Billy The Puppet, as well as some lovely SFX and makeup demonstrations.

I bought lots, of course, but some of my favourite Geeky booty was my Alien T-Shirt (I’m part of the Nostromo crew now!), my Hydra wallet (hoping that for every banknote I spend, two more shall take its place!) and my not-even-unwrapped yet Necronomicon Journal (Groovy!).

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There was some fabulous cosplay on display, and of course I couldn’t resist a selfie or several.

These last three photos are probably my favourites, the first because the trio of cosplayers were so nice and also their costumes were great, much more intricate than the photo shows. The second is with Tina the Polefit Vampire. Long story short, I had no idea she was going to bite me, and the world isn’t ready for my expression of shock and surprise. And the final photo … it’s a female Jason Voorhees … what’s not to love?

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Anyway, if you made it this far, thanks for reading! Here’s to the next con 🙂

 

 

 


Marvel Universe Live – A Review

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My review of Marvel Universe Live?

F**king Awesome!

There you go.

What … not enough?

Okay, but where in the name of Margaret Elizabeth Carter do I start with how amazing this show is?

First off, a quick word about the venue in which I watched the performance, the Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield. I’ve been there before, for the wonderful Yorkshire Cosplay Convention last year (you can read about that / see my geeky derp face here) but this was my first visit to see a show. The place is MASSIVE, and even before the show started, it was brilliant to see the hundreds of children in the various costumes of their heroes, making me feel like the future is in good hands with these young geeks (Geeklings? We should make that a thing!).

Btw, some of these photos are mine, obviously (a lot of them have already appeared on Twitter and Instagram, and if you’re ever in those online neighbourhoods, please feel free to have a look around and say hi!) but I have enhanced this post with some images culled from the net, simply to illustrate how awesome the design of the show is. You’ll be able to tell the difference. The net ones are the nice and focussed images, whereas mine were all taken with the shaking hands of THE MOST EXCITED GEEK IN THE WORLD!!!

Seriously, the kid in the Iron Man costume behind me was a bit of a … well, let’s just call him a handful (although to be fair I really do think that maybe he was a little young to sit through a two-hour show) and he did seem to have a weird fascination with kicking the back of my seat, but, such was my excitement that I spent most of the time on the edge of said seat anyway, so ultimately this Iron Toddler and myself got along fine.

The only other interaction I had with a costumed geekling was when one of them was guided along the row of seats by his mother, who smilingly explained to me that “Hulk has a weak bladder” to which I replied “Well, I’m not gonna argue with him.” I’m forever grateful that my portcullis of good taste slammed down upon my initial instinct to shout “HULK SLASH!”

I didn’t cosplay, of course, but I did choose my clothes appropriately (including my Cap beanie and Civil PHWOAR shorts haha!)

Anyway, the show began, and I got my first glimpse of the spectacular (and really rather clever) way in which the story’s superheroics could be presented in a theatrical environment. I’m not a HUGE fan of seeing live shows, and some of you more experienced theatre goers might justifiably laugh at my caveman-like awe of what to many might be old-school stage tricks. But still, here was the mighty Thor himself, crashing to the ground in a vortex of light and smoke, holding aloft the Cosmic Cube itself, the Tesseract!

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A quick note here. The show obviously touches on aspects of Marvel lore (and with admirable diversity in some places) and so any review is going to reflect that. There are degrees of interest in the Marvel concepts (from zero to my own level, and beyond) but the rise of the superhero genre in popular culture means that a lot of folks can maybe pick Hawkeye out of a line-up but don’t necessarily know that J.A.R.V.I.S (the Artificial Intelligence in the movies, voiced by Paul Bettany) amusingly stands for Just A Rather Very Intelligent System, so I’m going to presume that MOST people reading this know SOMETHING of the Marvel Universe, and take no prisoners in explaining EVERY LAST FANBOY NOD that the show contained.

So, essentially, the Tesseract is a power source that could be used to do evil, and so Thor smashes it into segments that are scattered far and wide. His evil brother Loki (or his spawn of a Frost Giant adopted half-brother, but let’s not go there) seeks to reassemble the segments for his own wicked plans and the heroes band together to stop him. That’s the thrust of the story, really. The Avengers (plus Spiderman, X-Men members Wolverine, Storm and Cyclops, and in a lovely piece of marketing foreshadowing the recently announced movie, Captain Marvel) track down the segmented pieces and must retrieve them from the hands of various Marvel Supervillains (and btw, that’s what I meant about the diversity of the franchise concepts used here – the villains included Black Cat, yet to be shown in mainstream Marvel movie, and A.I.M, basically another evil version of SHIELD that’s been usurped as the big bad in the MCU by Hydra)

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All of the missions to retrieve the segments were spectacularly staged, realised through a mix of lasers and lighting and projection, plus the many “sets” that were wheeled unobtrusively into the arena to signify new locations. One weird thing was to see some characters on motorbikes (the Falcon and Red Skull) but yes, the Falcon DOES fly very convincingly (as do several other heroes and villains) and the bikes kept the action moving along at a wonderfully brisk pace.

And at one point, Captain America pulls a motorbike stunt that Will. Take. Your. Breath. Away!

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The effects throughout were mostly amazing. My favourites were Nick Fury and Maria Hill in a jeep that rolled over in a ball of flame, and the moment where Cap slung his shield from one side of the arena to the other (a very clever piece of two-shield trickery). One lovely little moment came when Loki was trying to use his mind-control powers on the assembled heroes. Fans of the movies will know that Loki has a trait of projecting multiple images of himself, and rather wonderfully, the heroes being hypnotised in the arena show suddenly had an actor in an identical Loki costume standing in the shadows at their side.

For me, only two effects didn’t work, and to be fair, they’re probably two of the most difficult to replicate in a live show. One of them was the repulsor rays from Iron Man’s gauntlets and the other was Bruce Banner’s transformation into the Hulk. The rays were projected onto the floor in front of the actor and the Hulk … well, if any UK readers are familiar with Mr Blobby, there IS an element of that character’s rubbery awkwardness in the costume. That said, these visualisations only suffered in comparison to how brilliant everything else was, and as stated, are two of the hardest parts of the Marvel Universe to recreate without CGI.

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Overall, this is a great show to see, whether you’re a geek or not. There are some great jokes in there too (listen out for Loki’s description of the audience as “a herd of human cattle, stinking of polyester and nachos”). And for what it’s worth … I can thoroughly recommend the candyfloss and accompanying Iron Man mask!

 

If you made it this far, thanks for reading!

 


Thank you, and Bacon.

Hello, and a very splendid 2017 to you!

So … a little before Christmas I received a wonderful early gift, and I wanted to post something here to both showcase the geeky awesomeness of the gift and also to say a thank you to the epic individual that gave it to me. An extra-special thank you, frankly, full of hugs and bacon and gratitude that such a thoughtful person exists. More of her later.

So, anyway, I get home from work and there’s one of those cards through the door, one of those We tried to deliver this parcel but … type things, with some scrawled advice on it that the parcel in question had been left with a neighbour. So, I headed a few doors down to my neighbour’s house to collect the item that she’d kindly taken in.

Well … not one item, but three.

A box marked FRAGILE, a giant cardboard envelope and one of those cardboard tubes for sending blueprints and what-have-you through the post. Exciting, but not as exciting as the contents!!!

In the box marked FRAGILE, cushioned by an enticing shroud of bubble wrap, there was this AWESOME R2-D2 mug!

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To be honest, that was spectacular enough, but in the giant envelope and cardboard tube … delights of which I could never have dreamed …

This folder contained, not my latest mission from SHIELD (Coulson normally texts) but these AMAZING posters from Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe!

More posters, this time from Guardians of the Galaxy! They’re all full of such elegant beauty that I couldn’t choose a favourite, but I might start answering all future questions with “I am Jabe.”

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Age of Ultron! These are incredible, and I’m already hunting down suitable frames in which to hang them!

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Now, it’s all brilliant, but the poster above and the next few are particular favourites, for two reasons. Firstly, and you can’t really get a sense of scale from the art cards at each corner, but the posters are MASSIVE! They’re also sort of semi-transparent, with the image reversed on the other side, which I think is because they’re those cool posters that are lit from behind outside cinemas?

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The other reason I love these posters is because the design is a throwback to that kind of old-school artwork that had elements of the film exploding from the centre of the image, as opposed to the minimalist and oh-so-stylish but dull posters that sometimes adorn cinema releases.

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As you can imagine, my little geek heart was soaring, and my smile was wide enough that I worried the top of my skull might topple off, but … it was more, so much more, than the geekery itself that if I’m going to be honest, made me cry even more than Marley and Me.

My dear friend, the lovely @superkrispydj is one of the kindest souls one might be lucky enough to meet. I don’t know how she did it (except to presume that the likes of Stan Lee and JJ Abrams are in love with her, which is very easy to believe) but it was she who brought this cavalcade of geek booty to my door, and with it a smile to my face and a tear to my eye.

I asked if I could thank her publicly via the blog, and her first answer was to say no, because that’s how she (bacon) rolls. Kindness for kindness’ sake, not for the applause. But I applaud you, dear friend, because you’re an absolute diamond, and when we finally converge at Edinburgh Comic Con some day, I’m paying for the coffee and the bacon sandwiches.

Thank you. You’re a star.


Halloween Update

Hello!

So … a tiny little update to some exciting stuff I mentioned on Twitter a few weeks ago, plus some more recent news.

A little while ago, this became my pinned tweet:

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So this was kind of exciting for me for a few reasons. One of the contracts is for a story already written, scheduled originally for publication in an anthology on Halloween this year, but scheduling of one sort or another has pushed that back to early 2017. The theme of the anthology is top-secret but brilliant, and I can’t wait to see the other authors’ spins on such a delicious idea.

The second contract … well, this one is scary, at least to me. It’s scary because it’s for five (yes, FIVE!) stories that haven’t been written yet (though the ideas are percolating), so it’s a different (and thrilling!) type of creative pressure for me. Another reason that it’s scary is that the other authors involved are all these incredible creative powerhouses of whom I’m a little in awe, so yes, I feel like I’ll have to raise my game to earn my place in those pages beside them.

It’s maybe a little too soon to reveal the theme of the anthology *Trademarked Cheeky Geeky Northern Boy Teasing Wink* but … Just. You. Wait.

The more recent stuff I mentioned was this:

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This was really exciting, especially given the wonderfully high standard of the competition entries published on the Storgy site over the last week, in the run-up to Halloween. The story in First Place is being announced on the 31st October itself, and I can’t wait to be utterly terrified by the winning entry.

Should you wish to read my story, the link is here, but even if you give mine a miss, I really hope you read the other, excellent tales. They’re perfect Halloween reading!

Anyway, if you made it this far, thanks for reading and Happy Halloween! I’ll be spending it in a bloodstained hockey mask and wielding a machete … nothing to do with Halloween, just what I do on a Monday 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 


Nerdy As Charged – Yorkshire Cosplay Con 2016

WARNING! CLICK ON THE PICTURES TO ENLARGE! IMAGES AND TEXT MAY CONTAIN EXTREME AND BRILLIANT GEEKINESS!

 

Hello!

On the weekend of 11/12 June 2016, I travelled by train to attend the Yorkshire Cosplay Con held at the Sheffield Arena. The last Con I wrote about was the MCM Liverpool Event at the Waterfront Exhibition Centre, and that time around I used a kind of “Top Ten” of the weekend. This event was bigger, MUCH bigger, and I’d struggle to distil it to a mere ten highlights.

But here we are, and hopefully I can give a flavour of what turned out to be a fantastic weekend spent in the company of joyous, like-minded people, bonded by our appreciation of the imaginative. In uncertain times, when things change and there are days when you can almost feel the stitches of your hopes beginning to unravel, Cons are a wonderful way of refreshing your faith in tolerance and friendliness. Geek and Proud!

I was SO excited to be going to the Con, and make no apologies for taking snapshots of EVERYTHING, including my train journey. Whatever, the scenery was lovely, and the water feature directly outside Sheffield Station is pretty spectacular, too!

The Arena was only a short walk from the hotel, and once I’d collected my tickets (I waited in line behind Poison Bloody Ivy!) I was greeted with the wonderful trademark randomness that’s part and parcel of a Con. Big Hero 6 and Deadpool shooting the breeze on the upper level! Ghostbusters in the foyer! Kylo Ren advising Chewie which doors he should duck through!

Every single cosplay I saw was fantastic, and every single cosplayer I chatted with was incredibly gracious and friendly, even the ones that wanted to bite me! Special mention as well to the Time Lady I met, who charmed me in a double heartbeat by knowing the difference between the Prydonians and the Patrexes. #HowGeeksFlirt haha!

I took a break for some lunch, and I can assure that the packaging on my Rollover Hotdog DID NOT LIE! They really are the best hotdogs in the world! After that, I was planning to visit some of the stalls, but found myself distracted by the FREE video games, eventually punching the air after an unbroken hour on the Konami X-Men machine and yelling, “Yes! Still got it!” at an admirably unimpressed Dalek. And rather wonderfully, the TARDIS in my snapshot is actually a photo-booth (and no, those pictures are never seeing the light of day – what happens in the Type 40 STAYS in the Type 40).

There were some amazing displays in the Arena, many of which visitors could interact with. I loved the Marvel and DC displays, taking a moment to show my admiration for Stark Industries, though I think I MIGHT have given away my secret identity to a couple of Harley Quinn’s …

There were too many moments from the first day to choose a definite favourite, but certainly I enjoyed meeting a certain Princess (who I hope didn’t consider me too scruffy a Nerf-Herder) and one of her pursuers, and … well … I mentioned at the time on Twitter that I’d maybe just been in the best photo of my life and here it is. I SIMPLY COULD NOT resist emulating one of Leia’s finest moments. Jabba meets Jabe, though thankfully without a steel bikini in sight.

The last event of Day One was the mini-concert by J-Pop and K-Pop star Kelsey Ellison, a colourful and energised end to the first day that REALLY made me want to buy a bubble gun!

A handful of cosplayers were staying at the same hotel, so my planned early night didn’t really happen, but eventually I made it into my pyjamas, ready to rest and be fresh for Day Two …

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Day Two was all about the booty 😉

I’d already spotted LOADS of stuff that I wanted to buy (and another Rollover Hotdog was definitely on my list), and as I had “EarlyBird” tickets for the weekend, I had an hour before the bulk of the Con goers arrived to raid the stalls. My favourite purchases are probably my Punisher cufflinks, the engraved Zippo lighters, and my Peruvian style TARDIS hat. Yes, I wear a Peruvian style TARDIS hat, now. Peruvian style TARDIS hats are cool.

And they’re not purchases exactly, but … I DID win a pair of goggles in a wager with a exotically named Steampunk assassin (it’s a long story) and also I’m now the proud sponsor of a lovely little cat called Maxwell. As a “Thank You”, the Cats Protection charity was very generous with a little goodie bag and also allowed me to choose a cuddly toy to take home. Her name’s Leia now, by the way!

So, in spite of my jacket being adorned with the insignia of the Galactic Empire, I found myself unable to avoid some … Imperial entanglements. Those stormtroopers were everywhere, though somehow I don’t think that the Dalek (called Dave!) was the droid they were looking for. It was actually Dave who introduced me to Clara, for which I’m eternally grateful.

As always, randomness and creativity abounded, whether it be balloon Astro-Droids and Skarosians, or Lego Star Wars vehicles, or a singing werewolf taking to the stage (I later learned that the wolf was actually called Francine, and her delightful personality and singing voice belied her fearsome cosplay). A wizard joined the Avengers and Hulk high-fived Wally!

Meanwhile, Roger was …

Note to cosplayers: NEVER let me hold the “Free Hugs” sign. I WILL be cheeky with it.

So that was my weekend. If you made it this far, thanks for reading! And P.S … I think I know what I’m doing in January …

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Love And Loss

I thought for a few days about whether or not I’d publish this post. I knew I’d write it, because that’s sort of the point, but I didn’t know if it was destined to spend its days gathering virtual dust in a drafts folder. I’m not 100% convinced that I won’t delete it sooner rather than later, and make good use of a blog’s enviable functionality in being able to erase the painful, but for now, it stands.
Last week, I was present for the final hours of someone who meant a lot to me and who’d been in my life for a long time. It wasn’t an unexpected death, and certainly the few days leading up to it felt like a strange kind of rehearsal, full of doctors that spoke in ever softer voices of making the patient as comfortable as possible, and screens showing heart rates and respiration in green and blue peaks and troughs that made me think of a horizon of grassy mountains towering over a gentle blue sea.
I won’t go into details, because such personal disclosures aren’t in my nature and even now it doesn’t sit well with me to fully talk about their illness – even now, with their days echoed in memories and photographs and journal entries, it’s still their life, their business. The journal entries reinforce that, actually. There are pages that speak of a heartache held in check until it can be expressed alone and thus with the one person that truly understands the loss.
I’d never seen the journal until this week, and each page shows a level of bravery that I could only hope to approach. But I think that the thing I’m seeing most bleeding from those cracks between the lines is how much comfort the person behind them took from having people dear to them in their life, how fortunate they honestly felt to have been loved.
I need to remember that right now, on so many levels. That might be the sweetest gift they could leave behind, and I hope that in the days and weeks ahead, I can keep it close.


Just checking in …

We write and we write and try to make strangers (or friends) laugh or cry with ink on a page or pixels on a screen. Sometimes it doesn’t work, and the words are just shapes where they should be signposts and symbols. So we tear up the page or we press delete and there you are, a chance to start again.

If only life could be rewritten so easily.

Too often, it’s not just the words on the page that won’t come out right. Too often, in the real world they fill your mouth with the taste of burnt paper, like the cards and letters you will never cease wanting to send.

It’s easy to come up with some smart remark, some sharp-edged slice of wit and, yes, they make the point, but I’ve used those words often enough to learn that they’re tools for breaking, not mending. I’m trying to leave those tools behind me, a glint in the rear-view mirror, choking on my dust.

Maybe those old pages can’t be written anew, but perhaps, with care, the plot can still be shaped. Perhaps the right words can remind someone that they’re more than a supporting character in the story, remind them that they are a living, breathing example of everything inspiring about being human, and perhaps most importantly, remind them that you owe them an eternal debt for being part of your story, and allowing you to be part of theirs.

Treasure the connection, and fight for it. Be glad you let them in, and keep them there.