Archive for the ‘Art and Literature’ Category

Calling those in Manc-land

October 1, 2007

You should be here:

Visit Manchester Comix Collective

The Manchester Comix Collective, set up by the excellent Mr Adam Cadwell. It is going to be fun. There are some great artists and writers here, so check them out.

(I’m all inspired now.)


On Cons and Drive

August 18, 2007

Okay, so AmeCon. What a strange, strange weekend that is. I think the combination of lack of Anime Society, and lack of hitting the clubs with the lovely Ben has lead a bit of a lack of something in my life.

Mainly these things:

1) Getting excited about silly Japanese cartoons and comics.

2) Dressing up in frankly ridiculous outfits and mucking about without caring what you look like.

Amecon provides these things in abundance. It’s odd, for a long weekend Leicester Uni campus becomes detached from the rest of reality as a whole and is descended upon by a thousand-odd very excited geeks. And, well, it’s great. Utterly surreal and very very silly, but a lot of fun. And it gives you an excuse to BUILD THINGS which I’ve been missing right from A Level art.

(Though for the record, there were a frankly ridiculous amount of Squaresoft related cosplayers. Lots of FF and Advent Children and LOTS of Kingdom Hearts stuff going around. Okay, some of which was really nicely done. Though it’s kinda a shame there was nobody doing any Final Fantasy before 7.)

Amecon is also a good thing because it’s an excuse to meet up with some of the cool arty people I know from around the country and in my case revel in the Japanese style of stuff without having to worry about not being cool or original enough. Cause, yeah, I wanna broaden my stuff, but sometimes… well, it takes the fun out a bit to worry over everything, and here in Manc I’m surrounding by some VERY good comic artists who are mostly much more western in style, and I know it’s stupid but sometimes that gets really intimidating. (Granted, Abby, Dave, Tunney and Caddy are all older than me, more experienced and so on but still.) Like Caddy asked what I was drawing at Comics Night this week and I kinda wanted the floor to swallow me up cause man, I’m not cool enough. Most of the time since I’ve gotten here I’ve been too shy to show my sketch book any more, and it’s crept into my online stuff as well, only a few people end up seeing what I’m drawing lately.

At places like Amecon (or generally any time I hang with Hel and Scott of Makenai Team) there’s just less pressure, I’m not drawing in a style of a branch of comics half the people in the room think are crap and even if I’m maybe not pushing myself, I can draw whatever the hell I feel like and revel in that. I can draw stuff purely because it’s fun, and because it makes people happy. I can just draw to enjoy it.

(And there’s something amusing (if slightly scary) about some random girl giving you a strangle hug because you happen to be sketching a character she really likes.)

And, y’know what? In terms of making me feel good about drawing again, something which has been really lacking the last few months, It WORKS. Okay, so I don’t have the time because I’m in the middle of the dissertation stuff, but when I got back from the con I was more pumped to do creative stuff than I have been in a long while. And that’s a big thing. It’s all well and good demanding to myself that I need to get better, but it’s next to impossible to do that unless you’re actually ENJOYING what you’re doing.

So, from here on in, I’m gonna find that again. I’m going to get back into art, I’m going to try and draw the best stuff I can do but I am going to have FUN doing it.

Personal stuff aside, other things about the con in brief:

-To the crew staying at the Stoneycroft, you’re all awesome. It was a pleasure meeting you. To Matt, Rob and Lynn in particular, you guys rule and you BETTER stay in touch even though I’m no longer running HAI.

-To Hel and Scott, you two are still utter dudes, your animation was great and it is always a total pleasure hanging out with you.

-To Chloe, it was REALLY cool meeting you face to face. I totally meant what I said about you visiting, it’d be great to see you again, and I can’t wait to see your comic in print.

-I suck at Mario Kart but really need a copy now.

-I need Taiko DS even more however because GOD DAMN that is an awesome game.

-People who are good at ParaPara Paradise show up us people who such at it even more than the pros at DDR. Seriously, you people are scary. But look awesome.

-Whoever it was in the Dizzy cosplay… You are very very brave and you totally pulled it off. Nice one.

-The dealers room was all right, I was saved from spending too much due to not being into Bleach or Naruto or particularly wanting Death Note merch. I did however find a Kino’s Journey art book which made me very very happy. It is so very lovely.


-The DS is a great thing at cons. Partly because of multiplayer download games but mostly because of Pictochat making the wait for late starting events so much more entertaining.

-One day I will actually go to a SHOWING at an anime con. Maybe. Not this year though.

-Turns out it’s on next year, and I can’t wait. :)

In non con things, I’ve hit the half way mark on the first draft on my dissertation a couple of days ago, which is cool. I’m aiming to get another 1000 words done today (already done 1000) which takes me up to 12,000, with 8000 to go. Didn’t get so much done the couple of days before as I’ve been really tired and out of it. Working on that though, and am going to be more disciplined from now on.

Also in less than a month, not only will this essay crap be gone, but I will be GOING TO LA. Which is going to rock. Right now the ‘Oh god deadline’ is slightly dampening the excitement, but once this thing has gone to the binders, glee spazzing will commence. Because I am going to see my good buddy C from over at Dreaming in Red and that is going to ROCK. So there.

Anyhow, I should crack on with things because this has been a REALLY long post. (Geeze, it’s over 1000 words. God damn I’m verbose sometimes.)

I know this is early

July 31, 2007

And there is too little information to really draw any conclusions, but…

Please don’t let this suck please don’t let this suck please don’t let this suck.

Review: ‘Don’t Cry for Me, Aberystwyth’ by Malcolm Pryce

July 29, 2007

Okay, while I freely admit that going into book shops often makes me act like a kid in a candy store, oddly there are only a few book series I actively follow. One of these is Malcolm Pryce’s ‘Louie Knight’ series, though I tend to end up referring to it as the Aberystwyth series.

For those of you not familiar, the series (which begins with ‘Aberystwyth Mon Amour’, followed by ‘Last Tango in Aberystwyth’ and ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being in Aberystwyth’) is a pastiche of hard-boiled noir crime fiction set in the quaint little welsh seaside town in the titles. And it is great.

This one sees Louie and and his partner Calamity caught up investigating the murder of Santa Claus, or at least a man who’s job was to pose as him. As it turns out, the stiff left a message in his last moments, writing the name ‘Hoffmann’ in his own blood. Louie is left to find out not only who is this Hoffmann, but why is everyone looking for him, why are people willing to kill in order to find him, and just what is his connection to canine film superstar Clip and a dark secret from the welsh war in Patagonia?

In the first three books, it seemed the series was getting progressively more surreal and silly, and I wasn’t sure where on earth book four would end up. As it turns out, Don’t Cry For Me is rather more down to earth than the previous two outings and draws on the cold war thriller in its themes and plot. (Yes, after describing it up there I know that may sound unlikely.) As always, there is a lot of humour to the book, but a lot of it is decidedly dark, and while it has been a while since I read the previous three books, Louie’s musings seem much darker and more bitter than before, the world weary side to the detective and his disillusionment with the seedy underbelly Aberystwyth and mankind in general showing itself much more.

None the less, like I said, it is still very funny, and there is plenty of the absurdity and sharp parody that made me love the other books in the series. The plot is fantastically convoluted, fitting perfectly with the espionage side of the pastiche, and Louie’s dismissal of the new dark and dangerous would he gets caught up in is very entertaining.

All in all… well, it’s a strange book, swinging between fun and absurd to often poetic bitter reflections on human nature… but for me, it just kinda works. I’m not sure if it is the best in the series, and coming after the craziness of Last Tango and The Unbearable Lightness this one is much, MUCH more subdued. But it is nicely written, and does a good job spoofing the noir and cold war thriller genres while still actually managing to create a believable gritty hard boiled town out of Aberystwyth, despite the pure silliness that runs through the concept. Don’t Cry for Me Aberystwyth is a solid, entertaining novel, though for this series I wouldn’t expect anything less.

To the people in control of these things:

July 25, 2007

There really really should be a Skullduggery Pleasant cartoon. Failing that, more books of it. Because daft kids fiction featuring scarf-wearing wisecracking wizard detective skeletons is just so much FUN.

(Were it not for the fact I am rubbish at drawing skulls and need to dig up some references, I would be including fanart with this post. Skullduggery is just a fantastic character.)

And yes, I’ve been reading this instead of Harry Potter. I need to get around to reading the other books before I’m touching the ending, I’ve only read the first one. Zipped through Skullduggery Pleasant, most of it in a day, and now I’m on ‘Don’t cry for me Aberystwyth’, the new Louie Knight mystery from Malcolm Pryce. I’ve always liked that series, there’s just something very appealing about a pastiche of hardboiled noir crime fiction set in a quaint little welsh seaside town. This one is throwing some cold war thriller into the mix as well. Fun stuff.

Anyone else reading anything interesting other than Potter?

Ack, sorry

April 10, 2007

Dropped off again.

Things have been pretty busy and I keep forgetting to post on here. The fact that my apostrophe key falls off every other time I use it has made me less enthusiastic about typing a lot. However I’m currently strongly debating buying a lovely new computer which will solve that problem.

Been reading quite a few things lately. My current thing is Two For The Money by Janet Evanovitch. Her Stephanie Plum books have become a guilty pleasure for me and my good buddy Mike, basically chicklit comedy noir about bountyhunters. Stephanie is a great character, just the right balance of rubbish enough to be funny, sympathetic and not all RAAAA GIRL POWER, and yet cool enough to not be patronising too. I’m not going to say they’re high lit, but they’re nice to read, quite engaging and very funny. In particular the dynamic between Stephanie and Joe Morelli is really fun to read, the two of them crossing swords and swinging between friendly rivalry, total hate, romantic tension, and trading tasty info for junk food just amuses me. (And it’s nice that Stephanie isn’t the only one gaga for her mom’s cooking. That Morrelli is just as terrible about Mrs Plum’s spice cake is a lovely touch). If you fancy something light, fun and funny, you can find the first novel in the series, One for the Money, here.

Anyway, essay season is kicking in, so expect me to drop off the face of the internet a little bit. Speaking of which, I should be doing some work.

The Meaning Of Night: A Confession

February 21, 2007

The Meaning of Night

So, this week’s book for my Book Club class is the massive 600 page hard back tome that is Michael Cox’s first novel, The Meaning of Night. This thing was 15 years in the making… and in my opinion, they were 15 years well spent. Cox’ novel is intricate, detailed, and exquisitely researched, and if probably the best thing I’ve read for this module so far. Okay, it coming along at the same time as me redeveloping an interest in steampunk, victoriana and historical stuff probably helps that, but the novel has more than enough goodness to carry it’s own weight.

The Meaning of Night is a dark tale of betrayal and revenge set in Victorian England, centring upon the life of the narrator, Edward, his discovery of his own secret past and most importantly, the way in which is fate intertwines with the poet and criminal, Phoebus Daunt. The is a heavy sense of fate to the novel, as the two men seem almost destined to be enemies. At early points in the novel Edward’s language seems to veer dangerously close to the melodramatic, and there is a feeling he may be over reacting just a bit about the wrongs Phoebus has committed… However, as the novel progresses, and the depths of betrayal in the novel are exposed, Edward’s theatrical bitterness is completely understandable. The final point of betrayal, while perhaps predictable, is heart wrenching none the less.

The narrator is a well balanced and interesting character, freely admitting his good sides and his bad. Considering that the novel opens with him murdering an innocent man just to see if he can, he has a bit of catching up to do in endearing himself to the reader, but Cox managed to pull this off, pulling the reader into the despair and frustration Edward suffers, as well as his hopes, across the course of his narrative.

If I’m going to be negative at all, I’d say that it’s not the greatest thing I’ve ever read, there are things that appeal to me more, but that is I think just a personal taste thing, because I struggle to think of anything actually BAD about this novel. Granted, my love of Lemony Snicket, which is often a pastiche of this style, made the some parts of the novel a little odd to read but that is just a minor quibble. Cox paints a beautiful dark portrait of Victorian England, with a stunning amount of detail and a very convincing voice. The story has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing and enough dramatic irony to make some of the darker moments all the worse. Edward is an interesting and sympathetic narrator, and his darkness is shown not just the be that of someone a bit morally challenged (as interesting as those characters can be) but of an honest, intelligent man having no other ways to react against his misfortune.

So, in short, Michael Cox’s ‘The Meaning of Night: A Confession’ is a compelling tragedy that is superbly detailed, elegantly written and very, very readable.

And I can’t wait to see what he does next.

The Island

February 7, 2007

Sadly I don’t mean the slightly naff but very fun film of clones and Ewan McGregor being crap and in peril (a genre I have an irrational like for) but the Richard and Judy advocated Victoria Hislop novel.

Which instead of being about medical clones, is about family history, and leprosy.

Yeah. Cheerful.

Now, I’m not someone who can’t hack unhappy stories and situations. 1984 is one of my favorite novels ever. But the problem I had with the Island and kept coming back to it… why the hell combine CHICK LIT AND LEPROSY? The novel had some very interesting parts to it, but then would spoil itself with fluffy love story stuff that you could TELL was only being done in order for something more terrible to happen and make you feel sorry for these characters. It’s not so much tugging the heartstrings at attaching them to a truck and trying to drive away, while screaming ‘LOOK BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE IT IS SAD LOOK LOOK’ at you down a megaphone with a big :( painted on the side.

Okay, it’s not REALLY that bad but I had to stay up till 4am getting it finished for class today, so I’m allowed to be a little melodramatic. (And it’s not as if I’m any nicer to my characters. Just hopefully I’m less fluffy about it.) Just in this book you almost get the sense of ‘if nice, get leprosy’ or generally get screwed over, and it’s hard to get the sympathy or hope for the characters because you know something is going to happen to knock them right back down. It’s almost infuriating with the crushingly NICE Maria, who really must have pissed someone off in a former life because, Christ, things are cruel to her. Though anyone would feel sorry for her when you combine the girl to her sister Anna, who made me want to slap her more than most literary characters are able to.

Oh, also, she wants you to know Lepers are people too and lots of people are needlessly bigoted and it doesn’t spread as much as people think. This is very true, and well worth saying but there’s only so many times it needs to come up. Not in a sense of the plot using it, that’s fine and dandy. I mean in the sense of the characters repeating it at each other continually. WE GET THE IDEA. It’s incredibly patronising. Even if we take into account this is ‘beach reading’, even less astute readers are going to get the moral without having it drilled in so much.

Whining aside, there’s some interesting stuff to the book, and some moments that did really grab me and engage me. it’s good to actually look at the subject, but the way it was handled, for a lot of the novel, just wasn’t really for me. ‘At last: A beach novel with a heart!’ the cover quote says. And that is what this is. It’ll make you sad, but not too much. It’ll make you happy, but not too much. It’ll make you think, but not too much. And so I think the thing I found most frustrating is that while it had the seeds of something quite good, it had the potential to be just that much more.