30 April 2010

Z is for ... (gad)Zooks!

Looking pretty damn awesome.
I was just about to write a post entitled 'Z is for ... Ze Ende!' (apologies to Alex for stealing the idea, my clairvoyance kicks in at inappropriate times, hehe) but THEN I was linked to the awesome picture that you see on your left. And I exclaimed (gad)Zooks!

This is Chris Hemsworth (Star Trek XI) in full costome for the new Thor movie, directed by Kenneth Brannagh.

Thor is one of my favourite Marvel characters (likely because he's the closest link to fantasy, what with being a Norse legendary character and whatnot) and so I was a little nervous when I first heard about it going into production. Watching Iron Man did restore my faith in comic book movies, and this promo shot is slowly getting me into a fervour of excitement about this movie. He definitely looks the part, so let's hope he's up to the challenge! Even if it's not that great, we'll still have Natalie Portman to back it up:

Portman is as Perdy as Mjolnir is Mighty

And that folks, is Ze Ende of the A-Z blogging challenge! Thanks again to everyone who's looked at the blog and who's commented too. I promise (cross my heart) that I'll go back and comment on what I've missed so far. It's been a real pleasure doing this with you, and I hope we'll all stay in touch after this ends!

29 April 2010

Y is for ... You guys!

We're almost at the end of the A-Z blogging challenge, and I'd like to take some time to talk about the thing that's kept me going in this challenge - you guys! Your comments are awesome and keep me happy in knowing that someone actually reads this thing! Also, my apologies for my lack of commenting on your blogs, I've still got your posts on my RSS feed ready to read and comment on as soon as I can get some time to do so :D So without further ado, here's a list of some awesome people and their blogs too:

Arlee over at tossingitout - Well, as the creator of the A-Z challenge, and great blogger besides, they come up first on the list.

Alex of Alex J. Cavanaugh - Brilliant articles, news and opinions in sci-fi, and author of the upcoming novel Cassastar. Mega kudos deserved here.

Summer at andthistimeconcentrate - She has the monumental task of writing 50,000 words in 50 days,  and is doing a great job. Plus she has some awesome blogposts too.

Dezmond of Hollywood spy - Where I get most of my gossip and news from Tinseltown these days; a brilliant blog.

Thanks to you guys (and for those of you I haven't mentioned, my apologies, it was not intentional and you are still awesome. This is but a small sample of awesomeness that I have come to know during this challenge).
See you tomorrow for the  (or should I say Zee) end!

28 April 2010

X is for ... X-Men

Image: Marvel
Yes I know, it was an obvious choice, but X is a really hard letter to do, so sue me.
The X-Men need no introduction, they're one of the most famous comic book characters in the world, and likely the most successful creation of Marvel Comics.

The X-Men come strictly under the sci-fi genre (in my opinion superheroes in general should belong to their own genre, but there we go). There is no magic involved in the world of the X-Men (for the most part), a genetic mutation is responsible for the powers that the X-Men display.

Of all the X-Men characters, my favourite has to be Remy LeBeau aka Gambit. He's a favourite amongst many fans of X-Men, mainly because he's so badass. I love his power (the ability to kinetically charge any inanimate object, which means it essentially becomes a bomb) and he incorporates his power into his lifestyle. This has him throwing his iconic playing cards to deadly effect. Plus, I love the whole Cajun look and attitude of Gambit, and he's the reason why I've taken a shine to anything with Cajun spices.

The movie X-Men Origins: Wolverine didn't really to justice to Gambit. His introductory scene was just great, and really captured his character. Everything after that initial scene just didn't work. The cartoon Gambit, however, was pretty damn awesome.

Who is your favourite member of the X-Men and why? If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

27 April 2010

W is for ... Wait for it ...

The post that I will make will be entitled 'W is for Wales' and will look at some of the awesome fantasy and sci fi media that have used locations in my home nation. However, I have a 5000 word project due in tomorrow as well as a fair amount of reading to get done for a lecture (and I have to be up at 5am for work before class starts) so I am seriously pushed for time. There will be a proper W blogpost, but it'll be after 12pm tomorrow (sorry!)

In the meantime, something else beginning with W that I think is pretty amazing .... WAFFLES!! (warning: NSFW - waffle sex)

26 April 2010

V is for ... Vampires

Another post in the A-Z blogging Challenge series, hosted by tossingitout. It's the challenge with extra bite, but no sparkles (this is a good thing, take note Twilight fans).

Today's post is all about vampires. I've been fascinated with them for as long as I remember, and the fascination hasn't stopped at all. I'd read about vampires in children's books, in particular Room 13 (where a group of English school children spend time at a seaside hotel, only to discover that a vampire lives in one of the rooms). My first movie vampire experience was watching Interview with the Vampire, based on Anne Rice's novels (it was only after watching the movie again while at University that I saw the homoerotic overtones to the movie). 

What is it about vampires that so fascinates me? I love the predatory aspect of them. I'm not into the whole 'I'm immortal and I've never known love, please sex me up' aspect of vampirism. I see vampires more like lions or wolves, real predatory animals that'll kill you without mercy because you're their food. The best example of these kinds of vampires that I can see are in Blade. Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) is a viscious, bloodthirsty (literally!) predator with no concept or care for the human condition. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a vampire.
Another thing that I've found really interesting about vampires is that many many cultures throughout history have had some sort of belief in them. My current research in University is looking into the Ancient Egyptian belief in vampirism.Not the undead Slavic vampires of popular fiction, but their religious beliefs involving drinking blood (they did have them, trust me on this).

Are you a vampire fan? What would be your #1 vampire and why? (If you say Edward Cullen, I'll leave the comment up, but I won't be held responsible for the backlash that is thoroughly deserving).
 P.S. This is posting on a wing and a prayer. I'm having some serious trouble with my Internet connection at the moment i.e. the others in my house are draining it by streaming anime.

24 April 2010

U is for ... Unique

Law of Nines - still fantasy.
The U post for the A-Z blogging challenge was a damn toughie to come up with, but without any ado, here it is!
I consider the fantasy genre to be a pretty unique one. If you take a look at the other literary genres e.g. action, comedy, romance etc. you can see these elements in the fantasy genre. However, if you slip in an element of fantasy into any other genre, that genre becomes fantasy. It stands alone (I'll also include sci-fi as part of this too) as being its own steadfast genre. But what is it that makes it unique? Here's a few things that I can think of:

  • Fantasy stories usually take place in a world which is not our own. If you took any other story at all, and set it on a world that was not Earth, that story would become fantasy.
  • In fantasy, anything and everything is possible. There are no real limitations to what can be done. In a fantasy, mountains can be leveled by magic. In sci-fi, some great machine beyond our technological understanding can do it too. The lack of limits marks out these genres as unique.
  • Both fantasy and sci-fi include entities that by our own understanding should not exist e.g. dragons, elves, aliens etc. No other genre has this (in the case of horror, the inclusion of monsters and the supernatural marks it out as a fantastic story).
A good example of this is Terry Goodkind's The Law of Nines, his brief but unsuccessful foray away from fantasy (you can read about it on my earlier post).

What do you think sets fantasy and sci-fi apart from other genres in literature, movies etc?

23 April 2010

T is for ... Time Travel

This is another combination post of the A-Z blogging challenge as well as a None of My Business post. Today I'm talking about my favourite aspect of science fiction ... time travel!

My first foray into the time travel scene was when watching Terminator 2, and it first got me thinking about the concept of paradoxes. At the end of T2, Arnie destroys Skynet. This means that Skynet cannot create the machines that eventually lead to the great war. This means that no Terminator is sent back to the past, which means that no Terminator destroys Skynet. If Skynet is still around, then the war can happen, and so on and so forth in a cyclical repetition of this paradox. From then on I loved time travel.

My favourite time travel story is H.G. Wells' The Time Machine (and the 1960 movie adaptation). What I love about this in particular is that the person who is going through time doesn't actually go anywhere; it's the world that moves around them. It's an amazing story, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

I am a firm believer that time travel is highly unlikely, nigh on impossible. A person's very presence in the past/future causes so many problems that bad things are likely to occur. Then again, part of my theories on time are such that I believe that certain ghost sightings are in fact the playback of history (but I don't want to bore you with that).

Another great time travel movie that I recommend is FAQ About Time Travel. It's a British sci fi comedy where the time machine is a men's bathroom (gotta love British humour). They play out the altering of the timeline and paradoxes wonderfully. Again, highly recommended.

Do you think that time travel is possible? Where in time would you go? List some of your favourite time travel stories below.

22 April 2010

S is for ... Simon Templeman

Simon Templeman
Another post in the A-Z Blogging Challenge series. Today's entry focuses on Simon Templeman, a British voice actor who has done a lot of brilliant fantasy and science fiction video games, and has a very distinctive voice that fits in with the genre.

Some of his most famous roles in video games are Teryn Loghain from Dragon Age: Origins, Gabriel Roman from Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and Peirithous from God of War III. He has also appeared in Mass Effect 2, Knights of the Old Republic and Lord of the Rings: Conquest.

Possibly his most famous role is as the vampire Kain in the Legacy of Kain series. This is where I first heard Templeman's voice, and it was awesome. He's got quite a regal tone to his voice, one that has a subtle command of power. If you haven't heard his work then I strongly suggest you YouTube him.

Can you think of any distinct voices in the genres that you think fit perfectly? Here's a video of Templeman and the late Tony Jay (another amazing voice actor) doing outtakes for one of the Legacy of Kain games.

21 April 2010

R is for ... Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl
Today's A-Z blogging challenge post comes all the way from Norway via Wales (which is where I'm at). No, I'm not stuck in another country because of volcanic ash. Today's post is all about children's fantasy author Roald Dahl.

Dahl (1916-1990) was born in Cardiff, Wales to Norwgian parents. He is famous (at least in the UK) for writing a slew of successful children's novels, which mostly revolve around some aspect of child abuse/neglect. Dahl was criticised for employing a lot of very dark humour into his novels, which seemed inappropriate for children (obviously, these claims were made by adults). What made Dahl's work so fantastic is, as well as his humour that struck a chord with kids everywhere, his distinct element of fantasy and whimsy that enabled the children to get their own back on their abusive/neglectful guardians. Here are a few examples:

The BFG - an orphan in a boarding house with a strict guardian encounters a Big Friendly Giant who takes her back to Giant land. The Giant and the orphan save England from an invasion of nasty giants.

Matilda - a gifted child who is ridiculed and neglected by her parents and teacher soon finds that she had telekinetic powers that are fuelled by her anger at the bad treatment she has received.

James and the Giant Peach - a young boy who is ill treated by his aunts climbs inside a giant peach with talking insects, and they sail across the Atlantic from England to New York.

The Witches - a young boy uncovers a plot by a cabal of witches to rid the world of all children.

I practically grew up on Dahl's books, I loved the way that the kids always got their own back by the end of the book (or in the case of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the bad kids got their comeuppance). There have been a lot of movie adaptations of Dahl's books that all kind of downplay the darker elements of the story (The BFG is an exception, it's pretty creepy as well as awesome).

Does anyone else remember reading Roald Dahl? What's your favourite book of his?

20 April 2010

Q is for ... Quotes!

Following the A-Z blogging challenge, today's post is all about favourite quotes in fantasy, whether it be in movies, books, TV, video games - anything!

I love the Boomstick
Here's a few of my favourites:

What our ancestors would really be thinking, if they were alive today, is: "Why is it so dark in here?" -- Terry Pratchett, Pyramids

'I love you Sorsha'? I don't love her, she kicked me in the face! I hate her! Don't I? -- Madmartigan (Val Kilmer), Willow

Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the goblin city. To take back the child that you have stolen. For my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom is as great. You have no power over me. -- Sarah (Jennifer Connelly), Labyrinth

Given the choice; whether to rule a corrupt and failing empire, or to challenge the fates for another throw, a better throw against one's destiny - what was a king to do? -- Kain (Simon Templeman), Legacy of Kain: Defiance

This... is my boomstick! The twelve-gauge double-barreled Remington. S-Mart's top of the line. You can find this in the sporting goods department. That's right, this sweet baby was made in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Retails for about a hundred and nine, ninety five. It's got a walnut stock, cobalt blue steel, and a hair trigger. That's right. Shop smart. Shop S-Mart. You got that?-- Ash (Bruce Campbell), Army of Darkness

A wizard is never late. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to -- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

That's all I got right now. Please add in your favourite quotes (fantasy or sci fi) in the comments!

19 April 2010

P is for ... Prophecy

This is another post in the A-Z blogging challenge series, hosted by tossingitout. Today's post takes a look at another element of fantasy fiction that seems to be a staple (and sometimes overused) part of the genre. Prophecy (or destiny, or fate, call it what you will). The use of prophecy in fantasy is usually in direct relation to the hero, and occasionally provides the starting point for the whole adventure.

The prophecies usually go like this: A big evil is plaguing the land. Only one person (usually a man) has the power to vanquish this evil, and will rise up at the exact moment when the world needs him most. He will be near indestructible and the land will enter a golden age of prosperity as a result of this.

The result of this is that the evil entity attempts to somehow kill the prophecised person while they are still a child, which means that they somehow get away (as they tend to do, they're slippery things). Then they are raised by good honest folk and are completely oblivious to their destiny. Eventually something comes along that means their destiny is revealed (usually the death of their guardians) and they usually revoke it. This usually ends with the hero eventually embracing this prophecy (while at the same time not following it) and fulfilling his destiny.

A couple of different stories spring to mind with this: Star Wars, Harry Potter and The Sword of Truth to name a few. The same basic concept is overlaid in all these, despite their different plot and characters, but the prophecy drives them all in the same direction. I think the prophecy idea in fantasy can be overdone, though, and it may get to the point where the stories become stale. There's a great short story over at PodCastle by Tim Pratt called Another End of the Empire. Here, the evil overlord hears such a prophecy, and knows exactly what will happen if he takes the standard measures, and so takes a very radical approach (I highly recommend it).

What do you think? Am I right in thinking that this prophecy idea is overdone? Can you think of any other fantasy stories that have the same thing? Any that use prophecy in a different way?

16 April 2010

N is for ... Necronomicon

Following the awesomely blogtastic A-Z Challenge from tossingitout, today's post is brought to you by the letter N ... for Necronomicon!

The Necronomicon is a fictional book created by author H.P. Lovecraft (who also created the infamous Cthulu) as part of his world of fantastic horror. Lovecraft never really said what the book was or what was in it, one of the only mentions he gives it is in his novel The Nameless City:

"That is not dead which can eternal lie.
And with strange aeons even death may die".

The passage has been studied by Lovecraftian fans in order to gleam some information about what the Necronomicon is. All we know is that it is a powerful tome of arcane knowledge, filled with a number of spells and so powerful that any copy of it is hidden and made secret.

This concept of some secret and powerful arcane spellbook of necromancy has bled into popular culture a little too. Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead movies feature the Necronomicon as a Sumerian book of the dead; bound in human skin and inked in human blood. It contains ancient passages and spells for demon resurrection and opening rifts in the world. If you haven't seen The Evil Dead, The Evil Dead II or army of Darkness, go and find it, and then watch it now. Bruce Campbell is god. Remember this.

Terry Pratchett also features a version of the Necronomicon in his book Moving Pictures, a satire on Holywood. His version is called the Necrotelicomnicon (the phone book of the dead).

Spell books as a focus of magic are an image that has become synonymous with wizards and spellcasters in general. Do you think that this is a good way of showing how magicians utilise and focus their power? What are your favourite ways that authors deal with magic and magic users?

15 April 2010

M is for ... Mythology

Since I went to see Clash of the Titans last night, today's A-Z blogging challenge post is all about mythology. Godlike powers, fancy robes, long beard, the full works. Every culture on the planet has their own unique myths and legends (I include all modern religions into this too - if something is explained by something 'up there' it's mythology). This also ties in nicely with fantasy.

I'm an Egyptologist by trade (well, a student of Egyptology anyway) and my main focus is Ancient Egyptian religion and mythology. The whole thing fascinates me; how a person can see something so mundane and ordinary and fabricate the most elaborate reason for it coming into being. For example, the ancient Egyptians saw that dung beetles push balls of dung all day long, then lay their eggs in the ball, which hatch and new life is made. They took this idea and created the sun god Khepri; a scarab that pushed the sundisc through the sky in the morning, bringing life with it as it pushes the sun.

Most scholars attribute such things merely as part of a belief system and nothing more, but they're missing a crucial point. These ideas, whether religious or not, are seen to be the beginnings of fantasy. The best way of seeing this is to look at the work of Tolkien. Middle Earth was heavily based on places in Great Britain, and he amalgamated mythology from all over the world. His work is pure fantasy, but in doing so he created a mythology.

The tales of the ancient Greek heroes, as seen in Clash of the Titans, were likely the basis of the modern concept of the superhero today. The roots of fantasy as we know it today go so far back into history, into the beginnings of human civilization.

Am I reading too much into this, or does anyone else see the connections between these little bits of fantasy that history gives to us? The same can be said for superstition and folklore (another historical passion of mine). Whenever I write, I try to base the religion and mythology of the story on something tangible (usually the Celts).

One other thing that I find pretty fascinating: isn't is strange that almost every culture, even those separated by vast distance and time, cultures that have never made contact with eachother, all have some form of mythical belief in dragons. Weird, huh?

14 April 2010

L is for ... Legend of the Seeker

Legend of the Seeker season one poster
Written by

Wow, I'm barely having enough time to comment on other blogs these days, let alone post on my own. I also have a review of Wrath of a Mad God, How to Train Your Dragon and Clash of the Titans to write up. I'll get it all done, I swear to you. But first, the letter L, part of the A-Z blogging challenge. This letter was made famous by Leonardo da Vinci and then reinvigorated by Luigi Mario, and also the topic of this post: Legend of the Seeker. I made an April Fool's post about the show, and so this is kind of my way of making amends.

Legend of the Seeker is a fantasy TV series based on the Sword of Truth novels by Terry Goodkind. The basic premise is that Richard Cypher (played by Craig Horner) is named as the Seeker of Truth; a prophetical warrior who is destined to end the tyrannical rule of Darken Rahl (Craig Parker). Assisting him in his quest is Kahlan Amnell (Bridget Regan) and First Wizard Zeddicul Zu'l Zorander (Bruce Spence). The series is very popular both in the US and in the UK, but still has received a lot of backlash from fans of the original novels. To be fair, the series takes considerable artistic liberty and diverges from the books at multiple points, but this makes it work as a TV show so long as you don't consider it as derivative of the original story.

I have yet to watch all of the first series, but as soon as it comes out on DVD I am there! From what I've seen of the show, I've really enjoyed it. It's a nice adventure show, which makes for great light entertainment (and a far cry from the gratuitous sexual violence of the novels).

Because you've all been so good, here's the obligatory sexy photo.
Bridget Regan as Kahlan Amnell in Legend of the Seeker

What do you all think of the show, both in its own right and as a remake of the books?

13 April 2010

K is for ... Kamelot


Another badass post in the A-Z blogging challenge series. Today's post is brought to you by the letter K, in association with Kitchens, Kennels, Kevin Spacey and Kool-Aid (oh yeaaah!).

Kamelot is my all time favourite band, and one of the best power metal acts today. Formed in the mid 1990's, Kamelot have released 11 albums (soon to be 12 *squee*) and maintain a massive following that stretches from Tampa to Tokyo.

For those of you who don't know, power metal is essentially heavy metal with added synths (usually by keyboard), melodic vocals rather than growls and shouts, and more often than not encompass a fantastic element into their music. For example, Kamelot recorded a 2 part concept series that told the story of Faust; a man who sells his soul to the demon Mephisto in order to gain long life and knowledge. These albums were Epica and The Black Halo (possibly the best albums they have made). I first heard about Kamelot through their song March of Mephisto, a brilliant start to The Black Halo and it got me hooked from the first riff. Their most recent release, Ghost Opera, veers slightly from power metal and includes more elements of progressive and symphonic metal. It doesn't make them any less awesome though.

I've been to see Kamelot in London twice, and both times they've completely bowled me over with their performance. The lyrics and vocal range of frontman Roy Khan are amazing, coupled with the intricate keyboard work of Oliver Palotai and the overall immersion into a story that perfectly encapsulates power metal. They are fantasy made music.

Here's a mashup I did for their song Up Through the Ashes, taken from Ghost Opera. The song tells of the crucifixion of Christ through the eyes of Pontius Pilate, and the dilemma he faced in condemning Christ to death. I put the song to clips of Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ (which was so hard because I wanted the video to be made entirely of clips that didn't have subtitles!). If you like them, awesome. If you don't, I won't hold it against you (much, hehe). Hopefully for some this will be a foray into the world of power metal, one in which they will remain for many years to come.

12 April 2010

J is for ... Jamie!

Yes, I also collect Medieval weapons and armour.

This is my second self indulgent post in the A-Z blogging challenge. Today's post is about your host - me (Jamie).

Hmm, where to start? I'm from the mystical (read 'perpetually rainy') land of Wales, and despite the best efforts of most adults I knew I was hooked on mythology. Egyptian, Norse, Celtic, anything that involved gods and mythical beasts I was there. I remember being given an old battered book by a neighbour called Creatures From Elsewhere when I was about 5 years old and, despite being frightened of the picture of the Wolfman in there, I read it continuously.

The first (real) book I read was Jurassic Park by Michael Critchton at age 11. A 400 page novel at that age was a pretty damn monument task to me, but it soon got me hooked on speculative fiction. I'd been reading R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series religiously up until that point, but Jurassic Park opened my eyes to the world of adult fiction, and I loved it.

I didn't read much fantasy for a good few years after that. I was more of a sci-fi reader, picking up short stories and whatnot. My parents got me Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind when I was about 15, just because it had a dragon on the cover. I read through about 50 pages, got extremely bored and gave up on it. Then, for some reason, I went back to it and devoured all 800 pages (and 13 volumes) of the series. I couldn't get enough. I know Goodkind has had really bad press regarding his books, but they are what started me off on the long, awesome road to fantasy and so I'm grateful for that (plus, I still get a kick out of the Sword of Truth books. So sue me :P)

First fantasy book I read
I've tried to get others into fantasy, whether through books, movies or Warhammer, but I seem to choose to be friends to sci-fi fans, and several heated debates ensue on most topics. This is probably the reason why I started Mithril Wisdom, so I could get in touch with other fans of the genre and I could be informed of new releases and be introduced to new authors. It's been an awesome ride so far.

How did you all get into the fantasy/sci-fi genre? What was your first exposure to this awesome world?

11 April 2010

24 Hour Read-a-thon update 6 - finality/fatality

Thanks to everyone for the positive comments and encouragement. After my last post, I quickly fell asleep and didn't realise it, so I'm not sure how many pages I'd read. I woke up just in time to get to work (a 45 minute walk there and the same back) and I got back at around 8:30, where I crashed out and slept for another 2 hours. I think I'm done  for today so I'm gonna punch out. If I get time/energy to read more I shall do (since the story is really good and I am enjoying it a lot). So a massive thank you to everyone for their support (I will repay your kindness!) and here's what I've learned ready for the next read a thon:

  • I need to ensure that there's nothing going on during that day to distract me
  • I need to lock myself away somewhere comfortable (there was a fair amount of noise where I am to distract me :P)
  • Shorter books, or have a few books on the go (maybe throw in some graphic novels for 'break reading')
  • Maybe start a few hours earlier (damn you time differences!) to make up for the sleepyness.
I absolutely loved being a part of this, and I can't wait until the next read a thon! For now though, I'll still be doing the A-Z blogging challenge, so keep checking back ;)

24 Hour read-a-thon update 5

So it's 3am here (GMT) and I have to goto work in 2 hours. I'm feeling pretty damn tired right about now. Here's my stats:

Current book: Feast of Souls by Celia Friedman (still)
Page: 400
# of coffees: 6

My performance has been pretty poor. I find myself taking longer and longer breaks, and I'm easily distracted. Next time I do a read-a-thon, I'm going to limit myself to shorter books, not the 600 page epic fantasy ones that I've picked out today (silly me!)

If I can get close to page 500 before I leave for work I'll be very happy :D Wish me luck!

10 April 2010

24 Hour read-a-thon update 4: I is for ... Induced Insomnia

This is a double post, I'm combining both my participation in the A-Z blogging challenge with the 24 hour read-a-thon.

These are my current stats:
Book reading: Feast of Souls by Celia Friedman
Page: 337
Time spent reading: Not long enough
# of coffees: 4
Status: Look at the picture, this is how I'm feeling right now :P

I don't suffer from insomnia, nor have I ever, but for this night I am artificially inducing it in order to take part in the read a thon. I've pulled all nighters before, the last one was to watch The Lord of the Rings back to back (all 12 hours of it). It was awesome! So long as I've got enough coffee in me, I can take on the world.

I've only got about 6 hours of reading left. I have to leave for work at 5am, and I won't be back until 9am (GMT). I'm hoping that I can finish Feast of Souls and be started on Living With Ghosts by the time the sun comes up.

A big big thanks to everyone who's commented to support me so far. I promise I'll reply to them all and I'll hop on over to your blogs to comment and say thanks once this is all over (before sleep takes over!)

24 Hour read-a-thon update 3

Wow, so many hours done already. I must admit that I've not done as well as I'd hoped. Doctor Who was a no-go; due to time complications there was no spare TV to watch it in time, so me and my fiancée watched Ugly Betty for a little bit (the distraction cost me more time than I expected). So here's some updated stats:

Current book: Feast of Souls by Celia Friedman
Page: 274
Pages read since last update: 60
Total time spent reading: No idea (forgot to set my iPod stopwatch, dagnabit)
# of coffees: 3 (soon to be a fourth)

Here's my entry to the mini-challenge from over at Midnight Book Girl. My 100 word read-a-thon story is set 6 hours in the future (It's now 8pm GMT). The title is An Ode to Coffee:

It was only after I had headbutted the book for the fourth time that I realised I needed some help. Slowly, I peeled the sorcery and murder from my dead face and stood up. A relay of cracks and crunches confirmed that I was most definitely not comfortable. I reached over to where the tall mug of liquid lightning stood, the silent destroyer of my increasing narcolepsy. I threw back my head and swallowed the contents in one, and instantly every neuron, every synapse fired into life. I pulsed with new-found energy. 200 pages in an hour? Bring it on.

I just read a pretty brutal 'love' scene that was damn intense. Rape and sorcery do not mix, but it makes for good reading, I suppose. My goal in this read-a-thon is to have read at least Feast of Souls and Living with Ghosts. Good luck to everyone who is participating! Stay tuned for my A-Z of blogging post later this evening!

24 Hour read-a-thon update 2

Hello again, fellow read-a-thon-eers!
I think I'm starting to catch up with my rather shameful display earlier. Here's my updated stats:

Current book: Feast of Souls by Celia Friedman
Time reading (between updates 1 and 2) 94 minutes
Pages read: 60
# of coffees: 1 (soon to make a second mug - but it's a bigger than normal mug, hehe)

I've stopped at the end of chapter 15. One of the queens of the land is being comforted by her half brother, who has traveled from their home land to comfort her in her mourning (ooo, who's died?) and to give her grave news. There are a few different threads to the plot at the moment, and luckily they aren't too overwhelming.
It's so damn hot in this room! As well as the suddenly hot weather, my landlord has turned the heating to maximum, and at the moment my window has no handle (long story involving both stupidity and altruism in equal amounts). So I think another coffee will allow me to get into the cool kitchen and stick my head in the fridge for a bit.

Don't forget to show some support to the rest of the bloggers! Here's a few to whom you should show some love:

Sprite Writes
Medieval Bookworm
A Trillian Books

Doctor Who will be on at sometime between 6pm and 7pm tonight (GMT) so I'm not likely to post again until it's over. See you all then!

24 Hour read-a-thon update 1

GAH! I made a post that was scheduled for 1pm (GMT) that began the read a thon because I had to go out and run some errands, but it didn't post! Darnit! Nevermind, I'm back now, so here's what's happened since 1pm:

Well it seems to be an unseasonably warm day in Wales today, which means that everyone has decided to go outside. This means that shopping for groceries and whatnot takes significantly longer than anticipated, and as such, I've not managed much reading.

I'm currently reading Feast of Souls by Celia Friedman. I've already read about 100 pages prior to this challenge, and since the challenge began I've read 31 pages (a poor effort I think). I've been reading on the bus whilst traveling back to the house, so there's not been much time. I'll more than make up for that though.

Here's a shout out to a few fellow bloggers who are taking part:
Ruby Loves Adventure
Katrina's Reads

Best of luck to you, guys!

This is also my entry into the first mini challenge:
Where are you reading from today?
Swansea, Wales
3 facts about me:
I was born with 6 toes on my left foot
I once had an imaginary pet monkey named Chichi
I can both read and write ancient Egyptian.
How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
5 books altogether (see the tab above for my list).

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
I'd like to finish at least 2 books and post reviews of them before the day is out. Other than that, just read as much as damn possible! Plus I hope to make some new acquaintances on here.

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, Any advice for people doing this for the first time? This is my first time, but the best advice I'd give is that coffee is now your new god.
 Well, best get back to reading, got a lot to catch up on!

Page total: 31 pages.

9 April 2010

H is for ... Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

This is another post in the A-Z blogging challenge series, where we're gonna fill up the Internet, one letter at a time.
Today's post is all about The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (or H2G2 for short), a trilogy of five novels by Douglas Adams. Since it's also a science fiction, this also counts as a None of My Business post, so two birds with one stone.

H2G2 has been created in a huge variety of formats: a BBC radio play, a series of novels, a BBC TV series, a movie and a computer game. And the best thing about them is that each iteration of the story is awesome in its own way.

For those of you who've never heard of this at all (again, I'm addressing those lucky dozen cave dwellers out there), the story follows the (mis)adventures of Earthling Arthur Dent who, following the destruction of his entire planet, end up travelling to a long lost planet, the end of the Universe, a second Earth, and through time itself to name a few places. Arthur also finds love, loses it, finds it again, kills the same thing over and over again, goes to an inside out house, steals a ship, visits Norway (let me repeat that: he visits Norway. Freakin' Norway!) and attempts to unravel the questions to Life, the Universe and Everything, of which the answer is 42 (it's so simple, a mouse could figure it out - well, they would, seeing as they are the most intelligent species on the planet; dolphins being second and humans being third).

The story is hilarious, and contains a wealth of side information, supposedly taken from the guidebook the series is named after, that keeps you laughing from start to finish. If you've ever liked the works of Terry Pratchett and are interested in sci-fi at all, H2G2 is your next step. Many parts don't really make much sense, but that's the beauty of it; the fact that they don't make sense makes them even funnier.

Marvin the Paranoid Android
A few years back, a movie adaption was made of the first book, which starred Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, Sam Rockwell, Zooey Deneschal, Alan Rickman, Mos Def and John Malkovich. From what I've read/heard, the US movie goers didn't really 'get it' whereas a lot of Brits lapped it up (Douglas Adams, like Terry Pratchett, inserts a lot of distinctive British humour into their works, so it takes a certain sense of humour to find it funny).

In any case, everyone should at least read the first novel of the trilogy. That's an order, by the way. Go do it now! If for nothing else, H2G2 needs to be read for Marvin, the manically depressed robot (also known as 'the paranoid android').

Join me here tomorrow at 1pm (GMT) for the 24 hour read-a-thon. That's right, give or take a couple of hours (I have to work, and Doctor Who is on) I'll be reading for 24 hours straight! Am I crazy? Sure as hell will be when it's over! Plus a bonus blogpost: I!!!

For those of you who have read/watched/listened to H2G2, what's your favourite moment/character/quote. Mine would be Marvin from The Restaurant at the end of the universe:

Zaphod Beeblebrox: "Marvin! Where have you been?"
Marvin: "In the car park."
Zaphod: "What have you been doing there?"
Marvin: "Parking cars."

8 April 2010

G is for ... The Guild

The Guild
This post is brought to you by the A-Z blogging challenge. Like Sesame Street, but with less muppets and more asskickery.

Today's post is about a highly successful web series called The Guild, which follows a group of MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, similar in vein to World of Warcraft) players and how their interactions in game begin to effect their real life counterparts. The series was created by and stars Felica Day (who has also starred in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long). The rest of the guild consists of leader Vork (Jeff Lewis) a loner with OCD, single mother Clara (Robin Thorsen), high strung Tinkerballa (Amy Okuda), self centred rogue Bladezz (Vincent Caso) and mage Zaboo (Sandeep Parikh) who has an unhealthy obsession with Codex.

The Guild is a fantastic comment on MMORPG players and about geeks in general, and the beauty of this is that you don't have to be a gamer to find it funny. The show has aired 3 seasons, has a graphic novel released by Dark Horse Comics and also has a music video (see below). I can't recommend this show enough, just head on over to watchtheguild.com or find all the episodes on YouTube.

Finally, in a rather shameless piece of traffic boosting, here's a sexy picture of Felicia Day:
Felicia Day

7 April 2010

F is for ... Fan fiction and fluff

Fan Fiction I would pay to have written
This is another post in the A-Z blogging challenge, with today's post taking a look at fan fiction. A lot of people have a love/hate relationship with fan fiction. Many love it because they are writing about already established characters in a fully generated world, which gives them free reign to focus on the story and the action. Many hate it for this same reason, the work becomes derivative and more or less copies the established canon of works (there is also the worrying thought that fan fiction becomes part of the canon, which means that poorly written plots somehow mar the original ideas that made the stories popular enough to warrant fan fiction in the first place.

Fan fiction is can be seen in almost every conceivable type of entertainment. There's fan fiction of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Final Fantasy, LOST and a hell of a lot more. The rule of fan fiction is almost identical to Rule 34 (and in some disturbing cases, they are one and the same). Fan fiction can be a great way for a writer to start out, since if you write about a movie or a story that has a large fan base, your chances of it being read and critiqued are significantly increased. It also gives you the chance to test out new ideas for plot and characters, and you don't have to worry much about world building and character development because most of your readers will already be familiar with both. Fan fiction also grants people to glimpse into the what if's of the story e.g. 'What if The Doctor landed his TARDIS into the world of Pirates of the Caribbean' (and yes, such stories really do exist).

A form of fan fiction that I have written over the years is the fiction associated with the Warhammer world, created by Games Workshop and whose official works are published by the Black Library. The fiction of Warhammer is known as 'fluff' and it is designed to be a compliment to the miniature war game as well as a set of stories in its own right. The brilliant thing about fluff is that all of the players of the game are encouraged to create their own fiction based in the armies that they collect. This enhances the physical game but it also adds to the expansive world and its characters. The first bit of fluff I created was for an old Warhammer forum I ran about 5 years ago, entitled 'Gifted'. If you're the kind to read such things, you can read it here (I warn you, it's not been edited at all since I first wrote it, and is likely to be very poorly written. You have been warned!). I also created a game on this forum called 'fluff battles' where two writers would compete with each other, writing a small segment of a larger story and taking it in turns to write another piece of the story. The concept caught on and is now used on a number of fan forums across the Internet.

Whether we like it or not, fan fiction is here to stay. Do you think it's a beneficial tool to allow writers to develop their craft, or is it a useless hobby that lowers the overall quality of fiction? Opinions below ...

6 April 2010

E is for ... Epic Comics

Another entry in the A-Z blogging challenge, today's post is a rather shameless plug. As well as Mithril Wisdom, I write a weekly webcomic called Epic Comics. I created this comic with illustrator Miriam E Lewis back in June 2008, and we're close to reaching out 100th comic. I wrote the first issue of Epic Comics when I was in my final year of my undergraduate degree, and it was something funny to keep away the stresses of university life. The rest, as they say, is history.

Epic Comics is the weekly adventures of Jay and Emm, two housemates who somehow manage to get themselves in all kinds of fantastic situations, many of them of their own doing. Jay is a child in a grown man's body, with a love of anything that can be described with the word 'awesome'. Emm is the voice of reason and a habitual hat wearer. Oh, and Jay turns into a fiery hell demon whenever he becomes angry. Pretty normal stuff, really.

Mithril Wisdom's angry Sword and Epic Comics' Emm combine! (Click to view full size)
We usually write different stories each week, but every now and again we run long story arcs that run for months at a time. Here's what we've done so far:

#1. Axe to the Metalstone - Jay and Emm go to a Medieval style joust, where Jay causes trouble as he becomes a fiery demon.

#2. Chibi Like Me. Jay and Emm move into a new house, only to discover that within it is a portal to another world.

#3. Public Menace. A simple comment about choice of video games sends Jay into another Fire Rage, leaving it up to Emm to stop him.

#4. Love and War. Emm has a date, but left on his own (and very bored), Jay takes it upon himself to become a vampire slayer.

#5. The Christmas of Olde. Jay and Emm are summoned to the other world, where the locals are in terrible danger.

We've also had a couple of guest/fan comics made, which has been extremely flattering. Epic Comics is an insane amount of fun, and I usually try to write in some kind of fantasy/sci-fi reference into each issue.

Anyway, enough of my sales pitch, take a look for yourself! I'm still uploading the most recent half dozen comics to the blog, and changing the layout, so for the complete set of Epic Comics, check out our Facebook fanpage.

5 April 2010

D is for ... Death

Carrying on with the A-Z blogging challenge, today's post is about death. No, it's not going to be a morbid post filled with those emo poems that are so trendy these days. I'm talking about why death in fantasy fiction is important, if not vital.

I can't remember any fiction that I've read recently that doesn't have at least one person dying in it. Fantasy fiction, since it usually filled with conflict in order to advance the plot, usually results with someone's life ending sooner or later. Is this necessary? I say yes. It's not the death of the character that is really the critical point, however. It's the way in which the other characters respond to the death of another, and their actions as a consequence. A fantasy story without the presence of death means that the characters are unable to come face to face with their own mortality and the prospect that their efforts may all be for naught.

In a recent episode of Geeks' Guide to the Galaxy, the hosts stated that 'good fantasy, and a good story, ensures that good people die'. This may seem a tad morbid on the outset, but the more I think about it the more it makes sense. You naturally assume that the protagonists are going to (eventually) win the day, so for the reader they are more or less immortal. If they come up tops, then from the beginning you know that nothing fatal happens to them during the course of the story. However, if the author ensures that a few righteous characters are killed, it makes both the hero and the reader doubt the chance that the threat will be defeated.

A good example would be the ending to the Harry Potter series. By the time of Deathly Hallows, several key characters are either killed or severely wounded. These are characters who are honest and courageous, and so their demise places fear and doubt into the mind of the reader. If these people cannot survive, can the hero? These deaths also act as an agent for the hero to exact vengeance, or attempt to honour the memory of the deceased that enhances the plot and the action. It also serves to allow the reader to see further into the hero's heart.

The concept is so important that Terry Pratchett includes Death as a pivotal character in his Discworld series. Death is present in almost every Discworld novel, and though he's meant to be an impartial entity he ends up slowly becoming 'infected' by humanity, and he starts to react to the mortality of humans (note this paragraph is basically a praise of all that is Pratchett. All hail Discworld! Oh, that's another D word!) 

Do you think that death is a necessary thing in fantasy and in fiction in general? I'd love to hear everyone else's thoughts on this. Tune in tomorrow for post E and shameless plugging!

3 April 2010

C is for ... Conan the Barbarian

This post is a continuation of the A-Z blogging challenge. I'm pretty sure that most people have at least heard of Conan the Barbarian, even if they haven't been exposed to it directly. It's been portrayed in a multitude of media from novels to comic books to movies to video games, and the appeal for the story and the characters are as strong today as they were in the 1930's when it was first created.

Conan the Barbarian was created by author Robert E. Howard (who also wrote Solomon Kane, now a feature film out this year). It started out as a short story in Weird Tales magazine, then gradually expanded to anthologies and then its own book series, and it grew from there. Conan is a Cimmerian (roughly based on Celtic barbarians) who roams the land; fighting, pillaging, helping others (when it suits him) and commanding armies. He often has to battle evil wizards and monsters as well as entire opposing armed forces. He is often a dark and brooding character, but Howard injected a dark sense of humour into the character as well.

The first exposure I had to the world of Conan was the 1984 movie adaptaion Conan the Destroyer, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (it's now very dated and also cheesy, but it's a fun film to watch nonetheless). I've since watched the other Schwarzenegger Conan movie, and I've read a few of the comics and some episodes of the animated TV show. What I like about it is that he's very much the fantasy equivalent of the lone gunman. This may seem strange because he's usually surrounded by people with various abilities that are vital to his current quest, but whether he has these people or not he will march on regardless.

Conan the Barbarian is a great example of the 'sword and sorcery' piece of fantasy fiction, but is can also tie in with the Alternate History genre since, if you take out the wizards and monsters, you've more or less got pre-Roman Empire Western Europe. For those of you who are interested in Conan but don't want to watch the 1980's Schwarzenegger movies (you're missing out, if anything listen to the theme music, it's incredible) there's a (more faithful to Howard's original work) remake of Conan coming out in 2010 starring Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Blade 2).

P.S. I'm sorry if any of you just got a blank post earlier. For some reason it published my post before I'd even started!

Update: I've just found the best scene from Conan the Destroyer: Arnie drunk! YouTube won't let me embed the video, so here's the link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUNmWa_rJtg (best line: "If you're going to learn how to fight, then learn with a real weapon. Not with a toothpick!")

2 April 2010

B is for ... The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins

Continuing with the A-Z of Blogging, this post looks at a little known song/music video that rocketed to fame on YouTube, sung by Leonard Nimoy (for the 12 of you that are still in your cave, Nimoy is famous for playing Spock in the original Star Trek TV series/movies, and in the 2009 remake by J.J. Abrams).

In 1967 he did a song called The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins, a musical take on Tolkien's The Hobbit. The video features Nimoy basically sitting down, retelling the story through song while generic 1960's girls wearing plastic elf ears and uber coloured sweaters jump and dance around. The whole video (and song too) is pretty camp and funny to watch and listen.

This may have been Nimoy trying to avoid being stuck in the Star Trek role as Spock (which inevitably happened anyway), and so he went to the extreme in opting for something aimed at fantasy as opposed to science fiction. Many Star Trek fans have slated Nimoy's performance as being 'the lowest point in his career'. Even so, I think it's hilarious, and the 60's camp style is funny as hell.

What do you think of it? Do you think that Nimoy should have just left well enough alone and stuck with Star Trek? In any case, with the exception of Blind Guardian's Nightfall in Middle Earth in 1998, this is the only song that I know that deals with Tolkien fantasy. If anyone knows anymore, I'd love to know!

1 April 2010

A is for ... Alternate History

I've decided to take part in the Blogging from A-Z challenge from the tossingitout blog. The basic idea is that, from today (April 1st) and every day until the end of the month (excluding Sundays) a blog post must be made according to a different letter of the alphabet. So, today is day A, tomorrow is day B and so on.

Today's post is about a sub-genre that I am interested in but have never given a try, and that is the alternative history genre. It first came to my attention with novels like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and really piqued my interest with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. A lot of fiction in this genre usually include elements of the horror genre such as vampires and zombies, or are combined with elements of steampunk. I love the idea that we're dealing with time periods that we are familiar with, but some fundamental part of it has changed which gives it its excitement. Because it's also in part historical, many of the facts need to be correct in order to make that side of the story correct.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sounds brilliant for this reason. Many see Abe Lincoln as one of the greatest leaders that Western civilization has ever seen, and so this extra addition of his career as a vampire hunter is filled with 'evidence' that coincides with historical fact to provide different (and hopefully entertaining) profile of Abraham Lincoln.

This sub-genre can also be seen in other media. The film Inglorious Basterds is an alternate history where an assassination attempt on Hitler succeeds, and the video game Turning Point asks the question: what if the Allies lost World War 2?

Most of the alternate history genre focuses on the 19th to 20th centuries, but there isn't much that deals with the ancient world (which would be of particular interest to me). What historical time period/event would you like to see recreated in a 'What if?' scenario?

Terry Goodkind to guest star as Tobias Brogan in Legend of the Seeker Season 3!

Terry Goodkind 

You heard it here first. Terry Goodkind, author of the highly successful Sword of Truth series, is to make a guest appearance in a future episode of Legend of the Seeker, which is based on his novels.
Goodkind will play Tobias Brogan, a character from his third novel Blood of the Fold. Brogan is the Lord General of the Blood of the Fold, a fanatical group of witch hunters who wish to expunge all magic from the face of the earth (and those who have the gift are tortured and murdered). 

It is unclear whether or not Brogan will be a major or minor part in the third season of Legend of the Seeker, or if his role will continue for more than one episode. In the novel, Brogan is responsible for kidnapping Kahlan Amnell, but there is no confirmation if this plot device will be used.

Since the show first got the greenlight, I'd always hoped that Terry Goodkind would make a guest appearance in Legend of the Seeker. The author photo at the back of the Sword of Truth novels kind of shouted "put me in a fantasy movie!" so I guess he's done the next best thing.

UPDATE: This post was an April Fool's Day prank. There is no evidence that Terry Goodkind will appear in Legend of the Seeker, that Tobias Brogan will appear, or even that Season 3 will happen.