29 June 2012

Competition: The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross

19 comments:
The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross
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I'm a sucker for a good competition, and this is one hell of a good competition. Orbit Books are giving away a host of goodies to celebrate the release of The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross. This isn't your everyday give away, though. It's more of a sleuthing scavenger hunt. Now you're speaking my language.

Orbit are releasing a series of clues from today up until July 19th, with each clue giving you part of a code. Once you have the code you submit your entry and stand to win copies of Stross' Laundry Files book series, an e-Reader and an adorable plush Cthulu (and let's be honest, who doesn't want an adorable plush Cthulu?)

The first clue has been posted along with a brief of the competition on the Orbit Books blog. I've found the first clue (no, I'm not telling you) and I wish you all the very best of luck in finding them all

You can also read the prologue for The Apocalypse Codex for free.

Do you want an adorable plush Cthulu? (if you say that you don't, I know you're lying).

27 June 2012

I've been interviewed! And four crowdfunding campaigns that put my faith back in humanity

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I'm being interviewed by our Ninja Captain Alex over at the today, where I talk a little more about music that inspires my and my geeky leanings. Check it out and say hi!

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The Internet can be a despairing place at times. With cyber bullying, flame wars and trolling on a global scale, it's no small wonder that people are losing faith in humanity. Thanks to the crowd funding phenomenon, though, people are uniting for the common good, flipping the bird at all the trolls on the 'net. Here are four recent projects that really make you think that we can finally do some good.

Bearlove good, Cancer Bad - Matt Inman

Matt Inman's Bearlove Good, Cancer Bad campaign
Source: The Oatmeal
Matt Inman, the creator of The Oatmeal, one of my favourite webcomics, found out he was being sued by FunnyJunk for $20,000. FunnyJunk were responsible for hosting most of Inmans work on their site without his permission and without crediting him, so it's baffling that  they would be the ones to sue him.
Inman responded by attempting to raise the $20,000 in donations and donating it all to The National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society. Thanks to the support of his fans, Matt Inman raised over $200,000. That's incredible. The slimy lawyer who initiated the lawsuit is now trying to sue the charities themselves, showing that for every good deed there must be an equally douchebaggery deed.

Karen Klein's vacation

You might have seen the saddening video of a bus monitor being cruelly taunted and bullied by kids for 10 minutes straight. What makes it worse it that Klein never once retaliated; she took it like a champ, though you can see her crying several times in the video. The Internet was incensed at the way she was treated, and so a fund raiser was started to give her a holiday (let's be fair, if anyone deserves a break, it's her). The goal was $5,000 to let her have a little break, and instead over half a million dollars was raised. Karen can now retire and never have to deal with those little [redacted] ever again.

Tropes vs. Women in video games

This was a Kickstarter started by Anita Sarkessian as a means of analysing and deconstructing the ways that women have been portrayed in video games and what stereotypes exist. For a long time, video games were a male dominated niche and so this is a sound and interesting project. The project was very quickly latched onto by trolls who initiated a flame war against Anita, throwing all kinds of misogynist harassment and abuse at her. Luckily the Internet proved that not all gamers are complete morons and her campaign raised 25 times the original goal. Take that, trolls.

Terry Cooper's Tee-threepio

Terry Cooper at the Save the Lars Homestead Project
Source: Walesonline
Terry Cooper is an avid Star Wars fan (you might have seen him as the guy who helped to Save the Lars Homestead) and started a project to raise £2,000 in order to get the parts to build a wearable replica suit of C-3PO. The intention was to wear the suit  in order to raise money for charity at fundraisers and parties (something he'd already been doing but with a Stormtrooper outfit). Despite his good intentions, there was a backlash at the thought of using crowd funding for such a project, which led to his resignation from the official costumed charity group. Cooper persevered and thanks to the support of friends and fellow Star Wars fans, he hit his target and now he begins the epic project of building the suit itself. You can follow his progress on his blog, Tee-threepio.

What gives you faith in people? What keeps you optimistic despite the perils of Internet trolldom?

25 June 2012

Tommy Karevik (Seventh Wonder) is the new lead singer of Kamelot

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Kamelot 2012 lineup with Tommy Karevik as the new lead singer
Source: Kamelot
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Good news, everyone!

Power metal band extraordinaire Kamelot have unveiled that their new lead singer is Tommy Karevik, who is also the front man for progressive metal band Seventh Wonder (he's the dude in the centre of the above picture).

I was introduced to Seventh Wonder by our Ninja Captain Alex in his first A-Z post of this year. They immediately blew me away with their concept, visuals and Karevik's vocals. That man can sing! A lot of thanks to Alex for introducing me to Karevik's voice in time for this awesome change.

Kamelot have been without a singer for over a year after their previous front man Roy Khan left the band for medical reasons. They've performed with a bunch of guest vocalists while on tour, but now that Karevik is the official lead singer they can start a new chapter. They've a new album coming out in September, and a World tour that comes to London in November (whoo!)

So the singer for my favourite newly discovered band is now the lead singer for my favourite all time metal band. This is going to be epic. You can read the official press release and a few words from Tommy.

Below is a track from the album Mercy Falls by Seventh Wonder so you can get a feel for Tommy's vocals. He'll make a perfect addition to the Kamelot family.


Any good news where you are that you want to share?

21 June 2012

Interactive zombie Google Maps mashup from Confused.com

38 comments:
Home Sweet Zombie - an interactive game from Confused.com
Source: Confused.com
By

I've done it. I've finally managed to extend my geekery to my place of work. For those of you who don't know, my day job is as a blogging wizard for Confused.com. These are the ones who are giving me the free donuts and making me too fat to run away from the undead.

I'm the guy who gets to write and blog about almost anything I want (the most recent things I did are James Bond's gadgets, Batman's Batcycle and the best Ancient Egyptian monuments you've never heard of). Considering that the company specialises in car and home insurance, I'd say I've landed myself a pretty sweet job (I don't even drive, but don't tell them that!)

Well, let's just say that they've noticed my 'enthusiasm' for zombies and post-apocalyptic fiction, and I've managed to infect them (pun intended) with the idea of doing something with zombies. Persistence pays off, since they've rigged up this kick-ass animation with Google Maps that sends a horde of shambling corpses to your street of choice (there's no embed function, so click the link or the image and give it a go).


Home Sweet Zombie - interactive game from Confused.com

It should work with any address you put in, and it shows a cartoon of a zombie attack on your street. It's pretty funny, and the use of Google Maps means that you can pop in someone else's address and summon an army of the dead to your enemy's house.

The zombies seem to be a weird mix of the stupid, shambling, Romero-esque undead and the rage filled, semi-cognisant infected of 28 Days Later. Also, how in the hell do zombies know how to bake a cake?! They chose to go with Home Sweet Zombie as the title, but I thought my suggestion of Undead Evil Zombie Residents of the Dead had a much nicer ring to it...

A favour to ask

I've a few more zombie/fantasy related ideas in the pipeline that more or less rely on the success of this video (fingers crossed they'll let me do a zombie survival giveaway or something). If you could share the link; Facebook, tweet, G+, review it on your blog, send to a friend via carrier pigeon, it'll all help my chances in zombifying the office a little more and getting more awesome stuff like this made in future.

If zombies invaded your street, where would be your first place to run? Do you have a first survival base already in mind?

18 June 2012

Monstrous Productions turns Cardiff into Ankh Morpork

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Monstrous Productions logo
Source: Monstrous Productions
 by

Thursday saw a little slice of Cardiff transformed into the marketplace of Ankh Morpork from Terry Pratchett's Discworld as Monstrous Productions, a local theatre group who specialise in stage adaptations of Pratchett's novels, held a fundraiser for their latest production of Carpe Jugulum. You may remember my review of Monstrous Regiment, their first Pratchett play that was so successful it enabled Monstrous Productions to be born.

A hoard worthy of the Discworld


Guided by signposts such as the Street of Small Gods to the marketplace, I was suddenly surrounded by geek finery, and I was very quickly separated from my money. I got myself some awesome looking steampunk cog cufflinks from The Assassin's Guild hosted by Celtic Rose Art, and a Legend of Zelda heart container badge and TARDIS fridge magnet from World of Oddy's Emporium of Whimsy. Add to that an authentic sausage inna bun from C.M.O.T. Dibbler's food stand and I was one happy geek. I also put a bid on an awesome hand knitted turtle made by the company's founder Amy. Fingers crossed I'll get it; if I do, I'll let you guys name it.


All for a good cause



Celtic Rose Art as the Guild of Assassins
Hand knitted turtleThere were some things I wanted to get but decided against, like the epic cupcakes that I could see and smell but daren't get too close. Luckily, the fundraiser was such a success that they're going to host one every month. The fact that it all goes towards helping the theatre company make their shows even more awesome, and they're putting on their performance in aid of Alzheimer's Research (the condition from which Terry Pratchett suffers) so everything works out brilliantly. 


Now if I don't eat for the next week or so, I'll be able to afford that limited edition Death statue I saw when I was there ...


What item from any book would you like to have in the real world as a souvenir?

13 June 2012

Short film: The Saga of Bjorn

27 comments:
The Saga of Bjorn
Source: The Animation Workshop
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It's been a while since I showcased a short film on here, and as luck would have it I stumbled across a corker of a short film a few days back.

The Saga of Bjorn is a film created by The Animation Workshop, and it tells the story of a Viking warrior doing his best to earn an honourable death in order to reach Valhalla. Despite his best efforts, however, he never quite manages it ... You can watch the video below, and please do. It's hilarious.



Video source: The Tripatorium


Credits
A film by: Benjamin J. Kousholt, Daniel D. Christensen, Mads Lundgaard Christensen, Jesper A. Jensen, Jonas K. Doctor, Steffen Lyhne, Pernille ├śrum-Nielsen, Frederik Bjerre-Poulsen, Jonas Georgakakis

If you had to seek out your own demise to reach Valhalla, how would you do it? Bonus points for snark and creativity as always.

11 June 2012

I'm a guest over at Geek Banter

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Guest blog microphone
Image Credit: Gosocialonline


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I'm a guest over at Geek Banter! I'm taking part in Allison's Top VG Countdown Series, and she's very kindly allowed me to give my two pennies' worth on her #3 entry, possibly one of the greatest fantasy games of all time - The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Thanks to Allison for having me - click the link below and share your thoughts!


8 June 2012

Where were you? #ZFF 1.1

30 comments:
Found pinned to a public information board

by , a survivor.

No one knows how it happened. No one knows how it all got so messed up, so very quickly. And if I'm 100% honest with myself, I don't think anybody cares. Does it really make a difference if it was some kind of biological attack, or whether some pissed off deity up there decided to punish mankind for its sins? None of that matters. Knowing how the story starts won't help you when yours is suddenly cut short. There are only three things that you need to know.

Zombies are real. They are here. And they are everywhere.

I can imagine in years to come, if there are any of us left, that they'll ask the question. The one that gets asked whenever a major catastrophe shakes the world. "Where were you when Kennedy got shot?". "Where were you when the Towers fell?".

"Where were you when you saw your first shamble?"
My answer will forever be burned into my memory, like the festering wound of a firebrand.

I was working late the night before last, and I decided to walk home rather than take the bus. There was no rain for a change so I thought the walk would do me some good after being stuck in the office all day. There's a railway bridge about two streets away from my flat; the kind of place you try to avoid at night because the council won't replace the lights on the underside so you're walking in complete darkness, leaving yourself open to become the area's newest crime statistic.

I chanced it; Sod's Law dictated that the dark and dangerous underpass was by far the quickest way home. Sod's Law also dictated that on the one occasion that I use said underpass that I had company.

The kid couldn't have been more than twelve. He wore a white baseball cap covered with the hood of a black sweatshirt, so most of his face wasn't visible. What was visible, though, was that one side of his face had been chewed open, the white bone of his jaw reflecting the light from the mobile phone I used as a makeshift torch.

The thing that you don't realise about shambles is that it's not the way they look that's so terrifying. It's the way they move. They walk as if they're being pushed, as if the last remnants of whatever humanity they have left is fighting back against the instinct and the hunger that drives them all, screaming in futile protest from within their reanimated shell. That's what makes the terror grip you, and it's the memory of that what stops me sleeping at night.

I ran. What else could I do? I ran as fast as my two hundred pounds of vending machine coffee, free donuts and office chair lifestyle could allow me. In a twisted kind of way, I'm glad that the first shamble I encountered was a child, since there's no way I could have outrun an adult. My throat was so constricted with fear that I couldn't even scream. I ran the two streets to my flat, and I could hear the shamble running behind me, its angry groans spurring my legs on faster.

I hurled myself at my front door, headbutting the hard wood in the process and nearly giving myself a concussion. By the time I had shut and bolted the door behind me, the shamble was gone. I spent that first night on the floor with my back against the door, unable to stop my body from shaking so violently that it made me sick.

That was two nights ago. I've not left the flat since.

I need to survive.

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This piece of flash fiction is the first chapter to accompany my fitness blog, Zombie Food to Zombie Fit. Head on over there to check out my progress in losing weight, getting fit and fighting off hordes of the undead.

All comments and critiques are welcome; I'm grateful for any advice on how I can improve my writing.



7 June 2012

Introducing Sketcher Girl Studios by Vic Caswell - Book covers galore

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If you don't already know Vic from Hairnets and Hopes, one of the most awesome bloggers around, then shame on you. Go fix that now.

Vic designs superb book cover art, and today is the grand opening of her new site Sketcher Girl Studios. Vic specializes in freelance book cover design (although she's happy to work on tattoo design, podcast art, any kind of illustration you care to name), and she's designed the covers of Emily White's Elemental and Kimberly Ann Miller's Triangles

What I like about Vic's approach to book covers is that she will read your book to get a proper feel for the story beforehand, meaning that she can capture the essence of the story in a single image. Also, she won't use stock photography so you can be assured that your book cover is 100% unique and it avoids any legal pitfalls when using the book cover on merchandise.

In celebration of the grand opening, Sketcher Girl Studios is hosting a giveaway. All you need to do is pop onto the Contact Us page and enter the secret word - mischief - and you'll be entered into the giveaway. With free swag such as free books, gift cards and free labour on your own book cover up for grabs, you'd be a fool not to.

What's the most epic book cover you've seen?

6 June 2012

Do you need a writing wingman? - Insecure Writer's Support Group

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I don't mean in a weird, Top Gun kind of way. I'm talking about the kind of person that is, for lack of a better term, a writing buddy. Someone who you bounce ideas off, someone who you can rant at when you're hit with writer's block. A critique partner that also serves as your muse and your venting post. A true wingman.

As writers, investing that much of our writing secrets and our craft in another person is difficult. I know that I rarely share my writing ideas, and  I know I suffer for it. I find don't have many options when it comes to talking about a wall I've hit, because no one knows what I'm working on.

Sometimes it goes in the opposite direction - my head gets so filled with ideas that I can't help but not tell someone, but then they sit and look at me, eyes glazing over, as I talk nonsense about something to do with dragons and a pirate ghost and blah blah blah. Although it's a tough choice to make, there should be at least one person onto whom I can unload my brain. There are plenty of people who fit the bill and would probably be fine in doing so, but it's more about me bringing someone else into to my circle, so to speak.

I would imagine that some writer's choose not to confide in anyone, jealously guarding their writing secrets for fear of someone taking their ideas or rejecting them before they're ready to shine. But think of it this way - if you can't show one person, how the hell are you going to show the world? You can't build a wall in front of a light and wonder why no one can see it.

I think this group, and bloggers in general, are a great source of allowing writers to get our ideas out there, to get feedback or support (depending on what you're after) and to bounce ideas back and forth. We've now got so many wingmen that there's no option but to take off and fly.

Do you have a writing wingman? Do you have more than one for specific purposes? How do they help you?

3 June 2012

Jubilee special - Top five contributions to fantasy by the British

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This weekend, the entire of the UK is going absolutely nuts in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee, and in celebration of everything that's great about being British. With that in mind, I give you the top five contributions to fantasy fiction by British authors. It's no small coincidence that over half of this list are also on the list of top best selling books of all time, and I've had to leave a lot of excellent authors on the cutting room floor for this list. Don't worry, you guys in the US. I also plan on doing a list of American authors for 4th July.

C.S. Lewis author photo
Source: Wikipedia

C.S. Lewis - The Chronicles of Narnia

A close friend of Tolkien and the author of one of the best known fantasy series' in the world. The Chronicles of Narnia is important because it serves as an excellent introduction to high fantasy, especially for children. The cuteness of talking animals and adventure overlay a very serious conflict with heavy themes such as temptation, warmongering and religion. The Narnia series is a classic that is still loved by fantasy fans, even sixty years onward.




Neil Gaiman author photo
Source: Melissa Douthit

Neil Gaiman - Neverwhere, Stardust

Neil Gaiman is the man that every British geek aspires to become. He is world renowned for his craft and his love of fantasy in fiction, film and comics. His novel Neverwhere introduced me to contemporary fantasy and showed me that it doesn't always have to be about swords and wizards. Gaiman has a skill for embracing fantasy in any media and making it work that many authors can't hold a candle to.



Terry Pratchett author photo
Source: The Independent

Terry Pratchett - Discworld

If anyone can do fantasy and comedy, Terry Pratchett is your man. His Discworld series has that certain kind of humourous charm that you can't help but find yourself giggling maniacally to. Pratchett has a knack for taking very serious themes and dealing with them in a way that makes you laugh  as well as think. It's no wonder there are entire conventions dedicated solely to his creation. He was the UK's best selling author, overtaken only once the Harry Potter series hit the shelves. Speaking of Potter ...


J.K. Rowling author photo
Source: The Picky Girl

J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter

No one actually knows just how many copies of the Harry Potter series have sold, but everyone agrees that it's a hell of a lot. It's been translated into most literary languages in the world (and even Latin) and it's responsible for getting a nation of children picking up books once more. Not only do the Harry Potter books rank in the top 5 for best selling books, but all of the film adaptations are in the top 50 highest grossing movies of all time. 


J.R.R. Tolkien author photo
Source: Strange Horizons

J.R.R. Tolkien - Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit

Often lauded as the Father of Modern Fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien gave us a brand new mythology, a rich world filled with culture and history, and languages to boot. Tolkien brought together the myths and folktales of Europe and from them created something altogether new. Almost every modern fantasy trope can be traced back to his works, and he has greatly influenced the other four writers above. Were it not for him, this list, and likely this entire blog, wouldn't exist.

Do you have a favourite British fantasy, in books, movies or even TV?

1 June 2012

Zombie Fitness Friday - No more Mr. Nice Guy

34 comments:
Zombie tness Friday
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It happened again. Another 2 weeks, no fitness whatsoever. This time, I give you no excuses. I won't apologise. My excuses have run out. The wake up call has hit.

A few days ago in the office (while I was munching on a free donut and sipping a coffee) I had an email from one of the team who was organising a day out and wanted to see who was interested. I curiously opened the email. What excursion was planned? Paintballing? Laser tag? Go karting?

No.

They were organising a zombie survival game experience in an abandoned shopping centre.

This was it. This was what I'd wanted to do for months. I was in!

Then it hit me.

I was still unfit.

Very unfit.

For all my 'get up and go' attitude, I'd failed to get to the level of fitness I wanted, and as a result I've missed out yet again on a chance to take part in this experience. I wasn't willing to go all that way and pay all that money, only to lose within 30 seconds because I can't run up a flight of stairs without being out of breath.

Enough.

In light of this, I'm disbanding Zombie Fitness Fridays. There'll no longer be any excuses or apologies or whining on here, because I think it's detrimental to this blog.

Instead, I'm moving all my zombie related activities to another home - Zombie Food to Zombie Fit. Here I'll be able to give my survival regime the attention it needs to keep me going, and if you're so inclined I'd very much appreciate it if you joined me over there and helped me through it.

That's the last you'll hear from me on the matter here. What I intend to do instead is post a flash fiction version of my weekly progress on here, chronicling the struggle for survival in a post zombie-apocalypse world.

Thanks for the support you've all give me over the past few months. Hopefully you'll extend that over at the new place.

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