19 Dec 2012

The expanded steampunk world - my guest spot on Tor Books

Steampunk archaeologist
Llewellyn Warrington Smythe - Steampunk archaeologist
This is pretty awesome - I'm a featured writer over at the Tor Books blog today, where I'm talking about where you need to go to get your dose of steampunk that goes beyond the books. I've looked at a few things from music to costume and design and live theatre shows and conventions. I've barely scratched the surface and there is a lot that I had to leave out, but it's a nice introduction to the world outside steampunk books.

My thanks go to Bella and the team at Tor Books for having me! Pop on over and say hi!

[image owned by Jamie Gibbs (that's me!)]

17 Dec 2012

What's in a Gamer Name? with Allison at Geek Banter

Xbox gamertag
Anyone who games or knows someone who does is familiar with the gamer name or tag. Sometimes they are a source of pride, other times a point of ridicule from your friends who aren't gamers when they are let slip in real life ("Ummm... WHY did you just call Allison 'silentshadowwhokillsyouall'?"). Side note: that is not my real gamer name. Don't worry.

Why do we use gamer names? In my opinion, for two reasons. 1) So the random people we are playing with do not know our real names. 2) Because they sound cool and immerse us in secret identities that we also use to hide behind when saving the world as superheroes.

Choosing your gamer name is a daunting task. Do you want to sound clever? Silly? Dangerous? Sneaky? The choices are endless. If you can't decide, there are lots of gamer name generators online that will match you with your perfect name. For example, I visited a few today, and here are some of the gems I was given: "Klunphthoo," "Freelance Frost," "Professor Mustard," "Psycho Eraser," and "Sewer Pancake." That last one's my favourite.

During my gaming escapades, I've noticed some trends in gamer names:

Pop Culture Reference Names - These are the names that reference music, books, movies, TV shows, or even other video games. I've lost track of how many gamers named "Legolas," "Darth Vader," and "Master Chief" I've noticed. I do appreciate it when someone references something more obscure that I love, though; I saw an EdwardElric once, which made me smile. Some of the cleverer ones I've seen include "Malice in Wonderland" and "My Little Pwny."

1337SP34K Names - What, you can't read that first part? If I see one more D34th Sp3ak3r or D3M0N SL4yer, so help me...

Weapon Names - Names with "Sniper" in them are the "in" thing. Other weaponry references are also acceptable. I don't expect this "SniperKiller" and "BlasterMaster" phase to die any time soon, unfortunately...

I'm Awesome and Will Pwn You Names - These types of names include death threats and general bravado, such as "CanofWhoopass," "DeathFollowsYou," "TakeYouToTheGrave," "AwesomeShot" and "ScrewUall." Modesty does not seem to be a common trait among gamers. Names with "ninja" in them are also insanely popular.

Dirty Names - I won't provide examples of these, but they are out there, and they are many.

Real Names - Well, that's just boring. Who wants to be John3954 when you could be "Professor Mustard," I ask you? I do think it is clever when people integrate their names into their gamertags. For example, a Tim with the name "opTIMized" or an Ali named "ALIas."

Silly Names - These names often include random objects and fluffy animals, such as "apaperclip" or "10 fluffy bunnies." It is amusing to see the message "You were killed by 10 fluffy bunnies" flash across the screen, I'll admit!

Thankfully, we gamers mostly keep our gamer tags in the gaming world and there aren't little Snipers and Klunphthoos running around the average household instead of Johns and Sarahs. Although who knows what the future will bring.

Thanks for having me, Jamie! Allison, AKA "Sewer Pancake," signing off.

[image source]

What's the craziest username/handle you've come across?

About the author
Allison is a sci-fi and fantasy writer, reader, gamer, and all around geek. You can find her writing, reviews, and meandering thoughts on geek culture at her blog, Geek Banter.
View all posts by Allison

14 Dec 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey [movie review]

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey poster
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Director: Peter Jackson
Studio: NewLine Cinema
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Running Time: 169 minutes
Released: November 2012
2D tickets bought at Cineworld, Cardiff

This is the third and final in a 3-part super post in line with Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Hobbit. Wednesday was my list of things to do while you wait for the movie, and yesterday was my review of The Wisdom of the Shire by Noble Smith.

A movie that needs no introduction, but I'll have a go anyway. Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) finds his world turned upside down after the arrival of Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) and a company of  dwarfs led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). The dwarfs convince Bilbo to accompany them on a quest to reclaim their stolen treasure and take back the ancient dwarf city of Erebor.

I deliberately didn't go to see The Hobbit in 3D or in 48 fps. After the initial reviews slating how fake everything looked with the new technology, I decided to go old-school. The visuals were stunning; the same calibre that Jackson spearheaded when he made Lord of the Rings. The sets and vistas were epic, and the quality of the digital creations was brilliant (there was only one instance when the CG looked out of place when we see a glimpse of Smaug's tail at the beginning, but that's it).

Towards the beginning of the story, Gandalf tells Bilbo that "all good stories deserve embellishment" and that's exactly what Jackson has done. Rather than make The Hobbit a carbon copy of the book, he's used the story as the basis to tell a grander tale that pulls together tales from Middle Earth that Tolkien wrote only after The Hobbit had been released. We get to see more about the Necromancer, Radagast the Brown and an introductory section taken from Tolkien's "Quest for Erebor" appendix. Peter Jackson has managed to take flitting mentions here and there from Tolkien's works and put them together in a vast and epic world. Bilbo's adventures didn't happen in a bubble; there was so much else going on at the time, and this adaptation of The Hobbit fully explores this.

Martin Freeman did a fantastic job as Bilbo, and played the part of awkward layabout-turned-hero with a passive-aggressive shyness that only the British can master. The dwarfs were all well played, though having such a large cast meant that it was very difficult to remember all of their names. There was a great moment towards the beginning where the dwarfs go from partying at Bilbo's expense to their suddenly sombre "Misty Mountains Cold"; the cinema suddenly went completely silent and people stopped moving to they could hear the haunting song. The best performance from the dwarfs was from Bofur (James Nesbitt), whose sarcasm and blunt nature only makes things worse for Bilbo's nerves.

The Hobbit rings in at not much shy of 3 hours long, which is what we now expect from Jackson's Middle Earth endeavours. There was a lull when the company visit Rivendell that could have been shortened, but I found that there was enough action to keep the momentum. Jackson has also managed to keep a lot of the light humour that made The Hobbit book accessible to children; I never heard an audience laugh out loud during Lord of the Rings, but there were plenty of them here.

The Hobbit is an excellent beginning to the story, and well worth a second viewing. I can't vouch for the fancy-pants 48fps, but it does an excellent job of showing you the wonders of Middle Earth and the adventures of its inhabitants. I plan on seeing it again very soon.

13 Dec 2012

The Wisdom of the Shire by Noble Smith [book review]

The Wisdom of the Shire by Noble Smith
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
Hardback - 224 pages
Published November 2012
Review copy given by publisher

Read the blurb for Wisdom of the Shire on Goodreads

This is the second in a 3-part super post in line with Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Hobbit. Yesterday was my list of things to do while you wait for the movie, and tomorrow will be my review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Gandalf the Grey once said, "Hobbits really are amazing creatures. You can learn all there is to know about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years they can still surprise you." It's this unique trait that's explored in Smith's book - a sort of self-help guide to better living, taking examples from The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and the rest of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth.

Unlike a lot of self-help books, Smith doesn't patronise you and instead uses the examples of the way Hobbits act as a way to relate simple life lessons to us (much like the way I try to find analogies for real life in the fantasy books I read and the movies I watch). Hobbits are creatures to which everyone can aspire; they're fond of good food and good friends, they're self sufficient and grow their own food and they form a harmonious egalitarian society, and their cultural quirks are things we can use in our day to day lives to make us better and happier people. I fully plan to take Smith's sage like advice and start growing my own food in a little Hobbit garden (for which he gives a diagram at the end of the book) in the New Year.

Some of the legal and political chapters read a little preachy to me; kind of an 'eff the system, all the bankers are corrupt, up with people' kind of attitude that didn't gel well, but the sections on personal relationships and being content with your own life struck a chord. In using the struggles and actions of the inhabitants of the Shire, I could understand these concepts and am able to use them practically to better myself. Writing letters to my friends instead of relying on Facebook and email will be one of these changes (I'm also looking for a pen pal if anyone is interested).

Overall, The Wisdom of the Shire is a fun and useful read that complements both the books and the movies of Middle Earth. Any Tolkien fan can relate to Smith's examples to improve their lives and feel more like the courageous Bilbo, loyal Samwise, fun loving Meriadoc or wise Old Took in the process.

12 Dec 2012

Stuff you can do while you wait for the release of The Hobbit, plus a new clip!

The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey poster

This is the first in a 3-part super post covering Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Hobbit. Tomorrow is my review of The Wisdom of the Shire by Noble Smith, and Friday will be my review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

I've booked my tickets. I've watched the trailers several times. I've even watched the epic 8-minute trailer supercut trailer. I've read the book (obviously). I've even read some of the reviews of the movie itself (I'm a littler concerned by the mixed reviews). There's not a great deal left to do but wait. But 24 hours is a long time to wait. What can you do in that time? (Thanks to the guys at ThinkJam for the promo photos and video!)

Thorin Oakenshield and the dwarfs in The Hobbit
Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures

7 Dec 2012

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest [book review]

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Book 1 of The Clockwork Century
Published by Tor Books
Paperback - 416 pages
Published November 2012
Review copy given to me by the publisher

Read the synopsis for Boneshaker on Goodreads

It'll come as no surprise that I've been lusting after the Clockwork Century novels for a good while, so it was with much excitement that I tore into Boneshaker, and I was not disappointed.

5 Dec 2012

Keeping up the momentum [IWSG]

Trevithick's Locomotive

I felt that this is an appropriate post given that Mithril Wisdom turned three years old yesterday. I also wanted to make it a sort of tribute to Graeme's Fantasy Book Review, who some of you may know decided to step down last week.

Graeme's was the very first blog I followed when I first typed in "fantasy book review blogs" into Google when just before I started Mithril Wisdom. His blog was an inspiration to me, and I had the honour of posting on his blog shortly before he decided to depart (I hope my post had nothing to do with his decision - eep!). His blog will be sorely missed, and I hope that he'll still hang around with us geeky booky types.

His bowing out made me think about how blogs naturally lose momentum and there comes a time where we as bloggers eventually declare "enough is enough". I hope that doesn't happen to me for a while.

4 Dec 2012

Mithril Wisdom turns three years old!

Robot birthday cake

Well, who'd have thought it. Three years ago today I dipped my toe into the world of blogging and wrote my first very brief hello as Mithril Wisdom. Seeing as this blog was created as a means to stop myself going crazy during my Master's Degree, I never thought I'd make it past the first birthday, let alone making it to two years old and now three. It's been a pretty awesome ride and I've made a lot of good friends in the process.