Stars or Mars!

Another delay – so it goes!logo

Some stuff has happened since my last post:

Stars or Mars, my new theatre company on SF Theatre, is now up and running at http://www.starsormarstheatre.co.uk! I really should buy a domain for this site, I think… if you go on the site, you can see updates for Terra Firma and collaborations between futurists and artists, which I’m in the midst of organising now actually! Email me at starsormarstheatre@gmail.com if you’d like to get involved!

 

Also:

I reviewed the Headlong Theatre production of 1984 at Amazing Stories, which you can find here – thrilling, dark, unsettling and timeless!

Stage the Future, myself, and Science Fiction Theatre at large also got a mention in the SciFi London Blog: http://www.sci-fi-london.com/blog/2014/05/brave-new-world-science-fiction-theatre-or-beam-me-la-right-now-scotty!

If you want to see me in the flesh – I’m going to the CRSF (which is actually tomorrow, oops!) in Liverpool – giving a talk on SF Theatre and Worldbuilding. If you’re in the area, do drop by – I’d love to meet you!

Susan

Sonic the Texthog

So, in a long history of the franchise – Sonic 1 coming out in 1991, I believe – we have yet another offering to its legacy – Sonic Lost Worlds, which some of you may be trying out today. It’s spawned so much outside of the games as well; we’ve seen plushies, gamebooks, comics (yes, I used to read STC as a kid), TV shows and so on. What I’d like to get at the heart of is what Sonic is truly about.

Sonic from the beginning

Like most franchises, there is an illustrious, ambiguous and most often many contradictory accounts to the characters’ conception (just have a look at Hyrule Historia – nuts!). Sonic is no exception. I’m going to be a little technical [read: not] about Sonic’s history as it’s the particular one I read as a child.

Robotnik/Eggman/whatever was initially written as a peaceful character; with the rather original name Kintobor (yes, it is Robotnik backwards). His affinity for using animals as tools is shown right off the bat; with an underground laboratory in Mobius, he tends to “upgrade” animals for his own bidding; but in this way, for good. His main aim is to neutralise “evil” on the planet Mobius (if it came in a physical form, who knew?) using the gold rings scattered around Mobius (so that’s why he’s collecting rings, right!?) to transfer this “commodity” into receptacles he coins as the Chaos Emeralds in the ROCC machine (Retro-Orbital Chaos Compressor). I only studied Chemistry to GCSE, but I know the carbon structures of diamonds are understandably tight, given the pressure needed for this transformation. Not so sure about emeralds, but that’s by the bye.

Where does Sonic come in, you ask? He tumbles into the laboratory, without his trademark blue colour and his red and white sneakers (I have to be American here) by chance and a relationship grows between him and the doctor. Using this highly specialised treadmill, he hits the speed limit, somehow altering his outward appearance, changing him cobalt blue. The sneakers, you’ll find, were given to him by the doctor so he could attain these insane speeds with minimum discomfort (look, this is fantasy, alright!?)

This is all in aid for the final emerald to be found (which, we later discover, is in the possession of Knuckles the Echidna on Floating Island) – the Grey Emerald. There are 7 altogether (lucky for some) and this is the elusive prize that Kintobor requests Sonic to procure.

Now, I’m not going to debate over whether he spilt soda or typed something wrong or tripped over  or he was preoccupied with a rotten egg (If only I were joking at this point), but let’s say the ROCC was unstable without this final piece to the puzzle and misfires, transforming Dr Kintobor into the abomination (in many ways) that Robotnik becomes. The chaos emeralds are scattered, Sonic is attacked by his newly birthed rival, and the rest is history.

As we know, Robotnik now enslaves animals to do his bidding, but in a different sense; they are now encased in robot suits to take down their fellow creature, Sonic. They also help him in Industrialising the level too; we see animals encased in moles with drills digging out cliff faces and mountains, installing all sorts of armaments. We see the skies ravaged by savage turtles (these always fascinated me, the robot offspring is the product of an encased animal, riding on its mechanised parent. Bizarre much?) and oceans of oil are protected by animals operating seahorses. What is interesting is why Robotnik created this hyperreal animal – a copy of a copy, but the true animal resides inside. This has chopped and changed due to the series, but the overriding design is that of an animal, like a deranged Kinder Surprise Egg. It’s surprising that he now has completely robotic cohorts to aid him, yet the animals are still used as a commodity or tool by him. I guess animal labour is cheaper, given of course the abundance of animals and the less cost-effective method of building the robots. I wonder if the animal actually has agency in the machines or that their brains are overriden. How much of themselves are compromised? It reminds me a little of the Secret Invasion storyline of Iron Man.

What we must realise is that Sonic as we know him is ultimately created by Robotnik. He has created his solution and ultimately, his own problem. In fact, I remember in Mario Galaxy, that Bowser actually mentions to Mario that he’s glad to have found a rival who has equalled him. Is that what this is all about? Does Robotnik ever wonder, if this little band that has escaped being imprisoned mechanically (one that is ever increasing – where do they come from) became mechanised or destroyed, that he would have nothing to do? He ultimately has Mobius under his control if not for this spiked crusader, but that clearly isn’t enough for him.

Obviously that has changed now, once he has for some reason enlisted this nasty team of what I can only describe as demons, to do his bidding. We know his skills-as-Iago, having convinced Knuckles the Echidna that Sonic was the enemy to be destroyed – his karmic punishment afterwards is to be the perpetually poked figure of fun; seen as both dim and relentless. Poor chap. However, the power may change hands in Lost Worlds, as Robotnik has often succumbed to; watching Sonic and Knuckles – (whom he had physically and mentally changed) get their revenge. The Frankenstein argument is frequently referenced in the Sonic series – Shadow is created to be, as he believes, the Ultimate Life form (in the shape of a hedgehog no less) by Robotnik’s grandfather, Prof Gerald Robotnik (yes, I realise this makes no sense if we’re to believe Robotnik started out as Kintobor, but I didn’t write it, mmkay?)but this is implied to not be the case – he is merely a a step below the prototype of the Biolizard in Sonic Adventure 2. Shadow is often plagued with insecurity as to his destiny and purpose, and is of course not thrilled to believe he is in second place to this reptilian rival. Strangely enough, when the beast is awoken, the Dark and Hero sides team up to vanquish the foe.

Of course, there is an overriding theme of Man vs. Nature to further this relationship between the exploiting force and the exploited, how the animals rebel and rescue their captured friends.

There’s a rather tired feeling in his attitude in Lost Worlds which may address this continually – I know he’ll be looking at the Deadly 6 sideways, just waiting for the revolution to happen (as often we see his creations backfire or turn upon him; the slaves having power over their master rather than a means to an end) – but it’s done very humorously. If it’s one thing that this SEGA franchise does best, it’s comedy. I was laughing until I was crying last night watching this. It laughs at the loopholes and carries it all off with aplomb.

Yes, I always wanted to write about Sonic rather than just reviewing it as a game. If I had more time, I’d write a lot more I imagine.

Fiction Friday!

Last week, I started writing commentaries on my plays and so forth, which you can see here. It’s very hard to show plays in the same way you would novel chapters or short story samples, but I will endeavour to do my best!

Last week was Cuckoos and Chrysalids, and this week is A Christmas Gift (that was staged last year in December). I will be doing a piece each week (ish).

In other news, I also did a video proposal for Object, Meet Subject which is also a short play that I hope to be taking up to Manchester. Those of you who are on Twitter may have seen this – I will link it here. It’s a one person show that will be cheap and cheerful to run and I hope people will enjoy it.

I’m also doing a collaboration with Lucy Harrison, a composer who is also studying for her PhD at Royal Holloway. I will give you news on that later – music and writing projects are always something that excite me! The performance should be at the end of September in London – I’m really looking forward to it!

Plays wise – Cuckoos and Chrysalids has been postponed for a later date (I will let you know of all the details). I’m also waiting on quite a few more. NewsHound has also been selected for a future show from one of the companies at the Camden Fringe this year, so very excited about that!

I also may have some exciting news about October and November, but I can’t yet say!

More details will materialise over the month. Here’s hoping!

Confidence at Cons – from a different angle

I’ve seen some of these posts crop up about cons and being confident during them – I’m rather new to them myself so don’t know extensively about dates and lists and so forth. I’m the sort of person who goes – ah! There’s something on today – and if I can make it, I’ll just go for it. Yes, an impulsive and mostly foolish person!

As previous articles have been extremely helpful for people about what to do, I thought I would approach this blog post from a different angle. I will post parallel, running my freight train of foolish alongside and give a wave.

OK, here goes:

1. Best advice I was given at primary school (apart from how to avoid being beaten up, which didn’t work) was: Even the Queen takes a dump. Quel Horreur!

Yes, they are writers, fans, con leader extra-ordinaire or compere, but they are essentially people.  They may be people who wear many hats, but there’s still a head underneath it. We have the best thing in common already, and that’s even before you go to a conference in something you like. Win win!

2. Push yourself. I was damn shy as a kid – I could out-shy anyone. Come on, let me see how you shy! Seriously though, I pushed myself. It’s a lot of fun once you do, and yes, I’ve had a lot of disasters. I just try to see the funny side of it. You don’t need to hurtle down a cliff – trying taking the stairs first.

3. Train your brain. Humans have this annoying survival trait of looking for the negative. That’s how we’ve been wired, to look out for situations that could take us out at any moment. Look for the positives, take those negative thoughts to one side like naughty children and interrogate them. They’ve been blown up to pure exaggeration most likely, like naughty kids often are. (I dropped my sweets, it’s the end of the world AHHHHHH! I had to take his. I HAD NO CHOICE.)

4. Pure speculation, of course. I’m still a young’un (I think, but who’s counting?) but I’m sure a lot of the whole hardcore award-winning instantly recognisable incredibly amazing people started off like us, thinking “Hmmm, what the heck do I do now?” Some will be able to empathise with us and understand where we’re coming from (and maybe where we’re going to). Some might not. Some might try not to. But hey, all part of the package, right?

Hell, I’ve done things wrong ALL the time. At one of my workplaces, a new guy had a welcome party afterwards. I went to hug him at the end of the night and he said “Isn’t that a bit too early to hug me?” when my arms had ENCIRCLED him. I found it tremendously funny (and still do, I’m smiling as I typed it) as hugging people as a child was one of the hardest things to do. So it goes!

Writing Thoughts – What’s your Novum?

So I thought I’d break up the blog with more miscellaneous material – how people interpret writing at large. Knowing an author personally makes you think sometimes about the stories they write with an extra added dimension – not all the time, but it makes you think – no matter how Barthes warns us against it sometimes.

Now, I don’t know how many people have read my work – but I sometimes wonder when writing what the author will think. Art is a very personal thing and even if you create degrees of separation (which of course is fiction), there is an underlying personal message, whether you try and disguise it or not.

When I write SF, for example, I often mention the presence (or absence) of children and the act of raising a family. Fishbowl is about a system where children are neatly categorised and raised to a strict routine, Cuckoos and Chrysalides depicts a woman’s battle to keep her children uploaded until she is ready to care for them, Terra Firma has a female character who has now given up on the idea of raising a family as she and her husband flail in a post-apocalyptic world.

Now you may say I write about children as I often work in coffee shops and hear kids crying constantly, but I think there’s something else there. And that is that the very idea of having my own human kids is an SF conceit for me. It’s my own personal novum (Marriage and relationships are vastly becoming SF conceits too to me, but that’s another kettle of fish). It’s something believable but at the moment unfathomable to me – the world would inherently be the same, but I would see it differently. Dangers would be more apparent to me, my mentality would change as regards to time and space and purpose. The act of raising children does fascinate me, and I think this is the reason why I explore these many angles in my written work.

Maybe we all have personal novums, which is why we cling to certain concepts in our written fiction. I’d be very interested in hearing some from other people.

The Art of Selling Yourself

I have only recently watched those Dove Beauty Sketch ads, and something within it shocked me to the core. It’s clever that it has a well disguised drop (it’d do badly as a dubstep track) which underpins the nature of the ad. Oh, you clever marketing people.  The ad is basically saying: People think I’m beautiful when I think I look ugly – maybe I’m seeing myself in a bad way. Maybe I just have low self esteem. Ah, but here’s the rub:

““I should be more grateful for my natural beauty, it impacts the choices and friends we make, the jobs we apply for, how we treat our children, it impacts everything. It couldn’t be more critical to your happiness.”

OUCH – THAT BURNS. So in other words, we’re still looking from validation from other people, and they’d better be damn right or we’re screwed!

Now, I’ve soaked up all the negative things like most humans do, who are engineered to look for danger, the possibilities of getting screwed over. Where are your sponges? I’ll explain what I mean by these sponges later.

I’ve been *taught* (not through assumptions, actually taught) to downplay my looks from a child. If anyone called me attractive (as some people have in my life – everyone has experienced it), I was told to say “No, I’m ugly as sin” or something maybe less stinging. Nowadays though, I think why? It makes me feel like crap, it makes the person complimenting me feel like crap – nothing can be seen as good coming from this. Nothing. It’s selfish to do that. Then I remember all the times people have called me ugly (I remember being called too ugly to rape). I can think of more of the latter than the former. Why is that? Because that’s where my sponges are. That’s where they’ve grown. I soak up negativity from things to do with my attractiveness and things to do with my intelligence.

Schooling taught me many things: I’m stupid. I have no opinions. I should go with the flow. I shouldn’t go to university. Again – not an assumption. I was told *not* to go to UCAS sessions, I was told *not* to apply to university as they thought I couldn’t cut it. A teacher called me an automaton because I had nothing worthy to say. As someone studying a PhD now, there is a growing temptation to turn around and flip them the bird, but why? I don’t see the gain. However, my sponge is still there. I know so many intelligent people and yes, I do feel incredibly stupid around people.

But my years of learning marketing have taught me something. When you advertise a product, people have to take your word for it. Whether you know diddlysquat about it or not is something you hide under your poker face. But selling yourself is different.

You know yourself (to an extent), and you have the best customer testimonial for it. Imagine if you say, “I’ve lived with myself all my life and I’m worthless. Rubbish. Couldn’t put up with me if I tried.” You’re not going to think “I’m going to prove them wrong. Yeah, that’s right. I’ll go out with them and they’ll see they’re beautiful!”, unless they’re a Disney character or have a lot of time on their hands. I want to soak up all that positive stuff that’s floating around out there and gain a new sponge. Sponges need to get replaced anyway, or you’re just cleaning yourself with your old dirt. Find those old sponges and chuck them out. Realise all that nice stuff about yourself, whether it’s self generated or not.

On Loneliness

The funny thing is how there’s often a confusion between the terms “lonely” and being “alone”. It can be quite dangerous when one is substituted for another – we are always truly alone in that we can’t share consciousnesses past the layer that we want to (and sometimes not) portray. As Conrad says, “We live as we dream… alone”. So what is to feel loneliness then, as opposed to being alone? (Having typed this now, it seems like an alien word – or more crudely – “all” “one”).

To me, loneliness is a sense of forced separation from yourself. To feel that you need justification, a reasoning, an external actualization of your being – someone who will code the animation back into your frame by their acknowledgement. Obviously the reasons for loneliness differ and in my opinion is definitely not a case of being “alone” in the purest sense. You need someone to place you in the world, and that can be a function of our species being a “social animal”. We call partners “other halves” or “significant other” (urgh!). Are we all-one or al(l)one when we’re in this social agreement? Sounds rather contradicting! Maybe we need to extend this term to altwo?

We all have our personal reasons for feeling lonely at times, and I do sometimes as well (although I have no qualms as such with being alone). I guess the way I would picture it is being out of orbit (as we often tend to see out of the loop, or picture this boundary as a social circle – thank you Google Plus-) and we need the gravity generated by the effect of the boundary to suck us back in. Gravity is vital for our survival, after all. The reason for this post? I dream odd things. I don’t feel lonely, actually. I was just ruminating on how the world changes, how I see lace weaving its way through the little corners of my perspective. I think I’m at that age now where I see life blooming around me – many children are being born in my little corner of existence it seems 🙂 and unions are being forged. I’m very grateful to see this little garden expanding.

As I’m my own epicentre – I don’t feel I change as a result. But that’s from my own perspective alone, of course. I may have changed immensely through the eyes of others.