Kieron Gillen's workblog

 
             

   
 
 

3/31/2004

 


And lo: There was a website.




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3/26/2004

 
I have to put a post here to remove something or another. This is it.

However, randomly, if you enter the phrase "Robophallus" into Mozilla Firefox you get this. We are especially pleased with this bit: "The aim of male groups is to stop a group of Amazon type women building the perfect male robot who is subservient at all times but which is also a Eunuch!"

Note I haven't quite got a royalty complex. The We is because there's several people standing around the computer sniggering. Group Blogging - it's a little bit like Group sex, except without the sex and less chance of accidentally coping a feel of some hairy man's bottom.



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3/24/2004

 
Taking a break from imaginary worlds for a second, I'll draw your attention to something in the real one.

My Friend, comics-writer and big dirty hippy Ali Pulling, shares the following, which I in turn share with you.

****

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/3561015.stm
http://bristol.indymedia.org/newswire/display/14130/index.php
http://www.warband.org/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.pl?board=news;action=display;num=1080044129

This is where I've been recently.

I am strangely calm with rage and have been trying to sort out the legal situation.

I don't give a fuck if any of you are going to go on with 'hippy treehugging' comments. What you should be worried about is that action has been taken whilst a case is still under appeal in the courts. Technically, the action wasn't illegal, but it seems that this is setting a precedent which makes a mockery of the whole procedure of appeal.

So, if there's a court order against you, and you're appealing it, if nothing happens about this, then the court order may be enforced before the appeal comes before court. I don't know if this is a genuine loophole in the law, or just plain evil bastardry. Or both.

I'm hoping that the courts will take a very dim view of this action, uphold the appeal, and declare the eviction illegal. But in the meantime they'll have felled most of the trees that were being protected. I'm sure that the construction company has considered this and budgeted for a fine anyway.

Cunting, cunting, cunting, shitemongering fuckfaced felchbubbles.

Not happy.

Like I said, I'm strangely calm, but want to go and break things in a cooly calculated, but hugely destructive way.




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3/23/2004

 
THE NEW GAMES JOURNALISM

This may turn a little manifesto, but forgive me. It’s a juvenile form, but such posturing can occasionally serve a purpose. And sometimes, as Kate Bush’s Cloudbusting is currently informing me, just saying it could even make it happen.

I return from Delfter Krug and an evening with comrades. After the traditional lusting after barmaids and discussing the various challenges facing the geek nation, we turn to one of the conversations that I, as a devotee of the gaming press, prayed that was happening somewhere in the universe at any particularly moment.

It was, simply, Games Journalism: Where now?

The money men are worried - and have been worried forever - about the encroaching nature of the internet on mags. They’ve got a point. Games magazines are, primarily, buying guides, offering either information about forthcoming games or definitive reviews of said shiny consumer items. What to get excited about and what to put money down on, basically. Web coverage does both, and usually quicker.

Secondly, they operate as a shit filter. You buy a mag so you don’t have to spend all your life doing the necessary research to find everything out youself: A digest of what’s knowing in gaming. While keeping track of what’s actually worthwhile with forthcoming stuff is a little trickier , sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic handily gather every web review in existence together and average the score. Assuming equality of judgements – which is a big assumption, but outside of the current piece’s mandate – this is perhaps the finest shit filter ever invented. Anything genuinely good will be picked up. Abstractly, anyway.

So why buy mags?

Mag’s offline abilities and toilet-based browsability are one thing, clearly. The second traditional reason is that they’re mostly – and there’s exceptions, clearly – hugely better written. If you want a little entertainment with your information, mags are where to turn.

Ironically enough, you’d be hard pressed to find a money man who actually believes this point. While none have quite dared say it to my face yet, an increasing number are opining in smoky boardrooms that the quality of writers simply doesn’t affect a games magazine sales so they might as well turn to recruiting armies of kids who don’t know better straight from college, burning them out in a year, and then getting another set. There’s been companies who have worked on this assumption ever since the dawn of videogame journalism, and it’s an attitude that appears to be spreading.

The reason why the money-men’s line has been gaining credence is that things are pretty tight in publishing. Sales of this generation of magazines have been nowhere near what they’d expecting. The biggest selling British games mag circa this period in the games console cycle was 450,000 or so. The current best-selling title has managed 200,000. This doesn’t look good on spreadsheets, so they’re tightening their belts and looking for places loose a few pounds. Creating a culture where Editorial is basically disposable is one, certainly.

However, it’s in these periods of a magazine’s industry’s life that comes the chance for radical change. When things are bad, it’s a war between money-men who want to keep profits by reducing costs and the editorial who want to keep profits by being *better*. The idea of “being better” is somewhat alien to the money-people, who’ve pretty much forgotten any idea of what creative impulses actually are – or, more relevantly, the ability to have faith in anyone else’s.

So, to choose a parallel, at the turn of the millennium the money men came to prominence in the music mags, and pretty much destroyed them all. In a similar situation in the seventies, the music’s press slump was reversed by discovering a new underground to write about and new writers to express their love of in increasingly imaginative ways. Ideally, since I selfishly enjoy writing about games while still wanting to be able to meet my gaze in the bathroom mirror, I’d prefer the latter.

In other words, it’s war for the future of games journalism. The default win position is for money-men – they hold all the power, after all. It’s up to editorial to just prove them wrong through an act of magic, since that’s what all creation actually is. The good news is that there’s a fair few editors who realise this, and are conjuring up their master-plans to create a space to express this sort of thinking. I won’t name them, because it’ll just embarrass the fellows. Hopefully, there’s more I don’t know about.

Hopefully.

There’s also all sorts of games writers who don’t give a toss about the craft of what they’re doing, either having completely forgotten why they were doing it in the first place after being stomped by their superiors or never really had a clue in the first place. In many ways, it’s these people rather than the money-men who are the enemies. The money-men – as their name suggests – are only interested in money. That’s fine. It’s like objecting that a Tyrannosaurus Rex doesn’t chomp down on tofu. The mediocre hacks filling positions that could be taken by people wanting to write brilliantly are what will kill the British games magazine. Not that they’re bad people, you understand – many are utterly lovely. It’s just that they’re wasting the potential of the form with their total lack of commitment and/or talent.

If Games Journalism is just a job to you, you really shouldn’t be doing it. The word should be “vocation”.

Right – everyone up to speed and are now either thinking I’m an arrogant wanker for calling other people hacks after some of the rubbish I’ve written or – in the case of my peers – wondering if I’m talking about them. Oh, shush. Stop worrying. As if it matters what I think about you. The question is, am I *right* and what are you going to do to prove me wrong.

What do I suggest doing about it?

Well, I’m not suggesting we do a Pol-Pot and year-zero everything we’ve ever done. The main body of games journalism will remain the same. Reviews that don’t serve their basic consumer-informing purpose are worse than useless. Previews – one of the most despicable words in the lexicon, randomly – are still going to appear. What I’m suggesting is in addition to rather than replacing the old order - though I’d suggest a greater stringency when producing work that’s in these more established traditions. Just be good, y’know.

In the early seventies Tom Wolfe edited a collection of writings from the previous few years entitled “The New Journalism”, which provided exactly that. This journalism was intensely personal, throwing away the rules of standard journalistic discourse like the pretence of objectivity and an embracing of the “I”. We’re talking about people like Capote, Mailer and Hunter S. Thompson. While Games journalism – having nabbed a lot of its tricks from the people who nabbed a lot of tricks from the New Journalism people – uses a sizeable chunk of those already, it hasn’t really thought about how the core of that philosophy really applies to videogames.

In the last year or so we’ve started. In a nod to Wolfe, I’m going to call it the New Games Journalism, just because it needs a name if this essay’s going to decipherable to the human mind.

Embarrassingly for myself and my professional peers, the first real signs of this form didn’t appear in the pages of game magazines, but on the net. Early-period State was painfully close to a new paradigm for games writing, but was hamstrung and eventually foiled by its elitism, its faux-intellectualism and insecurity. They’re all forgivable faults, since the writers were the gaming equivalent of zine-kids, trying to find a voice which didn’t sound too shrill. But still: depressing.

However, once I thought the initial burst of energy was well spent and a fair chunk of the better writers absorbed into the gaming press in one form or another, State produced something that managed to embody everything I’d want the New Games Journalism to be. It’s by a gentleman who works under the name of Always Black, and is entitled “Bow Nigger”.

It’s a memorable piece of writing in at least a dozen ways, but is firstly notable for reading like games journalism without being anything like a piece of any games writing you’ve ever read. It’s going to lead to a lot of copyist features, the huge majority will vary between average and utterly rubbish. Which is fine. Innovation tends to do that. How many uninspired Hunter S. Thompson riffs have we had to sit and shudder through? What, hopefully, we’ll also get are the pieces that Hunter’s verve and vision inspired without being simple plagiarism.

“Bow, Nigger” lies outside the main thrust of “serious” games journalism: that is, the analytic tradition. A bad games journalist would write in imprecise generalities, talking about something’s “gameplay” and urging you to “try before you buy” or similar page-filling rubbish. A good one would look at the game, take it apart, try and understand how it works and inform the reader of their findings. Some people did it in a reductionist manner, taking a game to its smallest dynamics and components. Others – like Owain Bennallack’s memorable description of the Sims as an “Apologia for Consumerism” – managed to take a more holistic approach. The apex of the tradition, if only because it’s the only example where someone got the entire length of a book to talk about the mechanics of the form in a sustained and intelligent fashion, was Steven Poole’s “Trigger Happy”.

No matter what the precise form this tradition takes, it works of a single assumption; that the worth of a videogame lies in the videogame, and by examining it like a twitching insect fixed on a slide, we can understand it.

New Games Journalism rejects this, and argues that the worth of a videogame lies not in the game, but in the gamer. What a gamer feels and thinks as this alien construct takes over all their sensory inputs is what’s interesting here, not just the mechanics of how it got there. Games have always been digital hallucinogens – but games journalism has been like chemistry, discussing the binding reactions to brain sites. What I’m suggesting says what it feels like as the chemical kicks in and reality is remixed around you.

While drug-poetry is certainly one approach to the subject matter –and one the earlier State experiments turned to – it’s not the strongest. “Bow, Nigger”, while being clearly totally subjective, austerely embraces Hemmingway’s cleanness. The tone has to be confessional – what happened to you and how it made you feel – or people simply won’t believe it, or be interested. Pub anecdotes with delusions of grandeur, essentially.

(One thing Sony got entirely right was their “I have conquered worlds” adverts. That’s exactly it – in fact, says more about the games playing experience than a year’s subscription to most games magazines)

While sections of this approach can be useful in traditional reviews – in fact, in my most celebrated review of the first Deus Ex I used a repeated motif of scenarios to show the game’s freeform action nature – the required objectivity of also providing worthwhile purchasing advice limits its freedom of expression. Ideally, such segments will either be the entire piece or used in a punctuated manner to illustrate points by metaphor.

As an aside, in my first deliberate attempt in writing New Games Journalism, it’s this latter approach I took. I hope it worked. In fact, “Hoping it worked” should be a real centre point here. I haven’t “Hoped it worked” in a piece of games journalism for around four years now, because I knew exactly what I was doing. This is about doing something where you /don’t/ know exactly what you’re doing.

While rewarding in itself, this form is interesting in that it fills a space in a traditional games magazine set-up. A game will be covered hugely in advance of its release, with an array of previews, first-plays, interviews before the orgasm of the review… where after the game may never, ever be mentioned again. No other pop-form disregards its subject with such alacrity. Films are re-reviewed and covered forever. Whole music magazines such as Mojo will pore over albums that have been around for decades. Even the more recent music press will review live gigs of bands between releases.

It’s somewhat ironic – or rather, impressively dumb - that in my particular corner of publishing that the second the readers have a chance to play a game is the exact point where a games magazine has stopped talking about them in anything but the most cursory manner. New Games Journalism in the above form is one way of doing exactly that, in an interesting way. From how it feels to be at ground-zero in a Planetside bomber attack to your own personal relationship with SHODAN from System Shock 2, a piece properly constructed and written with proper attention to the human condition will be entertaining. That is, it’s not enough just to say what happened – you have to make people understand what it *felt* like to be there when it happened.

The phrasing in the last line brings me to the second half of New Games Journalism’s dogma. “What it *felt* like to be there when it happened”. In videogames there is no “there”. You’re either sitting in front of your PC or slumped in your front-room, controller in your hand. It’s all happening inside your head, induced by how the sound and light you’re bombarded with alters depending upon your whim and inclination. You’re experiencing something that simply doesn’t exist. This is the games-form’s own peculiar magic, and what we have to explain.

This makes us Travel Journalists to Imaginary places. Our job is to describe what it’s like to visit a place that doesn’t exist outside of the gamer’s head – the gamer, not the game, remember. Go to a place, report on its cultures, foibles, distractions and bring it back to entertain your readers.

The thing with travel journalism or reportage is that it’s interesting even if you have absolutely no inclination of going there. “Bow, Nigger” – and, hopefully, similar future pieces dealing with other game-created social structures – excels in this area, describing in detail the social mores a warring culture created, all on their lonesome. Since every online begets their unique world, this should be particularly fruitful: an anthropologist would think he’d died and gone to undiscovered native heaven to have so many unreported cultures to investigate.

Now, I guarantee I will never play Jedi Knight II multiplayer in my life, but to hear about this strange world these people have created… well, it’s as fascinating as the courtship rituals of whatever Amazonian tribe is being exploited in this weekend’s broadsheets. In fact, it’s this quality that makes “Bow, Nigger” stand out from most games writing – that it felt like a newspaper article rather than anything in the specialist press. That is, you’ll be interested in it even if you didn’t give a fuck about videogames. While it’s using videogames as its subject, what it’s really talking about is the human condition.

And that, I think, is the key to the whole thing. New Games Journalism exists to try and explain and transfer the sensations allowed by videogaming to anyone who’s willing to sit and take time to read it. It paradoxically manages find a way to be more accessible to the average human being by actually concentrating on the *real* reasons why people devote huge chunks of their waking hours to games rather than obsessing in tedious detail over the ephemera that surrounds it (How many levels? how many guns? Can I “be” Goro?). It asks the question “Why game anyway” and then gives as many answers as they are people, as interesting as people, as precious.

So that’s what our old-new way of thinking about games boils down to. A new dogma to drive along the intellectual motorway.

1) The worth of gaming lies in the gamer not the game.
2) Write travel journalism to Imaginary Places.

Let’s see how fast it can go.

Kieron Gillen, Bath, England.
23rd March 2004, 2:04 am

*****
This article is Ideological Freeware. The author grants permission for its reproduction and redistribution by private individuals on condition that the author and source of the article are clearly shown, no charge is made and the whole article is reproduced intact, including this notice.




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3/21/2004

 
"The night’s no longer young when I walk in, teeth rotting in dilute sugar solution and mind rotting with the stink of a videogame that just won’t let go. Rossignol’s AIM message flashes a welcome.

A link. To a comic.

I follow it.

And it’s quietly wonderful."


Panelbleed updates.





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3/20/2004

 

Negativeland Updates. Episode 9: The Black Sun.

Oooh... Portentous. Note to newcomers - past episodes are available through the "Gillen" link on the left of the page.




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3/19/2004

 
Saw a band. Saw a band. I looked at them. It was a band.

Makes no sense to you, but says everything to me.

Back from Moles who pulled another of their gloriously zine-punk moments by putting on Art Brut, an art-rock band who sounded like people pummelling the Fall to death loudly while Jamie Boardman, Rebellion's Graphic Novel Editor, does his drunken shouting act over it. It was somewhat glorious.

It came together in what's going to be their first single - "Formed a Band" - about, pretty much, what the title says. When shouty-geezer belts out the chorus, stating plainly - as if he can barely believe it either - "Formed a band! We formed a band! LOOK AT US! We formed a band".

MP3s on their site, but they don't quite get the glorious racket they produce live and the sheer extent of the lack of talent proudly on show. Single at end of the month on Rough Trade. Get it.

John Walker also fancies the red haired bassist, which is another sizeable plus.



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3/14/2004

 
Just finished did a final draft on the script I wrote last week, and got it off to Charity. I'm pleased with it. In fact, I've got the nagging suspicion that it could be the best executed piece of comics work I've yet written. The PHONOGRAM scripts are more ambitious, but that alone makes them almost inevitably less well executed.

We'll see.

It's for the Variance anthology which I've plugged a couple of times here, and - with any luck - should be one of two pieces I'll have included. The first is the long-coming final HIT with Wilson Hall on art, which is space-operatic evolutionary compressed sci-fi about the entire history of time and the death of the universe, in five pages, with no words.

This script, prosaically entitled "Something's Wrong", deals with a similar end-of-the-world scenario, but from a ground-level perspective.

And, to the horror of the Minister Drill-cock! fans, it's a love-story. A love story in the shadow of Armageddon, but a love story nevertheless.

It's a genre I've coined an "Apocalypse Romance". This is the ultimate expression of the classic Me-and-you-versus-the-world - me-and-you-versus-the-end-of-the-world, if you will. It's where a couple finds what exactly their love means in the face of adversity, in this case the end of everything, ever. And this sort of desperate, futile, human love is something that resonates strongly with me. I came to life in the eighties, with CND stickers on walls around me, with people scanning the skies for rocket trails and when finding mushrooms in fields our immediate thoughts were of the hiroshima variety. Life was futile.

And in situations where life is ultimately futile, it becomes precious. If you have one last second left, what would you do?

I know what I would. Or rather, I know what I hope I would, my own small defiance.

So it's a romance, in every sense of the world. It's why my "When the Wind Blows" reference is something of a lie - that humanised Nuclear Holocaust by tying it to two very small and human figures. This short turns it into the montagues and capulets combined, the force to tear love apart and make it as nothing. So it's a lie.

But I think where it works it's a very true lie, and it's a lie I believe which makes it a kind of truth.

It's been a hard script to write. Not technically - that's PHONOGRAM, which made me butt walls in frustration. But emotionally, I was drained after hammering out the first draft in four hours or so. It would have been very easy to write it as pure hack work, and fall into the basic fiction-formed male-female relationships.

But that would have made me vomit. And anyone who I'd have wanted to touch would have been equally as disgusted with it.

So I needed a couple who were both in totally in love, yet not totally revolting. In fact, more so - they needed to be immediately sympathetic. You need to immediately want the pair to be together, to be happy, just to make the looming disaster work. And personally - and this ended up being what I think is the solution - it had to be credible. I had to recognise these couples, from somewhere. Because I think that love at its best is totally inspiring and I had to, somehow, capture that.

So I had to make two people I love, then slowly try to kill them.

Tell you one thing: The second I finished the first draft I leaned back, got my pen and scrawled a single line in my ever-present pocket-notebook. It was a piece of dogma for my own personal writing church:

"I will never write a woman who needs to be rescued".

I'm male, and I'm sick of purely passive female characters, who act merely as a prop for their male leads, a symbol of their hetrosexuality - their weaknesses acting purely to show the hero's strengths. I have no idea how a woman must feel, but - y'know - I'm not having any part in this social indoctrination.

The important part of the phrase is the "needs". Clearly, I may end up with a female character in shit and people want to try and come and help her. But I refuse to write anyone who just sits there waiting for the white night. Even if they can't get out themselves, they're thinking along those lines. I won't write women as victims. Which may be unrealistic, as there are women who *are* victims, but - y'know - fuck it. There's more than enough people concentrating on femininity as servitude, and I want no truck with it.

This thinking is pretty obvious throughout all of "Somethings' Wrong". They break established gender roles all over the place, but without - I hope - losing their attractiveness. And, to me, they feel more real, which is kind of the point of the exercise.

Anyway, come May and if you're willing to lay cash on the table, you'll be able to find out if it's true or whether I'm talking utter shit again.

Variance Press is Travis G. Johnson's brainchild. It's some pretty smart thinking. Cafepress have their print on demand services running at a fairly efficient rate now. While the costs for perfect bound books are a little high, I think, for prose, for sequential art with generally lower page-counts it's actually highly comparable with traditional printing. A publisher uploads the PDF, sets a profit margin which they take on top of the standard Cafepress rates and then sits back - or rather, advertises the arse off the book. When an order arrives, Cafepress take care of the printing, mailing and accounts. In other words, no up front costs other than whatever you choose to spend putting together the PDF and no dealing with the nasty brute economics of supply and demand.

Nosing through cafepress some people are using it for comics distribition, but all I can currently find is relatively small comics rather than something approximating a trade. Is anyone else doing it, or are Variance first? If so, you can expect copyists extremely quickly. It's a very smart system for small press people. With Travis' plan to actively push these at people, it's a system that entirely bypasses the direct-market system. Assuming quality, there's no reason it can't work.

More news as and when it comes. At the least, I'll link to the work samples from various people as they start to appear on the Variance site.



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3/12/2004

 
Waiting for some friends to get out of what they're doing and come and meet me in the pub, I find myself killing time by reading about Baader Meinhoff online. Logically enough, I pull out Luke Haines' Baader Meinhoff album to soundtrack it.

At this point in time it's actually funny to think that anyone could seriously have considered Haines a pop-contender, but prior to 1996 he was courted as a crossover success. In the form of Lenny Valentino, he even had hits.

And then 1996.

A busy year. He released the Auteur's third album, the Albini produced After Murder Park, and Baader Meinhoff. The Auteurs album's first single was the brittle, perfect "Unsolved Child Murder", released in the same week as another of Britain's child killings. Baader Meinhoff was called Baader Meinhoff, credited to Baader Meinhoff and was a ten-track album of songs from the perspective of Baader Meinhoff. He excelled in his Dickens-villain personna in live gigs where he performed from the comfort of a wheel chair, looking like some librarian predator. He claimed to have suffered a fall, but no-one really quite believed him.

While dark, After Murder Park is more understandable than Baader Meinhoff. He presents these songs (Example titles: "Meet me at the airport". "Kill Ramirez" "Theme from "Burn Warehouse Burn"") in the style of what appears to be lo-fi Noir-funk. Disco-string sections dual with an distorted bass thud, his harsh whispers over the top. You couldn't dance to it, but you could probably slice off someone's head to it. Sound breaks down. Things are clearly not *quite* right.

This was, basically, the start of the second part of his career. This was his first, and probably best, expression of his hatred of nostalgia culture. At this point the seventies, the mind of the public, had been reduced to the disco, Abba and ridiculous flares. Superfly. B-cinema. Cheese nights.

Haines couldn't help but point out this was a lie. The Seventies were three-day weeks, impending fascism and rampant terrorism. So, with a warped version of the musical techniques, he reminds us of the fact.

You can't have Dancing Queen without Airport Hijackings.

What I've always liked about Haines best is that he's not a genius. He's simply a clever man acting with all the venom and precision he can muster at a society. Whenever I see him play, I half expect him to have "This Machine Kills Everyone" painted on the side of his guitar.

A line in a Haines gig of this period always sticks in my mind. He describes the audience as a meeting of "Misanthropes anonymous".

That's it.

That's exactly it.


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Question for the panel.

Whatever happened to Don Priestly, creator of famous huge-o-sprite speccy games Popeye, Trapdoor, Through the Trapdoor and Flunky?

I need to know, as otherwise I'm just going to imagine him locked in a lab, trying to work out a way to make sprites larger than the universe in which they find themselves, in some manner of mad-scientist plot.



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3/11/2004

 
Back from Resurrection and I was going to write a rambling post about the importance of club-partners - I decided the concept of "Wingmen" actually failed to stress that the point-situation is actually a fairly fluid dynamic - and how I was forced into odd behaviour due to not actually having someone to watch my back and follow my lead (i.e. All the menfolk who said they were coming, weren't), but I think I'd rather spend my energy writing an e-mail to the chap who says he'll design me a website.

Amusing night, eventually. Sweet, sweet Pixes and girls attractive enough to know better trying to flirt at me on the dancefloor.

Back off, Dread girl! I'm taken.

(Note to Dread girl if reading: Don't. Your weakness amuses me)



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3/10/2004

 
"Chrissie Murphy is 83. Born in 1920, she's lived and worked through a World War, had a Summer of Love and saw capitalist freedom spread throughout the northern hemisphere, amongst other things

Quickload her life: where would you start? Experience dubya-dubya-eye-eye as it happened? No Call of Duty, no Medal of Honor, just multitudes of German bombs smashing down on Clydeside, killing, crushing, ending. No game can capture the reality, they can only give snapshots, still images at 60 frames-per-second.


Videogames give us so much leeway with life. In the more freeform, the most emergent, we can choose to live or let die. In most we randomly murder - sorry, cause the death animation to be called - because this isn't real life, is it?"


State throws up something worthy of wider-linking again.


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"Sold.

Why bother to listen to the record? If you offer someone with even the vaguest interest in pop music a band called 'Fuck-off Machete', they're going to argue its corner.

Dude… they're called 'Fuck-off Machete'. Go buy the record already. We're wasting time here.

Seriously. Go."


New Noise updates with Issue 4. I finally got around to writing something for them in a piece of rambling, offensive nonsense about Scottish post-rock-cum-garage-rock-band Fuck Off Machette.

(And good to see old mate Adrian Cooper keeping the Bleed-spirit burning by annihilating Placebo in his singles revue)



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Inspired by another idle flick through the ever-inspiring This Is Uncool (which I've been meaning to write about for about five months now and never get around to it. In short: Pretty much single-handedly justifies the entirity of nostalgia culture) I found myself for the first time in living memory scrambling through my pile of seven inch singles to find my copy of Spiral Scratch by the Buzzcocks. Much like an explorer in the amazon, what I went for wasn't the only thing I came out with. Like - say - some local roots, a inquisitive new manservant and recurrent malaria.

My 7" collection isn't as sprawling as my CDs. I came into music when CDs were so dominant the only reason to go for vinyl was either for aesphetics, price or necessity. That is, whether or not it was on a particularly entertaining coloured vinyl, whether it was released for a quid and whether it was released on any other format at all.

(And the former is responsible for all manner of horrors in my collection. Particuarly impressive is all the early Garbage singles which are so beautiful it's a little bit intimidating. Take the stupid girl vinyl which was in a red fabric bag covered in raised black circles, with their "G" logo sewn into it with some transparent fabric, for example).

Anyway - some thoughts on a handful I dragged out and associated thoughts.

SAY SOMETHING/SOLID GOLD RADIO - DISCO PISTOL : On transparent vinyl with glitter. When a musical movement can be entirely characterised by a choice of plastics - i.e Entirely transparent but very shiny - it implies something or another. Disco Pistol were pretty much poster-band of the post-Bis Glitter-underground and I got into all manner of trouble when, urged by James ChaChaCha, I joined the International Pop Underground mailing list and slagged off Say Something in my first missive. And then their lead-singer, the irrepressible Myra-Manga-Disco-Pistol, jumped on my fucking head and I crawled away.

After growing to love it, half a decade on and I've returned to something closer to my initial position on Say Something. While its clarion call to Do Something is still undeniable, it just doesn't move me to do, it honey. It doesn't help that its musical voice walks a line between synth glitterpunk and west-end-musical. In fact, if it didn't sound like a strong recommendation, I'd say it sounds like a piece of music composed as part of a musical about the whole zine culture. SAY SOMETHING! The Glitterati Muscical! Now showing!

Luckily Solid Gold Radio on the flip is still funny and sad and playful and romanatic and reminds me of drinking whiskey with ChaChaCha and toasting absent friends.

OTTER THAN JULY - One of Fierce Panda's dual-7"'s containing all manner of stuff I've never listened to, ever, and "Sugar" by What-Marie-and-Emmy-did-Next band Rosita. And listening now it's pretty clear why they never went anywhere. It's just not good enough. I suppose now that it's tragedy is that it's almost good enough. A desperate middle eight builds and collapses as if it wanst to be a mini-epic. A verse where Marie asks - desperately, which is against her image completely - "Am I wasting my time being too familiar?" is confident and sultry. The chorus, however, is an etheric thing, tiny and most desperate in its search for a tune. Black vinyl. The wimps.

ALIEN FOR CHRISTMAS - FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE: Indie-pop-rock which still makes me smile and has just provoked a little head-bob from side-to-side dance such as you'll see Jude doing at Purr on thursdays night. "I want an alien for Christmas/I want an alien this year/I want a little green about three high/with seventeen eyes/ who knows how to fly". On black vinyl too.

SPIRAL SCRATCH - THE BUZZCOCKS: As far as I'm concerned, the start of the underground british pop movement that ran from 1977 to 1994. Genuinely worthy of the word "seminal", as opposed to the latter "Orgasm Addict", which was literally semenial. Black vinyl.

SKILLEX - KENICKIE: And this is the one. Probably in the top-five most important records I've ever bought in my life. The purchase of SKILLEX with its one-two-combo of COME OUT 2NITE and HOW I WAS MADE was responsible for some of the most redemptive and damning moments in the next handful of years. Its direct purchase lead to what I think may have been the single most contempt-addled thing I've ever done to another human being... but if I had the power to take it back, I'm not sure that I would. When I discovered the flip side a couple of months after its purchase - I assumed that because "Come out 2nite" was so urgent that the other side would be utterly forgettable. I was using it as a single-pop moment rather than the start of one of my great Pop romances - it was heartbreaking. Telling, now, I think - Come Out 2nite I found in Bath when I had a girl lying desperately on the bed, begging for attention while I obssessed over pop. How I Was Made was found in Stafford, alone, gone-midnight. It's still a fantastically macabre Laverne-lyric, dripping with Catholic guilt and self-hatred - When I was Made/The Good Lord rubbed my face to give it shape/But he formed a callus/That's how my face was made, for example - which sounds even better with a halo of vinyl-crackles around her, the synth-swooping around the whole-band-as-riff choruses. I'd also forgotten how the former seems to sound even more urgent on the format - two minutes and out, demanding a flip, demanding attention. It's less putting on a record, more shooting up.

On black vinyl - it's classic, so has to be - I'd also forgotten the sleeve with its scrawled inspired nonsense about them being on the run from "WINSTON FUNTIME their ex-ringmaster" who has access to "a geurilla pony squad" and Kenickie's arch rivals "The Hell". Luckily, Kenickie has "Three Guns and a cutlass" and smell of "Gin and greasepaint". "Sip your spirits, face the front at alltimes. Always stay close enough to fight".

Lovely Lauren doodle cover which seems to say everything about Kenickie at that moment of time: an idea of a band, all fast cars, hips and hand-grenades.



I think, with everything I've imdued into the thin sheet of plastic, it may be a genuinely magical totem for me. We'll see.

CRIMANALES, COCHES, PISTOLAS Y CHICAS - CHICKS: In a wall of punky-poppy harmonies: "Hey! Your real world isn't real at all". Few bands came on as hard in their first recorded line as Irish post-Kenickie Chicks before to spectacularly blow it by referencing Gunsmith Cats in the next line and Obi-fucking-one-Kenobi in later on. Geeky girls have always gotten off with this sort of stuff a lot easier than the boys, and while at the time I half forgave them, now I really don't care. You talk about this, you bore me. Still... it's an agreeably nasal, bored voice that flicks between different levels of intensity artfully. In terms of craft (and I know that sounds ludicrous when talking about three-chord-punk-pop, but IT IS) this album was right at the top of the list of post-Kenickie pretenders (Exceptions: Angelica, who really were something else entirely). Still... I turn back to opening "Let me Go" and it sounds like the sun dawning which makes it all the more depressing when you realise it's not a sun... it's a giant ball of molten Star-Wars figures burning in the hormonal heat.

Hmmm. Seeing that they played their last gig with someone from Akira playing with them, I'm half expecting an E-mail from Ste to say that he knows them now and I shouldn't be so MEAN.

TWO EP - MANSUN. Part of me thinks I was hard no Mansun at the time - relatively intelligent, relatively progressive and open-minded rock band I savaged repeatedly. Then I remember that i) Most Mansun fans were utter shits and ii) They did things like call their second EP "2", which deserves retribution. Bought for Take It Easy Chicken, which I thought I'd - years on - finally be free to enjoy. And it's shrunk. What was a wall of snarly Baggy noise seems a little flacid, a limp. Like a girl who thought her first boyfriend had a big cock, but returns for a one-night stand later to discover that it was her lack of experience rather than him. Pah.

I CAN'T WAIT - BRASSY: Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb... ACE! Inevitable when Muffin Spencer became an advertising jingle down the line - even here, they sounded like they were selling something, a hymn to the joys of capitalism and owning stuff. A big pure beat, helium-sexy chorus and silly rapping ("I can't wait... to rock this joint. I can't wait... to fully illustrate my point"). But - my God - this scratching break is one of the most incompetent things I've ever heard. Is this licenced for an EA Snowboarding game? It can only be time.

I can't find my copy of the Charlie's Angel single "Never Gonna Happen To Me". I'm annoyed.



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3/09/2004

 
Finished as Nick loops for another run through "Into Your Arms". First draft's ended up being - whisper it - a love story. I must be drunk.

Meanwhile, John Walker Thinks This Is The Most Despicable Thing He's Ever Seen In His Life.


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Lazarii asks me "What's this script about then?"

And I say ""When The Wind Blows" with a younger couple and a nuclear threat rewritten by Philip K Dick"

And now I tell you.



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3/08/2004

 
Next door, housemate's screams of frustration rise and fall like a particualrly leisurely snuff movie. He's working on putting together a custom PC case of baroque and unfathomable design, and it's taxing his wine-sodden mind. Screw C? Left-hand Screw C? He comprehends not. And he howls.

I lean back from my keyboard and think idly that at least he has a road map, instructions, a plan. He knows the route his ordeal is to follow. Me? I don't know yet. But there's something out there, and ideally I'm going to find it and bring it home for people to wonder at.

I have an idea. I have some notes. I have Nick Cave singing sad sad songs. I have - a rareity now - a glass of red wine. It could be enough.

And - God above - does Wine taste good now. A Merlot, which fills me up like a red smoke and makes me see opium trails. Red, because red was always for that. White for cleaning. Red for writing. Writing and sex. Writing, sex and catholicism.

Nick changes tone.

I take a single sip that lingers like a kiss.

Fiction-vessel Gillen, cleared and ready for launch.

5

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3

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Namechecked in Rich Johnston's essential comics rumour column Lying In The Gutters this week in reference to the Variance anthology thing, which I still haven't talked about properly, yes?

Man: I'm a tease.

EDIT: Hadn't realised that Variance Press' website is now up. Early days yet, but a little information present for those interested. Go see.

EDIT 2: And now they stick up the cover. Which is this:





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3/06/2004

 


Negativeland Updates. Episode 8: Pictures of Some Exhibitionists.

Light and frothy, for once.





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3/04/2004

 
Now, while I may have slaughtered it ritually over at Novamobbed, reading a rubbish book on curses did provoke a few ideas for stories. As anyone who's ever attempted to write knows, this is what Non-fiction is for.

Rip-off fiction and you're a hack. Rip-off non-fiction and you're a visionary polymathic genius.

Sorted.

The story comes from one of the many snide and annoying things the writer peppered his book with, clearly meant as a jibe. And it hit my head at an angle, span off and blew a hole through the woman sitting opposite me on the train's head. And lo - a story.

After a polish in the next couple of days, and assuming it doesn't suddenly turn from gold (or, rather, semi-precious metal) to shit overnight, I'll actually submit to someone or another. The "who" is fairly obvious and it's the "who" I've never actually written anything for despite spending far too much time hammering out five-page-with-twist stories. And then, with that out the way, I'll write something for Charity to draw as promised in MSN this evening.

Posted as I realised I hadn't actually talked about writing any comics here for ages, and to make you realise I'm not all about playing ZangbandTk.

Which I haven't mentioned here either.

If you don't know, don't go looking. It may get you too and you can kiss your productivity away for a clear month.



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3/03/2004

 
"Variance Press prepares for release of first anthology


The creative forces behind Variance Press are gearing up for the publication of the first issue of “The Variance Anthology #1” comic book, a 60+ page collection of creator-owned science fiction, horror and fantasy short stories, scheduled to be released May 2004.

Distributed by CafePress.com, Variance will be releasing Original Graphic Novels on a quarterly schedule, featuring new and experienced voices determined to create quality stories in genres that are all but forgotten in today’s comic books.

“Over the past few years, the comics industry has generally shied away from genre projects. Variance is going to bring them back to the forefront,” said Travis G. Johnson, publisher of Variance Press.

More details and samples will be released as the release date nears."


I'm contributing a story to this. More later, but thought you'd be interested in the press release. More in link including a bio of immense stupidosity.






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3/01/2004

 
Ego will always eventually fuck with you.

But what do you do when you come across something that you've always secretly wanted for someone to say about you in writing, in a place that they were almost certain that you'd never read?

I'll tell you what: You feel pretty good.

Note to self: Cut down on colon use. It's getting: silly.



 

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