I realise we’re halfway through March at this point, but wow is that second half packed full of things to do! If you fancy meeting me in person, you’ll have plenty of chances over the coming couple of weeks (though it helps if you’re currently in the southern half of the UK). Here’s what’s coming up, in order:
Truth is Like a Lazarus Launch
(University of Reading [Van Emden Theatre, HumSS Building], 6pm Monday 20th March)
I got my BA it the University of Reading, and after getting in touch to let them know about my recent success with Ten Little Astronauts, I was invited to submit something to this year’s Reading Creative Arts Anthology, Truth is Like a Lazarus; or, A Roof Bursting with Stars. That something is in there now, and if you turn up in the Van Emden Theatre at 6pm you’ll hopefully have the chance to hear me read it!
As an added bonus, the HumSS building is worth a visit in its own right: think “Hogwarts as imagined by M.C. Escher.” In my second year I almost missed a class because it took place on a floor I didn’t know existed. Fortunately, however, the Van Emden Theatre is up just one flight of stairs visible from the main entrance. Reading’s Whiteknights Campus is full of quirky things like this: it was very nearly declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest and has its own (obsolete) nuclear bunker. Well worth taking the time explore beforehand if you do decide to come to this event!
Winchester Comic Con
(Winchester Discovery Centre, 9am – 6pm, Saturday 25th March)
The first ever Winchester Comic Con is coming up, and I’ll be on the first ever author panel! I’m also one of the judges for the flash fiction competition, so if you fancy making a day of it then come prepared with a ≤100 word speculative fiction story. The competition is open to anybody with a ticket (which presumably you’ll need to get in there anyway, though it may be possible to pay on the door) and this is very much my kind of thing.
As you might expect from a nine-hour event, there’ll be lots going on. There’ll be guests from Harry Potter, Star Wars and Doctor Who, as well as the world’s leading Tintinologist (an expert on Tintin) Michael Farr. Also, it’s not certain at this point but I’m hoping fellow Unbound author Niall Slater will be there too.
(Tobacco Dock, London, 30th March – 1st April)
After having a really great time at EGX in September last year, I’ll be returning for EGX Rezzed at the end of the month! I say “returning” but actually this’ll be a fairly different event. For one thing it’s in London rather than Birmingham, and for another the focus is more on PC and indie titles such as Craft Keep VR, which will be on display there!
For anyone who hasn’t been following for a while, I first came across Craft Keep at EGX and, soon afterwards, ended up writing for it. That was a bit of a dream come true, really. EGX was the first games event I ever went to, and standing in the massive crowd heading in at the start of the first day, I never imagined I’d have my own work on show in the next one I went to. It was only an outside possibility even at the point I was on the train back home! I met a lot of great people at the last event (and bumped into a couple of people I’d already met at the Brighton Global Game Jam), and I’m hoping there’ll be a chance to catch up with at least some of them at this one.
As the “VR” in “Craft Keep VR” might imply, this is a virtual reality title and you’ll need a VR headset and motion controllers to play it. For most people (including me) then, an event like EGX is your main chance to give it a go. Tickets are available here, and they’re actually not too pricy considering the range of games you get to see! I gather that Rezzed will be more low-key than regular EGX – I’m not expecting to grab quite as many free T-shirts (if any) this time around – but even so you’re looking at three full days of gaming for less than the price of one current-gen console release. It’s certainly cheaper than buying an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive if you just want a go at Craft Keep VR!
And that’s it.
I’ve got a few more things planned over the last little while, quite a few of them related to Ten Little Astronauts, but none of those involve turning up places in person. Or at least, none of the ones that do really offer an opportunity to meet up with people. If you are planning to head to any of these, though – whether you’re near Reading or Winchester or fancy a trip into London for EGX – then let me know! It would be great to say hi.
The Winchester Writers’ Festival is always a big event. I always meet a whole bunch of interesting people, and I always learn a whole lot of new things. Because a lot of elements of the event are the same every year, I think it’s probably not worth trying to write out an introduction to it every time. If you want an introduction, you might like to take a look at my writeup of the Festival in 2014, which covered my first impressions about it (though I only had a one-day ticket), and/or my writeup of the Festival in 2015, when I was chosen for a scholarship and so could afford to turn up for the whole three days.
This year, in terms of a ticket, I went for something of a middle ground. Having had a bursary the first year I went and a scholarship the second (and having got a steady job after that), I felt as though I’d had as much financial help as I could justify. As great as it would have been to turn up for the whole three days, I decided to just go for a Saturday and Sunday ticket, and turn up for the free evening events on the Friday.
I’ve read at the Friday open mic three years in a row now, but this is the first time I’ve got a recording of it. I pretty much just handed my phone to a friend (thanks for that!) so the audio quality isn’t great, but thanks to the university’s microphone and speaker setup I think it’s at least comprehensible. I had prepared to read Osiris Likes This, but since the length of each open mic slot was dropped from five to four minutes, there wasn’t quite long enough and I went for The Three Idols instead. Continue reading
I originally wrote The Mucky Angel for a “Vintage Christmas” competition back in 2012. Here it is again for Christmas 2015, this time with music from the Memphis Repertory Orchestra and a festive audio visualiser that I put together in Blender. Producing this has been something of a learning process, and there are bound to be a few rough edges, but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.
Flash Fiction Month 2014, Day 22
Challenge #10: Collaborate with one or two other writers, featuring a journey between places you live or have lived. The journey must involve an unusual method of transport and the story must not include any adverbs.
For this story, I worked with GDeyke, who wrote everything up to “The tour was neither,” and SCFrankles, who wrote everything from “They started to eat” onwards. My contribution was the section in the middle.
“I’ve had it.” Paul grabbed his guitar and strode out the door.
“You can’t—” Ringo ran after him. “Hey, you can’t leave!”
Paul spun to face him. “You know what? We aren’t—weren’t—even that good. Losing a member can’t make it worse.”
The audience glared.
Ringo glared back. A handful of people from a handful of villages—there were fewer people in the tent than there were cigarette stubs. As they continued to play, he saw several groups come in, look at the three-Beatle stage, listen to a few bars of a three-Beatle song, and leave. He suspected that their potential fans living in Kottspiel—who could hear the music from outside the tent—weren’t bothering to come in at all. It was obvious what was wrong.
“There are meant to be four Beatles,” said John. “We’ll need another Paul.”
“Paul. Ha!” Ringo jutted his chin at the audience. “They’re the problem. No appreciation. It’s like they don’t know what they’re listening to.”
“Beatles covers short one member?”
“We don’t need a Paul. Paul is dead.”
“Er… right.” John wasn’t sure how many people would get it.
“You know what? We should go to Reading. Play at the Festival. Maybe we’d get to play for people with some culture.”
John and George stared at him. They both appeared to have been struck speechless.
“Come on, guys. It’ll be a Magical Mystery Tour!”
They surrendered in the face of the glint in his eye. “Fine.”
The tour was neither as magical nor as mystical as Ringo had suggested. In fact, it was less a tour and more a mundane plane journey with a budget airline. John’s complimentary pillow smelled like sick and George’s seat wouldn’t stay in any position except tilted all the way back. The train into Reading itself wasn’t much better, and when they got off they spotted someone getting mugged just outside the station, which John hoped wasn’t typical for Reading but suspected was. The…atmosphere sure was different from the more low-key, rural gigs they were used to playing.
At the festival itself, however, things started to look up.
“Hey,” said George, “there’s a lot of musicians here. Maybe we’ll even be able to find ourselves another Paul before we go on stage!”
They didn’t. Ringo had been right about one thing: the Reading Festival did draw people with culture. Enough culture that a three-man Beatles tribute act didn’t cut it. They weren’t so much booed off the stage as beered off. Squeezing Carling out of his ’70s fringe, John joined the others backstage.
“Hey, maaan.” A man with a long grey ponytail and a faded tie-dye T-shirt approached Ringo. “I dug your three-man groove. Because, like, Paul is dead, right?”
“Yeah!” Ringo grinned. “See, I told you!” He looked around at the others. “This guy gets it!”
John and George looked at one another. The hippy seemed to be a few eggmen short of a walrus. Still, it was nice to have a fan.
“Here.” The ageing hippy handed Ringo a large square cake. “Those guys may not appreciate what you guys are doing, but I do. I want you to have this.”
“Wow!” said Ringo. “Thanks!”
“Are you, uhh…” George leaned over. “Are you sure that’s okay to eat?”
“Oh, come on, guys! It’s homemade for sure—that guy must have put a lot of effort into it. Dig in!”
They started to eat.
“Unusual flavour,” said George.
“Nothing wrong with mine,” Ringo said.
The turquoise words floated out of his mouth and hung over his head.
“Er…” said George.
“What?” The four letters floated up, rearranged themselves to “thaw” and dripped on Ringo’s hair.
John was staring into the sky. “The birds are singing,” he whispered.
“So?” Ringo turned to the giant pig at his side. “I’ll be with you in a moment, madam.”
“They’re singing selections from Elton John’s greatest hits…”
But Ringo was deep in conversation.
“So, you’re Lucy,” he said.
“Yes—Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds! I know you’re looking for a Paul and I can help you.”
She turned round and showed him a rocket strapped to her back.
Lucy faced him again. “I will transport you all to the magical city of Liverpool—there to find your new fourth member!”
“Will it take long, O Rocket Pig?” said Ringo.
“Nah,” said Lucy. “About four hours if you follow the M6.”
She ascended and indicated the basket that was now hanging from her chest.
“Come on,” yelled Ringo. “This rocket pig is taking us to Liverpool to find a Paul.”
George and John looked over and both squinted at where Ringo was pointing.
Then John grinned. “You’re right. It is a rocket pig. Thought for a moment you were seeing things.”
“What is this rocket-piggery..?” muttered George but he clambered in with his fellow band members.
Lucy rose into the sky and before they knew it they had touched down in Liverpool, next to the Beatles Museum.
“Go inside,” said Lucy. “You will find whom you seek.”
So they did and they saw…
“It’s Paul,” said Ringo. “The Paul—Paul McCartney!”
They approached in adoration.
Looking up, Paul smiled.
“Please,” said Ringo. “Would you consider joining our band? We have need of a fourth member.”
Paul shrugged. “Why not? Sounds like fun.”
“Our quest is at an end,” said Ringo. “And now I’m going to have a little sleep.”
Ringo, George and John lapsed into unconsciousness.
When Ringo came round, a normal-sized pig was chewing on his hair. Raising his head, Ringo blinked. “So it was all a dream…”
“Er,” said George, who had got to his feet. “Paul McCartney isn’t Paul McCartney.”
John gulped. “It’s Ringo Starr.”
“Hello.” Mr. Starr gave a little wave. “I still want to be in the group.”
Ringo eased himself up and stood with mouth gaping, staring at the former Beatle.
Then he frowned.
“Well, that’s no good. What are we going to do with two Ringos?”