Saturday, 26 December 2009
W. N. Herbert, a favourite at the Fuselit den, has written this awesome festive poem about the forgotten martyr of the season - the noble chicken.
The Nativity Chicken
Below the trembling udder-thuribles
of carolling kine, beneath
the suddenly-loquacious ass
lo, the nativity chicken, roaming
between the shifting pillars
of their leggy temple
to be plucked out on the morn
and executed, though innocent of envy
to provide a nourishing broth
for both mother and boy
(Joseph's speciality for the journey)
let her severed head be set among the stars
to guide all poultry home
to the great after-egg of release
from pucking and pecking
from straining and laying
let her startled beak announce peace
for all those who labour but do not know it
who serve with no sense of duty
and sacrifice without grasp of regret
let her blessings descend upon us like feathers
For more Herbertage, why not explore these realms?
On a poultry theme, check out artist Matthew Meyer's awesome Chickens of the World sequence.
and to drink?
Dark Roasted Blend, who find the weirdest and most intriguing artwork and objects in their "on-going quest for wisdom and beauty, for all things cool and wonderful in our world, and beyond - in the spiritual realm. " have featured a gorgeous array of robot art here. Check out their steampunk page too.
Right-o. I'm off downstairs to ignore all warnings against a surfeit of food and sample some of my future sister-in-law's stunning cakes. Please don't let me Hulk out tonight, body.
Wednesday, 23 December 2009
That's Obakarama, and here's Coin Opera:
Both are £5 (plus p&p) and can be ordered from the Sidekick Books site. They're pocket-sized and between 40 and 50 pages each, packed with poetry and (in the case of Obakarama) full-colour illustrations. The contributors are a combination of poets we admire and have approached, poets who we have discovered purely through Fuselit and ones we have encountered through the thriving London poetry scene. Although there's a bias towards the capital, there are also contributors from India, Scotland, the US and Finland. We've got a nice gender balance too, with 12 female poets and illustrators to 13 male.
We're very pleased with these books - they may not be handmade in the same way Fuselit is but every bit as much love and attention has gone into making them. The print quality is excellent (thanks to the chaps at Good News Press) and everybody involved has been both enthusiastic and hard-working. I feel like this sort of approach to publishing poetry is genuinely different, taking the emphasis off the individual as demi-popstar and removing the need to slap over-the-top praise and commendation on every interesting new poet in order to get people to read their work. Instead, the focus is on poetry as a way of engaging in an entertaining way with our past and our future, with other cultures and our own. The common theme gives readers an entry point to an individual's work and also operates as a way of getting people outside the usual circles interested in what poets are doing.
At least, that's the theory! And on that basis, we're planning more collections in the new year, aiming for an even broader range of poets and still more fresh and exciting subject matter, as well as continuing the sort of collaborative formal experiments we started with Chimerium and Telemorphics. It will also, I hope, give us a little breathing space with Fuselit - that is, to continue in the tradition we've established of publishing a unique, lovingly put together literary magazine based on the connotations of a single word, but without the pressure to use it as a vehicle for all our new ideas. With any luck, that means we'll be able to settle into a more regular cycle, and our aim is to get three issues out in 2010, starting with Tilt in January, followed by Jack in May and then ... well, the next word will be announced soon - I've already got the CD design done for it, and a plan for the cover.
Anyway, what's left to say is Merry Christmas to everyone out there, and have a fantastic New Year, from all of us at Fuselit!
Saturday, 19 December 2009
The set up was as follows: a video camera is set up in the centre of the room, which is linked up to a projector. The animation is then created in real time, using a series of beautiful paper cut outs which are moved in front of the camera by the two animators/puppeteers.
It struck me that there was an enjoyable tension created by having the mechanisms of the animation laid bare in this way - you could see a pictorial cut out being readied, wonder how it was going to be used and then see it realised on the screen. It didn't distance you from what was taking place within the story, but the two inalienably connected spectacles of creating and creation resonated with one another strangely. You could never actually see the act of creating an effect or movement and the effect or movement itself, but you could infer perfectly between the two (a kind of aesthetic 'knowingness' perhaps?) Against this was a semi-improvised musical accompaniment which in part acted as a glue for the visual experience, allowing you to become immersed in its tensions - or despite them, if you should so choose. But the music must have been more than this, because what was happening visually was of course a parallel of the music, but made clear in a way that we wouldn't normally hear or see in music. Or perhaps it was there all the time, and I'm just not sensitive enough to it.
Phew. I hope that made some kind of sense - I may have been reading too much aesthetics. After the performance, we were showed sketches and talked through what The Paper Cinema presently had in the works - a retelling of the Odyssey. Interspersed with this was further music - some of it the planned score for the new work. It was a pleasure to see a project in its early stages, and it was good to be given an opportunity to input into it - though I question the use of standard BAC forms as a means of accomplishing this. It seemed slightly undiscursive, and the questions didn't quite fit with what we'd seen and been shown. In fairness though, we were all perfectly free to ask questions, and food was offered in an attempt to create a more congenial atmosphere. As with so much, it was what you made of it. For my part, it has got me to consider carefully how you can expose artistic processes to generate more than just critical distance, and what kind of strategies you can employ to encourage people to engage in what you're doing.
Thursday, 17 December 2009
Other readers include Chris Horton - who has a splendid poem in Fuselit: Mars and whose work turns up more and more regularly in the big national poetry competitions - and Joshua Idehen. I saw Idehen perform at the Fling festival this year and he actually - I'm not even joking or exaggerating - seemed to magnetically draw people towards the poetry tent. He got up on stage and people started to flood in from all directions, beyond the range of the speaker system. He is undoubtedly responsible for most of those 80 who've already put the date in their diaries. Is it just that he's astonishingly tall? Is it the easy-going charisma he exudes? I dunno. But if it means more people are coming to see poetry events, that must be a good thing.
There's also going to be some stories and music, keeping things nice n' eclectic. And I'm going to bring a CD with some music from Sonic 2 in it, which I am going to incorporate into my set. Also some Caligula poems. In fact, I'm going to be mostly doing Caligula poems.
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
The Pentone website has tones ranging from 'Hallmark' to 'Palin', 'Boring' to 'Daily Mail'. The mugs, which can be ordered individually or in a set, are 'Yorkshire', 'Sympathetic', 'Stirring' and 'Mug'. You get a swatch sheet featuring the full range with every order though.
Asbury & Asbury are also responsible for the book Corpoetics, which myself and others reviewed for Happenstance here. It's a rather clever little book made up entirely of poems collaged from corporate mission statements.
Back to Pentone, and my current favourite is probably 'Dithering':
Sunday was fun. It really didn't feel like eight or so hours in the same joint, although there's no doubting that a hell of a lot of entertainment was packed in, and the Fuselit gang were very happy to join in. The event was co-hosted by Broadcast, Rising magazine and Donut Press, aka Roddy Lumsden, Tim Wells and Andy Ching.
The festivities kicked off in the afternoon, with a series of short readings by Ashna Sarkar, Sabrina Mahfouz, Suzanne Andrade and Sophia Blackwell, compered fantastically by the latter. I hadn't seen Suzanne before, but particularly loved her set of mimed-to-backing-track tales - eerie and as darkly deadpan as a Blue Jam sketch.
Then it was Team Fuselit with the readers from Coin Opera and Obakarama. Roddy Lumsden, Simon Barraclough, Chrissy Williams, Ross Sutherland, Rowyda Amin, David Floyd, Cliff Hammett, Amy Key, Adham Smart and me and Jon compering, reading from Coin Opera and Obakarama, all introduced to a soundtrack of classic game themes. We were over the moon with the readings, and it made us all the more excited about the books, which sold well!
15 to 1 saw a veritable conga line of poets, including Jon, answer questions from Roddy's magazine of quizzery, the winner being the mighty Rowyda Amin.
Then we saw sets by the authors of some of the year's best poetry collections, including Penned in the Margins head honcho Tom Chivers, Luke Kennard and the wounded-but-game Kate Kilalea.
Penultimately, we had the fantastic Donut poet Tim Turnbull. If you haven't seen him and you have the chance, you probably should. Especially when he rounds off his set with a chorus by acapella group the La Di Dahs to accompany him.
The immaculately-coiffed La Di Dahs rounded the reveleries off with Andrews sisters-esque renditions of Creep, Lose Yourself and Earth Song, before the wartime classic Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.
And that was that - the day slid so easily by. The Betsey, as usual, proved a grand venue (with top mulled wine), the spirit was decidedly festive and there were even presents. Here's hoping it's repeated next year.
PS: oh yeah - the Audrey II mention is in reference to the huge pot plant that you can see in the Tim Turnbull picture above, which thwarted most of my other photos. Ah, I'm fooling nobody. I blighted the shots by being supremely rubbish at photography. But enthusiasm? I got that.
Sunday, 6 December 2009
A few weeks back, I was set a task to create a Free Media tool. Free Media, if you're not familiar with the term, is about creating accessible and open methods for people to get their messages across - and for a lot of people, accessible means cheap! But not necessarily for free - the 'Free' is 'Free Media' is as in freedom, not free cake.
And in line with this, once you've had an idea, it's good to share it will all and sundry, so they can give it a go if they fancy it. So here it is - the Clothes Airer Flash-mob Exhibitor (or, ermm, CAFE for short). It's a device to provide an easy, portable stand for presenting work in a variety of mediums.
What I had in mind was producing a simple presentation system suitable for flash mob exhibitions. Flash mobs, if you're not familiar, are large groups of people who suddenly come together for a small amount of time, usually to do something unusual. And so a flash mob exhibition is a sudden group exhibition which comes out of nowhere, and then after a short amount of time is disbanded.
The normal convention used in these affairs appears to be the clothesline (or whatever the line is that you use to put up your photos when developing), see for instance:
This has a pretty nice DIY aesthetic and is eminently suitable for photography - but I think there's definitely room for alternatives - the 'clothesline' has low visibility and arguably isn't suitable for media and artworks in larger formats. So here's what I came up with:
Making the Clothes Airer Flash-mob Exhibitor
What you'll need:
A clothes airer like the following:
It's far better to get one where the plastic joiners are separate rather than doubling up as caps for the tops and bottoms
Other helpful bits include curtain pegs, drawing pins, and bedsheets:
Oh and things to display!
How to make it:
1. Adjust the connectors and 'panels' into a creative configuration. Leaving the panels all at one levels is boring - you can make a far more interesting display by raising the central panel.
If you have two or more of the clothes airers you can connect them up into a multiplicitous wonder.
2. Put up your creation. If the ground is soft, push it down into the mud to make it more stable.
3. Fold the bed sheets and place them neatly over the panels of the clothes airer, making a nice clean surface for you to attach your work to. If you want to look smart you could go so far as to iron the sheets - but this is a bit dull and time consuming, so I probably wouldn't bother.
4. If you don't mind putting pins through what you're showing (or alternatively mount it on paper), this is perhaps the easiest way to attach things. You can use curtain pegs under the sheets to hook things - it's difficult but doable!
You can hang all kinds of things:
Here's a link to a video of me putting it up and taking it down in a park in Camberwell. Don't watch it through, skip through on the bar at the bottom:
It took me 10 minutes to set up on my own without a clue what I was doing - with preparation and friends you can have it up in no time. Coincidentally, it ended up an exhibition of
And in case you were wondering how I hung the laptop - I unscrewed the back panel, placed two hairbands round the screwholes...
.. and then screwed them up again. Try at your own risk!
Clothes Airer Flashmob Exhibitor - howto (inc all images, video and text) by Cliff Hammett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Thursday, 3 December 2009
The second micro-anthology from Sidekick Books, Obakarama contains poems and artwork inspired by Japanese folk monsters. With thanks to the brilliant Obakemono Project, we've rallied a band of wandering ronin to study some of these weird and wonderful beasts and come up with poetry based on their bizarre and sometimes beguiling traits.
Long-necked and long-tongued demons, winged dogs, mysterious children hiding in umbrellas, amphibious tricksters, killer scarves and cloud apparitions are just some of the characters you'll encounter inside.
Features poetry by Adham Smart, Wayne Holloway-Smith, Roddy Lumsden, Ian McLachlan, Aiko Harman, Chrissy Williams, Richard Watt, Kirsten Irving and Amy Blakemore, and artwork by Mike Stone, Hanne Härkönen, Seb Manley, Mary Graham, Darnae “Crimsonwolf” Sobolewski, Jd and Jon Stone.
I'll round off with the following poem from the anthology, by Chrissy Williams:
Hainu in Chikugo Fields
Hideyoshi whistles through the tall grass,
katana held low.
Hainu's ears prick up in the azalea bed.
He yawns a wide grin
and stretches his white wings
from shoulder blades to feather tips.
Hideyoshi comes closer.
Hainu springs up in delight
and gives a hearty shake.
The sharpness of his teeth
and glinting of his eyes
form a soft smile on his pantomime-fierce face.
Hideyoshi raises his sword arm.
Hainu starts, then howls a battle cry.
Fierce dog of the skies, defier of gravity, remember:
you must not pay for loyalty
with your life.
Sunday, 29 November 2009
The first thing that strikes you as you walk towards the beach is the sound. It's not hard to understand how so many myths have sprung up around seals - it's truly haunting to hear this howling echoing across the sand.
As soon as you get near the colony, it's a pretty impressive sight. Hundreds of seals lying across the sand (1,200-odd babies born this year!). Jon described it as looking like a cross between the Normandy landings and the aftermath of an insanely over-indulgent dinner party.
The Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust provide a voluntary protection and information service, and a small wooden fence has been erected, which you can stand behind, so as not to interfere with the seals and their pups, and to stop the children biting the animals. This little guy wanted to explore the strange bipeds behind the fence for himself!
It's usually fiercely windy and/or drizzly at Donna Nook, owing to the season and the coastal exposure, which is good for two reasons: firstly, it stops me staying there all day gawking at tubby pups waving their flippers and secondly, it puts a slight cap on the rapidly increasing numbers of visitors. Don't get me wrong, lots of people coming, enjoying seeing the seals and donating to the Trust is a great thing, but if it gets too crowded, it's harder for anyone to enjoy themselves, not to mentions the stacks of burger vans that'll move in (without, I suspect, paying a penny to the Trust for their increased custom), and eventually you can't help worrying that the Trust will get overstretched and the animals disturbed. So I welcome foul weather - it's a natural moderator.
You get a full cross-section of the harsh realities of life in wild even in just a short period of time on that beach. Dead pups who had failed to gain enough weight, fights between huge bulls, rapes, the struggle by new mothers to defend their pups, not just from us, but from aggressive suitors wanting the offspring out of the way to get to the females. According to Trust information, the mortality rate for pups is 10% at Donna Nook, way lower than the average, though it rises to approximately 40% once the pups are out on their own in the sea. It's not an easy existence. You do, however, alongside the more grim aspects, get to see moments like this mother suckling her pup:
So that was our trip to see the seals, or scuba dogs, as a geordie colleague calls them. Oh, and I had to include this guy. He's got a good attitude.
More seal photos can be seen here if you fancy a further (albeit badly shot) peek at colony life.
Friday, 27 November 2009
This has started happening a lot with the Table Tennis. It's OK until I start caring about winning, and then I get gradually more and more irritated with it. More on that in a moment.
Thursday, 26 November 2009
Professor Palindrome Plots His Trajectory
0G draws Ram
on deep space. Sir, I rise! Cap
speed? No: Marsward go!
It's hard not to love palindromes anyway, but it's so cool to receive such a creative response to the magazine. Mike, we salute you!
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Cycling has been unfairly maligned in every other review I've encountered. Why others prefer the likes of Wakeboarding and Basketball is beyond me. Maybe it's something to do with what you look like when you're playing it, since cycling has you pumping your arms up and down frantically to move the pedals while tilting left and right to steer. It's certainly not the most elegant of control systems, but all that movement does help you feel like you're actually competing in something, as opposed to simply waving a magic wand around to make figures on the screen perform all your feats for you. There are moments when I've crossed the finish line unconsciously leaning forward like a sprinter going all out for the last few feet, then realised, as the results come in, that I'm actually pretty breathless.
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
To do that, we'll need ISBNs, so's people can order them from bookshops. And to get ISBNs, we need to be a publisher. Hence, Sidekick Books was born, and will be releasing two debut micro-anthologies just in time for Christmas (we hope). Taking a cue from weekly British comic 2000AD, the chief editor of Sidekick Books will be someone so unlike traditional publisher-types you'd almost suspect him to be imaginary - in this case, Dr Fulminare, self-confessed genius alchemist of the arts. That's him on the cover to Coin Opera there, in the form of a sprite from the Final Fantasy series.
Coin Opera is going to be a 48 page book of poems about or inspired by computer games. Whether or not you think that's a suitably inspiring subject matter depends, I suppose, on your prejudices. I think it's a rich seam, begging to be mined for characters, conceits, formal invention, atmosphere, symbolism, statement and personal reflection, so much so that unless our attempts to get this on the road are a complete disaster, I'll be trying to put together a sequel book next year.
Here are the poets who have contributed to Coin Opera, presented in the form of a Street Fighter II selection screen:
Recognise any? I can't guarantee these are the most arresting likenesses - they're more in the games industry tradition of working within certain constraints. The poets themselves faced a similar task - keeping their pieces suitably nugget-sized, like programmers trying to make sure their fifty hour point and click adventure fits onto a single floppy disk. Economy of language is, after all, a mainstay of both arts. I think the longest pieces in the collection may be Ross Sutherland's sonnets, at a traditional 14 lines each.
I'm going to wrap up the preview now with a piece by David Floyd, based on Championship Manager:
Second half substitution
Jesus is ready to come on
John the Baptist will make way
Jesus comes forward
Jesus plays the ball to Peter’s feet
Peter loses out
Matthew gathers up the loose ball
Matthew hits a 30 yard ball ahead of Jesus
Jesus is free of the last defender
Jesus bears down on goal
Judas brings him down
A free kick is awarded
Jesus will have to go off
The Referee wants a word with Judas
Matthew puts the ball into the six yard box
Peter has the goal at his mercy
Satan puts it behind for a corner
He somehow got his fingertips to it
Monday, 23 November 2009
Anyway, I'll do a quick run through the activities and say what I think of them. In one player, the general mechanic in each sport is that the more you play it, the more experience you get, the tougher your opponents become. If you start losing, you drop points and your opponents get weaker. This works well up to a point, forcing you to discover new techniques that will give you the edge without ever overwhelming you too badly. However, not having any control over the level of difficulty means that every game requires concentration, somewhat depriving you of the option to just relax and go on autopilot. It also robs you of any sense of 'beating the game', since the contests are never-ending.
Case in point - Swordplay. This is my favourite of the games on offer, since it reminds me of playfighting as a youngster. You swing, thrust, parry, knock opponents into the water or off the hillside and generally make-believe you're a samurai/fencing genius. It's loads of fun in two-player, where you can taunt each other as well as inflicting humiliating blows. In one player, I've played it to death, beaten the 'champion' and collected many of the 'stamps' that supposedly signal the depth of your achievement. All this means is that I have to spend every battle now constantly blocking while I wait for the tiny opening in my opponent's defence. If I'm lucky, I might get three or four good bitchslaps in per match, but most of the time, it ends in a stalemate.
The Showdown mode, where you face off against waves of weaker opponents while making your way across the island towards the ancient ruins and the volcano, also suffers. At first I was slicing through opponents left, right and centre, bowling them into each other, taking their feet out from under them, generally being the ruthless, invulnerable ronin I always knew I was on the inside. However, as the stages become tougher, it soon becomes apparent that no matter how many enemies gather around you, only one of them will face off with you at a time. Continuing to treat them like a hoarde of attackers just means you get your arse kicked for being too hasty - you have to concentrate on one at a time, patiently watching for the best time to strike while the others dither, awaiting their turn.
The Speed Slice mode is fun for a while - a referee throws various objects towards you, from clock radios to watermelons to bamboo poles, and you have to cut them in the direction instructed faster than your opponent. The best thing about it is that you get a few moments before the next round, during which, if you're frenzied enough, you can actually slice the object in question to ribbons.
What's missing from Swordplay - and this is a theme throughout Wii Sports - are two things: firstly, a more free-roaming mode which lets you explore the island in your samurai gear, challenging strangers to fights. It would be particularly satisfying if you could march right up to the table tennis court and take revenge on whoever beat you in the last match.
Secondly, and more importantly, the level of violence is too low. I know this is meant to be a family game, and so we can't really kill people. Fair enough. But the worst you can ever do to an opponent, it seems, is disappoint them. When they roll off a cliff, they're immediately saved by a balloon. When you knock them to the floor, they sit around wriggling their legs for a bit as if mildly inconvenienced. Even after plunging into the sea from an elevated platform, they turn up moments later, dripping and looking just ever so slightly downcast. Not to mention you're fighting with coloured sticks instead of swords.
I dunno - maybe I'm perverse. The only enjoyment I ever got out of The Sims was sealing two people in a room adjoining their house, with a window so that they could watch their girlfriends carry on their lives untroubled while they slowly went insane and starved to death. I never got far on Rollercoaster Tycoon because I couldn't resist building a ride that ended half way through, in mid-air, calling it 'Certain Death', and then watching as hundreds of tiny sprite-based punters queued up, screamed with delight and then with terror, as they expired in a corkscrew of flame. Part of what I like about games is doing things that you can't do in real life because you're considerate of other people's rights and feelings. Games characters don't have rights or feelings - they just exist as part of an extended formulae for getting the player's brain to release endorphins. So I would have really appreciated being given the option to march into the town square in my swordplay gear and start knocking holiday-makers down like skittles. And I'd have appreciated seeing opponents you have bested clutching their knees or chest in discomfort, losing their grip on their swords, crawling feebly away or flat out not moving, so as to imply they've actually had enough, rather than simply being 'tagged out'.
I said I'll do a 'quick run through' - actually, I'm doing my usual thing of going into far too much detail. So I'll save the other sports for another day!
Thursday, 19 November 2009
With vintage cartoons playing across the wall and a mini-picnic of refreshments, an audience space that has room to expand, but which wouldn't feel too empty on a quieter night, and time in the interval to wander round and view the artwork on display, it's sure to become an open mic favourite.
Our set, a double-headed beast, featured a preview of Bard Games, the bonus booklet to be given away with Fuselit's next issue, Tilt. We've had a bash at writing poetry using tabletop, board and card games to create rules and forms, with varying levels of success. Favourites such as Jenga, Dominoes, Scrabble and Battleships have been mined and turned into verse, accompanied by instructions, in case you want to have a go yourself.
If you have interesting ideas for hybrid forms or weird and wonderful poetic structures, we'd like to hear from you. Comment here or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tilt will be out soon - keep 'em peeled.
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
In this case, the reason for the 'issue 1' label is partly because the story is now under he helm of a new writer/editor/artist team and partly because this is the first time IDW are officially publishing an ongoing monthly Transformers comic. Everything they've put out up until now was in the form of mini-series of four, five, six or twelve issues and individual one-shots. A major mistake that, I imagine, cost them a chunk of their readership, was never making it clear within the comics what order they should be read in. Characters from spotlight issues would turn up in the fifth issue of one of the mini-series, carrying with them plot threads you didn't know existed if you hadn't been buying everything under the TF banner. Just to make things even more confusing, they were simultaneously republishing the back-catalogues of Dreamwave and Marvel's stints on the property.
This comic, written by Mike Costa, is an attempt to continue where the previous series, All Hail Megatron, left off, at the same point as providing a fresh 'starting point' for new readers. In the latter respect, it works quite well. Everything you need to know is spun out rapidly over the first few pages. It's the near future, and two years ago, a race of warring robots, with the ability to disguise themselves as vehicles, turned up and trashed the planet. Now we (the human race) are hunting down the survivors of the battle, good and bad. The baddies (who lost the fight) are short on energy supplies and regularly captured. The goodies are better at hiding, but are ticked off at their leader, who insists on remaining on Earth in the misguided belief that those baddies that escaped the planet will come back and attack again.
And really, that's all you need to know. There's shades of District 9 in its depiction of how we react to unwelcome visitors from outer space and the issue sets up a bit of a leadership struggle within the ranks of the alien robots. There's killing, a rescue mission, and some crisp dialogue.
Unfortunately, the art is a mixed bag. Don Figueroa is a fan-favourite Transformers artist whose attention to detail is always impressive. He's trying out a new style here that leaves the robot's bodies looking generally over-fussy, while their faces throw up more District 9 comparisons. There are expressions of anger, despair and fear going on somewhere in the middle of these spiky, toothy, emaciated visages, but it's often hard to make them out, especially when the default setting is a sort of gurn. At the very least though, it's not as bad as the movie models and these Transformers are colour-coded so you can tell them apart.
As a follower of IDW's Transformers series over the past few years, the issue is a little more troublesome. Optimus Prime, the Autobot leader, has taken a nosedive from being a competent, spiritually vigorous military commander coordinating a galaxy-wide war effort to an indecisive wet lettuce, seemingly marooned on a single planet by his own choice. His lieutenant, Prowl, has gone from an edgy, frustrated and strictly by-the-book officer to, on this evidence, a generic hothead (a plotline about him manipulating another high-ranking character has been put on the backburner). The Decepticons, as I understood it, have been ravaging countless worlds, yet here the Autobots talk as if a single skirmish on Earth defeated them.
This is, however, a much better 'soft reboot' for the series than the last one, All Hail Megatron, a twelve issue series that either forgot, or rode roughshod over many previously established details and didn't even make much sense on its own logic. What hurt even more in that case was that the previous few story arcs had all been written by Simon Furman, a legend of Transformers fiction, and it was his convincing reimagining of the concept for the 21st century that got me reading these comics again. All Hail Megatron, for reasons not entirely clear, did nasty things to Furman's better established characters and returned the series to a cousin of the 80s cartoon, replete with giant Dolby cassette tapes and construction vehicles the size of buildings.
Any fan of Transformers knows that the comics are where the characters live, breathe and die (and die a lot) while the movies and cartoons generally muck about with product placement and kid-appeal characters. If the comics are going strong, the brand is going strong. On present evidence, this new direction could go either way. Even if it goes the wrong way, IDW have made a rare and significant discovery in the form of super-talented writer/artist Nick Roche, who begins a new mini-series, called Last Stand of the Wreckers, in January. There's no question in my mind that that, at least, will be worth picking up.
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
Fuselit first came across Aiko Harman's work when she appeared in our MARS issue. We were impressed by her clean, spare style and quirky approach and it was great to be able to feature her work. Thanks to my tomfoolery, she was wrongly credited in the bios section as male. She is in fact, very much female and a powerhouse of creative projects, as well as an enthusiastic promoter of the projects of others.
The first thing you discover online when you search Aiko's name is her blog. Eccentric, cute and beautifully laid out, with polaroid images, cartoons and lots of features on her own work and that of other people, it's inviting and energetic and does wonders to dispel preconceptions about poetry being stuffy.
Furthermore, how many writer's blogs do you know that have a store? OK, well maybe a few, in which you can find standard copies of pamphlets and books. How many writer's stores, then, feature handmade robot, seahorse and goldfish toys based on their poetry?
Poetrybot: Circuit breaks? Line breaks? You got it!
As Aiko herself puts it: "I kept going to poetry readings where all anyone ever had for sale were poetry pamphlets and chapbooks. Pamphlets are great and lovely and cheap and nice to collect but sometimes it's good to see some variety on the table."
The Poetry Pets (our favourite is the plush Scrabble tile) are part of Aiko's co-piloted project The Adventures of Lion and Sloth. Unsurprisingly, Fuselit fell head over heels for the idea. How cool is that? Lion and Sloth also does stationary and no doubt has other plans for poetry/craft crossover fun in the pipeline.
You can also read her poetry on the blog, where it quickly becomes apparent that Aiko is all about collaboration. From lyrics to spurwords to practical projects, her style lends itself readily to so many creative ideas and seems to represent the prompt, the process and the result in different scenarios. You spend a minute or two wishing there was more of this kind of enthusiasm for cross-pollination about. Then you buy a robot and grin all the way home.
Aiko Harman hails originally from Los Angeles, but is currently studying for an MSc in Creative Writing at Edinburgh University. She has also lived and taught in Japan. She is interested in representing her mixed Japanese-American heritage in her poetry, which has featured in Miyagi's International literary journal, The Drum, and in Edinburgh's Read This, and Tontine, among others. She was a 2008 recipient of the William Hunter Sharpe scholarship in creative writing.
See more of Aiko in the upcoming Sidekick Books anthology Obakarama, a collection of poetry inspired by Japanese folks monsters, in which she tackles the Kappa! More on this in good time.
(all images borrowed from www.lionandsloth.com and aikowrites.blogspot.com)
Oh, and you can follow Aiko on Twitter too, at www.twitter.com/aikowrites
Monday, 16 November 2009
I mentioned Cereal: Geek yesterday and thought I should talk about it a little more. In a nutshell, it's a full-colour, advertisement-free, independently published British magazine about 80s animation. As with Fuselit, each issue is a labour of love, and so rather than appearingly monthly or bi-monthly or whatever, they're ready when they're ready. It's lavishly - lavishly - illustrated. What editor James Eatock has managed to do is harness the power of dozens of children of the eighties who have grown up to be aspiring illustrators and artists, and who, as a consequence of their TV upbringing, honed their skills devotedly sketching the very characters that Cereal: Geek celebrates. The range of styles is considerable, given the need to replicate the bright colours and charmingly impractical costumes of children's cartoons. Often, a character is interpreted with a slightly kinky or surreal bent (the cover to issue 1 was a bruised and battered She-Ra) that hints at the kind of things we weren't supposed to see or think about with regards to these fictions.
The features are very inventive too. They've happened upon the 'imaginary top trumps' idea, same as wot we've done, except theirs are rather more convincing, and run a regular section speculating on what the cartoon version of popular live action franchises would have looked like. So if you've ever wondered how an Indiana Jones: The Animated Series might have played, Cereal: Geek gives you a pretty convincing idea.
Is the subject frivolous? I don't think so. This is pop fiction an entire generation identifies with and the magazine examines it through multiple perspectives. In fact, each issue so far has dealt with a particular theme - from Violence through to Evolution. Episodes are rewatched and rated on how blatantly they advertise new products to the intended audience, whilst other articles imagine the extended existence of characters in the afterlife of the show they starred in and how they adapt to life without an arch-enemy.
And let's not forget that eighties animation doesn't just mean Transformers and other 'gimmick' products (not that I'm down on Transformers - more on that later); it also includes things like the wickedly inventive British claymation series The Trap Door, voiced by the late Willie Rushton, and Jean Chalopin's epic reimagining of the myth of Ulysses as a space opera. The first article I wrote for the magazine concerns The Mysterious Cities of Gold, which combines myth and science fiction with the 15th century oppression of the Aztecs, Incans and Mayans by the Spanish empire, replete with real historical villains.
Now, I'm not making a case for eighties animaton as high art but it is a treasure trove of strange and wonderful pop culture, and Cereal: Geek dives right in. Plus it's only £6 for 100 pages, printed on high quality paper, which is remarkably competitive when you look at the prices on the Sainsbury's magazine rack these days.
Sunday, 15 November 2009
"From the first drafts of Joyce's Finnegan's Wake in the magazine Transition (1927) and the beginnings of Philip Larkin's and Simon Armitage's careers in pamphlet form, The Poetry Library collection includes the whole range of poetry publications since 1912. The Library invites you to an open display of posters, pamphlets, artists' books, postcards and magazines from its various collections. With items from early modernism through to the Beat and Concrete movements, take this chance to engage with the underworld of nearly a century of poetry, including works on display from TS Eliot, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Robert Creeley and Sarah Lucas."
Unfortunately, we missed it!
The original plan for Cut Out & Keep was to use it as a sort of e-zine supplement to Fuselit. Since Fuselit only publishes creative work, we were looking for a way of expanding into critical - and more throwaway - writing without changing the format. The problems with that were:
(a) Kirsty and I are creative writers first, critical writers second. I'm still keen to write critically - I review pamphlets for Sphinx, I've recently have a short essay on burlesque poetry in Mimesis and I've also done a couple of journalistic pieces on 80s cartoon fiction for Cereal:Geek. I've also, in the last couple of months, been commissioned to write another case study for the National Association of Writers in Education, and asked to do a piece about manga for Horizon Review (which I jumped at - got some great ideas for that one). But - phew! - in between all that, a full-time job, publishing Fuselit and being committed to writing poetry, there's not much time for yet more critical pieces on a blog.
Kirsty doesn't really like doing much critical writing at all and Cliff - I hope he won't mind me saying this - is something of a perfectionist who needs a good allotment of time to produce something he's happy with (time that simply isn't available now he's doing an MA at the same time as his regular job).
(b) Almost forgot there was a list going here! We could never quite get the 'feel' of the blog right, what with so much mixed together. I deleted a couple of early posts that were too combative and 'serious' for a very irregular blog, and too far removed from what we're doing on the main Fuselit site, which is meant to be, on the whole, a positive experience. Occasional formal reviews of films, poetry collections or other things didn't make a whole lot of sense either, and the idea of using the blog to give you an 'inside look' at the production of Fuselit really just created extra hassle on top of the already considerable job of actually producing the damned thing.
Here's the plan. I'm good at plans. Not executing them - I'm rubbish at that - but making them? It's like it's my hobby or something. This is the plan:
(1) Cut Out & Keep is going to be used in the most informal way possible. If one of us is reading a book we quite like, we may post to say so. If we are angry about something to do with how Fuselit is going, we may rant about it. If I've just had a nifty idea for something that will probably never see the light of day, but is nevertheless, by its nature, nifty, then I may record the moment here. I've also told Cliff: "Cliff, keep us updated on your MA projects. Post about it on Cut Out & Keep." I can't remember right now what his MA is in but it sounds rather interesting and apparently involves designing web plug-ins. Can we have that here? Sure. Sure, we can.
(2) As for proper critical writing, proper reviews, proper features, we've got a whole new site for that. I'm not announcing what it is yet, but it's the same site that will be home to our new venture, Sidekick Books, which I'll also be posting more about later this week. The critical writing will be housed in a section called Irregular Features. The name refers to the fact that there will be some off-kilter stuff in there as well, such as a radical revival of our Poetry Top Trumps, and also to the fact that new pieces will be added very sporadically. If anyone out there thinks they have something they'd like to write for such a section, do do do do get in touch.
So let's see if we can make it work this time. Right at this very moment in time, I'm feeling positive about it. If, looking back on this blog in two months, this post looks foolish, well ... I'll cross that bridge then.
Saturday, 1 August 2009
Much news from Fuselit Central! First off, MARS is now available to buy! After a six month gestation, the spawn of everybody's efforts is rampaging about causing untold havoc to all space travellers! Check out the poems, pictures, comic, tales, puzzles and sounds of a distant galaxy somewhere near to the starbelts of Whitechapel.
(Please bear in mind that if we get a high number of orders, there may well be a slight delay before you receive your issue, but it will get to you, come meteor storm or Drakzoid war-ship!)
Operation TILT is now officially closed for submissions. Thanks to everybody who's contributed so far - it's going to be a right dizzying experiment. If you're waiting for a reply on a piece, I should be back to you pretty smartish. If you've been furiously trying to make radio contact with your muse and have a piece you meant to send, get it to us in the next couple days and we'll consider it for the issue.
So what does this mean for the future? Well Fuselit is very excited to reveal that our next call is for submissions on the theme of JACK. Skellington or Springheel, Black or White, Sprat or Horner, we want your poetry, prose, artwork and sounds on this one!
Until next time, so long and thanks for all the fish!
FuseLit is plying its trade on Facebook - join us!
To join the FuseLit mailing list, email me at email@example.com with something uncanny like SUBSCRIBE as the subject. To unsubscribe, please send me an email titled UNSUB ME PLEASE! and I will get straight to it. Cheers!