Sunday, 29 November 2009

Scuba Dogs!

This weekend me and Jon went to Donna Nook near my parent's place in Lincolnshire. The beach there is host to a huge colony of grey seals who return to have their pups around this time every year. I've been back the last three years, as it's such a unique opportunity to see wildlife up close in its natural habitat. That and the pups are very, very cute.

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

Wii Sports Resort: Table Tennis

Part 3 of my extended, rambling Wii Sports Resort Review that has absolutely nothing to do with poetry except that it helps to compose the mind during creative droughts - apart from, of course, when I'm shouting blue murder at it and convincing my housemates I'm somewhere between psychotic and five years old.

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.

Wii Sports Resort Table Tennis is possibly the best demonstration of the Wii controller (with Motion Sensor Plus accessory!) yet. You wield it exactly like a real table tennis bat, even down to your backhands and topspin. There are two major respects in which you don't have the sort of control you might like: 1) the way your Mii moves round the table is completely down to the AI, and 2) the actual left-right direction of your shots, as in Wii Sports Tennis, is decided by how quickly you hit the ball after the bounce. Hit it quickly, and you strike across your body. Wait a moment and you'll hit it in more of a straight line.

Apart from that, it's more or less like playing real table tennis, except without (a) those annoying moments when your hand-eye coordination completely fails you, and (b) having to go get the ball from a gutter, or a roof cavity, or a fast-flowing river, or from underneath another table in the middle of someone else's game.

Playing against another human, as far as I've had the opportunity to do that, is hunky dory. I suppose that's the whole point of it, which might explain why the single player experience is such a drag. It follows the general Wii Sports Resort rule: the more you win, the more your experience goes up, the harder your opponent. Lose, and your points go down, and you'll face someone more within your ability range. The result is that I casually thrashed everyone silly for my first umpteen games, and now I find myself ping-ponging (ha!) between opponents I can beat blindfolded and others that seem to have some kind of telekinetic control of both the ball and my Mii's body. I might have them stuck on the far side of the court, then smash it with ample topspin onto the extreme other side - it don't matter. They'll not only get a bat to it, but remove all my spin and replace it with some sort of foul incantation that makes the ball bend into a near-orbit. With the limited depth perception the television screen offers, I frequently run foul of returning the ball before it's bounced on my side, losing me another point.

There's one particular character who keeps coming up. His name's Akira, and I'm sure he's some kind of programmer surrogate. If I have the audacity to get a 2-0 lead at the start of the game, Akira uses his mind-powers to force my Mii to stick to one side of the court while he bats to the other, or replaces my ability to smash with a sort of 'keepy-uppy' movement. I can almost tell that behind his stoic 'concentration' expression, he's laughing at me. That's not relaxing! That's not what I go to a sports resort for! I want opponents who are tricksy, sure to get a point if I let my guard up, but will ultimately fall if I put in a killer performance. Instead, Akira stares at me with his Dragonball Z eyes and says, "You just don't get it, do you? Your table tennis chi is so pathetically weak that I have to hold back 90% of my power just to keep from crushing you like a bug." He's worse than the Champion, who at least has a weakness you can exploit.

The only other way you can play table-tennis is in a sort of rallying game, where you simply have to bat back as many balls as possible without messing up. Occasionally, a tin can is put on the table and you have to hit that for extra points. After returning 100+ balls though, I tend to get sloppy out of boredom.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Palindromic MARS response poetry!

Had to excitedly burble that Mike West, oftentime host of Celebrity Euthenasia and other Vintage Poison related events (and performer of a quite magnificent rendition of The Shamen's Ebeneezer Goode at the last Bingo Master's Breakout), recently purchased a copy of Fuselit Mars and sent us this fantastic response poem:

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

Wii Sports Resort: Cycling

Part 2 of my rambling review of Wii Sports Resort.

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.

Unfortunately, a system of 'energy' hearts makes it more complicated than it needs to be. Rather than simply being able to armpump all the way to the end of a race, you have to watch out for how the wind, gradient and surface is taking its toll on your Mii's energy. Push him too hard and he goes blue (presumably from lack of oxygen in his blood) then has to stop to chug a Lucozade. For a while, I found this infuriating, as he seemed to spend half the race on his last legs, puddling the track with massive sweat drops while other cyclists sailed past him on basket bikes. After some time, I worked out that moving your arms at a leisurely pace is pointless - instead, you have to alternate frantic pedalling with complete rest. That way, he lasts a lot longer. I wonder if it has something to do with the limits of the motion sensor technology, since the movement of your Mii's feet on the pedals seems to be only tangentially related to where you're holding your arms and he rarely matches pace with you.

The best thing about cycling is the feel of breezing around the expanse of the island to some jolly, continental-style music. Nearly every other sport takes place in a small arena, but cycling takes you in and out of the volcano's core, all the way around the beach, through the town centre, over various types of bridge and even off the edge of a cliff with the wind behind you. One course even goes full circle round the island. The only thing missing - and this is the case even more than in the swordplay - is the ability to roam entirely free. I was hoping that this would be the last option to unlock on the menu screen and instead all I got was a six-course race. Ugh.

Which brings me to the other major defect. Every race starts you off in last place out of 30, 50 or 100 bikers. That's a bizarre way to run a competition. You have to spend the whole time trying to overtake people, which sometimes isn't much fun, as the other cyclists tend to have the compulsion to try to barge you off course, particularly if 'off course' means into the water or off the edge of a mountain track. Which in turn brings me back to the first problem - I can't help imagining how much fun it would have been if, having taken the plunge down the sheer rock slope, I could half-cycle, half-pinball my way to the bottom instead of disappearing into thin air and being put back on the course.

Why did Nintendo go to all the trouble of making this gorgeous fantasy island, only to restrict you to an aerial view? Touring it by bike (while possibly still in your swordplay gear) would have been, I think, a legendary moment in gaming history. It would be like the Grand Theft Auto
games, except without the dull gangsta characters and the downpour of inane policemen waiting to gun you down the moment you do anything fun. Imagine: you're on your bike with your plastic fencing sword, coasting through a sunny town, knocking down Hitler and other look-a-like Miis like a computer-age Don Quixote tilting at windmills. Then you ride straight into the table tennis table and fly into the swimming pool.

Two player cycling is good fun though, especially as you have the option to either race against each other (and five other randoms) or take on the pack with a tandem.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Coin Opera: Preview

Here's the story of the last five months in brief: we love doing the extra booklets with issues of Fuselit. On that basis, we planned out the next two. However, we've found that they add to the weight (and the postage) and take a whole load of extra time to produce, so we decided: rather than package them with Fuselit, let's ramp up the production values and release them separately. You know, as sturdy, perfect-bound, miniature books.

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

Wii Sports Resort: Swordplay.

Kirsty made the mistake of buying a second-hand Wii from someone at work two weeks ago. Since then I've been spending every break in my busy work schedule (and some of the time I should be working) playing Wii Sports Resort. It's 12 games in one, all requiring you to use the Wii's motion sensor remote in ways vaguely approximating the wielding of certain sports utensils, such as oars, bats and kendo sticks. The clever conceit is that all these activites are available at a resort called Wuhu Island - which would be so much ho-hum if the game developers hadn't designed the whole island in detail and given you the option of exploring it with a seaplane. So it's sort of like going on a brief holiday to a place too fantastic to really exist, and I like that in a computer game, particularly if it's raining outside.

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

Topolski Century and Bard Games sneak peek

On Thursday 5 November, Fuselit scuttled to the new open mic night hosted by Abi Palmer at the freshly reopened Topolski Century gallery. It's a great choice of venue, partly because the action takes place in a cosy nook with cushions as well as chairs (leaving less likelihood of disturbance by random amblers) and partly because it introduces Topolski virgins like Jon and me to the Polish artist's work.

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

Tilt will be out soon - keep 'em peeled.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Transformers #1

The first issue of IDW's Transformers comic series is released today. You might be forgiven for thinking that this is a swift cash-in on the staggering success of the two recent (utterly shit) movies. But you'd be wrong! Believe it or not, Transformers #1 (the '1st BLOCKBUSTER ISSUE') is just the latest issue in a continuity that has been running for over four years. Welcome to the wonderful world of comics. If you think that's bizarre, try following Peter David's X Factor. October: issue 50. November: no issue. December: issue 200!

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

Aiko Harman

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 and
Oh, and you can follow Aiko on Twitter too, at

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

Fuselit as Artifact

We just found out from Andy Ching of Donut Press that Fuselit: Mars was exhibited as part of the Poetry Library's Special Collections and Artists' Book Open Day. This is the blurb from their site:

"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!

Fresh start

We're going to have another crack at using this part of the site as a 'proper blog', ie. updating it with thoughts and news regarding just about anything we want to natter about.

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.