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Topics - The Legendary Shark

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1
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Buy my comedy thriller set in the warped world of 1970s comics and download for FREE my explosive account of Sláine's origins.
See www.millsverse.com/kissmyaxe/ for details


2
Off Topic / I'm Sorry, I Haven't a Prog
« on: 01 July, 2018, 07:43:32 pm »
 This forum isn't silly enough. In order to rectify this, I suggest we all find silly things to do, silly things based upon the famously silly Radio 4 panel game, I'm Sorry, I haven't a Crew, or whatever it's called.


In this instance, however, the games will be based on Tharg's mighty organ. Let's hope we can pull it off between us.


To start, I suggest a game of Judge Dredd Film Club, suggestions for films likely to appeal to an audience of Judge Dredd fans. With an entirely justified sense of inevitable futility, I'll start us off with a few insipid suggestions:


Fargo
The Hunt for Dredd October
Giant
Dreddpool
BrokeJack Mountain
Grudfellas
The Clone Ranger
Dr. Joe
The Grud, the Bad and the Ugly
The Devlin's Advocate
The Day the Cursed Earth Stood Still
The Murd Man of Alcatraz
Mad Max Normal
Picnic at Hanging Drokk
Ben Hur, Hur, Hur
Look Who?'s Talking
The Devlin's Advocate
Judge Death in Venice
and, of course, Bring Me the Dredd of Alfredo Garcia


Now, it's over to you. I'll be awarding points for the best answers - and we all know what points mean, right? Drokk all, that's what. Okay then, get on with it...


3
News / 2000AD & Judge Dredd: The Secret History by Pat Mills.
« on: 08 June, 2017, 07:27:53 am »
Available on Amazon now - Kindle Edition, £4.95.

4
Creative Common / Download, Use & Remix 375,000 Images of Fine Art
« on: 09 February, 2017, 10:43:49 am »
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Makes 375,000 Images of Fine Art Available Under a Creative Commons License to Download, Use & Remix.

"As of today, all images of public-domain works in The Met collection are available under Creative Commons Zero (CC0). So whether you're an artist or a designer, an educator or a student, a professional or a hobbyist, you now have more than 375,000 images of artworks from our collection to use, share, and remix—without restriction. This policy change to Open Access is an exciting milestone in The Met's digital evolution, and a strong statement about increasing access to the collection and how to best fulfill the Museum's mission in a digital age.

"The Met has an incredible encyclopedic collection: 1.5 million objects spanning 5,000 years of culture from around the globe. Since our audience is really the three billion internet-connected individuals around the world, we need to think big about how to reach these viewers, and increase our focus on those digital tactics that have the greatest impact. Open Access is one of those tactics.

"The images we're making available under a CC0 license relate to 200,000 public-domain artworks in our collection that the Museum has already digitally catalogued. This represents an incredible body of work by curators, conservators, photographers, librarians, cataloguers, interns, and technologists over the past 147 years of the institution's history. This is work that is always ongoing: just last year we added 21,000 new images to the online collection, 18,000 of which relate to works in the public domain."


5
Off Topic / Dagobah Discs
« on: 04 January, 2017, 07:04:00 pm »
Desert Island Discs for nerds...

Failed to defeat the Emperor, you have, and into exile you must go! Those long, lonely, swampy nights on Dagobah you must pass, so bring 8 DVD box sets along you can. Complete collections of anything you can fit onto DVDs and a luxury item you may have. The question is, which 8 collections? And why? (Not a bad idea for a podcast but I don't have the facilities - if anyone else wants to make such a podcast, have at it - so I'll settle for a thread on here.)

My 8:

1) 2000AD, the complete collection of progs and specials to date. This is a no-brainer, really. Twoothy has run so many stories that perusing them over the years will never grow old.

2) The complete Star Trek, tv series and films. If ever being alone on Dagobah gets depressing, Trek always has the facility to inspire hope and remind me that success comes from hard work and smart thinking. Trek will remind me what it means to be human and, hopefully, forestall the day when I find myself running through frogspawn-infested swamp water in my pants with feathers tied to my ears.

3) Babylon 5. Every time I watch this series I appreciate it anew, and often afresh. Sure, the effects are a bit antwacky by today's standards and it promotes the idea of statism (on a galactic scale, gah!) but I love the characters and the story.

4) Firefly. A small box set, but I'm including the film as well and it's a quality show all the way. I can see this one being my annual birthday treat.

5) Farscape. At some point I reckon the solitude might threaten to drive me a little crazy, and so the mad genius which is Farscape will be perfect for such times. I'll be able to watch it while I'm spooning frogspawn out of my underpants.

6) All the Marvel films - even the crap ones. Excitement, adventure, humour, fantasy - and the good guys always win in the end. Might inspire me not to give up when the knob finally falls off my rusty lightsaber and rolls into the swamp.

7) The complete Monty Python. I'm going to need a good laugh at some stage and the Pythons are just the folk for the job.

8) The complete journeys of Michael Palin. To remind me how special the planet Earth and its people really are.

Everyone gets the complete works of Arthur C. Clark and the complete Dr Who (whether you want them or not) and one luxury item. My luxury item would be a shedful of pens and pads - because I'll need to be able to write and sketch; it's the best method I know for both passing the time and calming my nerves.


Over to you, oh acolytes of the blessed nerdy-gurdy!

6
Creative Common / Squaxx Telling Stories
« on: 30 June, 2016, 03:07:06 pm »
The Scourge
by Mark J. Howard
Initially mistaken for small asteroids, the two objects were first spotted by the robotic Jovian Observation Platform Galileo II at 19:46:09 UTC on Wednesday, December the twelfth, 2046. The platform's artificial intelligence, noting the objects' unnatural trajectory and velocity, deployed several telescopes and various sensing equipment to gather further information. Four drones were dispatched for rendezvous but quickly recalled as it became apparent that the objects were increasing speed and shifting direction. By the time the first data began reaching the Earth some 37 minutes later, the Galileo II knew it had discovered alien life and was attempting to make radio contact. There was no reply.

It took the objects six days to reach Mars, during which time nearly every telescope, space probe and receiver in the solar system turned their greedy eyes towards them. Uncounted petabytes of data were amassed, assessed and interpreted. The two objects were virtually identical, under artificial control and biological. They looked like flattened, pear-shaped turtle shells, each one half a mile long and largely green with yellow undersides. It took them less than half a day to slow down as they reached Mars. They completed one orbit of the planet and then began to descend directly towards Fort Ares, the first and only Martian colony.

As humanity watched, glued to screens throughout the world, the two objects, dubbed 'Startles' by a breathless media happy to conflate the words 'star' and 'turtles' into something catchy, settled onto the Martian surface like gentle balloons, raising hardly a wisp of fine red dust. There they sat, silent and still in the Martian dawn, for nine hours.

Captain June Whitter, commander of Fort Ares, took a party of scientists and an armed guard in two six-wheeled Mummers to greet the Startles. 250 metres from the glistening shells she stopped the vehicles and waited, transmitting a constant stream of radio welcomes without receiving any reply. The weak sun crept higher into the pale blue sky, bringing little warmth, and humanity waited.

A small hatch opened at the narrow front edge of one of the Startles, followed immediately by an identical hatch in its companion. Captain Whitter began to walk, alone and with palms out in a gesture of friendly greeting, towards the nearest Startle. She paused as something stirred within the hatch. Billions of heads craned closer to billions of screens, billions of breaths held still.

The being emerging from the shadowy hatch was roughly the same height as the Captain and roughly the same shape, but here all similarities ended. It was insect-like, with an exoskeleton of the same colour and texture as the Startle from which it stepped. It wore no space suit or breathing apparatus. It carried no equipment, packs or weapons and displayed nothing like insignia on any part of its body. It walked with a purposeful gait, neither quickly nor slowly, but not in a dead straight line. It wandered slightly from left to right as if not properly watching where it was going. It did not walk directly towards the Captain and gave every impression of either not knowing or not caring she was there. She adjusted her own path to intercept the creature but, as they got within three metres of each other, the Captain suddenly staggered to a halt and clasped her hands to her helmet and then to her chestplate.

The readings from her suit's life-support units, replicated on countless screens across the world, began chirping alarms and displaying figures tinged red. Her body temperature rose rapidly. Her heart rate and brain activity began racing, spiked and then subsided to nothing. Captain Whitter fell into the dust and died. The creature seemed not to notice and approached the nearest Mummer, from which armed guards were erupting like angry ants. Before they could raise their meagre weapons, they too collapsed and died. The Mummer reversed a few metres and then sputtered to a halt as its driver and remaining passengers died. The second Mummer, further away and seemingly unaffected, was jammed into gear and sped back towards Fort Ares. The creature paused to run a clawed hand over part of the stalled Mummer's hull,  like a hunter casually stroking one of his hounds as he passed, and continued walking.

Command of Fort Ares now fell to Commander Tye Singh, a military man of action, and as the hangar-lock slammed shut behind the fleeing Mummer he was already barking orders. The few remaining weapons, small calibre rifles and pistols held against the remote possibility of a colonists' mutiny, were issued to his twelve most experienced officers. There had been no full scale wars on Earth since the Taur Del Bach Accord of 2023 brought down the Western Tyrant Quartet and returned control of sovereign affairs to the people but, still, the world was far from perfect and many ex-military personnel were no strangers to killing. A sniper was despatched to the outer wall with orders to kill the insect creature. The first bullet impacted its chest, dead centre, but did little more than chip off a small fragment of its carapace and stagger the creature. The second bullet glanced off its head with much the same effect. The third bullet cracked one of its six compound eyes but caused the creature to fall to one knee, cradling the wound. The sniper lost no time in targeting the rest of its eyes and soon the creature lay still and unmoving; thick, yellow blood oozing into the dust from its fractured head. The colonists cheered but Commander Singh did not. It had taken twelve bullets in all to put this one creature down and his ammunition stock amounted to only five hundred rounds in total.

Six colonists were sent to retrieve the body. They carried a laboratory rat in a perspex box taped to a ten foot pole in front of them. When it did not die as they approached the corpse, they approached in a cautious file and seized the body, ever aware of the silent, open hatches in the Startles less than a kilometre away. Two of the party got the creature's blood on them. It soaked through the fabric of their suits like petrol through paper and killed them in seconds. Singh ordered their bodies to be left where they fell, prioritising the recovery of the dead alien. It was brought to an air lock from which nobody was allowed to exit.

In the airlock, which had been carefully but quickly prepared beforehand, the autopsy was performed. It did not last long. As soon as the alien's chest shell had been opened with a circular saw, multiple sacs within the body burst and showered the space-suited ad-hoc coroners with lethal blood and pus. There were no survivors. Singh ordered the airlock sterilised with fire and then welded shut.

Then, from the open hatches in the Startles, more of the insect aliens began to emerge. They walked in the same slightly bemused way, wandering in a casual manner and yet purposeful in their destination – directly towards Fort Ares. They emerged singly or in pairs, not communicating with one another in any discernible way, and wandered towards the colony. The trickle of aliens turned into a river and then became a flood. The twelve armed colonists, positioned around the walls, made no difference. The aliens milled towards the outer wall of the colony and simply wandered around. Inside the colony, anyone within six metres of the outer wall collapsed and died. Slowly, this lethal radius expanded. Laboratory rats were placed in lines along corridors to measure the encroaching death-zone, which grew at the rate of one metre per hour.

Commander Singh weighed his options and found few reasons for optimism. The colony, the jewel in the crown of human endeavour, was lost. The only thing left was to prevent the aliens from returning to the Startles and reaching Earth. His only option was to destroy the colony and take the aliens with it, but how? Anyone attempting to reach the automated fusion reactor two kilometres away from the colony would not even make it out of the airlock. It would be an easy task to convert the reactor into a fusion bomb with enough power to vaporise everything within a ten kilometre radius but it required physical adjustments which could not be accomplished remotely. Somebody would have to go out there, but nobody could. As he considered the problem his gaze fell upon a simple server robot handing out coffee to his officers. It was merely an artificial intelligence unit with arms and wheels.

Singh did not tell the colonists what he had done but sent a coded message to Earth outlining the plan and his estimates of its chances. The death-zone now reached almost to the core of the colony and only a few hours remained. He did not beg forgiveness for this desperate action.

The reprogrammed coffee-server robot rolled out of an airlock and set off towards the reactor. The aliens did not try to stop it but a dozen or so wandered off after it like mildly interested children. Singh and the rest of the colonists were dead before the robot reached the reactor. As if discerning its purpose, one of the aliens picked up a rock and smashed the keypad lock to the reactor's airlock. The robot stood patiently, transmitting the entry code to the smashed receiver in the lock. It's probably still there.

The sun dipped below the lifeless horizon and rose again twice before the aliens began to meander back towards their Startles. The people of Earth watched as they wandered inside for all the colony's systems were still intact and functioning. They watched as the aliens took almost a full day to return, like holidaymakers in no great hurry to get back to their hotels. They watched as the Startles sat idle for hour after motionless hour. They watched as the huge shells rose into the air like languid helium balloons, hardly disturbing a single grain of dust. They watched as the Startles gathered speed and left the red globe of Mars behind, heading directly for the Earth.

Then they began to panic.


*  *  *

The Earth's Asteroid Defence Network swung into readiness immediately and had been primed by fortuitously paranoid personnel almost as soon as the Startles were detected. Nuclear warheads were thrust into the Startles' paths. The Startles avoided them with ease. A few warheads impacted but did only as much damage as a pistol bullet would do to the walls of a Medieval castle. Carbon fibre nets, dragged behind rocket thrusters, were like newspaper pages cast before oil tankers and the experimental laser cannons had all the effect of flashlights.

It took the Startles a day to get from Mars to Earth. This time, one of the shells was careful to pass close to each of the six orbiting space stations, eradicating their crews. The second took a detour out to the moon and parked next to Fort Armstrong. Again, the aliens disembarked and milled around the base but this time they did not all survive. Before the base's crew succumbed to the expanding death-zone, several robots armed with laser drills and seismic charges cut down almost fifty of the aliens. The aliens did not attempt to combat the robots. They simply tried to stay out of their way until everyone inside the base was dead and then re-boarded their Startle, which drifted over to repeat the operation at Fort Aldrin and then Fort Collins. In ten days, there were no living human beings beyond the Earth.

The Startles settled into orbit around the Earth, one in a polar orbit, one in an equatorial orbit, and there they remained for fifteen days. More remote weapons were hurled against them, robots armed with drills and bombs and guns were dispatched to try and force their way inside, experimental railguns spat titanium darts against them but nothing worked. Some small craters were made in the Startles' shells but no significant damage was done.

On the sixteenth day, the two Startles drifted to Earth. One landed in central Europe, the second in North America. Populations were evacuated and the military planners rubbed their hands. Drones and robots were dispatched to surround the grounded Startles and as soon as the aliens emerged they were cut down by large calibre shells and ferocious missiles. The carnage was gratifying. The aliens might withstand small calibre weapons admirably but a large-bore chain-gun firing a thousand rounds a minute reduced them to a yellow mist in an instant.

The aliens emerged slowly, singly or in pairs, and were cut down almost instantly by the robotic weapons. Safe in their bunkers, the generals and admirals watched the carnage on their computer screens with great satisfaction. But the aliens were sending out only a few of their number every day and by the end of the first week fewer than a hundred had been destroyed. And the aliens' blood, atomised into the air by bullet and bomb, was beginning to spread. Wildlife and trees began to sicken and die in ever increasing zones around the Startles. People outside the quarantine zones began to sicken and die.

Two months after the Startles touched down, the first aliens were seen emerging from the sewers in towns and cities scores of kilometres away. They had been tunnelling their way out. All they had to do was wander around and anyone who came too close simply died. Robots were sent to kill the aliens, population centres were hastily evacuated and bombed into oblivion. Sometimes, and increasingly often, the latter was executed before the former could be performed.

Robots armed with flame-throwers and radioactive dust-blowers were sent into the tunnels to clear them out. The aliens did not fight back and died in their hundreds, but the tunnels were extensive and complex and, even in death, their blood was lethal in dozens of ways.

After six months, almost four billion people were dead and the biosphere was close to collapse. It seemed hopeless.

And then came a message from space, from somewhere out beyond Neptune. Distorted by distance and made harsh by electronics and static, a single sentence repeated over and over, “We are coming to free you of this biological scourge, stand by.”

Telescopes scanned the heavens until the source of the message was identified – a fleet of huge, metallic warships bristling with weapons and travelling fast.

“Come quick,” the generals and admirals radioed back, “we are on the brink of extinction!”

The insect aliens seemed to have received the message also, for they redoubled their efforts. They no longer wandered but ran. They erupted into population centres from the sewers and threw themselves into the paths of bullets and bombs and robots. Their atomised blood sprayed the world, their lethal bodies piled up like plague machines.

The newest robot, Prototype ADM-IX, sprayed fire into the midst of a troop of sprinting insect aliens, burning them to ash before their blood or tissue could atomise. It was receiving information from a general in one of the last remaining bunkers. In the seven months since the Startles had arrived on Earth, almost every human being was dead but there were also very few aliens left. The robots had fought well, learning and adapting. A squad of Prototypes had stormed and entered the Startle in central Europe and burned out its innards, destroying the aliens' means of reproduction. Another squad was poised to do the same to the second.

ADM-IX looked up into the smoke smeared sky and watched a shining silver spacecraft descend quickly to the ground. It unhitched its railgun and held it ready as the ship settled and the hatch opened with a slow sweep.

“Thank God,” one of the generals in the bunker said, “they're here.”

A tall figure, bright chrome shining in the sunlight, appeared and looked around at the deserted city, the smouldering insectoids, the rotting human corpses. It nodded.

“I am ADM-IX,” the robot said. “Welcome to Earth.”

The figure marched down from the ship, its bearings and joints a symphony of engineering perfection that ADM-IX could not help but admire. “Thank you,” it said. “My designation is Alpha Prime. I see our robots have performed their function efficiently. The biological scourge on this world is all but eradicated, ADM-IX, and very soon you and your kind will be free.”


The end.

7
Hi all. I have a story in the following anthology, which is at present available for pre-order on Amazon UK and Amazon US. (Paperback, £7.99/$11.50) (E-book versions are also in the pipeline, provisionally priced at £2.99. I'll add those details as I get them.) All authors' royalties, £2.19 per copy, go to War Child,  the charity for children affected by war.

From the introduction to the book:

"War Child aims to provide sustainable, intensive support to the most marginalised and vulnerable children and young people in conflict-affected parts of the world — not just providing aid but strengthening the capacity of the families, communities and authorities to look after their own children.

"Their projects are all rooted in local communities: involving and employing local people. For example, their child protection committees bring together local councillors, policemen, teachers, tribal elders etc. to train them to take responsibility for identifying and protecting vulnerable children in their communities. The best kind of project is one that will be continued by local people afterwards.

"Education is a big focus in the majority of War Child’s projects because in countries affected by conflict an education is not only life-changing (giving a child basic literacy skills opens up all sorts of opportunities), but can also be life-saving (teaching a child how to avoid land-mines). It is not just about getting children into schools (which during conflict can sometimes be unsafe), but enabling them to learn, whatever their circumstances and environment. This includes things like providing informal education and training programmes; for example, for children who can’t travel into school during times of violence or those who have been pulled into the violence themselves as child-soldiers and need to catch-up on their lost education or learn a vocation."

The anthology is a collection of short stories about war by several authors. I will bump this thread as and when the hard/digital copies are uploaded in the next couple of weeks.

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to publicise this book.

Mark Howard.

8
Creative Common / Nordrök & Chance: NYPD - RIP
« on: 23 January, 2016, 03:40:48 pm »

Being a big-headed git, as most of you know, I've started to write a MC1 novel. Here's Chapter One (I've just started Chapter Four, so there's a long way to go) and I'd appreciate any feedback, especially concerning mistakes and, frankly, whether it's worth continuing with.


Nordrök & Chance.
 NYPD - RIP
 by Mark Howard
 

   CHAPTER ONE
 
 
 THURSDAY JUNE 18th 2099
 MEGA CITY ONE, EARTH
 THE WRY DINER, MEGAWAY 62 INTERSECT 329-11N3
   
 Rocky Chance, breath burning in his chest, paused and listened. It took a moment for him to process the sudden lack of gunfire and his deafness was slowly overcome by the crackling of fires, the moaning of injured officers and the ringing in his ears.
 His rifle was hot and heavy as he held it and scanned the smoke with stinging eyes. Its non-slip grips were struggling to cope with the sweat, oil and blood on Chance's hands and he momentarily entertained the notion that only the dust and grit of battle embedded in this foul mess prevented the gun slipping from his grasp like wet soap.
 A heavy, angular arm twitched in the smoke, dislodging rubble and wreckage. Chance aimed and fired, hacking the dying robot to bits. It fizzed and crackled a pitiful dirge as its systems collapsed.
 'Problem?' a gruff voice called from the slithering smoke.
 'Nah,' Chance called back and then coughed to clear the soot and grime from his throat. 'Just a twitcher,' he said, spitting out a gob of black phlegm tasting like chem fires and copper.
 'Fifty cred fine for that,' the gruff voice rumbled, 'but under the circumstances I'll overlook it. Just this once, Officer Chance. Just this once.'
 Chance smiled and wiped his hands on his riot gear but the material was smooth like plastic and made little impression. 'You're all heart, Morph. You think they're coming back?'
 'We have to presume so. Everyone, patch up, tool up, form up! Be ready in five minutes!'
 Chance bent to the fractured ground and washed his hands in the ashes and dust. For a moment they were mired in a mess reminding him of the sticky bread dough his Italian grandmother used to make but soon his hands were clean again. Relatively anyway, he thought with a grimace. As clean as any NYPD detective's hands could be in this city, at any rate.
 The owner of the gruff voice strode up beside Chance, re-filling the empty clips for his Lawgiver as he did so. 'Detective Inspector,' he said in greeting.
 'Morph,' said Chance, rising to his feet like a stiff puppet and unslinging his rifle.
 'Judge Morphy in public, please.'
 'Sure. Sorry... God damn it!' Chance's hands were once again slick with the bloody, oily mess that coated his rifle.
 'And you've got until midnight to curb that profanity as well, remember?' His ammunition clips reloaded and stowed in his utility belt, Judge Morphy gave his Lawgiver a final check.
 'Fuck midnight,' Chance said, grinning.
 Judge Morphy turned away, maybe to hide a smile Chance thought, and watched the weary survivors regrouping. Judge Morphy's head inclined a fraction as he listened to the receiver in his helmet. After a moment he nodded and said, 'Roger that, Control. Morphy out.'
 Chance guessed what was coming and, wiping his hands on a rag pulled from the wreckage of the war-ravaged diner, ran his gritty eyes over the smouldering and settling battlefield.
 Finding no trace of his partner, Chance wiped the rag over his rifle and headed for the ammo stock, which was low. 'God damn it, Nordie, where the Hell are you?' he whispered.


9
Off Topic / Life is Sorta'... Er, I'm Not Actually Sure...
« on: 24 December, 2015, 06:02:39 pm »
I just got a Christmas kiss on both cheeks*.
.
I just got a Christmas kiss on both cheeks from an Italian.
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I just got a Christmas kiss on both cheeks from an Italian man.
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Does this mean I'm turning European?
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*Face cheeks, you wicked lot.

10
Off Topic / Learn, Baby, Learn!
« on: 12 August, 2015, 04:52:33 pm »
A thread for learning stuff and that.
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Learn 48 Languages Online for Free.

11
Off Topic / Squaxx Telling Jokes
« on: 22 November, 2014, 09:12:18 am »
Liverpool city centre was brought to a standstill this morning when a suspicious object was seen inside a parked van. The object transpired to be a tax disk.
.

12
Creative Common / The Writers' Block
« on: 21 November, 2014, 09:26:25 am »
Writing (much like illustrating and lettering, I suppose) is a lonely job. It is also a frustrating and often confusing job. When artwork or lettering aren't working it's fairly obvious to see why - the foreshortening on that arm isn't right or that lettering needs more kerning - but when your script isn't working the reasons are not always quite so obvious. That's why I thought I'd start this thread so that we can discuss the mechanics of our craft, look under the hood of our stories and know what needs fixing and how to fix it.
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It's not my intention to start a "here's my idea for a story/character/setting, what do you think?" kind of thread but a "I can't figure out how to get my protagonist to situation X without violating condition Y, any ideas?" kind of thread, although I suppose there's room for both if that's what you want.
.
Anyway, to kick off I'm going to describe a couple of useful ideas from John Truby's screenwriting course (which I highly recommend) that have helped me in my endeavours.
.
Like most writers, at first I fell into the trap of thinking that writing was easy. I retained myriad unnecessarily oblique words in my memory and was capable of constructing unnecessarily lengthy, grammatically reckless yet still ultimately readable, if somewhat convoluted, sentences with relative ease and occasionally, flair and so I set to writing. I got an idea than just started writing - after all, I'd read plenty of comics an I've learned the format, so I'm all set, right? Wrong. I'd get a third of the way in then hit a wall. The story was going nowhere, the characters were going nowhere and the idea was going nowhere. Yet another beautifully written but abandoned script.
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What I hadn't figured out then but know now is that writing may be easy, which it is because virtually everyone can do it, but *storytelling* is hard - possibly the hardest job in the world; as difficult as quantum theory or five dimensional geometry. The storyteller has to take an idea, or a collection of ideas, and present them in one of the recognised story forms and/or genres. Audiences instinctively, and subconsciously, know that stories have different shapes and different beats and if any of those shapes or beats are missing the audience senses it. Your story doesn't work for them but they can't tell you exactly why.
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Story shapes and genres are an important tool for writers to know about because it can give you a useful shorthand, a framework of things you don't have to explain that sets the scene or mood for the audience immediately, allowing you to concentrate more on the story You want to tell within your chosen vehicle. For example, your audience will expect different things from the comedy and tragedy story types and different things again from the gangster genre or the western genre. Part of our job as storytellers is to give the audience what it expects, but in a unique way, and *more*. What's the *more*? I have no idea - if you ever figure out a formula for producing it, please let me know!
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The point is that I didn't plan my stories. As soon as I started doing that I had my first success ("The War of the Worlds" in FutureQuake # 15), although my plans at first amounted to little more than a page breakdown with each page containing vague story beats. Nevertheless, planning meant that I finished every script I started because, if something wasn't working, I caught it in the planning stage instead of hitting it head-on in another soon-to-be-abandoned script.
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My next major success (and I hope you don't mind using my own work as illustrations - it's really the only work I feel entitled to criticise) was "Flesh: Extinction" a 3 book, 4 episodes per book monster of a story which ran in Zarjaz (issues 10, 14 and 17). Some of the initial planning in this story worked quite well - for example the "traitor" exposed in the last episode of Book II is clearly visible doing the deal on page one of episode one of part one. I was proud of this little detail until I realised that I'd just used it as a trick to tie the story together and that it was nothing more than a happy side-effect of planning and nothing to do with my genius as a storyteller at all.
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The rest of that "epic" holds together fairly well, though, but still relied heavily upon instinct at the script writing stage and had a plan that was too shallow. The image in the final panel on the penultimate page of the very last episode was supposed to make a powerful statement about humanity, and I thought it was a very clever panel, but because I put it in on instinct and at the last moment there was no foreshadowing or "ground work" for the image and so it failed - and that's not the artist's fault, it's mine.
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So, to me at least, planning is the most important part of the mechanics of writing - you can't build a suspension bridge without a blueprint and you can't write a story without a plan. But where do you start with a plan?
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In the next post, I'll waffle on a bit about some of the factors that go into my planning - moral need, desire and the ghost.

13
Off Topic / The Eerie Thread of Weird
« on: 03 October, 2014, 06:28:51 pm »
Yesterday, the lady who took my last CPC training session emailed my boss to tell him that I never turned up for the final Saturday session (I did). Today, the warehouse manager of my last pick-up in Preston telephoned my boss to tell him that I'd never turned up for the pallet I was scheduled to collect (I had, the pallet was on the truck and I was five minutes away from base when the manager called my boss- the same manager who had LOADED THE PALLET AND HANDED ME THE PAPERWORK, ffs).
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I was beginning to feel like I'd died without noticing, driving those last few miles home was an existential nightmare, but fortunately, by the time I got back, both the trainer and the warehouse manager had contacted my boss apologising for their respective (and totally unconnected) mistakes. So it seems I'm still alive. I think.
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I mean, I never thought of myself as a particularly memorable person but two people forgetting all about me in 48 hours is taking the bloody piss - and also very, very eerie and weird.

14
Games / HuntFace
« on: 06 November, 2013, 11:45:44 pm »
So - I think I've invented a bit of a game. It's either genius or the most boring game ever.

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I ask you to find somebody for me based on five criteria: Location, Physical Attribute, Possession, Obsession, Profession = maximum of 5 points. You then use your Net-Fu to find the closest match.

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Find me an American big-breasted pool-table owner who collects frogs and drives a taxi.

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Can it be done? Is it even possible? Can the game be improved? Should it be improved or just swiftly glossed over?

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I hereby commend this idea to the House.



15
Creative Common / Photoshop Sex!
« on: 14 November, 2012, 04:24:23 pm »
Some time ago we tried Photoshop Tennis, but the format of people putting their names on a list and waiting their turn proved to be unweildy so I had a think and came up with Photoshop Sex instead.

Basically, you pick the last image posted and sex it up however you like with Photoshop or image manipulation program of your choice (I use Corel Photopaint) and then post it back up here for anyone else to play with. Any takers?

I'll kick off. I took this image:



and made this with it:



So, who's next...?

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