The Keeper

I’ve finally decided!

I’m going to write my teens fantasy novel ‘The Keeper’ for Camp Nano. It’s a stand alone novel as far as I can tell so it would be nice to get it written and off my mind before focusing on the other two steampunk novels. The plot will go as follows:

A young girl receives a letter from her estranged father, asking her to meet her at Stonehenge. Not wanting to miss the opportunity to find out where he had been through her life and excited to meet him at last, Tasha makes her way out to meet him. As she arrives, she is met with an elderly gentleman who claims to be her father’s butler, and is led into the circle. She did not expect to see the Gods of Psyturia stood within the stone circle. She is the only remaining heir of Morgana and is bound by her ancestry to become the new Keeper of the Gods. She will be responsible to guarding the Gods of the Psyturia and preventing them from causing harm; which will is bound to put a serious cramp on her social life.

Will she be able to control the ancient deities?
Can she return them to their neutral alliance?
Will they be willing to follow the commands of a mere girl?

More importantly, how does this effect her chances with school heart-throb Jeremy?

 

I’m super excited about this one. The gods are going to be hilarious fun! A Warrior and Defender locked in permanent conflict, a know-it-all god of knowledge that mocks Tasha for her grades, and best of all…and no fantasy novel about gods can be without one….A TRICKSTER GOD! Hurray! Must desperately curb my enthusiasm for Loki and focus on making Tarion his own entity. He’ll most likely end up more like Puck by the end of this…

Know of any other novels I should read for inspiration? I’ve read the first Bartomeus novel which was incredibly entertaining and am making my way through the Dresden Files, so that’s all helpful. Always willing to accept suggestions though!

Turbulent Skies

Hello again my dears,

Just a quick post to say I HAVE FINALLY FINISHED THE FIRST EDIT OF MY NOVEL!

I wrote Turbulent Skies for Nanowrimo last November and have been editing it ever since! 96 pages and 58833 words later, and it is finally in a fairly presentable shape~ 

It will still need quite a bit of work, but at least now I can start sending it off to publishing houses and literary agents! If anyone knows any good contacts they would recommend, get in touch and I’ll look into it. 

Next month is Camp Nano so I’m torn as to whether I should start the sequel to the series or whether I should write the stand alone teen novel I have in mind. What do you guys reckon?

Steampunk shenanigans and sky pirates?
Or a teenage girl getting to grips with her new job as a demon watcher?

Neo-Historical Fashion and Youth Sub-Culture

As some of you may or may not know, I’m currently studying Dystopian Fiction in Post-War Culture for my dissertation topic at university. It’s a fascinating topic and I’m learning loads about the culture of the 1950’s and 1960’s as well as finding a new outlet into science fiction. However, it does lead to a rather disappointing and upsetting analysis of our own modern culture. I’m not saying there is anything particularly wrong with our culture in general, save for a few economic depression issues and a war in the Middle East, we’re doing ok. That is…apart from the social culture of the ‘chav’ and the ‘gangsta’.

One topic within my dissertation looks into the youth violence phenomenon of the 1960’s and gang culture that seemed to rise up at the time. So, I’m looking into the likes of Teddy Boys, Mods, Rockers, Bodgies, Widgies, Stilyagi, Greasers and the like. Which made me realize something. Something upsetting. Something that puts this generation to shame.

We forgot how to look respectable.

Now, I’m not praising these former youth gangs in any way. They were occasionally violent, threatening, anarchistic and in many cases caused a lot of riotous trouble. But at least they knew how to dress themselves!

Teddy Boys were renowned for a neo-edwardian style!
Stilyagi rocked out in jackets and cravats!
Bodgies turned the working-class ‘farmer’ image into an ironically neat-pressed fashion!
Mods followed pop culture fashions with neat, clean cut hemlines!

And don’t get me started on the effort that went into hair!

So what do we have now? Ironic neo-industrial coveralls and bracers to mark the depression? Straight-laced cybernetic style fashion to celebrate the explosion of technological progression in our time? Maybe even Neo-victorianism to mark the second largest scientific progression in history?!

Nope.

We got kids with trousers around their knees and the heart-stopping, terrifying idiom ‘bruh’. 

What the hell happened?

I have my theories. Firstly, pop culture. Rockers and Mods were primarily fueled by the music trends occurring at the time. Greasers followed suit with the rock and roll phenomenon. So, with our music being dominated by ‘wub wub wub’ and ‘talkingsofastaboutgunsandviolencethatyouwon’tevenhearawordofituntilyou’velistenedtoitsomanytimesit’simprintedinyourbrainlikesubliminalmessaging!’ it’s not surprising that our youth culture ended up looking like convicts and drug dealers. It’s not an attack on the music, or our music industry in general (though I do have my issues with them), but simply with the role models that sculpt the behaviour and habits of our youth. Rappers, Gangsters and Thugs seem to be the iconic musical figure….

The whole baggy trousers scenario is the most ridiculous aspect. How on earth could I be intimidated by a kid who might trip over his own waistband at any given second?! What’s worse is that this has been described to me as a prison fashion habit for ‘receivers’ to offer their…uh…’services’ to rather lonely fellow jail-mates. Whether this is true or not is yet to be determined, but now every time I see this absurd fashion trend I can’t help but think they’re offering something they have no idea about…

Maybe I’m a vintage aesthetic fanatic. Maybe I’m just a little too enamored with Victorian fashion. But if Teddy Boys can make Edwardian fashion intimidating and stylish, then why hasn’t culture continued that way. I would much rather be attacked in the night by an Edwardian, braces wearing Droog than by a nappy-waddling, incoherent ‘bruh’. It just has more dignity somehow.

Needless to say, something needs to be done. I don’t care if we need to resort to Hipster vintage (which is, incidentally, very rapidly losing its vintage aesthetic in favour of beanies and big glasses), as long as something is done to provide this generation with a suitable image. Just think, in fifty years time, our predecessors are going to assume that all the belts in the world got used for drug tourniquets or something. I’d rather they looked back and thought, ‘wow, the youth culture back then was pretty awesome’ ……

I can dream.

Bioshock

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With an intricate plot and well rounded characters, Bioshock makes a wonderfully immersive game with a variety of environments and weapon styles.

Set in 1960, Bioshock tells the tale of Jack, a man who is left stranded in the Atlantic after a plane crash and travels to the underwater metropolis of Rapture. This city, built for greatness, has fallen to the greed of humanity and dystopian ruin. Jack makes his way deeper into the broken metropolis to find his only way back to the surface, the man who created and controls Rapture, Andrew Ryan. But is Ryan as bad as you are led to believe? And who is this mysterious Atlas figure who instructs your every move?

The plot sucks you into the world of Rapture and refuses to let you go. I have to admit that I was incredibly impressed with the sheer amount of thought that has gone into the plot for this game; it’s deep, intricate and undeniably enthralling. I played the game through once and was brought to both laughter and stunned silence. The plot provides surprising twists and unexpected turnouts that I never anticipated. Throughout the game, you can find audio tapes left by previous inhabitants of the broken city which give hints and ideas as to what happened to the city before Jack’s arrival. I found that that these audio tapes offered a lot more to learn about the game without forcing information down the throats of people looking for a more casual approach to the game. I was so taken with the plot and hidden history to the game that I found myself researching the history of the city. This aspect of the game was so strong that a book has consequently been published to explore the world of Rapture before its fall on the new year of 1959.

I found that the game had great pacing and atmosphere from start to finish, introducing the player to the world of Rapture with simple enemies such as thuggish splicers then slowly incorporating harder and more terrifying enemies as the plot advanced. A particularly well-handled moment in regards to pacing was seen at the introduction of Houdini splicers. I encountered a cave etched with strange symbols and signs in Arcadia and went to investigate. This fascinated me and I stayed a while to look at the alter-like table set with stick figures and candles, I turned to leave, only to come face to mask with this new splicer who promptly disappeared in a puff of red smoke. While my initial reaction was to jump and refrain from expletives, I was pleased that the game had taken the opportunity to present a new element and to hurriedly take it away like a promise of good things to come. Thiswhat I mean when I say that the game keeps up an effective level of tension. Enemies are often en mass but occasional which prevents the player becoming too accustomed to the enemy and thus never quite losing that initial hesitancy when entering a new room.

However, this leads me to what I consider to be a weak point of Bioshock. As an alternative to a ‘levelling up’ mechanic, the game gives the player a ‘research camera’. The player is expected to take photographs of enemies in order to ‘research’ them and thus ‘find weak points’ which allow the protagonist to deal with them more effectively. While this works in theory and seems like an interesting idea, it gets repetitive rather quickly and at times it can be difficult to catch that all-important picture. I found that, while the camera was fun for a level or two, it should perhaps have been used as a momentary plot device, to be used for one level or so then left behind. It would have been far more effective and would not have ended up feeling like a chore.

While I’m on the subject of ‘levelling up’ alternatives, I found that a useful and engaging alternative was the use of Big Daddies and Little Sisters throughout the game. The player is expected to collect ADAM from Little Sisters throughout the game and will be given a moral decision in association to the task. The player must first kill the Little Sister’s guardian, the Big Daddy, and is then given the option to Harvest her for the ADAM in her system or to Rescue her and remove the parasitic ADAM slug from her body. Harvesting inevitably gives you more ADAM which can be used to buy the superhuman abilities referred to as plasmids, while rescuing gives you less but compensates by leaving ‘gifts’ of ADAM and ammunition at the plasmid vendors. I thought that this levelling up style of mechanic worked really well. The Daddies get harder to defeat as the game progressed but it never seemed repetitive like the camera mechanic, new plasmids become available as the game develops and the game even gives alternative endings depending on the decisions you make within the game.

I thought that the in-game design and aesthetics of Bioshock really enhanced the immersive qualities of the game. The environments are detailed and varied from location to location but hold enough similarities that the player doesn’t feel lost within each new area; there was also enough differences between enemy classes is clear enough that I was never left wondering if I was fighting against a spider splicer or a lead-head splicer. I think the environments were detailed and a lot of thought had gone into the scenes shown; small details such as posters and writing on the walls added a lot to the game-play. The maps were intricate and set out in a way that allowed the player to search for hidden items if they pleased but didn’t force them into exploring a thousand rooms if they are looking for a casual gaming experience.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed playing Bioshock and found myself fully immersed by the plot and design. The game mechanics are easy to use and offer a challenging experience to any gamer without being too tricky for a beginner to handle. Bioshock thoroughly impressed me and I’d recommend it to beginners and experienced gamers alike.

I would recommend this game to people who like:

*Dishonored
*Gears of War
*Dead Space

Dishonored

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Well, it happened.

I wasn’t originally going to put games reviews on this blog, as I felt it may detract from the whole Steampunk and Victorianesque aesthetic I had going on here. But I do enjoy my gaming and Dishonored seemed like a perfect Steampunk crossover. So, welcome to my new game reviews section!

Dishonored is a role playing, first person stealth/combat game released late last year. You follow the story of Corvo, Lord Protector, after he is falsely imprisoned for the murder of his Empress. You receive a mystery letter asking you to meet with a covert organisation that intends to expose the true murderer; and seeming as they help you to escape, it seems like a fair proposal to accept. I shan’t say much more but the game involves a lot of running around, a lot of difficult decisions and one hell of a clever game mechanic.

As you play through the game, you have the choice to murder everyone in your path as you attempt to escape OR you can take your time, sneak around on the ventilation pipes and hide behind walls, and eventually make it out of each level without so much as alerting a guard to your presence. There seems to be a much better achievement payload for the second option… So I went with that one! And it certainly did provide a challenge. It took a lot of patience (something I’m not renowned for having) and a bit of quick thinking. But what’s incredibly clever about this good/bad mechanic is the punishment system. If Corvo goes around the city destroying everything in his path, more rats emerge from the sewers to devour the bodies and consequently infect more people; which means you have to deal with a lot more Weeper enemies. If you sneak around, this risk is minimised and there are less enemies to be wary of. So, the game actively encourages the player to choose the morally righteous path to avoid a more difficult play-through.  This decision also effects which ending you get!

Dishonored was produced by a lot of the people that worked on Bioshock and RPG champions Bethesda, which really does show through the game’s design. You use a left hand magic/right hand weapon style of combat which is almost identical to the plasmid/weapon style seen in both Bioshock games, as well as incorporating the yellow glowing item outline seen in these games. Once this familiar connection was made, the casual chatter of the guards began to remind me of splicers and it became a lot harder to focus on being stealthy. Bethesda’s input really came to my attention when items were collected around the world of the game; the notification text at the side of the screen and the way in which interactive items were picked up within the game rang with the familiar tune of the Elder Scrolls games. But this is certainly not a criticism! These are elements that worked fantastically within their respective games and add the same effective gameplay to Dishonored without feeling ‘second hand’ or overly familiar. As a Bioshock fan, I found the mechanics comfortable and easy to use, which made it a lot easier for me to adjust to stealth based games. I’m not sure why, whether there were companies involved or simply by coincidence, but a few other elements of Dishonored reminded me of other games. The heart that you keep seemed so uncannily familiar to Potato GLaDOS (or Potatos) from Portal 2 that I couldn’t take it seriously, and the dialogue style seemed very similar to that of Rage. Perhaps it is just a coincidence, but that heart will forever be GLaDOS in my mind.

Overall, I think that Dishonored is a beautifully constructed game with stunning graphics and environments. It’s engaging and challenging, providing a variety of opportunities for decision making and contains a gaming style to suit most gamers. There’s the combat option for the FPS gamers, the stealth mode for Assassin’s Creed fans, or even a mixture of the two for fans of games such as Deus Ex. The story is well constructed and interesting, not too grand that it becomes confusing but just complex enough to avoid boredom. I think the mechanics work incredibly well for the style of game and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I really would recommend this game if you’re a fan of:
*Bioshock
*Assassin’s Creed
*Deus Ex

War of the Worlds

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War of the Worlds

When Mars becomes uninhabitable, the Martian race attempts to invade an unsuspecting Earth.

War of the Worlds was written by the grandfather of science fiction himself, H. G. Wells, in 1898. At a time of rapid scientific development, his novels shocked and terrified those read as a result of the realistic and feasible narrative he employs within his writing.

The novel follows an unnamed narrator and his brother through the events of the attempted invasion: from the landing of the cylinders, to the appearance of the Martians, describes the destruction of military forces and cities alike, even describing the events that occurred while the narrator was trapped in a house near the landing site of a cylinder. Wells goes to painstaking efforts to make his narrative feasible and believable; providing scientific reasons for the Martian’s migrating, creating the first ever recorded use of imaginary weaponry within fiction and even discussing scientific detail such as the anatomic construction of the Martians that have been recovered for autopsy. The narrative is thrilling and engaging, showing unbeatable threats and as many human-caused disasters as there are alien attacks. It provides a realistic and gripping representation of the chaos that could be expected to occur in the event of a real alien invasion.

This theorised reaction did not have to wait too long to be proven. In 1938, Columbia Broadcasting aired Orson Welles’ radio drama transcript of War of the Worlds as part of a Halloween special. No-one could have predicted the chaos that ensued. The broadcast was aired as though the events in the drama were occurring in real, live time, hosting interviews and giving news flash updates throughout the course of the programme; but as the programme failed to confirm that it was a fictional story until the very end of the broadcast, the American population became hysteric. Water towers were attacked by people fearing them to be the Martian tripods, police stations were attacked when they refused to help, archaeologist students went out in search of the fallen cylinder claimed to have fallen near their university. People believed that Martians had landed.

I don’t think there is any better way to honour the great works of H. G. Wells than to prove the theories of human nature that he discussed within War of the Worlds.

The novel was engaging and exciting, though in times becomes very scientific and takes a little bit of heavy reading. However, these challenging sections are few and far between, and Wells describes the scientific elements of the text with enough layman explanation to prevent it becoming confusing or intimidating.

I thoroughly enjoyed War of the Worlds and would recommend it to anyone who is curious about science-fiction but doesn’t like the stereotypical space-ships and Battlestar style of the genre. It is a wonderful cross-over novel to get a reader into the world of science-fiction without being clique, off-putting or stereotypical.

A Clockwork Orange

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“What’s it going to be then, eh?”

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess is one of my all time favourite novels and seemed like a perfect starting point for my little literature reviews. I’m also currently studying this novel alongside 1984, Fahrenheit 451 and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? for my dissertation on dystopian fiction.

Just to set off on the right foot, the novel isn’t nearly as steampunk as the title and above cover make it seem. I was looking for a cover to attach to this review and found the cover art on deviantart at throatwolf.deviantart.com , I absolutely loved it so figured it was worth putting in a mention~

A Clockwork Orange is a novel written by Anthony Burgess and was designed as a response to the controversial work of B. F. Skinner, a famous behavioural psychologist of the time whose work focused on the possibility of controlling behavioural habits.  The novel follows the narrative of fifteen year old hooligan, Alex DeLarge, who loves nothing more than indulging in a little ‘ultra-violence’ with his streetwise ‘droogs’. However, when a burglary goes array and escalates to murder, Alex is abandoned by his ‘droogs’ and sentenced to life imprisonment. After months of imprisonment, Alex shows a seeming want for reform by reading the Bible (though in actuality he enjoys reading about the violence of the Old Testament), and is offered a way out; a form of experimental therapy that will compel him away from the impulse to do evil and force him to react only with good. Sacrificing his free will for a shortened prison sentence, Alex agrees to take part and is released onto the streets once more. But the world has changed and without the ability to defend himself against the past, Alex is chased away from his family and friends. Searching for refuge and help, he eventually comes to the home of a political spokesman and former victim of his youth. Unfortunately, Alex does not recognise his victim from so long ago and accepts the man’s help; but the victim remembers Alex all too well. Seeing an opportunity for revenge, the man uses Alex as a tool to gain political favour then disposes of him in the only way he sees fit: using Alex’s lack of free will to force him to attempt suicide.

A Clockwork Orange is an incredibly powerful novel that explores these themes with surprising ease. The ‘nadsat’ language used throughout the text is beautifully crafted and is based on an ingenious blend of Elizabethan English and Russian. It is catchy and endearing, often intruding in the reader’s own speech for weeks after reading. While it is true that the language is intimidating and challenging at first, it is almost guaranteed to be a second language to the reader by the time they have reached Part 2.

Alex himself is a veritable charmer; despite his crimes and violent, psychopathic faults, he is at heart a true gentleman. He takes pride in cleanliness and appearance, a fan of Beethoven and waltzing, he is charming and entertaining to follow through his narrative. One can almost forgive him his crimes for the sympathy he draws at the later stages of the novel and his narrative is engaging throughout. There is no narrator more unreliable, but there is no narrator easier to believe.

A Clockwork Orange is entertaining, challenging and philosophically engaging. I would recommend it heartily to anyone who doesn’t mind a streak of violence in their evening reading.