The Geek’s New Year’s Honours List

I was going to do one of those ‘2013 in retrospect’ posts, but then I realised you’ve only got to go into the archives to see what I got up to. But, before I start banging on about 2014, there are a few people I met (and some I re-met) in 2013, who I’d like to do a ‘big-up’ to. In no particular order, I’m bestowing my Geeky New Year’s Honours at:

eaf9d328d061e3ef625055ae5106b42d

Sean with a good old British pint

Sean Cummings – author of the Poltergeek books and an all-round good egg, to boot. If he ever troubles these shores again, then get out there and go and see him. No fuss, no frills – just a top chap who writes top books.

On stage with Karen Saunders

Karen Saunders – we did Edinburgh together and I met up with her in Bath. Lovely to meet someone who panics as much as I do about events and she writes very funny books. Check out the Suzy P series and be prepared to cringe!

Jo Nadin – Jo was the chairperson for the event I did in Bath. She’s disarmingly cool and far more on top of things than I am. She writes the brilliant Rachel Riley books and probably knows more about Marvel heroes than I do – ask her why, if you bump into her.

Me and Holly Smale

Me and Holly Smale

Holly Smale – after a spectacular Twitter-duel over the summer, me and Holly were thrown together in Bath and I’m really glad we were. She’s a fine, funny woman and the author of the stupidly-successful Geek Girl books. We’ve done two gigs together and, with a bit of luck, we’ll do more.

Me and PHILIP REEVE!!!!

Me and PHILIP REEVE!!!!

Philip Reeve – because he’s Philip Reeve.

Karen and Adrian at Rosedale Retreat – doing the festivals thing, you get put up in a variety of types of accommodation. The Rosadale Retreat (where I stayed for the Hay Book Festival) wasn’t just a lovely place to stay, it had the Brucie Bonus of having Adrian and Karen as the owners. I hope to get back there soon and pick up on one of the most interesting conversations I’ve had in a LONG time.

Jenny Savill – she’s my agent and she can swear like a trooper.

Julia Eccleshare – we met at Edinburgh and her reputation preceded her enough to make me more than a bit nervous. But if there was ever a lesson to be learnt about not listening to second-hand opinion, it was on meeting Julia, who turned out to be a lovely, funny and slightly anarchic lady.

this isn't Jesse but he took the photo for me

this isn’t Jesse but he took the photo for me

Jesse Owen – after lots of internetting, we finally got to meet in Bath. Jesse, despite his claims, is a bit of a hoot and very easy to talk to. I hope we get to meet up again and I hope he gets out there and grabs life by the scruff of the neck and gives it a good shaking.

IMG_1109

Laura Heath – I don’t think I’ve ever met such an enthusiastic blogger. Meeting Laura’s a bit like watching the Muppet Show through a kaleidoscope. She’s ridiculously passionate about books and supportive above and beyond the call of duty.

IMG_1250

Jim Dean – we met at a Geek Night in Waterstones in Kensington. He’s a fine, fine feller with enough Geeky facts up his sleeve to start an encyclopedia. Top man, Mr Dean!

Laura Vile – she’s the new Publicity Honcho at Stripes and has got her shoulders right behind Geekhood. Looking forward to making 2014 a supremely Geeky year!

On stage with Natasha

On stage with Natasha

Natasha Desborough – we did the Cheltenham Literature Festival together and she’s so ridiculously laid-back, it’s envy-making. Also, her book, Weirdos vs Quimboids is the first book I’ve ever been asked to offer up a quote for. It was so funny, it wasn’t a problem.

Darran Stobbart – our paths finally crossed at the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. Although our physical encounter was brief, it was a sheer joy to meet a like-minded Geek. The man’s a gent and you’ll find him on Twitter as @ShinraAlpha

Bloggers – just ALL of you. You’re incredible, altruistic lunatics and I’m so glad you are!

There are loads more people I could – and probably should – mention, but I think that’ll do for the minute, otherwise we’ll be here until 2015. But, if our paths crossed and we had a laugh, then consider yourself Honoured.

Happy New Year!

Andy

 

Going Geek in Cheltenham with Weirdos and Pants

imageI know it’s on its side, but I haven’t got to grips with modern technology. Anyhow, lie on your sofa and you’ll see a photo of me outside the Cheltenham Literature Festival. A fine, fine place to be.

I’ll tell you a not-so-secret secret. Before an Event, I get stupidly nervous. Nervous to the point that I talk gabbling nonsense to anyone in a 5-metre radius. It was under these conditions that I met the incredibly youthful Mark Lowrey (author of the fabulous Pants Are Everything) and the impossibly rock ‘n’ roll Natasha Desborough (author of the stupidly funny Weirdos vs Quimboids). If you haven’t read them – do.

Let’s rewind. On the way to the Writer’s Room, I was delightfully accosted by the artist, Diana Bell who owns the third biggest book in the world. When you’re feeling nervous, this is a bit surreal, but what she was after was a signature in her Huge Book. I’m of the mind that, when you’re nervous, any distraction is a good distraction. But, once I’d got to grips with what she was doing, I found myself becoming a very small part of a very big work of art. I know, I know: still sideways. image (2)

 

Anyhow, I made it to the Writer’s Room and met my two cohorts. Mark Lowrey is a right old ball of energy, fizzing with stories of his latest adventures and somehow turning even a domestic tale into something far more exciting. By contrast, Natasha Desborough is very laid-back; happy to chat, in a very cool, collected way  – like an auburn Keith Richards. But without the wrinkles.

I, however, babble. Like I need some conversational driftwood to latch on to. At the same time, we met our chairperson, Canny, who was wonderfully unruffled and part of the ‘Let’s See What Happens’ brigade – which I like. Although an unstructured event scares the proverbial out of me, I prefer that to a rigid framework; there’s a certain amount of freedom involved.image (3)

So, the call came and we were on. As we walked down the hallway to our personal Coliseum, I noticed that Steven Moffat was doing a talk about Sherlock and Dr Who. Oh, how I would have loved to have seen that – I’m a huge Who Geek and getting a titbit about Peter Capaldi would’ve blown my tiny mind.

So we turned up at our ‘space’. I love empty auditoriums. They remind me of my time as a Stage Manager for Alan Ayckbourn at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round; there’s all that uncrushed velvet, just waiting to support some attentive backs; it’s exciting and terrifying, yet riddled with comfort at the same time. We got miked up and, after some pre-show banter, people started to come in.

image (7)

Danny fired out some good, thoughtful questions, which gave us room to talk about our personal experiences and the way we approach writing. Keen-eyed members of the audience may have noticed I kept touching my ear. That’s because I’d been doing an online NLP course for the previous month, to help get rid of  my nerves – and, amazingly, it did seem to have some effect.

I’m sure it seems weird that I get so worked up about these things, what with my Showbiz background and all, but, as I’ve said before, doing plays and telly gives you the luxury of speaking someone else’s words and telling someone else’s story. When you’re doing the author thing, it’s about you, your words and your story – which makes you kind of vulnerable. But – when it goes right – it’s also amazingly rewarding.

image (8)

Highlights of the event for me were Natasha talking tampons and Mark doing his reading. I’m still a bit unsure about reading. Until I’d met Julia Eccleshare in Edinburgh I’d stayed away from reading my own words. The way I saw it, I was writing the story of a 14 year-old and the sound of a 43 year-old voice wouldn’t cut the mustard. However, Julia told me I should act it. Since then, that’s what I’ve done.

image (6)

I did my reading, which was received well, and then Mark read a bit from his book. He played a blinder, reading a bit involving boobs and Coco Pops. Top man.

 

Event done, it was Signing Time and I got to chat with a chap who wanted to go into Acting. Natasha and Mark were superbly engaging and their fans obviously got a kick out of meeting them.

image (5)

 

 

So that was Cheltenham.

I never did get to meet Mr Moffat – but there’s time yet.

 

 

image (4)

 

The Bath Literary Festival Geekathon

The Bath Literary Festival. Blimey; it was only a day, really – but a busy one, full of Good Things. It started the day before. I wanted to get there earlyish, but there was a lot of traffic – although this is one of the lorries I got stuck behind and took it for an omen of some sort:

IMG_0299

 

I arrived in Bath and dropped Karen Saunders a line, to see if she was around.

image_4

I’d just done the Edinburgh Festival with Karen and it was lovely to meet someone who cacks themselves as much as I do. She’d just done an event, so was all relieved and laid-back when I went to go and meet her in some Mrs Miggins-style tea-shop near the Abbey. Also present and correct was Jo Nadin.

Jo is the author of the Penny Dreadful series and a very cool cat, to boot. She also seemed ridiculously calm about the whole thing. For normal folk, this might be reassuring. For me, it just kind of added fuel to my Fire of Fear – which was already lit. Anyhow, I went back to the hotel and watched some TV (which I don’t get to do, normally, as I don’t have one). Actually, I must confess – I watched the X-Factor and felt more than a little dirty, having done so.

The next day kicked off with a school visit to St Gregory’s: 170 Year 7’s – who were really rather good fun. A couple of hours later, I was picked up by a lovely lady called Pat, who was a rep for the Bath Fest, and whisked off to the next school: Hayesfield School. Hayesfield School is an all-girls’ school, which often sticks a different dynamic into an event. What’s great about it is that they get a look inside what the boys in their orbits might be thinking and I get to find out answers to Big Questions that boys have, like:

Why, when you know a guy ‘likes’ you, do you send your friend to go and talk to him -instead of doing it yourself?

If there are any guys reading this: the answer is weirder than you could ever believe.

IMG_0334

Another couple of hours later, I was back at the hotel and Tired. But, I had a mission up my sleeve. Since the release of the first Geekhood book, I have been lucky enough to receive the support and loveliness of a blogger, called Jesse Owen. On the release of Mission Improbable, he put together a video/vlog/whatever it’s called about ‘the voices in your head’ – in reference to Archie’s Internal Monologue. Here it is:

I found it very touching, humbling a beautiful, and was determined to say hallo to this Champion of Geek. Jesse, by his own admission, is a bit of a shy chap – but he was true to his word and we met up (more by luck than design) outside Green Park, in Bath.

Fast forward an hour or so and we were yapping away like old friends in a Thai cafe, in an Italian-style square. If you do meet Jesse – don’t be fooled by his quiet demeanour; he’s a very astute and observant chap and, give him a little time, and he gets into the conversational flow like a seasoned pro. Good man, very funny. En route to the Guildhall, we found someone reading a copy of my book:

 

IMG_0336

And then it was Nearly Time. In the Green Room Jo was there, being all cool and laid-back and then Holly Smale rocked up. Holly and me had done the Hay Festival earlier in the year – which was her first event. Now, with a few more under her belt and a book that’s doing incredibly well, she seemed really relaxed and up for a laugh. But before we were turned loose on-stage, we were interviewed by Lucy Powrie – another lovely blogger, whose support has been also very humbling. She turned the interview into a video – which looks like this:

But, finally, we were up on stage. I get SO nervous about these things it’s untrue – but I think the two school events earlier had worn me out to the point where I just didn’t have the energy to spare. Jo was a superb chair, with a very telly style of interviewing; I could see her doing a chat-show or hosting a radio thing; she was calm and very in control – but allowed me and Holly to ramble if we needed to.

SONY DSC

Holly was her usual self-deprecating self, but did a great recital of  poem she wrote when she was six, all about a unicorn. And then there was a quiz, which involved the audience as well and then it was over. 60 minutes done – just like that.

Afters, we hooked up with Karen and Jo and Sarah Benwell and hit Bath, in a literary stylee.

There was singing. It was McFly. That’s all I’m prepared to reveal.

The Great Geekhood Geekathon!

So far, I’ve written two books about Archie and his Geeky pals, covering topics like miniature painting, RPGs and LARP. What’s surprised me is just how many people are unaware of these phenomenon. Maybe it shouldn’t’ maybe it’s a Geek thing.

Another Hapless Plan?

But I gave my head a little scratch the other day and wondered how I could get those people who the books represent to come out of the shadows and into the spotlight; to make themselves known. And then I came up with another of my usually-hapless ideas. But this time – I’ve got help.

Foam-latex Fun and Frolics

As you may know, researching Geekhood: Mission Improbable brought me to a LARPing group in Devon where, on top of getting to get involved in some foam-latex fun, I’ve also made some good friends. So, what I’ve done is this: I sent out three copies of Geekhood: Close Encounters of the Girl Kind to three LARPers. The caveat attached is that they read the book, pass it onto another Geek – and take a photo of themselves doing something Geeky. Like really Geeky. Like so Geeky that people might not have heard of it.

The Great Geekhood Geekathon!

The result is the Great Geekhood Geekathon and I’ll be Tweeting photos of those fabulous people, under the hashtag, #Geekathon. Hopefully, I’ll be getting and Tweeting pictures from people who don’t normally appear centre-stage and who do things that the rest of us might not know about. Here’s the first, from a LARP-lady in her chosen character of Scarlet. And bloomin’ marvellous she looks, too!

LARP1

Author Top Trumps

What started out as a silly bit of banter between me, Jim from YA Yeah Yeah and Holly Smale is slowly gathering ground…

Author Top Trumps.

No – hang on; keep reading.

Just imagine being able to turn up at a festival and trade cards with your fellow authors or your audience. Imagine being able to play the game! Would Mallorie Blackman trump Philip Reeve? Could I take on the mighty Sarwat Chadda? And who’s got the rare, shiny JK Rowling card? And what about YOUR card – how cool would that be?

top-trumps_1720953i

I haven’t got the foggiest how to get this going, but it might be a good idea to start with you lot. So, in the first faltering steps of something a bit bonkers, I’m asking you guys to send me what you think the categories should be.

Diva points?

Frendliness?

Publishability?

What about hidden talents?

I don’t know how far we’ll get with this – but it might be fun to start, anyway.

Drop me a line with your suggestions for Author Top Trumps. Hell – Tweet them with the hastag #AuthorTopTrumps – maybe some crazy person with pots of cash is looking for an elitist product with no commercial value, whatsoever. At a later stage, we might get round to fielding ideas for Blogger Pokemon…

Andy

Forgotten Games for Geeks

When I threw myself into the world of RPGs, in the mid-80’s, there were plenty of geek games. Dungeons and Dragons had crashed onto the scene and divided parents across the country: you were either for it or against it. Part of the problem was that various religious groups saw D&D as the first step towards Satanism – a bit like some of the hoo-ha that surrounded the Harry Potter books. Really, this was because D&D wasn’t fully understood.

However, D&D gave rise to a whole load of other games for geeks; some that didn’t involve witchcraft, as they weren’t set in fantasy environments – and the RPG scene exploded; some even kicked-off some icons that are popular today. Many of the games I used to play seem to have disappeared, so I want to have a look at my Top 5 Games for Geeks:

1)    Paranioa. I really like this one, because it was loaded with humour. Where other geek games relied on serious interaction and character development, Paranoia had a ‘divide and conquer’ attitude, giving each player his own secret agenda; everyone was out to stab everyone else in the back.

ParanoiaHardback03

It was set in the dystopian future of Alpha Complex; a huge, domed city run by The Computer. Think 1984, Hal from 2001 and Logan’s Run and you’re pretty much there. The other difference from other geek games was that you got ‘lives’ – a bit like a computer game; if your character died (which they often did – and in the most ridiculous circumstances), you had a few more clones of that character up your sleeve. If you like the lighter side of RPGing, then check Paranoia out; it has returned and is now published by Mongoose Publishing.

 

2)    Judge Dredd. This one, too, was loaded with humour – but a bit more tombstone-faced. Inspired by the leading character from the comic, 2000 AD, Judge Dredd RPG gave you a taste of what it was like to be a lawman in Mega City One.

judgedredd

More than the game itself, I liked the background fluff on the major characters. I’d been a 2000AD fan since it was Starlord and reading up on baddies, such as the Dark Judges, Chopper and the Angel Gang was really cool. Plus there was some extra stuff on the Judges and their equipment – the mighty Lawmaster and the dreaded Lawgiver. Again, this has resurfaced and is in the hands of Mongoose Publishing.

 

3)    Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness. You read that right. Long before the cartoon, films, action figures and ‘cowabunga’, there was TMNT&OS. It came off the back of the original comic strip, by Eastman and Laird and was pretty different to the family-friendly fluff we know today.

TMNT&OS was set in a post-apocalyptic world, in which characters could be any form of mutated animal – not just a turtle. Although the accent was on fun, this was one of the distinctly grittier geek games and was one of the first in which players rolled for a mental illness and could choose their sexual orientation – which was pretty forward-thinking at the time.

TMNTStrangeness01

As soon as the half-shelled heroes hit the big screens, changes were made to their world and the characters; it was dumbed-down, which killed it off. Copies of the original rules sell on eBay for Big Bucks. My Mum sold mine at a car-boot sale.

 

4)    Call of Cthulhu was one of the ultimate games for geeks – which is partly why I referenced it in Geekhood: Mission Improbable. If you’ve ever read any HP Lovecraft, then you’ll know the world the game’s set in. If you don’t – strap yourself in!

Cthulhu is set in Edwardian England (or wherever you happen to fancy locating it) and is based around horror. But it’s not  just your bog-standard ‘here comes a werewolf’ scenario; Lovecraft’s monsters are Out There. They’re Proper Bonkers and Off The Hook, etc. Think lots of tentacles and weirdness.

coc

The great thing about Cthulhu was that you had to try and keep you character sane: the longer you hung onto your Sanity Points, the better your character got a grip on his own skills. But lose a few and you started to look at your fellow players with a hungry glint in your eyes…

 

5)    Middle Earth Role Play. OK, there had to be one fantasy game in here; you can’t really have list of geek games without some swords and pointy hats thrown in.

Middle Earth Role Playing

MERP was, as you might guess, set in the world of Orcs and Hobbits. While I loved the artwork and the background fluff on Middle Earth and all its races, I did find this one a bit harder to play; the rules system was way more complicated than D&D but, if you were a seasoned RPGer, I think you would have welcomed the attention to detail.

MERP was pretty popular in the 80’s but the one niggle amongst us Tolkien-heads was that the use of magic was a bit overt. Tolkien saw magic in Middle Earth as an extension of the forces of nature and something that took time and effort to use. When we played MERP, we’d fling thunderbolts around like they were going out of fashion.

 

So there you have it – my five forgotten games for geeks. Most of them are available in some form or other, but you can always check out eBay for the early editions. My brain’s a bit cobwebbed these days – which ones have i forgotten?

Festival Fun and Frolics

In my head, it went like this: train, hotel check-in, meet Karen Saunders, meet Julia Eccleshare, PANIC, event, de-panic, eat, sleep, PANIC, event, de-panic, PANIC, event, de-panic, see a bit of the Festival, train, home. And then it felt like it didn’t happen at all. But I’ve got some wonderful memories and a few groovy photos and some witnesses to remind me that it did happen and I loved it. Even the panicky bits.

Just arrived and already panicky.

Just arrived and already panicky.

But let’s rewind to Karen Saunders. If you haven’t read her book, ‘Me, Suzy P’, then do – because Karen Saunders is cool. Anyone who can panic as much as I do about an event is cool in my book.

IMG_0263

The Author’s Yurt – Top Secret Tent!

We met in the Authors’ Yurt and even though I wasn’t supposed to take pictures, I did – but only when there wasn’t anyone around, so you’ll have to imagine two pale, shaky authors meeting for the first time in these surroundings:

As I said, Karen is cool. She’s funny and down to earth and easy to talk to and despite our fear of public speaking, we just clicked. And then Julia Eccleshare turned up.

For those of you who don’t know, Julia is the doyenne of the Guardian’s book review bunch. No matter how high you think the metaphorical buck has to climb before it stops, the summit is Julia Eccleshare. She’s the Guv’nor, the Boss, the Gaffer. She’s also one of the most reassuring, articulate and protective people I’ve ever met. If you’re doing an event, have her chairing; you won’t regret it.

So, the event kicked off. To diffuse my nerves, I did some bounding about and got into the audience. On Julia’s nod, I did something like a reading, with a lovely Art Student called @AbzRon, who dug me out of a hole like a seasoned pro.

My Festival Hero, Abbie!

My Festival Hero, Abbie!

Then it was Karen’s turn. For someone who claimed to be mortally nervous, she didn’t show any signs; told stories (seated) and did a reading (seated). It was like watching Kirk run the Enterprise from the comfy Captain’s Chair: no fluff, no worries – just seamless.

And all the while, Julia Eccleshare egged us on to the point where I forgot my nerves and we were engaged in conversation between ourselves and the audience and all was well in the Baille Gifford Imagination Lab. I can’t thank Julia and Karen enough for being so…well…cool.

image_4

Julia and Karen being cool. Me rigid with fear.

During that day, I also bumped into @sisterspooky off of Twitter-land. If you’ve never encountered her, I suggest you do. Laura (her real name) might be Blogging Royalty, but she’s very funny and so passionate about books it puts most authors to shame. She’s also possessed of a Sid James Laugh and if you have to pay her to be in your audience, it’s money well spent. Fiver’s in the post, Laura! No- honest.

That night was a bit fretful, because I knew I had two events the next day and you can never guarantee that any gig will go as well as the one you’ve just done. So, after a little scran (liver and onions), my journey to the Land of Nod was disembarking.

IMG_0264

Another riveted audience.

The next day started with meeting the Sound Department, to be fitted-up with my mic and my chairperson, Hannah. I think there were four schools present at the gig – once again at the Imagination Lab – and they were brilliant; really up for a laugh. It did feel funny without Karen and Julia, but we soon hit our stride and there were some superb Geek Confessions going on. If you were there and you’re reading this – you guys were fantastic! And a special mention must go to That Teacher. You know who you are and you were brilliant.

Then it was Signing Time, followed by a quick lunch before softly-spoken Mike the Librarian picked me up for a trip to Broughton School. But before I got to the school, I bumped into Liz Bankes! Liz was the first blogger to come to my boat and  interview me about Geekhood: CEotGK. And now, here she was all reborn and glowy, as an author with not one, but two books out! Liz is one of those people who just radiates loveliness. I haven’t read her books yet, but they’re on the list – apparently they’ve got a bit of ‘steam’ to them, so I’ll have to read them over a morning cuppa. Getting old and all that. But they’ve been all critically-acclaimed and everything – so do check them out. But, on with the ramble. Where were we? Ah yes – Broughton School.

Sometimes doing an event throws you in at the deep-end – and this was one of them. I was being thrown into an arena where the students had just arrived at the school, didn’t know each other and didn’t know the staff. If ever there was a time to panic, it was now,

Panic. Before they come in and smell your fear.

Panic. Before they come in and smell your fear.

 

Or so I thought. Broughton School ended up providing me with one of the most attentive audiences I think I’ve ever had. Which just goes to prove that old book and cover adage. If you were there, then my utmost thanks for being good eggs.

And then, I was Officially Done. With an evening to spare, I took a gander up the main drag of the Festival, but didn’t see anything; after an event I do that thing of trying to replay the whole thing and see what worked and what didn’t. It’s like when you’ve had an argument and you’re trying to see if you missed an opportunity for a killer line. But, thanks to everyone involved in each event, there wasn’t any need: I’d met cool people, hung out with cool people, worked with cool people and talked with cool people.

HUGE thanks to Karen and Julia for putting up with my hyperactivity and to the Edinburgh Book Festival for getting me along. The Festival is a very special event and if you haven’t been yet – stick it on your calendar for next year.

Top 5 Geek Twitter Accounts

I’ve only been using Twitter for about a year. Given that I’m a bit of a crusty old technophobe, it’s taken me a while to really understand just what it can do for you. Sure, it works nicely as a promotional tool – but there’s SO much more out there – especially if you’re a geek. Let’s have a butcher’s hook at my Top 5 Geek Twitter accounts.

1)    @DeathStarPR As they put it, “the Death Star has got a bad rap. We’re here to put the record straight.” It’s Star Wars, but it’s funny; those PR guys from the thing that definitely isn’t a moon knock out caustic comments and silly sci-fi based observations by the dozen. As geek Twitter accounts go, it’s one of my favourites.

Sample Tweet: “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Give a fisherman a spaceship and he’ll yell “IT’S A TRAP!” ALL THE DAM TIME!”

 

2)    @LaughingSquid. It’s got a techno-based slant, but LaughingSquid manages to combine art, culture and sciency stuff to make for some really interesting news bulletins. It’s geek Twitter for those who like to be in the know about what’s coming next.

Sample Tweet: “Superhero Depression. One Man’s Complications With Having Superpowers in Real Life http://t.co/LkQOAMmMFZ

 

3)    @GeorgeTakei. That’s right: Mr Sulu. The original one. George might be knocking on a bit, but his Twitter account is funny, philosophical and downright funny. Check him out.

Sample Tweet: “This fix to Alanis Morissette’s not-really-ironic song is quite satisfying…. http://t.co/x4C87jSpRE

 

4)    @DrHorrible. Created by Joss Whedon, this is a geek Twitter account with a twist: it’s the rantings and threats made by the Z-list super-villain from the animated TV series. Plus he goes on about the hero who’s always thwarting him. Plus he makes occasional threats to his followers. I like him.

Sample Tweet: “@josswhedon Bad Horse is out to get you. In a nice way, involving songs and horse dancing.”

 

5)    @DenofGeek. Possibly the ultimate geek Twitter resource. It’s got movie news, interview links, technology stuff – it runs the gamut; whatever your geeky interests are, it’s likely to have an informed and intelligent opinion on it.

Sample Tweet: “17 things we learned on the Amazing Spider-Man 2 set http://t.co/2aM1PSVRq1

If you’ve got any others you think I should know about – drop me a line!

How to Geek Up your Bedroom

Every Geek needs their Lair; that space that leaves the Real World behind and has got your identity stamped all over it. Batman’s Bruce Wayne has the Batcave, Superman has his Fortress of Solitude and Geekhood’s Archie has his Lair, known imaginatively as ‘The Lair’.

But trying to create something like this is beyond most of us:

So we need to work with what we’ve got and what we can afford, so let’s look at some simple ways you can geek up your bedroom.

1)    Decoupage. I know; it sounds like something you might do with a horse. But decoupage is a stunningly simple way to geek up even the weariest piece of furniture into something that states your geekhood, in whichever area it may lie. At its most basic, all you need are some old comics or posters or designs on paper that ring your geeky bell – and something called Modge Podge. Here’s a link to the stuff

decoupage

Basically, what you do is use the Modge Podge to glue your comics to your chosen piece of furniture – but it’s more than a glue; it acts as a sealant as well, protecting your ‘new’ furniture against wear and tear. If you like the idea, but you’re a bit wary, here’s a link that will give you a look at what’s involved.

2)    Geek up your duvet! Your duvet and pillow cases are blank canvases, just waiting for your geek stamp. But, if your folks won’t let you geek up what you’ve got or what you’ve got has already got a design on, then go to a supermarket or somewhere like Primark and pick up a cheap, plain one. Then, all you need is some fabric paint.

fabric paint

Top tips:

a)    Put your duvet on a flat surface, stretched out as much as you can.

b)    Put a sheet of thick cardboard between the layers of your duvet, so the design doesn’t bleed through into the other side.

c)    Sketch out your design in pencil. You don’t need to do it all as one; you can do it in sections.

d)    Paint in sections, then hang it up to try, between bursts.

e)    Put it through the wash. This’ll help seal the paint and knit it into the fib res of the material.

 

3)    Geek up your storage! The problem with us geeky folk, is that we tend to collect stuff. Whether it’s CDs, DVDs, books, RPG miniatures, film props or whatever – we need space for our precious, obsessively-collected booty. Shelves are a good place to start and decoupage is the simplest route to a geek up.

But the real problem is all those things that won’t sit on shelves too happily; comics, dice, collectibles  – that sort of thing. So, you need to get creative. If your folks won’t spring for those plastic storage boxes, then go for good old cardboard ones; you can pick ‘em up from supermarkets or buy sturdier ones online.

Decoupage is good for these things, but if you want to get really creative, then it’s time to bust out some paints. Most dads tend to have some white emulsion kicking around the garden shed and you can start with that as your base colour. Then, all it needs is a logo: the Bat Signal, maybe? A Star trek insignia? Gandalf’s ‘G’ Rune? Go nuts.

super_mario_mural

4)    A mural. This probably the most effective way to geek up your bedroom and really stick your stamp on it – and you don’t have to be artistic! If you want to make sure that your mural really represents what it’s supposed to, then trace your chosen image onto acetate and nobble a projector and project the thin onto the wall. All you’ve got to do then, is trace the outline with a pen or pencil. Once you’ve got the outline, it’s just a case of colouring it in, using paint – and you can make it as complex or as simple as you like.

Do make sure your paints are suitable for the surface they’re going onto; some walls will only take oil-based paint and others prefer acrylic. Get a tester-pot and test it in a small corner – you can always paint over it later.

5)    Geek up your mirror.  It’s the one thing in your bedroom that is probably forgotten about, so why not geek it up and make it art?

broken boards

The easiest way to do this is to get creative with things you already have to hand.  Check in your Dad’s tool box for some really strong glue then have at the mirror frame.  A great idea is to use old broken electronics that are beyond repair, unscrew and remove the mother boards and wire works and stick them around the edge of your mirror.  A Steampunk style mirror from things your mum would have probably made you chuck away, eventually!

Have you done a geek up on your room? If you’ve got any tips, I’d love to hear them!

Top 5 Books for Geeks

With the summer holidays here, it’s the perfect time to pick up a book – but not those boring ones they make you read at school. You’ve got six weeks of not having to read Shakespeare or whatever’s on the syllabus; you can pick and choose your brain-fodder. For me, summer reading was – and still is – about leaving the Real World as far behind me as possible. With that in mind, I’ve compiled my Top 5 Books for Geeks. And no, I won’t be plugging mine…

1)    Lord of the Rings. As books for geeks go, this is the Big One. You’ve got six weeks, so you might as well give it a go. In a nutshell – and in case you’ve been living on another planet – it follows the adventures of two Hobbits who are trying to destroy the evil One Ring, before Sauron, the Bad Guy, gets his grubby hands on it.

lotr

It’s got everything that you could want: swords and sorcery, monsters, heroes, villains, plus friendships and enmities that are beautifully depicted. The only thing that might put you off is the language; this is High Fantasy and, at times, the writing can seen a bit Biblical. But this is the story that spawned a whole myriad of fantasy books for geeks, all trying to replicate Tolkien’s mind-bending genius.

borribles.01

2)    The Borribles. One of the lesser known books for geeks, but a good ‘un. The Borribles is the first in a trilogy that charts the adventures of a bunch of Borribles. Borribles are kids that have fallen between the cracks in society, grown pointy ears and stopped aging; sort of like a bunch of Peter Pans.

But there’s nothing fluffy about this lot; they’re tough and vicious and a dead-shot with a catapult. It’s set in London, where the only real threat to the Borribles’ petty-thieving existence are giant, rat-like creatures: the Rumbles.

It’s funny, sweary and a bit dark, but has gained a cult following. I loved it.

diceman

3)    The Dice Man. This was one of the first books for geeks that I read that I realised was pretty subversive. It’s for older readers and written like a journal. The premise is that, if there’s no such thing as chance and everything is predetermined, then even the roll of a die is fated to happen. Using this, the central figure, Dr Luke Rhinehart, decides to base every decision in his life on the roll of two dice.

As books for geeks go, it’s a bit sweary and sexy, but the idea behind it is so simple and brilliant that I pretty much guarantee you will be carrying a couple of dice in your pocket for a while after. I did. Which is why I ended up climbing out of the window in the middle of Mrs Hughes’ English class. Sorry, Mrs Hughes. The dice made me.

Mortal_engines

4)    Mortal Engines. I picked this up when I was just out of college and have been a slave to  the pen of Philip Reeve ever since; this guy knows how to write books for geeks and anyone with an imagination. Think entire cities that move around on tracks. Think a girl with a scarred-up face and a scarred-up soul. Think epic adventure that manages to keep a handle on human relationships, without ever dropping the ball.

 

In fact, think anything by this author and you’re in for a good ride.

Amulet_of_Samarkand

5)    The Amulet of Samarkand. The first of the Bartimaeus books and an influence in the Geekhood series, this is all about the tenuous relationship between a young sorcerer and general git, Nathaniel, and his arrogant, self-centred djinni, Bartimaeus.

The characters are so brilliantly written that you do find yourself cursing their more stupid decisions – of which there are many. And the way the author uses footnotes is hilarious. It’s got gargoyles, demons, djinni, deceit and double-dealing, set in an alternate version of Britain.

What’ve I missed? Any books for geeks that really ought to be on this list? Let me know!

 

Also a quick reminder that it’s Geek Week over on YouTube so I did a special post for the Stripes blog and even better is there’s a giveaway!  Stripes are giving away both the Geekhood books SIGNED (by me obviously) and all you have to do is tweet them a photo of yourself doing something geeky with the hashtag #Geekhood .