Monday, 19 October 2009

Just to apologise for not posting on here recently - life's been a bit hectic. I've basically been given the geeky job of my dreams, editing for sci-fi and horror publishers Solaris Books and Abaddon Books, at Rebellion. There's a big commute involved, but I'm really happy with the work I'm doing.

Haven't found anything too unprofessional/incriminating on this page so I'll be using this blogspot account to contribute to staff blogs here:

And also I'll keep updating Under the Goggles with thoughts on the industry and so on.

And yes, change of job does mean that I can no longer wear goggles to work. Sigh...

Thursday, 30 April 2009

This thread...

Huh. Well, this opinion piece at The F Word is probably worth a read.

"Someone even said to me once: “You know, you’re beautiful and clever, but you’re such a geek.” Coming from someone who is herself clever and beautiful, I utterly resented that comment. So, let me get this straight. Being a geek is a bad thing … right? Oh yeah, I forgot. Clever little girls should be pretty and sweet, and leave the boys to their toys."
~ Wisrutta Atthakor, writing for The F Word.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Zaphod: "Oh, Belgium!"

Shii - the Wii for women - video as found by gender equality blog Feministing on 27th April.

Firstly, let me state, as the blogger at Feministing neglected to do, that I understand that this video is satire. A moment's googling tracked down its source, which is the Belgian comedy show M!LF (Man! Liberation Front). So, satire. Obviously.

Having said that... it's not great satire. I'm pretty sure that the outdated Battle of the Sexes "heey, women enjoy cooking, cleaning and being sexually available to lazy men, riight?" brand of humour belongs entirely to our dads' generation, if not to the generation before that (and also to Benny Hill and postcards found in seaside towns featuring rosy-cheeked cartoon British people).

Then again, I don't speak Flemish! This could be a witty comment on the state of the gaming industry. It should be. For instance, doesn't anyone think this imagined scenario is a little too close to real games such as Nintendo's Cooking Mama and its ilk? No, Cooking Mama isn't a game about cannibalising your mother. It's a cookery game - because in the Nintendo household, 'mama' does all the cooking while father brings home the cash, of course. They're springing up everywhere these days, these games designed by PR executives trying to appeal to the nurturing instinct. Domestic drudgery - it's the new fun, apparently.

There's Cooking Mama 2: Dinner with Friends, Gardening Mama, waitressing game Diner Dash and so on. Notice how in the Shii video, nearly all the tasks the women did were ways to nurture and basically take care of their men.

Ubisoft's Imagine brand, described by their official website as "the only range of videogames offering activities dedicated to girls on the Nintendo's DS," offers a just delightful range of possibilities for young girls to imagine.

Here's the full catalogue of stereotypes:-

Imagine: Master Chef (released 2007)
Imagine: Fashion Designer (2007)
Imagine: Animal Doctor (2007)
Imagine: Babies (2007)
Imagine: Figure Skater (2008)
Imagine: Girl Band (2008)
Imagine: Teacher (2008)
Imagine: Babysitters (2008)
Imagine: Baby Club (2008)
Imagine: Fashion Model (2008)
Imagine: Modern Dancer (2008)
Imagine: Fashion Designer New York (2008)
Imagine: Champion Rider (2008)
Imagine: Pet Hospital (2008)
Imagine: Interior Designer (2008)
Imagine: Dream Weddings (2008)
Imagine Party Babyz (2008)
Imagine: Ballet Dancer
Imagine: Movie Star (2008)
Imagine Fashion Party (January 20, 2009)
Imagine: Cheerleader (February 3, 2009)
Imagine: Ice Champions (March 3, 2009)
Imagine: Family Doctor (March 26, 2009)

THESE are the ambitions being sold to the young girls of today?

God, at least you could mutilate the tacky plastic baby mama crap that they bought you when I was a lass. All MY Barbies sported mohawks, coloured in, in felt-tip pen. What's a young girl to do if a relative buys her Imagine: Babies? Let me tell you, in my day etc. etc.

Even the most recent 'doctor' incarnation of the Imagine series has that insidious 'Family' tacked onto the title - Imagine: Family Doctor. There's a sweet picture of a female doctor with a child holding a teddy bear on the box, bringing up pictures of giving babies spongebaths and curing toddlers' sniffles. Not handing out STI medicine and contraceptive advice which is, you know, some of the less PR-friendly stuff that family doctors do (and might be useful for young girls to learn about, too).

And Imagine: Teacher has primary school children on the front, a job that is usually lower-paid than lecturer or high school teacher and, as is often the case with lower paid careers in care, where UN statistics show that women outnumber men.

Now don't get me wrong. I'd be pretty damn pleased if a future daughter of mine became a doctor, or a primary-school teacher, or a talented figure skater, or pretty much anything else that made her happy and secure. BUT. There are themes here, oh yes there are. Underlying, subtle themes which say to us that young girls must be nurturing, they must care about appearances, and they absolutely must desire marriage and lots and lots of babies.

There are a lot of statistics about how computer game companies are appealing to women these days. Some studies even claim that there are more women playing computer games than men. In a time of financial crisis when corporations are looking wherever they can for profit, Ubisoft will certainly be pleased with the success of their Imagine range.

Well. Congratu-bloody-lations, you broke into a new market. But by god don't kid yourselves that you're doing anything progressive or special if you're just going to go and vomit back the same stereotypes we've been seeing for years.



A final thought on the Shii video: Because when a woman has a giant pink plastic dildo hooked up to a games console, putting it in her mouth is exactly what she'll think to do with it...

*exits to the Benny Hill music*

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Life After 'Watchmen'

Authors note: This article was written for a job application. If I had written it with entirely free rein, it would simply have read: YOU WILL READ TRANSMETROPOLITAN NOW.

You’ve seen the movie, you’ve read the comic, you’ve bought the funny blue action figure (happily devoid of large blue penis)… what do you do next? How do you get your Watchmen fix?

DC Comic’s latest marketing move asks us exactly this question. A new section of their website approaches the problem in a logical fashion, trying to define what it is that makes Watchmen one of their most successful graphic novels.

They divide the possibilities into five categories. Are we now looking to read other books by Watchmen scriptwriter Alan Moore? Are we looking for more books for mature readers, or are we looking for more comics by best-selling authors? Are we intrigued by the way that Watchmen pushed the boundaries of science fiction, or would we prefer to find books that redefine modern superheroes?

Helpfully, the website even provides us with a checklist on which we can tick off each of the titles that they suggest. All of these titles, we cynically observe, are owned by DC.

So what do they suggest?

Well, if you’re after more storytelling from the great bearded wizard of Northampton (a.k.a. Alan Moore), the site recommends V for Vendetta. Already a successful movie, this anarchic portrayal of resistance in a totalitarian Britain both terrifies and fascinates the reader. Also suggested is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a graphic novel which sees Moore gleefully merging the various heroes and horrors of Victorian fiction. Want to see Mr. Hyde grappling with one of War of the World’s tripods? The League is the place to be. However, it would be a shame to forget that Moore has scripted comics for publishing houses other than DC, and fans of the short story format will enjoy his Complete Future Shocks, collected by 2000 AD.

DC suggest award ceremony favourite Neil Gaiman if you’re looking for works by critically-acclaimed graphic novelists. Lost scriptwriter Brian K. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man is also mentioned. This Hugo Award winning work imagines a world in which almost all males have suddenly and mysteriously died out. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse director Joss Whedon has also written some well-received graphic novels for publishing houses Dark Horse and Marvel Comics. His Astonishing X-Men is worth a read even for those new to the characters, and his ‘Season Eight’ continuation of the Buffy series is one of the best-kept secrets in comics.

We find Warren Ellis’s Transmetropolitan accused of both ‘mature’ content and of pushing the boundaries of science fiction, which comes as no surprise to this reader. This furious, paranoid romp through the dystopian 23rd century sees foul-mouthed, drug-taking gonzo journalist Spider Jerusalem making the leftie press look cool in his mission to take down a corrupt presidency. Push the boundaries? This ten-book series pulls them down and stomps all over them in its hobnailed boots.

Garth Ennis’s Preacher also finds itself in the ‘mature’ category. The Reverend Jesse Custer’s road-trip through darkest America is packed full of blasphemy, bullets and booze, but there’s romance and good old-fashioned heroism in its black little heart. If Watchmen’s anti-heroes are what attracted you to the story, then books like Preacher and Transmetropolitan are what you need to be reading. DC’s Vertigo imprint, aimed specifically at mature readers, is a great place to find such characters.

If you’re looking for a new take on the modern superhero, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is recommended. Published in the same year as Watchmen, this work by Sin City writer Frank Millar is regarded with great critical acclaim. A much less sophisticated, and more recent take on the superhero can be found in Dynamite Entertainment’s The Boys. This comic follows a government-sponsored team which takes out corrupt superheroes. Fans of DC and Marvel comics might enjoy spotting the irreverent parodies of their favourite icons.

So, whether you have trouble telling the Green Lantern from the Green Hornet (and you’d be in good company), or you’re a more seasoned comics veteran, it’s comforting to know that life does, indeed, continue after Watchmen.

Back in the Red

NOTE: This was also written for a job application!

Red Dwarf makes its way back to our screens on the 10th of April, and although we’ve had to wait nearly a decade for a new show, the crew have made these last few days a little easier for us with an impressive haul of hints and preview material.

Cast interviews reveal that the three-part show, titled Back to Earth, will feature the four core characters landing on earth during the early part of the 21st century. Confronted with the earth of our present day, we can but imagine the full extent of our brave heroes’ reactions, although preview material reveals that Kryten attempts communication with street corner postboxes and Rimmer finds himself captivated by our collection of authentic 21st century telegraph poles.

We’ve heard that Kochanski is dead and Holly is drying out his memory drives after Lister left a bath running for several years, so sadly no Lovett or Hayridge, but new cast member Sophia Winkleman will be there to soften the blow. Cast in the role of Rimmer’s nemesis, she will be playing the gorgeous Katerina Bartikovsky, a hologram who outranks our pitiful 2nd Technician by far. And let us not forget that another fan favourite has been confirmed to return – the Starbug, or is it the Carbug? Chris Barrie can be seen performing a spookily convincing Jeremy Clarkson impression here.

The programme’s official site boasts that production values are higher than the show has ever seen, and showcases sets created by Mark Harris, who has worked as a designer on Bond films Quantum of Solace, Die Another Day and The World is Not Enough. The Red Dwarf studio audience is gone, and some filming has been taking place on the set of Coronation Street. With Craig Charles claiming in an interview that he will be ‘playing quite a few characters [in Back to Earth], some of them I've already played on television,” it is no great leap of logic to wonder whether the smegheads will be meeting Corrie’s Lloyd Mullaney.

TV channel Dave hosts Back to Earth related rewards on its website, but be prepared to go hunting for them! A curry-stained postcard from Lister contains instructions for his lost crewmates on 21st century earth, which, if followed, will direct you through hologram-studying character Bob Giles’s hacked research site and allow you to access Back to Earth preview scenes, games and messages from the characters. Highlights include Rimmer’s opinions on reality TV and Kryten’s curry order. We’d better have that vindaloo hot and waiting.

To quote Lister’s promise in the very first Red Dwarf episode, “Look out, Earth - The slime’s coming home!”

Red Dwarf: Back to Earth will be airing on the Dave channel over the bank holiday weekend:

Friday, April 10th: Part One
Saturday, April 11th: Part Two
Sunday, April 12th: Part Three

Friday, 27 March 2009

Friendly Neighbourhood Cosplayer Saves The Day!

... and restores this blogger's faith in humanity.

A fireman in Thailand dressed up as Spiderman in order to help a young autistic boy down from a window ledge. Hearing that the boy enjoyed superhero comics, Somchai Yoosabai ran all the way back to the fire station in order to retrieve the costume from his locker.

I love that the BBC article feels the need to explain that Yoosabai owns the costume because he uses it for fire safety education. You can imagine the journalist explaining it to his editor: "He wasn't, like, some pervert or anything."

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Under the Goggles: The Story Behind The Title

So, every Sunday for a couple of months now, I've worked for a very large comic shop located near Tottenham Court Road. You know the one. Yeah, there are comic shops with more indie street cred, but I'm loyal. I was poor and new to London, and they gave me a job. Plus, I get wicked discount.

There's a uniform, but the managers don't mind if you decide to jazz up the look. Neon eyeliner, Watchmen pin badges - you get the picture. My boyfriend's got a pair of flying goggles that he picked up at a market in Belarus of all places, (most people just use Ebay). Worn on the top of my head they do a great job of keeping my hair out of my face at work.

Now I happen to think that these goggles are pretty cool. You say aged WWII veteran - I say Tank Girl. It turns out the customers think they are pretty cool, too. In fact, I get a bit of attention wearing them. One guy in particular was more persistant than most: telling me he likes my look, chatting about Girl Genius, holding up the queue to ask which steampunk novels I like... He's kind of annoying and almost certainly flirting with me, but hey, that's not a crime. Next time he comes in, he acts the same way.

The time after that, I'm not wearing the goggles. An ignored alarm clock has left me with barely enough time to dress before leaving the house, let alone accessorise. I'm not looking too great, really. Neither is S, my co-worker. She stayed out late last night, I'm coming down with a cold, neither of us enjoy being at work on a Sunday. We struggle on, bravely. The same guy comes in. He buys some Marvel Civil War graphic novels, I sniffle my way through a transaction and notice that he's not as talkative as usual. Maybe he's having a bad day too.

As he walks away, he looks back at S and me. We hear him announce, very loudly to his friend, "Bring back the one with the goggles, that's what I say."


And thus, the name of this blog was born. (And thus, a righteous outrage that probably bored poor S to tears all afternoon was born, but I calmed down eventually.)

This is what that customer failed to see. This is me, underneath the goggles.

These are my thoughts on gaming, on politics, on comics and science fiction and a wide variety of other fiction. A collection of articles on the geek lifestyle and culture. I'm blogging the third counter-culture, kids.

What a load of pretentious bollocks.

Let's just see where we end up, shall we?