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In years gone by, I’ve tended to pop out a Miscellany post to mark the festive season.  Don’t know why.  Don’t know why I’m about to do it again, but here I go.

For Likers of Sketches

D(ungeons) & D(ragons) & D(oodles) is a fun little tumblr from Tom Fowler, featuring amusing and striking sketches of a fantastical sort.  Only a handful of images there so far, but it’s worth a look.  Guy can draw.

Image is (c) 2012 Tom Fowler / BIGBUGIllustration.com.  Just so you know.

Weekly Sketch Up is a weekly (funnily enough) column at iFanboy that collates and reposts some of the nicest recent comics-related sketches showing up on the interwebs.  Well worth a browse if you like to see comics artists having a bit of fun.

For Likers of Expensive/Dangerous Toys

Probably too late for this year, but how about asking for a JetLev Flyer when the next gift-giving season comes around?

Or perhaps I could tempt you with a wingsuit?

For Likers of Photography

2012 was, I think, one of the better recent years for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year, a long-running British institution for those of us who like (a) wildlife and (b) pictures of it.

You can browse a full online gallery of the best images of 2012 on the Natural History Museum website. I confess, it’s a bit of a pig of a site, navigation-wise; but with a little bit of pointing and clicking you can get a look at some stunning wildlife photos (when you eventually find an ‘Enlarge’ button, click that and you will be amply rewarded). And if that tickles your fancy, well you can browse another seven years’ worth of photos there as well.

The exhibition of the winning photos has already started a global tour which runs through next year, and if it’s showing up anywhere near you I’d highly recommend checking it out. Seeing the actual photos at full size is quite the experience if you’re into this kind of thing. Mysteriously, the tour doesn’t seem to include the USA – sorry, USA folks.

For Likers of … Well, Wild Scots Really

These folks show up on the streets of Edinburgh most summers, always drawing a big crowd of passers-by and always being about the best street theatre you could ever wish for: Albannach

Albannach @ Sunday Pub Sing from Highland Renfair on Vimeo.

And since I’m on the subject of music, let’s repeat my old and tired trick of putting a bit of guitar in these miscellany posts. This time, it’s courtesy of Antoine Dufour:

For Likers of Apocalypses (and Podcasts)

As the world’s ending … tomorrow, is it? … why not treat yourself to a podcast on the topics of apocalypses?

Apocalypse Now and Then from the BackStory podcast is a fun and informative dig around in the history of apocalypses and end-times in the USA.

And thanks to Edd Vick for directing me to the BackStory podcast as a whole, back in the comments on this post.  That’s how us podcast lovers spread the love, after all; it’s all about word of mouth.  So why not check out this extensive exercise in word of mouth over at SF Signal on the subject of SF/F podcasts, and do some exploring in the audio wonderland?  There’s something in there for everyone. (Everyone who likes a bit of sf or F, anyway).

Should, for some unforeseen reason, the world fail to end, Happy Holidays to one and all.  Hope everyone gets a minimum of stress and a maximum of happiness over the festive season.  (If the world does end, that minimum and maximum will no doubt be reversed, but don’t fret it; it’ll all be over soon, I imagine).

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I have, on occasion in the past, produced a miscellanies of assorted nonsense here in honour of the festive season.  I do like to keep a tradition going, so here we are.  This time around, just a randomish concoction of audio-visual amusements.

Audio first.

In the science category, the Astronomy Cast is a relatively new discovery for me, and I commend to you a recent special edition they did concentrating on Strange Stuff in Spaaaaace.  Lots of their episodes are fun and informative too, so give them a browse.

In the fiction category, not one but two Christmas stories (this year and last) from Tim Pratt (one of my favourite short fiction writers) and Heather Shaw, courtesy of Podcastle: the 2011 one is The Ghost of Christmas Possible, that from a year ago (probably my favourite) is a bonkers romp entitled The Christmas Mummy.

And in the ‘Writers Talking’ category, here’s a properly substantial interview with Steven Erikson, creator of the properly enormous Malazan series that began with Gardens of the Moon.  I found it extremely interesting, for all sorts of reasons which can perhaps best be summed up under the single heading of: ‘here’s a writer of epic fantasy who has thought deeply and seriously about what he’s doing’.  It’s an education in how much can be going on in an author’s head, and why their books turn out the way they do.  Also, it sounds like I’ve been mentally mispronouncing ‘Malazan’ all this time.  Who knew?

Books.  Kind of.

The book trailer is finally starting to come of age, I think.  Good ones are still extremely rare, but in recent weeks I’ve noticed a few pretty enticing ones showing up here and there.  I’ve absolutely no idea whether these things actually make a difference to sales, mind you; someone must think they might, though, or they wouldn’t exist.

Both of at those achieved at least this much: I’m curious about the books.  (Although I have to admit, I was already curious about the second one).

Clips, clips, clips

The last issue of SciFiNow I read had a loooong list of funny/interesting geeky clips that have appeared on the internet over the years.  I shamelessly (and lazily) harvested their suggestions to bring to you the following, which I offer without further comment. (And apologies for any irritating ads that may precede the start of the stuff that’s potentially funny or interesting).

Okay, suspending the no further comment thing for a moment, this next one’s an amazing thing to find buried in a list of geeky clips: the legendary Fritz Lang, creator of Metropolis, talks about his encounter with the Nazi propaganda machine. Did I say this is amazing?

And that’s it for now. See you in 2012.

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Thought I’d resurrect an old tradition around here – not that something that’s only happened once before, long ago, really qualifies as a tradition – and provide a randomish smorgasbord of odds and ends to mark the festive season.  So, without further ado:

For Movie Fans (and Superhero Fans), the trailer for one of the latest in the apparently endless sequence of movies based on comic books.  Thor, which I confidently predict will be the highest grossing superhero-fantasy-Norse mythology mash-up of 2011:

Considerably more promising than I thought it might be when I first heard it was in the pipeline, but I’m saying that from a position of low, low expectations. Vastly more promising, in my humble yet obviously expert opinion, than the other big budget superhero trailer doing the rounds at the moment: Green Lantern.  Still, trailers are only trailers; who knows how the final products will measure up.

For Book Fans, and in a somewhat self-serving spirit entirely out of tune with the season, my author copies of the Subterranean Press Speculative Horizons anthology edited by Patrick St-Denis turned up the other day, and things of compact but considerable beauty they are too.

The limited edition signed copies are very pleasing, with a whole page of signatures bound into the book.  Enough to make a chap giddy, to be keeping such august authorial company:

Available from the Subterranean Press website (where those nifty limited editions reside), or from the usual online venues, should anyone fancy a post-Xmas treat.

For Podcast Fans, I offer a couple of the more unusual items from the long list of stuff I’m subscribed to, in case there’s someone out there who shares my peculiar combination of interests.

The Norman Centuries.  An excellent, straightforward narrative history of the Normans.  For fans of medieval history, this is rich pickings.  Most folk – round here anyway – know the Normans as the conquerors of England, but less generally known is their habit of conquering all sorts of other folks, wherever they went: the French, the Italians, the Byzantines, the Sicilian Muslims.  Just about everyone they came across, really.

The Ink Panthers Show.  Exactly the kind of thing, in many ways, podcasting was invented for.  Two guys, with occasional semi-random guests, talk to each other about … well, about almost anything they feel like talking about, really.  They’re both comics creators, so that comes up now and again, but a lot of it is just about what’s going on in their lives and families.  I find them pretty personable, articulate and funny.  Once – if – you get on their wavelength, it’s a pleasant listen.  It’s mostly quite family-friendly, but sometimes strays into slightly more adult or non-PC areas, so consider yourself so advised.

For Fans of Ye Olde Classical Music … well, this (in case any overseas visitors don’t know, by the way, the chap introducing things is Matt Lucas, one of the current movers and shakers of British comedy):

You can only wonder what the neighbours thought …

And, come to think of it, I’m going to repost the musical clip from that long ago first iteration of the Christmas Miscellany, just because I still think, as I did then, that it’s one of the nicer sounds on the web and sounds to me suitably restful, reflective and contented for the holiday season.  How’s that for keeping a tradition going?

And For Everyone Else: well, just my best wishes for the festive season, however you choose to spend it, or celebrate it, or ignore it.  I’ll be back and blogging once the inevitable gluttony-induced lethargy and inertia wear off.  Happy Christmas!

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Chances are, things will be quiet around here for the next week or more (not that they’re exactly a hive of frenzied activity the rest of the time), while I concentrate on eating, drinking, caressing the many books I’ll no doubt be given on the 25th (people know how to please me), wishing it would snow, and – because you can’t let a little thing like a festive season get in the way – writing.

In the meantime, a little selection of treats and trifles:

For Movie Fans, the newly-arrived Hellboy II trailer:

I was a big fan of the first movie – plain old fun almost from beginning to end, I thought, and that’s something not many movies can claim – and this one looks like it might be a worthy successor.

For Zombie Comic Fans (that’s fans of zombie comics, rather than comic fans who are zombies), a tip: I’m way behind on this, since it’s been going for ages, but this year I discovered The Walking Dead. I’ve only read the first collected volume so far, but it was up there amongst my favourite reading experiences of 2007.

It’s the homely tale of a small group of ordinary people trying to survive in a world over-run by flesh-eating zombies. Good writing, good characters and the occasional gory zombie attack: what more could you ask? Recommended for those with post-Christmas book tokens to spend and an affection for quality comics. Or for zombies.

For Aspiring Writers, this is pretty old stuff, but it’s well worth a read if you haven’t seen it before: from the Australian fantasy author Ian Irvine, who’s sold enough books to know what he’s talking about, Writing Tips, Guide to Success, and easily the best of the lot, The Truth About Publishing. Not everything in there accords perfectly with my own experience, but that’s no surprise as (a) Ian’s writing from an Australian perspective, and (b) these things are bound to vary on a case-by-case basis. The important thing is that in broad terms there’s a huge amount of good advice, truth and common sense in there.

For Anyone who ever wondered what a nuclear detonation at sunset looks like (likely a small subset of the global population, I realise):

Okay, so it’s actually just the Sun going down behind a power station just outside Edinburgh, but it looked a bit like the Apocalypse to me.

For Those Who Care About Such Things, the latest version of the Bloodheir cover. It makes me feel cold just looking at it, which in this case is a good thing.

Last I heard, UK, US and Australian publication remains on schedule for June 2008, by the way.

And since it’s the season for Giving Gifts, go test your vocabulary – and marvel at the plethora of obscurities lurking like unexploded bombs in the dark recesses of the English language – while simultaneously donating (at no cost to you!) rice to those who need it: FreeRice, which I found via Patrick Rothfuss’ blog.

Finally, For Music Fans, especially those who like a bit of acoustic guitar action, what I think is one of the nicest sounds to be found on YouTube:

There’re plenty of other clips of him on YouTube, all equally pleasing, and his website’s here: Andy McKee. Sadly, no signs of any plans to play in Scotland as far as I can see, otherwise I’d probably be busy buying tickets instead of writing this post …

And that’s it. Whatever festivities you’re engaged in over the next week or two, I hope you have an outrageously happy time of it.