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Here’s some stuff I’ve harvested from around the web of late:

The Nerdist Podcast put out a couple of interesting/fun interviews that caught my ear: Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy, talking about the comics and the movies; David J. Peterson, language guy, talking about inventing languages (including for Game of Thrones) and various real-language stuff.

Rio 2 has been all over cinema screens around the world lately. Here’s the real parrot it’s based on, Spix’s macaw:

Very pretty, no? Really quite beautiful in fact, if you ask me. But not as widespread as Rio 2, that parrot. In fact, it’s extinct in the wild as far as anyone can tell. Has been for some time. Good job, humanity. (And yes, I know the whole extinct in the wild thing is kind of a central plot point in the movies, but I still find the whole ‘let’s make fun movies and a bajillion dollars based on this’ thing a bit weird, even if it’s sort of well-intentioned.)

Amazon took over Comixology, the biggest purveyor of digital comics, to absolutely nobody’s surprise. I can’t begin to tell you how despondent the big river’s acquisition avalanche makes me. They’re a fine and clever company, I know; I use their excellent services now and again. But it’s in precisely no-one‘s long-term interest (except their own, of course) the way they’re hoovering up competitors and add-ons that incrementally turn them into a leviathan of truly leviathanic proportions. If you want to buy books online, take a look at Wordery. Good prices, good service, free delivery worldwide.

Talking of comics, I thought I’d take a moment to point out my favourite comic produced by IDW Publishing, the good folks who put out the Rogue Trooper comic what I have been writting. Locke & Key is an inspired, beautifully crafted and beautifully illustrated dark fantasy/horror comic from Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. Complex and intriguing, it’s loaded with terrific character writing, clever world-building and eye-popping set-piece action. Give it a try (at Wordery, of course).

And here’s one of my favourite blogs, which I don’t believe I’ve mentioned here before: Abandoned Scotland. An exploration of ruined, forgotten, derelict Scotland that’s kind of hynoptically fascinating if you ask me. Stuff that’s hidden in plain sight, overlooked and disregarded, comes alive when you pay close attention to it. Investigate it. The most grungy and crumbly places and buildings become kind of beautiful. The Abandoned Scotland YouTube channel is a goldmine of strange discoveries. Don’t suppose this is exactly how the Scottish Tourist Board wants the world to see Scotland, but as a resident it’s all simultaneously familiar and surprising. Great stuff.

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A smart chap called Valerio Amaro combined his two passions – Lord of the Rings and advertising – into a nice little tumblr in which phrases from LotR are used as advertising slogans. I like them all, and you should check them all out here, but here’s a couple of favourites:

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A quick post, prompted by my (very belated) discovery of a blog I really like, which connects to a podcast I also like to jointly deliver a World War II theme.

The blog first: World War II Today is one of those brilliant ideas that only the internet, and blog architecture in particular, makes possible. A day by day chronicle of WWII, presented in a ‘today, 70 years ago’ format with oodles of attention to detail and professionalism. Very cool. Obviously works best if you put it into your rss feed or some other subscription-like service, so you get a daily update. I love both the idea and its implementation. It’s a really remarkable achievement, I think.

The podcast second: The History of WWII Podcast is a staggering undertaking. A biweekly, or thereabouts, podcast delivering an enormously detailed narrative of … well, pretty much everything that happened during WWII. It melts my brain even to consider the amount of time and effort that’s going into this. I don’t even know how long it’s already been running for (I assume years), but it’s on episode 83 or so, and has reached early 1941. Japan and Russia and the US aren’t even really involved yet. This one could run and run. The early episodes are a little bit rough around the edges, but as time goes on they become more and more polished and well-narrated.

If, like me, you like your history, especially with a military flavour, these two are gems. That is all.

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A round-up of comics-related stuff that’s on my ‘should mention on blog’ list.

First up, for those of you with the kit/inclination to read comics digitally, there’s a stupendously good sale on (for another couple of days) at Comixology, where a whole heap of stuff from the publisher Top Shelf is at up to 60% off.  Top Shelf is a high quality publisher of diverse, smart comics, with not a superhero in sight (except as parody, I suspect).

Me, I snagged myself digital copies of Infinite Kung Fu and The Underwater Welder.  You, if you were so inclined and have not yet sampled their delights, could try From Hell, Far Arden, Essex County, SuperSpy (all better than good imho) or any of the other great books too numerous to mention lurking in the sale listing.

Second up, quite a while back now, top comics blog The Beat ran a 24hrs of webcomics thing, churning out links to heaps of comics that are just a click of a mouse away from your eyeballs.  There’s a whole load of great stuff in there, worth having a browse through when you’ve got a few minutes (hours?) to kill.

Third up, I am still doing some comics talk over at SF Signal, in my Words and Pictures column there.  Since last mentioning it here, I think I’ve talked about:

Prophet, the most wonderfullest, crazy, 70s-ish sf comic you ever saw, anywhere.  Probably.

Daredevil, in three different incarnations; my favourite superhero, I confess, and one who’s been blessed with some very good writers and artists over the years.

Revival and The New Deadwardians, two recent ‘zombie’ comics that do interesting and entertaining things with a rather over-exploited sub-genre, and manage to come up with something fresh.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, the original manga not the movie, which is a fascinating, multi-layered sf epic loaded with ambition and imagination (and cool aircraft dog-fighting with one another).

And fourth and last up, I’ll just mention again, for anyone who missed it last time around, that Forbidden Planet International were kind enough to inflict their Desert Island Comics feature upon me, and I duly came up with a selection of eight comics (plus one luxury) that I’d take with me to a desert island.

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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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Nobody much likes Mondays, right?  Well, not most people anyway.

Here’s three little things from the internet that might entertain or interest you, to compensate for the fact that the next weekend is once again as far away as it’s ever going to get.

First, an audio short storyBullet in the Brain is by Tobias Wolff, and was published in The New Yorker.  In this podcast right here, it’s read and discussed.  It’s by some distance my favourite story out of those I listened to when going through my ‘listen to all The New Yorker‘s story podcasts’ phase a year or two ago.  Beautifully written, terrifically clever, yet really quite short and simple.  In fact, I might have to go listen to it again myself once I’m done with this post …

Second, a tumblr that made me smileDiana Prince’s Diary is a masterful little bit of whimsy.  Diana Prince is, for anyone who doesn’t know, Wonder Woman’s identity in mundane society.  Bridget Jones’ Diary is, for anyone who doesn’t know … well, everyone knows what Bridget Jones’ Diary is, right?  So, this tumblr is a melding of the two: Wonder Woman’s diary in the pitch-perfect tone and style of Bridget Jones.  V. funny.

And third, participatory democracy at its very best.  The Whitehouse has an official online petition system, whereby if enough people (currently 25,000) sign a petition the authorities are required to give a formal considered response to the request their citizens are making.  So, at the time of writing, just over 23,000 more signatures are required to force the US Government to reveal its position on the proposal to ‘Establish a new legal system of motorcycle-riding ‘Judges’ who serve as police, judge, jury and executioner all in one’.  Sounds like a plausible idea to me, though I can foresee one or two pitfalls.  Come to think of it, it sounds like a vaguely familiar idea …  Splendid.

(the Diana Prince tumblr via Comics Beat, the Judge Dredd petition via Bleeding Cool)

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When talking about my SF Signal column yesterday, there was something I meant to say.  And didn’t, because I’m a forgetful fool.

It was this: congratulations to the SF Signal crew for their recent triumph in the Hugo Awards.  They won the coveted Hugo rocketship for Best Fanzine.  That’s quite a big deal, and having had just the tiniest glimpse of the effort that goes into making SF Signal run I think it’s deserved.

My column there post-dates the period for which SF Signal won its award, so it’s absolutely nothing to do with me.  I just thought I’d take this chance to encourage anyone who’s not a follower of SF Signal to go check it out.  It’s a lively, diverse and voluminous stream of conent, most of it produced by fans for fans, and judging by its new status as ‘Hugo Award Winner’ it’s doing something right.  The daily SF Tidbits posts alone are well worth the price of admission (which is zero, of course, making the whole thing even better value).

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Page 69

I’ve contributed a piece on The Edinburgh Dead to the Page 69 blog, wherein authors consider page 69 of their own book and talk about it.  Nice idea for a blog, don’t you think?

I mention it here not so much because you might want to read the little post I contributed (though you might, of course, and here it is), but because the blog as a whole is kind of fun to browse through.  Every kind of fiction is represented there, so it’s an amusing way to discover new authors and books.  Go have a scroll.

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Wobbly’s being polite, in fact. Had several days of unintended isolation from the Web, and despite having apparently fixed the problem through tediously extended fiddling about with settings, cables etc., still have no clue what the cause was.  So, if you are one of the various people expecting me to send you something via the virtual tubes, apologies for the delay: now that I’m connected again, I’ll get to it as soon as I can.  As far as I can tell, I haven’t actually missed any e-mails or anything, so it’s only a matter of time before yours reaches the top of the To Do pile.

In the meantime, some pointers to The Edinburgh Dead‘s step by step spread around the Web, which evidently continued even while I was twiddling my thumbs over the last few days.

The book’s launch is marked in generous style over at the Orbit Books blog, and you can also read an extract there.

Over at Tynga’s Reviews, you can enjoy the spectacle of me trying to recast the fable of Red Riding Hood with characters from The Edinburgh Dead.  (One of the accompanying photos seems to suggest that Tynga thinks Gerard Butler is the man to play my main character, Adam Quire, in the movie version – which is a clever call, although I’ve tended to visualise Daniel Craig in the role, myself).

And last, but by no means least, there’s a review of The Edinburgh Dead for you to peruse over at the Sci-Fi Bulletin website, which includes the smart (and to my mind, jolly complimentary) suggestion that parts of it read like John Buchan writing from a story idea by Sam Raimi.  I didn’t know it at the time, but in hindsight, that’s kind of exactly what I was trying for when I was writing certain sections … ah, the wisdom of reviewers!

Did a little summer-cleaning of the Links page, so thought I’d just replicate here some new additions that might be of interest:

The Coode Street Podcast – Serious (mostly) discussions of the spec fic field, covering sf, fantasy and horror; interesting stuff for those who take their sf fanhood seriously.

Lady Sabre & The Pirates of the Ineffable Aether – A webcomic by Greg Rucka and Rick Burchett, which looks to be a fun sf steampunk romp.

SF Signal – Pretty much the most comprehensive and consistent general speculative fiction blog out there, I think; and with a podcast, too, for added fun.

That’s it.  Go on about your business.

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