Adam’s Most Anticipated of 2016

Here is what Adam is most looking forward to in 2016, in no particular order (I don’t know why I picked that featured photo either).

Captain America: Civil War

Civil War

I’ve not exactly made it a secret that I’m a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or that I think Chris Evans makes a great Steve Rogers. As more details and the cast has been revealed for third Captain America film, a lot of people have labelled it as ‘Avengers 2.5’ as it seems 80% of the MCU is going to be in it. But from the first trailer that hit, the film’s focus definitely still seems to be on Cap and how he is seeing events. Also Iron Man is there. I don’t find hero Vs hero to be the most interesting plotline, but things don’t look quite as simple as that. Oh, and Black Panther looks really cool.

 

Finishing my PhD

For better or worse, this year I’ll be free of this terrible curse. Horrible life decision.

 

Rogue One

Rogue One

Ah genuine excitement for new Star Wars. How I’ve missed you. I loved The Force Awakens, and while I’m not overly enthused by some of the ideas floating around for the upcoming anthology films, more Star Wars while we wait for the numbered films should be a good thing (and means those films won’t be rushed). The first film set to be released in December is ‘Rogue One’, centered on the group of rebels who stole the plans for the first Death Star. And it has an excellent cast.

 

New Thrice Album

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Thrice are one of my favourite bands, with their 2005 album ‘Vheissu’ being one of my desert island discs. Remembering picking it up at lunch time at school 10 years ago makes me feel incredibly old. From their emo punk roots Thrice developed into a brilliant progressive band that is full of intelligent and inventive musical ideas. They announced they were going on a hiatus back in 2012, but unlike many bands who make the same decision they always said they weren’t breaking up, and they were just “taking a break from being a full-time band”. In 2015 they held up that promise, playing a smattering of festivals internationally, one of which was Hevy Fest in the UK which I was lucky enough to catch. Near the end of November they announced that there would be a new album in 2016, and I can’t wait.

 

New Every Time I Die Album

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I have two ETID tattoos. I’m a reasonably big fan of theirs. Something that always inexplicably surprises me is that especially with heavy bands, I expect that eventually the formula will get repetitive or stale, and I’m always delighted when it doesn’t. With every album Every Time I Die have managed to surprise with how interesting and genre pushing their music is, while still retaining their core sound that drew me to them in the first place. Their last album ‘From Parts Unknown’ was a fast, vicious affair that managed to outdo it’s predecessors in terms of raw heaviness. Their awesome riffs and punishing drums are only equaled for me in the bestial vocals from Keith Buckley and his insightful, intelligent lyrics. Look up what ‘Moor‘ is about. Intense.

Anyway, in a recent podcast guitarist Jordan Buckley said that they were going into the studio early on this year, and I can’t wait. They were halfway through a tour of the UK in November before having to postpone the London shows, and they’ve been rescheduled to May/June next year. I have tickets to 3 shows in a row. If I die, know I died doing what I loved – being bludgeoned to death by a large bald man with face tattoos.

 

Daredevil Season 2

Daredevil

Netflix’s Daredevil series was great. A lot of people seemed to agree, which is why we’re getting a second series, probably in the first half of 2016. Joining the cast from season one are Élodie Yung as Electra and Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle AKA The Punisher. I don’t know how they’ll both figure in to the series, but I’m sure it will be good.

 

Luke Cage

Luke cage

I really enjoyed Mike Colter as Luke Cage in 2015’s Jessica Jones (a show I made my favourite TV show of the year), so I’m not particularly worried about the quality of the Luke Cage solo series. Netflix are doing a great job with these shows, and I can’t see Cage being any different. I imagine it will all debut at a similar sort of time of year that Jessica Jones did this year.

 

Writing More

This year I started playing around with writing some fiction, mostly in the form of short stories. I don’t pretend to be good at it, but I find it extremely cathartic and it’s great to get swept up in. Unfortunately my current hectic and stressful work life has meant this has had to go on the back burner, largely relegated to jotting down plot details and story ideas when they come to me, so I don’t forget them when I finish my PhD and I can dedicate the time and energy I’d like to to them. I’ll probably figure some way of sharing this stuff in due time, so watch this space. Maybe.

 

Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange

Last week we were treated to our first look at Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme from the upcoming film, due out in early November of 2016. I think he looks fantastic, continuing the grand tradition in the MCU of nailing a “real world” representation of a classic comic costume. Doctor Strange will be bringing the magical elements of the Marvel Universe more into focus as Phase 3 of the MCU continues (I know Scarlet Witch counts too, but they were fairly vague about her power set in Age of Ultron), making everything feel more full and complex. Little is known of the plot so far (good!) but with the always brilliant Cumberbatch being joined by Chiwetel Eijofor, Tilda Swindon, Mads Mikkelsen and Rachel McAdams it’s sure to be pretty good!

 

Uncharted 4

Uncharted 4

I’m looking forward to generally having a lot more time for gaming in 2016, even if that point is still a few months away. One game that has been pretty highly anticipated is the Playstation exclusive Uncharted 4, due out in mid-March. Naughty Dog make beautiful, cinematic games and the last installment Uncharted 3 on the PS3 was no exception. Neither was The Last of Us. So with a new console generation to take advantage of, the new Uncharted, with the subtitle ‘A Thief’s End’, already looks stunning from what has been shown so far. It seems to be being billed as Nathan Drake’s last adventure. We’ll see if that actually happens, but Nolan North returning as Drake is a welcome one, even if the now older Drake will be less quippy and more world-weary. I just hope there are fewer ‘oh no! the ledge is crumbling, press X to grab the one below, phew!’ moments. I also couldn’t care less about the multiplayer mode.

 

What are you looking forward to in 2016? Let us know!

Kick Ass Stories You Should Really Check Out: Part 7! Cats!

Our pal Kit hits us up with some more Kick Ass Stories You Should Really Check Out!

“What greater gift than the love of a cat.” Charles Dickens

It has been way too long since I did one of these, lately I’ve unfortunately found my day to day life taken up with moving house, work and good old video games. There hasn’t been much space for listening to stories. However, I did promise cat stories last time to add a little more cheer to my series and dammit I will deliver on that. The cat part at least, not all of these stories are necessarily the happiest. Screw it, next time I’ll just do ‘Weird as hell and not in the good way’.

Anyway, I (like most of the internet) like cats. I have two of them (Mako and Bolin for any of you Korra fans out there) and they bring me a lot of joy. And dead birds. But mainly joy. I’m aware this is a bit off topic for the stories but I wanted to mention them anyway.

Right. Back to the stories. Technically I’ll be covering four of them in this article, however three of these are covered in the same episode of the Drabblecast where they do one of their ‘Trifectas’ – three short stories in one episode and another story which instead covers a tiger of sorts, but big cats still count!

 

The Cat with Blue Fur

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I let out a low whistle. Genetically modified blue-furred cats were the latest craze. According to rumour, they could talk, use tools, and even do a passable version of the Macarena.”

Going back many an episode of the Drabblecast they announced a competition set by a dad who makes up stories about a cat with blue fur for his kids. These didn’t have to be kids’ stories but he wanted to see what other people could do with the idea. There were three categories – Comedy, Fantasy and Horror, this is what he ended up with:

 

Meow Meow Bang Bang: Ever wanted to hear a story about talking cat gangster in a 1920s style setting trying to pull fish based shenanigans? Well you do now. This one’s a lot of fun; it’s short, silly and sweet. It’s a story full of the tropes and clichés you’d expect and very much written for kids to enjoy as well. I’d call it the second best of the three in this episode.

Author: Oliver Buckram

Nine-Lived Wonders: This is a story about the relationship between a child and his dad as the child grows up into an adult. The dad makes up stories about the Cat with Blue Fur every night while they’re young and the stories stay with them while they grow up. This is a very nice story, very much done to put the guy commissioning this episode directly into one. It’s my favourite of the three and well worth listening to.

Author: Rachel K. Jones

Seven Things That Are Better In Blue: This takes the idea in a different direction. Somebody uploads a picture of a cat with blue fur to facebook which goes viral. Incredibly viral. Soon everyone is obsessed with things being blue which usually aren’t and it begins to affect people’s day to day lives. This story became way too pretentious for me. It’s the only one today, probably since I’ve started writing these short story reviews I actually don’t recommend. I’ll leave it there, unless that quick summary sounds like your kind of thing then stop the episode when you get to this part. Don’t worry; move along, nothing to see here.

Author: Jason K. Jones

Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2014/12/19/drabblecast-345-cat-blue-fur-trifecta/

 

The Man Who Drew Cats

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This is a full one story episode. It tells the tale of a stranger who arrives in a village, he’s an artist who draws pictures and sells them on to make a living, and damn is he fantastic at it. His drawings are the most vivid, wonderful things that people have seen and he finds his place amongst the village folk.

But not everyone is quite so nice in the village. Eventually village drama reaches the man’s ears and he does something about it. What he does best. He draws.

 

 

I’ll leave the description at that. This is a great story, its stakes aren’t as ridiculously high as they are in many other stories, but the very real issues this story brings up provoke an emotional response which heightens the story’s impact.

This one is well worth a listen to, I seriously recommend it.

Author: Michael Marshall Smith

Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2013/05/23/drabblecast-283-the-man-who-drew-cats/

Kit

 

 

Kick Ass Stories You Should Really Check Out: Part 2! Perspectives

Our pal Kit sometimes write for the site! This is one of those times.

First things first, I’ve updated the title of this series; it goes to show that a lack of proof reading will lead to poor wording! Also, there’s a fair chance I’ll occasionally chuck in the odd written short story if I feel one fits in with an article’s theme, though I’ll keep written books to no more than one per article.

As I mentioned in my last article, a few small spoilers will have snuck into this one too. They’ll be on the three stories I mention – The Wish of the Demon Achtromagk, Tom the Universe and The Sword in the Stone, along with a hinted spoiler for the anime/manga Death Note (so skip the next paragraph if you’d rather avoid this one).

With that out of the way on to the theme to this week’s article. We’ll be taking a look at perspectives. Each of these stories are from the perspective of something that isn’t exactly human. Perspective is a fun concept to play with so seeing a story from something else’s really turns a plot on its head. Another End to the Empire, a story I discussed in part one, shows what you can do by seeing the world from the villains’ point of view. I’d also point people in the direction of the Death Note that does the same thing, albeit in a far more serious tone. SPOILER: yes, Light is the bad guy… it doesn’t matter if you try to excuse his actions or not, he is the villain. Though, going by how many fans support him, it says a lot about how perspective and a strong charisma affect an audience’s opinion.

Which is why, as mentioned before, for this article I’m picking stories that take a look at the world from the eyes of non-humans instead of looking at the direct change in moral perspective so much. One of these – T.H White’s The Sword in the Stone is a book. There is a Disney adapted film, but it’s been so long since I’ve seen I won’t be taking into account in this article!

 

The Wish of the Demon Achtromagk

“The demon Achtromagk, Prince of the Endless Plains, and Duke of the Wastes of Tomorrow, opened a portal to our universe, freeing it to perform feasts of flesh and debauchery, to bask in fire and know heat, touch flesh and know pain, and bathe in blood and know lust – except for one, slight miscalculation…”

This is one of my all-time favourites. There are many stories out there where a human gets trapped in an otherworldly or alien body that makes little to no sense for them. You may come across the stories where the horror gets trapped in a human body instead. This takes things in a different direction entirely. The Cthulian horror Achtromagk is hell-bent on taking over our dimension and bathing it in the blood of the innocent, whilst he rules upon a pile of corpses just like you’d expect. His plans are just a little disrupted when he accidentally transfers himself into a body a hell of a lot smaller, weaker and cuddlier than he was expecting.

This is a much sweeter story than you may expect. Its fun to see something we’d usually fear so much be reduced to something so opposite to its nature, then struggle with the physical and emotional limitations that come with this change.

The perspective shift in this story is more there for the plot’s sake, and to have fun, rather than any deeper meaning. There is the idea that who we physically are has a large impact on our personality, and there is a bit of a nature vs nurture thing going on. Either way it’s a story I prefer to enjoy on a surface level, rather than for any deeper meaning! After all, if I was to do that to every story I’d be here all day, and would probably be considering doing this as legitimate study, rather than as a bit of fun.

Norm Sherman, who hosts The Drabblecast, naturally gives a great performance for each voices in this story. I’ll probably not talk about his voice work too often as otherwise it would just be “Norm Sherman, who hosts The Drabblecast, naturally gives a great performance for each voice in this story” on repeat… see? I’m doing it already!

A lot of this story’s horror, oddly enough, ends up being much more relatable and potentially real than that implied at the outset. Focusing the horror on just one little girl throughout from a threat that feels very real for many kids is effective. That being said, it shouldn’t ruin your enjoyment as an adult (I’m assuming you are one here!).

This story also won the Drabblecasts People’s Choice Award for 2011.

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Author: Eugie Foster

Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2011/08/17/drabblecast-214-the-wish-of-the-demon-achtromagk-drabble-my-hot-spot-by-jessica-broughton/

 

Tom the Universe

“I was a little confused during the Planck epoch (first 10^-43 seconds after the Big Bang), but sometime during the Grand Unification epoch (up to 10^-35 seconds), I figured out what had happened. By the end of the Inflationary epoch (10^-32 seconds), I’d analyzed the previous universe and simulated in my mind all that had ever happened that I cared to see.”

The idea of a normal person being elevated to God has been in many works of fiction. This story takes the idea and puts a scientific spin on it (pseudo-science of course, but this is fiction we’re talking about) and so we see the tale of Tom, the man who becomes his own universe. Not in an egotistical way, but quite literally accidentally becomes a universe. This story focuses on Tom’s relationship with his fiancé, along with a couple of different possible futures based on the story’s early events. If you knew everything that was going to happen without your intervention (on a cosmic scale here) what would you do?

Without too big a spoiler this story shows that there times when some things may be better left unknown, or at least moved on from. The context of the universe as a perspective is such a unique choice that it stays an interesting and novel idea throughout. The author manages to have fun with the writing, using the context to draw parallels with current scientific theories of the big bang, along with a little humour word choice. There are some serious points made about the nature of relationships, and the use of perspective in this plot provides an ‘all knowing’, if not quite all powerful, point of view playing around with the traditional third person omniscient narrator perspective.

Ultimately this story could be delved into a lot more than I have here and I’d be pleased if anyone could get back to me with their thoughts on it!

 

Author: Larry Hodges

Link: http://escapepod.org/2011/04/28/ep290-tom-the-universe/

 

The Sword in the Stone

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“EVERYTHING NOT FORBIDDEN IS COMPULSORY.”

Some spoilers here for the Sword in the Stone, The Once and Future King, and generally King Arthur!

Finally, The Sword in the Stone, written by T H White. Where to start with this one? This is the story of King Arthur as a boy, up until he draws the sword to become the rightful king of England (because clearly this is a fair a politically sound way to elect a ruler). This is also the first non-audio book I’ve mentioned, however it is both one that was very special to me growing up, and is a book with making huge points on perspectives and this is my article so I’ll do what I want with it! I’m sure people have written very long essays on this story before, however I’ll keep it to a couple of paragraphs!

In this story, Merlin teaches Arthur the ways of political ideologies. This is quite a lot to pack in, considering this is a book kids can easily read and enjoy! Arthur is transformed into various animals and sees things from their perspectives, each representing a political stance, and experiences that way of life. Each ideology is unsubtle and taken to the extreme, with communist ants, anarchist geese and so on. Arthur endures his time as each animal and then relates back to Merlin what he has learned. White doesn’t do much to hide his opinions of each ideology or his lack of fondness for some of them. Is this an issue, or can one go with it, even if they disagree?

Politics aside, this is a book a kid can read – the story itself is full of fantasy and fun. For those who deeply care about historical, or even mythological, accuracy, I warn you not to think too hard on the subject (there’s a cameo from another of Britain’s heroes that very much doesn’t tie in to the usual Arthur mythos!).

This book covers Arthur’s childhood and how he is shaped to become the King we all know. Check out the rest of The Once and Future King to see what happens! In places the book may seem a little silly or immature for adult reading. However, this is not a theme that carries on throughout the series. In each book of The Once and Future King Arthur grows older, along with the target audience of the book. This is up until the final book/epilogue, The Book of Merlin, where the plot takes place around a debate of the very politics Arthur learned as a child.

The language throughout the book can feel a little outdated, but this is a book written in the 1930s so that’s to be expected. The morality and ethics of the characters, even the “good” ones, aren’t what we’d expect by today’s standards. This is, however, a book set in the fifth or sixth century, so that does fit with the time.

There is of course the Disney adaptation, that honestly I may have seen once but don’t really recall. From what I’ve seen it’s a pretty accurate, if abridged, set of events so of course you should try it as well!

To stop myself waffling on much longer I’ll close things off here. This really is a wonderful little story and well worth reading, by itself or better yet as part of The Once and Future King. The good news here is the whole series is only 639 pages for five books. That’s a breeze compared to Game of Thrones or Harry Potter (both of which are, of course, excellent as well!). Give it a read, or if you’re feeling lazy check out the film!

 

Author: T H White

Link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sword-Stone-Essential-Modern-Classics/dp/000726349X

 

Kit

Kick Ass Stories to Listen to You Should Really Check Out Part 1!

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Our pal Kit sometimes write for the site! This is one of those times.

I’ve been meaning to get into the habit of writing more for this site, unfortunately until now inspiration has escaped me for something a bit more unique I can produce on a regular basis. I’ll still thrown in the odd rant or review of whatever takes my fancy but I wanted something a bit different for what I hope will be a bi-weekly endeavour! This is why I’ve set my sight on short stories I listen to, I really enjoy and find they fit into my day to day life incredibly easily, be it something to put on when I have to walk to the shops or put on in the background when I’m tidying the house I’ve found that short story podcasts or audio books help pass the time so much quicker.

Traditionally this would be more my brother’s shtick than mine so if you’re reading this Jonny then I hope you don’t mind me having a crack at it!

Now, the way this will work is every other week I’ll provide a short review or discussion of two or three short stories or one audio book. These are likely to not exactly be ‘up to date’ so if you’re into this sort of thing you may well have come across them before. Also, I won’t provide a score for any of them, purely because if I’m commenting on what could add up to a lot any numerical score could easily lose meaning over time. I’ll provide links where I can to these in the hope you’ll check them out and enjoy them yourselves! Most short stories are 30 minutes – an hour, though some can go on to three or four.

The websites I’ll link to provide this content for free and really are amazing. You’ll see most of them crop up each week so please support them if you can. Some do have the option to pay to get extra stories, though I’ll let you know if you’d need to pay to hear it in each review.

I’ll try to keep things general every time but some slight spoilers are inevitable to slip through.

So with this intro I’ll keep each review fairly short today and without further over explaining myself I’ll start today with three of my favourites!

 

Mongoose

This is the one that really got my addiction to listening to short stories started. It’s a two part sci-fi adventure based loosely on Lovecraftian lore that in a short space of time manages to create a wonderful and fascinating universe. Set in the future, it follows an adventure of Izreal Izzary and his ‘Cheshire Cat’ Mongoose who are pest controllers of a sort accepting a job on a spaceship to deal with an infestation of low level otherworldly monsters. Well, otherworldly pests but of course things don’t go to plan.

The story itself is engaging and fun and exciting, the characters feel very fleshed out and characterisation given to the adorable little tentacled horror that is Mongoose is fantastic and the otherworldly monsters described in the story are left crystal clear in your imagination and are truly fantastic. There’s a lot that’s only mentioned in passing during this episode that you just wish they’d explore and you’re left wanting much more from this universe.

It’s a good thing there are two great sequels to this story, but those are for another time.

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Written by: Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear.

Part 1 Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2010/07/03/drabblecast-170-mongoose-part-i-by-sarah-monette-and-elizabeth-bear-drabble-the-monkeys-by-chris-munroe/

Part 2 Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2010/07/10/drabblecast-171-mongoose-part-ii-by-sarah-monette-and-elizabeth-bear/

 

Another End of the Empire

Imagine you are the evil overlord Morgash, Emperor and feared tyrant. Imagine you have your very own oracle. Imagine she prophesises a chosen one will soon be born in your empire and this will lead to your fall. What would you do? Kill everyone born in the coming months? Seek them out and destroy them? Go into hiding? Or… Heavily invest in and make great efforts to improve the lives of the average citizens and try to make them happy?

This one is a lot of fun and I’m sure has the potential to inspire a Dungeons and Dragons game of some description. It’s only half an hour long and kept me smiling throughout. Needless to say it’s a very different take on a common fantasy scenario and well worth a listen to if you like your fantasy and want to try things from the villain’s perspective.

Written by: Tim Pratt

Link: http://podcastle.org/2010/01/26/podcastle-88-another-end-of-the-empire/

 

Captain Confederation

The amount of bureaucracy and red tape we all have to deal with in our day to day lives is ridiculous and one thing comics tend to step around is how much worse it would be for a super hero (unless you’re She-Hulk). Not Captain Confederation though. No fly zones, having to apply to get the best super hero jobs in each city and so much more keep getting in the way of his work! This is the story of how he deals with it when he’s had enough!

This is another quick and easy one so it doesn’t require all of your attention if you need to multitask, I recommend it if you like your super heroes but some sick part of you wants to see them struggle and get infuriated by day to day things. It pokes a lot of fun at the genre and makes jokes of some common tropes we’re used to seeing. Much as I enjoyed it I wouldn’t say this amongst the best short stories I’ve ever listened to but for super hero fans it’s a good bit of fun.

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Written by: Jim Robb

Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2014/11/23/drabblecast-343-captain-confederation/

 

Kit