Friday, 23 March 2018

Generation Games Exhibition

Samuel Anstee photographed by the South Wales Argus

Ever since we heard a few weeks ago that the Generation Games exhibition was coming to Pontypool Museum we've been looking forward to it. The exhibition has been on display at the Waterfront Museum in Swansea for the last few months, cataloging the history of gaming in the UK since the very first console - the Magnavox Odyssey - to hit our shores in 1973. The Odyssey was part console, part board game, and supplied graphics via a transparent plastic overlay for your TV screen!

There are playable games from each of the eight console generations, from a 1976 Binatone TV Master - a Pong clone - right through to a 2017 virtual reality 3D headset that lets you fly over the rooftops of Paris. We all had a go on that one and I'm pleased to say I was the only person not to crash and die a painful death within the first three seconds. :D

Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, Welsh Governement Minister for Culture, Tourism & Sport, opened the exhibition, and Nick Thomas-Symonds, MP for Torfaen, also said a few words, highlighting the fact that video games are both art and an important part of our shared history and culture. Whether you played on one of the consoles on display, or bought it for your kids or grandkids, everyone can relate to an industry that has only continued to grow and grow.

After the speeches we went around the room and had a go on Pacman, Sonic, Mario, Tomb Raider, and reignited a long standing debate over the underrated superiority of Sega's ill fated Dreamcast. I was really pleased when we sat down for tea with Samuel Anstee - the collector who made the exhibition possible - and his family to find he also rated the Dreamcast as one of the finest consoles to ever be released before its time.

Samuel is such a nice guy and it was really interesting hearing about why he began collecting, and how quickly the collection went from a few old consoles bought primarily for nostalgia to an impressive feat of completism chronicling every console released in the UK since 1972! As a gaming history geek it was amazing to see it all gathered together in one place, and I managed to learn a few new things - the kids' section highlighted how concerns about age appropriateness have been tackled at different times, for example.

Chwarae Plant at Generation Games exhibition

If you get chance, do go and check out the exhibition. It's such great fun for all ages! It will be at the museum until October 2018 - for more information on opening times, etc, visit the museum's website at

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Out and About in Torfaen

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Blogging Calendar for March

Blogging Calendar - Holidays, Celebrations, Awareness Days, and Other Notable Occasions.

Throughout the year there are so many awareness days, commemorative days, special days, celebrations, holidays, observances, etc, etc. These can be great as blog post inspiration, or just for getting a bit of extra traffic to an existing post by promoting it as a tie-in.

Read on for a list of notable dates for March - if the day has its own website or wiki page, I've linked to it. A lot of the weirder ones are USA based unofficial 'national days'; I've included them in the list if they've crossed the pond, or had a fair number of media hits when I googled them.


Baba Marta Day - Bulgaria.
Beer Day - Iceland.
 Commemoration of Mustafa Barzani's Death - Iraqi Kurdistan.
Heroes' Day - Paraguay.
 Independence Day - Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Mărțișor - Romania + Moldova.
National Peanut Butter Lover's Day - USA.
National Pig Day - USA.
Remembrance Day - Marshall Islands.
Saint David's Day - Wales.
Sam-il Movement - South Korea.
Self-Injury Awareness Day.
World Civil Defence Day.


National Read Across America Day.
 Omizu-okuri Water Carrying Festival - Japan.
Peasant's Day - Myanmar.
Texas Independence Day - Texas, USA.
Victory at Adwa Day - Ethiopia.


Hinamatsuri - Japan.
Liberation Day - Bulgaria.
Martyr's Day - Malawi.
Mother's Day - Georgia.
National Canadian Bacon Day - USA.
Sportsmen's Day - Egypt.
What if Cats & Dogs Had Opposable Thumbs Day.
World Wildlife Day.


National Grammar Day - USA.
St. Casimir's Day - Lithuania + Poland.


Custom Chief's Day - Vanuatu.
Day of Physical Sport and Culture - Azerbaijan.
Learn from Lei Feng Day - China.
National Cheez Doodle Day - USA.
St. Piran's Day - Cornwall.


European Day of the Righteous.
Foundation Day - Norfolk Island.
Independence Day - Ghana.
 National Banana Creme Pie Day - USA.


Liberation of Sulaymaniyah - Iraqi Kurdistan.
National Crown Roast of Pork Day - USA.
Teacher's Day - Albania.


International Women's Day.
International Women's Collaboration Brew Day.
Mother's Day - Eastern Europe.
National Peanut Cluster Day - USA.
National Potato Salad Day - USA.


National Crabmeat Day - USA.
National Meatball Day - USA.
Panic Day.
Teachers' Day - Lebanon.


Harriet Tubman Day - USA.
Holocaust Remembrance Day - Bulgaria.
Hote Matsuri - Japan.
 Mario Day.
National Blueberry Popover Day - USA.
National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day - USA.
Tibetan Uprising Day.


Day of Restoration of Independence of Lithuania.
Johnny Appleseed - USA.
Moshoeshoe Day - Lesotho.
Oatmeal Nut Waffles Day - USA.


Arbor Day - China, Taiwan, Republic of Macedonia.
Aztec New Year.
Girl Scout Birthday - USA.
National Baked Scallops Day - USA.
National Day - Mauritius.
World Day Against Cyber Censorship.
 World Glaucoma Day.
Youth Day - Zambia.


Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis.
Kasuga Matsuri (Monkey Festival) - Japan.
L. Ron Hubbard's Birthday - Scientology.
Liberation of Duhok City - Iraqi Kurdistan.
National Coconut Torte Day - USA.


☆ International Day of Action for Rivers.
National Steak Day - USA.
Pi Day.
White Day - East Asia.


Hōnen Matsuri - Japan.
International Day Against Police Brutality.
J.J. Roberts' Birthday - Liberia.
National Day - Hungary.
True Confessions Day.
World Consumer Rights Day.
World Day of Muslim Culture, Peace, Dialogue and Film.
World Contact Day.
 Youth Day - Palau.


Day of the Book Smugglers - Lithuania.
Halabja Day - Iraqi Kurdistan.
 Latvian Legion Day.
Lips Appreciation Day.
Saint Urho Day - Finnish Expats.


Children's Day - Bangladesh.
Evacuation Day - Massachusetts, USA.
Saint Patrick's Day.


Anniversary of the Oil Expropriation - Mexico.
Flag Day - Aruba.
Forgive Mom and Dad Day.
Gallipoli Memorial Day - Turkey.
Soldiers' Day - Mongolia.
Teachers' Day - Syria.


Kashubian Unity Day - Poland.
Minna Canth Day + Social Equality Day - Finland.


Great American Meatout - USA.
Feast of the Supreme Ritual - Thelema.
French Language Day.
Independence Day - Tunisia.
International Day of Happiness.
International Francophonie Day.
Liberation Day - Iraqi Kurdistan.
National Native HIV / AIDS Awareness Day - USA.
 World Oral Health Day.
 World Right to Water Day.
World Sparrow Day.


Arbor Day - Lesotho + Portugal.
Harmony Day - Australia.
Human Rights Day - South Africa.
Independence Day - Namibia.
International Colour Day.
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
International Day of Forests.
Mother's Day - Middle East.
 Nowruz (Persian New Year).
Truant's Day - Poland + Faroe Islands.
World Down Syndrome Day.
 World Planting Day.
World Poetry Day.
World Puppetry Day.
Youth Day - Tunisia.


As Young As You feel Day.
Emancipation Day - Puerto Rico.
World Water Day.


Day of the Sea - Bolivia.
Day of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources - Azerbaijan.
National Chips and Dip Day - USA.
Pakistan Day - Pakistan.
Promised Messiah Day - Ahmadiyya.
World Meteorological Day.


Commonwealth Covenant Day - Northern Mariana Islands, US.
Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice - Argentina.
Day of National Revolution - Kyrgyzstan.
International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims.
National Tree Planting Day - Uganda.
Student Day - Scientology.
World Tuberculosis Day.


Anniversary of the Arengo - San Marino.
Cultural Workers Day - Russia.
Empress Menen's Birthday - Rastafari.
EU Talent Day.
Freedom Day - Belarus.
Independence Day - Greece.
International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members.
 International Day of the Unborn Child.
 Lady Day.
 Maryland Day - Maryland, USA.
Mother's Day - Slovenia.
Struggle for Human Rights Day - Slovakia.
Tolkien Reading Day.
Waffle Day - Sweden.


Independence Day - Bangladesh.
Make Up Your Own Holiday Day.
Martyrs' Day - Mali.
Prince Kūhiō Day - Hawaii, USA.
Purple Day for Epilepsy.


Armed Forces Day - Myanmar.
International Whisk(e)y Day.
Quirky Country Music Song Titles Day.
World Theatre Day.


Commemoration of Sen no Rikyū - Japan.
 Day of National Security - Azerbaijan.
Serfs Emancipation Day - Tibet.
Teachers' Day - Czech Republic + Slovakia.


Boganda Day - Central African Republic.
Martyrs' Day - Madagascar.
Day of the Young Combatant - Chile.
Youth Day - Taiwan.


Land Day - Palestine.
National Doctors' Day - USA.
Spiritual / Shouter Baptist Liberation Day - Trinidad and Tobago.
World Idli Day.


Cesar Chavez Day - USA.
Culture Day - Micronesia.
Day of Genocide of Azerbaijanis - Azerbaijan.
Freedom Day - Malta.
International Transgender Day of Visibility.
King Nangklao Memorial Day - Thailand.
National Backup Day - USA.
National Clams on the Half Shell Day - USA.
Thomas Mundy Peterson Day - New Jersey, USA.
 Transfer Day - US Virgin Islands.

Weeks and Months

 Brain Injury Awareness Month.
 Dechox - UK.
 Deep Vein Thrombosis Awareness Month - UK.
Endometriosis Awareness Month.
 National Athletic Training Month - USA.
 National Bed Month - UK.
 National Celery Month - USA.
 National Frozen Food Month - USA.
 National Irish-American Heritage Month - USA.
 National Music in Our Schools Month - USA.
National Nutrition Month - Canada, USA.
National Peanut Month - USA.
 National Professional Social Work Month - USA.
 Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month - UK.
 Walk All Over Cancer - UK.
Women's History Month - Australia, UK, USA.
 Youth Art Month - USA.

Global Money Week. [Second Week]
 Women of Aviation Worldwide Week. [Second Week]
Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week - USA [March 14 - March 20].
National Poison Prevention Week - USA. [Third Week]


 Casimir Pulaski Day - Chicago, USA. [First Monday]
 World Maths Day. [First Wednesday]
World Book Day. [First Thursday]
Employee Appreciation Day - USA. [First Friday]
Children's Day - New Zealand. [First Sunday]
 Grandmother's Day - France. [First Sunday]
 National Heroes and Benefactors Day - Honduras. [Monday Closest to March 9th]
 Canberra Day - Australia. [Second Monday]
 Commonwealth Day. [Second Monday]
 Decoration Day - Liberia. [Second Wednesday]
 No Smoking Day - UK [Second Wednesday]
World Kidney Day. [Second Thursday]
 Solar Appreciation Day [Second Friday]
 World Sleep Day. [Friday of the Second Full Week]
Birth of Benito Juárez - Mexico. [Third Monday]
 Arbor Day - Netherlands. [Third Wednesday]
 Labour Day - Christmas Island, Australia. [Fourth Monday]
 American Diabetes Alert Day. [Fourth Tuesday]
 Seward's Day - Alaska, USA. [Last Monday]
 Earth Hour. [Last Saturday]
 March Equinox.

Check out other months, HERE.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

My Little Mermaid

My Little Mermaid

Today we have been playing mermaids with the help of Vegaoo kids fancy dress. Marianna is obsessed with mermaids at the moment because my mum had to go and introduce her to Disney's Princess Ariel. I mean, we've read her the Hans Christian Andersen version, but somehow the tale of how love at first sight results in misery and suffering for you and your kin holds less appeal... So, Disney lore it is!

The Little Mermaid

Disney began getting in on the mermaid act in 1953 when Peter Pan was released - the mischievous mermaids who only want to drown Wendy a little bit were my favourite thing about the film when I was a kid. In 1959 they built the lagoon at Disneyland and paid eight young women $45 a week each to sit on a rock combing their long tresses, and avoid getting tangled in the submarine voyage ride as they waved to those on board.

Health and safety wasn't a big concern in those days!

By the time The Little Mermaid hit cinema screens in 1989 Disney's live action mermaids were more likely to be in the air than the water, like the aerial acrobatic show at Tokyo DisneySea.

Marianna as a mermaid

Closer to home, Wales has its own mermaid mythology. In 1826 a group of people saw a mermaid in Llanychaiarn, near Aberystwyth, with short hair and a penchant for sneezing. ('She often made some noise like sneezing, which caused the rock to echo.') Earlier still, Thomas Reynold, a yeoman from Pendine (Carmarthenshire), supposedly saw a mermaid off the coast in 1603, while a farmer in Pembroke claimed to have seen a rather ugly looking mermaid with a tail like a 'conger eel' in the 1780s.

'Its tail in deep water was straight downwards, but in shallow water it would turn it on one side. The tail was continually moving in a circular manner. The form of its body and arms was entirely human, but its arms and hands seemed rather short and thick in proportion to its body. The form of the head, and all the features of the face, were human also; but the nose rose high between its eyes, was pretty long, and seemed to terminate very sharp. Its head was white like its body, without hair; out from its forehead there arose a brownish substance of three or four fingers breadth, which turned up over its head, and went down over its back, and reached quite into the water. This substance did not at all resemble hair, but was thin, flat, and compact, not much unlike a ribbon.'

Then, of course, there is Gwenhidwy - the shepherdess of the waves. Some old Welsh folklore has it that the white foam of the waves of the sea are Gwenhidwy's flock of sheep, with every ninth being a ram. Supposedly when she drives them hard ashore men should take it as a warning and go seek shelter.

Marianna in her vegaoo mermaid costume

With these illustrious antecedents - that Pembroke example aside! - we had to find Marianna a suitably fabulous mermaid fancy dress for her dressing up box. The dress alone wasn't enough though, obviously. There needed to be mermaid jewels (i.e. my jewelry box) and mermaid hair clips (i.e. my hair dressing stash). Thankfully we avoided mermaid make-up, at least beyond a tiny bit of lip tint from the little kyobeni seashell in the first pic.

Once it was all on Marianna was in her element, and even had a go at teaching her mermaid friends how to swim...

Marianna pretends to swim

Sunday, 18 March 2018

This Week - March 18

Giving up is for rookies.
Life This Week

It's been a long week, made longer by the sheer amount of it I've spent being sick. Last weekend was just awful, I basically did nothing but be sick or wait until the next round of being sick, so I was feeling less than my best on Monday. We had a little flag raising ceremony in the morning for Commonwealth Day, then there was a seminar on Torfaen Training in the afternoon.

I went home for a bit and then in the evening it was the Mayor's charity showcase with Gwent Music Trust at Pontypool Active Living Centre. Lots of local schools were playing in it so I was determined to go, but I kind of felt like death warmed up. Marianna started crying as soon as they started that she wanted to go home, and fussed for the entire thing. The music was awesome but, yeah, it was a relief when it was finished and I could go crawl into my bed!

Tuesday I spent most of the day being sick again so I've avoided eating as far as possible since. This was a wise move as Anthony cooked me some mash and boiled chicken on Friday... leading to me spending another weekend throwing up. I rang my GP surgery on Friday and they said if I ring the end of next week, I might be able to get an appointment for a fortnight's time. Really helpful, as always. If I'm sick again tomorrow I'll have to ask for an emergency appointment, I guess.

It wasn't all doom and gloom this week though. Wales won their match yesterday, and on Friday morning I had Year 4 from Our Lady of the Angels come up to the civic centre to visit the council chamber and ask me questions. They were so sweet! Two pupils even helped me out as my consort for the visit, getting me into the robes and telling me who everybody's names were. :)

Photo of the Week

On the Blog

I reviewed Bad Mother Customs and posted a masterlist for a new series I'm going to do on miniature toys.

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This Week - Weekly Overviews

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Tiny Toys

Tiny Toys

I review lots of handmade scale toys in my Mini Mart series, but there are also lots of cool mass produced toys which work perfectly in a miniature setting. This will be the masterlist for posts exploring those options.

 Basic Fun Keychains. 1/6 scale board games.
 Fun 4 All Keychains. 1/6 scale games.
 Micro Playmobil.
Nanoblock. Works as Duplo in 1/6 scale.

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Monday, 12 March 2018

Fly a Flag for the Commonwealth

Fly a Flag for the Commonwealth Logo

Today the Commonwealth flag is being flown in significant and eye catching spots all across its 53 sovereign states to celebrate Commonwealth Day. They are bound together by ties of history and language, as well as united by the values of the Commonwealth Charter.

Did you know that the Commonwealth encompasses more than 2 billion people? And that in terms of landmass it represents 12,200,000 square miles, or 21% of the total world land area? You can find out more trivia and what the event was all about at

We flew the flag at the civic centre in Pontypool. I must admit that my own knowledge of the Commonwealth was at best patchy, so it inspired me to read up a little about it and the work it still enables. E.g. Check out some of the inspiring projects going on under the banner of the Commonwealth of Learning.

Here is me and Richard Clark, the deputy leader of TCBC, with the flag (just waiting for the rain to start...):

Fly the Flag for the Commonwealth in Torfaen

“Joining together as members of one worldwide Commonwealth community, and valuing the personal dignity and worth of every citizen, we raise this flag as a symbol of the ties of kinship and affinity that we cherish.

We draw inspiration from our diversity, and the opportunities for working together, as a rich source of wisdom and a powerful influence for good in the world. 

We affirm our commitment to upholding the values set out in the Commonwealth Charter, to serving one another in a spirit of respect and understanding, and to advancing development, democracy and cooperation locally, nationally, and internationally.”

For more like this, please click the image below:
Out and About in Torfaen

Monday, 5 March 2018

Mini Mart: Bad Mother Customs

Bad Mother Customs

Supplier: Bad Mother Customs
Website: Ebay store.

Products: Decal transfer sheets to use as scale tattoos, as well as miniature newspapers, comics and magazines. I was particularly interested in the Playboy magazines with pull out centre spreads as I haven't come across anybody else doing those in miniature! The 1/6 scale magazines are $7.00 each - I bought a retro looking one from 1982 (pictured above) which only has a few printed pages in the middle and the rest are blank, and a fully printed Catwoman one.

Here's a photo from their ebay demonstrating:

Bad Mother Customs on Ebay

The print quality is pretty good, but I'm not sure how well it would hold up on the 1/12 scale magazines. I don't think it would be clear enough to read or anything. Still, they look really cool and that's the important thing!

Post and Packing: First class mail from the US at $2.00 per item which isn't bad, but there are no multiple item discounts.

For more like this, please click the image below:
Mini Mart - Reviews of Dolls and Scale Miniatures

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Marianna's Jukebox

Marianna with instruments

When Marianna asks to have songs on it's only going to go one of two ways. It either means Swifty - Taylor Swift encompassing every female starlet of the last fifty years or so to Marianna's mind - and at least three repeats of Meghan Trainor's All About That Bass. Or a random mash-up of vintage music hall and comedy songs.

When Father Papered The Parlour

This was actually one of my favourite songs as a kid, courtesy of a 'Hello Children Everywhere!' compilation tape from the local library. Now Marianna loves it too, though of course it has to be the 1912 recording by Billy Williams. The song was written for him in 1910, when Williams - born Richard Isaac Banks in Melbourne - was the toast of the British music hall. He was a prolific recording artist with over 500 recordings which continued to sell well long after his premature death in 1915.

Wait 'Til You Get 'Em Up In The Air, Boys!

The world was a different place when Billy Murray recorded this song in 1919. Prohibition was about to change the face of the United States, and air travel was still in its infancy. Some bright spark saw an opportunity to combine the two because, well, if a guy was worried about his ability to pull now the liquor had dried up he could take solace in the news that 'an aero ride will have the same effect'.

Sometimes you try to love a girl and she says no to you
It makes you feel so blue, But there's nothing you can do! 
 You take her for an auto ride and start that mushy talk
But if she doesn't like it, she gets out and starts to walk. 
 They've fooled us ever since the world began, 
But listen boys, I've got a little plan! 
 Wait till you get them up in the air, boys, 
Wait till you get them up in the air. 
You can make them hug and squeeze you too, 
For if they don't, Just say you won't come down until they do! 
 Wait till you get them up in the clouds, boys, 
There won't be anyone to watch you there! 
You can loop the loop and she can hardly get her breath, 
It isn't hard to reason with a girl who's scared to death! 
So wait till you get them up in the air, boys, 
Up, up, up up, way up in the air!

What Can You Give A Nudist For His Birthday?

Written by Arthur Le Clerq, responsible for various novelty hits, this one was first recorded by Gracie Fields in 1934. It never fails to crack me up!

What can you give a nudist for a present?
I somehow think that cufflinks would be wrong.
And a watch chain would look silly draped across the front of Willy,
Oh, what can you give a nudist when his birthday comes along?

I'm Henery the Eighth, I Am

Harry Champion made his stage debut in 1882 at the age of 17 and went on to become one of the biggest stars of the British music hall. Henery the Eighth, better known today for the Herman's Hermits 1965 cover, was written for Champion in 1910 when he was at the height of his fame and popularity. He recorded it in 1911 and in our house, at least, it's still going strong...

You'd Be Surprised

This comedy song was written by Irving Berlin in 1919, and recorded in September of the same year by Eddie Cantor. It's about a poor bloke named Johnny who really isn't much of a catch. At least, that's what people assumed until Mary started telling friends that they'd be surprised if they got him alone...

He isn't much in the light but when you get in the dark
You'd be surprised...
On a streetcar or in a train, you'd think he was born without any brains
But in a taxicab, oh, boy, you'd be surprised!

The Window Cleaner

George Formby is a legend, and this is probably his best known hit. It was originally performed in the 1936 film Keep Your Seats, Please and then went on to receive the first silver disc in the UK for selling over 100,000 copies - despite being temporarily banned by the BBC for being 'disgusting'.

Gee, I Wish I Was Back In The Army

Irving Berlin wrote the songs for 1954's White Christmas, and even got to reuse the titular Oscar winner from 1942's Holiday Inn. This one is a whole lot more fun though!

There's a lot to be said for the Army, 
The life without responsibility. 
A soldier out of luck
Was really never stuck - 
There's always someone higher up where you can pass the buck!

My Old Man (Said Follow The Van)

Written in 1919, this song has been performed by scores of people, but was first made popular by music hall star Marie Lloyd. Marianna is a particular fan of this version from the BBC's 2007 docudrama, Miss Marie Lloyd: Queen of the Music Hall starring Jesse Wallace.

The Prune Song

Vaudeville (like a US version of the music hall) star Frank Crumit recorded this in 1928 and it's the cutest little song you've probably never heard!

No matter how young a prune may be 
He's always full of wrinkles 
People get them on their face 
Prunes get 'em every place. 

Baby prunes, just like their Dad 
Wrinkled but not quite so bad 
Their life's an open book,
For no matter how young a prune may be 
He has a worried look!

In Between

Judy Garland sang this song about the indignity of being 'too old for toys and too young for boys' in the 1938 romcom Love Finds Andy Hardy. Marianna thinks Judy looks like a princess, and invariably calms down when we put this one on for her. Apparently she feels she is in much the same boat - for all that Judy was waiting to turn sweet sixteen and Marianna is only just three!

For more like this, please click the below image:
Family Life

Friday, 23 February 2018

Just Married!


Tuesday, 20 February 2018

500 Writers Who Started Out In Fanfiction

500 Authors Who Started Out In Fanfiction

While researching my International Fanworks Day post on creators and their thoughts on fanfiction - cue obligatory pimping of that article - I kept running into listicles of authors who started out in fandom. It quickly became clear to me that these represented only the tip of the iceberg, especially as many of them struggled to actually name writers who had been in fic fandom rather than who wrote stories independently for their own amusement, or who are known to be okay with fandom like, say, John Scalzi or Neil Gaiman. I figured I could do better, so here I am putting my money where my mouth is.

You'll find huge household names in this post, rubbing shoulders with obscure writers with a single self-published book to their name. And every possible permutation in between. It's just not the oddity the newspaper articles would have you believe.

Fanfiction is absolutely everywhere in published fiction. For the most part it is not labelled as such, and the authors probably wouldn't consider it so either. But, to my mind, getting paid to write a tie-in novel or writing about a character now in the public domain doesn't make the work any less derivative. If you're playing in somebody else's sandpit, be that setting, character, or concept, chances are you're producing fanfiction. That, however, is an argument for another day! This post will look at the still plenty sizeable number of pro-authors who have admitted to writing or are well known to have written fanfiction, as well as fanfiction which has been picked up or 'pulled' for publication.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Man Who Has It All + Giveaway

The Man Who Has It All changed my life. Because it didn't matter how many trashy tips or bullshit lifestyle advice I read in the women's mags, there was always a nagging little voice inside of me insisting that if I was just better at making home made face masks and packing creative lunch boxes the rest of my life would all surely fall into place.

What the @manwhohasitall Twitter account highlights is how dumb that notion is. Simply by switching the gender this advice is aimed at it becomes ridiculous - something you can't imagine anybody taking seriously. In fact, it's really kind of hilarious!

Man Who Has It All Book
The Man Who Has It All: From Frazzled To Fabulous brings all that spoof advice together to produce a read that will bring a smile to your face - but also make you think about the kind of messages we are bombarded with every day, and whether or not we give them too much credence.

For your chance to win a copy of the book, fill out the Gleam widget below - it's perfect for the working father in your life! :)

Man Who Has It All

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Win with Babiafi

Friday, 16 February 2018

30 Days of Thinky Thoughts

30 Days of Thinky Thoughts

1. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?

As old as you wanted to be.

2. Which is worse, failing or never trying?

Never trying, for sure.

3. When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?

I do like talking, so quite possibly.

4. Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing?

Somewhere in the middle, I'd say.

5. If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently?

I'd be way more picky about the things I'm willing to put up with.

6. To what degree have you actually controlled the course your life has taken?

Limited, really. I've kind of fallen into things more than actively chosen them.

7. Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things?

Doing the right things.

8. If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don't let anybody tell you that you can't achieve your dreams. Even if, like my own daughter, they're to be a princess and live on the moon with a herd of unicorns.

9. Would you break the law to save a loved one? 

I mean, it depends on the circumstances, but yes.

10. What one thing have you not done that you really want to do? What’s holding you back?

I'd love to do all kinds of things I don't have the money for. Travelling in style is at the top of the list!

11. Are you holding onto something you need to let go of?

Yes, no matter how often we declutter our hearts, minds, and homes.

12. Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton?

A joyful simpleton.

Bertie Wooster

13. Have you been the kind of friend you want as a friend?

Not always. :(

14. Which is worse, when a good friend moves away, or losing touch with a good friend who lives right near you?

Losing touch with a friend who lives close by. You don't even have the distance as an excuse.

15. Would you rather lose all of your old memories, or never be able to make new ones?

Okay, now this one is just cruel! Lose my old ones, I guess.

16. Has your greatest fear ever come true?

No, but every time I see one of those news stories about giant spiders I remember that the potential is still there...

17. Do you remember that time 5 years ago when you were extremely upset? Does it really matter now? 

No. That's actually a really cheering thought!

18. What is your happiest childhood memory? What makes it so special?

Just playing games and having fun. It's the little things.

19. At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?

Er, pass.

20. Is it possible to know, without a doubt, what is good and what is evil?


Good vs Evil

21. If you just won a million dollars, would you quit your job? 

Hell yes.

22. Would you rather have less work to do, or more work you actually enjoy doing?

More work I enjoy.

23. Do you feel like you’ve lived this day a hundred times before?

No, but today was awful. 100 more like it don't really bear thinking about.

24. If you knew that everyone you know was going to die tomorrow, who would you visit today?

My family. <3

25. Would you be willing to reduce your life expectancy by 10 years to become extremely attractive or famous?

Hmm, famous maybe. With fame comes money, and with money comes knowing that Marianna would be set for life even after I was gone.

26. What is the difference between being alive and truly living?


27. When is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards, and just go ahead and do what you know is right?

When it feels right...

Carpe Diem

28. If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make a mistake?

Because they're not easy lessons to learn.

29. What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?

Lots of things, probably. I'd definitely dance more!

30. Have you learned more about yourself by answering these questions the past 30 days?

Not really.

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Thursday, 15 February 2018

Fanfiction and TPTB

Fanfiction and TPTB

Today is International Fanworks Day, aka the day to celebrate fandom in all its geekish finery. So I'm going to talk about fanfiction and, more specifically, its relationship with TPTB - The Powers That Be. Those who create or own the work can often feel threatened by the existence of fanfiction, and over the years many have attempted to ban transformative works based on their creations. Of course, that's a thankless and nigh impossible task, so these days more and more creators are embracing fandom.

For one thing they're more likely to know what fandom is and what it's all about and, correspondingly, they're also much more aware of how an active fandom can benefit their brand and their own ability to make money from their creative work. Because fanfiction has come a long way since I first stumbled across it some 20 years ago. Back then there was real fear - justified fear, at that - that your uncool hobby could bring the legal might of big name authors, TV companies, and more down upon your broke ass self.

Today fan loyalty is rightly recognised as the vital ingredient for success that money just can't buy.

(Note: this post focuses on authors and actors portraying characters - rather than the subjects of RPF (Real Person Fiction) because it's one thing for people to be writing about something you created, and another for people to just be writing about you.)

Let's just say it - some creators are against fanfic. Really really against it.

Anne Rice on fanfiction

Anne Rice, author of the Vampire Chronicles series, is renowned in fandom circles for her, er, enthusiastic insistence that there is only one way to interpret her work: her way. Not content with formal cease and desist letters, Rice personally harassed fan authors to get work taken down in the early 2000s, and infamously attacked those who dared to leave negative reviews of the Blood Canticle on Amazon, claiming that they had used the site as a 'public urinal' and, still worse, were 'interrogating the text from the wrong perspective.'

Diana Gabaldon on fanfiction

Diana Gabaldon, known for the Outlander book series, is perhaps even more zealous about ensuring that nobody tampers with her creative vision. In 2008 Gabaldon wrote: "A good bit of my objection to fanfic ... is that 99% of it is Just Awful, and it's revolting to see your characters being made to do and say idiotic things, or be forced to enact simple-minded sex fantasies (which is what most fan-fic that comes to my unwilling attention is). Like someone selling your children into white slavery." Seeing as she willingly admits that the main male character of her book, forced to enact multiple simple-minded sex fantasies, is basically poor Jamie McCrimmon from Dr. Who it's hard not to see this as one of those cases of pot, kettle, and black...

Although few take it to such extremes, plenty of authors are explicitly against fanfiction - either from a moral standpoint or because they believe it invalidates their copyright. These range from big names like G.R.R. Martin to people who probably ought to know better - e.g. a writer of tie-in novels who believes fanfic is 'the equivalent of stealing someone else's work and putting your own name on it' while making a living writing tie-in novels for TV shows. However as times change increasing numbers of authors are actively embracing transformative fandom.

JK Rowling on fanfiction

As the creator of one of the biggest fandoms of all time, it would be impossible for JKR to avoid fanfiction based on her work completely. By publicly embracing fic in 2004 Rowling really paved the way for acceptance. Nobody seriously tried to claim Rowling had relinquished her copyright because teenagers were publishing short stories about Harry and Hermione going to Yule Ball together - or even because adults were writing multi-volume epics about the love-hate relationship between Snape and Lupin. Regardless of her own personal feelings, possibly ambivalent based on previous attempts by Warner Bros to suppress HP fic, by supporting the fandom Rowling really cemented the support of the fanbase that has made her one of the richest women in the world.

Neil Gaiman has long been openly supportive of fanfiction and here addresses a growing phenomenon in the world of published fiction: many authors wrote or are still writing fic. Big names like Cassandra Clare and Naomi Novik first made their names in fandom - Novik was the founding board member of Archive of Our Own, the go to website for fanfiction based on western media, and her fanfic pen name is an open secret in fandom circles - while others made the bestseller lists by 'filing off the serial numbers' (i.e. switching out names and identifying features) and publishing the fanfiction they had written based on other works. E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey was originally Twilight fic, for instance, while Jen Archer Wood's Point Pleasant started out as Supernatural fanfiction.

These authors come into the professional publishing world already knowing what a lot of writers are only now waking up to - fandom can make or break you. Nowhere is this more evident than with film and television. Long gone are the days when 20th Century Fox aggressively demanded the removal of every piece of X-Files fic they could find on the internet; today Fox, and all its rivals, pour a lot of time, effort and money into encouraging that kind of fan engagement.

Joss Whedon on fanfiction
John Rogers on fanfiction

When I discovered fanfiction the first rule of fic fandom was that you didn't talk about fic fandom. In the early 2000s people still genuinely feared being sued for writing fic, and were almost universally mortified at the idea of TPTB or anyone connected with them finding out about it. These days that seems so quaint because, well, in this age of personal branding and digital literacy it is almost unthinkable that writers, showrunners, actors, etc, don't know about the fandoms based on their work. Now TV is courting it: official social media channels encourage discussion of fanon (as opposed to canon, i.e. what is actually on screen) pairings and share fanart, while Viacom held an official Teen Wolf fic contest. There is an incredibly interesting interview on The New York Times with Sarah Barnett, president of BBC America, talking about how Orphan Black fandom turned a relatively unpopular show in terms of ratings into a success.

Sarah Barnett on fandom

Orphan Black provides an example of how interaction between fandom and TPTB might look in the future. Going forward it will be particularly interesting to see how this impacts on not just the showrunners and the PR team, but those at front of house - the actors portraying the characters. In the past the first encounter with fandom for these people was usually when an overeager fan brought it to their attention. Because for all that fandom as a collective was obsessed with not breaking the 'fourth wall', not outing themselves to TPTB, individual fandoms had good relationships with actors and creators, and there were always members of any fandom who didn't know or disregarded the accepted etiquette. How people reacted depended in large part on what aspect of fandom they were exposed to, and their own personal sensibilities.

William Shatner on fanfiction

Some stars were shocked and dismayed at the concept, but many strove to be accepting and supportive. Star Trek, as the granddaddy of modern fandom, lead the way on this too. 'Slash' - derived from the '/' symbol used to denote romantic pairings (i.e. Kirk/Spock) and now a catch all term for male/male pairings in fandom - was particularly controversial and some of those working behind the scenes on the show made no attempt to hide their disgust and derision. Shatner and Nimoy, on the other hand, chose to maintain the so-called fourth wall in deference to fans' wishes, unless specifically asked about it. There's a lovely story on Fanlore about Leonard Nimoy being asked his views on slash at a convention Q&A in the early 1980s, to which he simply responded that he thought Star Trek fans had great imaginations.

Tyler Posey on fanfiction

The difference between then and now, of course, is that in 1982 that kind of support was a sign of liberal understanding. Today, outrage at the idea of two male characters getting together just comes across as more than a little homophobic. Tyler Posey, star of MTV show Teen Wolf, caused a stir in fandom in 2014 when he said in an interview that Sterek - the smushname given to the most popular slash ship (i.e. romantic pairing) involving his character - was bizarre, weird and twisted. Fan backlash was swift and widespread. Similarly, in 2017 the cast of Supergirl felt their fandom's wrath after they made fun of Supercorp (Kara/Lena) shipping, mocking the idea that the pairing could ever become canon. Feelings were hurt, apologies were made, but formerly hardcore fans still chose not to continue watching amid a slew of bad publicity. Your fandom can be your biggest cheerleaders and will forgive you a lot, but nobody likes to be singled out for mockery.

Orlando Jones on fanfiction

In 2014 The New Statesman used the above quote from Orlando Jones, an actor who actively engages with the fandoms based on his work, to contrast his positive approach to fanfiction with that of Benedict Cumberbatch, star of BBC drama Sherlock, who admitted to being somewhat bemused by the whole thing. Sherlock is a fascinating case study of what happens when fans get over invested and showrunners don't always balance the fine line between engagement and promising things they can't deliver. It's particularly interesting because Sherlock's writers, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, are solidly pro-fandom. They are both open about their love of the cult and the geeky, and have sought to be inclusive of themes close to fandom's heart, like depictions of LGBT+ characters. But. Some feel they could be better, they could do more, and, when Holmes and Watson ('Johnlock') didn't become more than just good friends, fans complained, vented, and some even sent death threats.

Steven Moffat on fanfiction

Because fandom is no longer a niche interest. Fanfiction is no longer confined to paper zines circulated on a need to know basis. As creators attempt to harness the power of fandom, they have to recognise that, as with any community, fandom has its good eggs and its bad. Some see the involvement of TPTB as validation - as a sign that if they only lobby hard enough their preferred ship or plot points will become canon. Others resent the outside interference - fandom is for the fans, the argument goes, not the creator who left the glaring plot hole or unresolved tension fanfiction is seeking to resolve. Both sides need to learn how to work together as the dividing line between the two worlds, the fabled 'fourth wall', is worn away. Fandom sometimes needs to reign in the enthusiasm, while creators need to do their homework if they want to make best use of their fanbase. It can be difficult to predict which ship will become the 'juggernaut' (the most popular), and impossible to ensure all the fanwork produced will match your vision, although you can certainly set parameters for content that can be officially engaged with. Just make sure everybody's singing from the same hymn sheet; it's no good basing your marketing on fan engagement if your top star is going to turn around and say fan activity is weird and twisted.

Keep it positive, be respectful, but don't make any promises you might not be able to keep. If creators follow those three golden rules, they won't go far wrong. I leave you with this excellent response from Ben McKenzie's 2016 Reddit AMA...

Ben Mckenzie on fanfiction

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Fandom - my life as a fan

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Happy Birthday Mum!

Happy Birthday Mum!

It's my mum's birthday today - I won't say which it is! - so to celebrate here are all the childhood photos I've scanned of Wendy Powell née Reeves. There was clearly some stellar camera work going on in this first pic... ;)

Wendy Reeves as a bridesmaid
Jane Reeves WeddingWendy and Lee
Caravan HolidayReeves Family
Beach Holiday
Little Kevin and WendyWendy Powell woz Reeves
Maendy Primary School Photo
WendyWendy Reeves
School Photo Music

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Family History

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