Referendum 2014: Undecided Independence

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The home stretch is upon us! 18/09/2014- a  date that shall live in infamy- the United Kingdom was suddenly and deliberately voted upon by YES and NO forces of Scotland. Yes, it’s now 2 days until the big decision. If we vote YES, come October negotiations start between the Scottish and UK governments, Scottish Independence Day will arrive on the 24th of March 2016, and on May 5th the Independent Scottish General Election will take place, cementing a place in the history books forever. If we vote NO, Cross party talks will commence on greater powers in Hollyrood, April 1st will see the Scotland Act 2012 come in, giving extra Tax raising powers to the Scottish Parliament and come May 7th, the General election occurs, with Scotland voting on it as part of the union.

So! A lot to take in huh? A lot of unknowns, a lot of promises and claims on both sides. Walking through the streets of most cities and towns there seems to be a strange air hanging over the country, with independence in every conversation, campaigners on every street, claims and promises printed on every leaflet, flier and poster. I can’t say with certainty if it’s an air of excitement or one of fear, but I somehow imagine it’s probably a 51/49% split depending on which you poll you look at. It’s very strange how quickly we’ve gone from a people who so often would joke about those getting too involved in politics, a certain grumpy pride in not getting overly passionate, serious or patriotic about such affairs, to a country bubbling like revolutionary Revolutionary Catalonia in the 1930s. It’s certainly great to see, certainly, in a time when voter turnout rates were plummeting across the board (and in true hipster style I do often wonder where half these people complaining about representation were in 2011, when the pathetic turnout for the Scottish Elections was barely 50% and the winning party only received 45% of that), people becoming interested and passionate about politics again is very encouraging. My hope at least is that this same passion sticks with us no matter which way we vote, but I can already feel the discontent and disillusionment with a vast majority of campaigners if their referendum horse happens to come in last. It with this in mind, and a horrible feeling I’m going to be bombarded with campaigning and articles to read, I have to admit I still haven’t decided what to vote.

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Henry H. Bliss & Mary Ward: The Unlucky Automotive Firsts

FATALLY HURT BY AUTOMOBILE

Vehicle Carrying the Son of ex-Mayor Edson Ran Over H. H. Bliss, Who Was Alighting from a Trolley Car

The New York Times, September 14th 1899
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Grand Theft Auto: 1899

So blazed the headlines of The New York Times 115 years ago today in their report that marked a grisly first in American automotive history. On September 14th 1899 68-year-old Henry Hale Bliss, a real estate dealer living in New York City (234 West Seventy Firth Street to be precise, but his original residence no longer exists) became the first man in the Americas to die from his injuries caused by being struck down by an automobile. By the end of the 19th century the automobile was becoming an increasingly common sight on the streets of Cities in the western world, and patents for steam, combustion and electric vehicles were being registered since the early to mid-1800s.  State of Wisconsin in 1875 had offered a $10,000 award to the first individual that could produce a practical substitute for the use of horses and other animals (incidentally leading in 1878 to the first automotive race in America, in which five of the seven entries failed to start and the winner completed the 200 mile course in a time of 33 hours after the only other completer also broke down. More successful than perhaps the first automotive race, in which only one vehicle competed.)

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11/09/1297- The Battle of Stirling Bridge and Wallace & Moray- The Dynamic Duo

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“You gotta pay the toll troll!”

“We come here with no peaceful intent, but ready for battle, determined to avenge our wrongs and set our country free. Let your masters come and attack us: we are ready to meet them beard to beard.”

These are the (apparent) words of William Wallace (Uilleam Uallas), the resistance leader, knight and Guardian of Scotland during the Scottish Wars of Independence. The quote is attributed to him on the eve of the Battle of Stirling Bridge, which happens to have happened 717 years ago today (11/09/1297), in which Scottish forces under Andrew de Moray and Wallace led an incredible victory over the English army on the waters of the River Forth. The Battle is one of the most incredible battles to take place in the history of the British Isles, and is one of the most famous examples of the Scottish “Underdog” victories over the English during the First War of Independence, a particular chapter of Scottish history I’m fascinated by. Unfortunately, horribly inaccurate and over-simplified depictions of Wallace and this battle in particular is all too pervasive, so I thought for the anniversary I’d look at both the men in charge and the battle, and maybe show you a  glimpse of why Scottish history is so much more incredible, bloody, brutal and strange than anything you’d ever find in Game of Thrones. First, let’s look at the big men in charge- William Wallace (obviously) and the under-regarded often forgotten partner in crime: Andrew de Moray.

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Short Story! A Boy in the Woods One Day

Hey folks! So, I’m working on a  secret(ish) project that involves a lot of script writing and story work, and I’m hoping I can talk a lot more about it at length very soon. However, I can show you this, which is a short story I’ve been working on that features the main character. I wrote this mainly as a kind of writing exercise and to see if I could create a kind of unhinged, crazy character and really make the reader feel  ‘inside’ his head. Writing it in first person did make me feel slightly disturbed however… Anyway! I didn’t want to push out the boat to far and let you guys kind of read between the lines at what really happened, but we’ll see how well that worked!

Now, as I’ve said before, my spelling and grammar suuuuuucks, so please excuse & call me about on it! But otherwise I hope you enjoy A Boy in the Woods One Day

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I’m Writing a Story!

Well, trying at least. Look, grammar and spelling are my two pet hates in the world- I try to get things down on paper so fast with my imagination racing at a mile a minute that it leaves ample time to see if everything actually reads well. But I love writing, and I’ve always loved writing stories, scripts, poems or whatever takes my fancy. I’ve been working on a new idea for quite some time now, spending a lot of time both planning it (something I’m also notoriously bad at) and creating the world and setting that has both continuity and life outside of the story.

Pictured: Planning. Or Alternatively; evidence of an insane man.

Pictured: Planning. Or Alternatively; evidence of an insane man.

 

So, what I figure is posting the first part of my story here, as well as the rest of the story as I write it. It’s only a first draft, but I figure I’ll update it as I go on my blog so that I can keep track of it better myself. Since the story is presented a bit like a diary, I figure it works on the blog quite well. I don’t want to let on anything about the wider plot, but what I’m presenting is essentially the character of Jamie, his journey and an accompanying history of an Island. Give me feedback! I want to know what I’m doing wrong!

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The Post-Apocalyptic (literary) Survival Guide

The combination of a recent buzz around the (now confirmed fake) ‘Survivor 2299’ website that was purported to be a teaser for Fallout 4, as well as my own new Fallout: New Vegas video series has made me realise my love for post apocalyptic fiction and settings all over again. If it came to nailing down a favourite literary genre, post-apocalypse rules the roost for me. The gritty survivalist and the under current of real fear for an end to society as we know it fascinates me and combined with the 50’s and 60’s technological optimism and concurrent, constant threat of nuclear inhalation is what drew me into the Fallout series of game so much. Apocalypse fiction often gets criticised as cliched, but I think that’s coming more out of the over saturation of ‘Zombie Culture’ that has been exponentially growing for the past few years (on a related note, I’ve left out World War Z from this as I think ‘zombies’ are pretty much a genre of their own at this point). The kind of apocalyptic setting I like the most usually harks back to the 1950’s- from things like the cosy catastrophes of Day of the Triffids to darker, bleaker works like The Road, A Boy and His Dog or The Earth Abides. The Zeitgeist of Nuclear war and global annihilation of the Cold War has always been a big draw for me creatively, and also fascinates me on a historical level.

Because of this, I thought I’d write up a list of what I think it some essential reading, watching and playing when it comes to post-apocalyptic literature. I’ll touch on my favorites as well as some that are essentially cornerstones at the foundation post apocalyptic fiction, and I’ll hopefully cover movies and finally video games later (and possibly in more detail). Either way, here we go!

1- There Will come soft Rains (1950)- Ray Bradbury

You MAY recognise this if you played Fallout 3...

A short story that is based on one of my favourite poems of all time, There Will Come Soft Rains by Sara Tisdale. A very short story originally published in a magazine, it tells the story of a robot still carrying out its duties in a house that has been almost destroyed by nuclear way, to a family long since dead. Really thoughtful and touching book, and the reading of the poem is particularly fantastic. Must read if you have 15 minutes to yourself.

2- Earth Abides (1949) – George R. Stewart

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A true cornerstone of apocalyptic fiction (man, get used to reading those words!) that tells the story of a world almost wiped out by plague. The story covers an epic timeline and charts the rise of new cultures in a devastated world and is heart breaking in a personal level. Fallowing the main character and watching a new society rise up around him is told so incredibly, it’ll leave you wanting more. Brilliant book and very ahead of its time.

3- The Road (2006) – Cormac McCarthy

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Brutal, terrifying and not for the faint of heart, The Road is an incredible story of survival in a world and humanity during its dying breaths but it’s heavy, bleak and very depressing. This however, only makes the small uplifting moments that much more wonderful. It was faithfully adapted into a movie 2009 and is a recommended watch, however the book is still leagues ahead. Also contains what is, without a doubt, one of the most terrifying passages in any book ever (spoilers! Don’t read that article until you read The Road!).

4- A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960) – Walter M. Millar

Miller 1959 - A Canticle for Leibowitz

Remember how I said Earth Abides was epic in scale? Yeah, compared to A Canticle for Leibowitz, Abides takes place in the blink of an eye. Taking place over the course of thousands of years, it charts the story of a group of monks protecting what knowledge remains of a world devastated by nuclear war and watching as the new civilisations begin to repeat the same mistakes again. I fully admit right now, I have never read Canticle– I have always had it on my list but never fully gotten around to it. That said, it is safe to say it is an essential read to anyone wanting to immerse themselves in both apocalyptic and science fiction literature.

5- The Stand (1978) (1990 complete & uncut edition) – Stephen King

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Everyone should read at least one Stephen King book, and if you do, let it be… 11/22/63 but if you read TWO then definitely read The Stand, one of King’s most famous (and longest) works. The Stand charts the odyssey of several characters as they survive in a world devoid of all but 0.1% of all human beings. In true King fashion though, dark powers are at work and a battle of good an evil soon begins to surface. An epic book in size and depth, King’s story is beautifully written and contains some of the best written characters in any of his work. While I think the story past a certain point leaves a lot to be desired, the initial depictions of the plague and helpless downfall of society is honestly terrifying. While it’s always been true that King is a better writer of characters than plots,  The Stand will still have you hooked by page five and leave an incredible impact on you.

6- A Boy and His Dog (1969)-  Harlan Ellison

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Funny, dark, twisted and bizarre, A Boy and His Dog is one of my favourite books in the genre as it inspired so much after it (more on that when we get to Games). The story of a Boy, Vic and his telepathic dog, Blood, it charts his story across a brutal wasteland as they struggle to survive and, in the boys case, have sex by any means necessary. The books are controversial to say the least, but the brutal nature of the characters and their horrible, savage qualities make for some of the most believable characters in a post-apocalyptic fiction I’ve ever read.

Well, that’s my essentials. I know I missed out a tonne, but I want to keep is just slightly concise. Have you got an favourites? Have I missed an out? Tell me in the comments or send me some recommendations! Next time- movies!