Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Skyfall Review

This post WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for the new Bond film 'Skyfall', so if you have yet to watch the film and intend to do so please do not continue reading.

Before I begin with my review of ‘Skyfall’ I have to say that I really enjoyed the two previous Daniel Craig Bond movies.  I found that after decades of more and more campy and ridiculous plots and gadgets and silly villains Bond had become very stale and boring to watch.  However, when ‘Casino Royale’ was released it, for me anyway, completely wiped the slate clean off all that had come before it, giving us a clever, sleek, real-world depiction of James Bond.

‘Casino Royale’ made Bond great again, it showed him as a real man, in real world situations.  Gone were the exploding pens and laser watches and car chases over glaciers that were being melted by satellite weapons, instead we had the real world and someone who whilst clearly above average, some one still very much a human being.  He was even able to get hurt fighting people taking more beatings then I can ever remember Bond having.

Followed up by ‘Quantum of Solace’, a first real sequel to a Bond film, the new films looked to be getting better and better.  They were even working on establishing this new global terrorist threat in the form of Quantum, a group that was everywhere and could be anyone.  I loved this, the sense of scale and mystery was great, and held a lot of parallels to S.P.E.C.T.R.E. in the original Bond films.

Unfortunately this plot thread does not continue on in ‘Skyfall’ at all.  The film doesn’t even mention Quantum in passing, almost as if the first two films never happened.  Instead ‘Skyfall’ focuses its story on a former British agent who has a personal vendetta against M.  Rather than tackling a global threat or massive conspiracy Bond instead becomes more of a bodyguard than a secret agent.

Whilst the plot itself isn’t bad it feels like more of a generic action movie rather than what we’ve come to expect from Bond, especially from Daniel Craig’s time in the roll.  Unfortunately this change in direction, by completely dropping the Quantum plot, and focusing more on a small personal threat rather than global danger takes away from what could have been a much better film, it just feels out of place.

The action sequences in the film are adequate, but once again not as entertaining as Craig’s previous outings in the roll, and seem to be focused more on creating pretty visuals than enthralling fights.

One of the best things about the movie though is the pleasant surprise of seeing the whole of the second half set in England.  It’s great to see Bond fighting the villain in his home country, rather than defending it from afar and the final set piece at Skyfall Manor in Scotland is beautifully shot and well executed.

The film also has Bond teaming up with the best ‘Bond Girl’ yet, Judi Dench’s M.  Teaming up Bond and M makes for some great moments, both for beautiful character moments that explore the mother/son relationship they have and some comedic moments.

Unfortunately this relationship comes to a close in this film as *SPOILER ALERT* M is killed.  M is then replaced by a new M, complete with his secretary Moneypenny, bringing the series back round in tone to the original films.  This change in the status quo wipes away everything we have seen in ‘Casino Royale’ and ‘Quantum of Solace’ and instead gives us a stand alone story that just seems to be used to set up for more films that will be just like the older Bond films, something I personally am not looking forward to.

‘Skyfall’ could have been a great film, something that would celebrate the 50 years of Bond, but instead feels like a slap in the face because everything I had become invested in since Daniel Craig took over has been cast aside and the end of ‘Skyfall’ feels like a completely different film from the one we deserved.  A very poor effort from MGM, one that casts aside continuity to deliver something outdated and boring.  I was excited about the new Bond films, but now it’s going to be very hard to convince me to watch whatever one follows on from ‘Skyfall’.


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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Scalped Review

I knew nothing about Scalped going into the book, apart from the obvious name and the cover art that suggested it dealt with Native Americans in some way. If anything I was expecting a historical piece, so I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the book to find a dirty, gritty story set in relatively modern America.

As the story unfolded over the first issue I was finding it hard to sympathise with Dashiell ‘Dash’ Bad Horse at all, and couldn’t see how he was going to be a character I would want to continue reading about, but the revelations as to his true motivations made him a much more interesting character, one trapped in a awful situation that I wanted to see resolved.
Scalped is well written and has some great twists and turns in this first volume and creates a cast of very dubious and multi-faceted character where it’s not always clear who is the hero and who is the villain, and much like in real life the people in the book are shown to be able to perform acts of kindness and acts of evil.

I am very much looking forward to reading the next volume of Scalped and seeing how the story and characters continue to evolve. 7/10


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Monday, 26 November 2012

Transition Has Finally Started Moving Forward!

Over six months ago I had my last session with my counsellor, who signed off on me being Trans and not just crazy, and my GP made me a referral to the gender clinic in London.  During this six months period I have been waiting and waiting for my referral letter, I’ve been phoning the clinic every week, I’ve been back to my GP and had him write to them to try and get some sort of answer from them.  All I want is a date for my appointment, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a timeframe after waiting for six months!

Today though, things have started to change.  After phoning them up, for probably the fiftieth time, they finally gave me some information.  It’s finally my turn!  The person in charge is applying for my funding, for which I should get a letter in the next two weeks, and once the funding comes through I’ll be getting my appointment!

I know it’s not much but something’s finally started to happen, things are moving forward, no matter how little.  It’s not much information but it already feels like a weight has been lifted and I’m relieved and happy.  I’m not being ignored, things have started!!!

Sorry that this post doesn’t have much to it, but I’m just really happy at the minute about what’s going on for me.


Thursday, 22 November 2012

Video Games as a Storytelling Medium

Clementine and Lee from The Walking Dead game.

Today saw the release of the fifth and final episode of The Walking Dead video game, the end to a story that I loved and a goodbye to characters that touched my heart in so many ways.  For me today wasn’t about playing the game, it was seeing what was going to happen to the people.  I say people over characters because that is what they had become to me over the last seven months of playing this game.  I had been with them through their highs and lows, I’d been their when people were betrayed, when friendships were forged, sacrifices were made and tragedy struck.  This had become more than just a mere video game, played for action or thrills, it had become a gripping, at times heart wrenching drama about a group of very real people and their fight to stay alive in a world gone to hell.

I know that there are a lot of people out their who aren’t gamers, or who only play the occasional plat-former or beat-em-up and therefore don’t ‘get’ video games.   I think that it’s a very real shame that these people don’t give video games a chance.  You like films, you like books, you will like video games, well, some of them anyway.  
Snake must fight and kill his mentor The Boss to complete his mission.

Books will tend to have one of two formats to the writing, third-person or first-person.  The third-person, the more common of the two styles, is written as if the characters are being observed.  For example, ‘Amy wrote about video game storytelling on her blog’.   This can create a sense of distance between the reader and the characters.

First-person perspective has the central character narrating the story to you directly.  For example, ‘today I wrote about video game storytelling on my blog’.  Whilst this does tend to draw you into the story more, by putting you right their into the very mind of the central character, having them tell you how events and over characters affect them, it can leave you thinking that the character will never be in any real danger.  They’re alive to tell the tale of what happened to them, possibly taking away any tension their might be in the story.

Video game storytelling offers another choice, to put you directly into the story, to make you a part of it and have your actions matter.  I’m not just talking about controlling the character around an environment or fighting enemies, but choices that will alter the plot around you.  The Walking Dead is a fine example of this type of story telling, as your actions will have a dramatic effect on who will live, who will die and how other characters interact with you.  The wrong dialogue choice in one of the early episodes can come back to haunt you in later ones as the other characters can question your motives, or even hold a grudge against you.

Mass Effect was another game series that adopted a similar method to it’s story telling, allowing you to tailor the character of Commander Shepard to your own style, from the gender and physical look down to how much of an arse hole you want him/her to be.  It will also remember what choices you made during the first two games and you will find yourself either rewarded or punished in the build up to the end battle based upon these choices you made, choices that you may not have known would have such long lasting consequences when you made them.

This freedom of choice and consequences to these choices make the stories within these games extremely personal, and they have such a greater impact when characters that you have spent, in some cases, dozens of hours interacting with are in peril and at risk of dieing.  Their were many times during Mass Effect 3 that I found myself in tears as people I’d fallen in love with were torn to pieces ( in some cases literally) and each time a characters name was added to the ships memorial wall my heart sank a little.

These are the kinds of reactions I find cannot be matched in other mediums.  Yes, books, comics, films and tv can make us laugh and cry and rage, but there is always a sense of being slightly removed from the experience.  Video games force you to physically take part in what is unfolding before you.  Even in games like Metal Gear Solid, where there are little to no choices presented to players and you have a very structured experience with no chance to go off and do your own thing you are given so much story and character development that it would be difficult to adapt the stories to written format, and an insane undertaking to translate them into film.

Death is more than just 'Game Over' in video games.
Those people who aren’t completely sold on video games as a storytelling medium, I ask of you please do not ignore it.  There are some truly amazing stories out their that simply can’t be found in other medium, stories that are so amazing and engaging that they simply must be played.  Video games are more than simple escapism, than shooting hordes of generic villains or running from one side of the screen to the other.  They are a real and adult form of storytelling, one that deserves more respect than it receives.


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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Fake Geek Girls

Something that’s been going around on some of the websites that I normally frequent over the last week that I kind of want to weigh in on is the whole subject of ‘fake geek girls’. 

The whole thing started when comic artist Tony Harris posted the following statement on Facebook;

I cant remember if Ive said this before, but Im gonna say it anyway. I dont give a crap.I appreciate a pretty Gal as much as the next Hetero Male. Sometimes I even go in for some racy type stuff ( keeping the comments PG for my Ladies sake) but dammit, dammit, dammit I am so sick and tired of the whole COSPLAY-Chiks. I know a few who are actually pretty cool-and BIG Shocker, love and read Comics.So as in all things, they are the exception to the rule. Heres the statement I wanna make, based on THE RULE: “Hey! Quasi-Pretty-NOT-Hot-Girl, you are more pathetic than the REAL Nerds, who YOU secretly think are REALLY PATHETIC. But we are onto you. Some of us are aware that you are ever so average on an everyday basis. But you have a couple of things going your way. You are willing to become almost completely Naked in public, and yer either skinny( Well, some or most of you, THINK you are ) or you have Big Boobies. Notice I didnt say GREAT Boobies? You are what I refer to as “CON-HOT”. Well not by my estimation, but according to a LOT of average Comic Book Fans who either RARELY speak to, or NEVER speak to girls. Some Virgins, ALL unconfident when it comes to girls, and the ONE thing they all have in common? The are being preyed on by YOU. You have this really awful need for attention, for people to tell you your pretty, or Hot, and the thought of guys pleasuring themselves to the memory of you hanging on them with your glossy open lips, promising them the Moon and the Stars of pleasure, just makes your head vibrate. After many years of watching this shit go down every 3 seconds around or in front of my booth or table at ANY given Con in the country, I put this together. Well not just me. We are LEGION. And here it is, THE REASON WHY ALL THAT, sickens us: BECAUSE YOU DONT KNOW SHIT ABOUT COMICS, BEYOND WHATEVER GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH YOU DID TO GET REF ON THE MOST MAINSTREAM CHARACTER WITH THE MOST REVEALING COSTUME EVER. And also, if ANY of these guys that you hang on tried to talk to you out of that Con? You wouldnt give them the fucking time of day. Shut up you damned liar, no you would not. Lying, Liar Face. Yer not Comics. Your just the thing that all the Comic Book, AND mainstream press flock to at Cons. And the real reason for the Con, and the damned costumes yer parading around in? That would be Comic Book Artists, and Comic Book Writers who make all that shit up.

I think that anyone, male or female, who choose to attend a comic convention in costume are by nature extroverts and relish the opportunity to show off and be the centre of attention in their costumes.  This isn’t a bad thing though, as I have found in my experience that cosplayers tend to be very friendly, chatty people who love meeting other likeminded people, and the costume can be a way of breaking the ice and starting a conversation.  After all, if you’re a Superman fan and you see someone dressed up as Superman, chances are you’ll both have that in common.

As for if these people in the costumes are aware of who they’re dressed as and are fans is impossible to say, because unless you make them take some kind of crazy fan test you’re just going to have to take it on faith.  Then again, how do you know that the people at conventions who aren’t in costume are actually fans too?

I think that yes, it is entirely possible that there are ‘fakes’ among those girls that do choose to dress up at conventions, but they are also likely among the girls that don’t dress up, the men that do and the men that don’t.  Their will be people in the ‘geek community’ that are fakes, people who only take part because being a geek has become cool and hip, but their will be far more people who aren’t fakes, especially amongst those people who shell out money to go all the way to a convention.

Centring the ‘fake’community solely on those women who choose to celebrate their love of comics, games and movies by dressing up as their favourite characters is wholly unfair and extremely sexist.

From a number of experiences I’ve had at conventions I’ve found that the female fans are overall some of the most passionate and if given the chance will gladly jump into a conversation, more so than some men I’ve met at conventions.  These female fans are so passionate and so vitally important to the industry that they should be celebrated rather than demonised.

The comics industry should be encouraged to better represent female characters, to create characters that are more than just eye candy in tiny tight costumes and are well developed and well rounded characters.  One of my favourite examples of a great female comic character that can easily be ignored by their look is Power Girl.  A Kryptonian from another universe she’s one of the most powerful super-heroes in the DC universe, a former member of the Justice League, chairwoman of the Justice Society, a brilliant scientist, business woman and philanthropist she’s unfortunately mainly remembered for having huge breasts.

I think that it’s unfortunate, but a number of women who attend cons probably do meet with sexism and men who become drooling idiots at seeing their fantasy women come to life before them.  Their was a recent article I read about a young woman who attended a convention dressed as Blackcat and was subjected to some very sexist behaviour from some people who were ‘professionally’ interviewing her.

Incidents such as these are awful for many reasons, because it encourages men to act like that at conventions, to see women solely as their sexual fantasies come to life.  It also makes those women who would once choose to attend a convention in costume question their decision to do so, or even attend the convention at all.

 Unfortunately the only thing that I take away from Harris’ comments is the impression that he has, probably on more than one occasion, attempted to chat up women at comic cons, and failed.  His irrational attack towards women in costume just seems to be coming from a place of wounded pride, he might be thinking ‘I’m a comic book artist, if these girls were real fans they’d be throwing themselves at me, but they turned me down, they’re fakes!’

The second thing I take away from his comments is that I don’t think he really like comic fans in general, for example he says; ‘Hey! Quasi-Pretty-NOT-Hot-Girl, you are more pathetic than the REAL Nerds’.  Now, the fact that he thinks these ‘fakers’ are ‘more pathetic’ than real nerds just jumps out at me because he’s saying that real nerds are already pathetic. 

Someone in Harris’ position should be more greatful to comic fans, these are the people who are keeping him in work, who are making a demand for a product he plays a part in providing.  He should be showing them gratitude, but instead he just seems to dislike comic fans as a whole and has thrown a hissy fit because he can’t pull a girl in a costume.

The whole argument about Fake Geek Girls is stupid, it’s something that whilst it may have a grain of truth to it isn’t the massive issue Harris made out to be.  There are fakes everywhere in the geek community, not just in one small sector of girls who like to cosplay.  Instead of thinking that girls at conventions are their to make fun or ‘real fans’ and to torment them sexually, go and talk to them, treat them as real human beings and get to know them.  Yes, some of them may be very attractive women wearing tight and revealing outfits, but at the end of the day they’re still just people, and if you’re at a comic con too, then you’ve already got a lot in common with them.


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That Sudden Sneaky Dysphoria

Yesterday started off as a good day, a day that I was looking forward to and hoping to enjoy.  Yesterday was the day I was going to get my new phone.  Yeah, I know,  a new phone, nothing too special.  But it was special to me because, honestly, I don’t have much stuff to really look forward to, and having a new little toy to play with had me excited.  That and getting a nice chunk of cash for trading in my old phone.

So, I awoke early with a sliver of excitement running through me and was dressed and ready to go into town much earlier than I’d normally even be awake.  It would appear that not even my messed up sleeping patterns would overcome my good day.  With my housemate joining me, we headed into town to do our shopping.

Our first stop was at a local café, that we used to frequent when my housemate owned his comic book shop, for a rather unhealthy breakfast.  And that’s where things took a turn.  I don’t know why it suddenly affected me, I’d had my anti-depressant that morning and was in a great mood, but as soon as our waitress came over I was hit with a massive wave of dysphoria.

There was nothing overly special about this girl, yeah she was attractive, but it’s not like she was the most stunning woman I’d ever seen.  There was just something about her that turned my happy morning upside down and made me feel like complete and utter shit.  One minute I was happy and excited, the next I felt like I could hardly breathe and I just wanted to run and hide myself away from the world.

Perhaps this should have been a sign for me to give in and go home, to just let the dysphoria pass.  I ignored this, however, and tried to continue on with my day.  After leaving the café I went to the phone shop.  ‘At least I can just get my phone and go home before this gets any worse’ I thought to myself.  Boy was I wrong.

The first person to serve me in the phone shop was one of the managers, who when he had to go and assist another of his colleagues assigned me the one and only female working in the store that day.  So here I was, yet again faced with another pretty young woman.  A young woman who was extremely nice and chatty and appeared to have a great personality too.  After half an hour being served by her I was ready to just break into tears.

I hate that part of being trans is that I’ll have these sudden bouts of dysphoria, that what is supposed to be a good day for me can suddenly turn on its head and make me feel like complete shit, for no apparent reason.

I know that things are moving forward for me, and that I’ve come a long way in the past year, but it still doesn’t stop these little attacks.  No matter how logical I try to be, no matter how many anti-depressants I take or fun I try to have it always seems like my dysphoria will always be their.  I hope that this is something that will go away in time, that at some point it won’t hurt anymore, but I really don’t see that being the case.

I see my dysphoria lessening, I can picture periods of time where it won’t bother me as much any more, but I don’t think it will ever truly disappear.  I see it being their my whole life, no matter how well my transition goes.  I feel like this is something that I’ll never completely escape.

Thank you for reading my little rant, sorry for how depressing it is, I promise a much more enjoyable read for my next post.

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Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Doctor Who E-Space Trilogy Review

From series eighteen of the original run of Doctor Who, the E-Space Trilogy features three loosely connected stories from Tom Bakers final season.  Set in another universe connected to our own, E-Space.  These three stories feature the introduction of Adric and the departure of both Romana and K-9.

Full Circle

On the way back to Gallifrey to return Romana to the Council of the Time Lords the Tardis is caught in a strange phenomena and passes from normal space into an alternate universe called E-Space.

Landing on the planet Alzarius the Doctor and Roman find a small settlement of humanoids living between a fruit rich river and a grounded spaceship simply known as the Starliner.  The people on the planet arrived many generations ago, and have been attempting to repair their ship ever since in an attempt to return to their home world of Terradon.

All is not well in the colony; however, as strange insect eggs have started to appear in the riverfruit, the environment is turning against the colonists and primitive Marshmen rise from beneath the surface of the river….

Are the Marshmen a threat or something more?

‘Full Circle’ is the first part of the E-Space trilogy and the introduction of new companion Adric, played by Matthew Waterhouse.  The first of the four episodes quickly and clearly sets up both the concept of E-Space itself and the colonists living on Alzarius.

The ever expanding history of Alzarius, the colonists and the Marshmen is interesting and takes some dramatic, if not completely scientifically possible, turns to craft a very interesting story.  The story itself was actually written by a seventeen year old fan of the series, but is very well written and a very competent tale.

The sets are fairly standard Doctor Who affair, with nothing particularly special to them, but the Marshmen costumes look great, and the creatures are portrayed well.

A good Doctor Who story that introduced some great concepts and a new companion.  Competent sets and great looking monsters make this a good story that doesn’t stand out as one of the all time greats, but is a solid, competent and entertaining serial.

State of Decay

After the events of ‘Full Circle’ the Doctor, Romana, K-9 and new companion/stowaway Adric arrive on a planet trapped in the dark ages, under the thrall of three lords, Zargo, Camilla and Aukon.

The Doctor and Romana discover evidence of more advanced technology than is evident of the planets medieval society and begin investigating what could be holding this society back.  It soon becomes apparent that there is more to the three lords than meets the eye as it is revealed that they are not quite human, but vampire creatures that are in fact serving an ancient and powerful enemy of the Time Lords….

There is more to the three lords than meets the eye.

I’d heard of ‘State of Decay’ long before I’d ever seen it, the introduction of The Great Vampires and their history with the Time Lords was one that was known to me for a long while, and one that interested me greatly.  I found the concept of an ancient foe of the Time Lords that are so powerful and evil that they inspired the myths of vampires throughout the universe a hugely interesting one and wanted to learn more of this history.

Unfortunately there’s not much more to learn than what I already knew.  The Great Vampire itself only makes a brief appearance in the story, instead the main focus being on the Three Lords.

An interesting gothic tale that gives us a little insight into the history of the Time Lords and what they have done in the past to protect the universe.  At times a little too over the top and cheesy, but entertaining.

Warriors Gate

The Tardis crew find themselves in a white null space between normal space and E-Space.  Elsewhere in the void another ship, commanded by Rorvik, has also become trapped.  This second ship is a slave vessel that has captured a group of leonine Tharil’s to use as their navigators.  Upon becoming stuck in the void the ships navigator, Biroc, escapes and makes his way toward the Tardis.

Caught in the space between universes and in a fight between the Tharil’s and their oppressors the Doctor, Romana, Adric and K-9 must choose which side to assist in the struggle, whilst finding a way through the void back into their own universe…..

The Taril's petition for Romana's help.

‘Warriors Gate’ is a very interesting and at some times confusing story, using multiple time lines and the past and future interacting at the same time to craft a story that demands to be watched a second time, even if only to figure out what’s going on.

The Tharil make-up is adequate, nothing spectacular but nicely subtle enough to create a convincing leonine species.  Peoples motives and morals are constantly in question and at some times its hard to know which group to support, but that makes the story a lot more interesting than just having one clear group of heroes and one clear group of villains.

This story also marks the departure of both Romana and K-9, and whilst this seems to come quite suddenly at the end of the story, the whole of the E-Space trilogy has been subtly setting up the fact that Romana doesn’t want to return to Gallifrey.  It’s not the most out of the blue departure the show has had, but it does feel quite rushed.

An interesting feature in this serial however is the design of the slaver ship.  I’m sure fans of Firefly will see quite clearly the similarities to the design of Serenity.  Was the designer of the Serenity a fan of this serial?  Or does the Firefly universe exist within the Doctor Who universe?  If it does, I can’t wait to see a cross over!

Seperated at birth?

Thanks for reading!


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Thank you to everyone who's been visiting the blog and reading me articles, your support is amazing! 


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Monday, 12 November 2012

Facebook Fan Page

Hiya everyone, just wanted to let you know about Trans Girl Writer's new Facebook fan page.  I'll be posting about new blog updates and other bits and pieces about the blog.  I hope you all enjoy my blog and join the fan page!

See ya!


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Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Hero Talk Episode 23

Hi everybody, I’ve got something new for you all!  An episode of the podcast ‘Hero Talk’ in which I feature as special guest host.  My housemate, Mario Coleman, is a regular host on the show, and on the recording of this particular show I had the opportunity to step in and co-host with Mario and James Lundy.

 In this show we talk about Superman quitting his job at the Daily Planet, the Walking Dead television show and video game, the Iron Man 3 and Evil Dead trailers, DC’s I, Vampire and the guest line up at 2013’s London Super Comic Con, amongst many other things.

Due to my not being fully out at the time of this recording and the fact that my voice is still very male I’m in the podcast as Mark Walker instead of Amy. 

I hope that everyone enjoys!


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