Scrolls Seperate Blog Ending

I started the Scrolls blog in anticipation of the podcast going live and, frankly just trying to get to grips with WordPress.  Everything I have been posting here has been going up on our parent site http://www.geeksyndicate.co.uk and for ages now the only things that have been posted here have also been posted at Geek Syndicate.  It seems pointless trying to keep this blog going as a mere duplicate.  The only benefit has been keeping all Scrolls created stuff browsable seperately.  As I have no plans or desire to leave the Geek Syndicate Network even this slim benefit is moot, so as of now I declare this blog ended, kaput, finito.

We will continue posting book reviews, convention spotlights and of course our podcast at http://www.geeksyndicate.co.uk so don’t worry, nothing is being lost.  If you’ve read this blog and not been reading Geek Syndicate you’ll find a hell of a lot more there.  In addition to the Scrolls material there is breaking news, interviews, reviews of films, games, comics and spotlights on geek conventions and culture of all kinds.

Join the community and have fun.  We’ll see you there.

 

Dion.

Published in: on 19/03/2011 at 9:31 am  Leave a Comment  

Scrolls Reviews – Relentless

Relentless by Dean Koontz (ISBN 978-0007267590)
 
I love Dean Koontz, I really do, but there comes a point in a relationship when 
things sour for a bit. And for me, Relentless is that point.
 
Relentless is the story of fiction writer Cubby Greenwich who comes to the 
attention of critic Shearman Waxx. Waxx is scathing of One O'Clock Jump, Cubby's 
latest release, and Cubby just cannot let it lie. A chance encounter in a local 
restaurant brings Cubby into physical contact with Waxx and from here things 
start to get quite out there.
 
The plot centres around Waxx's victimisation of Cubby and his family; wife 
Penny, a children's author and super genius son Milo aged six.  Shearman Waxx is 
painted as a strange and vindictive man which works well in the build up to a 
violent and terrifying pursuit of the Greenwich family and it becomes apparent 
that this isn't the first time he has terrorised authors he considers of poor 
skill.  So we have a great premise set of psychopathic critic who is hell bent 
on killing the Greenwich's for his justified reason of ridding the world of poor 
work. Yet what could have been great flounders into mediocrity for me.
 
The problem is that the characters created are just too out there and quirky to 
make the story have credibility. We discover through the story that Waxx is part 
of a thousand strong secret militia intent on doing away with creators of poor 
writing, art and other mediums. To counter this we are introduced to Grimbald 
and Clotilda, Penny's parents, who are demolition expert hippies with secret 
nuclear bunkers dotted across North America in case of the end of the 
world. However, the strangest and most unrealistic character for me is Milo, the 
wise-cracking six year old genius whose ability with quantum physics is light 
years beyond anything we are currently capable of. Oh,forgot about the dog, 
don't get me started on the dog!
 
For their extremes I found that I couldn't relate to any of the characters and 
by about 100 pages in I just didn't care if they lived or not.  Everyone's a bit 
too cool for school and, mixed with Koontz's social commentary dotted throughout 
it, the story became secondary to everything else. When we finally get to the 
end of Relentless it feels like Koontz has decided that if you've come this far then he might 
as well throw in what he likes and see if it sticks. The end is ridiculous and I 
had to read it twice to convince myself he'd actually used the plot twist I was 
reading. I won't divulge in case you decide to pick up the book but suffice to 
say the laws of physics were broken due to the genius of young Milo.
 
There are bits I liked, the back story to Cubby for instance which showed the 
most catastrophic of family tragedies and a close second was Waxx's stalking of 
the Greenwich's in their own home which was excellent. If the rest of the 
book was like these two sections then we would have a 5 star book here but these 
highlights were too few and far between to make the story what it should have 
been.
 
Quirky characters, witty dialogue in the face of death and twisting, out there 
endings work well in other Koontz work such as Odd Thomas or Life Expectancy but 
the formula just didn't deliver today. It's a shame really but I'm sure that 
normal service will be resumed soon.
 
2 out of 5
Published in: on 15/02/2011 at 9:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Scrolls reviews – Use Of Weapons

Use Of Weapons by Iain M Banks (ISBN 978185723135X)

I’m very late in coming to Iain M Banks but I’m glad I’ve got here. Third in the series of stand alone novels, this is Probably the Culture book I’ve enjoyed the most so far (which bodes well for the next half dozen or so still on my list to read). The main character is Cheradenine Zakalwe, a mercenary working for the ultra-advanced utopian society called the Culture. He does their dirty work, fighting wars to seize and change hearts and minds for the sake of the greater good. Purportedly.
I thought Zakalwe was a very compelling character and the books structure well reflects his emotionally shell-shocked mind. The horrors of war are depicted powerfully, not least of which being the numbing normalisation of killing people on both the personal and chess-board scales. The more I consider the storytelling the more impressed I am, yet it doesn’t feel like an overly artful book. The prose is naturalistic and Banks’ droll humour is allowed a freer rein than in his earlier SF novels, perhaps a deliberate counterweight to the darkness of theme.
Whilst handler Diziet Sma and her sidekick the mechanical drone Skaffen-Amtiskaw suffer from a lack of character development I think that they are there more as representatives of the Culture itself which Banks constantly uses as a mirror in which to reflect upon our own culture. How they interfere in people’s lives (not least of all Zakalwe’s) and dictate morality and the overall ‘good’ without ever getting actively involved is important to the commentary being made upon us by the author. Whilst he has described his Culture as his version of heaven he is not uncritical of it and it is this ability to question and examine all sides of the drama – matched with an arsenal of talent – that raises Banks’ work to a higher level of artistry.

4.5 out of 5

Review by Dion Winton-Polak

Published in: on 31/10/2010 at 5:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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New episodes up! Blogger in disgrace.

Ok, so I’m seriously going to have to get back into updating this blog.  Things have been pretty busy and good in some ways recently and pretty heavy and bad in other ways.  Ah, don’t worry about it.

So since the Fey, Greys and Shades we’ve been to the Festival In The Shire and recorded a few interviews (Middle Earth Special Part 1), put out a Chapter 8 (Middle Earth Special Part 2) discussing Tolkien’s work and various adaptations, we’ve done a pilot episode for a Scrolls Book Group podcast discussing Shirley Jackson’s utterly brilliant book We Have Always Lived In The Castle and finally we’ve also put out Chapter 9 – Book At Bogtime in the last week.

Oh yeah, we’ve been working – not shirking.

For the future we’re looking at pulling together an official press release to get the word out about our show a little more professionally, we’re currently starting to pull together a crossover Christmas Party Episode with the lads from fellow Geek Syndicate Network podcast ‘Dissecting Worlds’ (a show that is well worth the listen and can be reached from the same websites as Scrolls).

I’ve also just won a ticket to go to the MCM Expo in London over the Halloween weekend.  I’ll be wearing a Scrolls t-shirt so I’ll be easy enough to spot, and I’ll probably be hanging around with the cool dudes from Geek Syndicate Barry and Dave.  There may even be a surprise appearance from my wonderful co-host Mattie.  We’d love to meet you so come on over and introduce yourself if you’re also there.  Depending on scheduling and who is there I may be able to grab an interview or two for the next episode.

I’ve written it everywhere else so I may as well post it here too…

We have a competition on for somebody with talent to create a logo for Scrolls that can go up on i-tunes and various other places.  We also need a banner designed to go on our web-pages, this blog etc.  There will be prizes, including my prized hardback Alan Lee illustrated Lord of the Rings, so you won’t go unrewarded.  More prizes to be announced as we get closer to the deadline which is…

20th December.

So best get cracking, eh?

Finally, the Scrolls Book Group.  It’s not really working on the GS Forums as they are not as well populated as they used to be.  To try to bridge the gap and form a closer, more interactive bond with our audience we’ve decided to try to bring the group to a larger stage, a podcast in which any listener can nominate a book and then join us on air to discuss it in as much depth as they like.

Nominations can be simply e-mailed to us at scrolls@hotmail.co.uk and we’ll be in touch to set up a date for recording (with enough gap to make sure we’ve all read the damn thing first, of course).

Want to take part?  We look forward to hearing from you.

Dion.

Published in: on 22/10/2010 at 11:59 am  Leave a Comment  

6 and counting

Long time since I’ve posted, sorry about that.  Lets see now, Chapter (Episode) 5 went without a hitch.  Fishfingers and Custard was the title, referring to the taste sensation discovered by Matt Smith’s Doctor in his debut performance in Doctor Who.  Odd combinations that just work being the premise behind our episode.  We’ve become a lot more confident over time and I think this episode demonstrates that in being by far our most relaxed and randomly wandering show yet.  We had a whale of a time recording it and I had really very minimal editing to do to get it from raw recording to internet-ready podcast.  We’re by no means Gods-of-Pod material yet but we’ve achieved stability, regularity and entertainment for both ourselves and the listeners (I hope.)

The Chapter format seems to be working well and ideas continue to flow for future episodes.  The best thing about basing the shows around themes rather than specific authors or books is that it frees us up to stretch the boundaries and bring in books that we wouldn’t necessarilly have thought of discussing otherwise.  This keeps it fresh and interesting for all of us as we never quite know where the conversation will go next.

The next Chapter is being recorded tonight – Chapter 6: Funny Stuff.  We’ll be looking at writing that has amused us from the darkly humerous to the outright comedic (and possibly taking in the laughably bad along the way).  All this is of course building up our back catalogue which is available on i-Tunes in with all the other Geek Syndicate podcasts under their network.

My stomach kind of flips when I see how long some of these shows have been running.  I’ve just started listening to Quiet! Panelologists At Work.  They got to 75 episodes and seem to have been comedy geniuses from the start.  GS itself has done nearly a hundred more than that and continues to grow and stretch.  Quite an act to follow.  I’m finding it best to just concentrate on doing one show at a time and enjoying myself whilst doing it.  Each episode I’m trying to improve on the last and gradually build something that is strong and entertaining on all fronts but also professional and engaging to a growing audience.

We now have a proper theme tune debuting in Chapter 6.  A band Clover and i fell in love with in our university days has itself been growing and changing, and is currently living and working in the USA.  We knew them when they were The Dharmas.  They had a single on the Chart Show back in the day.  They then became Steadman and released two albums and had a rave review from Paul McCartney.  Now they are London To Tokyo and at work on a new album.  I’ve had permission from singer Simon Steadman to use a couple of his tracks from the Steadman days for our intro/outro music and I couldn’t be more chuffed.

If you like the music (or are quick off the mark and want to hear the tunes before Chapter 6 even comes out) you can get all their songs and albums here for FREE.  The songs we’ve used are Life Of Leisure and Cut Me Loose from the album Loser Friendly.  Also check out the London To Tokyo site here for their latest material.  It’s all great.  Smiley smiley time!

Dion (he of the newly shaven bonce, poorly fitting tracksuit bottoms and a growing addiction to the Angry Birds application on i-touch.)

Published in: on 06/06/2010 at 10:47 am  Leave a Comment  

Refined Redefined

I’ve finally sorted out the bit-rate issues which we’re giving barry gyp.  I think I’ve got a handle on format a little firmer now (more below on that) and Mattie is finally splashing out on a brand new computer, so hopefully all his audio issues will be resolved as of Thursday this week.

We completed recording of our nth episode on Thursday just gone –

Wait, this is getting confusing, let’s hammer this out once and for all.  Add in the ‘lost episode or not?  Include the fact that we had two go’s at it?  How to count the last episode which was broken down into three seperate sections?

Ok, here’s what we’ll do.  The pilot was the pilot, Episode 0 (or Prologue, if you will).  Ignore the lost ones, they’re not going to be found anytime soon, and we’ll probably re-work their content in some form or another into future episodes.  Having sub-divided the previous episode into Chapters (1, 2 and 3) I figure from here on in each episode will be a Chapter and simply continue the numbering.  So, to start again…

We completed recording Chapter 4 on Thursday.  There was no Mattie as he had other committments.  We tried using skype to call our house phone so that Clover andf I wouldn’t have to keep swapping over who had the microphone (a pain in the arse at the best of times, a conversation de-railer and sound-screwer at the worst. Unfortunately the sound quality was not up to much.  I sounded like I was calling in to a radio talk-show.  Never mind.  We’ll keep plugging away and eventually all the elements will combine to give us a great show with great audio quality and a great format.  And if not?  Stuff it, it’s not like anyone’s employing us for this.

The Chapter is called ‘Kick-arse Babes’ and takes a semi-rounded view of the representation of women in fantasy, sci-fi and horror.  I’ve spent my entire day-off editing it – I don’t know why it took so flipping long, but there we are.  Some things do.  Pretty pleased with it over all, though I feel we skated over the icy surface of a very deep, very wide and potentially hazerdous subject.  What will the feedback be like on the forums?  Three possible outcomes as I see it – 1 – general indifference, a few odd comments but not a lot more (as per previous episodes) – 2 – a really interesting and protracted discussion expanding to cover books we’ve not heard of or read yet, characters and authors we missed out or didn’t have time for and a real exploration of gender issues in the early 21st century or – 3 – we’ll be completely slated.

Hoping for 2, fearing 3, expecting 1.

Barry has the final recording, so just waiting for him to get it up on the site now.  As soon as it is I’ll post a link.

Dion.

Published in: on 26/04/2010 at 7:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Making (radio) waves

Having been in semi-regular contact with Booberella (Brenda) from the fabulous American podcast Geektress over the last three months I’m pleased to announce that Scrolls will be making a transatlantic appearance on the so-new-it’s-not-actually-quite-there-(but-will-be-any-day-now-guv-honest) internet radio station Geektress Radio.

I’ve also put her in touch with Barry from Geek Syndicate, so the whole back catalogue of the geek-ninjas will be on there along with Geekland, Comic Book Queers, Comic Racks, Entertainment Overload and Undead America (so far).

So what’s Geektress Radio?

As I understand it listeners will have the opportunity to hear continuous great podcast entertainment (clearly with a geek slant) without having to go through the faff of finding it and downloading individual episodes.  This will be great for cross-pollinating our audiences who may otherwise never have heard (or heard of) the other podcasts and put all of us ‘out there’ that little bit further.

Fantastic, says I.

Dion (he of the pot-belly and shiny-yet devastatingly handsome-head)

Published in: on 05/04/2010 at 8:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Believe The Hype

I’ve done what I can to keep our profile in the minds of the Geek Syndicate Network audience with regular updates on the forums, but with technical difficulties meaning we still have only one episode out there in the ether it’s been tough maintaining enthusiasm.

Although from our side of things we have continued to work hard on Scrolls we are aware that for many of the Geek Syndicate audience (and one or two folks outside of that sphere) we seem to have just recorded one episode and given up.  Not so my friends, not so.

Announcing here and now the recording of Scrolls Episode 2  Believe The Hype tonight.  We’re still working to recover one or both of our recording attempts of Episode 1 SFX, Bogs and Mind C’ntrol , but we have decided to move ahead with the next episode in order to try to regain some momentum.  Mattie has replaced his equipment and his sound quality should be improved (though alas probably not perfect), we are also joined by my wife Clover as a permanent team-member.  She was in on the lost episode(s) and loved the experience, if not the outcome.

We have still had very little feedback on the Scrolls Book Group, but will keep plugging away for now.

The current book is Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve.

(Hint, hint)

Dion (bedevilled by rats of all shapes and sizes, but still smiling)

Published in: on 13/03/2010 at 5:48 pm  Comments (1)  

I’ll squeem and squeem and squeem until I’m thick

So, having recorded SFX, Bogs and Mind C’ntrol I was on a bit of a high.  It didn’t all go perfectly, but you can’t expect it to.  Some things were said that came out wrong, I missed saying some things that I wanted to altogether, a few times the conversation went into a dead end then hopped over the wall and became something else entirely and the sound quality was going to be pretty bad thanks to a duff hissy new microphone which is going straight in the bin (thankfully only £7 wasted at Curry’s.  Could have been worse).  A shrug of the shoulders.  Editing can do wonders, I thought and I could see it as a challenge, except…

except that despite seeing the file on my skype recorder the damn thing just won’t play.  It won’t show up on my editing software.  It doesn’t seem to exist in an audio format, just as a useless lump taking up space on my hard-drive. (Any jokes you want to insert here, please post as a comment.)

It may be salvagable.  I’m looking at a couple of leads now,  but I have a horrible feeling we’re going to have to record the whole thing again.  I could just scream.  Anyway, it seems like we’ll be a bit late getting the episode out, so if you’re reading this and you care, I’m sorry.  If you’re not, or you don’t then why am I typing this?  I don’t know.

Dion. (Confused again)

Published in: on 16/02/2010 at 11:25 am  Comments (2)  

SFX Weekender

Piccies from the fabulous weekender event.  sorry there are so few, but we were really just having too much fun.  We’ll try harder next time.

There was an absence of Phil which was a terrible shame, but you can now see what Mattie, Clover and I look like (with special cameo by Indiana Nuge from Geek Syndicate).  GS did a much better job of recording the event, so check out their photos here and also pop over to the official SFX photos here if you’re interested.

Latest episode ‘SFX, Bogs and Mind C’ntrol’ is in the can.  Editing starts tomorrow, should be available by next weekend.

Right – I’d better shower and do romantic valentines day things.

Pub?

Pub!

Published in: on 14/02/2010 at 12:06 pm  Leave a Comment