Thursday, 26 September 2013

Who is I_PWN_YER_MA_84 (Part ii)

If you haven't yet read Part (i), keep up.

If you have kept up, proceed...

Q: In the last session you talked about your difficult Christmas visits to your parents’ semi-; many great writers thrive in adversity, do ordeals like these inform your work?

A: Work?

Q: Do they inform your works?

A: Not at all. I tend to treat the “breaks” as cultural black holes. I can catch up on what passed for entertainment at the multiplexes 18 months ago,[1] and look over some of my surprisingly insightful pre-emancipation works.

Q: Tell me about some of those?

A: The films are mainstream dross. Catnip for the lumpenproletariat. But I assume you were really asking about my early works.

Q: Yes, your early works?

A: Thank you. Well, one of my finest was, Curse the Temperamental Whims of Your Happiness Meter!!

It was a vital modern-day retelling of the Pygmalion myth wherein a misunderstood young man falls in love with his Tamagotchi™ and persuades an untrustworthy Japanese programmer/para-anatomist to bring it to life.

Obviously it doesn’t go well, but it’s not one of those moralising cautionary tales; it could’ve gone brilliantly if the Japanese guy wasn’t such a sneaky bastard.

Incidentally this was the source of my first cease-and-desist letter. On the advice of a school colleague I ignored it. The idea’s still available if anyone is interested – it’s just a matter of doing a quick “Find and Replace” job to make every “Tamagotchi” a “Digital Pet”[2]. I may bend, Bandai Co. Ltd., but I will not break.

Q: That seems to be a common occurrence with your works –

A: Using the “Find and Replace” function to address major issues which arise after submission of a final draft? It’s a peril of the world in which I operate. Even I cannot have perfect hindsight. Say I’ve already written 48,000 words of a short story in which the heroic figure is named “Durian”, and later discover this is also the name of a vomit-smelling fruit incomprehensibly consumed by choice on the Subcontinent, then I’ll just change his name to “Ga’arth” or something.

Admittedly some of the poems won’t scan quite as well, but it’s just something you have to deal with at the coalface of sci-fantasy.

Q: I was thinking more of the intervention of legal professionals derailing your ideas.

A: Much as there are only seven basic literary plots[3] there are only so many ideas out there, there are bound to be overlaps. Besides, at the time of writing Curse the Temperamental Whims…!! there weren’t that many other electronic husbandry applications out there to choose from. If Bandai were too myopic to hitch their wagon to my star at that early stage, fuck ‘em. Also, did you see their recent Thundercats reboot range? Rubbish.

Anyway, even after I changed all the references to “Digital Pet” everyone still knew what I was talking about.

This falls under Fair Use, Bandai

Q: Do you have any advice for other freelance creators out there?

A: No – I don’t give this stuff out for free.

Q: Well, how about some general principles?

A: Put your copyright on everything. Everything. Even if you’re not sure if it’s your original idea, in fact, especially if you’re not sure if it’s your original idea. I’ll never make that mistake again.

Q: It sounds like you’ve been effected gravely by this in the past.

A: Yes, I was, many times, but never again since late-June 1993. I was at a car-boot sale trying to offload a box of plastic polyhedral dice which were surplus to my requirements since I’d just carved a full expertly-balanced set from wood. I was not given a single offer which could be considered anything but derisory, including at least one inquiry as to why I did not “just chuck them in the bin there, son?”

I remember thinking, aloud, would there was a perfect market where my dice could be sold to a worthy and appreciative purchaser, who later I could also hassle into taking a few of the prototype wooden dice I didn’t want. Perhaps, I thought, still aloud, this propitious development that is The WorldWide Web could offer an arena for aforesaid market.

Just 2 years later, eBay was launched. Was Pierre Omidyar or one of his poly-national familiars present in Avoniel Leisure Centre car park and in earshot of my visionary idea? Probably.

And to think I could’ve prevented a lot of seething and resentment simply by cupping my hands in front of my shoulders in imitation of parentheses and saying the words “Copyright 1993”.

I blame myself, I was young and foolish, and probably thinking about the impending release of Jurassic Park.

They were so confident about the film that they put hardcore
archaeological-brushing scenes in the trailer. In the trailer.

[1] My parents still haven’t splashed out beyond the basic Sky+ package.

[2] I object vehemently to the abbreviation “Digi-Pet”. It just sounds stupid.

[3] I can think of at least 4 more, but I’m not going to go into them here in case some other bugger steals them off me.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Who is I_PWN_YER_MA_84? (Part i)

Obviously I’ve had many requests for interviews, but I find that most (if not all) journalists are amateurish misquoting trivialists, more interested in the sexual proclivities of their subject or whether he knows the price of a pint of milk than how (not if) certain high-profile Hugo Award winners stole ideas from his P6 homework jotter.

As a result I’ve chosen the only worthy interrogator of a mind as rich and varied as my own – myself. Below is Part i (of at least ii) of a probing, insightful, but not intrusive series of interviews which I conducted recently.

In order to keep things above board and avoid accusations of soft-peddling myself (and also as a form of defence, given my past run-ins with “journalists”), I took a suitably combative tone with the interviewer.[1]

Perhaps it would help if you imagined the words in italics being read by a computerised voice, similar to that in Channel 4’s long-cancelled Star Test[2]:


Q: Name?

A: I think for now it’s best we stick with the formal terms. You can refer to me as “Pwn” or “Mr Pwn”, but only if you’re able to pronounce it correctly.[3]

Q: Occupation?

A: Well, if you were to ask me for some terms to describe my role within society, and particularly philology, I would have to say visionary, deliverer of insight, eschatologist, heresiarch, innovator… I could go on.

Q: Please do…

A: Soothsayer, naysayer, truth-seeker, skeptic, cynic and lore-smith. Were you to ask me about my formal occupation, I would have to say IT project manager/developer. Level 3, but really I should be at Level 4 by now given the amount of acting up, additional tasks and patch-up jobs I’ve had to do, especially during Chanreeka’s (likely spurious, at least indulgent) maternity leave. Anyway, it’s safe to say that I’m well beyond a 3.5 pay grade once you factor in my hard-negotiated privileges and the likely dividends from my research project into the impact of circadian rhythms on SQL servers.

Q: You’re from Northern Ireland, is that correct?

A: Well yes, it is technically correct, but I haven’t lived there in quite some time.

Why would you leave?

Q: And do you sense the influence of Northern Ireland in your work?

A: That’s quite a vague and, I would argue, offensive question. What exactly do you mean?

Q: Very sorry. Do you think that there is an inherent or even archetypal Northern Irish element within you work?

A: Works

Q: Sorry, within your works?

A: Well, I do work primarily in the English language[4], so I suppose it was fortuitous that my birth occurred in a country which speaks the lingua franca[5] of the WorldWide Web. Without the ability to spread my message over The Internet, I would likely have to do so by travelling from town to town in a simple hatchback, the back seats removed to make a small nest, relieving myself I can’t imagine where. It would certainly be difficult to hold down a 35-60 hour a week job whilst doing so, and I might look like some kind of feckless hippy.

It might have been different had I succeeded as an infant in persuading my unadventurous parents to move to mainland China where I would have picked up Mandarin and Cantonese with ease. Let’s face it, everyone knows “they’re next” and it wouldn’t hurt to be able to shout a few commands and negotiate some special privileges when the time comes.

But on reflection, I think I was better off staying where I was. Have you seen what they eat?

Q: You mention your parents, what influence did they have on you?

A: Little. They may have driven me to school, bought me a proportion of the books I requested, and allowed me to convert their conservatory into a forge in anticipation of supplying weaponry to the countless fantasy epics I believed would be filmed in Ulster in the post-Peter Jackson The Lord of the Rings glut – but I can’t say they were particularly supportive.[6]

Quite the conversation starter
at dinner parties

Q: And do you see them often?

A: Infrequently but regularly. I return for 6 days over the Christmas period as that is all I can allow myself to abide.

Q: Why is that?

A: The atmosphere is quite oppressive. The temperature of the house is a good 2-3°C higher than it needs to be, and the volume on every radio, television and appliance is persistently set too high. Add to that their general reluctance to engage in discussions apportioning blame for the ills of the world on forces and peoples normally considered “off-limits” by the mainstream media[7], and you’ve got a very uncomfortable environment.

Within 2 days the dry heat makes the skin on the soles of my feet start to crack. By day 4 my lips have gone that way too and my feet look like one of those doctored “dry lake” pictures you see on the cover of The Independent.

Day 5 my hair actually feels dry, not simply to the touch, but profoundly dry to the extent my scalp can sense it. Day 6 I tend to leave with little more than a bag of leftovers and a few new hardbacks (often from the wrong imprint).

I’m currently working on a proposal for cost-saving psychological prisons and think that the experience of my parents’[8] house would make a good base model for Category D(iv)[9] violations – parking offences, naming your child after a television character, standing on the stairwell of a bus.

TO BE CONTINUED.................................

[1] Publishers may wish to note the skill and fluidity with which I switch between “voices” in this piece, showing my versatility as both writer and raconteur.

[2] This was the first video to come up, it does not imply any endorsement of the interview subject.

[3] To rhyme with “own” “grown” “sewn”, not “gown” “hewn” nor “awning”.

[4] I have a functional knowledge of Sindarin, Braavosi, Jawa and French. I have also been known to throw in elements of Latin and Ancient Greek to spice up my prose, safe in the knowledge that I will not be mistaken for one of the swarthy native speakers of those long-dead languages.

[5] See above footnote.

[6] Can I just take a moment to pre-empt the accusations of ungratefulness which will likely emanate from a certain residence in Ormiston Grove. Firstly, I was a minor, and so unable to legally drive myself anywhere, nor obtain a lucrative enough job to afford hardback first editions of the interminable Dune series. Regarding the forge, I would like to point out that Game of Thrones, the far from optimistically-titled televised adaptations of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, started filming in Northern Ireland a mere 9 years after the release of Jackson’s first film. Perhaps with a little more foresight and faith in their son, a certain couple would have what is essentially a money factory in the prefabricated room which juts out into their garden, rather than some mass market wicker furniture.

[7] You know who I’m talking about

[8] I feel obliged to point out that the house shouldn’t really be jointly considered “theirs” as my dad has contributed a good 70% of the equity, but the English languages does not currently have an appropriate possessive adjective for those circumstances.

[9] I’m still waiting to hear back from the Ministry of Justice, and have my suspicions that my dossier has not been passed through the correct channels. If anyone knows the direct e-mail, or better still home address, of the Justice Secretary please get in touch through the blog.