Friday the 13th

April 13, 2012

Friday the 13thToday is Friday the 13th. Ooooh, cue Twilight Zone music. Of course, it’s all superstitious bollocks, like being afraid to walk under a ladder or thinking a political agitator died two thousand years ago for your sins. I mean, really? Get over yourself. But why is Friday 13th considered unlucky? Folklore and superstition is some pretty interesting stuff and it’s great fodder for stories. The more we draw on existing mythologies and folk tales, that have endured over centuries for a reason, the more we can make our own stories feel authentic and convincing, thereby helping readers to suspend disbelief and enjoy a fictional journey. And who knows, maybe in two thousand years there’ll be a group of weirdos attending the Church of RealmShift, praying to the god Isiah for absolution. That would be quite funny, but we really should have grown out of this stuff already, so considering another two thousand years of it is a bit sad.

Anyway, Friday 13th – where does that particular bad luck superstition come from? Well, the answer, as is so often the case: No one knows. But there are a lot of theories. Interestingly, this particular superstition seems to be quite young, with no real references before the 20th century. Going to the fount of all knowledge (Wikipedia, obviously), we get these possibilities:

1. In numerology, the number twelve is considered the number of completeness, as reflected in the twelve months of the year, twelve hours of the clock, twelve gods of Olympus, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve Apostles of Jesus, the 12 successors of Muhammad in Shia Islam, etc., whereas the number thirteen was considered irregular, transgressing this completeness. There is also a superstition, thought by some to derive from the Last Supper or a Norse myth [more on this later – Alan], that having thirteen people seated at a table will result in the death of one of the diners.

2. Friday has been considered an unlucky day at least since the 14th century’s The Canterbury Tales, and many other professions have regarded Friday as an unlucky day to undertake journeys, begin new projects or deploy releases in production. Black Friday has been associated with stock market crashes and other disasters since the 1800s.

3. One author, noting that references are all but nonexistent before 1907 but frequently seen thereafter, has argued that its popularity derives from the publication that year of Thomas W. Lawson’s popular novel Friday, the Thirteenth, in which an unscrupulous broker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on a Friday the 13th. Records of the superstition are rarely found before the 20th century, when it became extremely common.

It seems that there were existing superstitious issues regarding both the number 13 and Fridays, so it seems “logical” that Friday the 13th is doom with extra tragic sauce.

JasonAnother theory is that Primitive man had only his 10 fingers and two feet to represent units, so he could count no higher than 12. What lay beyond that — 13 — was an impenetrable mystery to our prehistoric forebears, hence an object of superstition.

That doesn’t really take into account toes, though, so seems like a dodgy idea to me. Not to mention that surely there would be no evidence of anything beyond 12, thereby nothing to be scared of. It certainly wouldn’t have been called 13… or would it? That one makes no bloody sense at all.

Here’s another interesting idea from David Emery at Urban Legends:

Still other sources speculate that the number 13 may have been purposely vilified by the founders of patriarchal religions in the early days of western civilization because it represented femininity. Thirteen had been revered in prehistoric goddess-worshiping cultures, we are told, because it corresponded to the number of lunar (menstrual) cycles in a year (13 x 28 = 364 days). The “Earth Mother of Laussel,” for example — a 27,000-year-old carving found near the Lascaux caves in France often cited as an icon of matriarchal spirituality — depicts a female figure holding a crescent-shaped horn bearing 13 notches. As the solar calendar triumphed over the lunar with the rise of male-dominated civilization, it is surmised, so did the “perfect” number 12 over the “imperfect” number 13, thereafter considered anathema.

I quite like that theory, not it’s got just enough bastardry in it to make it an enduring myth, and enough impetus for men in power to keep pushing their agenda. It would explain a lot about why 13 is so consistently recognised as a “bad” number if it meant men could retain some patriarchal power. Of course, it also means that superstitious feminists should embrace Friday the 13th, and that might give rise to some brain implosions.

And from the same source, here’s that great Norse yarn, mentioned earlier:

Twelve gods were invited to a banquet at Valhalla. Loki, the Evil One, god of mischief, had been left off the guest list but crashed the party, bringing the total number of attendees to 13. True to character, Loki raised hell by inciting Hod, the blind god of winter, to attack Balder the Good, who was a favorite of the gods. Hod took a spear of mistletoe offered by Loki and obediently hurled it at Balder, killing him instantly. All Valhalla grieved. And although one might take the moral of this story to be “Beware of uninvited guests bearing mistletoe,” the Norse themselves apparently concluded that 13 people at a dinner party is just plain bad luck.

David also points out that there were 13 present at the Last Supper, one of whom betrayed Jesus and triggered the Crucifixion. And that crucifixioin allegedly took place on a Friday. The bad news is just stacking up for the mythologically-minded.

David Emery’s entire article makes for great reading on the subject, so maybe you should just go there and read the whole thing. I’ll wait here.

Good, wasn’t it?

Here’s an interesting extra tidbit, though:

The Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics (CVS) on June 12, 2008, stated that “fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday than on other Fridays, because people are preventatively more careful or just stay home. Statistically speaking, driving is slightly safer on Friday the 13th, at least in the Netherlands; in the last two years, Dutch insurers received reports of an average 7,800 traffic accidents each Friday; but the average figure when the 13th fell on a Friday was just 7,500.”

It’s a small difference, but I do love me a bit of irony.

Anyway, if you really want to test your superstitious credulity this is the year for it – there will be three occurrences of Friday 13th in 2012, exactly 13 weeks apart. OH MY GODS WE’RE DOOMED!

Not that everyone needs to worry. The Spanish and Greeks consider Tuesday 13th bad luck, and the Italians are concerned about Friday 17th. You see, it’s all bollocks.

On the upside, we do get some brilliant words from the superstition:

The fear of Friday the 13th has been called friggatriskaidekaphobia (Frigga being the name of the Norse goddess for whom “Friday” is named and triskaidekaphobia meaning fear of the number thirteen). Seriously, say that word out loud and see if you don’t love it. FRIGGATRISKAIDEKAPHOBIA! Now, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to use that word today in casual conversation. Best of luck.

There’s also paraskevidekatriaphobia a concatenation of the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning “Friday”), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning “thirteen”) attached to phobía (φοβία, from phóbos, φόβος, meaning “fear”).

My preference definitely goes with friggatriskaidekaphobia, though.

Regardless, the only real bad luck I’ve ever heard of relating to anything directly related to this stuff is a stunt in the US many years ago. A guy was going for a bungee jump stunt where he would bungee off the side of a building and pick up a can of soda from the pavement. Extremely careful calculations were made, regarding his weight, the bungee rope, the distance and so on, to make such a dangerously accurate jump. Finally ready, he made the jump and smashed his head into the pavement and died. Why? Because many US buildings don’t have a 13th floor, skipping from 12 to 14, so the calculations of the building’s height were out by one storey. So 13 was definitely unlucky for that guy, but in a rather ironic way. Of course, all that could just be an urban legend, but it’s a great story nonetheless. And good stories are the best thing about all superstitions.


Tuesday Toot – Lee Battersby

March 20, 2012

Tuesday Toot is a semi-regular feature here at The Word. An invite-only series of short posts where writers, editors, booksellers and other creatives have been asked to share their stuff and toot their own horn. It’s hard to be seen in the digital morass and hopefully this occasional segment will help some of the quality stuff out there get noticed. It should all be things that readers of The Word will find edifying.

This weeks it’s Angry Robot Open Door Month survivor, Lee Batterby.

Who is Lee?

Lee is the author of over 70 stories in Australia, the US and Europe, with appearances in markets such as “Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror”, “Year’s Best Australian SF & F”, and “Writers of the Future”. A collection of his work, entitled “Through Soft Air” from Prime Books. He’s taught at Clarion South and developed and delivered a six-week “Writing the SF Short Story” course for the Australian Writers Marketplace. His work has been praised for its consistent attention to voice and narrative muscle, and has resulted in a number of awards including the Aurealis, Australian Shadows and Australia SF ‘Ditmar’ gongs.

He lives in Mandurah, Western Australia, with his wife, writer Lyn Battersby, and an increasingly weird mob of kids. He is sadly obsessed with Lego, Nottingham Forest football club, dinosaurs and Daleks. He’s been a stand-up comic, tennis coach, cartoonist, poet, and tax officer in previous times, and he currently works as Arts Officer for a local council, where he gets to play with artists all day. All in all, life is pretty good.

CRKWhat are you tooting?

This is the cover to my upcoming novel ‘The Corpse-Rat King’, via Angry Robot Books. It’s been designed by Nick Castle, of Nick Castle Designs, and is, in my prejudiced view, completely bloody lovely. The novel itself follows Marius dos Hellespont, a professional thief, conman and looter of battlefields, as he is despatched by the denizens of the Underworld to recruit a King for the Dead. There’s been a terrible mix-up, you see, and they thought *he* was the King, and once they realised their mistake, well, they weren’t going to blame themselves, were they? The dead need a King– the King is God’s representative on Earth, and they need him to remind God that they’re still down here, waiting for admission into the afterlife. Faced with his mission, Marius does the only reasonable, sane thing possible: runs for his freaking life. Or death. He’s not quite sure which, yet.

The book is. I hope, a romp, by turns dark, funny, horrific, and darkly horrifically funny. Not to mention that everybody says ‘fuck’ a lot and there’s a lot of gross corpse jokes. It’s a survivor of the first Angry Robot Open Submission month, where over 980 submitted manuscripts where whittled down to just 3 sales, and is on sale come September, with its sequel, ‘Marching Dead’ hitting shelves in 2013. But really, if that cover doesn’t get you hot, what more can I do?

I have to say, that is one sweet cover. I’ve read a number of Lee’s short stories and I’m really looking forward to The Corpse-Rat King. Congratulations to Lee on getting noticed among a thousand hopeful novelists. – Alan


Real Life Super Heroes in trouble again

October 18, 2011

I’m sure long-time readers here will remember this post, about a real life super hero, or RLSH, and the comedy around his actions. That post generated over 150 comments before I finally had to close it to further discussion. Subsequently, there was this post, with the hilarious Captain At!

Now the ongoing saga continues. There’s this article from The Age, talking about “Phoenix Jones” and the recent entanglement that particular hero has had with the law. According to the article:

Self-proclaimed Seattle superhero Phoenix Jones, a vigilante crime-fighter accused of assault, made his first court appearance on Thursday, but prosecutors have so far declined to charge him.

The one-time mixed-martial-arts competitor whose real name is Benjamin Fodor was arrested on Sunday after police said he pepper-sprayed a group of innocent nightclub patrons he believed were involved in a street brawl downtown.

It raises interesting questions about reponsibility, not just for the safety of others, but for your own actions. You should click through to the article and have a read if you’re interested in this stuff. You should also watch the short news video at the start of the piece.

I have to say, Jones certainly fucked up by pepper spraying a bunch of folks just having a good time, but there are two far greater crimes in evidence from the Age’s article. One is Jones’s hair. Seriously, 1983 called and wants its fashion back. More criminal though is Ryan McNamee calling himself a “documentary videographer”. The wildly shaking camera is barely ever pointing at the subject matter.

Anyway, further hilarity from the world of RLSH. Keep it coming, guys – it’s better than cartoons.


Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest 2011 Results

July 26, 2011

SnoopyThe Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is one of my favourite literary events. It’s a brilliant idea. It stems from the awful writing of Edward George Bulwer-Lytton. You probably think you’ve never heard of him. But I can almost guarantee you have. Here, see if this is familiar:

“It was a dark and stormy night;”

Yep. You know him. But did you know just how bad he was? Here’s the rest of that line, from Paul Clifford (1830):

“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents–except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

Holy crap.

It’s writing like that which gave rise to the contest. During his studies Professor Scott Rice of the English Department at San Jose State University unearthed the source of that famous line, “It was a dark and stormy night”, as being the opening of the Edward George Bulwer-Lytton novel, Paul Clifford. And it is a very famous line. After all, Snoopy uses it all the time and that Beagle knows his shit.

For all his hideous writing skills, Lytton coined some phrases we all know well. Among them “the pen is mightier than the sword”, “the great unwashed”, and “the almighty dollar”. He’s had an impact, has Bulwer-Lytton.

So Professor Rice, with the help of San Jose State University, has, since 1982, put together the contest which seeks the worst opening lines to the worst of all novels. You can learn all about the contest here:

Meanwhile, the 2011 results are in. The winner this year is the shortest entry to ever win the contest. It comes from Sue Fondrie of Oshkosh, WI. (Yeah, I thought that was a children’s clothing line for people with more money than sense, but apparently it’s a place too.) Here’s the winning line:

Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.

Top work, Sue. Congratulations.

Rodney Reed of Ooltewah, TN takes out the runner-up prize with this one:

As I stood among the ransacked ruin that had been my home, surveying the aftermath of the senseless horrors and atrocities that had been perpetrated on my family and everything I hold dear, I swore to myself that no matter where I had to go, no matter what I had to do or endure, I would find the man who did this . . . and when I did, when I did, oh, there would be words.

There are other winners in several categories (Adventure, Crime, Sci-Fi, Vile Puns, etc.) and they’re all listed on the contest site here. Go and have a read. They’re hilarious.


Christians upset about Muslim billboard

June 28, 2011

I know, those crazy Christians are always upset about something. For that matter, so are the Muslims. Let’s be honest, the religious of any persuasion have always got something to moan about. But it’s been a while since I lampooned a bit of religious idoicy here on The Word and when I saw this article in the Sydney Morning Herald, I knew I had to comment.

In a nutshell, an awareness campaign by Islamic group MyPeace has resulted in some billboards going up to try to point out that Muslims really aren’t so different to Christians, or anyone else for that matter. Of course, they’re just people like all of us. The religious, regardless of persuasion, are all far more alike than many of them will ever be comfortable admitting. If nothing else, they share a large portion of willfull ignorance. And, that one foible aside, they’re no different to anyone else. But I digress.

One of these awareness billboards says: JESUS: A PROPHET OF ISLAM. And there’s a number and a website.

Some Christians are upset because it demotes Jesus from the son of god to a mere prophet and thereby injures their delicate religious sensibilities. And here’s where the relevance to this blog comes in – I can turn anything I find interesting into a debate on words, language and storytelling after all. The Muslims in question are trying to point out that they revere Jesus too, just not in the same way. Meanwhile, the Christians are upset that the status of Jesus is not being recognised. What we have here are two fantasy epics warring about who has the better angle on truth, when, in fact, neither of them have anything even vaguely resembling proof. Ah, religious tolerance – what’s that then? Some of the quotes really made me laugh.

One complainant said that Jesus “must not be associated with such [an] aggressive religion”. Oh, the irony! She burns!

Here’s my favourite:

“What [my child] knows of Islam she has learnt from watching mainstream news broadcasts and to have her saviour identified as being part of this malicious cult was very traumatic!”

Your child told you that, did she? After a considered exploration of available religions and a decision to be Christian? Or did you just tell your kid that’s what she thought?

Anyway, a complaint was lodged with the Advertising Standards Bureau and, thankfully, common sense prevailed:

”such a statement does not, of itself, discriminate against or vilify people who hold different beliefs… The board acknowledged that the Islam faith does consider that Jesus is a prophet of Mohammed… and that it is not unreasonable for children to be exposed to a variety of information in their daily lives, some of which may conflict with the views with which they are raised”.

No shit, Sherlock. We can be thankful for that decision, at least.

MyPeace founder Diaa Mohamed said, ”[The advertisement] conveys the message that, like Christians, we the Muslims also regard Jesus with extreme reverence. The idea being that the people will see beyond the words in the advertisements and recognise that Islam and Muslims are not much different from any other ordinary Australian.”

Which you’d think was quite fair enough. I wonder if he would be equally magnaminous if the Christians put up billboards all over town saying, “Mohammad is not a prophet of god and the only way to heaven is through Jesus.” The Muslims would be fine with that, right?

These kind of things give me so much fuel for characterisation and plot in fiction. People really are fascinating creatures. Or, to put it another way, as my old Grandad used to say, “There’s nought so strange as folk.”


Nekropolis by Tim Waggoner – review

June 13, 2011

NekropolisTwo reviews in two days? You can tell it’s a long weekend. Yesterday was the new Pirates Of The Caribbean movie, On Stranger Tides. This time it’s a novel, Nekropolis, by Tim Waggoner. I’d heard rumblings here and there about this book and it kept cropping up in People Who Bought This Book Also Bought lists, so I thought I’d finally give it a go.

It’s the story of Matt Richter, a dead ex-policeman. He’s now a zombie and in serious danger of rotting away to nothing. He lives in Nekropolis, the city of the Darkfolk. The basic idea behind the location is that all the vampires, lycanthropes and other monsters got sick and tired of being persecuted by humans, so the most powerful among them created a city in a paralell dimension. It’s the shape of a pentagram, Father Dis manages the whole thing while five Darklords are each responsible for one section. Imagine a pentagram and you’ll get the idea. Each section has a different vibe based on its darklord – lycanthropes in one section, death in another, and so on. The idea that the darkfolk left as they were sick of persecution is a bit rich – after all, they’re persecuted because they eat people – but that aside, it’s a cool way to have a paralell world of creepiness and weirditude while still being able to reference Earth. Matt Richter is an Earth cop who went to Nekropolis on the trail of a murderer. While there he was killed, zombified and he’s stayed there ever since, being a kind of private detective for the dark and undead population. In this book he’s drafted in by half-human, half-vampire Devona to help her out. She guards the collection of magical artefacts collected by Lord Galm, her father and one of the five Darklords. One particular artefact has gone missing and she needs to find it before Galm discovers it’s gone and shit hits the fan.

So we have a classic noir detective thriller, with a pretty girl, a missing thing and various nefarious subplots, but it’s all wrapped up in the gloriously weird environment of Nekropolis.

Waggoner does a great job building the world and feeding us information about how it works and how it came to be. We learn more about Matt Richter and how he came to be the way he is. Nekropolis really is a richly detailed and populated setting. It reminded me of a Tim Burton film, especially as there’s a distinct thread of humour throughout. It could easily have been all very dark and horrifying, but Waggoner treats the denizens of Nekropolis like the population of anywhere else and draws a fair amount of black comedy from the conceit. I couldn’t help seeing the place as a Tim Burton/Henry Selick type production, all in stop motion animation like The Nightmare Before Christmas. In some places the author tries almost too hard to make things as weird as possible, but on the whole it all works very well.

The plot itself is something of a story by numbers – you can see from the setup how the thing will play out in the big picture and there’s the expected movement of the characters through all the major areas of Nekropolis that have been alluded to. There are standard set pieces and even at one point a bad guy giving the whole monologue while the good guys engineer their escape thing, which was a bit of a shame. But on the whole the story was a good noir detective yarn and I didn’t pick the details of how it all worked out. I kept reading and I wanted to know what happened. There were enough surprises and twists along the way too, which drew away from the somewhat formulaic plot, and the setting was often distraction enough.

In places I found the writing a little bit too explanatory. We really didn’t need reminding that Matt was a zombie, therefore dead, every single time he alluded to any kind of emotion or physical sensation, for example. It got really tiresome. But those kind of writing related niggles were very superficial and on the whole the book read very easily and carried me along just as good fiction should. But that brings me to the editing. I know this isn’t the fault of the author, or a problem with the story, but the editing in this one was atrocious.

I’ve read a lot of indie and self-published work and one of the things the indie crowd are always going on about is quality editing. When a book is full of typos and stuff, it devalues the whole experience and also makes it stand out from trad published work. But this is not a self-published book. This is from Angry Robot, a publisher that I have enormous respect for and love the stuff they publish. Hell, I’d love to be published by Angry Robot! But the editor on this job needs to seriously improve his game.

Let me give you some examples of what I’m getting at. There were loads, and I mean LOADS, of missed words. There were numerous examples of misspelled words, things like -ed missing off the end of words that should have been past tense, things like “nearly” when the word should have been “nearby” and so on. In one scene, that was only a few pages long, one incidental character had his name spelled three different ways in two pages! There are always typos in books – I know that my novel, RealmShift, has a bad typo on the second page (taught instead of taut – GAH!) and we accept that it’s going to happen. But this book was riddled with them. And then there were editing errors like one scene where a lamb became a goat with no explanation and stuff like that. I would normally look past this stuff – I’ve been an editor as well as a writer and I know how hard it is to get everything, even when you have a whole team of people on board. There will always be typos. But this one went a bit beyond the pale. Incidentally, I read the Kindle edition, but that shouldn’t matter – the source file should be the same for all editions.

But let’s move on. Nekropolis is a clever and entertaining noir mystery, set in a truly imaginative world that kept me entertained from start to finish. It’s not a world-breaking novel, but it’s darn good fun and I enjoyed it a lot. 3 Stars.


Religious quote of the week

April 6, 2011

Possibly religious quote of the year. I simply could not let this one go by, for I nearly laughed my morning cereal out of my nose when I read this. To be honest, there’s a plethora of fantastic quotes in this story. The Reverend Avril Hannah-Jones of the Uniting Church in Romsey, north of Melbourne, is having a themed service where sci-fi and fantasy fans are encouraged to show up in costume for a “Sci-Fi and Fantasy Friendly Church Service”. They will hear passages from The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter as Hannah-Jones explores parallels between fantasy and Christianity, taking inspiration from Dr Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Wars.

You can see where this is going, right? I was already sniggering at this point.

The whole thing is aimed at increasing church attendance, but it has many flaws. For starters, a lot of SF fans are agnostic or atheist, but even putting that aside, when you start comparing the teachings of the Bible to great fantasy epics, while you’re being surprisingly honest, it does little to promote the supposed “truth” of the Bible. Especially when those literary classics are far more cohesive and interesting.

And naturally, the religious community is rather split on the whole thing. Here’s where those fabulous quotes start coming in. Brace yourself for a +10 Crushing Irony attack and be sure to don your Pot-Kettle-Black armour:

Catholic priest Gerald O’Collins said, “There should be no need to dress it up.” He’s referring to the Bible and the Christian message, of course. “There is a magical story there already. We just have to start selling ourselves properly.”

That’s right – what you need is a better PR department.

Uniting Church moderator Isabel Thomas Dobson said, “We’re always looking for ways in which we can connect the community with the truth of the gospel. We’re talking fantasy, not reality.”

Wait, are you talking truth or fantasy? In two sentences she sums up all the problems with religious scripture as fact. I know I’m being slightly facetious here in my interpretation, but the point is clear.

But all this pales into insignificance in the light of this gem from Mentone Baptist minister Murray Campbell: “I don’t have a problem with people enjoying sci-fi, but church isn’t the place to encourage escapism and fancy dress.”

Has he been to a church lately? The clergy love a bit of fancy dress, with their robes and hats and dog-collars and habits (denominationally determined, of course). And what more escapist activity is there than sitting in a building dedicated to communicating with your big imaginary friend who’s supposed to sort out all your problems and grant all your wishes, while hearing about virgin births, walking on water, raising the dead and so on?

Given that the Bible is one of the greatest fantasy epics of all time, even if it does need the input of a good editor, this whole thing amuses me no end.

Source: Herald Sun


Real Life Superheroes – the saga continues to continue

March 15, 2011

I’m sure you all remember the bizarre RLSH – Real Life Super Hero – thing that blew up here back at the end of 2008. If not, refresh your memory with this post (that I had to close after more than 150 comments, many from “super heroes” themselves). That saga continued with this post. Now, I’m happy to report, the saga continues to continue.

You know when you read something and you think those time honoured words, Only in America! Well, now we can’t apply that to the RLSH thing any more as Britain and Australia are getting involved. That’s right. We have our very own Real Life Super Hero. He’s called Captain Australia and this is him:

(Picture from

Now seriously, how can that guy not strike fear into the hearts of villains everywhere? Although, by his costume, I think he’s actually Captain At. He probably deflects evildoers with his super belly. He patrols for crime around the Brisbane area apparently.

According to Captain At, “During one patrol, I stopped two sexual predators from taking advantage of a very drunk woman at a taxi rank. Unfortunately, I was unsure of my ability to conduct a citizen’s arrest and the two predators ran away before the police arrived. But I was able to prevent a near-certain sexual assault.”

You’d think a super hero would have some idea of the law regarding citizen’s arrests. You’d also think he’d just kick their arses, vigilante-style, but regardless he did do a good deed. So more power to Captain At!

Britain’s caped crusader is no less… well, less. Called The Statesman, but dubbed the Phan-Tum by the The Sun newspaper (that unquestionable paragon of quality news), he fights crime in Birmingham. Seriously, between Captain At and The Statesman, I’d take the Captain’s beat any day. The Statesman is one of at least 16 amateur crime fighters in Britain, according to researcher Tea Krulos, who is writing a book on the subject. Here’s The Statesman:

(Picture from

The News of the World lists The Statesman’s crime fighting CV as “He helped three other superheores and Police Community Support Officers capture a drug dealer and managed to scare off burglars breaking into builder’s merchant.”

Along with people like Vague, Swift, Black Arrow, Lionheart and Terrorvision, The Statesman is keeping the streets of Britain clean. (Incidentally, what kind of super hero name is Vague? It’s a little… vague, isn’t it?)

When Krulos was told of the British heroes he said, “In America we have many, but they tend to seek publicity.

“In Britain it is a very secretive underground society. They do all they can to avoid publicity and communicate online. Whole forums are set up and often they operate in groups. I have spoken extensively to The Statesman, and he takes what he does very seriously.” (Source)

According to Krulos, “These are normal people wanting adventure and to improve communities. They achieve more than you’d think.”

I have to admit, I bloody love this whole thing. I just can’t leave it alone – it’s like picking at a scab. There’s a part of me that wants to laugh my arse off at these overweight comic book lovers running around the streets at night in costume. Then again, another part of me has a lot of respect for people that would run around the streets at night and put themselves in danger for the good of others, silly costumes or not. I love reading super hero comic books. I’ve been a regular Batman reader for decades. I’ve dreamed of what it would be like to fight crime, vigilante-style. But I’ve never followed through and done it.

I most certainly have stepped in on a few occasions when I’ve seen injustice done. I’ve got into fights before by getting involved when someone else was getting a beating, I’ve interrupted people that were clearly trying to break into a car and some other stuff like that. I’m also a career martial artist, so I’m probably less vulnerable than most in situations like these. But those were events I happened to stumble across. Going out and deliberately seeking this stuff is another matter entirely. And, let’s be honest, walking around the streets dressed like Captain At or The Stateman is the kind of thing that’s likely to attract a beating on its own.

I really hope these guys can stop a bit of crime and help some people. I hope they have adventure and a sense of fulfillment doing it. I really hope that more people will stand up for the oppressed when they see injustice instead of just walking by, and maybe one day we won’t need the super heroes that we don’t really have anyway. I just hope I don’t read about one of these guys eating a bullet or a blade in the meantime. We’ve all seen the movie Kick Ass. If you haven’t, you really should.

What do you think? Ever wanted to be a super hero? Do you think these guys are heroes or total fucking nutcases?


A world-shaking idea, yours for 3 mill

February 28, 2011

Hat tip to my friend Cat Sparks for this one. She pointed me to this Bleeding Cool post on the subject. There’s an offer on ebay at the moment that must have film producers all over the world fighting each other to get the mouse click in first. Or maybe not. Seriously, this is more than hilarious. It’s actually a little bit sad, but it could also be a hoax, so I’m going to roll with it and rip the piss out of this bloke. It could be his internet 15 minutes of fame either way, but I really don’t think it’s going to be his retirement fund. Basically, this dude is offering an idea for sale. The bidding starts at $3 million with a Buy It Now option at $10 million. Yeah, you read that right. He’s trying to sell an idea.

According to him it’s:

a STORY to topple Star Wars, Harry Potter investment

At least, that’s the title of the ebay offer. We can see immediately why he hasn’t written this idea himself. He admits as much:

I am by no means a writer.

That’s right, folks – he’s an ideas man.

I am selling my story that I have been creating for 10+ years. (not constantly writing, but of piecing everything together in a cohesive manner) It can be compared to stories like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Matrix, Indiana Jones and other titles in those categories. This is a really great story I have. This story needs to be completed by a professional writer or Ghost Writer.

Firstly, what categories exactly? There’s a general genre vibe about it, but he’s clearly just looked up the highest grossing movies to force home his point. He’ll be kicking himself when he realises he left Avatar off the list.

I would rather not sell it at all and just find investors to help hire a celebrity Ghost Writer, which would cost 250,000. The company that hires these writers out, guarantee the book to be a New York best seller.

Apparently there’s a company (just one by the sound of it) that can hire out ghost writers, celebrities no less, and guarantee a best seller. Fuck me, I need to find out who this company is and send them a CV. Sounds like any idea can be ghost written into a best seller if you can just find this company. Maybe their office is on Atlantis or something.

This is a serious auction, I’m not looking to rip anyone off. If you win this auction and decide you don’t like the story, then you don’t have to pay, and you will be refunded fully.

So you basically need to have $10 million to hit the Buy It Now button, hear his idea and then say, “Nah, it’s shit. Don’t want it.” Then you get your 10 mill back. And if it is some world-shattering idea, you can go and write the book or make the movie anyway, given that there’s no copyright on an idea. After all, he’s no writer, hasn’t written anything down. Of course, this would be fairly unethical, but when have ethics ever had much sway in Hollywood?

This story will bring in endless fame and money to anyone who takes it.

Endless money? Guaranteed? But he’s willing to let it go for 3 mill. The man is clearly mad.

If it sounds like too much money then you are not the kind of buyer I’m looking for.

Actually, it sounds like too much stupid. But thanks for the entertainment.

You know, there are a million people out there with great ideas. I get people suggesting ideas to me all the time. They’re usually fairly lame. Or someone hears that I’m a writer and they say, “I have this great idea for a book. I wish I could find the time to write it!”

You know what? That’s what makes someone a writer – finding the time to write it. If you really aren’t a writer, you can learn, or you can collaborate with someone. You can pitch an idea to a film company. You can contact someone that is a writer and ask them if they’d be interested in developing your idea. (They almost certainly won’t be, but you could try.) You know what you don’t do? You don’t try to sell the idea on ebay.

It’s the treatment more than the idea that makes a blockbuster. Even a brilliant idea can be ruined by a crappy novelisation or script. On the other hand, a really lame and weak idea can be a blockbuster with the right treatment. Yes, I’m looking at you James Cameron. When you get the great idea combined with the great treatment, you land one of those rare and awesome gems.

Still, I’ll be watching this one closely. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes from here. The fact that so many of us online are mocking the poor bastard might backfire – if he gets enough press someone might pay to hear the idea. It might turn out to be the greatest idea anyone ever had. But I’ll bet you three million dollars it isn’t.


Where are the flying cars?

February 24, 2011

I’m always complaining that we don’t have flying cars yet, but there is some truth to this comic. Oh, xkcd, how I love thee…



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