Slash/Night 2

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Maddy Hughes, Muffy Hunter and Lego Hannibal Lecter

Slash/Night 2 happened way back in mid-February and was amazing. I organised the first Slash/Night because I am fascinated the culture of slash. The second event was organised by Muffy Hunter and Mathilda Gregory, which meant I could sit back and watch – although I was roped in to running the lights and sound, which I was brilliant at.

The programme for the event included Naomi Alderman reading a slash story about her own characters from Zombies Run!; a Hannibal choose-your-own-adventure fic, Rude; a welcome to Nightvale story; Mathilda speaking about Swan Queen and Muffy talking about The Logistics of Filth.

For me, the highlight was Helen Raven‘s talk on the pre-history of Slash. One of the things I love about slash is how it has thrived underground, with enthusiastic, generous audiences. It was good to hear about the pre-Internet slash days and to see some of the Samizdat publications. Hearing Helen Raven talk about her long career as a slash writer was inspiring too, particularly strange and creative world of Professionals slash.

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Things are getting crazy backstage

EDIT: Muffy has now posted her talk from the night: The Logistics of Filth

Slash/Night2

Way back in September, I teamed up with Muffy Hunter, Chris Parkinson, Mathilda and Kate to put on Slash/Night, a celebration of slash fiction. For me, this was more a night I wanted to attend than one I was particularly knowledgeable about. Putting on the event was hard work (particularly when Chris had to excuse himself for a film premiere) but it all went well and I was very pleased with the night we put on.

Slash is a hugely popular genre and probably has a larger following than literary fiction. Yet it is mostly ignored or even mocked. For me, one of the best things about the night was that for some fans it was the first time they’d been somewhere they could discuss this in person.

I’ve handed over the running of Slash/Night to Mathilda and she’s put on an amazing bill for Slash/Night2. We have the novelists Naomi Alderman and Julie Cohen reading. We have pre-internet slash. We have a talk from Muffy about her experiences. We have Welcome to Night Vale slash. We even have a creator reading slash written about their own creations.

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The last event was funny and filthy and this one looks like being even better. Even better, I’m not organising, so I can just sit back and enjoy the night. You should come too.

The Internet is Haunted

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On Friday night I gave a talk at the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne as part of their Ghost Worlds event. The night was inspired by both Mexican Day of the Dead and Halloween, featuring performance, music, crafts and a spoken word area.

The original talk, was part of a digital festival event and leant heavily on Ian Vincent’s research on Slenderman. This version was longer, and had more emphasis on Slenderman as a meme, and the way in which memes could be dangerous. I looked at examples of images and art that have harmed people, including fictional examples like Basilisks and The King in Yellow; and real ones like Slenderman and Gloomy Sunday. Or, possibly, the dangers of researching Statistical Mechanics:

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The best real-life example that I learned about was the McCullough Effect – which I find too disturbing to try for myself.

I enjoyed being in a gallery after hours as well as catching up with some old friends; Tara Gould read a creepy ghost story, which ended just as you realised what awful things were about to happen; and Umi Sinha did a great telling of WW Jacob’s The Monkey’s Paw

I enjoyed giving the talk and wish I had more opportunity to do things like this, but I’m not sure where the audience is for such things. I could certainly have talked for much longer about the subject.

The Internet Will Destroy Us

This Friday (28th November) I will be giving a talk at Eastbourne’s Towner Gallery, as part of the Ghost Worlds event. “A nod to Dia de los Muertos and Halloween“, this includes a dance performance, salsa taster class, Latin DJ, bar, exhibitions and crafts. I will be part of the ghost stories section, speaking in a candlelit room about ghosts on the Internet.

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This is an expanded version of a talk I gave back in September, at the Flash-fiction cinema event. The research for that talk gave me terrible nightmares and the research for the new version is much darker. Last night I dreamed I was the only person found alive in a crashed plane which weirdly contained no dead bodies; but it later turned out I’d died anyway. So, cheery stuff.

Tickets are £4-6. I really looking forward to this talk, mainly because once it’s done, I’m never again researching anything this disturbing.

 

The MechaPoet’s first performance

The MechaPoet had its first performance at the Brighton Fringe last week as part of Chris Parkinson’s Moonshine show. The interesting thing about any performance is that you learn a lot when a piece encounters an audience. Responses can greatly – I’ve delivered the same story to both helpless laughter and stony silence – but seeing your work in front of a group of people adds new dimensions.

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I’m reasonably happy with how the performance went. We had no technical hitches with the MechaPoet, and the audience seemed interested by it. The main problem was that it slowed down the flow of Chris’s show. Chris’s work is funny and energetic, whereas the MechaPoet’s voice was a little too slow and there were just not enough funny lines.

Which means an interesting weekend of hacking around with the software, trying to make it funnier. The audience laughed most at lines about actual real things, references to Brighton and the like. So I’m going to try building a simple Bayesian Classifier to filter out bad lines and find funny ones. The perfect thing to do on a weekend that’s supposed to be a heatwave.

Bayesian classifiers are, basically, the tool used for a lot of spam detection. As usual, I’m using rather crude algorithms for the project. While this was part of the idea, when I spoke to a proper digital artist this week, he suggested moving away from the Markov Chains. Once I’ve got the current run of performances out of the way, I definitely want to do something more sophisticated – along with my plan for using the MechaPoet to destroy haiku.

It’s amazing how much work a silly project can generate.

 

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And Chris’s show? Of course I’m going to say it was excellent. It was particularly good to see a sustained performance from Chris (outside of a timed slam that is, ha-ha). It’s sometimes hard to take in exactly how much poetry Chris has done over the years I’ve known him. The middle section of the show is a sequence of his political poems, which make an interesting retelling of the last 7-or-8 years of Westminster life. There are short films too, including the stunning Pigeon in a Pizza Box. And Unreal City is still the greatest poem ever written about Brighton. The remaining shows are on the 22nd and 29th May.

 

 

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The MechaPoet visits Chris’s work (photo by rmmbs)

The MechaPoet’s first outing

Exciting news! The MechaPoet’s first outing will be as part of Chris Parkinson’s solo show, Moonshine. The MechaPoet will have a short set, but I’d recommend going for the (human) poetry, short films and outright lies. Tickets are £5 each and the shows are on the 8th, 22nd and 29th of May. But don’t leave it till the last show to go see it as everyone else is planning to do that too.

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Stand By for Tape Backup

Hammer and Tongue returns from its summer break on Thursday evening and we’ve got a very special night in store. Our headliner is Ross Sutherland who will perform the entirety of his new show, Stand By For Tape Backup.

Ross is probably my favourite poet (well, non-Brighton poet, anyway). I love his first collection, Things to do Before you Leave Town, which is published by the fantastic Penned in the Margins press – you should listen to the title poem now.

I saw Stand By For Tape Backup at Latitude in July. Ross used to watch TV with his grandfather and found an old video tape containing some of the shows they used to enjoy. As the video plays, Ross recites an amazing monologue, synchronising perfectly with the video. Among the films and shows excerpted are the Wizard of Oz, Thriller, and a lovely sequence on the true story of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

The show is one of the best pieces of spoken word I’ve ever seen and we’re very lucky to be able to have it at Hammer and Tongue. Doors open at 7:30pm in Brighton Komedia’s studio bar, entry £5. You must come!

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