My friend Pádraig Ó Méalóid had a bit of an upset recently – organisers of the Octocon SF convention contacted him to tell him he was banned from the convention for his ‘attitude’. They then take the extremely cowardly route of saying they refuse to explain further what their reasoning is and will not debate it. Now I don’t know what their reasons are (since they make vague accusations but refuse to back them up properly), but to say there are reasons and then refuse to give them or to engage in civilised discussion makes me naturally lean to the suspicion that actually they don’t have any proper reasons that any independent person would consider serious enough to ban someone from a convention (something I’ve not heard of happening before, its pretty unprecedented, especially involving a well known member of the SF community). In fact sod being polite, I’d say that whole approach smacks of petty mindedness and childishness – by all means, Octocon organisers, explain properly and I and many others may revise that opinion, but if you won’t then I can only assume your being incredibly foolish.

Secondly I’ve known Pádraig for years; we both wrote extensively in our own spare time for The Alien Online promoting good writing; he’s written articles, essays and interviews (most recently a fabulous, in-depth piece with Bryan Talbot which we ran on the Forbidden Planet blog – part 1 here, part 2 here, highly recommended) and run successful conventions. He’s supported good reading and good authors and artists for years and as such has gained the respect and friendship of many in the science fiction and comics communities, fans, readers, writers and artists, from new talent to some of the best known names. So for Octocon to take this unprecedented action to someone many of us hold in high esteem (as well as considering a personal friend) without real explanation is not only going to give us a negative impression of them, its going to make quite a few of us rather angry to see him treated in this manner, to say nothing of it smacking of a rather undemocratic and unaccountable approach by evading establishing reasons or proper explanations, which is, frankly, baffling. I await them giving some proper explanation for this to prove they aren’t simply being vindictive over minor criticisms. And meantime I won’t be encouraging anyone to attend the convention.

"Aren’t dreams fragile?"

Even although the Bradford & Bingley has now been nationalised after falling apart like so many other financial institutions recently I notice that they are still running adverts on the TV, the ones which replaced their old ‘Mr Bradford and Mr Bingley’ chaps in their bowler hats with a more modern look and a rather cute actress in a bowler who exclaims “aren’t dreams fragile?” Seems like the bank was even more fragile… Presumably they have time slots for their ads booked in advance but it still seems odd to see adverts running for a bank that’s just failed as if everything were business as usual. The whole financial mess these idiots have gotten themselves into – and the rest of us with them – is getting scarier day by day. Personally I am preparing for the final entire meltdown of the Western financial system by keeping some small pigs under my bed to use for barter when money becomes valueless.

Meantime I note David ‘lot of talk, no actual policies’ Cameron at the Tory conference going on about who encouraged the living beyond our means society which lead to huge amounts of personal debt that has contributed to the mess? He meant the current government, of course, and while they have some responsibility I think richboy Cameron is being a bit selective – I seem to recall that it was a Tory government in the 80s which first really kick-started and encouraged the idea of living on easy credit, but I don’t see him mentioning that. And of course the history of living on credit and debt goes right back to prosecuting foreign wars, most notably fighting the French, as a way to finance foreign policy. Which reminds me, I wonder how many billions we’ve poured down foreign adventures in the last few years (to say nothing of the awful human cost), which can’t really have helped our economic health either, can it?

What’s in a name?

Dammit, after the frankly smegging stupid nonsense the Sudanese authorities have made out of a teddy bear being called Muhammad I have decided reluctantly to abandon my latest get-rich-quick scheme, marketing a range of Muhammad action figures (which would have come complete with accessories, such as a stick for beating shameless women who dare to show their eyes in public and a batch of Danish cartoons to burn). Oh well, back to the drawing board… Seriously though, getting so bloody worked up over schoolkids naming a bloody teddy bear??? Come on, get real you stupid buggers – how weak must your faith be if you think a teddy bear is such a huge threat to it?

Whatever happened to Sony

Sony seem to be capable of nothing but making themselves look like right arses these days. There was the massive scandal of the anti-copying rootkit their music CDs secretly installed without permission onto hundreds of thousands of user’s computers, causing a lot of damage, then exacerbated by their initial denials of this, then a half-hearted attempt to rectify it which was an insult to users (they ended up with government departments suing them for damage to their machines). They had huge problems with the PS3 launch. Now they have shot themselves in their own public image foot twice within days – distribution of the first Official Playstation magazine has been delayed while offensive pages from the launch part of their God of War II featured a large picture of a slaughtered goat (yeah, I mean no-one, even a non veggie, will be disgusted at a large pic of a slaughtered animal being used to promote a fucking game, eh? What retarded PR agency have the got????).

And Sony are also in trouble for using the interior of Manchester Cathedral without permission for a violent shoot-’em-up now. They say they sought permission where required, but the church points out not only did they do no such thing they now refuse to answer calls from angry church officials who, strangely enough, don’t want to see an important place of worship as the venue for a violent game, especially in a city that has suffered its share of gun crime. Once again Sony’s response seems to be to pretend there is no problem at all. One of the few Sony spokespersons to comment offered the following pathetically inadequate explanation: “It is entertainment, like Doctor Who or any other science fiction. It is not based on reality at all. Throughout the whole process we have sought permission where necessary.” Yes, it is a game, it is fantasy and I don’t agree with the moral outrage brigade who hold that games are corrupting youth any more than the ones 20 years ago who blamed violent video films, or 20 yeas before horror comics or before that rock and roll… But you can’t use a space like this without permission – a show like Doctor Who, to stick to the Sony Apparatchik’s farrago of an excuse, would seek permission well in advance and show some respect to the location. Sony didn’t do either and now refuse to talk about it to the church – I hope the church sues the arse off them.