British Periodicals Online – Christmas Story [Amy Aspin]

Amy Aspin’s reply

The festive season (sober fact) written for “Judy : or The London serio-comic journal”, published on the 24th December 1884, is an article all about the seemingly worst parts of Christmas. The beginning of the article starts by saying “The festive season (sober fact) means purchasing a heavy-priced turkey on Christmas eve. Staying up late to fix up mistletoe and holly decorations. Rising late on Christmas morning; spanking the children for stealing mince pies; abusing the cook for getting tipsy before dinner; hacking at the overcharged-for under-done bird with a blunt knife at dinnertime- hacking verily amidst the cries of an unsympathetic wife, and still more unsympathetic children that, “pa’s in a rage”.” This article shows how many things about Christmas are painstaking and, especially for the father, an overall nuisance. I think that by gradually worsening the array of problems as the list does on, it does show the way in which these problems are more suited to a middle-class man more than anything else. This story does seem to be centred on a more modern (for the time period anyway) Christmas than a traditional, religious one. By talking of turkeys, mine-pies and ice-skating its clear that this is not a religiously focused Christmas article. The way that the author writes about these Christmas experiences can be seen as almost cynical, as though the author is disgusted by the whole notion of Christmas. The way they describe “an unsympathetic wife, and still more unsympathetic children”, shows the lack of compassion and a lack of caring for family which is especially shocking around this festive period which can be seen as centred around family. I believe this article was written with a sense of dark humour as it is a comic, so the cynical attitude is not to be taken too seriously, especially with the addition of the humorous illustrations. This dark humour may have been more popular among the middle-class men it seems to be reaching out to. The repetition of “the festive season (sober fact)” adds to the argument that this is merely an article in a comic showing some dark humour about this particular holiday. The author clearly had an intention with this article, which was to turn the seemingly bad parts of Christmas and portray them using slightly darker humour than is to be expected around this festive holiday.

Fallen London Game Review [Amy Aspin]

This is Amy Aspin’s review

In all honesty, after downloading Fallen London I proceeded to delete in not an hour later. While the promise of a literary, decision-making adventure proved to be an exciting prospect while I waited for the game to download on my phone, the actual game itself turned out to be quite disappointing. The actual literary part of the game, the stories, seemed to cut off and move on to a different story before you had a chance to fully understand what was happening with your character. I found the plot of these stories to be quite fun and imaginative, but at the same time wildly confusing. The stories themselves don’t follow a linier time progression and instead go back and forth only adding to the confusion. While I would agree that this game can be seen as a form of literature, with its incredible complex stories, I do have to say that it wasn’t the game for me. However it can be said that with the games multiple story focus instead of just one clear plot line, it does give the player a greater sense of playing in an open world with many choices and opportunities.

British Periodicals Online Review

My review is of ‘A Christmas Story’

Written in 1897 and released under the publishing company ‘Fun’, this short story starts with a caption from who I presume to be the author; it reads, ‘This tale should not be read by persons of weak intellect’. As this is a story of satirical humour, I expect this is a joke from the author however the authenticity is up for question. The story starts by setting the Christmas scene, yule logs burning and the whistling breeze, it introduces Count Orfal, with little background given we can only assume he is a man of aristocracy in the local area, wherever that may be. He speaks of his 30 year grievance over his missing son. Three of the count’s servants and acquaintances enter his quarters one by one to pass on information.

He kills the first servant because he begins to apologise, expecting the servant to be the kidnapper to his son, he readies himself. Upon the servant admitting all he did was break a bowl, the Count kills him anyway. His neighbour then enters to tell him of the mine close by that holds coal, after stating he ‘has something to tell him that he has been waiting to for a long time’. Upon realising he is not talking about the kidnapping of his son, the Count murders the neighbour also. The third person enters, a servant who speaks of a ‘surprise’ for the Count. The Count begins to suspect her of the kidnapping of his son once again, and when she simply tells the Count that the servants have put up a Christmas tree for him, he murders her. After hiding all three bodies, his son finally returns to him. The Count’s joy is quickly bittered and he blames the deaths of the three on him and states ‘Your dare turn up like this … when I have just sent three innocent people to their account for murdering you! Beezoks! but you had better join them’ – he then begins a deadly struggle with his son which leaves the two of them dead in the final paragraph. The story ends with a sort of sentiment; ‘the count and his son had also fallen victims to parental affection and a too hasty temper’.

An interest point with these murders is that each time a person died, the Count recalls that he would have forgiven them, had they admitted their doing in kidnapping his son. With the last woman, he even offers her gold post-death had she given the confession that he ‘was looking for’. There was no way out alive once these servants had started speaking.

All of these murders can be put down to the fact that they all lead him on initially with ambiguous introductions, his parental affection takes over and all he can think about is his son. Even when their final words are of nothing but mundane subjects, his temper takes over and critical thinking is replaced by rash decisions which leads to their deaths. The satire is put on strong, and it’s very ironically comedic in the finale. The feelings that have caused him to kill his own people were the same feelings being acted upon while killing his own son. The parental affection and hasty temper over the kidnapping of his son lead to the death of his actual son by the Count’s hand.

This 100 year old story is a dark and funny read, though it is only short. It’s a quick burst of satire and a play on the affection given by parents and the lengths they would go to for their children.

Bibliography

“A Christmas Story.” 1897.Fun 66 (1702): 198. http://ezproxy.tees.ac.uk/docview/5870107?accountid=14650.

Library Visit

After not going to the library for approximately ten years, going again recently was a very different experience. As a child, my local library was very small, and there was only a very small selection of children’s books. When visiting a larger local library, I noticed that there was a lot more choice in books, even in the children’s and teenage sections compared to what I remember from my childhood.

Another difference that I immediately noticed was the electronic machines used to check out books instead of having a librarian stamp my books with the dates they would be due. At first, I felt rather intimidated by these machines having never seen or used one before. However, after using one of these I noticed that there are clear and easy to follow instructions throughout the checkout process. Another thing that was different was that I got a receipt printed with the books I had checked out and when they were due back. This to me is an improvement, as previously I had only had the due dates stamped into the front of each book. The receipt is a good way to keep track of which books you currently are lending in case you misplace or forget about one.

Overall, I enjoyed revisiting the library and would recommend going to others due to the large range of books available and the simplicity of the system to lend and return books.

Wattpad

When first logging into the app Wattpad, you are asked for your gender and age. After that, a short list of books is brought up and the app asks you to choose three that interest you. When looking through these options, I noticed that the app cleary labels each short story and book with a genre, and in some cases lets you know if the story is still in the editing process or not.

I decided to add 3 different titles from this list into my library, each with a different genre. One of the books I chose was a disney fan fiction story. After reading the first few sentences of this, I found that I agreed with Kirci in the article “The tales teens tell: what Wattpad did for girls”. Kirci states that she soon grew tired of using Wattpad due to the poor use of spelling, grammar and planning, which I found to be the case in many of the books on this site, especially in the fan fiction genre.

To see what else the app has to offer, I chose to look at another book, this time a something from the paranormal genre. This book also stated that it was a “Wattys 2015 Winner”. After reading the first few sentences of this story, I noticed that the writing seemed more sophisticated and had used correct grammar and spelling throughout, with only a couple of small mistakes. However, as this was a book that released chapters weekly, between chapters there were messages from the author that I felt broke the immersion in the story and made it more difficult to remain interested in.

However, after browsing through all of the different books and novellas this app has to offer, I did realise that I do still agree with Kirci that this app is a good thing for young teenage girls as it seems to have sparked their interest in reading again, and even inspires some to write things that could go on to get published as she did.

Publishing companies and what they’re about

There are many major publishing companies that work with both aspiring and inspiring writers, some well-established and others rising. My choice of a major publishing company was Penguin Books.

Penguin Books is a British publishing house which was co-founded by Sir Allen Lane and his brothers, Richard and John in 1935. Penguin Books were revolutionary in their part of publishing inexpensive paperback books in English high streets, their part in allowing a wider reading list was pivotal in how we can easily access so many books now.  This was their goal.

I chose Penguin Books as they have a plethora of different genres that they publish, this ranges from children’s books such as  Tom Fletcher’s “The Christmasaurus”, to Clive Cussler’s “Typhoon Fury” which is a suspense novel focusing on war in the Phillipines – both from Penguin Books publishing.

Penguin books also have some off-shooting ventures that further broaden the range of books in their arsenal, one of these being ‘Puffin books’ which is designed for ages 7+ and is focused solely on children’s authors such as Roald Dahl, Jeff Kinney and Jacqueline Wilson. They also advertise another service for younger children aged 0-7 called “Ladybird”.

It’s appropriate for Penguin books to have all of these different services that aid children in reading from such an early age, it goes to show that their original ideals of creating in-expensive paperback books to allow a larger population to read is still in full effect, even today.

Game Review – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an open world RPG set in a fictional world of monsters, questionable aristocrats and intrigue. The backstory to The Witcher lore is vast and full of interesting talking points, one of my favourite being its integration of Polish folklore and its place in The Witcher series, from Leshens and Ghouls to Wraiths and Botchlings – most of the monsters in The Witcher series are takes on Polish folklore, for instance, the Botchling is based on the Poroniec, a terrible demon spawned from the anguish of a stillborn child in Slavic mythology.

This sets the tone for The Witcher 3, the third game in the series and the product of a long line of successful books, 13 books in total. The world of The Witcher is a dark and groggy one, horse-trodden roads that lead in and out of war-torn ruins of castles, shrill cries of monsters at every bend in the road and a healthy human population to serve as nourishment for the creatures that live just moments away from their villages. Humans live in adjacency with the monsters that hunt them after a catastrophic event known as the Conjunction of the Spheres some 1,500 years before the novel’s timeline, which brought upon hordes of monsters to be trapped in the human dimension – thus creating the need for a Witcher.

You play as Geralt of Rivia, the butcher of Blaviken. A Witcher. Your initial purpose in the game is to find a woman, Yennefer, a sorceress who Geralt has grown close to but has lost recently. Geralt then finds Yennefer in a quaint province called White Orchard, she then takes you to the ruling lord, Emperor Emhyr var Emreis of the Nilfgaardian Empire, the most powerful Empire in the history of the known world and a stark enemy of the free people in the North, many belonging to ‘The Northern Realms’, this is relevant as the Nilfgaardian Empire are amidst an invasion on the North and war is common place in these lands. This Emperor tasks you with the objective of finding his daughter, Cirila, of which Geralt is also her unrelated guardian  – Witchers and Sorcerers are sterile. There is also a plethora of factions that have differing attitudes about Witchers, war and the treatment of races; of which there are many in The Witcher. A lot to take in, that’s for sure.

It doesn’t slow down anytime soon however. Whilst you wrap your head around the tales and twists that are brought on by this Nilfgaardian figure head, it is also your trade to hunt and kill monsters. It’s not a noble or driving duty by a Witcher, it’s purely for gain as they are travellers who have been given great power by the ‘Trials of the Grasses’ – an extensive gauntlet of pain-inducing, mettle-testing and agonizing tasks given to a Witcher when he becomes of age, most of the children die in the process. Witchers are treated with disdain among most of the population, seen as outcasts and freaks that kill for sport. They are painted with a blood thirsty brush and hold no place in their communities, unless something needs to be slaughtered.

As Geralt, you barter with the populace, collect bounties for monsters, collect trophies that you can adorn and show off, traverse the treachery of political gain and adversary, make your moral mark in taxing situations, get caught up in aristocratic rivalries between great Empires, explore the depth of the lore and hack and slash your way through monster nests, all whilst revealing the mysteries of the incredibly well written and detailed storyline offered to you. The action in The Witcher 3 is second to none, it’s exhilarating and fresh, every scenario you’re put in is immersive and more than not, bloody. This is however not it’s main focus, although the combat is well polished and fine-crafted, a lot of the intrigue comes in the form of it being a role-playing game that truly lets you play your role, many of the choices that come in the story are tailored to how you play, react and act. The game itself has 36 possible end game states, which are dictated by how you take on certain tasks.

In conclusion, I would concretely and with no wavering thoughts, absolutely endorse and recommend this game. Its incredible story, controls and immersion are second to none and it is easily my favourite RPG of all time – if not my favourite game. It has had massive acclaim around the world to no surprise and the producers of the game have been hailed as heroes in the gaming community for their incredible deliverance in its craftsmanship that is The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

Game Review – Persona 5

Persona 5 is a  narrative driven Japanese RPG centred around a teenage boy and his friends in Tokyo who have the ability to change people’s hearts. Similar to the other games in the Persona series, this is done by entering the Metaverse and going into someone’s Palace. The characters and story are different from the other games in the series however, because this time you form a group called The Phantom Thieves and change people’s hearts by stealing the treasure that is deep within the palaces. There is also a lot of clever symbolism in the game, as each Palace represents one of the seven deadly sins.

There is a very unique art style within the game, and the colours red, black and white are mainly used throughout the game whilst in the Metaverse. There are many anime style animated scenes within the game. While watching these, the interest of the player is piqued as these usually happen when there is a major advancement in the story. There is also a huge element of mystery in this story which kept me playing for hours, as there is someone else in the Metaverse that is causing mental shutdowns and death in many people and blaming The Phantom Thieves. The main story revolves around finding out who this person and how they are causing these events, while also proving the innocence of The Phantom Thieves. However, as well as having an exciting mystery, there is also a large element of slice of life within the game as you have to continue to live a normal student life throughout the story by going to school and taking exams.

The combat in this game is turn based, and attacks are made by using Personas. Having simple turn based game-play makes it easy to pick up and play the game, even if you have spent a long time away from it. The character you play as, Joker, has the ability to use multiple personas and fuse them to create new ones. When fusing personas, there is an option to view the backstory of each one. This gives the game some great readable content and short stories throughout the game, which really made me feel immersed in the Persona world and excited to see what the next available Personas would be.

Another way in which this game introduces more short stories that are optional for the player are when relationships are formed with other characters. As you higher your relationship level with people, more of their backstory is revealed as well as skills gained that can be used in both Palaces and the real world. This can allow the players to form a connection with all of the characters in the story and make you want to continue playing the game in order to find out what happens or did happen to all of the characters. 

Overall, I would definitely recommend this game to others because of the main story line being very exciting and interesting, but also because of the way that you can be fully immersed in this world by all of the details that have been put into other characters and locations in this world. The game-play is very easy to pick up and play even for those who have never played anything like this in the past, and is also very easy to come back to after some time away.

Neil Gaiman Biography

Neil Richard Gaiman was born in Hampshire in the UK in the year 1960. His family are of Polish-Jewish and other Eastern European origins. He has two younger sisters, Claire and Lizzie.

The family moved from Hampshire to West Sussex in 1965 so that his parents could study at the Scientology centre in the town. The family were all raised as Jewish Scientologist. However, Gaiman does not consider himself to be a Scientologist now, and that it is his family’s religion(1)

As a child, he discovered a love for reading and books after reading the works of C.S Lewis, Tolkien, Edgar Allan Poe among many others. He describes himself as a “feral child who was raised in libraries”. He says that he was at his happiest when his parents would drop him off at the library on their way to work and he would spend the whole day there, He also credits librarians with a lifelong love of reading. He also states that he would not be the person he is without libraries(2).

Gaiman went to several Church of England Schools for education. However, his fathers’s position in the Church of Scientology as a public relations official resulted in Gaiman at the age of seven being blocked from entering a boys’ school, meaning he was forced to stay at his previous school in East Grimstead. He lived in East Grimstead for many years and even met his wife, Mary McGrath there. She was studying Scientology and living in a house that was owned by Gaiman’s father when they met. They married in 1985, after they had had their first child, Michael(3).

Footnotes

1- Wikipedia, “Neil Gaiman”, available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neil_Gaiman accessed 09/11/2017.

2-Neil Gaiman, “Biography”, available at http://www.neilgaiman.com/About_Neil/Biography , accessed 09/11/2017 

3- Wikipedia, “Neil Gaiman”.

“Ebooks are changing the way we read, and the way novelists write” and “Why Do We Always Proclaim That the Novel Is Dead”

In the article “Ebooks are changing the way we read, and the way novelists write”, Mason writes that the attention span has shortened and people are now reading on devices such as mobile phones and kindles, and “dipping into them in the coffee queue or on public transport”. In my opinion, this is not something that has been caused solely by ebooks as all of technology has had a part to play in this. In the past before technology, reading was a way of escapism for people whereas now escapism can be achieved through many things, like watching television and playing games. To me, it does not seem necessarily bad that people choose to read small segments while doing things like using public transport because it means that people still value reading and the novel as a source of entertainment. It means that the novel is not actually dead.

Liesl Schillinger’s response to “Why do we always Proclaim that the Novel Is Dead” raises many good points. For example, she talks about the fact that the people who proclaim that the novel is dead are people like her professor, who want to be the deciders of what is “good” literature. To say that the novel is dead when there are “richly realised fictional worlds that rise all around them” seems to me to mean that the literary novel is dying, not the idea of novels overall. The way that people like her professor and Will Self proclaim this idea makes me think that only their idea of what real literature is appear to be dying. Things such as literary novels however, are sometimes not actually thought as such at the time they are written. There could be things out there right now that in the future will come to be literary novels, they just may not be recognised as such right now. To continue to discredit all of current literature can only discourage writers and could even move along the process of the death of the novel.

What are everyone else’s views on this?