Naked for Christmas

December 17, 2015 by Tony C. Smith
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District of Wonders


Yes… I bet that got you wondering. But we are going naked – that bit is true. We are now naked with our newsletters. What did you think I meant? No more images going forward 2016 with the newsletters. I want to concentrate on content and not just a flowery magazine style feel. We were spending loads of time tweaking images and layout and that’s not what I want… I want to provide you with great information and content. So let’s pretend there’s sprigs of holly pasted around this email and you can hear very subtle sleigh bells in the background! Imagination is what the District of Wonders is all about!

Speaking of: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from ALL of us at the District of Wonders. I hope you will have a great time over the festive season. No word of a lie… we have had the Christmas decorations up since the 11th November at District HQ, I kid you not! May I also say a massive thank you to all who have signed up to the newsletter lately? It means a lot. Thank you all.

A little technical news now. We are in the middle of transitioning our newsletter from Mailchimp to Convertkit. I’ll be asking you some questions now and going forward in order to make sure you receive the articles and resources that are most helpful to you. I’ll be writing and delivering material about few different topics, and we have eBooks and courses developed that are geared toward certain interests. To make sure you get just the material you want, I’m now inviting you now to join this list.

This is what it’s about:

All of you out there who want to grow your audience (for any creative ventures – Writing, Podcasts, Kickstarter campaigns, etc) and Make Money from your content, CLICK THIS LINK to join this Newsletter. Here’s what it will get you: Whether you are a writer, blogger, podcaster, Kickstarter or Patreon client, etc., I will be sharing my experience of how to build an engaged audience that want to support your work, and invest in your products and campaigns. I’ve been doing this for ten years and have had over 7 million downloads of my shows in that time – not to mention building an amazing supportive community who have put their time, dollars, blood, sweat, and tears into loads of successful projects and events. This is your chance to find out how. If you’re a writer, I have loads of advice for getting out of the slush pile and onto an editor’s desk. We will have guest editors here sharing valuable tips on what you can do to improve your chances to get your work published. Plus, you will be invited into the Submissions Desk Club House. This is a place where you can chat with fellow writers, and share your experiences of the highs and lows of marketing your stories. And that’s just the beginning! My goal is to make this “new” newsletter your gateway to loads of information and material that will really help you on your way in this world of online engagement. Please please please click on the link to be on this email list… and let us know what you think!

So… on with the show – enjoy.


Rcommended Book: Roboteers by Alex Lamb
Human embryos were “edited” in China this year, and the scientific world is up in arms about it. CRISPR and Cas9 technologies allow DNA to be manipulated in a fashion analogous to the way script-kiddies download and stitch together blocks of code to create new applications; for example, creating designer micro pets. This was controversial, but prepared no-one for the furore which broke out in 2015 over the possible creation of viable human embryos in Chinese laboratories. Disputes over the nature of “purity” of human beings will be more multi-faceted than the simpler pro-life/pro-choice debates of the last fifty years, but probably just as heated. How will different societies respond?
Alex Lamb showed uncanny timing when he released his Hard SF novel Roboteer under the tagline, “One species. One Universe. Two Sides.” He projects the dilemmas that genetech will create into our futures. The background to the book is a familiar conflict: Mother Earth wants her errant children to come back to her arms. Momma knows best and the kids have been so terribly naughty. Lamb’s future Earth is ruled by a tyrannical zealot who employs science, religion and warfare to bring former colonies to heel. Unlike the Earthers, the colonials adapt to their environs with genetic and cybernetic mods to make them faster, stronger, tougher and networked. They are heavily outnumbered, and the real story begins when they find a sublimed gardener civilisation and its deadly weapons.
Colonial Roboteer, Will Kuno-Monet and his people will be OK because the sublimed want to prune only those civilisations who do not wish to improve and grow. Does Will owe his oppressors any protection from the judgement of the sublimed?
Lamb’s writing is solid, and the range of character types allows his novel to comfortably fall into the category of Space Opera. Although the book is Hard SF, the science leans towards “conveniently magical.” An interesting feature of the story is the descriptions of ships as complex leviathans with only tiny pockets of crew space. Military buffs with an eye to the Cold War will recognise weapons platforms where the crew were annoying biological afterthoughts. Similarly, the book takes us to conceivable scenarios for the effects of automation on economies and societies. Ultimately, the book can be recommended for the typical Sofanaut as it’s chock-full of compelling baddies, light years of space chases and buckets of derring-do. In particular, ‘Roboteers’ would find a home in the Chrimbo stocking of any Space Opera or Military SF fan.

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From Tales to Terrify: The Most Horrible X-mas Ever” – Invader Zim

by Scott Silk

This holiday season, while many are snuggling up to watch Charlie Brown attempt to decorate an impotent evergreen, I will be enjoying my own favorite animated X-mas special which portrays a slightly darker vision of holiday cheer. I’m referring, of course, to “The Most Horrible X-mas Ever” episode of the Invader Zim television series.

In 2001, when Invader Zim first aired, I was already a fan of his more adult-oriented comic books like “Johnny the Homicidal Maniac” and “Squee!,” and I remember being somewhat awed that Vasquez had managed to maintain a style mostly unsuitable for children when putting together the series for the Nickelodeon network. The series is centered around alien invader Zim and his failed attempts to conquer Earth. To this end, he disguises his malfunctioning robot sidekick as a green dog and himself as a green-skinned, human schoolchild. He is recognized and often thwarted by his paranormal-minded schoolmate, Dib.

If you’ve never been exposed to the work of Jhonen Vasquez, it’s best described as dark comedic horror. The settings are frequently nightmare worlds which are parodies of our own, and the people who populate Vasquez’s worlds, especially the children, are frequently portrayed as revolting creatures. In Invader Zim, for example, the fast food “shakes” at MacMeaties are made entirely of nauseatingly processed meats, an obvious jab at McDonald’s french fries containing inexplicable cow flavorings, but the populous appears to love nothing more.

The scene of the X-mas special opens on Mr. Sludgy, the robotic snowman, 2 million years in the future. He’s telling a group of small, hideous children gathered around a fire the story of The Most Horrible X-mas Ever. That holiday season, Zim hatched a plan to impersonate Santa Claus in order to convince the entire population of Earth to build a space teleporter capable of sending all humans to their doom. One human asks, “Will being teleported to our doom be fun and X-masy?” Of course it will.

SPOILER ALERT As usual, Zim’s technology turns on him, and the Santa suit he created as a disguise gains a mind of it’s own and transforms into a horrifying X-mas monster. Thankfully, Dib, with the help of his sister and father, is able to subdue the suit and save X-mas by shooting Santa into space. Back in the future with Mr. Sludgy, Santa apparently lives on. Not in the hearts and minds of the children, but in space, where he rests and gains power in order to return to Earth for another X-mas attack.
I received another message by chronorobopigeon from 2005, back when I started StarShipSofa. See if you can make any sense of it, ’cause I’m b*ggered if I can!:

Dear Tony,
I can’t believe I’ve finally seen the last ever Star Wars movie – and it’s left me with so many more questions than I had when I saw the first one. Why does ObiWan Kenobi wear Jedi Uniform on Tatooine when he’s trying to hide and look after young Luke? Why doesn’t anyone recognise C3PO and R2D2? What is the point of the Jedi Academy if you can learn to be a Jedi in a week in a swamp? Why would Vader (or Palpatine?) let there be 3 Sith if they managed to turn Luke to the Dark Side? Someone would get killed! What happened to R2D2’s rockets? How did C3PO get built in the first place? How can Leia remember her “Kind but Sad” mum? Did George Lucas actually watch Eps 4 5 and 6 before making 1 2 and 3??? Well Tony, when you read this in ten years time, hopefully Star Wars will have faded from public consciousness along with the bad taste in my mouth. I hope they’re still making Science Fiction movies in the future. What’s the blockbuster this year? I hope it’s not some godawful rubbish from Disney.


Craig Napier, Gold Coast Australia, 12 Dec 2005.

And there you have it – all wrapped up for 2015. We will be taking a break over the festive holiday. The District of Wonders Newsletter will be back in January 2016. So… however you celebrate this time of year, have a great time over the holidays. Let me know what you get up to – I’d love to hear from you.

See you in 2016! Tony

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