Kickstarter Spotlight: Silicon Heart

It’s always great when a Kickstarter comes along that you can pledge for and root for and get genuinely excited about supporting. The most recent project to capture my interest (and get me reaching for my credit card) is Silicon Heart, a graphic novel project written by Sam Roads with art by Kat Nicholson.

Silicon Heart










Silicon Heart is a 120 page graphic novel, set to be published across four issues. You can download a free preview of Volume One from the Kickstarter page here.

I found out about the project via Auto Assembly as Kat Nicholson has worked on Transformers comics and has been a convention guest there in the past. If you’ve been following my Robo Reads book reviews – which tend to muse on such things as relationships with robots, and the fears and prejudices that so surround artificial intelligence – then you’ll quickly see why this particular project piqued my interest.

Here’s the blurb:

A powerful new graphic novel about love and prejudice, set thirty years from now in the Welsh Valleys.

January is a bullied teenager who finds solace in the embrace of synthetic-being Rho. Her friends and family are unready to accept this, but when January takes a stand against the prejudice of the law, no-one is prepared for what happens next…

The preview pages show just how perfectly Kat Nicholson’s sweet and charming art style complements the text of this sad and sympathetic story. I particularly appreciated the subtle disconnect between January’s words, “in the evening, I had a great night out. All my friends were there,” and the reality of her situation, as she is pictured alone in her room. We’re all guilty of embellishing the truth at times – especially since the rise of social media – but this comic captures that urge to fictionalise, and the pain of loneliness and being bullied, in a particularly poignant way. I get the impression that this sense of uncomfortable truths lurking beneath a superficially sweet exterior will extend to the comic’s world-building and society as a whole. “BLINK2ACCEPT” for example, suggests at once impressive levels of technological advancement and a very sinister level of social control and surveillance.

It’s also really refreshing to encounter a near-future set project like this that takes place in the Welsh valleys, rather than in some sprawling dystopian metropolis.  It’ll be really interesting to see where this story goes and how things progress.

The Kickstarter has a little over a week left to run and is already close to reaching its funding goal which is very encouraging. But if this great independent graphic novel interests you do please consider making a pledge and helping to spread the world to ensure January and Rho’s story can continue. There are some nice additional rewards on offer including thank you credits, numbered editions and even character sketches for higher tier backers. Find out more over on the Silicon Heart Kickstarter page.

Geek vacation: a visit to Berlin’s Computerspielemuseum

We’ve just got back from a fantastic holiday in Germany which included some time spent in Berlin. We’ve made overnight stops in the city before but this was our first chance to spend a whole day there and begin to explore it properly. Berlin has a great vibe, and there’s so much to see and do: from the powerful experience that is visiting the remains of The Wall and reading its history at the Checkpoint Charlie exhibition, to admiring the iconic architecture of the Brandenburg Gate, soaking up culture on Museum Island, or laughing at the procession of animal-print styled Trabants belching out fumes as they drive in procession through the centre for a hilarious “Trabi-Safari.” But while we made time for many of these well known tourist experiences, we here at AddAltMode simply couldn’t resist the opportunity to enjoy a slightly less famous Berlin attraction and – in doing so – to cross off another wish from our geek bucket list. I’m talking, of course, about paying a visit to the Berlin Computerspielemuseum (Video Game Museum), also known as Geek Heaven.

museum, exterior

Ooh heaven is a place on earth

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Transformers Prime Skullcruncher: G1 Nostalgia

Grax transforms into Skullcrucher's head... it's complicated.

Character-model images of Skullcruncher and his Headmaster Partner Grax. (Images From Transformers Generations)

Skullcruncher was a Decepticon in Transformers Generation one. He transformed into a pinkish-red and dark-green robot alligator – not a crocodile, his upper jaw is wider than the lower one, and the lower jaw’s teeth are obscured when his mouth is closed… Herpetological concerns aside, he was a brutish and feral (although not stupid), Decepticon, used as muscle and cannon fodder by various post-Megatron Decepticon leaders like Scorponok and Bludgeon. His human-sized partner Grax transforms into Skullcruncher’s robot-mode head.

Seperated at Birth construction? Pandemic From transformers universe and Beast Hunters Knock-Out.

Seperated at birth construction? Facial close-ups of Pandemic from Transformers Universe and Beast Hunters Knock Out.

I obtained the reptilian Beast Hunters Knock Out very cheaply, and had in mind using him as the base for a custom figure of the Transformers Universe character Pandemic. However, I changed my mind, and found a new inspiration when discussing the Headmasters from Generations 1.

In Transformers: Prime (at least until the Robots In Disguise subfranchise), Decepticons don’t have beast modes per se, so the alligator-ish warrior Skullcruncher would be likely to look more like a reptilian car in his alt-mode than like an actual reptile. With that train of thought in my head, I began to work on a simple customisation for Knock Out.

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Starscream Saturday!

If you were only allowed to keep and collect one single character from Transformers who would it be?

B got quite distressed when I asked him that question and said he couldn’t bear to think about it, but eventually he conceded if that if he had to go all Highlander and there really could be only one he would pick Ultra Magnus. B is a big Ultra Magnus fan. Me? I’d choose Starscream. At this point you’d be forgiven for wondering how the two of us have managed to remain happily married for almost 7 years when our world views are clearly a little disparate…. Let’s just say that opposites attract and that taste in transforming robots thankfully doesn’t map neatly onto real world behavioural traits.

Anyway, the nice thing about Transformers is how un-Highlander the franchise is. Even limiting things to just one character doesn’t mean you have to have just one figure or even one uniform look. One of the things I like about Starscream is that he’s had quite a few different looks in the various shows, comics and game lines but whether blocky or sleek he’s always unmistakably himself.

Team Scream

Team Scream: my Starscream collection

I don’t have a huge Starscream collection by any means, but he is the single character of whom I have the most different figures, and I just added a new one (new to me, but actually an older toy) Voyager Transformers Animated Starscream, so this seems like a good excuse to officially name this #StarscreamSaturday and talk a little about the figures I have got.

So read on for Screamery goodness…. or villainy, really, I guess. Which is like the opposite of goodness.

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Book Review: He, She and It by Marge Piercy

Robo Reads

Title: He, She and It 
Author: Marge Piercy
First Published: 1991 by Ballantine

Isn’t it a rare but exhilarating thing when a book comes along that ticks almost all of your personal reading boxes? For me, He, She and It is one such book. It’s a work of feminist (tick),  dystopian (tick), cyberpunk science-fiction but with a strongly literary flavour (triple tick) that also features an affecting and pretty damn sexy robot romance plot (yes that’s a big tick for me too, which should surprise nobody). Piercy’s novel also contains many ingredients – such as its elements of Jewish history and mysticism – that I wouldn’t necessarily seek out in a book but which actually proved fascinating. The novel features two interlinked stories, one set in a grim near-future of nuclear fallout and environmental destruction and one set in 1600s Prague. Despite their very different locales both narratives explore, in a way that is both searching and sympathetic, the consequences of creating an artificial being that can think – and, crucially, feel – for itself.

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Top 10 Vehicon Deaths in Transformers Prime

The Transformers Prime cartoon has brought some great additions to the franchise. If I had to list my personal favourites I would probably include: Knock Out (don’t even ask me how much I love Knock out); Arcee as a blue motorcycle, and Vehicons. Now AddAltModeB would probably headdesk himself into unconsciousness if I devoted a whole Top Ten article just to Knock Out (although I totally could do it), and Prime Arcee gets plenty of love on this blog already, so today I’m going to talk Vehicons.

The term ”Vehicon” isn’t unique to Prime, but that show is responsible for introducing them as the Stormtroopers of the TF universe: that is, as Deception henchbots, mostly identical and always nameless (Starscream usually refers to them as “You there,” the TF fandom typically calls them all “Steve”). Usually turning in to sleek cars or jets, Steves have a fantastic design – and the Deluxe Vehicon toy is truly one of the nicest figures in the Prime toy range –  but their looks don’t negate the fact that they cannot aim a blaster if their lives depended on it (which often they do) and that they exist largely as cannon fodder. The Vehicons are actually threatening for about, ooh three quarters of the duration of the first episode. After that it’s pretty clear they’re just going to be mooks, who exist to provide scale and some kick-ass fight scenes in a show that otherwise has a very small cast of characters.

"The Stormtroopers of the TF Universe"

“The Stormtroopers of the TF Universe”

We may not know their names, but Vehicons are responsible for some really memorable scenes in the Transformers Prime TV show, both in terms of action and humour, and many many Vehicons gave their lives to make that series what it was. This post will honour the fallen ones. Although honour doesn’t always bring respect.

WARNING: Contains spoilers for all 3 seasons of TF Prime.

Many Vehicons were harmed in the making of this blog post….

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The Legend of Metal

If you don’t know what The Legend of Zelda is, then you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of decades. As I’m sure all of us non-troglodytes are aware, the first game in the series had a fantastic soundtrack by Kondō Kōji:

Well, I’m not ashamed to say that I think Kondō is a genius. He managed to wring epic grandeur out of the NES’s little Ricoh 2A03 sound-chip. Various orchestras, bands and solo muscians have been inspired by his work. Today I want to talk about some of my favourite versions of this track. Versions that raawk!

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Book Review: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Robo Reads

Title: I, Robot
Author: Isaac Asimov
First Published: 1950

It would just be wrong if I progressed very far with this Robo Reads feature – discussing books that deal with robots, AI and humanity’s relationship with technology – before reviewing this absolute classic of the genre. Over the years, certain highly influential stories generate tremendous cultural resonance: they get quoted and misquoted, and they inspire other books, films and games in all hues of homage, critique, pastiche and plagiarism. The best known tales of H.P. Lovecraft would be one example of this phenomenon, and I, Robot is certainly another. In both cases it’s easy to feel like you know the story even if you’ve never picked up the book. So finally reading the original texts can actually be quite an odd experience, simultaneously foreign and familiar, rather like meeting a long-lost relative for the first time: you may be instantly connected by a shared history, even a strong physical resemblance, but at the same time you’re also facing a complete stranger.

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Numenera vs. Transformers Prime

Numenera is a tabletop RPG developed by Monte Cook Games. It’s also the setting of the upcoming video game Torment: Tides of Numenera… which was the thing that took my Kickstarter virginity.

These guys are awesome. The glaive is my fave!

Three example player characters (Source: Numenera Corebook p2, © Monte Cook Games, LLC)

Anyway, there’s a lot of thematic similarities beftween Numenera and Transformers: Prime – despite them actually being not that similar. One is a tabletop RPG set in the very distant future, and sitting loosley in the Dying Earth genre of science fantasy, and the other is a science-fiction adventure cartoon created to sell toy robots.  A little while ago, AddAltModeR and I talked about this at 2am whilst unable to sleep. The more I thought about it, the more I thought this connection is worth nerding over looking at in detail, so here we go. Continue reading

Free Comic Book Day 2015 Part 2: Slipstream and Friends!

free-comic-book-dayPart 2 of my write up of the Free Comic Book Day event at Moving Pictures, Exeter. Part 1 can be found here.

There are many, many reasons I enjoy cosplay. I love enjoy the creative challenge of building the costume (most of the time, anyway – occasionally I hate it), and of course I love being able to share my fandom in a very public way. I also like how I look as a robot. Seriously if we had the technology to upload ourselves into robot bodies, I would be elbowing my way to the front of the queue right now. But another reason why cosplay fills me with such glee is the confidence boost that comes with dressing up. I am an introvert and though I do fine with public speaking and in a people-facing role at work, when it comes to being spontaneously social and meeting new people I am, more often than, not just a bundle of awkward nerves. In costume, however, it’s different. The first time I went out as Arcee it was truly a revelation to me how much I  enjoyed the attention, and how much easier I found it to chat to other people. Slipstream was the same, and I really enjoyed interacting with passers-by and with some of the wonderful fellow costumers who came out to celebrate the wonder of free comics.

Seeing as in Transformers Animated Slipstream is voiced by the one and only Tara Strong  I think I can legitimately make the “Friendship is Magic” reference in this context. So here are some of the friends  – likely and less so – I made on Saturday:

Friendship is Magic!

Khorne Bezerker + Evil robot. Friendship is Magic Heresy!

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