Editorial Cartoon: British Comedy

Well, I hadn’t planned to make an editorial cartoon today but, after watching the news earlier, I felt it only fitting to make a quick cartoon about the history of British comedy. After all, this is probably the only way to make sense of what has happened in politics today. Seriously, you couldn’t make it up!

Since this is a parody/satirical cartoon, it is NOT released under any kind of Creative Commons licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Editorial Cartoon – British Comedy” By C. A. Brown

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Three Achingly Hip (And On-Trend) Tips For Writing A Modern Novel

Well, I thought that I’d start April’s roster of articles by talking about hip, new, modern fiction. After all, who wants to read old books? What can they teach us about how to write great fiction for today?

Nothing, that’s what!

Just like how literally every gamer will agree that the very latest computer and video games are always the best, every reader is eager to read the latest modern fiction. So, how can you write it?

Here are a few tips, hot off of the press smartphone (I mean, who uses *ugh* printing presses these days? What is this? 1619?)

1) Tomes (or GTFO): You’re never going to believe this but, back in the bad old days, novels were often only a measly 200-300 pages in length. Talk about lazy writing! I mean, these “novels” were the kind of thing that people could read in just a couple of days. It’s practically fraud!

Thankfully, just like how those cool people in Hollywood have realised that the deep and complex drama of a superhero film requires a running time of at least two hours, many modern writers and publishers are giving their readers value for money! In fact, the best modern novels can be so long that most of their readers don’t even finish them. Talk about generosity!

Not only that, the widespread acceptance of 800 -or even 900 – page novels has freed modern writers from the oppressive tyranny of the editors! No longer does a writer have to justify a rich, expansive story to some miserable pen-pusher or agonise about whether their story really needs that 10-page description of a houseplant. No, modern readers want the author’s full artistic vision, in all of it’s majestic length.

In the bad old days, a novel used to be considered to be a paltry 50,000 words or more. These days, if you don’t fill at least a gigabyte of your audience’s e-readers or smartphones (since, like, who uses dead trees any more?), then you are short-changing them! So, remember, the more words the better!

2) Plain Packaging: This will probably disgust you, but back in the bad old days, book covers often used to look like tawdry film posters. A writer’s masterpiece would be handed to some artist who would try to make some patronisingly melodramatic fan art based on it. And the result would often be offensively vivid, shockingly melodramatic and hideously low-brow.

Thankfully, things have been streamlined and regulated these days 🙂 Gone are the glaringly bold and vivid colours of old – a modern novel cover should be rendered in gloomy greys (for thrillers and detective stories) or serene pastels (for everything else). This helps to ensure that no book cover breaks the mellow, ordered harmony of any respectable shop’s website.

Of course, for truly respectable literary novels, there should be no visual elements whatsoever on the cover – just the title and a plain, or lightly patterned, background. This helps to ensure that nothing distracts from the adoring critic quotes on the cover, in addition to ensuring that your readers know that it is a serious novel.

Then again, with the widespread popularity of electronic books, who even needs cover art these days? It’s just a racket to keep those grubby artists in business! So, don’t be afraid to signal your defiance against this painterly cartel by insisting that your latest work is released as a good, honest, plain text file (in Courier, for added authenticity).

3) Social apps: If there’s one terrible thing about reading books it’s that they’re so solitary. It’s like it’s just you and the author. Like you actually have to think and things. Don’t you know that there’s science that says that being alone is bad for you. And, on a more concerning note, who knows what subversive or offensive thoughts might creep into your mind if you have to endure actual privacy whilst reading.

Well, fear no more! One of of the amazing advancements of the electronic reading revolution is that books can now be read on smartphones. And this means that the soma familiar safe haven of social media is no more than a second away at all times 🙂 So, your novel should be written with this in mind.

First of all. All sentences should be short. For easier live-tweeting. #Progress!

There should also be a “like” button on, like, every page too, so that your readers can signal to their friends that they’re, like, actually reading – and, more importantly, what they’re reading. After all, we can’t have people reading the wrong books, can we?

Likewise, don’t worry if you write anything someone doesn’t like. Thanks to modern social media, thousands of enthusiastic critiques from passionate readers will appear within minutes to correct you. So, when you put out the next daily update of your novel, you know what to alter or remove. It’s almost like having a fanatically strict edito… I mean, it’s a bold, democratic alternative to the tyranny of the elitist editors of old!

There has never been a better age to be a writer! It really is a brave new world 🙂

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Happy April Fool’s Day everyone 🙂

Today’s Art (20th March 2019)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the first comic in “Damania Requirement”, this month’s four-comic webcomic mini series 🙂 You can also find lots of other comics featuring these characters on this page too 🙂

This satirical comic update was inspired by an episode of a popular British early-evening magazine show that aired last April. Whilst the episode actually made a valid point that I agreed with (eg: plastic pollution in the oceans is a bad thing), the way that this episode got this point across was so obnoxiously smug, self-righteous, preachy, manipulative, emotive, sanctimonious etc.. that I actually found that my views were temporarily less environmentalist for a few hours after watching it. Even though I agreed with the general point of the episode.

As usual, this comic update is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence etc…

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Requirement – Own Goal” By C. A. Brown

Three Random Tips For Creating Satirical Comics

Well, I thought that I’d talk briefly about the subject of satirical comics today, since they can be a bit of a challenge to make if you haven’t had that much practice making them. So, here are a few very basic tips:

1) Emotional distance and introspection: If something annoys you enough to make you want to make a satirical comic, it can be easy to let your emotions take control and produce a rather imprecise, angry, badly-written or impulsive piece of satire. Needless to say, this isn’t a good idea.

To make your satirical comics really work, you have to take a step back and work out exactly what annoyed you and, more importantly, why. Once you’ve worked out why something annoyed you, then take that reason and apply it to a sillier situation and/or take it to an amusingly absurd logical extreme. This is how good satire is made.

2) Err on the side of comedy: Yes, satire doesn’t always have to be funny to be effective. But, if (like me) you’re relatively new to making satirical comics, then it is always best to err on the side of comedy whenever possible. Simply put, if you can make yourself laugh, then you’ll probably be able to make other people laugh. And, well, comedic satire is usually more well-received than serious satire.

Plus, pushing yourself into including comedy in your satirical comic means that you can avoid the risk of turning your comic into an earnest political tract that will make people roll their eyes or just stop reading out of frustration. If you can make your audience laugh, then they’re less likely to ignore or furiously disagree with your comic.

The best satire often isn’t earnest and preachy. It deflates pompousness, ideological rigidity, self-righteousness etc.. When satire is at it’s best, it is irreverent, subversive and merciless. The key word here is “irreverent”. So, it’s often a good idea to include some comedy in your satire.

3) Look at satire: Simply put, one of the best ways to learn how to make good satirical comics is to look at examples of them. See what techniques they use and see what does and doesn’t work. So, be sure to look at newspaper cartoons, webcomics etc..

Likewise, make sure that you look at satire in other mediums too. Watch stand-up comedy videos, animated sitcoms and Youtube videos. Read satirical fiction. Look at parodies (eg: since the best parodies will often include satirical elements too).

In short, just like learning how to do anything creative, look at how other people do it and see if you can draw any general principles and lessons from this. Look at what successful things have in common with each other, and learn from this.

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Sorry about the short article, but I hope that it was useful 🙂

“Zero” By C. A. Brown (Short Story)

A huge smile crossed Bert’s face as he gestured at the large chart behind him: ‘…And, with the recent contractual changes, annual profits per branch have increased by an average of twenty percent. Good work everyone.’

Polite applause followed. Bert scanned the table in front of him, carefully judging how much enthusiasm each branch manager showed. Two of them were over-egging it, almost to the point of sarcasm. He made a mental note of their names.

Keeping the smile on his face, Bert said: ‘Luckily for us, the press have been focusing on the larger companies. Any blowback from employees?’

‘Some grumbling.’ A bald man in a green suit shrugged. ‘I just tell ’em that if they’re good at what they do, they’ll get more hours. Works well enough.’

The man next to him laughed: ‘Too true, mate. I tell them that zero hours means zero hours if they don’t shut up about it. ‘

Beside him, a blonde woman in a pinstripe suit shook her head. ‘We’ve had a surge in union memberships. No strikes so far. Legally speaking, they don’t have a leg to stand on.’

A chorus of approving murmurs echoed around the room. Bert nodded. ‘Some trouble is to be expected. But, things will settle down. It isn’t like the competition can offer them any better. Honestly, I’m surprised that they haven’t sent us a cease and desist letter. I mean, where do you think I got the idea from?’

Polite laughter followed. Bert stood up slightly straighter: ‘Best of all, if trends continue, then I think that we are all going to have a very merry Christmas.’

More applause. A couple of people got up to shake Bert’s hand. He made a mental note of them too. One showed genuine enthusiasm, the other was brown-nosing. Stay at the top long enough and you get an instinct for this kind of thing. His mind began tabulating bonus figures as he waited for the applause to die down.

His eyes drifted over to the clock. It was nearly four. Keeping the smile on his face, Bert said: ‘And that about wraps it up. Keep up the good work everyone.’

As the managers left the room in high spirits, Bert reached for the intercom at the head of the table: ‘Any appointments, Susan?’

Clacking keys echoed over the intercom. A second later, Susan said: ‘Yes, a gentleman just showed up. Very insistent that he meets with you at once. Said that he called a couple of weeks ago and made an appointment. Can’t find any record of it though.’

‘Did you get his name?’

‘Phil Catafalque.’

‘Well, I’ve got a few minutes to spare. I’m sure I can squeeze him in. Send him to the conference room.’

Bert glanced at the clock. Fifty seconds later, Phil strode into the room. Everything from his slicked-back hair to his sharp suit screamed multi-national CEO. And, Bert noted with some glee, not one of those trendy tech company hippies either. A businessman of the old school. They were so rare these days.

As Bert extended his hand, Phil glanced at the clock before nodding at him: ‘I’ve got to say, your list of achievements is impressive. I’ve been waiting to meet you for some time.’

Bert blushed. ‘I wasn’t aware that news travelled so quickly, Mr. Catafalque. Are you interested in this company? I can assure you that our contractual changes are only the start of a wider strategic cost-cutting initiative. There has never been a better time to invest.’

Phil shook his head: ‘I’m interested in you, Bert. You’ve really done well for yourself here. But, alas, all things must come to an end.’

‘I don’t understand. In case you don’t know, I own this…’ Bert’s voice broke off as Phil reached behind his head. From the collar of his suit, Phil pulled a dark hood over his head. Beneath it, his face grew ever more gaunt until it was little more than a skull.

‘You’re… No, you can’t be. It isn’t possible.’ A red flush crossed Bert’s face. ‘If this is some kind of Halloween prank, then I’m calling the police!’

‘You would only be wasting their time. And mine too. Like you, I put a lot of stock in efficiency.’

Bert’s eyes widened: ‘Come on, surely we can work something out? At least let me make a few phone calls. How long have I got?’

A thin smile crossed Phil’s lips. His bony fingers reached towards Bert. ‘Zero hours.

“Rules” By C. A. Brown (Short Story)

Joanne sat back on the wine-stained sofa and tapped her phone: ‘So, are you going to this Halloween do at the union next week? I think there are still tickets available.’

A lager can hissed. Toby shrugged: ‘Dunno. Still can’t think of a good idea for a costume. I mean, have you seen the number of rules about it?’

Joanne laughed: ‘You’ve been reading the tabloids again, haven’t you? They always exaggerate these things. Every year, they pick one university with an especially zealous student’s union and then claim that their rules are some kind of universal law. It’s a sales tactic. If they don’t make their readers’ blood boil every day, they’ll go out of business.’

‘I think it might be our university they were writing about.’ Toby took a solemn swig of lager. ‘I was stupid enough to look at their website earlier. Seriously, there are dictatorships with less…’

Joanne laughed: ‘Well, of course they’re going to ban tasteless costumes. This is 2018, after all. What were you thinking of going as?’

Toby leant over and whispered something in Joanne’s ear. If she wasn’t already sitting on the sofa then she would have collapsed with laughter. When she got her breath back, she said: ‘Oh god, you wouldn’t have to worry about the union staff making a fuss. The police would have arrested you first.’

‘Seriously? Even without the… Oh, I see what you mean.’

‘Look, it isn’t too difficult to think of a costume. I don’t know, just go as Hannibal Lecter or Jason Voorhees or…’

Toby shook his head: ‘Rules won’t allow it. The union is worried about copyright.’

Joanne raised an eyebrow: ‘Please tell me you made that up. Well, that’s my costume down the drain.’ She put her phone down and reached for a bottle. After a couple of swigs, she said: ‘Ok, then. We’ll go with the classics. You can’t go wrong with a zombie or a vampire.’

Toby tapped his phone and shook his head: ‘Apparently you can. And I quote: “Costumes involving the undead may provoke fear and therefore are not permitted” .’

Joanne downed half of the bottle: ‘Isn’t that the whole point?

‘Apparently not.’

‘Ok, then. How about a trident and a pair of horns?’

‘Sharp objects policy.’ Toby finished his lager. ‘Apparently, it’s been extended to include anything that even resembles a point.’

‘What about a werewolf?’ Joanne tried to howl, but ended up belching instead.

Toby shook his head and was about to read from his phone when Joanne said: ‘You know, we should just go to one of the nightclubs in town. I bet they don’t have a huge list of rules about everything.’

‘Normally, I’d agree. But, I like a challenge. And, you know, I might just have thought of a good idea for a costume.’

A week later, Joanne shivered at the back of the queue snaking from the mouth of the student union building. It moved slowly, with the bouncers checking for drugs and the union’s officers carefully evaluating each costume afterwards.

A chill ran down Joanne’s spine. Even in her copyright-free pumpkin costume, she still felt a little nervous. And where the hell was Toby? She was about to phone him when she heard something rustle in the distance.

A large rectangle emerged from the darkness. As it got closer, she saw that Toby was wearing some kind of large board painted to look like a smartphone with a social media feed on the screen. He grinned at her. She looked puzzled: ‘It’s well-made. But, it isn’t exactly Halloween. I mean, what’s creepy about that?

‘Think about it. What has turned the world into the authoritarian panopticon of Nineteen Eighty-Four and the mindlessly superficial dystopia of Brave New World?’

Joanne was speechless. Finally, she stuttered: ‘Wow… That’s… Unusually literate of you.’

Toby shrugged and fumbled behind his board for his phone. He tapped the screen a couple of times and held it up: ‘Yeah, someone posted it online. Sounds pretty impressive, right? I’m not sure what the ’80s and a heavy metal album have got to do with smartphones though. Still, it should amuse the people at the door.’

Four Awesome Things That Artists And Writers Can Learn From The Modern Games Industry

Well, I thought that I would start off April’s roster of articles by throwing all of my dusty old “retro” games into the dustbin and talking about the exciting world of modern gaming. In particular, I’ll be talking about what my research into this thriving, scrupulous and reputable industry can teach artists and writers when it comes to presenting their works to the public.

After all, the modern mainstream gaming industry is absolutely adored by their millions of customers, so they must be doing something right. Right?

1) DLC: “DLC” stands for “Downloadable Content” and it is all the rage these days! Whilst gamers of the past had to suffer through full-size official expansion packs and a bewildering plethora of extra fan-made levels for their games, modern gamers have none of these problems!

No, they can just buy small, low-calorie portions of extra content directly from the games companies for a reasonable fee. Not only that, this downloadable content can sometimes also help to provide an extra sense of closure to fans by telling them how the stories of their favourite games actually end. Recent advancements in this exciting new field include randomised “loot boxes” that allow players to experience all the thrills of the casino from the comfort of their living rooms. It is truly an exciting time to be a gamer 🙂

So, how does this popular and well-loved business practice relate to fiction? Well, the simplest way to add some trendy new “DLC” to your latest novel is simply to remove the final two to four chapters and sell them separately. Yes, some miserable old fogies might accuse you of “fraud” or bang on about the days when novels used to be “complete” self-contained things. But, your hip young fans will be eager to enjoy the experience of buying the same book twice. After all, where’s the fairness in only allowing people to enjoy that “new book” feeling once?

But, what about you artists out there? Well, the process is a little bit more complicated. But, I imagine that it would probably look a little bit like this:

Your audience will love you! They’ll be queuing up in the streets! Look, some of them are even carrying pitchforks to help with your gardening too!

2) Standardised content ratings: One of the greatest success stories in the European gaming industry was the introduction of standardised PEGI content ratings across almost all of Europe.

By applying a single ultra-strict “one size fits all” set of censorship rules across more than thirty countries, Europe is leading the way in protecting younger gamers from the corrupting evils of “mild bad language” and “Non realistic looking violence towards human characters”.

But, why stop at games? Surely, we writers and/or artists have a moral responsibility to introduce something similar in our own fields? After all, think back to your own youth and how seeing or reading age-inappropriate creative works hindered and stifled your own creativity. How, far from making you feel like a “rebel” or making you feel like making art and/or writing fiction were “cool” activities, it left you filled with shocked moral indignation!

Well, a standardised world-wide age rating system for all creative works would soon solve all of those problems. All of the next generation of writers and artists would only be inspired by wholesome, age-appropriate things. Just imagine how much better all of the books, paintings, comics etc.. that come out within the next couple of decades will be.

3) System requirements: If there’s one word that defines the exciting world of the modern computer games industry, it is “progress”! Game companies are always pushing the limits of new hardware, and real gamers are eager to upgrade their systems as much as twice weekly just to keep up.

When a PC gamer looks at the “system requirements” segment of a game’s website, they don’t think that it’s some kind of discriminatory system of exclusion designed to favour the wealthiest and/or trendiest of gamers. No, such silly thoughts do not enter their minds for one second.

Instead, smiling with glee, they eagerly rush out to buy a new £450 liquid nitrogen cooling system for the £700 graphics card that they need in order to use the latest £1200 virtual reality headset. Progress! An example to us all!

Alas, both art and fiction are stuck in a rut by comparison! We live in a world where any literate peasant can pick up a book and read it, or a world where anyone with functioning un-modified eyeballs can gaze upon any work of art. We’re stuck in the past!

As such, I propose a radical upgrade to the English language. English 2.0! If you can’t take the time to spend an extra five years in school to learn it, then s8BB@~## t%8 (“sod off, old fogey!”).

Likewise, artists have been constrained by the fact that their works must appear within the visible light spectrum. It is only the stubborn consumer’s backwards unwillingness to try new experimental ocular surgery that prevents exciting new art made using the infra-red and ultra-violet light spectrums from gaining the mainstream popularity that it deserves. Honestly, these so-called art connoisseurs could learn a lot from the humble PC gamer!

4) Day one patches: Modern games companies are eager to get their games out to players as soon as possible! Who cares if a game is technically “finished” or not? The modern gamer will have pre-ordered the game two years ago and will expect something, even just a collection of glitches and error messages, at the appointed time!

Back in the bad old days of cartridges and discs, gamers were forced to languish for months whilst they waited for companies to “finish” making their games. But, in this modern connected age, any small oversights from game developers can easily be corrected via small downloadable “patches” (which are only mere gigabytes in size) that can be released soon after the game goes on sale.

We artists and writers can learn a lot from this! Don’t have time to finish that novel? Well, you can always put out that rough draft of the first three chapters at full price and correct the rest later in an “updated” version. Likewise, the laughably old-fashioned days when an artist actually had to complete a painting before showing it to the public have thankfully long since passed:

Isn’t this watercolour painting awesome? What? I’ll patch it in about a week or so. You DID pre-order, didn’t you?

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Happy April Fool’s Day everyone 🙂 Normal articles/reviews will resume tomorrow 🙂