Around the time this pic was taken, my Mummy tried to have a birthday party for me and my schoolfriends. Bear in mind that both my parents were doctors so we lived in white neighbourhoods, upper working class ones as white middle and upper class people would not sell houses to Asian immigrants in the 70s, no matter what they did for a job. We lived in Hellesdon, Norwich, in a little bungalow. None of the neighbours on the actual street spoke to us – they had, in fact, lobbied the vendors not to sell to ‘Pakis.’
So I was at Primary School, fully immersed in racism from the teachers every day and my schoolmates more sporadically. But I had a cohort of… associates? We’d play at playtimes, open-mouthedly examine hirsute caterpillars, normal kid stuff.
So, my lovely Mummy organised a party. She wanted it to be fantastic, obviously, what parent doesn’t? She gave me little invites to hand out to my friends and she bought English party snacks. She deliberately did not make Indian treats as she wanted the kids to see how ‘normal’ we were and that we didn’t stink (‘smelly Pakis’ was a big racist trope around then and another reason I’m still paranoid about how I smell).
The day of the party, my Mummy got everything ready. And we waited.
No-one turned up.
I didn’t really know how to feel, I was surprised but… maybe this was simply what parties were like? But my Mummy got upset and she started crying and clearing away the crisps and chocolates she’d put out. She’d never wanted to leave India, never wanted to be forever seen as an outsider and be forced to be four times as talented as any white person to get half as far. She’d never wanted to see her small son come home from school every day covered in bruises and confused and crying. I tried to comfort my Mummy by hugging her but I remember this made her more upset. So, I think I took my cue from her and started crying.
The next day at school, various kids I’d given invites to came up and made excuses which I found puzzling. Then one kid said, “I wanted to come cos I love parties but my Mum said I can’t play with dirty niggers.” (Yes, I’m Indian, not black but racists are nothing if not stupid.)
A girl called Catherine took me round the side of one of the buildings. She said she was my friend but not to tell anyone as her parents hated wogs. Then she gave me a hug. Later that day, she laughed and joined in when the lad who’d called me a ‘dirty nigger’ tried out ‘coon’ for a bit of variety. I didn’t realise it then but that moment set the pattern for a lot of my adult relationships.
All my fucking life, for varying reasons, people have been ashamed or embarrassed or fearful of being seen to be my friend. Sometimes because I’m fat. Sometimes because I’m uncool. A lot because of my colour. They have racistly bullied me in public then privately apologised, saying they’d know I would ‘understand.’ I have had two girlfriends who claimed to love me but I had to carry out secret relationsips with because one or both their parents were virulent, violent racists and they were ‘worried for my safety.’
I entered a third relationship like this decades ago and realised something.
I’d had enough.
The first ever White Town song was about that realisation, specifically in the lines:
Well it’s a white town with green trees And nothing in love is free So if it’s not worth fighting for It’s worth nothing at all
When you realise that someone you love sees you as embarrassing, as an awkard fact to be explained away, to be minimised and hidden, that they’re ashamed to be seen in public with you… in that moment I’m that kid at the party again. I’m pulling up three streets from a girlfriend’s house so her BNP Dad won’t see me. I’m looking at Catherine and being confused because she was hugging me earlier but now she’s calling me a fucking coon. She’s not sticking up for me… at all.
Do you know those times when you are so terribly excited that you start to lose the ability to speak lucidly or slow down enough to be intelligible? Those times when all the tiny hairs on the back of your neck seem to join the same army and, as one, they rise up and fuck-up your usually debonair and enui-laden persona.
Those times when you see someone and you want them so much you feel yourself actually growling. Growling with the hunger of needing them so fucking badly, of needing to feel their naked skin to yours. Needing to be inside them, to feel them around you but also for them to be inside you, for them to feel how much you trust them and love them.
I’m a huge, fat Trekkie. I am not merely plump, I am massive. My weight wanders, as with a lot of very obese people but it’s always in excess of 350lbs / 25 stone / 159kg. I’ve loved Star Trek since I was a fat nipper and so I feel qualified to write this.
Going to Destination Star Trek has become one of the highlights of my year since it’s gone annual. There is this warm sense of family, of being with other absolute geeks and, in that, a feeling of belonging, a community. But there are a few things us more oblately spherical Trekkies have to be aware of, in order to have the best possible DST experience.
First, you DO NOT HAVE TO DRESS UP to go to DST. I’ve suggested going to so many people and had the response that they can’t / don’t want to cosplay and so cannot go. And it’s equally fraught if they do want to dress up. If they’re on the larger side, there’s the added pressure of knowing they won’t be able to wear off-the-peg uniforms. Or they worry how they’ll look because, let’s be honest, some of those Trek uniforms are not the most flattering for those of us without gym-bunny actor bodies. And we can’t all go as Morn, as amazing a con as that would be.
Wear what you feel most happy and comfortable in, no-one at DST will judge you. We’ve all paid to be there, we’re all equal, there is no hierarchy of Trekness and you should not feel even slightly out of place wearing your ordinary clothes.
NOW… with that caveat out of the way, I say this to my larger Trekkies: DRESS UP! I was sooo scared for so long, knowing that my weird-shaped body would not look like anything ever seen in Trek TV or film. To add to my worries, I now have an abdominal hernia which most resembles Kuatu out of Total Recall. This makes me very lopsided in an obvious way.
But I still cosplay!
I have so much fun in the two uniforms I have. Sometimes, I’ve gone Vulcan Starfleet but mostly I’m human. I like wearing my uniforms because I feel that I’m representing not just Indians or fat blokes or, indeed, fat Indian blokes but because by cosplaying, I’m adding a little bit to the diversity of DST. How dull would it be if DST was full of only slim, young cosplayers? How does that fit in with IDIC at all? Star Trek is such an important part of my life and I first stretched an engineer’s shirt over my tubby belly when I was around seven or eight. Decades later, it feels only right to wear Starfleet uniform.
As for where to buy – there’s still time to order a uniform from one of the overseas suppliers. Take down all your measurements, get online and get ordering. You may have to roll up the sleeves, as I do, or do a couple of alterations but you will look and, more importantly, feel wonderful. At first, you *will* feel a little silly, but the word is cosPLAY not cosSERIOUSBIZWORKTIMEFROWNFACE.
Like Spock on Talos IV, HAVE A LAUGH!
BE PREPARED TO BE KNACKERED / KEEP HEALTHY!
DST is fabulous but it can be very, very tiring, even for thin / physically fit people. For us bloaters, this can end up with us missing out on things we’ve paid for because we overdid it earlier (or at one of the Bacchanalian night parties).
So… PACE YOURSELF. It’s a huge venue, everything is bloody miles apart and you’ll be trudging to and from the same areas myriad times. You’ll probably be doing the most walking you’ve done in ages, all crammed into a few hours. If you’re a thin enough fat person, take a collapsible chair or stool with you so can take the weight off when you’re queuing for something. Sadly, I’m too heavy for any of those travel chair options so I simply have to stand when I’m not walking. Yes, there is seating but it’s really only around the food areas so it’s often too busy to find a place and it’s miles from where you might want to be.
(SIDE NOTE – hey, DST organisers! It would be lovely if there were more general seating areas scattered around. And I DO NOT mean bean bags. They are the worst thing for fat people to try and get up from.)
Also majorly figuring into this: SHOES. Do not make the mistake I made and sacrifice comfort for how things look with your cosplay. I wore my Doc boots because they looked more uniform-y and at the end of that day, I had blisters and I was hobbling severely. It very much curtailed what I did for the rest of the weekend. Soo, don’t be stupid like I was, wear the comfiest shoes you have available.
With all the walking, queuing, ogling of merch and suchlike going on, it’s very handy if you have your own water with you, even if it’s only a small bottle. Ideally, pack some low-carb, long-lasting snacks too. Some of us can get trembly with low blood sugar and so emergency food is essential because you don’t want to be walking all the way across the hall in search of a burger and then end up at the back of another queue!
PLANNING THE ACTIVITIES
There’s a crapload of stuff cracking off at DST, over the three days. When I first went, I’d look up the timetable online each time I wanted to check anything. Yeah… no. So fiddly, so faffy. Then I thought, ‘OH HO, I AM A GENIUS, I’LL PRINT IT OUT.’
Then I was the fat bloke squinting at a piece of A4, trying to work out what I wanted to see, could I see it, when was it, WHERE THE HELL WAS IT? I ended up walking around and around… tiring myself out for no reason at all and then missing things I dearly wanted to see. Now, if you’re thin, you can leap around the hall like a young gazelle, no worries. But I got irritated, tired, a bit trembly and ended up going back to the hotel and being sad.
Now, I’ve solved this by over-planning ahead of time. As soon as there’s anything like a complete timetable available, I’ll download it and then pick out everything that I’m allowed to see / listen to (I only buy the basic, three-day ticket) and cut and paste all that info to a new, separate doc. As I’m doing this, I’ll try to make sure I’m not making myself ping-pong around the hall un-necessarily because I *know* I’ll get tired and then I’ll end up missing stuff. I also print out a full timetable to keep general track of things. But, typically, I’ll stick to my edited version. Doing this saves me so much time, hassle but, most of all, I can prioritise events and balance each day’s activities so I can make the most of them. Job done!
So, that’s my three tips for Fat Trekkies. Some of it may apply if you have other health or accessibility issues. The main reason I’ve written this is that I think people are afraid of being judged on what they look like, their size or how they look in cosplay / lack of cosplay. And so, they end up not going to DST and other cons and they miss out on some seriously stupid fun. Don’t be that person missing out.
Whatever size you are, live long, prosper and be happy at DST!
I wasn’t expecting much of Carnival Row. I put it on just to have something to watch while eating my tea. The foundations of my prejudice were twofold. First, that many Amazon Originals are as lethargic and under-edited as their Netflix cousins, second, the casting of Cara Delevingne.
If that sounds mean, you’re misunderstanding. I think Delevingne is a good actress and, obviously, a great beauty. Had she been born earlier, she would surely have been a megastar of the old studio system, a Harlow, a Hepburn. But she seems to have a knack for picking…. not great projects. Valerian, Suicide Squad, Pan… I think the last film where she actually got to display her talent and not merely her looks was Paper Towns and that was way back in 2015.
So, it makes me truly happy to say that, finally, Delevingne has both a role and a project worthy of her. Rene Echevarria’s Carnival Row is a fantasy set in a quasi-Victorian world. The world is divided between humans and the Fae, mythical beings such as fairies, kobolds and satyrs. Not steampunk, steampuck. Delevingne plays Vignette, a fairy who was once in love with a human soldier called Philo (short for Rycroft Philostrate, played by Orlando Bloom). Thinking him dead in the war, she is greatly put out when she pitches up in the city of Burgue to discover him hale, hearty and now a police inspector:
Their romance; the fights, the kisses, the misunderstandings is sweet, believable and, unlike most fictional couples, I didn’t want to vomit every time they were being flirty (see Valerian). Bloom’s gruff ‘copper wiv ah ‘eart of gold’ is a charming foil to Delevingne’s peppery, ferociously focussed fairy.
If this was it, Carnival Row would have enough to keep me watching. But where it excels is that this is only one of several stories which it skillfully interleaves such that the viewer never tires of one particular thread.
Pictured above are Agreus Astrayon (puck) and Imogen Spurnrose (human). Their story is a delicious slow burn with plunges into quality bickering and hugely entertaining high-society cringefests.
BUT THERE’S MORE
If I had a subheading for Carnival Row, it would be FORBIDDEN PASSIONS. It delights in exploring the constructed world’s societal norms / taboos and those who dare to break them. Whether it’s incest, homosexuality or inter-species sex, Carnival Row is going to go there.
Oh yes. It’s like your browser history.
Repeatedly, characters in Carnival Row walk to the edge of what is normal, what is allowed, what is polite and then cross that line. The most poignant of these moments is between various couples and these exchanges are the most affecting of the whole show. I’m lucky enough to know the electric, transformative power that kind of an intimate relationship can have. This is the only television drama I’ve yet seen to depict that with more reverence than prurience. If you’ve ever looked into someone’s eyes and shivered because they are changing you, stretching you, freeing you in ways you could not previously countenance, you will find yourself in Carnival Row, as I did. There is an emotional realism in this fantasy show that outdoes numerous plodding, ‘realistic’ Scandi crime dramas.
Carnival Row is a better show than Game of Thrones. It has better writing, better acting, better direction and, crucially, it’s about something more than closeness to a book or fan service.
Not just something, it’s about the most important questions humans can consider. It’s about morality, it’s about law, government, immigration, xenophobia. It’s about those in power who use chaos and pain for their own gains, whatever the cost in lives lost and tears shed.
I’ve just watched the end of the last episode of series one and it had me in bits. Delevingne and Bloom were perfect in the final scene, their story was the lynchpin of all those interweaving storylines finally coming together. Carnival Row is compelling without sinking into mawkishness. It makes cogent, informed and insightful points about our contemporary world, the antithesis of clunky ‘message’ shows which ulitmately render evil banal and the viewer apathetic. In the bestest way, this is destabilising, unsettling TV.
Carnival Row is easily the best TV of 2019. It will probably become one of my favourite shows ever (as long as subsequent seasons don’t piss on this head start). So, like all the best people of the Burgue do, ignore your prejudices and give Carnival Row a go.
I’m watching a YouTube vid previewing upcoming games for late 2019 / early 2020.
And I’m bored.
There’s a slew of FPSes, some open-world, some not. There are some RPGs, there are some top-down tactical hoo-has.
And that’s it. It’s the blandest offering of blanditude I can remember in a good long time. There’s nothing that’s made me stop and look. Games seem to have become about as diverse as mainstream cinema. If you love the MCU, yaaay, if you don’t…. perhaps don’t go to the cinema, eh? Cos that’s all that’s on. There are no completely new, completely original SF or fantasy films that haven’t got a tie-in to some existing property because those are a risk, they don’t get financed.
Here, in no real rank order, are some of the games I love:
Impossible Mission II
Grand Theft Auto IV
Horizon Zero Dawn
Parappa The Rapper
Resistance: Fall Of Man
Mario Kart 64
…. I could go on and on but I think you get the point. I’ve been playing video games since they were first invented in the late ’70s. That started off as huge Space Invaders cabinets in takeaways and ended up with sleek consoles sat next to my telly.
All the games above, whether they are the simplest sprite-chuckers or the latest in polygon-chugging engines, do one thing: they create an immersive world.
That may seem a bold claim for Defender but when I was playing it decades ago, that minimal, blocky display was everything. It was as engrossing and terrifying as the tiny proximity display they use in Alien to map how close the xenomorph is. We uprezzed the graphics in our minds.
Then you have Horizon Zero Dawn, a game which creates a world so gorgeous and detailed that I play the game just to escape, to look at the lush scenery and relax.
These worlds stay with you. Liberty City. Rokkaku-dai Heights. The Halo Array. Snowy banks lit by exploding fireworks. The echo of your footfalls down endless laboratory corridors…
But I feel like Big Games are getting worse at creating these worlds because the Big Game Developers all seem to be in a race to see who can reach the absolute nadir of consumer exploitation first.
Thus, we have the Newspeak that is ‘SURPRISE MECHANICS,’ EA using weasel words to justify milking anyone with a gambling addiction in its games.
Now, okay, EA have been wankers for decades, we all know that. This shift to evil isn’t a SUPRISE MECHANIC (heh, see what I did there?).
But I feel like the Big side of the industry has never been worse, has never been as nakedly, proudly evil. Now, obviously, we have the indie side which is crammed with lovely, lovely people who are games obsessives and want to create the kind of immersive experiences that we, the users, want to fall in love with. Hopefully, that side of the industry will never change and never sell out.
But GTA IV was not an indie game. It was huge. And I love it. I love it more than any previous or subsequent GTA. For me, it was the sweet spot. I mean, come on, even now, you could film the story of Serbian immigrant Niko and his travails in NY, er, Liberty City and people would love it. It’s a great STORY. Moreover, when you’re playing GTA IV, not only does the world around you look good, real, its *sounds* real. All those radio stations you can flick through, all those news snippets and op-eds you hear, they all cement you into that reality.
I miss that world. I miss Liberty City. And I miss all the other worlds other beautiful games have created. They could be as simple as Interphase or as complex as Detroit Become Human, the immersiveness doesn’t derive from polygon count.
It comes for the hearts of the people developing the games. When you play Horizon Zero Dawn, you know the developers didn’t skimp. They didn’t have a ‘will this do?’ attitude. You can see it in the firefly animations, you can hear it in the ridiculous ‘gobble gobble’ of a disturbed turkey as it legs it. These designers weren’t phoning it in. There is love in this game for the world they are creating.
It’s obvious the industry will not stop being evil. So, they need regulation. Hard regulation. It is not okay to exploit people who may be gambling addicts. Micro-transactions and lootboxes have made me avoid every major title in the last year or so.
Maybe a side-effect of banning these obvious money-grabs would be the creation of some stunning NEW worlds in which we could lose ourselves.