Saturday, December 24, 2011

Asterix in Switzerland: Latin Jokes Explained

A sexier version of this post, plus great new Asterix content, can be found on my superb new site -


Friday, December 16, 2011

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Monday, December 05, 2011

Adapting Your Writing to Other Genres

Adapting Your Writing to Other Genres

If, like me, you mostly write soppy romantic fluff, your work is unlikely to be published in the highly lucrative sci-fi or fantasy markets. So here's a tutorial on how to adapt ANY piece of writing for publication in Cyborg Monthly, Pandev's Conbobulum, Sword of Seance, or one of the other famous sci-fi/fantasy mags.

The Sci-Fi Market

First, take a normal piece of writing:

The first time Susan stayed the night in my flat in Shanghai, long before I bought the heater, I gave her my hot water bottle at considerable cost to my own comfort. When I woke, cold and confused, I went into the living room; Dani had gone to work. I had the flat to myself. Unless… I looked at the bathroom door; it was closed. I stared at it; it opened. A magnificent wave of steam rolled out, rising, falling, convecting, turning my drab, tired bathroom into a tiled Chinese dragon breathing fire and water – and there in the midst of the mist stood Susan. She was surprised to see me, and I was surprised to see she was wearing only a miniature towel.   

Then modify with robots, lasers, space imagery, and consonant-heavy names.

The first time ZuXann the Space Minx stayed the night in my ultrapod in the upper atmosphere of Shangixx the Water Planet, long before I bought the anti-cold nebulators, I lent her my spinal warmth implant, at considerable cost to my own comfort. When I woke, cold and confused, I went into the shared-space pod; Dhani had gone to work. I had the space cabin to myself. Unless… I looked at the air-powered sliding bathroom door; it was closed. I stared at it; it opened. A magnificent wave of steam rolled out, rising, falling, convecting, turning my drab, tired bathroom into a space-chrome Chinese dragon breathing fire and water – and there in the midst of the mist stood ZuXann. She was surprised to see me, and I was surprised to see she was wearing only a miniature towel.

Done! Now you're ready to send it to a sci-fi magazine and cash in.

The Fantasy Market

Same kinda thing, but with orcs, swords, spells, and names that are a bit different to modern English ones.

The first time Sosenneh stayed the night in Shang High Castle, the ancestral home of Ulrich my father, son of Halbert, son of Niq, long before I bought the dragonfire stones, I lent her my warming pan, at considerable cost to my own comfort. When I woke, cold and confused, I went into the Solar; Dani had gone to work. I had the wing to myself. Unless… I looked at the garderobe doors; they were closed. I stared at them; they opened. A magnificent wave of steam rolled out, rising, falling, convecting, turning the drab, tired room into a wooden Oriental dragon breathing fire and water – and there in the midst of the mist stood Sosenneh. She was surprised to see me, and I was surprised to see she was wearing only a chastity belt.

Perfect! Using these methods you can quickly triple your writing income. Remember to use give some of your money to good causes.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Outsourcing My Online Dating

Outsourcing My Online Dating

A while ago I heard about a guy called Tim Ferris and because of what I heard, I bought his book The 4-HourWorkweek.

The book explains how he outsourced as many aspects of his life as he could think of, leaving him with just 4 hours of work per week, and almost unlimited free time to learn languages and practice jujitsu on the sandy beaches of Thailand or Rio. It inspired me to try outsourcing my comics. The results are clearly ace.

So I'd read the book and tested some of the principles. But after failing to master online dating, I remembered how I'd originally heard of Ferris. His friend had challenged him to outsource his dating, believing it to be impossible. So Ferris set up four project teams in India, Bangladesh and so on, assigned them a dating website and told them to get twenty-minute coffee dates for him. The team with the most dates would get a bonus.

He got ten dates in a week and a bunch of funny stories worth much more than the dollar cost of the project. I decided I would try that. But instead of paying MBA graduates in Bangalore to go on dating sites and pretend to be me, I'd manipulate Cecile into doing it for me for free. (Check my blog in a few months for a cool article called 'How to Manipulate Cecile').

So now for the rest of my online dating story, you'll have to travel over to her blog.
Part one was published today. Here's four reasons to read it: 1) It's about me. 2) It's laugh out loud funny. 3) Cecile says that if 50 people visit her blog because of this post she'll set me up with a Swedish girl. 4) Praise from someone who read the whole story: "Cecile! I just read the entire story start to finish, it is SO entertaining, GOOD WORK!! I was laughing out loud :O)"

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mastering Online Dating: Part Eleven

Mastering Online Dating: Last Chance

After only six weeks of research, experimentation, and trying multiple dating websites and approaches, I finally came close to finding true love on the internet.

I wrote to a good-looking woman with the user name Swan, and she wrote back. She wrote back! Loads of times!

How did I do it? OkCupid tells you how often women reply to messages. Swan's said she 'replied selectively.' So I started with that:

Replies selectively, huh? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!

Then I hit her with some cold reading stuff. She checked out my profile and said:

Challenge won I guess. ;) Hello! God your eyes are blue.. :) 

My fake analysis of her had been a hit:

So you think you worked me out? Actually you did or let’s say you’re on to something.

She told me what I'd got right and what she didn't quite agree with. Then she peppered me with questions, some of which I answered. We exchanged four or five emails. She was interesting and intelligent. I liked a lot of what she wrote and how she wrote it.

So it was going great! Great success!

Surely all I had to do to get a date was continue to be socially normal and not screw up? Well, that would have been boring. So I started giving her points for things I liked, and removing them when she screwed up. I told her I'd meet her when she had 15 points.

likes cats +2
replied to me +1
isn't totally passive, makes conversation progress +2
is insecure about her English -1
likes my eyes +1
funny +3
cynical about self-improvement -1
gave me mental image of being snubbed by dolphins which made me laugh +1
claims to have been emotionally hardened by tough job in marketing -1

That went down pretty well. Then I pushed it too far and she got fractionally pissed off at me. But she conceded I was the most interesting guy on the site and we got back to messaging each other frequently.

In order to push for the first meeting, I unleashed the Federpig technique I'd invented slash read about somewhere on the Internet. You start describing the first date and try to get her to finish the story.

"There she is, coming towards me in the penguin enclosure of the zoo. (etc etc - see part 10 for more).

Your turn! What comes next?

She fudged with 'busy', 'traveling on business', 'just got back from the gym' type messages for a few days. Finally, she did what I asked. Her Federpig reply was 530 words long, which for a non-native user of English means a lot of time and effort. And it was really cute and charming.


Wow his eyes are really super blue! But I won’t give him the pleasure of asking if they are real. He sticks out his hand, I like that. Three kisses would have been fine too but this is much more classy because you actually touch.

So, this girl was cute, intelligent and interesting, and interested in me enough to play my games and write long essays for me. And she wanted me to touch her. We had to get this off cyberspace and into a Love Hotel! I'd done MORE than enough to get a normal, mentally healthy woman to meet for a coffee.

I pressed for a date. She didn't reply for a week. After another round of mails and another week, she (finally) agreed that the next step would be to get a coffee sometime. I told her a date I was free, and a time, and left my phone number.

She never replied. She'd been using the internet to get some extra male validation in her life. A little harmless internet romance to pass the time at work. If she had any genuine interest in meeting people, I'd have met her.

But she didn't.

Because online dating is a stupid waste of time.


* Some bots (fake humans) were interested in me on a site I had to pay to use (Zoosk AKA Boo!sk). I refused to blow 30 chuffs that could be used to buy pigs in Bangladesh into the pockets of scam artists.

* On Metrodate, there was a total of one woman who was not a Nigerian or Russian scam artist. She didn't reply to my mail.

* On Plenty of Fish, all the hot women had seen my funny but obnoxious profile and decided not to write to me. 

* On OkCupid, my refined profile and genius mails got me great cyberflirting. And zero dates.

I failed at mastering online dating.
So I got someone to do it for me.

Now read - Outsourcing my Online Dating

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Mastering Online Dating: Part Ten

Mastering Online Dating: OK Cupid

By now I was heartily sick of online dating. It's not an efficient way to meet people. But I'd told everyone I was doing it and they kept bugging me about my progress. And I'd written loads of chapters...

So I forced myself to carry on.

OkCupid is a free site owned by and seems to be run to help them study the habits of online daters. Fine with me.

Signing up to these dating sites is often slow and tedious, but OkCupid have made it slick, quick, and hassle-free.

I tried to take it moderately seriously...

On the bit that says, 'The first things people usually notice about me' I put 'My piercing blue eyes.' God! Lame! Horrible! Predictability is the enemy of attraction. Edit!

I changed it to 'His eyes are so blue. They must be fake. He has fake eyes.'

I asked my online dating expert Cecile about it. She liked it, but being a bolshevik she couldn't resist adding her own thoughts. We had a surreal conversation on gmail chat.

Cecile: you can write that you turn red when a girl says your name

it's not true

it is soooo true!
It is literally my first impression of you
I remember
I met you one time
then the second time you saw me you called me by my name and I had a moment of panic because I did not remember yours
but then it popped in my head and I said: "Your name is Andrew, right?"
And you turned all red

outrageous lies

NO it is EXACTLY what happened. I'm offended you don't remember!
that would be a good mix of over-confidence and shyness
the blue eyes thing plus the turning red
it goes great together

it's not a poem

well you wanted smthg original and different
and that would be original and accurate at the same time

except for the accurate part

admit it
I would not invent such a thing.
And then every time I said your name you made a weird face, a bit red

you're mental
you have actually lapsed into a vegetative state

Nevertheless, although it was the product of a fevered imagination, I decided I liked it and stuck it on the web.

So my profile was tight. So tight that a gorgeous Germanic girl visited my page. Her profile picture was mostly just neck. The other picture was just her cleavage. Intriguing...

I mailed her suggesting that if she lived closer I'd have written an elaborate mail to get her attention.

Her reply:

Oh please send me that elaborate mail just for the sake of it. ;(

I decided to play along, as I had a new idea to test, which I call the 'First Date Role Play Gambit' (or Federpig):

Sigh, I don't know. It's a lot of work, analysing your profile and writing cool and amazing things and being awesome. But okay. Pretend this is the first thing you got from me...

Hi, I like (thing she wrote on her profile), too! It seems we think the same way. But we should put that to the test... Here's my plan: I'm going to tell the first part of the story of our first date, based on your profile and my imagination.

"There she is, coming towards me in the penguin enclosure. I told her to wear something casual. She has ignored me, and is overdressed. I'm annoyed, but in a good way. I'm glad she made the 182km journey to come and try to seduce me.

"She's close now. I've been admiring her walk to the exclusion of all other brain function. She has a sensual grace. She's understated. Classy. Suddenly I experience a moment of panic. Should I kiss her three times on the cheeks or once on the lips? She has a quirky smile as though she knows my dilemma.

"'Hi, I'm Hot Internet Guy,' I say, sticking my hand out like frikkin Hugh Grant in a lame movie. 'Hi,' she says, 'I'm Mirzipan.' That is her real name. Her hand is soft and her voice is attractive. She's wearing a ring on her middle finger."

Your turn! What comes next?

She didn't exactly play along, but we had a fun conversation, and she gave me one of those stupid awards things, which would make me more attractive to other women on the site. Maybe.

Federpig was a massive hit. I used it in my last, desperate attempt to meet a woman from the internet, which you can read about soon...

Next time - Last Chance