Month: November 2013

Why I don’t do NaNo


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Every November, it begins. Actually, the lead up begins in the second half of October, expanding the initial event by half again. Much like Christmas, actually.

Yes, it’s NaNo. To the unintiated, that’s an abreviation of NaNoWriMo. Which in turn is an abrieviation of National Novel Writing Month. I’m not entirely sure which nation it refers to, but as with most things my first guess would be the US. At its most basic level, the aim of the game is to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.

This means that most years, mostly by non-writer friends and occasional dabblers, I find myself being asked “Are you doing NaNo this year?” Well, the answer is invariably no, for a few reasons.

Read on…

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Interzone #249 (Nov/Dec 2013) – A Review


interzone #249It’s hard to describe the relief of seeing the first copy of Interzone waiting on the doormat of the new flat. It sounds silly, but I was somewhat worried that the change of address wouldn’t have taken effect, and my copy would have ended up back in Reading — or worse, consumed by the monster that Royal Mail is becoming.

But no, such fears are apparently unfounded, and here it is. Received, enjoyed and regurgitated in review form for your enjoyment.

It is easy to forget that Interzone, as well as being the UK’s foremost science-fiction magazine, is also a venue for top class fantasy. And this issue is a timely reminder of that — coming immediately on the heels of this year’s British Fantasy Awards. Of the six stories, I would say that fully three of them could best be described as fantasy rather than true SF.

Which is no bad thing at all. As you’ll see below, the variation of genres does nothing to dampen either potency or enjoyment.

Read on…

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – A Review


catching fire

Last year, I enjoyed The Hunger Games. Not a terribly controversial statement, I think a few people quite liked it. Part of my positivity stems, I am sure, from the fact that I went in expecting Twilight with a post-apocalyptic desktop theme.

In actuality, The Hunger Games was much more intelligent than that. It even flirted with being out and out science-fiction.

I did have criticisms. It was far too sanitised — even in a YA film, you don’t need to be patronising — and there was a colossal mismatch in the complexity of the various key relationships. As I left the cinema, I commented that I would have made it a standalone film, and ended on a montage of revolution-esque explosions.

So even suffering from series-fatigue as I was at the time, Catching Fire finds itself with an uphill struggle.

Read on….

Heresy of the Week: Video games are catching up on film


GTA-V-big

Heresy of the Week is a (mostly) weekly spot in which I entertain some of the unthinkable notions of geek-culture. The arguments I put forward are not always things I personally agree with, but often rhetorical devices designed to force myself (and maybe readers) out of the boxes which fan discussions can get caught in. But that aside, feel free to get yourselves worked up and your knickers in a twist if you really want to.

This week’s heresy:

For all of its admittedly nascent existence, video games has been considered the lesser cousin amongst entertainment media. Next to books, film and TV it has barely even been considered in the same bracket. But with recent experimental forays into the territory of real storytelling, video games seem ready to breakout and embrace their interactive and immersive entertainment birthright.

Read on…

“Chalk” by Pat Cadigan – A Review


Chalk-by-Pat-Cadigan(This Is Horror, 39pp, eb £1.99)

Though I’m a frequent reader of the site, before I picked up “Chalk” I hadn’t actually read any of This Is Horror’s series of chapbooks. Which is somewhat surprising, given that I’m a reader of pretty much all of those writers published.

But somehow they have — so far — escaped my attention. Until, as I say, “Chalk”.

Pat Cadigan is something of a legend in the SF community, having won the Arthur C. Clarke award twice and (more recently) a Hugo award. This is her first foray that I’ve seen into horror, and so I was expecting good things.

Read on…

“Monsters in the Heart” by Stephen Volk – A Review


Monsters in the Heart by Stephen Volk(Gray Friar Press, 248pp, £18.99 hb, £8.99 pb)

I have a lot of time for Stephen Volk.

He has made some cracking TV — Ghostwatch, and the extremely underrated Afterlife — and I rather enjoyed his film The Awakening.

And he has good form as a prose writer too, with his novella Whistable being one of the most bleakly moving pieces of writing I’ve read recently. At the time I took great delight in describing it as “lovingly crafted, yet fundamentally honest and believable”, a description which I stand by today.

Short stories are one of the loves of my life. They are undoubtedly the path of less glory — nobody ever made their fortune writing tales under 5,000 words long — but there’s a delight to what can be conveyed with a minimum of words.

So when I received (unsolicited) in my inbox an advance review PDF of Stephen’s new short story collection Monsters in the Heart, I jumped at the chance to see how he took to and used the form to elucidate and entertain.

Read on…

07 “The Dead” (American Horror Story: Coven) [SPOILERS]


american-horror-story-coven-witches-bitches

Apparently, the up-and-down rollercoaster of American Horror Story‘s abusive relationship with its fans is nothing new. From what I gather that was the view of people watching week by week with Murder House and Asylum too.

Given that I watched both series after the fact, if not in one sitting then in substantial chunks, I didn’t get that experience. I saw the stories as a whole, and even with all of their flaws there was never the lingering sense of “Huh…” after the credits rolled because I would just roll straight onto the next one.

Box-set style viewing. It’s the future, apparently.

Which is my long-winded way of saying that this Russian roulette thing where you never know if you’re getting a brilliant or mediocre episode is a bit of a bitch, isn’t it?

Read on…(and mind the spoilers!)

Does Bernard Ingham think insulting the north will win votes?


bernard ingham

Ah, Bernard Ingham, with your eyebrows to rival the one-time Archbishop of Eyebrow-bury Rowan Williams. Sadly, you haven’t his touch for understanding. Nor, really, do you have the political relevance of your fellow Thatcher bigwigs  like Lord Lawson and Lord Tebbit.

But that hasn’t stopped it, has it? No, you’re still there, still plugging away, still determined to kick down the north just as you did in office. Credit to you, on the one hand.

But on the other, go away.

Read on…

The Butler – A Review


the butler

The history of racial relations, particularly in the US, is coming to characterise the moment for me.

After Lincoln and Django Unchained at the beginning of the year, not to mention the re-election of Barack Obama last November, I have recently read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s excellent “Team of Rivals — the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln”.

Which, as it turns out, is a good and well-informed mindset in which to see The Butler.

Read on…

Heresy of the Week – You are not going to be in Star Wars


anakin skywalker shadow

Heresy of the Week is a (mostly) weekly spot in which I entertain some of the unthinkable notions of geek-culture. The arguments I put forward are not always things I personally agree with, but often rhetorical devices designed to force myself (and maybe readers) out of the boxes which fan discussions can get caught in. But that aside, feel free to get yourselves worked up and your knickers in a twist if you really want to.

This week’s heresy:

The open casting for Star Wars VII is a publicity stunt, and to make matters worse it is one which we’ve all fallen for. The principle roles will not be cast as a result of this circus, but rather will go to unknown-but-trained professional actors.

Read on…