Month: March 2014

Interzone #251 – A Review


interzone #251I’m sure somebody will disagree with me here, but I don’t know of any fiction magazine as consistently striking as Interzone.

Obviously a book, or magazine, shouldn’t be judged by its cover, but presentation is important, and the new(ish) design of the Interzone cover supplemented with a succession of frankly fantastic artwork, only makes the interior more enticing.

Interzone‘s in the wild are a fairly rare occasion — the shelves of W.H. Smith being stocked mainly with nonsense — which is a shame really. Actually, I think this would stand out a mile off on a newsagent’s shelf.

And if I saw it there, hell I’d pick it up! Wouldn’t you?

I’m not sure what the point of this little pre-review rant is, just that some of the best genre material is something of a secret by the simple fact of a lack of exposure. There is no reason at all that magazines like Interzone should be just for established fans.

Read on…

Youth in Revolt


george osborne laugh

My generation are selfish bastards. It’s a well-documented thing.

We’re the “me” generation, I’ve been told more than once. We’ve had everything on a plate, we’ve had it so easy. When our parents had to work, we got awards just for turning up. Our exams got easier every year, not like the O-Levels Mum and Dad did.

It’s background noise, the hum which shapes our daily lives. Ungrateful. Undeserving. Spoilt. It gets to the point that we tune it out and carry on with our lives. Because what else can we do?

The truth from our perspective — from my perspective — however is quite different.

Read on…

The Grand Budapest Hotel – A Review


the grand budapest hotel

I haven’t seen a Wes Anderson film before. Even The Royal Tenenbaums, which I am reliably informed is something of a masterpiece. So all I had to go on, heading into the cinema, was the trailer and an idea that he tends towards the whimsical.

It also has a cast list as long as my arm, and studded with a panoply of big-name stars. It’s a draw, on the one hand, but it does tend to make me apprehensive. There’s a degree of “what is it compensating for?”, as well as a sense that some of these people can have only the barest amount of screen time in a film only 100 minutes long.

But without wanting to prejudge or give away anything much about the film, let’s get stuck into it.

Read on…

An update – James Duddridge and the Halifax surgery


james duddridge halifax surgery

Well, it’s certainly been an odd week. I started out blogging a photograph I took on my phone at the weekend, and ended up at twenty to seven this morning on BBC Essex talking to James Whale. It even reached LabourList, my old haunt at Political Scrapbook, and even the BBC News website.

Hardly your average week.

James Duddridge’s “Halifax customers only” community surgery seems, at first glance, like a fairly trivial issue. But really it goes to the heart of the idea of representation. With concerns about corporate and large scale lobbying diluting the access of voters to their MPs, Mr Duddridge putting himself in a position where he seems to be turning his representation into a service for sale to corporations looks about as wise and well informed as Grant Shapps’ latest Twitter campaign.

Read on…

“Parasite” by Mira Grant – A Review


parasite by mira grant(Orbit, 512pp, pb £7.99 eb £4.99)

This review was originally published in issue #250 of science-fiction magazine Interzone. You can buy back issues and subscribe to future issues at their shop.

What makes the tin-hat brigade of paranoids scarier? When they know what they’re talking about, seemingly.

I haven’t read any of Mira Grant’s other novels, but the spiel attached to “Parasite” establishes her as more than qualified to comment on matters of biotechnology, pharmacology and ethics.

The novel follows Sal, who was Sally until a car accident left her a complete amnesiac. In a world where almost everybody has genetically-engineered tapeworms inside them boosting their immune system, Sal’s worm having helped her survive apparent brain death makes her a medical marvel and minor celebrity. This places Sal at the epicentre of the events that unfold, all linked to tapeworm firm SymboGen.

Read on…

Heresy of the Week – J.J. Abrams didn’t reboot Star Trek


star trek kelvin

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:

Despite what many viewers, fans and commentators think, J.J. Abrams two Star Trek films haven’t in fact rebooted the franchise; they are simply new instalments of the same story.

Read on…

The Europa Report – A Review


The Europa Report

Ah, The Europa Report. My regular readers will know that I included this film on my list of “5 films which showcase the best of found footage horror at the start of the year. Which sort of steals the thunder of my review, declaring my opinion in advance, doesn’t it?

Not that it really matters. To turn my usual mantra on its head, why say something in one paragraph when I can bore you for a whole post about it?

On a serious note, my opinion is unchanged (it’s a very good film), so that won’t be the point of this review. Rather, I will attempt to go into why I hold that opinion (that it’s a very good film). With me so far? Great.

Read on…

James Duddridge, MP for…Halifax?


james duddridge halifax surgery

During the course of my (rather boring) weekend errands, I came across this poster at Halifax bank. Leaving aside the shock of seeing James Duddridge — if not the dullest man in parliament, certainly a keen contender — leering out at me from the wall, the actual detail of what it says is a little…interesting.

Mr Duddridge’s community surgery is not for constituents, but apparently rather for Halifax customers. I’ve been known to accuse the Tories of being in the pockets of the banks before (with George Osborne going to court to protect their inappropriately large bonuses, it’s hardly a novel claim) but this is something new.

If I weren’t working, I might be tempted to call in on Friday morning and see if Halifax would really turn away a voting constituent; and if my own MP would permit them.

The Remake Rules


hollywood remakes

I haven’t been particularly shy or retiring in my frustration at the film industry’s dearth of originality, manifesting more and more in reruns of old stories and properties rather than the investment in new ideas. But since the money this brings in means that it is unlikely we’ll see a sea-change any time soon.

It’s also worth admitting that there are some remakes which are good, and which are worthwhile in and of themselves. Some have even become classics. I’ll elaborate on a few below, but David Cronenberg’s The Fly was a remake of a 1958 film of the same name. So it’s the individual films that are being remade, and the reasons for that remaking, which is the problem. And that always comes down to cash.

So in time-honoured tradition, if we can’t stop it, let’s regulate it. Below I will lay out a few rules, as to when a remake of something is appropriate to be made and stands a reasonable chance, any chance of being a worthwhile venture by film-makers. It goes without saying, this is all my own opinion (but feel free to borrow it, with attribution, if you fancy)

Read on…

The Research Trap


research

Over the weekend, Ash introduced me to an interesting blog post from her one-time lecture and novelist David Rain, busting the “Seven Myths of Writing. I don’t usually go in for writing advice much, partly because the craft is such a personal thing. Stephen King’s “On Writing” is a book I really enjoyed, but it was “how Stephen King writes” rather than “how you should write”.

David’s approach, however, was interesting. It wasn’t advice per se, but rather challenging some common pre-conceptions. Myth number two in particular leapt out at me, “The Myth of Perfect Preparation“:

…the truth about research and planning, for fiction at least, is this: Do the minimum. Do just enough to get going, and no more… Research is a bottomless pit. If you do it without knowing where you’re going or what you need…it’ll be a long time before you write Chapter One…

Read on…