Thursday, 31 December 2009

Three new rejections

Last couple of days have seen a bunch of rejections arrive in my inbox.

Writing Shift rejected my short story "Acting's a Hell of a Job" - thirty day turnaround
Midnight Echo rejected "Chicken" - twenty-one day turnaround
Strangetastic rejected "The Clean-Up Crew" - sixty-seven days

I've sent "Chicken" off to Port Iris, dingers crossed. I'll be on the lookout for a new potential home for "The Clean-Up Crew" later. I think "Acting's a Hell of a Job" is a no hoper - or at least a tale that needs a thorough rewrite.

Wish me luck!

Friday, 25 December 2009

Seasonal thoughts

I'm not a fan of Christmas. Being truthful I rather try to avoid much of it. I'm not religious so the worship part is out. But equally I like to respect people's beliefs so the commericality of the Festive Season I find crass. I also am teetotal so the drink 'til you feel sick aspect escapes me.

All in all, I have to admit to being a little bit of a "Bah Humbug!" Scrooge-like figure about the whole thing. For anyone that knows me this is not news. But I wouldn't dream of stopping anyone enjoying the season in whatever way they enjoy. Okay I might moan a little about it from time to time. I'm rather good at moaning, after all I am English, but being truthful I would never try to sway anyone's individual beliefs and practices.

But it does depress me when I hear about children - seven, eight, nine years old or something like that - wanting a new bike, an iPod, a Playstation (or whatever the latest games platform is these days), a this, a that and a "the-other" - and wanting all of them.

I know I liked presents as a child. Hell, if I'm honest I rather like them now. It's just I'd rather have them as surprises, at random times, than as expected items on a day specified by the conventions of society. (Book tokens, or Amazon vouchers being a particular favourite of mine as it gives me the chance to receive a gift and go shopping for books.) And, no I didn't get any presents this morning.

Christmas for me has lost its magic. Somewhere amongst the metres-high piles of gaudily wrapped, New Year's Day dustbin fillers it kind of got misplaced.

...

I just re-read the first part of this post. God, I sound depressed. I'm not. Don't feel you need to hide anything sharp. Writing this so far has already brightened my mood - even of that has come at the expense of darkening yours. I apologise for that. I had started this wanting to wish anyone strange enough to read the posts I type a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah or Joyful Yule or whatever you celebrate (and I know the timing is completely wrong for anyone Muslim, Sikh or Hindu).

It just kind of got way from me.

Hmmh! I think I'd better stop.

There is one good thing about Christmas though - the Doctor Who special was on earlier and I thoroughly enjoyed that. Missed the Queen's speech earlier though (or should that count as two good things about the day).

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Beowolf and Grendel

I've always had a fondness for Norse mythology. So when I saw this disk in the local Blockbuster I knew I had to have it. Yeah, I know - I have absolutely no self-control.

So I bought it, brought it home and now I've watched it. Enjoyed it too!

Before I mention anything further I should say this was not the "I've Come to Kill Your Monsh-Tah!" Ray Winstone starring semi-animated Hollywood movie. Not that I'm going to say anything against that movie, just that it was a little too polished for my taste.

However there's another movie telling this tale - a co-production between Canada, the UK and Iceland starring Gerald Butler, Stellan Skarsgard, Ingvar Sigurdson and Sarah Polley.

This is a much grittier film and a hell of a lot more beautiful to look at. The scenery is simply magnificent - very bleak I'll grant you but still absolutely stunning. Iceland is a beautiful country and it reminded me just how much I want to visit the place. I've been meaning to go for nearly two decades since I first read about this mid-Atlantic country.

But I'm supposed to be writing about the film - I do get distracted so very easily.

The story follows the Norse tale more accurately than other adaptations. Grendel the troll seeks revenge on the Danes who'd killed his father. Beowolf hears of their plight and arrives to kill the troll.

So cue 100 minutes of raucous drinking, tales of great derring-do, general moodiness and moping and some occasional brutality. I'm being flippant here. It does sum the film but it doesn't actually tell you how good the movie is. And it is good I promise you. As long as you like films that don't feel they have to throw ten thrills a minute at you.

It's not the fatest moving movie. There is a lot of general jawing and no where near as much fighting as you might expect from a Norse myth. But I adore Chinese epic movies so films that take their time over a tale whilst looking beautiful as they do it. So no problems with pace...

It's also a little odd to hear the range of accents on show (or on sound) here. They haven't tried to hide Scottish or Northern English accents - even though the characters are supposed to be Danes or Swedes.

Fantastic!

Saturday, 19 December 2009

My Bloody Valentine

Okay I've caught up another one. Yeah, you're going to say I'm behind the times I know but I'm working through a backlog here so give me a break on this one.

Well the film is certainly violent. Lots of pleasing gore to satisfy even the sickest horror fan (I'm not the sickest honest). Ten years after a mining disaster which resulted in a number of the trapped miners being killed - although not by the accident but by one of their trapped fellows - the killer is back going on a mad rampage. The only problem is that he's dead. So who is responsible for the latest murders?

Yeah, I know. It's not exactly original. And to be honest, even the twist in the tale is so obvious you can spot it a mile off - or half an hour at least.

But it's well made, well paced; the acting is pretty good and all in all it's damn good fun. But what is it with horror movies that they have to leave an open ending. I mean killing of the lead baddie never harmed the best franchises did it?

Pity the 3D was wasted on me though. It's a bit of a loss on anyone who's blind in one eye. Still the film company had the good grace to include a 2D version on the disk as well so I could watch it without the headache inducing blurring.

Leicester Tigers

The Tigers are not the team they once were. I've been a mad fan of rugby union for nearly three decades and since taking my degree at Leicester University I've been a mad fan of Leicester Tigers.

Back when I started they were a good team, although they were not the best. I had to cope with years of the sport being dominated in England by Bath - a problem when one of my Uni friends was from near Swindon and a big Bath fan.

Then things changed. Leicester became the team in the English game and all was good. More than good I have to admit I was over the moon all through this period. Multiple Premiership titles and a brace of European Cup victories to add to the collection.

However they're not alone at the top of the pile anymore. There are about half a dozen teams in England who are all up there.

So having watched them today I fear that they are going to be out of the European Cup by the end of the group phase. They're currently level on points with Clermont Auverne but if they finish that way Clermont go through as they scored more points against Leicester in the two matches.

As for the Guinness Premiership they are currently fourth which is good as the top four go through to the semi finals. But they're only one point ahead of Wasps who have a game in hand. If they win that and get the bonus point they'll be four points up and Leicester will be fifth and out of the playoff places.

But I'll still support them. I'm not fickle. Although it's going to be a tough end of season to watch if they're not involved.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Stuck

I watched a rather darkly comedic thriller last night called Stuck. For once it was a film I could watch with the family - normally I head off to my office and stick a horror movie on whilst they watch a western, or a musical, or a police procedural TV show or something about cookery, or a game show, or something else I don't watch. It works for us...

Anyway Stuck is a wonderfully dark movie starring Stephen Rea as a downtrodden man, rendered useless by the recession. He's lost his job. He's just been thrown out of his apartment and the world basically doesn't want him.

During his first night on the streets he is hit by a car, becoming lodged in the windscreen. But instead of immediately rushing him to the local ER the woman driving the car, played by Mena Suvari, drives home and hides him in her garage. She and her boyfriend then try to figure out what to do with him.

This is a great movie, although perhaps not one for the squeamish out there. I've seen horror movies with less gore than this.

Stephen Rea is as wonderful as ever. He's one of the best character actors I can think of. Suvari is excellent as the ditzy care nurse scared of wrecking her future by admitting what she'd done. Pretty much everything about this film is done well.

As long as you have a strong stomach I recommend this to you. Enjoy!

I Spit on Your Grave

I never watched this film when it first came out, largely due to the fact it was banned in the UK at the time.

Well more than two decades later it is now available, the film certification board reflecting the change in the morals of the country in the intervening years. And all I can say is having watched it in the era of Saw and other torture-porn films, plus movies with explicit sexual content like Baise-Moi and 9 Songs, is that it is extremely tame in comparison to newer films.

In fact I could imagine a film with similar story / content made today might only get a 15 Certificate, never mind be banned.

For anyone who's not seen it here's a quick summary of the plot.

A young female author leaves New York and heads out into the sticks to get some peace and quiet so she can work on her next novel. Only problem is she's landed in small town USA and you know in a horror film that's not going to end well. Four local redneck types decide to have a little fun with her which to them means gang rape her and leave her for dead. She survives and sets out to get her revenge on the four.

It's not the most inspired of plotlines. Pretty much everything in it is telegraphed well in advance. The acting is definitely second rate and when you view it in 2009 with all the advances in effects technology since this was made it is pretty awful.

But it does have something. I'm not quite sure what but there's definitely something there. Maybe it's the daring of the simple concept, I don't know. But I do have to say it hasn't got enough for it to have been remembered this long after being made were it not for the fact it was banned.

Guess the campaigners for banning video nasties being banned missed the mark a little - all they've done in hindsight is to make memorable a film which really doesn't deserve to be memorable.

What the Hell's going on in Copenhagen?

I've been watching the Copenhagen Conference with interest over the last two weeks and all I've seen is childishness and ridiculous posturing. We have a real problem in the world. Pretty much everyone knows that.

As a species we lice on just one planet and we seem keen on destroying its ability to support us.

We need to cooperate to save our home. We need to have politicians who will step up and play their part.

There's still time I guess but I feel despair growing within me. Are they going to do anything real at this gathering? Or are they just going to squabble?

We in developed countries need to do more. We need to help the developing mations do more. It's that simple. Else we may have to accept large parts of our planet will become very inhospitable and many millions will die.

There's still time. Fingers crossed.

Two more rejections

New writing market Port Iris has rejected another two of my pieces - a review of Bryan Smith's book Depraved and an article on the history of The Malleus Maleficarum - a book on hunting witches.

So it goes...

Monday, 14 December 2009

Two review sales

Website Nossa Morte have accepted two more of my reviews, for film The Hills Run Red and Sarah Pinborough's book Feeding Ground.

Together with the already accepted review of Tim Waggoner's Nekropolis that makes three of mine that will appear on the website in future issues.

I have been featured in every issue so far and I've had something in every issue.

Short Story Rejection

Another one bites the dust...

New fiction market Port Iris has rejected my short story "Highwayman Wannabe".

I think this is a story I might retire...

Friday, 11 December 2009

Parasomnia

Unlike most of the horror films I've watched in recent weeks this is actually a pretty decent film. Cherilyn Wilson plays a young woman with a serious sleep disorder, she spends the vast majority of her life asleep and she's cared for at an asylum. This is possibly the only seriously questionable bit in the film, I have no idea why someone with a sleep disorder would be in a mental institution but we'll let that fly for now.

Because her being there means she can be next door to a serial killer who hypnotises people in order to kill them (killer = Patrick Kilpatrick, a seriously creepy actor). Bit of a far fetched set up but it has some decent action and has a number of horror favourites playing the parts.

We have Jeffrey Combs and Kathryn Leigh Scott in supporting roles...

So it's a bit ropey in concept but it's certainly well made, decent direction - acting more than acceptable and dfinitely entertaining.

Father Ted

A couple of days ago, on a whim, I bought the Father Ted box set. That was definitely a good idea. Watching the episodes has cheered me enormously.

Fantastic fun - I have the episode "The Plague" playing at the moment. There are only about four or five situation comedy series I have really liked.

Blackadder is one of course, Fawlty Towers another. Red Dwarf I found fantastic, if I don't think about the last couple of episodes and the recent re-union thing.

I like Monty Python, the Fast Show and some other comedy sketch series but I generally find sit-coms annoying. But Father Ted is something rather special.

International Cooperation

I've just read a news story about this climate conference thing. In some ways it was a little depressing as it outlined the battles between EU leaders over the contribution to be made to a EU fund to fight climate change - the target for which is 6bn Euros by 2012.

But there was one thing in the article I found very encouraging. UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy held a joint press conference in which our two countries have between them guaranteed a minimum of 1.7bn over three years.

Now it's not the amount as such that's the point here, although it is good to see that the fight against climate change is getting some serious support. The point is that the UK and France are standing side by side as friends.

And it's when countries work together that problems as serious as climate change can be resolved.

Guess What? Another Rejection

Yep, another one. My short story "Highwayman Wannabe" has been rejected by Electric Velocipede.

I know I should take these on the chin so to say - consider them part of the life of writing. And to a certain extent I do. I am always going to get rejections.

I'm just going through a sticky patch in life. I'm sure I'll feel a little better in future. And you never know I might even get an acceptance at some point. And at some point I may even feel like writing something again...

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Undead

Another night, another movie. That could be said to sum up my life pretty much. Well last night's film of choice is a rather iffy Australian Zombie film called Undead.

It's a complete mish-mash of a film. We have zombies, fine. Then add in aliens - ok, getting slightly weirder. Go the whole hog by trying to make it comedic in places, but not all the way; add a survivalist nut; a government conspiracy and so on and you get a very confused film.

It's badly acted. It has appalling effects, a pitiful plot and a total case of badness.

Yes in other words I loved it. But my liking of bad movies is well known.

But before you dismiss me as someone with no taste whatsoever I must point out I do have some serious film likes.

I think the best horror film ever made is "Halloween" (the John Carpenter version from 1980). I like "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Harvey". I thought "Frost/Nixon" was brilliant. I like "Citizen Kane", "Bladerunner", "Goundhog Day", "Highlander", "Goodbye Mr. Chips", "Love Actually", "Back to the Future", "The Blues Brothers", "Rain Man", "Ghostbusters" and of course "Class of Nuke 'En High Part Two".

In other words I'm like anyone else. My tastes are varied. Go hang if you don't like it. I couldn't care.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Another Rejection

My short story "Chicken" has been rejected by Andromeda Spaceways. For a story that's less then two weeks since written that's three rejections now.

Guess my recent form might be telling me something.

I thought when I managed to get a handful of acceptances in pretty short order that I'd discovered how to do this. I was wrong I must admit.

It's getting quite disheartening. For all the work it is to find places to send in stories just to get rejections I'm not overly sure I want to continue. I don't do this writing thing for the money. Okay I will not send my work into markets that don't pay but that's more pride than anything else. Okay the money is nice I guess. It means I can buy some more books but it's not going to change my world.

But is it really worth it? It means I end up spending a good deal of my free time away from my family on this dread machine trying to make stories work and then longer still trying to find markets to send them in.

Part of the issue is, from my personal POV I think my more recent tales are a considerable improvement over the ones that I wrote a year ago - the ones that sold. One of my favourites, "A Day Like Any Other", has been rejected seven times. I don't think I want to read another rejection for it. It's with Futurismic now, according to their site I have another five weeks to wait until I'm likely to get a decision.

That may be the deciding vote. Of course, by then I may have had three or four acceptances - I do have other submissions out there - and I might not care as much.

But right now I'm feeling I just want to go back to being a reader. I like reading. This writing lark takes up far too much of my time. Time I could spend reading.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

I'm not a horror obsessed looney!

Many people think I am but it simply isn't true. I like a great amount of non-horror films and books. Honest!

And to prove it this afternoon I sat down with the family and watched a film my wife picked. And that film was G-Force - a mixed live action / computer animated famliy film about secret agent guinea pigs. Yep, that's got to be about as far removed from horror as you can get.

And the film - well, it's actually very good. I wouldn't say it's to my usual taste but on a Sunday afternoon it can be a bit of lightweight fluff - fun in other words.

It's not going to mean than animated stuff takes over from horror as my staple movie diet, but I will be watching one every now and again - especially as my wife wants to see Up!

More Rejections

Dark Recesses Press have rejected by short story "A Day Like Any Other". I've sent it in to Futurismic figuring you never know.

Shock Totem have rejected my article "The Maleus Maleficarum". I have no idea yet where this might be sent. It's its fourth rejection so maybe I should consider retiring it. We'll see.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

This third Underworld film is very much one for the fans. It's a prequel of sorts to the first two movies and, very much unfortunately for the men watching, doesn't feature Kate Beckinsale and her unfathomably tight catsuit.

The story focuses on the Lycans' fight for freedom from oppression by the Vampires. Michael Sheen plays Lucian, a Lycan raised by the Vampire leader Viktor (Bill Nighy) and, although a favourite, treated little more than a pet.

The role of the sexy female lead is filled by Rhona Mitra playing Viktor's daughter Sonja who does a reasonable job of replacing Beckinsale, even though she was always going to be fighting a losing battle in that regard.

Sonja and Lucian are secret lovers, a union forbidden by the Vampire council. When Lucian breaks the rules of the limited freedom his favourite status affords him he is tortured and locked away seemingly forever.

It ends his allegiance to the Vampires who raised him and he determines to free his race.

It's violent, dark, moody etc. Pretty much all the things you would expect from a film in the series. It's entertaining if a little lightweight plotwise. All in all I'd say it's fun, but mostly forgettable.

Friday, 4 December 2009

I Know How Many Runs You Scored Last Summer

This is a first for me - a horror film about cricket. Needless to say it's not the most serious film out there.

It's a non-supernatural horror tale - a revenge story in which a "slightly" deranged man is seeking out the members of his school cricket team who made his life hell when he was a teenager.

There are some truly silly death scenes in this movie - all involving cricket stumps - and a pitifully thin plot. This is real B-Movie territory. It has bad acting (although not deterimentally so), awful effects and just general badness oozing out of every pore. In other words I loved it. I like bad movies and this was seriously bad.

There's even a totally gratuitous shower scene. Essentially the whole film just goes on hold for a few minutes so the camera can concentrate on every single square inch of one woman's skin - and I mean every inch. The cameraman really takes his time to make certain he doesn't miss anything - even returning to certain areas repeatedly just to be sure. I remember 1980s B-Movies had this kind of scene. And time hasn't made it any more relevant to its parent film than it was then.

Mind you, being male I'm not likely to complain.

Seriously though, I couldn't find a single reason to recommend anyone in their right mind would ever want to watch this film. But seriousness is seriously overrated. This is a definite contender for the kind of evening that involves a group of friends, copious alcohol and much piss-taking over the films viewed.

(And yes I realise that anyone who knows me might think a couple of those statements above might not fit my lifestyle - as a semi-antisocial teetotaller.)

Still the film would fit such an evening...

Asimov article live

My short biography of Issac Asimov is now live in the December 2009 edition of New Myths.

The article can be found at

http://www.newmyths.com/index.pacq?id=174&tier=2

There are a couple of my book reviews on this site also - for Richard Satterlie's Imola and Brian Keene's Urban Gothic

Urban Gothic
http://www.newmyths.com/index.pacq?id=172&tier=2

Imola
http://www.newmyths.com/index.pacq?id=173&tier=2

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The Wizard of Gore

This is an odd film. Very gory, very odd.

Crispin Glover plays Montag, a sick stage magician who kills people onstage for his illusions. One man suspects he is doing it for real.

It's very oddly filmed. The whole thing feels like a massive drug trip. It's full of nudity and gore and features the Suicide Girls, a troupe of punk glamour models.

It's interesting but it feels incomplete as a movie.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Another Rejection

My story "Acting's a Hell of a Job" just got another rejection, this time from "Short-Story.Me!"

It's not doing too well this one, I think that's it's fifth rejection.

Still I've decided to try it again - off to Writing Shift.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Underworld: Evolution

Okay, okay - you're going to tell me I'm behind the times again. And once again you'd be right if you did so. I do occasionally let films get passed me, so that I end up watching them months or, as in this case, years after they came out. Hey get over it, I did.

Anyway - the film. Would you believe I actually read the novelisation of this film when the film had yet to be released. And before you wonder why I would read a novelisation, well it was a review book I'd been sent and I got paid for the review. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. I do remember it wasn't a bad read. Quick and fun but throwaway.

Anyway I digress the movie. As I expected pretty much. High on action, really good if a little far fetched effects and a paper thin plot. Well, what else do you want from a film like this?

And to the absolute highlight of the movie. Kate Beckinsale in a vinyl catsuit. Oh yes, remember I am male. I do notice these things. And even if she is a little short for my usual taste (she's 5' 7" tall, I looked her up) it's still a plesant site seeing her in that catsuit.

I guess a number of people might think I am being a little picky about her "only" being 5' 7" but why shouldn't I? I'm more than a foot taller than she is and I like tall women. My wife is 6' 3" tall so I know they exist.

Anyway, the film's a laugh. Nothing serious just good fun. The gore's pretty silly, the action almost superheroically ridiculous. Just what I wanted on a Sunday evening.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Time to wake up Britain

Over the last few days I've been following this Iraq Enquiry. It's worrying in one sense.

Over the last few decades you can scarcely get through a week (if you watch the news) without hearing an article mentioning the UK/US "Special Relationship". Well it seems it might be unravelling.

I guess it wouldn't be that surprising in a way. Relations between our two countries have not always been so amicable. But for the UK, very much the junior party in this relationship, it could be difficult if things soured now.

That is unless we get real and realise that we are not alone on this side of the Atlantic. Twenty two miles across a thin strip of sea lies France, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Malta (ok more sea involved here), Cyprus (more sea again), Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and going the other way Ireland.

It could soon grow - Croatia, Turkey and Macedonia as candidates for joining, Albania, Iceland and Montenegro having applied and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Serbia all considered potential future candidates.

But it goes further. Switzerland, Norway and Liechtenstein are all closely allied with the EU as members of the European Free Trade Association. A number of countries in the Caucasus, which although geographically in western Asia are considered culturally European countries and so could in the medium term future apply to join the EU.

If we realise that our future lies not as trying to restore former glories, the greatness of Britain as a standalone superpower are longer ago than anyone still living can remember, but as part of a close alliance of independent nations - a continent wide unity.

Please let us come to our senses.

One story less than two days old - rejected twice

The story I mentioned earlier (it's called "Chicken " BTW). Having received the rejection from Ruthless Peoples Magazine I decided to send it in to Short-Story.Me!

They only kept it for four hours, smashing the previous record, earlier in the day of seven.

I am kind of hoping though that it's not a bad story. I'm off to try to find it another potential home.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Second part of article live

A little while back I posted news of the first half of an article I'd written on the Marquis de Sade - origin of the word sadism. It appeared on the adult website Lucrezia.

Since then they've published the second part of the piece - on Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch, the man behind the word Masochism.

Okay they posted it nearly two weeks ago I just forgot to update this site. Anyway, apologies for being late, here's the link in case you want to read it. As before I want to remind you that the site has a lot of sexual content if you choose to go exploring. If you do I hope you enjoy it, they've certainly got a fair amount of content.

To do that you'll just need to remove all after the dot com in the address. The link I'm posting is stright to my article as a pdf. So no links back.

http://www.lucreziamagazine.com/index.php/editorial/articles/542-the-original-sado-masochists-leopold-ritter-von-sacher-masoch.pdf

Warwolves

Ho hum. Friday night, wife abroad on a business trip until next weekend. Sounded like a good time to put on another horror movie.

I picked Warwolves.

In just about every way imaginable this is a 1980s straight-to-video B-Movie horror. Plot, direction, effects and even cast.

Main names on the box are John Saxon, Tim Thomerson (from Trancers, one of my favourite 80s B-Movie SF flicks) and Adrienne Barbeau (Escape from New York).

It has a whole bunch of younger types in it too - including many attractive young women who's role is pure titillation - even though they are the bad guys (girls?). But to be honest I don't recognise any of them.

I liked 80s B-Movie, straight-to-video stuff. And so a large part of me rather likes this. The acting is hammy, the story fairly predictable, some of the scenes almost cringeable.

But it also stars an actor I have always liked - Art LaFleur. He's not a name many will recognise but I can almost 100% guarantee you will have seen him in something. If, like me, you like sf/horror TV stuff it's most likely from Angel - he played the T'ish Magev.

He's only in a small part but he was good every second he was on the screen. And he grabbed a cricket bat to fight werewolves. I didn't even know Americans would recognise a cricket bat.

Fastest turnaround - not a good one though

Last night I sat down with a new story idea in my head. I wrote it out in one sitting - not that it was hard as it only came to 1300 words.

Printed it, left it for half an hour. Re-read it. Edited it to 1100 words and submitted it to Ruthless Peoples Magazine.

Got home from work this afternoon, logged on, checked the email. And they'd rejected it.

Nicely though, despite the magazine's title. Still from when I had the idea to it being returned was eleven hours. Impressive. Would have been nicer if they'd wanted it obviously, but you've got to admire their speed. They only had it secen hours.

Unfortunately they also rejected the other tale I sent them a little earlier. They were nice about that too though.

And I've already sent them off to other potential markets. I'm not expecting the same time turnaround from them though.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Being philosophical

Last weekend I got food poisoning. Or maybe I have a new as yet unidentified allergy. I am allergic to bananas, fennel and alcohol amongst other things so it wouldn't surprise me to learn of another one.

All I know is I had a very pleasant meal last Sunday, three course plus mince pies, and by the evening I was starting to feel a bit dodgy. Middle of the night this turned into pretty serious discomfort. And essentially I couldn't do anything at all until Tuesday apart from things my body told me I had to do - URGENTLY!

Tuesday I managed to get out of bed - by about mid morning. Stumbled downstairs lay of the sofa and watched the end of the day's play from the second test India vs Sri Lanka (cricket in case you don't know) then discovered how bad daytime TV is (by looking through the listings not watching it - I wasn't that sick) and whiled away the afternoon playing some old videos and hoping to feel better.

Wednesday arrives I decide I want to go back to work - although probably was one day too soon. Still hadn't really eaten much but I don't like being ill so was going to work. It lifted my spirits although left me feeling totally drained. Even managed some crackers for lunch and a sandwich in the evening.

Today more improvement and I'm sure it will continue.

Right - that's the background over. Now to the point of this. I'm not after sympathy. I don't deserve it or want it. I'm not playing the "woe is me" card. We're all human, all prone to getting ill.

Getting to the point. When I get illnesses like this I thank...

...ok, what can I thank? The heavens? No. Ok - leave that aside. I'm just getting distracted anyway.

What I do is I count myself lucky that's all I have. A friend of mine suffers from Crohn's Disease. It affects generally the same areas of his system as my recent allergy attack / food poisoning / whatever did. But it's permanent. Mine is not.

So I am fortunate. I am not going to moan. It would not be right. I do hope my friend fortunes improve soon though.

...And no I'm not moralising

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Reviews Sale

I've just received an email telling me that Murky Depths, a UK based horror magazine, will be featuring four of my book reviews. These four short reviews - all about 250 words - will be included in either issues 11 or 12. They are for

Edward Lee - The Golem
Rio Youers - Old Man Scratch
Mike Resnick - Stalking the Dragon
W.D. Gagliani - Wolf's Gambit

I have noticed since sending it that the Edward Lee book was older than I thought, coming out in April 2009. I've owned up to it in case they want more recent titles. You never know though, they might be okay with it.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Annoyance and a quandry

Someone read this blog. That in itself made me happy. The comment the guy posted did not unfortunately. Not his fault, his post was perfectly fine. It's just what the comment told me.

I've written a number of tales, and have a couple more part done, featured an eight-foot tall blood-red, horned demon called Jyfyskrunifordkanifdraugbast, or Jeff for short.

It's a fondness I have for giving supernatural beings mundane names. Go figure.

Problem is the comment the guy posted mention a film being made called "Jeff the Demon". Ok, first thought - bugger!

Second thought is that this is a problem. I created my Jeff in 2007 as an idea for a really naff demon who developed a taste for the silly side of life. It actually came from the fancy dress costumes I saw at cricket matches.

Last year I started writing stories featuring him and in the last few weeks, more than a year after I wrote those initial stories, I sold a couple of them - one to Everyday Weirdness and one to House of Horror.

It made me happy. I like the tales. They're fun to write and I rather liked the idea of writing a lot more. I've added a group of friends, equally mundanely names - Alan the Ghost, Pete the Zombie, Bernie the Werewolf and so on. Pete's even had his own spin-off story.

And now I find out someone else also decided on the name Jeff for their demon. And it's in a bloody movie. Darn!

Leaves me with a quandry. Should I carry on writing these tales? After all from having read the blurb for the film this evening the two concepts are vastly different, even though they are both comedies.

I just don't know. It's frustrating.

Aaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Red Cliff

Must mention this film. I love Chinese epic films. Big scale, true cast of thousand jobs. And so seeing htis on the shelves in the video store was simply too good to miss.

And I wasn't disappointed. It's a little more martial than my favourite Chinese movies (House of Flying Daggers, Curse of the Golden Flower) but it is still wonderful.

Plot in a nutshell - corrupt, power hungry prime minister controlling puppet emporer decides that the lords of the southern lands need to be defeated to remove their threat. He has vast armies, far greater than those he intends to subdue. They face certain death...or do they.

My mother-in-law had a little difficulty in keeping all the various people in this apart. She kept mixing up this warlords, that prime minister, the other general etc. For good reason to, there are an awful lot of major characters in this, and not being overly familiar with Chinese names does mean you have to be on your game to stay with it.

But it's definitely worth the effort. There are some wonderful moments of imagination and clever twists. As the cinematography is absolutely stunning. Amazing.

Writing to music

I write most of my short stories, articles and reviews whilst music is playing. It helps me relax. It removes the rest of the distractions of the world and let's me get on with things.

Or at least it does most of the time. I'm sitting here now wanting to get some writing done and am having the most amazing difficulty finding music I can allow to flow over me - to just fill in the background. It happens sometimes. I'm finding even the music distracting, yet turn it off and I can hear the TV downstairs (family are watching some film or other, I don't know), the wind outside, the central heating system and about a dozen other noises. And they're getting into my head.

I can type blog entries, write emails, even do the day job (programming) with a much higher level of distraction than writing. I can do all of these while watching movies. I picked the remake of Hills Have Eyes whilst doing all this kind of stuff earlier (including the night's first blog entry).

But writing's different. I have a couple of ideas that I want to get down, a new Jeff story and another dark sf tale, but I'm yet to find my coverall audio background. I've had Yes on - a band I have been a fan of for three decades and know virtually every note, familiarity is good for blocking music. It didn't work, I was listening to it.

I tried my usual sure-fire - Suzanne Vega. I started concentrating on the lyrics. I've tried Rammstein in case getting rid of the English would work. It didn't I tried Tangerine Dream (no words) but still nothing. So I'm listening to the Frankie Goes to Hollywood greatest that's just come out and typing this, hoping that when I finish I may have found my head.

If all else fails I'll take a pad and a pen and go to bed. I've written a number of things longhand. Some times it just works best.

Wish me luck!

Finally watched the new Star Trek film...

...and I liked it. In fact I thought it was great.

I had been wary of this one sinc eI heard it was going to be a reboot. I've been a Trek fan since the 70s and have enjoyed (for the most part) the ever growing mythology.

Now we're virtually back to square one. Everything has changed. And I am actually looking forward to seeing what they will do with it.

Being greedy I would like a new TV series. The chance to see 22-26 new stories a year appeal more than a new film every three years or so. But I'll take what I can get. Any new Trek would be good for me.

Monday, 9 November 2009

New Article Live

The first part of one of my articles has been posted to the Lucrezia ezine.

The full piece is entitled "The Original Sado-Masochists" and is a double biography of the Marquis de Sade and Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch, the two men that the words Sadism and Masochism were named after. The second part will be posted shortly.

The site is a bit of adult one - okay it's dedicated to erotica I admit it. But it's the perfect home for the article.

You can find my piece at
http://lucreziamagazine.com/index.php/editorial/articles/536-the-original-sado-masochists-marquis-de-sade.html

It's up to you whether you read any more of the site. To be honest it's up to you whether you choose to read my article as well. I'm certainly not going to insist upon it.

It's the first article I've sold based on eponyms. I've always had a fascination with the stories behind words and when you can track it to a specific person I find it all the better.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Go Leicester, Go!

I am a big rugby fan. And I am a fan of Leicester Tigers - always have been.

And on Friday night they beat the World Champions South Africa.

I might be happy at the moment - even if England lost to Australia yesterday

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Doghouse

Anyone fancy a seriously good black comedy zombie movie that's equal measure buddy movie. Well Doghouse is it - providing that is you can cope with a British sense of humour.

Plot - a group of guys decide to head to a remote village in the English countryside for a weekend of all-out drinking and male camaraderie aimed at raising the spirit of a recently divorced friend only to find they stumbled into the middle of a secret biological weapon experiment which has turned all of the women in the village into zombies.

Queue excessive violence, incompetent laddish zombie fighting, and an all round good fun movie. This is one of the best films I've seen all year.

The Hills Run Red

Now if ever I've seen a film that was a patch job, built on bits of other movies, then this is it. I mean, seriously, I've tried wracking my brains to see if I can think of a single other movie that's less original than this - and I've failed. Even some remakes manage to bring more new material to the table than this.

Yet surprisingly it's not totally awful. It is rescued by pretty decent directing (nice paced, decent action), half-decent gore (even if repeated a time or two) and some excellent over-the-top psycho acting from William Sadler as the whack-job film director. Sophie Monk chips in a creditable performance as the equally deranged daughter.

Essentially three film nuts head into the middle of nowhere to track down the director of a never released, ultimate gore, horror film and making a documentary while they go. And yes they end up in the middle of a horror film of their own in true Blair Witch style only pitched up against a Texas Chainsaw Massacre / Halloween / Friday 13th style masked mad killer and his family.

Not bad given its shortcomings plotwise, but more than just watchable - it's half decent - surprisingly so.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Lisbon Treaty Ratified

The Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, has signed the Lisbon Treaty. It means that all 27 nations in the European Union have formally fatified the treaty and it will come into force within weeks.

In the UK this has been widely reported as more of Britain's sovereignty being handed over the EU - an institution believed by many to be undemocratic. The treaty's had a lot of bad press. Okay there are areas where the voting rules have been changed - some vetoes have been removed, and votes can be passed by a majority of 55% of the EU's member states (providing they represent 65% of the EU population).

But it has many advantages. And these are actually in the areas many have criticised the treaty. The EU will get a President and a Foreign Minister. Now if you want my opinion - and if you've read down this posting this far it seems you might - this is a great thing for the EU.
I've said before that we are a small country in a world becoming more and more dominated by large countries. The USA, China, India and Brazil are all much bigger nations that we are. Add in Russia which, although only the size of the UK and Germany added together in terms of population, has a massive surface area and enormous available resources.

In fact if you list all the countries of the world in order from the largest land area to the smallest, the first on the list for an EU nations is 43rd for France. It's the only EU country in the top fifty. If Turkey joins we will get a second (Turkey is at 37 on the list). The United Kingdom comes in at 79th, behind countries such as Gabon (75th), Burkina Faso (73rd), Oman (70th), Cote D'Ivoire (68th), Uzbekistan (55th), Madagascar (46th), Myanmar (40th), Mauritania (29th), Chad (21st) and Kazakhstan (9th).

In terms of pure population the EU manages slightly better. Germany ranks 14th, France 20th and the UK 22nd. But we are still small fry next to China's 1.4 billion and India's 1.1 billion.

But if we stand together we are half a billion. And in having a single figure representing the common interest of 27 nations (and hopefully 28 very soon with Croatia joining, maybe even 29 including Iceland) we will have a much stronger voice.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Warlords

I have a fondness for epic scale Chinese movies - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the like. I like the sheer beauty of the cinematography and the epic size of the stories, true cast of thousand pieces.

This weekend we watched Warlords, an absolutely immense movie of battle in nineteenth century China. It's brutal in places, hundreds and hundreds die in some of the scenes. But it's not an unending series of war scenes. This has one hell of a story. I loved it. Definitely my kind of movie.

Two reviews live on nossa morte

Two more of my reviews are now live on nossa morte. The reviews are a book review of Dean Koontz's Relentless (at http://nossamorte.com/nov09issue/relentless.html) and a film review of Dead Girl (at http://nossamorte.com/nov09issue/deadgirl.html)

It keeps up my run with the magazine. I've had at least one review in every single issue of this magazine since it started two years ago.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

New Article Sale

Just got the contract for a non-fiction piece of mine called "The Original Sado-Masochists", a double biography of the Marquis de Sade and Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch, the two men behind the eponyms "Sadism" and "Masochism".

It;s a little bit more adult than most of the stuff I do in terms of subject matter and, although it does necessarily have some adult content having to describe their activities, I have not tried to be overly erotic or sensational about it. The piece is a straight (no pun intended) biography piece.

I'll post more when it goes live and you can judge for yourselves - or choose to skip it entirely. I won't be offended.

New Short Story Sale - Jeff the Demon take 2 + further resale

I just received the news that UK ezine House of Horror will be featuring another of my short stories in their January 2010 issue. This tale, "I Want to Stay", is the second to feature Jeff the Flesh-Shredder, after "How May I Help You?" featured on Everyday Weirdness a little over a week ago.

There is a third Jeff tale out there in submissions land. Fingers crossed on it - but I might send it in to House of Horror if the current submission is rejected. They don't pay much but I like the people who run it. More important to me than money that.

And talking of House of Horror, the first tale of mine they bought, "The Waiting Room", has been picked for their Best of 2009 print antho. This is in addition to it featuring in their Special Print Edition #2. So it's got three outings. Nice!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Article sale confirmed

I wrote an article on the Saw movie franchise some months ago and sent it off to Shroud Magazine.

Well I had confirmation today that it will feature in issue 7 of the magazine - which is just about to go to the printers.

It's a magazine I am particularly partial to, so I always like being featured.

The Last House on the Left

There's been a number of remake films over the last couple of years. Friday the 13th, Halloween, Hills Have Eyes, etc, etc. And now The Last House on the Left.

I started of avoiding these like the plague. I loved all of the originals and thought these could only be second-rate at best. However having watched a few of them i have to say that generally these remakes have been quite good. I liked Friday the 13th immensely for one.

So I thought I'd give the others a chance, and the latest is The Last House on the Left. And thankfully this trend of them being actually quite good is continuing. The plot in a nutshell is married couple and teenage daughter head for their house in the country. Daughter is attacked and left for dead. Her attackers then seek shelter from a storm in the guest house her parents own, without either party knowing about the other.

Bit of a twisted little plot this one. It's well acted. The direction is spot on, the plot paced superbly and the gory bits just what every horror fan would want. In case you hadn't noticed already - I liked this film.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Sunday night's are a bitch

I like my job. I really do. But I still get the Sunday night feeling, that wish that Monday morning didn't need to happen. I'll get over it. I know within minutes of getting to work tomorrow I'll just get into the groove and do my thing. I mean it's not as though I've had a two day break or anything. I spent this morning compiling, testing and deploying a new version of the software.

At leas tI've managed to finish off one story and find somewhere to submit it - and find a possible home for another short story, one whose earlier submission I've adjudged to be dead and buried - six months with no answer is enough for me to realise there's no hope.

Fingers crossed on these and the others I have out there. I've subbed half a dozen others this week, okay two of them came straight back rejected but I'm trying. One of them was good enough to give some advice not just a standard form rejection. So I owe some thanks to them - Ruthless People Magazine, proving that the name is definitely not true.

So I'm going to see if I can find a novel I actually want to read. I've really not been in the mood to read a novel in weeks. For someone who's as much of a total book addict as me, it's really frustrating.

Ah well time to try another...

Stay Alive

Playing a violent horror game? Sounds a pretty harmless activity. However add in an incantation before you play and whatever happens to you in the game happens to you in real life. You die electronically, you die for real.

One by one a group of friends die two deaths, in the game and in real life...

That's about it really. Second rate horror. Not too bad but without anything to raise it above the mediocre.

I've just realised from re-reading this posting and reconsidering the previous one I'm sounding rather negative about things - well certainly these two movies.

I'm not normally a negative person. I normally try to find the positive in even the worst horror movie. But I simply couldn't this time. And it's possible because neither of them are bad enough to be considered B-Movies in the traditional sense. I guess I'm just in a picky mood.

House of 9

Now here's a film that has exactly no originality whatsoever. Put nine people in a locked house and promise five million dollars to the last one left alive. Been there, seen that. So is it any better the eighty-fifth time?

Well not really, no. Okay it does benefit from one two decent actors - Dennis Hopper, Kelly Brook, Peter Capaldi - but it doesn't fire particularly. It's not the worst hour and a half of cinema I've ever seen. Being fair it's not even close. It's far too slick and well filmed to be all that bad, but you can easily find something more worthy of an hour and a half of your life.

Fortunately I was working with it playing in the background.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Another story goes live

Everyday Weirdness - the site that provides a new tale every single day of the year - has posted my short story "How May I Help You?" to their site as today's story. I have such a smile on my face as I've sold a Jeff the Flesh-Shredder tale. Basically he's a demon who's taken rather a fondness to life on Earth that I came up with a little while ago and I've written three comedic stories featuring him.

I like him as a character, he's fun to write. My wife likes him as a character and wants me to write more of them but as the stories had been rejected and rejected and rejected I stopped. I couldn't see the point if no one else liked them. Okay it came close if my wife wanted more but she understands I'm trying to write things that sell.

So anyone, one sold. And it can be found on their site which is at

http://everydayweirdness.com/

If you don't go there today, you'll need to find October 23rd 2009 for my little tale.

Hope you enjoy it...

...and if you feel like please let me know what you think.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

How Many People Can You Offend in One Book?

Well okay, there's no simple answer to that. But I know one thing. Frankie Boyle is certainly having a go to see if he can set some kind of record.

I've been a fan of the TV show Mock the Week since it first started and its irreverent approach to the news. It runs for about a dozen weeks each summer and takes the mickey out of anyone unfortunate enough to be famous at times in a really cruel way.

I know that it might not be the most considerate thing to do - finding humour at the expense of others but I find a lot of what is on this show extremely funny. I know my desire to be fair and even handed should preclude my finding cruel humour amusing but I just do.

Well on the show possible the most cutting of all the comedians is Glaswegian Frankie Boyle (who unfortunately has recently announced he will not be returning).

But he has brought out a book. In theory its a biography and I am normally appalled by the concept of reading celebrity biographies. But in truth there is not all that much in the way of actual biography in these pages.

It's more a series of small recollections about his past that then allow him to head off on a wild, and very offensive, tangent. No subject is outside this man's taste range. I've been reading a chapter or two to end each day this week, rationing it so I can extend my enjoyment but unfortunately it's still nearly over. Not much more to go and I'll have finished the book.

I really, really recommend you consider any decision to read this carefully. It is most definitely adults only, and broad minded ones at that...

Reminiscing, Candyman style

The other day I wandered into a video store and they had a deal on - horror films at 4 for fiften quid. Anyone who knows me would this was too much of a temptation for my to resist so I bought a few - okay four to be exact, I'd got most of the films in the selection.

One of the DVDs I picked up was Candyman. I'd bought this years back on video tape but the tapes are all long gone (thanks to my having good timing for once and selling them all just after DVDs were released - back before people decided they didn't want tape anymore).

So it's probably been best part of two decades since I'd seen it. Well it is as good as ever. Okay the premise is as corny as ever - say his name five times, not the most original premise - but the film is compelling. I loved it then, I love it now.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Music - always good to find a really good new album...

...I just didn't expect it to be by Kiss.

I've been a rock fan all of my life. When I was a akid and most of my friends were into Abba, I liked The Who and The Rolling Stones.

Three decades later I still do, but in the years getting up to now I've found many, many more artists that I've liked. In my teenage years it was rock - straightforward, simple rock. Bands like Rainbow, Whitesnake, Kiss, Saxon etc were it for me.

Okay in more recent times the progressive rock side (always a liking existed it just was dominated for a while) has taken over - with much veering into softer areas like Yusuf, Suzanne Vega, Van Morrison - and my listening has been dominated by Rush, Dream Theater, Yes, King Crimson and the like.

But I still have a soft spot for bands like Kiss. So when their new album was released I thought it worth buying and giving it a listen. Well I've listened to it many time since then. I like it a great deal. It's a group of guys who know what they do best and they are going to just go out and do it. They're not going to go off on one to try to progress and develop. They are just going to be Kiss. And for that I have to thank them.

The opening track - Modern Day Delilah - is simply wonderful. It's certainly not a poor relation to their 70s heyday. Never Enough is so typically Kiss it's wonderful. I could go on - there's not a bad track on the album.

I love it.

Contracts - imminent publication

I received the contract for two reviews accepted by online zine, nossa morte. These were a book review of Dean Koontz's Relentless and a film review of Dead Girl.

They should both be featured in the November issue - live in a week and half. Here's how you get to there site in the meantime as there's all kinds of good stuff on there.

http://nossamorte.com/

Rejection time

After a nice little run of acceptances I got a rejection email today - from Reflection's Edge. Never mind, it happens. A second turned up from Ruthless People Magazine. Back to normal I guess, not disheartened though. I just submitted them elsewhere and am intent on getting back to writing this evening.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

New Myths - New Sale

I've sold another article - this time to Science Fiction / Fantasy / Mythology website New Myths

The article is a brief biography of Isaac Asimov - pretty much my favourite author of all time. It's my fifth sale to this site, after four book reviews.

You can find the site at

http://www.newmyths.com/

Monday, 19 October 2009

New Short Story Sale

sf/horror/weird website Everyday Weirdness has decided to run my (hopefully) comedic horror short story "How May I Help You?" and it's going to be posted next week.

Here's a link to the site

http://everydayweirdness.com/

Push

Every now and again a science fiction film comes along that does something I didn't expect. Push is one such film.

Okay most of what I expected was indeed the case. We have superpowered humans, bred during the cold war, facing off against each other - state run Agency vs Asian gangster mutants vs independent reluctant (I just want to be left alone in true Marlene Dietrich style) heroes. Add in the independents having seemingly impossible odds to overcome and you get the idea.

But it raised itself above this wonderfully well. It's like the X-Men being scripted by Philip K. Dick and set against a more current version his Bladerunner backdrop.

Very enjoyable it was too.

Outlander

This looked good from the moment I first saw it - right from the promo poster. Since that day I've wanted to see it. And as I don't go to the cinema this has meant a long, long wait.

Well this past weekend I finally had the chance (I had to wait for my wife to return from her business trip to Malaysia to watch it adding another little delay).

So was it worth it. Well the story is a little preditable. We'd all pretty much guessed the ending by about fifteen minutes into the film. In fact the whole of the story holds no surprises whatsoever. It is totally formulaic. But for that it is simply wonderful.

On a Sunday afternoon a film that is totally straight down the line, no messing about romp. Perfect!

The story is an alien (looks pretty human to us) lands on Earth - well crash lands more like having suffered an alien attack - in the middle of the tenth century Norway and is captured by a Viking clan. And yes he manages to befriend them and rally them to his cause - fighting the big nasty alien dragon monster thing. Cue lots of silly effects, some splendid deaths and a happy ending. Perfect!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Another review sale

Just got the news that US magazine Ghostlight will be featuring one of my book reviews - of Dean Koontz's Dead and Alive in their debut issue due later this month

House of Horror - repeat business

A few days/weeks ago I sold a story to online zine House of Horror called The Waiting Room. This evening I got a contract through for their print special edition - they picked my story as one of the best on the site for this pritn release.

OK not an enormous amount of cash for it but kinda cool.

European Union Enlargement

Anyone who knows me knows I am a strong supporter of the European Union. It has its flaws but I believe it is beneficial for all member countries - and this includes the United Kingdom whatever our press say about it.

Well today the European Commission has released its annual report on Enlargement and it contains some encouraging news - especially for Croatia and Macedonia.

The verdict is Croatia should complete its accession talks next year with entry likely in 2011 or 2012 - which would bring our number up to 28.

And the Commission has recommend talks with Macedonia begin - starting the formal process of the country joining.

From my point of view I think this is fantastic news.

Other countries on the candiate / potential candidate list haven't faired so well in the Commission's opinion with Albania, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Turkey, Montenegro and Kosovo all having been identified as having issues remaining that would block accession talks - either in terms of corruption, lack of independence of the judiciary, infighting, or human rights. Kosovo has the additional barrier of not being recognised as independent by all EU nations to overcome also.

It's not all bad news though. Progress has been noted in most - so hopefully the next few years will see these countries also join our ranks. I like the sound of the EU having 35 nations (or more).

I'm hopeful all these nations will be able to move closer to Europe and eventually join the European Union. I've always felt that in Europe it's a case of together we are stronger. So the more countries join and the more we can stand together and speak as a united group of states the better.

And then we have to add in Iceland. As a very recent applicant the country is not mentioned in the report - although as their laws and institutions already are largely adherent to the European model it is not likely to be a long accession period.

All I can say is...Bring It On!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

I need to be back in Venice

(Please don't feel this is a whinge - comments below should explain my thoughts)

It's been two years since I was last in Venice. I miss it. We used to go every single year until 2007, sometimes more than once a year.

2008 came. The recession came and it affected us like many many other people. My wife lost her job and although she got another one three months later it was for quite a lot less than the previous one.

So the holidays unfortunately were sacrificed. We didn't go anywhere that year - cancelling the trip to the Loire Valley in France and the booked Venice trip and the still undecided third trip.

This year we drove over to Belgium for a week which was a quite wonderful holiday but we still couldn't return to Venice. And only one holiday in the year!!!

I sound terribly self-absorbed don't I? I'm not I can assure you. I've just heard similar feelings being expressed by other people of late (overhearing conversations in pubs and cafes). And I don't agree.

Thing is I still have a job. And it's a job I enjoy. Okay the bonus scheme was cancelled when times turned tough but I have never relied on getting a bonus. I've always tried to consider it as that - a bonus, something extra.

In difficult times I consider still having my job enough, and likewise my wife having a job - even though it doesn't have the Manager title of the last job - is enough. We are not struggling overly. Okay the previous years of four or five foreign holidays every year are long gone - but thinking back that really wasn't normal. Five times in Italy or France in a single year - over the top I feel.

I'd guess the people I overheard talking about not being able to go to the Carribean (because of the lower value of the pound in the conversation in question) haven't really considered the true state of the world. We have to be more reasonable, learn not to expect too much.

Or maybe I'm being too rational. I do want to go back to Venice after all.

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

I'd heard good things about this film - although I am trying to remember from whom, or in which magazine so I treat the next opinion with a certain skepticism.

Mandy Lane is an American high school student - pretty, blonde and basically the one girl all the boys want. She and a number of her schoolfriends head to a remote ranch for some high-jinks (or something a little more biological). Only problem is that there seems to be a killer on the loose.

It's ok I guess. The film's well made just not that inspiring. The story feels like a hack together from a number of plot parts from a number of other high school horror flicks. I wouldn't say I consider the time spent watching it a waste - it's just not a film I'm ever likely to want to watch again.

Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2

OK this film is more than 20 years old I know. But I hadn't ever watched it and it was only two pounds in a bargain bin so I thought why not.

Boy that was two pounds and an hour and a half of my life completely wasted. Although to be fair it was on whilst I was working so I guess the time wasn't a total waste. The film was, however.

There's bad and REALLY bad. This came in the second catgegory.

Essentially Dennis Hopper plays a cop who is obsessed with finding the killer of the original film - given that his daugher/son (I forget) was one of the victims. He hatches a plan to use a local radio station to flush the killer out.

Problem is this is camped up to the extreme. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a classic horror film - albeit looking a little dated if you watch it now. This is more comedic than anything else.

Pity!

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Frost/Nixon

Just to prove I watch films that aren't sf or horror, last night we watched Frost/Nixon. And wow!

Frank Langella is superb as Nixon, and Michael Sheen is as convincing as he always is in character parts such as this. The impressive nature of the cast doesn't end there though. This film is peppered with great actors - each turning in a fine performance. Kevin Bacon is superb, making the sychophantic nature of his character totally believable - and quite unsettling.

Oliver Platt and Sam Rockwell maintain the standard playing the two journalists researching Richard Nixon's life and career preparing for the interview session. Quite simply there is nothing about this film that is less than brilliant.

Mind you I don't expect anything else when I see Ron Howard's name listed as director.

Fido

I'm continuing my recent trend for watching Comedy Zombie movies. The latest one is a 1950s styled (in a Pleasantville way) tale called Fido. In this world the zombie wars have been won - for the most part. ZomCon has created a collar for controlling zombies. As long as the collar is worn and working the zombie's desire for human flesh is nullified and they become slaves of humanity.

Billy Connolly, one of my favourite comedians, plays a zombie bought by the Robinsons (despite the anti-zombie feelings of Mr Robinson). He quickly becomes the best friend of Timmy Robinson. His mother also develops feelings towards him.

Unfortunately a malfunctioning collar sees Fido eating one of their neighbours - an event which could see the Robinsons exiled from the safety of town into the uncontrolled countryside - packed full of zombies.

Wonderfully surreal movie. Okay it doesn't have the constant laughs promised on the cover quote but it is simply wonderful.

Billy Connolly manages to completely steal the show - even though he doesn't say a single word throughout the entire movie.

Great stuff!

Monday, 5 October 2009

Burn after Reading

I watched a really odd, good film last night. It's the Coen Brothers' Burn after Reading, a wonderfully surreal, political black comedy. Absolutely perfect type of film for me - warped, twisted etc etc.

The cast is pretty impressive - Brad Pitt, George Clooney and John Malkovitch to name but three. Splendid! Splendid! Splendid!

New story online

I have a new story go live - over at Hypersonic Tales. This time it comes with an audio version.

You can find it at

http://www.hypersonictales.com/hypersonic2/index.php?slab=slabid-41

Another mag bites the dust!

Necrography, a US horror magazine, has died after just the one issue. Sad news.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Old Films - Dark Angel

I have watched a lot of films in my life. Okay that statement hardly means I stand out from the crowd, most people in Britain (not to mention the USA, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, etc) almost certainly watch a lot of movies.

From time to time I like to revisit some films I liked in previous decades, most notably the 1980s. This is the decade when I started really getting into movies, and science fiction movies in particular.

I have hundreds of films like Alien, Bladerunner, Terminator, Alien Nation, Dune and Total Recall in my collection - although no Star Wars films, I've never been a fan - as well as a number of B-Movies and other obscure titles like Trancers, Scanners, Videodrome, Enemy Mine, Lifeforce and so on.

Well yesterday while we were out I wandered into a DVD store and they had a copy of Dark Angel with Dolph Lundgren REAL cheap. Now I can't resist that can I?

So I've watched it - first time in two decades. And I had great fun. Okay it's about as bad as I remembered. Alien drug dealer on Earth vs Dolph Lundgren...well that's really not going to be all that good is it?

Still, decent enough effects, half decent story - good enough for me to enjoy.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

House of Horror

My short story "The Waiting Room" has been posted at House of Horror

You can find it at

http://www.houseofhorror.org.uk/#/the-waiting-room/4535768738

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Razor Fresh Horror

I picked up three films the other day from a new distributor (by that I mean one I've not bought before) called Brain Damage Films.

The three titles - all of which looked my kind of awful - are Silent Bloody Night, Death of a Ghost Hunter and Prey for the Beast. Well this evening I decided to try the first of these.

It's a German film, although the actors (I'm using the term roughly) speak in heavily accented English. The story has two men in small town have sex with a woman they meet in the woods. This act seems to kick off a series of revenge murders by her family.

The plot is pretty awful to be honest. Not a single jot of originality. The acting is bad, but then again the actors are hampered by having to act in a foreign language, and the effects are seriously bad - all you have to do is wait for the decapitation shot and you'll know exactly what I mean.

But despite all this it has a definite B-Movie charm. You don't expect these movies to be any good. It's not a film I could recommend - unless you tell me before hand you like ultra-low budget semi-amateur horror films.

Oh - and the reason for the title to this blog entry. Brain Damage Films have the banner"Razor Fresh Horror" across the top of the DVD case. I like irony.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Shutter

Another night, another horror film. Tonight's selection is Shutter, an American film set in Tokyo - I'm guessing it's another J-Horror remake like the Ring or the Grudge. It doesn't matter particularly as I haven't seen the original so I am able to judge this on its own merits.

Well it's ok. Essential a photographer and his new bride travel to Tokyo where he has a fashion shoot assignment only for a ghost, literally, from his past - return to torment him and kill his friends.

It stars a group of people I've never heard - surprisingly no Sarah Michelle Gellar - although I did half-recognise the lead actor. Not enough to make me head to IMDB to see what else he's been in mind you. It's Joshua Jackson in case you have heard of him.

He's not bad, can act reasonably well - certainly more than enough for a film like this - it's not Shakespeare after all. Rachel Taylor plays his wife and also does a decent job. She certainly sells the scenes when she sees the apparitions.

And the story actually has a couple of twists that aren't all that predictable - okay a little predictable but they weren't guessable from the second minute like some films.

Not a bad way to spend 85 minutes anyway

Old tunes

About two years ago we came up with the plan of selling this house and buying a new house with my wife's parents. Something decently sized for the four of us.

So we emptied the house of a lot of our stuff - we are both mad collectors - and put it all in storage.

The photographs were taken, the brochure created and house went on the market. And then the recession happened and virtually no one came to look. For over a year we waited, nearly two. And nothing happened at all. Not even close to a sale. Well one guy did decide to put in a silly offer. He wanted us to knock 40% off the price and this was after we'd already reduced it by 25%.

So we decided not to move. We weren't moving to get somewhere new anyway. We like the village where we live. We just wanted more room.

So we hired an architect, told him what we want and he drew up the plans. They were submitted and now we wait. Hopefully someday we will get the go ahead but that's up to the council's planning department. We might find there's a reason why we can't do some of the changes...we'll see.

Anyway - old tunes. One of the things we put into storage was our CDs, or at least most of them - maybe 90%.

This past weekend I went along to the storage unit - we owed them a payment - and I grabbed one box of CDs at random and brought it back.

So the last couple of days I've been playing bits and pieces from the disks -revisiting some of the stuff I'd picked up on a whim years back. This is stuff I wasn't even playing before we emptied it all out. I think I had had most of these in a box for years before the recent upheavals. This stuff probably went back to our last house move. I certainly cannot remember them being on the shelf in my office in this house.

Anyway I've been playing Blondie, the Icicle Works, Tenpole Tudor, PiL, Talking Heads, the Alarm as well as stuff more my normal taste - like King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Van der Graaf Generator etc.

It's been fun

Repo

I don't like musicals, never have done. My mother watched an awful lot of them when I was a kid and it has put me off for life.

Okay there are a couple I like. Rocky Horror is one obvious example , Blues Brothers is another but generally I am not a fan of the format.

I do watch one from time to time though. I've seen Evita - well made but not my thing. I saw a musical of Jeckyll and Hyde some years back with Paul Nicholas and it was well done but I still didn't like it. I watched Moulin Rouge, at my wife's request, and thought it wa sokay for a musical but still I didn't like it. I've also encountered bits of others but never finished them. Hell I didn't even like Tommy the Film and I have been a fan of the Who for thirty years.

So Repo: The Genetic Opera had a lot to overcome if it was going to get me to like it. Okay it was horror which I definitely like, but it was still a musical.

Well I've watched it. I even managed to get all the way to the end. And I will agree it's well-made - good effects, decent acting and a cast that could sing. It was even a sf-horror tale, my favourite sub-genre of horror, but at the end of the day it was still a musical. And it hasn't changed my mind about the form.

If you are less biased against musicals I dare say you could enjoy. My wife certainly .She shares my love of horror, but also likes musicals - go figure!

I'm going to carry on avoiding them where possible. I'll keep watching horror though.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

What's up with England?

I've been an cricket fan for years and, being English, an England fan. Now I've happily watched them beat the Australian team this summer 2-1 in the Ashes test series and then unhappily watched them get soundly beat 6-1 in the one-day international series between the same two teams.

So I had little if any hopes for the team in the Champions Trophy this week in South Africa. Well two matches in they've won them both - and this is against Sri , one of the most explosive run-scoring teams in the game, and South Africa, the tournament favourites who are now out.

This is the same team that earlier in the year were beaten by Holland in the Twenty-20.

Unbelievable! I can smile for a bit. They probably won't go any further but they've made it to the semis.

Formula One

When I was a kid I used to watch a lot of Grand Prix. About ten years ago I gave it up, feeling it had become a little formulaic.

Well a little over a year ago I changed jobs and a number of the guys in the new company are Formula One fans. I listened to their conversations after the races in the 2008 season, and then in the run up to the 2009 series. So I decided to give the sport a go again.

Well, much as I am told that the 2009 season is a bit dull in comparison to earlier years I am hooked. Okay this might be down to the fact that ten years away has made it fresh for me. And also the fact that the technology has moved on so much, both in terms of the cars and the TV coverage.

But when it comes down to it I am enjoying this. I try to watch the qualifying when I can - as it can often be the most exciting part of the racing weekend. I watch the whole of the race and even stick with it through the interviews, post-race analysis national anthems - even the dull British one just played. And yes I am a Brit and should be patriotic about our anthem but it's not the most exciting.

Anyway - race watched. I guess I'd better do a little bit of work.

I'm not sure how long this fascination will last

The Day the Earth Stood Still

This was a film I was very wary of watching. I like the original. It's a classic of 1950s sf. And the new version starred Keanu Reeves.

Now I am not as down on Keanu as most people. Ok he's not the greatest actor in the world, but he's okay if he's in the right part. I thought he was quite superv in the Matrix. I simply cannot think of anyone who would have been more suited to that role than him. He had the look nailed down perfectly.

But I then remember him in Kenneth Branagh's Shakespeare film "Much Ado about Nothing".

In general he worries me when I see his name on a film but balance it with a realisation that more often than not I've found him to be good.

Well fortunately he was good in this film. His understated acting suited the part. The role needed an almost Terminator-robot style of emotionless logic and he delivered it.

As for the film. Well I loved the new Gort. The massive increase in size was perfect - genuinely scary feeling.

The plot wasn't bad - even if there was a bit of gooey-sentimentality and a kid you would almost allow the destruction of the human race to happen if it meant you wouldn't need to experience his whiney misbehaviour. But there's much to recommend the film.

The effects are great. The sphere spaceships are believable - just alien enough.

The gathering of the scientists, and the choice of actors playing them good - for the most part. Scientists just don't look like Jennifer Connelly, although you can forgive them like that. Film makers like their lead actors to look attractive on the screen.

I still like the original, but I wasn't disappointed with this remake.

The Return

I was wondering the other day just how many horror films have starred Sarah Michelle ? Scream 2, The Grudge and Grudge 2 came to mind pretty quick. But this one, the Return, didn't. I have to admit I couldn't recall ever hearing of it when I saw it on the shelf in the video store.

Well having watched it I can understand why. It's not exactly the greatest film of all time. In fact in many ways it's pretty crummy. Might just be me being a little jaded but I found it tired and uninspiring.

Gellar plays a young woman with a traumatic and supernaturally-tinged (it is suggested) past. The grown woman is a little fragile but driven to succeed as a salesperson. The biggest acocunt going would mean she needs to return (hence the title I guess) to the place where all the spookiness of her kid-years took place.

And that's it in a nutshell.

It just didn't grip me whatsoever...

Friday, 25 September 2009

Thirteen Ghosts

Now okay this film has been out for quite a while. I know. It's been sitting there on the shelf for about five years unwatched. So I thought I should put this right.

Well the first thing I can say about it is "what a house!" The film itself is okay. Story's not too bad, cast pretty decent - the nanny outacts everyone.

But the house is stunning. I want one. A house with so many inscriptions, runes and mystic gizmos all around. Superb. Not sure I would go for the glass walls or the ghosts trapped in the basement part but the architecture was amazing.

The ghosts were a little too obvious, a little too overdone, for my taste but it didn't spoil the movie.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

When Evil Calls

I popped on a UK horror comedy as I did some work on the day job this evening. It was prepping a release of the software. A bit of a follow the instructions thing really. As long as I end the evening with every step ticked on the list three times (don't worry why three times, I know) then I know I have completed it all.

So anyway the film. I picked When Evil Calls. It's a low budget thing that features Sean Pertwee, Chris Barrie from Red Dwarf and French actor Dominique Pinon (form Delicatessen) and basically is a series of short linked skits about six form students (high school seniors in American) being offered wishes via SMS. And yes of course the wishes are going to come true, just maybe not as you would expect.

It's a little clumsy in some ways -deliberately so so don't sweat it - but I could imagine the style might annoy some people. Anyway it's tonuge in cheek, but not too much in your face. It's not going for excessive surprise or originality - most of the twists you can see a mile away but it's enjoyable none the less.

The Roll is Over

I'm getting these responses thick and fast at the moment. Only slight downer is that the latest one, from Shock Totem, was a rejection. It was for an article on Venice - not the first one I've written and sure it will not be the last. I am a little Venice obsessed.

Anyway, I'll have to find somewhere else to send it.

Fingers crossed

Yet Another Short Story Sale

I'm having a good few days. Horror ezine The House of Horror has accepted my short story "The Waiting Room" and will be featuring it next month.

Fingers crossed on the other submissions I have out there.

I'm going to have to write a few more.

Another Short Story Sale

I'm on a bit of a roll here. I've had confirmation from new sf mag Outer Reaches that they want to publish my short story "Hunting for Scraps".

Again not going to get rich from it, but it's all good. I'm just enjoying it.

Monday, 21 September 2009

A short story sale

Ezine Hypersonic Tales will be featuring a science fiction short story of mine called "They're Closing the Yard Today" in their next issue.

Again, like nossa morte, it's not the highest paying market but I care not one jot. IT gave me a very good buzz, smile beaming from ear to ear and all that.

Another review sale

I've received notice that nossa morte will be featuring another of my reviews in their next issue - covering Dean Koontz's book Relentless.

Its a ezine I am rather fond of and am happy to say I have had at least one review in every single issue.

Doesn't earn me all that much but I don't care. It's nice to be accepted

Dead Snow

Try as I might I cannot think of a simgle Norwegian film other than this one. I certainly have never watched one.

But despite some initial concerns I found it a pretty decent. My concerns were the comedy angle. I know very little about Norway when I compare it to the USA or the EU countries France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Holland, Belgium, etc or even the Commonwealth (ie cricket playing) countries Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and the various Carribean countries.

So in not having much in common culturally I thought that I might not get the jokes.

I did. I laughed in places, although its not a laugh a minute comedy. But it's well acted, well made, and well directed. It surprised me, and very pleasantly so I may add.

Top marks.

The Hamiltons

I completely missed this horror film when it came out three years ago. Never heard a single thing about it. Don't know why but it went under my radar totally.

Thankfull though I managed to find a copy over the past weekend and give it a watch, because, despite a bit of a slow start, it is a pretty original little tale with a twist I didn't see coming. Okay the acting is not all that good and the direction leaves a little bit to be desired but it is different and I like different.

The Boat that Rocked

This is another of the films I can actually sit and watch with the family - unlike some of the horror tales that I watch in my office whilst working.

Essentially its a comedy take on the British pirate radio stations of the 1960s, written and directed by Richard Curtis and starring anumber of people you would expect to find in a Richard Curtis - Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, Emma Thompson - and one or two others - Philip Seymour Hoffman and Nick Frost.

It's packed full of sixties music, frivolity, a little hearted attitude towards sex (although little is actually shown on screen and lots of overt Britishness counteracted by a token yank (Four Weddings, Notting Hill anyone)

But oddly for a Richard Curtis movie its not a plot heavy as you might expect. This is really a romp, a very fun romp but don't go looking for the meaning you found in his previous films. Just enjoy it.

Dan Brown

I've not read any of the Dan Brown books. They don't interest me enough to read them, but equally they don't make me want to avoid the movie version, even if the first film wasn't as good as I'd hoped.

So when my wife, who happens to be half way through reading the latest book The Lost Symbol, suggested we watch Angels and Demons it seemed like a good idea.

And thankfully the film didn't let me down. I found the story considerably more gripping than the Da Vinci Code. Okay you might say its exactly the same story in some ways, there are codes to be deciphered. clues to be found and followed and...la la la - you've heard it. But it held together a lot more this time.

Tom Hanks not having the silly haircut definitely helped too.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

New Sales

I had a couple of very pleasant emails arrive this week from online zine New Myths. A little while ago I submitted a couple of book reviews to them (of Richard Satterlie's Imola and Brian Keene's Urban Gothic).

I'll add a link to the reviews when they are posted.

Better get back to doing some actual writing...

A new candidate for the worst movie ever

I've been watching bad horror films for years. They're great fun. A truly bad horror film can be hilarious, especially if the film makers are trying to not let their limit budget restrict them.

For a long time I have consider a movie I watch nearly twenty years ago, called Mutant Kid, to be the worst film I have ever seen (in my opinion at least) but I now have a new candidate for this honour. On a whim and because it was so cheap I picked up a DVD of a film called Aquanoids. This morning I watched it and it is (again in my opinion) absolutely awful.

The film is set on the Californian coast on the fourth of July. The premise is that there are underwater mutant monster called Aquanoids who are killing anyone who ventures into the sea. The acting is bad, seriously bad. The plot (yes, there is one) is risible, truly ludicrous and the effects appalling.

Now normally this could be regarded as funny. But unfortunately the film didn't elicit a humourous response. I just found it bad.

Still, at least it was cheap.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Belgium

Belgium is underappreciated. I first went to the country nine years ago, spending four days in and around Brussels and I feel for the country and its people completely...

Well it was about time I managed to get back there so the last week has been spent wandering around the country as a whole.

We visited Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, Brussels, as well as some smaller towns like Tournai, Chimay (mainly for the Trappist brewery), Mouscron and Diksmuide.

Bruges is wonderful, one of the most picturesque places I have ever visited - in fact with the exception of Venice I would say it is the most romantic place I've yet been. It misses out on only one thing for me - it allows cars into the city, something Venice obviously does not. But this intrusion of modern life into its medieval dreamworld holds it back from being truly wonderful. One day here as simply not enough and we plan to return as soon as we can.

Ghent has a fantastic medieval centre, albeit one you have to reach by walking through some depressing modern streets. It makes for a very pleasant day's strolling but I couldn't see much more time spent there.

Brussels was everything I remembered. The Grand Place is Brussels is stunning and in the middle of such a busy city it, and its surrounding streets form a remarkable oasis of calm. you only have to turn a corner from a busy modern city of thoroughfares, heavy traffic and flashing neon signs, place on one foot onto a narrow cobblestone street and you are in a different world.

Antwerp surprised me. I really wasn't expecting it to live up to the other destinations we visited on the trip, but it has a Grand Place to rival Brussels and Bruges. Walk from their down a narrow road and you encounter the city's magnificent Cathedral. But its old centre is remarkably small when you compare it to the others. It is a vibrant city, full of bright lights, traffic and life.

The Belgian's are one of the friendliest nationalities I've ever encountered, and helpfully when you consider I speak very little Flemish/Dutch, they speak very good English in the Flemish areas (Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp were all in this area). Brussels was a little different which did surprise me. I met a few people who did not speak English at all. Fortunately French is one language I can get by in so it was ok (if, as mentioned, suprising).

Well I'm back. About to do some writing, going to watch the Grand Prix and dreading the return to the day job tomorrow.

Made it onto IROSF

My review of four PS Publishing novellas went live on the Internet Review of Science Fiction with their September update.

It can be found at http://www.irosf.com/q/zine/article/10580

Monday, 31 August 2009

Mum & Dad (UK horror movie - not a guide to my parents)

This film is certainly gritty.

Essentially a married couple working at Heathrow airport are on the lookout for new members of their family. They find young adults no one will really miss and kidnap them. Then they start torturing and brainwashing them - making them want to be part of the family by threatening violence for any slight misdemeanor.

It is violent. Very violent at times, and more unsettling because it is all carried out my a middle-aged couple - not a demon in sight - and in the confines of a typical house making it very intimate and intense.

It's a film you may not have heard of. I hadn't particularly - beyond the occasional mention in some of the horror mags. But if you like a bit of gore it might be your thing.

Zombie Virus on Mulberry Street

I had hopes for this film. It looked as though it might be a decent zombie flick. I was wrong.

Although it starts pretty well, introducing the inhabitants of a New York apartment block well and giving a decent enough background to the story (everyday struggle kind of thing), the main story kind of just faded into silliness. And all because of one element - the ratty bit.

Played as a straight zombie film this could have been good, but it fell short. Sorry, I just didn't like it. I did want to.

A new sale

I received an email this morning concerning a reviews article I'd written a little while ago. It's been accepted by The Internet Review of Science Fiction. The grin hasn't stopped yet.

Theirs is a great site. It doesn't feature fiction, just articles, interviews and reviews and one of mine is to . If you want to go check them out (and I would advise you do) they can be found at http://www.irosf.com/.

My piece "Long Live the Novella" reviews four titles from UK speciality press PS Publishing

Uncle River - Camp Desolation and the Eschatology of Salt
Stephen Baxter - Starfall
Alex Irvine - Mystery Hill
Joel Lane - The Witnesses are Gone

Three really good books and one decent , you'll have to read the review when it's posted to find out more about them. Or you could pop to PS Publishing and buy them yourself and make your own mind up.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Knowing

Nicholas Cage films are usually a hit and miss affair - and in recent years I've found them far more miss than hit.

His latest film threatened his average for quite a while by being actually quite good. It's creepy (in a non-horror way). Cage plays a college professor. His son's school opens a time capsule from the 1950s which had been filled with the pupils' ideas of what the year 2009 might be like. Most of the images are the typical 1950s futuristic ideas - flying cars and the like.

Cage's son however is handed something different. His envelope contained a sheet of numbers. Cage notices that the number seem to specify dates and numbers. He traces these to the dates disastrous events in recent history and the number of people killed in them. And the last three dates on the list are still to happen.

It's an interesting concept, one that put me in mind of Robert Charles Wilson's novels. It's an idea that grabs you right from the off.

Okay the ending might not be to everyone's taste (my wife's parents certainly found it contrived) but all in all this is a decent movie. A fairly entertaining way of spending a couple of hours

Let the Right One In

I'd heard a lot of good things about this film. So much so that I was a little wary about actually watching it. I've been disappointed too many times - and yes I will admit I'm jaded. That the lead vampire was a child scared me somewhat, kids that are a little bit weird (or a lot weird) can be disconcerting. But they can most often be very, very annoying.

My wife had read and thoroughly loved the book this film is based on, so I was not alone in a little feeling of trepidation. She was more worried that there were elements of the story that they could simply not film, yet would harm the film if they were omitted.

We were both greatly relieved. This was the best vampire movie I've seen in years. It's different setting - a small Swedish community in the 1980s - worked brilliantly. The serious cold of a Swedish winter was dramatic. The film being shot with a reduced pallette effect added wonderfully to a sense of foreboding. As does its pacing. American films are rarely shot this slowly. Nothing is rushed here (with the obvious exception of the attacks). Everything is done at a deliberate steady rate, one that suits the story perfectly.

And on top of this there is the girl playing the vampire. She was superb, playing the part in a very understated way with a presence far greater than you expect from such a young actress.

All round brilliant film!

Britain's disgrace (languages)

I watched some of the Belgian Grand Prix this afternoon. I'm not the gratest of fans of the sport but I do watch the occasional race. The two Brits crashed out early so I didn't have any special interest in the result.

However an event of the end of the race made me think.

The race was won by a Finn, with an Italian second and a German third. Nothing too unusual there. But in the post race press conference all three drivers (Raikkonen, Fisichella and Vettel) spoke near perfect English. From my travels in Europe I know that a good knowledge of English is not all that uncommon. I've had conversations in English with people I've met in Italy, Austria, France, Belgium, the Netherlands etc.

In Britain though you'd not find this the case. Okay there are a number of second generation immigrants in Britain who can speak the languages of their parents' homelands. But you find Brits without this linguistic advantage and more than half will have no real knowledge of a second language. Maybe a handful of words but no real mastery.

It does sadden me we don't get into languages as much as our European counterparts. I even take some blame upon myself. I didn't try all that hard at French when I was at school, and opted not to take German at all. I just couldn't see the point. Everything I wanted at the time (fiction, films, music etc) was in English so why spend time learning a language I didn't need.

Well I should have. In recent years I have come to understand just how useful this would have been. I've made something of an effort. I have a basic grasp of French and Italian but I couldn't conduct business in either. I just know enough to order from menus, buy tickets, ask for directions etc etc. All the stuff you need on a holiday if you want to stay clear of restaurants with "tourist menu" signs in the window or stores advertising "We speak English".

It gives me enough to get a better feeling of a country, its people and culture but far less than I want and feel our European partners deserve form us.

At my last company we were developing software for a German company. They were the customer, yet all business was conducted in English, not German. It had to be, no one at the company spoke any German. I felt ashamed.

We are Europeans. We should act the part!

Monday, 24 August 2009

Differing Opinions on Watchmen

I finally managed to find time to watch Watchmen last night. I know it's taken me a while and you could say I have been wasting my time on bad horror movies. I've probably watched a dozen B-movie horrors since buying Watchmen but hey...

In my defence I do tend to put the bad horror films on in the office whilst I am working (like now) and the whole family (makes it sound huge, there's four of us) wanted to watch Watchmen. So it had to wait until there was time when everyone else wasn't watching TV (I watch little TV, except for DVD sets of TV shows like Dexter, Millenium, Sarah Connor Chronicles, Trek, Stargate, X-Files etc and sport - mainly cricket).

So last night we decided it was time for Watchmen. I enjoyed it. We all enjoyed it. Good and dark, moody. It didn't pull any punches.

However when I got into work today and started discussing it with colleagues I found the universally didn't like it. And the reason was pacing. They all thought it was too slow and too long.

I don't agree with them, I liked the measured build up.

It has found it's way into the office so I'll be watching it again soon...whilst working of course.

(Some folks believe me to be a workaholic. They're probably right.)