Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Down to Earth with a Bump

After yesterday receiving news of a short story sale, reality has returned. Three rejections (one science article, one book reviews column and one short story) all from Basement Stories.

Ouch! I think they're trying to tell me something.

Still two of them are back out there with other potential homes. Now if I could just find a market for science articles...

Monday, 28 June 2010

Some films - catching up

I've been watching a few movies of late and it's about time I posted a few comments about them. I'll start with the more commercial stuff.

Alice in Wonderland - yeah, Tim Burton. Well, it looks good. Nice and dark, twisted in just the right Tim Burton way. The acting's pretty good, and the plot paced well - decent and quick. Only problem is the plot content. It feels like a sequel. Guess it was always going to as, in many ways, it is. The story isn't a straightforward telling of the Alice books. It features a grown up Alice (nineteen years old I think) who's dismissed her previous visits to Wonderland as the rich imaginings of a child.

So all through she's refinding all the characters and places of Wonderland. Johnny Depp is good, although a little overbearing - his role has been beefed up a little too far, kicking the film out of balance. It's okay - but I wanted it to be so much more.

Daybreakers is a cool, near future sf-flavoured vampire movie. It has a top class cast - Sam Neill, Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe - great effects, great visuals and, unusually for such films of the last few years, a superb plot. Definitely worth a watch for any sf/horror fanatic.

The Wolfman. Best way to sum it up is - oh dear! As with Daybreakers it has a superb cast - Anthony Hopkins, Benicio de Toro amongst others - great setting (a kind of reimagined Chatsworth House), and decent effects (when they happen). But what it really lacks is any drama. It is just so ponderous. Real pity.

Sorority Row is just what you'd expect from a college horror flick set in a girl's college dorm. Basically it's a slasher flick with a rehashed plot (from I Know What You did Last Summer) and the occasional baring of nubile young breasts. It's okay, nothing more - a bit of a laugh.

Jennifer's Body is a bit of a step up. Megan Fox plays the titular Jennifer, an American high school cheerleader who gets possessed by a demon and turns into a maneater - literally. It's saving grace is the perspective. The film is played from the POV of Jennifer's nerdy best friend Needy (Amanda Seyfried) and this slight detachment from the action makes it feel so much more real.

Onto a few less mainstream and more Indie flicks. Diary of a Bad Lad is an independent British film that centres around an out of work media studies college lecturer who believes making a documentary about the gangster scene in Northern England will help him get his status (and position) back.

It's hard hitting. There's some real nasty stuff in here, both in terms of the violence, drug-use and attitudes towards your fellow man or woman. In style it's amateurish, deliberately so. After all the film is supposed to be the making of an amateur documentary. It's also humourous, although dark and possibly in ways that will only really be appreciated by Brits. I really can't see some of the black humour on display here translating to other countries...OK, maybe Australians might get this but I don't think Americans will have enough cultural commonality for this to work.

Vampire is an early 80s straight to video horror film out of time. In every way this feels like it should be thirty years old. It has the same production values as all those films I used to watch as a kid (yeah I know, sicko at an early age) when the choice to use the new VCR was limited but your desire to use the newest gadget was high enough for you to keep watching.

Jason Carter, of Babylon 5 fame, plays the Vampire. When he is captured by the feds instead of being killed, protecting the population at large, scientists observe and experiment on him to discover more about the vampire threat.

As a film it's very insular, restricted as it is for much of the film to just the two rooms of the laboratory. And it's also slower than you might expect from such a film - this has a very deliberate pace. But it is strangely compelling. Whether or not it's for the nostalgic reason of bringing back memories of film watching from times gone by, I liked this film - despite every expectation I had going into it.

Resurrecting the Street Walker is possibly the strongest film of all my recent viewing. Another independent British flick, and again featuring an amateur film maker, RtSW sees film student James Powell working an internship at a small scale UK film distributor when he discovers an incomplete video nasty from the 1980s. He becomes obsessed with the film and its director and resolves to complete the picture - even if it takes him across the line into murder.

New Short Story Sale

Daily ezine Everyday Weirdness has bought my sf short story New Start. It's a bit dark - somehow everything I seem to write has a dark edge to it - unless it's silly.

Anyway, they will be posting it to their site tomorrow. So go check it out

http://everydayweirdness.com/

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Just why music matters

When I was a kid, somewhere about 9 years old, I heard music. I mean really heard. I know music must have been around me before then but I can't remember it making much of an impression. At nine though that changed. I heard The Who. Something about it excited me. Well I bought a Who album.

Then having listened to that for a while I bought another. And not long after started wondering what else there was and a schoolfriends older brother played me (and him I guess) some Rolling Stones tracks. Band number two in my life. So I bought a Stones album. Maybe I didn't pick the best one (Got Live If You Want It) but I liked it enough. So much that I bought a second - Rolled Gold. That was the better choice. And it ended up with me and my music tastes having developed to what they are now - Dream Theater, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Rush, Tom Waits, Nick Cave. I could go on and on.

But my purchase of Rolled Gold was way, way back in the days of vinyl. And since selling all my vinyl records more than a decade ago I've been able to play the album. That is until today when I saw the CD re-release of this compilation sitting on a shelf in HMV in Derby. I bought it, even though I think I own every track on other CDs, and I've just listened to it again. Fantastic collection. Made me realise just why I like music in the first place.

To bring things back to reality

About a month ago I sent in a review to Plutonian Times - and they rejected it. Guess the run couldn't go on and on unbroken. Still, I hope to find that review a home somewhere, the paperback has yet to be released in the USA so it's still current.

Two more live reviews

I'm rather happy to be able to let you know that Murky Depths have posted another two of my reviews on their website - for the new Sherlock Holmes film and for Ramsey Campbell's Creatures of the Pool.

As always you can find their site at http://www.murkydepths.com/

That brings my total on their site to nine - three movie reviews and six book reviews. Not to mention the four reviews (three books, one movie) that I've had in the magazine itself.

Just having a happy moment

Friday, 11 June 2010

Even more Muky Depths

Guess I should have waited another day (following last night's post about a sale to the Murky Depths print mag). today found out they have accepted two more film reviews and a book review for the Snack Reviews on their website.

Films are Valhalla Rising and Mutants, book is Eoin Colfer's And Another Thing. If you want to read them, pop over to their site (URL below) and click the link top left.

http://www.murkydepths.com/

New sale (review)

UK sf/horror mag Murky Depths (becoming my most regular home for writing) has accepted another of my reviews - of the recent DVD release Stag Night.

The review will appear in the next issue of their magazine - not on the website. I still have another couple of reviews with them so maybe I'll be able to let you know some more news soon.

Monday, 7 June 2010

I hope this rejected thing isn't becoming a habit

Today's rejection came from online sf zine New Myths. Because they have previous accepted a number of my reviews and articles I thought I would try them with a short story call The Screen. Didn't maintain my non-ficiton hit rate though. Bounced back today, rejected.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Rejected again

About a week ago I sent a story of mine (What Do I Do Now?) to a new sf market called Daily Science Fiction. Well today I got it back - rejected! Still it's quite a high paying market so I pretty much expected that.

Time to find it somewhere new to go...

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Some book thoughts

Much as I have been a lifelong sf fan and the majority of my past reading being sf I have always had a soft spot for decent horror. And of late with the fact most of my writing seems aimed at horror zines I've read more horror than not (unless you can call a history of English cricket horror in which case it's been exclusively horror).

And I have to say I've been thoroughly enjoying doing so. I've read a number of damn fine novels of late and just wanted to let you know some thoughts on them and on just how many sf themes are running through these stories (okay if you read any of my reviews some of this might be familair but hey...

Nate Kenyon's Sparrow Rock is the first I'll mention. At it's core it has a classic 1950s sf theme - nuclear war - and the action takes place in or around a nuclear bunker. Okay a lot of the actual action and detail is horror flavoured but the concept of an atomic explosion leading to mutated creatures is pure old school sf.

But for it's retro subject the book is anything but. Kenyon has taken a half century old idea and given it an update for our modern iPod-, download-, facebook-, twitter-centric world. I'm not saying Kenyon's reaching the heights of a King or a Koontz (or years gone by, not so much of late) but he's building a damn fine body of work. He's definitely an author I'm going to keep my eye on.

L.H. Maynard's and M.P.N. Sims's Night Souls is the fourth in their Department 18 series. now Department 18 is a secret British government group who investigate the paranormal. It's kind of like the X-Files with a nice cup of tea and a bowler . Yeah, I'm British. I'm allowed to play up the stereotype - especially as I don't like tea and never wear hats.

The difference between Mulder and Scully and the D18 crew (apart from geography) is that M+S weren't . Here the story revolves around vampires, or at least a version of them, who hide their need for feeding on people in amongst the huge numbers of people who disappear in human trafficking rings. D18 are tasked with finding the vamps and stopping their "EVIL WAYS".

It's a great fun series. High on action and excitement - especially given the fact that the authors seem more than happy to kill of the team members during the investigations. It kind of adds to the suspense when you truly don't know if they are all going to survive.

Tim Waggoner's Dead Streets is a wonderful follow up to last year's Nekropolis. Matt Richter, zombie PI in a hell dimension, finds himself framed for a crime he didn't commit and exiled to Tenebrus (hell's version of hell you might say), and there's plenty of folk there all too eager to re-acquiant themselves with him.

Great fun book - reads like a horror Pratchett novel. All your expected evil doers and nightwalkers are there, all given a touch of silliness. But, and like Pratchett, Waggoner doesn't let the desire to poke fun at demons and devils get in the way of telling a decent story. This is great stuff.

Continuing the horror/comedy vibe I read A. Lee Martinez's Monster. Now last year I read this author's superb book The Automatic Detective and so seeing this on a bookstore shelf it was a no-brainer. I had to buy it.

I'm glad I did because this is better. Essentially it follows a couple of demon hunters who operate in a world where ordinary people, you and me basically, have an inbuilt brain deficiency that means we can't process magic. We can recognise it, deal with it in the instance but we will forget it ever happened as soon as it's out of brimstone-scented earshot.

Fabulous, fabulous read. This is an author I've added to my must have list. And the good news is there are still four earlier books for my to locate and read. I like discovering new authors.

Anyway, next on the pile is John Skipp's and Craig Spector's The Bridge. Fingers crossed it'll maintain the recent high standards.

Friday, 4 June 2010

More Murky Depths

The fourth of my reviews to appear on the Murky Depths website has just been posted - for Nate Kenyon's latest novel Sparrow Rock. If you want to read it pop over to their website (URL below) and click the link top right. You'll find the review of this book in the list...

http://www.murkydepths.com/

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

New Article Posted

My article "Ten Science Fiction Books to Give Your Father-in-Law" has been posted on sf website New Myths as part of their issue 11. Just click on the link below if you want to give it a read.

http://www.newmyths.com/

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

More reviews live

Three more of my reviews are now live at Murky Depths website - in a new reviews section. You can find reviews of Stephen King's Under the Dome, Christopher Moore's Fool and Graham Masterton's Blind Panic by visiting their website (URL below) and clicking the link top left of the screen.

http://www.murkydepths.com/

While you are there it might be worth checking out the magazine. It's a great publication.