Showing posts from 2006


Just found out today my results for this year's Open University course: Grade 2 Pass! I am very pleased with the grade and also very pleased that I can now put that particular course (The nineteenth century novel) behind me. It was the least enjoyable year so far (mainly due to personal life strains) and, considering I had to skip entire sections of the course in order to just get the assignments done, I am amazed that I did so well. Throw in the fact that this was a Level 3 course (the equivalent of the final year of a degree), to come out with a Grade 2 Pass is, quite frankly, astonishing. I can't help thinking how well I might have done if I'd had the time to study it properly. Still, what's done is done and I'm looking forward to next year's course: Creative Writing. It's a jump back to Level 2 study and there's no exam at the end of the year (thank Gawd), and, obviously, it's a subject I love and enjoy. Should be a pleasant year of study, which…

SK and the Literary Snobs of America

Caught the tail-end of Mark Lawson's interview with Stephen King on BBC4 last night.
He was talking about the snobbery from the so-called "literary" section of the fiction world, describing them as a "country club" whose mentality to exclude anything that is or could be described as "popular" (i.e. anything which is plot-led or sells in obscene numbers) was simply short-sighted and self-destructive. He said it was "foolish" for them to ignore such a huge area of the field, and named authors like Ian McEwan and John Irving as some of the writers who are always snubbed by the American literary establishment because their work is quite often seen as "plot-driven and suspenseful". I was stunned by this, as was Mark lawson, who quite rightly pointed out that in Britain McEwan, at least, is viewed as being "literary". King responded by saying that it was different in this country because in England "story has always been gr…

The View From the Bridge

This little 1000-word piece of flash was originally written for a contest at the now-defunct ezine. The zine folded shortly after I wrote this story so it barely saw the light of day. I dug it out a little while back, polished it up and sent it to From the Asylum. It appears in the current issue: Enter the Asylum here

‘The Boy Who Fell’ is due to appear in issue 231 of Bewildering Stories. This first appeared at AlienSkin. It's had a serious rewrite since then (particularly the second half, which was a little unsubtle in the way it explained the mystery at the story's heart). I'm much happier with this newer version.

I'm hoping to get some final decisions on some pretty 'big' subs this week. Heliotrope, Fantasy Magazine, and new UK mag Hub have all promised to put me out of my misery in the coming week or so. They're all pro-paying markets. What are the chances that at least one of those guys sends an acceptance? Wouldn't that make a …

NaNoWriMo Success!

With 24 hours to spare, I managed to complete the NaNoWriMo challenge 2006 and turn in just over fifty thousand words in thirty days. 'The Hotel Galileo' is far from complete, but the lion's share is in the bag. There are still maybe two or three chapters which need to be added, plus some fleshing out of the middle section before I can truly say the first draft is complete. But right now, I am very pleased with myself.

The End is in Sight

Hit the 40k word count mark this weekend with The Hotel Galileo. Hopefully, if I can put it in the work over the next three nights, I will achieve the 50k goal of NaNoWriMo and have a finished first draft novel to boot. I have never enjoyed writing a book as much as I have this one. THG is probably the happiest writing experience of my life. And what's more, I am now looking at a follow up - the first time in my life that I've ever considered doing a sequel.

Deadline: Thursday Night.

The Glamour!

Short Story Sale - 'The Glamour'

After many rewrites and falling in and out of love with this little tale, I have finally found a market for 'The Glamour'. Chimaera Serials is a new online magazine which prints both short stories and serials. 'The Glamour' is scheduled to appear in their January issue.
'The Glamour' tells the story of scarred Wendy, who comes across a gypsy glamour - a vial of blood that, when imbibed, makes the owner appear beautiful and irresistible to men. Great for Wendy, not so great for the menfolk of her local town, as there is a dark twist in the tale. Well, I couldn't write something that was just 'nice' could I?NaNoWriMo UpdateA great deal of ups and downs during the past week. The Hotel Galileo got up to 25,500 at one point, then had to be severely rejigged (lots of adding and subtracting) so that the final word count last night was 26,600. Still hoping to complete the first draft by Nov 30, but I'm not sure the…

Revelation Volume III

My story 'Deus Ex Machina' appeared in Fourth Horseman Press's magazine Revelation last December, issue 3:2. The people at FHP collect all the stories published in the mag (all dealing with the theme of doomsday scenarios) into an annual anthology, and Volume III is now on sale -- priced $16.99. That's a whole year's worth of doom!
'The Man Who Ate Planets' is my second story to be published by them and is due to appear in issue 4:1 of Revelation, on sale later this month.

NaNoWriMo Update - Day 10
Things are still going well. Day 10 should be yielding a total word count of 16,660, or thereabouts. My total tonight is 17,200. So that's cool.

It's going well

NaNoWriMo - Day 7

Things are moving steadily forward with 'The Hotel Galileo'. The word total so far is 11680, which is bang on target for the recommended daily word count.

It's amazing. This story is an Agatha Christie-type murder mystery set in deep space, with several convoluted plot twists and a plethora of surprises, and yet I have never written any of the plot down on paper. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I can't write any of it down on paper. It's alive in my head right now, as clear as crystal and bursting to be written. I feel that if I do commit the plot and all its intricacies to paper, the story will die. And I sincerely don't want that to happen. I know where the story is going, I know how each character (red herrings and all) fit into the larger plot, so I'm just going to keep at it. And in theory I should be finished by November 30th. So it's not like I'm going to forget any of it. Unless I get a bang on the head or somethin…

Here we go again...

I've changed my chosen novel again for this year's NaNoWriMo challenge. Who said I was indecisive? I've decided to dust off 'The Hotel Galileo' for a second attempt. This is actually the novel I started during last year's challenge, only to end up scrapping the original idea halfway through the month. This new version starts from scratch - and reads like a murder mystery in space. I realised I could have a lot of fun with this, more fun than I would writing 'Judas Pike', anyway, which is a very sombre and serious work. If I end up changing my mind again tomorrow I will really be angry with myself. I might just throw myself under a milk float. It won't kill me, but I'm sure it'll really hurt.

Wish me luck.

Na No Wri Mo 2: 'Judas Pike'

Well, in a surprising twist, I sat down tonight to begin my second National Novel Writing Month challenge with supernatural thriller 'The Estate', only to end up switching projects at the last minute to a novel idea I've had simmering away on the back burner for quite some time - 'Judas Pike'. I won't give too much of the story away, except to say that it's an alternate history novel, mixed in with a bit of sci-fi. I'm very pleased with it so far. 1700 words on the first night. Already better than last year. But it's early days and things could go wrong at any point in the next thirty days. Need to keep focused and keep turning out those words every day.

The reason for the change? I felt 'The Estate' just wasn't ready. The story was underdeveloped, and the cast of characters were not interesting enough. Yet. A project for the future, though, I'm sure. 'Judas Pike' is just a cracking story with big themes that I can really get …


Well, my hopes weren't high...

Finally got a decision on 'Medea's Children' from Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show. After 360 days since submitting (just five days short of the full year, drat it!), new editor Edmund R Schubert replied with a polite 'no'. Space in the zine is limited, he said, although he wanted to let me know that my story was in the top 5% of all stories submitted in the past year, and invited me to submit more work in the future. That's very encouraging.

Unfortunately, what could have been my very first pro sale, has now turned into, well, nothing. Zilch. A year of waiting and worrying, wondering whether or not to query, wondering if my story was lost in the slush vortex - the usual writer's angst. And in the end, there really is no prize for coming second, not in the world of short story publishing. IGMS was pretty much the last suitable payingmarket for 'Medea's Children' - mainly due to its word length. …

Back on Track

Last Wednesday I sat my exam for this year's Open University course (The Nineteenth Century Novel) and afterwards felt a huge wave of relief that it was all over for another year. It's been a tough year. A new job, a new baby, constant financial worries, etc, all added up to probably my least productive year for writing. Having said that, since last Wednesday I've been reinvigorated and now have all of my best stories out there doing the rounds:

Medea's Children - Has been with Intergalactic Medicine Show for a year now. Final Decision pending.
Juju - Hub Magazine
Pleasure Units - Forgotten Worlds
When I have Fears that I May Cease to be - Heliotrope
The Glamour - Dark Recesses Press
Symbiosis - Entry in Specficworld's Short Story Contest (Results Oct 30th)
Defence Mechanism - Aoife's Kiss

Hoping to get some good news in the not too distant future.

I'm gearing up to tackle the second draft of Lazarus Island very soon, but I'm also contemplating having another go…

Dabbles With Drabbles

Not so long ago I decided to turn my hand to the tricky art of the 'drabble'. For those who've never heard of such a thing (and not so long ago I was one of them), a drabble is a short-short story which is exactly 100 words long. Sounds easy, you say? Well, I tried it and it proved harder than I first thought. So hard, in fact, I only did it once. Thankfully, that single effort paid off and the resulting story, "A Dirty Job", appears in the newly-published issue of The Drabbler. This anthology of alien-themed drabbles, edited by Terry Leigh Relph, is available to buy at Sam’s Dot Publishers.

Lost Without Lost

The second series of Lost has just finished its initial run here in the UK, and once again I'm left feeling exasperated and thrilled in equal measure. The show's success is well-deserved. The programme-makers have expertly kept us enthralled for two series now, but I wonder how much longer they can keep this level of intrigue up. I love the show, but I've stopped watching a couple of times: once in the middle of series one and quite early on in series two. But I keep coming back. When the show first started I thought it was a mini-series. Hah! Mini! When it became clear that this show wasn't going to give up any of its secrets by the end of the first series my interest dropped off. But I came back to it because it so finely constructed, so entertaining. And it's got Evangeline Lilly in it, which is always a good reason to keep watching. Now I have to sit and stew for who knows how long, waiting for series three. Waiting for answers. If I was running the production…

First Draft Complete

I've done it!

Tonight, after about an hour of writing, I was able to type 'THE END' on the last page of the manuscript. Lazarus Island has moved one significant step closer towards a full resurrection. I looked up the date that I started this story, and found - to my horror - that it was December 2003! Almost three years! Except, of course, I haven't been working on it for all that time. There was a period of about eighteen months where I wasn't even thinking about it, when it had been dumped unceremoniously in the metaphorical 'sock drawer' on my PC. But here I am, excited at having reached this milestone. There is a lot to do on the second draft - and I mean, a lot. But the bare bones of Lazarus have been laid down. The second draft is hopefully when it really comes to life.
In his book Plot, Ansen Dibell says: '...keep writing away until you have one whole first draft done. Then go ahead and start the kind of invention, addition, and deletion only poss…


Lazarus Island reached the exciting milestone of fifty thousand words tonight. I estimate that the first draft will come in at about sixty thousand, possibly a bit more, with some heavy fleshing out to be done on the second draft. Sadly, I'm only able to write at the weekends at the moment. I would probably have finished it by now if I was able to write when I wanted to write. But isn't that always the case? I'm reminded of the story about Tolkien who famously complained all his working life that he wished he had more time to write, only to find after retirement from his day job that he spent most of his newfound freedom sitting in his study playing Patience.
Anyhow, Lazarus Island is shaping up to be something quite extraordinary, at least in my humble opinion. It's ironic that I wrote the first half of this novel about two years ago, then abandoned it for some unknown reason. I then spent those two intervening years trying several other novel ideas in different styles…

Four little hours

Stephen King has a very simple formula for learning to write well: "Read four hours a day and write four hours a day. If you cannot find the time for that, you can't expect to become a good writer."

I'm currently reading Misery (which, you may be interested to know, was intended to be a Richard Bachman novel until the whole Bachman/King thing was uncovered) and I'm finding it hard not to see Kathy Bates in my mind as Annie Wilkes. I've only ever seen the film adaptation once on its initial release, and whilst it is one of the best King movie adaptations, I prefer to enjoy King's books without preconceived images of characters or scenes. Unfortunately, Kathy Bates's association with the role is so deeply ingrained in the public consciousness that it's hard to shake off. Never mind.
I'm also reading James Herbert's The Fog and finding a world of difference between the styles of Herbert and King, not least in the level of characterisation - &#…

Back to Lazarus Island

After a break in the schedule, I was able to return to Lazarus Island this Bank Holiday weekend, producing 6000 words in three days to bring the grand total to 41,000. I'm at the stage now where I can see the finish line not too far ahead and I'm trying not to rush the third act. Things are happening in the story which I had not planned, but which improve the narrative, whilst other things I thought would be huge dramatic highpoints have fallen a little flat. But I'm trying not to dwell on it too much. The worst thing now would be to go back over what I've already written and engage the Editor side of my brain. The Creator still has some work to do so it's best to leave him alone and let him get on with it.


The latest issue of UK spec-fic mag Scifantastic has just gone on sale. The issue contains my story 'Groghol's Staff', a light-hearted fantasy tale which first began life under the auspicious title 'The Wizard Apprenticeship Scheme'. It was originally envisioned as a fantasy take on the 70s hit record 'Camp Granada', in which a young man writes home to his parents telling them what a dreadful time he's having at camp. In the end I had to trim it down considerably and lose the epistolary element. The resulting story is still one of my most enjoyable writing experiences, one which contains much of my own humour, and a dash of pathos, too.

The issue is priced at £2.50 for the print version. A PDF version is available for £1. You can order a copy here: Scifantastic

The cover is by Roderick Gladwish. See more of his work:(

Twisted Tongue

My story 'Death's Head' appears in the new issue of Twisted Tongue, scheduled for release August 1st. The paperback version can be ordered through, as well as a much cheaper PDF. version. I'm really pleased that the story has found a home in this magazine. Can't wait to see it finally in print. 'Death's Head' originally apeared in the now defunct ezine Astounding, where it won that issues Editor's Choice Award. So, as you can imagine, I'm very proud of this particular story.

'Lazarus Island' continues to grow. Total word count tonight is the magic 35,000 word mark.

Keep on Keeping on

So far this week I've managed to put down a thousand words of Lazarus Island each night, with the exception of last night which was Torbay Carnival night and we were all too exhausted to do anything once we got home. I'm determined to keep up this pace. At this rate (1000 words per day) I should be able to finish this first draft in a month. That is very exciting.

Current total: 33,300

30,000 words and counting

Reached a major milestone tonight in the rehabilitation of my novel Lazarus Island. 30,300 words to be exact. I'd always imagined that it would be a short-ish novel of about 60,000 words, which would mean that I've just hit the halfway mark. Great! Fantastico! But as I'm writing, and as the supporting characters are beginning to really come alive, I'm beginning to see the novel open out, becoming a much richer, more exciting proposition. I'm not overly concerned with how long or short it turns out to be, I just want to finish it. The more I think about it, and the more I work on it, the more I believe in it. I was miffed at having to stop writing tonight, but I know that this is a good sign. They say as a writer you should leave your novel at a point where you're itching to get back to it next time. I haven't had that feeling in a long while.

Next stop: 40,000 words.


Slowly but surely I can feel myself being re-energized. Monday night I sat down and finished 'Inheritance', one of my most interesting short stories - one I should have completed months ago. The result needs a good tidy up and polish but it 's very exciting to see something new in the OUT tray. I've also spent the last week making detailed revision notes of my half-finished novel and I am very excited about the results so far. The only thing that's dampening my efforts now is this damned heat. I don't work well in the heat, and there's no escaping this wave of high temperatures. Still, my outlook for the future is positive.

The Healing Power of King

It's happened before. Many times. When I'm feeling down, moping about in what Dorothea Brande called that "slough of despond", there's only one tonic I can rely on to reinvoigorate the creative juices, to fight off the shackles of despair and stop the old Muse from draping herself languidly over a metaphorical sofa like a pampered tart with a headache. The name of this miracle tonic? Stephen King.

In tough times I've always turned to one of King's books. Non-fiction works are just as good as novels. 'On Writing' always helps relight the fires. As does 'Danse Macabre'. But anything from the opening passages of 'Carrie' to the epic conclusion of 'The Dark Tower' is usually enough to drag me from the pit of despairing writers and hoist me, breathless, onto safe ground. This latest bout of fear and self-loathing has been a pretty protracted affair (months rather than weeks or days), and even the surefire King cure-alls failed t…

Who Review: Army of Ghosts / Doomsday

Rose Must Die!

The foreshadowing began as early as episode two of this series, when Queen Victoria warned our time travellers of the fate that awaited them if they pursued “this terrible life”. The Beast in ‘The Satan Pit’ predicted it in a more direct fashion with: “the valiant child, who will die in battle so very soon…” All in all, things were looking pretty gloomy for Rose as we approached the season finale. Now of course, we can see that this was all a very cleverly constructed ruse to keep us watching. And it worked. In dramatic terms, to foreshadow something so heavily almost always means there’s a surprise in store. You can’t keep telling an audience one of your main characters is going to die and then duly kill them. That’s not very dramatic. That’s just cruel and depressing. If you are going to kill off a main character it’s usually best done with the element of surprise - there’s great drama to be had in shocking an audience with a big death. But in Doctor Who, the build-up …

Writing? Oh, yes, THAT!

It's been a pretty grim time in the productivity stakes. Due to the many and varied demands on my time (including adapting to a new job and the mental drain of Open Uni studies) I've not been able to work on the handful of stories sitting in my "OUT" folder, nor turn my mind to producing anything new. I feel totally bereft of any drive right now. I've completely lost interest in reading, movies, my Literature course, and, most worryingly of all, my writing. I sincerely hope this is all a passing phase. Perhaps after producing over twenty short stories in two years I have reached a (temporary) "burn out".
The only thing that has kept me going these past few months is my weekly fix of Doctor Who. When Doctor Who reaches its truly epic finale next Saturday, I'm hoping that my old passions will rush back in to fill the void created by the good Doctor's absence. If they don't, I'm going to be seriously worried. I really will need a doctor!

Who Review: Fear Her

"Fingers on lips!"

Easily the funniest moment in the episode (if not the series so far). 'Fear Her' is a low-key Who episode in all respects. A small budget affair, based in a single suburban street, and with minimal effects. The result is a solid adventure in its own right but ultimately an episode which comes across as being a bit of a 'filler' before the epic two-part finale. In fact, it seems as though the finale has taken the budget of both this episode and last week's 'Love and Monsters'! Whilst I enjoyed 'Fear Her' I was actually more excited by the sixty-second preview of next week's 'Army of Ghosts' - and I wasn't disappointed. That single shot of Rose standing on some colourless beach, looking so sad, so lonely, added with the voice-over "This is the story of war on earth...This is the last story I will tell..." Ooh, I got goosebumps I did. Like most fans of this series, this is what I've been waiting…

Who Review: Love and Monsters

Something of a curio this week for Doctor Who: an episode which is heavy on the comic side and in which the Doctor and Rose barely appear. On initial viewing I found it amusing and it definitely kept my interest, but did I really enjoy it? Not sure. I enjoyed Peter Kay's performance as the Abzorbaloff and I thought Mark Warren as nice guy Elton did a good job of playing, well, a nice guy, which, for an actor who is used to playing edgy, psychopathic characters, was actually quite a stretch. Considered seriously as an episode of Doctor Who, however, I thought it was very hit and miss. But taken on its own merits, I don't think it did any harm to have a bit of fun (the viewing figures actually went back up with this episode). Although I found it entertaining in its own way, I wouldn't want to see another episode in this mould. I look at it like an intermission, a pause for light relief before we get into the really dark stuff that will lead us into Billie Piper's recent…

In this haze of green and gold...

What a gorgeous June. The sun is shining. England are still in the World Cup. I have a fantastic new job. Doctor Who is still running. And I have a handful of my favourite stories scheduled for publication in the next few months:

'Groghol's Staff' will appear in Scifantastic issue five (Aug)
'The Midnight Men' will appear in Dark Recesses issue four (July)
'Death's Head' will appear in Twisted Tongue issue three (August)
'The Man Who Ate Planets' will appear in Revelation 4:1 (Sept)
'Guardian' and 'The View From the Bridge' will appear in future issues of From the Asylum.
'Pleasure Units' is set to appear in anthology Tabloid Purposes III in August.

Who Review: The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit

I deliberately waited until I’d seen both episodes of this two-parter before making any comments here, mainly because the first part was so good, so promising, that I was a little scared the second part would be a colossal let-down. I needn’t have worried. In fact, this two-parter has been so enjoyable it has actually made me look back at the earlier episodes with a somewhat critical eye. Looking back at my Who Reviews, I’ve been exceedingly positive about the series (apart from New Earth which still rankles), but compared to this adventure, even the better episodes look like pale, sickly cousins to the real thing. In short: this adventure is everything I imagined Doctor Who to be.
Quick story synopsis for the uninitiated: The Tardis arrives on a Sanctuary base on a remote planet which - impossibly - is suspended beneath a black hole which is sucking in everything around it but the planet. “How could this be?” the Doctor wonders. “That’s impossible!” Quite. But there it is, being all i…

Who Review: The Idiot's Lantern

I always remember Bob Gale and Bob Zemeckis, the co-creators of that other great time-travelling series Back to the Future, saying that an audience needs someone like Michael J Fox (as Marty McFly) to go on a time-travel adventure with, someone they trust, someone who is "reassuring". In short, a figure who can take you to the strangest, darkest places and still make you feel safe whilst you're in their company. David Tennant's Doctor is that figure. As the series has progressed (we're now past the halfway mark) I've seen Tennant take to the role with relish and make it his own, so much so that it now seems impossible for him to ever leave it (but I know he will, of course, but please, David, give us another series at least!) This week's episode was eight parts Fifties romp and two parts "scary movie". The scary parts were proper scary, too - for kids, at least. I'm in my mid-thirties now, but I can imagine if I was a youngster watching thi…

Who Review: The Age of Steel

Well, it’s been almost a week since viewing ‘The Age of Steel’, and I’m undecided as to whether it was great or just good. To be honest, my appreciation of most new episodes has improved considerably on second viewing (with the exception of ’New Earth’ which is still my least favourite episode of this second series). I’ve not had a chance to watch ‘Age of Steel’ a second time which is probably why I feel unsure of how good it really is. The episode provided some great moments, although the way our leads escaped the cliff-hanger was a little too convenient. (But then, aren’t they always?) That aside, the story was action-packed and ticked all the boxes of a good Doctor Who adventure. The armies of Cybermen marching through the streets at night was fantastic. Lumic’s transformation into the Cyber Controller was brilliantly done (“No! I’m not ready!” cried the evil genius.) The scene in the tunnel filled with ‘sleeping Cybermen’ was suitably eerie, and the escape via airship was a rousin…

Who Review: Rise of the Cybermen

The relentless thud-thud-thud of steel boots. The Doctor’s fearful, “It’s happening again!” The iconic silhouettes. The Cybermen are back and they’re beautiful!
Just like the resurrection of the Daleks in season one, the Doctor Who production team have brought back one of the Doctor’s most revered enemies and they’ve done it with style. The art-deco look of the new Cybermen is a sublime rendering of an iconic figure. When you look back at past incarnations of the Cybermen - always a variation on a theme - the new version beats them all hands down. It is the integration of all production departments on this series which makes it work so well. The Cybermen are not designed merely to look cool (which they do), but because it fits with the overall look of the episode, the universe they exist in. This episode (the first of a two-part story) sees The Doctor, Rose and Mickey inadvertently falling into a parallel world, very much like ours but one which has numerous echoes of the 1930s - for …

Writing is such sweet sorrow...

Feeling very frustrated at the moment. Three of my leading stories are out of circulation because I'm unhappy with them in their current forms. The thing is, the rewrites aren't going well at all. In fact, it's like pulling teeth. The problem is the endings. They just aren't satisfying on any level. I don't know if it's because I'm tired (getting up at 6:30am every morning with the baby is pretty draining, especially when you've a full day of work ahead, too!) or because my degree studies are demanding so much of my mental power (what's left of it, anyway!), but the burst of inspiration which set these stories in motion has fizzled out and left me fumbling about in the dark like a fumbling-about-in-the-dark-type-person. I can't remember the last time I sat down to write feeling refreshed, invigorated, and with all my synapses snapping away like good synapses should. What happened to the guy who wrote a 120,000-word novel in thirty days? Anyway, …

Who Review: The Girl in the Fireplace

Steven Moffat’s critically-acclaimed Doctor Who writing debut 'The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances' last season was always going to be a hard act to follow, but I'm glad to report that he has produced another fantastic and totally satisfying Who adventure. The story involves a group of sinister clockwork robots from the 51st century who are pursuing a young French aristocrat called Reinette Poisson from the 18th century. Why? Well, why indeed. The Doctor forms a very quick relationship with the young French girl who he first meets through a time portal on the spaceship which opens up on the girl's fireplace. The ship is full of such portals which enable the Doctor (and the evil robots) to flit in and out of the girl's life. In the space of five minutes, the Doctor has visited her three times and sees her growing up at an alarming rate, until she is a beautiful young woman who he realises is the renowned Madame de Pompadour. "How could you be a stranger to me?&qu…

Who Review: School Reunion

Episode three was another strong entry in David Tennant’s run, although not quite up there with last week’s season highlight of ‘Tooth and Claw’. The much-publicised return of Sarah Jane Smith and K9 was a nice addition to what was already a neat little story (aliens called the Krillitane have taken over the local school and are using the children to calculate something known as the Skasis Paradigm which will enable them to “control the very building-blocks of the universe!”) The episode was evenly-paced and the characters had enough room to have a little fun amidst all the chaos and mayhem. The most touching scene came at the end when Sarah Jane implored the Doctor to say goodbye this time, to finally give her “closure”. It’s scenes like this which make the new Doctor Who a success for me. There’s real emotion, real sentiment, on the screen and that’s always a good thing.
I have to say that so far in season two, Rose seems a little ‘lost’. The first series was very much told from her …

Who Review: Tooth and Claw

The second episode of Doctor Who was a much more satisfying adventure than last week’s “New Earth”. It had all the great Who elements: a scary monster which isn’t just a monster but an alien force; an instantly-recognisable historical figure (Queen Victoria played with great panache by Pauline Collins); lots of running; lots of screaming; and, of course, warrior monks! The story was also well-paced, not rushed or overstuffed like the first episode. Everything blended together (even the CGI werewolf was good) to produce what could be one of the best episodes so far - including series one.
Tennant and Piper sparked off each other well, and I loved how we saw their mischievous humour regarding time-travel was turned on its head at the end when Queen Victoria gave them a right royal telling-off - no, she was definitely NOT amused.
One thing that left me wondering was the resurgence of the “Bad Wolf” enigma. I’m sorry, I thought that was all answered at the end of the first series? Wasn’t Ba…

Desert Island DVDs

Here are just a handful of movies I would have to have on a desert island...

The first time I saw this movie I was eleven years old, and I was so knocked out I couldn’t believe what I’d seen, and had to go back the next night to watch it again. From that cool opening stanza to the set-piece-laden last third, I was in movie heaven. Even now it still gives me tingles. And Harrison never looked cooler. I still think it’s Spielberg’s most satisfying movie and not even the magnificent sequels can match it for raw energy.
Favourite Line: “It’s not the years, honey - it’s the mileage.”
Favourite Scene: Boulder-Dash!

This movie came along at a time when I was feeling pretty disenchanted with the movies and life in general. I’d always been a Tim Burton fan, but, like many people, this was one film I avoided on its initial release. I finally caught it on Moviedrome some years later and was absolutely blown away. I watched it over and over for weeks afterwards. As well …

Who's better? Who's best?

Next Saturday April 15th Doctor Who returns to BBC1 and I can't wait. The first series with Christopher Eccleston exceeded all my expectations. I was a little unsure of where they were going with it at first. Some of the comic touches felt a little out of place and the Slytheen were a bit rubbish, but apart from that the series was a revelation. Before they relaunched the Doctor I always felt that the idea of Doctor Who was fab; unfortunately the budgets of the past were never able to do it justice. Now they have every resource the BBC wishes to throw at it and the results have so far been mesmerising. The finale of series one was a real highlight for me - not just because of the Dalek war, but the emotional core of the episode. Call me an old softy, but when the Doctor duped Rose into the Tardis and sent her back to 21st Century London, to safety, I was really moved. Silly really. It's only a tv sci-fi show, but hey, I cried at the Rings movies.
So will David Tennant be as suc…

Harry Potter and the Importance of Being Decisive

Okay, so I've changed the title back to "P&C". Should've just left it alone. That kind of behaviour just sums up my mental state at the moment. Can't decide on anything. Always tinkering and generally annoying myself. There's just too much on my "so-called mind".

Saw Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire recently. My first impression was that it seemed a little muddled, certainly not as cohesive as the previous instalment, Harry Potter andThe Prisoner of Azkaban. But I gave it a second watch last night and I enjoyed it a lot more. What threw me, I think, was that for the first time the film-makers have chosen to make a movie that doesn't entirely stand alone. You really do need to have at least seen Azkaban to know about Sirius Black, for example, otherwise - how confusing would that face in the fireplace scene be? I understand they had to cut a lot of stuff, and the stuff they cut certainly doesn't harm the enjoyment of the overall movie, …

A Change is as Good as a Rest

Yeah, so I changed the title of the blog. Not sure I'm happy with it, though. Sounds a bit grandiose - a bit like "Lee Moan: Bicycle Repair Man!!!" If a better title comes to me I'll change it again.
Trying to keep up a more regular blog. It's hard, though, as my life is now swamped by degree studies and family duties and everything else. My writing has virtually stopped. I have ten stories under consideration with different mags at the present, so there's plenty to look forward to. I have three stories which are on the shelf, two which have never been submitted anywhere and one which has been submitted everywhere and is now under review/rewrite. Forthcoming publications include "Pleasure Units" in The Ethereal Gazette issue four, due for publication any day now (available through; "Madrigal" will appear at Antipodean SF mid-April; "Guardian" will appear at From the Asylum in April; and "Death's Head" will …

The Power of Flight

Here's a fifty-worder story which appeared at Antipodean SF a little while back. Thought I'd reproduce it here because...well, I like it. Short and sweet.

The Power of Flight

When the New Order usurped their kingdom, the Winged Men were given a simple choice: give up the power of flight and live there forever, or leave their homeland and never return.
By dawn of the following morning, the Winged Men filled the skies.
Not one of them stayed behind.

Serenity (DVD)

I never managed to get into Buffy. (Oo-er!) Never saw a single episode of Angel. In fact, until last year, I didn’t really know who Joss Whedon was. I know, I’m a philistine of colossal proportions, but hey, I’ve been busy. Then, just by chance I came across an article (I think it was in Empire, my favourite movie magazine) talking about a fab sf tv series called Firefly which was famously cancelled after fourteen episodes, but was doing great business in DVD sales. The article urged all sci-fi fans to buy it. Now I don’t know why I listened to that particular piece of advice as I’ve been monumentally underwhelmed by sf tv shows of recent times (e.g. Farscape, Babylon 5, Andromeda, and all the Star Trek spin-offs,) but there was something about Firefly that promised something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. So I bought it, and found out what that thing was.
It was the sf show I always wanted to see.
It was cool, it was funny, it was well-written, the characters were strong and engagi…

Astounding Tales Vanishes into the Twilight Zone!

Well, here I am again with what is turning out to be another monthly entry, and what a month it's been since I last posted.
I've sold one new story (to From the Asylum), had another story reprinted (at Whispers of Wickedness) and, sadly, saw the demise of one of the very first zines to publish my work - Astounding Tales. I won't try and explain why the zine folded (because I don't really know) other than to say it seems to be over an unfortunate disagreement between the editor and publisher. It's always sad when a zine folds, and Astounding Tales had a particularly nice ethos behind it - a real shame that it ended so suddenly and so soon.

On a more pleasant note, I discovered that my story "Voices", which was published in Flash Me Magazine last year, has been nominated for the Speculative Literature Foundation's Fountain Award. Zoiks! (Winner announced mid-May.)

Star Wars: The Prequels - An Abridged Version

Episode 1: The Phantom Thingie
"Master Qui Gonn, I have a bad feeling about this."
"About what, Obi Wan?"
"Well, we've been running around for about half an hour now with no discernible purpose, and now we're being drawn towards some horrible dust-bowl of a planet to pick up some irritating little kid."
"That's the force, my young padawan."
"Hmm. If you say so. By the way, Master, do you know who this floppy-eared gimp is following us about everywhere?"
"No, but if we ignore him he might go away... Obi Wan! A Sith lord!"
"Hurray! Something to do!"

Episode 2: Attack of the Whatsits
"Master Obi Wan, do you think I look good in black?"
"No, Anakin, I think you look like a wannabe Sith lord."
"What-ev-er!... Phwoar! Look at Padme! She's turned into some proper posh totty!"
"Yes, and oddly she's only aged three years whilst you've aged ten."
[Off-screen Mu…

The Kong's Too Long!

Saw Peter Jackson's King Kong last week - a fantastic piece of cinema. Many of the negative criticisms have been over the extended running time. I remember reading that the studio bods were horrified when they heard the director's cut was three hours long, but after viewing it they decided it was fine as it was, and left it alone. Having said that, I think it was too long for what was essentially a simple (and well-known) story; but don't get me wrong - it wasn't too long in the Oh-God-when's-this-gonna-end? sense (I didn't glance at my watch once throughout the screening); I just think there was a lot of unnecessary character development with the secondary bods (i.e. Jamie Bell's character and the captain, etc.) It didn't make sense to build these characters up when they vanish completely from the storyline in the final third of the film. Still,it's an editorial quibble. Like I've already said, fantastic cinema! The realisation of Kong will go …