Sunday, December 17, 2006
Three years down (180 points) and three years to go.
Also managed to sell my story 'Wizard's Gambit' to new ezine Sorcerous Signals, a sister zine to The Lorelei Signal. However, the story won't appear until June/July next year. Seems such a long way away...
Friday, December 15, 2006
Monday, December 04, 2006
‘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 lovely Christmas present?
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Deadline: Thursday Night.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
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?
A 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 there's fifty thousand words to be had on this draft. We shall see.
Lost Series 3
The new series of Lost started on Sunday night on Sky One. I'm going to try and stick with it throughout the entire series this time, not dip in and out as previously noted on this blog. I do love it. I'm just not very patient.
A Darkling Plain
Reading the final volume in Philip Reeve's Hungry City Chronicles, A Darkling Plain. The first three books are: Mortal Engines, Predator's Gold, and Infernal Devices. Probably the most entertaining books I've read in a long time. Highly recommended, for adults and middle readers alike.
Friday, November 10, 2006
'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.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
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 something....uh oh. Where's that pen and paper?
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Wish me luck.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
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 my teeth into.
Monday, October 23, 2006
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 paying market for 'Medea's Children' - mainly due to its word length. I've now submitted it to small press print zine Jupiter SF. Their only payment is one contributor copy. Right now, I just want the story published. Can't wait another year or two waiting, wondering...
Dark Recesses Press (who published my story 'The Midnight Men' back in July), have just rejected my latest dark fiction piece 'The Glamour'. Shame. I was paid $10 for 'Midnight Men' in issue 4. From issue 5, DRP began paying pro rates. That just sums up my luck, really.
Still, onto brighter things...
Began work on the second draft of Lazarus Island last week. Reached about page 62-3 and left it at an exciting point. The story is really growing into itself, if that makes any sense.
Also doing some preparatory work on Novel #2. The working title is 'The Estate', but this may, obviously, change. I'm quietly excited about it. The storyline draws together some very interesting and thrilling subjects - everything from asylum seekers, chemical warfare, and East European folklore, mixed together with a generous dose of modern supernatural horror. Writing starts November 1st.
As that American bloke with the loud jumpers used to say, "Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stairs..."
Or something like that...
Monday, October 16, 2006
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 at National Novel Writing Month again this November. I've got a handful of novel ideas simmering away nicely on the backburner. But which one?
Saturday, September 30, 2006
Friday, September 29, 2006
JJ Abrams said in a recent interview that they had an ending for Lost in place for the end of series two (I think), but the success of the show prompted a big rewrite and extension of the entire plot. Let's hope that ending is not too far off.
Monday, September 25, 2006
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 possible in solid second-draft writing.'
Another exciting aspect about the point I'm at right now is that, for the first time in my life, I don't know what I'm going to write next. I've always been plagued in the past by too many ideas, and have always ended up jumping from one new idea to the next and never finishing any of them. Things have changed. By choice or by circumstance, I've managed to focus my energies on one story, one novel. And that focus has paid off so far. Yes, I've got a couple of inklings for my second novel, but that's all they are at the moment - inklings. Part of me would like to keep it that way until I've fully completed Lazarus Island, second draft and beyond. But the other part of me - the writer - needs to be producing new material. It's always advised to leave a novel after the initial draft, to work on something else for a while so that the dust surrounding the first novel can settle. That's the plan.
But I'm excited. Very excited. And I can't wait to see what the future brings.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
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 and genres, all unsuccessful, all coming to nothing. In all that time, Lazarus Island never went away. The story wouldn't die, one could say. It remained alive and vibrant in my mind. I look at it now and see that it is absolutely the perfect story, the perfect first novel, for me to write. It encapsulates so much of my own personal philosophy and sensibility that I can't believe I left it on the shelf for so long. I simply must finish it. I don't want to get all heavy here (God forbid!), but one of the most fascinating ideas raised in Stephen King's Dark Tower series is that a writer doesn't 'make up' stories - the stories seek out the author and demand to be told through them. It's a very romantic concept, but one which certainly makes me think sometimes: Who's controlling the pen here? Where did that (character/sub-plot/twist) come from? What are those whispering voices I hear in the dead of night?
Hmmm... anyone know a good psychiatrist?
Friday, September 01, 2006
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 - 'nuff said.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Saturday, August 05, 2006
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:(http://www.gladwishes.freeserve.co.uk)
Saturday, July 29, 2006
'Lazarus Island' continues to grow. Total word count tonight is the magic 35,000 word mark.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Current total: 33,300
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Next stop: 40,000 words.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Sunday, July 16, 2006
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 to work. But in the end, I found the pill I needed. (All right, enough with the medicinal metaphors!) The book I needed was 'Cujo'.
I know, not hailed as one of his classics, but when your a fan of King, all his works have a place in your heart. 'Cujo' is one of those books I bought back in my early teens when I just couldn't get enough of the guy's work. I had fond memories of that paperback. It was the Futura edition released shortly after the movie came out with the kid recoiling in horror as the 'BADDOG' lunges in for the kill. I know I read it way back then, but I couldn't remember anything apart from just a few key moments early on. So it was nice to get hold of a reasonably good copy of this little gem off Ebay (sadly not quite the same Futura edition) and to sit down and soak up King at his creative height. And as I was reading I felt the old creative juices beginning to flow again, and within the first fifty pages I had already decided to tackle the difficult second half of my own stalled novel and to complete the unfinished short stories in my 'To Do' list. Once again, Doctor King has worked his voodoo magic.
What would I do with out him? Honest answer: Without King, I probably wouldn't be a writer. 'Nuff said.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
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 towards what seemed Rose’s inevitable demise was merely leading the audience down one road only to surprise them with something better than a ‘mere’ death. The war between the Daleks and Cybermen was great and epic and fun, but the real highpoint of this episode (and the series) came with the separation of Rose and the Doctor in the final fifteen minutes. In this episode, we saw how good a Doctor Tennant is. Here, in the most dramatic moments of his tenure, Tennant played it perfectly. The fear and helplessness in his face as he saw Rose putting herself in such a dangerous predicament; followed by the scream of undiluted horror and pain as Rose was sucked into the void; to the moments of quiet mourning as he came to terms with losing her, not to death, but to the alternate world she had escaped to (saved at the last moment by her once-dead father). Tennant was at his very best in these moments. And the final farewell between the Doctor and Rose on a beach in Norway (Bad Wolf Bay, would you believe!) was truly touching. “I love you,” Rose says. “Quite right, too,” the Doctor replies, with a lump in his throat. Excellent. And I have to say, Billie Piper equipped herself admirably, too.
Respect to Russell T Davies and the rest of the Doctor Who team. They got it spot on.
Saturday, July 01, 2006
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!
Thursday, June 29, 2006
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 for. We all know now that Rose 'leaves'. What the BBC have expertly managed to keep a secret is exactly how she leaves. Can't wait for Saturday.
Egads! What am I going to do when the series finishes?
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Exciting questions now spring to mind: how will the Doctor cope with her departure? And who will be the new companion, making their first adventure in the Christmas special? Only time will tell...
Friday, June 16, 2006
'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.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
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 impossible. We quickly learn that there is a strange energy source emanating from below the planet’s surface - an energy source powerful enough to stop a planet being sucked into oblivion. Before the Doctor and Rose can say, “Oh well, let us know how it turns out, guys, we’re off,” the Tardis gets lost - pulled down into a giant chasm after an earthquake - leaving our duo stranded and contemplating a future without time travel, a future with shared accommodation and (gulp!) a mortgage! There’s nothing for it but to venture down into the pit and find out what the heck is going on down there. What the Doctor finds deep down in the bowels of this planet appears to be the Devil, or at least a creature which insists it has existed since “before time” (the Doctor quite rightly asks what the hell that means, “before time”) and is therefore the original idea which sparked the notion of The Devil in our universe. It’s a very interesting concept and one which is never completely resolved - even the Doctor is unable to fathom the truth here. Naturally, the Beast is trying to escape from its eternal imprisonment, but the Doctor (with a convenient but joyful reunion with the lost Tardis) saves the day, almost sacrificing Rose in the process, but not quite.
The episodes together are a satisfying whole and I hope the new Doctor ventures to more alien worlds (instead of hanging around that bloody London estate all the time!) This Doctor Who story has raised the bar higher than ever and I hope the two-part season finale is able to live up to this standard. One important point to mention, though: the Beast character said that Rose would “die in battle”, which she became naturally every concerned about. At the end, the Doctor dismissed it as a lie by the Beast (she didn’t die in this battle) but I have a strong feeling this is an omen pointing to a (very near) future battle. There is a growing sense of tragedy about the climax to this series, and if I were Rose Tyler, the next time I popped home to see dear old Mum on the estate, I’d start looking at some life insurance policies. Seriously.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
The story this week, written by Mark Gatiss ('The Unquiet Dead' from last season), was another effortless piece of entertainment. The Doctor and Rose set out to see Elvis Presley in Vegas just in time for his breakthrough moment, only to end up in suburban England on the day of the Queen's coronation. Confound that Tardis! A sinister force known as the Wire is using the new technology of television to feast on the people of England and what better day to do it than the day when most of the country is sat around the old "idiot's lantern" - telly to you and me. Our time-travelling heroes quickly twig that all is not proper and things lead to a showdown between the Doctor and the Wire, personified as a plummy BBC-style presenter, and played with chilling menace by everyone's favourite mother figure, Maureen Lipman. (Remember those BT ads? "He's got an 'ology'!") Along the way, though, Rose ends up "face/off" and the Doctor gets really angry and shouts really loudly for a while, which is always entertaining. Another great episode and a huge slice of British nostalgia.
Doctor Who trivia point: did you know that the Union flag is only called a Union Jack when it's at sea? Well, there you go. You learn something every week.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Mickey the idiot becomes Mickey the brave and decides to stay in this alternate world to fight the evil of Cybus industries around the world. Mickey effectively dumps Rose, saying that it will always be the Doctor she runs to, and his decision comes as quite a wake-up call for Rose. She realises then and there how much she undervalued Mickey, and because time is short, she must say goodbye forever. I thought it was a touching finale. Rose can’t be too gutted, though, because next week it’s early-1950s quiffs and big pink skirts! Hooray!
And Maureen Lipman!
Monday, May 15, 2006
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 a start, everyone rides around in zeppelins, and the set design is reminiscent of the old Flash Gordon serials. Art-deco is ‘in’ in this universe. And it looks great.
As for the main characters: Rose finds that her father is alive in this parallel world, he’s still married to Jackie Tyler, and he’s a hugely successful businessman - the only difference is, they don’t have Rose. As I’d hoped, Billie Piper was given much more to do in this episode and she delivered some nice moments, like when she realises that her parents are happy and have everything they could ever want because they never had her, and later when she discovers there is a ‘Rose’ in her parents’ lives - a little yappie-type dog!
Mickey also gets a storyline! There’s an emotional visit to his Gran who raised him - until, that is, she fell and broke her neck on the stairs! Then Mickey finds out that his counterpart in this parallel world is an activist called Ricky (nice irony!) who is fighting to uncover the sinister truth behind Cybus Industries. Apparently, next week, Mickey really comes into his own. But will he survive?
And the Doctor? Definitely taking a step back this time around, understandably so, allowing his assistants to explore their own storylines, but Tennant is such a good actor that he packs a broad range of emotions into the smallest screen time. See him acting the angry “Dad” when Rose and Mickey threaten to run off! See his horror when he realises the awful truth about Cybus Industries! See him laughing at ‘Rose’ the yappie-type dog!
Naturally, the episode ended on a suitably cliff-hanging cliff-hanger, and it was nice to see that the BBC had learnt from last year’s faux pas and didn’t show a trailer for next week in which everyone clearly survives the cliff-hanging cliff-hanger!
Roll on “The Age of Steel”!
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
On the plus side, I've just sold my story "The Midnight Men" to Canadian magazine Dark Recesses Press. The editor, Bailey Hunter, informs me that an artist will be producing an original illustration to accompany my story. I can't wait to see it!
My longest story to date "Medea's Children" is still at Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show (trying saying that after one too many Pangalactic Gargle-Blasters!). It's been there for almost seven months now. I queried after three months and was assured that it had made it through the first cut and was being considered by Mr Scott Card himself. Four months have now passed since then and I'm beginning to wonder if I will ever hear anything back. But the sub-editor said I would hear "one way or the other".
Seven months! Can my nerve hold out...?
GROGHOL'S STAFF - Will appear in Scifantastic issue 5 (Jun/July)
THE MIDNIGHT MEN - Will appear in Dark Recesses Press issue 4 (July)
DEATH'S HEAD - Twisted Tongue issue 3 (Aug)
GUARDIAN - From the Asylum, later in the year
Sunday, May 07, 2006
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?" she says. "I've known you since I was seven years old!" Before he knows it, the Doctor is in love.
The episode is packed with great moments: the juxtaposition of the ship and pre-revolutionary France is delightful; the clockwork robots with grinning masquerade ball faces and that sinister ticking noise are a wonderful creation; the Doctor's first 'proper' kiss (we'll ignore that silliness in the first episode because Rose wasn't herself!) is beautifully played; and the unusual sight of the Doctor crashing through a giant mirror on a horse into a crowded ballroom - well, you just don't see that every day! But as with all the successful Who episodes, the best moments are the quiet moments. When we reach the inevitable tragic denoument, there are two moments to savour: firstly, the look on Rose's face when she senses the Doctor's sadness. It is a look which only lasts a few seconds, but in that short time she conveys such feeling that it makes up entirely for the fact that, once again, her character has been sidelined in this episode. And then the Doctor's quiet moment as he leans against the Tardis console and reads the letter left to him by Madame de Pompadour. And then, to top it off, just as the episode is about to end and we realise that the central question (why Madame de Pompadour?) has not been answered, we get a shot of the spaceship's exterior and we see that the ship was named after her! Brilliant!
Next week we have the Rise of the Cybermen, the first part of a two-parter. This series just gets better and better.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
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 point of view - she held centre stage as much as the Doctor himself. But this time around she hasn’t shown any of the traits which made us like her in the first season. I know it’s early days and there’s bound to be much more character-oriented episodes later, but I do wonder if Rose’s character has enough mileage to survive into a third season. I understand that there’s much debate about her staying or leaving at the end of this run, something which the series producers are happy to keep a mystery, but I have a feeling that Rose may not just leave at the end of season two, but die in some spectacular Doctor Who-type way that will no doubt be very moving. Then again, I may live to eat those words.
I’m really looking forward to the two-parters coming our way - the TWO Cybermen double episodes, and the Impossible Planet/Satan Pit sounds very intriguing. It’ll be nice to see if the programme-makers can achieve the heights of last year’s 'Empty Child/Doctor Dances' as well as matching, or hopefully outdoing, the season finale. So far, though, Tennant’s Doctor is growing on me with each episode, and if I remember rightly, I wasn’t that sure of Ecclestone’s Doctor until the fifth episode, ‘Dalek’, aired last year, when I realised how good the new series could be.
Can’t wait for next Saturday. Oh! for my very own Tardis!
Saturday, April 22, 2006
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 Bad Wolf simply a message scattered through time by the Time Vortex, or whatever it was, to enable Rose to save the Doctor? Or did I completely misconstrue that? Probably. Anyway, there are enough seeds of mystery being sown in this series already, what with The Face of Boe’s promise to impart some great “Truth” when he and the Doctor meet again, and Billie Piper’s even more enigmatic declaration that we will have to wait and see what happens to her character in the final episode to truly know if Rose is going to continue as the Doctor’s assistant.
I canna wait…
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
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 as echoing feelings in my own life it also enchanted me with its wonderful characters and the crazy world they inhabited. Forget Burton’s big blockbuster mulch - this is his best film yet. Martin Landau deservedly won an Oscar for his bravura portrayal of Lugosi. Burton should have won, too. Bliss.
Favourite Line: “Right, let’s shoot this f***er!”
Favourite Scene: Pull the string!
This film just makes me laugh from start to finish. The chemistry of the characters (particularly DeNiro and Grodin) is just sublime, but even supporting characters like Marvin Dorffler are a treat. It may be foul-mouthed, but the sheer joy of it all makes it inconsequential. DeNiro brings great weight to what is essentially a formula buddy-buddy road movie and the quality of the acting raises the whole movie to another level. Director Martin Brest hasn’t done anything as good since, and come to think of it, neither has DeNiro. A couple of sequels were made for cable TV but without any of the original cast - but forget them. This is the real deal.
Favourite Line: “You’re gonna be suffering from fistophobia.”
Favourite Scene: Pilot?!! You’re a goddamn pilot?
One of those rare things: a movie for writers. It’s a wonderful, understated movie that crackles with great performances and comic moments. Douglas is at his laid-back best as Grady Tripp, an English professor struggling with his second novel and his own uncontrollable life who has a weird weekend to beat all weird weekends and somehow ends up coming good. The film has some wonderful things to say about writing and past glories and the music (including the cracking Bob Dylan song “Things Have Changed”) gives the whole movie a warm, fuzzy feeling.
Favourite Line: “Gee, Grady, that sounded so sincere…”
Favourite Scene: Shooting Poe
Another Spielberg classic, and the first film I recall seeing at the cinema. I was four years old and the image of the ORCA’s mast sticking out of the water at the end is one of my earliest memories. For a film with such an obviously rubber shark, this still packs a punch. But once again, the most enduring part is the central trio of characters, who spark off each other beautifully, and Spielberg’s bravura visuals and camera acrobatics make it timeless. I can’t believe that the “blow it up” ending only came about after a suggestion by Brian DePalma. A movie I could never tire of watching
Favourite Line: “Hooper! Tie it up, will ya!”
Favourite Scene: We’re gonna need a bigger boat…
THE FISHER KING
Terry Gilliam is a genius. Fact. Although this movie isn’t quite so overblown and visually astounding as many of his other works, it’s all the better for it. Here he’s able to coax some wonderful performances from his cast and goes on to create a touching, emotionally-satisfying whole. The fantasy elements are still there, but much of it is in the minds of its main characters (who are mostly out of their minds to begin with). The train station/ballroom dancing scene is just one of the stand-out moments, and Jeff Bridges portrayal of a tortured soul looking for redemption gives the movie great pathos.
Favourite Line: “There are no little floating people!”
Favourite Scene: The train station…
Thursday, April 06, 2006
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 successful as Eccleston? I think so, especially if the quality of the writing remains of the same high standard. And from what I've read and seen, I think it will be. Can't wait to see those crazy Cybermen. And K-9. Come next Saturday, we shall see...
Sunday, March 26, 2006
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 and The 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, but it can leave newcomers scratching their heads.
Now I'd read the book last year so I knew what happened in the story and what stuff was going to get chopped out (like the entire Dursley's sequence), so I should have been prepared. But the reason I felt a bit lost on first viewing was that there really isn't any grounding scene at the start. It opens with Harry's dream about Voldermort (which is great), then you jump to Harry and Ron in some tiny bedroom and the next thing is they're sauntering through a forest with the rest of the Weasley's and then - Kapow! they're at the Quidditch World Cup. Now I knew they were in the Weasley house because I've read the books, but I just thought for pacing it would have been good to have an establishing scene inside the house, a noisy breakfast or something, before they set off. Just so we knew where they were. Just a quibble. The rest of the movie was pretty good. Much of it was exactly as I'd imagined it from the book, but then Hogwarts is so well-established in the public consciousness that it's very easy to dive back into Rowling's world.
I'm actually looking forward to the next film, Order of the Phoenix. I know it's supposed to be one of the least popular books (way too long, for a start) but it'll be exciting to see the bits I can remember - like the showdown in the Department of Mysteries, you know the scene where ****** ***** gets killed. That'll be magic!
I'm also looking forward to the final book, which J.K. told me the other night is going to be called Harry Potter and the End of the Franchise. This, however, may change.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
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 Lulu.com); "Madrigal" will appear at Antipodean SF mid-April; "Guardian" will appear at From the Asylum in April; and "Death's Head" will be published in issue three of Twisted Tongue in August.
Hoping to get some (positive) responses from the ten submissions soon.
Friday, March 17, 2006
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.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
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 engaging, and it wasn’t ‘safe’ - it had a dark edge to it that kept you wondering what was going to happen next. It was the best thing I’d seen on tv in years. So why was it cancelled? No idea. And I’m not going to spend any more time trying to explain it, because it’s basically something that was decided by tv studio execs and trying to understand them is impossible. But cancelled it was and now we have a movie. Serenity. (Personal aside here: I think they should have called the tv series Serenity - sounds a bit cooler than Firefly, but what do I know?)
And the big question here is: is it any good?
Well, that all depends on whether or not you saw the tv series. I have, so I can only really give an opinion from that perspective. If you haven’t, I do think the movie stands alone as a good space western adventure. The only drawback is that newcomers might find the opening of the movie a little muddled - we are introduced to River Tam (Summer Glau) and it’s natural to assume that she is the main character, but it’s actually Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) who takes centre stage for the rest of the movie. In the director’s commentary, Whedon explains that test audiences were confused about who the main character was so he added a sequence just before the payroll-robbery sequence in which she subtly “hands the movie over to Mal”. After the first action sequence the movie really sets out its stall. We know we’re in for a good time. We’ve got laughs (“faster would be better!”), we’ve got cool lines (“let’s be bad guys”), and we’ve got proper ‘threat and menace’, supplied by the Reavers, (barbarian self-mutilating cannibal rapists), and some amazing SFX sequences achieved on a very small budget (the scene where Serenity leads the Reaver armada through the ion cloud has to be one of the great show-stopping moments).
Thematically, Serenity is about the search for peace, happiness, utopia. Capt Reynolds is a man being slowly eaten up inside by his past, and at the start of the movie he is “in a bad place”, both morally and spiritually. By the end, he has found a certain peace. The great secret buried by the Alliance strengthens this through-line (but I won’t give it away). Two of the main characters die during the movie (again I won’t divulge) but their deaths add dramatic weight to the story and create a subconscious but menacing sense of doom - who’s next? - and Whedon confirms his deliberate placing of these deaths in the commentary. “I want the audience to be thinking ‘Is this going to be the Wild Bunch?’” he says. I know that I was on the edge of my seat, so it worked for me.
All in all, I loved it. I haven’t enjoyed a movie as much as this since the Lord of the Rings. The parallel there I think is that in both cases I was invested in the characters. I cared about them. I feared for them as they faced up to the greatest challenge of all: trying to do the right thing against almost insurmountable odds.
Like getting a movie made out of a cancelled tv show…
Friday, March 03, 2006
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.)
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
"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 Muppet voice:] "Begun this Clone war has."
"Quick! Everyone outside! The special effects are starting!"
Episode 3: Revenge of the Doo-das
"Senator Palpatine, I've been having these dreams about Padme..."
"Please, Anakin, I'm an old man, and-"
"No, not those sorts of dreams. Nightmares they be. I think she's going to die in childbirth. Can I stop it happening?"
"Oh, I see. This pamphlet might be of interest."
"Everything you wanted to know about the dark side of the force but were too afraid to ask. Wow! Just what I was after. Is it really this easy, Master?"
"Of course. Just don't go near any planets made of lava."
"Planets made of lava? That's preposterous!"
To be continued...
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Overall, a movie head and shoulders above most Hollywoood blockbuster fare. Peter Jackson is fast eclipsing the Spielbergs and the Camerons of mainstream cinema. I hear he's taking a break and then directing 'The Lovely Bones' - which will definitely be a change of pace for him! I've read the book and it's as far removed from his fantasy epics as you can get. Whatever he does in the future, I'll be there, sitting front and centre in the multiplex.