Sunday, March 26, 2006

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 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

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 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

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.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

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 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

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.)