Book Review: City of Screams by John Brindley

City of ScreamsCity of Screams had been in my stack for a little while and was awaiting a suitable young adult slot. I found it between giant space operas when I wanted a bit of light relief – something short and still sci-fi-ish (a word that is easier to say than type) and not too long. This was perfect. At first I thought I was reading a blend of After Man (Dougal Dixon) and Hothouse (Brian Aldiss) – we have evolution run riot, evolving life into a terribly dangerous world for the descendants of humanity.

The present state of man is the ‘agle’ (a rather nice term to my mind) branching into ‘air-agles’ or angels and ‘ground-agles’ with close sentient relatives in rodent and raptor (more like Moa birds I think) form. The society is barely stable between the city-dwelling agles and the raptors who guard their perimeter. It all goes tits up quickly, and is made much worse when the evangelising army of Humans (or Adults) turns up, preaching the word of Genome and racial purity, denying evolution and being horribly violent and death campy.

It’s a rather heavy-handed allegory of science vs religion but also a pertinent and passionate one. Initially I found it too blatant; perhaps as an atheist myself I find the ardour of the dogmatist so appalling that it made the story and the Genome followers somewhat repellent. I gave it time though, and enjoyed the futuristic view of our evolution in an extreme flux (there are lots of other agle variants, especially once the go on the run). The characters irritated me a little, but I rarely enjoy the self-pity which consumes some of them.

The pay off is pleasing, and I can’t disagree with the importance of the ideas in the story. A good book, and a valuable one for our younger readers. Of course I discovered later that this is a sequel – something entirely unmentioned on the book. That drives me nuts, but I enjoyed the story anyway. Character investment is probably greater if you read The Rule of Claw first.

John Brindley

Get City of Screams at Amazon.co.uk

This week, Monday 4th March 2013

Amnesiaweek

Diving FellowI have very little memory of last week. Curious. Ho hum, I assume it must have either been very busy (which I doubt), or oddly empty. Ah! That’s it, I spent most of the week data cleansing, which is exactly as close to spiritual termination as it sounds. Sigh. Never mind, my mind will return to me (I hope) and all life will continue in its usual chain of accidents and embarrassments.

This week’s scribbles

Tuesday Once Upon A Time part 2

Does this count as a fable? I’m not sure. It’s damn gloomy though.

Wednesday Franklyn de Gashe’s Audio Entertainments

A pair of de Gashe stories for you to listen to.

Thursday The War Alone Day One: Art Class (1 of 3)

How the war begins, for one art teacher.

Friday Film Review: Hansel & Gretel –  Witch Hunters

A short review of terrible, terrible film.

Updates on my thrilling life

Writing

A Cyborg Calls

Woo hoo, A Cyborg Calls came in as a four parter. It was an effort to keep it under five parts, but a brutal edit of the last part fixed that, but good (as they say in movies). I am fairly pleased with the story – I wanted to explore Alex’ odd relationship with Galaxy Team further, and get into some of the other characters who in all honesty I just toss in as names that amused me in earlier stories. I find that’s much how I get through life – do the stuff that makes me chuckle and see if the story winds around it. I hope there were some surprises in the story and that it had a satisfying ending. It is, of course, wide open for continuation…

Last week’s scribbles

Tuesday Once Upon A Time Part 1 Dark urges ravage a small community.

Wednesday Lego Creations: The Castle Sprawl A mega heap of pictures of my Lego castle and all its odd vignettes.

Thursday Alex Trepan: A Cyborg Calls part 4  The final chapter of Alex night time visit.

Friday Book Review: City of Screams by John Brindley A short review of an interesting YA sci-fi novel.

Lego

I’m still trying to figure out what the onomatopoeic word for the sound Lego makes when you rummage about in it should be – shinkle? Maybe. I’ll keep working on that important thought.

This week has been a Lego buying week. Tesco has continued to reduce stuff, and so there has been a late night foray there most nights last week (that’s what I’ve been doing!) Successfully acquired The Werewolf, which has another fearsome minifig launching component, Marvel Superheroes: Wolverine’s Chopper Showdown and the Lego City Forest Police Station. Happy me. We’ve also spotted that the next series of minifigures is due out soon and features amongst other awesomeness a Medusa figure!

I also managed to squeeze and drop a mad scientist lair I was building, exploding it across the living room. Cock. Back to square one. I’m also facing the imminent prospect of having to dismantle Lego sets as I’ve run out of space. Need more shelves….

Improv Comedy

At Fisticuffs we’ve been playing with the Evente, which I wish to spell Eventae because it looks cooler. We’re treating it with our usual disregard for what anyone else says and found it much more fun. We’ve also got a gig to do a special version of Unspeakable Acts (which remains some of the most fun I’ve ever had on stage) for Nottingham University‘s ClassSoc. We’ll be using ancient Greek plays as our base material! I’m really looking forwards to that.

Media Intake

Books

I finished Judas Unchained in ridiculously few days and was thrilled by it all the way through. It’s exactly the kind of space opera I adore. I’m now filling time until I feel I can reasonably pick up his next door stop and continue the adventure… So far I’ve gotten through Lionboy: The Truth by Zizou Corder, it’s the last in the short YA trilogy about a kid who can catspeak and gets embroiled in a complex corporate conspiracy. I’ve enjoyed them although I found the “big pharma” paranoia quite irritating. I also abandoned a nameless book that was too awful to continue reading and now I’m halfway through Jim Butcher’s Turn Coat.

Events and Excitement

Improv shows

Thursday 14/03/13      Gorilla Burger: Improv Comedy Chaos – The City Gallery, Nottingham

Friday 29/03/13           MissImp in Action: Improvised Comedy Show – The Glee Club, Nottingham.

Once Upon A Time – part 2 of 2

once upon a time

Read Once Upon A Time – part 1 first.

Once upon a time a tree stood before a broken cottage and waved its grisly burden in the breeze. Three men hung from a branch, their faces dried and pruned tight, their eyes gone and now ragged holes stared at any who dared to pass by. The villagers avoided this sad corner of their land and it grew dark. Tales of haunting and night whispers kept the people at bay.
One day a traveller came to the village, a tall and beautiful woman. She had no fear of the tree and its burden and lay down to rest beneath its leafy boughs. For many years the corpses had whispered to the tree till their tongues grew black and shrivelled and they had no words left. Now the tree took up their voices and whispered to the woman as she slept. She knew these voices and they held no fear for her, for they had never done her harm. They told her what she wanted to know, where she might find the man she once called father.
The man who tragically lost his daughters to the wild river and the evil sorcerers had flourished the wake of murder and his public grief. He was now the village’s spokesman; important, respected, remarried with a new daughter on whom he lavished his affection.
The young woman had learned something of the brothers’ art and travelled as a healer, offering what help she might. She plied her trade in the village, finding much call for her arts among the villagers. Into every tea she brewed or poultice she placed she used a sliver of bark taken from the tree that bore the dead men’s voice.
The next night the three brothers whispered into the dreams of the villagers, reminding them of what they once were to each other. The villagers were filled with tears and remorse. All except the man who lived in the largest house. He was filled with fear. In the night that followed the three brothers whispered into the dreams of the villagers and told them how the man had killed them and how they had saved his daughter. On the next day the villagers were much affected and many words were hushed as the man passed. As the nights passed and the whispers continued the mood of the village turned against the man they had come to respect.
A week passed and the man’s daughter from his new wife tearfully spoke out against her father. She was not doubted, for all the villagers had heard the truth of what had come before. They were not surprised when the youngest daughter revealed herself and demanded justice for herself and her sisters and for the brothers who had saved her.
The villagers cut down the tree and laid the brothers to rest in the gardens of their house. From the wood they fashioned a coffin for the living – a punishment for the man, and a penance for the villagers. The box they placed in the field behind the village. They cut off the man’s feet that he could never escape and placed him in the box. Its lid nailed down he was trapped, the wood whispered to him in the voices of the three brothers of the things that he had done until he was driven insane by their endless murmurs of his crimes. The sisters took the house of the brothers for their own and continued the good works that had always been done there.

The End.

Franklyn de Gashe’s Audio Entertainments

Franklyn Feels Your Pain

Reading can be a terrible pest of an activity and I entirely sympathise the general indolence that flourishes throughout our community. As a considerate fellow I feel duty bound to lighten your burden by recording a pair of my adventures upon a wax cylinder and fire them through the webspace at you like auditory torpedoes.

deGashe banner

The King’s Cross Entertainment

After a spell in the country I returned to the city and immediately delved into its debauched netherworld.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/80818512″ iframe=”true” /]

The Simian Entertainment

My attempts to create the perfect servant rather backfire at the club.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/playlists/3808718″ height=”200″ iframe=”true” /]

I do hope they fill a void within your aching heart, an ache I would be only to happy to cleave from your suffering flesh.

Should you have the gift of literacy and desire to gorge yourself upon words, you may read them below:

The King’s Cross Entertainment

The Simian Entertainment

The War Alone Day One: Art Class part 1 of 3

Part 1

The sound of glass being punched over and over again, like the crunching of teeth. Spatters of blood flying up the window from bruised and cut fists, pooling down the sharp spider webs. Demented faces fractured by the collapsing pane. The only other sounds were far away shouts and screams, and the sobbing rasp of her own breath. Angela was crunched up under the shelf in the art cupboard, surrounded by spilled pens and sugar paper. Her hands shook violently as she clutched the lino cutting knife with the bloody tip. The blood mixed with her sweat and made the handle sticky and slippery.

The cupboard, like every other room on the school’s central corridor had a reinforced glass window. That had been her good fortune.

War Alone_Art Class

At ten o’clock she had realised that the class was going to run out of paper for testing their lino-cut designs out on. God forbid they should actually get something right first time. So she’d taken her keys from her desk, warned them about using the devilishly sharp lino tools carefully, and strolled off down the corridor, swinging the keys cheerfully around her own knife. For all that they couldn’t print an image worth looking at they were a decent class. Fourteen was the age when they turned though, and Angela was determined to get some decent coursework out of them before they became utterly useless.

Whoever, long ago in the mists of teaching time, had determined that sugar paper would be the principal material for capturing the creativity of children was an idiot. Angela would have killed for a reasonable supply of good quality Japanese papers. Admittedly she would then take quite a lot of it home, but it would still be better for the end results. Endless quantities of sugar paper then. Except they weren’t endless, not any more. By the middle of the spring term they’d be almost out as the insane budget ran down. Last year they had only managed because the A Level students got hooked on some really nice cartridge paper from the art shop in town. Some of them even stopped smoking to be able to afford it. So she ought to be parsimonious with the sugar paper. That sounded too ridiculous to adhere to.

With a deft flick of her wrist, Angela spun the keys off the knife and into her hand. The knife went back in a pocket, the key into the lock of the stationery cupboard. As was her ritual she traced out a smiley face in the wireframe of the reinforced glass which overlaid the brightly coloured ‘Art Room Supplies’ sign. She redrew it every year; it was just one of those small things that made her feel more at home at work.

The cupboard was a mess – exactly as she’d left it last time. The usual pretence that she had an artistic temperament wouldn’t cut it in here. It was the only room she could lock and hide herself in, and she’d made good use of it during the school fayre the previous weekend. She and her boyfriend Mark were responsible for at least some of the spilled boxes. It had been a good weekend and the tombola would supply them with enough blu-tack (or at least the white knock-off) to be able to display the GCSE and A Level work this year.

Angela tugged out a thick multi-coloured sheaf of paper and made a token effort to put boxes back on shelves. They were good kids; they’d be alright left to their devices for a few minutes. With luck, only one of them would be bleeding by the time she got back. With a fond glance at the remaining jumble of papers and paint bottles Angela retreated from the cupboard, re-locked it and headed back to class. The school’s corridors were arranged in a simple square with legs radiating out from each corner. The art room was in the back-right leg of the school, the stores cupboard round the corner on the back of the square.

A ringing phone tugged her down the corridor. It didn’t matter how many times they told the kids to turn their phones off they never did. Personally Angela didn’t care, but it was school policy to confiscate the things until the end of the day. They weren’t able to hold them for any longer than that because parents got testy about the school keeping hundreds of pounds worth of electronics that they’d given to their children. Also, someone had broken into the headmaster’s office last year and stolen the iPad and three Blackberrys he’d taken away during the day. Since then it was hard to argue the point. It was a lot of phones ringing she realised. It was shortly followed by a long lingering scream. “Shit,” she said, and began to run. Just her luck, one of the kids had probably cut his thumb off – you just couldn’t get people to cut away from themselves. Her own thumbs, with their scars running from the tips to the middle joint were plenty of evidence of that.

Film Review: Hansel & Gretel – Witch Hunters

Hansel and GretelI have a great love for terrible films. Not the really awful soul destroying ones, but those which have decent low budget:high aspiration or high budget:knowingly silly ratios. I firmly expected Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters to be a daft, gory nonsense fest with a few knowing winks to camera and high camp all round. Instead I feel irrationally betrayed. This film is awful, not so bad it’s good, but so bad it is bad and the badness seeps into the wounds in your flesh and makes you suffer.

Where to begin? I’m fine with the concept – Hansel and Gretel left in the woods as kids, preyed on by a witch, they kill her and become full time witch hunters. That’s fine. It falls apart almost immediately as the leads (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) are apparently playing it straight (mostly) against the rest of the cast who are just chowing down on the scenery. It’s rather jarring.

Not as jarring as the weightless plasticine weapons they tote around or the appalling make up effects for the witches – honestly, the makers of The Evil Dead would have been ashamed to toss the polyfilla-faced freaks on the screen. The witches are just ludicrous cackling things with no character or merit – their wirework looks exactly like the stunt doubles have just been jerked into the air, and the fight choreography is exceptionally poor. Think ‘80s cop TV drama and you’ve got the quality right. I like gore in films, and I like film violence but this film seems to revel in beating up women and killing them. Even Gretel gets beaten up by the sheriff and punched in the face.

The sheriff… initially Peter Stormare’s character is set up as the bad guy and has some potential, but he’s just stamped on halfway through the film (literally). Instead of doing any kind of human or social story line we’re dragged into a predictable and unoriginal plot to make witches invulnerable to fire and some other bollocks about white witches (I won’t spoil the whole film for you – they’ve done that themselves).

Every possible moment of interest or intrigue is ruined by choosing the laziest, most obvious and pointless revelation. Hansel injects himself regularly and gets ill if he doesn’t. He’s diabetic. Because he was forced to eat all the candy in that house where they burned the witch. Get it? Fuck off. A troll (apparently made of foam rubber) helps out Gretel but “trolls work for witches” so… oh my god she must be a-“. Yeah. Oh and there’s a handful of other red shirt characters and main characters you can’t possibly care about too.

There must have been something of merit in there… I quite liked the intro credits, until they stopped to allow the film to proceed. The end, when there are lots of witches around is like they’ve dug out all the rejects from Jabba’s Palace in Return of The Jedi. They’re okay. They all get killed by a massive gatling gun, including the Siamese twin witches and the paraplegic one. So that’s a waste. There’s a glimmer of a more fun film right at the end where they take their witch hunting crew off around the world, but by then you’ll want them all to die anyway.

I could rant further, but it’s making me remember too much of this atrocious mess of a film. How can I quantify its badness for you? It’s worse than Van Helsing (which I liked because it has a sense of fun), it’s worse than Season of the Witch, worse than Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter; it’s better than Revenge of Billy The Kid. Don’t watch it.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9246msCh7x4&w=560&h=315]

This week, Monday 11th March 2013

Hunting the Bastard Fish

Bastard FishMaybe it’s just the time of year – the darkness hasn’t yet left us, and the promise of summer and light is still just that, a promise that may never be fulfilled – and I find myself struggling still. I know my Dad often puts the gloominess of this part of the year down to SAD-like symptoms, as do quite a few other people I know. I’m not sure; I’m usually happiest inside anyway, I have no particular love of being outside; I’m an indoor bunny.

It is still trying to snow, her white flakes blustering past against the dark of night always give me a bright internal smile. I imagine the world smothered and silent in that soft deadly blanket and it gives me a calmness inside. So I like the apocalypse, it has an enormous appeal – not necessarily surviving it for long, but just a few months after everything else is gone. Can you imagine the peace?

This week’s scribbles

Tuesday Shankopalypse – The End of Angry Poetry

Expressing stress through verse. It sometimes works. (not the last poetry edition, I promise)

Wednesday Pulp Pirate 14

Franklyn de Gashe pops up on Flash Pulp’s FlashCast once more.

Thursday The War Alone Day One: Art Class (2 of 3)

When the phones start ringing it’s time to start dying.

Friday Book Review:The Commmonwealth Saga by Peter F Hamilton

A review of Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained.

Updates on my thrilling life

Writing

once upon a timeI’m stumbling around in the dark in the mornings, but I’ve got a trip to London this week so I aim to devote my travel time to yarn spinning. I’ve been tidying up a couple of multi-part stories, which still need further tidying. I need more one-shot tales as well – I’m going to have to impose some discipline upon myself again. I was quite pleased with the different voice I employed in Once Upon A Time. It felt a bit darker and more fairy tale like than I’d usually write. I’d also have to confess that the superb The Sad Tale of The Brothers Grossbart was high in my mind when thinking about that kind of story.

Last week’s scribbles

Tuesday Once Upon A Time Part 2 The bad fairy tale concludes with death.
Wednesday Franklyn de Gashe’s Audio Entertainments Two recorded de Gashe tales for your ear pleasure.
Thursday The War Alone Day One: Art Class (1 of 3) How the war begins, for one art teacher and her class. 
Friday Film Review: Hansel & Gretel – Witch Hunters A short review of the truly dreadful new film.

Lego

Genie FriendsJoy and excitement. I’ve been following The Brothers Brick with great interest as they post up some of the best Lego models from the world of Flickr and beyond. The detail and technique displayed in many models utterly confounded me until I started to read further. There are such things as Advanced Building Techniques. I found a great guide to them online (see the link below). It has tonnes of maths in it – the ratios between different bricks and their sides provide a platform for building unusual shapes. I’m especially enamoured of SNOT – Studs Not Out Technique, which can leave a beautiful polished shape quite unlike how Lego often looks. It does use and require a huge number of bricks. I may finally have to order some specific bricks to accomplish what I want.

Advanced Building Techniques

In case you’ve somehow not seen Alice Finch’s enormous Lego Hogwarts: check it out now.

You may not have spotted Lego for girls out there, or Lego Friends as they call it. The new mini figures (all girls) are a bit taller and have the suggestion of chest bumps, so they must be girls, and there’s an adorable range of mini animals out with them too. Most appealing are the new colours – pinks, purples, mustard yellows and blues that are presumably designed to appeal to girls. I like them too. I’ve been collecting the mini sets and had fun fiddling with them while watching Dexter this weekend. They made a nice little environment for the genie minifig.

Improv Comedy

Not much to report this week, we had a quiet Fisticuffs on Tuesday. We’re playing with Evente still and found it slightly more straightforward with just the four of us. Much of the difficulty feelsl ike it lies in the single opening scene which needs to be quicker and shorter, otherwise when we return to it later we are just repeating ourselves rather than expanding it into something new. We need to practice 5 and 6 person scenes where all the work is done with no more than two or three lines each. That reminds me of the Unspeakable Act from last week which featured privatisation of prisons and contract tendering to a ludicrous degree, such as the renting out of our single prisoner’s mind. It ended with the prisoner (Ben) being driven insane by an outsourced group of singing psychiatrists. Lovely. This week’s was equally odd, based on a Greek play and revolved around cannibalism and a blind seer (me).

Media Intake

Books

I inhaled the last two Dresden Files books I had – Turn Coat and Changes in just over a day each. A naughty pace but my god they are satisfying stories to read and enjoy. If you haven’t read them but enjoy a spot of paranormal detective fiction these are amongst the best out there. I’m now eyeball deep into The Dreaming Void, which follows on from the Commonwealth Saga (well, 1300 years after). The Works sell books, so we picked up seven there yesterday. The highlight for me was Cory Doctorow‘s Makers which will get added to my birthday heap, also one of the H.I.V.E. series which is fun Bond-ish young adult fluff. We got a bunch of things for The Lady M too: a Susanna Gregory, some Sherlockian nonsense and a great collection of vintage posters, including one for Monte Carlo featuring a couple surfing on Nessie; they are odd.

Films

Oz The Great And Powerful – I was happily surprised by how much I enjoyed this. I love Sam Raimi‘s early films, including Spidey 1 and 2, and this was equally filled with his sense of fun in direction and editing. Stylistically it has the same feel as the original The Wizard of Oz in the visial richness and slightly mannered performances, and a similar lack of complexity in the story. It was lacking something, but I’m not sure what. I suppose Oz is essentially for kids, but unlike most recent young adult fiction it lacks punch and the understanding that whatever darkness might appeal to an adult will also appeal to a child. I imagine lots of people really will not like the film. I adored the intro credits, which offer optical illusions and (sadly) CGI black and white zoetropes and the like. Very cool. It’s also nice to see that midgets are still in films purely for comic value.

Side Effects – a splendid, subtle little thriller that squeezed a very good performance out of the usually irritating Jude Law. There’s nothing especially original here, but the execution really elevates it. Rooney Mara is excellent and I found her portrayal of severe depression very affecting personally. Of course I can’t entirely give away the film, but that emotional investment left me feeling… odd afterwards. Good film.

Music

Very rare this segment. I’m not terribly aware of music, although I do listen to it in the shower and occasionally when writing. The last wave I music I truly loved was Trip Hop, and that’s a way back now. Nonetheless, this weekend I enjoyed The Baseballs and their ’50s American style covers of frequently terrible songs (Candyshop is a notable hit) – I very much enjoy their version of Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tg-Ny_KeMCo&w=560&h=315]

Events and Excitement

Improv shows

Thursday 14/03/13      Gorilla Burger: Improv Comedy Chaos – The City Gallery, Nottingham

Friday 29/03/13           MissImp in Action: Improvised Comedy Show – The Glee Club, Nottingham.

Shankopalypse – The End of Angry Poetry

Shankanalia 2

The End is Nigh, or at least it feels like it is a lot of the time. The end for me, preferably the end for you. If we both go down that’s at least a 50% win, and most days that would be good enough for me. I’m not greedy or selfish, I’ll take my share of the pain if it will take you down with me.

Follow @shankanalia on Twitter for irregular poetic updates.

Shankopalypse – The End of Angry Poetry

Mandatory Voluntary Participation
You’re here today because you wanted to be
Uh…
Don’t interrupt
We’re here to talk to you
Uh…
Shush now
It’s important that you listen
Uh…
The end.

Straight Talking
Please, ask a question
We’ll give you an answer
Not the answer to that question, no
But the question I imagined in a dream…

Teamwork Part Two
Stop dying:
I’m trying
To do a thing
And I can’t
Because you’re crap.
Your insistence on failure
Is causing me pain.
I ought to return it,
Pain.

A Contribution To The Debate
The bright day of doom
Dawns on the unevolved man-beasts
Prowling the town in search
Of food or hope.
Notttingham rocks;
Mansfield doesn’t.

The Power of Advertising
Let’s be clear
Having a child read
Your cynical bullshit spiel
Makes your product
Ever more hateful
Plus I now want to cripple the child.

DIY
I want to dismantle you
With a hammer
And a staple-remover,
Reassemble you
To perform some function
More useful:
Maybe a box,
Or sausages.

Your English Is Excellent
Spam-tangling fucknonic moron,
Spaz-bangled fucktittery
Tossing belly grue
As if it helps.
Gargled verbal abnouns;
You gibber primevally.

More of The Same

Pulp Pirate 16

Flash Cast 79 – Waste Core

I’m endlessly delighted to contribute to Flash Pulp’s excellent Flash Cast; I really feel as if my own brand of pulp fiction has a home there. This week (I may be a few behind) they’ve included another Franklyn de Gashe tale (I had a recording spree where I could do the voice), The Recreational Entertainment which is about a man with a vivisected chair on the rampage.

It fits surprisingly well into the pulpy chatter (Tolkein, racist Germans, drug money, Rambo) and with the other segments for game and podcast reviews, disturbing news and darkened corners of history. Share and enjoy!

Listen to it now: 

FC79 Waste Core

http://flashpulp.com/
http://skinner.libsyn.com/rss
http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/flash-pulp/id367726315

The War Alone Day One: Art Class part 2 of 3

Part 2

Just before she reached the art room the door banged open and two children fell out, clearly in the middle of what people affectionately still called a scrap. It didn’t look that affectionate in person. Alex (quite a good painter actually) was on top and Marie (terrible painter, might one day be alright at writing her own name). Angela shouted at them to stop just as Alex slashed down with his lino cutter, straight across Marie’s face.

“Jesus Alex, what the hell are you doing?”

War Alone_Art Class

Angela could swear he actually growled at her before returning his attention to Marie who shrieked and writhed under him. It surprised her so much that she slipped and fell, landing hard on her hip. The paper fell and smoothly fanned itself across the hall. Alex stabbed down again at Marie’s throat – blood geysered up into the air, coating the boy’s face and hair. Angela shuffled backwards, shocked. The boy continued to ram the lino cutter into the girl’s neck and chest until she fell still and her blood simply pooled instead of spurting out. The knife stuck into the girl’s collar bone and quivered there. Alex turned his red-stained face to Angela and snatched up the knife again.

Two of her other students stalked out of the classroom behind Alex. She was about to call out ot them when she noticed the spatters of blood over their arms and shirts. She’d seen the kids slouch, mooch and every other indolent step – occasionally run, but never stalk. The taller of the pair, James (a nice eye for perspective) tracked red footprints into the hall. Angela was afraid that it wasn’t paint, although another part of her admired how clean the print was. The smaller, Jenifer (she blamed the misspelling on her parents) was holding Angela’s fabric shears and turned immediately towards Angela.

They were suddenly knocked aside by a tight knot of terrified teenagers who ran bleeding and crying into the corridor. Half of them immediately tripped over Alex and Marie. They were pursued out of the classroom by another three children holding scissors and craft knives. The chaos of falling bodies distracted the – what – killer kids? Ridiculous, though Angela. Whatever had gotten into them they were clearly dangerous. Her own phone was safely in her desk drawer, but she needed help and fast. The fire alarm buttons were on every wall throughout the school. Angela slammed her fist through the fragile glass and the familiar wail of the fire alarm rose to fill the school.

Angela dove into the mass of kids scrabbling on the floor. She ducked the swinging fists and used her own hard boots to make headway. She took a slash to the face from Jenifer’s blades before thrusting the girl off balance. It was difficult to tell the violent kids apart from the others, but Angela grabbed at two of the unarmed children and hauled them out of the bloody heap. The ringing alarm had drowned out the noise of shouting and running so it was only when Angela looked up, and wiped her blood out of her eyes that she saw the tide of students come crashing around the corner from the rest of the school. Alex appeared to have been knocked unconscious, but the others were swinging their knives over and over into their fellow students.

There was nothing Angela could do to help. The two she’d pulled out were shaking and bleeding, like everyone else. She pulled them with her and started to run for the fire exit at the end of the outstretched leg of the school. They turned the corner and the fire exit was briefly in sight before it was wrenched open from outside. The headmaster, Adam Daniels and his secretary June filled the doorway. A steel bar rested in the head’s arms and June carried the wicked butterfly knife that had been confiscated from a student last term. Angela slid to a halt, the two students that she had by the hand skidded with her. It didn’t look like they were going to get any help from the management team.

The crowd behind them was growing. Angela’s options were few. They could try to get past the headmaster but Angela didn’t fancy their chances. They couldn’t go back the way they’d come. She’d never seen anything like it. All those normal kids who were a pain in the arse and the ones who weren’t – this wasn’t some school fight, or a new drug – how could it be? There was no time to think about this, she had Toby and Sunita and no way to get them to safety (she didn’t want to think about the other twenty four kids who had been in her class). They were right next to the art cupboard with its cheery sign. Angela sighed in frustration and let go of Sunita so she could pull the keys out of her pocket. The girl just stood there, stiff and shaking while Angela fumbled with the lock.

Book Review: The Commonwealth Saga by Peter F Hamilton

Commonwealth SagaOf all the varieties of science fiction (which is my favourite genre of fiction – if it can really be defined as a genre… but that’s a different jabbering entirely), the huge epic space opera is my favourite. I like the scope, the wealth of cool technology, the ideas about how society will evolve and those possible futures out in the stars. It’s all awesome and I like how much there is of it in sheer page numbers if nothing else. So I’m primed to love these books anyway. I’m talking about The Commonwealth Saga as a single story, but it is two 1,000 page novels, Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained. They aren’t neatly split and maybe ought to have been a trilogy. Hell, just do what I’ve done and read them back to back. This is the second reading for me; I finally dug out my copy of The Evolutionary Void (which is the last in the trilogy that follows from this pair of novels, 1500 years later) and discovered I couldn’t remember well enough what had come before, so I went right back to the beginning…

The Saga is set just a few hundred years in our future, we’re introduced to the crucial event that triggers humanity’s diaspora right at the start – as man sets foot on Mars for the first time, hippy Californian scientists open the first wormhole to meet them there. That sets the stage for a complex, industrial dynasty and commonwealth government as man colonises hundreds of planets, linked together with wormholes. We’ve met a few aliens with their own cool mysterious civilisations, so far they’ve all been friendly… A peculiar astronomical phenomenon, the englobement of two whole solar systems far beyond humanity’s space is the event that moves the rest of the story on. Inevitably we find bad aliens, and they are very bad. Hamilton gets beautifully into the alien mindset of the Prime aliens and their very different way of life. It’s one of the things that makes this series so satisfying; we don’t have to wait too long to get into the aliens perspective which makes the human response and the subsequent invasions and atrocities that much more real and frightening.

The action hops between a large cast of scientists, politicians, media stars, terrorists, detectives and “ordinary” men and women. It’s a good mix, offering many different perspectives. One of the advantages of writing on this scale is that there is plenty of time spent on character setup, back story and context. The detail for the worlds, the technologies and philosophical viewpoints is lovely. You get a strong sense of the reality of these characters and with just a few exceptions I found them sympathetic and likeable (I root for the aliens too). The story itself splits into a series of narratives which are neatly wrapped up together, in a well paced story with plenty of action (good war sf) in space and in person.

I enjoyed the lingering descriptions of alien worlds and the brisk pace. Despite the length and the number of concepts that are embedded throughout the story I find Hamilton very easy reading and devoured both books in a just a couple of weeks. At no time did I wish to put the books down and go to work. It is perhaps even more satisfying knowing that the story lines and characters persist into the following trilogy (which I’m now into). I have loved every one of Peter F Hamilton’s stories, his attention to detail and grasp of action and character work very well for me. I find his plots and creations ingenious and fascinating. Even though I’m now 2,500 pages into the overall 5 book series (only another 2,500 to go!) I’m keenly hoping that he’ll write some more in this universe.

Peter F Hamilton

Get Pandora’s Star at Amazon.co.uk

Get Judas Unchained at Amazon.co.uk

This week, Monday 18th March 2013

It’s Booty Time

Booty Time.jpgA brighter week inside which is a nice change. Externally the world looks much the same: indecisive weather, stupid poorly-planned people (no one with foresight would have permittted them existence) and the foreshadowing of the apocalpyse. It’s all good/normal.

This week’s scribbles

Tuesday Captain Pigheart’s Sand Boat Adventure

A short trip through the desert for our brave pirate captain.

Wednesday LEGO Flashback

Some cool stuff from my forgotten box of LEGO goodness.

Thursday The War Alone Day One: Art Class (3 of 3)

You can run and it’s at least conceivable that you might hide..

Friday Film Review: The Nanny

A review of Hammer Horror’s classic chiller.

Updates on my thrilling life

Writing

While I have no use for London, travelling to the place for a four hour meeting is quite convenient as a writer; it gives me nearly four hours of writing time on the train. Happy time. I’m a bit brain dead in the morning (and afternoon, and evening) but it gave me a chance to type up a couple of shorty shorts, one of which you’ll get this week. I’m also flapping a bit since The War Alone concludes this week and I need to re-inject enthusiasm into another longer story. I have the piece in mind – another slice of Alex Trepan’s odd adventures. I just need to commit, dammit.

Last week’s scribbles

Tuesday Shankopalypse: The End of Angry Poetry Another compilation of angry poetic rantings..

Wednesday Pulp Pirate 16 Franklyn de Gashe spins horrid yarns on the Flash Pulp podcast.

Thursday The War Alone Day One: Art Class (2 of 3) When the phones ring it’s time to die.

Friday Book Review: The Commonwealth Saga by Peter F Hamilton A quick round up of why I enjoyed Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained so much.

Lego

I’ve had a terribly naughty few days in purchasing LEGO. A frenzy if you will. Partly inspired by the lust for awesome brick action, and partly by being confronted with price reductions and Tesco reward vouchers… But still, very naughty. I have this weekend acquired Lord of The Rings Attack on Weathertop, and the Orc Forge, as well as long-time-fantasy-object Star Wars Jabba’s Palace. I am now being extraordinarily restrained in not opening them. At least two of the awesome boxes will remain unopened for several weeks as a kind of penance. At weirdly the same time I dug out an older box of LEGO from our various well-packed cupboards and found a bounty of things I’d forgotten about. On Wednesday I’m posting some shots of a long forgotten Movie Studios set and its descendants. I also found a lovely bunch of mini figures (hardly needed them to add to the overwhelming boxes already present) and the original Jabba’s Palace set from several years ago. The new version is much, much better. I had also forgotten that they stopped making yellow Star Wars mini figures a few years ago. Consequently, Qui Gon and Luke look really weird now.

Improv Comedy

We had a superb Gorilla Burger last week, in no small part down to David’s compering of the event: presentation and style add a great deal. Limiting the length of games was a canny move and it helped get more scenes out of our largest turnout yet. I did a couple of scenes I really enjoyed, and also was amused by many other scenes. An especial pleasure was the last segment of the evening in which the most recent MissImp Improv Beginners performed their class show. They were very good, and Iwas thrilled at how much Lloydie has already managed to instill in them. Oviously there’s lots more to add, but their instincts and readiness to play were a joy to the face. I’m very much looking forwards to training the next Beginners Course in early April with Parky. Today (Sunday, or yesterday, depending on how you look at it) we had a workshop with Jules Munns of The Maydays. The general subject was Making Improv Easy on Yourself. I’m naturally inclined to complicate matters and I do relish the verbal sparring and speed of many scenes I’m in. This afternoon was much more about taking the time to consider and evaluate all the intentions and ideas roiling in the scenes. That didn’t mean they were less complex, but that we had more time to enjoy and work on those complexities being consistent and helpful. I had lots of fun, and so too did the rest of the group. I look forwards to applying them in future. Jules has a very relaxing, calm training style which I found helpful and interesting. Clearly he knows his shit, and much more importantly, can convey it to others.

Media Intake

Books

Quiet this week – I’ve finally finished The Dreaming Void (Peter F Hamilton) and am now forcing myself to read other books before diving into the next chapter of the series. It was really good though, and since it is my second read Ihad the pleasant flashes of remembrance and foreshadowing that only heightened my excitement as the story unfolded. Since then I’ve read Squirm, by Richard Curtis – a adaptation of what must be a terrible film about carnivorous worms, driven to genocidal proclivities by prolonged electrocution. It was everything you could want from B-Movie horror: thin relationships, ridiculous descriptions and lots of gore. I enjoyed it. I downloaded the Steampunk MegaPack of short stories for Kindle and am slowly chewing into those. I’ve also got Neil Asher’s The Departure to get into soon. Very exciting.

Films

Just the one surprising note – The Croods is excellent. The trailer made it look awful, but from the slapstick opening breakfast hunt / American Football game with dangerous prehistoric beasts to the restrained sentiment of the ending I laughed and enjoyed it all the way through. The monsters are particularly fun: Chunky the Death Cat, whales with legs, carnivorous plants and swarms of killer birds. It’s well written, the physical comedy and timing are good and it all looks beautiful. We continue to eschew the pointless 3D versions and feel right to do so.

Events and Excitement

Improv shows

Friday 29/03/13           MissImp in Action: Improvised Comedy Show – The Glee Club, Nottingham.

The Dromedary Adventure

Dromedary AdventureSun, endless sun blazin’ into me one lonely eyehole with her merciless light. Twas the third week we’d spent in the desert and even the hull had creaked into a salty dryness for want o’ water. Unless some moisture (except that we sweated from our personal places) were forthcoming we’d all be unhealthily dead. Violent storms had tossed The Grim Bastard from a violent foamin’ ocean o’ bastard-fish into this yellowed hell.

Whence we’d come had been a haven o’ peace compared to this hideous waste filled with murderous wild camel folk. Exactly why they attacked us was a mystery for the frothin’ spit fountains they used as mouths were incapable o’ conveyin’ any meaning other than hatred. Yellow tufted humps lay across our deck with crude straws stabbed deep into their fatty hearts. Zabaglione-like lard dribbled from the mouth o’ Billy No Mates as he sucked the last of the camel’s load from the furry beast bag. Twas a paradoxical state we found ourselves in: we were unable to escape the desert, for their ferocious assaults kept us aboard the ship, but we’d have died of thirst without ’em, for we depended on the oddly-elbowed brutes to give us the semi-liquid strength to survive their next wave.

Billy No Mates let loose with the cry we’d learned to dread: “Camels ho!” Dodging the misuse o’ the word ‘ho’ (of which Billy was inordinately fond), we skipped aside from the rank laces of drool that preceded the sharpened hooves on the ends of legs so heavily jointed they bent with serpentine ease. Even so, the beasts are huge and exude a vile stench to turn the belly of even a hardened seaman. A storm of shimmering steel and tumbling sand-cows surrounded me as I leaped up and looped the noose about the camel’s neck. Herr Gunther Garment, our unorthodox surgeon had laud us a cunning plan, if only we could capture enough of the misshapen mammals.

Half a baker’s dozen of the beasts remained bound on deck when the tide of their fellows receded, leaving streaks of blood and swearing in their wake. Inwardly I held me doubts and fear of the Good Doktor’s methods in a hushing secret, for I’d no wish to have the creatures’ monstrous rubbery lips stitched to me cheeks, Just because this sounds like the ramblings of a madman in no way diminishes its likelihood. The lunatic bonesaw strolled towards the disabled dromedaries, knives whirling between his fingers and a bucket of ship’s pitch gripped in his teeth. Leisure was forced upon us by the heat, although the throaty squeals of the be-surgerised camels and the Teutonic chuckles denied us the bliss of heat exhaustion.

Me eye strove to remain closed, lest it peep onto ghastliness, but me sinking heart knew it was time to wake – perhaps it felt the chill of the evening air. No one’d told me of the night sky in the desert; tis much like that of the ocean but lacking the creak of timbers and splashing of waves. Oh, but that sweet saline sound was replaced by the confused whimpers of abused sand-mammals. Perhaps we would escape the cruel confines of our desolate desert dungeon, for the camels still resembled themselves, in their perambulatory parts though Gunther had excavated the beasts’ infamous humps to leave a sailcloth-lined seat within. Quite why we could not have simply fitted saddles entirely eluded the capricious genius of Herr Doktor Garment.

Resigned to a rather grim ride, we survivin’ few sank into the beastly carriage-humps and lurched across the sand dunes. We made our way coastwards in safety, for the wild camels avoided their scarred and seated kin. Our only impairment was the curious mating urge which the hollowing put upon our steeds. Gaargh, twas horrid. Oh, and of course the desert marauders and the giant scorpions also diminished the joys o’ travel.

Lego Flashback: The Vampire’s Crypt

A Vast Overindulgence

Well I bought a lot of Lego last weekend. I regret it not at all, only that in order not to feel outrageously guilty I have persuaded myself to hold off from opening any of them for a while. Instead, feeling the Lego urge upon me, I delved into the cupboards which my other half and I have filled to the brim with, well, stuff. It took a while, but eventually I found a box of Lost Lego.

The Box of Lego Lost

It’s amazing what you forget about isn’t it? Quite apart from forgetting I had the original Jabba’s Palace (and sub-sets) – more on that another week – I also found a number of other yellow-faced Star Wars sets (no, not like Cloud Atlas…) and some awesome early 21st Century (doesn’t that sound awesome?!) alien figures and a heap of cool pieces. Also many, many wheels which I don’t have much use for right now. Oh, and I’d forgotten Lego did sets for the first Spider-Man film – the Green Goblin and Mary Jane are cool figures. Here are all the mini figures I found.

MInifigure madness

Lego Studios

I’ve been thrilled with the recent Monster Hunters series Lego have done, and although I cannot afford the huge gorgeous Haunted House I have acquired some of the smaller sets. I’d totally forgotten about the previous Lego Studios series they did before… the Spider-Man sets were in, but so was this awesome Vampire’s Crypt set.

I say awesome… it’s from what looks like an incredibly lazy period in Lego design. There aren’t that many bricks and compared to modern sets they aren’t exactly brimming over with creativity. I do like how there’s a backdrop and a boom operator though!

DSC01549

Spooky castle

What is cool is the number of components – the lift on the left can be raised and lowered, and then the trapdoor in it can tip the coffin onto the cart. Nice. The backdrop has two sides, both pretty poorly illustrated (the concept rules though). The right set with the stairs and garlic has some good details like the skull in a jar, and the garlic piece itself. The stairs are handy, but disappointingly just a single brick.

Vampires Through The Ages

What I think is best about the set are the figures. The vampire has two faces – always cool, as does the innocent victim. The Igor is hilarious and I love the boom operator’s shirt.

I thought it would be cool to compare the vampire with the Dracula from Minfigures Series 2 and the Monster Fighters Vampyre Hearse Dracula:

The Best Saved Till Last

This is all very cool, but what tops it off for me are the moulded coffin itself, and that this set is from that delightful Lego era where on the back of the box they showed other (sometimes rather strained) models you could make out of the same set, and the instructions didn’t tell you exactly which bricks you needed, you had to check the picture really carefully. Oh, and there’s also a wacky cartoon strip in the instruction booklet. Enjoy! I had fun reassembling the set.

The War Alone Day One: Art Class part 3 of 3

Part 3

“Hurry,” said Toby urgently, “they’re coming.”

The two groups were steadily advancing down the corridor towards them. Their lack of haste was even more unnerving than when they were tearing at each other. Angela got the cupboard door open and shoved the pair inside before following them and locking it behind them.

War Alone_Art Class

“Miss, what’s happening?” asked Toby.

Sunita sat on the floor holding her face in her hands. Angela put a reassuring hand on her shoulder, but had no reassurance to offer.

“I don’t know. We have to stop them from getting in here. Help me.” Angela pulled hard at one side of the large metal shelving unit.

“We can move this over the door so they can’t open it even if the lock breaks. Sunita, you need to move.”

Toby pulled the shaking girl to her feet then helped Angela to drag the first of the shelves. The stationery cascade seemed to wake Sunita up – she looked suprised that they were in the cupboard. The door was braced as thoroughly as it could be, though that wasn’t anywhere near as secure as Angela would have liked.

“Do either of you have a phone?”

The two teenagers looked shocked.

“What for?” asked Sunita.

“So we can call the police. We need help- I don’t think this is going to keep them out for very long.”

“But the phones started all this.”

“What do you mean Sunita?”

“When the phones rang, everyone who answered them went crazy.”

The door handle turned. Then the pounding started. Fists hammering at the door frame and on the window. Cracks started to appear in the glass.

“Okay, there’s no time. You two – get up in the ceiling and find another way out.”

The two stared at her.

“The ceiling tiles. Get up those shelves.”

Toby climbed the rack of shelves that lay on the wall opposite the door and pushed up the tile.

“It’s really dusty.”

“It doesn’t matter. Be careful up there. You need to be quiet and make sure you only step on the edges – otherwise you’ll fall through.”

Toby pulled himself up and into the ceiling space. It wasn’t high enough for him to stand up.

“Now you Sunita,” said Angela, pushing the girl towards the shelves. The hammering was steady now, each strike made Angela’s stomach tense. Sunita picked up an art scalpel from the floor and put it in her pocket.

“Good idea,” said Angela. She picked up a handful of them and passed them up to Toby. Then she helped Sunita up the shelves.

“Be really quiet, but get as far away from here as you can.”

“Miss – aren’t you coming?”

Angela looked away from the hole in the ceiling.

“No.”

Sunita and Toby looked at each other, hunched up and already gathering dust bunnies.

“I don’t want them to catch you. Now go.”

Angela tugged the ceiling tile back into place, and pulled the shelves down from against the wall. She could hear the two kids whispering, followed by the sounds of their cautious steps. The noise from the fire alarm should give them good cover. With luck the people trying to break in would never figure out where the pair had gone. Now that Angela was alone she had time to think about what she was doing.

A chunk of glass fell from the window and the sign she’d painted slipped away from the glass. Her view of the corridor outside was just of fists smashing against the wire-reinforced glass. Blood ran freely from the children’s hands as they battered at the window. They were going to kill her when they got in. It occurred to her that she should have gone with Toby and Sunita but it was too late. Angela huddled down under the lowest of the shelves and held her lino knife out in front of her. The blood from the slice across her face was till getting in her eye, so she used some of the sugar paper to blot the cut. She was going to die here and Mark would never even know. She pulled another sheet of paper towards her and picked a pen from the mess around her. At least she could leave him a letter.

Film Review: The Nanny (1965)

THE-NANNYEveryone remembers the usual Hammer Horror set of films, all the great Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, the (still) brilliant Edgar Allan Poe stories and the Draculas. I’d never heard of this one, until I spotted a Hammer box set on Amazon for a fiver and due to a fit of work-inspired depression snapped it up; retail therapy is quite effective. Naturally everyone else had seen it already.

My god this is a weird little film. The story is shockingly, about a Nanny played by Bette Davis. We’re introduced to the sublimely creepy lady through the lens of her charge, a young boy who has just spent a period of time away at boarding school, primarily for his own mental health. He’d been sent there after he stopped eating or sleeping because he thought his Nanny was trying to kill him. He’s delightfully direct about his feelings about the lady, extracting promises that she won’t come into the bathroom when he’s bathing and refusing to eat her cooking.

The mother is hysterical and totally dependent on her old Nanny; the father works away (as a Queen’s Messenger). The sense of isolation and danger is profound for the lad. It helps (perhaps unintentionally) that most of the adult roles are rather mannered. It makes his chirpiness and honesty as a character all the more appealing. The girl who plays his younger sister is flashbacks is also quite affecting. The more so as we find out how she died…

I won’t spoil the ending, which is dramatic, downbeat and filled with layers of pathos completely absent from modern cinema. It’s a great little film, quite different from Hammer’s usual canon and style. Creepy, disturbing and the kids and Nanny are very nicely performed. I suppose I should mention that it’s in black and white, but if this bothers you then there’s no point talking to you about films anyway. Enjoy!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLAMjk6jPys&w=560&h=315]

This week, Monday 25th March 2013

The Skullfucker Plague

Captain man colourised 6Uuurrrgh… I have been afflicted with a curious virus of some kind manifesting as dizziness, nausea and awesome headaches, so much so that I actually had to take a day off work. That was a pleasant break from falling asleep at work and all of those other workday disturbances.

I did of course use my day of grue as well as possible. I built myself a nest in our living room and filled it with Lego, a cat and myself. I then proceeded to clatter about, reel drunkenly and watch the entire second series of Deadwood (again). I’d almost forgotten the utter magic they wrought on screen for that series. Curse HBO for canning it after just three seasons right in the middle of a tense story arc. Morons.

Apart from feeling weird it was quite a nice day. I’m beginning to feel better now as long as I don’t move too much.

This week’s scribbles

Tuesday Skankrabatic – The Sinuous Twist of Angry Poetry

I get annoyed, I express myself in poetry.

Wednesday Pulp Pirate 17

Captain Pigheart returns at last to Flash Pulp with The Gastronomical Adventure.

Thursday The Desert Crystals – Part One

An expedition into the mysterious Northern Continent.

Friday Film Review: Welcome To The Punch (2013)

I just need to make sure you don’t watch this by mistake.

Updates on my thrilling life

Writing

Peninsula CreatureI’m leaping into an unwritten abyss this week as I have not yet finished the end of the Deserted Desert. I am however extremely happy to revisit the characters from The Peninsula Creature in something that isn’t just running away. We should get a better sense of the curious Southern Continent they live on and its peculiar fauna. Having now started the story online I have to finish it…
I’m finding that a stressful work life is not terribly conducive to writing. However, writing (if I can manage it)is very conducive to reducing that stress. I was pleased to return to Ignatius Pigheart, even if we’re not quite back to the sea yet. I’ve found that the monstrous character of Herr Gunther Garment and his vivisectionary experiments amuse me far more they ought to.

Last week’s scribbles

Tuesday Captain Pigheart’s Dromedary Adventure A sandy adventure for the pirate captain and his luckless crew.

Wednesday Lego Flashback – The Vampire’s Crypt Franklyn de Gashe spins horrid yarns on the Flash Pulp podcast.

Thursday The War Alone Day One: Art Class (3 of 3) You can run, and you might be able to hide.

Friday Film Review: The Nanny (1965) Such a creepy little film!

Lego

I have square garlic
I have square garlic

Ah Lego, my sweet plastic mistress… I have still managed to resist opening the excesses of last week, though I do caress their sweet boxes with mine eyes and sometimes my fingers.
I’ve been mainly dismantling in preparation for a renewed bout of building – I have but the one shelf to fill with Lego and it fills up fast. Mini figures are a different matter of course and they grace almost every surface. The process of dismantlement and sorting by colour is still inordinately satisfying to me. I have had to find more boxes.
I spent my sick day building a hideout for Boba Fett. It still needs some work, and possibly a second floor as Ihave thus far given him only a coffee mug to meet his diverse needs, and a lot of guns. And multiple exits. It’s quite a nice build so far, and Ireckon Ican add some nice final touches.

Improv Comedy

We’re looking for a new home for MissImp. We’ve been lucky in the last year having a space to play in for free on Thursdays but all good things come to an end. We really want to find somewhere we can use as a proper base of operations and run much more frequent courses and workshops and provide a space in which we can perform and encourage others in the nascent Nottingham improv community to form teams and shows. Any ideas? All welcome.
Just the three of us for Fisticuffs last week (Marilyn, Martin and I) which gave us a chance to do some really weird Evente practice (it gets quite intense as a trio), and then, since Marilyn was wiped out from a day of rehearsals for the zombie adventure game 2.8 Hours Later, Martin and I splashed out on a little twoprov, exploring a pair of characters we happened across some months ago and have endlessly talked about reinstating: Snatchspoon & Croydon: Detectives by Day and Plumbers by Night. We have a lot of rough edges, but the characters are fun to play and we cheerfully screwed each other over with multiple characters (“there are likely a dozen people in this village, and I bet they’re all in this pub…”) and a frightening opiated conclusion. It’s something I’d like to work on further.

Media Intake

Books

I have been ripping through Neal Asher’s The Departure on me Kindle. It’s a completely different world from that of The Polity (which I love love love) and I found that initially hard to accept. Once I got over my own sense of entitlement to be provided with exactly what I desire from an author, I’m really enjoying the bleak dystopian vision and the plight of the anti-hero drifting away from humanity as he grows more and more into the virtual world. From a character perspective it’s almost the opposite path from the first novel of the Polity series Gridlinked in which the main character is detaching from that immersion in the world of information.

Films

Jesus, film has fucked up again. We had a really strong streak going and we’ve completely ruined it. I blame Welcome To The Punch for being a terrible, predictable tedious London cop drama that totally wasted its excellent cast. Then the week got worse today with Jack The Giant Slayer. You remember Bryan Singer right? The amazing director who made the first brilliant superhero film: X-Men and followed it up with the astonishing X-Men 2. He then ditched the series (leaving it in the appalling hands of Brett “I just can’t help it, I make shit films” Ratner) to make a dire Superman film. Well, he’s truly lost his touch now – Jack is boring, makes no sense and has zero chemistry, drama or excitement. Pretty sad for a film with giants. Oh well.

Events and Excitement

Improv shows

Friday 29/03/13 MissImp in Action: Improvised Comedy Show – The Glee Club, Nottingham.

Skankrabatic – The Sinuous Twist of Angry Poetry

Shankanalia 8

Oh god the rambling stupid mass daily at my door, in my inbox; the streets are clogged with semi-sentience. To mumble perchance to speak? How I hate the crowds.

Follow @shankanalia on Twitter for petulant poetic pouting.

Skankrabatic – The Sinuous Twist of Angry Poetry

There’s Book Learnin’ And There’s Stoopit
Ah you bleating fuckwit
The words fall out of you
Like an upended shit bucket,
Full of waste ideas
Half-digested notions.
You never understood.

A Damp Homage
I feel it on my fingers
and between my toes.
Your blood is slowly congealing
Amidst your deathy throes.
That buzzing in my ears
Is your screaming tears.

The Bright Side
Sometimes I feel
Overstressed
Tense or sad
Then I reflect
With the brightest of grins
That sooner
Or later
We’ll all be dead

Lovehearts
Oh, pulpy heart
Squeeze the bitch tits
Of aortic thump thump
Mash with cardiac fist
Grind with pulsating finger punch
Flow blood, to death.

Just Make Them Up
If you don’t trust the numbers
Don’t ask-
Hush
Don’t speak.
The numbers are out to get you;
They know you can’t count,
Can’t add them as friends.

Freak Show
This room is full of ugly mirrors.
Infinite regress of shattering hideousness.
Shards of toothless uncompromising foulness,
The out and in.

Jangling Jargon
Brain mashing repetition,
Copied rhetoric and babble.
I take your point
And stab you with it;
Knife in your back
You won’t feel it;
Numbed by words.

More of The Same

Pulp Pirate 17

Flash Cast 82 – Sweet Monkey Meat

Me pride swells like an excited zeppelin as this sterling Flash Cast gets named from my story within it.  There’s an increasingly great selection of reviews within including games and podcasts and some really disturbing true crime history, plus the return of Doc Azrael! All in all a splendid and exciting listen. Featuring The Gastronomical Adventure for your sweet monkey meat eating pleasure…

Listen to it now: 

FC82- Sweet Monkey Meat

http://flashpulp.com/
http://skinner.libsyn.com/rss
http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/flash-pulp/id367726315

The Desert Crystals: part 1

Part 1 – A Man May Have A Plan

The Desert CrystalsThe sun glowered furiously overhead. It sapped what little moisture there was and flung it back with humid venom. Three figures cringed beneath its relentless glare. Their tracks distinguished them easily: a man, his footsteps dragging on the dry earth; a cat, weaving but nimbly staying within the diminishing shadow of the man; a giant centipede, his many feet stroking curling waves into the dust. The trio had come from the Great Bane Desert and shadows followed them out of that grim place. Anyone unfortunate enough to be heading in the opposite direction would have seen them slowly resolve out of the heat haze. The man was tall, despite his thirsting and exhausted posture; his once-fine expeditionary clothing was torn and sand-filled, rasping against his red burned skin. The black, white and ginger streaked cat limped faintly, his ears pressed against his head and his eyes were squeezed half closed. The enormous centipede’s chitin armour was scratched and abraded by the fierce desert wind but it seemed otherwise unaffected by the aggressive climate.

“Are we nearly there yet?” enquired Maxwell (the cat), with impeccable timing. He had managed to find the absolute bare minimum interval between his otherwise infuriating questions to ensure maximum irritation and yet still receive a response. The quest and practice of such perfection kept him occupied. Neither Harvey nor Rosenhatch Traverstorm had guessed at the cat’s simple game, and both replied in the same weary voice that they had done countless times in the past three days:

“No. Well, maybe. I don’t know.”

Satisfied, Maxwell returned to counting out the seconds. It distracted him from his thirst. His fur was thick with sand which gave him the ghastly stripes of red but he had quite lost interest in attempting to groom the grains from his fur. With horror he considered that it might even be necessary to get wet… His tongue furled in sympathetic imitation of lapping at a delicious cool bowl of water. He hopped once more to lurk in Traverstorm’s shadow.

Maxwell doubted that this particular trip would be commemorated in the university’s hall of fame. Not that it had been badly planned; he himself had spent most of the preparation phase curled up on the maps, so he had a good sense of how much debate and argument Rosenhatch and Maxwell had needed to present to qualify for the grant. Maxwell only took an interest because he knew that he would be accompanying his eccentric servant (cats have a clear view on the roles and responsibilities of those who offer them food and shelter), and it was better to be prepared.

Some months ago, Harvey’s contacts on the edge of the Bane had alluded in several letters to the existence of a species of Crystal Finch previously only described in the folk tales of the traders who crossed the Bane centuries ago. The Crystal Finches were near-mythical creatures who colourfully populated the old tales as spectacular beasts wreaking havoc with their beauty. However, the only extant species on the colonised end of the continent was a dull chalky colour hardly meriting the glorious description. In addition it was grumpy and prone to sulking to death. Rosenhatch had literally bounced with excitement at the prospect of proving the creatures’ existence and closing (or poking open, depending on your scholastic alliance) one more hole in the accepted zoology of the Northern Continent. He had shared his proposed expedition immediately with his intimates. Harvey’s views had been clear and bluntly put forth:

“The Great Bane Desert will kill us all.” His segmented back undulated with displeasure at the prospect of venturing into the great wasteland.

Traverstorm had of course been of an entirely more optimistic attitude, which was unsurprising given his present status at the university. Traverstorm’s stock was at an all time low following yet another disastrous expedition into the heart of the Barrow Reef. They had lost (at the last count) thirteen men and women to the slow-acting poison of the Manticore Urchin, as well as a ship, supplies and even the lighthouse itself that secured safe passage through the Reef for merchants (and fools). This was neither unprecedented or unexpected; Rosenhatch Traverstorm’s career had been launched by a series of blind luck discoveries which had him ridiculed and lauded in roughly equal measure by academics and the public respectively. The consequent political pressures had ensured his continued employment and the contempt of his newfound peers. A lesser man would have been humiliated but Traverstorm continued to invite the research fellows round for Bumblescrape Whiskey and a hand of cards.

Traverstorm evaded Harvey’s sensible objection with just one phrase, a phrase which would enable ease of transport, safety and even speed to their expedition, that would romanticise the journey of even the hardest soul and give gentlemanly respite to the most ragged and rugged explorers: “we travel by airship.”

Next Week: Part 2 – Lord Corsham’s Airship

Film Review: Welcome To The Punch (2013)

Welcome To The Punch

I don’t know where to start – at best this is like a moderately entertaining episode of The Bill.

There’s almost nothing positive I can say about this film. I’d like to though, because it has a great cast and it’s a British film and both of those things deserve some kind of recognition. In fact I love the cast – James McAvoy and Mark Strong are two of my favourite British actors and it’s been fantastic to see them getting better roles and now be in the same film.

Aaargh, honestly this film had me slapping my face with every painful cliché and simply stupid plot move. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy lots of cop dramas and procedurals, especially the more implausible ones (NCIS, The Mentalist) – but they only succeed by either mocking the clichés and neatly subverting them or by being completely absurd (remember CSI Miami? You know how crime scene guys also arrest criminals and engage in sniper vendettas right?) This one was just crap.

The set up is predictable and weak – obsessed cop gets shot in the knee by the incredibly bad (and charismatic) villain and falls from grace, both professionally and personally. I was already yawning by the time we see him a few years later syringing fluid out of his knee. The bad guy’s kid gets in trouble and this is a great chance for a sting to draw out Mark Strong. Turns out we can send extraction squads to Iceland, with guns. They all die. Blah blah some people are bad, oh there’s a political subplot about gun crime and police carrying guns – yes, it’s exactly what you suspect from about 12 seconds in. A bunch more people get shot and there’s some jumping behind bars. Someone else gets killed. Look- it’s a film that assumes you’re an idiot and is too lazy to do anything well.

I can’t even bear to go into further detail. There’s a nice piece of work from Peter Mullan when he gets shot (and has the film’s sole clever use of cliché)  and Johnny Harris plays a fun sad-eyed killer: those are the good things.

What I learned from Welcome To The Punch: gun shot wounds are harmless unless you get shot in the knee or head, limping cops are better at combat than mercenaries and Eran Creevy shouldn’t be allowed to make films.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rr-O_v0mlx8&w=560&h=315]