Monday, 31 December 2007
The second planned so far is one of my wife's favourite bands - Bon Jovi. They are playing in Coventry in June which is only about 40 minutes drive from us so why not. It's not an concert I would have chosen just for myself. I saw Bon Jovi in the 80s and they were excellent, but their music is not quite my normal taste.
I don't switch the radio or TV over if Bon Jovi come on, but I wouldn't often seek them out just for myself. That said I am rather looking forward to the concert.
Sunday, 30 December 2007
The story was better, tying into the legends of the Witch Trials in Europe and North America; the pacing was excellent, actually managing to build up a degree of tension; the acting was reasonable; the effects not laughable. All round an enjoyable movie.
It's not Oscar-winning quality, nor does it break new ground. What we get here's been done before many times over - but originality is not important here. The film holds together and it entertains.
These guys are capable of lifting some of the most amazing weights, hundreds of kilograms. It;s unreal. These guys are the closest things to the superheroes of comic books.
Phil Pfister andTarmo Mitt won this evening's heat but we've yet to see Mariusz Pudzianowski, the best of them all.
But there a lot I do like. I like Star Trek, but not Voyager so much. I like the new Doctor Who, Torchwood, Stargate, Bones, CSI, Babylon 5, X-Files and more.
One of the shows I have liked since day one is Millennium, the second of the Chris Carter created shows, launched on the coat tails of his X-Files success. It never seemed to take off and ran for only three seasons, but it contained one of the best lead characters I have ever seen in Frank Black. Moody, troubled and insightful (in a most eerily supernatural manner), he was portrayed quite brilliant in my eyes by Lance Henriksen.
I found this a good deal better than the X-Files. In this series the secrecy worked. In the X-Files I felt the cover-up side, the conspiracies with conspiracies never worked. I much prefered it when Mulder and Scully were just investigating odd occurences. Cancer man, the Black Oil, the hidden truth over Mulder's sister and everything else just got in the way.
The Millennium Group worked so much better. Their secrecy was far more sinister and guided by a wonderfully mystical prophecy.
Thank heaven for DVDs so I can revisit Frank and his world.
Saturday, 29 December 2007
This meant we watched some serious drivel, straight-to-video B-Movies that looked as though they had been made by a group of friends over a weekend on a whim. Some of them probably were.
It became somewhat of a game, and fun for the insults you could throw at the screen during the film. Well all good things come to an end and after we both graduating from University we no longer met up as often - my friend had disappeared over to California to work for NASA so it made it kind of tricky.
Last night, however, it was relaunched in a totally unexpected manner. We have had my wife's parents staying with us over the holidays. Normally with them if we suggest a dodgy looking movie they are less than interested and in most sf/horror flicks my father-in-law will quickly fall asleep.
Last night, though, he picked out a movie and chose The Forest, starring Chase Masterson (played a regular irregular in Deep Space Nine). It's not the best movie ever made by a long stretch. It's predictable plot-wise, the characters are very second-hand in feel and the make-up of the group is so typical of the kinds of films I used to watch back in the 80s I almost felt like checking the film's date.
But it was wonderful fun and my in-laws joined in the banter with it, telling the characters what to do, what not to do, where the monster was etc; laughing at the "really good" effects; and rewriting the script as we went along.
Just goes to show you do not need an Oscar-winning movie to have entertainment and there are times when you simply have to go completely the other way. I have missed doing that for too long.
Thursday, 27 December 2007
My word, am I glad we did. It's a delightful little whimsy -enganging story, good (slightly over-the-top) characters, magic, demons, a touch of wire-fu. But above all else it is a beautiful film -the settings and the costumes are exquisite.
I've developed a definite fondness for Chinese and Korean movies over the last few years. And I have watched and enjoyed a number of Japanese horror films also, but this has moved Japanese movies up there with the Chinese and Korean for me.
Next of the Asian films on my list must be 2046. I bought this a few months back but haven't gotten around to it. Heard nothing but good things so it may well go up the pile.
Wednesday, 26 December 2007
In that sense it was incredibly. Gory in parts, heartfelt and sentimental in others - it is a very well made film, and thank heaven Gibson decided to make this entirely in the Mayan language.
Tuesday, 25 December 2007
...and yes I understand this might get me a bit of a "Bah Humbug!" reaction but XMas a bit of a non-event when you don't have kids. (Note: XMas is not Christmas, I distinguish the commercial side from the religious).
Anyway back to the less contentious issue of a science fiction TV show. This third XMas special (of the new launch show) saw the Doctor on the Titanic, or a Titanic replica in pretty much the same kind of danger as its original namesake.
It was dark, darker than the previous annual specials and up there gloom-wise with some of the darkest of the regular series. Kylie Minogue was good as the one-off assistant to the Doctor, reminding people that she can actually act a little - she's not in the same league as Meryl Streep but she can play a part.
The idea was fresh, the Doctor was his usual madcap self, played with just the right amount of glimpses of his darker centre. The storyline tense and gripping. I was shocked when I saw how much time had gone by.
What - di you think I might mention the plot. I wouldn't. I don't like too many spoilers for the shows I watch - and often feel when the TV stations show a "Next-Time-On" they give away too much. I like hints, no more.
I am a fan of this new Doctor Who stuff - I admit it. Russell T Davies has brought back that in me. I liked this show when I was a kid, watching Tom Baker get out of the most unfeasible of situations, but I lost it as I grew older.
I did always wonder about this, whether it was me or the show. After all I never outgrew Star Trek or science fiction in general but Doctor Who, yes. Davies has brought it back, and the thankfully short clips of the forthcoming series mean I simply cannot wait. It's going to be good I feel.
Monday, 24 December 2007
Buone Feste (Italian for Happy Holidays) - Christmas light on a Venetian Rio Terra.
BTW - for those who want to know a rio terra is a filled in canal. During the time of Mussolini there was a plan to fill in the canals of Venice so that cars could drive its "streets". A few were done but the plan was quashed before it ruined the city.
Sunday, 23 December 2007
I feel wrong watching these shows - essentially each episode is an hour of watching people get hurt in a variety of ways -skydiving, extreme skiing, go-karting, motorcycling speed record attempts, skateboarding, snowboarding as well as mass fights in ice hockey, soccer and other sports.
I'm not sure what this kind of thing says about us as a species, and I have to admit I am not immune.
You won't find me watching Big Brother though...
Saturday, 22 December 2007
We chose the Russian dark fantasy film Night Watch. I'm glad we did - it was superb; original storyline, a setting (Moscow) I am not overly familiar with, no actors I recognise and a good story. Okay I guessed the ending a little but it didn't spoil the movie.
Now I want to see The Day Watch.
Friday, 21 December 2007
Shelfari is like all these FaceBook, MySpace type sites - except it is geared exclusively towards readers.
You log on - set up an account and then add books to your bookshelf. Then you can write little reviews, hold discussions with other readers and link to friends. Typical kind of stuff and yes it could well be addictive.
Since doing so I have thought about the somgs I left out and mourned their absence, so I made a new list of the "next" eight
The Damned – Eloise
Ian Dury and the Blockheads - Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3
Guns ‘N’ Roses - Sweet Child O’ Mine
The Jesus and Mary Chain – Some Candy Talking
Led Zeppelin - Kashmir
Lynyrd Skynyrd – Freebird
Barry McGuire - Eve of Destruction
Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run
I couldn't do without those either - and I still had to leave out The Doors' People are Stange, Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi, Nick Drake's Hazey Jane II, Pink Floyd's Echoes, Metallica's Sad But True and Roy Harper's Me and My Woman. Difficult thing this.
I've lived my whole life in a relatively stable peaceful country, in a generally peaceful continent - and I attribute this in large part to the European Union. Europe historically has been at war with itself almost constantly for centuries but no more.
Anyway this is digressing.
The EU has announced limits of greenhouse gas emissions on car manufacturers and the aviation industry. Okay they are not are stringent as they might be - I would be in favour of setting the car industry a date to achieve zero emissions, with a reducing limit each year until the zero - but it's a good .
Now they need to keep pushing it or our future will suffer.
Wednesday, 19 December 2007
In one of his first radio interviews since taking over as leader, Clegg admitted he does not believe in God.
Not sure if anyone would have admitted to that one a few years back...
...mind you the Liberal Democrats are not likely to win an election over here - they fit in as the third largest party, and the UK is normally governed by either the Conservatives or the Labour Party. I would imagine that it might not have happened were he the leader of either of those two.
Tuesday, 18 December 2007
I've just read one of the most bizarre and pointless of news stories in quite some time.
In the UK one of the BBC's radio stations has decided to censor a song for broadcast removing the words "faggot" and "slut" - used as insults - so that it will not cause offence to anyone listening.
The only problem I have is that the track - Fairytale of New York by Kirsty MacColl and The Pogues is 20 years old and has never been censored before. They have been happy to play the track in full with no cuts for two decades - so why start now?
Also it's only censored on Radio 1. If you tune in to one of the other BBC radio stations - 6 more nationals and over 40 local stations - you will hear the unedited version.
I don't get it.
Wonderful old house with steep roofline.
It's a little bit commercial around the harbour itself, but they've managed to maintain a great deal of the town's charm.
Monday, 17 December 2007
Anyway I am meandering - I'll get the that later. Back to books...
The first of the zombie books was Simon Clark's This Rage of Echoes. This actually manages an original take on zombies, something I never thought I would encounter. In Clark's book he has the infestation create copies of the infection carriers - copies which then seem hell bent on destroying the originals. Great stuff!!
The second one was Brian Keene's Dead Sea. The zombies here are run of the mill, lumbering, brainless, rotting hulks intent on nothing more than eating your brains. This is not a great disappointment though, for Keene's focus is not the zombies, but the small group of uninfected desperately trying to survive. Another good read.
Since then I read some science fiction - yahey! SF is my favourite of the three speculative genres. This one was Robert Charles Wilson's Axis - a sequel to his Hugo-winning novel Spin. given that spin was superb, this book had a great deal to live up to. And unfortunately it didn't quite make it. Still a good read, but I read Wilson's work for its originality. Being a sequel, originality is severely curtailed, and I want something fresh and out there from Wilson. I know I am being unfair but what can I say...
Anyway - procrastination. Unfortunately I have found a new way of wasting time. I'm just about getting over my addiction to online snooker - and now I am developing a liking for playing scrabble online. Darn! These things are taking over my life.
I really must find some time to actually write something.
Sunday, 16 December 2007
One show they have on regularly (and it's been running since 1942) is Desert Island Discs. On this show the guest is invited to choose the eight records they could not live without and they talk about the records and their life in general.
I don't often find much of the guests' tastes that matches mine but I enjoy the show. I think the closest they've had on to my own taste was Jeremy Clarkson, which is a little worrying.
Anyway I just started thinking about what I would pick - and yes I realise I would never be chosen as a guest - not being. However I have always had a fondness (some say obsession) with lists so I started writing down titles.
First thing that occured to me is just how hard it is to choose just eight. My list started out at sixty - just a little over the limit. And then the guests on the show have to pick the best of the best - one track they could not live without.
Anyway after much agonising I made it to a list of eight...
The Jam - A Town Called Malice
Van Morrison - Brown Eyed Girl
R.E.M. - It's the End of the World as We Know It
Rush - Tom Sawyer
The Smiths - How Soon is Now
Suzanne Vega - I'll Never Be Your Maggie May
Tom Waits - Jersey Girl
The Who - Won't Get Fooled Again
...and the one would be - The Who - Won't Get Fooled Again
The bad news is that one of my articles (a historical true-crime piece) that was accepted back in August has been returned - the publication is not going to happen so they've released the articles. Ah, well - it's the second sale I've made to magazines that died before publication. Guess it's one of those things.
The good news concerns a book review (of Brian Aldiss's H.A.R.M.). The magazine running it, Art and Prose December 2007, is now out and you can find them on the web at
The issue also features a story by a friend of mine - Joy V. Smith - called Paulie, which is pretty nifty. She writes sf, non-fiction and children's stories and you can find her blog at
Thursday, 13 December 2007
This bug is so bad that I didn't even read a single word of my then book for nine straight days. It really wasn't the book's fault (Brian Keene's Dead Sea BTW). The bug was just that bad. Well, I thought I was just about over it, but I was wrong. It's decided to have another go.
So I've decided to try to ignore it and think nice thoughts - so I spent a few minutes flicking through more holiday photos. In doing so I found this one and thought I just had to share. I have absolutely no idea of specifically where it is. I can remember my wife taking it. We saw a beautiful bit of countryside in Northern France, stopped on the side of the road and took some photos. This is one of them...
Wednesday, 12 December 2007
So I thought I would post one of the shots here.
Tuesday, 11 December 2007
I don’t watch many films. I tend to prefer books to films. But every now and again I feel just have to watch some movies – and catch up with some of the big films of the last couple of years.
To give you some idea of how up to date I tend to be both of the movies I watched this past weekend are already into sequel-land, and in one case multiple sequel-land, before I’ve even watched the first.
The two films I chose to watch were Saw and The Hostel – yes both part ones.
Saw surprised me a great deal. I found this to be far from the gory moronic horror I expected. This was a good film – seriously good, and very creepy.
The Hostel however was all I expected, however. Effectively a film of two halves, the first a teen/college sex comedy before flipping into a non-supernatural gory horror flick. The gore is done reasonably with good use of well-timed cutaways and splatter. The problem this film had for me though was that the first part had left me not caring whether any of the lead characters survived.
Back to books – I’ve read far more than watched.
First few all from PS Publishing
Eric Brown’s Starship Summer is simply wonderful. It’s a science fiction novella that joins a group of characters at a point in their lives, follows them for a while and then ends, leaving them to carry on with their lives - my favourite kind of story. Okay, there is something momentous going on an they are near the epicentre, an alien first contact situation
The City Beyond Play (Philip Jose Farmer and Danny Adams) is a fantasy adventure-let wrapped in science fiction clothing with a crime chase thrown in. Lightweight but entertaining.
Ellison Wonderland is the classic Harlan Ellison short story collection from nearly half a century ago represented for the 21st Century. And from reading this set I can definitely understand how Ellison gained such a reputation as a great of the short form of sf. Even fifty years has not made these tales stale.
Ramsey Campbell’s Grin of the Dark is the latest horror novel from one of Britain’s best horror writers, and sees film researcher Simon Lester (no relation, would be difficult as he’s fictional and this is a pseudonym) descending into the mad world of anarchic silent film comic Tubby Thackeray. Creepy.
The final PS Publishing book on my recent pile was Zoran Zivkovic’s 12 Collections and the Teashop – and it is quite simply one of the best books I have read in years. These thirteen short tales are unnerving, creepy, unsettling, and just plain odd. This is a totally different kind of fiction that many Western Eyes will have encountered. And it’s absolutely brilliant.
Paul Kane’s Daylton Quayle Rides Out (from Pendragon Press - http://www.pendragonpress.net/) is just plain insane. Two deeply surreal, bad pun packed high-action Sherlock Holmes parodies – with so many film and horror references thrown in it’s untrue. Mad - and I loved it.
Moving on I come to Stephen Baxter’s H-Bomb Girl from Faber and Faber (http://www.faber.co.uk/). This is a young adult science fiction piece set in Liverpool during the Cuban Missile Crisis – with the decision of a teenage girl holding the key (literally) to many possible future. Interesting, reasonably entertaining but only a stop gap between his weightier adult titles.
Next up a couple of short story collections from British small press publisher Elastic Press - http://www.elasticpress.com/.
Firstly Tony Richards’s set Going Back. Many of the stories in hear sound like science fiction. They are not though, for Richards unnerves – it’s his gift. Each of these tales gives you something you just don’t want, and there is no way on Earth I would want to trade places with any of these people. Great set.
Like Richards’ set, Robert Neilson’s That’s Entertainment sounds like science fiction, but in this case you get exactly what it sounds like. This is a collection of sf – mostly of alternate reality shorts with some plucking on the heartstrings and some comedy thrown in. Another good book from Elastic Press.
Justin D’Ath’s Pool (from Ford Street Publishing - http://www.fordstreetpublishing.com/) is another young adult story – one set in small town Australia. This gentle fantasy is quite enchanting and a complete change of pace from most of the books I read. It’s the kind of book I might buy as a present for a young teen daughter of one friend or another – except that I have no friends with said daughter. Interesting though.
Brian Aldiss’s Harm (Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd - http://ducknet.co.uk/) is possibly the darkest book Aldiss has ever produced, and one of the best. IT tells two tales featuring the same lead character in two different worlds – the first as a prisoner accused of terrorism in a very right-wing future England, the other as a member of a failing colony on another world. Totally gripping.
The next book I picked up for entirely the wrong reason I have to say. After all my ranting about celebrity culture gone mad I bought a book that’s co-written by an actress in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yes I know, but in my defence I know Amber Benson (Tara) has more strings to her bow than just looking good on camera (which she does in my opinion).
This novella, The Seven Whistlers (with co-author Christopher Golden) reads very much like a Stephen King story. It sets up the same kind of locale, the same kind of characters and the same kind of unsettling mythic beastie. And for once it even makes me feel that it should be longer. I find many books to be overly long. For once I wanted this to be twice as long so that the characters and their interactions could be fully developed before the demons tear them to pieces. Good but could have been much more. (Subterranean Press - http://www.subterraneanpress.com/)
Kevin J. Anderson’s Metal Swarm is book six in the author’s Saga of the Seven Suns – a truly mammoth series – epic on a galaxy-wide background with more alien races and worlds than you could shake a stick at. His volume is good but has the definite felling of being a set up book for the last title. The first five of this series have been superb. This isn’t superb, just good. But if the setup parts mean that I am about to get a truly great final book then I will forgive the author. . (Simon and Schuster - http://www.simonsays.co.uk/)
The last of the set is Mike Resnick’s World Behind the Door. This is totally unlike Resnick’s normal fiction. Far from the author’s more normal high space opera, this is whimsical fantasy – an Alice in Wonderland style tale featuring the artist Salvador Dali. Brilliantly mad. (Watson-Guptill Publications - http://www.watsonguptill.com/)IEL
I have ranted and raved over the years about all kinds of excessive wrappings for things - shrink-wrapped cucumbers, two-for-one-offers on jars requiring them to be packaged together rather than believing shoppers could count to two, etc etc etc
Well I feel I have to say well done to one company for a good decision, and it's a soap manufacturer of all things...
Ceuta Healthcare Ltd make Shield Soap. I buy it. Their 4-packs have a nice shiny outside wrapper which contained 4 bars of soap individually wrapped in smaller shiny packets. Neither the outside or inside packaging was recyclable.
But they have changed things. The outside is still the outside - but then I guess they want to advertise their wares. But inside the shiny printed packets are replaced with white unprinted paper packets which are recyclable. Not much but it's a start.
Monday, 10 December 2007
But also the good news of another review that will run in Shroud Magazine. This is my 25th book review accepted for publication.
Shroud is a new US based horror print magazine launching next year, Check them out - and subscribe, there's going to be a lot of good fiction in this mag over the months/years
As I was reading through some emails and writing this I had a music DVD playing on the TV in my office. I won't say what it was but it had "Creative Packaging". That's a term I use for those times when record labels decide that a standard DVD box (or CD box for that) isn't sufficient for their needs and they go off on one.
Generally what they produce looks good (not always though) but these things feature cardboard and customised plastic components which seem guaranteed to break, tear or go wrong. Tonight's DVD is one of these. It's two disks are held on spongy centres glued to a cardboard foldout construct. Problem is one of the spongy holders is a disaster - it simply cannot hold onto the disk no matter how hard I try to get it lined up. And the other one has detached from the cardboard it was glued onto.
Why not use the standard plastic cases. If they go wrong I can simply buy a replacement and pop the insert and booklet (when there is one) into the new case and all is good as new.
Sunday, 9 December 2007
So as this is the introduction I am going to tell you a little about myself and what this blog is for - and I promise not to whitter on too long.
I am a forty year old book addict, and since February 2007 a published writer - my first sale being a science article on Exoplanets (already hopelessly out of date) sold to UK based sf webzine Darker Matter.
I managed to publish an article in each of the five issues Darker Matter ran as well as three book reviews in issue five. I'd like to think this every presence had nothing to do with the zine folding.
Since then I have written many more articles, reviews etc and so far my sales stand at
9 articles (on science, history and horror)
24 book reviews