Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Anyone for seconds?

The Mask Behind the Face sold out a few months back. But rejoice! The second print run is now available!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Hell is the Absence of God

Towards the end of last year I read Hell is the Absence of God, a novella by Ted Chiang. Billed as SF but to me it felt more like dark fantasy or horror. Anyway, angels and miracles abound on Earth, proving the existence of God. But proving He exists isn't the same as discerning His plans for the world. A small group of people who have been touched by tragedies and miracles attempt to discover why God has shaped their lives in the manner that He has chosen.

It reads a little like a synopsis for a longer story but the plot is compelling enough to keep things interesting. A chilling meditation on the nature of faith.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

I'm ready for my close up

I'm probably going to regret posting this but there's a video of my acceptance speech for Best Novella at FantasyCon online at http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoID=1829814201

You might not be able to catch everything I say but trust me, you're not missing much.

Thanks to Martin Roberts for recording my embarrassment for posterity.

Friday, January 26, 2007


Read the X-Men Marvel pocketbooks in the leadup to Christmas. The Chris Claremont/Dave Cockrum/John Byrne stuff.

Looking at the plot twists, emotional angst, relationship entanglements and groundbreaking storylines such as the Dark Phoenix epic and Days of Future Past it became really clear that Joss Whedon really learned a hell of a lot from Chris Claremont.

And he put it to good use in Buffy. Not quite convinced by his work on Astonishing X-Men but he might still win me over.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Terrance Dicks

One of the cheap DVDs I picked up over Xmas was Dr Who and the Horror of Fang Rock. I remember being absolutely terrified of the monster in this story when I saw it as a kid. I was pretty sure I wouldn't have the same reaction to it now but my curiosity got the better of me. So I bought the DVD, stuck it in the player and waited to have the bejeesus scared out of me.

Of course the monster turned out to as scary as a little kitten. A cute fluffy little kitten. A cute fluffy little kitten staring up at you lovingly with its big wide eyes.

In my defence when I first saw the story I would have only been four. I know kids who are older than that who are scared of Father Christmas for God's sake.

Anyway, the DVD wasn't a complete loss. The story wasn't actually that bad although funnily enough I couldn't help thinking that it would've been better if it had been played as a straight horror story without the Dr Who touches. (And with a decent monster.)

The DVD also had a feature on the story's writer, Terrance Dicks. Most of my memories of Dr Who come from reading his novelizations of the stories. In book form the dodgy acting and shoddy SFX of the TV programme disappear and you're left with tight plots, sharp dialogue, scary monsters and cosmic chills. I used to love them.

And that led me to read the other children's novels Dicks wrote. His Star Quest trilogy of SF novels. His Baker Street Irregulars series about a gang of crime solving kids. His horror novels including Cry Vampire! (Pretty much the only horror I read as a kid.)

He was a huge influence on my writing as a kid. Without him I might not be the writer I am today.

So now you know who to blame.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Just heard that there's plans for a Preacher TV series from HBO. For those of you who don't know Preacher is a comic book by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon featuring Jesse Custer (a disillusioned preacher possessed by a demon/angel hybrid), Tulip O'Hare (Jesse's girlfriend and a crack shot with a pistol) and Cassidy (an Irish vampire who likes to drink and shag. And drink. Then shag. Then drink some more). Together this trio of friends are out to track down God and give Him a good telling off for making such a hash of Creation.

Along the way they encounter serial killers, psychotic rednecks, wannabe vampires, a global conspiracy and The Saint of Killers. Cue blasphemy, graphic violence and toilet humour. And swearing. Lots and lots of swearing.

If the TV series does get off the ground I'm curious to see how it turns out. In my opinion the comic started off great then lost its way, still offering up the occasional wonderful moment but never quite recapturing the promise of the early issues.

But being a sad little fanboy I'm still excited about the prospect of a TV series.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Face of Twilight

Yesterday I finally got round to reading The Face of Twilight by Mark Samuels.

The story revolves around Ivan Gilman, a struggling author who notices strange things beginning to happen after he moves into his new flat. But the odd occurrences aren't just limited to his new home, soon they begin to spread across the city. Intrigued, he decides to investigate. Hands up everyone who thinks he's going to regret that decision?

The tale starts slowly, gradually drawing the reader in, but then builds to a terrifying crescendo. A creepy and thought-provoking story in the weird fiction tradition. Recommended. (Unless you haven't bought my books yet, in which case buy those instead.)

Thursday, January 18, 2007


My story Masquerade appears in Midnight Street #8.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Barry Norman

Received various DVDs as Xmas presents and then bought some more in the sales. Here's some quick thoughts on the ones I've watched so far.

Assault on Precinct 13 -- Never seen the original but I'd heard that this remake was pretty good. I'd heard wrong. Glossy rather than gritty, with paper-thin characterization, awful dialogue and boring action scenes. Even managed to bungle the seemingly foolproof notion of updating Rio Bravo to the present day by introducing some pointless plot twists. Only good point was the unexpected killing of one of the characters who seemed guaranteed to survive.

Ong-Bak -- Tony Jaa kicks, punches, knees and elbows his way through a bunch of thugs for two hours or so. Very little plot or character development but who cares when the action looks like this? That said, it would be nice if Jaa could work on his acting range a little. Jet Li and Jackie Chan will never be called great actors but at least they have more than one facial expression.

A History of Violence -- A little disappointed with this one. Yes, the acting and writing is much better than in the above films but it still didn't live up to the hype. Viggo Mortensen is fine as the mild-mannered hero but less convincing as his vicious alter ego. I never really understood why the character turned his back on his old life. Also, Mortensen's fight scenes look too martial arts-ified. Okay, he's not leaping around like Tony Jaa but he's all palm heels, armlocks and spearhands to the throat. Would have been more fitting for his character to bite off ears, gouge eyeballs and beat people to death with chairlegs. Overall the film felt a lot more simplistic than I was expecting. Cronenberg seemed too pleased with his modern-day Western's "subversion" of the ethics of the classical Western to notice that the themes he's exploring -- the bad man trying to escape his former life, the dilemma of violence versus a peaceful existence -- are in fact staples of the genre. Not a bad film then but not as good as it thinks it is.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Robert Anton Wilson

Been offline the last couple of weeks and now I come back on to find that Robert Anton Wilson has died.

Wilson wrote weird SF (for want of a better term) novels and weird non-fiction books. His non-fiction covered magic, cryptrozoology, language, conspiracy theories, James Joyce, sex, drugs, evolution, reality tunnels, quantum psychology and umpteen other subjects. Come to think of it so did his novels.

The first Wilson book I read was Cosmic Trigger , the first volume of his autobiography. Although it was first published in 1977 I read it in 2000 so his predictions of humanity migrating to space and becoming immortal by the 1990s were even more laughable than when he first made them. Still, dodgy predictions aside, his ideas about the way people get trapped in reality tunnels created by their own preconceptions sounded interesting and so I decided to give his theories a chance. Consequently I moved from being a sceptic to being an open-minded sceptic. Granted, on occasion I fall into the trap warned of in the old saying and I become so open-minded that my brains fall out but I do my best to keep my gullibility in check.

After reading Wilson my other non-fiction reading expanded to include popular science, magic and spirituality. Out of those three science makes most sense to me as a model of reality but dabbling in the other stuff reminds me that what at the time seems a sensible guide to the workings of the universe can later be seen as laughable nonsense. Something that some modern scientists would do well to remember.

Not that I'm particularly convinced by Wilson's idea of a quantum non-local self. Lots of his ideas come across as drug-fuelled hippy wish-fulfilment. (This is one hell of a eulogy, isn't it?) But he encouraged people to step outside their preconceptions. For white people to try and see things from the viewpoint of black people. For men to see things from the viewpoint of women. For liberals to see things from the viewpoint of conservatives. For everyone to just try and understand everyone else.

And for that I remember his work fondly.