Archive for September, 2014

Champion of Mars despatched

Posted: September 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

Last week my Champion of Mars giveaway concluded. I have posted the books today, so they should soon be with the winners. I’m afraid they’ve gone at the most basic postal rate, not being super rich or anything, and as I had three winners in mainland Europe and two in Canada, it may take a little time. But they will get there.

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Review: Kill Her Again

Posted: September 30, 2014 in Archive posts, Journalism, Reviews

Kill Her Again
Kill Her Again by Robert Gregory Browne
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Like a so-so episode of the X-Files, Browne’s book brings pulp style and a whole heap of coincidences to a fairly unlikely plot where a sinister gypsy appears to be bumping off incarnations of the same woman over and over again. To say more of it will spoil what surprises there are. Which is not to say there are many of them, the plot is pretty well signposted throughout, but the enjoyment in these crime thrillers is to be had almost exclusively from watching them click along their pre-ordained paths, not from trying to figure out who the killer is a la Agatha Christie. Bloody these plots may be, but this type of low-rent genre fiction offers a kind of comfort. This is particularly in the case of Kill Her Again, with its overtones of fate and arrow-straight seam of true love.

It’s easy to see the book as a mid-range Hollywood effort, and it is exactly as imaginative as that makes it sound. In the end it’s a massive case of sibling rivalry. The police procedural aspect of the story is a long way from Thomas Harris’ quality, while the supernatural goings on are at best serviceable. If you want the definitive scary American gypsy story, read Stephen King’s Thinner. This is pulpy trash; diverting for two hours, but one to toss in the airport trash when done.

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This review appeared originally in Death Ray #21. That was the last issue we published. I’m getting close to finishing archiving all the articles and reviews I wrote for that magazine on this site now.  What will I do then?

Below I talk briefly about South African SF. If there’s more of it visible to English eyes than there used to be, District 9 had a hand in that.

15/112 mins

Director: Neill Blomkamp

Writer: Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell

Starring: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, Nathalie Boltt, Sylvaine Strike

FOUR STARS

Space aliens in Johannesburg add to the city’s troubled racial mix in this action flick/ mockumentary hybrid. (“Hybrid” is the appropriate word here, by the way). Like mechs? You’ll love this.

We’d be hard pressed to come up with a list of South African science fiction, but if we could scrape one together (if you can, by the way, send it in, only the tedious Charlie Jade immediately leaps to mind) District 9 would come top of the list. (more…)

Booze!

Posted: September 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

I made 2 litres of damson gin. The damsons are from mum’s garden. I had to climb like a monkey to get them, but it’s worth it. It’ll be ready in time for Christmas.

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As my writing of a Black Templars novel was announced on the Black Library website a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d talk about them a bit. Specifically, and of great importance to the way I write them, I’ve come to the following conclusion: Black Templars are fanatics.

Consider the following factettes from Codex: Space Marines:

  • They consider that they are still fighting the Great Crusade.
  • They alone of the oldest chapters see the Emperor as a god.
  • They venerate Imperial psykers, especially Astropaths, because these people have been directly touched by the Emperor himself.
  • Their hatred of alien and non-sanctioned psykers knows no bounds.
  • They have close ties to the Ecclesiarchy of Terra.

History tells us that people on “missions from god” are rarely nice. So this led me to the following on how they might think:

  • They believe they are the “chosen ones”  (in this case, of the Emperor).
  • Because they are the chosen sons of the Emperor, they believe they can do no wrong.

Both such opinions are commonplace among real-life keepers of the “one truth”, whether that’s religious or ideological, and Black Templars certainly think that they know that one truth. That, in conjunction with my research, then led me on to this:

  • They can be suspicious or dismissive of other Space Marines, who are misguided in not seeing the Emperor’s divinity.
  • They see the other couple of chapters that worship the Emperor as being lesser in quality than they, as they are younger.
  • They are honourable, staunch allies, but terrifying foes who can be utterly merciless, sometimes in ways that we would find shocking.
  • They are steeped in religious mysticism and harsh ritual.
  • They are hierarchically hidebound.
  • They are not beyond underhand actions to get their own way.
  • They take failure badly.
  • They are inclined to be secretive.
  • They are arrogant and impatient.
  • They respect martial prowess.
  • Their ties with the Ecclesiarchy are important to their character and to their actions.
  • Hubris could be a problem.

I don’t see them as shining-white “goodies”. These are not Ultramarines, Space Wolves, or Salamanders, concerned with the lives of lesser men, but highly religious warriors conducting a holy war, with all that entails. Their self-perceived rectitude makes them fantastic to write, as they’ve a brilliantly complex character.

So that’s the way I see them, anyway. How about you?

I have reviewed some really obscure films over my career, including a lot of blink-and-forget sequels. Like this one! The premise of this film (monster in the closet, basically) reminded me of the creepy, three-hundred-year-old oak wardrobe that I used to have at the foot of my bed. It was tall and deep, big enough to hide a large man in, and the door did not shut. Very spooky. One night, my little brother Tristan hid in there, waited about half an hour while I read, then jumped out shouting “Rargh!” as I was about to go to sleep. I nearly died of fright while he ran away giggling. Bastard. From Death Ray #19.

2008/94mins

FILM: TWO AND A HALF STARS

Director: Gary Jones

Writer: Brian Sieve

Starring: Erin Cahill, Chuck Hittinger, Mimi Michaels, Mat Rippy

Part three of monster-under-the-bed franchise goes to college, and why not?

Ah, the PR industry, bless it. Sometimes it’s just little too keen – Boogeyman is not, we fear to say, one of the most popular sci-fi franchises of all time, as one line had it. But it is quite creepy, we’ll give it that.

Boogeyman‘s modest success is predicated entirely on the fact that all kids, almost without exception, are frightened at one time or another that some horrible thing is going to coalesce out of their bedroom shadows and eat them. Films that exploit this childhood worry have a free pass to terror, one that can be used multiple times.

The story is not very original. The daughter of the (now deceased) psychologist from the second film is murdered by the Boogeyman. Her roommate, who witnesses the event, unleashes the monster on her entire college dorm by convincing her fellow students that it is real. It doesn’t make much sense either, the Boogeyman proves to be far from some etheric fear to begin with, jumping right out of the cupboard from the get go – people don’t need much convincing that he is real. But that’s not the point. A cast of similar (and way too cool) students are dispatched in a variety of Freddy Krueger-esque ways. That’s the point , as always with this kind of thing.

Lots of blood, some scares, plenty of cheese – your average horror, though it did scare the pants off the missus.