510MnSuGPtL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX324_SY324_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA346_SH20_OU02_A couple of years ago I wrote about my youngest, football-mad brother Ralf’s epic quest around Europe to play in just one professional football match, anywhere. He was accompanied by my middle brother Tristan (whose floorboards I spent some time under today, funnily enough. It’s a family thing. We live like borrowers), a film cameraman, who shot the whole enterprise for a documentary – when he wasn’t trying to get them both drunk. Much hilarity ensued.

Although the film is (still) not finished, Ralf has actually managed to complete the accompanying book, and here it is! A very amusing tale of Ralf’s heroic idiocy and somewhat misplaced belief in his own sporting skills, it is available to buy here. Early reviews compare it favourably with Dave Gorman and the like, which is high praise.

Hang on a minute, I’m supposed to be the author in this family, why I oughta…

Ahem. Anyway. If you want to see Ralf in action for real, here’s a repeat of the film trailer. This really is worth seeing.


mast_logo

I am very pleased to announce today that I have had “The Dreaming Cities” picked up by Tor.com for their brand new, all-digital novella imprint. Click here to read their press release. As you can see on their page, there will be books by K. J. Parker, Seanan McGuire, Paul Cornell, Mary Robinette Kowal and loads of others. So I am in exceptionally good company.

I’ve had to sit on this news for a while, and I’m lucky I’ve not exploded with excitement. Tor.com is part of Tor, an SF imprint of great size and respectability. In turn it is part of Macmillan, one of the biggest publishers in the world, so I am delighted to be part of their new venture. And I mean that honestly, without a hint of hyperbole.

Tor.com’s novella range launches later this year. Keep an eye on this blog for more information, including what my series is about, as we get closer to the date.


I’ve been roaming the hills a fair bit the last few days. Wandering around with my dog helps me clear my head, and I’ve been blessed with some great weather. As it’s been well below zero at night, there are ice sculptures in hidden brooks and crisp snow shining brightly as plastic where it’s melted and refrozen. On the moors you can see oddly whorled snowdrifts that look like rows of monks’ hoods. And it’s all illuminated by beautiful, crisp sunlight of amazing clarity. This is my favourite sort of weather.

There are a number of environments in close proximity to one another in these hills, and a fair amount of wildlife in them. The snow captures the passing of animals – I’ve seen tracks of badger, roe deer, rats (complete with little furrows in the snow from the tail whipping about while they gallop along), and squirrels – while the leafless, sleeping woods allow the keen-eyed to spot a number of them from time to time. The squirrels have been driving Doctor Magnus mad. I have tried explaining to him that he’ll never catch one; he doesn’t listen. Yesterday I came within twenty metres of a pair of deer in the woods. If you see them in a field they’ll take off, but under cover they don’t run. They remained absolutely stock still. Their brown coats are excellent camouflage, and to take your eye off them is to risk losing them. So we passed by on a slow arc, trying to get close, their heads rotating to follow our movement. Only when I walked directly toward them did they flee, and only then did the dog spot them. Brilliant noses, dogs, but not so great on the eyesight front. Predictably, this was one occasion I had decided to leave my phone at home. I’ve taken to doing this more and more when I’m walking. It’s liberating to let go of the 21st century, although it means I can’t share the deer.

Here’s a picture of a tree instead. It’s in a quarry we go to a lot, and has a rock caught in the fork between its primary branches. There’s a waterfall that comes and goes by its side, so half of it is trapped in ice. This is from last week, just before the last lot of snow we had.

IMG_2733

 


I’m something of a fan of Ray Wise. He’s not that widely known, but when he does appear he has great screen presence, and his turn as the devil in Reaper was brilliant. This interview was done off the back of the film Infestation. You can read reviews of both by clicking of the links. From Death Ray #21, the very last issue.

Better The Devil You Know

Ray Wise, the player behind telefantasy’s best recent character, um, the Devil! Smooth and sharp, he’s our kind of guy.

Forty years in the crazy business of Tinseltown and still going strong, if you need a lawyer, president, or murderous father, Ray Wise is your man. Often attracted to horror projects, (you can see him in Dead End and Jeepers Creepers II, for example) Wise has played not one but three diabolical creatures: The Devil in Reaper, Ludlow the Demon in Charmed, and Leland Palmer in David Lynch’s frankly disturbing TV classic Twin Peaks.

Recently appearing in Kyle Rankin’s big bug movie Infestation, Wise talked with Death Ray via transatlantic satellite.

Death Ray: Infestation: We enjoyed it. Notice you have done a lot of SF and horror, what attracts you to that kind of project?

Ray Wise: I like to be frightened along with everybody else. I like to feel that titillation, that adrenaline rush when I think that something really frightening is going to happen. I like the anticipation of it, even more than seeing the actual event. Except that so much of the horror today is so… volumes of blood and ripping and slicing and cutting and tearing. It’s not frightening any more, it’s just gory. I prefer the old school horror.

DR: Infestation, like a lot of your movies, contains a certain degree of humour. One thing we really like about your acting is that you have a fantastic sense of comic timing. Where does that come from in you?

RW: Thank you. I really couldn’t say. I’ve always had that sense of humour, ever since I was a little child. I couldn’t explain it, except that that’s the way I view the world, it’s slightly askew, and it makes me laugh a lot.

DR: Whenever you’re on screen you’ve got such a little twinkle in your eye, like when you were playing the Devil in Reaper.

RW: That little twinkle is important. When you watch an actor on film, the eyes can tell you everything. If you’re not thinking the right thoughts, you’re not going to convey to the audience what you want them to feel. The eyes are windows to the soul, right?

DR: So what kind of thoughts were you thinking when you were playing your version of the Devil, then?

RW: Oh, devilish thoughts, you know! Haha. I have an incredible imagination, and I’m able to fabricate little scenarios in my mind that can back up any acting situation that I might find myself in.

DR: Can that be emotionally draining? We think of your turn in Twin Peaks, it must have been distressing playing Leland Palmer, who kills his own daughter…

RW: Totally distressing! You had to get your head in the right place to be able to portray that scene properly, so it can be stressful. I’ve learned over the years that downtime in between scenes I’m able to relax, and joke around with the people on the set. We try to keep it as light as possible when we’re doing heavy stuff like that. David Lynch kept a very laid back set.

DR: Like tunes, the Devil had all the best lines, our favourite has to be ‘I’m not a carjacker Sam, I’m the Devil!’

RW: Right! I had so many good lines and I enjoyed saying every single one of them. In my mind the Devil was a cross between a really good games show host and a used car salesman. He’s sartorially resplendent, and he has a kind of smooth way about him, and he’s able to cajole and talk you into just about anything. That’s the Devil to me.

DR: If we include old Leland in there, this is the third time you’ve played some sort of diabolical entity. Have you carved out a niche in the market?

RW: Yeah, I think so. I think Leland was the perfect prep for leading to the Devil in Reaper. I still watch those episodes today, and I’m still blown away by them. And Ludlow, another demon. He was pretty spectacular. And Charmed is a lovely show. Yeah, so I have a short short history in demonology.

DR: A lot of your other characters seem to be authority figures, vice-presidents, presidents, fathers, that kind of thing. What do you think the overlap is between the demon characters that you play and that sort of politician/ dad type character?

RW: Hahaha, well, I think the big overlap is the actor playing the characters! But there’s a little bit of demon in every good father, and certainly in every politician. I don’t see much difference between some vice presidents that we’ve had and the Devil in Reaper.

DR: The devil has a better suit…

RW: That’s for sure!

DR: And you also got the impression that he wasn’t all bad either. He was in a weird way a mentor to Sam…

RW: There are certain aspects of good and evil in every character. I try to keep that in mind, you have to find the good in the bad and the bad in the good it, seems to me. Yes, he was a mentor, and adviser, he was like a big brother… He wanted to see the kid blossom, though he would prefer that the kid would come his way. I don’t think the Devil has to be all bad all the time. I think he likes mixing it up with the humans here on Earth and having a good time with them. And that entails having some good things happen. Don’t forget good and evil is all a matter of choice anyway isn’t it?

DR: In Infestation and Reaper and others you are often paired off with younger actors. Do you find yourself performing that sort of devilish mentor role for the younger actors?

RW: Yeah, I think so. With younger actors, I am mentorish. And of course I have my own children too, well, they’re grown adults now, but I went through the same process with them. I like passing on what I know to the next generation. It gives you another reason to be on this planet. It ties you in a little bit more to everything in life. It’s a wonderful thing.


This review of season one of The Clone Wars was printed after the release of the DVD. There’s a longer piece laying out my opinion of the show and of Star Wars here. From Death Ray #19.

 War in the stars, it’s – The Clone Wars! Er, hang on…

The first season of The Clone Wars is over, but don’t worry, there’s another four to go, or thereabouts.

Season one ends in true Star Wars style, with a big war in the stars. A three part story set on and around the Twi’lek home planet of Ryloth sees Asoka, Anakin and Mace Windu attempting to liberate the tail-headed aliens from the droid army of the Trade Federation. There’s a hint of the horrors of real war with our half-starved Twi’lek civilians huddled by artillery, coerced into being living shields, the ruins of their bombed out cities visible in the background. But mostly war is depicted as a big old lark. That the droid enemy is on top comedy form and the only real casualties half-humanised clones doesn’t really help. For all its spectacle, the Ryloth trilogy leaves an odd and not entirely agreeable taste. It’s fun to fight robots, but people get killed, you know?

Far better is the finale story, ‘Hostage Crisis’, which introduces the Neimoudian bounty hunter Bane. His successful attempt to bust Zero the Hutt out of jail brings us neatly back to the beginning of the series, when the space slug was incarcerated, and sets up the next season in which Bane is due to play a major part. This kind of small-scale caper where real characters are in peril is what Star Wars does second best (best of course being massive space battles). As usual success is guaranteed our heroes – though in this last episode it is deferred – and everything is reduced to the monochrome of a child’s morality. Whether this is a good thing, and actually such fare helps the kiddies work their way up to a more complex understanding of the world, is open to debate. But this show is fun and pretty, at the least.


An interview with Jamie Bamber (Apollo) conducted just after the conclusion of Battlestar Galactica for Death Ray #21.

The End of the Affair

Actor Jamie Bamber, lately multi-talented space jock Lee ‘Apollo’ Adama, talks philosophically about the end of the very much brilliant (and very much lamented) Battlestar Galactica.

Pilot, captain, lawyer, politician… but some of Lee ‘Apollo’ Adama’s jobs on the Galactica. The career of the actor who portrayed him, US/English Jamie Bamber, is less diverse, being mostly restricted to actor, but we could add the label ‘environmentalist’ to him. For Bamber, BSG was a grand allegory for the problems facing us right now on our dear old Earth. Ask him what the show’s greatest achievement was, and he’ll say ‘relevance’. Read the rest of this entry »