Friday, 24 September 2010
Sunday, 19 September 2010
Below is my contribution to Zenith! #1, and it was written fast, because we needed to fill a page, and it's basically my manifesto for life, and for writing, and I thought it interesting to share it here with you. Z!#1 is actually quite close to print now. Still needing a cover...
“I’m a big fan of pretension. It means ‘an aspiration or intention that may or may not reach fulfilment.’ It doesn’t mean failing upward. It means trying to exceed your grasp. Which is how things grow.”
-- Warren Ellis.
We all find inspiration in different things. Terrifying, varying, awesome things. We find inspiration in film, and in music, and in cinema, and we take all these disparate, unconnected things and make them into something that transcends their base components. George Lucas found inspiration in the films of Akira Kurosawa, and if it wasn’t for that we wouldn’t have the Star Wars trilogy-- and depending on your opinion of the series-- that would be a terrible thing. Without Star Wars we wouldn’t have modern science fiction, hundreds of filmmakers wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing now. If it wasn’t for Star Wars we wouldn’t have films like Moon, Inception, films that have made the viewing public think and question what are considered the norms of cinema.
The following quote by Jim Jarmusch encapsulate my own approach to creativity and creation: “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery-- celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from-- it’s where you take them to.”
It’s not about what you steal, it’s about what you make from it. If you steal an idea, change a name, change a setting, and it reads like you’ve stolen it then you won’t ever get the satisfaction, the true feeling of accomplishment, that comes with creating a work of art. You become a thief. But if you find something that inspires you, you allow yourself to be taken on this amazing journey by your inspiration, and end up in a place you never dreamed of visiting before, then that… that is what this is about. That’s what we, as writers, as artists, as photographers and thinkers, that’s what we strive to do.
It’s not stealing if you make something from it. It’s stealing if you steal, and keep it stolen, and do nothing with what you’ve stolen but change the details. But to create something from the ashes of an idea that has come before. Yes. That is what we’re in the business of doing.
So find something you love. And make something new from it. Take an idea and build and build until you’ve created a monument to the old idea, something shiny and bright and for the future. We must attain for the highest echelons of creativity or we’ll dwell in the muck and the shit that comes with stagnation and repetition. Hollywood is going that way, adapting comics and books and songs and sonnets into half-arsed celebrity infested schlock-- No. No, this needs to end. Create an idea that is new and terrifying and gets you noticed. Be scary. Be great. Be different. But don’t perpetuate this cycle of diminishing returns. Reach for unseen heights.
And then, obviously, when you’re rich and famous remember us here at Zenith! and give us some kind of cut for old times’ sake. We’re all friends here, aren’t we?
Friday, 17 September 2010
Alan Moore has said previously that DC (and Marvel too, he doesn't keep his criticisms focused solely on his former major employers) keeps going back to the well, that the industry right now is creatively bankrupt and devoid of new concepts; Grant Morrison (and I love him for this, I really do) has said on the nature of [comic book] stories:
So yes. That's brilliant, that's true. We reverberate stories through time, through word of mouth, through anecdotes. Resident Evil 4: Afterlife, a continuation of the semi-popular film series, retcons the previous three films within the first... fifteen, twenty minutes of the opening act. Removes so many plot points that it's a completely different beast, though still completely recognisable. Memetic story telling, perhaps? It's how children tell stories in the playground, how we tell our friends about last night. We change details, we make ourselves look better, or worse, and we continually change what has come before. Recycling, revamping.
God, I love it when Grant Morrison makes sense. I mean, I love him all the time, I love his work because it's challenging and different, but when his thoughts come together in this perfect form of... coherence... it's all the better.
And I know that I've been bitching and moaning about Alan Moore the past few posts, but that doesn't mean I'm not a fan. His latest (and apparently final, barring League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) comic book series, Neonomicon, is a complete mindfuck of a read, and I intend to pick that up whenever I can. Though, that being said, I don't know if #2 has even been released yet. I should probably check that out...
Monday, 13 September 2010
There's this great interview with Alan Moore by Adi Tantimedh over at Bleeding Cool (click to read) that also played a hand in the way I'm thinking right now. Talking about how DC have offered Alan the rights to Watchmen back if he gives them permission-- perhaps a blessing?-- to work on sequels, prequels, all the terrifying marketable machine bits that would make them a whole lot of money. But the fans, as much as they love Watchmen (for some right reason and some wrong) wouldn't enjoy a Watchmen sequel. They wouldn't. If you've even got a passing knowledge of comics, you know that Watchmen is this pure thing, this nigh-untouchable project that cannot be continued, extended, whatever. I don't care about film adaptations, really. I don't think they damage the source material. So what if they changed elements? Philip Pullman once said that: "every film has to make changes to the story that the original book tells — not to change the outcome, but to make it fit the dimensions and the medium of film." and that's perfectly fine, in my opinion. You have to make the film the distilled version of the book-- how else can you get the story out in the best way?
But I digress.
History Lesson: Alan Moore assumed he'd get the rights to Watchmen back in the 80s. But DC never let it out of print, it's always been available, so that never came about. A lot of shit happened between then and now, and so we're in this weird position where Alan Moore is divorcing himself from the comic book industry and his old friends (he's fallen out with David Lloyd over the V for Vendetta adaptation, and now he's fallen out with Dave Gibbons over the Watchmen film) because of this project from the mid-eighties.
I think Alan Moore insults the industry when he makes himself out to be the pinnacle of literary artistry. I get bored of that. He was good, in his day, but what has he done that became as big as Watchmen or V for Vendetta (which I don't actually like)? Sure, his Top Ten projects have been big, but they're not on the same scale, are they?
A few quotes of interest from that interview that kind of anger me:
Because they were good? Because they stand up? Because a whole generation or two has heard of the Marvelman stories, the epic stories that Moore, Steve Bissette, Neil Gaiman and co. worked on and want to experience them for themselves? How is that unfair? Since I started reading comics, since I really got into them in my teens, I've wanted to read Marvel/Miracleman. Since I read about the legal troubles between Gaiman and Todd McFarlane I wanted to see what the fuss was about. I mean, this is important stuff. This is British comics that made a difference. And they've been locked in legal limbo for years and I want to read them. Sure, I would prefer to have the originals in my hand, but if Marvel are going to reprint the Moore/Gaiman runs, why shouldn't I leap at that chance? Stop ruining my enjoyment, Alan Moore.
This is something I intend to talk about below, but I thought I'd share it here first...
Is it wrong that I find this to be horrifically arrogant of him? Like there was a Golden Age of Comics that started and ended with Alan Moore, and no one else can compete? I've enjoyed comics since. Yes. But the thing is... when was the last time there was a comic book written that had the same literary, mainstream punch as Watchmen? Or Maus, for instance? Maus won a Pulitzer! Sin City could count, but I feel like that was more of a maxi-series, and the film was what made people pay attention.
The eighties were good, no doubt. We had so many transcendental series come out-- Moore's Swamp Thing, Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, Miller's The Dark Knight Returns as well as his Year One. Those were epic series that changed the face of the comic book industry. But when has anything changed the face of the industry since? In the 90s it was the domain of Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis and Grant Morrison, with The Preacher, Transmetropolitan and The Invisibles being the go-to for alternate comic book that shift the paradigm. In the 2000s we had Ex Machina, Y, The Last Man, Top 10 and Tom Strong, but... they don't work like I want them to work in the structure of this conversation.
But they weren't the same, I don't think. 12 issues. A maxiseries. Not a 80 issue opus... I'm talking stories that are complete in their entirety within twelve issues. That's not a thing anymore, is it? Grant Morrison came close with All-Star Superman, which I love, but I think I disqualify that in my head because it's Superman. It's not original. I want new content, I want something that makes me think and makes me fall in love with it like I did James Robinson's Starman.
It really shouldn't, no Alan.
Brian K. Vaughan has done some amazing stuff recently, the closest it comes to counting. Ex Machina was superb, a planned maxiseries that recently came to an end. Same as Y, The Last Man. Focused. Painstakingly created. Ex Machina is closer to what I'm thinking than Y, because there was one, consistent art team on that (Tony Harris, tying close to Starman with that, yes) whilst Pia Guerra traded duties with Goran Sudzuka on occasion. Garth Ennis is working with Darick Robertson on The Boys, another planned maxiseries... another finite end...
(And what is it with these specific writers working on these projects? Darick Robertson worked on Transmetropolitan, Garth Ennis on Preacher and now The Boys... Brian K. Vaughan on these maxiseries, too...)
...but do they make sense like Watchmen did, in the context of this conversation? I think Warren Ellis does the most promising work in that field, his projects, such as Ocean, Ministry of Space, Orbital, short, complete works that are beautiful and amazing. He's given us Planetary, but that has ties to the Wildstorm universe so I don't think I can count it-- even though it is the tightest of the projects to be considered. Global Frequency is the inverse of the idea, with one writer and a selection of amazing artists, twelve issues of loosely connected stories. I love that book, but it's not the same. But these titles don't reach the heights established at the heights of the eighties. They don't sell as many copies as Watchmen, they don't make the same amount of money. People aren't scrambling about to scream about them in the daily press. They should be, sure, but they should be something more. Something amazing and ascendant.
I want to see a comic, twelve issues, one complete story, like Camelot 2000, like Watchmen, something that inspires generations. Where would we be without Watchmen? I don't think the comic industry could have lasted without that shot in the arm. But at the same time, we shouldn't be dragging our heels and holding onto the past like we insist on doing. We need to prove Alan Moore wrong, because he's not what he used to be.
I think if Geoff Johns wasn't writing for DC... I don't think his work would be as good. Brian Michael Bendis does good work on Powers, and on Scarlet, but again, not the same. Mike Mignola is my hero and doing something that should become a modern folktale with Hellboy, but it's so far pushing ten trades and promising more, so it's not the 12 issue shape I was talking about. I want something to make us think, and sure, we get that with ongoings, and minis and maxis, but we need to make sure Alan Moore isn't right else we'll be stuck in this horrific rut for the rest of our lives.
Tuesday, 7 September 2010
"The Escapists", by Brian K. Vaughan, Steve Rolston, Philip Bond, Jason Shawn Alexander, Eduardo Barreto and et, al, is one of my favourite comic books of all time. It's a perfect package, the kind of project I turn to when I'm down in the dumps, needing inspiration. It's so horrifically meta, but not in that overbearing Alan Moore way, or the Grant Morrison method of creator imposition... this isn't Vaughan as Vaughan talking to the reader, it's Maxwell Roth, a character that is so real that you can't help but be dragged along by his story. I loved it, picked it uop from #1 because it was, umm, $1 (and I'm only human) and the Frank Miller cover, whilst it did nothing to represent what was going in on the inside, drew me in. I loved the art from page one, I loved the writing, and there have been very few books (if any) that have actually competed with it's position in my heart. The way in which the walls between comic books and real life blur is beautiful; this is heroism, but not super-heroism, about human weakness and wanting, and, God, have you been paying attention to me these past few years? This is the writing I want to do.
Anyway, I digress. I went about The Escapist mythos in completely the wrong order. I read the comics first, the Dark Horse "The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist" and then "The Escapists" after that, but that was stupid. I understood most, if not all, of what I was reading, but then I realised that I needed to read what spawned this character, I needed to know the subtext to it all...
I finally got the chance to read the source material, Michael Chabon's "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay" this week. I'm not going to review it, or rant on about how you should read it (you simply should), but I am going to say that I found the novel engrossing, and I read it over a few days, only stopping to sleep and work. If I didn't need to do either of those things I would have been done in a day.
I loved this book. And so should you.
Chapter One: “The Way of the World”
Twelve Years Ago:
It was another sublime day in the village where all the children lived. The sun rose early, and the children ate breakfast at the usual hour, before journeying to the school at their heart of this vibrant little community and resuming their studies.
Adam, as ever, took the long way to school, around the brook that trailed through the back of all the houses, linking them with this winding vein that rushed with water at all hours. He picked up rogue sticks that had fallen pathetically to the grassy floor below and threw them with a sniper’s eye into the centre of the stream, and half ran to follow them along the way. This was the game he played, to steady his aim, to sharpen his eye. He ran with one eye on the water and one on the ground, concentration flittering from one to the other every other instance. It was when his focus shifted from ground to water that he tripped and fell, falling face first into the dirt. His knees scuffed bloody, his chin dashed at the tip, but he didn’t cry out or yell. The shadow fell over him then. The looming mass shivered in the early morning light. Adam blinked and the shape came into focus: a man, just over six feet tall, clad in a large parka that covered nearly all his body; with a shiver the man took a step forward, and Adam a step back--
“Who are you?” asked the child.
“Who am I?” the man intoned, shakily. “Why are you here?”
The tone of the question was curious to Adam. The sheer incredulous disbelief. ‘Why am I here?’ thought Adam. ‘To live. To learn. To discover the nature of this world and the one beyond?’ Before he could answer, the man collapsed, and the thin layer of arctic snow on his shoulders fell to the ground and started to melt.
The man awoke abruptly, eyes wild at the sudden change in his location. From frozen tundra to picturesque village? And now one step further removed, under a burgundy blanket propped up by a clothes horse to create a rudimentary structure?
‘No,’ he thought, ‘a den, like the ones we used to make as children…’ “Hello? Is anybody--?”
Adam’s head burst through the gap in the blanket and he looked at the man without fear or hesitation, his young grey eyes piercing through his visitor’s character and personality.
“What is this place? Where am I?”
Adam blinked. “Why are you here?” The child mirrored the man’s earlier intonation exactly, and his head bobbed to the side curiously.
“When you appeared. Your words. The exact wording. Your confusion leading to mine. It was a strange way to ask a strange question.” The words coming out of the boy’s mouth weren’t confusing to the man because they were foreign to him, but because of the eloquence, the intelligence—they all belied the child’s age. When did a, what, eight year old? When did eight year olds become so bright?
“I, uh,” the man hesitated. What could he say? “Where are your parents?”
“My what?” The boy looked puzzled. The man felt flush with relief for an instant; he suddenly had a position of power in the conversation.
“Your parents? Your mum and your dad?”
“I don’t know what you mean,” the boy said. “What’s a ‘mum’?”
The man felt something hit him inside. The boy had no accent, just the cold steel voice of pure, unaffected speech. He pronounced his words without heightened intonation, without affectation, he spoke as someone devoid of outside interference.
“Your mum!” said the man, “your mother! Umm, what about your dad? Your father?”
Adam bit his bottom lip. “I still… I don’t know what you mean.”
“The… who do you live with?”
“I live here by myself,” said Adam, not proudly, not as an eager child, but as someone stating a fact. “What are you doing here?”
“I didn’t mean to be here,” said the man, “I was… travelling. Exploring even. I lost touch with my team, and I… I was lost. Out in the snow. I dug in, and then… well, I found my way here. I don’t know, it doesn’t make sense. What do you mean you don’t know what a mum and dad are? What do you mean you live here by yourself?”
“I live here by myself. I go to school along with the other children—they live by themselves as well—it’s not strange, me living like this. Everyone else does.”
The man nodded slowly. “What year is this?”
“Yes, year. What year is this?”
“I don’t know what you mean. Your words… ‘year’? Is that… I don’t know. What’s a mum and a dad?”
The man breathed out slowly. He’d never really considered the question before. “The people who raise you. Look after you. Make you dinner and put you to bed.”
“Do you have a mum and a dad then?” asked Adam.
“Yeah, they’re retired now, but… do you mean there are no grown-ups?” The thought suddenly occurred to him. “None at all? But you said school?”
“Yes, there are teachers, the ones who train us. I’m supposed to be at school now. I’m late. And if I’m late--”
There was a sharp knocking at the door. This was something sinister, decided the man, then and there. The child had no concept of parents? And he went to a school and there were teachers but the children here lived alone? And this place… it made no sense. Mere hours before—he gathered—he was out in the snow, freezing to death because he was lost, and now this? Now this…?
“That’ll be them,” said Adam.
“Don’t tell them I’m here,” said the man. “Don’t.”
“Because something isn’t right, kid, and I don’t know what it is, but I don’t like it. Is there a place I can hide?”
“Adam!” came the shout from behind the front door. “Are you alright? You weren’t at registration this morning!”
“It’s Mister Freund,” said Adam quietly, “my teacher. If we don’t turn up to school they come and see if we’re alright.”
“You’re fine, tell him you’re fine. Tell him, uh, you don’t feel well? I don’t know, shit, shit--”
Adam turned to the door, and then turned back to the man sharply. “Don’t move from here. Don’t make a sound.”
The man nodded, and buried himself deeper into the pillows and cushions that made up the interior of this makeshift shelter. He heard a rustle of movement outside, and the door whine open. He held his breath, and crossed his fingers.
“Are you alright, Adam? You didn’t come to school this morning. We were concerned.”
“I didn’t feel very well,” said the child. Adam. The boy’s name was Adam. The man noted that, and continued to strain his ears. “I’m feeling better now, but I didn’t want to risk making the other children sick.”
“What happened to your chin?”
“I fell,” said Adam. “Scuffed my knees as well.”
The man tensed up. This guy was asking too many questions. And this kind… he was smart, but could he hold up against any kind of intense questioning?
“This morning. Outside. Tried to walk to school but my head went fuzzy. Fell over. Came home and cleaned myself up. Have been trying to sleep it off. Mostly worked.”
“I’m sorry, sir. It won’t happen again.”
“If you’re ill, Adam, then you did the right thing. Do you think you’ll make it to school tomorrow?”
“Yes, I think I will be alright.”
“We’ll see you tomorrow then. Don’t forget to bring your knives.”
“They’re here ready, sir.”
“That they are. Good boy. Get back to sleep, eh?”
“Yes sir.” The door closed, and the man heard small footsteps approach him. He was red in the face, his lung burning for oxygen and when Adam pulled open the sheet that hid him he breathed in hard. “He’s gone now.”
“Good. Good. Yes. God.”
“Are you alright? You seem a bit flustered.”
“I’m nervous, alright?” said the man. “Sorry. I’m sorry. This doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m… you’re Adam, right? I’m Anthony. Tony.”
“Strange,” said Adam, “I’ve never heard the name before.”
“It’s pretty common… where I come from, I guess.” Tony paused. “You’re Adam, right? What are the names of your friends? The other children? Your… neighbours, I guess?”
“Next door there’s
Tony blinked hard, and shook his head. “Annie.
“Or… umm… Brian. Bucky. Bob.”
“What are you talking about?”
“How many children are here, Adam?”
“Twenty-six. Jesus Christ. Right. Umm. How long have you been here?”
“All my life,” said Adam.
“Have you ever left this… this village?”
“No, why would I have to?”
“Holy shit, right, excuse my language. Right. Right. Uh, I’m going to tell you something that might seem completely insane to you, but bear with me, alright? I’m from
“Yes, I do.”
Tony’s brow furrowed. “Where are we now?”
“And where’s the village located?”
“It’s not. It’s here. Nowhere else.”
“Right, but… that’s not right. Because I’m an explorer, right? Always wanted to be one, finally got my wish when I hit twenty, been travelling across the world since… and a few hours ago—it must have been a few hours ago—I was lost in the Arctic wastelands and I kinda gave up and dug myself an ice cave so I could think things through and then tink tink tink--” He mimed hitting something solid with his ice-axe. “I hit metal. And I kept digging. And I found a door. A fucking door, kid. And then I climbed through and you were there… now what the fuck does that mean?”
“There’s a place outside?”
“Exactly. And right now, I think we’re in the middle of some nightmare scenario that just doesn’t lie right with me. Gotta be the government or something. Maybe… I don’t know, the Russians? Or the Iraqis? Fuck, I don’t know, but we got to get you out.”
“And the way out to the place outside is near where I found you?”
“Yeah, mustn’t have been too far.”
“A place outside,” said Adam again. “Another world.”
“No, this world, kid, the right world, and I’m going to get you--” Tony stopped in his tracks. “Uhk.” Something sharp and red in his back screamed out to him. He groped back, but suddenly there was a noise, meat sliced and diced, and he fell to the ground, unable to move. “Uhhk.”
“I’m sorry Tony. But I like it here. For now anyway. And I’ve still got my training to complete. But you’ve given me options! And I like that. I’ll make this quick. You’ve been enlightening to me. Honestly.”
Tony felt the world tumble away and then a moment later he was dead. Adam looked down at the body, and then considered his options, and the open knife case he had removed his bowie knife out of. Last week they’d been taught how to fillet the meat from a man’s bones and dispose of a body. This would be homework.
Ten Years Ago:
Adam was the best student from that day forward. The day that he learned whole new things about the way of the world, and the ways of life on the outside. The outside. The world. Places that weren’t what they were supposed to be, and the idea that this place, the village he called home, the idea that it wasn’t entirely real. A façade. Adam had learnt about masks and misdirection. He could roll a coin from one finger to the next, one to two to three to—and then it would be gone, vanished with a slip and a tuck, and those who saw it, if they weren’t as well versed in the world of distraction, would be wowed and amazed. So what was this place? Was it the coin, or the hand that held the coin? Adam settled on the idea that he was the slice of thin metal, circular and easily obfuscated. In his young heart, the thought unsettled him, and for the first time in ten years, he felt dread. A heavy, weighing emotion, that bucked him in a sea of turmoil. He should have been happy. Contented within himself. He was a pure vessel of intention, but now… doubt. Was that what it was called? Doubt?
Mister Freund was surprised and excited by the way that Adam threw himself into his studies, and the other teachers, Mister Whale and Miss Florey, all agreed with the assessment that this child was borne for greatness. And if they had a part in his training, then they too would become legendary. “Our services will be requested across the world,” said Miss Florey, smiling that paper-thin smile of hers. “And, after all, isn’t that the point of all this?”
They didn’t see Adam at the minutely opened door, his eye blazing the darkest storm of grey through the small gap that had beckoned him forward. ‘And, after all, isn’t that the point of all this?’ He wondered hard about that sentence. He played with it on his tongue. ‘…all this?’
Adam learned about everything they would teach him. He absorbed diligently, and for two years, he knuckled under, became the best of the best. He excelled in every class that was taught. His ability to fight with a knife was incomparable. When Mister Brown slipped—for just a moment—Adam took full advantage of the fumble, and nearly sliced him from ear to ear before he realised numerous things: He’d get bloody for no reason, that the move was unnecessary; and that his teacher did nothing to deserve a blade through his windpipe and glancing his spinal chord. He didn’t deserve it. Then who did?
He asked Mister Freund later that day, after Mister Brown had gone to matron and had his neck stitched back together. Just because Adam had held himself back a tad, just because he’d not delivered the killing stroke, didn’t mean that it wasn’t a bastard of a wound, and the class was dismissed because of it. The other teachers looked at Adam then, and the expressions on their faces… was that pride? He asked Mister Freund the question that had rattled about his head for the past two years now.
“Why am I being trained to kill people?”
Mister Freund was taken aback by this question. The way his bottom lip pouted forward, and back, and forward, as he tried to calculate a response that would not shatter this ten year old’s psyche, that wouldn’t ruin all the work that had been put into this project…
“Because,” he said-- ‘because’ being the best way he could figure to start the most awkward of sentences-- “some people are very bad people, and they need to be killed. To be removed from the slate to keep it clean. If people aren’t killed, then bad things happen to good people, and we wouldn’t want that.”
“Right,” said Adam, nodding. He understood. He understood that by the way Mister Freund fidgeted at the most inopportune moments that he was lying, that his body language had betrayed him because he’d taught Adam too well. The way Mister Freund’s eyes moved, the way his lip shifted, the intonation of the words… Mister Freund had lied to Adam, and that was the final straw. “But what happens, if, say, you kill someone, and it feels wrong? That you regret that decision?”
Freund tilted his head to the side, and leaned forward to Adam, smiling sympathetically. “Whoever you kill deserves it, Adam. Emotions like that don’t matter.
In the proceeding days after Adam had escaped, the teachers, head and all, didn’t know how the child managed it. He was ten. When they stripped the house bare, they found that there was grave beneath the kitchen floorboards containing the decomposed body of someone they didn’t have on their records. And behind a wall, in Adam’s bedroom, were scraps of material and lint. They sealed the house up a week after Adam had left. They never mentioned him again. They didn’t need to. The entrance into the village was sealed, and though they sent thermal imaging drones out across the arctic wasteland to find a trace of the young boy, they eventually resigned themselves to the fact that he was dead. How could a ten year old boy with no equipment survive the trek to civilisation?
How indeed? Tony’s equipment did the deed. The thick overcoat was too big for Adam when he first acquired it, but over the intervening years sine Tony had died, Adam had made some slight adjustments, and it covered his body adeptly. Adam kept rations from dinner for the last three months of his life in the village, and made sure that he bottled enough water to last him for however long he thought he’d need it—he realised, during his hike across the tundra, that he didn’t allow for distance and exertion, a lesson he learned fast, and had to rely on melting chunks of snow in the ice-caves he carved out into the depths of the frost. The exit from the village was still where he had assumed it to be, by the brook, and when he opened it using a key-card he’d palmed from Mister Brown during the throat-cutting incident he was taken aback by the freezing wind that engulfed him.
He was resolute. He’d come this far, planned this far ahead… he trudged out into the snow, and carved a tunnel to get out into the open air. When he emerged, the winds howling and the snow thick and suffocating, he grinned. His face went numb in the cold, but the goggles allowed him to see everything that was visible, and he was ecstatic. He was outside. In the world.
The teachers believed him dead. Mister Freund believed that the fact they didn’t find the body meant that he could still have made it, but the others simply disagreed. “Impossible,” said Mister Whale, “he probably dug himself a snow-cave and died. In a hundred years we’ll find his perfectly preserved corpse, and he’ll be a warning to anyone who comes after him. The frozen failure.”
“The perfect student,” corrected Mister Freund. “If anyone, anyone mind, from the class survived out there, who would you have puts bets on it being?”
Mister Whale ran a hand through his perfectly slicked back hair. Strands clung to his fingers, but he didn’t seem to notice. He was always the one who seemed to have it together most, back in the old days. Now, he had grown fat, and complacent. “No one can survive the outside. No one. That’s that fucking idea.” He craned his neck back, exhaled hard. “We lost one. We write him off.”
“You make it sound so easy,” said Mister Freund, waving him away.
“What?” Mister Whale spun around, and grabbed Freund by the shoulder. “What did you say?”
Freund slapped Whale’s hand away from him, and Red brought his fists up. Freund jerked his wrist forward and back, and a thin, razor sharp blade was now clutched tightly in his hand. “Remember the rules, ‘Mister Whale’,” Freund said slowly. “This here ground we stand on is protected. You throw a punch and I get to kill you fair.”
“Don’t,” started Whale, angrily, “don’t aggravate me, ‘Freund’. It’s not right. We’ve all invested a lot of money, and a lot of time, into this project.”
“We’re still fine,” said Miss Florey, watching the two men still squaring off against one another. “He’s one kid. We’ve got twenty five left. I prefer that number anyway.”
“I prefer…” Freund’s hands rose up next to his head, and the knife slipped back down his cuff. “I prefer it if we moved on. He was a good kid, but there was something…” He paused, and then shook his head. “We move on.”
Meanwhile, I finally finished the first chapter of a project I mentioned a month or so back... keep reading...
Sunday, 5 September 2010
-- Irving Layton
I read this quote at this link, on Katie West's blog, and I fell in love with it, and have to share it with you, too. So yes. Quotes. Love them as I do.
TO COLLECT, GO DOWN TO BOX OFFICE AND GIVE A CLEAR DESCRIPTION
I wonder if anyone will notice? And pin it on me? I hope not... but a man stands by his grammatical principles, even though they, at times, elude him.
Friday, 3 September 2010
Wednesday, 25 August 2010
The woman—her face creased and aged like a mother whose child had just thrown a tantrum in the middle of some public place—was wrenched back in her movements, and looked back at where her hand, and Danny, had come to a stop. “Okay, fine. Do you know what a psychopomp is?”
Danny hadn’t heard the term before. It scratched at the back of his head like a scab, but he couldn’t figure out why. “No, I don’t think so…”
“It’s a spirit guide. When someone had unfinished business on this plane of existence, a psychopomp helps them restore order to their soul. Your soul, by the way, is a mess. What do you remember?” She leaned in close, and her breath smelt of nothing. There was a void from within her now without, and he moved away at her question. “Well?”
Danny looked down at himself, and then back up to the woman. He hadn’t remembered he was a priest before she had shown him his uniform, and then the memories came back in drips and drabs. His mind was a mess, a storm that obscured the facts and made focusing difficult. He was running on instinct, acting how he thought he should act, not knowing if it was the way he would act. Was this him?
“Not much,” he admitted, “and you… I don’t even know who you are.”
The woman smiled, and the creases were ironed out from her face, and she was young again. “Well, I’m your psychopomp. I am the spirit guide that will let you find peace.”
“Do you have a name?”
The woman arched an eyebrow, and considered the question. She looked as if she’d never been asked before, or didn’t know, but then, after a moment of her eyes drifting from one side of the room to another, she settled down, and nodded. “Call me Z. Yup. Let’s go find who killed you, yes?”
Saturday, 21 August 2010
"I'm looking for Father Clark?" he said, and wondered why he posed it as a question. He was looking for Father Clark. No need for a heightened intonation, no need for verbal question marks. "He was brought out a few minutes ago?"
The coroner's eyebrow cocked high, and his head lolled to his shoulder lazily. "Whadayamean brought out? And minutes? He was brought in over an hour ago. Who are you?"
"I'm a friend of the family, of the church, and when I heard he had been shot-- murdered--! I had to come see the body, had to mourn the passing of a dear friend." The words were horrifically artificial. Terribly emotive but without any glimmer of content behind them. Words to create resonance. "Is he here?"
"No. Not for you to see, not now, not right now, so you can fuck right off, I'm afraid. You ain't allowed down here without a pass, and I don't see nothing of the sort on you. And who do you think you are, traipsing down here all dressed in white? What are you, some kind of pimp? Get out, get out right now before I call security."
The man-- he was not a man but he was in the shape of one-- exhaled, and clicked his heels as he turned away from the main autopsy room. "You, sir, will die in three years, from a stroke. You will be sat on the toilet, get up, feel your face drop and your arm sting and you will gargle and gag and fall head first into your un-flushed refuse. It will take a few minutes for you to pass on. You'll go mad first, of course, as your brain starves for oxygen, and the ordeal will feel as if it were an eternity. And then you will go to purgatory, because I do not like the way you have spoken to me, and will put a word in with St. Peter."
"Alright, fella, fuck the fuck off right now, why don't cha?" The coroner pushed the man up the stairwell leading up to the exit, and shook his head. "Fucking nut." He then headed back down to his lab, and to where the body of Father Clark was waiting for him. The corridor ricocheted noise back out toward him, and when the doors to the autopsy room swung open and smashed close, the noise suddenly cut out. On the table was a smouldering corpse, mostly charred skin and blackened exposed bone, and the lights had all started to fizzle and flicker. "What the fuck?" whispered the coroner, before something hit him hard on the crown of his skull and he blacked out. The last thoughts that crossed his mind were 'what did he mean, 'three years'?' and then darkness and silence, as the world kept turning.
"What's happening to me?"
The girl smiled gingerly. She moved her long fringe out from her eyes and tucked it behind her ear, and then her smile shifted into something else, something much serious, much more business-like. "You were shot in the back of the head, after an hour's worth of torture. You should be glad you only remember the snap crackle pop of the gun shot, else you wouldn't be as upright and forthright as you are right now. Speaking of upright..."
Danny blushed, and grabbed a cloth from another autopsy table. It did little to hide anything. "I'm dead? How can I be dead?"
"Try surviving a head shot, and then tell me, yes?" she laughed, low and throaty. The laugh made her sound old, older than her years, like she'd been smoking since she was conceived, but when she wasn't laughing her voice was like sweet honey, and god, if Danny wasn't dead right now-- "But I'm afraid you are dead, Danny. Deader than disco. I mean, the rules aren't what they were, and you're double yourself, a bit of a hollow, but alive is alive, if you're talking."
"You're talking in riddles, and I don't like that, and I keep..." He dropped the sheet, and moved over to her. Modesty was forgotten. If he was dead then what was the point? "I can feel you fumbling around inside my head. That's you, isn't it? You're making me think things I don't normally think, and I can't say--" He sniffed, a hard inhale, and the smell of chemicals and preservatives diced hard in his nostrils. "--I can't say I like it."
"Those thoughts? Oh, don't think that's me, don't make assumptions, because you make an ass out of you, and you alone. What else kind of thoughts do you think you're going to have, Danny? You're dead now. Normal rules don't apply. You're free to think however you want to, without boundaries." Her smile grew larger, dimples at her cheeks, and he felt her hand wander down. "Do what you want." Her head leaned back, and she grabbed his hand, and moved it between her thighs. "To who you want."
Danny pulled his hand back in abject horror, hesitated a moment, and then took a step back, his now erect penis just out of reach from the woman. "This isn't me, this isn't happening, I can't, I won't--"
"You've lived a short life of celibacy and politeness, Danny. Or, perhaps, do you prefer Father? Father Clark? You lived a devout life and you found out the truth in the gutter, that man isn't good and a bullet in the brain-pan is as good a way out as any. You're dead, and you're here, and aren't you wondering why?"
"That's all I'm doing!" hissed Danny, as he looked around. "Where are my clothes...?"
The girl held up a clear plastic bag containing all his personal effects, and waved them about from side to side. "Come on, padre, lighten up."
"I'm dead! I died! I was shot in the back of-- of the head--" He looked down at his corpse, the hole in his head and the crevice in his throat, and then shuddered. "And you're here-- mocking me-- and I don't--" He snatched the bag away from her hands. "Who are you?"
"I'm your guardian devil, Danny," she grabbed him by the hips and hitched herself forward. "Here to tell you about the world, and where you stand in it."
One minute ago, meanwhile, Danny's eyes began to focus. Focus on the hanging orb of light above him, focus on the fact that-- Danny jerked up from the table, and scrambled with terrified fingers at the back of his head. No, no, he was fine, he wasn't-- he checked his throat, and went to speak, but thought better of it-- he remembered before, before the bullet in his head, and how his throat was a scabby meat whistle, sending spittle and blood out instead of words. He couldn't bear that
sound again, could he?
"No," he whispered, and he smiled-- a sure fire sign, he thought, of being alive, before looking down, past his body, and to the corpse meat below-- where Danny Clark-- he-- was still lying, his modesty decidedly un-modest, his throat an open wound, and, if he dared to take a peak, a bloody void where the back of his head should have been. "No," he repeated, his smile twisted inside out.
"Rough times," said the girl who had mounted herself on the gurney opposite. "Bad way to go, worst way to wake up."
There was a pang of embarrassment-- Danny was naked, his cock shrivelled and sluggish from the pang of cold in the morgue-- but it soon passed. This girl-- barely in her twenties, if-- was wearing a fishnet top, her pierced nipples clear for the world to see, and a short black skirt. Her eyes were shadowed bright blue, her thin lips a shade darker. There was a smile there, a twist at the corner, and Danny didn't know what to think-- She didn't seem to mind the cold, and her lips smacked as Danny looked up from looking down.
"Where are your manners, Danny? Eyes up."
"What? No, ugh, sorry, wait, no, no, not sorry-- what the fuck is going on? And why the fuck am I-- am I alive and then.. there? There on that fucking table? Shit! Shit!"
The girl shrugged. "Luck of the draw, innit? You were dead but now you're alive."
"What? How does that-- what the fuck are you talking about?"
Monday, 16 August 2010
Friday, 30 July 2010
Probably what's stopping me doing everything else. Time, effort, all this stuff that comes with getting any kind of project out. Wanting! Wanting is so hard to muster a lot of the time what with work being draining and not having much else time for the stuff that's important to you.
Zenith! has stalled but is just waiting on Raj to get back so we can hack at the final draft of the première issue at our Editorial Meetings. I know that Zenith! will be out by the end of the year, and sure, it might come out on an irregular schedule, but it will come out. I can't wait for... #3, I think, which we decided would be our "evil issue". It's going to blow your mind. Hopefully. I mean, this delay after delay thing is all on me, I lost my drive for a few months, and I feel like it affected working with Mort and Raj, but I know it's got to be done, and I'm psyched for it. Hopefully with that coming out it'll lead to enthusiasm across the board.
My novel is being edited. Don has said that hopefully by the weekend he'll have some notes for me. Which is a start, and what I need to get excited again.
Craig told me that The Lucifer Cage (re-re-named back to what we originally intended after a slight deviation before my US trip) is moving forward, and that I should get the scripts sorted, which is fair. We shared an awkward moment about the [last] new name, wherein we just looked at each other, looked away, and I just said: "I don't think that's a good title, I prefer the old one." and Craig said: "Yeah, we'll figure it out." And we did, and it's awesome again. Phew.
So yeah. I could do stuff. I just don't and it gets me down, ha.
Thursday, 15 July 2010
The heat here is stifling. Anyone following my Twitter feed will see my rampant complaining about that. the thing is, this place, Cortland (in Syracuse, in New York state) is in the middle of nowhere, pretty much. Means you can't escape it. And there's no AC in the dorms, you're reliant on fans. This place hurts my sensibilities. Hopefully New York, New York will be better! And the plan is to meet up with Craig, so that's exciting. But this place is just too staid and stifling for my liking.
Tuesday, 6 July 2010
The stranger had the most majestic of plans, ornate in craft and conceived brilliantly on the scrap of yellowing paper he had handed to Mueller. "But friend, why do you need this?" He had asked, pouring over the specifications with the eye of an enthralled student, rather than the master the stranger claimed he was. "What purpose does it serve?"
The stranger smiled at the question with his thin lips, twisting at the corners like a cat in the night. "Because it is required in the world. A doorway. But the door itself will come later. I have plans for the door, don't you worry."
"I do worry. Constantly. A character flaw, I'm afraid, one I work to remove from my repertoire but consistenty fail at. But if you have plans, who am I to question them?"
"Precisely," the stranger had replied, and it did not make Mueller feel comfortable. Not one bit.
A month went by. And by the end of the month, with the wood carved to perfection, the only tarnish the blood Mueller had spilt in it's creation, the doorway was complete. Mueller couldn't help but impressed by his work. The way the frame twisted and wrended around itself was astonishing-- Mueller would not have believed himself capable of the work if he had not carved it with his own two hands. The ornate carvings he had been directed to introduce folded in on themselves, and if Mueller had an eye for ancient languages he would have read the true reason the frame was built. But he did not, and his ignorance, whilst blissful, did not last long.
"It is beautiful," said the stranger, when he arrived holding a small basket, a chequered blanket obscuring the contents. "Truly, a work of a master."
"So you say. When will the door be introduced? I would wish to be present, to make sure everything fits."
"It will fit. The dimensions of the door itself are..." The stranger considered the words, and then smiled as he settled. "Fluid."
"And what do you mean by that?" asked Mueller, tentatively.
"Ah, to tell, but to show..." said the stranger, slowly peeling off the blanket on top of his basket. "Close your eyes."
Monday, 5 July 2010
Flight was awful, cramped and hot, child crying for the father that had abandoned his family for a first class seat. Got no sleep thanks to that band the fact I was sat in a flying metal casket.
The taxi rid to the hotel took just under two hours, give or take. Literally crashed on arrival in the hotel, slept from 5pm till 1am, missed the 4th of July celebrations (apparently they were brilliant, but hey, was exhausted).
This morning I trekked from the Marriott Hotel to Georgetown, over the Key Bridge (it's fucking long, and the sky is shooting death rays down The minimum heat is the maximum back home), and was wondering why everything was closed. Maybe later it'll open up, I dunno.
Right now I'm sat at the bar (go figure) waiting for it to open. Should I even bother trying to get served? A) I'm underage here, b) they dont serve cider and c) it's, what, 11am? Pssh...
Apologies for poor punctuation and the like, I don't think I'll ever get a handle on this damn QWERTY.
Thursday, 1 July 2010
Increduluos things, I'm sure.
(Yeah, the new producer wants to cast a certain somebody as Cupid. Think about it.)
Monday, 28 June 2010
--From "American Gods", by Neil Gaiman
I live by this concept.
Sunday, 27 June 2010
It was a built to specification by the master carpenter Klaus Mueller, after twelve bottles of dark rum shared with the stranger that visited him every Sabbath. He did not know the name of the man, just that the stranger bought word of the outside world to the small town that Mueller had lived in all his life, and that was enough for Klaus.
"Klaus, you are the greatest carpenter in all of the world, but you have never truly crafted something that changed anything, have you?" said the stranger, his thin black lips slowly moving across his harrowed, pale face. "Masters must be exhibited, masters must share their work, but you sir are content to build whatever is required, not what is... 'needed'. Needed to be shared, needed to be seen."
Klaus smiled at the compliment-- this man was of the world, was he not? Though with words so golden and a tongue so silver, surely they were lies, but the conviction...
The majority of the stranger's features were obscured by the burgundy cloak he wore, draped over his shoulders and drifting behind him as he moved amongst the chairs and tables of Klaus Mueller's workshop. He arrived before dark and left in the night between the clink of glasses, leaving Mueller with nothing but a scant knowledge of the outside world and a hangover that would kill a lesser man.
The two men were sat around an oak table that Mueller had been working on for the past week, their glasses caked to the surface because of the alcohol spilt during their toasts. It was a long silence between the two before Klaus replied, a hanging moment of thought put into the mysterious man's words.
"What do you suggest then, friend?" said Klaus. "I could, perhaps, build a monument to my supposed genius, to draw the crowds to this little hamlet of a town I call home."
"Or..." said the stranger, considering the words as they left his mouth, "I could make use of your talent for a project I've had in mind for some time now..."
"Is this what this has always been about?" said Klaus, "your visits here to my workshop, leading to this moment?"
The stranger shrugged nonchalantly, and his smile twisted for a moment. "Perhaps, but I know talent when I skill it, and I have need of your ability."
"What is it then?" said Klaus, "what would you have me do?"
"A door. Built to my exactest specification."
"A door?" repeated Klaus, incredulously. "Is that all?"
"Not even that... the door itself... the door shall present itself soon enough. But the frame, the framing for the door, and the hinges on which it will turn... that would be your challenge."
The stranger grinned. "Did you think it would be easy?"
For the majority of my US trip, if I do get online (I'll try and figure out other things to do, and hopefully, I'll succeed), I'll come on here. Might abandon my Twitter for the month and see how it goes.
You never know, eh?
Saturday, 26 June 2010
-Grant Morrison on "Marvel Boy"
So I've settled on my current (current because this kind of thing is always shifting, I'll always find a film that usurps a previous high scorer, that's the nature of these lists) All Time Top Five Favourite Films, and they kind of breakdown like this. I'm well aware that one is a double-header, because I wrote it, but I don't care... these are the kind of things that are allowed when it comes to a personal list. And what are you going to do? Take me to the List Commission?
I thought not.
So, it breaks down like this: High Fidelity, Star Trek (2009), Ghostbusters (1), The Royal Tenenbaums/The Darjeeling Limited (newcomer, joint) and Chasing Amy. Some obvious choices there, obviously if you knew me, but some surprises, I'm sure.
High Fidelity has always, and will always appeal to me on so many levels and the whole narrative just sings (that was an awkward pun, right?), so that's always gonna be No. 1 (with a bullet), and I will ignore any disparaging remarks hurtled in its direction. This is the one book adaptation that takes massive liberties but is still true to the pure spirit of the novel-- that liberty being transplanting the story from London to Chicago-- the only one for me, that is.
I wasn't sure about it before but the sheer blatant enthusiasm that the crew had for Star Trek makes it a gem of a thing, something that is both sentimental and nostalgic whilst striving forward into the future ready for anything. They're no longer beholden to any kind of established continuity like the previous films, something that I think scuttled the success of The Next Generation film series. These characters and concepts are firmly entrenched into my childhood so something that is so "modern" and so "new" and still has that gut punch effect that stinks of pure nostalgia trip? An obvious Top Five entry.
The first Ghostbusters was nigh perfection and the main cast play off each other wonderfully, effortlessly even, I adore it on so many levels. The dialogue, every single line pretty much, is quotable, and Bill Murray just... well, this film made me want to see more of him, and I know that's such a naive and n00bish thing to say, but I don't care. I love the actor, I think he can do anything, and it was this that made me strive to see Lost In Translation (a near miss for the Top Five). This is the root of every single great comedy film of the 90s and beyond, I'm serious, and without it we wouldn't have had some great films. Four [sort of] average guys fighting the forces of evil. What's not to like?
The Wes Anderson double-header is a new development but a welcome one; there's just something about his films that once again connects with me. I didn't really think about it before, but The Royal Tenenbaums is greatness, a perfectly structured story, and sure it can come off as elitist and snobby with how it's shot, and how the characters are written, but I don't care. Wes Anderson's direction in that film was nouveauSOMETHING and I don't know what, he's an auteur for sure, but the fact is... The Darjeeling Limited didn't feel completely like one of his films-- and I'm not saying that's a bad thing... Anderson seems to temper his own eccentricities into a mighty thing, and it flows like nothing else.
And as much as I love Dogma, Chasing Amy is a perfectly small and taut love story that stayed with me from first viewing and that's all that this kind of thing is about, full stop. I'm not even distracted by Ben Affleck, who I find to be a complete and utter moron of an actor in a majority of the stuff I've seen him in. He ascended from Indie Royalty into Hollywood Heartthrob then he vanished, and sure, I've heard his recent films have been great, but this is what *made* him great. The dialogue isn't too heavy, and what other film could have granted us the line "What's a nubian?" Oh my. Oh me.
So yeah, I puffed that up a bit, but that's where I stand right now.
What's your All Time Top Five (for right now)?