Saturday, 31 December 2011

Charlie's Massive 2011 Blow Out Post

I've rather quite abused this blog the past year or so. I always want to commit to working on it, having some kid of through line of consistency, but I wasn't able to keep that due to other commitments. Whatever, life is hard, etc, etc, but wishful thinking and all that.

Back in January of this year I wrote my statement of intent for 2011 (check it out at No Future For You; 2/1/2011) and I look back at it now and I realise I failed in a lot of things. I wanted to do 5 things over 12 months, and I packed all but one of them in pretty early, I think. Those five things, to sum up: 1) Get Zenith out 4 times a year. 2) Self publish first novel, finish second and third. 3) Make Zenith! viable across the board, not just as a hobby. 4) Work harder and 5) Move away from home.

Well I fucked all those up, don't you think? Zenith! is cancelled. Rajiv moved to Dubai, and sure, we've been talking about bringing it back, and we got to talking in December, but it took me two weeks to respond to an email about the name of the magazine, so how on Earth am I going to be able to commit my time to the project? Hopefully, fingers crossed, I can come back to it down the line, but what's the point?

I can't even get my novel out and done, I don't even want to go through self-publishing it (because isn't self-publishing almost like admitting defeat before you've even fought the battle?) so how am I going to co-ordinate a bloody magazine. Shameful, maybe, but I need to have enthusiasm, I need to be able to get something done, and I haven't been able to do any of that. I haven't even finished all the fanfare required around the first (chapter-by-chapter breakdowns, more on that later) let alone got my second and third in a position to start... damned irritating. I've worked hard. I know that. I worked damned hard. Again, more on that later.

And... I still live at home. That's not a bad thing. That's not terrible. I'm saving to move out, but it's slow going. I got a raise (two raises!) this year, so I'm happy, I'm able to save, I'm going to be able to move out soon enough. Just got to keep my head above the water.

So I made some faux-resolutions. Framed them by saying "I won't make resolutions, I'll make plans and just do these!" and then I didn't fulfil them at all. I don't believe in resolutions, like I've said everywhere. They're just promises you make to yourself that you don't feel bad breaking. I want to move out by the end of the year. I probably won't be able to by the end of 2012 but I'm saving toward it.

I'm working on the others that I can. I'm going to keep working hard (no reason not to, and I enjoy my job, so why wouldn't I? I want to go far) and I'm going to keep chipping away at novel things. I kind of need to there. (Again and again, more on it later). So, Charlie, the plan is: Don't make plans. Try your best. If you do that then you're not letting yourself down. Eh. We'll see how it goes.

This year has been hard, but at the same time, it flew by. I started a new job in November of 2010, and I'm still there, still doing well (I hope) and still promising to get better. It feels like home more than the cinema ever did, and not only does it feel like home, it feels like there's a future there. I like that. At the cinema... you just kind of wasted away. Did the same thing again and again. Managers had a go at you for some perceived slight, you took it, you accepted it, and you did the same thing again and again. Horrible existence, and I'm sorry to all my friends still there. But I'm out. I got out and I got others out at the same time, so that's all right, I think.

I wanted to do some kind of grand summing up of the year, but thinking about it, I don't know if I can. I'll just keep talking into the wind and see what happens. The problem, I guess, is that I don't know where the year went. Work was insanely busy for the most part, and this whole "9 to 5"-esque mentality (which was in fact 8 to 6 most nights) took me completely by surprise. It was good though, don't get me wrong, I worked like a dog, and I enjoyed very minute of it, but a year went by like nothing else before it.

And now it's New Year's Eve. A day (event, some might  say?) that I absolutely loathe. NYE is a night that you should have someone there for you. The worst feeling, the most horrible feeling in the world, is to be surrounded by happiness and not having it for yourself. And sure, that sounds selfish, whatever, but when the clock strikes 12 and the crowd has finished shouting down "10, 9, 8..." and everyone embraces and you're just... stood there... God, I've lived through that enough times to know that I don't need to. I'll be at home. Sure, it doesn't help that I've acquired some kind of awkwardly timed end of year cold, but I guess I'm lucky like that. Now I have an excuse: 1) I hate NYE. 2) I can't stop coughing and my voice sounds like my throat has been accosted by a cheese grater.

What did I do with my year? I finished the blasted novel. I got it into a place where I just had to say "no more" and separate myself from it. Then I did the story synopsis and then the chapter-by-chapter breakdowns. Then the shit hit the fan:

1) The editor I met in May at a party who had been quite receptive to my emails and my asking of advice didn't respond to an email. Now, this could be for many reasons. a) She might not have received my last email, and she's at this very minute waiting to hear back from me. b) I wasted her time. We met in May, I got the thing into a shape in, what, August? So I don't blame her. c) She wasn't a real editor. I think it's probably more the middle option than than the former and latter. I took so long to finish the bastard thing that she stopped caring because I kind of stopped caring too.

But I digress.

2) I lost the chapter-by-chapter breakdowns. I spent a fevered night doing them. A blurb of every single event in the novel, broken down by chapters. I did it, was ecstatic. Finally, I thought, real progress. And then when I opened them up a couple of weeks later... I found that I had overwritten them with the bloody time-line I had started writing to keep track of everything. So I lost all that, and I need to do it again. I couldn't leap back into it straight away. It's heart breaking to lose progress, it's absolutely soul destroying, because you've poured yourself into words and typed them out/written them down, and then they're gone? God, I don't know how anyone else can do it. I break.

In the end, it helped, I think. I started adding to the narrative, coaxed about the word count over 100,000 (which amazes me, because I didn't think that was even possible) and then I got it to the place I was happy with. I could keep writing the thing for years but I don't know if that would make it better or if it would just make it bloated, so there came a time I just thought... No. I'm done with it now. All I need to do is commit the time to getting the chapter-by-chapter breakdowns done and then I can work myself up to actually sending it off to publishers. Why not? It's done. I want to make a career out of this. Better to put myself out there then just kind of... waste it.

I need to own this poster.
I was considering doing some kind of "Top Ten" countdown of things from 2011 but I can't really be arsed. That said, if you were to see any film in 2011, it should have starred Ryan Gosling, who was just amazing in anything he decided to be in. Drive was my favourite film of the past 12 months, it had me gob-smacked and speechless by the time the credits were rolling. It was beautifully shot, and the level of sublime photography lulled me into a completely false sense of security for when the explosions of violences took place. Gosling was amazing, Carey Mulligan was as good as she's ever been (Mulligan is consistently one of the best things in the films she's in. I remember her in Doctor Who, way back when, "Blink", and she was brilliant). Everything came together, visuals, soundtrack, score-- the work by Cliff Martinez was inspiring, I thought-- everything, and I have never been happier with such a sad, dark film. You really happy to see it.

I didn't read enough this year. I read comics, sure, but no one counts them, even if they are something amazing. I feel like I should have read novels, epics, something to keep the brain sparking and going, but there was nothing out there that really piqued my interested. That said, I had my annual American Gods reading, which  is always rewarding, and I picked at other things to. I believe that my lack of reading impacted my ability to write this year. I had long periods of being unable to do anything, no inspiration, no ability to write anything. When I read, be it an Encyclopaedia of the Supernatural, be it American Gods or others, I wrote like nothing else. The two go hand in hand. You want to write? Read. Simple. I started plotting a grand old story, something that would work brilliantly as a television show. I was chipping away at that, but really, I think what I was more interested in was the potential of it, the stories that could form around the concept, so I spent more time staring at a blank screen than writing the actual stories, but separate from that, I spent more time writing ideas down to come back to later. It was fun, but not really effective, I think.

 I have tried to get my life in order these past few months. Removed myself out of situations that might be toxic to me. But this hasn't even worked. If anything, it's like I've amputated aspects of my social life, but the problem is... and I've said this before and I've said this elsewhere... I don't meet new people. I don't get to right now, due to the nature of my work and the hours inherent to that, so if I meet someone new I enjoy it very much, but because I don't... well, I don't. Life goes on.

I thought I would have more to say but I guess I don't. 2012 should be good. I hope it is. I don't want to make any promises to myself, but I'll try, none the less, to make it better. I'm writing this-- and have been writing this since the morning-- as more a statement of the year. It went no where, which is unfortunately. I guess as posts go, it could be worse. And as "end of year" posts I've read worse (no I haven't, I haven't read any)...

Screw it. Happy New Year. We'll be back here at the end of 2012, but until then... let's make the most of what we can.

There is one quote that I keep close to my heart and in my head at all times. I'm considering getting it as a tattoo some day, but where? And why? Tattoos, in my mind, should be something eternal and resolute, and I don't know if I could handle having something like this on my skin forever. Not that I don't love it, not that I don't adore it, but... have I ever been one for tattoos? Nah.

"Gods die. And when they truly die they are unmourned and unremembered. Ideas are more difficult to kill than people, but they can be killed, in the end."

--From "American Gods", by Neil Gaiman

Exeunt!

TateShots: Maurice Sendak



For posterity, I'm posting this here, too.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Don't Call It Grunge.

I wrote this on the 11th November 2011, but never wrapped it up. So here we go.

You've heard this opinion a hundred times before from smarter folk than me.

There were four bands that came out of Seattle in the late eighties. Nirvana, Soundgarden, The Screaming Trees and my personal favourite, Pearl Jam. I watched Cameron Crowe's beautiful documentary Pearl Jam Twenty earlier, and it got me thinking about the grand scheme of things, and it made me revisit my own history with these bands.

The greatest legacy, of course, is from Nirvana. And I don't quite get it.

Kurt Cobain was the poster-child for the entire "alternative" rock movement that surged into the early nineties. The mass media called it "grunge" but I'm not going to be so naive. I was the fan of Nirvana I was bred to be by popular culture. Nevermind came to me late in the game, but I was an avid listener of their MTV Unplugged because how can you not be, and their black "best of" was never far from my CD player.

The Screaming Trees came to my attention through Mark Lanegan's collaborations with Queens of the Stone Age. I could never get into the Trees own music, but Lanegan's dark, dulcid tones had me enamoured. There was a vulnerability to Lanegan's voice, something that drew me in even as it haunted me relentlessly. You have to respect that.Queens led me to The Mark Lanegan Band but never much further. I had to be in the right mood for his sound, and it was never a particularly good mood.

Soundgarden were radio darlings for a time, Black Hole Sun a video that crept up on me when I wasn't expecting it to, and it scared my fragile child self into submission. I never had much time for them until recently, with songs like Fell On Black Days and the aforementioned Black Hole Sun ringing true with me.

But the best of all these, the band that have never ever let me down, were Pearl Jam. There was something about Eddie Vedder's daddy issues that made his music so brittle but at the same time so resilient. "I-lived-through-this-suffering-and-now-look-where-I-am". I love the sound, I love Eddie's voice, and I can't get enough of it. To be honest, I prefer their earlier stuff, but who doesn't when it comes to bands? Earlier almost always means better, and it kind of reinforces my point about these four bands coming out of the same place at the same time and sharing a common ground but going to a different place each and every time.

I was trying to think about Kurt Cobain earlier, and it struck me that the best thing, in my eyes, that he had ever done, was MTV Unplugged. Everything else before that was perfunctory, unnecessary. The definitive versions of some of Nirvana's best loved tracks were performed there and then. I can't remember Cobain's voice like I can Lanegan's or Vedder's. Do I want to? No. I think Nirvana were overrated, but they helped bridge a gap between the alternative and the mainstream, and it's helped so many bands since. You can't knock that.

Cornell recorded a James Bond* theme, for crying out loud, so he's done well out of the whole thing.

*You Know My Name from Casino Royale (2006), COME ON GUYS.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Lady Gaga's Marry The Night


Watching the opening to Lady Gaga’s video for Marry The Night reminded me of the worst faux artistic tendencies that I’ve seen way too many times before. Seen it from ex-girlfriends trying to be edgy and ironically pretentious, mostly. Overblown statements pretending to mean exactly what they’re saying when what they’re saying is vague and shit. And I say ex-girlfriends like it’s a plural but it’s one and it’s embarrassing and it’s juvenile and I don’t know I was really expecting. It was all well and good when I was 18 and all I cared about was people knowing that I was listening, trying to care, trying to be invested in what people say, but nowadays if all that’s said is this kind of… bourgeois pretension… then what’s the bloody point?

Beyond that, I do quite like this song. Muh muh muh muh OH GOD ALL OF GAGA’S SONGS ARE THE SAME OH RAH GA

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Dream #1

I'm vaguely aware of Alphas and I think I just had a dream regarding the show. Nothing too concrete, just concepts and ideas that stemmed from catching a few too many promos for it and not taking the time to actually get into it.

I think they're doing it wrong, of course.

In my dream, the framing sequence is the introduction of the "mutated" folk through an interview with the POV character-- a police detective?-- and the history of the program being given like that. Characters include a telepath/an invulnerable geek kind of fellow/super speed loser. Their training would be shown, including a scene with dozens of zombies linked together and they have to get to the other side... the geek catapults himslef to the other side... then there's a room of zombies (I don't know how zombies came into it) they have to get from one side to the other of, and the person who is directing the team, who has watched them suffer, who has been in their heads, she decides to help, goes around distracting zombies and twatting them in the head... and then the POV character would say that's all well and good but why has HE been called here.

Some mutated folk were trained differently. They were let out into the world, adopted, and the world shaped them. The detective (hyper-intuitive), the olympic swimmer (hyper-metabolism), the fireman (fearless), etc. The core group of characters, really.

The detective is one of them. He's shocked, but things make sense to him (thanks to his deductive reasoning powers). What he  also wants to know is why the scientist in charge of the program is so battered and bruised...

Six mutated subjects escaped recently. Horrific mutations with names taken from nursery rhymes... The Spider ("...Itsy Bitsy..."), The Wolf, The Headsman, Hansel & Gretel... and they're going to kill everyone because they hate humanity for experimenting on them. The Spider is the ring leader of this group. He induced a change in the subjects, made them shed their skin and break free from their bonds-- nano bonds?-- and unleash hell. They destroyed the labs, killed dozens of the more passive subjects and the scientists, and then left. All apart from The Spider. The lead scientist arrived in the lab and found it in chaos. The Spider was waiting. The scientist picked up a discarded weapon, hides in a toilet cubicle, while The Spider monologues. The bullets ricochet off of The Spider, who mocks the scientist as he tears the door off the toilet. He then proceeds to take a DNA sample of the scientist and then one of himself. He swaps them and injects a into b and b into a.

The subjects are all the scientist's children-- he experimented on himself decades ago and his power was his super-power giving biological make-up. The Spider contaminates his body with his own DNA, twisting any potential super-children into copies of himself-- genetic clones?-- so no more can be made. And with the scientist's DNA in him... The Spider might be able to breed super-powered creatures (imagine a story where a pregnant woman is found in a hotel, her bloated, stretched belly bursting with dozens of mutated foetuses...).

So. The detective needs to bring these monsters in. He needs to take The Spider alive so they can undo the genetic damage done to the scientist so the program can continue. He intuits that the DNA might be changing the scientist but chooses to trust him, and then he assembles his team!

So that would be the story. Dollhouse-meets-Alphas?

I could write that.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

nuGoogle

I don't know why Google is trying to make all these changes to its user interface. Gmail looks awful with it on, Google Documents is worse, and now Blogger is uniform to that. I don't like it. I'm just not a fan. We'll see how it goes, eh?

Saturday, 12 November 2011

guilt trip

One of the perks of my job is when I visit a school I get an allowance for dinner.

It's a simple enough perk; go grab some food, hand the receipts in at work and get the money back. It's not much, but it's nice, so why not?

I visited a school in Birmingham last Tuesday, but it took so long that I didn't get to eat anything when I was there. It was a great meeting, got a lot of stuff done, and the school were really enthusiastic and open to what we were talking about.

I got back into Leicester close to four, and I thought... I should probably eat something. I had missed breakfast, I had only been given a school dinner dessert at the school, and I was jonesing for something to pick me up. I wandered down Granby Street in Leicester, because I hoped to grab a baguette from a little place near the train station but unlucky for me, it was closed, so I kept walking.

I wandered in and out of some cafes but nothing really appealed. On my way into the centre I found this odd little place that was self service: you chose what you wanted to eat, weighed your plate, and then paid at the till.

The problem?

I was the only potential customer there. The two people that were working there, a man and a woman, leapt to attention when I walked in. And I hated it. I hated it because the onus was suddenly put on me to be the customer. When you go into a place that looks like it does well, you don't mind leaving, but this place... it had the look of being recently set up. Anyway, the man behind the till was Asian, the woman who approached me was Polish and she was 'the host'. Her grasp of the English language was great, but her ability to pronounce words was severely lacking ("vegg-e-tab-uls") so my heart dropped. Don't get me wrong, she was nice enough, she walked me through the food that was on offer and the two of them took the lids off all that was offered, and they were genuinely nice about the whole thing.

To be honest, the place was a bit depressing, but something in my head clicked and I felt awful about the whole thing, this place, open in the middle of the day but empty, the look of a place that was more than likely always empty, and I had wandered in, and they were so pleasant. So I sat down, ladled some cruddy looking good onto a plate, and paid.

The food was passable. But I've had this gnawing guilt in my chest since, I've felt bad for not enjoying it, I've felt bad that they're not doing too well, I've felt bad because I was the only person in there. Shit, I only paid £4-odd pounds and they had prepared all that food... and I don't understand why this is affecting me so much. I feel really bad and I don't know how to exorcise those feelings.

But this always happens. If I see an elderly person struggling to walk down the street I feel bad. When I see people alone I feel bad. I don't talk to someone for a couple of days, I feel bad. I cut people who have caused me pain out of my life and I feel bad.

Why am I the person who feels bad constantly? Why is my life one constant guilt trip? I don't understand. I don't know how to get on with things. And anything and everything eats away at me.

Pah. I don't know.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

get down, make love

I have Chapter Seventy Six of my novel floating in my inbox, waiting to be attacked. It demands a massive rewrite. Just need to find the right time. I have this niggling want to incorporate a sex scene but it strikes me as potentially ill-placed... But then it makes the earlier sex scene a weird punctuation point, without a thread of thematic/stylistic continuance in the novel.
Problems problems.

nightmare fuel?

I'm listening to Nine Inch Nail's cover of Queen's Get Down, Make Love and the intro is pure nightmare fuel.

Amazingly, brutally haunting.

Thanks Trent :l

Monday, 31 October 2011

Lolita

"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul."

I'm reading Nabokov's Lolita for the first time and I can't help but feel that it is only-- nothing more-- than a "romanticisation"-- a defence-- of paedophilia. It is quite up front of it's taking of the wrong side of the argument and the 'foreword' is clearly disgusted with the subject matter, but it is three hundred pages of rationalising a perversion.

I'll keep reading but I doubt this is going to turn around for me. It already feels like a trawl of pseudo-poetic/pretentious literature.

I'm not doubting the skill and finesse of the writing, don't get me wrong, but I am simply struggling to get over the simple fact that Lolita is about a man's love of a child who is in turn seducing him.

It's an awkward position to be in as a reader. I want to respect and enjoy this 'classic' but something in my brain is preventing all those things.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

1960s

There's something about the aestheric of the 60s, The Avengers, The Champions, Department S, etc, that really piques my interest. The look of the characters, the way they act, you can't get away with the stories you told then if you put them in a modern setting. Makes you think what you could do with those haircuts, those fashions, those characters, if you wrote something along those lines now.

1960s and all.

Maybe I'll find out?

Island of Terror: Department S

Island of Terror: Department S:







Of all the ITC action series, ‘Department S’ is my favourite. It is helped immeasurably by introducing the immortal Jason King, of course, but it is also tautly scripted, superbly acted and well written.

The central idea, that Department S are brought in when Interpol are baffled, was a fairly familiar one, but this show did something with it, relishing in portraying bizarre cases with equally odd conclusions. Storylines included an airliner touching down without either passengers or crew, the assassination of a dummy, the murder of a man with a clown’s mask glued to his face, and an astronaut who appears on a busy London street and suffocates inside his suit before anyone can help him.
Jason King, the novelist playboy with a sad past, would be a memorable character under any circumstances, but the casting of Peter Wyngarde in the role is pure genius. It’s easy to like Jason King because he’s camp and silly and has fantastic hair but there’s more to him than that: yes, Wyngarde occasionally plays it for laughs, but he gives a nuanced, complex performance that transcends his moustache and trousers and shorty dressing gowns. He’s a marvellous creation and only Wyngarde could have made the character so interesting. He’s one of my heroes.

From the very interesting and absorbing Island of Terror blog, reposted here for inspiration's sake.

Halloween Viewing Options

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Just a thought

You want someone to fight for you, isn't that always the way?
Someone to stick up for you, sure, but when you're worried... Someone to make you feel like everything is going to be okay.
Even when it's not.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

"I still want to be friends" is a horrible sentiment and holds no water when the person saying it doesn't reciprocate your attempts to talk.
Goodnight.

Rakshasa - 7 pages

Not been able to focus on this for any amount of time since I first started it, but here are the first seven pages (4,100 words) of Rakshasa, the first in what I hoped would be a series of occult stories starring a "base character", similar to how you can throw the Winchesters or The Doctor or other "anthology characters" into a situation and have them float.

“Marie? Are you awake?”

Marie snored in response to Caroline’s entrance, a gruff, raspy snore that made Caroline swallow a laugh. The dormitory that Caroline shared with Marie was pitch-black as she entered. When she usually got back from the library at the dead of night, Marie was usually on her laptop, surfing the internet or working on some essay or another. But as she gently crept inside their bedroom just after midnight, there was no light to guide her in. She contemplated groping toward the light switch, but if Marie had turned in early, then Caroline would be dead girl walking if she woke her up.

As quietly as she could manage, she put her laptop case down on the chair next to the door, and then, trying not to step on anything, Caroline began to undress, tip-toeing toward her bed. She kept one eye on Marie’s duvet as it shifted and moved as the occupier drifted from dream to dream, and the other on her own as it beckoned her to climb under and be swallowed up by the warmth.

Caroline had been at the library for close to seven hours, and she had always told herself that spending longer than six hours in a row was putting her in the danger zone. The extra hour was spent tying up the few loose ends in her essay, and it was during that transition period between the-time-that-she-should-have-left and the-time-when-she-did-leave was a queer one. Fellow students whom she recognised drifted in and out of the aisles in various states of disconnection. Barry from Eng Lit was blinking every second step, like he was consciously forcing himself awake, and any deviation from that step-step-blink, step-step-blink pattern would result in him falling over there and then. Rebecca from Lang didn’t blink at all. She sat down opposite Caroline for three minutes—Caroline counted—didn’t blink once, and then stood back up and walked away.

Caroline closed her eyes and focused on letting the weight of the waking world evaporate. A few seconds later, and she was asleep, all her troubles gone for a couple of hours, at least…

When the morning rolled around, and Caroline slowly opened her eyes, she was surprised to see Marie staring down at her. “Wha…?” Caroline rubbed the sleep from the corners of her eyes and shuffled up against the headboard of her bed, and looked her at her roommate with a mixed expression of confusion and tiredness. Marie was sat cross legged on the left hand side of her bed, and she was positively beaming. “What’s got you up all peppy?”

“I broke up with Dan,” Marie said.

“Really?” Caroline began to grin. “No wonder you were sleeping so easy. How’d he take it?”

“It was weird. More of the same, actually. I told him he had shut me out for months now, that he wasn’t letting me in. And he just stayed… blank. Completely unresponsive. I got my stuff together from his flat but before he left he grabbed me by the arm and said,” she cleared her throat, and affected a quiet, husky monotone, “‘don’t leave me Marie, you don’t want to do that’,” she smiled, and shook her head. “Like that was going to stop me. I shrugged him off, got home, and went straight to bed.”

“Wow, at least he put up a fight,” said Caroline. “An epic fight, worthy of your relationship! At least he can go back to his darling Sam, right?”

“Yeah, yeah, I get it, whatever. But he used to be so nice, Cay. Remember when he was nice? When he wooed me? When he used to take us both out for dinner? Remember when he cared?”

“I think so… maybe…” Caroline stroked her chin, and then sprang up from her covers. “We can go get drunk now! We can go get drunk and frolic and… what time is it?”

“Half eight.”

Caroline shrugged. “Well, I’m going to go back to sleep, but after twelve? Drunken frolic-ness.”

“Sounds good,” said Marie. She climbed off Caroline’s bed and fell back on her own. She closed her eyes and grinned from ear to ear at the feeling of freedom that had been shooting through her veins since the night before.

Dan was nice and all when they started dating, but after a few months he began to get distant, seemed to space out during their conversations, seemed to stop giving a shit about anything that was going on in the world. Marie had tried to get through to him. She blamed herself for a while, but after a month or so of that she realised how fucking stupid that was, and started blaming him. So she sat him down and tried to talk it through, because that’s what adult human beings do, but he blinked, and nodded, and that was the final straw. At Caroline’s constant suggestion, she went to his flat, dropped the b-word on him (breaking up, which Caroline freely admitted to Marie when she made the original statement of suggestion was indeed a phrase and not a word) and was gone.

When Marie woke up three hours later, that feeling was still there. She sat up straight in bed, looked over to where Caroline should have been, ready to bark at her for letting her sleep through her feel-good vibe. Instead of the playful banter she intended, Marie instead let loose a blood-curdling scream that shook the building she lived in down to the foundation.

The entire right had side of the bedroom was a bloody mess. Caroline’s desiccated corpse was strewn amongst the sheets, though there was something inherently wrong with the way she looked. Marie screamed and she screamed, and it was the sound of her own voice filling her ears and the curtains of red that were pulled across her eyes that stayed with her as the other girls in their dormitory came to see what was going on…

“This makes no sense,” said Detective Chief Inspector John Coolage. It was two hours after the call had been made to the police. They’d mobilised fast, the best officers were on the scene, but even getting there so fast, even having half the department in one room working the scene, it didn’t mean that the crime made any more sense. “The victim….”

Todd Matthews had been a Scene of the Crime Officer for ten years last February, and as much of a cliché as it was, this was beyond anything he’d ever experienced before. This case was going to be a rough one, and it wasn’t just the pints of blood covering the ceiling, walls or floor that clued them into that. It wasn’t just the fact that this woman was mutilated while her roommate slept soundly beside her. It wasn’t just because this massacre took place in the bright light of day. There was something more.

Their suspicions had been aroused when the coroner went to take the victim’s liver temperature. It was an impossible action, considering that there was no liver present in Caroline’s body. The liver wasn’t the only internal organ missing. The young woman had been disembowelled, a clean, twelve inch gash from bosom to groin opening her up for the world to see. Two slabs of skin and meat were peeled back, and inside her body was nothing but dried blood and bone. No lungs, no kidneys, no liver, no nothing.

The coroner, Lana Silke, was still in the room, stood in the corner, grasping her chest as she breathed in and out slowly. “Skin and bones,” she said. “She’s all skin and bones.” Silke was cresting into her fifties, and even with her near thirty years worth of experience on the job this was a horrific sight to behold. The pain in her chest was sudden, and the shock to her system at a mere glance of this crime scene sent her reeling.

Collage pushed forward with his thinking, verbalising the thoughts that crossed his mind. “So we’re looking for someone with a surgically precise knowledge of anatomy?”

“Maybe,” said Detective Sergeant Richard Laddy. “Look here,” he loomed over the corpse, and pointed to the upper most point of the bodily incision. “There. See that?” There was a nick on Caroline’s flesh, trapped by rigor. “That looks like someone pressed their finger nail in. A hesitation mark, or maybe a statement of intent. ‘This is what I’m going to do to you, so don’t you dare look away’. If I wasn’t a sane man, I’d suggest that this was done by someone’s bare hands.”

“What?” said Coolage.

Silke approached the body once more. “Where her… where either side of her was pulled open, can you see the bruising here?” She pointed with a pencil to the space beneath Caroline’s breasts. “That’s pre-mortem. That was done while her heart was still beating. It’s not the kind of bruising you’d get from a clamp, it’s what you get when you do this:” She held her hands out in front of her, and then drew them to the equivalent position on her own body as the bruises on Caroline’s. She clenched her fists, and with imagined effort, wrenched them out to either side of herself. “Someone opened her up. By hand.” She kept one hand out, but the other moved around over her stomach, before she mimed a thrust up over her sternum. “And had a rummage.”

“Medically trained steroid freak, then.” Laddy scratched his cheek, and shrugged. “Not impossible. Just improbable.”

“Have we any reason to suspect the roommate?” asked Coolage.

“Have you seen her? A waif. I don’t believe she could do such a thing. Besides, she’s distraught. I’ve never met someone whose as good an actor as that.”

“You’d be surprised,” said Coolage, knowingly. He exited the crime scene and wandered down the corridor to the room where Marie was sitting, a cup of tea clasped tightly in her shaking hands. She was as pale as a sheet, and her eyes were red with tears. Sitting next to her, hugging her close, was a female friend, the person whose room they were sat in. “Marie, how do you feel?”

“How do I--?” Marie shook her head before she continued. She took a breath, and then exhaled slowly. “My best friend is dead. How could… who could… what…”

Coolage placed a hand on Marie’s shoulders, and squeezed softly. The tension lifted ever so slightly, but Marie was still shaking, still a nervous wreck. Any suspicions that Coolage might have had evaporated. This girl couldn’t have done anything like this. Her hands were small, her fingers tiny. The bruising on Caroline’s flesh would have required a man’s touch, heavy hands and deadly intent. He didn’t see this in Marie. “I have to ask, and I know it might sound like a silly question, but did Caroline have any enemies?”

“None that I can think of… I mean, she pissed off our lecturers, handed in coursework at the very last minute, always… always pushing her luck, but that’s the extent of any… anything that she might do to anger anyone.”

“She was brilliant,” said the girl next to Marie. “She didn’t deserve anything like this.” Marie sobbed, and the girl hugged her a little bit more. “I’m Sarah, by the way, sir.”

Coolage nodded, and scribbled something in his black notebook. “Any ex-boyfriends? Girlfriends?”

“No, Caroline kept to herself.” Marie took a sip from her tea, and realised that it was stone cold. “I can’t think, I’m sorry.” She thought for a moment, and Coolage watched whatever idea that had run itself through her mind take effect. “My… I broke up with my boyfriend last night. Daniel Phillips? It’s not… it’s something, maybe? Not that I think he’s capable, but with… I…”

Coolage saw a twitch above Marie’s eye when she mentioned her boyfriend. He made another jot in his notebook, and then smiled apologetically. “I understand. Right, is there anyone in town that you can stay with?”

“She can stay here, if you want?” said Sarah.

“I’m not sure that’s a great idea, Sarah. This is the scene of a murder. I’m going to be talking to the Dean about getting everything out of here for the foreseeable.” He cleared his throat, and turned his attention back to Marie. “Any relatives around here?”

“I have an Uncle; he lives above his shop in town. I can stay there… I’ll call him in a few minutes.”

Coolage took a small card from his pocket and handed it to her. “If anything occurs to you, even if it’s the smallest thing, don’t hesitate to give me a call, any time of the day or night.”

Marie took the card and nodded. “Thank you.”

“I’ll have one of our uniforms drive you to your Uncle’s. I’m afraid you’re not going to be able to go back into your dorm for the time being, it’s all evidence. Sarah, you couldn’t lend Marie some clothes to get her on her way?”

“Me? Yes, yes, of course.” Coolage beckoned a waiting uniformed officer inside the room, and then made his own way out. He’d have to follow up with Marie when she was more collected, more together. Asking her questions now wouldn’t do her any good in the long term, and this whole thing was messy. But the boyfriend. That would be a place to start. He knew that much.

The police officer drove Marie into town, and stopped out front of Beckon’s Antique Books & Curiosities, a brilliantly murky looking book shop that was tucked away just off the main road of the town. The journey was spent mostly in silence, and Marie was happy not to answer any more questions. She’d barely had time to process what had happened.

“Do you want me to wait?” asked the officer before she climbed out of the car. It was the first thing he’d said since asking where he was to drop her off.

“It’ll be fine,” Marie replied. “He’s never not here.” She managed a smile then, and the officer returned it. He clambered out of his side of the car, skirted around to hers, and opened her door for her. “Thank you.”

Marie had a medium-sized satchel bag over her shoulder, filled with a few odds and ends that Sarah had collected for her before she’d left. She had a few bits and bobs kept in the spare room of her Uncle’s flat, but it was good to have some options. Before taking another step, she wiped the tears from her eyes and entered her Uncle’s book shop.

The bell above the door jingled, and she smiled at the familiarity of it all. When her parents were running around doing their white collar, high flying stuff, she would stay in the flat above this place with her aunt and Uncle. Her aunt had been dead three years now, but her Uncle still soldiered on, and she could tell that her visits were a highlight by the way his downtrodden, weather-worn face opened up into a smile when he saw her.

Before she said anything, her Uncle sprang from behind the counter piled high with recent acquisitions, and engulfed her in a bear hug. Papers fluttered to the floor in the wake of the sudden movement, but no one commented, and no one cared. “Marie, I heard the news, are you alright?”

“I’ve been better,” said Marie. “I just… it was horrible, Uncle. I woke up and she was…” She sobbed, and crumpled into his arms. “She was right next to me and I didn’t hear a thing I couldn’t do anything about it and she’s dead…”

“Hush, my girl,” he said softly. “This isn’t your fault, not at all.” He squeezed her tight, and then walked with intent to the front door of the shop. He locked it up tight, flipped over the Open sign to read Closed, and then turned back round to face his niece. “Come on, let’s go upstairs. I put the kettle on when you rang; let’s get you a cup of tea.”

Marie didn’t sleep especially well that night. Her dreams were red and painful, her subconscious throbbing with the pain and anguish of the day. Marie dreamt that she was a little girl, wandering the aisles of her Uncle’s book shop. She found her way to a secluded corner, where a glass case contained the prized tomes that sold—when they were found by a discerning customer—for hundreds of pounds. First edition Dickens’, Shakespearean manuscripts, all sorts of papers and collections. But the thing that always captivated her when she was small was the tiny rectangular card in the middle of the collection, a curiosity amongst curiosities. The yellowing card was embossed with a collection of words and numbers, and she didn’t understand why it was so fascinating to her as a child.

“It says,” her Aunt had found her, young Marie, wandering the monolithic aisles, and picked her up with one arm. It was always strange remembering her Aunt Claudia. Before the cancer took her she was stronger than anyone Marie knew, and it absolutely killed Uncle Bernard to watch all that strength dissolving in the face of her illness. “‘Richard Faraday, Ghost Detective’,” she wrangled Marie over her shoulders, so they could both loom toward the glass cabinet, and peruse the treasures within. “And that number, you see that? Disconnected.” There were nine digits, and it didn’t resemble any phone numbers that young Marie had ever seen. The concept fascinated her. “But they say,”—the identity of ‘They’ didn’t matter in the context of the story told to Marie, the mystery was addictive—“that if you’re caught in the middle of a particularly weird or mysterious crime, and the police can’t help you… they say if you dial that number, that a man will answer, and save you from whatever ails you.” Her Aunt smiled, and then vanished from the dream. Little Marie, previously sat on her Aunt’s shoulders, fell into darkness, spinning and spinning. She aged a decade in seconds, and then there was a crashing noise. Marie opened her eyes and she was in her dormitory. Across from her was Caroline, disembowelled, bloody as all hell, and then, in the darkness… laughter…

Marie awoke with a start, drenched with sweat, breathing heavily. A moment later, her Uncle was in the doorway, in his dressing gown, a look of concern spread generously over his face. “I heard you scream, are you alright?”

“I didn’t even…” Marie pulled her knees up against her chest, and breathed as best she could. “Bad dream.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“I dreamt about Aunt Claudia.”

The expression on Bernard’s face shifted into what was nearly a smile, but melancholy and the weight of her passing transformed it into something else entirely. “Oh.”

“It wasn’t bad, that bit, that wasn’t bad. This place… was home to me, more than with my mum and dad, you know that. It’s full of memories, and they’re all good.”

“Don’t tell your dad about that,” said Bernard, as he sat in a rocking chair next to the door. “So… how did she look?”

“This is Aunt Claudia,” Marie smiled. “She looked beautiful.”

Bernard nodded, and Marie pressed forward with the retelling of her dream, before it slipped away into the ether where the memories of night spent sleeping go by morning. Bernard watched, and listened, not saying a word. When she was done, Bernard stood, and perched himself on the edge of the guest bed.

“I called that number, when Claudie was ill. She loved the story, you see. When you’re in trouble, you call this mysterious number, and someone will ride to the rescue. She loved it. It was the last night, before she went away…” He paused. Marie knew how hard it had been for Bernard to lose Claudia. They completed each other, and now, him living without her, it was like he had lost a part of himself. Like he’d lost a limb or a lung or something inherently required for him to continue living like a human being. “I called, and then… and then nothing. The number doesn’t exist. But when I told her about it, when she was lying there, dying, she smiled, and held my hand, and told her that there were bigger things going on out there than a woman dying from cancer. I think she believed it. A ‘Ghost Detective’.”

“John Lennon said he would believe in anything until it was proven not to be real. I prescribe to that philosophy.”

“I’m sorry to say… your Aunt was always a Ringo fan.”

“Heresy--!” said Marie, before the two of them burst into laughter. They settled down a few moments later, though Bernard laughed a while longer than his niece. He wiped his eye, and then stood. “I miss her, Uncle Bernard.”

“So do I, everyday.” Bernard turned to her, and smiled reassuringly. “But I believe she’s watching over me, everyday. And I believe she’s watching over you, too. You should try and get some more sleep. Do you want me to leave the light in the hall on?”

“No, it’s alright. Thank you, though.”

Marie closed her eyes, and tried to drift off. She had a sneaking suspicion that she wouldn’t be able to get anymore sleep that night, the talk with Bernard had put any chance of her losing her worried mind to rest. She drifted off almost without notice.

“Marie.”

Marie’s eyes opened slowly. The voice was soothing, familiar.

“You’re not safe, my darling.”

“M’safe,” Marie mumbled.

“It’s not going to stop until it finishes the job.”

“What finishes the job, Auntie?” Marie was half asleep, but as soon as she uttered the words she fell into full consciousness. Even with the curtains drawn the sun shone through. It was morning. She looked around the room, and realised she had been dreaming again. “Weird.” No one could blame her, she thought. Her best friend had been murdered. Torn open and emptied out. She looked to her bedside table, where she’d left her glass of water, and was surprised to see a yellowing piece of card tucked under the coaster. “No,” Marie whispered, “not possible.”

The card read, as clear as day, Richard Faraday, and below that, Ghost Detective. The phone number that she’d last seen in her dreams was below that. She looked at the curtains and inhaled sharply as the shape that was just visible amongst the rays of sunlight that were sneaking into her room. Her Aunt Claudia was standing there, dressed in flowing white, an expression of concern boring down at her niece.

“Marie, it’s not going to stop until it finishes the job. You can’t do this alone.”

“…Auntie…?”

Marie looked down at where the card was, but it was no longer beneath the coaster. She dropped to the floor and began to search, but could find any trace of it. She pinched herself and yelped, and then realised what that meant. Marie fell back on her bed, and shut her eyes tightly, wishing the phantom would go away. She told herself it wasn’t real, it was a figment of her imagination, and when she looked at where Aunt Claudia had been standing in all her ethereal glory... there was nothing.

The next time Marie saw her uncle Bernard was before the shop downstairs opened. The postman had delivered a pile of mail orders from across for some of his more regular clientele, and Bernard was sorting through it all, making sure everything was as it should be. “Good morning, Marie. How did you sleep?”

“What is this ‘sleep’ that you speak of?” said Marie, with a laugh. “I’m okay.” She lifted up two cups of tea, and motioned one toward her uncle. “Two sugars?”

“You remembered!” Bernard gulped down the first draw of his tea. “Look, I don’t know what you want to do today, what with… all this. But I was hoping… maybe… you could mind the front while I do some restocking? There are gaps on the shelves that I just find embarrassingly, and I’ve not had a chance to do anything about it recently.”

“Of course,” said Marie, “I used to love playing shopkeeper.” She settled down behind the counter, and then opened the till, checking that Bernard had already filled the slots with cash ready to give change out as and when. “Flip the Closed sign, Uncle. Let’s get this show on the road.”

Saturday, 27 August 2011

The Doctor is back so... Let's Kill Hitler

This was to be the beginning of a weekly feature on the website Infinite Ammo but due to clashes with the editor there I've had to step away from the site and set shop up here again. It's frustrating really, but sometimes these collaborations aren't a good fit. Eh. Check it.

On 27th August 2011 Doctor Who returned to our screens after a Summer-long hiatus to-- we hoped-- wrap up loose ends from the mid-season finale A Good Man Goes To War; fill our bellies with the time-travelling antics of the last of the Time Lords, the Girl Who Waited and the Last Centurion*; and generally be the show we expect it to be. The question is... did Steven Moffat, show-runner and head-writer, deliver?

This entire feature is littered with spoilers, so be aware, I'm not pulling any punches!

PREVIOUSLY, ON DOCTOR WHO...

In A Good Man Goes To War, The Doctor and Rory Williams are searching for Amy Pond, who was kidnapped by the mysterious Madame Kovarian before the season had even started! For six exciting adventures The Doctor and Rory had been running around on adventures with a "flesh avatar" of Amy-- her mind, her heart, but not her body! With the truth revealed and the flesh avatar destroyed, we discovered that Amy was pregnant, and in the words of Kovarian... "ready to pop!"

Cut to a month later, and we're introduced to Melody Pond, Amy and Rory's daughter, and to the asteroid base known as Demon's Run! The Doctor calls in a spate of favours from across time and space, and lays siege to Demon's Run in his own imitable way, and the day is apparently won! Husband is reunited with wife, The Doctor begins to pick apart the plot against him, and everything seems like it's going The Doctor's way when, whilst looking at Melody's DNA, The Doctor and some of his allies realise that the baby is half human/human Time Lord, having been conceived in the heart of the Time Vortex aboard the TARDIS itself! So after that shocking reveal, we're given enough-- Melody is revealed to be a flesh avatar and Madame Kovarian has already escaped with the real baby during the chaos!

In the aftermath of that harrowing moment, River Song, who claims to be The Doctor’s future wife, arrives on Demon’s Run, and she finally answers the question of her true identity. With this knowledge The Doctor vows to find Melody and boards the TARDIS to begin his search. Amy demands to know who River is and what she said to The Doctor to make him leave, and River tells Amy and Rory that she is in fact Melody Pond. “It's me… I'm Melody… I'm your daughter.” An amazing moment foreshadowed in the episode The Doctor's Wife when the TARDIS, who had been put in a human body, declared: "The only water in the forest is the river."
On that, the mid-season hiatus begins. Rough times, right? Fast forward to now, Summer has passed, so Let’s Kill Hitler!

*The Doctor, Amy Pond and Rory Williams, obviously! Keep up!

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I was initially thrown by the opening of the episode, it was a lightning fast reintroduction to our protagonists as Amy Pond and Rory Williams rush around a cornfield for some unknown reason (though I cottoned on quite quickly) and then nearly slam into the TARDIS. The Doctor is quickly reunited with his companions, and after they reconnect after months apart, we’re hastily introduced to a new character, Mels, Amy and Rory’s childhood friend. She knows about The Doctor from the stories Amy used to tell when they were kids, and so she pulls a gun and demands they get in the TARDIS. What next? Isn’t it obvious? “Let’s kill Hitler,” she demands.


Cue theme music!

The character of Mels is an instantly loud, grating presence that thrusts us into what we think is going to be the main plot of the episode but it’s a great feint on Moffat’s part. He draws us in with a really striking premise: The Doctor versus Adolf Hitler. What could be better? But her suggestion of “Let’s kill Hitler” is soon dismissed as we’re soon reintroduced to the overarching plot point of: Where is Melody Pond? What happened after The Battle of Demons Run after A Good Man Goes To War? We get some answers but typically more questions are asked. I like to think that Moffat actually cleared the board a bit with answers before introducing more questions. A problem I had with Series 5 was the fact that so many questions were left unanswered.

It's revealed in an astounding scene that Mels is Melody is River-- Amy and Rory have been best friends with their daughter their entire lives. So they did give her a childhood after all. They named their daughter after their best friend after their daughter. What. What? Ow. Mels as a character was thoroughly sociopathic through their childhood, but if you don't think about it you just think she's a trouble maker. But her behaviour is psychotic, unrelentingly so. Her actions too, the theft of a bus, the theft of a car. Of course she's going to grow up to be River Song. It's a proto-River through-and-through.

We’re treated to a lot of Caitlin Blackwood this episode, a brilliant young actress who plays the young Amelia Pond; firstly in the flashbacks with a young Rory— who is the ultimate punchbag when it comes to the games of young Mels and Amy— and then secondly as the Voice Interface in the TARDIS which is a wonderful little sequence which features “cameos” from Rose, Martha and Donna. That whole scene put a lump in my throat as the TARDIS hologram Amelia flatly insists "I am not Amelia Pond, I am a Voice Interface." But there’s a hint of her in the voice, in her actions, and the line “Fish fingers and custard” killed me dead. Any scene with the young Amelia in is simply wonderful and I’m always left wanting more.


"Hello, Sweetie!"

Alex Kingston is the MVP of this episode. She’s a tour de force throughout the episode, wringing every emotion she can out of the script and her turn as pre-River Song River Song-- and as a complete and utter sociopath-- is brilliant. This is what happens when you’re kidnapped by a group of villains intent on killing The Doctor. Bad things. The duelling Time Lord-vision between The Doctor and River post-Regeneration was a lovely knowing wink back to The Eleventh Hour. The Doctor sees all and knows all-- apart from when he doesn't! They play it absolutely wonderfully, and it was just one of the many moments of artistic flair through the episode.

The main thrust of the plot involves the capture of the biggest war criminal of all time-- Melody Pond. She's being hunted by the Teselecta, a man-sized space ship with a pint-sized crew, and it looks very rough indeed. They're initially in Nazi Germany 1938 because they too had the thought "Let's kill Hitler", but they arrived too early-- as a time travel authority of sorts, they only insert themselves in the timeline near the end of a war criminal's life, to "give them Hell," says the captain of the ship. Which looks, to be honest, to be an absolutely harrowing ordeal by the special effects that enrapture Melody. The whole concept is intriguing, and the horrible, tentacled "Antibodies" that float around the body are pure Moffat. So polite! So deadly!


"Welcome. You will experience a tingling sensation and then death. Remain calm while your life is extracted."

Rory has consistently been a bit of lightness since his introduction, and I’m reminded again and again why he makes such a great foil for Amy. Way back when I remember asking myself why is Amy marrying this guy? but he WAITED. He waited thousands of year for her while she was inside the Pandorica, and this episode he’s throwing quips every which way, and rightly so. I love him a bit more every time. As much as I obviously fancy Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill plays the not-Doctor with such aplomb! Case in point:

Rory: "Miniaturization ray." Amy: "How would you know that?" Rory: "Well there was a ray, and we were miniaturized."

I could go on and out about how I loved the ending, how I loved the nods and the winks, but I think I’ll leave it on this. The episode is a great reintroduction to the series, and it doesn’t seem to slow down from the opening. I loved watching it and it felt like a lot of ground was covered in a tiny amount of time; I blinked and the episode was over but my head was filled with so many questions, a load of which you’ll find hidden below… but you know what? One last thing. I love how the stakes are raised now. Every episode has the potential to feel like a Season Finale, you know?

OBSERVATIONS & QUOTES:

"Shut up, Hitler." I loved how everyone was really dismissive of Hitler. And rightly so, too?

“The Silence is not a species, it is a religious order or a movement.” I thought they were a group of mouthless memory-wiping creepy-faced bastards! Interesting how things change, I guess? Or were we wrong off the mark? From what we've seen of them already, kind of makes them out to be cosmic Jehovah's Witnesses, right? All suits and what not.

“...What is the question?” “Unknown.” I think you’ll find they’re an academy apparently. The Academy Of The Question? That was a bit obvious, Steven. I wonder how this will play out.

"Never knowingly be serious." Oh, Doctor. Matt Smith just owns this role right now. I'm liking him more than David Tennant with every passing episode.

"At least I'm not a time-travelling, shape-shifting robot operated by tiny angry people, which I've got to admit, I didn't see coming."

"Time is not the boss of you, Rule 408." Loved The Doctor’s rules. Very NCIS.

"Sonic cane!"

"You're dying and you stopped to change?!"

"Never run when you're scared, Rule 7."

"Who is this River? She's got to be a woman, am I right?"

"The Doctor says... I'm a child of the TARDIS... what does he mean?" Oh, wow.

Loving, absolutely loving, the new Regeneration effects. They're so much more beautiful than before. Which MATTERS.

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Hopefully see you next week! Mark Gatiss is writing a story about giant dolls in a kid's bedroom, which is just... horrible sounding. Yay!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Sunday, 7 August 2011

I quite urgently need to wrap up this project, because I know what my next one is going to be.

Need to get my screenplay hat on, it's about to get interesting.

G'night.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Tuesday, 2 August 2011



A man's work is never done.

Have sat down with Sam and worked through the timeline of my novel, and am working on amendments and additions to enhance the plot.

The target now is 100,000 words.

Fucking come on, fucking fuck.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Alan Moore

Used to be, I was in awe of Alan Moore's work. Seminal pieces of literature like V For Vendetta and Watchmen were required reading-- and still are-- for any discerning comic book aficionado. For all his ups and downs as a writer and as a character caught up in his own fiction, Moore was a magnet for good story-telling, and his work has influenced that of dozens since.

Personally, I own a score of his work. You have to, like I said. There are rules. My copy of Watchmen is well thumbed and worn. The sign of a truly enjoyable read (or one that aggravates and angers, but I digress). I'm not going to lay into the storytelling of Moore, I couldn't possibly, he's a great storyteller when he's On, and even when he's Off, he's still majestic with his words. But something has really come to my attention in the past year, and it's caused me to be disgusted by his work.

Alan Moore is past his prime. His diatribes against the "corrupt" comic book industry he continues to work within ring more and more hollow as each day passes, and I'm stuck looking at his recent work and wondering why.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was introduced to me by my dad. It was a thinking man's comic book, and it appealed to his literary sensibilities, and it would serve to act as a bridge between his childhood and my own. My dad, he read comics when he was young, Hotspur, Eagle, the big British war comics of their day. He was the one who introduced me to comic book and so I owe him a lot. LoEG bought us together with our joint anticipation and expectation for the next issue/collection. Volume One was amazing, an action packed tour de force with winks and nods for those who could recognise them. Volume Two was darker, dangerous, but still an amazing read. Then came The Black Dossier and then... and then...

Alan Moore vanished up his own arse.

LoEG became a superbly/poorly tacked together narrative with constant asides to things that didn't really add anything to the overall arc of the story. Maybe it's my naivety, maybe it's my lack of knowledge, but there's references, callbacks, there are winks and nods like I said, but then there's plumbing the depth of the literary world until you're in the darkest, deepest recesses... and then keeping the casual reader completely in the dark as you tell your story.

Don't get me wrong, my problem isn't with LoEG being too smart. I loved the references, but Alan Moore's dance around copyright and his knowing looks to the reader have become a pantomime that I don't really want to take part in, but am forced to due to a-- perhaps ill-placed-- nostalgia for the project.

I love the overall arc. It's great. It's British. It resonates with me and the collective consciousness that I am part of. It typifies the source of inspiration for scores of my inspirations. But there are certain storytelling tics I've begun to notice in Moore's work that scupper my enjoyment.

Mainly, Alan Moore's use of rape as a story telling tool has disgusted me and I won't have it anymore.

Specifically, Moore's apparent hatred of women has ruined my enjoyment of his work to such a degree that I, the consummate collector, have holes in my collection because of it. Moore's work offends me.

It should have dawned on me first when I read Volume Two of LoEG. The Invisible Man's brutal attack on Mina Murray was horrible. Disgusting. I shrugged it off, because I hadn't begun to see the pattern but then in The Black Dossier, Jimmy [Bond] is casually going to sodomise and rape Murray. Then Jimmy goes on to effectively promise Bulldog Drummond that he's going to do the same thing to Emma [Peel]. The latter is a stretch of what I started to notice but bear with me.

This is where it became apparent to me. In Century 1910 Captain Nemo's daughter Janni is gang-raped casually. In Century 1969, Mina is molested while unconscious, and then carted away to a mental asylum. These are massive set pieces for Moore! Whole stretches of narrative are transposed onto these events, depicting starkly by Kevin O'Neil's art.

In October of 2010, I had the opportunity to go to New York Comic Con, and it was brilliant. I spoke to Mike Wolfer at the Avatar Booth, and he was just so kind and great that it really made the day for me. At the Avatar Booth, I purchased Neonomicon #2, Alan Moore's latest comic book project (yet another after he declared his leaving the medium...). I owned #1, and it was okay, it was interesting. Vicious and nasty but with an interesting story behind it, that I can deal with. But in #2, the main character is taken captive, raped, and then is left to a Cthulhulian nightmare for more sexual depravity. I didn't pick up the next issue. Enough was enough for me.

Maybe I'm being too sensitive. Maybe I've developed some double standard. I can deal with violence generally but the fact that Moore's projects are riddled with these horrible events of violence against women... it's become too much for me. How am I supposed to enjoy a body of work that I share with my father when I have to skip over pages and pages of story. I want to enjoy his work, truly, but I don't think I have it in me to forgive him for these objectionable choices now. Before, I could forgive him because he was the best, but I don't have to forgive him anymore. I've surpassed that "expectation". Ask me a good gateway comic and I don't have to name Moore's work anymore. I don't have to go to that obvious well of choices. I can show you Starman or Secret Six or Love and Rockets or countless others.

I wish that Alan Moore would stop inflicting his brand of weird hate on me, and, if he truly hates comics, stop developing them. You might disagree. You might think I'm being too drastic. But there comes a time when we have to say no to the way certain things are depicted in a medium. DC have got in trouble recently because of their complete lack of female characters and female creators involved in their new relaunch. We have a phenom known as "Women In Refrigerators" that tracks all the female characters in comics murdered (named for the way in which the 90s Green Lantern's girlfriend was killed and stuffed... in a refrigerator) and we accept it, because it's become part of the comic Zeitgeist like thought balloons have been removed from it.

Is it wrong that I want optimism? No. And luckily, I have a score of titles to choose from now that give me an option out of the situation I've become trapped in. I want "the greatest comic book writer ever" to not be a complete and utter woman-hater.

Like I said, I might be exaggerating. And I don't truly think Alan Moore hates women. I just wish that his work didn't make that frame of mind so hard to keep. I'll always have Tom Strong or Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow? to remind me of the days when I wasn't ashamed to read Alan Moore's work. That's something, at least.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

"Have you thought what it means to be a god?" asked the man. He had a beard and a baseball cap. "It means you give up your mortal existence to become a meme: something that lives forever in people's minds, like the tune of a nursery rhyme. It means that everyone gets to recreate you in their own minds. You barely have your own identity any more. Instead, you're a thousand aspects of what people need you to be. And everyone wants something different from you. Nothing is fixed, nothing is stable."

Sunday, 10 July 2011

So my 200th post was a review of Warren Ellis and D'Israeli's SVK. That's alright. Milestones are something to someone and something else to anyone. Easily passed over.

I want to start writing again, but I don't know if I should start while my novel is being worked over by a friend. I have an idea for a story, straight forward detective story, no occult trappings, and I'm not sure if I should start it or not. Hmm. I'll make some notes, and see if the bug catches, but until I finish this draft of my actual novel, I'll hold.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

SVK

SVK is a Warren Ellis comic book. The art from Matt "D'Israeli" Brooker is crisp and clean, and the concept behind the project is smarter than anything else available right now.

The titular "SVK", aka Special Viewing Kit, aka Strategic Vigilance Key, allows the wearer to see the thoughts of anyone around him. This is presented as thought boxes trailing from the brain and not the mouth, an extension of the classic comic book tool that has become outdated and outmoded. But instead of anyone being able to see these inner most thoughts, the reader must use their own SVK-- a ultra-violet light that when shined on the pages reveals the thought boxes that have been printed in ultra-violet ink.

SVK 1

Before I continue talking about SVK, a brief moment off topic. I remember a year or so back when Scott Snyder's Vertigo book American Vampire was announced, and Stephen King was involved with a back-up feature that would run through the first arc. I read an interview on The Daily Beast with King, discussing the process of writing a comic book script. King is an old school comic book fan, and his scripts were filled with thought balloons. The following is an excerpt from that interview:
“I got this kind of embarrassed call from the editors saying, ‘Ah, Steve, we don't do that anymore.’ ‘You don't do that anymore?’ I said. ‘No, when the characters speak, they speak. If they're thinking, you try to put that across in the narration, in the little narration boxes.’ ... I think it's a shame to lose that arrow out of your quiver. One of the nice things about the written word as opposed to the spoken word in a movie is that you can go into a character's thoughts. You do it in books all the time, right?”

Apparently, thought balloons are out of vogue with the modern comic book culture. A weird little anecdote, for sure. So SVK embraces this narrative tool wholeheartedly, giving it a modern twist that could have been kitsch and corny, but worked. Reading the thoughts of all these otherwise 2-dimensional characters moved them past what they could have simply been-- boring, staid, undeveloped personalities-- and into the realm of people with dark thoughts and hidden agendas.

Matt "D'Israeli" Brooker is a giant, his work beautiful and well thought out. He carries the weight of the story on his shoulders-- there's only so much invisible ink can do, you know?-- and it's brilliant. Chase scenes flow amazingly, you're there in the flow of it all; fight scenes are kinetic and abrupt-- as they should be. Ellis + D'Israeli (former collaborators on Ellis' 'big break', Lazarus Churchyard) need to do more together. Completely.

SVK itself is set in a Britain post-"incident". Whatever this incident is, we're not given the whole picture. Something big and loud and dangerous happened to the United Kingdom, and everyone's on edge. The main character, Woodwind, is a freelance operative, hired by people who want things doing on the hush-hush. He predicted the incident but his warnings were ignored by the higher-ups in the company he used to work for, and when finger pointing started, he was the first one thrown to the wolves. This act, obviously, made him even more of a cynical, suspicious old bastard that he originally was.

Ellis' main characters exemplify the working class hero, through his work on John Constantine when he helmed Hellblazer, to his earlier work with the creation of Peter Wisdom in Excalibur or William Gravel in the creator-owned Strange Killings series of minis and eventual Gravel ongoing. It enables him to bring his own voice to his work, and for the most part, it works.

The crux of the story is this. The SVK has been stolen, and Woodwind been hired to bring it back. So he goes about it in his own imitable way, but finds that there's more to the SVK than he was first told. It's an intriguing premise, and delivered with the usual aplomb that Ellis usually delivers. To be fair, Ellis has a penchant for going completely off the rails with his projects, his characters becoming grotesque parodies of who they could be. They usually share the same voice, the same sense of humour, and the same personality. It could be construed as a fault with Ellis' work, or identified as his voice, projected loud and clear through whatever the subject matter, but whatever it is, it's tropes like those mentioned that sometimes ruin my enjoyment of his work.

SVK is a done-in-one comic published by design company BERG, and it's a pretty package, beautifully printed and coming with an ultra-violet light. It's compact and sleek and it's everything I expected it to be.

And that's kind of the problem.

Warren Ellis follows a series of tropes in his work. The cynical, hardened "bastard" protagonist. Hard science fiction technology mixing with the real world. The cheeky sidekick. The government being absolutely corrupt. Ellis' work is a product of the era when he started writing comics, back when Thatcher was crazy and genocidal, addled in the brain but hiding it better than Regan. SVK uses every single Ellis trope around. He lifts characters from across his canon and inserts them into a new narrative. Woodwind is Gravel, the same look, the same attitude. Swap "combat magician" with "freelance science-fiction operative" and the deed is done.

The government is corrupt and overbearing, shades of Transmetropolitan bleeding through. They're removing the basic human right of not having someone read your private most thoughts and they'll do anything to get away with it, including murdering the operative hired to retrieve the item that allows you that breach of privacy! The villain of the piece, running a corporation and being devious behind everyone's back... he's The Smiler but sane. Kind of.

I wanted to love this project. I liked it. There was the classic Ellis of sheer beautiful humanity midway between Woodwind's smart arse assistant Bulmer and his mother, and the usual burst of violence that pervades his work. The end was an ambiguous one. Could I read more stories set in this universe? Yes. Was the book worth £10 (+£3 p+p)? I believe so. BERG, with SVK, have revitalised what was considered a tired old narrative tool. The thought balloon has power, when used well. With books from the Big Two (DC and Marvel) the thought balloon is used as a nostalgia tool. I remember Brian Michael Bendis' original Mighty Avengers launch, and the "uproar" when characters had minor asides inside their heads. These are the tools built by the comic book greats of the 30s, 40s, and beyond! Why should comic book writers and editors (and readers!) be ashamed of what came before?

I had an image from a Cho Mighty Avengers issue, but it went away. Bagley fill-in!

SVK was an experiment, and a successful one at that. If I hadn't read any of Warren Ellis' work before it would have blown my mind, but I've read versions of this narrative time and time again. Would a non-fan of Ellis' work pick up this book? Probably not! If a no-name creator had written this it wouldn't have sold out in the three or four days it did. It might not have sold anything; the result could have simply been deigned an oddity of the form. But sold it did, and I'm sure it's being well received everywhere. Deservedly so? At times.

I sometimes wish I wasn't as big a fan of Ellis as I am.

You can purchase SVK here, exclusively through BERG.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

meme meme meme

I might try this some time. But my 200th post (coming next!) isn't going to be dedicated to a meme. Uh oh.

Day 01 – A picture of yourself with ten facts
Day 02 – A picture of you and the person you have been closest with the longest
Day 03 – A picture of the cast from your favorite show
Day 04 – A picture of your night
Day 05 – A picture of your favorite memory
Day 06 – A picture of a person you’d love to trade places with for a day
Day 07 – A picture of your most treasured item
Day 08 – A picture that makes you laugh
Day 09 – A picture of the person who has gotten you through the most
Day 10 – A picture of the person you do the most ****** up things with
Day 11 – A picture of something you hate
Day 12 – A picture of something you love
Day 13 – A picture of your favorite band or artist
Day 14 – A picture of someone you could never imagine your life without
Day 15 – A picture of something you want to do before you die
Day 16 – A picture of someone who inspires you
Day 17 – A picture of something that has made a huge impact on your life recently
Day 18 – A picture of your biggest insecurity
Day 19 – A picture and a letter
Day 20 – A picture of somewhere you’d love to travel
Day 21 – A picture of something you wish you could forget
Day 22 – A picture of something you wish you were better at
Day 23 – A picture of your favorite book
Day 24 – A picture of something you wish you could change
Day 25 – A picture of your day
Day 26 – A picture of something that means a lot to you
Day 27 – A picture of yourself and a family member
Day 28 – A picture of something you’re afraid of
Day 29 – A picture that can always make you smile
Day 30 – A picture of someone you miss
Day 31 – A picture of yourself