Thursday, 16 November 2017

Brighton Days.

 (From my sketchbook.)
Maybe its the dark nights coming in but The far off days of the Leisure Hive recently.sprung once more to mind. The Doctor snoring away on the pebbly old Brighton beach as Romanna tried her best to entertain K9 in her Thomas Mann swimming suit. Or maybe its the imminent release of the partially animated SHADA. Or maybe its just the fact that Doctor Who is never very far away from my mind but I got to scribbling in one of my sketch books.
               Next stop The Leisure Hive on the planet Argolis.
               Although I will pass on a session in the Tachyon Recreation Generator.
               Do not want to go to pieces.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Are You My Mummy?

Blimey, absent-minded or what, forget to say why I liked these 19 Tales of the immortal Dead so much, when it could so easily have been little more than a crusty series of Universal Mummy related tropes (or sadly, misjudged updates like the recent enjoyable if flawed big budget movie of the same name.). More than a dozen and a half tales that thrill and scarify in good measure. As is always the case I had some favorites among the varied stories with a more than usual hit than miss rate as is the usual end result when reading even the best anthologies.
            For instance your own tastes may lean more towards the dark and very original comedy of Bubba-Ho-Tep by Joe R Lansdale, the story which became the hit cult movie.  A rightly beloved slice of Egyptology/Americana. Or perhaps there is The Mummy's Heart by Norman Partridge, a great modern noir writer who has produced some great books and short stories. It is a great novella tucked away in the crispy bindings of this book and has the best chance of breaking out to a wider demographic than the one which would normally be drawn to such an outre collection. A coming of age yarn spawning decades  in the history of small town middle america. ( I do not know if that is an actual geographical location. It has always had a location, a welcome place, in the landscape of my imagination.) if you enjoyed a Boy's Life by Robert Mc Crammon or even the movie Stand By Me  or the Stephen King short story it was based on, then this is the one for you.
              I  also really enjoyed On Skua Island by John Langon . It so reminded me of particular movies of my youth such as the Peter Cushing creature feature Island Of Terror. It had isolated locations and mysterious things long buried that would be better left that way. I have always admired and enjoyed the antiquarian qualities of the work of MR James or EF Benson. And this wee story echoes similar themes in spades. A very atmospheric tale with old school perils given a modern twist.
              I could continue this way, breaking down the individual stories and their deserving reasons for being in the big collection but I would rob you entirely of that element of discovery that has enriched the history of anthologies.
               Get in there. Get dirty and dusty.
               Find yer mummy.
             
   

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Mammath Book Of The Mummy.

Just finished this fantastic anthology of Mummy stories. Some real buried treasure between its covers. All sharing a wrapped nightmare of a theme in a series of stories spanning the ages and locations you would not necessarily associate with anything remotely pertaining to Egyptology. Well, because it was not just Egyptians who venerated their dead in this way.

My Filthy Workshop Of Creation.



                                                               (From my sketchbook.)
Here you go, some more scribbles from my dirty old note books.As I go about teaching myself the alchemical processes by which I hope to bring to life a Promethean being.

Your Tiny Welcome To The Great Big Whole Wide World.


Had the pleasure of seeing the Belfast artist Patrick Sanders exhibition at the Artcetera Gallery this week. Patrick sadly passed away this year. Taking his own life. He was a warm individual whom I had only met a couple of times and was struck by his gentle thoughtful nature. He was also a man capable of many things. Not just a writer and an artist but he performed for sick children as a clown Mr Jumbles. In his time he was also one of the originators of the Outburst Festival, which has done much to bring all aspects of the gay community to the attention of many who would otherwise remain detatched or uninformed. in other words he was a full on adventurer and brave pioneer in this difficult old game we call life.
              The exhibition will be running until the 25th November and the doors are open to all.
              Do pay a visit if you can and maybe treat yourself to a copy of his beautiful and timely book Your Little Tiny Welcome To The Great Big Whole Wide World.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Doctor, We Can See You.

                                            Every thing Ends But Everything Begins  Anew....

Thursday, 2 November 2017

The Skin Of The Sleek.

Oh surely not, it cannot be that time yet, just one more story to go in this sixth season of Doctor Who stories set near the end of Tom Baker's reign as the fourth Doctor( even though we all know it never really ended.) This one is set some time around the time of The Doctor and Romannas visit to the Leisure Hive on Argolis following poor old KP,s rather daft trundle down the Brighton Beach into the freezing sea. Who could forget that opening panning shot along the pebbles of Brighton Beach, the melancholy end of season atmosphere until we reach a sleeping Doctor, all burgundy and snores. I was sixteen years of age and I felt change was in the air although I could not imagine a world where I would not have a Tom Baker Doctor Who story to look forward to. he was my hero, after all.
           The Doctor and Romanna have set down on a very alien world, one with a spongy soggy surface where one will sink if one remains in the same spot for too long. There are native inhabitants, not off this world, who go about their business kept aloft and afoot by the use of balloons. It all has a Lost Continent feel about it which means that this particular Tardis team are able to confidently navigate its surface, they are effective adaptors are The Doctor and Romanna. Despite being completely wrongly attired for the location there is a surprise lurking in the damp shadows; another Galifreyan, one I never expected to see.
             Mostly because I never knew they existed.
             The fruit of the genetic looms of Gallifrey bear very different fruits and Big Finish always deliver a bumper harvest with regularity. Last season we even saw the return of Drax, an old school chum of The Doctor's. although I have often wondered what a "drax2 is in much the same way I wondered what a "Rani" is. Its a Gallifreyan thing I suppose.
               It is another story which feels era appropriate. A legacy this company seem to proudly uphold. And very successfully so I might add.

Grandville.



It has been a while sincw we had a new volume in this absolutely fantastic series of steam-punk anthropomorphic detective yarns. Grandville Noel was about three or four years ago and a superb story it was too, a bohemian tour de force. there have been four to date and each one is a piece of artistically rendered world building that makes me so wish that Bryan Talbot had the time to do one a year. Bryan Talbot's ability to create whole worlds on paper using pen and ink has affected me in much the same way as Herge and his series of Tintin books. I have always understood I am reading stories not set in the real world but for the period of time I found myself between the covers of a volume I was immersed in a world of someone else's making. Bryan Talbot is an alchemist in that regard, sometimes creating pure gold.
            There is a Snowy Milou reference in one of the tales which got me all choked up. Honestly, felt so emotional seeing a beloved lifelong character in such a sad state that was so artfully employed I could not help but choke back a sob. I will not say which book this appeared in as the stories are loaded with bueatifully and joyful "Easter Eggs" I would not wish to diminish the impact for any reader.  I do hope he is rightly celebrated for this remarkable ability. I hear Grandville was once nominated for a Hugo Award which is off course a huge honor. I cannot imagine what may have surpassed his creative vision at that time in that it is not more of a case of describing Grandville as a Hugo Award winning series as it certainly deserves to be thought of with that degree of respect.
               Archibald "Archie" Le Brock is one of my favorite fictional characters, right up there with The Doctor and Sherlock Holmes and Basil Brush.

The White Road.

"Who is the third who walks always beside you?
      When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road,
There is always another who walks beside you
 gliding, wrapped in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
-but who is that on the other side of you?"
T.S.Elliot, The Wasteland And Other Poems.
    
Mount Everest was named after the British Surveyor General of India Sir George Everset. It could have been worse I suppose as one of his predecessors was named Hugh Bottoms.In Tibetan it is known as Chumolungma, Goddess Mother Of The World. Amazing, eh. A region of the world so high and remote and counter intuitive to our existence that after a particular height our bodies begin to die as we climb and breath. The higher ground is the resting place for the bodies of those who have died attempting to conquer a region that allows us to sometimes cross it. No wonder it lends itself to a history of ghost stories and accounts of supernatural experiences.
             Journey To The Dark Side is a fledgling web site which seeks to draw in subscribers using photographs and subscribers created purely to appeal to its viewers prurient natures (Ahem, 90% of everything on the internet.) Simon Newman is a founding member and main contributor to the site. He is a sort of "Go With Noates" for a nightmarish millenial generation in search of the Darkside. In search of arcanna and thrills that will not require leaving the soft glow of a console screen. Simon is a damaged fellow following a harrowing experience with a madman deep underground on a perilous potholing expedition, one he escaped with his life if not entirely a healthy state of being. He is something of a wounded beast desperate for closure through widening his life experiences by perhaps throwing his negative feelings into some comparitive relief. A trip to Everest seems to be just what a bad doctor would prescribe and indeed proves to be the bitter pill he swallows. The things people will do for secure web hits, tsk,tsk. Causing people to go against their better natures.
               Its a book that plays with memories and notions of regrets. It is a story about a damaged man trying to rebuild himself in a haunted realm. The horror is subtle and lingers, like a climb in a high place. The story never gets above itself though, the characters remain complex but very human.
                The stuff of ghost stories.
                                                            Ghosts Of Everest painting
                                                                  by William Besik.

Haunted Bookshelf 2017,



I thought this year I would add a couple of haunted audios, performances perfect for this time of year.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

For Valor.





On a recent visit to Castleblaney , County Monaghan I was kindly gifted a copy of a comic entitled For Valor. It was a comic published in a joint arts and culture project involving Monaghan County Museum, Armagh County Museum and Craigavon Museum Services with financial support through the Department of Arts Heritage, regional, rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. An attempt to educate and entertain telling three stories set during The First World War on the Centenary of it engulfing the world as we knew it. Stories with an Irish flavour recounting the lives of three individuals whose lives were touch, changed and shaped by the events of that frightful era.
             Until now I had not heard about that particular piece of work but was immensely pleased to see comics do their bit. Doubly so seeing an old chum's name; Eoin Coveney on the art chores from back in the day. Eoin worked on a highly regarded History of Ireland with none other than the legendary Will Eisner overseeing. It was actually thanks to Eoin I got to meet the great man and I will never forget that. Every day in my house I see a piece of artwork he did for me; Denny Colt as The Spirit sharing the sage advice; "Do'nt Let The Bastards Grind You Down." Stirling advice from a knight of the medium.
              There are three stories between its covers, Thomas Hughes a winner of the Victoria Cross medal. The highest honor and award for bravery in the British Army. There was also the story of Anne Acheson who was awarded a CBE for her revolutionary medical work during and after the conflict. Then there is also the heart breaking tale, told in letters sent home for his family, of seventeen year old Tommy chambers who dies on the first day of the battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916. Three stories echoing down the years lovingly retold by Stephen Mooney and Eoin Coveney.
               Reading it I learned that Thomas Hughes died in 1942 here in Castleblaney and was buried in Broomfield which was not far feom where I was staying so I decided to seek out his grave and pay my respects.My sistet Anne and I drove out to Broomfield where we found the Chirch of Saint Josephs which we knew was quite close to the burial site. we actually found a graveyard high on a hill which I knew could not be the place. It was too modern, the headstones too recent. it was altogether the tidiest graveyard I had ever seen. As well as the steepest.
                We soon found the right one, graveyard that is, not so far away, across the fields, through a gap in the trees, just about visible from the high slanted one in which in we stood. It was the very picture of an old Irish cemetery, with leaning crosses and gravestones so old the names on them were wiped smooth. Tall Celtic crosses, some carved from stone others wrought in metal, overhung by trees whose limbs and branches drooped with piney mushroomy pathways beneath your feet.  We had to seek shelter under one of those trees as a squall blew up, the day was bright but windy with sudden cloudbursts. As we stepped from beneath its sheltering branches we saw Thomas Hughes well tended and lovingly enscribed headstone. Poppy wreaths had been lain on his grave in respect of his heroic deeds, things he accomplished in the very prime of his life. I paid my own respects and shuddered at the horrors he and his brave fellows endured and hoped that such days would never come again.
                For Valor is a beautifully crafted tribute to a heroic breed, a lovely tribute in memory of the men and women we must never forget. Dark days long ago on fields not so far away.

They All Love Jack; Busting The Ripper.

Or ".. how to close ranks and protect the indefensible at the very peak of Mount Victorian Values..."              This era has been such a source of interest and inspiration to me since childhood it actually pains me to think I may have fallen for a Victorian perception filter and seen things with Victorianna tinted spectacles. I feel as though I have been staring at the decorative lid of a tin of biscuits that promised Garabaldis and short bread treats that when opened reveals its contents as raw meat and entrails to be served up as a sacrificial feast for port imbibing monsters in the Old Boys Network. Scandalous...
             Its a hoary old subject to be sure ( and a "whorey" old one as well I suppose) is Ripperology. I have read a few books which detail this subject as their driving force behind their various narratives and there are a number of different ones about the same subject. All off them going their own way with their own take on the events of that long ago Autumn of London 1888. It is almost as though it is more important to come up with a new skewed view as it is to come up with possible answers to a series of very brutal murders, with the victims reduced to to the level of Cluedo pieces.
              Not so with Bruce Robinson's breath taking magnum opus They All Love Jack Busting The Ripper. Previously voiceless victims are remembered with righteous invective aimed very precisely at the heartless bullies who allowed them to suffer so and to cover up the deeds of their killer because he was one of them. It is a sprawling book eight hundred pages or so long loaded with details and, literally, furious insight.
              I believed in this book. I believed what the author had to say and was doubly horrified by the lengths of the authorities duplicity and connivance.  Never again will any suggestion of a return to Victorian values sound anything less to me than a battle hymn to those cruel and indifferent to the suffering of its citizens authoritarianism. The book exposes an almost Wagnerian roster of corruption, the roots of which extended to every level of the establishment.If what Bruce Robinson is saying is true then the murders were instigated as a mocking slight by a madman against Freemasonry, its tenants, its rituals and most sacred and secret beliefs. The murders when viewed through the prism of occult Freemason mythology are committed in such a fashion as to telegraph to other members of this hallowed order that one of their own's hand was on the killing blade. A playful tease writ in blood and entrails of the most defenseless and desperate women attempting to survive on the streets of Victorian London. It is a terrifying idea and one which embodies the very notion of what it is to carry out an evil act. Evil acts which did not even end after what were previously believed to be the canonical five Ripper murders. It is hard to process such thoughts but worse were to follow. Murders I had not heard off. You see, according to Bruce Robinson, the Ripper killings did not stop with Mary Kelly, the media of that age just stopped reporting them. Turning a Judas blind eye to the bloody deeds.
            It is a powerful piece of work, with a confidant strident voice ringing out clearly.
            I fear when I put this copy on the shelf next to the other books on the subject it might well push them off  laughing scornfully as they tumble spine over jacket.
             Nobody really loves Jack but more than a few love Bruce Robinson.
       

Thrice Upon A Time?

Could this scene from An Adventure In Time And Space be revived and even extended for the Doctor Who Christmas special Twice Upon A Time?  the story itself sounds amazing and I suspect there could be a few other surprises in store. It being the wonderful Peter Capaldi's swan song (After gifting us his all in that most recent series.  Never say last series. Every series is last series.)
             Change is coming..
             But the moment has been prepared for.

Prometean Falling..

                                                              (From my sketchbook.)
                                               " I will ascend to the heavens. I will raise my
                                                  throne above the stars of God. I will ascend
                                                  above the tops of the clouds. I will make my
                                                                    self the most high. "
                                                                              Lucifer The Morning Star.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

The Movellan Grave.

Oh dear, archaeological digs in the doctor who universe usually do not have happy endings. Actually that is slightly off, they normally end well thanks to The Doctor but the road to that end is generally a rocky road paved with human debris. This particular dig uncovers a Movellan spaceship, long buried in the ground, but still viable, which is to say about to become active once more. Bloomin' typical is it not, you do not see a Movellan for more than three decades and suddenly they are all over the place. well, a blink and you would miss it appearrence in the recent Doctor Who episode The Pilot and now a Big Finish Doctor Who fourth Doctor Season Six Story. Hardly all over the place, I know.
             The Movellans being a robotic race are not only long lived but they are also capable of shutting down and sleeping even longer. Perhaps a skill realised in their conflict with their nemesis creator Davros. According to Who lore the Movellans are the enemy of The Daleks. But then again who is'nt. The enemies of The Daleks; that is one long list. The daleks are not discriminating about who chooses to call them enemies. They hate just about everyone. No, scratch that. They hate everyone. At some undetermined point in their mutual combat they find themselves in something of a stalemate. Two evenly capable opponents with shields locked. the doctor suggests this is because of the Movellans and The Daleks shared robotic nature. I think this is something of a mis-statement on his part. The Daleks are not robots. They may chose to make their homes inside retro-Kaledian travel machines but that is more an alien aesthetic choice. Daleks are actually squirming balls of living hate. Which are in fact the words Dalek mothers use to stitch into the name tags of their off-springs gym shorts.
               Oddly, or perhaps not-so, The Doctor first encountered the Movellans during another dig, that one taking place on the planet Skaro and what they found there would have been best left in the dark and forgotten about; Davros himself. I have fond memories of that story. with The Tardis landing in that chalky canyon, the ominous rumbling and thumping from beneath the ground, with Lalla Ward every inch The Time Lady years before Jodie Whittaker was a twinkle in Chris Chibnalls eye. ( You see, it does work!)I remember how exotic and snooty The Movellan's came across. I never considired them a worthy adversary for the Daleks, unless it was in a dance off. It was as though Hot Gossip off The Kenny Everett show were to take on the Nazis. I was constantly expecting them to bust a few erotic dance moves in the sand dunes of Skaro. I also thought the corn rows were not as cool as full on dreads, I much prefer the scruffy knotty kind, like old frayed rope. I thought them more Sister Sledge than bad ass droids.I apologise for that. The expression "bad ass " feels entirely forced and unnatural to me.
               Its a great adventure this one, with archaeologists on the hoof being pursued by a huge killer Movellan who does come across as a suitable opponent for the killers from Skaro. A pursuit done in an eighties British stylee. Very Doctor Who of that period.
               Which is more than we can really hope for.

Alien Artifacts.






                                                               (From my sketchbook.)

Hey Morty I,m A Pickle!


Sunday, 13 August 2017

Subteranea.

Going Underground..as The Jam once sang, long ago, in a tube station far,far away. The Doctor and Romanna find themselves in a subterranean steam punk Dickensian world of giant drills and dodgy dealers. It is territory that lends itself well to this period of Doctor Who history.The moving communities housed within the steam punk moles move beneath the soil of a ravaged world, its like Mad Max Fury Road only with more dirt and seventies working class sensibilities . The drill towns are populated with characters with great names such as Jericho Wigg or Arabella Wagstaff and are running from the monstrous Silex who are pursuing them to the point of extinction.
               Subterranea is a well written piece by Jonathan Morris  that not only brings to mind the atmosphere of the television show of that era but also the early Pat Mills/Dave Gibbons comic strips that used to appear in the old Doctor Who Weekly. In that the characters have a quirky seventies working class speech patterns and yet are also strong characters in their own way. And just look at that cover. There is an almost lost art to album sleeves although it is not one lost on the good people at Big Finish. The look of the era is mirrored by the sound of a very clever atmospheric soundtrack., very synth of that period (Human League "Travelogue" anyone?One of my favourite album covers.)
               During the story, no spoiler here, The Doctor and Romanna are apart for a time.which allows both of them to behave as the Children Of Gallifrey they are, possessed of an almost enfant terrible like ability to adapt to the circumstances they find themselves in. I found myself picturing the wonderful Lalla as she was in what I have seen of the cobbled together recorded pieces of that lost Tom Baker story Shada. She really is on top of her game in this one. When I listen to these stories I sometimes see the shadow of Warriors Gate loom and think how the mirror to another universe awaits. But that moment is not now, not today. Not yet.
                There are a few more stories to go...A big two parter by all accounts..Hurrah!

Pride And Joy.

                                                                      Happy Days!
                                                            Belfast Gay Pride day 2017.

Coppernicus Magilacuddy.

                                                  The story Of A Boy And His Alchemist
                                                              (From my sketchbook)

The Doctor's New Companion.

                                              "The names Humongous..Basil Humongous,
                                                                  How'd you do?"

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Mighty Monkey.




"With great power comes great responsibility ." so said Peter Parker's Uncle Ben. I can barely understand my Uncle Ben, he is so rarely sober but if he could speak intelligibly he would probably say something similar if he was talking to a monkey who understood English. It is an unspoken tag for most super hero myths and this one carries it off with a degree of aplomb Dr. Doolittle would approve off. Mighty monkey is a fantastic new book by local writer Ian Gallagher who I had the pleasure of meeting this week. He and his creative team mate Bryan Heemskerk have devised a wonderful wee tale that rifts on heroic comic book troupes while retaining enough of itself to feel new and fresh. In a series of rhyming couplets the story of Mighty Monkey unfolds as both an inner monologue or for the swarthier among us a performable tale of simian heroics from deep in a dangerous jungle. which is so say "Its great fun read aloud."
             I had the good fortune to meet the writer ian Gallagher and was impressed by his genuine desire to tell a tale for children that would inspire as well as entertain.
             And on the strength of this little Big book he suceeds splendidly.
            Oh yes, I read it out loud.