Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Splank #1.

Delighted to say I have a strip in the first issue of the very wonderful Splank. Its a story about an old Irish Alchemist who finds himself thrown through time into modern Belfast. A sort of Catweazle with Spides and Norn Iron people. I was doubly happy to be on the page opposite Davy Francis, a writer and artist I not only greatly admire but one with whom I have had the pleasure to work with; way back on the first issue of Holy Cross. Peter is trying to evoke the spirit of an era now sadly passed in British comics and he manages to straddle quite skillfully the feelings for the then, the now and what is to come.
             Splank could well become a highly addictive pleasure.

Tom In Glenbogle.

What a fine figure Tom cuts in his kilt. The Laird Of The manor to be sure. Or Monarch Of The Glen to be more accurate. What a lovely wee show that was. Perfect Sunday night viewing. Sitting down to watch it was like opening a window and smelling the wind blow over the wild gorse and heather of a mountainous rugged glen. The BBC are brilliant at this sort of thing. Always were and hopefully always will be. I had to track this old Radio Times down when I saw the cover. Who needs a picture of a majestic stag when one can have a picture of a majestic Tom Baker instead.
            It was doubly desirable when I saw the feature on Hitchikers inside as well. Hitch hikers was only twenty five years old at that point. I remember at the time it seemed unimaginable for so much time to have passed since it first aired. By now , by then that is, it just felt so fresh still. Even though it felt like it had always been around, like Doctor Who or David Bowie or Ken Dodd and The Diddy Men.

Coppernicus Magilacuddy.

                                                               (From my sketchbook.)

Alien The Cold Forge.

Just finished this recently published new book in the Alien series, bu an author; Alex White, I am unfamiliar with. A situation which off course changed as I read the last page of this story and turned to the short and probably deliberately vague bio at the back of the book. I suggest deliberately vague as I learned from it how he likes to take his coffee rather than any inspirational figures or sources he may have absorbed on his path to literary success, which I have no doubt he will attain with novels of this page turning clarity of storytelling. It is no bad thing for an author to remain deliberately and hopefully comfortably annonymous in his dealings with social media, actually increasingly so. Alex White I salute your decision or rather I salute the Alex White shaped sillohuette left by the two paragraph author's biography.
            The Cold Forge is a Weyland-Yutani research facility , a remote space station , RB232, which has been set up to attempt weaponising the xenomorphs discovered on LV427. Hadley's Hope now being completely destroyed following the horrendous events which occured  there( or the film Aliens as it is perhaps better known.) Learning little by way of species self-preservation, it would seem, Weyland-Yutani misunderstand the simple formula; Human beings plus Xenomorphs equals nightmarish disaster. It is a given. Put the two together and you end up with something from the bad dreams of the poet John Milton and the artist and visionary H R Giger. It also seems the interview process for becoming a member of the Weyland-Yutani staff involves proving oneself to be a complete inhuman bastard. or at the very least to be possessed by insane tendencies for mutual destruction. Actually in that aspect it is a depressingly familiar current science fiction trope; with all crew members being awful human beings, as if only the very worst of us will make it to the stars. Witness the idiotic Prometheus crew and the even more obnoxious covenant crew. They were supposed to be a colony mission but came across as a bunch of hipsters on their way to Ikea for some outre shelving. As though all the people who were too self conciously pouty to be allowed into anyone's Fight Club were packed off on a deep space one way journey to spare humanity the casual acceptance of woolen beanies worn by anyone other than Special Ops( A sure sign of The End Times.)
              Dorian Sudler, the main protaganist in this book, is a Weland-Yutani "cleaner" and ruthless corporate stooge. he makes Patrick Bateman seem like a Butlins Red Coat. He is in his own self made way as monstrous as anything that ever leapt out of an alien egg. Alex White allows us, the reader, to be privy to his brutally efficient internal monologue in the most uncomfortable of ways. he is pure corporate evil squeezed into his form fitting Weland-yutani briefs, which get a mention once or twice. It is perhaps an echo of the final encounter between Ripley in her underwear at the end of the first film and all the naked vunerability that implied, the naked determination to survive.
                Tighty whities in space! I would pay to see that movie.
                Much as I enjoyed this read, and I did, literally just ripping through it. I do wish that some of the writers connected to and working within the Alien franchise would insert some characters of a more humanely altruistic bent. Elizabeth Shaw was a fine example of brilliant dazzling humanity travelling to the stars, more please. The only other kind, brave and heroic figures tend to be artificial beings( Apart from the Big Bad Himself; David.) and even their morality has more to do with excessive programming. How mankind likes to think of itself rather than how it actually is.
                 Maybe that is the point.
                 Oh dear..how depressing.
                 Unlike the book which is exciting and page turning. There is a lot to like in it. Particularly if you are a fan of the earlier films.  I suspect Alex White wrote it for you.

The above is a concept painting for Alien Covenant by artist Khang Lee. It explored some ideas for a road not taken in the making of this movie. I cannot recommend highly enough you perhaps explore this work further on line. They are really quite brilliant.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Genesis At The Cinema.

How good would it be to sit in a darkened movie theater and watch this. genesis Of The Daleks flickering across a movie screen. The Doctor, Sarah and Harry on Skaro, witnessing the birth of a monster race. What an embarrassment of riches this story was..and is ,I suppose. It has never really gone away.
            Real magic rarely does.

Come Back Mrs Noah.

Oh my giddy aunt. Now this is a part work I could get behind. A record of a truly mind boggling mistep taken by the BBC sometime towards the end of the seventies. I once described this series to a few friends and they honestly believed I was making it up. Which I most certainly was not, it was real and it was every bit as excruciating as it sounds. Go and investigate on line. I kid you not..
              Someone very cleverly dummied this up and yet the reality is beyond parody.

Ultimate Frankenstein.

The Ultimate Frankenstein is an anthology collecting a series of stories that riff on the original novel by Mary Shelley, covering a wide range of the same themes a very young and seemingly unworldly Shelley covered in that work. Some truly stellar talent bring much to the dissecting table with a string of tales not for the squeamish, easily offended or those not intrigued by a love that barely has a name. it is a broad and hideously detailed blanket that settles about the shoulders of this two hundred year old text. Themes such as loneliness and hubris, love and dismemberment, creation and destruction, all these themes are touched upon, with some startling and rewarding innovations, quite quickly sorting out the men from those who blush easily. It is not a collection for the coy or as i suggested the easily offended, but then why would such a person be looking through a Frankenstein anthology. there is some lovely work in hereand the collection serves as a timely reminder of just what a genre formative work the original was. Surely one of the first and certainly most enduring works of science fiction, brought into being, and created from some rough shod, long before such a term or notion of genre material existed.
            I attempted such a story myself, back in the day. We Belong Dead it was called. A story about the creation of a surly adolescent creation, until at some point I realised I was merely writing the story of any teen .
            Mary Shelley crafted a being that lives way beyond the constraints of the medium it was born into. Mother of Frankenstein and midwife to a new age of Gods And Monsters.

David in the Orrery.

What a splendid evening. Front door and windows wide open, revelling in the rare sunshine of an early Northern Irish night and then the treat of Prometheus on the telly box, With the blistering soundtrack blaring as the man droid David whirls in child like wonder as the Promethean Orrery (An orrery is a mechanical model of the solar system that illustrates or predicts the relative positions or motions of the planets and moons contained therein.)displays itself in a visually stunning sequence that never fails to give me goose bumps. David is a monster. a man made and made monster. The Post-Modern Prometheus but the sense of wonder he exhibits exceeds his programming in much the same way I suppose as his casual cruelty towards the species that birthed him. For whatever reason, The Engineers were on their way to Earth to wipe out humanity or perhaps just to test the effects of the black goo on the upright monkeys infesting their attempt to recreate paradise. And this stunning piece of stellar cartography shows the path they were to take across the stars.
               In order to create one must first destroy, David reminds us at one point, signposting his intentions when it comes to him dabbling in his own workshop of filthy creation.
               Its the sort of thing Gods say, I suppose.Whatever creed, whatever pantheon, their dispassionate cruelty supposedly above morality, or the accepted notions of such, mere mortals attempt to live by. When in fact the Olympian Hoi-Poloi are fueled by nothing so much as resentment. Probably the most destructive and elusive of all human character traits. There is nothing a man or woman will not do when possessed by this sense of entitlement. Its a deadly sin that never gets a mention. That is how insidious it is.
                And Ridley Scott gave birth to a character riddled with it.
                Scary stuff.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

The Devil And Sherlock Holmes.

Found a copy of this fascinating book while on a browse in Oxfam. What a find, its had me in its grip for the last couple of nights. It was the title, off course, that drew me to a purchase but its all the other bits and pieces between its covers that held my attention after finishing the story I bought it for. It is a collection of twelve articles , essays, written for different publications , such as The New Yorker magazine and The New Republic, by the American Journalist David Grann. Covering subjects as diverse as unsolved mysterious crimes and even the hunt for the elusive giant squid. Each entry in this collection is a perfectly formed snow globe of a self contained well crated essay., written with  detached but admirably humane skill. By turns insightful and informative with equal measure of compassion and understanding for subject matter and lives lived at the outre spectrum of the human condition. There is no finger pointing but an open palmed narration of events; which is to say full disclosure and no agenda other than pursuit of very human truths.


The Pope is dead. Long live the Pope. I know, it usually dead kings we are referring to when we use this expression, but hey, they are all earthly reigns after all. A Pope passes and one hundred and thirty seven cardinals gather to elect from within their own ranks a successor to the Seat of Peter. Cloistered behind closed doors they attempt to set aside the natural guile of man and pick a worthy fellow to carry on the legacy of the earthly representative of Christs church as interpreted by those of the Catholic faith. Its surely a corrupted endeavor from the very beginning given all involved are but men despite the elevation from the tawdry day to day implied by their rank. A cardinal mistake perhaps...
            Just before the doors close and the assembled cardinals sequester themselves in order to choose the next Pope a mysterious one hundred and thirty eighth cardinal arrives and throws the predicted outcome to the winds. Its a great tale, well researched and an engagingly unfolding exploration of what happens when the earthly conspire to contribute to the heavenly.I tried to tell a tale rifting on these concerns way back in the day when I worked for a while for an American publisher. The history of the Vatican is the checkered history of a small city state. Its a history rich in detail, subjectively a string of far reaching notions of control through presumptive morality. You may well call a spade a spade but in the Catholic faith A Pope is The Pope.
             When in Rome...

Voodoo Tales; The Ghost Stories Of Henry S Whitehead.

What a find. This lovely mammoth collection of stories by a writer one hears so little about these days. Something this fine collection might in time go some way in correcting. There are some fantastic wee gems buried between its covers. Not just explorations of Voodoo and the faith and terror it inspires. There are haunted paintings and places, treasures guarded by entities which would give MR James or HP Lovecraft creations a run for their money. Your own tastes may run to the thoroughly modern and feel such period tales are not for you but you would be robbing your imagination of some fiery examples of golden period of swarthy Gothic tales. Isolated plantations replete with shameful secrets and cruel histories of slavery are just some of the locations you will traipse through. I found echoes of Robert E Howard among others(particularly Pigeons From Hell.) and even touches of Truman Capote with fey southern gothic touch, quite lovely.
             Some of these Wordsworth Editions are just fantastic, nicely bound with tasteful covers.
             You could do worse than treat yourself to a few.