Saturday, 30 November 2019

Alien Prototype.

Oh my Giddy Aunt! Just when you think the reproductive cycle of the Xenomorph cannot get anymore disturbing or gross. Along comes Tim Waggoner with with Alien Prototype to scare the Bejazus out of you and complete turn you off your curried chicken balls.
            A simple, and yet disturbing, play on the notion the Xenomorph embryo will take on the characteristics of the host body it infests, warts and diseases and all. It sounds a bit barfy and by Jingo it actually is. Tim Waggoner manages to recreate the atmosphere of the colonial marines take on the wider Alien universe. Hard men and women trained to deal with the monstrous creatures that live on the fringes of the human comfort zone. Cosmic horrors that barely see us beyond the notion of food or prey..or as incubators for their monstrous offspring.
             The main character is Zula Hendricks, a born survivor who dares to beard the dragon in its lair. I believe her to be the creation of the Alien comic writer Brian Woods, who writes these tough survivors really well, becuase he never writes them as super people punching aliens in the face. his characters are always flawed and oh so very human.
              This was a fast exciting read and a real treat for those impatient to see the mighty Alien series back up on the big screen. Or small screen for that matter. Perhaps this book will prove to be the prototype for many more tales on the galactic fringe where there are more horrors than pleasing sunsets.
               Do check out the Alien comic book series. There are some truly fantastic ones in this great archive of night terrors. From Brian Woods Aliens; Defiance series or magnificent stand alone tales like Aliens; Dust To Dust or Aliens; Dead Orbit.
               None intended for the faint hearted.

Turlough and Nyssa.

      ...With Eighties Tardis crew Turlough and Nyssa. Friends Reunited...or perhaps re-UNITed..

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Jonathan Miller.

I was so very sad to hear about Jonathan Miller passing away. This man seemed such a creative force, possessed of a powerful academic mind, yet resourseful and witty. i have had  a fondness for his adaption of Alice In Wonderland since it was gifted to me by the artist mark Mc Keown and was awed by the stellar cast he assembled to pull it off. But it was his adaption, and to an extent reinvention, of MR James Whistle And I'll Come To You way back in 1969 for which he will always make me feel grateful. I cannot exaggerate the impact that adaption had on me the first time I saw it, or rather "witnessed" it at such an impressionable age. I was totally frozen with terror as I watched it quietly unfold, with its air of "cranky scholarship".Suddenly it was as though I were stuck halfway up an unfamiliar set of stairs , with darkness before me and a terrifying fall behind me. No complex special effects, no vapid jump scares, no leading or overbearing soundtrack. Just a slow burn of mounting terror and a sense of places in the world we ought not to look too closely at.
              I have since heard he encouraged an air of improvisation among his cast, which probably contributed to the aura of unaffected naturalism. It felt almost documentary like, with an atmosphere of a world now passed. As has the man himself now.
              Jonathan Miller was eighty five when he died. He had been suffering with Alzheimers disease for the last few years. It is a bastard of a disease that robs us of our loved ones while they are still with us, robbing them, and us, of hard won and treasured memories.stealing the very foundations upon which our personalities are built.
              But someone like Jonathan Miller leaves a rich legacy of treasured creative moments. He  was by all accounts a powerful and challenging academic who recognised there was no such thing as a benign willful ignorance. I fear we have entered an era where such intellects are demonised, treated with suspicion.
              Yet the rites of exorcism exist, their chief component; Enlightenment.

Coffee and Heroes.

Had a lovely evening recently, at the Smithfield Market comic book store, Coffee And Heroes. The artist Clay Mann was over to do a signing for Alan, the owner of this amazing store. Not only a very atmospheric store but one that smelled of damn fine coffee, to paraphrase Dale Cooper of the FPI.
            Clay Mann is a fantasticly gifted artist and a very handsome fellow indeed. I felt like Worzel Gummidge standing next to a young Robert Redford. He has, apparently, a twin brother....I know, the mind boogles. He was wonderfully candid talking about his career and his aspirations and Alan drew a very engaging pre-signing interview from him, even though Alan expressed nervousness at talking in front of an audience, he did so with aplomb and we, the audience, felt at ease listening to the casuality he exuded. He was funny and insightful and transformed a very rainy dark Belfast night into one to remember.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

23rd November 2019. Doctor who Day.

                                                        Happy anniversary Doctor.
                                                          We love you, old friend.

Thursday, 21 November 2019

The Hundred And Ninety Nine Steps.

it was off course the cover of this novel which iniatially drew me to it, the darkly romantic view of  Whitby Abbey, the tilting tombstone and spindly wind blown grass graves. That combined with the interesting title and Michael Faber had me, well, I had his novel. It is more off a novella actually, a quick read with quite a bit going on in it, certainly more than the size of the book would suggest.
             Sian is a young archaeologist, haunted by a recurring dream where a tender lover turns savage murderer, where the man of her dreams, literally, subjects her to a brutal death, over and over again in her nightmares. Her every night's dream ending in twisted sheets, sweaty awakenings and even the occasional thud as she lands on her bedroom floor. Attempting to distract herself from herself, she takes part in a dig in the stunning locale of Whitby, a location I visisted myself quite recently. Well, between the covers of a book by Paul Magrs, a writer who's work deserves to be found on everyone's bookshelf, enriching anyone's collection (For creating the wonderful Iris Wildthyme and Panda if nothing else.) While in Whitby she meets Mack and Hadrian, one man and his dog. Hadrian is the dog, by the way. Much playful character development takes place, as well as an attempt by Sian to restore a message in a bottle Mack has inherited from an estranged parent. A story emerges, a heart breaking tale of infanticide, a monster revealed, by a voice long silenced, awaiting within the folds of the bottled message. Telling the tale has its own power, as Sian feels the weight of its decoding, as she speaks the terrible words long hidden.
             Whitby is such an interesting location and I wondered if Michael Faber visited it in order to convey its power so convincingly. It was Whitby where Count Dracula, in wolf form, first set foot and paw in England. Leaping from the doomed ship The Demeter, as it finished its terrible death filled voyage by crashing on the rocks. Whitby has apparently become something of a pilgrimage site for vampire lovers and worshippers of all things Gothic. The locals must be tripping over vampires. I also remember Whitby as the striking location for the pop video for Simply Reds Holding Back The Years. A song I have discovered has different meanings for those under twenty hearing it and those over fifty remembering it.
            The Hundred And Inety Steps  is a nice read with more than a couple of clever moments. Where better to center a story with red herrings than a harbour town. ...groan, sorry for that.
             The book requires no big commitment  but is a haunting read with a simple and bitter sweet subtext, a tragic tale within the tale that will reward anyone interested enough to give it a chance.
                               "Whitby Harbour, Moonlight" by yorkshire painter Turner Taylor.

The Second Sleep.

Just finished this book by Robert Harris( The last book by him I read by him being the thriller Conclave.) and it reminded me very much of a fantastic song by The Stranglers Toiler On The Sea, in that I started off reading one thing and before very long discovered I was reading something else entirely.). The year is 1468, a young priest, Christopher Fairfax, has travelled on horseback to a remote village in Sussex, deep in the heartland of a sleeping Albion. He has come to bury his predeccessor who has died while exploring an ancient location known as The Devil's Chair. Whether by accident or at the hands of persons unknown, it is not clear. And within a short spell the priest will discover that much in this rural idyll is not what it appears to be and that some secrets are buried deep, though merely resting.beneath the soil of this merry old England.
           Christopher fairfax is about to turn over a rock, to reveal the squirming under belly of a community that wears its past well. The England portrayed in this book feels like one from some old painting, conveying an image of rustic charm and hard work. An agrarian society, one of superstition and piety. Where the citizens toil hard and all have soil beneath their finger nails, remnants of the good Earth which sustains them.  A vision of an England long past.  Quite beautiful actually...
             It is a difficult book to discuss without respecting spoilers. Robert Harris has constructed a very intriguing thriller, built upon a sturdy frame of a history the reader will recognise but will also appall.
             But is'nt that the history of the real world,after all.

The Doctor's Work is never done.

It has been a while since we last saw The Doctor but she has been hard at work on something, some big surprise and we will find out what it is in forty eight hours, on the 23rd November.
            The Doctor's birthday.
            Its The Doctor's birthday but we are the ones who get the surprise.
            I can hear the distant grinding of Tardis engines...
            Getting closer...

The haunted Book.

I really whizzed through ths one and really enjoyed it. Jeremy Dyson, the unseen Fourth Man in the League Of Gentlemen team, has put together a series of short stories loosely based around actually weird events collected by a journalist who approached him with the very idea. the haunted book chronicles the journey Jeremy dyson took as he puts together this anthology of tales, as he finds elements of those weird events begin to throw shade across his own life. As though by stirring the pot of the supernatural he causes something to bubble to the surface.
             I realise it all sounds very meta and that could perhaps put someone off who is looking for a sound tale of terror. I do hope i have made it sound interesting because it really is and would entertain anyone who misses the old Pan supernatural anthologies or who enjoys the weird work off writers such as Robert Aickman. With extraordinary events nestling uncomfortably close to very ordinary ones, always a disturbing but thrilling mix. Well, more discomforting than thrilling but that always better with a strong cup of sweet tea.
            It also reminded me of some of the old seventies Amicus anthology, or portmanteau, movies. And off course Ghost Stories, the movie that Jeremy dyson wrote with Andy Nyman. It is a collection of stories steeped in unease which occasionally spills off in the pag in unexpected ways.
            I was a huge fan, still am, of The League Of Gentlemen and through it discovered Jeremy Dyson's earlier anthology Never Trust A Rabbit.
            Sound advice..I think..

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Phatasmagoria Halloween Special.

I had a story in the Halloween issue of Phantasmagoria magazine(Issue twelve.). Devil's haircut is a story I wrote and did the art for, a spooky rockabilly themed tale which also stars legendary local rockabilly band The Sabrejets, The Rockinist Rock band this side of perdition. Phantasmagoria is a great magazine which seemingly gets better from issue to issue and I am not just saying that because I am in this issue..or am I?It is chockablock with loads of goodies, fascinating interviews and articles and reviews.
             Being able to pick up a magazine like this is so much better than a random dander around the internet (Although that does have its own merits.), and Phantasmagoria has within its pages signs and wonders pointing in the direction you want to go.
                                            (Brian Young signing some original artwork.)
             It was a joy and a pleasure for me to get this opportunity to work briefly with Brian Young and the other guys in the band. To get a look at Brian's wonderful archive of photographs detailing the history of the band and to see his records of the changing face of the music scene over the years. These guys started entertaining people at the height of the troubles, providing Rock N' Roll respite while bits of our home country were being blown to bits and dark events were weighing down the population no matter their age, religion or politics, the Dark Continent of the past was chartless.
              My story is a nod to EC Comics, Famous Monsters and to the spirit of The Sabrejets.
              With the Editor of Phantasmagoria Trevor Kennedy being Northern Ireland's answer to Forrest J Ackerman.
               We are all of us Infamous Monsters.

A Pile Of Old Faces.

                                          Give a man a mask and you will see his true face.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Old Annuals.

One of my earliest memories of going into Belfast City Center as a boy with my da was when he took me to the old Smithfield Market. The original building which sadly was burnt to the ground. I was utterly bewildered, that old market was full of nooks and crannies, there were so many stores with windows filled with exotic worldly goodies and treasures, well, to my wee eyes that is what it looked like. Looking up and into store windows stacked high with objects I had only previously seen on the flickering screen of our television. This was the real world though and I was getting my first glimpse of it..The old Smithfield market itself and a glimpse of the old bus station, which is also long gone. I seem to remember a gated entrance, a huge green gate, ornate and stately. (I could be misremembering, it sounds like the entrance to Arkham Asylum.).It was a cold wet Belfast day, October or November, my da's long overcoat flapping about us as he held onto my hand. Are these memories or ghosts?
              There was a Harry Halls and a Greers bookstore, I remember that. Seeing Harry Halls for the first time and how it was imprinted on me. It became for me the over riding idea for how a bookstore should look. I think every book store I have seen since has been judged against those early impressions.
               One of the things that especially impressed me were the shelves of annuals. The World Distributor annuals that were so much a part of my generation's childhood. So many titles and all so simply but powerfully represented by covers that seem to shout at me" you want to own me, do'nt you?"
               And I did. I wanted so many of them but my da could only afford one.  And the choice I made was The Mighty World Of Marvel. The first annual I ever choose and I can honestly look back and say to that wide eyed kid I used to be and say "good choice,kid. You picked the best one."
               The old Smithfield Market was pretty special. One of those gathering places that seemed to form organically way back in the day rather than be planned for by some architect who would never set foot in it.
               So much more than a building was lost in that fire.

The Witching hour.

Halloween may well be over for another year but the spirit of the October Country lingers on. Have a look at some of these lovely cards sent to me by a chum, Michael, in none other than Salem, Massachusetts.
         Now there is a place where they know a thing or two about witches.

Greetings From The October Country.

Sunday, 3 November 2019


Foundation is a book i have been meaning to read for some time.  the spine of the novel has been staring at me from various locations in my house and I have seen or heard the work referenced so many times over the years at times I felt like I had already read it.  Which is a nonsense off course, that would be owning the sheet music to a song i had never actually heard and claiming it as a favorite. I had been listening to a Youtuber i really respect and he spoke so reverently of the series i just took it off the shelf and began what I should have perhaps done long ago, I began to read Foundation.
             Maybe it was a good thing I waited after all. At least until I was a bit more long in the tooth, if no wiser or more worldly. I do so appreciate the scale of the vision involved, for it is indeed vast in scope and ambition. Dealing as it does with the predictable behaviour of vast groups of people over very long periods of time., or Psychohistory, as the catalyst for the great experiment created by Hari Seldon, as he calls his school of thought. And calls it, he does. Predicting, from the available information, societal and historic, the oncoming chaos , decline and fall, and ultimately a delically balanced but more than possible resurrection. The birth of Foundation.
              Foundation is a sprawling and complex notion of a book, in some ways a string of novellas tethered by a huge story arc, one stretching across thousands of years and millions and millions of miles. Phew, to put it mildly. Like much of Assimov's work it is off course prescient.. The notion that free will within a contained system is but controlled opposition, its allowed for, even encouraged as a form of venting, the trick of liberty, when it is no such thing. One wonders at times if there is anything benign about man made systems of control but arguably anything is better than chaos...
              What would I know. Dare I say it, whole civilizations have been built on less sturdy foundations than Pyscohistory.