December 2012 Archives

December 31, 2012

The Future?

December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas with much peace and happiness. 

December 23, 2012

Looking Back On The Year 2012

Another year has flown by. You know you're getting old when you say that every year. So it's time for me to look back over the last twelve months and think about what I read and watched and played and listened to and wrote.

Books
Here's the list of books that I read this year:


My favourite novels from this list were The Islanders, Ship Breaker, In The Mouth Of The Whale, New Model Army and By Light Alone. My absolute favourite was By Light Alone, closely followed by New Model Army. Adam Roberts is currently writing the best Science Fiction of anyone at the moment. His books are unsettling, thought provoking, often uncomfortable but truly brilliant. Exactly the sort of SF I want to read. I can't wait to read his newest novel Jack Glass.

Short Fiction and Non-Fiction
Arc Magazine launched this year and provided issues full of fascinating non-fiction and great short fiction, some of which by really big names in the SF field. It was a thoroughly refreshing mix and I hope the magazine continues to thrive. Also I finally read Shine. When the anthology was launched I added it to my Christmas list (my traditional way to acquire books) but it sold out, so there was a lag in me getting it, then the usual lag due to the to-read pile. Anyway, finally read it, liked it, near-future optimistic Science fiction as promised. The stand out stories for me were Summer Ice by Holly Phillips and Ishin by Madeleine Ashby.

Films
As usual I didn't get to go to the cinema that often, however it's definitely feels like an upwards trend on last year which has to be good. The films I saw showed the best and worst of Hollywood film making. Christopher Nolan showed us exactly how to create a film of a comic book superhero with the conclusion to his wonderful Batman trilogy The Dark Knight Rises, including epic narrative arc not only within that film but also across the trilogy. It was spectacular and fun. Also a success was the conversion of Judge Dredd to film with Dredd. Finally the film every Judge Dredd has been waiting for, a true example of what that character is all about, I hope they make more. On the other end of the scale The Amazing Spider-Man started well but fell into cliché and the end result was lacklustre and then Ridley Scott showed us exactly how not to start a trilogy with the fan pandering, confused and weak Prometheus. As did Peter Jackson, turning a slim volume into three films, The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey being the first. It's not too much to ask for SF films of the quality that Nolan makes is it? Also converted from another media, this time novel, was the excellent The Hunger Games. I haven't read the books but loved the film. I have a feeling that the source material is so strong it would have taken a huge error to mess it up, but still they pulled it off with a great sense of dread and style. Looper was I suppose at least an attempt to do something a bit different with a SF film, but only half of it was good and the time travel didn't work for me. Everything time travel still lies in the shadow of Primer. I also enjoyed Liberal Arts, about as far from the blockbuster SFX laden films as you could get, indie sensibility, thoughtful, touching and made me think.

 
TV
I started the year catching up on Fringe. Unfortunately season four wasn't really that great with a seemingly pointless reboot. When Lost did this it always worked, but after the amazing highs of season two and three, Fringe seemed to lose its way. It's recovered slightly with a leap into the future with season five but it's past its best. Doctor Who was missed at Easter, appeared briefly in September and then left again. Five episodes wasn't anywhere near enough and none of them linger as stand out stories, in fact without checking I can't even remember three of them. Revolution started with a promising idea, electricity stops working, appeared to be cliché ridden and cheesy but still managed to become fantastically entertaining, and with a back story that is quite intriguing and character driven. Plus it has lots of sword fighting. The television of the year however had to be The Walking Dead which at times was simply stunning. I don't really like horror but the series has, presumably like the comic which I haven't read, started to focus on how society is rebuilt after the apocalypse and that's something I really like. Each of the characters has changed and grown and been on a real journey. No one is safe. The tension is at times unbearable. Brilliant, can't wait for more.


Music

I've, as usual, listened to a lot of music this year, whether it's on Spotify or BBC 6 Music but there is one stand out song of the year for me: We Are Young by Fun, forever welded to memories of hot, sunny days in Croatia. Here's an incomplete list of music I listened to.


Video Games

Nothing serious played, just a few games on the XBox of Fifa 12 and Portal 2, which I never got around to finishing, but absolutely loved. Never had a video game give me vertigo before.


Writing

My story Extended Periods Of Absence was published in Kaleidotrope. And that was it from the publishing point of view. I did however write just over a handful of stories, quite a few of them set in a novel that I wrote and am thinking of returning to. I quite like some of them, now I just need to find an editor who likes them too.


Continue reading Looking Back On The Year 2012.

December 21, 2012

The Hobbit

The film of the Hobbit. Finally. After much production nonsense. It's three films, it's by Peter Jackson and you can see it in not only 3D but 3D and 48fps. I saw it in 2D. Why give yourself a headache?

I know it's been thirty years since I read the Hobbit but I didn't actually remember most of what happened in the film, so I can't comment on how accurate the film is to the book. I think in my head The Hobbit blurs with The Fellowship Of The Ring.

It looks, well, like The Lord Of The Rings films. It has more aerial shots than a Brian Cox documentary. Bizzarely it has songs too. I mean really, songs! I always skipped the poems in Tolkien's work, TLDR;

The long, ponderous beginning to the film is saved from being walk-out-slow by a teasing glimpse of Smaug the dragon and a wonderful comic performance from Martin Freeman, in conjunction with Ian McKellan as Gandalf it's quite witty. But a bit slow. Then when the action starts it looks like a video-game. I wish I could say that CGI has improved in the last ten years but the moments when the characters were CGI stood out like a sore thumb and didn't look real. Even Gollum, although the acting by Andy Serkis was brilliant and his interaction with Mart Freeman impressive. Also worth a mention was the guy from Spooks, Richard Armitage, as Thorin the Dwarf Prince (all hard and Scottish), Hugo Weaving who I still keep waiting to say "Mr. Anderson" and James Nesbitt who appears to be dressed up as Dave Grohl

Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Hobbits, Goblins, Wizards. You know Tolkien stuff. It reminds me that Tolkien was extremely tedious at times. I just don't care about the world building or the history of the swords or that thingy was born from the line of you know who, or whatever. The golden age of Tolkien was when I was nine and ten and read his stuff, nowadays it leaves me cold.

The Hobbit isn't terrible, but it's not amazing either. If you're a Tolkien fan you'll probably love it. To me it was just another big budget fantasy film.


December 18, 2012

Inverted World by Christopher Priest

Inverted World by Christopher Priest was first published in 1974 and for a good chunk of the story it feels like an old fashioned (relative to now) Science Fiction story. Where by old fashioned I mean in the sense of comparing an early seventies intelligent film to the a modern fast cut noisy blockbuster. There's extended flashes of the sort of fiction that Christopher Priest would go on to write, particularly the last third of the story, but the first half is a fairly slow paced investigation of a wild speculative idea.

I don't actually want to talk too much about the details of the plot because much of the story is a mystery, that's the hook that pulls you along. Just what is really happening? Seen through the eyes of the protagonist, the reader discovers the world and environs at the same time, although we're in the position to guess a bit more than the closeted hero. 

Of course, being Christopher Priest, there's evocative, yet economical, writing. Maybe not as poetic as his recent work but far, far from a story which cares nothing about its language. And also, being Christopher Priest there are layers around the core concept. The story tackles the issue of a more developed society interacting with a less developed one, it looks at how much the state should control the populace for the good of the populace and it looks at the burning hot heat that is the will to survive at all costs.

By the end of the story the feeling of being an old fashioned story has slipped away and suddenly, although its been coming for half the book, the story is bang up to date and relevant to now. Timeless speculation. And all the crazy Science Fictional thought experiment is suddenly placed in context and makes perfect sense.

Again, like many of Christopher Priest's novels, it's the sort of story that lingers and asks to be read again. Initially my reaction was: interesting, but not in the same league as (his most recent novel) The Islanders, but the more I reflect on the novel, the more I like it, and the more I realise how good it is.

If you like Christopher Priest then I'm sure you'll like it. If you haven't read any of his work before (why not?!) it's probably a decent entry point if you're coming from "standard science fiction"(!). 

December 15, 2012

Cool TARDIS T-Shirt

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