Sunday, 30 December 2012

I, Robot - part 10: The Evitable Conflict

This story addresses the moment when the Machines take the reins of the world and mankind is rendered redundant. Within the lifetime of Gloria Weston of the first story robots have gone from her puppy-like paymate Robbie to rulers of the world in place of men.

It's not a bloody robot uprising of the the sort depicted in the terrible movie that bears this book's name. Instead, in a move that seems eerily prescient, the robots take control of Earth using the most powerful weapon in the modern arsenal: the economy.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

I, Robot - part 9: Evidence

We get to the real meat of the issue here: what’s the difference between a man and robot? It’s one of the foundational questions of SF that’s been addressed by through simplistic pulp tales of vengeful servants to PK Dick and Greg Egan’s existential angst and the infinite varieties of post-singularity SF. 

Like these other writers, Asimov gives us his own take on the issue: the difference between robot and human is that they’re better than us. 

Sunday, 23 December 2012

I, Robot - part 8: Escape

In this story we see the return of Donovan and Powell, reflecting the core cast of characters that Asimov has built up over the stories so far. These two and robopsychologist Susan Calvin tend to lead matters – they share the spotlight in this one – supported by mathematician Peter Bogert and director-emeritus of research Alfred Lanning. Other characters come and go but it’s these five we return to again and again.

There’s not much continuity for these characters. They seem pretty static and events from one story to the next don’t seem to make much difference to them. But while the characters don’t change or develop much, the world they exist in is changing in ways that this story highlight. The previous story, Little Lost Robotintroduced the concept for the hyperatomic drive to the robot story universe. In this story, we get one step closer.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

I, Robot - part 7: Little Lost Robot

This is another one that feels like a bit of a cheat. Similarly to Runaround, where the Third Law had been tweaked up to help survive the hostile environment, in this one the First Law has been tweaked down to prevent the robots interfering with the work the humans are doing by rushing in and trying to save them from the low levels of radiation that their work entails.

Well, that’s just a great idea, isn’t it? What could possibly go wrong with that?

Monday, 17 December 2012

I, Robot - part 6: Liar!

Susan Calvin is a bold move for Asimov. The genial, avuncular Powell and Donovan were perfectly serviceable vehicles for the fictional problems he wanted to pursue, but the only reason there’s two of them is so they can explain the story to each other. Asimov attempts to make the relationship interesting by resorting to a sort of roaring angry banter to give them a reason to interact, which always reminds me of those Fry and Laurie characters Peter and John, but they don’t have any distinguishing features really.

Susan Calvin gives him a chance to explore a range of character possibilities. She’s a contrast to the blokey and intuitive men of U.S. Robots who we’ve met so far. She’s cool and intellectual, a little bit vinegary. She’s described as plain and at 38 is considered – perhaps most keenly by herself – to be an old maid. He makes a good fist of it, but this story is a rather melodramatic tale of a woman humiliated in love.

Monday, 10 December 2012

I, Robot - part 5: Catch That Rabbit

What makes these stories such brilliant science fiction is not so much the speculative elements, but the way the protagonists approach the problems in their path. Each story establishes a limited setting to contain all the elements of the plot. This ensures that the central problem is very tightly focused, something inherent in the characters (usually the robot) and the setting itself – Mercury, a space station orbiting the sun, a mining station on an asteroid.

It also eliminates ‘call the cavalry’ solutions and allows Asimov to limit the tools that Powell and Donovan (it’s them again) can bring to bear on the problem. It mostly comes down to their powers of deduction and rational approach and I think this is one of the big reasons these stories appeal most to sci fi fans in their deepest pubescence.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

I, Robot - part 4: Reason

This is the kind of story that made me fall in love with SF the first time around. It’s focused on a knotty a philosophical dilemma that’s wittily expressed using a robot as the central actor. The companionable Donovan and Powell don’t seem to have too many concerns other than the action of the story. They’re classic capable men bringing order to the frontier of space, and turning it to their advantage if they can.

The two are on a space station orbiting the Sun this time, installing a new super-intelligent robot that will take control of the energy beam that shoots power back to Earth. As the story says in the rather electrifying opening paras: ‘Whatever the background one is face to face with the inscrutable positronic brain, which the slide-rule geniuses say should work thus and so. Except that they don’t.’

Friday, 7 December 2012

Can't think what to get me for Christmas?

You're wracking your brains: not socks again, not the latest J K Rowling/Nigella/Lee Child, not the Tiffany diamond tiara even if I would look FAB in it.

Let me help you out: if you can't think what to possibly get me, how about this boxed set from The Residents? The fridge would be nice, but, well, if you really love me...

Thursday, 6 December 2012

I, Robot - part 3: Runaround

This is more like it. This is the type of story I remember from my teens, one that depends on a bit of hard science and a subtle understanding of the Three Laws of Robotics. It’s set on a mining base on Mercury and stars two plucky scientists and an out of control robot. It’s a problem story a rather brilliant Boys’ Own yarn for geeks where the characters win-through with careful logic and cool patience even in the face of death.

Gregory Powell and Mike Donovan have been despatched to Mercury to resurrect an abandoned mine. On arrival they discover that the ‘photo-cell banks’ that protect the mining base from the glaring sun are shot and they’ll need selenium to get them running. Fortunately there are naturally occurring open pools of it dotted around the planet surface nearby, so Donovan sends their robot – SPD-1, or Speedy – out to get some.

Of course, Speedy doesn’t come back, and the reason is a conflict between the Second and Third Laws of Robotics.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

I, Robot - part 2: Robbie

This story reminds me of nothing so much as some kind of cosy narrative about race relations that you might encounter in pre-civil rights era America. What Asimov appears to have done here is write a charming narrative about a young girl called called Gloria Weston and her coloured nursemaid, and then replaced with the nursemaid with a robot.

The plot goes like this: Gloria’s mother disapproves of her spending all her time with her robot playmate, the titular Robbie. She says: ‘I won’t have my daughter entrusted to a machine. It has no soul and no one knows what it may be thinking. A child just isn’t made to be guarded by a thing of metal.’

George Weston protests that Gloria loves Robbie, and is in no danger: ‘He’s the best darn robot money can buy and I’m damned sure he set me back half a year’s income. He’s worth it, though – darn sight cleverer than half my office staff.’ This makes the relationship entirely clear. Robbie’s a chattel that George Weston values in material terms: he’s a slave.

Monday, 3 December 2012

I, Robot - part 1: Introduction

NB: I do eventually get to I, Robot!

Don’t you ever ask yourself, ‘how did I get here from there?’ It’s one of my favourite trains of thought, lying awake when sleep seems far away and the dark is haunted by familiar things made weird by night. At those times, it’s hard to disagree with Blur – Modern Life Is Rubbish. We’re killing each other and killing the planet all in the name of X-Factor, Vodafone, News International, amazon, Starbucks and Google.

Sci fi was supposed to be the bulwark against all of this. We had 1984 but we’ve still got China, North Korea and all those former Soviet states that cling to the an aging Stalin-lite in order to avoid civil war. We had The Handmaid’s Tale, but we still got Iran, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. We had Mad Max and Robocop but still we got Putin’s Russia. We had The Space Merchants, but still got all this.

In the meantime, we also had The Martian Chronicles, but we got no mission to Mars. We had Rendezvous with Rama, but Rama never showed up. We had The Lensman, and Foundation and Dune and God knows how many more, but popular space travel seems unlikely to ever be possible.

And of course, we had I, Robot but we got no robots.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Reading log - Q3

Here we are again, and me much delayed. Unfortunately I’ve had a few other things on. I was busy with my Marvel Essential Warlock series – which belongs properly in Q4 – and wrote a review of The Fractal Prince, the sequel to The Quantum Thief, which belongs also in Q4. Plus, of course, the perennial nuisance of DIY.

I have been reading, though, and in the three months to 30 September, I read:

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce
The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen
A few John Service stories by Algernon Blackwood
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Marvel Essential Super Villain Team-Up vol 1 by various.

Monday, 12 November 2012

The Fractal Prince

My review of The Fractal Prince is now available at The Zone. It's a sequel to The Quantum Thief, which I reveiwed in 2010.

I’m beginning to worry that I am losing my edge. This is the second review in a row where I’ve cut a lot of negative commentary after I felt that it left a bad taste in a review that I wanted to feel largely positive. It’s an argument between the head and the heart that still feels unresolved. Intellectually I admire hugely what Rajaniemi’s doing. If more SF writers had his ambition and steel-eyed commitment to an individual vision, rather than pleasing SF fans, then I’d be a happy reader, and probably read a lot more SF.

Unfortunately, deep in my guts, I didn’t really enjoy this book.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Marvel Essential Warlock part 13

Marvel Team-Up #55, The Avengers Annual #7, Marvel Team-Up Annual #2

As with the last time around, Warlock is reduced again to conducting the final episodes of his story in the pages of comics. It begins with Marvel Team-Up #55. This is one of those books that takes a popular character and has a revolving cast of guest stars around them, in this case Spidey and in this issue Warlock. 

We still see this today at Marvel – Spidey is the sauce that goes with everything.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Marvel Essential Warlock - part 12

Warlock #12-#15

After defeating Magus, where next for Warlock? We find him (or Him) and Pip at a sleazy dive in downtown Homeworld, enjoying a bit of local colour. Pip’s clearly in his element, but Adam isn't in the mood for partying.

The events of the recent past are praying on his mind. Reciting his problems gives him a chance to provide the most concise recap we have yet seen. In fact, he decides he needs a little time to get his head back in shape so flies off into space and vacates the issue. 

What we get instead is an adventure of Pip the Troll. 

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Marvel Essential Warlock - part 11

Warlock #10 and #11

Issue 10 gets straight into the action. The splashpage is a top down view showing as Black Knights flooding through a doorway towards Warlock, Pip, Gamora and Thanos.

It’s a great hook. It immediately suggests imminent violence and conflict, the few against the many. It makes you to turn the pages and find out what happens next. What does happen is an appealing few pages packed with fighting, shouting and frenzied narration. 

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Marvel Essential Warlock - part 10

Warlock #9

This issue revives Warlock’s own title, so either his tenancy at Strange Tales was up or there was sufficient interest to keep the story going. It’s the big confrontation with Magus, so fans, however many they may have been, will have been waiting for this moment.

The Magus arrogantly believes his future knowledge guarantees his victory over Warlock, and so proceeds to act like a pulp movie villain.

This issue really belongs to him as he gloats over his victories – providing a handy excuse for this month’s recap – and tells the tale of how he became The Magus. 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

A spectacularly great article about Marvel's 60s hey-day

Don't usually do linking here, but given the current subject matter I thought my reader (possibly readers) might be interested in this terrific article about Marvel in the 60s at i09. It's a teaser for a book that looks bloody brilliant!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Marvel Essential Warlock - part 9

Strange Tales featuring Warlock #181

Warlock wakes up from his stupor in a bizarre cosmic-Marvel weird-scape. He just has time for a quick recap page when he meets his foes.

Uh oh: clowns. Mad, evil clowns.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Marvel Essential Warlcock - part 8

Strange Tales featuring Warlock #180

This is the first issue of an American-style comic I can remember seeing. I think my brother brought it home from a trip in to London, perhaps with the scouts. I was used to typical British fare – Valiant, Lion, Whizzer & Chips and so forth – and I might even have seen UK Marvel reprints, but this just looked like something out of another universe.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Marvel Essential Warlock - part 7

Strange Tales featuring Warlock #179

We’re now into the second issue of the new Warlock, and the character’s beginning to get somewhere. The splash page features Adam Warlock posed on a slab of space debris glaring angrily at a giant spaceship hovering nearby.

“Death Ship!” it announces in shadowed block caps.

Straight in with the power chords.

This is more like it. If the original run felt a bit like a cosmic version of Jesus Christ Superstar, then this one is a like record by Yes, Rush or The Alan Parsons Project. In this issue we get to see that Warlock now has a much more of a heavy rock vibe to it than the worthy efforts that went before.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Marvel Essential Warlock - part 6

Journey Into Mystery #178

NB: Now my scanner's working I am not only adding images to new posts in this series, but I've updated the previous posts with scanned images. Wow! No expense spared!

Inevitably, Journey into Mystery #178 begins with a flashback. About a fifth of the total page count so far has been dedicated to flashbacks, so why not? It’s business as usual on that level, but there’s immediately something different about how the book looks.

The narrator never turns up again, by the way

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Marvel Essential Warlock - part 5

The Incredible Hulk #177 to #179

Having lost his own series, Warlock suffers the indignity of having to share his climactic moment with the Hulk. Let’s be honest, if Hulk is even on the A list he’s near the bottom of it. He’s a difficult character, although some writers have managed to find something interesting for him to do, but it takes some effort to wring interesting dramatic goals from his ‘Hulk smash’ persona.

One solution is to drop him into utterly bizarre situations (ie, Planet Hulk), and that’s what’s happening here.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce

I've reveiwed this novel for The Zone. I enojyed this one quite a bit: it was multi-layered and emotionally complex, and it used the super-natural intelligently. I particularly liked the clever way that sub-plots articulated the theme of the importance of fantasy - that was very cleverly done.

I liked the book and it's a positive review, but there were things I didn't like about the book. The review gently chides Joyce over the fantasy theme (I think the quotations over-egged the pudding) but I didn't end up mentioning my main problem with this book. I wasn't a small thing either - although on the whole I think it's a good book, comfortably 4 stars - and so you might think it would be worth mentioning.

In the end however, I couldn't make it work and the reason why is a small lesson in reviewing.


Thursday, 20 September 2012

Marvel Essential Warlock - part 4

The Power of Warlock #3 - #8

So, my plan was to blog about this issue by issue, maybe every day and have a bit of fun with it. That was the plan. But as the great Ayrshire poet and chain of bottle stores in New Zealand reminds us, the best laid plans of mice and men oft gang aglay, and mine seem to go aglayer and ofter than most.

Partly this is because of my busy metropolitan life style that keeps me away from the keyboard with thrilling man-about-town antics. Partly it’s because these comics rapidly descend in quality – and let’s face it, the first few were not a towering achievement of the arts. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love cheesy 70s Marvel – that’s why I read these things – but this is terrible, even by their standards!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Marvel Essential Warlock - part 3

The Power of Warlock #1 and #2

I am beginning to see the folly of writing about a comics series without a scanner! In the weekend, I might have another look and see if it can extracted from behind the second-hand kitched cabinets crammed haphazard into the back lounge. On the other hand, Andrew Rilstone manages it - maybe I've just got to grit my teeth and carry on. [Eagle eyed readers will have spotted that the scanner issue has since been resolved. At the time of writing, kitchen cabinets remain uninstalled. - PH 9 October]

Because the splash at page that opens issue sums up everything about this series: The High Evolutionary, seen from a low angle, making him look huge, gazes out of his space-station window. A rocket shoots out of the atmosphere of an Earth-like world, the Counter Earth of his own creation.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Marvel Essential Warlock - part 2

Marvel Premiere featuring Warlock #2

The issue starts with Warlock crashed to the (Counter) Earth like a falling star. He’s found by four kids who look a lot like kids on our familiar Marvel Earth and speak like... well, not kids anywhere, but like but 70s era Roy Thomas hipster kids.

Thanks for the lesson in civil rights, cool Dave!

Monday, 3 September 2012

Marvel Essential Warlock - part 1

I pre-ordered this weeks ago and it's finally arrived! I've been wanting to read this volume for forty years, because an issue of Jim Starlin's Warlock - Stange Tales #180, in fact - was the first actual American comic I ever saw. I'd seen things like the UK reprints, but never an actual small-size full-colour book. I'm pretty sure my brother Matt bought it - it's the sort of Heavy Metalish thing he likes.

I never read the rest of the series, although I've read a few other bits and pieces where Warlock plays a part - some of Starlin's other Thanos stories, mostly - so I'm, quite excited about it! 

Since we've had a bit of blog lull, I've decided to blog about this issue by issue as I read  it. Has this classic Marvel cosmic bollocks still got what it takes? Let's find out!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Harry Harrison is dead!

 I have always considered The Stainless Steel Rat as the book that moved me from kiddy fair to 'grown-up' books when I read it 10 years old. It was a revelation to me in its witty approach and amoral universe. To Asimov, Bradbury, Moorcock, Dick and beyond, it all started with Slippery Jim Di Griz.

The voice of Harrison's fiction - in particular his more comical output - and the tight conceptual frameworks that he works within - like in Deathword or The Captive Universe - have been huge influences on my own writing. Panoptica definitely reflects that same snide, uncommitted satirical voice that's inclined to believe that everyone's an idiot.

A couple of years afterwards I wrote a letter to 2000AD (my one and only time) suggesting they could adapt classic sci fi novels, and suggesting The Stainless Steel Rat. Six or eight months later, guess what? I've never been able to find out if there was a connection between my letter and this adaptation (let's face it, probably not), but I flatter myself that I had a small hand in this.

I had the great good fortune to meet the great man at a party for (IIRC) Gollancz sometime at the end of the 90s, where I was intorduced by (name drop name drop!) Kim Newman. I burbled about the huge influence he had on me and the role he played in my development as a reader and writer. He was kind enough to listen benevolently, chat amiable and then wish me well.

He left some wonderful, timeless books and had a good long life, so I suppose we shouldn't be too sad. We only get one life and it's up to us to use it for the bast. Harry Harrison did that. I'll be raising a glass to him tonight.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Fantastic review of Panoptica

The Zone has published a bracingly positive review of Panoptica by Steven Hampton.

"Patrick Hudson's bold approach ensures that Panoptica is refreshingly appealing in its briskly paced jumble of satirical plot, and polemical digressions about everything from trickledown environmentalism to catwalk  fashionista parades.
"... many of the author's contract clause quips and exclusive gags about suburban mores, generalised social malaise and interposed specificity, are quite frequently hilarious.
"Fans of Jeff Noon's Vurt and the 'avant pulp' of Pixel Juice, Steve Aylett's 'Beerlight' stories (see Crime Studio), Rob Grant's Incompetence, Jack Womack's Elvissey, Max Barry's bar-coded Jennifer Government, Tricia Sullivan's Maul, and Robert Rankin's sardonic wit should enjoy this."
What fantastic praise! I also appreciated his nods to Robert Sheckley and John Sladek - those writers and others like them are very strong influences on Panoptica.

Of course, eagle-eyed readers will note that The Zone is the venue that publishes my own reviews. The only favour I've received here is that Tony gave the book a gentle nudge in the reviewer's direction. It's tough getting mainstream venues like The Zone to look at self-published material and so I freely admit my prior relationship helped here.

However, I think The Zone has demonstrated in the past that it's happy to monster its friends if they deserve it: only the good survive The Zone!

I'm somewhat relieved, therefore at the highly positive review. Phew!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Reading log - Q2 2012

Well, what a few months! For those who don’t know, I moved house on 7 March and found myself at the centre of one of those yuppie nightmare movies like The Pit where a likeable upwardly mobile couple buy a ‘fixer upper’ in a nice neighbourhood and then slowly go mad as the money-eating problems build up. The final scene is a comic denouement where the house ends up a smoking ruin, but the couple have learned to value the important things in life rather than money.

I guess we must still be in act three because say the house is still standing and I still believe money is pretty damn important. In fact, I’d say I think it’s more or less half as much again as important as I did before I started. And I’m still assuming this is a comedy farce and that the final act won’t involve an Indian graveyard.

This has rather taken time and energy away from my usual pursuits. Nonetheless, the commute to work and the minutes between bed and sleep have allowed me some reading time and I’ve done a little writing too.

After the jump, I'll be talking briefly about The Invisibles by Grant Morrison and various artists and Neonomicon by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows, and then in more depth about:

DC Showcase All Star Comics by Paul Levitz, Joe Staton and others
DC Showcase All Star Squadron by Roy Thomas
The Inifinity Gauntlet by Jim Starlin, George Perez and Ron Lim
The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald
The Great Beast: The Life and Magic of Aleister Crowley by John Symonds
I, The Jury by Mike Hammer

Sunday, 8 July 2012

The Invisibles by Grant Morrison et al

Sorry for generic pics lately - scanner broken!
It’s taken me a while to get around to reading The Invisibles. At the time it started I was getting a bit burned out with comics in general and in particular with the boundary busting work of the Vertigo crowd. The Invisibles sounded like the worst kind of self-indulgence to me at the time and this put me off.

However, a few years back I began getting interested in Grant Morrison again, and I started to think that maybe I should read The Invisibles. I was put off now by the wallet-busting seven volumes, even despite my healthy budget for pamphlets. What finally swung the deal was the new library in Deptford, the Deptford Lounge. It’s a smart modern library with a swish coffee bar and computers and wifi and most attractively a huge selection of brand new graphic novels including all seven volumes of The Invisibles.

Needless to say, after all these years avoiding it I loved it!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Neonomicon by Alan Moore, Jacen Burrows etc

I've written a lengthy review of this for The Zone, and it's up now. It took me ages, because I've been very busy and it's very long.

Before writing about Alan Moore’s ‘Neonomicon’ I wanted to “finish off” my thoughts on HPL after reading the essay ‘Supernatural Horror in Literature’. I wanted to get the hang of what Lovecraft though Lovecraftian horror is, and I thought that would be the place to look.

After a while, though, I realised I was never going to get around to writing about 'Supernatural Horror in Literature'. It is, unfortunately a very boring essay.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Panoptica feels like a warped dream or a British Thomas Pynchon novel

Four star review of Panoptica on goodreads and Sift Reviews.

The review's not entirely enthusiastic, and another thumbs down for Gary and Pete - what's the matter with you people!

But still - four stars! Come on stray browsers seeking pictures of Priapus - buy my novel!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Reading log - Q1 2012!

So, rather than writing about everything I read this year I'm taking a step back from blogging to concentrate on my fiction and also reviews. That's working OK, I guess. I've only written one review so far this year and haven't really made startling progress with my novel (some, but not much) but on the other hand I have been posting on the book pages of the Guardian.

I've also joined Goodreads, and have been noting my reading there (don't forget to nip in and give Panoptica a good rating if you're a Goodreads reader!) so if you're a Goodreads member  with an interest in keeping up with my tedious malarky then drop by and friend me up.

In order to satisfy my fans, though, I'm going to do quarterly reading updates here, and this is the first!

After a jump, I'm going to discuss the books I've read so far this year:

A Dreamquest for Unknown Kadath and Supernatural Horror in Literature by H P Lovecraft
A Reflection in Glass by Jeffrey Hewitt
A Short History of Western Thought by Stephen Trombley
Redlaw by James Lovegrove
Osama by Lavie Tidhar
WildC.A.T.S by Alan Moore et al
Ex Machina by Brian K Vaughn et al
Thor - The Black Galaxy Saga byTom De Falco and Ron Frenz

... and a cavalcade of contemporary comics.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Redlaw by James Lovegrove

My review of Redlaw by James Lovegrove is up at the Zone.

This is another bad book, and another bad review. As I’ve noted before, I hate reading bad books and writing bad reviews in about equal measure. I’m inclined to write positive reviews, I think, and seek out books I think I’ll enjoy as any normal human would.

I chose to read this book as I had previously read Lovegrove’s Provender Gleed, on the recommendation of Francis Spufford. Francis spotted some common ground between it and what I was attempting in Panoptica and thought it might be useful to take a look at other approaches. I think he was right that there is common ground, and it was a useful reference point, but actually it showed me where I didn't want to go rather than where I did.

Provender Gleed is an interesting book in many ways, but it didn’t quite work, either in reference to what I was attempting or – in my opinion – in achieving it’s own goals (as I understood them). I did like the idea of the society put forward in Provender Gleed, and in the first third of the book it was well-articulated and relevant. But as the story went on, Lovegrove seemed at a loss as to where to take the satirical elements, and the story fell back on a rather dull Stockholm-syndrome thriller plot that didn’t do much for me.

While it didn't entirely sell me on Lovegrove, I thought he would at least be worth keeping an eye on, but alas Redlaw suffers from the same sort of problem, only more so.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Panoptica free download on 29 February 2012!

Do you love me? Well consider this my womanly proposal!

Panoptica will be free to download on 29 February for one day only. After this, the price is going up to £1.99 UK and $3.99 US (to level the playing field a little for the eye-wateringly expensive print version).

So hurry, hurry hurry! It'll never be free again. And if you do down load, don't forget to leave a review on amazon and goodreads.

Download it NOW (or rather soon) from and

Or pay a fucking fortune for the hard copy on Lulu! Why not?

(I promise this'll be my last post about Panoptica for a while! Real content coming soon!)

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

You can now find me on Goodreads

If you're a Goodreads user, well, here I am. Why not drop by and add a rating to Panoptica, you bastards.

In case you're worried that this blog is becoming too commercial, I have posts coming up about HPL's supernatural horror in literature and a review of James Lovegrove's Redlaw. So, I'm still dealing in the tangential, inconsequential and pointless gang!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Panoptica review from The Future Fire Reviews

A fantastic new review of Panoptica at The Future Fire Reviews. Steve Pirie says:

"The relentless pace, the madness, the often chaotic leap from exaggerated voyeuristic concept to the people’s endless appetite for ‘the show’ is perfect to illustrate such a dystopian London Hudson is rattling at us from the page. Given today’s appetite for Big Brother, X-Factor and their like, it’s not too far a leap to make. ... a terrifically fun and entertaining read."

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Silly Little Man

Ronnie Lane & Pete Townsend. I love this!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Living through the gold rush

A bank clerk
On reflection, there are some perverse economic incentives going on in the fiction industry. I have a suspicion that creative writing MAs are producing a number of writers (maybe a dozen a year, if I were to stick my neck out) who get two book deals for low advances and are then folded back in to the creative writing education as a way of making ends meet, and then create more such writers and so on and so forth.

A review of Film School: The True Story of a Midwestern Family Man Who Went to the World’s Most Famous Film School, Fell Flat on His Face, Had a Stroke, and Sold a Television Series to CBS in the Los Angeles Review of Books sums it up nicely:
Today, while film schools remain seductive, they have dropped the grit and doubled down on the glamour; their sharp edges have been carefully filed off and their values have been kid-tested, mother-approved. The still prevailing myth of the film-student-as-rebel obscures the banal truth: These are highly profitable institutions, buttressed by a wildly irresponsible student loan system preying on thousands of starry-eyed individuals all vying for “their shot.”

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Watchmen Prequels

How to respond to DC's idiotic decision to commission a bunch of dreary, time-serving comics hacks to write prequels to the Watchmen?

Some points I might have covered:

  • The stupidity of the "aha, what about The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen!" counter argument
  • The importance of brevity compared to labouring over the minutiae of continuity
  • The many ways the comics world has changed that make such a project doomed to failure, at best
  • The meagre talents assembled to stand in Alan's and Dave's Mighty Footprints (JMS and Adam Hughes!)
  • The transparently, nakedly, shamelessly money grubbing nature of the exercise in the face of broken promises (if not contracts)

I had a serious response half way worked out. But time is limited, and  of the many things worth getting cross about, this is surely one of the most trivial. As ever, all you can do is laugh.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath

"The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath", first published in Beyond the Wall of Sleep, 1943.

This is the the thirty-third entry in my read-through of the commemorative edition of Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H P Lovecraft.

Because of the way the Necronomicon volume is ordered – by publication date rather than writing date – this comes right at the end of the anthology, rather than where it fits in the story of HPL's development as a writer. On the one hand that's a bit of a shame – immediately after this he wrote The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and embarked on the run of stories on which his reputation largely rests, and this story is clearly a turning point.

On the other hand, it's an interesting coda for all the thinking I've done about HPL the man, and how much of him resides in his fiction. They're both interesting topics and I'll take them in turn.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Panoptica - two new reviews!

Well, newish. I haven't perhaps been as on to it about this, time being pressing, as ever.

Anyway, over on Mike Davey gives it four stars saying "This book's style is Swift meets Dick with a dash of Vonnegut. A great first novel with satire thats cuts like a katana!"

Meanwhile, on Jeffrey Hewitt (author of A Reflection of Glass) gives it another four star review. "This is an excellent first novel! The pace is insane - like a clown on a downhill slope riding on an out-of-control train greased with lightning, satire, and sharp British wit."

Panoptica has international appeal, and is good for what ails you! And a print-on-demand version is coming soon - luddites, watch this space!

My Reading Year 2011

Well, all in all, 2011 wasn't quite as horrible as 2010. I have a new job and will be shortly moving house, so it's all change here. A change is as good as a holiday, as they say, although having cashed-in a week of leave at my old place before starting at my new job, I have to wonder if that's true.

At the end of the year, I self-published Panoptica as an ebook on amazon, thus surfing the breaking wave of publishing phenomenon or throwing my lot in with a passing fad, depending on which way the future goes. To be honest, it's hard to imagine the impact of ereader going away. Maybe it'll all be through more—sophisticated tablet computer things, but it's clearly here to stay and has some expansion yet to do.

It's nice, however, to have it out of my hair, buried in the torrent of slurry, so I can move on to the next project. I'm not sure if my own entry comes a little late, and publicity remains a challenge, but at least it's out there. If you're a regular reader of this blog, I urge you to buy a copy – I mean, at worst it'll sit on your hard-drive harming no one. You might even enjoy reading it, but if you do, don't forget to leave a review on amazon! (A hard copy version is coming soon!)

Okay, that's the sponsorship over with. Let's get serious. Let's talk about books!

Cutting to the chase, the best books I read in 2011 are:

Necronomicon: The Best Weird Fiction of H P Lovecraft
Supergods by Grant Morrison
The Immortalisation Commission by John Gray
The Big Knockover & Other Stories by Dashiell Hammett

Monday, 9 January 2012

Happy Birthday David

Okay, it's a day late, but I just found this awesome version of Life On Mars on youtube. Wow!

From the Parksinson show in 2002, apparently.