Steampunks in Space! 29/30 November

The National Space Centre in Leicester is playing host to a weekend of Steampunk shenanigans from 29th-30th November 2014.

The Steampunks in Space event boasts multifarious delights from a cake and jam competition, tea-duelling, the marketplace, real steam-powered engineering to the science of afternoon tea.

There are also goings-on in the library, where authors do what authors do. You can meet a number of them there, including Pax Britannia writer Jonathon Green, Steve Turnbull, Liesl Schwartz and The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter (book one in the Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire series) writer Rod Duncan.

…also gin tasting and moustache waxing will be happening. Of course!

If you buy a ticket for Saturday daytime, you can upgrade to a free annual pass when you collect your tickets. This will allow you entry on Sunday daytime at no additional cost:

  • £13 per adult
  • £11 per concession (child/NUS/senior/disabled
  • Under 5 free
  • Carer free (when accompanying a disabled patron)

Dragonmeet in December

Players of games take note!

Chris Birch of Modiphius/Dragonmeet has been in touch to tell us about the next Dragonmeet tabletop gaming convention on Dec 6th at the Ibis Earls Court and the ILEC Convention Centre in London.

Making an appearance at the event are Games Workshop co-founders and Fighting Fantasy authors Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson,  award-winning author and game designer Joe Dever, Jamie Anderson (Gerry Anderson’s son). Also other big names from the world of gaming: Ken Hite, Robin Laws, Rob Heinsoo, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Sarah Newton, Lynne Hardy, Mike Mason, Gunnar Roxen, Jonathan Green, John Houlihan, Mischa Thomas… with more guests to be announced.

Miniatures companies exhibiting at the convention this year include Battlefront, Forgeworld, Northstar Miniatures, Hawk Wargames, Spartan Games, Mantic Games,  Prodos Games and Warlord Games.

Matt Leacock is also running the Pandemic World Party on the 6th Dec raising funds for Doctors Without Borders. Jamie Anderson will be showing a sneak preview of his dad’s last great project, which has now been funded on Kickstarter.

There will be lots of games and tournaments going on, as well as a programme of seminars. The Best of Essen area will showcase awesome new boardgames that will be available to buy at the show having caused a stir at the Essen Spiele game fair.

There is free local parking, and the Dragonmeet is  open until Midnight on the 6th December with a free meet up in the on-site George & Dragon pub on the Sunday. Tickets are still just £8 in advance, £10 on the day and under 16s (accompanied by adults) get in free.

 

Parliament 2115: re-imagining a democracy of the future. Sci-Fi Fans Wanted!

This year, for Parliament Week 2014, Parliamentary Outreach is inviting sci fi, fantasy and comic fans, gamers and scientists to re-imagine democracy in 2115. We want you to think as creatively as you can, and to boldly go wherever the fancy takes you. Debate the future with us, in today’s Parliament, on Wednesday 19 November 2014.

Politicians debate the imminent present, but science fiction explores even stranger horizons: the impossible dreams and apocalyptic visions of the far, far future.

From anarcho-syndicalist moon colonies to genetically engineered tapeworm, sci fi has generated exciting, thought-provoking and sometimes prescient visions. What could Parliament look like one-hundred years from now? What issues will we face? Who will represent us? And who will be listening?

For spoilers you can follow the updates on this event using the Twitter hashtag #SciFiParl.

Who can attend?

Anyone with an interest in science fiction, fantasy or re-imagining the present. This debate is expected to draw on artificial intelligence, dystopias and myriad genres. Attendees could include gamers, sci-fi, fantasy and comic fans, LARP-ers and scientists, or anyone interested in the future of democracy.

Visitors should enter by the main entrance to Portcullis House on the Victoria Embankment, facing the river.

Visiting Parliament: Maps and directions
Visiting Parliament: Security Information

Parliament is working to ensure that all Parliamentary services, including Outreach sessions, can be accessed and used by disabled people. If you have any particular requirements and wish to attend, please let us know.

Find out more about Parliament’s Outreach Service

The Houses of Parliament Outreach Service spreads awareness of the work, processes and relevance of the institution of Parliament, encouraging greater engagement between the public and the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

UK Parliament’s Outreach Service

Follow @UKParlOutreach on Twitter for updates from the Houses of Parliament Outreach Service.

Booking details

To register your interest for this event email parliamentaryoutreach@parliament.uk

Cost to attend

This event is free of charge.

BFS/BSFA York Pubmeet

Title: BFS/BSFA York Pubmeet
Location: Brigantes Bar & Brasserie, 114 Micklegate, York YO1 6JX
Link out: Click here
Description: This is another opportunity to join us for a fabulous FREE open meeting for fans and writers of Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction, featuring guest author readings followed by a Q&A session, another fabulous FREE raffle (we gave out LOADS of book bundles last time), and plenty of room and time for chat, spirited discussion and of course, beer (other beverages are available).

Location: Brigantes Bar and Brasserie

114 Micklegate York Y01 6JX

There is a great menu there if you fancy eating, but if you have particular dietary requirements, our scouts have also recommended another nearby venue that has gluten-free on its menu: the Bar Convent is just 3mins walk down the road: Bar Convent Menu

Start Time: 4:00pm onwards; first reading around 5.00pm (Would be great to see you there before 4.15!)
End Time: when you feel like leaving (or the bar closes)

Guest Author Readings

Justina Robson

Justina Robson — science fiction author (incl. the Quantum Gravity series). Geek Alert: Justina also wrote Transformers: The Covenant of Primus, a fictional account revealing the previously untold origins of the original Primes as well as the evolution of the Autobots and Decepticons.

Take this opportunity to hear Justina read from one of her books and ask about life working on a tie-in series, plus anything else writing-related that interests you.

Vincent Holland-Keen

Vincent Holland-Keen — author of the critically acclaimed The Office of Lost and Found (“a rich creamy vein of the absurd and surreal” and “a fresh and amazing read… as far from predictable and paint by numbers writing as one can possibly get”).

Vincent is a new voice in dark, surreal humour, his work favourably compared to both Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett in terms of absurdity, and this is your chance to find out what makes him tick…

Both authors will be available for a Q&A and to join in the conversation afterwards, but please check the Twitter feeds and BFS and BSFA websites (below) for further details closer to the time.
FREE Raffle
We are pleased to announce that we will also have another fabulous FREE raffle for all attendees (to be drawn circa. 6.30-7.00pm), with a variety of book bundles and signed copies on offer as prizes, incl. a selection of proofs and ARCs (Advance Reader Copies), so we sincerely hope you’ll be leaving with something in addition to just great memories!

Keep up to date with this event on Twitter via @BSFA and @BritFantasySoc, as well as @mangozoid (co-ordinator/organiser).

Or visit the following websites to stay informed:

www.bsfa.co.uk

www.britishfantasysociety.org
Start Time: 16:00
Date: 2014-11-22

BSFA/BFS York Pubmeet on Saturday 22nd November

This is another opportunity to join us for a fabulous FREE open meeting for fans and writers of Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction, featuring guest author readings followed by a Q&A session, another fabulous FREE raffle (we gave out LOADS of book bundles last time), and plenty of room and time for chat, spirited discussion and of course, beer (other beverages are available).

Location: Brigantes Bar and Brasserie

114 Micklegate York Y01 6JX

There is a great menu there if you fancy eating, but if you have particular dietary requirements, our scouts have also recommended another nearby venue that has gluten-free on its menu: the Bar Convent is just 3mins walk down the road: Bar Convent Menu

Start Time: 4:00pm onwards; first reading around 5.00pm (Would be great to see you there before 4.15!)
End Time: when you feel like leaving (or the bar closes)

 

Guest Author Readings

Justina Robson

Justina Robson — science fiction author (incl. the Quantum Gravity series). Geek Alert: Justina also wrote Transformers: The Covenant of Primus, a fictional account revealing the previously untold origins of the original Primes as well as the evolution of the Autobots and Decepticons.

Take this opportunity to hear Justina read from one of her books and ask about life working on a tie-in series, plus anything else writing-related that interests you.

Vincent Holland-Keen

Vincent Holland-Keen — author of the critically acclaimed The Office of Lost and Found (“a rich creamy vein of the absurd and surreal” and “a fresh and amazing read… as far from predictable and paint by numbers writing as one can possibly get”).

Vincent is a new voice in dark, surreal humour, his work favourably compared to both Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett in terms of absurdity, and this is your chance to find out what makes him tick…

Both authors will be available for a Q&A and to join in the conversation afterwards, but please check the Twitter feeds and BFS and BSFA websites (below) for further details closer to the time.
FREE Raffle
We are pleased to announce that we will also have another fabulous FREE raffle for all attendees (to be drawn circa. 6.30-7.00pm), with a variety of book bundles and signed copies on offer as prizes, incl. a selection of proofs and ARCs (Advance Reader Copies), so we sincerely hope you’ll be leaving with something in addition to just great memories!

Keep up to date with this event on Twitter via @BSFA and @BritFantasySoc, as well as @mangozoid (co-ordinator/organiser).

Or visit the following websites to stay informed:

www.bsfa.co.uk

www.britishfantasysociety.org

 

Suggest Items for BSFA Awards

Members may already be aware that nominations are now open for the BSFA Awards until January 31st.

We have made some changes to the nominations process, limiting the number of nominations members can make in each category to just 3, and so we thought it would be useful to also have a suggestions form where anyone can make suggestions for things that are eligible for nomination.

The form to make your suggestions is located here.

Items, as they come in, will be listed here.

We will add a link for this suggestions list and form to the Awards page.

Who can make suggestions?

Absolutely anyone, and it doesn’t even matter if you have an interest in the category. You can be the writer, illustrator or publisher. You can be the suggested person’s mum. Or, you can just be someone who has read and loved a book, story or article, or seen a cover you liked the look of. You don’t have to be a BSFA member to suggest anything either. This list is there to give BSFA members an idea of what may be eligible. It will not influence the results in any other way than making sure that BSFA members can see your suggested item in a list, making it less likely for them to forget about it.

Items will appear in the list almost immediately after you have clicked submit, and we will need to check and tidy them up when we can. Do let us know if you see anything amiss that we don’t seem to have tidied up in a timely manner – there’s a corrections section to the form.

Our immense gratitude goes to member Stephen Theaker who helped us put this form together.

 

Happy suggesting!

 THE ART OF JOHN HARRIS: BEYOND THE HORIZON – Review

THE ART OF JOHN HARRIS: BEYOND THE HORIZON

Foreword by John Scalzi

Titan Books (2014), 160pp h/back, £24.99

A review by Alex Bardy

I have always been a fan of art books, but it feels like I’ve spent the latter part of this year falling in love with them all over again thanks to some excellent releases from Titan Books. I covered Jim Burns’ Hyperluminal here, Greg Spalenka’s Visions From The Mind’s Eye here, and am pleased as punch to be able to add John Harris’ truly gorgeous Beyond The Horizon to the list…

john harris

John Harris’ style generally carries a distinctive ‘clouds’n’oil’ look and feel that has remained largely unchanged throughout the years. His work has adorned the covers of a great many genre movers and shakers of the past incl. Asimov, Clarke, Haldeman, Blish, Pohl, Vance, and Samuel R. Delaney, and continues to do so with cover art for the likes of Ben Bova, John Scalzi, Jack McDevitt, Orson Scott Card, and Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice in more recent years. Also, being a teen myself back in the 80s, I was pleasantly surprised to discover John Harris was also the artist for the cover of the ZX81 Basic Programming Manual and various ZX Spectrum Manuals all those years ago (’81 and ’83 respectively)— he’s certainly been around, in the nicest sense of the word…

john harris1

A gripe I have had with some of these beautiful Titan art productions, is the lack of a proper contents and index page, so I’m pleased to say that Beyond The Horizon at least gets the latter right, although —unlike Spalenka’s Visions From The Mind’s Eye— not all of the credited images have dates or years attached, which evidently presents a few issues for anyone hoping to determine some form of underlying progression over the years.

That said, this book is neatly split into helpfully descriptive sections within which the artist has plenty to say about his guiding influences, some thought and reflection on his work and so forth — Floating Mass, Dust To Dust, Towers In Starlight, The Ruination Of Things, Return To Earth, Hidden Suns and The City of Fire, The Abandoned Lands and The Plain of Suns, Beyond The Horizon, etc. and there’s even a handy Works by Author section. Again, as great and helpful as this was it would’ve been nice to see a Contents list of sorts just to help refer back to things…

john harris2

The sense of scale that comes across throughout is genuine and real — the majority of images included in this collection bring forth visions and a conceptual feeling of inadequacy… here be huge mega-machines, mega-spaceships, mega-planets, mega-landscapes, indeed mega-everything, so much so that one feels immediately dwarfed by the sheer magnitude of all that is being portrayed.

John Harris also spends a hefty portion of the book talking about a personal, conceptually driven project of his own from which stems a whole heap of ideas including but not limited to an ancient alien race, nomadic rites of passage, religious iconography, active volcanic mountain cities, stupendously huge ducts and sinks to manage lava flow, etc. and so on and so forth, and it even includes a small cast — all truly amazing inspirational stuff, and unlikely to appear anywhere else anytime soon.

 

 

john harris3

 

As a final note, John was also commissioned by NASA to attend a launch and produce a painting to mark the event, something which has now become part of the Smithsonian Collection and hangs inside the Kennedy Space Centre — the first British artist to do so…

 

 

Personally, I really loved seeing some of the artwork from MASS all over again included herein (a John Harris art book released by Paper Tiger back in 2000: click here), and would dearly love to see this re-released if it’s remotely possible. C’mon Titan, please make it so!

 

All in all, this is another great release, and a genuine visual feast and tour de force, especially if you like your space art to depict a sense of the incomprehensibly vast and “megaloptical” (my term)… another fine addition to this excellent stable of art celebration.

john harris4

 

 

Line-Up Announced for Nour Festival – Arab Science Fiction: From Imagination to Innovation

As previously reported on this blog, the Nour Festival, now in its 5th year, is happening on Saturday November 15th at the Science Museum Theatre in London, and will include an evening discussion on science fiction, chaired by broadcaster Samira Ahmed.

‘Trip to the Heavens’, Vintage book cover of an Arabic Sci-Fi novel, Cairo, 1953

The festival has now announced its full guest line-up for the event.

Hassan Abdulrazzak: Scientist, author and award-winning playwright.

Yasser Bahjatt: Science Fiction writer and Co-Founder of The League of Arab Sci-Fiers.

Ehsan Masood: Science writer, journalist and Editor of Research Fortnight.

Larissa Sansour: Artist and professional Filmmaker.

Of the discussion, Samira Ahmed said, “Even SF can get bogged down in its own traditions. So exploring SF through the prism of the Arab imagination is fascinating. From historical reassessment to watching history unfold in Syria I think this event is a great chance to listen to some powerful literary voices and re-think what SF is about and what it can do.”

The event producer,Sindbad Sci-Fi, is an initiative for spurring the discovery of and engagement with Arab Science Fiction through dialogue. The aim is to sustain a growing community of interest through brokering face-to-face and online discussion, building new partnerships and facilitating new project collaborations.

‘Star Wars depicted as an Ottoman miniature’ © Murat Palta, 2011

Saturday 15 November • 19:00 – 21:00 (Doors open 18:30)

Tickets
 £10 Full  | £8 Concession

Book Online here

Groups Discounts:
5-9 people: 10% off total amount (Call 0870 870 4868 and quote SINDBAD10)
10+ people: 20% off total amount (Call 0870 870 4868 and quote SINDBAD20)

November BSFA London Meeting: Claire Corbett Interviewed by Colin Harvey

Location: Upstairs, The Artillery Arms, 102 Bunhill Row, London, EC1Y 8ND

Claire March

 

On Monday* 24th of November 2014, Claire Corbett (Australian author of When We Have Wings) will be interviewed by Colin Harvey (writer and academic).

ALL WELCOME – FREE ENTRY (Non-members welcome)

The interview will start at 7 pm. We have the room from 6 pm (and if early, fans are in the ground floor bar from 5ish).

There will be a raffle (£1 for five tickets), with a selection of sf novels as prizes.

Map is here.

FUTURE EVENTS:

December- No meeting as usual.

28th January 2015-Anne Charnock interviewed by TBC

25th February 2015- TBA

 

*Please note the Non-Wed. Date!

Want to let us know you’re coming? That would be ace. Register on our Eventbrite here.

Happy Halloween – Scary Stuff!

Seeing as it’s Halloween, and I look like the ghost of Keele Formal Ball 1992 (I’ve recycled the outfit I wore to it  – Elsa Lancaster-style. Only I’m at least two stone heavier than when I was eighteen. Seeing as ghosts are meant to be less substantial, I’m letting ghosts down big time…) I thought it would be appropriate to bring you a guest post from Gingernuts of Horror’s very own Jim Mcleod. After all, the horror genre was as much Mary Shelley’s “hideous progeny” as science fiction on that stormy night she sat telling tales of electrified flesh brought back to life, as Percy Byshe Shelley and Lord Byron listened,  at Byron’s Lake Geneva villa almost two hundred years ago.

So here are two awesome reviews and some spooky trailers for you.  Follow title links to see trailers. Take it away, Jim!

Open Grave

OPEN_GRAVE_DVD_2D

There seems to be a new trend emerging over the past few months with regards to horror films. It may well be that I have just become more discerning as to what films I watch, or it may well be that there are just more intelligent films out there that are not aimed at pre-pubescent teenage boys. Open Grave is one of these new breeds of horror film.

When Jon wakes up in a giant pit filled with dead and decaying corpses, he soon realises that he has no memory. Not just to why he ended up in the pit, he has no memories, of who is, where he came from. Hell, he can’t even remember who is mother is.

With some help, he gets out of this hellish pit and he finds himself in the company of a group of people who, like him, have no memory. Stuck in an old farmhouse in the middle of huge forest with no knowledge of anything we follow this band of characters on a journey of discovery that is littered with the rotting corpses of shocking secrets.

To say much more about the film’s plot would be to give too much away. Open Grave is one of those films that works best when you go in knowing nothing. Rest assured the filmmakers don’t leave you waiting too long before they start providing the answers. By the time you reach a rather shocking and brutal scene involving a barbed wire fence you’ll pretty much know where the story is going and where it sits within the horror genre.

In terms of its place Open Grave is a welcome addition to the genre. It’s not often that you get a wholly original film in this particular brand of horror. The writer and director made a wise decision in keeping these elements of the film a step back from the main narrative thrust of the movie, which is the characters discovering who they are, and how they react to their new-found knowledge.

One of the reasons for this may have been due to the budgetary constraints of the film. This is a low budget film, however with this in mind Open Grave is a great-looking film. Rather than wasting lots of cash on your typical money shots, the budget has been spent on ensuring the film has a gritty feel to it. There is a real satisfying tone to feel to the film. The dirt and blood splatters on the cast is satisfyingly grimy. You can also tell that a decent amount of the budget was spent on one of the final shots, a wonderful wide angled shot of the landscape which has a real “Oh my God” feel to it.

When your budget is small, you have to make sure that the script and actors are good enough to carry the film. For the most par,t both work really well. There are some fine performances from the cast, in particular Sharlto Copley’s performance is outstanding. He is quickly becoming one of my favourite actors. His performance is an excellent mix of bewilderment, anger, and frustration.

Josie Ho’s performance as the mute, Brown Eyes, is also very good, she brings a real sense of fear and uncertainty to her character.

As for the script, in the main it works very well. Plots involving amnesia can be somewhat clichéd and predictable, however the clever plot idea of making everyone an amnesic ensures that this doesn’t happen. Where the script falls down is in the middle section, which felt just a little bit too long and at times felt devoid of either action or plot development. The use of partial and broken flashbacks is handled well, and ensures that the viewers are still left wondering as to who if any of the characters are the bad guys.

One scene in particular really grated: without giving too much away it involved a car that suddenly wouldn’t start, even though it was running two minutes earlier. This reliance of age-old clichés is not needed, especially when the rest of the film makes such an effort to be original.

Open Grave is one of those films whose ending is going to get a lot of people very angry. It’s certainly brave, and tonally fits in perfectly with the dark, bleak and oppressive feel of the rest of film.   It’s been a long time since a small piece of paper has had me screaming NO!! at the television screen. Don’t come here looking for a happy ending or a film full of nice tidy resolutions.

 Open Grave, despite a slightly flabby middle, and that really annoying scene with the car, is an assured film. It’s a film that doesn’t treat the viewer as a mindless idiot, you actually have to pay attention as the story unfolds. It’s not a mindless rollercoaster of a film. The horror comes not from silly jump scares, but from a slow and steady realisation of their gravity of their situation and from some strong performances. If you are fed up with the same old horror film then Open Grave is the film for you. From the opening scene with the sounds of bones and ligaments cracking back into place, to the film’s resolution Open Grave is worthy of your time.

 Tree House

TREEHOUSE_DVD_2D

With some films there is perfect a time and place to watch them.  A time of the year that just adds to the viewing pleasure. Treehouse is a film that is just begging to be watched now.  This backwoods horror/thriller is full of atmospheric shots of misty covered woods, with of autumn’s golden rays piercing through the cloying mist.  It elicits a true sense of Halloween dread in the viewer.

The plot of Treehouse is a basic one, some thing or someone is kidnapping the kids in a typical sleepy small American town.  You know the sort of town where everyone knows your name.  Where every street is populated with Mom and Pop stores. So when a couple of kids go missing and a curfew is placed over the sleepy town, it’s only traditional and inevitable that two kids decide to break the curfew for a chance of some late night nookie.

However as is want to happen in these sort of films their plans don’t quite end up the way they want to.  Left high and dry by their dates the two brothers decide to let off some fireworks, since it’s well known that all American teenagers are always packing fireworks and cherry bombs.  When they let of one of their rockets they discover a large tree house high up in one of the ancient trees, and as teenage boys are want to do they just have to climb up and investigate.  Bad move, boys, as this is going to be a night that you will never forget.
There is a lot to love in Treehouse; from the above synopsis it may seem that this is your typical Hollywood soulless stalk and slash film that is so beloved of mindless film producers.  And for the most part this film stays well clear of this tired and boring concept. The leads are not your typical high school Adonises, and there are no perky cheerleaders waiting for them in the woods.  It’s refreshing to watch a horror film with teenage leads that doesn’t have you waiting for the tedious bra and boobie shot.  The natural awkwardness of the two male leads adds a nice depth to the film.  In particular  J. Michael Trautmann’s performance of Killian is exceptional.  He has a wonderfully expressive face. From the browbeaten and bullied kid at the start of the film to the hero at the end of the film, Trautmann’s portrayal and development of Killian’s character is assured and well played helped by some inspired facial expressions.  This is his film, and as a lead he more than admirably carries it off.  He is helped with a great if albeit small cast of supporting actors. Daniel Fredrick is good as his brother, and Dana Melanie is excellent as the scared and emotionally battered Elizabeth.

In some ways this is a film of two parts, a brilliant and tense first act that plays out as an atmospheric siege film and a slightly less appealing final act which slips into survival horror mode, and somehow loses some of the charm and impact built up during the first hour of the film.

The director wisely keeps everyone guessing during the first hour or so of the film, we, as well as the cast have no clue as to the nature of the menace.  Tension is built up through the excellent use of cinematography, film score and sound effects.   In particular a scene involving a conversation on a two way radio will have you biting your nails.

There are some brilliant camera shots in the film and when combined with a sublime score give the scenes set in the woods an almost dream like quality.  Flashbacks are often an overused cliché in films, and while watching the film there was a sense of why are we seeing these?  However by the time that the final frame finishes, the reason for these are made clear.  They are all part of Killian’s journey and transformation.

For the first sixty minutes or so Treehouse is a tremendously tense and atmospheric thriller, it’s only in the final third that the director fumbles the ball.

The film shifts from a siege mode to survival mode, the nature of the “monsters” is revealed, in a way I wish the director would have been a little bit braver as to who and what has been haunting the woods.  In particular

SPOILER ALERT

The fact that one of the brothers had a loping limp really grated; why does every backwoods family have member who has a limp?  At least they weren’t all inbred simpleton mutants like those found in the despicable Wrong Turn films.  The biggest problem with this part of the film is the way in which it feels rushed.  These aren’t your typical hard to kill hillbillies, they go down quick and fast, perhaps too fast.  In a slightly twisted way it would have good to have more of their personalities in the film.  There is a brilliant shot of one of the brothers after he attacks Elizabeth, which shows a chilling disdain and nonchalance for his victim.  A few more shots like this would have really lifted this final act.

As for the film’s ending I can see that really annoying a lot of viewers, personally I think it’s a brave and inspired ending.  It’s the point at which Killian’s journey and development comes to fruition.  His story is over we don’t need to see anymore.

Treehouse overall is a solid film, one that starts out extremely well   only to be hampered by a weaker final act.  But don’t let this put you off, despite this Treehouse is still head and shoulders above the vast majority of big budget horror films.


Thanks, Jim! Both films are out on DVD and digital platforms now. And Head on over to Ginger Nuts of Horror for an awesome competition to win a copy of another Signature Film offering – Debug –  a sci-fi horror set in space with a killer AI.

It’s always hard to review a film that at heart is a decent film, but one that suffers from many of the problems associated with films of this type.  Debug falls into this category.  There is a really good film desperate to burst out from the trappings of clichés, poor budget and some really crazy and at times annoying plot points.

Welcome to the future, where a team of intrepid salvage workers go around rescuing old ships from cold vacuum of space.  Unlike most salvage teams, this motley crew is not made up of tired space weary salvage operatives so beloved by the genre, as seen in such classics such as Alien and Event Horizon, two films that this film cheekily riffs on.  What we have here is a team made up of criminal cyber hackers, forced into doing this sort of thing to lessen their sentences.

What seems to be a routine mission quickly turns into a fight for survival against a psychotic artificial intelligence as if there is any other kind. Trapped on the ship the only way for our heroes to survive is to defeat the rather oddly named IAm.

 

Thankfully this team doesn’t take too long for the action to start, and for the most part the action, death scenes and the acting are of decent quality.  Let’s be clear here: this is a low-budget film, and for that it can be forgiven for a lot of things.  This isn’t a stellar cast of respected actors. For the most part these are relatively unknowns who manage to hold their own during the film.  The main problem with the cast lies in the portrayal of IAm by Jason Momoa.  I can’t put my finger on exactly what makes this a cheese fest, it’s either the costume he wears or it’s the really appalling hairstyle he sports for the role.  These combined with a performance that is more pantomime dame than evil AI, robs IAm of any real menace.

The film also suffers from some problems faced by most films of this type.  For example, wouldn’t it be nice to have an AI that isn’t a psycho?  The film would have worked better if they had to face a run of mill monster, or a crazed lone member of the ship’s crew.  And why, why do the designers of these interstellar spacecraft have to put the safety switch for the AI in the most inaccessible of all places.  Have these designers and programmers never watched a science fiction film?  If I were building a spaceship with an AI, I’d have an override button every three feet.

It may seem that this film really isn’t worth your time or money based on what has been said above.  And I could forgive you for thinking this, however after watching this film I got the impression that the filmmakers were doing something that a lot of modern filmmakers fail to do.  They actually tried to make a good film.  I get the feeling that with a bit more experience and a better budget, they are capable of making a really good film.  Despite the obvious flaws this was still an entertaining film, helped with some neat Lawnmower Man touches and some nice death scenes.

Debug may not be original, it may not even be that well made, but it is still a decent way to spend a rainy afternoon.

Sent in to deep space as punishment for computer-based crimes, six young hackers are attempting to debug the computer systems of a massive derelict space freighter. While they struggle to clear out the viruses, the team fall prey to the ship’s vengeful artificial intelligence, a programme that would literally kill to be human. As the fractious team is forced to match wits with this rogue programme, they discover that the ship holds a deadly secret – and a fate far worse than death.
See more here.

The Frood of Douglas Adams

Link

The work of Douglas Adams is to be celebrated at Britain’s only comedy book festival this November.

At en event entitled “The Frood: The authorised and very official history of Douglas Adams and The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy”, Toby Longworth – renowned genre film actor and the current reigning Slartibartfast – welcomes Douglas Adams’ official biographer Jem Roberts to tell the story of The Frood, an all-new history of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

This new biography is described by festival organizers Chortle as “bursting with newly-discovered secrets from the private Adams archive.”

As well as talking about Douglas Adams, Toby and Jem will be performing extracts from the archives, including Hitchhiker material which has never been published before

This event takes place on November 10th at London Irish Centre, 9pm, tickets priced at £7 (£5.50 concession).

To find out about other events at the festival, which takes place between 7th and 14th November in London, please visit the Chortle website.

Ada Lovelace Day October 14th

Tuesday 14th October is Ada Lovelace Day – an International Celebration of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Ada Lovelace was born in 1815 and grew up to be the world’s first computer programmer, working with Charles Babbage’s plans for the Analytical Engine.

Ada Lovelace Day  aims to raise the profiles of STEM women, to inspire others and to create new role models for young and old alike.

In celebration of this day, The Royal Institution in Mayfair, London, is holding a special event – Ada Lovelace Day Live – on Tuesday 14th October  at 7pm (tickets still available as I write).

The following performers and artists will be appearing:

Roma Agrawal is a civil engineer from the team that built The Shard, bringing stories of bridges and a few jelly babies too. More about her work can be found on the Ri Blog.

Caro C is an electronic musician and sound engineer and one of the founders of Delia Derbyshire Day. Her performance is inspired by Delia’s fascinating archive and pioneering work including the realisation of the original Doctor Who theme in 1963.

Dr Hannah Fry is a UCL lecturer in the Mathematics of Cities, whose TEDx talk has been viewed over half a million times. She’ll show how maths can be used to predict the future.

Konnie Huq is a television presenter, writer, mathematics enthusiast, and at one time the longest-serving female presenter of Blue Peter after studying economics at Cambridge University.

Naomi Kashiwagi is an award winning artist and performer. The Royal Institution let her loose in their prep room and archives, where she’s developed her own unique take on Ada Lovelace. 

Dr Turi King is the geneticist who led the DNA analysis that located the remains of Richard III in Leicester, and explores how genetics combined with history, archeology, anthropology and forensics can shed light on our past and future.

Steph Troeth is a user experience researcher and designer, who will share her obsession with finding ways to improve technology by understanding what people do (and don’t do) in the real world.

Dr Helen Czerski is a physicist and oceanographer at University College London. When she’s not in the lab or on a boat (or doing both at the same time) she presents science programmes for the BBC.

Event host Helen Arney is a self-professed geek songstress, who writes maths and science-inspired comedy songs and performs across the UK.

Tickets are £12/8, £6 for Ri Associates, and free to Ri members and fellows.

Find out more at www.findingada.com 

 

 

Arab Science Fiction: From Imagination to Innovation

Arab Science Fiction: From Imagination to Innovation
Science Museum IMAX theatre

Samira Ahmed

BBC broadcaster, Samira Ahmed, chairs a stellar panel of visionary thinkers who offer new perspectives on whether nurturing creativity through science fiction could be more crucial to our global progress than we might realise.

What is the link between technological innovation and artistic imagination? Science fiction is often thought to be the ultimate bridge between science and the arts. Could exploring this symbiotic relationship enable the next generation to envision an alternative future of the Middle East? Can inventive forms of art, film and literature help to inspire new waves of scientific development in the Arab world today and beyond?

Tickets
Adults: £10 (£8 early booking rate offer until 25 October – call 0870 870 4868 and quote EB8)
Concs: £8 (£6 early booking rate offer until 25 October – call 0870 870 4868and quote EB6)

Groups:
5-9 people: 10% off total amount (Call 0870 870 4868 and quote SINDBAD10)
10+ people: 20% off total amount (Call 0870 870 4868 and quote SINDBAD20)

Here’s how to get to the Science Theatre.

October BSFA London Meeting: Dave Bradley Interviewed by Scott K. Andrews

Location: Upstairs, The Artillery Arms, 102 Bunhill Row, London, EC1Y 8ND

Dave Bradley Official SFX Editor Picture

 

On Wednesday 29th of October 2014, Dave Bradley (Group Editor-in-Chief of SFX and Total Film) will be interviewed by Scott K. Andrews (YA author responsible for Abaddon’s School’s Out trilogy and the new Timebomb series from Hodder & Stoughton)

ALL WELCOME – FREE ENTRY (Non-members welcome)

The interview will start at 7 pm. We have the room from 6 pm (and if early, fans are in the ground floor bar from 5ish).

There will be a raffle (£1 for five tickets), with a selection of sf novels as prizes.

Map is here.

FUTURE EVENTS:

*24th November 2014- Claire Corbett interviewed by Colin Harvey

December- No meeting as usual.

28th January 2015-Anne Charnock interviewed by TBC

 

*Please note the Non-Wed. Date!

Astro Camp, August 2015

James Bacon has been in touch to tell us about a new venture, which I thought would be of inspirational interest to BSFA members – as Professor Brian Cox might say, it sounds “Amaaazing.”

We will be holding our first astronomy camp on the second weekend of August (that’s August 7th-9th) 2015. We hope it will be a great success, and become a yearly event.We hope to host other educational events at Huntley Wood, under the .CAMPhw umbrella, exploring topics such as ecology and bushcraft. The Astro Camp date has been picked because the second weekend in August often falls close to the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, one of the best and brightest meteor showers in the Northern Hemisphere, which is visible throughout late July and early August and peaks each year between August 9th and 14th.It is hoped that the Perseids will add an extra dimension, and extra excitement, to the star gazing aspect of the event.

We have named the event astro.CAMPhw, the “hw” standing for our venue, Huntley Wood. In future we hope to host other educational camping events at Huntley Wood, under the same “CAMPhw” umbrella, but we’ll see how the astronomy one goes first….We now have a website up and running, at: http://astro.camphw.uk

There you can see the beginning of our exciting programme for the weekend, which already includes bestselling popular science author Simon Singh giving a talk about his book “Big Bang”, as well as talks from Prof Paul Roche from the Faulkes telescope project and Dr Ed Trollope from Things We Don’t Know (.com), and a number of workshops by Emma Wride of AstroCymru, plus an under cover 3D Celestia and Stellarium, just in case the weather turns bad! Much, much more will be added over the coming months, and we hope to develop a really packed weekend, with talks, discussions and workshops from a range of experts, as well as fun activities suitable for children.To be kept up to date on what’s going on you can follow us on facebook (facebook.com/astrocamphw) or twitter (twitter.com/astrocamphw), where we will be posting all our news and updates.Tickets are already on sale on the website – and the earlier people sign up the easier it is for us to plan the best possible weekend. Because of this we are offering an early booking discount, £20 off an adult ticket and £10 off a child ticket before 1 February 2010. See the website for full details.

Thanks, James!

Rachel New Short Story Challenge

Birmingham Literature Festival writer in residence, Rachel New, is attempting to better the challenge she set herself last year as part of Birmingham Literature Festival. Last year she incarcerated herself in the Library of Birmingham for her ’10 Day Sentence’ and wrote 30,000 words in 10 days. This year she has pledged to write 10 short stories (500 words or less) every day of the Festival (2 – 11th October). Depending on what is suggested to her, some of these could well be genre! It’s up to you!

She will be relying on support and encouragement from you, the public. You can tweet her your story ideas @Rachel_New or post on the ‘One Page Wonders’ Facebook page HERE. Or you could visit her in person at the Library of Birmingham on the 2nd floor Book Rotunda.

News roundup

Here at BSFA Towers we get various items of news about forthcoming events sent to us; but we aren’t always too good about disseminating them.

When I say “we”, I mean “I”, of course. My fellow committee members and Towers-dwellers are lovely and excellent and would never sit for weeks on something that came in via the contact form.

Anyway, to make up for my tarditude (a new word I’ve just invented), here are four items of interest that have come in recently. My apologies to the various organisations for them all being in a collected post.

Cheltenham Literature Festival

Hanna Goldschmidt writes:

I am contacting you on behalf of The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, which takes place 3 – 12 October in the centre of town, as you may know. We have just announced our programme for 2014, and there are a number of events that would be of interest to your members, readers and visitors.

I would like to especially highlight our series of Science Fiction and Fantasy events. Celebrating Sci Fi and Fantasy, River of London author Ben Aaronovitch, Mitch Benn and Joe Abercrombie discuss their latest works. Another special event featuring Jem Roberts, Ed Victor and Terry Jones will pay tribute to Douglas Adams, best known for his iconic work The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. http://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/literature/whats-on/grid?genres=232

Please also visit our general programme for more information on the overall Festival schedule, including topics such as Fiction, Lifestyle, Current Affairs or Studio, Stage & Screen: http://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/literature/whats-on/grid

English PEN

Rebekah from English PEN — who recently hosted Audrey Niffenegger’s excellent talk at Loncon 3 — says:

I’m writing to let you know about a science fiction/literary event taking place on Monday 6 October at Southbank Centre in London.

English PEN is the founding branch of an international writers’ organisation/free speech charity, of which HG Wells was an early president.

Science Fiction: Home of the Literary Activist‘ will take HG Wells as a starting point for a discussion on what it is about activism that engages the SF community. Often, especially on matters regarding freedom of expression, readers and writers of the science fiction genre are particularly active in English PEN’s campaigns.

The event will take the form of a panel discussion chaired by Sophie Mayer, featuring writers Nick Harkaway, James Smythe and Gwyneth Jones and editor Anne C. Perry.

De Montfort University call for papers

Peter Conde says;

Please find enclosed a call for papers for the De Montfort University Narratives of Cyber event taking place on 26th November

CALL FOR PAPERS: Prometheus, COLOSSUS, HAL … and Beyond:  The Narratives of ‘Cyber’

De Montfort University, The Curve Theatre, Leicester:  26th November 2014

When a nation is powerful it tells the world confident stories about the future. The stories can be enchanting or frightening. But they make sense of the world. But when that power begins to ebb, the stories fall apart. And all that is left are fragments, which haunt you like half-forgotten dreams.
(Adam Curtis)

This one-day conference seeks to draw together academics and practitioners from as many different fields as possible, to encourage debate and discussion around the complex, contentious and contested theme of ‘cyber’, information technology, and the relationship between Human and Machine.

Humanity structures its vision of the world through constructed narratives (cultural, religious, political…) which seek to explain and justify our reading of reality; what are the narratives which have shaped and are shaping our existence as individuals and groups in a realm mediated and ordered through technology? As Grant Morrison puts it. “We live in the stories we tell ourselves”; what are the stories we tell ourselves about our relationship with the computer?

We seek proposals (300 words maximum) for papers of 20 minutes duration approaching these issues from as wide a range of perspectives as possible. A non-exhaustive list of subject areas might include:

  • Literary and cinematic visions of the information age
  • Robotics, cyborgs and transhumanism
  • Cyber-dissidence and resistance
  • Technophila and technophobia
  • Definitions of ‘cyberculture’

and many more…

All proposals must be received by 30th September 2014. (Speakers will be informed of acceptance within 1 week of deadline.)

Please send your paper proposal, and any requests for further information, to:

Email: cybertalk@softbox.co.uk (email heading “Cybernarratives proposal”)

Tel: 01347 812100

Web: www.softbox.co.uk/cybertalk

Arvon residential Science Fiction writing course

From Emma Feasey we hear:

I am writing to let you know about a residential Science Fiction writing course we are running later this year. Our courses take place in beautiful countryside locations, with a mixture of workshops, individual tutorials and time and space to write.

SCIENCE FICTION: Dreams and visions 20th – 25th October 2014, Totleigh Barton, Devon

In a world hemmed in by clocks, schedules and ‘business as usual’, science fiction reminds us of the value of dreams, capturing our epic capacity for good and evil. Build imaginary worlds, join in philosophical games, crack wild and bitter jokes and conjure visions both alarming and alluring. For all prose writers keen to experiment, the week will introduce a genre spectacularly in tune with our times.

Tutors:

  • Simon Ings edits Arc, a literary quarterly from New Scientist. His books include The Eye, A History of Vision, and novels The Weight of Numbers and Dead Water. He is writing a history of Soviet science.
  • Liz Jensen is the author of eight novels spanning several genres, including science fiction, among them Ark Baby, The Rapture and The Uninvited. Her work has been nominated for several awards, developed for film, and translated into more than 20 languages.

Guest: M. John Harrison’s novel Climbers won the Boardman Tasker Prize in 1989. His most recent novel is Empty Space.
http://www.arvon.org/course/science-fiction/

Call for Star Wars Cosplayers

We heard from the press office for the upcoming tour of One Man Star Wars, and One Man Lord of the Rings – and they need your help!

Charlie Ross (who is touring the UK with his One Man Lord of the Rings and One Man Star Wars Trilogy shows this autumn from 26 September until 17 October) is inviting Lord of the Rings and Star Wars fans to dress up and join him in costume for a fun news photo call to celebrate the start of the tour!

Charlie Ross

Come to the shows’ London venue, Leicester Square Theatre, on Sunday 28 September at 12.45pm for 1.00pm photographs with Charlie. The shoot will finish by 1.30pm at latest. Nearest changing facilities are the public toilets in Leicester Square (or a nearby cafe/pub).

Please note travel expenses cannot be covered, however everyone who attends will receive a special promotional code for discounted tickets to see the show on tour.

The Art of Greg Spalenka: Visions of the Mind’s Eye – A Preview by Alex Bardy

Titan Books (2014), 160pp h/back, £24.99

Due for official release on Friday 26th September, 2014

GregSpalenkaCover

I am not as familiar with Greg Spalenka’s work as I am with several other artists, but I know of it from his celebrated Sandman work (with Neil Gaiman — The Absolute Sandman volumes and The Absolute Death), the earlier Books of Magic comics, as well as numerous Magic The Gathering images. And now I know a whole lot more after reading about his remarkable career working with art colleges, doing digital designs for World of Warcraft, and early concept work on a whole host of hit family movies including The Golden Compass and Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

GS1

Spalenka’s distinct Pre-Raphaelite style and varied career has also seen him doing work for theatre and ballet companies, for various US art colleges and for a variety of populist US magazines like Time, Sports Illustrated, New York Times Magazine, LA Weekly, Psychology Today and many more —oh yes, and NFL Trading Cards.

GS2It’s clear this isn’t his only style, as can be attested so evidently by his work for children’s movies Escape From Planet Earth and The Ant Bully, many images from which also appear here.

GS3

In Visions From The Mind’s Eye, Greg Spalenka talks about some of his inspiration as a child, his early subscription to the Science Fiction Book Club where he discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs and an appetite for those Frank Frazetta covers that were classics of their time, and some of his very early memories as a student. Later, he talks about his experimentation with art materials, his discovery of Krylon Crystal Clear (look it up), his love of plain sketching with a pencil, his adoption of photographic techniques and the use of computers, and his early adventures with the classic Polaroid SX-70 (the one that printed instant photos —or approximations thereof— on small slides) which gave rise to what Spalenka cheerily terms “happy accident” technology.

GS4

Herein is an amazing selection and exploration of Spalenka’s work, covering many years and so many of his projects, recent and old. There are early sketches, photographic references and so much luscious art goodness that it’s difficult to categorise anything in here at all.

This is certainly a hugely visual book, 160+ pages of stunning imagery, beautiful artwork — some of it more haunting than others — and includes a very helpful index at the back which features all 82 spreads in miniature, with accompanying information about where and what the images are, who it was for, where you may have seen it, and what art materials he used to create them.

My only gripe (as a fantasy/horror/SF fan) is that I would have liked to see and read a lot more about his work on Sandman, his other stuff for DC and Vertigo Comics, his work for genre book publishers, and at least something about his work on the Magic The Gathering cards. Alas, while it’s clear this forms a very small part of his overall output, I don’t know what the score is with regards to copyrights and so forth, and maybe this could form the basis of another book entirely sometime in the next few years.

Regardless, this is a hefty book, a gorgeous piece of work, and something that will sit comfortably alongside anyone’s collection of large format coffee table books. Failing that, it’ll be a good place to start if you’re interested in building a collection of this style of art book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction at the Tottenham Palestine Literature Festival September 20th

Middle Eastern SF and Fantasy will be under discussion as part of the Tottenham Palestine Literature Festival on Saturday September 20th.

There are literary events all day, but our attention has been drawn to a talk at 11.30am featuring Naomi Foyle – author of Seoul Survivors, Ruqayyah Kareem – Africana Resources Librarian/Curator at Texas A & M University,  and Yasmin Khan – producer of Sindbad Sci-Fi.

Ruqayyah Kareem