Podcast: Claire Corbett interviewed by Colin Harvey

On Monday 24th November, our guest at The Artillery Arms was Claire Corbett, the Ned Kelly Award-shortlisted author of When We Have Wings. She was interviewed by academic writer Colin Harvey and the conversation gave a fascinating insight into her research of the mechanics of flight, as well as a discussion of considerations of the morality of such bodily modification and how working as an editor on Jane Campion’s gorgeous film The Piano helped her with the writing process.

We recorded the interview here for the benefit of members who couldn’t be there, but we don’t have fancy equipment so please note that not all the audience questions are picked up, and there is a little background noise too. Live is best, so we do hope to see you at one of the events on our calendar soon. We are scouting for more towns and places to run events in, so watch this space.

Next London meeting, the Philip K Dick Award-shortlisted Anne Charnock, author of A Calculated Life, will be interviewed by BSFA Award-winning author Adam Roberts. That’s on 28th January.

GRAPHIC NOVEL ROUND-UP

Graphic Novel Round-up – by Alex Bardy

Comics and graphic novels remain an under-represented genre in much of the mainstream press, and a quick scour of the regular internet ‘SF sites’ suggests this is the case even within conventional science fiction and fantasy circles.

Here at the BSFA we’re hoping to start changing this, and the introduction of our newest column, Sequentials, in Vector #276 (by the awesome Laura Sneddon — who will return from #278) is hopefully just the beginning.

Even the word ‘comics’ is considered derogatory by some, suggesting as it does, spandex-clad superheroes suffering major personal angst while labouring intensively to save the planet from all those big bad nasty D’s: Death, Disease, Destruction, Destabilisation, Dystopian Dread, etc. I have no such preconceptions: comics are varied and many, a visual medium that’s constantly breaking boundaries and pushing the envelope, and while troubled superheroes have their part to play in that, the majority of graphic novels tend to be a collection of said comics in all their forms.

Increasingly, we’re seeing work that is conceived from the very start as being suitable for the graphic novel format, and this is characterised by all of the ones I’m looking at here…

mmRUBYFirst up is Michael Moorcock’s Elric Volume 1: The Ruby Throne, a gorgeous adaptation featuring everybody’s favourite albino emperor. Written by Julien Blondel with artwork by Robin Recht, Didier Poli, and colouring by Jean Bastide, this is a sumptuous affair, and boasts an exclusive introduction by Moorcock himself. The story features Elric’s cousin, Yyrkoon, as heir to the throne, troublemaker and tormentor, deriding the absence of chaos within the Melnibonéan Empire and concerned the lackadaisical malaise of excessive drinking and poor entertainment will make it appear weak and a target for its enemies. Needless to say the empire does get attacked, the Lords of Chaos are called upon, and Yyrkoon does get his wish, albeit not quite in the form he was expecting…

mmRUBY1mmRUBY2mmRUBY3I won’t ruin the rest for you, but I will add that the artwork is fabulous, the writing well-paced and the various ‘added extras’ at the back a welcome bonus. A very nice and neat package which will be loved by fans old and new alike — the next one, Elric Volume 2: Stormbringer is due early next year.

NGVC

Next up, and another equally splendid offering, is Violent Cases written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean. Typically of Gaiman, even the title here is an accidental misnomer by the main character, who struggles to recall everything succinctly and always leaves things open to wider interpretation. Written in the style of a fractured childhood memoir, this is a very dark piece of work indeed — even the palette of colours is miserable: black, white, greyish-brown and the odd splash of red for the nasty parts…

NGVC1

For many, this is also considered a ‘break-out’ piece for both Neil and Dave — the original series appeared back in 1987, and crossed so many traditional boundaries of genre and style that it virtually created a new sub-genre all its own, that of arty comics with strong cinema-style storytelling and mixed media visualisation. Even today, this is evidently a stand-out piece of work — it’s subtle blend of violence (suggestive and otherwise), deeper narrative meaning, and the underlying backdrop of Prohibition America (even Al Capone gets a walk-on part) allows it to straddle a plethora of accepted ‘crime’ and ‘noir’ categories, all the while remaining true to itself as a story about child abuse, the fragility of memory, and the realisation that danger can indeed lurk under any surface.

This is strong stuff, but it’s also an example of creative genius in full flow — indeed, at one point the narrator and the artist have their own little ding-dong discussion about what one of the main characters (an osteopath) may have actually looked like… It is brilliantly done, and this particular edition is elegantly presented and a stunning visual feast.

Ordinary

 Ordinary by Rob Williams & D’Israeli is an altogether more colourful and significantly lighter piece of work, but nonetheless still an excellent example of what can be done when you turn the whole superheroes thing on its head. In the world of Ordinary, everyone has superpowers, except Michael Fisher, a miserable, lonely loser who bears more than a passing resemblance to actor Simon Pegg (not that the two are related if you see what I mean), or at least I thought so. Indeed, Michael is so hopelessly useless he even gets rejected by women in his own dreams, is bullied by Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, and can’t seem to do anything right for trying. So why is this guy the star of the show? That’d be telling… ;-)

Ordinary1Ordinary2

Packed with extras, this is a colourful, clever story, and even boasts an introduction by Warren Ellis. It’s a doozy as our American cousins might say…

GBonslaught

And finally, by far my favourite of the lot thus far, is Dr Grordbort presents ONSLAUGHT, an anthology of tales from the retro sci-fi world of Dr Grordbort, both written and beautifully illustrated by Greg Broadmore who is obviously a very talented and sickeningly twisted human being… J

ONSLAUGHT is by far one of the funniest and most hilarious things I’ve read in a long time. It’s accurately subtitled “Excessive Space Violence For Boys and Girls” and I can assuredly inform you this is most definitely not suitable for younger children. The first story is called “Lord Cockswain in Into The Lair of the Space Wa*~&ers” for example, and the whole affair is chock full of serious political incorrectness that will see you either rolling around in stitches or seething at the pointy end…

GBonslaught1

As well as several stories that see Cockswain destroying the virulent wildlife of Venus and spearheading an excursion against the dastardly Moon Men and associated Moon Menaces, Cockswain is also the poster boy for a variety of steampunk-stylee invented weaponry from Dr. Grordbort, the Head of Grordbort Industries and self-styled master of maniacal mechanisms. His wares are featured herein through a variety of “Contrapulatronic” catalogue excerpts which includes headlines such as: “Be a Better Man with a MANMELTER. Your wife may come back to you!* (some assembly required)”, “Absolutely No Compensation Given for Accidental Limb Loss”, “By Jingos those socially inept boffins have done it!” and some classic weaponry like the Grordbort 66 Sonic De-Stabiliser, the Saturn 67 Luminiferous Aether Igniter and Lord Cockswain’s Ray-Blunderbuss: ‘The Unnatural Selector’ which is scientifically proven to “render a yard-wide aperture in a giraffe at 60 feet, and give a blue whale a nasty rash through 200 yards of saltwater”…

There is also a Bestiary of the Cosmos (mostly covering Venusian wildlife), a number of Testimonials, a Hall of Gits and plenty of gung-ho, rebel-rousing ‘support our finest’ retro-style inspirational posters that had me crying with laughter.

 

This is a sparkling collection of wickedly comic tales, all involving excessive violence, swearing and the odd slaughter of harmless alien pond life, and really is heaps of fun. I cannot recommend this highly enough as a Christmas treat for any fan, and the artwork throughout is gorgeous — it’ll plaster a foot-wide smile on your face for weeks, and you will definitely love “how fabulous it looks with all its fandangly whatchimacallits and thingamajigs”.

GBonslaught2GBonslaught3

You can discover more about Greg Broadmore’s crazy universe here: drgrordborts.com

 

Sheffield SFSF Social with Adrian Tchaikovsky and Jo Thomas 24th January 2015

In association with BFS and Sheffield Fantasy and Science Fiction Social Club:

On 24th January 2015, at 4pm, please join us upstairs at Eten on York Street in Sheffield for the very first SFSF Social. Our guests will be the following wonderfully talented authors and swordfighters:

Jo Thomas

Chat, book talk, good company and the chance to win awesome prizes.

Free entry!

Do register on Eventbrite if you can, as it gives the organisers an idea of who’s going.

 

BSFA London Meeting 28th January 2015 Anne Charnock

On 28th January 2015, from around 7pm.

The Artillery Arms Public House (Upstairs)
102 Bunhill Row, London EC1Y 8ND (map here)
ANNE CHARNOCK

Anne Charnock

The Kitschies and Philip K. Dick Award Nominated author of A Calculated Life)
will be interviewed

Interview commences at 7.00 pm, room open from 6.00 (and fans in the MAIN bar from 5.00
There will be a raffle (£1 for five tickets), with a selection of SF novels as prizes.
FUTURE EVENTS:
February 25th- TBC
March 25th- Suniti Namjoshi interviewed by Farah Mendlesohn
April 22nd- TBA
ALL WELCOME
(No entry fee or tickets. Non-members welcome.)
For further information about the London meetings, contact Audrey Taylor, London Meetings Organiser, bsfa.london.meetings@gmail.com

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.