The Sum of Mars

On now until Saturday 6th December, a new play inspired by a quote from Arthur C Clarke’s Childhood’s End is being performed at the Bread and Roses Theatre in Clapham.

Sum of Mars is a new play by Susan Gray, a writer and performer from London who has had a number of successful plays performed since 2012. She is currently studying for her PhD in Creative Writing and Practice Based Research in Royal Holloway, University of London, researching the staging of Science Fiction in the Theatre.

SUM depicts characters who have entered a ‘hivemind’ contract to share themselves in a much more intimate way than social media can provide. Who is the pioneer of the technology? Who will use it for good (whatever that means in this reality), and who will use it to further their own ends? Should everyone be able to connect?

Staged by Stars or Mars Theatre Company,the play is directed by Chris Callow Jr. and stars Eleanor Russo, Briony Wyatt, Lydia Kay, Melanie Crossey and Susan Gray herself.

Tickets are £8 and are available here.

Brian Aldiss OBE at the Big Green Bookshop 2nd December

This Tuesday, 2nd December, Brian Aldiss OBE will be appearing at The Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green London.

Brian will be in conversation with Scott Pack, from The Friday Project. The Friday Project have been republishing a Brian’s works of fiction and non-fiction since 2012, and last month published the first volume of  Brian’s 300+ short stories, which are being collected together for the first time. This will be an excellent opportunity to hear the eminent author of many SF classics, including the much lauded Hellicona Trilogy, talk about his work and have books signed.

This event takes place from 7pm-8.30pm. Tickets, £5, are available here.

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.

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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”.

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

 

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

 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…

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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…

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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…

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

September BSFA London Meeting: Sara Maitland Interviewed by Farah Mendlesohn

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

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On Wednesday 24th of September 2014, Sara Maitland (author of Gossip From the Forest, other fiction and non-fiction) will be interviewed by Farah Mendlesohn (Professor of Literary History at Anglia Ruskin University).

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:

*29th October 2014- David Bradley (SFX Magazine) interviewed by Scott K. Andrews

*19th November 2014- Claire Corbett interviewed by Colin Harvey

December- No meeting as usual.

*Please note these are the fifth and third Wednesdays respectively.

 

 

Big Sky: SF Masterworks

Pete Young has informed us that issues #3 and #4 of BIG SKY, about the first and second series of the Gollancz SF MASTERWORKS series, are available for free download as PDFs.

The whole project contains around 250 reviews and commentaries on every title in the series, in order of appearance. A few of the articles appeared n the BSFA’s journal Vector. Pete told us, “It’s certainly been a labour of love: I’ve been working on these two issues on average for 2-3 hours, often more, almost every day since January… I’d also just like to add what a pleasure it has been doing this project, and encountering such enthusiasm for it, and generosity, from everyone who wrote new reviews or granted permission to reproduce old ones.”

He hopes that these fanzines will be added to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database very soon, and is looking into the possibility of a combined print edition some time in the near future.

TweetFiction Tweetstream during LonCon 3 – WorldCon 72: 2014

TweetFiction icon

TWEETFICTION TWEETSTREAM

DURING LONCON 3 – WORLDCON 72: 2014

The Tweetstream

  • is free to enter, of course

  • each author is allowed multiple entries

  • is open to writers of any age and nationality, including professional authors and BSFA Committee members.

Story Format Suggestions & Encouraged Behaviour

  • Stories can be in any language! But must fit entirely into a single tweet.

  • Submissions should be original — they should be the sole work of the author/s in whose name they are submitted

  • Stories can be Science Fiction or Fantasy — we encourage a broad definition of what those terms mean.

  • Stories should not feature characters, locations etc. that are part of other copyrighted works — i.e.nothing set in the universes of Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate, etc.

  • Please include the hashtag #tbsfa — which leaves 134 characters for creativity

  • Simply tweet your story (including the hashtag #TBSFA as stated above, we’ll pick it up)

  • Unless notified to the BSFA via tweetfiction@bsfa.co.uk the use of #tbsfa will be assumed to grant permission for the BSFA to reproduce at the awards ceremony or within future membership publications.

Administration

  • Of course entries could commence any time but we would encourage entries to coincide with Eastercon so we would suggest start posting from midnight Wednesday August 13th 2014.

  • We would suggest the closing date for submissions is midnight (BST) on Tuesday August 19th 2014.

  • If anything is unclear, or if you have any questions, please email tweetfiction@bsfa.co.uk

JOIN IN !

BSFA Lecture at Loncon 3

paula-jamesA special BSFA Lecture will be given at Loncon 3 by Dr Paula James (Open Unversity), and is entitled ‘Pygmalion’s Statue and her Synthetic Sisters: The Perfect Woman on Screen′. The lecture will be given at 20.00 on Saturday August 16th, the ExCel Centre, London Docklands. The lecture is open to any member of Loncon 3.

Paula James is a familiar face and voice to anyone who has studied the Open University’s Arts Foundation courses over the past fifteen years or so, or any of their courses in Classical Studies. Paula is Senior Lecturer in Classical Studies and Staff Tutor in Arts at the OU. She began her academic career after raising her family, and joined the Open University in the 1990s. She is an expert in Latin Literature, particularly the Metamorphoses of Ovid and Apuleius. She also writes on the reception of Latin texts in modern cinema. She has written an excellent introduction to Ancient Rome, Understand Roman Civilization, now in its second edition, and has jointly edited works on the imagery of Trade Union banners and the parrot in literature. Her most recent book is Ovid’s Myth of Pygmalion on Screen: In Pursuit of the Perfect Woman (2013), and it is from this work that her talk to us is derived.

The BSFA Lecture is intended as a companion to the George Hay Lecture, which is presented at the Eastercon by the Science Fiction Foundation. Where the Hay Lecture invites scientists, the BSFA Lecture invites academics from the arts and humanities, because we recognise that science fiction fans aren’t only interested in science. The lecturers are given a remit to speak “on a subject that is likely to be of interest to science fiction fans” – i.e. on whatever they want! This is a special lecture for Worldcon, and is the seventh BSFA Lecture.

The Gollancz Festival 2014; Wednesday 14th August

Genre-publishers Gollancz and Waterstones Piccadilly have anounced plans to host an interactive multi-media genre fiction festival, featuring Patrick Rothfuss, Joanne M. Harris, Joe Hill and many more bestselling genre writers.

The festival comes midway between genre-fiction convention Nine Worlds GeekFest (Heathrow, 8-9th August) and The 72nd World Science-Fiction Convention (Loncon 3, ExCel London Docklands, 14-18th August).

On Wednesday 13th August 2014, starting at 9am with author breakfast tips featured on a Pinterest board, the digital elements of the Gollancz Festival 2014 will include interactive genre panels; Vox Pops and in conversations on YouTube; live debates on Twitter and Tumblr, and much more.

From 6 – 9pm on the same evening they will also offer genre fiction readers the chance to attend a selection of unique panels, readings, Q&As and signings all hosted by retail partner Waterstones Piccadilly.

The Gollancz festival will include participation from Ben Aaronovitch, Joe Abercrombie, James Barclay, Elizabeth Bear, Anna Caltabiano, Edward Cox, Joanne Harris, Joe Hill, Stephen Hunt, Simon Ings, John Hornor Jacobs, Tom Lloyd, Scott Lynch, Paul McAuley, Elizabeth May, Suzanne McLeod, Richard Morgan, Den Patrick, Sarah Pinborough, Adam Roberts, Alastair Reynolds, Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Gavin Smith, Jon Wallace, Chris Wooding and more.

Tickets to the festival cost £6 (£4 for Waterstones loyalty card holders). Attendees will also receive a drink on arrival and a Gollancz Festival 2014 goody bag. A mass signing begins at 7.30pm, immediately after the panel events, will be open to non-ticket holders and those unable to travel to London can pre-order signed stock directly from Waterstones Piccadilly.