Thursday, October 23, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY IMITATES CHRISTOPHER PYNE

A short while ago, when the writing was going nowhere so fast I decided to give it up and go back to giving cartooning a proper go, I inked and coloured a series of gags to see whether I could sell them.

I've gone back to being a writer since then. That's all you need to know.

Anyway, here's one of those cartoons. Any similarity to any current Government, living, dead or otherwise, is entirely coincidental.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

DOING THE CRIME

Last weekend, Luscious and I divested ourselves of all encumbrances and headed into Perth to spend the weekend at the annual convention of crime writing and investigative sciences, CrimeScene WA.

CrimeScene is a wonderful convention, not least because it has an incredibly strong science stream, presented by top notch industry professionals with a set of presentation skills that makes the traditional writing convention "three talking heads and a table" scenario seem decidedly second rate. For the first time in a long time I had agreed to be a part of more than one panel at a convention: apart from a solo presentation on writing settings, I agreed to assist Lyn with her presentation on Women Characters in Crime and take part in a panel discussion on what to do once you have been published. I was keen to see whether the change in convention genre would result in a change in approach to panel structure, so I packed our little Powerpoint shows and book-buying money, and away we went.

The convention was held at Rydges Perth, in the heart of the City: a hotel with a funky 70s retro-future vibe going on in the foyer, but with an obscene parking rate (valet only parking at something like $70 a day) and the traditional convention hotel quota of working lifts-- in this case, one of four. It was a delight to meet up with writing Guest of Honour Tansy Rayner Roberts, who I've known for years but seldom see in the flesh due to living on opposite sides of the country, and one of the nicer things about attending a convention outside of my own genre backyard was the opportunity to bump into authors with whom I interact in my day job but rarely on an equal literary footing: sharing the registration queue with Sarah Evans, a writer of my day job acquaintance from Bridgetown, was a lovely moment, as was a breakfast shared with Michael Murphy, up from Capel for the weekend. And Linda, Jay, and Todd-- the convention committee-- are good pals who treat their authors and experts wonderfully, so apart from the joy of their company they always make me feel like I want to do my best for them.

Thanks to the interwebbernet we found some cheaper (not cheap, cheaper) parking nearby. The walk to and from the hotel, coupled with a wander into the main shopping mall at Sunday lunchtime when we needed a break to visit the Nespresso store served one purpose, at least. Living so far away from Perth means we visit it rarely, and so had failed to observe a small but subtle change that has overtaken the CBD-- it's become a complete shit hole: filthy; filled with empty shopfronts; and generally more run-down than I have seen it in a long time.

One particularly unpleasant reminder of the inhumane and uncaring social policies of our State and Federal Governments was quickly apparent, too: I've never seen so many homeless people tucked into doorways and crannies as I saw this weekend. I'm not naive enough to believe Perth is any sort of utopia, or that homelessness does not exist here, but the two blocks between the car-park and hotel were occupied by no less than 8 homeless people trying to find shelter or ask for assistance, and that's a critical mass that's hard to ignore. There's rot in the heart of the apple in Perth, and it's beginning to show. One wheelchair-bound old lady, in particular, seemed to represent the failure of our social systems: passing her on the way to my nice middle-class hotel room to play at my middle-class pastime added some uncomfortable self-awareness of the advantages I take for granted:


This the kind of heritage you were talking about, City of Perth?

Still, on to the convention itself, and it was clearly apparent that this is a convention in two parts.

The science stream was utterly fascinating, with strong presentations on a wide range of topics. Highlights for me included a discussion on psychopath and offender profiles by Associate Professor Guy Hall, with an emphasis on the Claremont Serial Killer; a dissection of the murder scene of Don Hancock and Lou Lewis by Sergeant Clayton Bennie, the bomb squad Sergeant who was CSO at the scene; palynologist Doctor Lynne Milne discussing the study of pollen within crime scenes; and a history of bog bodies by Doctor John Watling. Each of these presentations was highly interactive, with a strong public speaker in confident control of both their subject matter and the audience, and excellent visual presentation aids that stopped the audience feeling like they were simply privy to a private conversation. More importantly, each presentation was focused, and delivered great value for money. I came away fascinated, educated, and with a feeling that I had been exposed to the best this particular industry had to offer.

The writing stream, I enjoyed not quite so much, for a variety of reasons, chief amongst them being my own involvement: in the end, CrimeScene felt like not much of a writing experience, and more often than not I wanted to be in the other room where the interesting crime stuff was happening. Clearly, most of the attendees agreed with me: apart from the ongoing procession of "three heads and a table" panels, the rooms were, quite simply, verging on empty whenever I attended a writing stream session, as the majority of con-goers were in the far more exciting science stream rooms. My own presentation, on creating settings, for example, attracted three attendees, and the experienced amongst you will quickly work out that one of those is Stephen Dedman, an author to whom I reckon I can teach just about the square root of fuck all:






Other writing panels I attended fared little better, but in all honesty, the majority got what they deserved as far as offering entertainment goes: there's only so far a crime convention can go when the majority of the writing stream consists of writers outside of the central genre, and particularly when many of the sessions are programmed against proven entertainment winners: Professor Simon Lewis and Hadyn Green are long-term CrimeScene alumni, for example, and deservedly popular, and the aforementioned discrepancy in presentation skill was overwhelmingly apparent. While I enjoyed assisting Lyn with her Women in Crime panel, I once again came away feeling that being a panellist at small scale conventions is something I no longer enjoy.

Lyn had been battling illness all convention-- and, indeed, spent the following week bed-ridden with a chronic chest infection-- so we finally gave in to the inevitable and left before the closing ceremony, so we missed the announcement that the convention is going on hiatus. It's a pity, because as a small scale industry exhibition it's the most enjoyable one I've ever attended. My hope is that it returns, with a strong focus on the elements that make the crime and suspense genre such a compelling one to read, watch and enjoy, and perhaps, with a writing stream that goes out into the community outside of the convention time frame so that it doesn't suffer in comparison to the far more professional presenters who populate the science and crime streams.

 










Thursday, October 16, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY GETS A SIGN

Road signs. They're easy pickings. Sex. Easy pickings. Road signs about sex. Don't judge me.

"Last chance to pull over and have an unseen quickie for 40 miles"

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

YEAR'S BEST AUSTRALIAN FANTASY AND HORROR 2013

Lee Battersby; Disciple of the Torrent; Satalyte Publishing;


I'm mightily pleased to announce that my story Disciple of the Torrent, which was published in Satalyte Publishing's Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land-- and which I blogged about here and here during the writing process-- has been selected for the upcoming Year's Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2013, alongside stories by the likes of Kaaron Warren, Deborah Biancotti, Terry Dowling and Juliet Marillier. The full Table of Contents contains enough in the way of quality Australian author name-dropping to drown a squirrel in drool:


  • Lee Battersby, “Disciple of the Torrent”, Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land
  • Deborah Biancotti, “All the Lost Ones”, Exotic Gothic 5 Vol I
  • Trudi Canavan, “Camp Follower”, Fearsome Journeys
  • Robert G. Cook, “Glasskin”, Review of Australian Fiction Vol 5 #6
  • Rowena Cory Daniells, “The Ways of the Wyrding Women”, One Small Step
  • Terry Dowling, “The Sleepover”, Exotic Gothic 5 Vol II
  • Thoraiya Dyer, “After Hours”, Asymmetry
  • Marion Halligan, “A Castle in Toorak”, Griffith Review #42
  • Dmetri Kakmi, “The Boy by the Gate”, The New Gothic
  • David Kernot, “Harry's Dead Poodle”, Cover of Darkness Magazine
  • Margo Lanagan, “Black Swan Event”, Griffith Review #42
  • S.G. Larner, “Poppies”, Aurealis #65
  • Martin Livings, “La Mort d'un Roturer”, This is How You Die
  • Kirstyn McDermott, “Caution: Contains Small Parts”, Caution: Contains Small Parts
  • Claire McKenna, “The Ninety Two”, Next
  • C.S. McMullen, “The Nest”, Nightmare Magazine
  • Juliet Marillier, “By Bone-Light “, Prickle Moon
  • David Thomas Moore, “Old Souls”, The Book of the Dead
  • Faith Mudge, “The Oblivion Box”, Dreaming of Djinn
  • Ryan O'Neill, “Sticks and Stones”, The Great Unknown
  • Angela Rega, “Almost Beautiful”, Next
  • Tansy Rayner Roberts, “The Raven and Her Victory”, Where Thy Dark Eye Glances: Queering Edgar Allan Poe
  • Nicky Rowlands, “On the Wall”, Next
  • Carol Ryles, “The Silence of Clockwork”, Conflux 9 Convention Programme
  • Angela Slatter, “Flight”, Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales
  • Anna Tambour, “Bowfin Island”, Caledonia Dreamin'
  • Kaaron Warren, “Born and Bread”, Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales
  • Janeen Webb, “Hell is Where the Heart is”, Next

More information is available at the Ticonderoga Publications website, and the volume can be pre-ordered at Indie Books Online.



Thursday, October 09, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY CAN'T DO THE TIME

In honour of this weekend's CrimeScene WA convention, Thumbnail Thursday goes a little crimey-wimey.

"We're taking 'Daddy Daughter day' too far."

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

LET THE CRIMES BEGIN!

I don't know what you'll be doing this weekend, but I will be enjoying myself strangling, poisoning, murderlising and generally getting up to no good with an absolute plethora of like-minded ne'er-do-wells at the annual CrimeScene WA crime writing convention, held at the Rydges Hotel in sunny Perff.

Apart from presentations by myself and Luscious, guest speakers include the likes of Stephen Dedman, Simon Lewis, Tony Cavanaugh, Hadyn Green and this year's guests of honour, Michael Robotham and Tansy Rayner Roberts, dressed up in her why-does-she-even-bother-when-we-all-know-it's-Tansy-anyaway-and-love-her-for-who-she-is,-pet alter ego pants, Livia Day.

If you haven't got yourself a ticket already then you're a fool of a Took, so get your arse into gear and buy one at the website. If you're mad keen to hear what I have to say on any given subject, I'll be up front being famous at the following sessions:


Saturday, 11am-12pm
Supporting Luscious as she presents her panel Women in Crime

Saturday 2.30-3.30pm
All on my todd for a writing workshop, On Writing Settings

Sunday, 9-10am
In company with Stephen Dedman, as we discuss The Writing Process and What You Should be Doing Once You are Published



You can view the full programme here. Get it up ya!

Sunday, October 05, 2014

THE BEST POSSIBLE TASTE ISN'T HERE RIGHT NOW. LEAVE A MESSAGE.

The Horror Writers Association is dedicated to the promotion of horror writing and horror authors. It's a damn fine organisation filled with the loveliest people and not at all creeping with the kind of denatured freaks that make you lock your windows at night and fit a chastity belt to your budgie.

Their latest fun escapade is the Horror Selfies campaign, a viral campaign whereby horror industry creative types take a selfie with a message encouraging you to put down the latest pile of Colleen McCullough slop you're bravely believing fulfills you and pick up something with a little meat on its bones.... raw, dripping, tasty meat.

You can see a fabulously funny gallery over at the Horror Selfies site, but just in case you can't summon the strength to click anywhere up to twice in a row, here's my little effort for your edification:




Thursday, October 02, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY TAKES ON THE EASY SUBJECTS

Ah, yes, greeting card jokes. Like hitting the bullseye from inside the target. They don't come any easier.

I was young. Don't judge me.


"Do you have a card that says "I'm going back to my wife"?"

Sunday, September 28, 2014

WHAT IT IS, IS BEAUTIFUL

If you're a fan of Lego it's been impossible in recent days to avoid the charges of sexism that have been levelled at the company since, well, pretty much since the first days that the Friends line hit the shelves. Arguments against the aggressively-girly line have largely centred around the genderisation of creative play: why does a toy that relies on a child's imagination to repurpose homogeneous elements need to undergo a gender split? There's merit to the argument: after all, there was a time when Lego itself marketed just such a question to parents to get them to consider buying the toy for their daughters--




Both my children have a Lego collection, and they've both been given open slather when it comes to collecting sets: we don't direct them, and the only limit we impose is one of price-- no matter who the sets are aimed at, they're fucking expensive. Even so, Master 9's collection is dominated by Star Wars, dinosaurs and a black/grey/dark blue palette, while Miss 12's Friends-heavy collection is a rainbow of pastel shades.

Which got me wondering, because as an AFOL, I love the Friends colour scheme and stock up on individual pieces whenever I visit Bricklink, but I've never bought myself a set, largely because I don't like the minifigs. So I decide to run a little experiment, to see whether something in the marketing was affecting my children's choices, or if it was, indeed, the range of parts and colours that was the deterrent. I asked the kids 3 questions, and these were their responses:

1. Your collection is very strongly dominated by (Miss 12: Friends, Master 9: Star Wars/ Dinosaurs) sets. Is there a reason why that is the case?
Miss 12: I like the story line in Friends, and the colours.
Master 9: I like the adventurousness of the stories.

2. Is there something in the colours and shapes of the parts that you prefer to other sets?
Miss 12: Yes. I like the Friends colours.
Master 9: No. I like the Friends colours, too. I like the Star Wars minifigs.

3. If I gave you $50 and sent you to the shops to buy a set, and you already had everything in your favourite range that was on the shelves, would you prefer to buy a set in the (Miss 12: Star Wars, Master 9: Friends) range, or would you prefer to buy a duplicate of a (Friends/Star Wars) set you already own? 
Miss 12: I'd buy a duplicate.
Master 9: I'd buy a Friends set.

So, conclusions drawn from this exhaustive survey: Miss 12 responds to the Friends sets aesthetically, and chooses them over other sets based on an enjoyment of the palette and the non-aggressive narrative possibilities; Master 9 likes the combat/adventure narratives implied by the "boy" sets (not surprising, given his love of the Star Wars universe), but likes the Friends colour palette enough that he would buy a set and incorporate it into his building. 

All very well and good, and easy to say. But would it hold true if, say, I instructed them to take 150 random elements from their collections and swap them? Could they happily build outside of their own preferred colour and set choices? Without telling them why, I did just that. The kids randomly picked 150 pieces from their collections, and then built with each other's selection. These are the results:


Miss 12 created three works: two different spaceships and a tuning fork.




The space scooper has a scoop at the back to collect debris. The scoop rotates through a 360 degree angle to make pick up and delivery easier.


The Junker is made from pieces of space junk discovered by the Space Scooper.


The tuning fork. A great use of leftover parts.




Master 9 took a different approach, and created a series of smaller works:



Girl colours for a boy concept? A ballista, at any rate.


A beach scene, incorporating a shark net, diving board, and lifeguard tower.


The entrance to a cafe.


A catwalk.


An armchair.


A couch.


An abandoned tree at the end of a garden path.


And to finish, the classic tablescrapper's use for that
pile of random pieces you can't do anything with: some ruins!


So, in a complete lack of surprise, two different genders of children quite happily extended their creative building techniques when confronted with a random assortment of bricks, although I did note with interest that the general theme of their builds did conform to the kind of bricks they thought they were using: girly-girl Miss 12 completing a space-themed build, and rocket-powered-boy-attack Master 9 focusing on situational and domestic concepts. 

What this shows, at least to me, is that the promotion of Lego does have an effect on how the demographic-- that is, the kids who receive the sets-- perceive the purpose of the bricks themselves, despite the fact that, as stand-alone items, the bricks are met with approval and enjoyment by both children. Miss 12, in particular, perceives a definite difference between 'boys' and 'girls' Lego, at an age when advertising and gender-based marketing are concepts she pays attention to. Just as clearly, their ability to create and enjoy the act of creation with any random group of elements that is placed before them, shows that gender-splitting Lego is not only limiting the potential market penetration for Lego themes, it's downright unnecessary

And as Lego themselves once understood, it always has been.





Oh, and for the record, I don't ask my troops to do anything I wouldn't do myself. Here's what I came up with, using the 150 Friends pieces I asked Miss 12 to give me:

The lost ruins of the Temple of Ice-Cream, the Pastel Battlestar, and, you know, some ruins...
















Thursday, September 25, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY WILL EX-CA-VATE! EX-CA-VATE! EX-CA-VAAAAATE!

Sometimes, an idea simply falls into your lap: I'm an archaeology nut, and when the following image started appearing around the news and geeky mailing lists I was on, well, one and one met at a party, had sex in the taxi on the way home, and somehow nevee found themselves spending any time apart anymore....


 
 
There's a nice explanation of the image here, at Sci Fi Scoop, if you're interested, but for me, and my little archaeology brain, this is what came out:


"We've yet to establish the reason for this long, quite flimsy, horn
but we assume it was important for display during mating season."
 
 
 
Sometimes, this stuff just writes itself.
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, September 22, 2014

A QUICK NOTE ABOUT WEBSITES

If you've ended up here because you were trying to get to my website and discovered the big Ain't Nobody Here or Nuttin' sign strung across the entrance, an apology: unfortunately, my hosting arrangement has come to an end, and I'm currently too skint to renew it.

Normal service will be resumed once I have some cash to spend on it.

BUSY LEE IS BUSILY

Okay, let's catch up:

It's been a mad period for both appearances and writing recently. Having parted company with my previous agent over concerns regards a lack of communication, I've spent the last couple of week editing Father Muerte & the Divine in order to send it to an agent who caught me on the hop by requesting to see the full manuscript earlier than expected: a good sign, I hope, but let's never line-edit and input 200+ pages of a manuscript in such short order again....

Working so hard on that project threw my timing out for September, which meant that I've spent this weekend blasting my way through The Daughters of John Anglicus, a 5000 word short story I need to deliver by the end of the month. I've always enjoyed writing short stories in compressed time frame: there's something about an impending deadline that's good for stoking the crucible of creation, but it's no damn good for family time: I own Luscious and the kids some serious attention over the coming weekends to repay their indulgence. This week will be taken up with editing and getting it to the market, and then I'll finally have a chance to draw breath and look at what to do next: with Nanowrimo looming in November I may consider revisiting the 15 000 words I've completed on Cirque and pushing that towards the 50K I think it'll take to visit that YA project.

I've also been oot and aboot doing the talking-head-type thing: in August I revisited my old stomping grounds at Curtin University to deliver my annual guest lecture, and Book Week saw me taking to the stage at Churchlands Senior High School to talk about my work, idea generation and the art of entering short story competitions. And when I say 'take to the stage' I wasn't kidding: have a gander at the theatre the school boasts.



No pressure, right? It was a great day, to be honest: I spoke to three groups of incredibly engaged, fun kids, and discovered that one group had been using Luscious' story The Hanging Tree as part of their studies, so I was able to tickle her sense of history when I got home. 

And I've not been the only one: Master 9 has been King of the Kids in the last fortnight, hanging out with famous author types and generally being windswept and interesting. Back on the 9th he was an invited guest at a public talk by his literary hero, Andy Griffiths, after cool frood and AHWA buddy Mark Smith-Briggs organised a personal invitation in the wake of a bad bout of Rumination Syndrome. Master 9 had been one place in line from hearing Griffiths speak at last year's Perth Writers Festival, only for a couple of kids to cut in and leave him at the head of the queue when the door closed. To make it up to him we bought a copy of Griffiths' The 39 Story Treehouse, which he devoured in double quick time, then went out and bought for himself The 13 Story Treehouse and The 26 Story Treehouse, reading all three to the point of destruction. Until that point, he'd enjoyed reading (more on this in a moment) but hadn't been a reader. Those novels changed him. A five minute meeting alone with Griffiths, as well as a signed gift of the new The 52 Story Treehouse just about counts as the gift of the century: it hasn't left his bedside since, and has been read, as of today, no less than 5 times.


How is that grin?



A signed copy. Boy Geek Heaven!



A boy and his hero. A wonderful moment to witness.

Now, Griffiths' ever expanding Treehouse may be the series that gave Master 9 his obsessive love of reading, but the book that taught him how to read was Norman Jorgensen and James Foley's The Last Viking. Indeed, the reason he was at last year's Writers Festival at all was to meet James as he launched his book In the Lion. So imagine his insane delight when the day after meeting Griffiths, we took him to the State Library for the launch of Jorgensen and Foley's newest, The Last Viking Returns, and he got to meet Norman in person for the first time, as well as catch up with James again, both of whom treated him like an old friend. Norman and James are just about the nicest guys in the West, and the way they both took time out of their being-famous duties to catch up with him was absolutely heart-warming to see. And was my boy bouncing like a crazy thing? What do you reckon? The paper Viking helmet he coloured and cut out on the night is up on his wall, and the book itself hasn't left his bedside table since he got home: he averages one session every two days of lying back on his bed, thumbing through it at his leisure. 


Viking Boyz!



Master 9 meets the lovely Norman Jorgensen. 
That is the smile of a very content and happy young man.


His three literary heroes, in 24 hours. Not a bad two days' work :)

And then there's Crimescene WA, the crime writing convention Luscious and I will be attending in three weeks' time. I'll be presenting a workshop on writing settings, and assisting Lyn deliver a presentation on strong women in crime fiction, which has required watching a metric fuckload of Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Girl With Dragon Tattoos in Fiery Ants Nest, and, in the coming weeks, Number One Ladies Detective Agency episodes, as well as trying to plough through the accompanying novels as best we can. Enjoyable, time-consuming, work, but frankly, it beats what I do during the working week. 

So that's where I've been: racing around, desperately trying to keep myself immersed in the writing world that means an increasing amount to me as my work life becomes less and less satisfying, and Real Life (tm) presents an unending series of complications. There's been a family funeral in there, and money worries, and yet more issue with maintaining my crumbling house, but the truth is, it's the writing life that keeps my psyche above water these days (apart from my relationship with Luscious, who is the only person I can turn to at any moment, sure in the knowledge of pure and instant understanding). Keeping in touch with the writing world is a constant struggle, but it's the one I want to make.

Who'd have a peaceful life?
















Thursday, September 11, 2014

OFF WITH THUMBNAIL THURSDAY'S HEAD

Sometimes a joke is just a joke. Which is my way of saying I thought this was a funny idea and I've got no greater insight than that.


"What a snob!"

Saturday, August 30, 2014

TEN OF THE BEST.... AND THE OTHER BEST

There's a meme doing the rounds of Facebook that requires the recipient to name 10 books that have had an impact upon them, then pass the disease on to ten innocent schmucks. Rather than waste all that typing on just one form of social media, I thought I'd list them here, too.

1. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein. Read it for the first time when I was ten and it blew the breath out of my mind. I'd never experienced such scope, depth and majesty in a story before, and have pretty much never experienced it since. Read it every year until my mid-twenties, and a few times again since then.

2. The Cats by Joan Phipson. The first book I ever bought with my own money. A kids book about psychic cats who kidnap a kid in the Australian bush.

3. Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner. An amazing dystopian near-future SF work that feels as relevant and likely now as it did when I first read it in my early 20s. Brunner is the author David Brin wishes he could be when he grows up.

4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Everything I wanted to write when I grew up, in a single trilogy. It hasn't aged well, but its impact on the 16 year old me cannot be overstated.

5. Brighton Rock by Graham Greene. Sparse, brutal and unforgiving. The perfect crime novel.

6. The Scar by China Meiville. My first Mieville novel, it kicked off an ongoing love affair that has never abated. Beautifully lyrical, ugly, despairing, and epic and everything in the weird that I want to achieve.

7. Science Fiction Stories for Boys, editor unknown. A cheap 'Octopus Books' collection of the type that used to proliferate in the wild 70s before copyright law reached Australia. My first real SF book, it contained the story that set me on the path to an SF future. My first taste of Asimov, Heinlein, Leiber and Harrison. I still have it, and it's still brilliant.

8. Lord Foul's Bane by Stephen Donaldson. The first modern fantasy book I read that dared to break the Tolkein template. A deeply unlikeable protagonist, acres of grit and despair, a true sense of dirt under the fingernails of a real second world. The clear forerunner to the current 'Grimdark' generation of Joe Abercrombie and peers.

9. Booklife by Jeff VanderMeer. The book that helped me sit down and define my career goals at a time when I was floundering. More than one recent success is down to its lessons.

10. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John Le Carre. Sparse, brutal and unforgiving. A perfect 'cold equations' novel, and still just about the best thriller ever written.

And because I'm me:

11. Red Country by Joe Abercrombie. The best novel of the last 5 years, bar none. Brilliantly grim, realistic fantasy, filled with consequences and the kind of bleak beauty rarely seen outside of a John Huston film. A stunning novel

And just for yucks, my friend Stephen Dedman decided I should list 10 films in the same way. So I did:

1. Doctor Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Brilliant satirical dark comedy centred around stunning multiple performances from Peter Sellers, who is never better than here. Kubrick's best film by a country mile.

2. The Crow. Dark, dystopian revenge fantasy that distills everything that a 19 year old in the late 80s found too cool for words, backed by the single best soundtrack in movie history. Nominally a superhero film and on that basis still one of the best 3 or 4 superhero films ever made.

3. ET. First saw it on an excursion with my under 13 soccer team. We'll all deny it to our dying breaths, because we were Rockingham bogans trying to be tough, but we all bawled like we were sponsored by Kleenex. The special effects have dimmed over time, but the emotional impact never has.


4. The Italian Job. The film that inspired a life long love of heist movies. Good, clean, criminal fun from beginning to end.


5. Fight Club. Nihilistic, counter-culture view of a personal apocalypse. Brilliantly out of kilter, with a career-defining performance from Brad Pitt.


6. 12 Monkeys. The perfect combination of Terry Gilliam's visual and narrative brilliance, Brad Pitt's superb ability to create a beautiful freak, and a thoughtful and finely tuned SF plot. An utter classic.


7. Iron Man. I'm making no excuses here: this is the movie the 8 year old me waited 30 years to see, and it was everything I expected it to be. I loves it with loves that turns any form of criticism at all into "nahnahnahnahcan'thearyoucan'thearyounahnahnah..."


8. Blade Runner. Ridley Scott was never better. Another stunning, beautiful dystopia rendered in images so perfect they will live forever in my internal viewfinder. The flames along the edge of Sean Young's iris may be the most perfect filmic image ever committed.


9. The General. Film's greatest magician at his highest peak. Brilliant comedy, special effects, stunts and storytelling, still genuinely gripping after 90 years.


10. A Night at the Opera. My first Marx Brothers movie, it still has the power to crease me over with helpless laughter and yet, as I grow older, it's the quiet moment of Harpo and Chico playing together on the ship that fill me with wonder. The archetypal something-for-everyone comedy, it should make talentless hacks like Adam Sandler hang his soulless head in shame. A wonder.


So there we go. Now tell me, what's your list? What books and films have had a lasting impact upon your poor, tortured psyche?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY MUCKS OUT SMAUG'S ENCLOSURE

Ahhhhh, the entropic nature of time. When I scribbled this one down, Anne McCaffrey seemed the perfect comic fit. Feel free to insert "Smaug" or "Christopher Paolini" or "that chick from Game of Thrones" or whatever you need to bring this gag up to speed.....

"I'm sorry, Nigel, but being Anne McCaffrey's biggest fan does not
qualify you to be head keeper at the komodo dragon enclosure"