Tag Archives: Writing

Jennifer’s Bodies

A large article I did for Starburst in February, but one that I felt warranted its own post.

The opening of the article sums it up:
“Jennifer’s Bodies is a roving annual festival of female-helmed horror movies and part of Women In Horror Recognition Month, an international assortment of affiliated events organised partly to highlight just how much women can and do contribute to the genre outwith the typically accepted factors of tits, ass and mezzosoprano screaming.”

Read the rest here.

Here is the site for the festival, and also a general blog featuring profanity-laden extolments of things Jennifer loves and profanity-laden rants against things that make her angry. Either way, they’re entertaining reads.

Strange Horizons

I got taken on as a contributor to speculative fiction website Strange Horizons a while ago, who publish reviews, poetry and original fiction. I’ve have had one review published so far, for kinda-sorta sci-fi Under the Skin, where I ramble a bit about existentialism and manage to not perv too much over Scarlett Johansson. Click on the poster below to be transported to it.

Under the Skin

Starburst

Starburst is a quintessential magazine for UK geeks, containing reviews, articles, news and columns about film, TV, books, comics, computer games and music in the fantasy, sci-fi and horror genres. I’ve been writing for the magazine and its website since September 2013, and have had a wide assortment for stuff published. Here are the reviews.

First, the films, TV, anime, etc:

"Made with more thought and enthusiasm than many studio-backed mainstream films."
“Made with more thought and enthusiasm than many studio-backed mainstream films.”
"Subtle and taciturn yet indicative of an extensive mythology."
“Subtle and taciturn yet indicative of an extensive mythology.”
"A look at the possible consequences of taking escapism too far."
“A look at the possible consequences of taking escapism too far.”

 

"Its only distinctive quality is how utterly average it is."
“Its only distinctive quality is how utterly average it is.”
"No time is wasted in launching into the action."
“No time is wasted in launching into the action.”
"The series as a whole remains fundamentally lacking in true significance."
“The series as a whole remains fundamentally lacking in true significance.”

 

"Expands the scope of Evangelion."
“Expands the scope of Evangelion.”
"A highly engaging and multiple-layered story."
“A highly engaging and multiple-layered story.”
"The actual plot development is somewhat obtuse."
“The actual plot development is somewhat obtuse.”

 

"Master and Servant alike battle with enemies old and new, struggles within and without, and demons figurative and literal."
“Master and Servant alike battle with enemies old and new, struggles within and without, and demons figurative and literal.”
"Feels like a feature-length episode of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace and should be taken about as seriously."
“Feels like a feature-length episode of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace and should be taken about as seriously.”
"If I were a pubescent girly girl rather than a 30-year-old male geek, I may well have found the girls’ antics more entertaining and their megahertz voices less headache-inducing."
“If I were a pubescent girly girl rather than a 30-year-old male geek, I may well have found the girls’ antics more entertaining and their megahertz voices less headache-inducing.”
"A colourful, vibrant and joyous delight from start to finish."
“A colourful, vibrant and joyous delight from start to finish.”
"Keeps the spirit of the original alive while managing to forge its own distinctive identity."
“Keeps the spirit of the original alive while managing to forge its own distinctive identity.”
"What could have been merely a stylistic gimmick is the pivotal detail."
“What could have been merely a stylistic gimmick is the pivotal detail.”

 

"Subtle, disturbing, and brilliant."
“Subtle, disturbing, and brilliant.”
"A distinct, if slightly muddled experience."
“A distinct, if slightly muddled experience.”
"Despite the number of usually reliable names attached to it, Rapture-Palooza falls far short."
“Despite the number of usually reliable names attached to it, Rapture-Palooza falls far short.”

 

"Even when living a perpetual nightmare trapped in a crumbling city of a decaying world, there is always still hope."
“Even when living a perpetual nightmare trapped in a crumbling city of a decaying world, there is always still hope.”

 

And now for the books:

"Skilfully preserves its bleak isolation, foreboding tension and relentless terror."
“Skilfully preserves its bleak isolation, foreboding tension and relentless terror.”
"One of the more positive examples of a self published novel."
“One of the more positive examples of a self published novel.”
"If future instalments build on the strength of this debut, they’ll be ones to look out for."
“If future instalments build on the strength of this debut, they’ll be ones to look out for.”

 

"From bleak violence to self-aware metafiction, the tales vary wildly in tone."
“From bleak violence to self-aware metafiction, the tales vary wildly in tone.”
"A little generic for the first instalment of an epic fantasy trilogy."
“A little generic for the first instalment of an epic fantasy trilogy.”
"While the simplicity of the mysteries doesn’t tax too much brain power, they’re never less than entertaining."
“While the simplicity of the mysteries doesn’t tax too much brain power, they’re never less than entertaining.”
"A flawed but engaging swashbuckling romp."
“A flawed but engaging swashbuckling romp.”
"A kind of literary triptych anchored by the desolation of the wasteland."
“A kind of literary triptych anchored by the desolation of the wasteland.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Only a few comics so far, but there will be more.

"Perfectly adequate examples of horror fiction, but are also nothing more than that."
“Perfectly adequate examples of horror fiction, but are also nothing more than that.”
"A vibrant blaze of mythological fury."
“A vibrant blaze of mythological fury.”
"A dark and damaged heroine."
“A dark and damaged heroine.”

 

 

I’ve also interviewed a few people:

First were a couple of film directors named Marcy Boyle and Rachel Holzman, collectively known as DPYX and the makers of an awesome neo-noir thriller called Nobody Can Cool that I saw at female-centric horror festival Jennifer’s Bodies.

Second was an author named Debbie Johnson, whose urban fantasy debut novel Dark Vision, my review of which is linked a little way above here.

Subtitled Online Part 2: Articles

As well as news and reviews for Subtitled Online, I also produced a number of feature articles relating to world cinema and TV.

 

Crime Drama
After writing for the site for a while, I accidentally became its resident expert on European crime drama, waves of which were imported to the UK after the runaway success of The Killing in 2011. As part of a series, the site’s editor asked me to write a piece on its history and why it was so popular. And I did.

 

The Killing III
The Killing IIIOn the subject of crime drama, the third and final series of The Killing was some highly anticipated TV, and I made the foolish decision to write a feature article about each pair of episodes as they aired. It was quite a psychologically exhausting undertaking to view them as soon as possible after airing (no early access for me!) and write them up as quickly as I could in such a way that was not only comprehensive and engaging, but also maintained an implication I was completely following everything that was going on, which took far more concentration than I normally engage when watching TV.

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This is them:
Episodes 1 & 2
Episodes 3 & 4
Episodes 5 & 6
Episodes 7 & 8
Episodes 9 & 10

 

The Trash Heap
StarcrashThe Trash Heap was what I planned to be a regular column, in which I would ramble about the enjoyment that can be wrung from shamelessly bad cinema and write an article showcasing a noteworthy piece of entertaining trash every month or so. The only one I got around to doing before the site shut down was Starcrash, an Italian space opera made to cash in on the success of Star Wars. Others I had planned to follow it up with were nonsensical French gorefest Switchblade Romance and Filipino dwarf-starring James Bond knockoff For Y’ur Height Only.

 

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Remake Comparisons
Films and TV from foreign counties get remade in English. This is a fact upon which endless discussions and arguments have played out, with the issue likely to never achieve resolution so long as remakes exist.

I did a couple of comparison pieces between originals and their remakes, one for the Danish and English The Killing, and one for the Swedish and English The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

 

Guillermo del Toro
When the site’s writers were encouraged to write a personal reflection on what it was they loved about world cinema, I found the level of detail I was going into about Guillermo del Toro, my favourite world cinema director, was getting a little out of hand. So I instead replaced what I already had with a general overview and expanded it into a full-length article.

 

Uwe Boll
On the other end of the spectrum from Guillermo del Toro, I also had some things to say about Uwe Boll, who I utterly despise for his inability to make films even the slightest bit entertaining, even by commanding vast budgets and often adapting otherwise promising computer games. It spread into two parts. Be aware the links contain unapologetic vitriol.

 

Interviews
In further attempts to pretend to be a proper journalist, I managed to undertake a few interviews and not do too bad a job in looking like I knew what I was doing. They were Syl Disjonk, a French-Canadian director and VFX artist I met at Dead by Dawn in 2012 who directed a surreal and darkly fantastical short called Ethereal Chrysalis; Richard Powell and Zach Green, a director-producer duo whose short horror film Familiar I reviewed; and Timo Vuorensola, the director of retro-sci-fi action comedy Iron Sky.

The Marionette’s Theatre

For a few months now I’ve been working on a project with Calatrilloz, a London-based operatic metal band. The concept of the group is that each band member is a character from an alt-history/fantasy setting, and I’ve been crafting the back stories of each character from their notes. The project is still a work in progress, but the bio page has now gone live. Additionally, as each of their songs tells a story I’ll be writing short individual introductions for them, with two already complete.

This is the band’s main page, here are their current singles and here are where each member’s tale will be added over time.

Seachd: The Inaccessible Pinnacle

This was one of the first reviews I did for Subtitled Online, but I never got around to actually uploading it until right before the site went offline. A small and very little known film, but one of my favourites.

Seachd: The Inaccessible Pinnacle CoverThe first contemporary film in Scots Gaelic is a cinematic patchwork quilt of Celtic myth, contrasted with the importance such tales hold in the modern world. Stories as majestic and enigmatic as the Skye landscape they’re set against take us deep into history and legend, to a point where the two become one and the same.

Read the rest of the review here.

Wild Weird West

Last year a publishing company named Abaddon had a window for open submissions, during which I submitted some work. The company publishes work-for-hire novels in shared universes named things like The Afterblight Chronicles (post apocalyptic sci-fi), Pax Britannia (steampunk alternative history) and Twilight of Kerberos (heroic fantasy) and authors were free to write within an existing world or create their own.

I opted for the latter choice, creating a hybrid setting mixing fantasy and western, which I dubbed Wyrd West. The idea was that crafting my own world rather than using one of Abaddon’s ones would make my work stand out from the crowd a bit, and a setting like that was different from anything they had thusfar published. Unfortunately, several dozen other people had the exact same thought process, meaning I wasn’t being quite as original or trendsetting as I thought. However, the commissioning editor did take the time to send out each rejection individually and also bothered to write back when I responded. It’s nice when they can be arsed acknowledging your existence. Next time, assuming there is one, I’ll try something slightly more esoteric. This was my pitch for the world.

A synopsis, a story breakdown and a 2,000 word sample were required for each submitted story. I entered two, both based around a bounty hunter named Juliet Steel. The idea for her was primarily inspired by the character of Cad Bane from The Clone Wars, imagining someone just as ruthless and manipulative, but more sympathetic and possessing an actual sense of humour.

The synopsis of the first story, Badlands Bound, is as follows:

Several months after a mass break-out from Rift City prison, bounty hunter Juliet Steel is contracted to track down one of the few remaining criminals still at large, a disgraced army captain hiding out in the Badlands. Finding him took long enough, and when the railroad is put out of action, the pair face a trek across the inhospitable terrain back to civilisation.

Jove would have been content to drink himself to death in the dive bars of his self-imposed exile, when the crimson-haired gunslinger crashed into his miserable life to return him to whatever fate awaits him.

However, it soon becomes clear that there is more to the contract on Jove than it first appears. Why was Juliet’s employer so keen for Jove’s capture? Why was she insisted upon for the job? And why do they both have a niggling feeling this isn’t the first time they’ve met?

The first chapter can be read here.

 

This is the synopsis of the other story, Theories of Punishment:

The Gravedigger is not someone you want to anger. The power to stop a person’s heart with nothing but pure hatred has turned a quiet mutant into a dangerous killer, and one whose ability has already taken several lives. It seems anyone who has ever wronged him should stay out of his way.

With the local sheriffs’ mistreatment of mutants making them just as susceptible for cardiac implosion, Rift City’s marshal brings in bounty hunter Juliet Steel to track down the killer and determine how he can be neutralised.

However, when Juliet digs into the backgrounds of the people the Gravedigger has been targeting, their dubious histories make her question if bringing him in would be the right thing to do. And in a world where strength is often the only law, who truly has the right to administer justice?

The sample of this can be read here.

I have every intention of finishing off the stories at some point. But then, I say that about everything I write.

I Hear the Voice of Rage and Ruin

Blood Moon Rising CoverMy principal ambition in life is to become a published author. My main ongoing work is a series of urban fantasy novels set in modern day Edinburgh and although each of them will be a separate story, they will all contain aspects of a single overarching plotline running through them which will culminate in the final instalment. Provisionally referred to as the Regulator Series after the profession of its principal group of protagonists, I’m hoping to change this at some point, just as soon as I can think of a better one. However, coming up with titles has never been a particular skill of mine, which is why so many of them tend to be references to something or other.

As well as the events of the novels, there is also a history of major events leading up to the start of the series which stretches back to some point circa 580 AD. I’m not exactly sure when, but it was the point when St Columba was said to have glimpsed the phantom island of Rocabarraigh. The series is intended to be ten volumes long; three have currently been completed and the next two are assorted fragments of varying size. The novel titles are, in chronological order:

Blood Moon Rising
Red Day Dawning
Saints And Sinners
City Of Lost Souls
Blasphemy And Genocide
Bloodsport
Glory, Riches And Honour
Resurrection Men
Gods And Monsters
Armageddon Flame

Only God Forgives

A new review of mine is up on Subtitled Online. I’ve decided to add new uploads to the site as separate posts rather than add them to the previous review page to save constantly re-editing old pages with new info as time goes on.

Only God Forgives, Nicolas Winding Refn, Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott ThomasDebuting with a polarised reception at Cannes 2013 (where it was also nominated for the Palme d’Or), Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn cements an effective partnership with Ryan Gosling in his follow-up to Drive, delivering another tale of unglamorised criminal life where talk is rare, life is cheap and nobody is beyond judgement.
Read the rest here.

Subtitled Online Part 1: Reviews

Subtitled Online was a film site focusing on non-English language and independent cinema. Those looking for news on the latest MCU circle-jerk would have been somewhat disappointed, but if your thing is Korean horror, Japanese anime, French romance, Spanish comedy, Chinese action, British fantasy, Thai drama, Danish crime, Australian sci-fi, or American indies, there was something there to interest to you.

I wrote for it from August 2011 to September 2013 when it shut down, providing reviews, news and articles, and after about eight months was made an editor. So now as well as being responsible for ensuring my own work was of immaculate quality, I also proofread, edited and uploaded work from the site’s writers.

All of the reviews I wrote for the site are arranged below.

"Spiritual without being preachy, philosophical without being pretentious, and incorporating action without sacrificing intelligence."
“Spiritual without being preachy, philosophical without being pretentious, and incorporating action without sacrificing intelligence.”
"Only by making peace with ourselves can we truly be set free."
“Only by making peace with ourselves can we truly be set free.”
The ABCs of Death Cover
“A ceaseless cinematic machine-gunning of carnage and hilarity.”

The Amazing Adrenalini Brothers Cover
“Very much a children’s cartoon.”
"An admirable effort from a new director."
“An admirable effort from a new director.”
"A cult work in the making."
“A cult work in the making.”

"One of the best releases to come out of a region seemingly swarming with them."
“One of the best releases to come out of a region seemingly swarming with them.”
Chanbara Beauty Cover
“Enjoyably insane.”
"A twisted collage of humour and horror bound with the adhesive of gleefully depraved mischief."
“A twisted collage of humour and horror bound with the adhesive of gleefully depraved mischief.”
Dead Head Cover
“A slightly kitschy noir that was never given a chance.”
Drive Cover
“A film of stoic elegance and dark charm.”
The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya Cover
“Virtually inaccessible to new viewers but rewarding to existing fans.”
Familiar Poster
“A bite-size slice of horror perfection.”
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Cover
“Unflinchingly displays the depths of human depravity in all its hideous grotesquery.”
Frankenstein's Army Cover
“A distinct voice in a crowded and tired sub-genre.”

The Hunt Cover
“Deals with a controversial subject in a sensitive and engaging manner.”
Inspector Montalbano Collection 1 Cover
“An engaging collection of stories that keep you hooked.”
Inglorious Bastards Cover
“View it with the same sense of detached flippancy its story is told with.”

Inspector Montalbano Collection 2 Cover
“A worthy continuation and expansion of the previous episodes.”
Iron Sky Cover
“A glorious and demented riot from start to finish.”
Inspector Montalbano Collection 3 Cover
“Very much the equal of most of its more famous Scandinavian cousins.”

The Killing Cover
“A masterpiece of storytelling.”
The Legend of Bruce Lee Cover
“Mythologises Lee’s life beyond proper recognition.”
The Killing II Cover
“Should be held as a high water mark of quality.”

Longing For the Rain Poster
“A flawed but promising debut feature film.”
Manborg Cover
“A loving homage to every piece of cinematic trash you’re not ashamed to admit you adore.”
Mama Cover
“Let down by a plot without the substance to sustain it or the depth to truly engage.”

Phantom: Requiem For the Phantom Part One Cover
“An intriguing first half of a story that offers some genuinely interesting story twists.”
Pusher Cover
“A somewhat redundant remake.”
Privates Cover
“Too many plots and too many characters.”

Shikoku Cover
“Let down by uninspiring subtitling and flat characterisation.”
Le Silence de la Mer Cover
“A testament to the crushing effect war has on the ideals of those drawn into it.”
Sightseers Cover
“Twisted, hilarious and oddly moving in equal measure.”

Spiral Series One Cover
“An engaging and uncompromising study of the things ordinary people are truly capable of.”
The Swedish Erotica Collection Cover
“The only emotion that these films properly inspire is boredom.”
Stoker Cover
“Sinister, violent, perverse and erotic.”

van-veeteren-cover
“If its central character was less of an aggravating smart arse, reactions towards it might have been more favourable.”
Terra Nova Cover
“More entertaining than many contemporary shows that have long outstayed their welcome.”