Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off!

Spfbo banner4

Head's up! Pornokitsch is one of the ten blogs participating in this year's Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. Mark Lawrence started this quasi-award last year, and I'm very glad to be one of the bloggers for its second iteration. 

You can read more about SPFBO here, and even snag a Storybundle of last year's finalists.

Continue reading "Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off!" »


British Library Labs, Niche Marketing & The Walking Dead

Eduardo Souzacampus

The British Library Labs are amazing.

Last year's projects are viewable online (in various states of existence), and they're absolutely fascinating. These include everything from a Victorian joke generator, a tool that helps connect handwritten manuscripts to their transcriptions, a gamefied way of creating metadata and one of the most clever (and perhaps significant?) open source maps I've ever seen.

Do yourself a favour and have a play.

Continue reading "British Library Labs, Niche Marketing & The Walking Dead" »


The Bus: Journey into the Strange

The Bus img 1Have you ever had that feeling where you’re going about your business just like any other day, and all of a sudden everything seems strange to you? Nothing’s changed, nothing’s wrong, but you look at totally ordinary people or things and they just don’t make any sense. You start asking yourself questions like: why are they doing that? Aren’t clothes weird? Who ever thought buildings were a good idea? It’s this feeling of dislocation, of finding the surreal in the absolutely banal, that Paul Kirchner taps into in ‘The Bus’.

Continue reading "The Bus: Journey into the Strange" »


Stark Reviews: Day of the Outlaw (1959)

Day of the Outlaw

Stark says: “You won't find much mercy anywhere in Wyoming.

Seen The Revenant, yet? No? Well, if you’re pushed for time but harbouring a hankering for a hardscrabble, snow-choked Western, then go for Day of the Outlaw instead. If nothing else, it’ll save you an hour and a half, which you can spend doing… other things. Like smoking meat or practising macramé.

I will admit, there’s less grunting than there is in The Revenant, and less bear. Directed by Hungarian-born Andre de Toth – of House of Wax fame – what’s on offer here is a psychological, powder-keg of a Western that feels less like a yee-haw-thankee-ma’am-cowboy-movie and more like a taut, 1930s noir thriller.

Continue reading "Stark Reviews: Day of the Outlaw (1959)" »


One Comic wonders at Wonder Woman #1

Flashing Thunder!
By many accounts, one of the few high points of the low point extravaganza that is Batman vs Superman is the introduction of Wonder Woman to the DC Cinematic Universe. So to mark that, we've declared episode 32 The All Wonder Woman, All The Time Show. One of Diana's most famous reworkings was the post-Crisis version generally know as the [George] Perez Era, so we've jumped back to the mid-80s to look at the very first issue of that famous run.

Does it stand up, thirty years later? What's good, what's bad, and what's unexpected? The Crisis wiped Diana's slate clean, so as a fresh start, how does this work out?

And what's this? More Wonder Woman? Jon's got a 3&1 of Wonder Woman eras, and at one point when he shows the others a particular cover, this is the one he means - no peeking ahead of time though.


Taher Shah's "Angel"

 

In a conservative country no stranger to the Taliban and ISIS and all sorts of extremist behaviour, a country not known for its great liberal, progressive, humanist ways, a country where homosexuality is very much illegal, where anything outside of heteronormative cliches is considered a ‘deviancy’ and isn't really tolerated by most of the population, where transpeople are treated terribly and where being subversive or transgressive in even the smallest of ways can be an act of major rebellion... here is a man who is throwing this all out of the window. Taherstory_647_041216012218

Continue reading "Taher Shah's "Angel"" »


Announcing... The Extinction Event

The End[via Jurassic London]

This October is Jurassic London's 5th anniversary, and we're celebrating with a huge new anthology.

The Extinction Event will include over two dozen stories, a ton of art, and a whole heap of stuff, including new story introductions from a wide range of luminaries. 

We're still finalising the Table of Contents, but it currently clocks in at over 150,000 words; over half of which will be completely new material. We've been taking this as an opportunity to revisit our previous publications - including the more rare and out of print titles - and also commission some terrific new material.

The Extinction Event will be published in late October, as a very glamorous limited edition. In fact, this will be the only edition, so we're going to make it as special as possible. 

I suppose the clue is in the name, but... The Extinction Event is also Jurassic London's last book. 

It has been an incredible five year run and we've had a blast. We'll do the various "thank you" and "goodbye" bits in October, so we'll wait and talk about it then. But for now: you're all awesome! This is not a sad thing! We'll follow up later this week with a post explaining what you can expect from us over the next six months.

For now... start clearing some shelf space. The Extinction Event is coming, and it is going to be big


Matthew Blakstad on "Je suis Tay"

Je suis Tay

For the past few days the internet has revelled in the precipitous downfall of Microsoft’s chatbot, Tay. This software-generated teen was hyped by its creators for the intelligent algorithms that would make it progressively smarter, the more it chatted to human beings. Well, Tay certainly became more something – but it wasn’t smart. Within a few days, prompted by persistent needling from Twitter users, the bot began to produce anti-semitic and sexist rants. Then, for good measure, it started extolling the virtues of one Donald J Trump. Familiar stuff from human users of social media, but it was rather striking to see these views expressed by a robot.

SockpuppetA few days later, Tay returned, repatched and instructed to play nicely this time; but in a matter of hours, it had to be taken down yet again, having descended this time into a drug-fuelled meltdown.

 

Continue reading "Matthew Blakstad on "Je suis Tay"" »


The Wake: Shades of Horror and Adventure

WAKE-part oneI started writing this article several times, and came to realize two things.

First, that The Wake is simply too stuffed full of interesting things to talk about that I couldn’t possibly cover them all in the few hundred words I have, and second, that all I really wanted to talk about was the colouring.

Colourists get so little attention in the comic book world, yet their contribution is staggering and undeniable. What Matt Hollingsworth brings to The Wake (written and pencilled by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy respectively) draws out many of the themes of the book and lays them right on the page, hidden in plain sight. What’s more, The Wake is a book that illustrates the different effects colour can have excellently by neatly dividing itself into two parts - the first horror-inflected and the second full of high-stakes adventure.

At this point I’d like to say that The Wake is a book that really benefits from being read cold and with little knowledge of the twists and surprises that are waiting.

Unfortunately that makes it pretty hard to talk about without giving it all away. So I urge you, if you don’t want the surprises ruined for you, stop reading now and go read the book - you have been warned.

Continue reading "The Wake: Shades of Horror and Adventure" »


25 Superhero Films Just As Bad As Batman vs Superman

Maxresdefault

Let's be clear, Batman vs Superman is not good.

It is too long, too ponderous and takes itself way too seriously. It has mediocre acting, macho ham-philosophy, a bad score and confusing action sequences. It is packed with 'easter eggs' that are largely meaningless, espouses terrible politics, devotes itself to building its own mythology, and is rife with visual decision-making that is, at best, suspect.

Which is to say, it is no worse than many, many other superhero movies. 

For controversy's sake, here are 25 recent-ish superhero films from the last 20 years that are just as bad - if not worse - than Batman vs Superman:

Continue reading "25 Superhero Films Just As Bad As Batman vs Superman" »


Review Round-up: Dead Dolls, Discoveries, Tides and Thieves

Some recent reads, old and new, fantasy and crime. Including Lin Carter's Discoveries in Fantasy, Day Keene's Dead Dolls Don't Talk, Brooke Magnanti's The Turning Tide, David Benioff's City of Thieves and the first two volumes of Thieves' World.

------

200px-Discoveries_in_Fantasy

Lin Carter's Discoveries in Fantasy (1974)

The Ballantine Adult Fantasy series - edited by Carter - is a pretty amazing body of work. Easily the closest thing I've seen to a 'Penguin Classics for fantasy'. The complete list is here, including the 'pre-cursors' and 'leftovers', and it includes an impressive combination of books now recognised as classic-classics as well as some curious unknowns. Carter clearly had delightfully far-reaching taste, and it is delightful to see authors like Cabell rubbing shoulders with the Deryni books and even Lovecraftian pastiche. 

That said, Discoveries is a pretty weak entry into the 'canon' (although one with an AMAZING cover, I mean, wow). It reads more like a sampler or a sales brochure than a holistic collection in its own right.

Carter's gathered short stories by Ernest Bramah, Donald Corley, Richard Garnett and Eden Phillpotts, and loosely united them with the twin themes of 'these guys should be more popular' and 'I'm going to be publishing them before long!'. Carter's introductions are similarly cursory, possibly because he was expecting to write more when he published the authors properly. Sadly, only Bramah made it into print before the series was canned.

Continue reading "Review Round-up: Dead Dolls, Discoveries, Tides and Thieves" »


Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Raiders of the Lost Ark

From Photoplay (September 1981):

At last. At long last. A movie that brings back all those so-called old-fashioned values that made the cinema what it was but somehow got lost in the deluge of depressing pretentious rubbish that helped to close down cinemas. 

Raiders of the Lost Ark, for me, at least, brings back a Lost Art. The art of fun, escapism and pure hokum.

I never thought I'd see a film like this one again....

The Verdict:

If you enjoy your movies with lavish doses of terrifying thrills then this is what you've been waiting for. Raiders is a marvellous adventure romp reminiscent of those wonderful cliff-hanging serials served up as Saturday  morning pictures for kids. There's also plenty of action for the mums and dads to enjoy as well. Harrison Ford and Karen Allen will have you constantly on the edge of your seats, almost gasping for breath at the speed with which they have to cope with constant dangers. 

The effects, the sets, everything is stunningly put together. Ford emerges as a movie matinee of old, with a touch of the Errol Flynn's as he swaggers around complete with a bullwhip as his only weapon.

From the film's incredible exciting start set in an unbelievably trap-infested South American jungle - a sort of cheat death hurdle race - to its startling and quite horrifying climax, Raiders is an absolute cinematic joy.

The team of director Steven Spielberg (Jaws; Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and producer George Lucas (Star Wars; The Empire Strikes Back) pack their movie with a mighty punch. John Williams' music score underlines the action quite superbly.

Never a dull moment...


Quentin Tarantino's 10 Favourite Spaghetti Westerns

Another random famous person listicle, sorry! But this is an interesting list - Quentin Tarantino's twenty favourite Spaghetti Westerns. And the sort of thing that will keep Stark busy:

  1. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966)
  2. For a Few Dollars More (Sergio Leone, 1965)
  3. Django (Sergio Corbucci, 1966)
  4. The Mercenary (Sergio Corbucci, 1966)
  5. Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968)
  6. A Fistful of Dollars (Sergio Leone, 1964)
  7. Day of Anger (Tonino Valerii, 1967)
  8. Death Rides a Horse (Giulio Petroni, 1967)
  9. Navajo Joe (Sergio Corbucci, 1966)
  10. The Return of Ringo (Duccio Tessar, 1965)
  11. The Big Gundown (Sergio Sollima, 1966)
  12. A Pistol for Ringo (Duccio Tessari, 1965)
  13. The Dirty Outlaws (Franco Rossetti, 1967)
  14. The Great Silence (Sergio Corbucci, 1968)
  15. The Grand Duel (Giancarlo Santi, 1972)
  16. Shoot the Living, Pray for the Dead (Giuseppe Vari, 1971)
  17. Tepepa (Giulio Petroni, 1968)
  18. The Ugly Ones (Eugenio Martin, 1966)
  19. Viva Django! (Ferdinando Baldi, 1967)
  20. Machine Gun Killers (Paolo Bianchini, 1968)

The playlist above contains the trailers for all 20. This comes via Open Culture, who picked it up via The Spaghetti Western Database (which doesn't seem to exist any more?). Open Culture have been stalking Tarantino's faves for some time, and have a recent post that does compares Tarantino's 2002 and 2012 'top 12' lists...


Susan Jane Bigelow on "Laying Down the Cape"

BrokenCan a superhero ever really stop being a superhero? Can they quit, or retire, or even escape the heavy burden of expectation and difference for a while? That question is maybe the most important one in the entire Extrahuman Union series.

The question of whether a superhero can quit is a complicated one. The reason is that there’s a piece of being a superhero that’s all about what you do, and another piece that’s about what you are.

Those two pieces seem very different at first, but maybe they’re more similar than we think.

When we first meet the character of Broken in the book that bears her name, she’s alone on the street. She’s no longer in the Extrahuman Union, which is less a voluntary organization of superheroes like the Avengers or the Justice League, and more a convenient prison to stash superpowered humans in so they won’t cause any trouble. And she didn’t just leave: she escaped.

Continue reading "Susan Jane Bigelow on "Laying Down the Cape"" »