Previous month:
March 2015
Next month:
May 2015

April 2015

Pygmalia: Galatea

This year I’m selecting twelve Pygmalion stories—or stories that contain echoes of the Pygmalion myth—and essaying on them. I already have a few in mind, but please feel free to suggest others in the comments or on twitter @molly_the_tanz

Many people suggested the subject of this month’s column, either in the comments here at Pornokitsch, or on Facebook/Twitter, so here we go with this column’s first video game! Or at least, text-based adventure. 

GalateaGalatea (2000)

Galatea, by Emily Short, is an award-winning text-based adventure, or interactive fiction game. Praised for its NPC, the eponymous Galatea, it apparently revolutionized the genre of interactive fiction games due to of the depth and complexity of Galatea’s responses to the player. Not only that, but the game is multilinear, meaning you can take multiple paths to the same endings, having a different experience each time, creating your own story within the framework of the game.  

On its surface, Galatea seems simple enough: you are a famous art critic at a gallery opening, and you discover the statue of Galatea on a pedestal. But Galatea is more than a statue; she is an “animate,” which you may or may not get explained in more detail, while you play the game. The game is then to talk to her, to solicit responses, and respond in turn to have a conversation with this strange creature. Once you start, however, you may find it's more challenging than it might sound...

The first thing Galatea says to you is, “They told me you were coming.” From there, you can speak to her by “asking” about topics. You can “look,” you can “touch” and do other physical actions like “embrace” or “smell” Galatea; you can “tell” her things, and apologize if you annoy her. 

The game is… unsettling. Galatea is wise but naïve, direct but oblique, as confusing to speak to as you might imagine a living, sentient statue would be. She has what appears to be a rich inner life. It is very strange.

Continue reading "Pygmalia: Galatea" »


"On book illustration and decoration" by Reginald Blomfield

Arts and CraftsBook illustration is supposed to have made a great advance in the last few years. No doubt it has, but this advance has not been made on any definite principle, but, as it were, in and out of a network of cross-purposes. No attempt has been made to classify illustration in relation to the purpose it has to fulfil.

Broadly speaking, this purpose is threefold. It is either utilitarian, or partly utilitarian partly artistic, or purely artistic. The first may be dismissed at once. Such drawings as technical diagrams must be clear and accurate, but by their very nature they are non-artistic, and in regard to art it is a case of "hands off" to the draughtsman.

Illustration as an art, that is, book decoration, begins with the second class. From this standpoint an illustration involves something more than mere drawing. In the first place, the drawing must illustrate the subject, but as the drawing will not be set in a plain mount, but surrounded or bordered by printed type, there is the further problem of the relation of the drawing to the printed type. The relative importance attached to the printed type or the drawing is the crucial point for the illustrator. If all his thoughts are concentrated on his own drawing, one line to him will be much as another; but if he considers his illustration as going with the type to form one homogeneous design, each line becomes a matter of deliberate intention.

Continue reading ""On book illustration and decoration" by Reginald Blomfield" »


The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy

The Dead LandsBenjamin Percy's The Dead Lands (2015) is a post-apocalyptic retelling of the Lewis and Clark story. After a virus and a nuclear holocaust sweep the world, few survive. In the walled colony of St Louis, the memory of civilisation - or even a greater Unites States - is fading. The citizens are more concerned about water, mutated critters and, when they stop to think about it, their increasingly dictatorial 'Mayor'.

Lewis is the town's librarian, mechanic and something more - the lattermost being a side effect of the world's newly irradiated landscape. Clark is one of St Louis's scouts, the few brave people who forage outside the city walls. When Gawea, a stranger from the far West, comes to town, the two see this as an opportunity - proof that there's something more than their insular, decaying city-state. With a few comrades in tow (some more eagerly than others) they set out... 

The Dead Lands is a tough one to puzzle out. Structurally, this is a massive - epic, even - quest, with the future of humanity on the line. There are heroes in search of their powers, Big Bads, little bads (with pointy teeth), fathers with dying wishes, timeless romances, etc. etc.

Certainly there are similarities to the many other post-apocalyptic novels that fill the shelves, but, despite a few recognisable tropes and set-pieces, readers looking for yet another reboot of The Stand will be sorely disappointed. The Dead Lands is a return to a much older story, presented in a way that deliberately inspires - or even provokes - the reader.

Continue reading "The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy" »


Submissions Update

PornokitschWe've received a lot in the first two weeks, but I'm determined to keep ahead of the 'you'll hear in six weeks' promise. Responses should start going out soon.

Keep them coming, but also - don't worrying about rushing stuff to me. We're not closing submissions at any point in the foreseeable future. If ever. 

The details are (and will remain) here.

I've initiated a round-table sort of thing with a few other editors from small publishers that take unagented shorts. We'll be sharing some advice on submitting fiction, which may be generally useful - especially to those just getting started as writers. Plus, it'll show off some of the UK's rather amazing small press scene.

That said, my own perspective is increasingly similar to that of Ellery Sedgwick, the editor of The Atlantic... in 1921. She said: "My selection is made according to the whim of one individual." Which is empowering, terrifying, and a very good reason that no  one should take it to heart. 

(Comments closed. Any questions, please ask on the original post.)


Friday Five: 5 Literary Looks at Las Vegas

I've never been to Las Vegas, which I feel is some sort of failing as a man, an American and a consumer of pop culture. Television and cinema both tell me that I've missed out on a lot of character-building. Alas. Someday.

That said, I've always been fascinated by its portrayal in literature. This is especially true for genre fiction, which perfects suits the essence of Vegas: a place where anything can happen.

Here are five of the many books that explore the possibilities:

Cover_bigChoke Hold

I suspect Vegas literature is dominated by three things: the Mafia, gambling and prostitution. All of which we'll cover off below. But there's a distant - and compelling - fourth in boxing. Christa Faust's Choke Hold (2011) is an even more contemporary interpretation of the literature of blood sport, set in the fast-paced and brutal world of Mixed Martial Arts. 

Choke Holis the second mystery (Hard Case Crime, no less) featuring Angel Dare. In the first, Money Shot, Angel uncovers a murderous plot set in the adult film industry. In Choke Hold, Faust isn't sparing with the metaphoric comparison: she paints MMA is a world just as lurid, crippling, destructive and compellingly, pruriently visceral as porn. It is the retail - and slaughter - of highly-specialised human bodies for entertainment purposes. And, naturally, the perfect setting for violent crime. Faust's Vegas - a hub for both the sex and violence industries - as the crossroads: a place where people go to make bargains, to sell themselves, and, ultimately, leave in a tragedy.

Continue reading "Friday Five: 5 Literary Looks at Las Vegas" »


H.P. Lovecraft's Selection of British & Irish Horror [with links]

Here are all the British and Irish authors recommended by H.P. Lovecraft in "Supernatural Horror in Literature" (especially from Section IX - "The Weird Tradition in the British Isles", but I've tried to pick out the key references from the rest as well).

All links go to free, legal online reading:

The Gods of Pegana by SimeE.F. Benson - "The Man Who Went Too Far", "The Face"Visible and Invisible (esp. "Negotiam Perambulans" and "The Horror-Horn") 

Algernon Blackwood - "The Willows", "An Episode in a Lodging House", "The Listener"Incredible Adentures, John Silence, Jimbo, The Centaur

Gerald Bliss - The Door of the Unreal

Emily Brontë - Wuthering Heights

Robert Browning - Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came 

John Buchan - Witch Wood"The Green Wildebeest", "The Wind in the Portico", "Skule Skerry"

Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton - Zanoni, A Strange Story

Walter de la Mare -  The Return"Seaton's Aunt", "The Tree", "Out of the Deep", "A Recluse" "Mr. Kempe", "All-Hallows"The Listeners

Daniel Defoe - "A Relation of the Apparition of Mrs. Veal"

A.C. Doyle -  "The Captain of the Pole-Star", "Lot No. 249"

Continue reading "H.P. Lovecraft's Selection of British & Irish Horror [with links]" »


Films of High Adventure: Mad Max 2 AKA The Road Warrior

Mad MaxThe Film: Mad Max 2 AKA The Road Warrior (which is how we Yank philistines will be referring to it) (1981)

Responsibility Roundup: Besides creating, co-writing, and directing all four Mad Max movies, George Miller is also the man behind both the Babe and Happy Feet film franchises. You know, for kids. Co-written by Terry Hayes (the From Hell movie, the novel I Am Pilgrim) and Brian Hannant (uh, something called The Time Guardian?). In addition to Mel “Butt-dog” Gibson, the movie stars Bruce Spence (Dark City; I, Frankenstein), Mike Preston (Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn), Virginia Hey (Farscape), Vernon Wells (Weird Science; Commando), Emil Minty (um, something called Fluteman?), and the Lord Humungus as himself (wait, no, that’s wrong—he’s played by Kjell Nilsson). Soundtrack by Brian May (Mad Max, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare) and the countless explosions.

Quote: “Greetings from The Humungus! The Lord Humungus! The Warrior of the Wasteland! The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla!”

Alternate quote: “I’m only here for the gasoline.”

First viewing by Jesse: As an early teen, maybe?

First viewing by Molly: A couple of weeks ago.

Most recent viewing by both: A couple of weeks ago.

Continue reading "Films of High Adventure: Mad Max 2 AKA The Road Warrior" »


Interview: "Hello, my name is K.J. Parker"

The Two of SwordsFor 17 years - since the publication of Colours in the Steel - the identity of K.J. Parker has been one of fantasy literature's most tightly-kept secrets.

Now, after a dozen novels, a collection of short stories, a handful of essays and two World Fantasy Award wins, K.J. Parker has stepped forward - as author Tom Holt.

And, although "it has been enormously fun being two people", today one of genre's great mysteries has been put to rest.

As grateful as I am (and I am exceedingly grateful - this was so much fun!) to Orbit for letting me spill the secret, I've - in a way - never cared. Parker has been one of my absolute favourite authors since I first stumbled on a battered set of the Fencer trilogy over a dozen years ago, and every new release from the author is a cause for celebration.

Which means, as fun as this is, the real excitement today is that K. J. Parker's new serial - The Two of Swords - is out now. Speaking as someone that woke up with the dawn and spent the morning frantically reading the first instalment before dashing (slightly late) to work - that's the big news. Great "Parker" is like no other, and The Two of Swords is already shaping up to be some of the author's best.

You can find The Two of Swords here.

Want to know more about the man behind the pseudonym? Parker has a fascinating interview with the Coode Street gang - listen to it here.

Parker also featured on BN.com earlier this week, discussing the merits of serialisation.

And, finally, a full interview with K.J. Parker will be appearing on this site later this week.