Friday Five Feed

Friday Five: 5 Nifty Noir Films from Before 1955

Do you want to watch some film noir?

I hope so, because I have five films to suggest. Films about dames gone wrong, poor doomed saps, murders, sex and modern knights errant. I suppose, to me, noir films are shadowy films about darkness seeping in and seeping out. If you like these films, you might want to look a little more into the filmographies of Jacques Tourneur, Ida Lupino, Edgar Ulmer, Nicholas Ray, and John Sturges.

Meanwhile, beware of spoilers. I tried to keep some secrets, but in the end, I'm a femme fatale. I've always got my own game going. 

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Out Of The Past / Build My Gallows High (1947) (Jacques Tourneur)

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Some people, most people even, think of Double Indemnity (1944) as the quintessential film noir, but my Double Indemnity is Out Of The Past. It stars Robert Mitchum as private detective Jeff Bailey. (90% of Mitchum's characters are named, “Jeff” no matter what IMDb says).

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Friday Five: 5 Weirdest Movies I've Seen Recently

World SF 4This week's guest is Kuzhali Manickavel. Kuzhali is the author of the excellent, brilliant and totally disconcerting collections Insects Are Just Like You And Me Except Some of Them Have Wings and Things We Found During the Autopsy.  Her short story, "Six Things We Found During The Autopsy", is also collected in the brand-new The Apex Book of World SF 4.

Without further ado...  

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And by ‘weird’ I mean I didn’t understand why I was watching them or I was watching them by accident. Also I didn’t always pay attention or watch the whole thing.

Welcome to New York

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Not gonna lie, for some reason I thought this was a Philip Seymour Hoffman movie about bees. But as this movie progressed and there was no Philip Seymour Hoffman and no bees and lots of Gérard Depardieu having the sexuals with lots of ladies (LOTS. Like, LOTS), I began to suspect that neither the bees nor Philip Seymour Hoffman were going to make an appearance except possibly to have sex with Gérard Depardieu which might have been interesting but maybe not also. As far as I could tell, the only instances that Sexual Time with Gérard Depardieu was not happening was when they all took a breather so Gerard D could be rapey and when Jacqueline Bisset and him were yelling at each other. In the end, I have to say that the Philip Seymour Hoffman movie about bees might not actually exist.

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Friday Five: 5 From The Future Fire

The Future Fire X

This week we're handing the reins over to Djibril al-Ayad, editor of The Future Fire. The magazine is celebrating its tenth anniversary. If you're interested in supporting both The Future Fire and its long tradition of critically-lauded anthologies, you can back it (and receive lovely goodies) here.

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The Future Fire’s tagline, as it has evolved over ten years of publishing, promises “Feminist SF, Queer SF, Eco SF, Postcolonial SF and Cyberpunk,” all this in the service of social-political speculative fiction and showcasing underrepresented voices.

I’ll try here to recommend five awesome stories that demonstrate what we mean by these five categories (and what we’d like to see more of in the zine). I’d love more recommendations from you along these lines in the comments!

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Friday Five: 5 Fantastic Fictional Girls & Women

Anne-of-green-gablesThis week's Friday Five guest is Zen Cho, author of the Crawford Award-winning short story collection Spirits Abroad and editor of Cyberpunk: Malaysia. Her debut novel, Sorcerer to the Crown, is out soon from Ace (US) and Pan Macmillan (UK), and has already been receiving (well-deserved) rave reviews.

Zen's short story "The Four Generations of Chang E" is collected in The Apex Book of World SF 4, released at the end of August. 

Zen's chosen the topic of "Five fictional girls and women that I will love forever" - please join in with your own favourites in the comments!

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Anne from Anne of Green Gables (L. M. Montgomery)

Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert of Prince Edward Island put in an order for an orphan boy to help them out on the farm, but they get a girl instead. Thus begins one of the most enduringly popular works of children's literature, featuring one of literature's best girls, the eponymous Anne.

It's hard to write a character who is meant to be universally charming and make her universally charming, but Montgomery somehow managed it. This comes not just from Anne's whimsy, but the fact that Anne is actually pretty good at life. She's orphaned at birth and exploited throughout her childhood, but she manages to hang onto optimism. She saves babies with ipecac and turns down scholarships so she can look after the people who took her in. I'd read another fourteen books about her. There's no one quite like Anne. 

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Friday Five: 5 Terrific Techy Ladies in Sci-Fi

Brave New GirlsThis week's guest is Mary Fan, co-editor of the brand new Brave New Girls. The anthology collects science fiction stories featuring "brainy young women who use their smarts to save the day". That is to say: it not only brings readers a whole pack of awesome role models, but they're also clever stories featuring brains over brawn.

All proceeds from Brave New Girls are being donated to a scholarship fund set up by the Society of Women Engineers, so buy with confidence - you're not just reading about bright futures, you're helping make them. With no further ado, we'll hand over to Mary...

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It’s no secret that there aren’t a lot of women in science and tech, both in the real world and in fiction. Which is a shame, really. There’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem around this issue—are techy women not depicted in sci-fi because they’re rare in real life, or are they rare in real life because girls don’t see themselves depicted in those roles and therefore don’t pursue those careers? The fact is, pop culture is a powerful influencer, especially on girls and teenagers. And the scary thing is, your career is dictated by decisions you make as an impressionable kid (think about it… the college major you pick at age 19 determines whether or not you’ll become a research scientist).

While there are plenty of ladies in sci-fi, they’re usually not put in the science and tech-based roles. The scientists, hackers, engineers, etc. are usually guys. But every so often, you’ll stumble upon a character that makes you go, “Yes! More of her, please!” Here are five brainy sci-fi ladies who use their smarts to save the day:

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Friday Five: 5 Jaunty Jolts of Joe R. Lansdale

Paradise Sky_A very specific Friday Five this week, to celebrate the release of Paradise Sky, the new Western from Joe Lansdale. Lansdale is the author of everything from the bizarro horror comedy Bubba Ho-Tep to the apocalyptic creepiness of The Drive-In to the steampunk hijinks of Zeppelins West to the rural noir of The Thicket to the long-running Hap and Leonard mysteries.

He is a personal favourite not only for his versatility, but for the incredible quality. Whatever Lansdale's writing, be it fun or somber, humorous or horrific, it is always a delight to read.

So... where to start? Or, if you've nibbled on a bit of Lansdale's writing, what to try next? Below, five of my favourites, all from different genres...

Savage Season (1990)

Hap Collins and Leonard Pine are one of the best detective duos in fiction, full stop. Imagine Sherlock and Watson, except without money, education, superhuman talents, a medical degree or any sense of Victorian dignity. So, really, don't imagine them at all. Hap and Leonard are both washed out West Texans ... general do-gooders, with day jobs that range from working at a deck chair factory to dubious 'security' gigs.

Hap thinks of himself as an ex-hippie pacifist (he's not, really) and Leonard is 100% pure hardness (except for his love of vanilla cookies) - as you'd need to be as a gay black man in rural Texas. Savage Season not only introduces the duo, but is an excellent example of one of their classic darkly comedic adventures, with betrayal, skulduggery, sleazebags and... a rather powerful emotional core.

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Friday Five: 5 Great Steampunk Writings that Aren't Actually Steampunk

This week's Friday Five host is Andrew Kane, co-creator, producer, writer, and voice actor for Rude Alchemy: serial radio theatre-style podcasts melding history, mystery, horror, and comedy available for free on iTunes, Stitcher, and www.rudealchemy.com. He has written plays for children and adults including The Resurrectionists (developed by 1812 Productions) and Little Red (developed by Montgomery Theater). He plays guitar and sings in the roots-punk band Old Town Wake.

He is also, judging by the list that follows, a man of impeccable taste...


In the land of speculative fiction, steampunk has blossomed from spunky upstart to sub-genre titan. Steampunk and its lesser-appreciated nieces and nephews cyberpunk, dieselpunk, biopunk, nanopunk, etc. have stirred the imagination of millions worldwide, spawning blogs packed with colorful stories, tumblr accounts dripping with gorgeous fan art, and conventions teeming with velocipede-riding, mustache-twirling, hoople-skirt wearing true believers. People, steampunk has its own World’s Fair.

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Friday Five: 5 Sharks on the Silver Screen

SharkpunkThis week's Friday Five is from Jonathan Green, with a selection of films you can really get your teeth into... And on the subject of fanged terrors of the deep, Sharkpunk! is out now from Snowbooks. You can find this massive new anthology on sale directly from the publishers or from your favourite bookstore.

There's a signing at Forbidden Planet this weekend, and, even if you can't make it, you can reserve your scrawled-upon copy now.


I’ve always had a fascination for sharks – a morbid fascination, I suppose – ever since I watched Jaws, late one night, unknown to my parents, on a small black and white TV with really poor reception, in my bedroom. Nonetheless, the suspense and the shocks still hit home – despite the sadly lacking home cinema experience – so much so that when I was snorkelling off the Whitsunday Islands in Australia, swimming from our boat to the nearest island, I convinced myself that a Great White must be within only a few metres of me. That thought alone, that out in the ocean I was trespassing on Jaws’ turf, as it were, was enough to set my heart racing. And I loved it!

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Friday Five: 5 Goodies from Gutenberg

Were-wolfI'm a Project Gutenberg addict. I mean, I have a real problem. As Anne can testify, I'll spend hours just going through the 'recent uploads' section, admiring the latest text conversions of 19th century French botanical diaries.

I've listed five of my favourite recent finds - some are fun, some are genuinely great, some are flat-out bizarre. Please share your own Gutenberg discoveries in the comments, the more the merrier!

The Were-Wolf by Clemence Housman (1896)

Cleverly titled in a way that, if you were actually searching for werewolf stories, you'd never find it. I searched this out when compiling that list of Lovecraft's recommendations, and it is a treat. A short, Weird fantasy, based in a vaguely Scandinavian setting. The 'were-wolf' isn't quite the figure that you'd expect, and the ultimate conflict: a literal race against time, is genuinely harrowing. Plus, there are foxy (wolfy?) illustrations by Laurence Housman. (Read it here.)

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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.

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