Pygmalia: Pygmalion

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 

PygmalionIt’s Low Hanging Fruit month here at Pygmalia, hot on the heels of me totally flaking out of a July column, but don’t judge me too hard… I’d never seen Pymalion, and quite frankly I didn’t know it existed until April, as I was idly browsing the “English” section of my local video store. After noting the Criterion case, I rented it immediately. Um, by which I mean, I noted it starred Second Hottest Actor Of All Time Award-Winner Leslie Howard* as Professor Henry Higgins, I rented it immediately. What? I’m only human.

Pygmalion (1938)

I grew up on musicals, and as I first saw My Fair Lady during the pre-Internet age, I think I can be forgiven for not going down the Google-hole to discover that the dialogue and the staging were taken from the 1938, Bernard Shaw-scripted black and white film, Pygmalion. To be fair, I did run out and buy myself a copy of the play at a used bookstore, the same one I still have, and read it several times—but as to finding out about the Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller version, that took me until this year.

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The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks

The-Broken-Eye-HCI'm reading and reviewing all ten finalists for the David Gemmell Legend Awards. You can follow along here. Voting has closed, but the awards aren't announced yet, so I'm plowing on...

The Broken Eye (2014) is the third in the four book Lightbringer series by Brent Weeks. The books take place in a world where light is power, with 'drafters' as the wizards able to wield said power. The Chromeria - an alliance of powerful drafters - has been (more or less) running the world, stewarding over a (more or less peaceful) sort of aristocracy. Although drafters are the top of the pecking order, there are checks and balances in place - largely involving noble families, the high church, a handful of military organisations and a seemingly-infinite number of secret conspiracies. 

Arguably the greatest 'check' is the cost of drafting - as the wizards use their power, it begins to change them. The immediate effect is an emotional one: drafting 'blue', for example, makes you more logical, while 'red' makes you angry. But there are long-term physical changes as well, with drafters eventually becoming more and more colour-infused, and eventually turning into 'wights' - colour-monsters. Although drafters can rule the world (and largely do), it is difficult for them to maintain that power. As a last nod to their humanity, for centuries drafters on the verge of 'going wight' (pun!) have willingly sacrificed themselves. They live fast, die young, and leave very colourful corpses.

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Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence

Prince FoolsI'm reading and reviewing all ten finalists for the David Gemmell Legend Awards. You can follow along here. Voting has ended, but the prize isn't announced yet, so I'm forging on...

Prince of Fools (2014) is the start of a brand new series from Mark Lawrence. Lawrence's previous trilogy, The Broken Empire, picked up last year's DGLA with its concluding volume - Emperor of Thorns.1

Prince Jalan Kendeth is a noble and a jackass - and he would, I think, be the first to admit it. Born to privilege, but not responsibility, his primary concern in life is avoiding his creditors. And when Snorri Snagason - a captive Northerner - is hauled into court, Jalan thinks he's found a way. Snorri's a scary bastard, and, after pulling a string or two, he's Jalan's scary bastard - a pit-fighter that can get Jalan out of debt.

Except Snorri doesn't quite behave to plan. He escapes and, after an unfortunate magical incident, Jalan's dragged off with him. The two are linked together by a backfiring magical spell - one that's been kept from completion by Jalan and Snorri being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Now they're two halves of an occult whole, a broken circuit. They can't bear to be together, but, magically linked, they can't stay apart. The heroic Snorri and the unscrupulous Jalan are off in search of a cure - a search that will take them through all the broken kingdoms of the land, and eventually, to a deep dark horror lurking in the frozen North.

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Weirdness Rodeo


Emma Stone is awesome.

This week's link o' the week - a piece from Alistair Smith on the role of subsidised culture:

The arts and culture contribute £7.7 billion to the UK economy – and quotes from some major employers inside the creative industries (and beyond) explaining just how much they rely on arts and culture as a training ground for their own businesses...

The economic case for supporting the arts and culture is a strong one, but pursued without restraint it creates a subsidised sector that simply mimics what the commercial sector could do perfectly well itself, without funding. The economic impact of the subsidised arts is a happy by-product of one of the UK’s most successful sectors, not an end in itself. We mustn’t allow the tail to wag the dog.

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Nine Worlds, Sex and Marketing

Lots of the Pornokitsch folk will be at Nine Worlds next week - please come say hi! Stark, Bex, Anne and I are all around for most of the weekend, and on various panels to boot.

The complete interactive schedule-device-thing is here - with over 300 different programme items! There's a great guest list this year, with panels and workshops across a huge range of geeky topics, comics to movies to gaming to gin. Some of our favourite speakers are there, including Mary Hamilton, Glen Mehn, Meg Jayanth, Sarah Lotz, James Smythe, James Dawson, Debbie Challis, John J Johnston, Leila Abu el Hawa, Kieron Gillen, James Wallis, Sally Jane Thompson and many, many, many others.

And, on the sex and marketing fronts...

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Erin Lindsey on "Sex and Explosions Part Deux: Now with More Sex!"

Qué_valor!

About six months ago, I did a guest post over at SF Signal called “Sex and Explosions”, in which I observed that according to the Hollywood model, the essential ingredients of a blockbuster/bestseller are – spoiler! – sex and explosions. A great action romance, I argued, links a suspenseful plot and an engaging love story in a positive feedback loop: each influences the other, so that the romance shapes the action and vice versa. Ideally, these knock-on effects raise the stakes and increase the momentum of the story.

Catchy title notwithstanding, that post was really about romance and action, rather than sex and explosions per se. Needless to say, not all sex is romance, and explosions are but one way (albeit a particularly awesome way) of demonstrating action. Sex rears its… er, head… in many different guises, serving various masters. Explosions, meanwhile, are merely one subset of violence, and this too can be used to achieve a variety of aims. (Or at least, they should serve a purpose; all too often, sex and violence are simply tossed in as a matter of obligation.)

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Age of Iron by Angus Watson

Age of IronI'm reading and reviewing all ten finalists for the David Gemmell Legend Awards. You can follow along here. Voting has closed, but the winners aren't announced until August, so I'm plowing on...

Age of Iron (2014) is a gory, goofy, visceral romp. It combines a historical setting with shameless anachronism, enjoyable characters with gory violence and a simple (if largely reactive) plot that's focused on causing as much destruction as possible over the course of a few hundred pages.

Dug is a warrior - he's earned his really big hammer and his very impressive mail shirt. He's also, in a now-familiar trend that can be traced back to the works of David Gemmell himself, 'too old for this shit'. Experienced enough to understand he's not immortal, Dug's looking for an easy gig - someplace where he can wave his weapon around, but avoid taking a spear to the face. 

Unfortunately, his retirement gig - a sort of warrior-in-residence to a small town - comes to an abrupt and bloody end, when said town winds up in the path of a power-hungry local king, Zadar. Dug gets the hell out of dodge, but only after witnessing a massacre. 

Meanwhile, on the massacring side, Lowa is the leader of a troop of immensely talented archers - several laps further along in the arms race than anyone else in proto-Britain. Unfortunately, she's wound up on Zadar's bad side, and she too needs to get the hell out of dodge.

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Good Songs, Good Covers.

Okay, I admit - there were some truly abysmal covers in that list. That Sugababes action… yeah, I have to make up for that. So this time, here are some really great covers of genuinely good songs. 

Lake Street Dive - "Faith"

George Michael’s biggest hit from his 1987 debut solo album Faith was the titular song, "Faith". With it’s Bo Diddley beat and George in the peak of his post-Wham bad boy image, "Faith" isn’t a song you’d ever forget. It also isn't a song you could do justice to easily - so why try to do it George’s way at all? 

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10 Excellent Indie Comics From The Sequential Summer Sale

Complete_Bojeffries_Saga_CoverIn one of the least-difficult challenges we've ever been issued, the One Comic team were tasked with recommending ten titles from Sequential's summer sale

Our selections from the app's wide range of indie comics are all below, but there are more to choose from... The only hard part was narrowing it down to ten. 

The Bojeffries Saga (Alan Moore and Steve Parkhouse) is Moore tells the story of an extended family living in a council house in his native Nottingham. And I'm not sure what more you need to know*. Originally published in Warrior magazine, but then later cropping up all over the place, this collection includes a new story bringing the Saga up to date.

* Well, except that they include a vampire, a werewolf and a small child that generates nuclear energy. And one story is presented as a Gilbert and Sullivan light opera. And so much more. (Jon)

Boo! (edited by Andrew Waugh and Paul Harrison-Davies) is another anthology comic packed with British talent. I read it when it was first released - despite being (ostensibly) a 'horror comic for children', it is a lot of fun for readers of all ages. The stories range in the type of terror they inspire. Jonathan Edward's "School Dinners" is a charmingly goofy urban legend. Gary Northfield's "The Devil and Billy Beetle" is Gorey-esque in its surreal vision. Warwick Cadwell's "Night Piper" is folklorish and Andrew Waugh's "The Visitor" is just, well... flat out scary. A lot of fun. (Jared) 

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