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November 2010
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Station Identification

"Critics occupy a central function in the establishment of a literary canon, and they are important in counteracting the spurious impressiveness of mere popular appeal. But the key is not the mere expression of a judgment upon a given author or work, but a judgment informed by an exhaustive knowledge of the field and - that most intangible and indefinable of qualities - a keen critical sense that distinguishes the superficial from the profound, the meretricious from the sincere, and the obvious from the complex."
    -- ST Joshi, The Evolution of the Weird Tale.

One of the things we don't do at Pornokitsch is indulge in a lot of masturbatory blogging-on-blogging naval-gazing. That's an editorial decision we made a long time ago: we write about the things we want to write about and very, very rarely does that include public introspection.

But, if you'll excuse me a brief moment of pompous indulgence, if you were to ask us what we're about? The first answer, of course, is "having fun". And the second, more trepidatious response? I'd like to think it'd be something along the lines of Mr Joshi's words above. We genuinely, irrepressibly, often-humiliatingly love genre fiction, and, as a reflection of that love, occasionally do our best to provide a wee bit of critical rigour.

(Basically, we snark because we care. And ST Joshi says that's ok.)

Monsters & Mullets: Willow (1988)


A reluctant hero of small stature is tasked with depositing a tiny, dangerous object into safe hands.  Leaving his bucolic farmland life behind to journey into dangerous realms, he is joined by two bumbling layabouts, a wizard, a reluctant hero, an earthy bearded mercenary and a long-haired archer, all the while pursued by the forces of darkness.

I am, of course, referring to the 1988 high fantasy classic Willow

Continue reading "Monsters & Mullets: Willow (1988)" »

"On the one hand, sex can be tranformative. In fiction, it can serve any number of essential purposes.... But on the other hand, it’s just two people rolling around on a bed (or in a woodland glade, or against a wall, or wherever). And while they’re doing that, they’re usually not catching serial killers, or learning the terrible secret of their identity, or fomenting the French Revolution, or whatever else they might otherwise usefully be doing. A sexual encounter might be essential to the plot, but often the plot has to stop and stand around twiddling its thumbs while it happens.... If sex isn’t actually necessary, then don’, shove it in." - Sophia McDougall on writing sex scenes.

Underground Reading: Cinnamon Skin by John D MacDonald

Cinnamon_Skin "There are no hundred percent heroes. Every man can be broken when things happen to him in a certain order, with a momentum and an intensity that awaken ancient fears in the back of his mind."

With those opening words - perhaps the best in the entire series - the reader is catapulted into the dark world of Cinnamon Skin (1982). The twentieth Travis McGee adventure is a rare return to the structure of the early books in the series, but, this time, with an unusual twist: it isn't all about Travis.

It is no secret that I find Travis to be unusually self-absorbed. It is part of his... well... "charm" is a strong word... "literary appeal" might be a more accurate phrase. Unfortunately for the great scoundrel, whilst he was lazily observing the mystery in Free Fall in Crimson, terrible things happened to his friend Meyer.

Meyer is the great leveller: a genuinely lovable character both within the book and to the reader. He's intelligent, harmless, astute and furry. His unrelenting generosity serves as the perfect foil to Travis' ceaseless self-obsession.

Continue reading "Underground Reading: Cinnamon Skin by John D MacDonald" »

Monsters & Mullets: Fire and Ice (1983)

Fire and Ice Monsters & Mullets is Pornokitsch's ongoing project to review each and every 80s fantasy film we can get our grubby little mitts on, and rate them according to various incredibly empirical metrics including, of course, the number of monsters and mullets each movie features.

Fire and Ice, the 1983 animated high-fantasy collaboration between Ralph Bakshi and Frank Frazetta, has a lot going for it.  Like, a lot.  The screenplay is by Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas, who'd worked on Conan for Marvel.  The character design comes courtesey of Frazetta, the love-him or leave-him but inescapable fantasy illustrator, and the animation is typical batshit crazy Bakshi rotoscoping (cool, if you like batshit-crazy Bakshi rotoscoping).  Why, even the backgrounds have a surprising genealogy - they're by James Gurney and Thomas Kinkade himself, the Painter of Light (tm). 

What a pedigree!  But, oh lordy, how terrible is the end result? 

Terrible indeed.

Continue reading "Monsters & Mullets: Fire and Ice (1983)" »

"I think Ross Macdonald was the finest writer ever of private eye fiction. He brought literary integrity and psychological depth to the form that has never been equaled. I think John D. was the great populist storyteller. He once said that he wrote folk tales for men who carried their lunches in buckets. While I don't think he had the depth of Ross Mc I think he had a range and storytelling ability that Ross Mc sometimes lacked. Hell, I read them both all the time. Hard to beat either one of them if you like to watch masters at work." -- Ed Gorman on the differences between the two MacDonalds.

Underground Reading: Free Fall in Crimson by John D. MacDonald

5614729fd7a06c5f7142e010.L Move over, Nightmare in Pink, there's a new sheriff in town. Free Fall in Crimson (1981) may be the worst entry in the series to date. 

Travis is over the lengthy malaise that plagued him through the middle of the series, the catharsis of manslaughter has cleansed his emotional sinuses. Free Fall starts out almost like a franchise reboot: Travis is back on his boat like nothing happened, a client comes calling, he's off to save the day.

Except, unlike his previous adventures and misadventures, there's not much for Travis to hang his moral hook on in Free Fall. His client, Ron Easterland, is a (rich) (disaffected) artist who was disowned by his zillionaire father ages ago. But, due to a few complications in the will, he's still due to walk off with some money (which he swears he doesn't need). Unfortunately, due to a series of mysterious & convenient deaths, Dad died and all the money went to his wife from a previous marriage.

From the start, this feels a bit off. Travis is sorting out rich people problems for unlikable rich people. And, quickly, Travis becomes pretty unlikable himself.

Continue reading "Underground Reading: Free Fall in Crimson by John D. MacDonald" »

The Kitschies: 2010 Open for Submissions

[Check out the new Kitschies website -]

Kitschies We introduced the 2010 Kitschies and our judging criteria on Monday. Any science fiction, fantasy and horror book that was published (in English) for the first time in 2010 is eligible.

The awards are open for nominations and submissions until December 31, we'll then pick five for the shortlist in early January 

As a final recap, our criteria: Those books that elevate the tone of geek culture. This means progressive (but not wanky), intelligent (but not arrogant) and entertaining (but not trite).

The list is available for viewing & comment here.