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August 2011
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Friday Five-a-day: 15 Vegetables

Friday FiveVegetables! The torment of our youth; the bland green things that stood between us and dessert. But time has torn our juvenile principles asunder. Now, vegetables are a necessary component of our daily lives; they keep us healthy, wealthy and wise. Well, one of those things. And we haven't just learned to tolerate them - like Heathcliff and his Odie, we've learned to love them.

We're delighted to be joined by author and environmentalist Mark Charan Newton for today's Friday Five. Mark is the author of Nights of Villjamur, City of Ruin and The Book of Transformations, as well as a columnist for the Huffington Post and a tireless advocate for progressive genre fiction and quality whiskey.

Also, he's awesome.

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Doctor Who: The Movie (1996)

doctor who movieI like Paul McGann.

I saw him on stage recently, and he invested a fairly two-dimensional and heavy-handed character with a dignity and gravitas. And I like him on Luther, in his thankless role as sad-sack non-rival to the riveting Idris Elba. He's got massive presence, and I respect that he doesn't vanish under the weight of thankless roles.  Let's see how he does in the infamously terrible Doctor Who movie.

I couldn't be bothered to go search for or make screen-caps, so I've re-enacted key scenes from the Doctor Who movie with action figures and such props (index cards; candy wrappers) as came to hand.

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A bit of housecleaning

A couple small changes on the site.

We've removed the "Genre-free" tag because it was lazy and inaccurate. Instead, we've added two new genre categories and therefore officially expanded our kitschy remit to include both Westerns and Romance. We haven't reviewed many Westerns to date, but this category will grow ahead of 2012's A Town Called Pandemonium. And the Romance category includes everything from Georgette Heyer to Midwood Publishing, corseted swooning to good ol' slappenfuk

We've also added another menu on the right, allowing you to distinguish between the various site authors and their work. There are four of us now, plus our multitude of beloved guest writers. We'll also do a better job of tagging the reviews as we post them, so that you can make sure to flame the appropriate author.

Pornokitsch has been an ever-evolving, ever-wriggling experiment since 2008. We're always up for suggestions on how to make the site a better place and, as this shows, occasionally we even act on them.

The Lure of Book Collecting

Judge NotIf you'll pardon a particularly bloggy blog post, I've been occasionally - cruelly - accused of buying books with neither rhyme nor reason. (Anyone that's seen the precarious state of our bookshelves would be justified in coming to that conclusion.) 

I like to think of this more as 'collecting', and as any other collector can testify, sometimes these things spiral out of control. One good book leads to another and, before long, reading becomes a secondary pleasure behind the wonderful, shamelessly capitalistic glee of ownership. Mind you, I'd never sell any of my treasures - it'd be like sticking the cat on eBay. These things just aren't done.

No - the pleasure of collecting is the wanton joy of completism; the success of accomplishing a difficult task. A self-assigned and bizarre task, but a Herculean labor all the less. No matter what others think, I have a quest. We can all appreciate that, right?

After the jump, all my obsessions du jour. What are yours?

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Underground Reading: The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer

the Reluctant WidowWhile on holiday recently, we discovered a trove of mid-century pulps in an appropriately sepulchral used book store. Although many were of the traditional sort, (dames n’ guns n’ lousy attitudes), there were a good number of lady-pulps, too: period romances by long-forgotten authors, with covers and cover-blurbs every bit as contrived, alluring, misleading, ridiculous and wonderful as their male counterparts.

I was particularly delighted to find a Georgette Heyer amongst the crowd.

Heyer got into novel writing because she loved Jane Austen, and wanted to fill the world with mannered romances, unencumbered with the breath-stealing prose and social conscience of the great Victorian novels. (Stupid boring poor people and their stupid boring problems.)  Her Regency romances were, for a while, very popular. But they’ve drifted out of the public consciousness, referenced now only occasionally by pulp enthusiasts and nostalgic romance fans.

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Underground Reading: Witching Hill by E.W. Hornung (1913)

Witching HillWitching Hill (1913) is a haunted house story, with the unusual twist that the "house" in question is an entire London suburb. Author E.W. Hornung (best known for his Raffles books and largely overshadowed by his brother-in-law, Arthur Conan Doyle), combines the supernatural with some pop psychology to create a very modern sort of thriller.

The Witching Hill Estate is somewhere within the greater London environs; a shiny new middle class suburb built on the grounds of the old "Mulcaster" lands. The houses are new, lovely and largely interchangeable. They all even have their own tennis courts. The central artery - Mulcaster Park Road - isn't paved, but they all have high hopes. Town is a short (but inconvenient) journey away, so most servants and staff stay on the estate as well. The original manor house still stands, Sir Christopher Stainsby residing. Sir Christopher maintains his own private wilderness as well; one that is well-littered with crumbling ruins.

For Gillon, our narrator, the Witching Hill Estate is like some sort of gloomy purgatory. Gillon is an open, friendly, broad-shouldered Scot. He's none too smart and, as he freely admits, a born follower. Currently serving as the general dogsbody at the Estate, salesman, light handyman and office manager, Gillon is bored to the point of tears. 

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Underground Reading: Baby Moll & Honey in His Mouth

Another pair of 1950s gems from Hard Case Crime. This time, the publisher has dredged up early noir works from authors better known for their work in other fields.

Honey in His MouthHoney in His Mouth (2009) was originally written in 1956 but never published. The author, Lester Dent, created Doc Savage. Mr. Dent wrote over 150 novels starring the superhuman adventurer and, although, later in life, he turned his hand to other genres (mostly Westerns), that's how he's primarily remembered. He's also from Missouri, which gets him bonus points.

Honey in His Mouth features a con man, grifter and thief named Walter Harsh. The reader is introduced to Walter as he speeds off from a gas station, fleeing a man from whom he stole $700 in photographic equipment. The resulting car chase ends up with the death of the pursuer and the hospitalization of Walter. Walter, self-absorbed, doesn't feel the tiniest pang of guilt. As his story is revealed, he becomes even more detestable. 

Walter doesn't even have the excuse of being a successful bastard. He's a petty grifter with a shtick that involves using his (almost) jailbait (kinda) girlfriend to set up sales calls and then flogging people unwanted photos. He's not Dexter, he's just... annoying. A combination of pushy salesman and sleazeball - everything we're programmed to detest. He also slaps his non-girlfriend around. A lot. Walter's also a bit dumb, something that becomes more and more clear as the book goes on. Despite his high opinion of his own intelligence, he just ain't the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree.

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Friday Five: 15 Seriously Sexy Beasts

We've all felt them: the strange stirrings of attraction, however vague and however meaningless, inspired by something different. Something horrible. Something other.

Something beastly. Whether it be Smaug's sexy basso profundo or the slow-moving eroticism of a well-decayed zombie, we geeks are no strangers to the idea that, sometimes, the monsters are the most interesting characters in a book or a film or a show. They're also, occasionally, the sexiest characters. For today's Friday Five, we're unburdening ourselves of our secret - and not so secret - inhuman desires. Why not display the underside of your own libidinal rocks in the comments? We don't judge.

As he's written a story about sexy monsters for our Pandemonium anthology, we can't think of a better person to join us for this week's list than Gentleman Geek Den Patrick. Den lives in London and loves genre literature, cinema, peculiar music and writing. He can letter comics, proofread and tie his own shoe-laces. He also makes a mean cup of tea.

dracula's bridesDen

The Succubus (Dungeons & Dragons). Rare is the Dungeons & Dragons player who won’t admit that he or she spent a little bit too long checking out the artwork for the succubus in the Monster Manual. Sure, dryads are supposed to be super hot, but why not just make out with an elf and not get blinded in the deal? It’s the succubus’s stock in trade to be sexy. It’s who she is and what she does – the dangers of the male gaze made manifest. She knows what you want, and you’ll only need to part with your soul to get it.

Pris (Blade Runner). With a body made for sin and a Valentine’s Day incept date, Pris is not an obvious kind of monster. Not until we see her plunge her hand into boiling water and set a trap for Deckard in the Bradbury Building, that is. She’s not above manipulating J.F. Sebastian either, all so Roy Batty can gain access to Tyrell. Like Frankenstein’s monster, she has the capacity for love as well as for destruction, as witnessed by her relationship with Roy. Pris is easily one of the most iconic femme fatales in modern cinema, and one skin job we’re sad to see ‘Retired’.

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Review Round-up: Careless Talk and Knit the City


Careless Talk Costs Lives and Knit the City - two very similar looks at the role of public art, featuring artists separated by half a century.

The illustrations of Fougasse are instantly recognisable, which only gives some hint to what the 1940s must have been like, when every wall and magazine boasted his art. Careless Talk Costs Lives (2010) is James Taylor's examination of Fougasse's work, with a focus on the artist's role in the 'public information' sector. 

Fougasse (born Kenneth Bird - he used the pen name because of another Punch illustrator with the same surname) was a popular student, a staunch patriot and (as his work indicates) very soft-hearted. Almost an rugby international for Scotland, he was knocked unconscious after scoring a try. He was in World War I for a year, suffering severe back damage from a shell at Gallipoli. During his recovery, Fougasse rediscovered his talent for cartoons. Although he tried to become a writer, Fougasse instead became an artist.

By the mid-1930s, his wonderful style was in fast demand for advertisements, charity work and cartoons. When World War II broke out, Fougasse volunteered his services to the government, convincing the powers-that-be that humorous posters would have more impact than scary ones. From that generosity, the famous "Careless Talk Costs Lives" series was born.

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New Releases: By Light Alone by Adam Roberts

By-Light-AloneTackling a review of one of Adam Roberts' novels seems a bit, well, foredoomed in light of his recent, epic review of MD Lachlan's novels Wolfangel and Fenrir. But, honestly, I've been sitting on the finished book for close to two weeks now. It's time!

We tell ourselves what the world is, even though we know it isn't, in order to live our lives with some degree of happiness and fulfillment. We live as though the world were what it should be, to show it what it can be. But, Roberts warns us, such delusions are as externally dangerous as they are internally satisfying. A quick caveat: I can't talk much about the latter two thirds of the novel without spoiling it. So this review is an effort to talk around that, and to discuss one of several of the novel's themes.

Fifty years ago some clever bloke engineered "new hair" - essentially, human hair that can photosynthesize. Everyone has it now, and world hunger is at an end. Bring on the whalesong and patchouli!

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