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October 2011
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December 2011

Friday Five: 15 Great Gunslingers

Friday FiveGunslingers. They're the fastest guns in the west, the quickest draws this side of the Mississippi, steady as a rock, can shoot the wings off a fly. And the best part about them is this: they can be anyone. These folks are reeling drunks, old fatasses, hopeless romantics, drifting loners, broken-down losers, haunted by Some Terrible Secret, dying of Some Terrible Disease, with nothing left to prove, or with everything left to prove. They're slow-pokes, stutterers, half-breeds, and women. They're the eternally overlooked and the eternally underestimated, no one's first pick for any team.  And they're always, always your ace in the hole - the person whose clean draw or crack shot is going to change your showdown from certain death to unlikely victory.

It's no wonder our culture is so fascinated by gunslingers. They're all of this, and one thing more: they're us. We, with all our faults and pecadillos, have within us the same shining potential to do one pure thing in a lifetime of anonymous mediocrity. One perfect shot. Well, that's the idea, anyway.

We're delighted to host Kim Lakin-Smith, author of the new dustpunk thriller Cyber Circus (we love it) and the dark fantasy rock opera Tourniquet (we love it too), and a contributor to our own anthology, Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse. Kim is also one of the guests at the Kitschies' Steampunk Evening on 8 December - your chance to talk gunfighters with her in the safety of Blackwell's on Charing Cross Road.

Why don't you set yourselves down and bend our ears with tales of your favorite gunslingers in the comments?

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Monsters & Mullets: Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves (1991)

Robin HoodThis is a terrible movie. It is also a wonderful movie. It is, indeed, everything a great Monsters & Mullets movie is supposed to be: equal parts nostalgia-evoking, horror-inducing, cringe-warranting and adoration-justifying. It is horrific contrivances running amok amidst the pillars of some of modern film’s greatest campy acting, chased down by the swelling tide of heroic music and lovingly beaten to death by absurd slow-mo action sequences.

It is Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. And it is amazeballs.

Robin Hood

The film opens with a titles crawl over the Bayeux Tapestry. The use of the Bayeux Tapestry here is important for one of the following two reasons. A) Because the Tapestry represents the Norman invasion and William the Conqueror’s victory over the Saxon English king Harold a hundred years before this film is set, opening the movie by referencing the Tapestry subtly sets up the central socio-political tension of the Robin Hood myth between the conquering Normans and the subjugated Saxons, or, B) we learn later that Maid Marian embroidered all 230+ feet of the tapestry herself.

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Review Round-up: High school, horror and hooved mammals

Another skim through short stories, featuring Catherynne Valente's "White Lines on a Green Field", Oliver Onions' "The Beckoning Fair One" and O. Henry's "Hearts and Crosses".

Subterranean MagazineCatherynne Valente's "White Lines on a Green Field" (2011) is a creative retelling of the Coyote myth, set in a contemporary American high school. Coyote, that charismatic troublemaker that he is, brings both his blessing and his curse to West Centreville High. This average Everyschool suddenly becomes a hub of excitement and activity. On the field, Coyote leads the football team to victory after victory. Off the field, Coyote leads the entire school into a libertine berserker state. The parties grow wilder, the fights grow bloodier, the drinks go stronger... basically, his very mythic presence turns a real high school into that of "Gossip Girl". I like "Gossip Girl". I also like the Coyote stories, football and a good teen movie. But somehow, this still left me feeling a bit cold.

I've struggled a bit with Ms. Valente's writing in the past (I think referring to Deathless as "like being beaten to death by dried flowers" pretty much encapsulates my relationship with her work). And I found many of the same challenges in "White Lines on a Green Field". The characters are icy, poetic avatars with neither warmth nor humanity to them. The style is beautifully composed, but also quite affected, turning the narrator into a fairly incredulous imitation of a high school student. Bunny (yes) is a mythic archetype of a different tradition - the airy, artsy, savvy, sassy, sensitive poet that we all wanted to be but never were. 

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Underground Reading: The Last Legionary Quartet by Douglas Hill

Generally speaking, my field trips back to my childhood have not garnered especially favorable results. "That is not dead which can eternal lie" and, like Lovecraft's Cthulhu, many works of 1980s genre fiction should be left undisturbed. 

Galactic WarlordThus, it was with great trepidation (and a sharpening of knives) that I picked up a copy of Douglas Hill's The Last Legionary Quartet.

The series was originally published between 1980 and 1982, beginning with Galactic Warlord. Before now, the only one I'd actually read was Planet of the Warlord, the concluding volume. I'm not wholly sure when that was - it was a weird period in 1980s Kansas City when our local library branch had (for reasons still unknown to me) moved itself into a strip mall. The shelf space was fairly limited so my reading during that time - already eclectic - turned downright bizarre. I weirdly recall this being shelved with all the Choose Your Own Adventure books.

Planet of the Warlord - the entire Last Legionary Quartet, in fact - has a lot to offer imaginative, SF-obsessed kids. It isn't exactly an epic of astounding moral complexity, but it does have aliens, martial arts, exotic settings and more martial arts. Moreover, it is structured with a charming simplicity. 

Keill Randor is a legionary of the planet Moros, a world famed for its martial rigor and devotion to Good Causes. Returning from a scout mission, he finds that his homeworld has been completely wiped out through an evil radioactive bomb. As all the legionaries had been recalled to help with the crisis, they're all dead. Only Randor (thanks to some convenient engine trouble) was late enough to avoid the attack. However, since he's now been exposed to the world's poisonous aura, he only has a few months to live - and to get revenge.

How's that for a set-up?

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New Releases: The Demi-Monde: Winter by Rod Rees

Demi_Monde_WinterThe Demi-Monde: Winter (2011) is the first in a four book series by debut author Rod Rees. The book's eponymous location is a virtual world of breathtaking intricacy. Powered by a "quantum computer" named ABBA, the Demi-Monde is circular plane populated by thirty million "Dupes", or virtual recreations of real-world figures. The Dupes mingle, interact and go about their everyday lives, powered by a heuristic AI that makes them, for all practical and fictional purposes, real.

The Demi-Monde is no paradise. Much the reverse - it was created by the US military as a way of training soldiers for asymmetrical warfare. From its outset, the virtual world was put under immense social pressures: not enough space, religious friction, racial tension and resource issues (they all drink blood - lovely). And as its crowning achievement, the programmers populated the Demi-Monde with historical, once-in-a-generation, charismatic, terrifying leaders. Ivan the Terrible, Empress Wu, Beria, Henry VIII, etc. And below them rests a huge bureaucracy of minor psychopaths - notorious charmers like Aleister Crowley, for example.

The result? A pretty shitty place to live.

Or even, as Ella Thomas finds out, to visit.

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Friday Five: 10 Ways to End the World with a Bang (Whimpers not allowed)

Today is all about the Apocalypse. So we thought we'd indulge a little more of the fun with this week's Friday Five. 

Genre fiction has ended the world in a lot of interesting ways (real life has its fair share of disasters as well). Clearly our favourite 18 apocalypsoda are all contained in Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse, but we don't want to spoil any of them for you. 

Here are our picks for the best ways that SF has ended the world. Pipe up in the comments - speak now, or it might just be too late.

Anne

Zombies. They can stand for whatever metaphor you're comfortable with (consumerism; biological imperatives; the problems of overpopulation; rage; whatevs) but they're out there, they're coming in ever-increasing numbers, and they're going to hunt you down and eat you. The problem with zombies, whether speedy or classically slow, isn't that any one is so dangerous; it's the sheer scale of 'em. They will, ultimately, overwhelm you.

The Asteroid. I've loved dinosaurs since before I can remember, so I can't help but find dinosaur-flavored apocalyptic scenarios compelling. In The Asteroid, a giant chunk of space-junk slams into the planet and kicks up enough dust to cause a nuclear winter and wipe out the dominant forms of life on earth. Then: dinos. Now: us.

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Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse

Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse is out today.

The collection holds eighteen original tales of the end of the world, inspired by the artist John Martin and dreamed up by some of today's best science fiction, fantasy and horror talent.

You can purchase the eBook through Amazon (UK and US). A limited edition hardcover will be sold exclusively at Tate Britain from mid-November. 

The first reviews can be found at Stuff and Nonsense and The Eloquent Page. You can also find some extracts here and read a sample at Amazon.

Pandemonium contains:

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New Releases: Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

GlowGlow (2011) adds a touch of the interstellar to the young adult post apocalypse meme. Two colony ships float through space on the way to New Earth. Old Earth (which doesn't make an appearance) is years behind, one ship, Empyrean, has a completely new generation of children - ones that have never been planet-side.

The two oldest of these children are Kieran and Waverley. At the ripe old age of almost-sixteen, these two are the heirs apparent to the ship. Waverley (beautiful, thoughtful, etc) is close to everyone's heart. Kieran (handsome, square-jawed, etc) is training to be the next Captain. More importantly, they're both post-pubescent and can feel the beady eyes of the entire ship staring at them, waiting for them to spawn the next generation of starbabies.

The book begins with the two in romantic bliss, absorbed in the quantum fickle/intense love that only teenagers can properly generate. However, their predestined/doomed relationship is interrupted by New Horizon, the other starship. New Horizon should be years away, but is suddenly looming alongside Empyrean. Apprehension turns to distrust and, eventually, fear. The crew of New Horizon storm Empyrean and steal all the female children. Waverley and Kieran are separated and each faced with their own challenges. 

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The Kitschies and The Inky Tentacle

Kraken BottleOne of the changes we've made for the Kitschies in 2011 is the addition of a new prize category: The Inky Tentacle for Cover Art.

It gives us great pleasure to introduce the experts that will be on the 2011 Inky Tentacle's judging panel:

Darren Banks is an artist who incorporates found and made film footage into sculpture to explore ideas about horror, the domestic, science fiction and defunct technologies. Banks has exhibited nationally and internationally. His 2011 exhibitions include: Defective Science, Genova, Italy; Mural Newspaper organized by Hugo Canoilas, Abrons Art Center, New York; Translate/Transcribe, Art Moscow; ROTATE, Workplace Gallery, The Contemporary Art Society, London. He will be represented by Workplace Gallery at NADA Art Fair, Miami, 2011.

Hayley Campbell writes for The Comics Journal, London’s Gosh! Comics Blog, and is currently working on a book about Neil Gaiman for Ilex Press. She also writes essays about all sorts of non-comics things at her website.

Curator Catherine Hemelryk graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2004 before moving to Vilnius where she was Curator at Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius and worked on projects including Tales from the Travel Journal vol. I, Extreme Crafts. She continues to work internationally as a guest curator, lecturer and writer with projects in Berlin, Belgrade, Hoorn and Tbilisi. In 2011 she took over the programme at Fishmarket, Northampton part time, where she has curated projects including Adam Burton, George Shaw, Christopher Orr, Distruktura, Johnny Amore & Irene Pascual, Alan Moore, Catherine Bertola, Darren Banks and collaborations with BCA and MK Gallery. Her independent projects include (Now that would be) Telling, commissioning work by Hayley Lock and five writers such as Liz Williams at five stately homes across England. 

Craig Kennedy is first and foremost a geek and has worked in the TV industry for 13 years. For the past seven years he has been lucky enough to work for SYFY creating on air promos and trailers. Last year he was nominated for three Promax awards and won silver for Most Effective Promo for the launch of V.

Pornokitsch will be represented by Anne C. Perry.

The winning artist or designer will receive a cash prize (£250), an iconic Tentacle trophy and a bottle of delicious The Kraken Rum.  As with the other categories, the Inky Tentacle finalists will be selected in January and the winner announced on 3 February, at SFX3.

Although the judging criteria is still the same as in the other categories ("progressive, intelligent and entertaining"), the Inky Tentacle is also open to anthologies and collections, so long as the book's first UK publication is in 2011. (This means no paperback editions if the hardcover was from 2010, or reprints, or anything like that. We're keen to get the first UK cover for each text.)

We've had a lot of great submissions already and are still open for more (and will remain so until 31 December). You can find details on how to submit on both The Kitschies' website and Facebook page. The Kitschies are presented by The Kraken Rum. You can learn more about our generous and tentacular sponsor here.