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February 2012
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April 2012

Freaky Friday Five: 15 Character Swaps We'd Like to See

Friday FiveThis week's Friday Five is freaky - in the Lindsey Lohan Disney film kind of way. When we asked Pandemonium author Jenni van der Merwe to pick a topic, she refused to be constrained by reality. (Even the reality of talking about fantasy, if that makes sense.)

This week's task, she declared, is to take five of your favourite characters from film and move them into different films. Kind of like fan fiction, but with less sex.

We've thrown some TV in as well, and you'll see a few of our old favourites from previous Friday Fives have crept in. But what about you? Given the opportunity to remix your favorite films and shows, how would you do it?


The Cheshire Cat stars as The Cowardly Lion

“I’m afraid I have to expel a rather ferocious hairball. You’re on your own, girl.”

With advice like this, Dorothy would be in way more trouble with the Cheshire Cat at her side. She would never have made it to Oz in one piece with the Cheshire Cat’s sly advice, riddles and rhymes. The journey to Oz suddenly becomes next-to-impossible with the Cheshire Cat’s constant disappearing and incomprehensible directions. In fact, I’m not sure Dorothy would have made it to Oz at all. I mean, the cat keeps urging Dorothy to pursue the rabbit. The Oz posse would most likely have ended up at the Red Queen’s Castle, eating boiled rabbit for dinner before reaching the Emerald City. The Tin Man would receive no heart and the Scarecrow would remain an idiot. In the unlikely event that Cheshire Cat managed to get the Oz posse to see the Great and Powerful Oz, what would he ask for? Courage, he already has. Perhaps the power to stop producing ferocious furballs?

Continue reading "Freaky Friday Five: 15 Character Swaps We'd Like to See" »

Underground Reading: Mad Baxter and Big Red's Daughter

Two vintage romantic adventures from Fawcett Gold Medal: Big Red's Daughter and Mad Baxter. Will the strapping manly-men triumph over adversity and win the girl? [Spoiler] Yes [/Spoiler]

Big Reds DaughterJohn McPartland's Big Red's Daughter (1953) is a sterling example of the 1950's quest for masculine identity. Jim Work is back from Korea. He has no family, no job, no demands or loyalties - merely a bit of money in his pocket and pleasant memories of the California coastline. He heads to Carmel to check out the university, vaguely thinking that this could be the next step towards his future.

A car accident (Jim's battered Ford vs a glamourous MG) introduces Jim to the locals. A stunning young woman steps out of the car, followed by her vicious boyfriend. A few blows are exchanged and Jim's first impressions prove correct: this is the woman of his dreams... and she's dating a jackass. Jim, within a bare few pages, has the focus he's been missing. He doesn't know how he's going to woo Wild Kearny, but he knows that he must try. 

Jim's outclassed from the very beginning. Buddy isn't just great in a fist-fight, he's got money, charm and a certain brutish appeal. Wild isn't the only one taken with him, all the local ladies are in his thrall. And, even if Buddy weren't in the picture, Wild is out of Jim's league. She's beautiful, rich and connected. She's not just a part of local society, her father is "Big Red" Kearny, a legendary gambler and underworld figure. (Despite the title and cover strapline, Big Red actually has very little to do with the book.)

Continue reading "Underground Reading: Mad Baxter and Big Red's Daughter" »

Pandemonium: Stories of the Smoke - Launch Party!

Stories of the Smoke cover by Gary NorthfieldPandemonium: Stories of the Smoke is finished and we'd be delighted if you could join us for the celebration.

We'll be cavorting at the Betsey Trotwood (56 Farringdon Road, EC1) from 6.30 pm on Wednesday, 4 April. You can see all the details and RSVP here. RSVPing is really important. We have a limited amount of space so, although the tickets are free, you'll need to have one.*

The evening will hold lots of smokey fun, including readings from several of the authors. Gary Northfield is generously donating the original artwork for Stories of the Smoke, and there will be a silent auction for each of the pieces, with the proceeds going to English PEN. (Don't forget, a portion of every book & eBook purchase of Smoke also goes to English PEN.) Even if you can't make the party, we'll sort out internet bidding for the artwork - stay tuned for details.

As a further incentive, the evening will be the first time Stories of the Smoke goes on sale - and possibly the last time for the limited edition. We're down to a few copies, and we've stopped taking pre-orders. The evening also marks the launch of Fire, the electronic chapbook and companion volume. Fire and our other electronic publications will also be available on the evening (technomagical solution pending).

It promises to be a proper Dickensian shindig, and we'd love to see you there.

A few more previews of Smoke's artwork are up on the new Pandemonium site. Plus, some hints about future volumes - both in 2012 and 2013. 

*Folks on the Pandemonium mailing list get first notice of this sort of thing. Hint hint.

Hard Case Crime Files: Heart of Gold

Two more treats from Hard Case Crime - Peter Rabe's Stop This Man! and David Dodge's Plunder of the Sun. Both books are united by a lust for gold, and what happens when you're blinded by the glitter of shiny, shiny loot.

Stop This ManStop This Man! (2009, originally 1955) follows veteran criminal Tony Catell as he finally gets his big break. Tony's been in and out of prisons his whole life. He's hard as nails, but, as much as he denies it, he's starting to feel his age. When Otto Schumacher, a "fixer", proposes that Tony grab a thirty-six pound ingot of gold from a lightly-guarded local university, Tony knows this is it - the score that lets him retire. 

Unfortunately, the gold is radioactive, synthesised out of mercury (apparently these were real experiments from the era). It was at the university in the first place for testing, and security was lax because, well, who would steal a vast lump of poison? (Answer: Tony Catell) 

From the job's "successful" completion, things fall apart. Schumacher wants out - no one will buy the gold and its very presence unnerves him. Tony, with the constitution of an ox, refuses to believe the story at all. Schumacher's aging moll, Selma, is no help, wibbling back and forth between whichever man has the upper hand at the time. Tony hits the road - gold and gold-digger in tow - determined to turn the gold into his fortune.

Tony's fine with betrayal and general criminal skulduggery. As he drives around the country, he descends into all sorts of villainy in order to defend his prize. But what he never spots is his own lethal wake, the innocents that die horribly in his wake: maids, hotel employees, random innocents with the misfortune of being near him and his lethal hoard.

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Monsters & Mullets: Splash (1984)

Splash PosterThere were rules about being a little girl in the 1980s, and those rules included this: mermaids are awesome, always. (Also, unicorns are the best.) Despite never having seen Splash, I knew it had to be the greatest film ever produced. (The Last Unicorn aside; see above.) Splash could, to my fevered little girl’s imagination, only have been improved it if were about a pirate paleontologist mermaid. And maybe it was! My parents wouldn’t rent it for me, so I had no idea. Splash might well have been about a time-travelling, adventure-having, world-saving princess mermaid pirate paleontologist with a pet dragon and a magical sword.

It probably was.

I finally got around to watching Splash sometime in the mid-90s, and I recall finding it more boring than anything else. Having long since gone off mermaids, and having never really cared about Tom Hanks, Splash just didn’t have much to offer my wide-wale-corduroy-wearing teenaged self. It washed across my consciousness leaving little behind but the faint, salt-flavored trace of a childhood dream disappointed.

Revisiting Splash another fifteen years on, however – well, it turns out Splash isn’t just disappointing and/or boring. It’s actually kind of awful. It’s a dated, lukewarm, unfunny comedy at best; at worst, it’s a thoughtless, ugly, wholly reductive paeon to man’s basest desires and fundamental fears about sex, women and adult responsibility. 

Or is it?

What if, deep within the heart of Splash’s puerile fantasies and comedy sexism there’s another film – a secret film? A film that’s not a stupid 80s romcom but a profoundly melancholy examination of a dying child’s fantasy about the adult life he’ll never experience?

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Bear with me, and let’s see where this ship takes us.

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The Kitschies' Gothic Evening

Fallen BladeA huge thank you to everyone that turned out to last week's Gothic Evening at Blackwell's Charing Cross. It was even larger than the previous event and the store was absolutely packed. We hope everyone had as much fun as we did. 

Thanks as well to The Kraken Rum for their continued support of all things geeky and wonderful and Blackwell's for being such gracious hosts. Many of the evening's titles were heavily promoted for the evening. For those that couldn't make it (or didn't get a chance to indulge on the night), we suggest swooping quickly - signed books on a 3-for-2 offer won't last long.

We were fortunate enough to have a bevy of amazing guests for the event. If you enjoyed meeting them and would like to read more about their contributions to the Gothic, here are some good places to start:

S.D. Crockett: After the Snow

Christopher Fowler: Hell Train, Red Gloves

Jon Courtenay Grimwood: The Fallen Blade, The Outcast Blade, The Bitten Word

Marcus Hearn: The Hammer Vault, The Art of Hammer

John Kaiine: The Bitten Word, Cold Grey Stones (cover)

Tanith Lee: Cold Grey Stones, The Bitten Word

Suzanne McLeod: The Sweet Scent of Blood

Joel Meadows: Spooked: A London Gothic

James Pearson: Bayou Arcana (out in May, but you can pre-order now!)

Jonathan Rigby: Studies in Terror

Emma Vieceli: Vampire Academy

Continue reading "The Kitschies' Gothic Evening" »

Friday Five: 15 Wonderful Wizards

Friday FiveWizards, yo. With the (possible) exception of dragons, there's nothing more archetypically fantasy than a good old fashioned robed spell-slinger. They're mysterious, wise and, when the going gets tough, they blow stuff up. What's not to love?

We're joined this week by David Thomas Moore. Mr. Moore is an editor at Abaddon and Solaris, and, if you follow his various social media presences, you'll know he's pretty much the ultimate fantasy pub quiz team member. Last year, we hosted his original Pax Britannia short story, "Masques and Lies" during our V Days of Rome special. This year, we're doubly delighted: he's in Pandemonium: Stories of the Smoke not once but twice

Our favorite wizards follow below, and we look forward to seeing which ones you summon forth in the comments. (Special bonus fun: David explains Harry Potter, Jared confesses his many insecurities and Anne's... well... Anne.)


Jonathan Strange: “Can a magician kill a man by magic?” Lord Wellington asked Strange. Strange frowned. He seemed to dislike the question. “I suppose a magician might,” he admitted, “but a gentleman never would.”

Strange makes the top of the list for a bunch of reasons, but that’s the big one. I shall probably never read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, because – with all respect to an idea which has moved millions of units and apparently has some kind of movie in the works – hacking a zombie story onto the back of an existing period novel seems a bit... crap. Nevertheless, it’s the perfect setting for a story of magic. Magic as the hobby of the idle rich is a brilliant idea, and the sort of genteel, cultured, fashionable world that Strange operates in creates the opportunity for what a wizard is supposed to be: someone who does magic for the sake of magic. He uses it, because that’s sort of expected, but that’s not why he studies it. Add to that that Strange is dry, witty, distractible, bored, superior, charming and ironic, and you have exactly the sort of wizard I’d want to be if I could be a real wizard. Exactly.

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The Gothic Evening - Tonight!

Don't forget, tonight is The Kitschies' Gothic Evening at Blackwell's Charing Cross. We've got rum, authors, artists and excellent companionship, all for the low, low price of free. Hope to see you there!

If you can't make it - possibly you're overseas or trapped in a coffin or something - you can still take part in the fun. There's a huge reading list to discuss and lots of Gothic-type guest posts over on Charing Cross Read. The night is eternal. Mwahaahaha. Flash of lightning. Crack of thunder. Howling wolf. 

Blogs, Bloggers & the Hugo Awards

HugoThe Hugo Awards are the awards of Heinlein, Asimov and Ellison. The legends of the pocket-sized paperback. The giants of the genre.

This year, we're going to WorldCon, so we get to vote. We get to add our tiny voices into the calls for the next LeGuin or Niven. And with natural and predictable narcissism, we looked at what it takes to get our (charming) (beautiful) (kind to puppies and children) blog taken into consideration. But as what? And, more worryingly, will we ever get this chance again?

This is the issue currently championed by Stefan Raets (Far Beyond Reality), Justin Landon (Staffer's Musings) and Kristen Bell (Fantasy Book Cafe). Although there's been great debate about prozines, semi-prozines, fanzines, related works and fan writers, bloggers seem to fall through the cracks, with no clear definition of where we belong.

The current consensus is that blogs are a type of "fanzine", but, according to one proposed amendment, even that loophole could be on the way out. This is a bit bonkers. Stefan, Justin and Kristen all emphatically argue the importance of blogs, and there's not much we can add to their arguments. Blogs are important. They're democratic. They're quick. They're interesting. They run the gamut from rampant populist pleasure to long-tail specialisation. Some are very, very good; some are very, very bad. Some are people shouting on soapboxes; some are feverish conversations.

But one thing is undeniable: blogs are Fans Being Involved. 

So here's our suggestion. Keep the wording for the category as it is, but change the title to "blog". All those lovely descriptors I threw out above? They're true for fanzines too. Zines, however, are now a tiny minority when it comes to ways that fans express themselves. Blogs aren't the online subset of zines: fanzines are printed, irregular blogs. (And, ironically, most of them are now distributed online.)

If this were 10 or 15 years ago, and the committee was like "meh, no one 'web-logs'; let's roll them into fanzines, 'cause those'll always be the big fish", I'd get it. But the times have changed, and we should follow suit. Fandom is no longer a matter of irregular regional meetings and mimeographed handouts. It is a global community, driven by enthusiasts with internet access and extraordinary enthusiasm.

We're living in a science fictional world; isn't it time the world of science fiction acknowledged it?