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March 2015

Friday Five: 5 Cartoons That Will Improve Your Life

IronGhostJennifer Williams is a fantasy writer and Lego obsessive who spends much of her time frowning at notebooks in cafes and fiddling with maps of imaginary places. She's the author of the highly-acclaimed (and immensely enjoyable) fantasy adventure, The Copper Promise, and its brand-spankin'-new sequel, The Iron Ghost.

She's here to make our lives "dramatically better" with cartoons. A tough claim - can she back it up? Read on and find out.

When I was a kid I was only interested in watching cartoons.

Children’s programmes that were live action and involved real, living, breathing children, were switched off faster than you could say Thundercats. While my fellow kiddies were getting a grounding in TV drama with Byker Grove, Children’s Ward, and Press Gang, I was flicking through the channels looking for a rogue episode of Scooby Doo. I even had a deep wariness of things that were animated in stop-motion, because that was a little too close to real life for my liking (this is clearly a conversation I will have with a therapist in the future) so Paddington Bear, Charlie Chalk and even the beautiful Wind in the Willows would be abandoned if Defenders of the Earth was on the other side.

And if I’m honest, I still prefer cartoons to almost anything else that might appear on the telly, and these days I’m actually justified because, let me tell you, cartoons in the 21st century are amazing. Here are five that will dramatically improve your life.

Avatar: The Last Airbender

I’m just gonna put this out there: A:TLA is pretty much the greatest cartoon ever made. Probably the greatest thing to have ever been on telly. It takes place in a secondary fantasy world inspired by a mixture of Asian and Inuit culture, where some people are born with the ability to bend certain elements to their will. One being, reincarnated through the generations, is able to bend air, water, fire and earth, and is destined to do awesome things and generally kick ass. This is the Avatar, and in A:TLA the Avatar is a little kid called Aang, a child brought up with the peaceful Air Nomads. Aang accidentally takes a 100 year long time out and misses a devastating war – the TV series covers his struggle to master his bending abilities and defeat the evil Fire Lord, assisted by a gang of young people with their own abilities and problems.

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New Releases: The Bloodbound by Erin Lindsey

The BloodboundErin Lindsey's The Bloodbound (2014) was published last year as an Ace paperback original. The first in a new series, it is a traditional fantasy epic with a delightfully contemporary twist. 

The Oridian empire is greedily devouring its neighbours. The King of Alden, rather nobly, decided that Alden shouldn't start for that sort of thing (also, there were treaties and such) and leads his country personally into battle. And his reward for doing the honourable thing? The armies of Alden are getting absolutely thumped.

Alix Black, one of the scouts in Alden's forces, has a great perspective on the battle - not only can she see her own side getting thoroughly beaten, she can also spot how the King's brother is very much not riding to his aid. Clearly inspired by her liege's chivalric naivete, Alix sprints headlong down into the fray.

And that's how The Bloodbound starts: treachery, recklessness and mayhem.

Nor does it slow down from there. Granted, the book isn't wall to wall warfare, as the early pages might indicate, but Alix has a wonderful knack for getting into trouble (in her defense, that's apparently a Black family tradition). After the initial battle, Alix is reappointed as a member of Erik's (the King's) bodyguard. Through her eyes the reader gets a front-row view of the political and military action, as Erik tries to juggle an invading army, his own retreating army, and the betrayal of his brother (and his army). Add to that assassination attempts, espionage and a hint of black magic, Erik and Alix have their hands full.

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Meet, like, everyone at Forbidden Planet on 7 March

IrregularityForbidden Planet are hosting a massive signing on Saturday, 7 March - 1 pm - 2pm. 

We're specifically celebrating the discovery of a lost box of the Irregularity limited edition, but the writers and artists will be signing all sorts of amazing stuff.

Attendees include:

  • Tiffani Angus
  • Rose Biggin
  • Richard Dunn
  • Simon Guerrier
  • Nick Harkaway
  • Roger Luckhurst
  • Adam Roberts
  • Claire North
  • Gary Northfield
  • Henrietta Rose-Innes
  • James Smythe
  • M. Suddain
  • E.J. Swift
  • Sophie Waring

So if you're keen on Touch, Tigerman, Tamaruq, Nineveh, Theatre of the Gods, Gary's Garden, No Harm Can Come to a Good Man, Bête, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Osiris, The Machine, etc. etc. etc... come along!

There will also be non-limited copies of Irregularity for sale, in case you find the super-rare, unicorn-bound edition a little intimidating.

Event details here. 

And on Facebook here. 

And more about Irregularity here.

Pygmalia: Vision of Escaflowne

There’s something completely fascinating to me about tales where a person tries to make another, whether from scratch, as in the original Pygmalion myth, or by attempting to permanently re-shape another person’s mind or body. Every aspect of the conceit bewitches and absorbs me—the process by which the metamorphosis occurs (or fails), the fraught relationship between creator and created, the end result of these sorts of experiments. Thus, 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. Or email me, emollytanzer [at] I’m woefully underread in comics specifically, but any and all recommendations are welcome!

As January’s column on The Bride featured a storyline that directly referenced the Pygmalion myth, for February I decided to write on something with a much more esoteric relationship to Pygmalion: Vision of Escaflowne, one of the most mid-90s animes ever to come out during the mid-90s. That probably doesn’t make a lot of sense unless you, like I, are a veteran of 90s anime, but I’m really not sure how else to describe it… Vision of Escaflowne is a baffling, indescribable thing, and one impossible to meaningfully discuss without revealing major series spoilers. So, you’ve been warned.

Vision of escaflowneVision of Escaflowne (1996)

Vision of Escaflowne gets real weird, but it begins like any other magical girl anime: Kanzaki Hitomi is just your every day high school girl. She has a crush on her senpai, is on the track team, seems to be generally liked by her peers. But Hitomi is special because she can tell accurate fortunes by using Tarot cards, possesses a pendant necklace from her grandmother that has magical powers/can tell accurate time (I dunno), and occasionally (meaning 3x an episode at least for the first half of the series) has prophetic visions.

During a normal everyday track practice, Hitomi, mid-run, has one of said visions, of a young man holding a sword, who appears to her in a pillar of light. This then turns into a different vision of the earth breaking under her feet, her falling, and some winged guy swooping down, angel-like, to save her. Then she awakens in the infirmary—it was just a dream! After a sexually tense interaction with Senpai she does a Tarot reading for them and sees—gasp!—the cards for the Tower, which means separation of lovers (OH NO!! AMANO SENPAI!!) and a dragon. Or serpent, I don’t remember. It looks like a dragon, and dragons are important in Escaflowne. Anyways, this reading inspires her to go back to school with Senpai that night, where she asks him to time her with her magic pendant. If she can run fast enough, he’ll kiss her as a prize.

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Fiction: 'The Hound of Henry Hortinger' by Michelle Goldsmith

The Hound of Henry Hortinger

Henry Hortinger had always been a pragmatic man. A man you could rely on to make those difficult decisions from which others might balk. His potential became evident at an early age and was firmly established by the time he was eleven years old. It was embodied most keenly in an incident, just days after his tenth birthday, when Henry caught a kitchen boy stealing scraps from the larder.

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Friday Five: 5 Books That Can't Make The Kitschies' Shortlists

This week's guest, Kitschies' director Glen Mehn...

The Kitschies have been announced, so it's the start of awards season again, and you know what that means... speculation about the shortlists, what went on it, what didn't, and why.

Jared and Anne have kindly asked me to talk about five books that couldn't be on the shortlist – five books we loved reading but couldn't consider, for various reasons. That is: one of the books is by an author on the Kitschies board and the other four are by Kitschies judges.

GLAZEGlaze by Kim Curran

What happens when the social network goes – literally – inside your brain? Facebook is even deader to young people in Glaze than it is in real life. And why wouldn't it be? They have Glaze, a network so pervasive that there are things you simply can't do without it.

Progressive? Curran's young people resonate: they have problems, feelings, moral ambiguity, and they even are on the cusp of recognising that the stupid adults in their lives have complex motivations as well.

Intelligent? The book is mainly about a technology going pervasive – what if you could, today, vote on Facebook? What are the feelings of the haves and have-nots? The ramifications – while sometimes hyped up – are logical and often terrifying.

Entertaining? Explosions. A race against time. Power-mad corporations. All the fun of a cyberpunk romp without tedium. Curran is a master of sticking her characters in a crucible and boiling them while they try to get out of it.

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Films of High Adventure: Krull

Krull PosterThe Film: Krull (1983)

Responsibility Roundup: Directed by Peters Yates (Bullitt, The Friends of Eddie Coyle). Written by Stanford Sherman, who had previously penned episodes of the Adam West Batman TV series and went on to do, uh, The Ice Pirates. Soundtrack composed by James Horner (Titanic, Aliens, and tons of other Seriously Epic Shit) and performed by The London Symphony Orchestra. Sets by (or at least at) Pinewood Studios. Starring Ken Marshall (Lt. Commander Michael Eddington on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Lysette Anthony (Without a Clue), Francesca Annis (Lady Jessica in Lynch’s Dune), David Battley (he plays Ergo the Magnificent, what more do you peasants want?), Alun Armstrong (lots of TV, Braveheart), and Freddie Jones (pretty much everything awesome that ever came out of British cinema or television). Oh, and Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane in early bit parts as members of what must be the most respectable bandit posse in the history of fantasy cinema.

Quote: “I came to find a king, and I find a boy instead.”

Alternate quote: “If I really had my wish I'd be sitting on top of a gooseberry pie as big as a mountain. No, that's a bit greedy. I'll settle for one as big as a house. ”

First viewing by Jesse: Before I even knew myself as an autonomous being, I knew Krull. And when I knew Krull, I knew myself. When I was really young, is the idea here.

First viewing by Molly: Grad school, when I probably should have been working harder on my M.A.? So like… somewhere between 2007 and 2009?

Most recent viewing by both: A few weeks ago.

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