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Films of High Adventure: Dune

DUNEHappy 50th Anniversary, Dune! To celebrate (?), we've put together a special edition of Films of High Adventure. Why's it so special? Well, we have Jason Heller, Hugo-award winning editor, author of Taft 2012, and writer for the A.V. Club and NPR here with us! As Jason is a consummate Dune (the novel) fan-cum-expert, we thought it would be fun (for us, at least) to ask him to watch Dune with us, and see if it stands the Films of High Adventure test of time. Heh.

There are roughly 9000000 versions of Dune out there, and we actually tried to watch the 3 hour version of Dune for this... but from what we saw it was mostly a camera panning over watercolors of planets. So we ditched it and went for the director's cut (I think?), which is the pretty dang long, but not the longest version. It's the one we all watched/remembered, so it was more authentic that way.

The Film: Dune (1984)

Responsibility Roundup: While it may seem unfair to hold Frank Herbert accountable for the film, credit where due—he did write the novel. Given all the liberties taken with the text, it seems most accurate to view Herbert as the Great Maker, and writer-director David Lynch and executive producer Dino De Laurentiis as two rival barons fighting to the death over the intoxicating essence produced by their sandworm cash cow. It’s not surprising that the film came to be defined by their conflict, since Lynch is of course best known for his heady, esoteric creations like Mulholland Drive and Twin Peaks, whereas De Laurentiis is synonymous with meaty, straight-forward fare like Barbarella, Conan the Destroyer, and dozens of other Films of High Adventure candidates. Photography by Hammer and Amicus alum Freddie Francis (Torture Garden), production design by Anthony Masters (2001: A Space Odyssey), costume design by Bob Ringwood (Burton’s Batman), and soundtrack by Toto and Brian Eno.

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Composting with Sandworms - only a few tickets left

Just a reminder, we only have a few tickets left for next Tuesday's Dune-inspired event, "Composting with Sandworms"

It includes:

  • A talk by the Royal Observatory's Marek Kukula
  • An opportunity to make your very own sock puppet sandworm
  • A chance to win one of the gorgeous Folio Society editions of Dune
  • Cake (C

Although part of the Chelsea Fringe, no actual gardening experience (Earthly or extraterrestrial) is required. 


Small Press Shakedown: Joanne Hall of Kristell Ink (and Many More!)

The UK has a fantastic small press scene. To celebrate the people behind the imprints - and help out the writers that are looking to them for publication - we've quizzed a number of editors about the nuts & bolts of their submissions process. This week, we've cornered Joanne Hall, who works with a number of independent publishers.

Airship ShapePornokitsch: Hi! Mind telling us a bit about yourself?

Joanne Hall: Hello! My name’s Joanne Hall, I’m a fantasy author and slush reader for Kristell Ink, a specialist fantasy and SF publisher based in Oxford. I’ve also co-edited a number of anthologies for Wizard’s Tower Press, including Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion.

PK: Generally speaking, what are the stories or the novels that you like to publish?

JH: Personally, I have a soft spot for heroic fantasy and post-apocalyptic SF stories – Kristell Ink publish all kinds of fantasy and SF, as well as dark fantasy on their sister imprint, Tenebris. But whether I’m looking at novels for potential publication or short stories for an anthology, I’m looking for some quality that lifts a story above the rest of the submissions, whether that’s because it’s funnier, or smarter, or more moving. I wish I could tell you what that quality was, but it’s elusive, and it varies from story to story.

The main thing I’m looking for is something in the story that makes me want to keep reading it, and if that doesn’t happen in the first twenty or so pages for a novel, or on the first page if it’s a short story, then I’m afraid I’m not going to consider it any further. I know it sounds harsh, but when you’re swamped with submissions and can only take a few, you want to pick the ones that are most engaging.

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Tell Me About... Tékumel

TekumelThanks to a sale at DriveThruRPG, I finally picked up Empire of the Petal Throne (1975) and read my first Tékumel sourcebook. I've heard about Tekumel for years, including reading some tantilising details in Gary Alan Fine's study of gaming, Shared Fantasy.

Upon opening Empire of the Petal Throne, the first thing to strikes the reader is this lavish opening praise from Gary Gygax, who, as far as I can understand, wasn't often all that glowing in his adoration of stuff:

It is a great privilege to be given the task of writing the prefatory remarks to Professor Barker's tremendous creation Empire of the Petal Throne. It is also something which I approach with considerable reservation, for what can I tell you about this incredible labor that its author and the game components haven't already said far better than I possible [sic] can? So I simply state that it is the most beautifully done fantasy game ever created. It is difficult for me to envision the possibility of any rival being created in the future. Comparisons are often misleading, but carefully drawn ones can be helpful and informative. Therefore, I must the reader to view the world of Tékumel in comparison with J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth. A study of the background detail and society of each will force the reader to the conclusion that the former work is, if anything, at least as painstakingly and lovingly detailed as that of the acknowledged master of the fantasy world in toto. J.R.R. Tolkien did not, of course, ever imagine his Middle Earth as a vehicle for the play of fantasy games - much to the loss of his myriads of devotees. But Professor Barker has neither had the opportunity to introduce and familiarise his Tékumel by means of popular works of fiction.

Emphasis mine.

I am, within the confines of 1975 rules (and layout) design, rather impressed by the world - it is Weirder than I expected, especially in the monster design, but also simultaneously more Burroughsian (Barsoomian?) than I would've thought. 

Has anyone read more of the sourcebooks? Or, even better, have any of you played in this world? Please share!


We chilling out a bit in May, and you may have noticed that our daily posting routine has now dropped to 3-4/week. And a slightly quietness on the fiction and reviews front.

This isn't a long-term thing - rather, we're easing up a tiny bit ahead of a June 'relaunch'. That's a slightly grandiose term, but we've got a new look, a new template, new contributors and a ton of new stuff. With that on the horizon, we're doing boring back-end stuff in May, and that means slowing down. A little. 

That's it. It is entirely possible probable that you don't even notice, but, hey, we hold ourselves to a certain standard and were feeling a little guilty.

(Don't forget that you can find Jon/Bex/Jared on the One Comic Podcast, Anne on Hodderscape, Mahvesh and Jared on, Mahvesh also in a lot of other places, and Molly, like, everywhere. We're a noisy bunch.)

(Oh, and an event next week. Come make sandworms with us!)

Friday Five: 5 Sharks on the Silver Screen

SharkpunkThis week's Friday Five is from Jonathan Green, with a selection of films you can really get your teeth into... And on the subject of fanged terrors of the deep, Sharkpunk! is out now from Snowbooks. You can find this massive new anthology on sale directly from the publishers or from your favourite bookstore.

There's a signing at Forbidden Planet this weekend, and, even if you can't make it, you can reserve your scrawled-upon copy now.

I’ve always had a fascination for sharks – a morbid fascination, I suppose – ever since I watched Jaws, late one night, unknown to my parents, on a small black and white TV with really poor reception, in my bedroom. Nonetheless, the suspense and the shocks still hit home – despite the sadly lacking home cinema experience – so much so that when I was snorkelling off the Whitsunday Islands in Australia, swimming from our boat to the nearest island, I convinced myself that a Great White must be within only a few metres of me. That thought alone, that out in the ocean I was trespassing on Jaws’ turf, as it were, was enough to set my heart racing. And I loved it!

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Small Press Shakedown: Adele Wearing of Fox Spirit Books

Aunty-Fox-72ppiThe UK has a fantastic small press scene. To celebrate the people behind the imprints - and help out the writers that are looking to them for publication - we've quizzed a number of editors specifically about the nuts & bolts of their submissions process. First up, Adele, from Fox Spirit Books!

Pornokitsch: Hi! - and thanks for taking part! Mind telling us a bit about yourself?

Adele Wearing: Hi, I am Adele Wearing / Aunty Fox from Fox Spirit Books. We are a skulk of fearless genre warriors cheerfully stomping over traditional genre boundaries in seach of a good tall tale.

PK: Generally speaking, what sort of work are you looking for?

AW: We like things that play with genre's things with a different tone or perspective, we love diversity in our writers and characters because it brings a wider range of voices. Personally I am looking for characters that interest me and storytelling. I would rather work with a writer who needs technical improvement but has a great exciting idea, than one who writes flawlessly but doesn't pull me in.

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Friday Five: 5 Goodies from Gutenberg

Were-wolfI'm a Project Gutenberg addict. I mean, I have a real problem. As Anne can testify, I'll spend hours just going through the 'recent uploads' section, admiring the latest text conversions of 19th century French botanical diaries.

I've listed five of my favourite recent finds - some are fun, some are genuinely great, some are flat-out bizarre. Please share your own Gutenberg discoveries in the comments, the more the merrier!

The Were-Wolf by Clemence Housman (1896)

Cleverly titled in a way that, if you were actually searching for werewolf stories, you'd never find it. I searched this out when compiling that list of Lovecraft's recommendations, and it is a treat. A short, Weird fantasy, based in a vaguely Scandinavian setting. The 'were-wolf' isn't quite the figure that you'd expect, and the ultimate conflict: a literal race against time, is genuinely harrowing. Plus, there are foxy (wolfy?) illustrations by Laurence Housman. (Read it here.)

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