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monsters

Gareth Edwards’ Monsters | Notes from New Sodom

In the Interests of Precision

This is not a review. If you want to know whether I think director Gareth Edwards’s debut feature Monsters is worth seeing, I do. Go see it. But this isn’t about how good I think it is, and why; it’s about what the film’s doing, how this strange fiction (the specific example and the form in general) works. Whether it works well or not, for you or me — I don’t give a shit. More than anything, I want to use it here to explore the sort of dynamics at play in strange fiction, because the movie addresses one aspect of that dynamics directly, proclaiming this in its very title. The film is about the device of the monstrum that drives many narratives, not least those we project onto reality.

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Heroic Bloodshed: John Woo in Hong Kong | Tokyo Drifter

John Woo makes cool films. His Hong Kong action films are amongst some of, if not the best, action movies ever made. Films like A Better Tomorrow and its sequel, A Better Tomorrow II, The Killer, and Once a Thief had high grosses that contributed to the golden age of Hong Kong Cinema during the eighties and early nineties. His work proved influential not only in Hong Kong, but also in the international scene, leading to interest in Hong Kong cinema in countries like the United Kingdom and America, and influencing a generation of non-Asian filmmakers. Woo would himself later make the transition to Hollywood, making films like Broken Arrow and Face/Off, sadly not up to the same standard as his earlier work. For a generation though, Woo defined what it meant to be cool. Gangsters started to dress like Chow Yun Fat in A Better Tomorrow, complete with Alain Delon sunglasses (which caused them to be sold out in Hong Kong). The over the top gun fight choreography, slickness, hint of black humour, and symbolism that has become cliché through uninspired repetition by Hollywood was fresh and exciting. As Bordwell says, he is the ultimate Hong Kong auteur, because when you were watching one of his films, you knew that it could only be a John Woo film.

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marjorie liu

A Marjorie Liu Interview | Dirk, Steele, and X-23

Recently I was given the chance to have a phone chat with best-selling author Marjorie M. Liu, author of the “Dirk & Steele” paranormal romance series and “Hunter Kiss” urban fantasy series; Marjorie is also a current writer for Marvel Comics with “X-23” and “Daken.”

In anticipation for Marjorie’s latest Dirk & Steele novel, In the Dark of Dreams, we discussed the D & S series, working on comics, and the best way to bribe her if you want spoilers for her upcoming releases!

Imager with L.E. Modesitt, Jr. | Interview

L.E. Modesitt, Jr., is the best-selling author of several fantasy and science fiction series, and a name you can’t get through any bookstore’s SFF section without encountering.  I am only familiar with his work on the Imager Portfolio.  From the first book it became one of my favorite fantasy series, so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to talk about the books with him.  While I did get some great insight into certain elements in the series, the discussion somehow veered off into cultural territory that I found even more fascinating.  Note on that:  I’m breaking from my usual interviewing presentation and leaving my responses intact, even when they are long, because I’m not sure his answers would make sense without my set-ups.  That being said, I hope you enjoy the perspective!

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daredevil

Daredevil’s Yellow – A Perfect Memory

A bright yellow costume on a man called Daredevil. It was simply never going to work putting a slightly older, lawyer/vigilante, protector of Hell’s Kitchen in a bright yellow costume. How many reasons are there for it not being a great idea? It’s a colour usually reserved for children’s playrooms and bright insects. It would glowingly make Daredevil an easy target at all times. It’s ugly. It certainly doesn’t go with red (which you have to remember was possibly the main colour of the suit with only the arms, legs, and head yellow). It looks too cheery. Is that enough to show the initial costume used by Matt Murdock in his crime fighting exploits was a bad idea?

Yet, the look has seemingly aged incredibly, and perhaps surprisingly, well. Whenever I think of it, or see it, I only get a warm glow inside me.

Why?

Adventures in Unhistory by Avram Davidson Review

Imagine if you will that, when you were younger, you had an older relative — a grandfather or great-aunt — who was something of an armchair historian regarding mythology. Every now and then, when you were visiting, you’d make your way to their study, sit in one of the overstuffed chairs by the fire, and ask a question. “Where exactly did Sindbad sail?,” you’d ask; or, “who was Prester John?” or “were there really ever dragons, rocs, or unicorns?” Your older relative would get a youthful gleam of excitement in their eye and start pulling down a collection of books from the shelves with which to answer your question. “Maybe,” they’d say, opening an ancient-looking tome, “and maybe not. I once met an elderly gentleman named Mr. Dong who claimed to have seen a unicorn while on safari in Africa…but I’ll save that story for later. First, let’s see what old Pliny the Elder had to say on the matter….”

The Entertainers: 5 Essential Movies of Scam Cinema

Hollywood: it’s all a scam, isn’t it?

For all of our lives, the movies have promised us big, big things.  Action and adventure are just out there waiting for us.  Good always triumphs over evil.  A simple confusion of gender will result in a humorous situation.  And everybody is having way more sex than you.  Like the good little marks we all are, we run frantically to these show-biz con-men with fistfuls of dollars, just begging to be parted with our money and our senses.  And then as with any good con, once it’s all over, we stand there on the sidewalk, squinting in the sunlight, our dreams crushed by reality and our pockets empty.  The movies are the longest running scam in world history.

Mark Charan Newton Interview | Nights of Villjamur

Mark Charan Newton is an urban fantasy author who’s currently two novels into his writing career and, judging by the sheer tonnage of critical acclaim which now includes a place in Library Journal’s top 5 best SF/F of 2010, is only just getting warmed up. For those of you already familiar with his work, Nights of Villjamur and City of Ruin, I suspect he needs no introduction…but I’m going to do it anyway.

The Chimpanzee Complex… Stripp’d

There is consolation in conspiracy. Whenever something terrible happens, humans look for answers and they don’t stop looking even when they have found them: It wasn’t Oswald who killed Kennedy, it was the mob or the commies, or the CIA. It wasn’t a drunk driver who killed Princess Diana; it was British Intelligence and the Royal Family. The reason why our minds are drawn to conspiracies is because conspiracies make the world seem a less random and little more comprehensible. Our need to derive spiritual sustenance from a belief that we are part of some grand plan or pattern fuels religion as well as psychology. In fact, one could argue that the whole point of Freudian psychoanalysis is the construction of elaborate conspiracy theories that explain away people’s less desirable character traits:

Memories of Wing Commander

There aren’t many things from my youth that I truly miss, but one of the members of that elite group is the space combat flight simulator game. Once quite common, they are all but unknown today, and that’s a shame. For me, personally, my regret at the genre’s passing is about much more than the fact that I’ll never get to play Freespace 3. (Though that is also a source of nigh-overwhelming anguish, obviously.) My own first encounter with the genre was one of the things that really expanded my ideas of what a video game could be.

In the Black Library with Dan Abnett | Interview Part 1

For me this is the interview to end all interviews.

It’s not often one gets to interview a personal hero; I suspect this is mostly because heroes don’t enjoy mopping up fanboy drool, and frankly, who can blame them? This is going to be a little different from my other interviews, because while the others have been with relatively new talent, Dan Abnett has been writing for around 27 years and has done everything, and I do mean everything, from Marvel comics to Mr. Men, as well as a phenomenal novel set in a world of his own creation.

In and Out of The Big House: DOING TIME and 9 SOULS

By his own admission, noted Mangaka (pro comics creator) Kazuichi Hanawa had long been interested in themes of confinement. An early, unfinished experiment was a manga concerning a masked man locked up in a basement. It’s oddly appropriate then that Hanawa, a noted collector of replica firearms would, years later, be incarcerated in Hokkaido and serve roughly twenty months of a three-year sentence (December 1994-October 1996) after “trying out” some remodelled guns he’d acquired.

Napoleon’s Pyramids by William Dietrich Review

The initial appearance of the pulp hero in the newspapers, radio shows and cinema of 1920s America was a reassuring affirmation of rugged American individualism in a world that, in the wake of World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, seemed suddenly large and uncertain. America’s gradual acceptance of an increasingly multicultural world can be seen in the pulp revivals that followed. The campy, tongue-in-cheek revivals of pulp characters such as Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon in the 1970s had become by the 1980s and 90s outright humor, as the Indiana Jones series and later Evil Dead films let audiences know that it was okay not to take their pulp heroes’ antics too seriously. Indeed, the self-awareness brought on by globalization made it impossible to do so.

The Kipple Foodstuff Factory | Notes from New Sodom

The Leopardskin Print of Thrift Shop Drag

So here I am, after a dozen or so columns, sitting in the SF Café, drinking my black coffee and saying, f’r sure, no Science Fiction novel has ever won the Booker. Yeah? And? So? What? Has any Crime novel ever won the Booker? Has any Romance? Has any Western? Let’s simplify it: Has any work of extruded formulaic pabulum in any Genre you care to name ever won the Booker? Has any work in any Genre born of the fricking pulps, in any commercial marketing category specifically designed to target a niche with a promise of extruded formulaic pabulum ever won the Booker?

The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville Review

Those who believe that the short story is dead and/or irrelevant, and those who don’t see the value in publishing stories in e-zines that pay very little, if at all, to a circulation that is in all likelihood no more than a thousand would be well served to pay attention to the rise of Stuart Neville, because there are lessons to be learned there. Stuart Neville’s story in Thuglit was read by agent Nat Sobel, who signed him and sold his manuscript. Do people read the ‘zines? Yes. Do we know who is reading them? No, it could be anyone. And the more subtle of the lessons is that you never know who is checking you out online

Pyr Editing with Lou Anders | Interview

This one’s for those of you who like to know what goes on before the book falls off the bookstore shelf into your hands.  Lou Anders is the editorial director of Pyr books, as well as being the man behind many anthologies on a wide variety of topics.  Over the past week or so I’ve had the pleasure of picking his brain about how he chooses manuscripts, how he builds anthologies, what he sees as the current state of science fiction and fantasy, and more.  If you’re a young editor, or someone trying to break into the field as a writer, or just someone who’s curious about the publishing industry from an insider’s perspective, be sure to read this interview!

Scalped: Unwanted – A Study In Flawed Characters

Scalped is a phenomenal series, that’s not news to anyone whether you read it or not. The book gets good press like the ocean gets waves. Constantly. But just recently, I bought the latest trade, Volume 7: Rez Blues, and the next 5 issues to get myself all caught up on a series that consistently amazes me in new ways. While reading through this mammoth stack of one of Vertigo’s best titles I realised what makes this series work, the flaws in the characters. These people are so completely broken and this is massively showcased in the storyline titled Unwanted. This discussion is spoiler filled, so consider yourselves warned.

Playin’ With Ice and Fire – A Game of Thoughts | Tyrion Lannister Chapter 13

We back and Elena focuses on info dumping while I give props to days of   ‘yore.  Forgot about us? She’s new, I’m the re-reader.  We are continuing our reread of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones and getting our POV on.  We return covering everyone’s favorite Romeo, Tyrion Lannister!

Romancing the Nine Kingdoms | a Lynn Kurland Interview

Lynn Kurland is the author of the Nine Kingdoms romantic fantasy series, as well as a best-selling romance author.  For all my love of dark, bloodspurting, knights who say–er, frak–fantasy, I also love the lighter side of fairy-tale, love-story high fantasy, so this series fits right in to one of my reading sweet spots.  I enjoyed the chance to ask Lynn some questions about how this series came about, what’s been most different for her in switching between genres, how far the story might go, and more.  Keep reading to find out what she had to say!

Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit… Stripp’d

Some would say that beautiful lives bloom only in the shadow cast by death. But while this may very well be true, how could we ever know for sure? Statements like this one and Plato’s ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’ are supposed to be useful and practical advice that help us to determine how we ought to live our lives but if we are going to change our lives and live them either with our heads buried in books or our faces pressed up against the nearest tombstone then surely these sorts of statements need to be tested? Motoro Mase’s manga serial Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit is set in an alternate Japan where the state regularly sacrifices one citizen out of every thousand as a reminder to the others that their lives could end at any time. The Japanese state does this because it believes that by reminding its citizens of their mortality, their citizens will choose to live more productive lives. Ikigami is an exploration of what it might be like to live in such a society.

A Female Sort of Revenge – a Shana Abé Interview

Shana Abé is a bestselling author normally found in the Romance section, but whose latest books are fantasy (or at least fairy tale) crossovers.  She’s also a personal favorite of mine–verify on our favorites page, if you doubt–and has just finished up her fabulous historical-fiction shapeshifter series that started with 2006’s The Smoke Thief and continued through five books to last month’s The Time Weaver.  I was beyond pleased when she agreed to an interview and completed my trifecta of conversations with my favorite writers.

A Bad Day For Sorry by Sophie Littlefield Review

When young mother Chrissy Shaw asks Stella for help with her no-good husband, Roy Dean, it looks like an easy case. Until Roy Dean disappears with Chrissy’s two-year-old son, Tucker. Stella quickly learns that Roy Dean was involved with some very scary men, as she tries to sort out who’s hiding information and who’s merely trying to kill her. It’s going to take a hell of a fight to get the little boy back home to his mama, but if anyone can do it, it’s Stella Hardesty.