Tuesday, May 23, 2006


I've been listening to Johnny Cash's American Recordings CDs for the first time in a while. I'd forgotten how good they are. Okay, yeah, some of the tracks are a bit corny and some of them bring out the allergic reaction to Country and Western music that I've had ever since my dad used to play his 100 Greatest Country and Western Hits tape whenever we went on holiday but the majority of the tracks are damn good.

Songs of regret and redemption. Of defiance and damnation. Of sweetness and sorrow. All delivered with Cash's gravelly I-ain't-just-singing-about-this-shit-I-actually-lived-through-it vocals.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Who Cares?

I'm not entirely sure I can explain what it is about the new Dr Who that irritates me so much. Still, I'll have a stab at it.

1) First Christopher Eccleston and now David Tennant play The Doctor in an annoying "I'm mad, me!" fashion.

2) Billie Piper's acting ranged seems limited to either smiling at inappropriate moments or else crying whenever she thinks her mum/dad/Mickey are dead or are about to leave her.

3) The attempt to sex up the series by having nearly all the female characters fancy The Doctor feels forced. And his relationship with Rose feels kind of creepy.

4) Trying to make The Doctor cool by making him a fan of the Sex Pistols and dressing him in designer clothes is just plain embarrassing.

5) The incidental music is always completely OTT in a desperate attempt to convince the viewer that what they're watching is really dramatic, honest.

6) Every damn story is set on Earth. Even Jon Pertwee's Earth-imprisoned Doctor got to travel the cosmos more than this.

7) The emotional climax at the end of each episode drags on forever. Nearly every week the threat has been dealt with, all that's left is for Rose and The Doctor to hop in the TARDIS and the end credits to roll. Instead you get five or ten minutes of soap opera style hand-wringing. "Oh, I'm really upset that so-and-so died! Sob!" "Oh, I'm going to have to leave behind the person I love. Sniff!' Emotional payoffs should either be tied into the dramatic climax of the main plot or else handled quickly in a brief epilogue before Rose and The Doctor go traipsing off around the universe once more.

8) By trying to round out the supporting characters (a good thing) the writers reduce The Doctor to a deus ex machina (a bad thing). Often he only seems to be there to supply info-dumps and to wave his sonic screwdriver about whenever Russell T Davies has written himself into a corner. Otherwise I get the impression that Rose would be saving the universe by herself each week. Even when The Doctor does get something to do it tends to either be a badly choreagraphed action scene or else an embarrassing emotional scene.

9) The humour is too broad. Even when the basic jokes are funny the execution lacks wit and sparkle.

10) Most of the stories have plot-holes you could drive a truck through.

I could go on but I've probably already got every Dr Who fan in the UK baying for my blood. I suppose if I had to sum up my problems with the new Dr Who it's that too often it feels like a soap opera -- Eastenders with a couple of sci-fi flourishes added on.

Obviously I'm not saying the old Dr Who was flawless. I could probably make a list of its faults that would be just as long as the one above. (Actually it would probably be rather easy to stick the boot in to the old series as about 80% of my childhood nostalgia for Dr Who comes from reading the Target novelizations rather than watching the TV series.)

And the new version is obviously very popular, pulling in loads of viewers and even convincing the BBC that maybe they should make other sci-fi series. Hell, even I find myself enjoying bits of it. But as the new version is so popular -- winning BAFTAs and everyone saying how wonderful it is -- I felt it was worth pointing out that in certain respects it's actually pretty crappy.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Words Don't Come Easy

After years of struggling with a pocket dictionary and looking up spellings at dubious online dictionaries I've finally broken down and bought myself a proper dictionary.

It's a huge monster of a thing. You need a crane to lift it and it's full of words that no one could possibly ever need to know about unless they wanted to appear in Spellbound 2: Attack of the Adjectives.

The temptation now is to do an H.P. Lovecraft and use all these exotic words for no reason other than to show off.

Don't worry, I'll do my best to remain true to my cat-sat-on-the-mat writing style :-)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

More Books!

Attended Mark Samuels's book launch for The Face of Twilight last night. Mark got all embarrassed when he was forced into giving a reading. Especially when, halfway through the reading, he realised that he had inadvertently started one of the rudest scenes in the book.

And Katy got all upset that she couldn't have any of the free booze that was on offer as she had a driving lesson booked for early the following morning.

As for me I wandered round a couple of comics shops before the launch and ended up spending virtually all the money I had on me. The first shop had a sale on, so I bought a load of stuff. Then just as I was about to leave I spotted more sale items tucked away in the corner of the shop. So I went onto the next shop expecting merely to windowshop only to discover they had a sale on too. And then Mark's book launch took place in the Fantasy Centre and they had a book on comic book artists that I had read as a teenager but hadn't seen since so obviously I had to buy that too. By the time I left the shop I needed a skip to carry all the books I'd bought.

For anyone who's interested (both of you) the items I purchased were:

Xenozoic Tales Volume 1 & 2
Eyes of Light: Fantasy Drawings of Frank Brunner
Jack Staff Volume 1 & 2
Legend of Grimjack Volume 3
Dynamic Anatomy
Liberty Meadows Volume 4
Hal Foster: Prince of Illustrators, Father of the Adventure Strip
Masters of Comic Book Art
Civil War: Opening Shot sketchbook (Although that was a promotional freebie so it doesn't really count.)

So loads of reading for me with all these new books that I shall love and treasure for years to come.

Oh yeah, and I bought Mark's book too :-)

Monday, May 01, 2006

Too Many Books!

My backlog of books to be read is growing steadily larger. Here's a brief rundown of some of the more pressing titles.

There's a pile of Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels about an ex-Military Policeman who keeps finding himself in the middle of guns, murder and intrigue. The first novel Killing Floor was great but I still haven't had a chance to read the rest of the series yet. Despite this I keep buying the latest books in the series whenever I see them on sale. I have no willpower.

John Connolly's latest private eye with supernatural overtones novel The Black Angel also sits upon the shelf waiting to be read.

Then there's a pile of Dennis Lehane's Kenzie and Genarro private eye series. And the Raymond Chandler novels. And the Dashiel Hammett short stories.

I want to reread Stephen Hunter's Dirty White Boys as it's a brilliant thriller with great characterization. Plus it's the first thing I ever read by him so it holds a special place in my heart.

I've not read any science fiction for ages so there's a stack of books by Nick Sagan, Neal Asher, Alistair Reynolds and others. Not to mention a Philip K Dick short story collection that's the size of a housebrick. And Amazon couldn't find me a copy of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers so I need to get a copy from a bricks and mortar bookstore.

T.E.D. Klein's The Ceremonies also needs to be started as I really enjoyed his Dark Gods collection of novellas. And I recently picked up a copy of Fritz Leiber's The Dealings of Daniel Kesserich. Which reminds me I've still got a bunch of Leiber short stories to work my way through. And I still haven't read any of the classic Lovecraft stuff such as 'The Call of Cthulhu'.

On the Fantasy front I want to reread some of Jonathan Carroll's earlier novels. Plus I should really read the more recent ones that are sitting gathering dust. I'd also like to reread Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos novels about a wisecracking sword and sorcery assassin.

And there's a whole bunch of books on mysticism and spirituality by authors such as Ken Wilber, Jeff Meyerhoff, Huston Smith, R. A. Gilbert, Stephen Batchelor, Robert Forman, Gary Lachman, Nevill Drury, Eckhart Tolle, Clifford A Pickover and Christian deQuincey.

And last but not least Mark Samuels's new novel The Face of Twilight has just been released by PS Publishing so that's getting added to the list as well. Damn you, Mark!