Wednesday, 19 March 2014

New IZ & BS

Interzone #251 is out now, featuring my 'Laser Fodder' column of DVD & blu-ray reviews.

Here's the line-up, with ratings:

Frankenstein [TV, 2004] (4/10)
Bangkok Assassins (1/10)
Nick Fury: Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2/10)
Thor: The Dark World (8/10)
Ender's Game (4/10)
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (6/10)
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (5/10)
The Machine (3/10)

    Band Cult: 88 Films
Doctor Mordrid (6/10)
Robot Wars (3/10)

I also wrote the editorial (a rant about movies, of course) for this issue.

Interzone arrived with the latest Black Static (#39), which includes my 'Blood Spectrum' column on movies and TV.

This issue's coverage:

Dracula: The Dark Prince (2/10)
Vikings - season 1 (4/10)
Alice, Sweet Alice (5/10)
Banshee Chapter (1/10)
Dolls (6/10)
Dead Of Night (8/10)
Phantom Of The Paradise (5/10)
We Are What We Are [remake] (6/10)
In Fear (2/10)

    Entrance Strategies - is about first movies by new directors... 
Nothing Left To Fear
The Haunting In Connecticut 2: Ghosts Of Georgia
Paranormal Xperience
Bloody Homecoming 
Memory Lane
The Black Water Vampire
Hatchet III
Outpost 3: Rise Of The Spetsnaz

    Exit Signs: also received
Cabin Fever 3: Patient Zero


Saturday, 8 March 2014

WSFC & etc

March this year began with a twittering hullabaloo of Wossgate, a storm-in-a-thimble of unwary insults in reaction to news that Jonathan Ross had been invited to host the Hugo awards ceremony at Worldcon (London, this August). After blame-game fallout and much post-mortem blogging, one particularly odd reality emerged. There are still many fans and professionals alike who believe a community or even a family exists in genre circles. I have only attended a few conventions (including Glasgow WSFC 2005, and four British cons since), but found no evidence of any community spirit - whether tribal, social, or philosophical. There is no more likely a ‘community’ in science fiction or sci-fi than could accurately be located amongst cineastes or book lovers; charted in gatherings of alcoholics or chocolate-addicts; or identified in protests by the so-called LGBT community demanding equal rights. Even if sociopolitical leanings are similar, groups of individuals assembling to celebrate a field that’s as vastly diverse as science fiction are no more likely to share common interests than car owners all driving down a motorway in the same direction. To assume that fandom reactions - to naming such a mildly controversial minor celebrity as a toastmaster of the Hugo awards - would be roughly uniform is, obviously, utter folly. My suggestion for someone more suitable to present rocket-ship shaped awards is: ask an astronaut; there are two or three British spacers to choose from, after all. Of course, UK astronauts would be no more relevant to the Hugo awards than a TV chat-show host, and I’m sure that some fans of science fiction would object (to Helen Sharman or Michael Foale), but that’s the whole point.

In a field like SF, composed of literary or screen media - some passive entertainments and others interactive, there can be no consensus. Critics and scholars fail to agree on a single, all-embracing definition of SF (and will even debate what those initials stand for), so there is little or no hope of reaching harmony on such issues as a public figure with an appeal that is broad enough to satisfy the many without angering the few. The best that we (and I only use that plural pronoun as a generalisation!) can expect from any committee-led choice is an unhappy compromise. Conflict is, quite probably, the only constant in the quagmire of disparate concerns thrown together under the leaky umbrella of SF. Even my limited experience of genre conventions in this country (can England and Scotland still be grouped politically as UK or not?) made it fairly clear to me that SF fandom is nothing like a community of any sort. Rife with the bookish, the introverted, trivia-obsessed geeks, charmless extroverts, and riddled with goggle-eyed cliques, fandom is a convergence of inequalities and vested interests; more unhealthy patchwork of many clashing colours than an explanatory Venn diagram of overlapped professions and hobbies. All the genre conventions I have attended seemed like failed experiments in recreating the Babel myth. Today’s SF cons are constructed from dust motes and air bubbles, not bricks and mortar. The measure of success for such events is only how much hot-air can be generated for a balloon to rise. Fandom is more like a mirage than a monument.

But where did the misconception of an SF community first come from? Even if it’s not entirely to blame, perhaps the faulty thinking can be traced back to a popular cultural misunderstanding of McLuhan’s term, ‘the global village’, a wholly illusory worldwide medium linked by the Internet, where Twitter storms offer the very latest in rumours and gossip alongside hard-won facts and news items condensed to sound-bite format, with no readily discernable difference between vital truth and trash talk. As we (again I use that for want of a better term) meander through daily life, isolated by physical/ geographical distance, connected merely by consumer electronics, while attempting to redefine via social media (like Facebook, etc) what ‘friendship’ means, and create newfangled working relationships without maintaining (or ever making) eye-contact, there seems no hope that networks built entirely online could be used as the basis for anything resembling a practical community.

I am old enough to remember when media/ fiction magazines had letter-columns like a built-in fanzine. Nowadays, publishers (like TTA Press) have online forums, and yet readers very rarely use them; the same few names pop-up month after month, and so it seems as if only the regular contributors bother to communicate with each other in a meaningful way. It’s no wonder then that individual blogs have superseded, but not properly replaced, reviewing sites. The fabled conversation that SF used to be is gone. In its place is the randomised noise produced by instantly ‘published’ comments and ‘like’ buttons, and texts of 140 characters. With such limitations on the messages that are broadcast with gleeful ignorance, and responded to with a lack of concern for any glimpse of the big picture, it’s no wonder that Internet activity has long since become a massive time-sink and a sheer waste of effort.

Saturday, 25 January 2014


Here's some details about my latest Rotary Action related purchases, now on display in the ‘Hanger 13’ cabinets...  
Chop Chop helicopter
This 'Chop Chop' plastic helicopter is battery operated but it’s at least 35 years old, so modern batteries don’t fit into its differently sized compartment. Made in China for American company Marx Toys (long since gone), it is in good condition for its age. The USAF or RAF markings and window stickers are missing but, anyway, it’s the colour (my favourite) that makes this plastic toy such a collectible item for me.

Sikorsky’s MH-X Silent Hawk, is a version of the UH-60 (S-70) Black Hawk modified for stealth. Two of these helicopters were used by the SEAL team in a mission against Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan (as depicted in the movie Zero Dark Thirty). This is a neat diecast model, the very first of its kind, made by Italeri (who previously produced a fine model of an Agusta-Westland AW-101 Merlin from Skyfall), at a scale of 1:100. 
Silent Hawk
It’s a great addition to the ’Hawks (note the six-blade rotors, a contrast to the usual four on this type of helicopter) of my Sikorsky collection, which includes two Black Hawk models (New Ray - 1:60, and Amercom - 1:72), an SH-60B Sea Hawk (New Ray - 1:60), a bigger MH-60G Pave Hawk (FOV - 1:48), a U.S. Coast Guard HH-60J Jay-Hawk (Winged Ace, easy model - 1:72), a sand-coloured Desert Hawk, and a VH-60N ‘White Hawk’ (the U.S. President’s ‘Marine One’ flight), both smaller models made by the Maisto brand. An SH-60F Ocean Hawk (Amercom - 1:72) is still on my wants list.  
Super Stallion
Also added to my Sikorsky range, the CH-53E Super Stallion (Motor Max - 1:72), was bought cheaply (only £7) in Amazon’s New Year sales. Unlike the better quality model of the similar MH-53E Sea Dragon (Amercom - 1:72) that I bought last summer, this Super Stallion is a contrast with shiny and rather plasticy-looking finish to its die-cast weight, presenting itself as something in-between a collector’s model (boxed for static display, the CH-53 is screwed onto its own labelled stand), and a fairly detailed toy for playing with. Nonetheless, it’s a nifty item suitable for positioning on top of a small cabinet.  
Sea Dragon

Friday, 24 January 2014


Without a big fanfare, Interzone reaches its 250th issue, and I'm proud to be a part of its critical success - that, hopefully, will continue for many years to come. 

My usual 'Laser Fodder' column of DVD & blu-ray reviews for this landmark issue covers mostly newer SF & fantasy material:

Man Of Steel (8/10)
Big Trouble In Little China (9/10)
Elysium (8/10)
Upstream Colour (7/10)
Riddick (5/10)
Scavengers (1/10)
Game Of Thrones - season 3 (7/10)

    Peripheral Sighting: also received
Wolf Children

Also published this week, Black Static #38 includes another 'Blood Spectrum' batch of horror movie reviews:

The Conjuring (7/10)
Insidious 2 (4/10)
Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters (4/10)
You're Next (3/10)
Blood Glacier (4/10)
Bounty Killer (5/10)
The Complex (6/10)
Kiss Of The Damned (4/10)
Odd Thomas (5/10)
John Dies At The End (8/10) 

    Job Lot: also received
Big Ass Spider (3/10)
The Colony (2/10)
Prisoners (4/10)
Frost (1/10)

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Clockwork Angels

Clockwork Angels tour

Coming after the long-awaited superb remix version of their Vapour Trails album, this movie (directed by Dale Heslip) of the band’s concert in Dallas, begins with a rare soundcheck recording as Rush amble through Limelight, amidst more candid back- and off- stage scenes than we have seen before. I have collected/ watched all of their videos/ DVDs, and this region-free blu-ray release is, arguably, their greatest filmed live show, to date.

There’s certainly a richer sound-scape, courtesy of the rocking string section, staying aboard briefly - following all the newer material from Rush’s concept album Clockwork Angels (the explosive climax to Carnies looks and sounds great) - for voyages into Rush’s past, for classic tracks like Dreamline, but the violins and cellos are most effective on instrumental YYZ.

Neil Peart plays three virtuoso drum solos, each with its own distinctive rhythms and vibes, while Alex Lifeson performs excellent lead guitar sequences (his Peke’s Repose intro to Halo Effect is wonderful), that are almost as off the leash as his zaniac™ (patent pending) sense of humour. 

This is yet another celebration of their illustrious career, and Rush continue to create a world-class brand of engagingly mature and highly sophisticated rock music that is second to none.