Sunday Moment of Zen: Rosetta

The Rosetta mission has been sending back some astounding photos for a while now. This one though, capturing both one of the probe’s massive solar wings and it’s destination, is absolutely stunning. It’s also this week’s Sunday Moment of Zen.

 

 

Find more at Space.com and thanks to io9 for the original story.

Interview: Ed Cox talks The Relic Guild


The Relic Guild, by Ed Cox is out later today. It’s colossal fun, exactly the sort of exuberant, foot-to-the-floor fantasy that I’m finding I really enjoy. This has officially been the year I finally get over myself regarding fantasy and Ed, along with Jen Williams, Liz De Jager, Antony Johnston and others have been a very big part of that. As a result, I jumped at the chance to chat to Ed about the book. Here he is.

 

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Review: God is Dead Volume 1

 

God Is Dead has exactly the sort of deliciously chewy premise that Jonathan Hickman and Mike Costa known for. It’s the story of what happens when every single God in human history is revealed to not only be real but returns to Earth. All at once.

Today.

Hickman and Costa’s story follows two principle strands; the god war and the effect it has on us and the efforts of a small group of scientists to build an artificial God and put humanity back in the fight. It’s a smart move and lets him the writers have their cake, ritually sacrifice it, parody it and then punch it in the face all at once. The Gods are tropes given flesh, creatures of immense power and scale who Hickman also, cleverly, shows are inherently limited. These are beings who want, who are defined by that wanting and the wars they wage are as much to pass the time as anything else. They’re savage, creatively brutal and, ultimately, have a gravitational pull not even they can escape. They define the very world they seek to control and in the end can only wage war. The moment they win, the moment there is a one true God, then they begin to stagnate. It’s a fascinating idea dn it allows Hickman to fold in some great moments of jet black humour. A news anchor covering the apocalypse fest is a nice example of this; he starts out as a standard anchor and by the end of the book is ritually sacrificing himself. It’s a nice touch, simultaneously funny and horrifying and that dichotomy is where the book lives.

The human element of the book makes this even clearer. Hickman and Costa take the standard ‘ragtag group of geniuses and soldiers’ trope and almost turns it inside out. The soldiers are a father and daughter private security team who are intensely smart in their own right and the role they end up playing is genuinely surprising. In fact, the book’s best scenes come from the scientist’s attempts to reverse engineer a God and what happens when they (mostly) succeed. Hickman and Costa balance the metaphysical and gristly physical tremendously well, and their plot is the most compelling part of this first volume. By the end of the volume the survivors have not only got what they wanted but found themselves imprisoned within their own success, just like the gods they’ve emulated. It’s a smart, circular piece of storytelling that, again, marks the book out as something very clever.


Di Amorim’s art is, for the most part, astonishing. Rendering the gods with this level of clear eyed detail had the potential to make them elss than what they are but Di Amorim somehow makes them even more disturbing. These are impossible creatures whose presence, and stories, are warping the world around them and it almost never feels safe or predictable. That creates a tremendous sense of unease that, accentuated by the book’s tremendously bloody violence, only ratchets the tension higher. Likewise the design work on the Gods, their weapons and the war they wage is as intricate as it is brutal.

Unfortunately when the book does go for safe and predictable, it really stumbles. Gaby, a security professional on an operation is dressed like she stepped off a metal album cover and two of the scientists, Thomas Mims and Henry Rhodes, are pretty clear analogs for Einstein and Hawking. Both these design choices drag you out of the book and trivialize what, up until that point, has been a surprising, and very dark take on religious belief and the apocalypse. The book recovers, but those early moments strike a bum chord that reverberate for a good long time.


That aside, there’s a lot to enjoy here. Hickman and Costa have done a ton of research and used all of it to drive character and plot to a fascinating end point. Di Amorim’s work is uniformly good and frequently great and Juanmar’s colours and Kurt Hathaway’s lettering seal everything together perfectly. It’s gory, visceral, horrifying, often very funny stuff and it tries far more new things than old. For that reason alone it’s worth picking up.

 

God is Dead volume 1 is out now from Titan, priced £14.99. The ongoing series is published monthly by Avatar. Book of Acts, a two part anthology series set in the same universe is also available now from all good comic shops. It’s BRILLIANT, features Kieron Gillen, Si Spurrier, Alan Moore and others and is a perfect on ramp for the series. Give it a shot. I’d recommend asking Mondo Comico or Travelling Man. Also, thanks to the lovely people at Titan for the review copy.

Slingers:The 7 Day Slam Offer

 

The Slingers series, by my friend Matt Wallace, has been a highlight of the year for me. I’ve talked about it, at length, for months now and the reason for that’s really simple; it’s brilliant. No one else would have dared to combine a unique narrative voice with every dystopian SF death sport archetype and moments of desperate humanity like Matt. No one else could have pulled it off as well as he does either. It’s an astonishing series, and it’s one that I think will only build a fanbase as time goes by.

Or, indeed, a fanvase, as I just typed.

I think that fanbase deserves to grow fast, and quickly. And the final part is released on October 5th. And I’m a nice guy. And, I’m allergic to saying ‘no’ to work, so I have a deal for you.

-If you’ve never bought a copy of Slingers up to now, go and buy them. Volumes 1 and 2 will set you back 2 bucks, all of which goes to Matt. You can stick it to Amazon for under 5 bucks and get something great to read whilst your doing it. Or, line Jeff Bezos’ billionth pocket if you must. Doesn’t matter. Just buy the damn books.

-Once you’ve done that, either email me at alasdairstuart at gmail dot com or tweet at @AlasdairStuart, a photo or screengrab of your receipt. Delete or futz out whatever you don’t want me to see obviously.

-If you are one of the first 20 people to do this? I will do one of these two things for you:

-Audio work of up to 5 minutes. Want me to guest on your podcast? Record a voicemail message? Read limericks? Done.

or

-A piece of bespoke flash fiction of up to 1000 words. Which only ever gets sent to you.

-You have 7 days. Starting now.

I am insanely busy at the moment; I’m moving house and job and live my life in the two hour increments of free time I can chisel free.  Doesn’t matter. Firstly because the 20 people who sign up for this will get their stuff by the end of the year and secondly because Matt does work that’s absolutely worth your time and mine. And remember, volume 5 arrives October 8th.

 

UPDATE! TWIST! DECADE PAST SELL BY M NIGHT SHYAMALAN JOKE!

 

10 people have taken me up on this so far. I salute you all and will be in contact in due course.

 

Also, Captain Wallace has, until Sunday, made Slingers available for free on Amazon. ALL OF IT. Start here.

Or here

 

You should go. Now. I’ll wait.

 

Back? Splendid! If you don’t want to work with Amazon in any way shape or form? This offer will run until Sunday. 10 slots. 10 things by me. 10 2 buck purchases through Payhip. You can do this right? Sure you can. See you back here on Sunday.

 

Doctor Who: The Danny Pink Theories

(Written just over a week ago, with no spoiler info so this is all flagrant speculation)

Let’s play spot the Doctor Who plot arc! Specifically, just what the plan is for the increasingly interesting Danny Pink. Below are some of the major theories, with evidence for and against. Activate the Speculatron 5000!

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Doctor Who: The Extraordinary Danny Pink


So I’m now two episodes into the era of Unbelivably Grumpy Scottish Doctor and I’m having an awful lot of fun. Capaldi’s an effortlessly great actor and he’s already starting to find lots of nuances and interesting corners to his version of the Doctor. Even better, at this point in the season, there’s a real sense of everything having a Point. The entire performance feels in gear, like it’s driving the show and that’s given it a very different energy. It’s weird and chewy and difficult and I’m really enjoying how much of it there is to digest and examine.

And that brings us to Danny Pink.

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The 400th Pseudopod

I’m amazed, and delighted, to report that Pseudopod hit episode 400 this week just gone. It’s been a long road between there and here and it’s one that’s got me thinking about horror, the past, the future and where we are as a show.

 

Trust me there are jokes too.

 

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Critic School

(Alex Cox, cult film director and the most passionate, honest film critic I’ve ever encountered)

‘So how do you become a film critic?’  No one asked me, ever. I mean why would they? It’s easy! All you have to do is go see a film, drink some coffee, write 700 words about the pre hype for the movie, 200 words on the movie itself, make sure there’s a gif every 100 words and then go home and roll around on your big bed made entirely of money! How hard can it be?

 

Being a shitty film critic is easy.Being a good film critic?

 

It’s EASIER.

 

With a tip of the hat to Robert Rodriguez’s 10 Minute Film School, I present 6 Point Critic School.

 

1. No one cares about you.

Seriously, no one does. They care about the film and whether it’s any good, not what you had for breakfast, what theater you saw the movie in or your childhood interaction with the works of the director. You’re an interpreter not a Herald and you are no one’s favorite critic aside from, maybe, other film critics.

 

2. Don’t Believe The Hype

Chuck D is right about many, many things and this is but one. Do not report, after watching the movie, on how much fun the press conference was, or the infidelities of one of the stars. Don’t dignify the often constructed ‘He said what when?!’ bullshit by letting it murder even more electrons and brain cells than it already has. Do not, under any circumstances, believe or participate in, the hype.

 

3. Watch the Movie

Watch the movie.

Not the press, not the hype, not the pre-press.

The Movie.

Watch the movie.

Watch the movie.

WATCH THE MOVIE.

 

4. Write About The Movie

Analyze your feelings about the movie. Write about those feelings. If it made you cry, why? If it made you angry, why? Be honest. You can tell if you’re doing this because it’ll feel difficult and unpleasant. Do it anyway.

 

5. Say it in 1000 words or don’t say it at all

Are you being paid to write a 3000 word treatise on the film you just saw?

Really?

Are they hiring?

If you’re not, then keep it brief. People wander off around the 1000 word mark online which means you have 1000 words and ideally should get it done in 800. Play with this sort of framework

 

Set up-200 words

(Premise of film)

Para 1-300 words

(What works)

Para 2-300 words

(What doesn’t work)

Conclusion-200 words

 

6. Redraft

Write your piece and ignore it for 24 hours. Then go back and redraft it. It will always be a better piece of work when you’re done.

 

Boom. You’re a critic.

 

See? Told you it was easy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Broadchurch: The Novel

 

 

I grew up on the Isle of Man. Small communities are tight but seaside communities, those are rock solid. There’s a sense of the entire place being locked in a permanent staredown with the elements, a bloodymindedness that unites people even when they can’t stand one another. You may hate your neighbour but your neighbour has to deal with the sea, the same as you do. It becomes part of you, a lens that drops across how you see the world. Some people have friends whose parents work in a bank. I had friends whose parents owned trawler fleets. The sea gives you everything you can handle and more, and it takes far more than it ever should. Each generation at my school lost someone, often through illness or accident but, every now and then, to the ocean. Even now, two of my school friends are coast guards and a good chunk of the staff of my old school are on-call lifeboatmen.

You get used to living next to death. The death itself? That you never get used to.

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