What I Did In December 2012

Okay there was clearly sleeping and eating and Christmas, and visiting my parents (Which was lovely) and having a cold (Which was less lovely) but NONE.THE.LESS. this is what I did in December and the people I did it for.

 

-Blogbusters  only made one appearance this month, but it was a doozy, looking at the Naughty and Nice lists for genre fiction for 2012.

-I reviewed the wonderful Behind the Sofa, a collection of short essays by celebrities about their favorite Doctor Who memories. It’s a fantastic book, with proceeds going to Alzheimer’s Research and the review is one of the pieces I’m proudest of this year.

-My old friend Scott Harrison has a very well deserved and rapidly burgeoning career as a short fiction editor and an audio drama writer. He’s written the second of Big Finish’s excellent Confessions of Dorian Gray (Starring Alexander Vlahos, fans of Merlin!) series and I reviewed it here. It’s not, despite the frantic points-scoring in the comments, an unnecessary sequel (Although I would watch the SHIT out of The Mayor Of Casterbridge 2: The Final Battle), but rather the second in a series of short audio plays about Dorian Gray making his way through his endless centuries of decadent, beautiful, empty life. Scott nailed this, and it was a pleasure to review. I’ll be looking at Resurrection Engines, the steampunk take on classic literature anthology he edited, in the new year.

-The last year has been marked by a sudden and very welcome upswing in paranormal police fiction, with Ben Aaronovitch’s excellent Rivers of London series, Paul Cornell’s highly acclaimed London Falling (I’m sure it’s great I’ve just not had time to read it yet) and the graphic novel release of Gordon Rennie and Tiernen Trevellion‘s excellent Absalom. An aging, charmingly decrepit copper who worked with the best including Charlie Barlow and Jack Regan (The first not the second, at least so far…), Absalom runs a team which helps keep the uneasy peace between London and Hell. Steeped in the history of the city, crammed full of great dialogue and ideas and cheerfully horrible, I loved this. Now if we can just get the rest of Caballistics Inc collected…

-Professor Elemental is a steampunk British rapper. Oh and he has a comic. And it’s as brilliant as he is, which is to say rather a lot. Here’s my review of it.

-Whilst IDW continue to do great work with the Doctor Who comics, the UK-based Doctor Who Magazine have been doing them for a lot longer.Wider in scope, far more prepared to mess with the status quo as a result and frequently brilliant (The Iron Legion is still the stuff of my favorite nightmares) they’re one of the very few gems of Who fiction that remain largely hidden. I reviewed The Child of Time, a collection of the first few 11th Doctor strips and Jonathan Morris‘ first work on the character here, and it’s fantastic.

-Ecko Rising, Danie Ware‘s debut novel, does the near-impossible; making heroic fantasy interesting and grounded at the same time as avoiding sliding into the muddy booted slog that a lot of pseudo-Game of Thrones books become. It’s a stunning book, made all the more so by the fact it’s a debut, and I interviewed Danie here.

-Juliet E.Mckenna has been doing the near-impossible for a while now, with her Einarinn series of linked series mapping a fascinating, politically driven fantasy world into existence. They’re a stunning ongoing achievement and I interviewed Julie about them here.

-When I was about 15, the first Batman/Judge Dredd crossover came out and it was the single most muscular, flexed, teeth-bared comic I’d ever read. It still is, and I was delighted to see it and the three sequels collected in a nice hardback edition. I reviewed it here. I didn’t flex throughout writing the review. But I was tempted.

-I also contributed to the 25 Movies of the Year piece, getting to show some love for Sinister and Hotel Transylvania.

There’s some other stuff pending for SFX, including a couple of reviews and a look at some great small press work but this is what’s up right now.

 

-I didn’t so much consult on this excellent piece Brendon put together about the Star Trek Into Darkness teaser as endless watch the thing over a period of a couple of days and then provide a tiny insight into one thing. By the way, Brendon’s trailer breakdowns are extraordinary, go read this one, on Oblivion. You’ll learn stuff. Good stuff. I did.

-Thanks to him, I also got to do a little pictorial archaeology, when a series of Kevin Eastman sketches for an abandoned fourth live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie surfaced. They’re…let’s say muscular, but I had a lot of fun speculating as to what the plot of the movie would have been. Someone in the comments suggested it was going to be based on the After the Bomb RPG background and I can certainly see that.

-I also interviewed the heroic creative team on Amelia Cole and the Unknown World. I love Monkeybrain Comics‘ entire line but Amelia Cole is the standout for me and it was a pleasure to talk to the entire team, at length, about their experience on volume 1 of the book and what’s in it’s future.

 

 

It’s all go in Escape Artists Towers this month, and I’ll talk about why in…(checks watch)…about a week. In the meantime, our stories for December were fantastic, with the month kicing off with Episode 311: Flashes on the Borderlands XIV: Resistance! Flashes is our regular collection of flash stories and this was a corker, with Matthew Acheson‘s No Further (Read by my dad no less! Hello father!) followed by Jayne Chant’s The Conchie and Henry Lu’s Bitter Tea & Braided Hair. I’m very fond of Flashes, and it’s often one of our strongest features but this one is something special.

Hunter James Martin‘s chilling Feeding the Machine was episode 312, a story about work, drudgery, slavery and freedom and the point where all four meet. This is one of my favorites of the year and it’s the sort of story horror is uniquely equipped to provide, combining something relatively mundane with the fantastic to chilling effect.

Episode 313:The Dead Sexton is a J.Sheridan Le Fanu story, which, as some of you have probably already worked out, means getting hold of the author’s PayPal details proved a little…tricky. It’s an excellent piece, published in 1871 and steeped in regional dialect, set in the Lake District town Le Fanu invented of Golden Friars. It’s also an absolute beast to read so Shawn very sensibly approached my Dad again. My grandfather was from the region, so my Dad knew enough of the dialect to get by but it was still a hell of a challenge and he did fantastically well. Go have a listen, it’s a very different piece to what we normally run and a fascinating example of how horror has changed over the last century.

Episode 314 hasn’t been released just yet but you can read the outro for it early in the BOOK I HAD PUBLISHED THIS MONTH! YAAAAAY! (KERMIT ARMS)

 

The Pseudopod Tapes Volume 1 is a collection of all the writing I did for Pseudopod this year. Every outro I did is in there, revised and expanded so you don’t need to have just read or listened to the story to get them, and there’s also a collection of all the closing quotes and the answers to this year’s Halloween Parade. It’s available in print or ebook form and it’s something I’m incredibly proud of. One of the things I’ve always felt is a problem with my work is I never actually bloody finish it and this is a real thing, torn from my head and dragged into print by the fine people of Fox Spirit and my own hand. I love it to tiny pieces. And isn’t the cover by SL Johnson lovely? Delicious on cake too…

 

So if saying if you have left over vouchers from Amazon or you’re a fan? Give it a try.

 

That was (most of) December. Next up? Next year…

 

 

Want to talk to me about the article? Come see me on Twitter at @alasdairstuart or email me.


Pseudopod Halloween Parade 2012: The Answers

(Still from the excellent These Glory Days)

Here are the answers to the parade I posted over the weekend. This post is utterly crammed with links so if you don’t recognize a character click on their name, or if a book looks interesting click on the title for an Amazon page.

-Jack is of course, the Jack from the story.

-The irradiated teenagers are from The Chernobyl Diaries, as are the creatures hunting them.

-The astronauts are the crew of the Prometheus. Holloway is the one who’s on fire, Fifield is surrounded by his hounds (And wouldn’t his life have been much easier if he’d actually followed the map? He’d MADE?). The vast shadow is the Engineer ship that crashes towards the end of the movie and the small, stocky woman leading them is of course, Liz Shaw. One of the things that I really liked about Prometheus was its exploration of her faith and how she refuses to lose it even in the face of the endless horrors she suffers. I don’t agree with it, at all, but I do find it interesting.

-The presidential convoy is Abraham Lincoln from Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. It’s a patchy as hell movie but it’s a lot of fun and Dominic Cooper as Henry the English vampire is excellent. Hence his deserved cameo appearance here.

-The girl behind them is Elizabeth Olsen’s character from Silent House, the real time found footage movie based on the 2010 Urguayan movie La Casa Muda, made in 2010.

-The polite Edwardian couple are the lead in The Woman in Black and his wife, both very dead and both so relieved to be reunited at last that they don’t really care about anyone or anything else,not quite yet anyway.

-Hadley and Sitterson, ladies and gentlemen! Rosencrantz and Guildenstern with blood all over their hands. I loved The Cabin in the Woods and these two are a very big reason why, Likewise, Amy Acker as Lin who’s following behind them with the rest of the cast stalking along behind her, delighted that the Cabin staff suffered as much as they did on the way out.

-Sigourney Weaver’s character cannot possibly be human in The Cabin in the Woods. Look at the sequence she appears in, there’s only one entrance to the sacrificial chamber and it’s behind Dana and Marty when they come in. The Director, when we first see her, steps UP onto the platform from the other side. She’s an avatar of the things that sleep beneath the Cabin and the gloves she’s always wearing are another indicator that she’s less, or more, than human.

-Alec Holland and the Swamp Thing come next, their newly separate status reflecting how the new Swamp Thing series starts. Following them is Buddy Baker and family from Animal Man, another one of the best new DC titles and closely connected to Swamp Thing.

-The Edwardian police officer is Chief Inspector George Suttle from the excellent Vertigo mini-series The New Deadwardians. The trade’s out shortly and I highly recommend it and everything else Dan Abnett has done. He’s talking to Governor Arcadia Alvarado, the lead in Saucer Country, Paul Cornell’s excellent UFOlogy/political thriller.

-Her bodyguards, the two identical twins, are from Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips’ excellent series Fatale.

-The tall brawny woman is Amelia Cole, the lead in Monkeybrain Comics excellent series Amelia Cole and The Unknown World. Her friend is Autumn Ackermann, the lead in one of their other, also excellent series The October Girl.

-John Constantine comes next, along with his wife, Epiphany, a new addition to the family.

-Behind them, the cast of The Stuff of Legend, a superb and horrible comic about toys battling to rescue their child from the boogeyman.

-The Winchester boys come next, of course, and as always they make an entrance. Their passengers this year are Castiel, still looking startled to be there and the legendary Mr Bobby Singer. Following them are, of course, everything they’ve ever hunted and Lillith, front and centre. Where she always wanted to be.

-The bare chested man is Fornicus, Lord of Pain and Desire, the Pinhead analogue from The Cabin in the Woods. The sphere is definitely Fornicus’ but I like to think Pinhead sent some Cenobites to walk with him this year, as a sign of solidarity.

-The giant irradiated ants are from every giant irradiated ant movie ever made, although I like to think of them as survivors of Them! Their handlers are the Creature from the Black Lagoon and Frankenstein’s monster.

-The slaughtered kings are just that, the Shakespearean kings, the Jacobean kings and all the rest. They’re accompanied by the movie versions of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, played by Tim Roth and Gary Oldman.

-The Director again, walking with her people this time.

So there you go, that was the Halloween parade for this year. Hope you had fun guessing and do try the Churros, they’re great.

 

Want to talk to me about the article? Come see me on Twitter at @alasdairstuart or email me.

DC Day 1-Stormwatch

The Warren Ellis run on Stormwatch was the first long term run on a series that I genuinely connected with. The idea of a UN-controlled superhuman crisis intervention team was always an attractive one but under Ellis the book became something tighter, more mature than it had been before. Ellis wrote Stormwatch officers as humans, people with ideals and agendas and flaws all struggling against a job which often seemed designed to stop them doing any real good in the world. That constant struggle, between what was right and what was necessary ultimately spawned the sequel book, The Authority, and indirectly changed the visual and intellectual grammar of Western superhero comics for most of the following decade.

 

For me though, Stormwatch was always a more attractive concept than The Authority. Stormwatch were mortals, normal people with abnormal abilities trying to do their best and often failing. They were human as well as superhuman and that humanity was one of the book’s most important elements. It’s also one of the elements that Paul Cornell’s relaunch of the book keeps in place.

 

Cornell reimagines Stormwatch as something closer to the Knights Templar, an organisation that has existed for centuries and which has tasked itself with protecting the Earth from superhuman and supernatural threats. Cornell cleverly weaves his other book, Demon Knights, into the background, establishing them as an early iteration of Stormwatch and in doing so neatly moving the book into territory closer to Jonathan Hickman’s excellent Marvel series SHIELD, than Ellis’ previous run on Stormwatch.

 

This historical context also provides a broader canvas for Cornell, and he clearly relishes exploring the idea of Stormwatch being something closer to a monastic order than a small fire team of soldiers. Adam One, one of the new characters is a good example of this. An immortal strategic advisor, Adam is equal parts priest and general, a man who has advised world leaders but can’t quite remember some of their names. History but with the corners knocked off, superhumans who were suits to work instead of capes. Stormwatch was always a curiously English type of superhuman comic and under Cornell’s reign that only looks like it’s increasing. He’s aided no end by Miguel Sepulveda’s clean, rounded, expressive art.

 

The first issue does a neat job of exploring what Stormwatch does in this new iteration, as one team is sent to Moscow to try and recruit a new member, a second is dispatched to investigate a mysterious artifact and, alone on the moon, Harry Tanner discovers something impossible just as something impossible discovers him. If the book has a weakness it’s that it tries to do too much in one issue as Cornell introduces established characters, a modified status quo and newcomers at the same time as moving three linked plotlines along. They all work, and will no doubt all dovetail but all three could benefit from a little bit of extra space. Harry Tanner, the splendidly named Eminence of Blades, in particular is a fascinating character in a difficult situation and I could have stood to read a lot more of him. I suspect, as the series goes on, we will.

 

Interestingly, this minor reservation actually gives the book a different feel. There’s a real sense of Stormwatch being a global organisation dealing with global threats and the fact that each of the missions presented here is equally important drives home how impossible their job is. Stormwatch are the line between us and chaos and the line as it’s presented here, is stretched pretty thinly, even with the addition of DC mainstay the Martian Manhunter and newcomers like Harry and Adam One.

 

Stormwatch feels idfferent to every other book in the launch. There’s a cautious altruism to the way the characters are presented, a desire to do the right thing even though they may not be thanked for it, that’s tempered with the pragmatism of working in the military. That’s ultimately the glue that holds the book together, through three plot lines, moments of gleeful pop culture invention and the combination of two universes’ worth of characters; the greater good. Stormwatch have been reimagined as the guardians of humanity and I can’t think of anyone better suited to the job.