Posts Tagged ‘entertainment’

poisonI follow quite a few writers that I like on Twitter and through them I discover other writers that I might not otherwise be aware of. This has become something of a phenomenon for me, finding writers on social media, making their acquaintance and then feeling like you sort of owe it to them to read their work.

Sarah Pinborough (@SarahPinborough) is one of those whom I found via Joe Abercrombie (@LordGrimdark). Having followed her for a while (she makes me laugh every day and she pisses off Steven Leather) I finally found the money and the time to get one of her books and to read it. These things are more difficult than you might think when you’re writing yourself all day every day, looking at another book can become painful, especially if they’re better than you – which Sarah is. Still, I managed it, and I’m glad I did.

In the interests of full disclosure, I quite fancy Ms Pinborough* but I’ll try not to let that get in the way! *Grin*

Poison is part of a series of books by Ms Pinborough (Poison, Charm and Beauty) that re-tell well-known fairy tales but with a twist. Really, it’s more like an un-twist since anyone with a passing interest in fairy stories knows that the original versions of a lot of these tales were pretty goddamn fucking grim and they got cleaned up and Disneyfied over time. Ms Pinborough sets about putting the grim back into Grimm with gay abandon and it works incredibly well.

There’s a nuance here that you simply don’t find in the children’s versions, along with a wonderful way of playing along with and then subverting the kind of stereotypical expectations you have of the story. All the normal ingredients are there and a whole paragraph can tease you along with its typical, traditional, stereotypical nature before suddenly – BAM – subverting it and making you grin and chuckle like a loon.

The evil queen you almost sympathise with, Snow White is so sickeningly saccharine that you almost want her to get her comeuppance. The seven dwarves have an air of the friendzoned nerd boy about them and both Prince Charming and The Huntsman are as much a pair of dicks as the contents of their tights.

Things are further played about with by hints and mentions of other well-known fairy tales, crafting the appearance of a much wider fairytale world beyond the contents of the single book (or even the series). Talk of giants, mentions of Aladdin and genies, some horrible clues as to the final fate of Hansel and Gretel. It’s Shrek, as written by George R R Martin and while an enjoyable read you welcome the fact that it’s set far, far away because then it can’t get you.

There’s no happily ever after here, not really, not truly, not for anyone but it’s all the better for it.

There’s just not as much sex as The Sun claimed and while saucy it’s all a bit coy. Maybe two shades of grey rather than the full fifty.

SPIt’s a great book and it’s fantastic to see publishing houses willing to put out fantasy-type books that aren’t bricks you could clobber a policeman unconscious with. I hope more books of this sort of size, enjoyable reads that don’t overstay their welcome, continue to come out.

Style: 5
Substance: 4
Overall: 4.5

*I’m married, not dead. Besides, what’s not to love about a saucy former English teacher with a foul mouth who can drink you under the table?

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british-design-classics-stamps-bd7I was kinda-sorta-not-really nominated to write a Very British Blog by Miss Scarlett Flame (unlikely to be her real name) who comes from Salford. The only things I know about Salford are that I refused to go to university there because the area looked rough as toast and that punk poet John Cooper Clark can’t go back there (the cops have got him marked).
So, here it is.

If you do this you should link back to where you got it from. In this case that’s Miss Flame.

The VERY BRITISH BLOG TOUR was founded by Author Paul Anthony (@paulanthonyspen ) who mooted the idea to Clive Eaton ( @cliveeaton )
The idea is to use the same introduction and then answer the same questions on your blog/website as the author who nominated you, many of which have a specific British slant.  Then you invite 10 other authors to do the same.

I won’t be doing the invite thing, but if you’re inspired by the fact I’ve done it then let me know, link back to me where you do it and I’ll link you below. It’s only polite. 

Once you have filled ten spots, you feed further interested parties to those ten people, and so on. The more people involved the more exposure the tour will get, and so it then builds. Use the hash-tag #VBBT2013 as a means of identifying tweets, to then retweet.

Anything you can do to make the page look ‘more British’ the better… By the way, we British have certain conventions, traditions and procedures that are expected. There is a dress code in the reading of this British blog and you are expected to comply with it.
Or you may be tutted at, quite severely.

For example…

Gentlemen will wear suits, white shirts and dark ties. (Military ties are expected wherever possible). Think James Bond at his most debonair. Ladies will wear dresses (one inch above the knee, no higher, no lower) and floral summer hats. A break for tea and cucumber sandwiches is expected at some stage, and is permissible. The list at the bottom the page is not a queue. We British hate queues, and will accept them no longer. It is an invitation, and you are expected to accept that invitation and support the home-grown product. Now then, let us proceed in an orderly fashion. As you know, we are all very boring and staid in Britain, aren’t we?

Well, there’s a myth about the British and your starter for ten is – stuffy, class conscious, boring, staid! But is this still relevant in today’s world? Let’s find out from our wonderful writers what they feel about it…

On with the show…
Q  Where were you born and where do you live at the moment
A  I was born in a hospital and I live in a house. The hospital was in Winchester, historically one of the capitals of the UK and now a dreadfully middle class outpost that epitomises suburban England in many ways. I also went to college there. I live in a small village out in the sticks, surrounded by farmland and – currently – low key and terribly apologetic flooding.
Q  Have you always lived and worked in Britain? Or are you based elsewhere at the moment?
A  I’ve always lived and worked in Britain. I don’t travel well. Foreigners can’t be trusted to have life’s little essentials like Marmite, stoicism and the common decency to be crippled by embarrassment. I’ve barely lived outside of this village in fact, apart from a brief period in Basingstoke – which is enough to put people off leaving home for life. I love London though and have spent a great deal of time there, despite not having lived there.Q  What is your favourite part of Britain

A  There’s no place like home but that doesn’t really cut it. I can never choose a single favourite anything so I’ll have to pick at least two.

I love Cornwall. Maybe its because I spent a lot of childhood holidays there, perhaps the radon gas has a mind-warping effect or perhaps its just because the craggy landscape, the tannin-stained streams, the grey sand and marble-studded beaches and the moss covered woods are a beautiful and inspiring landscape barely seen outside of fantasy.
I also love London. Its dirty, messy, chaotic and vibrant. It has – and is – a character all of its  own and while living there would be too hectic The Smoke is a fun mistress to visit. Also I know where to get the best kebabs.Q  Have you “highlighted” or “showcased” any particular part of Britain in your books? For example, a town or city; a monument or some well-known place or event?

A  London shows up in my stories repeatedly. It just has so much that makes it appealing, so much history, so many different environments. That it’s the capital is irrelevant, its the feel of the place that makes it so appealing. I have also appropriated various myths and legends, local and further away, for my work in games and in my writings.

Q  There is an illusion- or myth if you wish-about British people that I would like to discuss. Many see “Brits” as “stiff upper lip”. Is that correct? 

A  I think British stoicism is as much a blessing and a curse as the myth of the American Dream is to the Americans. We Brits can put up with a lot, withstand a great deal. We have a good sense of duty and blitz spirit but that also fucks us because we put up with a lot that we shouldn’t. It takes a lot to stir the British to action, to stand up for themselves and in the current economic environment it means the government is getting away with imposing austerity upon those who believe the myth while those who are responsible for making it necessary continue to live the life of Riley.

Oops, got a bit political there.
Q  Do  any of the characters in your books carry the “stiff upper lip”? Or are they all “British Bulldog” and unique in their own way?A  My characters tend to be stoic and enduring, a quality that I feel in myself. It can, perhaps, make some of them seem a little unemotional but I hope that the emotions beneath the surface come through in my writing. The British stereotypes I prefer to play with are the jokers, the eccentrics and the cynics. My view of my country and my countrymen is more typically self-deprecating – a very British trait in and of itself.

Q  Tell me about your recent books?
I have completed a series of short stories on the theme of ‘Neo Pulp’ which are coming out a bit at a time and will eventually (soon?) be collected together in a single volume. It’s my contention that cheap ebooks are – in many ways – the new pulp. Cheap, disposable media that allow for a huge amount of experimentation and lower the bar for people to get ‘published’. I wanted to echo that feeling I got and the old pulps so I came back to the old sorts of stories with new eyes.
My first full length novel ‘Old Fat Punks’ is currently in editing with my beautiful and glamorous editor Salome Jones of Flourish Editing. It’s a story about political apathy, hopelessness, the lost promises of the 60s and 70s and the midlife crisis of  handful of former rebels who snap. It’s also – hopefully – funny, thoughtful and sad by turns.
Q What are you currently working on?
I’ve recently been made Creative Director of Chronicle City so most of my energies are going on that. I have other games work to complete as well, Machinations of the Space Princess, PROJECT and other leftovers from when I just worked for myself.
Story-wise I’m trying to decide what to do next. It will either be:
  • A story about the ‘primitives’ left behind when the transhumans leave Earth forever.
  • A collection of genre-based erotica, since I’ve enjoyed writing for Full Metal Orgasm so much. (11 or 12 stories of around 6k words).
  • A story about a global disaster, one that’s psychological rather than physical, based around the studies of Persinger’s God Helmet.
Q  How do you spend your leisure time?

Mostly feeling guilty about not working.

Also I play tabletop role-playing games, board games and wargames and kill hordes of alien legions on the Playstation.

Q  Do you write for a local or a global audience?

I write for me and hope that it all works out.

 Can you provide links to your work?

A I can.

You can also find me on Amazon, Nook, iBookstore and all the rest, just don’t get me mixed up with that News of the World reporter. I have ethics 😛




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xlargeI’m sure you’ve seen that picture, above, doing the rounds. Many people seem to think it makes some clever point about gender, SF & Fantasy art and so on. I don’t particularly think that it does. The aim is, apparently, to show the silliness of the first cover by changing the genders around to create some kind of ‘aha’ moment in the viewer but in that task I can’t see that it succeeds. The humour here is not the ‘aha, look how ridiculously women are treated in art’ but rather the ‘haha’ of the pantomime dame or the incompetent transvestite. Its not funny because its a transposition its funny because its a bunch of unfit men in feminine poses. Tellingly, the woman in the supposedly ‘masculine’ pose doesn’t look silly, which rather demonstrates how one-sided this all can be.

The cover on the left is clearly a call-back to James Bond, steeped in reference and film and literary history. An actual reversal has been done in James Bond and wasn’t ridiculous. That was a genuine like for like substitution and, tellingly, it’s a) not funny and b) beloved by many women.

Any point that might be trying to be made is lost because of the stupidity and, yet again, all you end up with is a circle-jerk of the already convinced talking about how clever and meaningful it is. There are discussions to be had on this topic, but cheap and nonsensical stunts like this (and the other cover poses) that fail to take into account gender dimorphism, athleticism, reference etc and fail to do a like-for-like change don’t add anything to it other than being a jumping-off point for discussion.

If I had the skills to do it it might be interesting to do a genuine like-for-like substitution of the same cover, (Tom Daley might make a good swimwear substitute rather than out-of-shape writers) but alas I don’t.


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