Monthly Archives: September 2008

Where was the Lord of the stampede?

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September 30, 2008

This comes under the banner of the truly ironic. I read in the Sydney Morning Herald today that more than 140 people have been trampled to death in a stampede in Jodhpur in western India. The people were Hindus on a pilgrimage to the 15th-century Chamunda Devi temple. There was a long, narrow passage that became a death trap when the people were gripped by some kind of panic.

Now, you’d think that this would be the ideal opportunity for a bit of divine intervention, no? Or, if a god or gods were being honoured by the pilgrimage of thousands of faithful, you would think that said gods wouldn’t let something like this happen in the first place. Shouldn’t the people be gripped by a holy calm rather than a panic?

A senior state government official, Kiran Soni Gupta, said, “We have lost over 140 lives due to suffocation. This was a chance accident.”

And indeed it was, in one of those moments that are actually not that uncommon. This particular deadly stampede was the fourth in India this year. The annual Haj to Mecca has a body count that Arnie and Sly Stallone could never hope to top in their most brutal movies combined:

From wikipedia:

# On July 2, 1990, a stampede inside a pedestrian tunnel (Al-Ma’aisim tunnel) leading out from Mecca towards Mina and the Plains of Arafat led to the deaths of 1,426 pilgrims.
# On May 23, 1994, a stampede killed at least 270 pilgrims at the stoning of the Devil ritual.
# On April 9, 1998, at least 118 pilgrims were trampled to death and 180 injured in an incident on Jamarat Bridge.
# On March 5, 2001, 35 pilgrims were trampled to death in a stampede during the stoning of the Devil ritual.
# On February 11, 2003, the stoning of the Devil ritual claimed 14 pilgrims’ lives.
# On February 1, 2004, 251 pilgrims were killed and another 244 injured in a stampede during the stoning ritual in Mina.

Of course, hundreds, even thousands of deaths at a specifically religious event are considered a terrible accident; pure chance. One grilled cheese sandwich with the hazy image of a Messiah on it is a Divine Miracle. Let’s all look up Pareidolia for our homework.

dogbuttjesus Where was the Lord of the stampede?

In a slightly similar vein, I was greatly entertained today by Michael Fridman’s post at A Nadder!, where he equates books of the Bible with their very modern counterparts. Why are some mythologies still causing deaths by the thousand while others are considered nothing more than fairy stories? After all, a religion is nothing more than a myth that some people still believe to be the truth.

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A ‘Verse Full of Scum – Episode 34 – Finished

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September 28, 2008

The final episode of VFoS is up on the Serial Novella page now.

It all started back on February 24th and now it’s over – thirty four (almost) weekly episodes. Today sees a bumper double episode as I’ve posted the short Epilogue and Episode 34 together. What will I post on Mondays now? I’ll have to start writing more blog posts to keep you all interested.

I do hope to write more stuff to serialise here on The Word in the future, but right now I’m working very hard on getting my second novel out. The sequel to RealmShift, it should be available sometime during October if all goes well. I know I’ve promised it on a number of occasions, but this independent publishing game is harder to control than I originally thought! But I’m getting on top of everything now, so keep an eye on the blog here for news over the next few weeks.

Also, don’t be shy to drop comments on this post and let me know what you thought of A ‘Verse Full of Scum, or anything else you’ve read here for that matter. Or you can always send me an email, the address is in the yellow box at the top of the page.

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I Am Legend prequel from Will Smith

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September 28, 2008

Apparently Will Smith and others are dreaming up a prequel to the awful movie version of I Am Legend.

The 1954 book by Richard Matheson is one of my all-time favourites. It’s a great mix of horror and sci-fi in the old school style and it’s a truly great story. The reason for the title of I Am Legend is inspired. Will Smith’s movie version crapped all over that.

iamlegend I Am Legend prequel from Will Smith

The movie wasn’t that bad to begin with, a reasonably updated version of Matheson’s book, but the last third of the film or so became a horrible steaming pile of American god-loving bollocks, completely desecrating the original point of the story. And the CG vampires were bloody terrible. As you can tell, I wasn’t very impressed with it.

And now Smith wants to make a prequel? Even after the flashbacks in the first film that told us the story of what happened? Even if we know that basically everyone will die and vamp out and Dr Richard Neville (Smith) will be left alone in the world, supposedly. Even though we know that the story ends atrociously because Smith et al couldn’t bring themselves to stick to Matheson’s story and make a truly great film?

Way to go, Will – you’re about to make one of the worst movie adaptations ever even worse.

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The Evil Dead – Ultimate Edition

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September 27, 2008

I remember first seeing The Evil Dead so many years ago and thinking it was awesome. I recently came across a DVD for sale that touted itself as the Ultimate Edition. It has two discs, with loads of extras and all sorts of goodies.

evildead The Evil Dead   Ultimate Edition

I haven’t got around to checking out all the extras yet, but I did sit and watch the movie again yesterday. Man, what a great film. This is something that is a true cult classic; it’s even spawned a musical. The effects are pretty ordinary, but it was made in 1981. The story might seem cliched watching it now, but at the time it wasn’t.

Written and directed by Sam Raimi, it’s a fantastic effort for a first movie. It propelled Bruce Campbell to absolute stardom and spawned sequels every bit as good as the first. Interestingly, the sequels are more camp and funny than the original. It struck me while I was watching it that it’s actually a pretty scary movie. The comedy, which is very evident in the sequels, isn’t so obvious here. There are some really toe curling gore moments (such as the pencil in the ankle – not just stabbed, but really ground around in there) and some truly spooky moments with good jumps. And, as fas as I know, the only tree rape ever committed to film (which was banned in some places).

The whole thing centres around the Necronomicon, the Book of the Dead. Originally this concept surfaced in H P Lovecraft stories, supposedly written by the “Mad Arab” Abdul Alhazred, and was subsequently referenced in other fiction. Lovecraft greatly approved of this development of his ideas, calling it “a background of evil verisimilitude.” In one of those fantastic examples of fiction becoming “fact”, there are people out there now that consider that there really is something called the Necronomicon, with many booksellers being asked if they stock it or can order it. Do some web searching and you’ll come across some really entertaining stuff.

necronomicon1 The Evil Dead   Ultimate Edition

The Necronomicon (one version of it anyway). Supposedly written in human blood and bound in human flesh.

And check out the imdb trivia page about the movie here. Some really funny stuff on there. If you’re a fan of this genre, check out the movie again. The claymation effects and dodgy make-up are dated, but it’s still an absolute classic.

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William Shatner – what a legend

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September 22, 2008

I can’t help but love William Shatner. This is the man that brought us Captain James T Kirk, T J Hooker and Denny Crane, not to mention numerous sci-fi novels. What a brilliant CV – and that’s only a small part of it. However, it will always be Captain Kirk that Shatner is most famous for.

awesomekirk William Shatner   what a legend

Apropos Captain Kirk, we now have the dubious situation of yet another movie franchise reboot, with J J Abrams remaking Star Trek. This will be the eleventh Star Trek movie, but it’s not a continuation from number ten. It’s a reworking of the original concept. According to imdb.com:

Paramount synopsis: From director J.J. Abrams (“Mission: Impossible III,” “Lost” and “Alias”) and screenwriters Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci (“TRANSFORMERS,” “MI: III”) comes a new vision of the greatest space adventure of all time, “Star Trek,” featuring a young, new crew venturing boldly where no man has gone before.

Explores the early Starfleet careers of future Enterprise officers Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Amanda Grayson (Winona Ryder), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), McCoy (Karl Urban), Sulu (John Cho), and Chekhov (Anton Yelchin). A Romulan, Nero (Eric Bana), and a much older Spock (Leonard Nimoy) are influences, as well as Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood), the first captain of the USS Enterprise.

So I’m not sure how exactly they plan to fit it together with it supposedly following the early years of the most famous Starfleet crew, yet featuring “a much older Spock”. Regardless, Leonard Nimoy gets to reprise the one thing that people really remember him for and he must be very pleased. (And, on a slight tangent, Simon Pegg as Scotty makes the nerd in me do a very gawky dance of joy).

However, notice anything missing? Spock gets a reprise, yet no mention of Bill Shatner. No future flash forward? No cheeky cameo to titillate the Trekkies as a surprise somewhere in the movie? Well, frankly, no. And Mr Shatner himself has even addressed a little video letter directly to J J Abrams to let him know what he thinks of that:

And you know what amuses me most about this whole thing? J J Abrams obviously wanted nothing to do with Shatner yet tries to sound all noble and apologetic, pretending to have the utmost repect for the original Kirk. And the original Kirk himself is all sweetness and light, talking about what a great writer/director Abrams is, yet is obviously deeply pissed that he didn’t get offered a part. Will these two crazy kids kiss and make up if there’s ever an Abrams headed Star Trek XII? We’ll have to wait and see.

(Hat tip to SF Signal for finding the video).

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A ‘Verse Full of Scum – Episode 33

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September 21, 2008

Today sees the penultimate episode of VFoS posted on the Serial Novella page. Things are drawing to a climax and Ghost is not really able to do much about it, even after all the effort he’s put in so far. But just what exactly is happening?

The last episode, along with a short epilogue will be posted next Monday. Well, the last episode for now anyway…

Enjoy.

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Alan Moore plans to “spit venom all over” Watchmen movie

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September 21, 2008

You may remember back in mid-August I was writing about my concerns with the new Watchmen movie that Zack Snyder is hatching in Hollywood.

As I mentioned in that post, Watchmen author Alan Moore has distanced himself from all his projects that have been adapted to film and often talks of his absolute hatred of all things Hollywood. Well, it seems that nothing’s changed. Talking to the L A Times, Moore has said, “I find film in its modern form to be quite bullying” and “It spoon-feeds us, which has the effect of watering down our collective cultural imagination.” Hard words, but I can’t help agreeing with him for the most part.

Talking about the Watchmen movie, he also says, “Will the film even be coming out? There are these legal problems now, which I find wonderfully ironic. Perhaps it’s been cursed from afar, from England. And I can tell you that I will also be spitting venom all over it for months to come.”

Not even pretending to mince his words. He never does. It’s one of the things that makes him the genius writer that he is.

It’s a great article that talks about things other than the movie. It discusses his new DVD, The Mindscape of Alan Moore, which is billed as “A psychadelic journey through one of the world’s most powerful minds”, and he talks about magic, comics and the 750,000 word novel that he’s working on. Yep, 750,000 words. That’s bloody massive.

You can read the whole article here and I heartily recommend that you do.

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Time Travel inevitable

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September 17, 2008

I read this post over at SF Signal today and it really piqued my interest. Aside from all the potential time paradoxes that inevitably crop up as soon as we think about time travel, it’s a fascinating concept. And of course, only going forward in time doesn’t trigger anything like the potential paradoxes of going backwards or back and forth in time. And these scientists seem to think that the ability to go forward in time is inevitable and dependent only on us managing to control sufficient energy.

In the SF Signal article Scott says:

…I recently saw an episode of National Geographic Channel’s Naked Science where they discuss with leading scientists the fact that most of them feel time travel is not only possible, but inevitable.

Scott also poses the question if/when it is possible to travel forward in time, would you do it? Follow the link above to read the article.

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Conflux 5 – October 3 to 6

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September 17, 2008

(A bit of SF/F news shamelessly lifted directly from Horrorscope)

Dreaming

The Marque Hotel, October 3 to 6

www.conflux.org.au

conflux5 Conflux 5   October 3 to 6

The fifth Conflux science fiction convention is now just over three weeks away. This year, with a theme of Dreaming, the convention will be paying homage to Australia ’s indigenous heritage, as well as looking at the dreams that inevitably unfold the first time you read science fiction, fantasy or in the case of horror, nightmares.

The convention will run over four days and features six guests with great histories in the field of science fiction, fantasy and horror – Liz Gorinsky, Jack Dann, Mark Shireffs, Cat Sparks, Gillian Polack and Bruce Gillespie. A total of 13 workshops, covering aspects from superstition through blogging to using a longsword, and nearly 50 panels will provide a lot of information and inspiration for attendees.

Friday night is the Great Debate – this year’s topic “Is this a dream or is it reality?” and following that, a major event for anticipated anthology Dreaming Again, featuring editor Jack Dann and several of the writers. Saturday afternoon will see a mass book signing, with around 30 authors gathered in the one place. Saturday night is the now famous Conflux dinner, this year with the theme of Prohibition New York. The 1920s was when the term science fiction was coined, and the modern genre was born.

For anyone with an interest in science fiction, fantasy or horror, written or on the screen, Conflux 5 is the place to be. More information at www.conflux.org.au

WHAT: Conflux 5 – Dreaming

WHERE: The Marque Hotel, Northbourne Avenue , Canberra

WHEN: October 3 to 6 2008

COST: Memberships at the door – Adult $240, student $180 (cheaper if bought before hand), day memberships Friday and Monday $50, Saturday and Sunday $100

CONTACT: www.conflux.org.au, info@conflux.org.au

GUEST INFORMATION

Liz Gorinsky is an editor with Tor, one of the largest publishers of science fiction and fantasy in America . She edits a list that includes acclaimed speculative fiction authors Ben Bova, Dave Duncan, A.J. Hartley, George Mann, Cherie Priest, Brian Slattery, and Jeff VanderMeer. She also assists editors Ellen Datlow, Jim Frenkel, and Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Jack Dann is the editor of the only Australian book to win a World Fantasy Award – Dreaming Down Under. He himself is also one of the acknowledged experts in alternate history, with novels such as The Memory Cathedral and The Rebel. Jack has just launched the follow up to Dreaming Down Under – Dreaming Again, which will be a feature of Conflux 5.

Mark Shireffs is a screen writer whose short film The Mysterious Geographical Explorations of Jasper Morello was nominated for an AFI and BAFTA award. He is almost solely responsible for the strong showing of science fiction and fantasy in Australian children’s television, having written Spellbinder, The Girl from Tomorrow and Pig’s Breakfast.

Cat Sparks is a multi-award winning short story writer, editor and illustrator who was the official photographer for two NSW premiers. She has recently won her first Aurealis and Ditmar awards for her own writing, and is now working on her first novel.

Gillian Polack has a doctorate in medieval history, teaches extensively across Canberra and has one novel in print with a small new US press and another forthcoming. Twelve of her short stories have been published. One of these stories won a Victorian Ministry of the Arts award and three more have been listed as recommended reading in the international lists of world’s best fantasy and science fiction short stories.

Bruce Gillespie is one of the grand old gentlemen of Australian science fiction fandom, having started attending meetings and conventions in 1967. He has been publishing critical essays on the genre and the industry since 1969. He has won many awards for his work for fandom, including being the past president of the Fan Writers of America. He currently publishes Steam Engine Time, one of the few fanzines still in existence in Australia .

The Australian Horror Writers’ Association will be presenting a special program of panels at Conflux V – stay tuned to HorrorScope for all the details!

Source: Nicole R Murphy, Programmer, Conflux 5

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Black – Australian Dark Culture magazine

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September 17, 2008

Black is a new magazine from Brimstone Press that bills itself as Australian Dark Culture.

Right then, so far it appears to be right up my alley. The first issue came out in July and issue two is due in September, so it would seem to be a quarterly. I know I’m a bit behind on this, but I’ve just got around to picking up the first issue and having a read.

blackissue1 Black   Australian Dark Culture magazine
The first issue of Black

On the whole it is actually a pretty good mag. Nice and glossy, very professional looking, it covers a lot of the good stuff – there’s new short fiction, reviews of movies and books, articles on things as diverse as Heath Ledger’s Joker, Stephen King’s Dark Tower novels and the world of the dominatrix, in this case Sydney Mistress Astrid Electra.

The Joker article borders on sensationalism sometimes and some of the writing throughout the mag is a little bit amateur. There’s always the risk of a publication like this falling into the conspiracy theorist, cut yourself in a darkened room, paranoid geek sub genre and subsequently disappearing altogether. The heavy emphasis of white text on black background is a bit hard on the eyes after a while too. It’s not like that throughout, but when long articles are printed this way it gets a bit like trying to read a teenage girl’s MySpace page. Not that I’d know what a teenage girl’s MySpace page is like or anything, of course, but you know what I mean.

But, as far as Issue 1 is concerned, it’s off to a good start and has every chance of getting better and better. There’s a decent market in Australia for stuff like this, and writers like myself will always be pleased to see new publications expanding the awareness of fans of horror and dark fiction along with all the other aspects of dark culture.

So, the magazine can certainly improve a lot, but it’s off in excellent style and two thumbs up from me for the people at Brimstone Press for giving it a go. If you like the idea, support them by getting out to your newsagent and picking up a copy. For overseas readers (and locals), if you’re interested there are subscription details on their website here.

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The website of author Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter, Author

Author of horror, dark fantasy & sci-fi. Kung Fu instructor. Personal Trainer. Motorcyclist. Dog lover. Gamer. Heavy metal fan. Britstralian. Zetetic.

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