Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Big War Movie Themes - 4) Battle of Britain (1969)

Theme tune: Battle of Britain Theme by Ron Goodwin a wonderful soaring number (as you'd expect) however the scoring of the film was not without controversy.

Year: 1969

Director: Guy Hamilton

Length: 2h13m

Format: DVD bought off eBay for £1.71 without a case

Synopsis: Well it's the Battle of Britain isn't it.  So basically plucky Brits (erm with the help of Australian, West Indian, Belgium, Canadian, Czech, French, Irish, New Zealand, Rhodesian, Polish, South African, US and other commonwealth pilots, amongst others.  To be fair the film makes a big point of listing all the non-Brit pilots at the end of the film, which is a poignant moment) take on the Germans and (SPOILER ALERT) just about manage to cling on, thus avoiding the invasion of the British mainland in 1940  The film focusses on the people but also gives very strong cameos to the equipment (Hurricanes, Spitfires and radar).

For more go here

Historical Accuracy: Well as far as the accuracy of the planes, dogfights etc not bad at all, as you'd expect.  Much effort was made to locate period compatible fighters and bombers and the aerial photography is simply stunning.  The city bombing sequences are less realistic, but presumably a lot more difficult in 1969.  Notable accuracies are the French speaking French and the long waits, with mounting tension, between sorties.  The film used a mixture of real pilots, established and up and coming actors (witness a very young Ian McShane who still manages to look older than anyone else) which seems to work pretty well if it's a little wooden at time.  The panic of trying to get planes airborne as bombs are literally falling in the background is palpable and done well.  They didn't flinch from showing the dead and the effect of this on others either.

The treatment of women is mixed.  They are shown doing incredibly important jobs, but somehow also managed to throw in a few cliches and a scene of Susannah York in her stockings.

Is it a good film?: Flippin' heck it certainly is.  The flying scenes get a bit repetitive after a while to the modern eye, but that was the nature of it and can't really be criticised.   The aerial photography combined with the mundanity of ground life and the permanent scarring of those that managed to survive being shot or bombed gives it a good balance.  Perhaps compared with the modern benchmark of Saving Private Ryan et al, we are spared the very worst of what war is like, but nonetheless I think they did an amazing job at the time.  Okay it's also a propaganda piece, but considering that the Vietnam war was in full flight at the time it doesn't shy away from the war is hell theme.  The final flight of the "few" to stirring music is the complete antithesis of the music over black screen of Lawrence of Arabia, but it sends shivers down the spine nonetheless.  Of all the films I've watched in this series so far, this is the one that I would happily put on again now.

Overall: 8/10

Up next: THE LONGEST DAY (1962)

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Big War Movie Themes - 3) The Guns Of Navarone (1961)

Theme tune: The Guns Of Navarone by Dimitri Tiomkin. Also features a number of traditional Greek tunes arranged my Tiomkin.

Year: 1961

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Length: 2h30m

Format: DVD bought off eBay for £2.20

Synopsis: In order to allow the evacuation of 2000 allied troops a mis-matched group of commandos (played by Gregory Peck, Anthonys Quinn & Quayle and David Niven amongst others) are sent to destroy a pair of German super guns on a (fictional) Greek Island.  It's based on the book of the same name by Alistair MacLean (1957).

For more go here

Historical Accuracy: Well it's a fictional story, so in a way this is not that important. However, since it's set in the 2nd World War some degree of accuracy is required.  Although they get most of the weapons right (a relief for me) they had a complete fail with the tanks and trucks (one of which is clearly marked "Dodge").  Also, a modern film would consult real soldiers for key scenes and there's none of that going on here, with artillery and tanks simply lined up along the coast at one point supposed waiting for an invasion.  Completely unforgivable, for me, is the scene when a soldier is using a metal detector to look for explosives, swinging it over metal rails without a beep!

Anthony Quinn pops up again playing another swarthy foreigner, although I note this film preceded Lawrence so perhaps this is what got him that role.  Actually it's interesting watching the films in this order that certain actors pop up more than once (Alec Guinness in Kwai and Lawrence, Anthonys Quinn & Quayle (playing another english officer, so again perhaps it swung him a role in Lawrence) in Lawrence and Navarone).  The languages spoken are all authentic though, with no subtitles, which works well for me. - 6/10

Is it a good film?: It's a pretty good watch, but it perhaps lacks the true "epic blockbuster" feel of Kwai or Lawrence.  It feels more like a solid 60s adventure picture, but perhaps that's fine.  It starts with quite a jarring sequence of real newsreel footage and a voiceover, which is very much not something you'd see in a true classic.  Some say it's the best of the Alistair MacLean adaptions, but I'll reserve judgement until I've watched Where Eagles Dare again.

The action sequences are key to this kind of film and they are a mixed bag.  The scenes in the boat are pretty good (and interestingly played out with just sound FX - no music, which is something modern films could learn from), but the final battle scenes are a bit TV movie compared with the current hyper-realism.  They just about get away with it, and for the 60s it was probably state-of-the-art.  Nice to see the women in the film portrayed in fighting roles and also being more flawed than is usually allowed.

PS The Extras on the DVD made for interesting watching, partly as it made it clear the actors chose the director, not other way around, and also for the way the whole island of Crete turned out to watch the filming.

Overall: 6/10

Up next: BATTLE OF BRITAIN (1969)

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

The Very Best Of The Light Programme

The Albion Radiophonic Corporation is, reasonably, proud to present the Best of The Light Programme 1898. When we say "Best of" we mean "most tolerated" and by "most tolerated" we mean "received the least complaints".   If you've not listened yet to any episodes of the ARC Light Programme then this is a great place to start, or at the very least it's "a" place to start.  You could, naturally enough, start with the first episode and work your way up, but hey, we're not ones for expecting anyone to act in a conventional way.  Heaven forbid.

Now this particular compilation from the first season contains a letter from Mrs. Twomble, folk songs collated by Dame Dilemna-Spaniels, Lady Boudicca & Lord Hercules of Cheam doing something or other and Mayor Flange of Treacle Dripping.  Quite how we managed to attract such and eclectic bunch of contributors is anyone's guess. 

All the music has been specially composed by Charlotte Savigar and the New Albion Synthetic Orchestra.  Apparently the style is what one might refer to as "steampunk" whatever that is.

To contact the team who put the show together send a SAE to

Otherwise click here for The Very Best Of Tales Of New Albion

Big War Movie Themes - 2) Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)

Theme tune: Theme from Lawrence of Arabia by Maurice Jarre (who also wrote the score for Dr. Zhivago) - the soundtrack won an Oscar.  One of the most interesting features of the film is that there are no images over the opening music of both halves of the film, just a black screen for 5 minutes.  This must have been particularly evocative in the movie theatre.

Year: 1962

Director: David Lean

Length: 3h38m

Format: DVD bought off eBay for 99p

Synopsis: An Englishman with vivid blue eyes  (Peter O'Toole) goes out into the desert more or less against his will and ends up leading the Arab revolt against the Turks (and others).

For more go here

Historical Accuracy: It's a bit of a mixed bag, the first half being more accurate, it seems, than the second.  Various scenes and characters have been conflated, and some of it was just made up.  Overall the Arabs don't seem to come out of it too well.  It also gives the impression that TE Lawrence led the Arab Revolt practically singlehanded, but this was not the case.  The overwhelming impression is that the Bedouin tribes made up the bulk of his army, but in fact it was regular soldier.  Again it's about a 5/10.

Is it a good film?: Well yes certainly it is, especially the first half where the desert is the real star (I'd be surprised if it wasn't a big influence on Star Wars) although it must have been hell to film there.  Quite how they got the camels to do all the things they did, is a feat in itself.  Again they shoe-horned in various americans to ensure it got good coverage in the States, and surely they could have found someone more suitable than Alec Guinness to play Prince Faisal?  Despite all the noted actors, it's actually Omar Sharif who steals pretty much every scene, and as an Egyptian is the most authentic character of the lot.  The only women in the film are dead ones.  It definitely loses it's way in the second half (there is a proper interval, thank goodness) with some bizarre homoerotic / messianic type scenes when Lawrence is captured by the Turks.  It's not a very strong ending to an epic film in my opinion.

Overall: 6.5/10

Up next: THE GUNS OF NAVARONE (1961)

Friday, March 29, 2019

Tales Of New Albion - 2nd Edition

Many moons ago I woke up with a fully formed Steampunk story in my head.  It seemed a good idea to write it down and after my good friend Ben Henderson booked me to read it out at one of his Convivial events I did so.  Well one thing led to another and before I knew it I'd finished a collection of 10 Steampunk short stories and published my first book on Amazon.  This featured artwork by Frog Morris which was splendid, but in other ways it wasn't quite right.  For a start there were no page numbers, no index and no foreword.  Also, there was more than the odd typo that really needed correcting.  Well due to another of my Tales Of New Albion side-projects I re-read all 10 stories for my podcast, which helped me correct most of the problems.  I also was greatly assisted by John "Jags" Smith who also read through the entire manuscript and added comments.

So the stories were there now, but I still wanted more.  I got Frog to tweak his artwork and create a new chapter divider.  I also got the aforementioned Ben Henderson to submit a brand spanking new foreword.  I even managed to figure out how to create page numbers!

And so the 2nd Edition of Tales Of New Albion came into being and you can be a proud owner at any point.  Just follow this link and order your copy now.

Or see you at the Red Cape Publishing Book Fayre (8th June - Brighton Unitarian Church) where you can inspect the product closely and get your copy signed.  Oh and did I mention there is an album of original music by Charlotte Savigar also available?  Well it is.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Big War Movie Themes - 1) The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957)

Theme tune: Colonel Bogey (K.J. Alford) and the River Kwai March (Arnold) - the former was a marching tune known to soldiers in WWII.  It is particularly haunting when first heard as the POWs march proudly into the Japanese camp.

Year: 1957

Director: David Lean

Length: 2h35m

Format: DVD bought off eBay for £1

Synopsis: A group of WWII prisoners of war are forced to built a railway bridge over the River Kwai by the Japanese.  The Colonel in charge of the british prisoners (Alec Guiness) stubbornly refuses to allow officers to work alongside the enlisted men when demanded to by Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa).  When the bridge falls behind schedule he takes it on as a matter of pride to build the bridge properly.  In the end a commando raid destroys the bridge and at that point the colonel questions what he's done.

Read more here

Historical Accuracy: Probably about a 5 out of 10, from what I've read about it.  My own personal bugbear was that all the Japanese were armed with allied weapons.  Despite the treatment of the prisoners being very bad, it seems that is was short of what really happened.  One good thing is that the Japanese all speak Japanese and are not subtitled.  In terms of it's representation of WWII I would say that the first third is the best (where the prisoners are at the camp and the battle of wills between the two colonels takes place) and it gets weaker after that.  The weird section where the two colonels leave the bridge without any other soldiers and attempt to prevent the bridge being blown up is odd to say the least, however it does work within the scope of the plot and the two people driven by principle into acts that are not what we would consider to be right. 

The representation of women in the film leaves a lot to be desired, but I think it does come across that they were equally brave and served at great cost to themselves during the war.

Is it a good film?: Yes it is.  It was a very entertaining watch and despite bogging down in the middle third (where a shoehorned american character (William Holden) tries to get out of being part of the commando raid) it rolls along pretty well.  I certainly enjoyed watching it and would recommend it to anyone looking for a good film. 

Overall: 7/10

Up next: LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962)

Monday, March 11, 2019

Big War Movie Themes - Geoff Love & his Orchestra

We spent many hours in the car when we were kids and in those days we would listen to music on cassette tape to while away the hours, since there was not much else apart from iSpy books to keep us amused.  In heavy rotation were the entire Sky catalogue and the occasional Christmas present (the embarrassment of listening to Adam and the Ants - S.E.X. - it's on the B-side of Prince Charming -  with my parents both in the car sticks with me).  But one of our favourites, and indeed very popular at the time, was Geoff Love and his Orchestra playing the Big War Movie Themes (1971).  These were all haunting and evocative pieces of classical music and many of them are indelibly written into my memory banks.  Recently I decided that I wanted to hear those specific versions again and bought the album on vinyl (after all, who has a cassette player these days) and sure enough it's still a great listen.

It struck me though, that although I had seen a good number of the films featured, that I hadn't seen them all.  Also, I wondered how well these classic movies stand up when watched with modern eyes some 48 years later.  So I've decided to watch all 12 movies in the order they appear on the album (see the second photograph below) and rate the movie along with it's historical accuracy and depiction of conflict.  With modern offerings like Saving Private Ryan, Letters from Iwo Jima, Band of Brothers and Fury the benchmark for modern war films, it will be very interesting to see how they stand up.

If you want to play along with me then I'll post the next film at the bottom of the review post.  For fun I'll also be noting how much it cost me to get the movie (if I don't have it already) and what medium I watched it on.  I'll be very interested in your own memories and review.

Right - so here we go, first up:


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Tales Of New Albion - Halloween Special

Tales Of New Albion - Halloween Special

I've always been a big admirer of The Simpsons and had been looking for an excuse to shamelessly steal their format for my Podcast.  The opportunity finally came along in August of last year.  I'd been looking for other writers to contribute items such as the "Thought For The Day" section or other parts of the show, and mentioned this to Peter Gardiner - a prolific writer that I'd worked with in the Brighton Theatre of the Air group.  His style is very Black Mirror / Tales of the Unexpected and he likes to dabble in dark sci-fi and off-beat humour - as can be heard in his own series of podcasts - Whisper Through The Static - for 2Bit Productions.  If you would like to hear my voice on his productions then check out Unmoored and Late To The Party - see if you can spot me. 

Anyway, he seemed a perfect fit for a contribution and I was excited to receive a whole story to feature on the show.  Reading through it soon became clear that it fell more towards the Horror genre than my usual adventure Steampunk style, but that got me thinking.  It was time for a The Simpsons style "Halloween Special"!

These shows are amongst my favourites as then tend to be a collection of short sketches where all the usual rules (such as they are) are thrown out the window.  Absolutely anything is possible as long as it has a scary payoff and this let my mind run free and come up with something a little more frightening than usual.

So have a listen and see what you think.  You don't really need to know anything else about the podcast or Tales Of New Albion as this episode is very much a stand alone episode.  However, you might want to listen to the start of the previous few episodes to see what the "Listeners Telephone In" section is usually all about, or not.

Whatever you do, I hope you enjoy Peter's story, which will also feature in one of his podcasts soon.  And don't go having nightmares...

...although you can if want:

Hear the Tales Of New Albion Halloween Special

Friday, January 11, 2019

Judge Dredd - The Itch

I've always been a big 2000AD fan, in particular Rogue Trooper and Judge Dredd.  The audience at the recent Alan Reed gigs might have seen me sporting a Judge Dredd t-shirt.  In an effort to get back into writing fiction, I recently entered a competition to write a Dark Judges themed short story.  It didn't get anywhere, so here it is for general consumption.  All characters are obviously copyright to 2000AD and their publishers, it's just a bit of a fan story... enjoy.


It started as an itch.  Right at the back of her skull, but somehow under the skin not on it: inside her head.  Just enough of a nagging doubt, an aching thought.  Just enough to keep her awake the last two nights wondering what it meant.  So she sits with her legs up on an adjacent chair, Lawgiver and helmet on the console beside her.  It’s 0300 – Psi-division control room is deserted apart from this one figure plugged into the PSU feeds flicking through the surveillance cams – an eerie light flickering across her face.  Now green, now orange, now red; casting weird almost ghoul-like shadows over the vacant chairs and blank screens around her.

Anderson was a Psi-judge and to a Psi-judge itches meant something.  Something scratching away at her, awakening, trying to get her attention perhaps?
She continued to flick through the cams, not knowing what she was looking for, not really sure why she was looking.  The pedways and over-passes were mostly quiet, well as quiet as Mega-City One ever was.  A light, dirty rain was splashing off every worn zipstrip, every pockmarked flyover.  The weather kept the perps indoors, the juves in their beds; just the loons out tonight - that kinda night. 
‘You’re here somewhere,’ she mouthed, her finger still tapping the button to switch cameras.  ‘Whatever you are.’  She reached one gloved hand round to gently rub the back of her neck under locks of long blonde hair, still grimy from a day of riding the Boomways.  It was more like a dull ache now; rubbing didn’t seem to be helping, so she gave up and tapped her finger faster.  Blocks flicked by, some she knew and some she didn’t, just hoping that something, anything stood out.  And then it did, by not sticking out at all. 

She sat up in the chair and flicked back two screens to stare at a long shot picking out a low rise conapt – something had caught her minds-eye, but what?  She rubbed her tired eyelids and tried to re-focus on the steadily flickering image of a dark, rounded building, a few lights showing here and there.  But it all seemed too quiet, too unassuming, too untroubled.  Maybe trying just a bit too hard to be uninteresting.  She squinted at the cam label.
‘Ian Kilmister Block, never heard of ya,’ she muttered, flicking the joystick to zoom in just a little closer.  ‘So why are you bugging the hell out of me?’  The itch flared again, a slight stabbing pain that gnawed at at her brain.  She rubbed her head again. ‘Yeah, yeah, I feel you,’ she acknowledged.
She reached out stiffly and pressed a button on the control panel to call a tech, nothing happened.  She glared at it icily.  ‘Drokk it!’ she thumped it hard with the heel of her hand and it gave a plaintive ‘beep’ and glowed to show it was working now. She drummed her fingers on the console, waiting impatiently for the tech to pick up, what was keeping them?
‘Tech div - Conner here - what can I do you for?’ The voice was crackly but not as grumpy as techs usually were.  Must have caught him on a good night.
‘Conner - Anderson.  Be an angel and call up all the perp stats for Kilmister for the last…’ She thought a second for a suitable period, most blocks called in hundreds if not thousands of crimes an hour, best not go crazy. ’…12 hours?’
‘Sure, I’m on it.  Looking for anything in particular?’ The voice sounded positively perky, she glanced at the console again just to make sure she’d actually pinged the right department.
‘Nope, just a hunch.’  She could hear faint tapping through the speaker as the tech did her bidding.  The tapping stopped and she heard a small intake of breath.
‘Crapola - some hunch.  I’ve never seen this before,’ muttered Conner.
‘What you got?’ Anderson leaned forward so as to hear better.
‘Nothing,’ he breathed.  She could hear frantic typing again, checking his figures no doubt.
‘Say again?’
‘Nothing, nada, zip.  Nothing at all for the last 12 hours.’  The itch dug it’s claws in again but she was already moving, holstering her Lawgiver and grabbed her helmet.  ‘Switching to helmet mic, stay with me Conner.’

Out of the Psi-division, past a slightly dopy looking maintenance crew, boots echoing in the empty corridors.  Hit the ziplift: basement, Lawmaster garages.
‘You still with me Conner?’ she adjusted her helmet, not used to the weight – Psi-judges rarely used them.  She felt her stomach lurch as the lift began its descent.
‘Yeah, I’m here.  Running the records back, last reported crime was 2 days ago, it’s normal before that.’
‘By normal, I guess you mean barely better than chaos?’
‘Exactly.  What drew you to this block again?’
She rubbed the back of her neck once again, ‘Oh, just a itch I had to scratch.’  She reached the Lawmaster garage and strode towards her bike.  ‘Matter of interest, what was the last reported crime?’
‘One mo,’ more typing, barely audible.  ‘Ha, some juve’s cat reported missing.’
‘Missing cat?  Legal pet or illegal?’
‘Doesn’t say.’ Doesn’t matter anyway, thought Anderson, just another bad omen to go with the nagging doubts.  She gunned the Lawmaster into life, the howl of it’s engine filling the spacious garage, kicked it off it’s stand and rode up the ramp out into the grimy, wet Mega-City night.

We are not yet ready!

It was a moonless night, but it made not the slightest jot of difference in the Mega-City, it still glowed gaudily with neon and laser light.  Bars, eateries and pleasure domes stayed open all night plying the citizens with anything they craved.  And they craved just about everything going.  Even on this foul, drizzly night the city still buzzed and throbbed.  Anderson ignored it all, powering her Lawmaster down Judge’s Lanes, pedways, fly-overs.   No one much out tonight though; the rain was at best filthy, at worse highly radioactive.  It tended to put one off a midnight perambulation.  She strained her eyes through the rain and the spray, keeping half an eye on the nav-comp.  Kilmister block was not as far away as she had thought; she was somehow expecting it to be tucked away in some (relatively) quiet backwater sector, whereas in fact it lay almost directly in the centre of the city. 
As the city’s garish attractions flashed past her in a hazy cloud of spray, the itch began to change.  The throb grew tendrils and began to spread across the back of her skull; she had a full-blown headache coming on. 
 ‘Just what I need,’ she cursed to herself, ‘can this night get any more wretched?’  The nav-comp flashed her to pull off the Boomway, she leant the motorbike over and eased onto the offramp, and lo, her night got worse.  This Skedway had all its lights out; traffic seemed to be giving it a miss too.  She considered calling city-maintenance and giving them a piece of her mind, but they were probably all tucked up in their sweet little bunks.  She flicked her headlights onto full and ploughed on. 
Suddenly a dark figure lurched out of the gloom towards her.  Spitting oaths she felt herself start to lose the back wheel of the Lawmaster, scumy, oil saturated spray cascading in plumes all around her. She gunned the engine and the wheel squealed in protest on the nu-asphalt surface but somehow just managing to find some grip.  The bike levelled and she brought it to a juddering halt, killed the engine and dismounted into a firing crouch - Lawgiver already in her hand.   She glared back through the sleet to see her would be assailant.  But all she saw was a prone figure writhing in the puddles, a bottle of something, no doubt highly dodgy, in a faker-paper bag.  It was wailing something barely understandable, ‘They’re back, they’re back.’  Just some drunk stumbling around in the gloom, probably a futsie who just can’t bear it all sober any more.
‘Drokking frightened the life out of me,’ she growled to herself.  The relentless rain and now hammering headache were beginning to really get on her pectorals.  ‘I’ve really not got the mind space for this right now.’  She re-holstered her pistol and slung a drenched leg back over the bike seat.  She hit the start button and the engine fired and then spluttered rudely into silence.
‘What now, for grud’s sake!’ she tried to fire it up again, but this time nothing.  Warning lights lit up all over the rain-splattered dash.   ‘Exactly what I needed,’ she muttered with exasperation as she dismounted, turning back to the drunk who was by now delicately trying to regain his feet.
‘This is all your fault,’ she spat at him, as he continued his unsteady progress back to his feet. 
‘They’re back,’ he gurgled without making a lot of sense.
‘Scarper creep!’ she retorted and then turned and began to stomp along the Skedway towards the block, now just about visible in the gloom a couple of klicks away.  ‘Guess I’m walking then.  Control can you hear me?’ nothing but static from her helmet.  ‘Control?!’  Again nothing.  ‘Oh just perfect, a little bit of rain and everything goes to pieces, you wouldn’t think this was the 22nd Century’.  She realised that complaining was not really going to get her anywhere in hurry so she wiped her visor and began the soggy trek to Kilmister block.

Not yet! Not yet! We need more time!

Anderson walked on towards the brooding block, her boots splashing through the streams of water cascading off the pedway.  Not far out she stopped, realising the block looked exactly as it had in the PSU feed.  Precisely the same lights still on, but not a soul visible anywhere.  Deserted, yet trying to look like it was occupied, trying to draw no attention to itself.  She glanced up the nearest (non-functioning) lighting pole half expecting to see the PSU’s cam right above her the view was so familiar.  There was no cam, but there was something tied to the pole flapping in the hammering rain.  Out of curiosity she reached up a hand and turned it to get a better look.   It seemed to be a little figure of a man made of plastic sticks and tie-wraps, hanging like some sort of amulet on the post.
‘What evil spirits are you here to ward off exactly?’ she mused and even as she did a shiver went down her spine.  Just the cold, she thought, nothing more.  Time to get out of the rain.  She released the figure and strode on.

Finally Ian Kilmister block loomed up in front of her, nearly half a klick high and glistening in the wet.  She drew her Lawgiver again and did a quick 360 as she walked out onto the broadway that surrounded the tower, straining her eyes to see out into the gloom.  With a sickening sense of realisation it struck her then, that there was no light for two klicks in all directions around her.  Beyond that the city glowed malevolently, utterly oblivious to this brooding black hole in its very heart.  She felt very alone, just her and whoever was in the sinister edifice before her.  Moving more swiftly now, holding her pistol in the ready position, she approached the main glass doors to the lobby.  They slid open obligingly and she stepped into a large lobby and finally out of the rain.
‘Control, you back with me yet?’ she enquired of her helmet mic, more in hope than expectation and sure enough no answer came.  ‘Suit yourself.’  She slid the helmet off and propped it on the concierge desk, still lit up with glowing comp-screens.  She shook her head, partly to shake the rain out of her unruly cascade of blonde hair and partly to try to shake out the fog in her mind.  But the headache had her in its clutches, grinding now like a migraine on mega-steroids.
‘What are you hiding?’ she called out, moving forward cautiously across the cheap nu-nylon carpeted floor towards the bank of elevators.  The question had been intended for the building, but uttering it she suddenly felt as if a veil had been lifted from her eyes.  The itch, the throb, the drokking mother of all headaches, it wasn’t trying to tell her something; it was trying to hide something.  Someone, or something was in her mind, blocking her memories, preventing her from realising what was right in front of her.
‘So I know you!’ she muttered semi-triumphantly, as a lift door slid open in front of her.  ‘Well I’m coming ready or not.’ She stepped into the lift and hit the only floor number that made any sense – thirteen.

Not ready!  But come anyway Anderssson.

The lift slid smoothly to a halt and Anderson stepped out onto more tacky plastic carpet on the long 13th floor of Kilmister block. The corridors were lit in eerie low light ahead and to both left and right, but starkly empty.  Nothing moved, her footsteps echoed damply on the floor - she was still dripping wet. 
‘Where are you then?’ she stepped forward, wondering which way to go next.  A movement dead ahead, she crouched and aimed, her finger trembling on the Lawgiver trigger.  A few metres away from her, walking as calmly as you like across the floor was a black cat.  She froze as the cat stopped midway and turned its head towards her.  Its eyes were dark and hollow: there were no eyeballs in the sockets.  It hissed at her viciously and as it did a foul stench of decay filled her nostrils and with alarm she realised that the headache had now shifted to a numbing pain down her back and into her arms, she was barely able to move.
A door creaked open next to the cat with an ominous grinding noise and the animal turned and darted into the apartment, in its place a long dark shadow stretched across the corridor as a figure moved towards the door.
‘Andersssson!’  The stench of rotting flesh was overpowering now, she couldn’t understand why she’d not noticed before.  But the headache was gone and her mind began to clear even as her body refused to move.  The wraith moved out of the door into the corridor, the black helmet with it’s dull metal grille, the sickly, bloody teeth, the decaying flesh: putrid and vile.
‘Have you missssed me, Anderssson?’ it hissed and the sound of its voice rattled down her spine.  Behind in the doorway she could make out more shapes following.
‘Judge Death!’ she had to force the words out, as she was unable to move without considerable effort.  Behind her the lift began to work again, more ghouls coming no doubt – surrounded.
‘You came too sssoon, our plansss are not yet ready!’ Howled the apparition gliding towards her as behind it a couple of decaying bodies stumbled blindly into the corridor.
‘My brothersss and sssissters have not yet been able to join me,’ his voice hammered inside her head like shrapnel grenade exploding.  ‘No matter, Anderssson, your body will be a ssuitable receptacle for one of them.’  He floated closer his hideous, clawed hand reaching out towards her heart. 
‘Drokk it all, I knew I should have just stayed in bed and taken a synthi-aspirin,’ she spat, mostly to herself.  She braced her inert body as best she could, all the awful memories of her first possession by the foul beast flooding back.
Without warning the doors of the lift slid open behind her and a hail of white-hot incendiary bullets flashed past her head and tore through the decaying body of the dark judge.  Flames ignited in its clothing and sparks showered in all directions as shells hit the corridor walls and detonated.  Without ceremony a rough hand grabbed her collar and hauled her backwards into the elevator capsule, dumping her on the floor.  Gazing up she found herself looking at a Lawgiver rapid-firing into the corridor, flame spitting from it’s muzzle, hot metal shell cases clattering down onto her and the floor.  She followed the firing arm back as another ungodly howl came from were the bullets were aimed: the crumpled blue uniform, the dented judge badge, the grizzled face and, well, that chin.
‘Judge Dredd,’ she burbled, finding that movement was slowly coming back to her body.  He ignored her and fired another burst whilst the elevator doors slid shut barely preventing a great fireball engulfing them.  At this moment the lift pinged and started moving downwards in an almost comical fashion given the bloody mayhem they had just witness.  ‘What brings you out this way?’
Judge Dredd shrugged, his Lawgiver still held ready, smoke wisping out from the barrel.
‘Just a hunch, y’know.  An itch I had to scratch,’ he growled checking her over quickly for injuries.  ‘How’s your night going?’  With that the whole lift shook violently and a great scream reverberated menacingly all around them;
The lift light shattered and darkness engulfed them, but just as it did the doors hissed open and Dredd hauled her out into the light of lobby and onto her feet, dragging her towards his Lawmaster still revving in the middle of the lobby where he had abandoned it.
‘Oh, I’ve had better.’ 
They mounted Dredd’s Lawmaster and with a great arc of burnt rubber and smoke he swung it around and gunned it full-throttle at the plate glass doors, smashing straight through them and skidding barely in control into the teeming, ice-cold mega-city rain.
‘Control we have a major on-going incident, Ian Kilmister Block, all available units attend!’
‘What is the nature of the incident Dredd?’ replied the nonplussed controller as Dredd accelerated up onto the saturated Pedway through sheets of filthy standing water.
‘They’re back Control,’ he hissed.  ‘They’re back.’

Friday, January 04, 2019

Doctor What?

I realise I may be straying into controversial territory here, but I’ve been wondering recently about how much writer’s should be influenced by the consumers of their stories.  Let’s call them fans.  The reason for this musing has been the recent changes to characters in popular culture, for example Dr Who changing sex, Hermione Granger changing skin colour and, perhaps closer to my own heart, a myriad of revisions to the Star Wars universe caused by removing the creator from the creative process.  Not to mention various reboots, restylings and general appropriation of other loved stories and characters (I could mention Battlestar Galactica, Sherlock Holmes, Poirot but the list is considerable).

There have been howls of protest about all these things, but as both a fan and an author I can see it from both sides.  Certainly complaints that switching a alien character with two hearts that can regenerate at will from male to female is emasculating seems very wide of the mark.  After all there have been twelve white male doctors and one white female doctor so far, so even some sort of basic equality seems a lifetime away.  Other arguments that this is not really part of what is possible in this (entirely fictional) universe also don't work for me.  After all in the case of Dr Who there is certainly a precedent in the changing of the Master to Missy in 2014 (and presumably lots of other years throughout the whole of history), which I don't remember sparking so much rage, although I'm not really a huge Dr Who fan so perhaps I missed it.

The Hermione Granger (non) issue is even less of a worry to me, after all, as J K Rowling correctly pointed out, she never specified skin colour in the books and people do tend to project their own ideas on to things.  I often wonder whether people imagine all the characters in my own stories to be white, when I also don't specify this.  If I was ever lucky enough to have my books converted into some visual medium, I would be happy for actors of any origin to play any of the roles.  It matters not to me, but rather I would be more interested in the characteristics of how they were played rather than simply how they look.

And I suppose this is the answer to my musing, which is how good is the creative product, rather then the choices about ethnicity, height, weight, facial hair, gender etc... So is the new Dr Who any good?  There are arguments either way on this, but I have to admit I've watched every episode and, although perhaps I don't think it's hit the heights of some previous iterations (I actually really liked Paul McGann's interpretation, anything with K-9 and the original Dalek films) but I think I enjoyed them.  So even though the jury is still out it's a tentative thumbs up from me.  But then maybe I'm weird, I also liked John Malkovich's take on Poirot and the Battlestar Galactica re-boot.

Bottom line for me is that really it's the creator, writer or author's prerogative to do what they like with their characters and stories.  As much as fans may feel they know the fictional world that's been created, they all have their own ideas (and therefor prejudices). Everyone's synapses fire in different ways and only the writer's synapses can be right.  For better or worse.

In the meantime I would suggest that we all remember fiction is made-up, and just try and enjoy the ride.  If something isn't for you, then there is plenty of other stuff out there to enjoy.  Or you could write you own.  Did I mention that I have some stories you could try?  Go on, have a listen, and tell me how I should have done it.