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Showing posts from March, 2020

A Waste of Space

It’s hardly the biggest tragedy facing the world right now, but Picard is bad. It’s no worse than a lot of episodes of Star Trek The Next Generation, and it’s nowhere near as insultingly, brain-bendingly, who-pumped-hallucinogenic-gas-into-the-writers’-room bad as Star Trek: Discovery. It just isn’t very good, and that’s sad, because I thought it had promise. It has a great cast, high production values, and a lot of it is written by yer actual Michael Chabon, a genuinely great writer who is brilliant at blending pulp fiction with the literary sort (check out Kavalier and Clay or The Wonder Boys ). But like Discovery and the recent(ish) Star Trek movies, Picard doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. All it knows is what it doesn’t want to be, and what it doesn’t want to be is Star Trek . So all the endearing ‘60s optimism and unlikely futuristic costumes have been thrown out, and instead people wearing T-shirts and bomber jackets stand around gloomily on underlit starship

The Godfather of Sail

This an old piece which I’ve salvaged from the wreck of my previous blog... Cover art by Geoff Hunt, for The Commodore "Why are you both reading Patrick O'Brian?" asked my son the other day, spotting that his mother is reading Master and Commander for about the third time while I'm on The Ionian Mission for what might be the fifth. It's a reasonable question, and one which might be echoed by anyone who hasn't encountered O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin books. Hopefully the fact that we've both read and re-read them is proof that they offer something more than just tales of derring-do in the Napoleonic Wars. The series began back in 1970, gradually grew in popularity through the eighties, and achieved huge acclaim in the '90s from the sort of critics who would usually sniff at books like these. That was followed by more widespread fame in the noughties with the release of the film Master and Commander *, a pretty good screen version,

Blade Runners

This is an old piece from around the time Blade Runner 2049 was released. I think I still stand by most of it... 2019 (1982) Gosh, they made some good films when I was young. I can measure out my teenage years in them: Star Wars, Close Encounters, Alien, Excalibur, Blade Runner, Brazil. .. It's no wonder that I ended up writing sci-fi and fantasy, or that half those titles are still generating sequels, spin-offs and reboots forty years on. Ridley Scott's Blade Runner has been so influential, and ripped off so frequently by other films, that it's probably hard for younger viewers to imagine how startlingly new and real it looked when it was released in 1982. Before that, the futuristic cities I'd seen on screen tended to look shiny and super-modernist: pale concrete, spotless pavements, plate glass walls. Blade Runner recognised that the architecture of the future won't simply replace the architecture of the past, it will be built amongst and around and o

Seven-and-a-half Dystopias.

A year or so back, when the Mortal Engines movie was looming, someone asked me for an article about my top ten dystopias. Then the Mortal Engines movie stopped looming, and they lost interest. But I found my rough draft for the piece in my notes, and thought it might be worth posting here. I only got as far as seven and a half dystopias, and I tried to define ‘dystopia’ pretty loosely. Also, with the exception of the final (joke)entry, I tried to stick to those which influenced my own writing, and particularly the writing of Mortal Engines. This means that a) it skews heavily towards stuff that was around in the 1980s, and b) I left out things like The Hunger Games, A Clockwork Orange, A Handmaid’s Tale etc, not because I think they’re inferior, but because I didn’t encounter them until later. And I left out 1984 and Brave New World because they felt too obvious. In other words, don’t @ me. Mordor as imagined by Alan Lee 1 The Lord of the Rings Middle Earth may loo

Knives Out

Knives Out My old blog seems to have been terminally infected with malware, so while I work out what to do about that I’m setting this one up as a sort of blog-in-exile. I’m planning to use it to post some reviews of things that may help to divert and entertain us all in These Dark Times. Starting with my favourite film of 2019, which is now streaming and about to be released on DVD and Blu-ray. A good heart these days is famously hard to find, and good scripts are even thinner on the ground. Happily,  Knives Out  possesses both of these rare commodities. Written by director Rian Johnson, it  sets itself up as a traditional murder mystery, opening as famous old crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead during a gathering of his bickering family at his country house. It introduces its cast of suspects and its gentleman sleuth with a neat set of interviews and flashbacks and, after about twenty minutes, takes an unusual twist by showing us what actua