Month: January, 2013

Seek and Ye Shall Find

Let’s see what search results brought people to this blog over the last twelve months:

wax duel
edwardian weapons
fake guns fake bullets
short film – airship destroyer
porn edwardian era
edwardian era porn
edwardean era porn

The first few make sense, being directly related to posts I’ve made on ‘bloodless duelling’ and The Airship Destroyer. As to the others, I’m not sure. Is hundred-year-old porn so rare that people are just turning up at any site with ‘Edwardian’ on it somewhere?

brookside rape storyline diana
brookside siege steve murray
brookside mick johnson stalker
death of sue sullivan, brookside
brookside – when was nikki shadwick raped

Obviously attracted by the ‘distilled Brookside’ post I did. I feel like the search terms only further my original point.

original motion picture soundtrack pilotpriest torrent
pilotpriest music from 1990 – 2000 A.D.

Both excellent albums, I highly recommend them both to anyone with an interest in cinematic synth music. Forget the torrents though, why pirate it when you can get them for around 99p from the man himself?

corvette guerrico battle damage
According to the Wikipedia article on the Battle of Grytviken, British small arms fire and Carl Gustav shells “killed one seaman and injured five others, damaging electrical cables, the 40 mm gun, one Exocet launcher and the 100 mm mounting”.

soundtrack for the voices in my head vol. 2
Only got Part 1 of this album, it’s good though, I should probably pick up Part 2.

bands that don’t exist
Here are (aren’t?) five to get you started.

books to read in 2012
Bit late for that, I’m afraid.


indie movie comedy cthulu
Presumably it’s The Last Lovecraft they want. Great little film.

record store memories
These are mine.

steam pressure
Following the Steam winter sale, these figures are now of course out of date. Why don’t I play them!? Half the time I’m bored out of my mind anyway!
Possibly the only 100% accurate result here. I guess they found me.

eirik gumeny
He writes absurdist fiction. I like it. Unfortunately the dude’s pretty sick with Cystic Fibrosis, why not make a donation if you’ve a few quid spare?

forge world primarch
Currently the only Space Marine Primarch available from Forge World is Angron, I expect they’ll do the others in time.

gynocracy women jailers punishments
Not really sure I want to know about this one . . . I guess ‘Gynocracy’ got them here thanks to my mentioning it in conjunction with Kameron Hurley’s (excellent) novels?

lovecraft hemplow
Philip Hemplow is the author of Cthulhu-mythos novellas The Innsmouth Syndrome and Sarcophagus, both of which I would recommend to Lovecraft fans.

hard times in babylon song meaning eliza gilkyson
I’m not sure, I think it’s about someone who died, maybe committed suicide?

college “teenage color” cover
Looks like this.

what came first shield helicarrier or spectrum cloudbase
I question I posed myself a few months back. I looked it up and it turns out the Helicarrier predates Cloudbase by two years, having first appeared in Strange Tales #135 in 1965, whereas Captain Scarlet first aired in 1967.


Books I Read In December 2012

December 2012

The Ten Thousand – Paul Kearney
For some reason ancient history doesn’t seem to get much play in fantasy fiction, with the exception of the Romans. Otherwise, apart from occasional appearances from Greece and Egypt it’s medieval Western Europe more or less all the way; where are the Sumerians, the Hittites, the Akkadians? Anyway this novel revolves around the Macht, an island society of independent city-states known for their philosophers, democracy, and most of all their disciplined phalanxes of citizen-soldiers. A prince of Assuria, the enormous empire that rules over all the mainland, recruits a force of ten thousand Macht mercenaries to form the core of the army he is leading against his elder brother, the Great King. As you can tell from the title this book is a fantasy retelling of the Ancient Greek story of The Ten Thousand, with the Macht taking the place of the Greeks and the Assurians replacing the Persians. Everything seems, to my ignorant eyes at least, to be almost identical to the original Greek story; there are some fantasy elements such as the non-human Assurians, the magic black armour worn by Macht officers, and there’s an encounter with some Yeti-type things, but there’s no sign that the plot would have been any different if they’d been replaced with their mundane counterparts. Still, the original tale is a good one which is probably why it’s been adapted so many times before, if this version doesn’t diverge much that doesn’t stop it being compelling and atmospheric. The main thing that struck me was the way it portrays the battles; obviously there’s vast quantities of violence in fantasy fiction, but it’s almost always shown as an individual thing. Even if it takes place in a massive battle, combat is often shown in terms of individual heroes either duelling with each other or tearing through masses of lesser foes. Here it’s almost entirely from the perspective of men within the phalanxes, fighting mechanically whilst locked in formation with the men around them. It really gives a vivid impression of what it must have been like to fight in that kind of battle, where it’s not so much strength and individual courage that count but rather the discipline to hold together no matter what, to keep advancing slowly in formation knowing that some of you will die before ever reaching the enemy.

A Thousand Sons – Graham McNeill
Once more we descend into an age of betray, heresy, and tragedy in another instalment of the Horus Heresy sequence. This time round it’s the mighty sorcerers of the Thousand Sons who take centre stage in a tale of hubris, secrets, and inevitable doom. The way they fall from grace is interesting, they don’t turn away from the Emperor out of ambition or greed but rather they fall unwillingly, victims of their own hubris and the manipulations of enemies they don’t even perceive. This fits in with the epic, classical style of the Horus Heresy, with the legion who pride themselves on knowing everything being undone because they’ve been ignorant of the most fundamental knowledge of themselves. Knowing the ending isn’t really a problem, in fact in some ways it helps the story because it adds to the sense of tragic inevitability, and in any case plenty of interesting details are filled in along the way. In a more ‘meta’ way this novel is also the first to show what the Emperor was planning for humanity, though of course we only find out what it was after it’s been irreparably ruined. One of the highlights of an excellent series1.

Killing is Harmless – Brendan Keogh
Bit of an unusual one this – it’s a critical analysis of Spec Ops: The Line, which I played a couple of months ago and was blown away by. Spec Ops was a moderately successful, mid-budget series of generic tactical shooters from about a decade ago; last years reboot/unrelated sequel was a brilliantly atmospheric deconstruction of modern shooters, tackling the consequences of violence, the morality of interventionism, post-traumatic stress, and generally portraying the horror and madness of war in a way you wouldn’t expect from a 3rd-person Call of Duty rip-off. The book takes the form of a ‘close-reading’ of the game, with Keogh essentially playing through the game and detailing his take on what’s happening in detail, sometimes digressing from events to provide external context. I don’t totally agree with everything he says, I think partly because his definition of ‘madness’ differs slightly from mine, but I do basically agree with his argument. I’d like to see more of this sort of thing, obviously games that could profitably be analysed in this way are fairly few but they aren’t non-existent. I definitely recommend this to anyone with an interest in the more critical/analytical side of videogames, though if you’re likely to play the game at some point you should probably do that first.

The First Collected Tales of Bauchelain & Korbal Broach – Steven Erikson
I’ve read the first four of Steven Erikson’s Malazan Books of the Fallen, and I’ve occasionally meant to return to the series but the prospect of six brick-sized, densely-written novels is enough to quail even me. This volume is rather more manageable, consisting of three novellas/longer short stories following the exploits of a pair of morally-flexible necromancers and their staggeringly unlucky manservant. I’m guessing that these stories were written as a deliberate contrast to the main stories; rather than sprawling epics with huge casts of characters and world-changing consequences, they’re small, comedic tales of handfuls of eccentrics in out-of-the-way places. To be honest I’m not sure Erikson is playing to his strengths here, these stories aren’t bad but aside from the second one I wasn’t particularly taken with them. The comedy element didn’t really work for me, it jarred with what I knew of the setting and most of it just didn’t seem that funny, like a barely-adequate Discworld pastiche. Still, they passed the time I guess and they did make me think about maybe reading the main series again so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – Dave Eggers
Not totally sure what to call this, sort of a fourth-wall breaking memoir? Eggers’ parents both died when he was in his early twenties, leaving him to bring up his teenage brother; the narrative starts here and follows the two of them as they freewheel around California, with the author becoming involved in the then-cutting edge ‘Generation X’ subculture. The book plays around a lot with the idea of ‘truth’ in autobiographies, there are numerous occasions when people break the fourth wall and start to talk about the fact that they are characters in a book, often in a way that comments on the author’s motives. There’s also an appendix and numerous footnotes which serve to highlight things which have been changed, which of course serves only to throw even less light on the subjects. I think I wanted to like this book more than I really did, it’s beautifully written in places and parts of it I found genuinely moving, but something about the tone put me off. The ‘meta’ elements don’t bother me, but I found the constantly self-criticising authorial voice seriously grating. There’s a constant circle of ‘I’m flawed, but I know I’m flawed, but I know that acknowledging my flaws doesn’t make up for them, but I know that saying this is a way of showing off my self-awareness, don’t hold it against me’. I feel like all it does is make him seem arrogant, like he’s criticising himself in order to show-off how humble and self-aware he is. Honestly I’m not really sure what my problem is with this book, objectively it’s good but subjectively I just plain didn’t like it. Perhaps it’s just me.

Embassytown – China Mieville
It depends on how you look at it, but I’m pretty sure this is China Mieville’s first ‘straight’ science fiction novel, or at least as straight as he ever gets. His fascination with languages and wordplay is brought to the fore, with the philosophy of linguistics being central to the plot. The other main theme is that of colonialism and imperialism, in the real senses of the words rather than the usual sci-fi ‘space colony rebels because space colonies always rebel’2. All that and a variation on the zombie apocalypse too, in this case one affecting an alien race and caused by the effects of semantic innovation. This is an absolutely fantastic book, it’s as rich in ideas as all his other works though perhaps handled in a more measured, thoughtful way. It feels like a very confident book, like the author knows exactly what he’s doing. I don’t think it’s my favourite book of his3, but it’s probably his best.

Dare Me – Megan Abbott
Addy is a high school cheerleader in a small, blandly anonymous Mid-Western town. She’s spent pretty much her whole life as sidekick and second-in-command to Beth, the cruel and manipulative Squad Captain. But then they get a new coach who turns the squad around and starts making changes, until everything starts to spin out of control. I’ve not read any of Megan Abbott’s other novels4, but apparently she’s known for hard-edged noir centred around female characters; this book is a (very successful) attempt to transplant that noir sensibility into a high school environment. The plot is essentially a love triangle, with Addy being torn between Coach and Beth, all the while beginning to realise her own influence. Beth is an incredible character, the ‘mean head cheerleader’ is hardly an original concept but she doesn’t seem like a cliché at all, she seems genuinely unpredictable and threatening. The contempt she has for other people is palpable, and the way she manipulates them with sly whispers and text messages makes her far more like a femme fatale than a mean girl. Everything in this book feels empty; the town is so generic and boring it’s barely there at all, several major events happen in an almost-empty apartment building, and the main characters all seem to have a hollowness to them. They’re desperately trying to fill the emptiness inside but they don’t know how so they end up hurting themselves and the people around them. There’s a kind of hard, shiny clarity to the writing, things feel sharp and brittle. I was absolutely blown away by this book, it’s so very intense and utterly merciless, it might look on the surface like some silly teen girl thing but nothing could be further from the truth. Very highly recommended.


1 Though it still doesn’t answer my question of what the singular term is for a member of the legion; a Thousand Son? That doesn’t sound right.
2 There often seems to be the unstated assumption in science fiction that the colonisation of space will be the same as it was with America, only with laser guns.
3 Probably either The Scar or The City & The City
4 But based on this, I’m going to.

Music I Bought In The 4th Quarter Of 2012


Tonight We’ll Rewind the Tape With Pencil – Olivaw
Gesture Is – Gangi
Cobra Juicy – Black Moth Super Rainbow
S – Chaos Chaos
Sleepwalk – In Dreams
Hotline Miami – Jasper Byrne
The Light Before The Day – A Blurred City Sight
Route 375 – Cosmic Sand
194 – Ogre
Impulse Prime
The World Circuit
Identity Sequence – Zircon
Slowdrifter – Datahowler
Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! – Godspeed You! Black Emperor
The Hawk Is Howling – Mogwai
Brand New Eyes – Paramore
Story of the Running Wolf – Story of the Running Wolf
The 80’s Dream Compilation Tape – Various

The big news this time around is Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s first release in a decade, the only album this year that I deliberately sought out in physical form1. I was a little concerned that after all this time it would prove disappointing, but I needn’t have worried; it’s not their absolute best work but easily on a par with the rest. They’ve obviously come back because they have something to say, there’s no sign that it’s motivated by commerce or publicity or any of that. Keeping in the post-rock vein I finally got round to buying some Mogwai after meaning to do so for years. Plenty of Kickstarter2 related stuff again this time – the highlight is Cobra Juicy, which is absolutely fantastic. I can’t really describe what it sounds like exactly, psychadelic electronic? Listening to it is like melting. Sci-fi influenced Slowdrifter is also a touch on the weird electronic side though in this case it sounds sharp and staticy rather than amorphous and alive. Gesture Is is sample/found sounds dreamlike weirdness3, heavy on the echo and rather good it is too. The Light Before The Day is alright, it’s decent enough but I keep getting the feeling that it’s just slightly too slow. A couple of older releases from Zircon as well as his latest; Impulse Prime sounds rather like early Crystal Method, it’s good but gets a bit samey towards the end, World Circuit features some interesting stuff taken from a wide variety of world music, and Identity Sequence, the new one, is excellent. Obviously highly influenced by the Ghost in the Shell soundtracks, both Kenji Kawaii’s film work and Yoko Kanno’s TV music, all sweeping synths and soaring vocals, cyberpunk music in my favourite way. 194 is similarly influenced by classic cyberpunk, in this case by Vangelis’ epic Blade Runner soundtrack. Ogre’s work is darker in tone, conjuring up a brutalist-future world of concrete, neon, and rain. Keeping with the soundtrack theme, Jasper Byrne’s tracks from woozy 8-bit ultraviolence simulator Hotline Miami are excellent and really capture the weird, hypnotic feeling of playing the game. More retro ’80s vibes from Story of the Running Wolf, a duo with some wonderful electro/glam sounds; I was constantly playing the song Punk Rock Died for at least a week after I got it. And to close out the year, The 80’s Dream Compilation Tape which is pretty representative of 2012 for me and features some great tracks, particularly the ones from Arcade High and Let ‘Em Riot.


1 In the sense that I actively though ‘I want to get that album as a CD’, rather than something I happened to see in a shop.
2 I can stop whenever I want.
3 Spotted the emerging theme yet?

Tomes of Prophecy


With a new year upon us, I thought I’d consult the wisdom of the ancients to try and get the drop on 2013. Since I don’t actually possess any inscrutable grimoires or pre-human codices I decided the best idea was to pull out all the sci-fi RPG manuals on my shelf and look up this year in the timelines.

With no earth-shattering events, 2013 is the calm before the storm in the newly-birthed Sixth World; in the aftermath of the VITAS epidemic, the arrival of metahuman children, and the collapse of governments around the globe, the oppressed Native Americans begin preparing for revolution. Mighty shaman Daniel Coleman, Howling Coyote, Prophet of the Great Ghost Dance, travels the country in secret, teaching his people the magic they will use to break out of the concentration camps and take back their lands from the white men’s corporations.

Cyberpunk 2020
The first true Artificial Intelligence will be born at a Microtech facility in California. Meanwhile a joint US/EuroTheatre treaty leads to the creation of Netwatch, a multinational organisation tasked with fighting cybercrime. With the Net shortly to be drastically reconfigured by the Ihara-Grubb Transformation/Visualisation Algorithms, they’ll have plenty to keep them busy.

Following the mysterious disappearance of reclusive scholar Dr Harrison Lovechild, his collection of antiquarian texts is donated to Miskatonic University. Amongst the collection is the only known copy of The Mysteries Within, an infamous work of non-Euclidean geometry and mathematics. In years to come it’s sanity-blasting contents will be instrumental in unlocking the secrets of advanced technology and poweful magics; for now it sleeps quietly in the library.

By now, the Church of Revelations has conquered and occupied most of Western Europe, with only the Nordic nations, Great Britain, and Ireland holding out against it’s First Army. On the other side of the Atlantic the Third Army of Revelations rapidly gains ground in South America, capturing Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Uraguay, whilst launching air raids against cities within the United States.