Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Film Ramble: Outpost

Having accidentally set myself a precedent, it's going to be hard not to bang on about movies here. I'm a huge film geek, to the point where I rent parts of my brain out to the IMDB on weekends. Still, this is supposed to be a blog for my writing, and a blog for my writing it shall be.

Only, I don't have much news at the minute, and I just saw an excellent film.

So I'll try and keep myself to plugging genre films that are distinguished by good writing or plots that are above the dismally low Hollywood average. Frankly, it angers me how genre film and television are so incapable of doing more than recycling ideas and concepts that were old in the respective literature three decades ago. To my knowledge there are no films or shows that are contradicting that, that are pushing sci-fi, fantasy and horror into fun new places. In the absense of innovation, I guess we can still aplaud good execution.

That said, Steve Barker's Outpost is the best low budget horror / sci-fi hybrid I've seen this year - which sounds like a hugely qualified statement, but I've seen a few. It has a fun and fairly original concept, which it executes pitch-perfectly. Anyone who liked the very good and fairly similar Korean war / horror hybrid R-Point will certainly dig it. It's creepy and clever and, while it doesn't set out to achieve anything hugely exceptional, it does what it does well, on the kind of budget lesser directors would be pushed to make a washing powder advert for.

But what really grabbed me from a writing standpoint was the dialogue, and the way it paints an ensemble of excellent, complex characters with a few broad strokes. Military contractors (or soldiers of fortune as they were called back in the day) are particularly interesting figures these days, and I keep thinking I'd like to tell a story around them. When I do, I'll be pleased if I pull it off half as well as Outpost.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Hadley Rille Event, July 11th

Here's a bit of news that I've been sitting on for a while, until I was sure (or at least mostly sure) that I'd be able to make it.

On the 11th of next month I should, fingers crossed, be joining a half dozen other writers, as part of an event to publicise Hadley Rille Books - who published my Allotment in the Barren Worlds anthology last year. If you live anywhere near West Kirby, please come along and support us, ask questions, jeer, heckle, throw buns and generally hang out.

To the left is the official flyer. Feel free to earn my eternal gratitude by sticking it somewhere people will see it, like the CIA website, or on Big Ben.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Film Ramble: City of Ember

I generally try and devote this blog to the subject of writing, and I definitely try and stay away from the subject of movies, because once I start I'll never shut up. I'm only breaking that rule slightly here, because amongst its many virtues, it's the writing aspect that makes me want to sing the praises of City of Ember.

On the face of it sci-fi and fantasy have never had more of a presence in film and on TV than over the last few years, and that trend continues this year, with most of the big summer blockbusters leaning towards one genre or the other. But each year it gets more and more obvious - especially in the case of science-fiction - that those genre elements are not much more than a veneer. Star Trek got me thinking about this, because although it was a good movie it had a dumb, dumb story, and most of the predictive elements from the original series had been stripped away in favour of the usual generic Hollywood conventions. But it was really hammered home by Teminator: Salvation, which - amongst its countless flaws - boasts a plot so bewilderingly stupid and hole-ridden that it's hard to remember what neat and imaginative ideas the franchise began with.

Anyway, if I hadn't been thinking about all this then I might not have appreciated City of Ember so much, because - although it's well made in every aspect - what really set it aside for me is that actually adds a little to the genre, rather than detracting from it by throwing up the same old concepts. Based on Jeanne Duprau's book, it's a clever twist on the old Millennium Ship concept, which it takes the time to develop in some interesting and novel ways. It's a smart, thoughtful piece of science-fiction film making, and it seems to have lost out because genre audiences overlooked it as a kid's film and reviewers failed to understand it.

So this is me doing what little I can to redress the balance. If like me you've been hankering for a well-written sci-fi movie then give City of Ember a chance.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Theaker's Quarterly Fiction # 29

As of the start of last week, Theaker's Quarterly Fiction # 29 is now out to buy in print from Lulu, or to download for that best of all prices, absolutely nothing.

Somewhere towards the middle is my short fantasy story Imaginary Prisons. One of my great bugbears with fantasy (and increasingly, with bad sci-fi too) is the use of destiny and prophecy to paper over the cracks of otherwise horribly implausible stories. Imaginary Prisons is me poking a bit of fun at that whole idea, and asking some of the questions that have always bothered me about it. Like, okay, things are pretty straightforward if you've only got one prophecy to follow - but what happens if there are two, and they don't match up? Or three? Or maybe half a dozen? And what if the dark lord decides to come up with a prophecy of his own, where the hero gets it in the neck before he even sets a foot out the door?

Anyway, this is a nice publication for me for a couple of other reasons. This is my second time working with editor Stephen Theaker, who accepted my story The Tyranny of Thangrind the Cruel for the British Fantasy Society's magazine Dark Horizons last year. It's also my first appearance alongside John Hall, who I've been fortunate enough to meet on a couple of occasions, and my second time beside friend and crime novelist extraordinaire Rafe McGregor.
In short, it's sort of the magazine equivalent of a night in the pub with my mates!

Saturday, 6 June 2009

June Reviews

I linked a couple of weeks back to a review of Space and Time # 107 that was less than complimentary about my story In the Service of the Guns. Thankfully, a recent trawl revealed a few more generous comments on my stories.

Taking In the Service first, this review from SFRevu is considerably kinder to it than the last, and very positive about the issue as a whole.

Next up, SFCrowsnest features a thorough review of Murky Depths # 8, and has the following to say about my Peachy:

"A cat named 'Peachy' goes strangely still and quiet in David Tallerman's tale of how ordinary life can be interrupted by unimaginable disaster. The very ordinariness of everyday life allows the finale to stand out pointedly. Short but thoughtful."

Lastly, here's another reviewer picking out Stockholm Syndrome as a favourite from the Living Dead anthology.

Resistance to Mythica

After a quiet few months, the news is coming in so fast that I'm going to have to split it into multiple posts. Not that I'm complaining, mind!

First things first - and following hot on the heels of last month's sale to Necrotic Tissue - Mythica Publishing have accepted my story Passive Resistance for their forthcoming Another Time, Another Place anthology, to be edited by award-winning author Brian L Porter. The details are towards the bottom of the page, so scroll down to see the awesome cover art - or watch the promotional video for a sneak peek.

Another Time, Another Place will be a collection of futuristic thrillers, including seven authors besides myself. Passive Resistance is a near-future manhunt tale, and an attempt to do something interesting with cyberpunk; namely, to avoid the hypercompetent protagonists of classics like Neuromancer and to replace them with a middle-aged technophobe. It's a fun story, and Mythica are an immensely promising publisher, so hopefully this should be a good'un.

In addition, I was approached this morning about reprints rights for one of my more well-received tales. I won't say any more until I get definite confirmation, but if it comes off then this could be a great year for anthology sales.