Tuesday, November 13, 2018

I Read Stories: When Leopard's-Bane Came To The Door Of The Third Heaven

WHEN LEOPARD'S-BANE CAME TO THE DOOR OF THIRD HEAVEN by Vajra Chandrasekera

This story about guards to the door of the third heaven (nonsensual) is strange and spooky. It’s about injustice, and the nature of heaven, and chance. And what can you do about any of those things? I enjoyed it a lot.

Read This: For a distinctly interesting take on life and afterlife
Don’t Read This: If literalising metaphorical aspects of society to make a point makes you uneasy

Monday, November 12, 2018

I Read Books: Dracula

I’ve talked about Dracula before, and other, smarter people have mentioned the way it has class and national narratives baked into it. So instead here’s Mr Quincey Morris of Texas proposing marriage to Lucy Westenra:

Miss Lucy, I know I ain’t good enough to regulate the fixin’s of your little shoes, but I guess if you wait until you find a man who is you will go join up with them seven young women with the lamps when you quit. Won’t you just hitch up alongside of me and let us go down the long road together driving in double harness?

Morris flatteringly suggests that if she waits until she finds a man worthy of her she will have to be a vestal virgin. Interestingly he has come down on the (now) generally doubted number of seven for them rather than six. Still, this suggests that our cowboy character has had a gentleman’s education; perhaps he is more worthy than he makes out?

Lucy turns him down and instead choose to marry Arthur Holmwood, the heir to Lord Godalming, because she is a massive snob.

(This is not a review of Dracula though if you have any interest in vampires or epistolary stories for that matter, I suggest you take a look.)

Friday, November 09, 2018

Coming Up On My Patreon

This really needs a frame
December's episode of The Chronicles of the Deep Patrol will be an unusual one. I began in December 2017, so this is the 13th episode, and the anniversary story. Like the first, it's double normal length, being about 13,500 words in the current draft.

It's the last story in this particular series. I've used up most of my better space opera ideas so I have decided it's time for a new serial. Obviously I hope you stay for what comes next (see below) but if not fair winds and safe travels. The 13 stories and the ancillary material will remain archived, and sometime next year I'll compile them all into one volume - the e-book will be available for patrons on the Patreon site, and it and a paperback will be put on the Amazon for sale to the general public.

There will be more Gunn and Deep Patrol stories, but not immediately as I need to let my subconscious chew on a few science fiction and adventure tropes.

So what is happening there next year? Well, I'm going to launch another serial, again in thirteen parts. It will be an Age of Sail Fantasy, with the series title Tapping The Admiral*. There's going to be sailing ships, mutinies, pirates, shipwrecks, pistols and muskets and cutlasses, a vaguely familiar world that gets weirder the further you sail, curses, elves, and monsters. Maybe some romance as well? And I'll probably draw some maps.

Probably going to change this
This also launches in December with A Triumph At Sea, making it a double story month. As it is the first one this is also double length (13,100 words in the current draft). So it's Quadruple-Word-Count-December.

I'll be adding a further tier to rewards, so that if you subscribe for $20, then in addition to a zine/booklet with all the content for the month I'll put in some hand-annotated maps of what's been going on in the story.

I have rough drafts of thirteen stories for Tapping The Admiral so it will definitely run until December 2019. As before I will be re-writing and polishing them as the year progresses. The story follows four of the crew who were at the greatest sea-battle in history, and what happens to them afterwards. They take ship for varying destinations, but their fates are intertwined, eventually leading them to discover some dark secrets on the far side of the world.

Thank you for your support this year. I hope you enjoyed it, and will enjoy this new story as much. Or more even? Maybe so! If you have any questions or comments, get in touch.

Cheers,
Neil.


Spoilers for the Battle of Trafalgar
* Tapping The Admiral is a phrase meaning to have a crafty drink that one is not supposed to have. After Nelson was killed at the Battle of Trafalgar his body was preserved (against his wishes) in a barrel of brandy. Supposedly** when the barrel was returned to shore and opened, it was bone dry; someone had "tapped" the barrel and drunk the brandy.

** As we have the records of the people who closed and opened the cask in question, it should be noted that there is no evidence for this story.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

I Read Books: Jack Cloudie

Jack Cloudie is the fifth in Stephen Hunt’s Jackelian* sequence, and in this one we find ourselves mostly in the desert land of Cassarabia. Womb mages use slave women to produce strange creatures and to introduce useful adaptions into bloodlines (their chants and spells are RNA sequences). Cassarabia has been ruled the Eternal Caliph, who united the empire, both politically and religiously, eradicating all but 100 sects of the true god. He has gone on to conquer the continent... except his ambition is stopped to the North where the Royal Aeronautical Navy of Jackals has defeated every attempt at invasion.

Now though Cassarabia has come under the sway of a new sect, who have gained power due to being able to create a non-flammable lifting gas to match that of the RAN. With it they can build an aerial fleet of their own. Cassarabian loyalists and a team of Jackelian Jack Cloudies (compare: Jack Tar, an 18th century name for sailors) must put down the upstart sect.

There’s some strange stuff about gender going on in the book. Without giving too much away, let me just say that many of the characters have somewhat regressive ideas; some change gender which the book treats in a neutral-to-sympathetic manner though other characters react with horror. And some are threatened with non-consensual gender change. Anyway, it’s all very complicated, but aware that this is a topic.

Read This: For more weird steampunk adventures
Don’t Read This: If the whole 18th century through a funhouse mirror isn’t for you, especially when it turns it’s gaze on a faux-Ottoman Empire.


* Previous reviews:
The Court of the Air
The Kingdom Beyond the Waves
Rise of the Iron Moon
Secrets of the Fire Sea

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

I Watch Movies: Monsters University

Monsters University

A prequel to Monsters Inc. Like many prequels this has a big old heap of dramatic irony; we know (vaguely in my case because I didn’t pay attention to the details of Monsters Inc when I saw it a few years ago) that the rivals will end up being friends and also that children are not in fact deadly to monsters.

SPOILERS for Monsters Inc by the way.

This is a college comedy film, toned down a bit for kids. The Jocks, as well as being physically big meatheads, are also top of the class of the most prestigious course, the Scaring Program. So the nerds do things like scream-can design and door manufacture. They aren’t even good at classwork.

My five year-old co-reviewer enjoyed it, but when it came time to watch a film on another day he chose to repeat A Bug’s Life. Take that as you will.

Watch This: For a silly, family-friendly college film about monsters
Don’t Watch This: For a fresh innovative take on the Monsters universe?

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

I Read Stories: Foxfire Foxfire

Foxfire Foxfire by Yoon Ha Lee

There’s a fox – a magic fox – who wants to become human. As we all know, to do so they must kill and eat one hundred humans.

The humans have started a civil war. In the war-torn city finding humans to kill and eat is both easy and hard. The fox has reached ninety nine when she stumbles across the pilot of a Cataphract – an armoured mecha – and finds herself caught up in the war.

The Tiger-sage said that things would be difficult.

Read This: For a short fantasy story about death, promises, fate and eating one hundred people
Don’t Read This: If magic foxes are not for you

Friday, November 02, 2018

I Watch Films: A Bug's Life

A Bug’s Life

In 1998 two studios went head to head with animated ant-colony films; Dreamworks with Antz, their first animated feature, and Pixar with A Bug’s Life, their second after the success of 1995’s Toy Story. Anyway, I saw one at the time*, and couldn’t remember which I’d seen. So it was a pleasant surprise to learn that when my nephew insisted on watching A Bugs Life with me it was the one I hadn’t seen.

Anyway, the ants are all conformists, and also oppressed by grasshoppers, who are basically a motorcycle gang. Flik, an ant, isn’t a conformist, invents a machine to harvest grain, then accidentally destroys the colony’s offering to the grasshoppers. He’s sent away to find warriors to defend the colony and due to a series of misunderstandings recruits a circus troupe. Hilarity ensues.

Anyway this is all good clean fun, entertaining for a five year old, not uninteresting to a forty-two year old. Maybe not as clever or amusing as Antz (from memory), but better for the young kids because of it; everything is presented in very broad strokes.

Watch This: For a light ant family comedy
Don’t Watch This: If you want dark, gritty, deep character driven drama
I Can Only Apologise: For bringing up the Antz/ A Bug’s Life controversy again after twenty years.

* Probably actually on the TV, probably at Christmas a couple of years later