Friday, March 22, 2019

Liner Notes for In At The Kill

The notes for my story In At The Kill, the fourth entry in my Tapping The Admiral sequence.


So let’s be clear on this. In the 18th century women couldn’t be doctors (though see James Barry for an exceptional story so extraordinary that I would hesitate to use it even in my fantastic version). But then again, neither could most men. Most medical practitioners had not studied at medical school. Lizzie O’Leary is quite over-qualified to be the surgeon on a Royal Naval ship.

My version of the Napoleonic Wars has gone on so long and swept up so many men that, like in WW1 and WW2, women have had to take up the slack. This did take place in reality, though mostly at the bottom end of society, which was still agrarian in nature. Women whose husbands were serving away from home and widows did take over businesses and households, yet this was a change in degree, not kind from pre-war practices.

Treatment for venereal disease was stopped out of sailors’ pay, so we have good data on the rate in the Royal Navy. At the time it was considered an indication of the happiness of a ship.

Finally we have the arrival on stage of The Generalissimo, The Lord Protector etc. The fantasy equivalent of Napoleon in this world. And, despite his magic pistols, I immediately take him off the board. Because this isn’t supposed to be a fantasy Napoleonic War saga; the war has frankly gone on too long already. It’s time to send my characters further out into the world, to find some of the strangeness that lurks on the far side.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

I Read Books: No Wind of Blame

No Wind Of Blame

The second husband of a rich ex-actress is murdered. There are a cast of suspects of varying degrees of terribleness. There’s a slightly impractical gadget. There’s a discussion of wills and inheritances and motives. Two couples get together.

This is a very funny golden age mystery from Georgette Heyer. And having said that there’s a few flaws – despite an international angle in the person of an exiled Russian Prince and a Scotland Yard detective brought out in the countryside, there’s little acknowledgement of the outside world. Or rather, there’s only enough of it to impinge on fashion and money. Which is fine! But it was published in 1939, and the outside world is going to make itself known. It’s a bit of unintended dramatic irony.

Read This: For a fun murder mystery, with a sharp eye for snobbery and class distinctions
Don’t Read This: If horrible people behaving badly and being killed is not your cup of tea

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

I Watch Films: Rampage


A giant gorilla, a giant wolf and a giant alligator go on a rampage and try to destroy Chicago. The Rock has to try and stop them, complicated by the fact that the gorilla is his friend. It’s based on a series of video games!

This is extremely stupid, especially when it tries to talk about science. Fortunately the heroes have charisma, the villains are hilarious and the monsters are suitably monstrous. A candidate for movie of the year?

No, no it isn’t.

Watch This:
For 3 giant monsters trying to destroy Chicago
Don’t Watch This: For a clever or interesting plot
A Note: That this is the last film I watched in 2018, bringing my film blogging for the year to a belated close.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

I Read Stories: A Priest of Vast and Distant Places

A Priest of Vast and Distant Places by Cassandra Khaw

The narrator is a priest to aeroplanes, or perhaps a priest of aeroplanes. The planes are gods, but bound ones, and needy ones. It is a story about love and family and sacrifice. And about the secret events that take place in the air.

Read This: For a short love letter to aeroplanes
Don’t Read This: If you distrust anthropomorphisation.

Monday, March 18, 2019

I Read Books: Eternal Light

Eternal Light

MacAuley’s sequel to 400 Billion Stars finds Dorthy Yoshida still in the custody of the navy after ten years and wanting to tell her story (which includes the secret history of the galaxy). Fortunately with the war over some of the Golden, the immortal wealthy, and the Witnesses, a religious sect who worship prior alien races (or rather... well it’s complicated) are unhappy with the status quo. Several missions to a star that is approaching human space at a significant percentage of the speed of light are occurring, and one of these takes Dorthy and a motley assortment of others.

There they find a wormhole to the centre of the galaxy where the Marauders are (mis-)using ancient technology. Eventually their continual creation of habitats to live on will cause a phase change in the universe, destroying everything.

Oh, the ancient aliens can’t return from where they’ve transcended, but while in the wormhole they made some changes to the ships and the people. Also Dorthy still has some alien presence in her head.

It’s complicated, and then, after the climax, they find themselves back on a transformed Earth.

This is less focussed and sparse than 400 Billion Stars, the action and setting somewhat hiding the bleak, terrible (in)significance at the heart of the earlier book. But it pulls it off, especially with the final chapters where despite everything they’ve done and been through, the human race has got on with things and screwed them up in their own unexpected way.

Read This: For some good, excellently written space opera
Don’t Read This: If you want answers that aren’t depressing.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Map for In At The Kill

A map which may help to illustrate my story In At The Kill.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

I Watch Films: Maze Runner: The Death Cure

Maze Runner: The Death Cure

The third in the trilogy. In the first one our heroes find ourselves in the maze and have to run it. Later films have tried to explain why this is happening and it’s become increasingly silly and convoluted.

(SPOILERS: The Maze stresses the runners in the right way to stimulate the latent immunity to the Flare virus; also the Maze is a controlled area etc.)

Anyway the sequel The Scorch Trials was much more regular dystopian fiction without the slightly claustrophobic strangeness of the first one, and this one starts off very like that. Then things get a bit more enclosed as they enter the last city and run about it, but it’s much more of a standard action film than the more interesting first one.

Still there’s a couple of things to like; the repeated way of escaping (in each case the means placed clearly in sight earlier), some actual acting as people are threatened and die, some good stunts.

The whole thing operates according to the characters having exactly the correct amount of information. The opening scene has a raid on a train which operates with clockwork precision, little margin for error, and a mere handful of people against the full might of WCKD. It would have needed exact details on how the trains operate and are escorted.

A couple of scenes later they try to figure out where it might have been going and aren’t sure if there’s anything up there. Which is... an intriguing lack of knowledge after a heist of such pinpoint accuracy. I'm just saying.

Watch This: For a bit of fun teen action adventure with the odd cool set piece
Don’t Watch This: For clever, intelligently plotted drama.