Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Of Swords and Deviltry

I’m reading The First Book of Lankhmar at the moment, and I have to say it’s bloody good fun.

Fritz Leiber’s tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, barbarian warrior and thief/dark magician, are vibrant, adventurous and ever so slightly rude, taking you off to distant exotic lands full of evil dukes and treacherous beauties, shoving you right into the middle of fist fights and duels, while at the same time tipping a sly wink to the pettiness of human nature; even in the wild worlds of Nehwon, people are ultimately badly behaved and out for what they can get.

I stumbled across this (huge) collection of stories thanks to a number of articles I read concerning “sword and sorcery”. I had come to the conclusion, to my own vague surprise, that The Steel Walk falls firmly within this genre, when I had never really thought about what “sword and sorcery” actually entails. And you will find that any blog on the subject will mention Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, and with good reason; there are swords aplenty, and dark magic, betrayal and lust and greed, and all the really good stuff that epic fantasy sometimes forgets about when its off on quests to defeat The Big Bad Thing in the East/West/Alternate Dimension.

Working my way through it whilst trying to ignore the cover (jeez, the cover is ugly. I have no shame at all about being a fantasy reader, and will gladly wave about on the bus a book with any number of dragons or scantily clad ladies on the front, but this is almost too embarrassing even for me. The huge tattooed man in the foreground looks more like he belongs in Eastenders, whereas the tiny bloke in the background looks a wee bit like Richard O’Brien about to whip his harmonica out. Neither remotely resembles the two main characters, so it is all a bit mystifying. Why, Fantasy Masterworks, why?)- I found myself vaguely reminded of Terry Pratchett. It’s the barbarian heroes, of course, and the Thieves Guild, and the dangerous magic. What it is, of course, is the source. Pratchett without the satire (but certainly not without any humour; Fafhrd’s dealings with young ladies had me chuckling out loud more than once), and it’s a joy to realise that the Discworld had a bigger, juicier older brother… Silly me.

These are the pitfalls and joys of accidentally working your way backwards through a genre, I suppose; I can only say that I wish I’d met up with our young warrior and thief much, much sooner…

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

The Worrying Rise in Omnivore Related Violence

Now, how to dress this blog post up as more than a simple plug for my story in the new issue of Hub? Hmm.

What’s that over there? Is that a badger with a gun? Goodness me, the moral decay of our natural wildlife continues apace.

And now, look at this:


Ahem. I’ve had some lovely feedback for this story, which is always a huge encouragement and an even bigger surprise. Big ol’ sweaty thanks to everyone who has read it so far and been kind enough to say lovely things at me.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The Game is On!

I love the new Sherlock Holmes! Yes I do!

I’ve never been a huge fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories; or that is to say, I have always appreciated them from a distance. It’s a good thing, I like it, but I have never sought it out. So I was rather lukewarm to the idea of a modern remake, and only really sat down to watch it because Stephen Moffat was involved (or SteMo, as we now call him post-Bearcast), along with Mark Gatiss- both quite nifty gents when it comes to these telly box programmes.

I was prepared to like it or hate it, perfectly poised to swing either way (I was slightly wrongfooted by the trailer, which I saw only once and half way through- “Who is this stroppy bastard?” I proclaimed, “He’s strutting about like he’s Sherlock Holmes or... Oh.”). As it turned out, I loved it.

London looks as gorgeous as ever, Martin Freeman is restrained and showing his acting chops for once, rather than Timming it about all over the place, and the stories (only 3, alas) have been tightly written, tense, and with a sprinkling of humour. The real revelation has been Benedict Cumberbatch, the moody, cold, frighteningly clever and strangely feline Holmes, continually bristling with grace, whether he’s sweeping from the crime scene in that fabulous black coat, sticking a row of nicotine patches up his arm, or deducting at the speed of light.

There are other things to say about this modern retelling- the supporting cast are all top notch, particularly Mrs Hudson, the affectionate nods to the source material, Mark Gatiss pulling off being both sinister and endearing at the same time... But at the heart of it is the instantly appealing partnership of Holmes and Watson. Watson is amazed by Sherlock’s abilities, but he’s by no means a dullard himself, and although Sherlock finds it nigh on impossible to relate to anyone not super intelligent, it’s already clear that his relationship with John is keeping him from collapsing in on himself.

In short, it was great, and I sincerely hope we get some more episodes as soon as possible, because well-written, stylish drama is a rare joy. And I need to know what happens next.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010


Not much to say blog-wise today as I am suffering from the Tuesday-Blankoids. The writing is going steadily enough, although as @mygoditsraining described it on Twitter, at the moment it feels rather like a self imposed bi-polar disorder. I’m good/I’m shit/I’m good/I’m shit/I’m good/I’m shit, all the live long day. This is all part of the charming struggle that is writing a book, no doubt, and it’s important to remind myself at times like this that in the end, I’m telling the story because I want to know what happens. It pleases me to piece the story together to see where it goes- the rest of it I can worry about later.