Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Dredd - Let's Love This Film (spoilers!)


I really like the Dredd movie.

I mean, I really like it. This isn’t all that surprising; I was an enthusiastic reader of 2000AD when I was a kid, and Karl Urban has yet to disappoint (he’s Bones, he’s Eomer, he’s the best thing in Doom the movie – he’s genre’s favourite actor!). The chatter from fans was positive despite not nearly enough people watching it at the cinema, and, let’s face it, it had to be better than the Stallone version.


Even so, watching it again at the weekend whilst tidying the living room (hyper-violence gives me the pep needed to remove the gravy stains from our coffee table) I found myself startled by how much I loved it; at the end I was grinning and nodding like a loon. I may even have bopped around the living room to the closing credits. I had to ask myself, what is it? Why does this film please me so much?


There is a lot to like. Visually, it is spot on. What I remember mainly of the Stallone version is that at first I liked the way it looked – Mega-City One looks crazy and you can see that it came from the comics – but as the film progresses it rapidly becomes less and less 2000AD and more Stallone’s Latest Vehicle, until you realise it is in fact unwatchable pap. Dredd seems to work in reverse; at first it feels too real, too gritty, like this is New York of a few years from now, but as you follow Dredd on the opening bike chase and into one of the blocks the atmosphere of 2000AD settles over you like a sooty cloud. Everything is soaked in sickly sodium yellow, and the Judge’s uniforms are dusty, lived in. By the time Dredd is striding through the precinct informing Control of “bodies for resyk” you are in that world.


The soundtrack! The soundtrack. I am in legitimate love with the soundtrack. I am listening to it when I’m writing and it’s fabulous; frenetic, doom-laden, anxious, ass-kicking. It’s pitch perfect, as important to the film as it’s visuals. Action sequences are cooler with it, more frightening, and the scenes where certain people take a dive from the top of Peach Trees are more beautiful, more horrifying. And I love Urban’s Dredd too. I expected to, really, but he’s more than just a grumpy chin – he’s stoic, relentless, and hiding a tiny twisted streak of dark humour deep within himself (very deep). I love LOVE that after he pushes Ma Ma off the balcony his only comment is “Yeah.” Because that’s all you need with Dredd.


But I suspect what lifted this movie above my usual general appreciation for a good, ass-kicking action movie was the female characters. The women in this film are great, and you know it makes me a little bit sad to say it, but that’s actually pretty rare in films at the moment. Yeah sure, you might get the token woman, and she might even be quite good at punching (usually kicking) people, but most of the time we will be viewing her through the Male Gaze – she will have her midriff showing or wear latex – and she will partially exist as a reward for the much more important male character.


In Dredd, we have Judge Anderson. This is her story, in fact – a rookie with questionable grades out for a final assessment – and we see her go through the wringer, but this is the thing; she is every bit as tough as Dredd. Olivia Thirlby has a sort of ethereal quality that initially gives Anderson a sense of vulnerability but we quickly discover that actually, this Judge can have you helpless and wetting yourself in seconds. The scenes where she a) demonstrates exactly how much control she has in the mind of the scummy perp and b) stands up to Dredd and makes her own Judgement made me cheer. At no point does Dredd patronise her, and at no point does the possibility of romance raise its perfumed head – my god, how refreshing is that? Not that I have a problem with romance, not at all, but so often it is a foregone conclusion.


And there’s Ma Ma, played with nearly uncomfortable intensity by Lena Headey. Like Dredd, she isn’t overburdened with lines but she manages to convey menace with just a certain way of standing, a particular frown. She is in charge of a lot of men who appear to respect her, or are terrified of her, and sex doesn’t seem to come into it at all. She isn’t using her sexiness as a weapon; she isn’t played for sexiness at all, in fact. She is just a serious Bad Ass, and one who will Fuck You Up.


Even the minor female characters get better treatment than usual. The woman who lets Dredd and Anderson into her apartment is brave and no-nonsense, doing what she needs to in order to save her family (for what good it does her). The Chief Judge is a woman too, and although you sense she probably has a better idea of what is going on than Dredd, this isn’t played as conniving or in any way negative; she’s just doing her job, and doing it well.


This is a great film, and it’s elevated further for me because at no stage did I experience that slight sinking feeling I often get these days when watching a movie; when a topless scene appears for no other reason than it’s assumed the audience is both male and straight; when a woman appears only as a prize or wish fulfilment; when whole chunks of the plot suddenly become very predictable because Romance. Dredd has female characters that are actually fully realised people, with interests and goals that do not revolve around a penis. I liked that. I loved that. And I loved everything else about it too.  


Friday, 22 February 2013

Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman: Pre-Order Competition!

You should know Emma Newman. She’s lovely, she drinks a lot of tea, and she has an excellent speaking voice. Oh, and she’s a fabulous writer too – evidenced by this rather nifty short story previously featured on this here blog.

And very soon her new book, Between Two Thorns, is coming out from the fabulous people at Angry Robot, and in celebration of this loveliness there’s a special competition for pre-orders. It’s going to rock people, so get your eyeballs below for the deets! 


Pre-order a copy of Between Two Thorns for a chance to win a great prize!






Pre-order a copy of Between Two Thorns and you'll be entered into a prize draw. If you win, you’ll have a character named after you in "All Is Fair" – the third Split Worlds novel (released October 2013) – and a special mention at the end of the book.







How to Enter



Pre-order a copy of the book from your favourite retailer (if you pre-order from Forbidden Planet you'll get a signed copy).






If you order from Forbidden Planet or robottradingcompany.com (for ebooks) you don't need to do anything else – Angry Robot will take care of your entry for you. If you pre-order from anywhere else you'll need to email a copy of your order confirmation to: thorns AT angryrobotbooks.com and they'll assign a number to you.






Here are links to all the places you can pre-order:






Forbidden Planet (signed paperback) http://forbiddenplanet.com/97907-between-two-thorns/




Angry Robot Trading company – for DRM-free ebook http://www.robottradingcompany.com/between-two-thorns-emma-newman.html







Amazon (paperback) UKhttp://www.amazon.co.uk/Between-Two-Thorns-Split-World/dp/0857663194/

US http://www.amazon.com/Between-Two-Thorns-Emma-Newman/dp/0857663208/





The Book depository (Worldwide free postage)



UK Edition http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Between-Two-Thorns-Emma-Newman/9780857663191


US Edition (bigger) http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Between-Two-Thorns-Emma-Newman/9780857663207






There are two UK launches and an international one using the magic of telephone conferencing. All the details are here: http://www.enewman.co.uk/real-world-adventures/between-two-thorns-launches-prizes-and-parties


Thursday, 14 February 2013

Urban Occult: Pre-Order Your Copy for Infinite Win

As I may have mentioned before, I am dead chuffed to have a story in Urban Occult, a new anthology of weirdness coming soon from Anachron Press; on the scale of "effed up-ness", I believe this story, Spider Daughter Spider, has an effed up factor of 11, and I'm very proud of it - not to mention that it's appearing alongside some absolutely stonking stories by some tremendously talented writers. It's going to be ace.

The good news is, you can pre-order this little beauty (and I mean really, the cover is a piece of fried gold right there) and the universe will smile upon you for doing so. Here be the deets:

Urban Occult Limited Pre-Order


Limited to 50.


Behind urban life, weird and horrific things fester. 

The whispers and chills of things long gone… the promise of power from the darkness… the seduction of those that lie in the shadows… the occult is all around us: in town houses, in mansions, and in your very own street.

Editor Colin F. Barnes collected together fifteen stories by a cast of critically acclaimed authors from around the globe who look into the stygian gloom, explore the dark corners of our houses, and peer into the abyss of human temptation.

Featuring stories by: Gary McMahon, Ren Warom, Gary Fry, Mark West, K.T. Davies, Nerine Dorman, Alan Baxter, Adam Millard, Julie Travis, Jason Andrew, James Brogden, A.A Garrison, Jennifer Williams, Sarah Anne Langton, and Chris Barnham.

Special Pre-Order Edition Limited to 50.

This pre-order edition means you will get the book at least a week to two weeks ahead of general release and:

A FREE ebook version (for any eReader)

and A FREE ebook of Day of Demons. (eBooks will be emailed to you on the 4th of March).

Just £9.99 (+£2.99 shipping anywhere in the world).

Pre-Order here: http://www.anachronpress.com/product/anthologies/urban-occult-limited-pre-order/ 


Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Mass Effect: Take Out Those Hostiles! (SPOILERS for all 3 games)


I’ve clocked in a few more hours since my last update (er, about 6) so time to fill you in on how much of the universe Morrigan Shepard has saved so far.


Journal: I’ve been to Eden Prime, been assaulted by a beacon, made Kaidan look slightly bashful by saving his useless ass, and been Spectrefied. Filled with a new sense of universal responsibility, Shepard immediately stormed off to bum around some planets for a bit, consequently getting ambushed by a Thresher Maw and had to turn off someone’s life support (always fun). Finally remembering there’s a plot and stuff to be playing with, I zipped off to Artemis Tau and picked up the rather-more-girly-sounding-than-I-remembered Liara T’soni, and had my first proper brush with OH F’FUCKSAKE MAKO WHERE ARE YOU EVEN GOING?!


I also got Tali at some point. Did I mention that? I remember because I just had to sit through her telling me about her bloody pilgrimage in the engine room, which I punctuated with shouts of “Piss off you space fascist!” Tali is a bit of a fan favourite, a state of affairs I’ve never quite understood, and I have to admit I felt vindicated in the 3rd game where you see Quarian history through Geth eyes and realise what bastards they were. With this in mind, Tali’s insistence that they had to shut them down (i.e. kill them) before the problem got worse feels particularly callous, and if nothing else you realise that her character arc is a pretty good one after all (unless you manage to make her jump off a cliff in the 3rd game, which is mainly just hilarious). However, I have resolved to give Tali a chance this time round, and she is quite useful when it comes to making synthetics explode.


Right now I’m at the Zhu’s Hope colony on Feros, or as it’s otherwise known, Why Don’t You Ask Fai Dan About That? This is the quest that results in shooting both zombies and a giant plant anus, so obviously it’s one of my favourites, but I’d forgotten how annoying all the colonists were. All conversations go like this:


Shepard: So, that’s a nice hat. Tell me what you know about that hat.

Colonist: I don’t know really, you should ask Fai Dan. He knows more about it than me.

Shepard: Really? The hat on your head? Fai Dan knows more about the hat on your head?

Colonist: Yeah, ask Fai Dan.

Shepard: I have a fucking gun right here you know.

Colonist: ….

Shepard: I should go.


BUT, I get to shoot them all later so it’s fine.



I have missed all the random shouting your team mates do in the first game. Really, it’s not the same without Garrus bellowing “ENEMIES EVERYWHERE!” in your ear every five seconds.


Favourite Shepard line so far: “Big stupid jellyfish!” I’m fairly sure that’s xenophobic, Sheps, but it made me chuckle.


The Krogan seem faster in the first game, and regenerate health at a terrifying rate. They also seem very keen on running right at you, causing Shepard to shriek heroically “Argh, get it off me, get it off me!”


Monday, 21 January 2013

Mass Effect: In the middle of some... calibrations

If you’ve read this blog at all previously you will know that I love Mass Effect. You will probably also know that I’ve dedicated an alarming number of hours to it already, and you may be thinking, “Look, for chrissake Jennifer, what are you on about? Do we have to have an intervention again? Was the song we wrote* about your Dragon Age obsession a waste of everyone’s time?”

But, yes, I have decided to play Mass Effect again, starting from the very beginning. Yes I have. And I have decided this time round to blog about it. Why? Well, because I have a lot on at the moment…

(and here I can sense you getting quite purple in the face and narrowing your lips at me, because obviously this is a prime reason not to get involved in the best of all Space Opera RPGs, but please, my slightly goblin-faced friend, let me finish…)


 …and I find Mass Effect, with all its moral conundrums and shooting people in the face to be the most marvellous stress relief. At the moment my day looks something like this: editing and revisions in the morning, day job in the afternoon, editing and revisions in the evening, collapse in front of tumblr and drool whilst making distant whale noises. What I thought was, instead of the drooling and not achieving much bit, I could go back and explore one of my favourite and most beloved things of all time, with a mind to writing the occasional blog post about it; a little chat about the worldbuilding maybe, about the complex relationships and the building of tension, as well as the occasional gratuitous bit of Garrus worship. Let’s face it, if anything deserves to be pored over and adored, it’s Mass Effect.


 So here she is, Morrigan Shepard (named for that wily witch of the wilds from Dragon Age: Origins)


Initially I was tempted to try and make her look like David Bowie (there is just something about the “short blonde hair” preset that invites this) but in the end I went for quite a severe, bad-ass look. As is traditional, I lamented over the weird choices of lipstick – neon pink, kebab shop red and, um, black – and faffed over the haircut. I chose (for possibly the first time, I can’t remember) to make her a War Hero and a Spacer, and class-wise I’ve gone for Vanguard. Technically speaking I should have gone for Engineer because that’s pretty much the only one I’ve never played, but GAWD it sounds boring. I just can’t get behind “trained in omni tools and tech blah blah oh Christ who cares…”

Journal: Have played up until the point where Shepard lands on the Citadel for the first time. Hellooo space utopia!


I have entirely forgotten how to take cover: Kaidan got shot quite a few times before I figured this out.

I really, really miss being able to roll into cover.

The black lipstick actually looks rather kick ass in cut scenes, particularly when Shepard is wearing a helmet.

I went to the loading bay and tried to shoot the Mako but it wouldn’t let me. Damn it. 

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The State of Play

Greeting from the mysterious mists of editing! I thought I’d just pop my head over the battlements so you know I’m still here; we might be down to chewing the shoe leather and eyeing up the rats for dinner, but the People’s Republic of Novel Revisions is still going strong.


No, I don’t know where I’m going with that either.


It’s been a busy few weeks. I’m in the midst of revising The Copper Promise and that has proven to be an oddly exhausting activity, at least mentally. It’s fascinating though; when Juliet gave me her pointers for smartening the thing up, it gave me a new perspective on the book, and now I understand rather more about the characters than I did previously. Which just shows how incredibly useful a very perceptive reader can be.


So yes! It’s very exciting, actually. One of my biggest jobs (ahem) is to reduce the word count as The Copper Promise is rather on the hefty side. On the face of it, to my delicate writer’s soul, this feels nigh on impossible. “I’ll never manage it!” I wail, chewing on my pens in Eat and worrying the Kenny Everett look-a-like who makes the coffee. “Every word is essential!”


Except it’s not, of course. I have spare words all over the shop, and scenes I am perhaps not utterly happy with, and so the Big Fat Chunky Word Count is being whittled down to a slightly more slippery number. It’s oddly satisfying, plus it’s enormous fun to be back with Wydrin and the gang. I’ve missed them.


In other bits of small news, Dark Fiction Magazine has reopened to submissions, and for our March episode we’re looking for stories inspired by folklore (a favourite subject of mine) so get scribbling! And yes, I am still doing the Everything and the Cat Project (even if one night of booze almost made me forget to upload the thing) and at the end of this month I’ll do a little post rounding up my favourite pictures so far. In the meantime, if you feel the need for random photos of trees and Lego in your life, you can follow me on instagram (username sennydreadful, as ever).

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Everything and the Cat: A Picture a Day for 2013

Last night, half asleep in bed, I made some vague and possibly foolish tweets about trying to take a photo a day for 2013. It should be easy now, I reckoned, what with all these fancy pants mega-phones and their applications. I do like taking photos, even if I'm a bit crap at it, and there's always a chance that the odd snap might inspire a story some how. 

So I'm going to give it a try. Below is the photo I took yesterday, just opposide the sexual health clinic in Camberwell (I was waiting for the bus)


And today's photo, which was taken in The Sun of Camberwell this evening. Don't worry, I won't post every single one to the blog, as I suspect that will get boring, but I'll be putting them all on instagram (if you would like to follow me on there, I am sennydreadful, predictably)