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Time to get back to the blogging business, I think. And here’s some trailers to grease the rusty wheels.

Hellblazer was one of the more important comics of the 1980s, for my money. It was one of the key foundation stones of DC’s Vertigo imprint, which punched way above its weight in terms of profile and significance in the industry as a whole. And it was a bit of a flagship for the transformative ‘British invasion’ of the US comics scene.

It had a damp squib of a Keanu Reeves film adaptation, under the title of its lead character Constantine, a while back (which I confess I always thought was sort of not totally terrible as a movie, just not very good as a Hellblazer movie). Now it’s coming to TV – again as Constantine. The first trailer, a few weeks back, didn’t really do much for me but now there’s trailer v2.0 and it’s looking better, if you ask me. I might actually be able to get on board with this …

And talking about things that were important in their time, they don’t come much more important for me personally than Mad Max. The first two films – let us not speak of the third, which was a sad misfire if you ask me – made a big impression on young me when I saw them, videotaped of course. A new outing for the franchise has been floating on the horizon for years, tantalisingly never quite coming to fruition. Well, now it’s actually going to happen, in the shape of Mad Max: Fury Road and here’s what it’s going to look like:

More promising than I feared, even if not quite everything I would have hoped. Looks to be plugging right into the vibe of Mad Max 2, and doing it with a certain style – the visuals and the music are on the moody money, I’d say. Plenty of tone and ‘voice’ in there. The actual action that dominates the trailer looks a bit less moody and a bit more in-your-face, though – I kind of hope the final movie isn’t just wall to wall chasing and driving and mayhem (fun, and indeed essential, as all that is), and retains something of the bleak tone hinted at in the trailer. But hey: it’s Mad Max, it’s Tom Hardy and it looks interesting. That’s enough to put a smile on my face.

Truly, and I mean this without a trace of irony or sarcasm or exaggeration, we live in an age of total, unremitting sf, fantasy and horror saturation. We – those of us who always liked this stuff – are not so much inheriting the media world as consuming it, monopolising it.

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I’ve been slowly sinking further into the Twitter lark over the past few months. Baby steps, you know? But I’m really quite immersed now. Which is another way of saying: if you’re actually curious about what I’m doing, seeing, thinking etc., you should probably follow me on Twitter these days. I show up over there a whole lot more than here nowadays.

As a sampler, just three things I’ve talked about, or tweeted about, or retweeted over there of late:

An Inventory of crap on the ocean floor.

A vaguely surreal, cumulatively creepy drive through the streets of the world capital of mad and sad: Pyongyang, North Korea. The longer I watched it, the more I found myself thinking ‘this is just … weird.’ So clean, so empty, so lifeless. So few people.

See what fun I’m having over there? Honestly, this is what fun looks like. Really. Anyway, feel free to follow my fun.

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Found this thanks to a recommendation on the TetZoo podcast. It’s strange, striking and I like it quite a bit.

Sounds like a hybridisation of rap and ancient poetic story-telling, looks like a creepy monster horror movie waiting to be made. It’s by a guy called Brian Engh, who describes himself as a freelance artist/musician/monsterologist, and his website is alarmingly easy to spend a lot of time exploring and enjoying. Seems like a multi-talented fellow.

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So, this is pretty amazing if you ask me. British Pathé, the newsreel company that gave Britain its news for a big chunk of the 20th century has uploaded its entire archive to Youtube. 85,000 bits of vintage newsreel film, chronicling pretty much everything that anyone was chronicling anywhere.

Me, I think that’s pretty amazing. You can see any and all of it over at the British Pathé youtube channel, but honestly there’s so much stuff it’s impossible to know where to start. (Although I note, with slightly glum resignation, that the ‘popular uploads’ listing suggesting a lot of people are starting with clips of people dying. As you would, I suppose.)

Here’s an entirely random selection of clips in only one of which, so far as I know, anybody dies.

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Dunecat

Don’t think I’ve ever posted a silly picture of a cat on this blog, which clearly means I’m doing the internet wrong. No longer!

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Here’s some stuff I’ve harvested from around the web of late:

The Nerdist Podcast put out a couple of interesting/fun interviews that caught my ear: Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy, talking about the comics and the movies; David J. Peterson, language guy, talking about inventing languages (including for Game of Thrones) and various real-language stuff.

Rio 2 has been all over cinema screens around the world lately. Here’s the real parrot it’s based on, Spix’s macaw:

Very pretty, no? Really quite beautiful in fact, if you ask me. But not as widespread as Rio 2, that parrot. In fact, it’s extinct in the wild as far as anyone can tell. Has been for some time. Good job, humanity. (And yes, I know the whole extinct in the wild thing is kind of a central plot point in the movies, but I still find the whole ‘let’s make fun movies and a bajillion dollars based on this’ thing a bit weird, even if it’s sort of well-intentioned.)

Amazon took over Comixology, the biggest purveyor of digital comics, to absolutely nobody’s surprise. I can’t begin to tell you how despondent the big river’s acquisition avalanche makes me. They’re a fine and clever company, I know; I use their excellent services now and again. But it’s in precisely no-one‘s long-term interest (except their own, of course) the way they’re hoovering up competitors and add-ons that incrementally turn them into a leviathan of truly leviathanic proportions. If you want to buy books online, take a look at Wordery. Good prices, good service, free delivery worldwide.

Talking of comics, I thought I’d take a moment to point out my favourite comic produced by IDW Publishing, the good folks who put out the Rogue Trooper comic what I have been writting. Locke & Key is an inspired, beautifully crafted and beautifully illustrated dark fantasy/horror comic from Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. Complex and intriguing, it’s loaded with terrific character writing, clever world-building and eye-popping set-piece action. Give it a try (at Wordery, of course).

And here’s one of my favourite blogs, which I don’t believe I’ve mentioned here before: Abandoned Scotland. An exploration of ruined, forgotten, derelict Scotland that’s kind of hynoptically fascinating if you ask me. Stuff that’s hidden in plain sight, overlooked and disregarded, comes alive when you pay close attention to it. Investigate it. The most grungy and crumbly places and buildings become kind of beautiful. The Abandoned Scotland YouTube channel is a goldmine of strange discoveries. Don’t suppose this is exactly how the Scottish Tourist Board wants the world to see Scotland, but as a resident it’s all simultaneously familiar and surprising. Great stuff.

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Time for some Moving Pictures on a Friday and for no particular reason, I thought we’d all just spare a couple of minutes to admire Scotland. I mean, I do that all the time since it’s where I’m from and where I live, but the rest of you just get a couple of minutes …

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As some folks may have heard, I wrote another book. And the good folk at Orbit are going to publish it this year!

That pile of paper there is the proofs for The Free – a stand-alone fantasy novel coming out in a bookshop or digital venue near you this October. The proofs are the last stage before the whole thing is kind of locked down, so I spent a fair few hours not long ago reading every single word of the thing all over again. Line by line, sentence by sentence, hunting for mistakes, typos, embarrassments, all that sort of thing.

It’s a strange experience for me, this bit of the writing/publishing process. Once a book (or story, or comic) of mine is published, I’m profoundly disinclined to ever read it, not even a little bit of it, again. It’s finished and I can’t change it and all I’m likely to see if I read it again is stuff I wish I could change. Reading and correcting proofs is kind of half-way into that territory – it’s too late to make big changes – but still embedded in the revising process to some extent, because little tweaks are possible. So I’m at ease with it, in a way I’m not at ease with re-reading the finished, published novel. Kind of like it, in fact, because once you get to this point you know you’re pretty much done. This thing’s happening. This book’s going to be for real soon.

In fact, The Free is going to be for real on or about October 14th. Not all that soon, I know, but it’s avilable for pre-order on all the usual online sites. If you’re at all inclined to do such a thing, pre-ordering is helpful and encouraging so you get my (impersonal, anonymous) gratitude if you take the plunge. I don’t think you’ll regret it – I’ve read The Free quite recently, after all, and I didn’t think it was bad. All nearly 450 pages of it.

The book’s right there waiting for your anticipatory support on Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon CA, Barnes & Noble etc. (But sadly not yet my personal preference these days – now that Amazon has bought up virtually every other independent online vendor – Wordery, which is a newish UK-based site that does free worldwide shipping. So you can’t pre-order The Free there yet, as far as I can see, but why not bookmark or sign up with Wordery.com and try it out sometime? Competition is a good thing, and boy does Amazon need some competition).

More to come about The Free in coming weeks and months, of course. For now, though, here’s the start of the contents because … well, why not?

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Couple of movies I’ve Netflixed recently:

Grabbers is an Irish horror-comedy from a couple of years back. A remote island – so remote it’s only got one pub – is under attack by tentacled alien monsters, and the only hope the motley and rather dishevelled locals have of surviving the stormy night is getting drunk and staying that way. Sounds ridiculous, and it is, but I thought the movie did a remarkably good job of selling the bonkers premise, thanks to a decent script that doesn’t try to get too clever, some good actors and special effects (i.e. monsters) that are jolly respectable given the miserly budget I assume everyone was working with.

For the first half of the movie the humour’s fairly gentle, the pace quite measured and the atmosphere one of understated disquiet. Not entirely surprising that things get a bit broader and louder in the second half, as the monsters start hamming it up and the alcohol starts flowing in profuse quantities. It’s fun, though. If you fancy something a bit different, a pleasant way of passing a little time, you could do a lot worse than give Grabbers a try.

It’s better than the following trailer makes it look, if you ask me.

The Hunter is based on one of my favourite books. Always a bit of a lottery, that kind of situation. The novel, by Julia Leigh, is a strange, sparse, haunting story about a man hunting the last Tasmanian Tiger in the world. It’s a powerful evocation of not only natural but also spiritual, psychological wildernesses, all the more impressive for being a very short book, written in very simple, stripped down prose.

So did this story I so like survive translation to the screen? Kind of. Bits of it did. Tasmania is beautiful and wild. Willem Dafoe’s watchable as ever in the title role. The mood is – for most of the film – a very effective replication of the book: quiet, sometimes tense, with a steady undercurrent of otherness and wrongness. It never feels as though anything good can come of what’s going on, and sure enough it doesn’t.

They changed the climax. I knew they would. The book has an uncompromising, challenging last quarter that makes irrefutable sense in terms of what has gone before. The movie keeps bits of it, and bits of its bleak inevitability, but tweaks them and re-interprets them and changes some other bits radically. I didn’t find the end result as satisfying as the book’s ending – it feels as though the film-makers found a way to compromise and complicate what was previously uncompromised and uncomplicated in its hard-edged simplicity – but for all I know it might work perfectly well if you haven’t read the original novel.

Anyway, on the whole The Hunter is a good and effective adaptation of a terrific, and very unusual, book. Worth a try if you’re in the mood for something bleak and thoughtful with a powerful dose of spectacular scenery and trackless wilderness. Maybe read the book afterwards, though. That’s the real deal.

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Rogue Trooper #2, written by some bloke called Brian Ruckley, will be in your local comic shop and available for digital reading at comixology.com tomorrow. Huzzah! (You can even read the first few pages of it for free in a preview, here for example).

To celebrate, I’m giving away signed copies of Rogue Trooper #1 over on the Winterbirth fan page on Facebook. If you’d like to be in with a chance of getting your hands on one, all you need to do is head over to the Winterbirth page, go to the post that starts SIGNED COMIC GIVEAWAY and follow the entirely idiot-proof instructions.

If there are more entrants than available copies, I’ll pick a winner next Monday.

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