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The Lair Of Gary James

Archive for September, 2011

The Annotated Carmilla

Posted by BigWords on September 19, 2011

Um… Yeah. Castlevania may be a teeny, tiny bit sexist there, huh? I had forgotten just how revealing the costume was, though it is still far better representation than in some other continuations of the story…

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The Annotated Carmilla

Posted by BigWords on September 19, 2011

One major omission (which I hope to see rectified in an updated edition) is the lack of a comprehensive section on the appearances of Carmilla in other media after the main body of the book. The (incomplete, and very rough) list which follows is something which would go a long way to helping completists such as myself hunt down all of the character’s appearances. I guess that someone with more time on their hands could eke out a few more instances from either the Wold Newton universe or Anno Dracula, but I’m almost certain that she is absent from The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen – I’ve been through it a few times, and I haven’t seen any references to either the character or the story which I could easily identify.

Vampyr (1932; Dir:)
Blood And Roses (1960; Dir:)
La cripta e l’incubo (1964; Dir:)
The Vampire Lovers (1970; Dir:)
Lust for a Vampire (1971; Dir:)
Twins of Evil (1971; Dir:)
Daughters Of Darkness (1971; Dir:)
La novia ensangrentada (1972; Dir:)
Alucarda, la hija de las tinieblas (1978; Dir:)
Carmilla (1999)
Vampires Vs. Zombies (2004; Dir:)
Carmilla (2009; Dir:)

Live-Action Television:
Tales of Mystery and Imagination: Carmilla (1966; Dir:)
Carmilla (1980; Dir:)
Carmilla: Le coeur petrifié (1988; Dir: Paul Planchon)
Nightmare Classics: Carmilla (10 Sep 1989; Dir: Gabrielle Beaumont)

Carmilla; Game of Pleasure (1998) A Tom Le Pine Production.
Outliving Dracula: Le Fanu’s Carmilla (2010)

Radio / Audio:
Carmilla (Radio Theatre Group) Read by Louisa Thornton
Nightfall: Carmilla (1981; CBC Radio)
Carmilla (2009; BBC Northern Ireland)
Carmilla: A Vampyre Tale (Audio Partners) Audio Book read by Megan Follows

The Occult Files Of Doctor Spektor #8 (Jun 1974; Gold Key Comics) Carmilla appearance. Written by Donald F. Glut; illustrated by Jesse Santos
Carmilla (6 issues) (Feb – Jul 1991, Aircel Publishing) adapted by Steven Phillip Jones; illustrated by John Ross
Gothic Classics vol. 14 (2007; Eureka Productions) adapted by Rod Lott; illustrated by Lisa K. Weber
Carmilla (2008; Vertigo Graphic) adapted by Sofia Terzo

Illustrated editions:
Carmilla (2011; StarWarp Concepts) illustrated by Eliseu Gouevia

Original Novels:
Lust for a Vampire novelization by William Hughes (1971; London: Sphere)
Carmilla: The Return by Kyle Marffin (1998; Darien, Illinois: Design Image Group)
The Darker Passions: Carmilla by Amarantha Knight (2004; Cambridge, MA: Circlet)
Within the Glass Darkly by William Gareth Evans (2010; Guildford: Grosvenor House)

I haven’t found a complete list yet, but there are numerous appearances of Carmilla in computer games, specifically Castlevania. It would be nice to see the character’s lasting importance in pop culture be given a proper run-through, especially when she has such a standing in Japanese works – anime and manga have taken the notion of the lesbian vampire and ran with it to lengths which Le Fanu would be shocked at. This is, of course, not central to the issue of understanding just how important and lasting the work has become, but it would go some way to showing how the legacy of a nineteenth century novella stretches across cultural and social strata.

As it stands, the book is a solid three and a half stars (four if you are unfamiliar with the work), but with a few tweaks it has the potential to be a true five-star reference work whch demands a place in every library. As I have pointed out in the previous post, here is a lot of work in the guide as it stands, and even for seasoned horror aficionados there are explanations which may surprise. Instead of purchasing modern travesties of the English language such as Twilight, do your brain a favor and pick this up instead.

You can find David MacDowell Blue on his personal website, his Facebook page, on his YouTube Channel, on Twitter or his page at DeviantArt. You can purchase The Annotated Carmilla at

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The Annotated Carmilla

Posted by BigWords on September 19, 2011

This is part of the Carmilla blog tour

Night Tinted Glasses
Facebook Page of the Tour
A Paranormal Lovers View
Review of ‘The Polish Carmilla’
Search for the Lure of the Vampire
Chastity’s Romance News
The Graveyard (Lair of Gary James)

Future Participants:
Dustin Bishop
Eventide Envisions
The Ramblings of Amy
Kay Dee Royal, Paranormal & Erotica Romance Musings
Illusions of Intimacy
Suburban Vampire

But first on earth, as vampire sent,
Thy corpse shall from its tomb be rent,
Then ghastly haunt thy native place
And suck the blood of all thy race.

Byron; The Giaour, 755.

It isn’t often that I spend time talking about books here, but I am going to make an exception for a book which goes some way to unraveling the mysteries of J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla for new readers and longtime fans alike. For such a classic text, it is rather surprising that this is the first instance of someone going through the references and cultural motifs to make the reading a little easier, though – as I will explain – it isn’t perfect. It is a worthy addition to any horror library, and makes an interesting companion piece to Les Klinger’s New Annotated Dracula, but I’m getting a little ahead of myself. I’ll go through each aspect of the title in order, and hopefully convince a few of you that you should fork over your cash for a fellow Absolute Writer‘s work. There’s a lot of material to cover for a book examining such a short text.

With the story being presented in sixteen sections, it is somewhat irksome that the numbering of the footnotes runs on through the book, rather than beginning afresh with each chapter. It isn’t a major issue (and it is one which a few other notable reference works have made), but it niggles at the perfectionist gene I have. If you can overlook the numbering, the information is quite amazing, though not to the extent that it covers every permutation of possible meanings for some of the footnoted material. The lack of an index at the end of the work, which I will come back to, is also the proper place for some of the footnoted material – any time something needs to be remarked upon in a fuller manner, or which is a recurring element, then it should be moved out of the body of the work into a separate section, as with the numerous instances of “Countess” being discussed. It’s easily ignored when reading through the footnotes, but in close examination rather clumsy.

Having read through the ebook version of this a few times, it is beginning to throw up some surprises. There are passages which fly past unremarked upon, and there are dense thickets of annotated text which requires some degree of scrolling to and fro. As I have mentioned before, I really do like to have more information than I really need, especially when the subject is as compelling as this. Indeed, there are instances where the speculation in the footnotes doesn’t go far enough for my liking. Not that many reference works manage to dig up everything, but it is especially glaring when there may be clues to pick apart if some of the more esoteric information were given a bit of space. Some of the omissions are understandable, but others are more irritating – crucially, there are numerous references to types of wood throughout the text, and the woodsman’s daughter plays an important part in the story, though the mythology of wood is not fully explored.

The matter of wood is an essential mood-setter for much of the story. We are told explicitly that there are magnificent lime trees, given the description of a sylvan horizon, and told how Laura’s nursery was filled with wood. Aside from the important weakness to wood in stakes through the heart, there are numerous fables, myths and legends which Carmilla may be riffing on. Red Riding Hood would certainly have been known to Le Fanu, though this is only remarked on in passing the footnotes once – this is a recurring issue, where some contextual information is given while other, equally important data, is either glossed over briefly, or completely absent. Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed is (surprisingly) completely absent from the text, and, considering the legends which sprang up around her, it is a reference point which would have seemed natural. With the first accounts being published in 1817, it is beyond doubt that at least some of the information lent itself to Le Fanu’s imagination.

Ivy, fortunately, is remarked upon in the footnotes, but not that it is believed to be a prevention for drunkenness (which is often how the vampiric act of drinking blood is compared to), nor that it is phallic, and represents the male trinity. Even more important, especially in regards to the plot, it is held as a symbol of ever-lasting life and immortality for Christians. Le Fanu certainly knew all this, and used the symbolism peppered throughout the story to give contemporary readers clues as to the nature of Carmilla. There are other examples of Le Fanu’s showmanship which goes without a fuller and more comprehensive reading, but none of this takes away from the already-impressive list of references which has been compiled for this, the first edition. In future updates I hope to see a drastic increase in these types of minor quibbles which most readers would probably pass over.

The images used to adorn each of the title pages are wonderfully chosen, and manage to add a certain class to the project. If there’s a problem with most works covering classic texts it is the inappropriate imagery used to illustrate matters. Here? Perfect choices throughout. Go on – take a look at the classics covered in what amounts to film advertising, and then look at the black and white photographs which David has chosen for this. If you don’t nod in approval, there is something wrong with you.

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Get Your Geek On – Day Five

Posted by BigWords on September 16, 2011

It is no surprise that games have played a large part in my life, though it may surprise some to learn that the games which have had the most impact on me were not the usual suspects – partly because of location, and partly because of finances, the early nineties wasn’t the Nintendo era for me – it was when I was getting into the classic games of the eighties. I had an Amstrad and a Commodore from as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until the notion of coding my own games that I really started to understand the appeal of gaming. Being in control of the world as well as the character on the screen was a massive step into the immersion. The first game I wrote was a horrible, truly awful side-scroller with half of the code lifted from the games around me – all in BASIC, with a number of gameplay issues which would take me a few years to fully understand. Aside from being completely broken, unimaginative and rather rubbish, that first game was exhilarating.

I’m probably going to reveal just how long I’ve been gaming when I say this, but the Batman game which came in the big box with two cassettes and a poster (I think it was the Joker and the Penguin, the villains of the game) was probably more instrumental in getting me to keep playing than any other. It wasn’t a pretty game, by any means, though it was probably the first I completed all the way through to the end. I worked my way through the back catalog of games from the 80s which I could pick up in small newsagents – and the thought of those spinner-racks full of games cassettes holds serious nostalgia value – then looked for something to fill the need for more complexity. I think I’m missing a generation there, but there wasn’t that many games on floppy for the BBC – or, I should say, I didn’t have that many of the games. One thing people might not remember is the long loading times, which I spent gathering together paper and pens for conspicuous note-taking.

Round about the time Windows 95 rolled along (though it would have been a year or so after release that I actually got my hands on the giant desktop) I went looking for games which would test me. Most of the searching was in vain, though a few games came close to appeasing the growing need for something more than shooting and jumping. Puzzle games have, for the longest time, irritated me as much as they have entertained me, and some of the worst offenders *cough* Tomb Raider *cough* fall firmly into the “PITA” category. There was a clutch of games released in the late 90s and early 00s which reaffirmed the notion that new things could be done with gaming, and – as joyful a kid who has found a new toyshop – I was back to playing for three or four hours a day. Hostile Waters, Thief, Half Life, Red Faction, and the sublime Deus Ex. Of all the games of that era, Deus Ex rose to the position of the game I would play when I needed cheering up.

Of course, with the addition of consoles, my collection of games required that (once again) I was putting things in storage whenever my apartment got too crowded. I’ve still got a lot of the games I bought, but I rarely look back to the older titles unless, as now, I’m writing about them. Deus Ex still holds up as an amazing achievement – moreso than the middling Invisible War – and it is one of the handful of older titles which I still play. And yes, I started on a mod for it. The complete conversion never quite got to the finished state I had planned, but that was more to do with the awkward toolkit than a lack of ambition. Over the years I have spent as much time tinkering with the games themselves as I have playing them, and the beautifully simple Half Life was the game which cemented my skills putting ideas to work. Lousy graphics, in retrospect, but oh what a joy to mess with.

My own game – the one which has been burning away for nigh on ten years, through several incarnations – is looking more and more like a side-project now, with the increasing complexity required to put together a decent game making it difficult to imagine completion, never mind a solid release date. As I add more details to the script (a hefty document with multiple pathways as it is), I get the feeling it may be easier to write “choose your own adventure” book rather than expend more energy on the increasingly futile effort of putting the whole thing together. But that, right there, is what being a geek is – it’s not the necessity to go build a game, but the enjoyment of all the stuff which happens when getting there. It’s the fun of making sound effects, and recording dialogue, and playing through the wireframe working builds with friends. Again, the community aspect of geekery is at the forefront of everything.

Oh, and all those notes I used to take while playing? Those came in handy for a few different reasons. I learned how the storytelling in games worked, and wrote more walkthroughs than anyone should ever consider writing.

All those words, and I didn’t get to the boardgames, or the fan videos, or the ARG’s.

Remind me to cover those next year, when Geek Week returns. I may even have come up with a nifty graphic to celebrate the occasion by that point. Don’t expect miracles.

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Get Your Geek On – Day Four

Posted by BigWords on September 15, 2011

Part and parcel of being interested in SFF and horror (along with the downright weird – I still haven’t come up with a catch-all term to cover shows such as Twin Peaks, American Gothic and Wild Palms) is the community which grows naturally with the scene. It isn’t just dressing up as Klingons for a convention, though people do that, but encompasses fanzines, game mods (and total conversions), fan videos, filk, role-playing and other RL activities and events. It has been a while since I have had the opportunity to do anything fun, which is why I always puzzle at the people who want to move out of the city to the “peace and quiet” of the countryside, so far from the places where conventions are normally held. There was a while when I was really into writing and drawing for fanzines, though that seems to be more and more an online thing rather than the glorious photocopies I remember – the likes of Sick, Happy, Idle, or Dek Baker’s wonderful Wargods Of Atlantis. Somehow, reading fanzines on a computer monitor is less interesting.

I fell out of the fanzine scene around about the time a bunch of misogynistic, racist, violent and poorly drawn material began drowning out the good stuff. It wasn’t an overnight decision to stop buying titles, but as I found more and more of the titles I was purchasing to be of a questionable nature, I slowly began to scale back how much I was willing to spend in any given month. Eventually the bad overwhelmed the good, yet I still have the good stuff. If you haven’t read The O Men or Psychosense, I suggest you go hunt for them. The writing is much, much better than in a lot of Marvel and DC titles, and the characters are sympathetic and interesting. See? I really do like superheroes, only not the overblown and endless stories mainstream publishers foist on readers.

Writing for fanzines was always a hobby, and I never thought of putting together anything too precious (Bellamy never appeared in those stories, not the Faerwither stuff), and when I went back to those pieces I struggled to find anything worth reprinting here. I’m sure most people would, at this point, make sure their early material never saw the light of day, but I am more perverse than that. It would be cruel and unusual punishment to subject you to the poetry, or the awful, awful RPG settings I put together, but the art isn’t all that bad – not brilliant, but not shame-worthy.

I’ve already mentioned the Babylon 5 mod I worked on, so it isn’t as if I have hidden the amount of fan-material I have produced. The revisionist Star Trek fanfic got bogged down in detail (unlike most fanfics, mine was a complete reboot), but that is probably going to appear online somewhere as well, possibly under a pseudonym to keep the ardent fans from baying for my blood. I should shut up now, before I dig myself into trouble…

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Get Your Geek On – Day Three

Posted by BigWords on September 14, 2011

There are a lot of different things which mark me out from the crowd, but the biggest mark is probably my adoration of all things old – there are geeks who only collect first issues of comics, or who have elaborate collections devoted to a single franchise (Star Wars probably takes the lead there), but I’ve always been more interested in the history and the feel of the things I look out for. The most attractive of the items in my growing collection(s) is British annuals – specifically those from the late fifties, with their wonderful painted covers and thick, white pages. Whenever I’ve spent time with American annuals, I always feel short changed, as they lack the length (a paltry 100 pages is about the best I have seen), the readability (no prose features? seriously?) and the robustness of their British counterparts. Back when I was staying in the apartment, their size and weight was something of a problem, but now I seem to be collecting them at a horrific rate.

When I mentioned how artwork was a consideration of mine the other day, I didn’t fully explain how much I have been influenced by art in my collecting habits. It’s hard to imagine these days, when so much of the geek landscape has gotten sleeker and more polished, but back when the British annual was at its’ height, the need for color interiors was minimal – the strength of the artwork was enough alone. I’ve spent a lot of time looking through the World and Purnell books, and I can’t say that I once missed the use of color in any of the strips. It’s probably why I took such a liking to The Walking Dead comics, with the pared-down, black and white style. The difference in tone which comes with removing unnecessary elements is very striking. Oh, and there we have the other major addiction of the moment. Zombies.

Moving around the UK so much, I’ve had to put things in storage occasionally, and one of the fun things about (slowly) unpacking everything is finding collections I had completely forgotten about (of course, I’m going to have to come back to that memory thing tomorrow – if I remember, that is…), such as the Pogs, or the trading cards. I have no idea why I started picking up trading cards, but there are a lot of old television shows represented in that particular lot. No superheroes, unsurprisingly, but I do have a couple of cards with artwork. Did Sorayama ever have a complete set devoted to his work? There are a few cards with his robots on them, but not a complete set by far. And there are flyers. Lots of them. Enough to wallpaper a room if I so wished. Mostly from comic conventions and fairs, though I have no idea why they were kept. The only thing I really wanted to find when I went through the analecta was photographs, but I have, as yet, to come across a single one. There are plenty of pictures of London (and you have no idea how homesick that makes me), but nothing of me.

I think that brings up a lot of questions I rather wouldn’t answer.

Anyway, the collections… It’s about time for a small gallery.

Having spent a long time working what to do with the non-fiction book I started at the beginning of the year, I finally came to the conclusion that it made sense to merge it with the embryonic notion for a British-centric guide along the lines of the Comic-Book Database – and to put it all online rather than struggle against format issues which kept me awake for longer than it should have. When I get around to it (and trust me, I will), the spiel about “geek privilege” will probably delve into the most inane circles of logic, but until then try not to think too hard about the sheer number of individual items I have to catalog for the database. It may take some more time than I initially allocated to the project…

(WordPress is acting funny again, so the pics are via Picasa)

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Get Your Geek On – Day Two

Posted by BigWords on September 13, 2011

Channel 4 has a lot to answer for – It was where I got my first taste of both anime and Hammer films. Hell, it was where, before The Big Breakfast began, Jayce And The Wheeled Warriors and Ulysses 31 would keep me amused during my early mornings when the BBC channels (only two of them back then) were being boring with news or Ceefax. Yeah, my insomnia was bad even as a kid. I suppose that is how I often found myself sitting in front of the television when normal people were busy sleeping, so the late-night horror films would have been an attraction I couldn’t resist. Yet again, my introduction to a staple of geekdom was roundabout and unconventional. The first horror film from Hammer I can clearly remember was The Curse Of The Werewolf, though I’m almost certain I had sat through the television serial version of Quatermass And The Pit by that point. The Quatermass serial was one of the first videos I went out and bought with my own money, so it certainly struck a nerve with me. The lasting influence was cartoons though…

Anime wouldn’t really become an obsession until I happened across Ghost In The Shell, but the look of these strange cartoons popping up in the television schedules was interesting enough for me to look out for more to watch. Of course, being stuck in the UK in the eighties, the choice of viewing material was severely limited, and I had to make do with a lot of rubbish badly stitched together, and dubbed by people who would rather be doing anything other than voice-overs. Thundercats wouldn’t be shown in the UK until 1987, by which time I had well and truly discovered the school library, so I only caught the latter part of the first season.

Sunday mornings were where Land Of The Giants, Planet Of The Apes, The Time Tunnel and other shows were given a fresh airing in the 90s on Channel 4, and BBC2 slowly shrugged off its’ academic stylings to embrace Star Trek, Farscape (the game of which is the only black mark against the franchise), and the severely underrated Seven Days. The 90s was a great time for genre shows, both old and new, though I never really understood the immense hype surrounding The X-Files. Far more interesting was Babylon 5, which (for reasons I still don’t understand) always seemed to be on at 2am. It didn’t bother me, with the almost sleepless state I spent most of the decade cursing, and I was able to watch and read a lot of unusual material which would otherwise have slipped through the cracks.

Both the increased attention I was paying to science fiction and fantasy, and the growing output of great shows, made me aware of the older material which was just out of reach. Before the widespread uptake of the internet, I had to contend myself with reading about a lot of the classic films and television shows which were still hidden away. Most of those shows are now, of course, available to watch online, but the 90s was a frustrating time to be interested in them. I picked up a slew of magazines such as Cult Times, Shivers, Dark Side, the late, lamented Samhain, and – importantly – House Of Hammer. The old Quality issues, mind you. Those, along with a few books which were of varying quality, showed me how interconnected the world of film and comics were, and the beautiful adaptations of Hammer films made me seek out the films themselves.

Everything, as I often point out, is connected.

The 90s was also the era I really got back into US comics – well… when they only cost one quid, anyway. After the mid-90s I began waiting a few months to pick them up for a fraction of the cover price, especially after the colossal waste of money which was The Death Of Superman. Image Comics bored me with shallow characters and a heavy focus on art, while Marvel seemed to be intent on insulting people with clones of Spider-Man and so many X-Men titles that it was impossible to follow even the most basic storyline. I retreated from the front line and took to collecting Gold Key and Dell, which had far superior stories than the superhero titles. It’s the largest of my collections, ranging from the mid-50s to the late seventies, and the one which I spend the most time with. I have spread out in recent years to Charlton as well, because those hundred-pagers are so beautiful.

The main part of that comic collection? Twilight Zone, Man From UNCLE, Boris Karloff’s Tales Of Mystery, and the other shows I mentioned desperately wanting to know more about earlier in this post.

I told you everything was connected.

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Get Your Geek On – Day One

Posted by BigWords on September 12, 2011

This is in response to Monica Valentinelli’s post. I had intended to do a single post reflecting on what it means to be a self-identified geek, but I quickly realized that I fall into a special category which doesn’t truly represent my fellow geeks. For a start, the way I moved around so much as a kid means that I am not as attached to specific elements of geekdom which others may find strange – I never, for example, thought of myself in terms of being a Star Trek or Star Wars fan (you can like both, apparently, but not love them both equally), nor had a preference for DC or Marvel. As for the television shows which mark people as being a geek- Oh boy, this really is gonna take a whole week to get through… I’ll try to link to the more obscure stuff, but if I drop something in here which I don’t explain properly, feel free to ask – I love explaining weird old stuff, and showing how much better it is than people would expect.

It’s best that I start with the biggest (and most important) discoveries which cemented my obsession with the geekier things in life. While most people might be expecting the big nudge to have been superhero comics, or the original Star Wars trilogy, or Doctor Who, it was actually the stuff above my reading age which prompted me to go hunting for more of the same. I can clearly remember reading Tarzan Alive before I hit high school (which led to my obsession with the Wold Newton concept, a love of Anno Dracula, and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). Tarzan Alive prepared me for the concept of American comics, rather than the other way around. That alone is a massive leap for a lot of comic geeks to believe, but I was an quick study, I was a bookworm, and I was infinitely bored at school. I also read Den when I was… Ten? Eleven? That led to a long trip through the fantasy bookshelves, where I found all the classics of the genre. It was all about the artwork to begin with, which is why I have defended Frazetta posters against casual ignorance over the years, but I soon learned that the language was just as important.

Lord Dunsany was the gateway drug from the fantasy of old, to the wonders of Lovecraft, which, I suppose, got me ready for Sandman and Swamp Thing. Having pointed out a few times that my superhero exposure was limited, you might find it strange that I look so favorably on those Vertigo titles, being borne from the superhero comics of the eighties, but here – again – I bucked the trend. The first comic I can clearly remember reading is Valerian. It is often stated that it is for teens, but I think I would have been eight or nine when I found a few of the albums, and they still hold more attraction that a certain throwback to forties serials. It wasn’t just BD which kept me busy (though I still flick through Spirou et Fantasio from time to time), but the oft-overlooked British titles. Does anyone remember Oink! or Scream? I have clear memories of picking up the first issue of Scream when it came out, and running around with the white plastic vampire teeth. I can’t remember if they glowed in the dark or not, but I can remember biting my brother with them. Ah… Memories.

While others may take pleasure in imagining (and sometimes writing) their perfect DC or Marvel stories, I always found more meat in the British characters. For the longest time I thought about reviving a bunch of old characters which had been features in various Denis Gifford guides, but Grant Morrison – and then Paul Grist – went and made that notion redundant. The bastards… I still have my notes, and the material might come in handy at some point, but using anything which has been linked to either Zenith or Jack Staff seems parasitic and pointless. The two characters I associated with most, and who formed the pillars of my idea, were Zom of the Zodiac and Marsman, who represented the difference between magic and science. With the similarities and differences between their outlooks I placed mankind in the middle of their eternal war (and managed to work out a way to use Robert Lovett in a way which was respectful and yet unique). Maybe I’ll post some of the ideas in the future, but it’s still in comic-book script format. A lot of the influences which make their way into my writing are from those early introductions to fantasy, science fiction and horror, and a lot of the blame is down to me being left to my own devices for swathes of time. If I had more supervision I probably wouldn’t have discovered a lot of the things which have stayed with me all these years.

I haven’t covered Hammer, British television or anime yet, so I’ll get to that tomorrow.

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Dusk At The Diner

Posted by BigWords on September 9, 2011

This post is part of the September 2011 Blog Chain at Absolute Write, wherein the challenge is to respond to a picture. In this instance, Edward Hopper’s seminal piece of Americana, the 1942 composition “Nighthawks”. Even if you haven’t seen the original before, you’ve probably seen the image in other media.

It was great fun watching the strands of the narrative come together last month, so this post follows on directly from the first post in the chain, so head over and read that first. I was conscious of the era and setting when putting this together, so some of the references may be more oblique than I would normally throw into something like this.

Acknowledging the historical events of 1941, while writing something which is (hopefully) entertaining to read, was harder than I expected, though weaving in enough for the following participants to play with was quite entertaining. I guess, if anything, you can explain this away as another episode in my Wold Newton obsession.

Dusk At The Diner – Part II


Allison tapped her foot nervously as a police car drove slowly past the diner. “Max, another coffee over here.”
“Sure thing, ma’am,” came the reply from behind the counter.
“That’s a mighty fine ring you are wearing,” Charlie remarked, almost offhandedly, as he slid his hat off the counter and clutched it in his lap. “It’s not often you see something like that hereabouts.”
“It was a gift.”
“I’m sure. Looks a lot like the kind Sala and her air pirates wore.”
“How did you-”
“Seems that throwing your lot in with the commies isn’t your worst sin. And what, precisely, is your interest in the book? Don’t tell me you’re another Aristide Torchia obsessive?”
“You seem to be clutching that hat awfully tight. A girl might think you’re using it to hide your interest.”
“And you’re changing the subject.”
Max placed a fresh coffee in front of Allison, nodding to Charlie before moving to the back of the diner.
“The book is important to an old friend.”
“This old friend wouldn’t happen to be named Strack by any chance?” Charlie asked.
“Eddie Valentine, actually.”
“Well, lady, you sure know how to make friends with all the wrong people.”
“Strange times make for strange bedfellows.”


Max raised the knife and plunged it into the slab of meat, levering the blade and slicing it in two. Separating the flesh from the bone was not as difficult as he had imagined, and, once he had removed the head and hands, the trembling voice in the back of his head had stopped questioning. He could get away with this if he was careful, and mixed in just enough of the regular meat so as not to affect the taste of the burgers.
“Hiya, Max.”
Spinning on the spot, the knife still held in his hand, Max looked for the speaker.
“You did a nice job there. Probably better than you expected.”
“Who is that? Who’s there?”
“C’mon, you can’t tell me you’ve never read Edgar Allan Poe? The Telltale Heart? Ba-doom, ba-doom, ba-doom.”
“This ain’t funny, whoever you are.”
From the shadows stepped the last man Max expected to see – the man he had spent the last three hours cutting into pieces…


Vince stared into the large window of the diner, and paled as he saw his reflection. The last week had been hard, and it was now showing in how gaunt and weary he appeared. From somewhere east of him, the police sirens which intermittently cut through the night began again. Another guy in a gray hat was probably being questioned about the killing two towns over – the only consolation he had was that the eyewitness accounts were so vague. It would be impossible to convict a man on the color of his hat alone.
Jingling the loose change in his pocket, he decided that the safest place to be was off the street. If that meant he had to spend his last remaining money on a warm cup of coffee and a meal, then that was what he had to do.

Check out this month’s other bloggers, all of whom have posted or will post their own responses:
orion_mk3 – (link to this month’s post)
BigWords – you are here.
robeiae (link to this month’s post)
Ralph Pines
dolores haze

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