Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cowboys & Aliens

Another alien world, another quarry. Ah, but what we see in the six-part Doctor Who adventure, Colony In Space, isn’t a quarry – it’s the china clay pits near St Austell in my home county of Cornwall.

Apparently filmed in winter and it shows, lending the location shots a bleak, grey cast which wouldn’t do the tourist industry any favours but we locals know it well. You can’t help but imagine how different it might have looked with a spot of sunshine, but it highlights how dismal things must be back on 25th century Earth and how desperate the poor colonists must be, to have sought a new life on this desolate and miserable mudball.

It’s the planet Exarius, as the Doctor observes knowledgably and pensively on first seeing it on the TARDIS scanner. Curious indeed, because while recognising the planet on sight he subsequently seems to know precious little about the place throughout the adventure.

Adventure is the operative word here. It’s an unabashed Western in space, with mean IMC thugs trying to drive hard-grafting pioneers off their mineral-rich claim. Gunfights and fisticuffs and dirty tricks abound, but this being a Hulke script it’s not without weight.

There’s a great human story at its core, the struggle for an honest life free from greed-fuelled corporations and bureaucracy, culminating in one individual paying the ultimate price to purchase that freedom for others. There’s actually quite a high body count along the way, but none of the deaths mean so much as Robert Ashe’s selfless act of sacrifice. The rest, for the most part, seem like throwaways, just more toppled bodies in the string of stunt sequences.

The ‘senseless killing’ is remarked on but it’s staggering that, with six episodes of runtime to play with, more is not made of the deaths on both sides. Gunfights over, bodies are carried away or quietly glossed over and, especially with the interior battles (on the set of colonists’ main dome), it reinforces a sense of everyone play-acting at violence. Not very convincing – and more crucially, it doesn’t really sit well to have Pertwee’s Doctor on the sidelines of these (admittedly bloodless) bloodbaths without some more substantive comment at least. All it would have needed was a moment or two along the way, shots of the graves, something of that nature.

Still, the Doctor does have other issues on his mind. Threaded through the  adventure is an intriguing little scifi plot involving a doomsday weapon (its radiation the answer to the mystery of the barren soil), a once-advanced civilisation fallen into primitivism (the ‘injuns’ of this Western scenario) and, of course, the Master’s attempt to seize control of aforesaid weapon.

Goes without saying, Delgado is supreme, never mind that the Master’s plan is a bit half-baked. He’s improvising, I guess, since assuming the role of the Adjudicator from Earth must be something of an opportunistic move. He shows up late in the day and – incredibly – the reveal isn’t reserved for an episode cliffhanger.

The cliffhangers aren’t at their best, with episodes one and two essentially offering up the same recipe, the second helping with added claws, that’s all. (But it’s all part of perhaps the tale’s weakest element – IMC’s fake-monster ploy really comes across as a bit Scooby Doo. Perhaps if the technology involved had been more sophisticated, if the mining robot had looked a little less clunky, or the dinosaur claws looked a little less rubbery...) The Master’s intention to shoot the Doctor and Jo and attribute their deaths to stray bullets seems like a rushed decision based solely on the realisation that there’s an episode ending approaching and a dash of heightened dramatic tension is needed, stat. For me, the best of the bunch is an understated close-up on Jo’s terrified gaze as she is marched into the darkness of the Primitives’ city to face the unknown.

That unknown turns out to be not so bad, although the natives very unreasonably sentence trespassers to death, even when they bring said trespassers to their city against their will. For all their rough justice, however, they are an interesting race – or races. The Primitives are pretty well-realised, humanoid but with crudely distorted features, presumably suggesting generations of mutation; it’s only a slight shame the masks don’t have more flexibility. Then you have the Priests, infantile figures, mute and near-blind. And yes, they’re quite horribly wrinkly and appear to wear their brains on the outside, but it’s very un-pc and superficial of Jo to scream on first seeing one. Not everyone in the galaxy can be as pretty as you, Miss Grant. Finally, at the top of the local hierarchy sits the shrivelled ancient-infant figure, externalised brain as standard and uglier than all the rest put together. Indeed, I remember this little figure gave me nightmares and made me feel faintly queasy when I was a child. These days, the puppetry is more transparent, but just about gets away with the illusion. And, as I say, taken together, they suggest a fascinating culture – or remnants thereof.

Who subsequently all get blown up, but what can you do when your doomsday device’s self-destruct sequence is as complex as pulling a single lever. Again, the death of these people – the Primitives seen stumbling around in the dark – goes by with inadequate effort or recognition on the Doctor’s part.

Another missed opportunity in a longish list. Such as, for instance, according to the extras, Morgan was originally intended to be played by a woman but somebody shied away from having a female commit the atrocities in the character’s repertoire. Which is a shame, because it would’ve been more interesting and a counterbalance to the sexist role allocations for Jo Grant and Mary Ashe within the colony.

EastEnder to-be, Tony Caunter, does a reasonable job as your conniving thug type and always gives an impression there’s plenty of calculation going on alongside the callousness. Dent appears made of stone, probably a well-judged persona for a company man born in a machine age, but leads to a limited range of expression – except on those occasions where he shows a real temper. Caldwell is the star of the IMC crew, Bernard Kay being given the plum role and clearly warming to it, conveying the compassion and struggles with his conscience that are as much at the heart of this story as the colonists’ own struggles.

Among the colonists, John Ringham brings weight and conviction to the role of Ashe, with all the qualities of a well-meaning leader facing loss of authority as his people grow uncertain and impatient. Winton reminds me a bit of Paul Morrow in Space:1999 but Nicholas Pennell is thankfully more tempered and restrained than Prentis Hancock. Helen Worth does okay as Mary, but it’s hard not to think of her as Gail from Coronation Street and the actress is given nothing meaty to work with – not even a scene to mourn the death of her father.

On the whole, the materials are all present for an enjoyable and quite filling six-parter, but one that could use some trimming here and there and allow occasional room for some of the underlying depth and weight to take centre-stage, even if only for a few select moments. Hulke’s Target novelisation (Doctor Who And TheDoomsday Weapon) is much better in this respect, as I recall.

Visually - apart from the grey slurry and mud! – it’s quite colourful and memorable, the IMC uniforms and those nippy buggies painting a Gerry Anderson/Captain Scarlet sort of future – while the story itself strongly suggests a much bleaker picture of things at home on Earth. And in the end there’s enough in the mix to win me over for each of the 25-minute instalments.

Unfortunately, despite its merits, the story does contain the immortal line “Jim’ll fix it” and can therefore expect to face a public outcry and clamouring for all DVD copies to be recalled and destroyed.

But that’s the 21st century for you.


Sunday, January 20, 2013


Kind of an obvious way to go for the title of a review of the game Dishonored (Xbox 360) and rather gives away the central thrust, but I have to say I expected greater things. And therein lies part of the problem: expectations.

IGN praised it as a breath of fresh air – says so on the box. In terms of  design and overall aesthetics this steampunk revenge tale has fresh air and creativity by the boatload, but ultimately unfolds as a brighter and less twisted Bioshock.

Ah, Bioshock. There was another game I didn’t embrace with the same fervor (in honor of Dishonored, I am dropping ‘u’s for the duration of this review) as other gamers. It was darkly beautiful, sumptuously atmospheric and creepy – and yet missing something in the immersion department. Social interaction was minimal – and yeah, I realise it’s odd for a video gamer to miss such things – and your path was carefully controlled, essentially on thinly disguised rails like a Dalek in a quarry. (Among my other Christmas presents was Doctor Who: Death To The Daleks.)

Here in Dishonored (where you get the same powers-in-the-left-hand, weapon-in-the-right arrangement) there is more daylight and more freedom to roam and choose your own specific path, but I was still left disengaged, exploring the (actually pretty finite) limits of the world as a detached observer. Admiring the scenery and the distinctive graphic-novel visual style, but with none of the emotional involvement you might even expect from a decent movie.

That’s not to say certain emotions didn’t run high. Principally frustration.

On the surface, the game favors the stealthy and indeed non-lethal approach. Not only are there handsome rewards in the gamer achievement stakes dangled in front of you – if you care to check these things – but an altogether happier conclusion awaits if you assume the role of the vengeful but pacifistic assassin. An oxymoron you may be, but I’m reliably informed a far bleaker ending is in store for any who take the bloodier and noisier course. (Again, reminiscent of Bioshock.)

Now, I happen to like games with an emphasis on stealth. Always makes for a good challenge and it’s the subtler approach. And on the plus side, this game doesn’t fall into the trap of other titles, where you spend the whole game going all softly-softly only to come up against a climactic boss battle where there’s nowhere to hide and all your prior stealth tactics are chucked out the window.


With powers not always as co-operative as they could be, the game being overly particular about where you stand behind an unsuspecting guard in order to neutralise them (a button press in the wrong place can quickly turn them into suspecting guards) and some nonlethal takedowns being inexplicably attributed as kills only at the end of quite long missions, your journey will be unnecessarily fraught. Save often, advises the load-screen game tips. Absolutely – I recommend after every takedown and every ten yards or so you’ve progressed unseen. This will improve your chances of success and further disrupt any sense of an immersive gaming experience. Even with this jerking, faltering progress – like a road movie on a gridlocked freeway - you may realise that the guy you carefully set down unconscious on a shelf (out of reach of the flesh-eating rats) for some unfathomable reason still counts in the game’s mind as a kill. At which point, if you want your clean record, you’d best restart the mission from scratch.

And it’s no use replaying previous missions in hopes of expunging a red blot on your copy book – unless you’re prepared to replay the entire game through from that point. Which I wasn’t. (NB: Kills racked up in the prologue, where you are nobly defending your Empress – before you fully realise what’s going on and where it’s all leading - will count against you, so this may involve restarting from the very beginning.)

Once I was done, out of curiosity, I did experiment with a replay of the last mission adopting the violent approach and I have to say it was a lot more fun. Which is disappointing and counter to what I’m sure the designers were aiming at. Still challenging, with none of the frustrations, I kind of wish I’d adopted that route from the outset. But it’s just not good enough a story to warrant multiple playthroughs – no matter that the achievements are tailored for just that.

It’s a very simple tale and when you’ve slain (or disposed of) your main foe two-thirds of the way through the dramatic twist of a betrayal is scarcely a shock.

It’s not all bad. Production values are high and there’s a noteworthy cast of vocal talents – Susan Sarandon, Brad Dourif, CarrieFisher. Nice coup. Selective combinations of powers, when they behave, can be amusing and entertaining as well as granting you an edge. And as well as the artistic qualities and visual style, there’s a nice variety of settings (albeit some are visited twice) – including a masque party and one mission to cross what looks like Tower Bridge transformed into some Jules Vernian fortress. Lovely stuff.

But beauty is only skin deep and that’s about as far as the game impresses.

At the end of the day, it rates roughly on par with Bioshock and Deus Ex. Gloriously realised worlds, but my stay in each of them failed to live up to expectations.

The rewards are there for those willing to put in the time and effort, I guess, but that might not mean a rewarding experience. Whatever Dishonored is missing, it’s more than a simple ‘u’.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Accion Mutante

After quite a lengthy period of no Doctor Who last year, I was suffering from withdrawal symptoms and so, during a singularly depressing succession of rainy days I turned to a small backlog of DVDs that I’d had on my shelves for a while but hadn’t yet watched. It didn't take me too long to get caught up (although now, of course, I have some extra Who-ish treats courtesy of Christmas) and with the show's 50th Anniversary year upon us I figured it’d be nice to return to my infrequent habit of offering up reviews.

We begin then with The Mutants, a six-part Pertwee-era escapade from the pens of Bob Baker and Dave Martin.

It’s an interesting one, because I had painful memories of the story from rewatching it once upon a time on UK Gold. It’s a common cliché to say you watched Doctor Who from behind your sofa, but there are some you watch between your fingers, with a hand clasped over your eyes. Indeed I only bought the DVD because it was cheap and, while others were simply neglected due to a busy schedule and lots of other viewing, it’s the one I deliberately put off watching.

A wise man once recommended I watch it one episode at a time. When I finally got around to slotting it into the player, I foolishly disregarded that advice and sat through it all in one afternoon.

And was surprised to discover it wasn’t that bad. I’d even go so far as to say I really quite enjoyed it.

In our whiz-bang zap-pow age of Doctor Who, it’s easy to forget that these six-part marathons were something of a standard for a fair chunk of its tenure. It primes you to expect heaps of padding and a sluggish pace as the story drags its feet like a mutant  across a rubble-strewn wasteland.

Sure, there’s a quantity of to-ing and fro-ing, capture and escape and I daresay the story could have been told in four episodes. But there’s a decent mix of action and narrative progression in each 25-minute segment and it’s reasonably even. It doesn’t have that sense of a two-parter bolted to a four-parter that was a feature of some six-episode epics. It’s colourful and comical at times, sometimes for the right reasons. Not once was I bored.

The painful elements were still there, but maybe I’d been anaesthetised in the years between viewings. It’s biggest fault is, a bit like Baker and Martin’s later offering, The Invisible Enemy, rooted in overambition. The explosive decompression scene is embarrassingly bad, with strings of actors clinging onto each other and flailing around in a desperate effort to compensate for fx that could've used an extra £10,000 plus another twenty years of technological advancement. Some of the spacecraft model work is serviceable, but some shots are as flat as a pancake rendered in MS Paint.

Budgetary restrictions seem to have extended to the quality of actor the show could hire and while the extras include a laudable piece on race, I’d like to feel that in the 21st century we have progressed far enough as a society to be able to state just how dire an actor is regardless of the colour of his skin. Rick James who plays Cotton is supremely awful. He’s an ill fit for what I’m sure is intended as something of a comedy double-act, the likes of which Robert Holmes used to write so well in most of his Who contributions, and he gives us what must be one of the lamest cliffhangers in the show’s history.

He’s joined by others who range from to pantomime warrior Varan (the way actor James Mellor scratches at his mutating hand it’s as though his fist is actually turning into ham before our very eyes) to flat and bland Garrick Hagon as Ky, who does occasionally try to ignite with some signs of life like one of the flares used to light the tunnels on Solos. Unfortunately, he is destined to become a space fairy, the ultimate evolution of the Solons and a poor man’s homage to some of the more effete Star Trek aliens. It’s a culmination that doesn’t do the actor any favours.

The story as a whole wouldn’t be altogether out of place in the Trek universe, with its concept of a world with 500-year seasons, an alien people with a metamorphic cycle linked to those seasons, terraforming-by-missile-bombardment (there’s nothing you can’t solve with a photon torpedo) and all touching on the deeper issues of racial segregation and colonialism.

It’s never intelligent or deep enough to divert from its main purpose as a dash of sci-fi adventure, but it raises it above pure pulp. Some of the cast lend it added weight with decent performances, with Paul Whitsun-Jones’s Marshal providing a passable baddie, about as oafish and monstrous as your average overweight Tory, George Pravda doing a creditable misguided-scientist turn and Christopher Coll as the better half of the ‘comedy’ pairing of Stubbs & Cotton. John Hollis is the standout of the bunch as Sondergaard, as the actor brings a sense of gravity and presence that sits well alongside Pertwee’s Doctor. Pertwee appears at home throughout, with this kind of moral tale suiting his Doctor to a tee. While Katy Manning is Jo, no more no less.

And it’d be remiss not to mention the eponymous Mutants themselves. Never mind that they’re doomed to reach their highly evolved space-fairy stage, the intermediary Mutt stage is the best-realised feature of the whole story. The creatures work especially well in the caves, of course, where the shadows show them off to good effect, but the overall design is pretty (which is to say, not pretty) effective. Monsters, yes, but they have big eyes, which help facilitate empathy when they’re brutally gunned down.

It’s a classic sf twist and The Mutants makes a more successful play on this old ‘beauty only skin deep’ theme than The Claws Of Axos(where it should have been key). It’s richer in ideas and just about redeems its more laughable elements.

Based on the collected evidence, the combination of Bob Baker and Dave Martin and a limited budget is never going to produce brilliance, but it made for a fairly enjoyable 150 minutes and even if there was a moderate amount of pain involved that’s better than a visit to the dentist.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Next Big Thing

Just before Christmas I was invited by Margaret Skea to take part in this blog hop, wherein authors tag each other in the hopes of sharing a little web traffic, perhaps encouraging blog readers to take a peek at the work of authors outside their usual sphere of interest and so on. We writers are notoriously desperate for attention - it's not for us, you understand, it's for our brainchildren.

Margaret is the writer of Turn of the Tide, Historical Fiction Winner in the 2011 Harper Collins / Alan Titchmarsh People’s Novelist Competition. She has won a number of awards and has been published in a range of magazines and anthologies in Britain and the USA.

Fair to say, I'm a blog-hop virgin but too much preamble won't make this any easier so I'd really best just get on with it. If you hear cherries popping, try to push it into the background.

So, to the questions...

What is the working title of your next book?

Evil Utd. It's the third volume in the Evil UnLtd series so you can see what I did there.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Well, the idea for the series came from having watched too much Star Trek and that sort of thing and getting tired of seeing a lot of goody-two-shoes types travelling around the universe doing far too many good deeds. It was high time villains got a look in. From there on the ideas for each book kind of generated themselves.

What genre does your book fall under?

Sci-Fi Comedy. With much more emphasis on the Comedy than the Sci.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Ah, that's an easy one as I've already done a mock imdb listing for Evil UnLtd.
Although for the most part I prefer to remain tight-lipped about casting, as I'd rather readers be left to build their own portraits in their imaginations. That said, there are other possibilities - our main villain, Dexter Snide, for example, I always saw as Richard E Grant when first writing him some years ago. But it's a great part, so it's only right a number of actors would compete to play him.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

The Farce Of The Dark Side.

That's the tag line I use for the series. I don't actually have a line that encapsulates the third book. Yet.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agent?

Self-published. Although I am open to offers.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the book?

Each Evil UnLtd volume takes about 6 months to write. Although that's not always a contiguous 6 months as I tend to take breaks to work on other projects or just to take breaks. I find it helps keep the humour fresh if I'm a little flexible with self-imposed deadlines.

What other books would you compare this to within your genre?

Well, The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy series would be the closest comparison but these books have their own wicked tone.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

As I say, what tends to happen is you get struck with a ton of other ideas while writing the previous instalment and then you're left having to cobble it all together in a plot that makes (some) sense. But the 2012 London Olympic Games were also a great inspiration on this book specifically. I'd actually had the idea some time ago for a plot centred around a galactic Olympics, but it turned out to be good timing that I waited this long to get around to writing it.

What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

Besides the high laugh to page ratio and the Olympic thing, we have the media, war and recession. So it's all good, obviously. Plus a bit of a superhero thread in this one. When you've created a band of villains of this magnitude you're obliged to pit them against a bunch of superheroes sooner or later. band of superheroes. I've had great fun - and a greater challenge! - some colourful costumed crusaders of my own.

On a less frivolous note, it's also very worth mentioning that all royalties from the Evil UnLtd books are currently going to Cancer Research UK. See the link here for details.

For right now, that's until May 24th 2013 which is the planned release date for Evil UnLtd Vol 3... but to be honest if the campaign proves successful I'm considering making that a longer term arrangement. At the very least contributing a percentage of royalties to Cancer Research on a permanent basis. So people buying Evil will be doing some Good.

And now, in true Olympic fashion, it's time to pass the baton to my fellow authors. In principle, I'm supposed to tag five but it turns out willing writers are harder to find than you might think. Fair dues and no worries to the friends who were busy or perhaps doubtful about the merits of blogging.

(But I want to make parenthetical mention of a certain class of author on Twitter. I threw out an open invitation on that social media platform because I knew how there were so many who were keen to spam with links to their sites and books as soon as you follow them. But as it happens, while pebble-dashing you with unsolicited links is apparently acceptable etiquette, they're strangely silent and unresponsive when actually offered the chance of some free promotion. To those writers, I just want to say I pray I don't get tarnished with your especially dowdy feathers.)

Thankfully, in the Twitterverse and elsewhere there are bright stars that shine. So I'd like to take this opportunity to direct your attentions to two very worthy writers I'm proud to know.

First of all, Stuart Douglas.

Stuart has worked in a toy shop, a farm, a chocolate factory and a zoo - if he ever gets cast as Dr Who he'lll have fulfilled his every childhood ambition! In the meantime he runs Obverse Books and Manleigh Books, publishing science fiction, steampunk, fantasy and pulp short stories, novellas and novels.

Observant readers will have noticed a link to his blog in my sidebar for these past years. I became friends with Stuart through Doctor Who circles and as well as having exemplary taste in TV and fiction, he's doing great things in publishing with a host of creative titles under the Obverse and Manleigh banners. It all started with some wonderful Doctor Who spin-offery and has blossomed from there.

Kimberly Menozzi

Kimberly Menozzi has lived in Italy with her husband Alessandro since 2004. A fan of bike racing and photography enthusiast, she is also the hired staff of a demented rescue kitty named Sophie who cuddles with her during cold winter nights.

Kimberly is presently working on several projects, including a novel set in the world of professional road cycling, a novella prequel for her first novel Ask Me if I'm Happy, and another novella loosely inspired by the events which led her to move to Italy.

I first met Kimberly through HarperCollins' authonomy site but have since stayed in contact and even had the pleasure of meeting her while on holiday in Italy, where we enjoyed a long-promised cappuccino.

While talent shows are among the lowest cultural denominators, there is nothing wrong with showing talent. So I'm more than happy to point you in the direction of these two talents. Go check them out and they may well have something to say on the Next Big Thing within a week or so.


Saturday, January 05, 2013

Looking Forward

Did you see what I did there? A play on names.

Yeah, I know.

Still, from this lame acorn of humour may mighty oaks grow.

Usually by this time of year, most of us have made half a dozen resolutions and broken twice as many. Me, I decided to dispense with the resolutions altogether and simply set myself a number of goals for the coming year.

Now, I needn’t bore you with listing them all, but I figured it would be good to give a bit of a heads-up on the sort of things you might expect to see from me in the Land Of Blog, at least.

First of all and perhaps most obviously, there will be more on my Evil Versus Cancer campaign. Ostensibly, this is set to run until May 24th 2013 so I feel obliged to make myself a real nuisance on the promotional front. Any help in spreading the word, sharing links across the internet cetera will be hugely appreciated and, assuming I’m aware of it, anybody lending their support will be assured of a credit in Evil UnLtd Volume 3.

There’s already a sizable list of helpful folks, compiled from those who’ve shared links on Facebook and Twitter and so on, but I’d like it to be larger. The more the merrier.

It’s no coincidence that Evil UnLtd Vol 3: Evil Utd is scheduled for release on May 24th of this year. And I’m currently weighing a number of options to continue support for Cancer Research UK beyond that date. The Evil UnLtd gang will balk at a longer-term association with charity, but I’ll remind them who’s boss. And/or go into hiding.

While I doubtless tap out some intermittent (and hopefully entertaining) nonsense over on the Evil UnLtd site.

Now to other irons in the fire. Which I’ve always found an odd expression as there are far better ways to get your shirts clean and creaseless. But anyway, those who know me will be aware that, as a writer, I am more than just a one-trick pony.

Some would say I’m a knackered out horse ready for the glue factory, but to them I say, nay.

In a similar vein of cringeworthy humour, some of you will have noticed my Advents In Time And Space in the run-up to Christmas. Somebody was foolish enough to suggest I continue this Limerick journey through the rest of the Doctor Who TV back-catalogue, so expect to see more of those in some form or another. Not at the heady rate of one a day though. You can have too much of a good thing. You can also have too much of a bad thing, so either way we have to be careful.

Meanwhile, our companion blog for stories set in the realm of Tortenschloss has been long neglected. This basically stalled because of a single unfinished tale that was lost due to a hard-drive failure. Even in worlds of fantasy, unreliable technology is king. Or it is if you neglect to back up your files frequently enough. However, I feel about ready to tackle that lost tale anew and, as it happens, have other stories to tell, so I’m aiming to resurrect the Tortenschloss Chronicles. We’ll begin by relaunching the site and re-visiting the stories I’d already posted. And hopefully carry on from there. The plan, as before, is to build a nice collection of stories in weekly instalments.

Here on this blog, you can expect the usual sporadic reviews and occasional writerly feature. With 2013 being the Golden 50th Anniversary of a certain long-running (on-and-off) TV show (hint: Doctor Who), I suspect a goodly proportion of those reviews will focus on that.

Not only did I receive some new (to me) Doctor Who DVDs for Christmas (as is customary), I watched a fair few of them last year and meant to post reviews of those, so there are a number to catch up on.

We might throw in a mix of reviews on other TV, games and the like in our familiar haphazard manner.

This year’s blogging will properly kick off next week, however, with a little something called The Next Big Thing. It’s a blog chain in which I was tagged (don’t worry, it was entirely consensual). The idea being that I answer a handful of writing-related questions and then pass the baton to five other author-bloggers.

In the midst of all this, I anticipate book reviews being conspicuously absent. Not because I won’t be reading, but as a reading goal I’m embarking on a re-read of the works of Harry Harrison and Ray Bradbury (starting with those already in my collection and, if I get through those, adding any missing titles to my Kindle, courtesy of my meagre book budget – subject to availability – by which I mean both the titles and the budget.) Sadly, the world lost both great authors last year and they were both hugely inspirational in my formative years. (And, in case you’re wondering, a writer’s formative years essentially run from that moment you first realise in your heart you are a writer – and, in all probability, some time before – to when you pop your clogs.) So if anybody wishes to follow my journey through some wholly remarkable books, they can find me on Goodreads, raising this reading toast to two literary SF legends.

And on that note, here’s me raising another toast. (It’s true, I have a glass in one hand as I type this.) Here’s to a happy and prosperous – and industrious and creative – 2013.

Statistically speaking, it’s unrealistic to expect all your Christmasses to be white, but we can at least wish that the majority of your days be merry and bright.