The Momentum Blog

5 Pitches for the Next Gritty Hollywood Remake

Posted August 7, 2015 by Emily Stamm

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These days, Hollywood can’t seem to get enough of rebooting our favorite books into gritty dystopian movies and television shows. The latest beloved classic to suffer this fate is Little Women. The loving sisters are going to be uncovering conspiracies and trying not to kill each other in Philadelphia, while we watch and wonder how on Earth someone thought this was a good idea.

Let’s take a look at how we could remake five other childhood favorites into ridiculous television drama or made for t.v. movies.

 

The Secret Garden

 

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Is it so hard to imagine this + opium smuggling?

 

After her parents are murdered, sixteen-year old Mary Lennox is sent to live with her reclusive uncle. She’s miserable until she discovers a mysterious locked garden…with an attractive boy inside! Mary breaks into the garden and is shocked to discover that eighteen year old Dickon is running her uncle’s opium smuggling operation out of…The Secret Garden. We’ll kill cousin Colin off early, throw in a dash of star-crossed lovers from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and BAM! You’ve got a hit.

 

Charlotte’s Web

 

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A pig, a spider, a revolution.

 

Wilbur the pig is shunned by the other barnyard animals, until Charlotte the spider takes an interest in him. She is the leader behind a group of animals who want to revolt against humans and take their lives into their own hands. Charlotte comes with with a scheme to spell words in her webs, manipulating the humans to think that Wilbur is chosen by God and should not be slaughtered after the fair. She begins convincing them that he should be set free, along with all the other farm animals, but is tragically killed in childbirth before her plan can come to fruition. Almost all of her children flee as soon as they hatch, but three remain behind to carry on her fight to free the animals.

 

Anne of Green Gables

 

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That smile has never been innocent…

 

Anne’s parents are killed by rival wizards when she is a baby, leaving her to float from foster home to orphanage and back again. When she is in her early teens, she is accidentally sent to the Cuthberts on Prince Edward Island. Furious that she isn’t a boy, they threaten to send her back. Anne casts a spell that makes them, and the entire town, adore her. The wizards who killed her parents find Anne, and she must battle them while maintaining her spell on the town. Scenes of note include the wizards changing the raspberry cordial into currant wine in order to discredit Anne; Wizards trying to kill Anne, but instead killing Matthew; and Anne becoming a powerful enough witch to teach at the Prince Edward Island equivalent to Hogwarts.

 

A Little Princess

 

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Wouldn’t this just be 100x better if it was in space?

 

Young Sara Crewe is taken by her father to one of the best boarding schools on the moon in 2075. Knowing her father is a rich explorer who has been doubling his fortune every five years on Mars, they treat her like a little princess. A few years later, the school receives word that Captain Crewe’s whole team was lost on Mars during a dust storm, and he was most certainly dead. The school, especially the headmistress, begin treating Sara like a servant. She regularly has to go outside in a spacesuit to collect rocks and clean dust off the solar panels (because space). Meanwhile, a mysterious man moves in next door to the school. He slowly recovers his memory, and realizes that he was the lead scientist on Captain Crewe’s mission, and that’s why he has a research monkey living with him. The monkey escapes (in a tiny monkey spacesuit) and Sara finds him while cleaning solar panels. When returning the monkey to the mysterious stranger, they learn of their connection.

Bonus sequel: The mysterious stranger and Sara go back to Mars to try and recover Captain Crewe’s body. Once there, they find that the whole crew has become zombies. Space zombies.

 

Little House on the Prairie

 

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If there’s one thing the Little House books need, it’s more grit!

 

A few decades after most of the world was wiped out by nuclear bombs, the Ingalls family struggles to survive in the desolate wasteland that was once America. If we change the tone of the narrator from unending optimism to resignation, we can even keep most of the major plot points the same! Everyone gets malaria, sister Mary goes blind, locusts eat all the crops, nuclear winter strands the family in their log cabin, and there are so many chores to be done. Think of the possibilities for costumes! Special effects! Dramatic acting! There is no way this wouldn’t be a hit.

 

Whether you love them or hate them, we want to hear your thoughts on the gritty reboot trend. Do you have any hope at all for the new Little Women series?

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Cover reveal – Aurora: Eden

Posted April 29, 2015 by Momentum

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The future starts now …

In the wake of the tragic events in Centralis, Captain Saul Harris stands with the weight of the world on his shoulders. With the truth of UNFASP revealed, he realizes that he must embrace his ancestry if he is to survive the coming onslaught. But how far will Harris go to protect the future? Will he sacrifice life as he knows it and become a Jumbo? Or can he face the future as a common man?

Meanwhile Sergeant Carrie Welles has been left devastated by what has happened. Uncertain of the future ahead, and with her nemesis, Sharley, on the brink of control, she struggles to pick herself up. But she is left surprised when help comes from the unlikeliest of places.

As her life veers off in a direction she never expected, Carrie soon understands that she is running a course with a destiny that lies far beyond her control. A destiny that is strangely aligned with her Captain’s.

Aurora: Eden goes on sale September 2015, or is available for preorder now!

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2014 Aurealis Award Finalists

Posted March 2, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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The finalists for the 2014 Aurealis awards have been announced – and we are super excitedto count FOUR Momentum authors amongst them! So before the winners are revealed – we thought we’d tell you a little more about the great reads that are in the running.

BEST HORROR NOVEL:

Greig Beck – Book of the Dead

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When a massive sinkhole opens up and swallows a retired couple from Iowa it seems like a freak occurrence. But it’s not the only one. Similar sinkholes are opening all over the world, even on the sea floor. And they’re getting bigger.

People living near the pits are reporting strange phenomena vibrations, sulfurous odors, and odd sounds in the stygian depths. Then the pets begin to go missing.

When people start disappearing as well, the government is forced to act. Professor Matt Kearns and a team of experts are sent in by the military to explore one of the sinkholes, and they discover far more than they bargained for.

From the war zones of the Syrian Desert to the fabled Library of Alexandria, and then to Hades itself, join Professor Matt Kearns as he attempts to unravel an age-old prophecy. The answers Matt seeks are hidden in the fabled Al Azif known as the Book of the Dead and he must find it, even if it kills him. Because time is running out … not just for Matt Kearns, but for all life on Earth.

 

BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL:

Amanda Bridgeman – Aurora: Meridian

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Their hardest battle will be fighting the enemy within …

Captain Saul Harris has found himself at a crossroads. Haunted by dreams of the dead, he fights to keep his soldiers safe as events spiral out of his control. But has his search for the truth led him to discover there is more to this mission of chasing Sharley than meets the eye?

Meanwhile, Corporal Carrie Welles seeks revenge. Consumed with demons from her past two missions, she goes rogue in the hope that her actions will end all the pain and suffering the Aurora team has endured. But will facing the enemy free them all from Sharley’s cruel grasp, or has she condemned herself to a suicide mission?

As the mystery of Sharley and UNFASP unfolds and lives hang in the balance, Harris and Carrie are forced to search deep inside themselves, and what they find will shock them.

Nina D’Aleo – The White List

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Chapter 11 is watching you.

Silver is an intelligence operative working for an agency that doesn’t officially exist beyond any government and above the law. Chapter 11 is the kind of place a person can join but never leave. And it keeps a third of the world’s population under constant surveillance. At work. On the street. In their homes.

Why? Because of Shaman syndrome.

One in three people are born with Shaman syndrome, which endows them with abilities they cannot control and do not even know they have. It is Chapter 11′s responsibility to cap and surveil these walts as they are known to ensure their talents don’t turn ugly for the ordinary people around them.

After Silver’s partner, Dark, is seriously injured by a walt, Silver is driven to investigate. What starts as a routine investigation isn’t as clear-cut as it seems, especially when she discovers there’s a price on her head.

Chapter 11 might be watching the world, but it can’t see the division in its own ranks. Someone wants the white list the list of every known walt that Chapter 11 has capped but for what purpose? Silver needs to find out the secret behind Shaman syndrome, before it’s too late.

Graham Storrs  – Foresight: Book 3 in the Timesplash series

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Jay and Sandra are back fighting to save a world on the edge of destruction.

In the middle of a bizarre global catastrophe that looks suspiciously like the mother of all timesplashes, Sandra Malone discovers that the corporation she works for is spying on her. To find out why, she sets off to track down the culprits. What she discovers catapults Sandra, her daughter, and everyone around her into a deadly struggle to prevent a disaster.

Now working in European Military Intelligence in Berlin, Jay Kennedy begins to suspect that the shock that hit the world was something more sinister and dangerous than even a timesplash. In the midst of the chaos that has engulfed the world, Jay learns that Sandra is in danger and that their daughter has gone after her. This turn of events threatens to distract him from solving a puzzle on which the fate of the whole world might hang.

With time running out, Jay is torn between the possibility of losing Sandra, and the desperate need to stop a new kind of time-travel technology that could destroy the planet.

 

Read the full list of finalists HERE. Winners will be announced on the 11th of April.

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Cover Reveal: Aurora Centralis by Amanda Bridgeman

Posted January 28, 2015 by Momentum

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The beginning, and end, of everything …

After the dramatic events of the past few missions, Captain Saul Harris and Corporal Carrie Welles have found themselves on a path they never expected to be on. Carrie, more vulnerable than she’s ever been, is placed under immense pressure as she becomes the most valuable asset to the UNF. Meanwhile, Harris works with the Aurora crew to keep the UNF at bay and shield her from their nemesis, Sharley, who wants her now more than anything. As events unfold, Carrie comes face to face with the truth of her father’s past, while Harris is forced to confront the truth of his ancestor’s. The revelations leave them reeling in shock, but not as much as when the explosive truth behind UNFASP is finally revealed.

Harris and Carrie struggle with the difficult decisions they have to make, while the Aurora team endures their toughest challenge yet. Once again they come face to face with their enemies in a showdown that will rock them to their very core and change them all forever.

For the Aurora team, Centralis, is the beginning, and end, of everything …

AURORA CENTRALIS goes on sale March 26th 2015, and is available for preorder.

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Time Travel and the Problem of Paradoxes

Posted October 21, 2014 by Momentum

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Graham Storrs joins us on the blog to discuss all things TIME TRAVEL.

“Paradox is the poisonous flower of quietism, the iridescent surface of the rotting mind, the greatest depravity of all.”  – Thomas Mann

What, you’re not a quietist? Never mind, we’ll come back to that.

As a writer of time travel novels, I spend a lot of time with paradox. It has become a friend. A shabby, disagreeable friend, I have to say, but one for whom I have an inordinate fondness. There are two ways of looking at paradox. Either it is a hideous monster of purest logic that prevents all possibility of time travel, or it is a sly creature of silken charm that whispers in the writer’s ear, urging creative trickery to make that story possible.

To be clear where I stand on the physics, let me just say that time doesn’t really work the way story-writers want it to. We don’t really travel in time. We travel in spacetime. Yes, you can describe space as a dimension something like the spatial dimensions to get a geometrical description of spacetime and, yes, it does seem as if you can move (in one direction) along that dimension at different rates. But consider this, if time is slowed in the vicinity of massive objects (which it is – ask Einstein), why does the Earth (a much smaller mass) not race ahead of the Sun in time, eventually leaving it far behind?

Time, as it affects us, is something like the ticking of a clock that can be different in each “inertial frame” (you’ll have to Google that one). If a spaceship moves past you at near the speed of light, the ticking of its clock seems slower than your own. If a suitably cooled and shielded man stands on the surface of the Sun, his clock also ticks relatively slower than yours. There’s a sense in which time is merely the rate at which events can unfold in your local spacetime. You can manipulate that rate by moving at different speeds or moving between different strength gravitational fields but, as far as we know, you can’t reverse it or even stop it, just slow it by applying unimaginable amounts of energy. You can maybe cut corners by moving through wormholes from one spacetime location to another by a route that is shorter than would be available in normal space, and that’s sort of like time travel, but not really.

There is a sense in which time travel, as we conceive it in science fiction, where we physically leave the present and reappear in the past or the future, would require jumping outside of time itself, jumping outside the Universe we know. If that is possible, no-one has ever worked out how. To a physicist, it probably just sounds silly. Yet that is the premise behind every single time travel story ever written (except for the Rip van Winkle and time dilation types).

As if this wasn’t argument enough against time travel, it’s very easy to conclude it is impossible just by looking at paradoxes. If I were able to travel back in time and shoot myself yesterday, I wouldn’t be alive today to travel back in time and shoot myself. Paradox! Most physicists conclude that this kind of paradox (known as the grandfather paradox) is sufficient reason to believe that we cannot travel back in time. The “many worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics is a get-out-of-jail-free card for the grandfather paradox, since it allows a whole new Universe to be created whenever you go back and shoot yourself. So your own timeline is preserved and the one with you dead instead of alive is simply unfolding in parallel. The paradox is avoided but it’s an unsatisfactory kind of time travel if you ask me.

Paradoxes really are the spanner in the works for time travel. They don’t only happen for backwards travel, they also work if you travel into the future. Imagine you go forwards twenty years, meet your own sixteen-year-old child and immediately shoot yourself. You never went back and conceived the child. It’s a paradox!

You might have noticed that what all these paradoxes actually rule out is backwards time travel, not forwards time travel (in the previous example, the paradox arises because you can’t go back). And that makes sense, of course, because we are all, at this very moment, travelling forwards in time. If we went on a near-light-speed trip, or stood near the event horizon of a black hole, or had ourselves cooled to a fraction above absolute zero, we could slow down the rate at which time passes for us (our own local clock would run slower) and we would effectively zoom off into the future relative to everyone else. So going faster into the future is also possible. But note that you never leave the “present” for all the observers around you. They can still track your spaceship with radar, or monitor you on that event horizon, or watch you in your cryogenic chamber.

The time traveller who disappears from the present, goes to the future or the past, and then comes back, does seem to be a complete fiction. The physics of the real world, plus the logic of paradoxes seem to rule out such a thing. And yet time travel story writers from H G Wells onwards have imagined it just like that.

I’ve done it myself – knowing all that I know about the physics – because time travel stories are just so incredibly fascinating. However, in my own work, I have striven to remove the paradoxes and allowed myself the luxury of inventing new physics. The logic of paradoxes is a much more rigid barrier to creativity than the physics of reality. We can always imagine a future world in which what we think we now know about relativity or quantum theory is augmented or supplanted by a new understanding. But the logic of paradoxes does not depend on the science. It is eternal and unbending. You just cannot get around it.

So I used a version of time travel in one novel where you can jump around in time but there is only one, immutable timeline and your jumping around is already part of it. This is known as the Novikov self-consistency principle. Thus, if you go back and try to shoot yourself yesterday, you’ll miss, or the gun will backfire, or whatever. Something will always happen to prevent it. Why? Because that’s what must have happened in order for you to be alive the next day to go back in time!

In the Timesplash novels I used a different trick. My time travellers can go backwards in time and they can cause anomalies to their hearts’ content but the Universe can only be bent out of shape temporarily. It quickly springs back into it’s original form and spits out the time travellers like the irritants they are. So the past goes back to how it always was. No paradoxes, guaranteed. However – and this is what gives the books their dramatic interest – the disturbance caused, if it’s big enough, flows through to the present and causes massive acausal weirdness. It’s like a major acid trip but played out in the real world, not just someone’s mind, and it can be enough to topple buildings and kill people. But if you like chaos and the trippy effects of seeing causality completely messed up, jumping back in time is a great way to get people off and fuel the best underground parties ever.

Oh yes, and the quietists? They’re group of philosophers who think that by describing problems in a way that makes the misguided reasoning they’re based on apparent, they will put an end to all confusion, and set us on the path to intellectual quietude. And they really don’t like paradoxes. But then, who does? Maybe they should spend a bit more effort on clarifying the problem of time travel.

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New Releases: The Foundation, Aurora: Meridian and Shatterwing!

Posted September 11, 2014 by Momentum

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We’ve got three fantastic new releases out today, and we’re so excited about them. First up:

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High pace political thriller: Read a sample here.

 

He who holds the pen holds the power.

“Great fun. A two-fisted thriller, escaped from five minutes into the future.”

—John Birmingham, author of the Axis of Time and Disappearance trilogies.

When a corrupt think tank, The Foundation for a New America, enlists a Taiwanese terrorist to bomb a World Trade Organization conference, the US and China are put on the path to war.

Star journalist Jack Emery is pulled into a story far more dangerous than he could have imagined. Because the Foundation’s deputy director, the ruthless Michelle Dominique, recognizes that whoever controls the message controls the world. And she will take control, no matter the price.

Enter Jack’s boss, Ernest McDowell, owner and chairman of the largest media empire on the planet. In the midst of political upheaval, EMCorp is about to become the final play in the Foundation’s plan. When Dominique traps the EMCorp owner in her web, Jack’s the only one left to expose the conspiracy before it’s too late.

As the world powers smash each other against the anvil of Taiwan, Jack will risk everything to battle the Foundation and prevent them from taking control amid the devastation of a global war.

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The third in our fantastic Aurora series, read an excerpt here.

Their hardest battle will be fighting the enemy within …

Captain Saul Harris has found himself at a crossroads. Haunted by dreams of the dead, he fights to keep his soldiers safe as events spiral out of his control. But has his search for the truth led him to discover there is more to this mission of chasing Sharley than meets the eye?

 Meanwhile, Corporal Carrie Welles seeks revenge. Consumed with demons from her past two missions, she goes rogue in the hope that her actions will end all the pain and suffering the Aurora team has endured. But will facing the enemy free them all from Sharley’s cruel grasp, or has she condemned herself to a suicide mission?

 As the mystery of Sharley and UNFASP unfolds and lives hang in the balance, Harris and Carrie are forced to search deep inside themselves, and what they find will shock them.

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Epic contemporary fantasy: read a sample here.

Dragon wine could save them. Or bring about their destruction.

Since the moon shattered, the once peaceful and plentiful world has become a desolate wasteland. Factions fight for ownership of the remaining resources as pieces of the broken moon rain down, bringing chaos, destruction and death.

 The most precious of these resources is dragon wine – a life-giving drink made from the essence of dragons. But the making of the wine is perilous and so is undertaken by prisoners. Perhaps even more dangerous than the wine production is the Inspector, the sadistic ruler of the prison vineyard who plans to use the precious drink to rule the world.

 There are only two people that stand in his way. Brill, a young royal rebel who seeks to bring about revolution, and Salinda, the prison’s best vintner and possessor of a powerful and ancient gift that she is only beginning to understand. To stop the Inspector, Salinda must learn to harness her power so that she and Brill can escape, and stop the dragon wine from falling into the wrong hands.

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The White List by Nina D’Aleo – excerpt

Posted May 14, 2014 by Mark

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Chapter 11 is watching you.  

Silver is an intelligence operative working for an agency that doesn’t officially exist—beyond any government and above the law. Chapter 11 is the kind of place a person can join but never leave. And it keeps a third of the world’s population under constant surveillance. At work. On the street. In their homes. 

Why? Because of Shaman syndrome. 

One in three people are born with Shaman syndrome, which endows them with abilities they cannot control and do not even know they have. It is Chapter 11’s responsibility to cap and surveil these walts—as they are known—to ensure their talents don’t turn ugly for the ordinary people around them.

After Silver’s partner, Dark, is seriously injured by a walt, Silver is driven to investigate. What starts as a routine investigation isn’t as clear-cut as it seems, especially when she discovers there’s a price on her head. 

Chapter 11 might be watching the world, but it can’t see the division in its own ranks. Someone wants the white list—the list of every known walt that Chapter 11 has capped—but for what purpose? Silver needs to find out the secret behind Shaman syndrome, before it’s too late. 

 

In rush-hour traffic, it took me a good hour to reach the destination. I parked under a streetlight and stepped out to look around. I’d ended up at an abandoned warehouse close to the waterfront shipping sector of the city. There weren’t any houses in sight. I checked the address on my phone and it appeared to match what I’d written down—but it didn’t even seem like the right suburb. Strange.

Night had now taken over from the light and heavy shadows stretched across the concrete square leading to the darkened warehouse. I shivered in the evening breeze. The air carried a tinge of smoke and the murmur of a storm. I stared at the warehouse. Smashed windows, graffiti marked, creepy and isolated—everything about the place said stay away. And I wasn’t about to argue. I started to get back into the car, but then thought maybe Dark had an old street directory in the trunk that I could check. So I went around and opened it up, rummaging through Dark’s duffle bag of tools. Footsteps sounded close by. I looked around the side of the car. A person, a woman, was approaching. I recognized her as the girl from the elevator at Dark’s apartment building.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

I stepped out from behind the car, not sure what she meant, confused at seeing her again, and by her saying but not sounding sorry.

She closed the distance between us fast and punched me in the face. A terrible debilitating pain crashed me to the ground and my eyesight blanked out then flashed back in. I rolled away as her boot rushed toward my head. I scrambled to my feet and grabbed for my gun. It was gone. The girl gave a nasty smile and opened her jacket. She was wearing my duty belt. I stared, shocked: how had she gotten it off me without my knowing? She took my gun out of the holster and held it up as if to say, Looking for this?

I struck fast, slamming my hand into her throat. She reeled and I bolted. There was only so long fists could hold up against bullets. Shots rang out and I lunged behind the side of the warehouse. The girl came after me, pulling on night-vision headgear as she ran. I crashed blindly beside the building, dragging my hand along the wall and stumbling over unseen rubble. I turned the corner into a lamp-lit area and saw a wall blocking my path. It was too tall to climb. I looked left and right searching for a way out and spotted an open window up about twice my height. I could hear the girl’s running steps closing in behind me.

I darted forward and grabbed a discarded cardboard box. I shoved it up against the side of the warehouse and climbed on. It collapsed, dumping me onto the ground. I swore and grabbed another box. I leaped up and reached for the window, grasping at the ledge. I stretched up, every part of my body straining. My fingertips closed over the windowsill. A hand darted down from the window and closed over my wrist. It wrenched me off my feet and dragged me upward.

 

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The White List by Nina D’Aleo is available now where all good ebooks are sold! Click here to purchase or find it at your preferred ebook retailer

 

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Five tips for aspiring science fiction writers

Posted April 28, 2014 by Charlotte McConaghy

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1. World Building: What if this continues?

Whether you do this as your first job or your last, building your world carefully and meticulously is one of the most important aspects of all spec-fiction. This doesn’t just apply to fantasy writers who can literally make up new worlds and therefore have both more freedoms and more difficulties in the task, but to science-fiction writers, horror writers—all spec-fic writers. Making changes to our existing world can feel a bit like a trap, but as long as you think as honestly and as logically as possible, you shouldn’t have too many people yelling ‘that doesn’t make sense!’ (Who are we kidding—there will always be some.)

Science-fiction exists to teach, engage, inspire, warn, excite and frighten. If something frightens you about the world, then chances are it will frighten others. Ask yourself What if this continues? What if these actions, or this train of thought, or this behavior continues? What will it mean for the world? (For example what if we really do become capable of singularity—that one really freaks me out.) And then let your imagination run wild. And you aren’t only tapping into fear, but wonder, awe, beauty. Take us up and forward and give us new realities that are based on what we know, what we desire, what we fear. Peel back the layers of comfort and show us what hides in the shadows of the world—and in the dark interiors of ourselves.

Human hubris is an important theme in science-fiction, for what frightens and excites us most as humans is our obsession with progress—an aspect of humanity that will never fade or die. We didn’t learn from Icaris who flew too high and died for it. We know this. We fear this. And that’s why we write about it: to teach, engage, inspire, warn, excite and frighten.

So use yourself as the test—whatever it is that engages you as a person will be what you use to shape your world. Really challenge yourself to think deeply, allow yourself to be confronted and inspired, because there’s no use in building a world that won’t provoke your readers.

 

2. Multiple POV and Time Periods

I personally love multiple points of view—I would never be able to write an entire novel from the one perspective, but that’s just a personal preference. If you’re trying to work out whether or not to use multiple POV, perhaps understanding the benefits will help you decide.

The main one, for me, is being able to see a character—particularly a protagonist inside whose head we’ve just inhabited—from another character’s perspective. Give the reader an intimate insight into what a character is thinking, and then let us see how another perceives them. There’s a great gap inherent in that—how are they really coming across? How do their actions make other people feel? It paints a more thorough picture, one with more complexity—because we are never quite what we seem to others. You also learn an awful lot about the second character, their perceptions and what they are managing to interpret in the protagonist.

It all boils down to the fact that as readers, we want to know the characters of the world, without having them all blurt out every little thing they’re thinking—there’s nothing worse than too much expositional dialogue. Having multiple POV allows for more subtext between characters and conflicting perspectives, which will help you to argue your premise.

Multiple time periods is another interesting tool that can be put to use. It sounds like it’s going to be confusing and it is, but there’s a simple trick to it. There are two rules to using multiple time periods: first, only use two different periods and work out the chronological events of both timelines separately. Second, move between the two time periods by only cutting away from one at a cliffhanger or twist. That way no matter how great one time period is, readers will be itching to know what’s going on in the other—and that’s the main point of having two running simultaneously: you get to create more tension, more intrigue. Which brings us to the number one reason people keep reading: to know what’s going to happen next.

 

3. Research

Science-fiction tends to fit within a scale of soft to hard science. Hard meaning real science that exists in the world today; soft meaning made up science that can often lean more towards fantasy. There is no right or wrong—both are just as valid as the other. But regardless of whether or not you’re writing hard or soft fantasy, I can’t stress the importance of researching enough. You don’t have to lay it on too thick in the book—we’re not reading a research paper—but it’s really great for you as the author to know what’s going on behind the scenes in the engine of the book. This will come through in drips and drabs and make the world feel more authentic.

 

4. Character

Character is key. It is everything. The most imaginative and clever worlds will fail to engage readers if you don’t also have fantastic characters to live within these worlds. When I wrote Fury, my protagonist Josephine existed long before I had the idea of a society with negative emotions being erased. She existed outside this world, helped to shape her surrounds, and gave birth to every tiny aspect of the science-fiction within the book.

Your character must be flawed. They must have desires and fears and contradictions, but you also have to think about how these elements of the character reflect and counterpoint the flaws of the world. The struggle your protagonist goes through on their journey should hold within it the premise of the world, the argument you are posing. If you can embody the theme of your story within your character, you have done the hardest and most important job of all.

Don’t forget, also, little things like having romantic characters who challenge the character to live in their essence—who they really are—instead of in the false identity they create and must eventually shed. The romantic character, as well as the antagonist, will force your protagonist to learn something, and you want readers to learn with them.

Take as much care with your side characters as you do with your main characters. Make them distinct and complex. Allow their qualities to be varying. Give them opinions and beliefs and fears that flesh them out as characters and they will in turn flesh out your world.

And lastly, make sure your protagonist is active. Give them something to do, a goal or desire that is properly motivated and compelling, and then make it really, really difficult for the character to achieve that end. It’s only by throwing problems at them that we can learn who they really are—the choices a character makes are the embodiments of their personality. The harder you make these choices, the more pressure you put on them, the more interesting things get.

 

5. Be Bold: Premise

What are you really trying to say? What do you want readers to think about? What do you want them to feel? What concerns you, conflicts you, makes your heart swell?

You don’t have to have all the answers—you just have to ask the questions.

And do this by being bold. Don’t concern yourself with offending anyone. Just ask the big, hard questions and demand a lot from your readers. Write ambitiously, write with passion and write with courage. Who cares what other people think? Follow your heart; it beats with as much validity as anyone else’s.

 

 

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Charlotte McConaghy is the author of Fury: Book One of The Cure, available now where all good ebooks are sold

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Excerpt: Fury: Episode 2 by Charlotte McConaghy

Posted March 24, 2014 by Momentum

Featured blog image
In the tradition of Divergent comes a novel about a world where negative emotions are stolen … and only those with fury can stand up and fight.
Eighteen-year-old Josephine Luquet wakes up naked and covered in blood on the same day every year—when the blood moon is full. Josi has not responded to the “Cure”—an immunization against anger mandated by the government—and believes herself to be a threat to others.
Then she meets Luke. Luke has had the Cure but seems different than the other “drones”—and he’s dead set on helping Josi discover the truth about herself before the next blood moon.
But time is running out. Is Luke willing to risk his life to be near her? Does he truly understand what violence she is capable of?
Raw and full of passion, Fury is a story of love in a dystopian world, and how much we are willing to forgive in the struggle to remember our humanity.
This is a novella-length episode of Fury. It will continue with Episode 3 on 25th March. 

Chapter Seven

September 13th, 2065

Josephine

Anthony is staring at me. He hasn’t interrupted me once in the last two hours. He has simply watched my face with that expression they all wear, all the drones. I imagine they must be trying very hard to feel the right thing, but I don’t think they are ever sure.

“Would you like to take a break?” he asks. And that’s when I see the strangeness in his eyes. The softness. He’s never looked at me this way before—as if he cares about me.

“No, I’m all right,” I say, voice dry. The quicker we get this done the quicker I speak to Luke. Jesus, even thinking about him makes me all crazy. I reach over and try to push the window further open. The sun is setting and the air is cool, but I can smell everything the rain has left behind and it makes the slight trembling in my fingers stop.

“You don’t look … all right,” Anthony points out quietly.

I decide to tell him the truth, because the trembling is making me afraid. “It’s the curse. For days leading up to it, and weeks after, my body fails.” I stand and cross to the desk. Briefly I show him the blood coming from my gums and my fingernails.

“Josephine!” he exclaims, standing in his chair. “What’s caused this?”

“I just told you.”

“We need to get you straight into the nurse’s station.”

“They won’t find any reason for the bleeding,” I warn him. “I’ve been to dozens of doctors. Not one of them could figure it out. They said that my body was behaving like a body does during organ failure, but none of my organs are failing. You’ve seen my file, right?”

He stares at me worriedly. I know the file he’s been working from is a psych evaluation, because according to the doctors I’ve seen my symptoms have no physical cause and therefore must be caused by mental problems. The best they could do to explain this absurdity to me was to use an analogy about husbands feeling sympathy pains when their wives go into labor. My body apparently sympathizes with my fucked-up head, so if someone can just get some drugs to work on me, then the problem’s solved.

Story of our civilization: all problems can be solved with a bucket load of pharmaceuticals.

“I’m okay,” I tell Anthony gently. “For now, anyway. Let’s keep going.”

He loosens his tie, clearly trying to rid himself of the unruly feelings he suddenly seems to be dealing with. He sits down, puts his glasses on and takes them off again, then looks at me and nods.

I cross back to the window. “I moved out.”

“That didn’t last long,” he comments. “Two months?”

“Yeah. Everything with Luke and me was fast. Out of control. I had this sense that nothing could slow the two of us down except making sure there was no ‘two of us’. I got out of there and went back to my crap box of an apartment. I got a job at a bar where all the girls got tips if they dressed revealingly. None of the men tried to touch me—none of them even looked at me. I got no tips no matter how I dressed.”

“Why?” The doc seems genuinely confused by this.

I level him with a stare. “Tell me the truth, Anthony. If you hadn’t been forced to spend an hour a day with me for the last year, how would you respond to me?”

He doesn’t reply.

“You barely glanced at me for weeks in the beginning,” I remind him. “You knew without needing to be told that there was something different about me. Your instincts were to distance yourself from me, to make sure you didn’t make any contact. You have a basic human awareness of danger that has been incorrectly spooked because your cure causes your brain to send the wrong signals at the wrong times.” I pause and then shrug with shoulders that ache. “Or maybe your sense of danger is spot-on. Maybe your instincts sense the truth your mind can’t believe: that I’ve spilt a lot of blood.”

Anthony hesitates long enough to confirm that this is exactly right. I don’t need him to confirm it for me anyway—I’ve been around the truth my entire life.

“So you left Luke before anything could happen between the two of you,” Anthony says. “A response from your childhood.”

I don’t want to talk about my childhood. I don’t want to blame my problems with Luke on the crap that happened to me as a kid. That seems like the easy way out. It seems like the definition of cowardice. “I left to protect him,” I say bluntly.

“From what?”

“Me!” I snap. “Protect him from me, you idiot. Are you really that dumb?”

“Let’s not get agitated.”

You make me agitated.”

He obviously doesn’t know what to say. “Do you want to continue? Do you need some water?”

“I’m fine.” God, sometimes all I want is to punch him in the mouth.

“If you get so annoyed by my calm demeanor, then why didn’t you get just as annoyed with Luke?”

I open my mouth but can’t think of anything to say. “Sometimes I did. A lot of the time, actually. But he wasn’t … he was different. He wasn’t as bad as you.” I think for a moment that Anthony is hurt, but quickly realize how stupid that thought is. Nothing I say has any effect on him, except maybe to exasperate him. I swallow and put my hands out the window, turning them this way and that. This slight movement hurts, but I like the fresh air too much to care. Then the blood on my fingernails catches the orange light of the sinking sun and I wrench my hands inside again, squeezing my eyes shut.

She’s coming for me. She prowls at the edge of her cage, but soon she’ll be strong enough to break free, and I’ll be so weak and sick that I won’t even have a chance at holding her back. Doors with locks and guards with weapons aren’t enough to stop her. I don’t know what will ever be enough.

My eyes hurt, so I lean back on the couch and keep them closed while I speak. I picture Luke the whole time, even though it hurts more than my body is starting to.

December 21st, 2063

Josephine

The slaughterhouse stinks of blood. It’s cavernous and has been sitting empty for years, by the looks of it. I climb in through a shattered window and wait for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. Huge meat hooks hang from the ceiling, glinting red with rust. Puddles of old liquid dot the floor, and I pick my way gingerly through them, peering around for any sign that I was here once.

Plastic sheets hang against some of the walls, covered in mold, and I push them aside to try and see the layout of the building. There’s a set of stairs that leads down into an even darker, creepier room beneath the ground. More meat hooks hang in long rows, attached to chains that run the length of the roof. There’s a big green button on the wall and, even though I know my curiosity never leads me anywhere good, I always give into it.

The button is stiff when I press it. The chains creak and jingle alarmingly, and then the tracks in the roof start to move with a long shriek of metal against metal. The meat hooks slowly grind around in a long circle, swinging eerily. My nerves are shot, making my teeth chatter. I can hear something dripping amid the screech of metal, and the smells—I can’t think about them or I might throw up.

I shove my palm into the green button but it seems to be jammed, and the damn thing won’t turn off. Jesus, my hands are starting to shake, I have to get out of here.

I turn and run headlong into someone. A scream is torn from my throat but there are arms taking me by the shoulders and pulling me to a halt.

“Josi! It’s me!”

I blink and realize I’m looking up at Luke. His green eyes are the only bright things down in this pit of death. I let out a choked laugh of relief and extricate myself from his hands. “What are you doing here?”

“Apparently the same as you. Picking dates on the list and snooping around.”

Our eyes meet for a split second and then I look away. There’s a long, awkward moment as the meat hooks swing and creak behind us. The hairs on my arms are standing on end and I can’t shake the fear that creeps further into my heart with every beat. I think Luke’s presence makes me even more nervous.

A shadow moves against the wall, making me jump in shock.

“A rat,” Luke explains the scuffling sound.

I need to get out of here and away from him, but as I turn to leave something appears in the corner of my eye. I freeze. My heart is pounding. I can’t bear to look properly, but this is why I came.

These are your crimes, your memories. Own them.

Luke’s words echo loudly in my ears and I force myself to turn and look. It’s one of the hooks. No longer covered in rust. There is a body dangling from it, impaled on the sharp metal. A man. He is large and strong, his mouth and eyes open wide in shock. His insides are spilling out of him because his rib cage has been torn open and spread wide like a dripping, pink artwork of horror. Bits of his heart cover the hook protruding from his chest.

I stare, too stunned to move. I can hear my pulse beating in my ears, louder and louder. Ice is moving steadily through every single one of my veins. I’ve never felt so cold in my whole life.

I turn and vomit violently onto the hard concrete ground. My whole stomach comes up and turns me inside out. I heave and heave until my body aches too much to continue, and when I look back at the hook it is empty.

Luke

When I was a boy I liked to pull things apart. Electronics, old car engines, tools, machinery, toys—anything that could be picked into pieces was fascinating to me. I tinkered with things endlessly, always filthy with oil or dirt. I wanted to know how they worked, what they looked like, how they could be broken. I always wondered what it would be like to pick a person apart—I wanted to know how our bodies worked on the inside.

Once I took a kitchen knife and cut open my arm so that I could see my bones and flesh, my arteries and muscles. My curiosity was so strong that it blocked a lot of the pain. It wasn’t until later that I realized we can’t be taken apart as simply as a machine can. And I realized, too, that it’s even more difficult for us to be put back together.

My mother found me in my room, digging around in my arm and she screamed in shock. When I was stitched and back from the hospital she yelled some more, but differently this time. This was in the days when people still yelled. You tear everything into a thousand pieces but you never put anything back together! One day you will have broken everything in your life, Luke Townsend.

*

Outside the sun is too bright. Down a gentle hill of yellowish grass is a wide river. I guide Josephine to it, wary of her shaking legs and chalk-white lips. The fresh air is already doing her some good, and I think the sound of the rushing water is calming too.

We sit on the grass and I wait a long time for her to recuperate. I haven’t seen her for a month. But I’ve been to all of these places, these sites that are the essence of what is wrong with her, and I’ve pretended that she missed me as much as I did her.

Eventually I ask, “What did you see?”

“I killed a man in that slaughterhouse,” she says, her voice detached and cold. “I put him on one of the hooks.”

I frown. “Those hooks are at least six feet off the ground. You’re not tall enough or strong enough to get a man onto one of them.”

She shrugs. “What do you want me to say?”

“What was he wearing?”

“Black.”

“Any physical identifiers?”

“He was big. Strong. Very short hair. Clean-cut looking. That’s all I could see.”

“Are there any assumptions you can make about him?” I prompt. This is important, but Josi shakes her head, looking tired and pissed off.

“I’m going to the next site on the list,” she says.

“Isn’t that a bit much? Don’t you want to leave it for another day?”

She stands and starts walking.

“I’ll drive you. It’s too far to walk.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you.”

“Please just stop being so fucking stubborn and get in the car.”

“You don’t tell me what to do, remember?”

“I’m not telling, I’m asking. Begging, if you want.”

Josephine doesn’t look at me. She simply walks silently to my car.

The grass grows more yellow as we reach the outskirts of the city. Wide fields scatter the view on either side of the road, but there’s virtually no livestock anywhere. I haven’t seen a cow or a sheep in years, not since they were all moved to private organic farms that produce meat too expensive for more than two thirds of the population to afford. If we keep driving in this direction we’ll soon reach the wall. But I’m grateful our destination isn’t that far; I hate that wall more than I hate anything in this world.

Since the atmosphere in the car is tense at best, I’ve distracted myself by switching the Jag to manual and concentrating on the drive. Josephine keeps turning the radio to dumb crap that she knows I hate, and I keep turning it back just to get a reaction out of her. Once or twice I’m pretty sure I see her lips twitch, but god forbid she let herself laugh in the same vicinity as me since I’m now apparently the enemy.

I follow the GPS and turn the car down a winding dirt driveway. It leads us around a few hills and through some paddocks, and finally to an old, dilapidated-looking farmhouse. There is an enormous barn off to the side, and it looks like something out of a children’s picture book with its bright red door and yellow eaves. Josi climbs out of the car and stares at the barn for ages. I grow impatient and jog up the two steps to the front door of the house. I knock for about ten minutes before anyone appears.

It’s a woman holding a small baby. She peers at me through a window to the left, and then reluctantly opens the door. I wonder what’s made her so suspicious. The child squirms but the woman only looks at me blankly.

“Hi,” I begin, flashing her a smile. “Sorry to bother you, ma’am. My girlfriend and I were just wondering if we could possibly take a look around your property?”

“Why?”

I decide to take a bit of a gamble. “Josephine used to live on this farm, and she wants to show me all her little treasures. You remember what it was like to be a kid—lots of secret places you never shared with anyone. There’s this spot out the back where she buried some of her toys and she’s really excited about finding them again.”

The woman still looks utterly spaced out. She hasn’t responded at all to my gentle, soothing babble. I’m not surprised. She’s blissed out on emptiness and confusion. The scientists behind the cure must be over the moon to see the more extreme results like this—it’s a classic case of a personality that didn’t take well to being messed with. Assholes.

“Do you think it would be all right if we took a little look around?” I press carefully, keeping my smile fixed in place. “We won’t bother you at all …”

“She used to live here?” the lady asks abruptly, her eyes squinting against the sun toward Josephine’s still profile. “When was that?”

“A long time ago.”

“Oh. That’s odd. We moved in only a year ago. The house had been abandoned long before that, I believe.”

“So you just found it empty?”

“Our realtor found it for us. The property had been given to the state because its occupants disappeared—every single one of them. Left no will.” She shrugs, but the story makes a lot of sense to me. I’m suddenly not too sure I want Josephine to remember anything about this place. By the sounds of it, a lot of bad stuff went down. An entire family …

I turn to suggest we leave, but Josephine is already approaching the barn.

“Don’t take too long,” the woman warns vaguely. “And don’t disrupt anything.”

There is patently nothing to disrupt, since the entire property looks to be dead grass, but I nod and thank her before following Josi to the barn. Behind me I hear the woman start to laugh in a low wheeze that makes the hairs on my neck stand on end. I glance back but she’s closing the door and her creepy, deranged laughter is cut off.

“Wait outside,” Josephine orders me coldly, and there’s something scary about her in this moment, so I do as I’m told.

After about thirty seconds she walks straight back out, strides past me and hops back in the car. I’m not sure what to say when I join her. She refuses to look at me, and there’s a hard line to her clenched jaw.

“Josi—”

“You can never ask me about that place. Not that one. Do you understand?”

I swallow and then I nod, because I do understand.

*

I pull up outside her apartment block. We sit quietly for a while. She still won’t look at me, so I follow suit and stare straight ahead too.

“I’m going to get really drunk tonight,” she announces suddenly. “Would you like to be involved?”

My head jerks around. “Uh … sure.” It’s quite possibly the best offer I’ve ever had in my life. Her smell has filled up the car and I feel kind of heady from it. Since she moved out I’ve been imagining really embarrassing things that I will never admit to. Shit like candlelit dinners and romantic baths, and long walks holding hands. And when I’m not imagining that stuff or doing my research I’m storming around the apartment in a rage. I smashed the best bottle of wine I owned last night. It was worth a fortune and I’d been saving it for a special occasion. I drew it from the rack and felt so resentful that I wasn’t allowed to admit to every one of my feelings that I took the bottle out onto my balcony and hurled it straight down onto the street.

“We’re going to a party,” Josi says.

“Whose?”

“Some guy I met at the bar.” She is clearly demanding a fight but I’m tired of pretending I don’t want her. I can barely remember my adolescence. Josephine is the same. So maybe it’s self-destructive, but maybe we both need to blow off some steam. Maybe all I want to do is enjoy her for five minutes without being reminded that she might be dead in a few months.

So instead of warning her about how dangerous it could be, or pointing out that young men have the least predictable responses to the cure and when mixed with alcohol they can be truly violent, I say, “Good. What time will I pick you up?”

She hesitates a second then shrugs. “Ten.”

Josephine

I have no clothes that are suitable, and as I stare at my filthy home, my tiny suitcase and its meager contents, I have a moment of complete despair. I almost start crying, but I don’t, because that’s not what I do.

Instead I force myself to be proactive and I spread every item of clothing I own over the mattress. I have a pair of ratty old black jeans with holes in the knees; I decide to cut them into shorts. I have no scissors, so I have to rip them as well as I can, then I cuff them twice so that they’re quite short. My single pair of stockings have a ladder in them, so I rip them a couple more times, hoping it will look like they’re supposed to be like this. My scalp isn’t as sore as it was a month ago so I painstakingly brush my long black hair. I keep meaning to cut it short, but can’t quite bring myself to do it. I have no idea why—maybe it’s simply that I’ve always had long hair, and cutting it all off would seem a bit like losing the last part of me that was once innocent.

There’s one top in the pile that I’ve never had occasion to wear. It’s a deep emerald green, buttoned down the front with no back. I consider what I could wear underneath it, then remember that I’m supposed to be cutting loose tonight and decide to wear nothing under it. My bruises have faded, but tonight I don’t really care if people can see them, and this way my tattoos are visible too. Lastly, I add my black leather wristband, a long earring made of a bird feather in one ear and, because I can’t find the other one, a black stud in the other. Impatiently I brush on some mascara and red lipstick.

I only have a small cracked mirror in the bathroom, so I take a look at myself in there. I look like a completely different person. I can’t find myself anywhere in my reflection, and I like it. I feel dangerous. And even though this is usually the last thing I would ever want to feel, tonight I want to be wild and difficult. And angry.

There’s a knock on my door. My stomach lurches but I ignore it. He let me leave, and he made me confused, and I don’t need that shit in my life. I told him that I wanted him, for god’s sake, and he just stood there and didn’t say anything! I’ve never been so humiliated.

There’s also the much more important fact that I can’t trust myself around him. If I let myself have feelings for him, I might hesitate when the time comes. And that isn’t an option—killing myself is a necessity.

Anyway. I only invited Luke tonight because I need a designated driver and because I’m fairly sure no one will talk to me if I don’t come with a good-looking friend.

I open the door and we stare at each other. Oh Lord, the man is trying to destroy me. The stupid bastard looks like he hasn’t made any effort at all, and yet somehow he looks hotter than he ever has. He’s wearing slim-fitting, charcoal-colored suit pants very low on his hips. A pair of suspenders hangs carelessly from the waistband. I can quite clearly see the outline of his muscular chest and arms through his white tee, and he hasn’t bothered to shave so there’s dark stubble over his square jaw. He leans against the doorframe, and he looks at me with an expression I have never seen him wear before. It’s like he’s just as dangerous as I am, just as deadly, and he’s had enough of the games.

Luke’s green eyes travel over my body and I feel flushed. He doesn’t smile, but I can see in his eyes that he’s pleased. “You look hot.”

I turn and grab my black boots, pulling them on. I glance at his feet and see an ancient pair of sneakers. The bottoms of his pants are scuffed. All those fancy new clothes in his wardrobe and he insists on wearing items from the Stone Age. Even so—he can’t help but exude lazy sexuality.

“Come on,” I mutter as I brush past him. “Did you get any alcohol?”

“Was I meant to, Your Highness?”

“We’re going to a party and I told you I want to get drunk so what do you think?” I’m enjoying being snarky. I want to ruffle him, make him angry. I want to push every single one of his buttons. In fact I want to make everyone angry, everyone in this whole damn world.

“You’ve got a fakey—you can get your own booze,” he comments.

We arrive at the warehouse and head inside. It’s full already, even this early. The lights are low and there are bodies everywhere, moving and pulsing to the music. Crates full of drink line the walls and we grab a beer each. I also spot a bottle of vodka and manage to pinch the whole thing. I stalk away from Luke, realizing I don’t need an escort—nobody cares who arrived with who. There’s a carelessness here. Every person in this warehouse has lost something or is missing something from their lives. I can see it in the way they’re desperate to forget.

I take a long gulp of the vodka and nearly vomit. It’s without a doubt the most disgusting thing I’ve ever consumed. I don’t drink much because drunk people tend to get emotional, and I can’t afford to do that. I soon find that if I chase the vodka with the beer it’s slightly more bearable. I want to talk to someone, someone who has no idea that I’m a freak.

Three people are standing close by, two guys and a girl. One of the boys is chatting with the girl and making her giggle, but the other guy is staring into the sea of dancing limbs. He looks carefree and quite handsome, with his blond hair and collared black shirt. I approach him and his eyes glance over me. They quickly take stock of me and then keep moving. My feet falter for a moment, but then I’m reminded of the barn and I don’t really care about the fact that he won’t look at me. I refuse to allow every person in this place to ignore me.

“Hi,” I say when I reach his side. This time he manages to hold my eyes for a few seconds before looking away again.

“Hey,” he says shortly.

“I’m Josi.”

“Chris.” He looks me up and down and sort of reconsiders his reluctance. I can see the thoughts crossing his mind as if they’re neon-lit signs. He doesn’t know why he didn’t want to talk to me. I seem perfectly normal. And he probably doesn’t get many girls going out of their way to talk to him. Chris swallows and tilts his body more in my direction.

“Having fun?” he asks.

“I only just got here, but yeah, I guess.”

“You’ve certainly got your drink sorted out,” he mutters, gesturing at my bottle.

“Do you want some?”

He takes the vodka and has a few gulps. I follow suit and then we look at each other awkwardly.

“So … are you, like, on something?” he asks. “Your eyes … They’re kind of … manic, or something.”

My eyebrows arch. Is he serious? What was I thinking, coming over here to talk to a stupid child? I let a slow smile curl my lips; it is closer to a sneer. “I’m sorry. I thought you might be interesting. My mistake.”

I walk away from him, even though he calls out for me to wait. What a fucking joke. I press into the dancers, but feeling their skin against mine makes me jerk in shock. This isn’t the right way to be touched. I push through them, trying to head for the door, trying to find Luke.

At last I make it to the other side of the massive warehouse. A couple moves to the side and I am finally faced with Luke. He’s standing beside a girl in a sparkly red dress with amazing breasts and curly blond hair. She’s leaning close to him and he’s telling her something that requires lazy hand gestures and a mildly interested smile. She laughs, tilting her head back and shaking her tits.

I want to sink into the floor and cease to exist. Instead of dying, couldn’t I just stop being? That would be really nice.

But that’s when Luke’s eyes move in a cursory glance about the room. They reach where I’m standing and he stops. His eyes stop, his hands stop, even his mouth stops mid-word. Very slowly he starts to smile.

I hate him and I hate that damn smile. It hits me in the guts and heats my skin to flames.

Luke doesn’t even look at the girl as he brushes past her. She says something and then looks devastated that she’s been ignored. I barely notice this because my eyes are locked on Luke as he crosses the floor and leans close. “You look really lonely, girl.”

I swallow. He’s taking up every inch of the world. His presence is always larger than anything else. “This place is full of stupid little boys.”

“I hate stupid little boys.” He grins, teeth absurdly white. “Am I a stupid little boy?”

“I haven’t decided what you are yet.”

Luke moves his hand to my cheek and strokes his thumb to the corner of my mouth. “Well you let me know when you do.”

I feel sort of breathless. I want to kiss him, but I won’t, because I saw things in the barn today, and they make me want to die.

“Are you drunk yet?”

“Sort of.”

“And has it made you feel better?” he asks gently.

“Not really.”

“Why are we here, Josi?”

“I don’t know.”

Something loud explodes and shocks me so much that I jump. Luke’s hands are already pressing me behind him. It takes my poor, throbbing ears a moment to understand that it was a gunshot. I can’t figure out what’s going on, but people are starting to scream. A girl shoves into me and nearly knocks me off my feet, but I manage to stay upright.

“Nobody move!” a voice screeches out over the crowd. Someone has stopped the music. I peer around Luke to see that there’s a young man—the one who was flirting with the girl, Chris’ friend. He’s holding the gun high and there’s a crazed look in his eyes. He smiles wolfishly, giving an odd trickle of laughter.

His arm is around the girl’s neck, a bit like how he might hold her if he wanted to be affectionate. Her eyes have that eerie vacant look about them. She doesn’t know what to feel—she looks like she barely knows what’s going on.

“Let’s play!” the boy announces. There are a few sniggers in the crowd. One man cheers. Someone wolf whistles. Someone is crying. A few girls keep screaming in a really weird, abrupt way. I hear a high voice softly singing a skipping rhyme.

“Come on! Who wants to play?” He fires the gun twice into the roof, causing another eruption of chaos. “Don’t you want to see me shoot her?” And with this, the guy lowers the gun and points it into the temple of the girl.

“Stay here,” Luke says. He squeezes my hand once, and then he moves toward the boy with the gun. I feel a moment of terror in my stomach. Luke slinks into the empty space around the shooter. I don’t know what he’s going to do, but the girl needs help too. Quickly I thread my way through the crowd, moving around toward the back of the couple. I keep my eyes on them and Luke.

The stupid boy fires the gun into the ground this time, but the girl still doesn’t try to get away. Luke steps out in front of them. “I’ll play,” he says calmly.

The boy grins and aims his gun straight at Luke. He lets go of the girl and she stumbles sideways. I reach for her and pull her into the crowd. But Luke has the weapon aimed at his chest.

He’s edging his way closer and closer to the boy. Sounds are coming from within the crowd—whoops of excitement and jeers of encouragement. They’ve all lost their damn minds. Well, I wanted dangerous, didn’t I? Now I’ve got it. The static energy in the air is alive with unpredictability.

“I’ll play,” Luke says again, “but you have to come closer.”

The boy giggles and moves closer, pressing the butt of the gun into Luke’s sternum. Luke’s hand darts forward and swats the gun to the side. As this happens, he steps forward, beside the sounding shot, and into the boy’s chest. His fist connects three times with the boy’s chin, and somehow he manages to grab the gun and slip it into the back of his pants.

I blink incredulously. The boy is unconscious on the ground and Luke looks perfectly relaxed. He turns to look for me, but by the time he’s found me on the other side of the crowd, there’s another eruption from the back of the room. A huge fight has broken out and people are fleeing. Police sirens approach from somewhere outside.

Luke grabs my hand and drags me out through the swarming mass. I can hear shouts and screams and even some more gunshots. People are getting crushed by the crowd—one boy goes down and I look away quickly, horror building in my throat at the thought of him getting trampled. Luke keeps his hand locked around mine and deftly makes a path for us to escape through.

I can hear it all throbbing behind us—the chaos of it doesn’t fade until we’ve driven a long way away. I’m reeling from the whole thing, but Luke is still oddly calm. He’s the same as those lunatics inside. His calm is a product of his brain damage. It has to be.

Luke

The idiot with the gun has actually done nothing to wreck my mood. I still feel restless, right down in my bones. Josi looks outrageously gorgeous, and I want too much.

Impulsively I turn the car off the road. I’ve seen a map of this area, and I know that Josephine spent some time in a house out along the river. It’s a gamble, bringing her here, because she might loathe the idea of it, but I’m desperate to get her talking.

“Where are we?” she asks suddenly, sitting up to peer at the quickly passing trees. I’m driving too fast. I don’t want to slow down. I rip the handbrake and we slide around a corner. “Luke! Slow down, for Christ’s sake!”

I glance at her and smile. “It’s under control.”

“You’ll kill us!”

“I thought that’s what you wanted.”

“I don’t want you to die, you idiot!” she hisses.

My smile widens. “I can drive in my sleep. No one’s dying today.”

Eventually, after a fairly harebrained trip through the trees I pull us to a skidding halt. Josephine looks murderous as she flings herself out of the car and slams the door furiously. I climb out but leave the car headlights on to give us some illumination.

“What are we doing here?” she snaps.

I wink at her and walk over to the bank of the river. There’s a long wooden boardwalk that protrudes out into the water. It’s shrouded with mangrove trees, their long, gnarled boughs creepy in the dark. The headlights are throwing strange light against them, making them sway and flicker like thin, knobbly fingers reaching out to trace the surface of the moonlit river. My feet pound against the wood as I follow the planks all the way to the end.

I don’t turn around to see if she’s following. Sometimes with Josi it’s like trying to tempt a small, stubborn child into playing. Or convincing a timid animal that it’s safe to eat from my palm. I hear her feet reach the wood and edge hesitantly toward me.

“Do you know where we are?” she asks.

“Yes. Do you?”

“The house I lived in when I was eight is just up that hill. I used to lie on this boardwalk for hours and stare up at the leaves.”

I can tell by her voice that she must have loved it here.

“Did you know that when you drove here?”

“Yes,” I admit. “I saw it in your file. You were only here for six months.”

She edges a little closer.

“Why did you get moved?” I ask carefully. I think I might be frightened of the answer.

Josephine doesn’t say anything. Maybe she is frightened too.

June 14th, 2053

Josephine

I can see the river at the bottom of the hill, glistening silver in the midday sunlight, and I burst into a run. Before I make it something slashes through the edge of my vision and hits me in the face. I yelp and skid to a stop, raising my fingers to my cheek. It’s only when I see the blood on them that it starts to hurt. My face stings like crazy and there are surprised tears in my eyes.

I look around and see that it was a rock that hit me. And it was thrown by Lachlan, my foster brother. He’s twelve, and a lot bigger than me. He’s fat. I hate his chubby fingers and his pink cheeks. I hate the way he chews with his mouth open, and I hate the way his nasty eyes always look for me, no matter where we are.

He smiles as he crosses the grass toward me. He must have been hiding behind a tree or something. I don’t say anything, but I make myself stop crying immediately. I don’t really understand why he likes to hurt me, but I do understand that I can’t show him anything. None of the things I tell the trees. He can’t have any of my secrets or my thoughts or my feelings.

“Where are you going, Josy-posy?”

I don’t speak to him. I never speak to him. My words are mine too.

“Cat got your tongue?”

I try to move past him but he blocks the way and then grabs my hair. He pulls it so hard that I want to scream, but I don’t.

“Say something, you stupid little bitch!” he snarls. I know he got this name for me from his father. Probably everyone else in the house, too. They all call me that name. I don’t know why because I’ve never said anything mean about them. I’ve never spoken a single word to any of them.

Lachlan wrenches my hair, making me fall to the ground and skin my knees painfully. He sits on my back so I can’t move, even though I struggle like a mad thing. He’s too fat. I can’t get free. I can feel him pulling up my t-shirt. The sound of his pocketknife being opened is an alarm, but even as I squirm I feel the first sharp bite of agony. It’s along my hip, and it feels like he’s carving into my bone.

“Rude girls deserve punishment,” he says happily. His breath is close to my ear and it stinks like the licorice he’s just been eating. Then he says, in a funny voice, “You know I love you, Josy-posy. You’re my little sis. You belong to me, and it’s my job to protect you. All of my things need to be labeled, right? So no one else tries to use them?”

I don’t understand what he’s saying until he starts to cut me some more, deep slices of my flesh. I don’t cry. I bite down on a clump of grass so I won’t scream.

“Nearly there,” he tells me. “I’m just finishing up the N.”

A surge of rage floods my body. I can’t feel the small knife anymore. I can’t feel anything except a red tremble under my skin. A scream erupts from my mouth and I thrash so wildly that Lachlan is thrown off my back. He sprawls on the ground and before he can get up I lunge at him, grabbing him by the neck and squeezing until his face goes purple.

Next thing I know I’m being hauled off Lachlan by the ear, and it hurts a lot, but not as much as my hip. I try to blink the spots away from my eyes.

“You little psycho!” a woman screams. The woman I’m supposed to call Mom. Is she talking to me? Yes, she is. Of course she is. More feet arrive. “I just found the little brat trying to choke our son!”

“What?” It’s the man now. He clubs me over the head, making my vision cloud badly. I close my eyes and enjoy the darkness. I can still hear them shouting and blaming me. Lachlan is crying. Some of his words drift to me, and he seems to be sobbing over how frightened he is. I keep my eyes closed and my mouth shut. I could try to show them my hip with its bloody brand, but I’m too tired and I don’t think they’ll care anyway.

Maybe this means I’ll get a new house.

But that means I have to say goodbye to the river and the trees, and that will be sad, because they’re the only ones who’ve heard my voice.

December 21st, 2063

Josephine

“Luke?”

“Mmm?” He’s looking at the water, standing under the trees I loved once upon a time.

“Maybe I’m crazy.”

He looks up. “Why do you say that?”

“Maybe that’s why I murder people.”

Today there was a barn, and inside it there was a pitchfork. And that’s how I know that children once lived in that farmhouse.

Isn’t there a thing about kids who are treated badly turning into violent offenders themselves? Could that explain any of this?

“Maybe I’m a Fury. Or becoming one.” The thought of turning into one of those savages … It makes me long for death. “Before I moved here I was mute,” I tell him softly, the first glimpse I have ever given him of my childhood. “I never spoke a word to anyone. When I came here, I don’t know why, but I started speaking to these trees. They know all of my secrets, these branches, these leaves.”

He looks up at them and murmurs, “Lucky things.”

I shake my head. “I’m crazy. I must be.”

Luke walks up to me and pushes me straight into the river. The cold of it is sharp and sudden and hits me in the chest. I am momentarily silent and weightless. Breathless. My body doesn’t hurt, and my heart beats a steady rhythm. I want to stay below the surface of the world forever. I could drift away on a current and never have to see a single drop of blood again.

After a while my lungs start to really hurt so I launch myself up to the air again.

“Feel better?” Luke asks from the boardwalk.

“You deserve a smack.”

“Do you feel better or not?”

I am loath to tell him that I actually do. He must read the truth in my face because the bastard smirks.

“Come on,” he laughs, reaching a hand to help me out.

Honestly? How can he not see this coming?

I grab his hand and pull him in. Luke surfaces immediately, coughing and laughing. He splashes me once in the face and then we both swim for the muddy bank. Luke launches himself up onto the grass with an amazingly acrobatic display of upper body strength. I, on the other hand, scramble out looking like a clumsy oaf and get myself covered in mud. He takes one look at me and then laughs again, showing all of his white teeth.

“Instead of laughing you could help me,” I point out. “You’ve been really chivalrous tonight—what with scaring me half to death in the car and shoving me into a river.”

Luke walks back onto the boards. He wanders under the mangroves and then turns back to face me. In his eyes the twin bulbs of light from the car are reflected. “I just wanted to snap you out of it.”

I step out after him. “You can’t. Not permanently.”

“Then I’ll do it again and again, as many times as I have to,” Luke says softly. “Forever.”

And he walks toward me again, but this time he doesn’t push me into the river. This time he touches my cheeks and presses his lips against mine. It shocks me so much that I forget to pull away. I stand there and I think maybe I’ve ceased to exist except as a pair of lips.

Heart jerking unsteadily, I remember myself and wrench away from him. I run, but he grabs me and holds me, pulling me back into his body. When his mouth finds mine this time I struggle roughly, and I can taste my tears in my mouth and his and somehow my hands are straying to his chest, to the warmth there and the heartbeat.

I can’t move or breathe but I can taste and feel and I want him so much that even with him this close it’s still not close enough I can’t get close enough. “Luke,” I try to say, but it comes out as more of a sob because he doesn’t understand all the broken pieces and the things I’ve done. I’ve told him but he doesn’t understand that I’m drowning in an ocean of guilt and regret. I’m haunted and sick and rotten to the core and he’s good and bright, the brightest thing in the world.

His kiss is savage like a thunderstorm, like he’s desperate and sure.

“I know,” he rasps against my mouth. “I know how it hurts. But it’s supposed to.”

And I realize at last that he does understand, maybe even better than I do.

Fury: Book One of The Cure: Episode One is available now

Fury: Book One of The Cure: Episode Two is available now

Episode Three is available March 25

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These upcoming book-to-film adaptations should be TV series

Posted March 18, 2014 by Mark

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The Forever War

Optioned many years ago by Ridley Scott, this is one of the best science fiction novels ever written. Humans and aliens engage in a war that, due to the time dilation that occurs when travelling close to the speed of light, takes centuries to fight. The soldiers are increasingly removed from the society they’re fighting for as massive technological and social changes sweep away everything they know.

Why should it be a TV series? The story literally takes centuries to tell. It would be like a more realistic version of Battlestar Galactica or a better version of Space: Above and Beyond. There’s room to explore the complex relationships that develop between the soldiers and the pain of those bonds breaking when re-assignment means your friends will be centuries away.

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The Passage

Optioned by, of course, Ridley Scott, The Passage is a post-apocalyptic quest novel set in a world where a plague has turned most of the population of the United States into vampiric zombies. The original twelve infected patients hold a psychic influence over those who were infected via their actions, and a group of survivors decides to seek them out with the help of a seemingly immortal child.

Why should it be a TV series? It’s a massive novel that is just the first part of a trilogy that’s due to be completed at the end of this year, The Passage is a huge work, with many characters, sub-plots and backstory, with multiple narrative arcs that take place in different locations and different periods of time.

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Wool

Ridley Scott *also* bought the rights to Wool, another post-apocalyptic epic from self-publishing sensation Hugh Howey. After an environmental catastrophe, a handful of survivors live in underground silos, awaiting the day when the surface is safe once again. Wool takes place several generations after the catastrophe, where the inhabitants of the silo aren’t exactly sure what happened or what they’re waiting for, and are struggling against an oppressive regime that operates out of the silo’s IT department.

Why should it be a TV series? Wool is actually the middle story in a trilogy, with a prequel, Shift, and a sequel, Dust. There’s a lot of world-building that goes into making the silo societies seem believable and there are many supporting characters and groups that could stand to be explored in more depth in a series.

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The Girl Who Played With Fire/The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

After the American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo underperformed at the box office, the two sequels were put in limbo. The first one made enough that these films are still in development, but not enough to fast track them. The shame is that while the successful Swedish adaptations did a great job with the first film, the sequels left a lot to be desired.

Why should they be a TV series? The original Swedish films were intended for release as TV seasons, and after seeing True Detective, it’s clear that a 6-8 episode run for each of these stories could yield some spectacular results. With more and more film actors turning to TV, it’s not even that unrealistic to imagine Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig reprising their roles from the film.

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Ready Player One 

This is a brilliant novel that takes 80s nostalgia and creates a thrilling and riveting narrative. In the not-too distant future, most people spend their time in the OASIS, a virtual reality system developed by an enigmatic billionaire. When the billionaire dies, a contest begins. Whoever can decipher the clues and defeat the challenges hidden in the OASIS will win control of it. It’s a race against the clock for a loose fellowship of individual players to defeat a highly organised and ruthless corporation that wants to win control and remake the OASIS as they see fit.

Why should it be a TV series? Again, there’s a lot of world building that needs to be done, and the references to 1980s popular culture are so dense that they’d probably need a little more room to breathe in a filmed adaptation. The episodic nature of the events as they unfold would also lend it towards a longer adaptation.

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Robopocalypse

This novel about the survivors of a robot uprising is currently on Steven Spielberg’s to-do list. Robopocalypse is the World War Z of robot novels, a history of the individuals who made it, many of them from different parts of the world, facing very different threats. There are some spectacular set pieces, and some very cool stories.

Why should it be a TV series? The fact that the narrative is episodic, with each part about different characters in different locations, means that it would hang together better. And there’s room for even more stories to be told in this world,  as all the varieties of robot could be explored in-depth.

 

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Excerpt: Fury: Episode 1 by Charlotte McConaghy

Posted March 14, 2014 by Mark

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In the tradition of Divergent comes a novel about a world where negative emotions are stolen … and only those with fury can stand up and fight.
Eighteen-year-old Josephine Luquet wakes up naked and covered in blood on the same day every year—when the blood moon is full. Josi has not responded to the “Cure”—an immunization against anger mandated by the government—and believes herself to be a threat to others.
Then she meets Luke. Luke has had the Cure but seems different than the other “drones”—and he’s dead set on helping Josi discover the truth about herself before the next blood moon.
But time is running out. Is Luke willing to risk his life to be near her? Does he truly understand what violence she is capable of?
Raw and full of passion, Fury is a story of love in a dystopian world, and how much we are willing to forgive in the struggle to remember our humanity.
This is a novella-length episode of Fury. It will continue with Episode 2 on 18 March. 

 

 

Chapter One

September 11th, 2065

Josephine

I am a flame of fury. The last flickering flame in a world long since burned out. I have rage threaded through my skin, whispering against my ears, tied tightly around each one of my bones. My eyes, one brown and one blue, leak with it.

Most of the time this frightens me.

But sometimes I like it.

*

“When did it happen to you?”

He appears to be reading something but I figured out a while ago that he sits there and stares at a blank clipboard. God only knows why. Maybe he thinks it makes him seem smarter, or more aloof. I roll my eyes and turn them to the sky outside the window. A hint of dark gray is edging across the blue, and I can feel the static of a rising storm across my skin. I imagine being inside it, right in the heart of it, wild and out of control, but I only imagine this for the briefest of moments, because otherwise it starts to hurt too much.

“What?” Anthony asks. I know full well that he heard me perfectly the first time, so I don’t repeat myself. After a pause he says, “Nine years ago.”

“So you were … what—twelve?”

“Hilarious.”

“How old are you?” I sit up and face him.

“None of your business.”

“You’re in a friendly mood today. Aren’t you supposed to support every word I say?”

He shoots me a look that says at this point I couldn’t care less what I’m supposed to be doing with you. He is so tired. I can see it in his blue eyes and in the set of his mouth. I feel a moment of pity but it doesn’t last long because he wrecks it by saying, “Have you been taking your pills?”

“No. I seduced all the nurses on staff so that they skip me when it’s time for rounds.”

He actually looks alarmed, which is amusing.

“Yes, I take them. And they don’t do anything, like I’ve told you a thousand times.”

“That remains to be seen,” he says sternly. What a dick.

“You don’t look that much older than me, but you act like you’re eighty, Doc.”

He looks at me blankly and I grin. Antagonising Anthony Harwood is undoubtedly the only fun I have left in my life.

“Let’s talk about Luke,” he suggests.

The grin is wiped clean from my face. “No.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t want to.”

“Why don’t you want to?”

I lick my lips and then meet his eyes. “For the same reason I’ve requested a new therapist. You don’t understand, Anthony. You don’t understand anything.”

He looks pale as he glances down at his clipboard, as though searching for an answer. He’s on the small side of medium height and medium build, and he’s pretty much the definition of the word average. Except he does have nice eyes when he smiles. I only worked that out recently, because he’s smiled all of three times in the entire year. His dark hair is prematurely graying at the temples, which he probably loves. Despite this, I would still put him at about twenty-seven, twenty-eight.

“What don’t I understand, Josephine?” he asks me.

“You’re a drone. You have no concept of humanity anymore—which is why you’re no good to me as a therapist, and why the very thought of talking to you about something as private as Luke makes my skin crawl.”

He sighs. “Who else do you think you’ll get?” He folds his arms, starting to get impatient. “There’s no one left who hasn’t been cured. Everyone is a ‘drone’.”

Ain’t that the truth.

I sink back against the comfy window seat, depressed.

“The only people left who feel anger are the Bloods.”

“And me, apparently.”

“Allegedly,” he reminds me pointedly.

“Yeah, allegedly. So to sum up—Luke isn’t on the agenda, today or any day.”

“Is the real reason because you made him up?”

“Oh, Lord.” I laugh. “We really are back to Basic Therapy 101. Imaginary friends. You’ve outdone yourself today, Doc. Did you buy your degree off the net?”

“Luke has never come to visit you and yet you say he loves you.”

“I would never expect you to understand the simple concept of complexity,” I say sweetly.

“You speak in paradoxes.”

“And it feels wonderful.” I smile. “If only you could appreciate it.”

He frowns and drops his clipboard onto the desk in what seems a rather petty manner to me. There are still forty-five minutes of our session to go, but he has that stubborn look on his face that tells me he won’t be the first to break the silence.

We’ve been doing this—sitting here in this room—every day for almost an entire year. Each time he diagnoses me with some new disorder, I get to try a new type of pill that inevitably fails, and we have to go back to the drawing board. I don’t mind the drugs that make me sleepy, because they make the time pass faster, but I do not enjoy the hallucinogens. Not. At. All. I’d sooner gouge my eyes out than go through those kinds of visions again. I get enough of them in my sleep as it is.

At the moment Anthony is convinced I have schizophrenia.

I would love to have schizophrenia. I’d love it.

Because the truth—a truth I’ve been trying to convince Anthony of for almost twelve months—is much worse.

“So nine years ago, eh?” I murmur, running my fingers across the glass of the window. It’s not cold enough outside for there to be any condensation—in fact the air is warm and humid. The wind is picking up, but I don’t want to close the window—fresh air is a rarity in this place, and it’s one of the only things that makes me feel halfway sane. “Do you remember your life before you were cured?”

“Of course.”

“Is it … different?”

He tilts his head and then gives a sigh that says fine, I’ll indulge you because I’m infinitely patient and good and you are just a silly, erratic child I feel sorry for. “Yes, it’s different. It’s like there’s a wall in my head between then and now. Everything on the far side of the wall is wild, chaotic and exhausting. Everything here is calm, beautiful and healthy.”

I get what he’s saying. I understand the ache of the before, because I’ve never had the after. I’ve lived every moment of my life within the full spectrum of human emotion, and he’s right—it is exhausting. But I can’t imagine ever being tired enough of life to want to cut half of it away.

“Were you happy to get the injection?” I press.

He grimaces uncomfortably, taking a pen and pretending to write in his notepad. I stole a look at that pad once and it was covered in doodles of birds. I wait for him to quit stalling and answer, but he remains silent.

“Some people look forward to it, don’t they?”

I shudder.

“A great deal of people.” Anthony sits forward and searches my face. “Josephine, why are you so against the cure? It helps people. It makes things safer and happier.”

The futility of trying to explain something to the brainwashed is not lost on me. I have tried many times and it hasn’t made a lick of difference. But I simply cannot bring myself to give up.

“My fury belongs to me, and only me,” I say as calmly as I can manage. “No one can take it from me—no one has a right to it.”

“Even if it hurts people?”

“Tell me how I’m supposed to have any sense of who I am if I don’t have access to how I feel? It’s like punishing a crime before it’s even been committed—like punishing the idea of a crime. Where does our freedom go then? We all have a right to be as angry as we want, just as we have a right to be trusted.”

“Give me an example.”

Is he serious? “All right. I’m pretty damn angry with you right now, but I’m not going to lunge across the room and strangle you to death. I have restraint, and a logical awareness of consequences.”

“That remains to be seen.”

“Oh, shut up.”

“Why do you want to be angry?” Anthony asks. “It doesn’t help anyone.”

“Want has nothing to do with anything. Have you heard the rumours, Doc?”

“What rumours?”

I smile coldly. “Don’t play dumb. Even I’ve heard them and I’m locked in an asylum. They’ve cured the human population of anger, and everyone knows that soon sadness will be next. Sadness. Can you imagine never being able to feel sad? What value will happiness have? And what will be next? Fear? Jealousy? Vanity? We’ll cure ourselves of our humanity.”

“Perhaps you should try to calm down, Josephine.”

“It’s called passion. When was the last time you felt passionate about anything?”

“I don’t know—there are pills for it.”

It takes me a moment to realize that he’s made a joke. My jaw drops open in astonishment. The corners of his mouth twitch and I laugh abruptly. Our eyes meet and a moment later he gains control of himself, looking embarrassed at his outrageous behavior. He will probably go home tonight and school himself not to be so wild. Wind is starting to keen through the trees outside. It sounds like screaming and makes the hairs on my arms stand on end. I am reminded of the nightmare in my head, replaying itself over and over and over.

“Do you know what the date is?” I ask softly without looking at him.

“I do.”

“Have you made any preparations?”

“What preparations do you suggest I make, Josephine?”

“I’ve told you a thousand times, and I’ve watched you pretend to write it all down a thousand times. I’m tired of repeating myself.”

“Hallelujah,” he says.

My jaw clenches and it hurts to breathe; I can feel the tide creeping up. I am too tired to say another word. We sit together and yet not together—I haven’t had a ‘together’ in a year. Instead I’ve had lots and lots of ‘alones’. We sit alone together until the hour runs out, and then he stands and leaves the room before me.

He has never left the room before me. It’s nothing, nothing at all, and yet it leaves me feeling lost. Even though I hate routine, in this place I need it.

Doyle comes to collect me, taking hold of my arm with that alarmingly tight grip of his. I don’t know how long I will have to be here without misbehaving before he will loosen that grip. He is unlike any of the other nurses in the facility. His face is scarred, his nose crooked as though it has been broken and, if I didn’t know better, I would think he was an angry man. He doesn’t want to be here—that much is obvious, and I always wonder why he is.

Doyle jerks me out of Anthony’s office and starts walking me down the halls. The lights in this building are fluorescent and flicker just enough to make you go steadily insane, if you aren’t already.

Screams follow us down the halls. Screams and sobs and mutters. They make me cold, all the way through, even now. Even after a year.

As we reach my room I flash Doyle a smile. “Thanks, Doyle. One of these days you and I are going to have a really meaningful conversation, you’ll see.”

Doyle, true to fashion, doesn’t respond. He throws me into my room roughly and locks the door behind me. I turn and inspect the view, hoping that maybe my eyes will spot something new this time. What a surprise: they don’t.

There is my empty steel desk, bolted to the ground. There is my tiny steel bed, bolted to the ground. There is my uncomfortable steel chair, bolted to the ground. And there is my Maria, mute and asleep and stationary like she’s bolted to the ground. I also have four windowless walls, and one large calendar, so large that I suspect it may have been made for the vision impaired. I hate that calendar as much as I need it.

Circled in black is one date. A date that falls in this month. And this week.

Time is running out.

It won’t be me who suffers under the blood moon.

It will be Maria. And Doyle. And Anthony. And every other person in the lunatic asylum on top of the hill.

September 12th, 2065

Anthony

I don’t know how it happened, but at some point in the last year my life has become about Josephine Luquet. I can hate her for it, but I can’t seem to do a thing to change it. Every hour of the day is like torture, except for her hour. Josephine’s hour.

As she sits there, within the tiny room but miles away from me, I can feel my body start to tremble as though it wants to be angry with her but can’t remember how.

Anger is a foreign concept to me. I am still frustrated—endlessly, it sometimes seems—and I am still impatient, but these feelings are dull, shades of what they once were.

I want to make Josephine listen to me but doing that may as well be like trying to force her into a tiny box she is far too big to fit within.

I don’t know why Josephine is how she is. Why she wasn’t cured like everyone else in the world was. And I don’t know why she has such violent delusions.

The only thing I do know is that she is one of a kind. An anomaly. A monster with strange blue and brown eyes, and a smile too cold for words.

Yesterday’s session was bad. There’s no getting around it. I failed to contain her anger, which is my main job, and I failed to convince her to speak of Luke. But last night an idea occurred to me. Today I am keen to broach it.

“Why hasn’t he called you?” I ask as she enters my office.

She blinks, her eyes dripping with scorn. I can’t bear that scorn. It’s the worst thing about her.

Or maybe it’s the worst thing about me, that she has so much to be scornful of.

“Well hello to you too.”

“Don’t avoid the question, Josephine.”

“Oh, Anthony,” she sighs. “You suck the fun right out of this.”

I don’t know who told her that therapy for a mental illness is supposed to be fun, but I shrug apologetically anyway.

“I don’t know why he hasn’t called.”

“Have you tried to contact him?”

Her eyebrows arch. “Would that be via morse code, or with a homing pigeon?”

“Don’t they give you phone privileges?”

“Don’t who give me phone privileges?” she snaps. “Doyle, the barrel-of-laughs nurse who manhandles me constantly? Maria, my semi-comatose roommate? Or my ever-distracted, uninterested therapist who dashes from the room the second our hour is finished? Because the three of you are just about the only people I have contact with.”

I find myself speechless. Distracted? Uninterested? I must be a better actor than I thought, because those are two of the last things I am with her. I belatedly realize how sad her life must be. She hasn’t spoken to anyone except two virtual mutes and me all year. “All right, how about I organize for you to make a phone call?”

She doesn’t say anything, and to my surprise I see a faint pink blush creep up her neck. She crosses the room and sinks into her usual spot, twisting her face to the window as she always does. The rain has been falling all day and the sky is streaked through with white veins of lightning.

“What’s wrong? Don’t you want to call him?”

“I don’t … know how to reach him. His old number was disconnected.”

“I could find a new one for you.”

“I don’t even know where he is anymore.”

“Where did he work?”

“He was a state prosecutor.” Josephine pauses, frowning. “Still is, I guess. I forget that the world keeps turning beyond these walls.”

“There you go. Shouldn’t be too hard to find a contact number somewhere.”

Her face lights up and for a moment she is utterly unburdened by the heavy dark veil that usually clouds her.

“On one condition.”

Josephine’s shoulders slump and she rolls her eyes in that way of hers. “I should have known. You really don’t give a shit about me.”

“Of course I do,” I say firmly, but she won’t meet my eyes.

“What’s the condition then?”

“Tell me about Luke. All of it, every single detail from the time you met up until the day you arrived here.”

Her strange eyes flash dangerously. “What happened to privacy, Doc?”

“That doesn’t exist anymore. Not for you, and not in this room.”

“Why?” she demands. “Who gets to decide that?”

“I do, because you’ve tried to kill yourself three times.”

There is a slow-burning silence. A clap of thunder finds the right moment to startle us both.

I stand up from my desk, but can’t manage to move from behind it. It feels safe behind the desk. “Josephine,” I murmur. “I need to figure out what’s inside you.”

The truth is I already know—an abused child can respond to being hurt in a number of different ways, and Josephine’s hallucinations are a perfect example of that. But I need her to speak about it. She never speaks, not in the ways I want her to. Without words we’ll get nowhere together.

She smiles and there’s ice in my veins. “You could have just asked, Doc. It’s simple. There’s an inferno.”

September 17th, 2063

Josephine

I’m on fire; everything in my entire body feels alight. Even though my ears are pounding, I need noise, loud enough to drown out the screaming I hear when I blink, and I need darkness dark enough to black out every horrific image I imagine myself to have committed last night. I go into the first place I find, the pounding bass reverberating all the way out into the street. I push my way through a loud crowd, feeling every accidental touch against my skin. I manage to find a seat on a couch and slump down onto it, closing my eyes. Nobody comes near me—nobody even looks in my direction. I’m not sure why this is, but it’s always been the same. No matter where I go or what I do, I’m ignored.

I sit for a while and sink into the noise around me. Pain lances through every muscle, every bone. My mind whirls, entranced, dazed. The music helps to keep me here in the room, as does eavesdropping on other people’s conversations. There are two girls behind me who won’t stop talking about the benefits of wearing primer under their foundation. “I’d die without it,” and “Where do you get yours from?” and “Thank god they make travel-sized bottles!” I had thought primer was something you painted a house with, but I’ve clearly been labouring under a misapprehension and might die unless I get myself some fast.

“Hello, beautiful.”

It’s a deep, rough voice. I don’t look at him straight away. Instead I roll my eyes. I don’t get hit on much, but when I do it pisses me off. Opening with “hello, beautiful” is uninspired. At best.

“Hello,” I start to say, but as I turn I forget the second half of the word. He’s looking at me. Like, really looking at me. And he’s beautiful. Despite the fact that he looks like he might not have slept in a month, he has incredibly bright green eyes. There are dark bags beneath them, and they’re bloodshot as hell, but damn they’re green. He has short dark hair and stubble over his square jaw, and even as he sits there, completely still, there is an undeniable sense of movement in his long limbs. I can’t work it out, but he’s sort of … animal.

In all my life I can’t remember seeing anyone with a gaze like his.

“It’s rude to eavesdrop,” he points out, cocking his head to listen to the girls.

“It’s rude to point out when something’s rude,” I mumble.

“What’s primer?” he asks me while wincing at a shriek of their laughter.

“No idea.”

He gives up on listening to the girls’ growing hysteria and looks at me directly. “You looked really lonely.”

I pull myself together and give him a bleak stare. “How do I look now?”

He smiles slowly. “You look good.”

Yes, he’s gorgeous, and yes, he’s got possibly the most delicious smile I’ve ever seen, but in one line he’s just reverted into every idiot drone who doesn’t have a clue. I feel so tired—and angry, too angry. I want to tear this whole place to pieces so they won’t all be so happy. Their lives are just … easy. This man sitting before me is easy. I want to run and scream and cry and shut it all out, except that then I would be left alone with the blood moon.

“Just go away,” I sigh. I regret coming here. It was stupid. I am almost too tired to get up and leave. I consider what might happen if I curl up on this couch and go to sleep. Would they leave me here? I can’t imagine anyone touching me for long enough to move me. I can’t imagine anyone even realizing that I am here.

“I can’t,” the man says. At a guess he’s early twenties. He’s a boy, really. Or, he’d look like a boy if he weren’t wearing that expression. He would have received the cure at fifteen, like everyone else, which means he didn’t get much time. He didn’t get many years of freedom before they stole his personality.

“What do you mean you can’t?”

He shrugs. “I mean I can’t before I make sure you’re all right.”

I eye him suspiciously.

“So are you?” he presses.

“I’m fine.”

We stare at each other. “You can toddle off and feel really good about yourself now,” I murmur coldly.

“I’m not trying to pick you up,” he says.

“I didn’t say you were.”

“You’re the saddest girl I’ve ever seen.”

“So why didn’t you run the other way?”

“Because if sadness goes next, I want to remember what it looks like.”

And just like that, I am made of sand and sinking through the cracks in the floor. I have an absurd desire to have his skin against mine, to see what it feels like, to see if it burns as hot as mine does. I am a long way from words, but he doesn’t grow awkward, he simply waits for me to come back.

“What does sadness look like?” I eventually ask in a soft, rasping voice.

He tilts his head and eyes me critically. “It’s cold blue and warm brown. It’s blurry edges and stillness. It’s unnerving,” he says, “and beautiful.”

After a while he adds, “I’m Luke,” and holds out a hand for me to shake. I don’t, because there is still blood on mine, and even though he won’t be able to see it, I’ll know it’s there. I haven’t touched or been touched by anyone in years, except for the occasional brushing of a shoulder.

“Josephine Luquet.”

“All right, Miss Luquet. If I asked you why you’re so sad, would I be the first?”

“That’s presumptuous.”

“Probably. Would I be?”

I shrug, unwilling to admit that he would be. “Are you going to ask me?”

“Yes. But not tonight. Right now I’m going to walk you home because you look like one touch might send you to dust. Come on.”

I follow him outside, blinking to rid myself of the haze I’m trapped in. He feels like a dream. My teeth ache. And my fingernails.

He lights a cigarette and I look at him properly. In the spill of light from inside he looks pale. His white t-shirt is dirty and full of holes, as are his jeans, which sit low on his hips. He’s wearing ratty old flip-flops, and I can’t believe he got into the club dressed like that. On the other hand, he is undeniably attractive, and men probably spend hours trying to make themselves look as careless as Luke does. He’s tall and lean like he might be a little underweight, but he’s no less muscled for it. The strength through his arms and chest is real—it’s the type that comes from hard work, not from muscle enhancers.

His cigarette smoke makes me feel like I might throw up. My head is pounding and I realize I must get home immediately or I’ll be in danger of collapsing in the gutter with a strange and eloquent man named Luke for company. I take off down the street and he follows, uninvited.

“Should we get a cab?” he asks.

I ignore him. He doesn’t actually think he’s coming home with me, does he? I stumble slightly and he’s there to catch me by the elbow, but his hands on me cause my heart to lurch with fear and I pull away. This is too strange. No one even looks at me, let alone… this. “Don’t touch me.”

“Sorry. You were about to eat concrete.”

“Are you following me?”

“I’m escorting you home, like a gentleman.”

It’s becoming too much. I can’t breathe. Just last night I … Oh, Jesus, I can’t face that—not yet. But there was a last night, and now I can’t have … this. I can’t have him looking at me and saying nice things to me and being a gentleman. I’m not a girl who understands those things—not today, on the 17th. Today I am a wraith. A shadow.

I am covered in the blood of the moon, and I’m the only one left who can feel angry about it.

We reach my block of apartments and I face him. No way is he finding out which number I live in. “Okay. Bye.”

“Josephine,” Luke says quickly. The moonlight makes his eyes look greener.

“What?”

“It’ll be all right.”

I smile, and even I can feel the chill of it. “You’re a silly boy.”

He searches my face with a look of his own. I suspect that among people who know him this look must be famous. It is very assured and direct. It says you don’t frighten me because I am more than I look. “I’ll be back in the morning.” I think this is supposed to be a promise, but it feels more like a threat.

“No you won’t.”

“I have a question to ask.”

“Luke.” I lick my lips and try to give my next words weight. “If you come back and ask that question, I don’t know why but I think I might answer it. And the truth is, if that happens, we’re both going to regret it.”

Luke

I watch her go into her apartment with the hopeless awareness that my life has changed. She’s different—so alarmingly different that I knew it the first time I caught sight of her. Under the calm, she’s rabid. And I’ve been waiting a long time to find someone like her.

The world is a sea of ghosts. When the plague annihilated us there were riots in the streets. Buildings came down in a flood of dry rubble. A fury made of fear was born, and the world grew dangerous. Nine years ago the government—every government—built walls around the remaining cities and started administering the cures. No more anger for humanity. No more aggression. The fight went out of us; we were malleable, controllable drones. But with one emotion gone, the other parts of us grew skewed and out of shape. Now everything is distorted—our perceptions of the world are damaged. A woman cheats on her husband and he can’t manage to care. A house is burgled and the occupants think it’s funny. A child is lost and nobody understands the importance of this except the Bloods. These aren’t rational responses—they are the reactions of damaged psyches, brains that are scrambling to connect pieces of pictures that have been pulled apart.

It is rumored that in three years the first of the sadness cures are scheduled to be administered. And what will the world be made of then?

Society has gone mad. I’ve been suffocating—until tonight, until she looked at me. I’m not sure what she is, or what she means, but I must ask that question, even if it will make her hate me forever.

 

Fury: Book One of The Cure: Episode One is available now

Episode Two is available March 18

Episode Three is available March 25

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Nine reasons to be excited about Jurassic World

Posted February 27, 2014 by Mark

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The long-awaited fourth instalment in the Jurassic Park franchise is about to start filming. If you’re anything like me, this fills you with a joy so profound you can’t really describe it. Here are a few reasons you should be getting excited.

1. It’s been a really long time since there was a good dinosaur movie

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21 years to be exact…

 

2. Chris Pratt is the lead actor

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I’d love to see him do the role as Andy from Parks and Recreation.

 

3. It will form part of the 2015 orgy of nostalgia

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Between this and Star Wars Episode 7, we’re all going to feel like 12 year olds with no friends again!

 

4. The director is Colin Trevorrow

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Who made the charming time travel film Safety Not Guaranteed, with another Parks & Rec star, Aubrey Plaza.

 

5. It’s not the ‘mutated dinosaurs being trained for the military’ storyline that was talked about a few years back

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While the exact details of the story aren’t known, it’s definitely not that.

 

6. It promises to show the park as a successful, functioning theme park

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You were always curious as to what the park could have been had it succeeded and now you’ll know!

 

7. It’s a sequel, not a reboot

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Although the suits at Universal would have been tempted to go for a complete do-over, this way there’s still a chance that Jeff Goldblum or Sam Neill could turn up.

 

8. The screenplay is based on a script by the writing duo behind Rise of the Planet of the Apes

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Now there was a reboot that offered a fresh, inventive take on an established franchise.

 

9. Velociraptors 

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Clever girl.

 

 

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In the mood for more dinosaurs? Greig Beck’s The First Bird is  Jurassic Park meets The Walking Dead and has just been nominated for an Aurealis Award for best horror novel! 

 

 

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Some awesome space moments from cinema

Posted February 10, 2014 by Mark

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It’s Monday morning and I’m nerding out. Here are some brilliant space moments from cinema. Let me know if you have any suggestions in the comments!

2001: A Space Odyssey

This sequence, ‘Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite’, really delves into the awe and mystery of space in a way no other film ever has. Breathtaking visuals represent a true journey into the unknown.

Gravity

The opening sequence is best watched in 3D at Imax and is pretty much guaranteed to leave your jaw on the floor. From the beautiful shot of the shuttle from a distance, to the terror of the first encounter with the debris cloud, this is space cinema at its best.

Sunshine

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In this scene from Danny Boyle’s underrated sci-fi movie, the crew gather to watch as Mercury crosses the sun. A nice moment out of the action to remind viewers about the natural wonder of the universe we live in.

Star Trek: First Contact

Ok, can I have this? Let me have this. This is just a beautifully composed shot of the Enterprise E emerging from a nebula. Doesn’t it just send chills down your spine? It doesn’t? Oh.

 Apollo 13

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There’s a lot to choose from in this film, but I’d suggest the dark side of the moon sequence as the best.

Alien

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The Nostromo is a massive, slow ship, that is absolutely dwarfed by the space it’s presented in. The opening titles sequence, which is just a very slow pan across the planet, conveys majesty and mystery.

 

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An introduction to The Dark Tower

Posted February 4, 2014 by Craig Hildebrand-Burke

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While we are still being fed tiny morsels to whet our appetites for an adaptation to Stephen King’s Dark Tower series (Aaron Paul! Javier Bardem! Netflix!), it still remains an extremely unlikely prospect that the hybrid TV-film series will ever get off the ground.

At least we have the books. And such books. Eight volumes spanning decades in publication history, thousands of pages, numerous revisions and revisitations, all depicting an epic quest in search of the elusive Dark Tower.

And yet it remains a series unlike many others, and quite (understandably) resistant to the bandwagoning that has seen other epic series like A Song of Ice and Fire hurtle into the stratosphere of public acclaim. It is a difficult series, strange and evolving, and defying genre classification. It isn’t even easy for regular Stephen King fans, many unsure how to place the series in his oeuvre, given how it seems to reference and influence many of his classics.

Here then, for those considering beginning their own journey, is a brief introduction to Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.

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The Books

Eight in all, published between 1982 to 2012.

The first, The Gunslinger, was actually started by King as a university student and took him over twelve years to write before it first saw daylight as serialised short stories in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, only bundled together as a complete novel a year later.

It is possibly the most difficult of the books – a dense, ambiguous genre-bender that introduces the main character, Roland, and his pursuit of The Man in Black; the first stage of the quest for The Dark Tower. King drew inspiration from the Robert Browning poem Childe Roland To The Dark Tower Came, and fashioned a story that was part-Western, part-Jodorowsky acid trip, part-knight’s tale of chivalry and exile, with doses of fantasy and horror thrown in for good measure.

From there, the story picks up with The Drawing of the Three, where King happily admits his style and narrative really takes hold. Roland draws forth supporting characters for his quest, pulling them through portals between his world and (supposedly) our world. This continues in the third book, The Waste Lands, which leads Roland and his group further into a decaying world, full of abandoned cities and malevolent technology, as it becomes apparent Roland need not just find the Dark Tower, but he must actually save it.

It was six years until King wrote the fourth book, Wizard and Glass, and at this stage the series had already been going for fifteen years. Easily the most divisive novel in the series, this is effectively one big flashback into Roland’s past, where much of his world is explored and established so as to give further urgency and agency to his quest. It’s also some of King’s strongest writing, in what is really an old-fashioned tragic romance.

In 1999, King was hit by a car and nearly died, with the series incomplete. Having this knowledge of the writer’s reality in mind when reading the rest of the series is necessary. The Wolves of the Calla was published in 2003, followed shortly by Song of Susannah in 2004, and The Dark Tower in 2005 – King evidently charging to the finish with a clear idea of the importance of this series in his career. As one reads these final books, it becomes frighteningly clear how important these books are to King, and how he views them in contrast to all his other writing.

In 2012, King published a short re-entry to the series, The Wind Through the Keyhole, a book that surprised some and added much to the journey of Roland – and is best seen as Book 4.5 in the series.

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The Characters

First and foremost, it is the story of Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger of Gilead, the last great city of his world. He is seen as a descendant of a King Arthur-like mythical figure, and yet for all these knightly qualities, his persona is borrowed liberally from Clint Eastwood’s Man Without a Name gunslinger in his spaghetti westerns. It is his quest for the Tower, his journey that binds the tale, and is for all intents and purposes, the defining hero for Stephen King’s imagination.

Roland brings with him Eddie Dean, a recovering heroin addict and small-time grifter, Odetta Holmes, missing both her legs due to an accident and suffering from schizophrenia, and Jake Chambers, an eleven-year-old figurative ‘son’ of Roland’s. All three are pulled out of New York and into Roland’s world, to take up the quest with him.

These three – and a few others here and there – form Roland’s ka-tet, a term King uses to signify the bond of a group unified by a single purpose and destiny. It is a concept King returns to in many of his novels, but it is in this series that he gives it particular significance.

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The World

Roland’s world is similar to our own yet not. He journeys from In-World to Mid-World to End-World, noting often how death, decay and ruin seem to befall everywhere he goes. The world’s moved on, is the repeated phrase, and it becomes clear that Roland’s world is merely one level of the Dark Tower, which is in danger of crumbling and thus bringing about the end of his world.

However, with the introduction of the New York characters, and others, it becomes clear that The Dark Tower connects many worlds, and that all are in danger. The Dark Tower is both literal and symbolic, an axis mundi to the universe, but also to Stephen King’s imagination.

It’s an epic series, a unique series, one that covers a scope quite beyond this short introduction. It’s difficult for me to think of a series that stands not just as a thrilling and imaginative journey, but also as a personal document, a story that attempts to explain a storyteller. If you’re at all interested,  I suggest opening The Gunslinger and just reading the first line. It won’t let you go.

 

 

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Box office Nerdery: Billion dollar movies for 2014

Posted January 22, 2014 by Mark

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Every year since 2008 has produced at least one billion dollar movie. In 2012, there were four (The Avengers, SkyfallThe Dark Knight Rises and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey). Last year there was only one, Iron Man 3, with Despicable Me 2 coming close, and both The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire both still in wide release but probably not going to make it. Most analysts predict a record amount of billion dollar movies in 2015 (with new movies in the Star Wars, Avengers, Jurassic Park, James Bond and Hunger Games franchises), but what about 2014? Here is a list of films that have the potential to make it:

 

$800 million movies: at least one of these will crack $1 billion

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The Hobbit: There and Back Again

The first one managed $1 billion, and the second came close, thanks to robust grosses outside the US (where it underperformed). The third one has a chance if the marketing is executed in the right way. The promise of a conclusion to the cliffhanger ending of the second film, and the last chance that audiences will have to see a new film set in Peter Jackson’s interpretation of Middle-Earth could prove enough to boost this film past $1 billion.

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1

Catching Fire built on what had come before, but there was some slight disappointment that it didn’t join the billion dollar club. However, it was well-received and given the fact that the love for Jennifer Lawrence should grow this year (with a potential Oscar win and an appearance in the sure-to-be-a-hit X-Men: Days of Future Past), this one could make it. It’s probably more likely to happen with Mockingjay: Part 2, but you never know.

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Transformers: Age of Extinction

Ugh. I know, I know. But the third Transformers surprised everyone when it surged past $1 billion. There’s obviously a vast audience that loves these films, and they’ve had a few years to build up their desire for another film. Add to that a ‘reboot’ of the franchise with a new cast and the promise of dino-bots, and this one could be massive.

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Reviews for the first were mixed (Andrew Garfield = good, Lizard = bad), and while most people considered a reboot unnecessary coming so close to Sam Raimi’s films, it still made $750 million. Audiences will definitely give this franchise a second chance, and with the promise of seeing iconic villains like Electro on screen, it should please long-time fans. If the issues with the first film are fixed in the second, there could be very little to hold it back from joining the billion dollar club.

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Interstellar

Christopher Nolan has had an unprecedented run as a filmmaker. His last two Batman films each grossed over $1 billion, and the film he made between them, Inception, made over $800 million. He’s also assembled an amazing cast with broad appeal, including Matthew McConaughy and Anne Hathaway. And space movies are proving to be box office draws again, with the Star Trek franchise delivering solid results, and Gravity being a massive worldwide hit. The first teaser trailer builds up even more anticipation without giving much away, and it’s being released in November (November/December movies generally hold better at the box office).

 

$650 million movies: one of these could crack $1 billion in the right circumstances

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Guardians of the Galaxy

Marvel has two major films in their Avengers universe out this year, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (which will do solid business) and Guardians of the Galaxy. A lot will depend on the quality of the film, but it has the potential to be the Star Wars of the Marvel universe. It’s something new, it’s not linked too intricately to the other Marvel properties, and it should have broad audience appeal with a nice blend of cool special effects, humour, and a (hopefully) thrilling adventure. If the filmmakers deliver a great film, this one has potential to be a massive global hit.

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How to Train Your Dragon 2

The first one made $500 million, was warmly received by audiences around the world, and has a reputation for being a film that benefits from a big screen viewing. Dreamworks animation almost delivered a billion dollar animation with Shrek 2 back in 2004, so they have experience in successfully growing audiences for sequels. It will also benefit from the fact that there will be no Pixar movie this year, so the animation marketplace is a little more open.

 

$500 million movies: cracking $1 billion is unlikely but not impossible

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X-Men: Days of Future Past

If you include the Wolverine movies, this will be the 7th film in this franchise. There are already two more in production, a direct sequel to DOFP and a third Wolverine movie. They deliver solid results, but no movie in this franchise has grossed more than $500 million. Does DOFP have the potential to more than double the gross of the most successful instalment (X-Men 3: The Last Stand)? It’s possible. First Class is generally regarded as a great superhero movie that breathed fresh life into the franchise, and it has gained a larger following via home viewings. It’s also been almost 8 years since audiences last saw the original cast in their iconic roles (apart from Wolverine, of course). So, an Avengers-style team up in the popular X-Men universe will definitely deliver an above average result, and DOFP will undoubtedly be the most successful X-Men film. If the all stars align (other superhero movies disappoint this year, J-Law wins another Oscar, the marketing campaign is flawless, the movie is spectacularly good), then it could overperform.

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Jupiter Ascending

The Wachowskis are yet to create a bona-fide hit outside of The Matrix series. Could this be it? An epic space adventure with a likeable cast (Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum star), and dazzling visuals, Jupiter Ascending has promise. Provided the Wachowskis can reign in some of their worst excesses, this could be a crowd-pleaser with broad appeal. The criminally under-seen Cloud Atlas was a welcome return to form, and the studio has invested $250 million in this, so they obviously feel confident. If, like Guardians of the Galaxy, this film can capture a Star Wars vibe, it has a chance.

 

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Excerpt: Aurora: Darwin by Amanda Bridgeman

Posted January 21, 2014 by Mark

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AURORA: DARWIN by Amanda Bridgeman is a thrilling space opera that’s won legions of fans around the world. Today, it’s the Kindle Daily Deal for Australia, and you can grab a copy for only $0.99. Click here for more! 

Prologue

Easy money. Yeah, right! Lars had always been one for taking the easy road, but right now this didn’t seem so fuckin’ easy. Right now, his bitch of a mother’s words were ringing in his ears: “If it sounds too good to be true, Lars, then it is! There’s no such thing as an easy ride! You work long and hard, and then you die! That’s just the way it is in this stinking life!” Well, he’d taken the easy road, alright. Simple work on a cargo ship seemed honest enough. It looked good to his parole officer, and being stuck on a ship traveling around space for months on end was a good way of keeping you out of trouble. Except the gunrunning, that is.

His ship’s captain, Quint, had been up front about it and the extra cash to look the other way didn’t bother Lars at all. He wasn’t stupid. He knew that was why Quint hired him in the first place. Quint didn’t care about the long rap sheet against his name for burglary, assault, you name it. Quint, it turned out, was an ex-con too, although Lars guessed the “ex” part wasn’t quite true. But to the authorities Quint looked clean, running a simple cargo operation between the Moon, the outstations, and Mars. So yeah, Lars took the job, took the money and looked the other way. Easy money. That inescapable vice to a con like him. Like a bottle of booze to an alcoholic, or a hand job in a back alley to a sex addict. Easy fuckin’ money, alright! And it was about to get him killed.

He heard footsteps approaching and held his breath. He wasn’t sure whether he was the last one left alive. He hadn’t seen anyone since it went down, but what went down exactly, he didn’t know. One moment they were in the space station’s mess hall eating dinner with the crew, the next …? He remembered the lights in the room went out. He remembered commotion, fighting, screaming, the smell of blood … He didn’t stick around to notice anything else. Instead, instinct led him away, running back blindly toward the dock and their cargo ship. He had to get off that station and fast! Except the doors to the dock were locked; access overridden. He was trapped.

The screaming had ceased now. So quick? The lights were still out and panic shot through him like a spear. He clawed his way blindly to the cargo office, just inside the dock entrance, where he’d signed the paperwork when they’d first arrived. He scuttled underneath the desk, smacking his head as he did, hissing quietly and curling up as tightly as his body would allow. Just hide and ride it out! he told himself. Hide and ride it out! Just like you’ve done before from the cops, it’s no different … or was it? At least the cops were restrained by law. They couldn’t just kill you without justifiable cause …

Lars heard the footsteps stop at the doorway to the cargo office. He squeezed his eyes shut, hoping that somehow it would help make him more invisible. Heart racing, palms sweating, throat dry and coarse. The silence sat; he heard nothing. He slowly opened his eyes, wanting desperately to see what he could not hear. Then suddenly, he felt hot breath against his face.

He jumped a mile, smacking his head again, as the lights suddenly came on in the room, but he didn’t have long to eye his attacker. He merely saw frenzied amber eyes, flashes of ginger hair, and gridiron shoulders that yanked him out from under the desk, lifted him and threw him against the wall like a rag doll. The beast (it couldn’t possibly be human, surely?) then thrust itself upon him. His neck and throat were swiftly opened up in excruciating pain as whatever it was clawed viciously at him. He was sure he’d heard the flesh tearing. Then there was the blood, pouring down his neck, amidst the grunts and growls of some kind of wild animal. Tearing, shredding.

The pain. The blood. Pools of it. Drowning.

Easy money? Yeah, right!

 

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Don’t worry about the upcoming Star Wars trilogy

Posted January 14, 2014 by Craig Hildebrand-Burke

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With the rumour-mill going into meltdown in the last few days over possible casting and possible plots for the upcoming seventh Star Wars film, it’s hard to not follow a line of thinking from there and start speculating about just how good this film may be.

As Mark mentioned yesterday, once upon a time in a decade far far away, George Lucas created a rich universe for his stories, full of derring-do and mythic endeavour. As Mark also mentioned, we’re now on a hiding to nothing with the almost-universally regarded underwhelming prequel trilogy souring what was once a golden relationship between audiences and the Star Wars universe.

So, do we need to be worried about the new Star Wars film? Do we need to be concerned about what J.J. Abrams is going to do to yet another space franchise?

In short: no.

For a few reasons.

1. J.J. Abrams loves Star Wars

This is a rather crucial point. If he turns this franchise into excrement, it will not just be a legion of fanatics complaining that he ruined their childhood – he’ll be saying it to himself. Basically, when Abrams cares about something, he does it proud. I see his acceptance of directing this film as one trying to restore what has been lost between the pristine memories of the 80s and the soured ambivalence of the late 90s and 2000s.

Taking Super 8 as evidence: here Abrams tried to honour and do justice to the memory of storytelling offered by Steven Spielberg in films like E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. And even if Super 8 had a somewhat okay ending, it was still true to the tone, image and storytelling of the early blockbuster period. It was an oddly classical film in an era when blockbusters have become hyperactive and convoluted.

Abrams’ love of the original Star Wars films will hopefully restore the universe George Lucas created back to their pure and honest origins.

2. The weight of criticism

More abuse has been directed at the Star Wars prequels and at George Lucas than pretty much any other successful director in cinema history. And that’s including Paul W.S. Anderson.

While the prequels raked in the cash, the actions of George Lucas since the release of Revenge of the Sith in 2005 have confirmed for audiences that he really wasn’t the director we thought he was. That if he had been afforded the money and effects in the 70s that he now had, Star Wars perhaps might not have turned out the way we liked it. And Lucas increasingly seemed over the criticism, as if he’d had enough. Never one to trumpet his own abilities, or have faith in them, he probably has given in to the weight of criticism at his abilities and has moved towards sem-retirement, and sold Lucasfilm to Disney.

So, imagine if this is another crap Star Wars film. Imagine if it is another two hours of poor acting, stilted dialogue, unclear character motivations and midichlorians up to your ears. Disney will be issued a cease-and-desist, and Star Wars will be no more. Disney’s acquisition, and the appointment of Abrams, feels like the accountants finally getting ahold of the assets from a rich tycoon who had dwindled into senility. Lucas didn’t know how good his assets were, and was continually frittering them away. There is no way these people would dare offer up the fourth underwhelming Star Wars film in a row. No conceivable way. They would become the laughing stock of cinema.

3. It’s not Star Trek

Sorry, but they can’t be compared. Yes Abrams directed Star Trek and Into Darkness, but that’s beside the point. Other than operating in similar cinematic timeframes, and both having space in them, and the word ‘Star’, they’re very different beasts. One is quite clearly science-fiction, the other having its roots far more in fantasy.

Yes, the nostalgia for the old films is driving this, but that’s a good thing. The series needs restoring. It has always been a classical story, a hero’s quest, and the preoccupation with Darth Vader’s origins ruined the flavour we had for Star Wars. Bringing it back to its roots, and focusing again on the path forward – forward momentum being something dearly lacking in the prequels yet crucial to the originals – is a good and necessary thing.

What we’ll get to see in this film, and in the trilogy hopefully, is something we almost never see in heroes quests – what happens after the big victory? What happens after Luke goes home with Vader and the Emperor gone? Can we ever live happily ever after, even if it’s a long time ago?

We have many reasons to be hopeful, so let’s look forward to it.

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It’s time to start worrying about the new Star Wars trilogy

Posted January 13, 2014 by Mark

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Star Wars is a film series that deserves to go on for a long time. The world is rich in history and characters, so there’s room for almost countless adventures. As the expanded universe of novels, comics, games and cartoons has shown, there are huge storytelling possibilities. So the idea of more films in the Star Wars canon is not abhorrent.

But we have suffered through some bad Star Wars stories. The prequel trilogy was ambitious, visually dazzling, but poorly told. There are some stunning moments, and if you think about what George Lucas was trying to do (show how an innocent child can grow up to be a genocidal maniac), it’s a dark and complex idea that deserved better treatment from the creative forces behind it.

So what we really need are some good Star Wars stories to refresh the franchise, and Episode VII really needs to hit it out of the park. Another mediocre effort at this point would make four bad Star Wars films in a row. That could be enough to mute the grosses for later instalments and compromise the status of the franchise as one of the most important in cinema history.

Reports have surfaced that original Epsiode VII screenwriter, Michael Arndt, has had his script rewritten to emphasise the characters of Luke, Leia and Han, and to shrink the roles of their children. Arndt, who was let go from the production a few months ago, is the screenwriter behind such films as Little Miss Sunshine and Toy Story 3.

Why is this worrying? To begin with, it makes it seem like the nostalgia for the old movies is a huge driving force behind Episode VII, rather than the desire to tell new Star Wars stories. It also spoils the generational shift of the trilogies, with each one meant to focus on a new set of Skywalker offspring.

According to the reports, the offspring will play a larger role in Episodes VIII and IX, but the symmetry of the trilogy could then be broken, as it was in the prequels, with only two films to properly tell the character arcs of these characters instead of three.

Add to that J.J. Abram’s latest film, Star Trek Into Darkness, which underwhelmed in terms of fan reception and box office. Star Trek Into Darkness was a misfire from the man who refreshed the Trek franchise, full of nostalgic throwbacks to what had come before, at the cost of telling a good story. Is this was we have waiting for us in December 2015?

 

 

 

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What we can learn from the films of 2013

Posted January 9, 2014 by Craig Hildebrand-Burke

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Initially this was going to be a look back at the best films of 2013. But to be honest, last year was a rather middling one for the big releases. So, for something different, I thought I’d look back at some of the big films that came out in the last twelve months and see what went wrong with them, and what we can learn for the future.

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Evil Dead

It did okay, received decent enough reviews and made enough money to warrant its production. But if we have to endure another year of horror film remakes that are merely amplified, exaggerated versions of what we’ve already seen, then I might just give up on them all together. The horror films of old had their own conventions and tropes, and if directors and studios keep flogging ancient dead horses the whole genre is running the risk of becoming obsolete.

It’s fascinating that in the last decade of remakes, reimaginings and reboots, two of the more interesting and original horror films (The Mist and Bug) have come from two veterans of cinema and horror – William Friedkin and Frank Darabont.

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Oblivion

Again, didn’t fare too badly critically and financially, but it’s an unfortunate formula when we’re left with the feeling that it’s another year, and another time Tom Cruise saves the world. Looking back over his career, it’s dotted with endless Jacks, Bills, and Davids; Cruise is intent of being the everyman who saves us all. The problem is, he is too unrelatable a persona for audiences to invest in anymore. On the occasion where he’s reinvented himself – Vincent in Collateral, and Lestat in Interview with the Vampire – he’s shown us how good an actor he can be.

Let’s just hope that The Edge of Tomorrow – ignoring its nonsensical title – is as good as the preview suggests, and not another so-so attempt from Cruise to ingratiate himself with audiences.

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Iron Man 3 & Thor: The Dark World

Okay, Marvel wants to take over the world (if it hasn’t already). But come on. At some point this needs to just stop. Iron Man 3 felt like an ego trip born out of the fact that they could let Iron Man 2 be the lasting impression of the character. Ludicrous, pompous, replete with token child in need of saving – let’s all applaud Downey Jr. for getting his life back on track, but surely he’s just treading water with the glib motor-mouth Tony Stark?

And Thor, well. Second film. Has the word ‘dark’ in the title. Marvel are starting to feel like the annoying kid who just wants everyone to talk about them constantly, no matter what crap they’re doing.

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Star Trek Into Darkness

Second film, ‘dark’ in the title. Fun on first looks, but five minutes after walking out of this we’re starting to feel hollow. Lens flare obsessions aside, if this is a reimagined Star Trek, then why bother with the homages to old stories? If the earlier Star Trek went to crazy lengths to establish that all previous incarnations of the franchise still happened, and the new one was happening on a different but parallel timeline, then why bother remaking and rebooting old plots and characters?

And come on. Enough with the dark stuff for the middle chapter. We get it. The Empire Strikes Back happened. Get over it.

See also Man of Steel for needless po-faced ‘darkening’ of a franchise.

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The Great Gatsby

Big lesson to be learned from this: don’t let Baz Luhrmann make films anymore. Please. For all that is good and decent in the world. Stop this madness. Stop this man.

Never before has 140 pages of profound depth and imagery in a novel be turned into 140 minutes of the most vapid, shallow, cartoonish, glitter-stained vomit ever put on a screen. Ugh.

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The Heat

The lesson to be learned here is: this film was great and deserved watching. And a sequel.

Another lesson to be learned here is: studios need to learn how to advertise far better when their film doesn’t contain male leads or females under the age of 30. The worst evidence of this was in the photoshopping disaster that occurred in the UK to make lead Melissa McCarthy more ‘appealing’ to viewers. Jesus.

Making films with female leads who are aged over forty isn’t going to bring about the apocalypse.

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The Wolverine

This was a surprisingly decent film. After the mess of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, audience were actually treated to a decent portrayal of a comic book character that didn’t try to outdo everything that has come before. Also eschewing the trend of blockbuster films that globe-trot to the point of turning into an ad for TripAdvisor, Wolverine pared it right back to basically one major setting, with one set of characters to interact with.

Additionally, it abandoned the highly insecure trend of tagging all franchised films with superfluous umbrella titles and punctuation. Simplicity is good, people. It works.

More of this, please.

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Carrie

This should have been released for Halloween, but instead was held back two weeks into November. Effectively a small, independent horror film that was catering to old fans and unaware teenagers, it needed to maximise its 90-minute runtime beyond the actual screening with the right mix of advertising. Instead it went for elaborate stunts and trailers that told the whole story, alienating all and missing out on actually getting better recognition.

Not a success, but a horror film that also works as a superhero origin story, with multiple female leads. Surely this is a good thing, and worth investing in?

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The Apocalypse

Enough. If our only vision for the apocalypse in 2013 was half a dozen guys either improvising toilet humour (This is the End) or running from pub to pub (The World’s End), and where apparently there’s room for only one token female in either apocalypse (Emma Watson and Rosamund Pike, respectively), then the male gaze has won and we should shut it all down.

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Endless cash-grab book adaptations

Finally, the last thing to be learned is this: just because a book is well-loved, just because it has an established readership, just because it has sequels and prequels and gazequals doesn’t mean it will make a good film.

Additionally, throwing a bunch of known actors at it and a director who is happy with the epithet ‘good with SFX’ doesn’t mean this adaptation is going to hold water.

Questions studios should ask themselves: does this story need adapting to another medium? Does this story actually work in a visual medium? Are we actually damaging the impression of the original book by adapting this in a half-arsed fashion? Do we have enough money to swim in already?

This is why Catching Fire worked. The story translates well to screen. And it was cast well. And directed well. Learn, guys.

 

 

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Have a Scary Christmas: Robot Santas and Blood on the Snow

Posted December 23, 2013 by Laurie Ormond

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Sometimes it takes a work of comedy to remind us of the darkness at the heart of things.

Terry Pratchett’s superb work of comic fantasy, Hogfather  (first published 1996), is a story about how myths become folktales, folktales become Victorian fairytales and the  figures out of fairytale end up as commercial logos.

This book gets to the heart of stories, and it reminds us that hearts pump blood.

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In a way, the plot of Hogfather mirrors that of many of those zany holiday-themed comedy movies: Father Christmas/Santa Claus has disappeared, and it’s up to an unlikely schmuck and his team of sidekicks to take his place, deliver the presents, and Save Christmas.

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But the consequences are more dire: instead of a grouchy Santa being comically incapacitated, a god is being slowly erased from the minds of humanity.  This is the Discworld, where the winter holiday is Hogswatch, and the jolly red man at the centre of it is known as the Hogfather. The Hogfather is a big jolly fat man in a red robe trimmed with white ermine; he carries a bulging sack full of presents and drives a sleigh through the night sky that is drawn by four boars known as Gouger and Tusker and Rooter and Snouter. By tradition, the Hogfather lives in a Castle of Bones, and used to deliver a sack full of old bones (not coal) to children deemed naughty rather than nice. Pratchett’s Hogfather, with his association with boars and bones, is a little closer to myth than our “Roundworld” representations of Saint Nick.

The enemies of the Hogfather are otherworldy beings known as the Auditors, who are seeking to clean up some of the messier details of the Discworld’s universe – specifically, the stories and myths that humans have brought into being. (On the Discworld, gods and stories take anthropomorphic form more often than not.) The Auditors commission an assassin to inhume the Hogfather because he is a lodestone of mythic belief. The heroes trying desperately to keep belief in the Hogfather alive – Susan and her grandfather, Death – are fighting beings who want to quash the human imagination, for once and for all.

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Hogfather is a faboulous story about Story, but it’s also a wonderful reminder of the threat held inside the promise of Christmas celebrations.

The mid-winter feast uses up the last of the fresh food. There is meat in midwinter due to the necessary slaughter of animals once their feed has also starting to run out. As much as it is a celebration of life in the midst of cold and darkness, the winter feast always had some fear behind it, arising from the very basic worry that the food will run out before the spring. This is the last time the community will all eat well before the hungry times.

Hogfather charts the evolution of the winter holiday in the imagined world of the Disc, tracking it back to its origins in winter feasts, in solar rituals, in animal sacrifice, in the hunting of the boar, in the killing of the Sacred King who finds a bean in his dinner (all stories drawn from European folklore and mythology, some of which still haunt our Christmas carols).

As Susan attempts to save the Hogfather, she sees him transform into all the other versions of himself he has been in the past, when the winter festival had different meanings and traditions. She sees him as a hunted boar, and a wounded king, and then as a boar-hunter, and a priest of the sun, before he resumes his form as a jolly fat gift-bringer.

 

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The Hogfather’s various transformations remind me, actually, of the appearance of Father Christmas in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The animals of Narnia explain several times that the White Witch has made sure that in Narnia it is “always winter, and never Christmas”. The withholding of Father Christmas linked to the stasis of the seasons. His appearance is a powerful sign that the thaw is on its way, and when he does appear, Father Christmas gives gifts of both vital and mortal significance; gifts of life (Lucy’s cordial), and death (swords, a dagger, and Susan’s bow and arrows).

Terry Pratchett pares back the myths to expose the fear that besets human communities in the darkness and depths of winter: the fear that winter will not break, that  spring will not come, that the food will run out – that the sun will not rise.

The man in the red robe is the one who provides the feast, but on the Discworld, he once used to be the feast, the sacrifice to make sure the winter would eventually turn into spring. Death/Hogfather’s grotesque elf helper, his ancient butler Albert, explains to him the real meaning of Hogswatch. ‘It’s about the sun, master. White snow and red blood and the sun. Always has been.’

Prachett wants us to remember, “the very oldest stories are, sooner or later, about blood.”

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A literal skeleton at the feast, the popular Discworld character Death in the Hogfather’s robe

“Later on” (Pratchett says) “they took the blood out to make the stories more acceptable to children, or at least to the people who had to read them to children rather than the children themselves (who, on the whole, are quite keen on blood provided it’s being shed by the deserving), and then wondered where the stories went.”

It seems the stories about blood wandered off and went to find some science fiction writers.

Hogfather ultimately shows us that society has moved on from solar festivals and ancient fears to a more santisied, even commodified, celebration of plenty. The winter feasting and the putting-away of winter foods has been transformed into a celebration of gift-giving and excess. Hogfather concludes with a series of characters receiving their Hogswatch gifts.

Science fiction moves us in the other direction, bringing back the fear.

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Stephan Moffat’s Christmas episodes of Dr Who attack Christmas with joyous savagery, turning the pantomime aspects of Christmas costumes and icons into cartoonish horrors. There is a great sense of fun in this, as the show takes commonplace and overcommercialised figures such as Santa Claus or a snowman and imbues them once again with supernatural power. The show’s usual excuse for its use of myth – the “oh, it was just the aliens using images out of human imaginations to camoflage themselves”  is a free pass to the fantasist writers of Dr Who to make Christmas as scary as they can.

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Lots of jokes turn on the idea of Santa as a policing figure, meting out punishment and reward for naughty or niceness. The writers of Futurama take this and extrapolate a homicidal robot with an array of Christmas-themed weapons of destruction.

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In the distant future Earth of Futurama, Robot Santa comes to Earth once a year on Christmas Eve, and people hide away in fear. Due to a mistake in programming, the SantaBot judges everyone on the planet to be “naughty” instead of “nice” and therefore a candidate for extermination.

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In the show’s second Christmas episode, A Tale of Two Santas, Fry decides that it’s their shared terror of Santa that brings the group together.  “Fear has brought us together.” Fry says, as as they huddle inside. “That’s the magic of Christmas.”

 

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Invader Zim (2001) is a Nikelodeon cartoon created by Jhonen Vasquez. It’s titiular hero, Zim, is an alien who infiltrates human society by posing as a weird kid at an elementary school.  Here Zim learns of Santa, a kind of emperor or god whom the humans seem to worship and obey.

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Zim’s alien perspective allows him to realise that controlling Santa means controlling the human population. Accordingly, he seizes the power of the Jolly Boots of Doom.

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This Christmas anthem should be played over and over again by anyone experiencing Christmas-related stress.

Maybe Santa is an easy target, given the abundance of  many kitsch or commercial or saccharine images of Santa Claus that start assaulting our TVs and and supermarkets browsers and children’s schools from October onwards.

But I think that there is also an element of fear woven into this festive season, and into the nature of festivity itself. The winter feast has an element of the-turning-away-of-death  – and comedy does too.

The ancient Greeks called it apotropaios, the turning-away (of evil). In ancient Greek comedies, apotropaios often involves the turning away of death (and politicians) with laughter.

In celebrating the death of the year, we are making a challenge to the new year to begin, taking a kind of “come at me bro” attitude to the final days of the year before everything is renewed.

There is an element of death in every feast. Of course it takes Pratchett to put the skeleton in the jolly fat man’s robe.

Happy Hogswatch, everyone.

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Podmentum: Whomentum

Posted December 19, 2013 by Mark

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A special Doctor Who themed episode of Podmentum. Joel and Tara sit this one out as Mark is joined by Alex Lloyd, Jo Lyons and Vanessa Pellatt from Pan Macmillan to discuss the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who, the upcoming Christmas special and who we’d love to see cast as the Doctor.

 

Recommendations

Alex:

Doctor Who episode: Journey’s End

Vanessa:

The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot

Tom Baker Scarf

Jo:

An Adventure in Space and Time 

Mark:

Tardis cookie jar

2013 Doctor Who novels

 

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The building of character

Posted December 18, 2013 by Amanda Bridgeman

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When my characters first appear to me, it will be in a climactic scene from their story. I don’t know why or how, but they just appear in my mind. I’ll see how they look physically, what they’re feeling and how they react. Picturing the character in their pivotal scene will form the core of their being, capture the essence of their personality, and the rest just seems to radiate out from there: where they came from, how they got to that pivotal place, and where they will go from there.

With Carrie Welles in Aurora: Darwin (book 1 of the Aurora Series), I first pictured her being made aware of the awful truth behind Station Darwin. I felt the tension, saw her fear, and tasted the devastation of the predicament she was in. And I wanted to know more. In particular, I wanted to know how she was going to get out of this situation. And the truth is, I knew she wasn’t going to do it alone. Not because she was weak or incapable, but because the situation before her was grave.

So, if Carrie wasn’t going to make it out of this situation on her own, then she needed someone to help. Captain Saul Harris was an obvious choice. He first came to me as a man under immense pressure, trying hard to keep his team together and alive. For whatever reason, I subconsciously pictured these two characters different in every way possible: male/female, black/white, 40’s/20’s, American/Australian, Captain/Corporal. And knowing how opposite they were, I wondered how I could bring these two together? As I began to explore the characters, however, I discovered that they had two things in common: a good heart, and the determination to survive. So this odd pair suddenly didn’t seem so odd. And it was out of this exploration of character that I found the crux of my story: Two very different people, with one common goal: survival.

There are strong themes of sexism and gender issues throughout the Aurora Series, but it’s not in the way that most people think. I didn’t want my heroine to single-handedly save the day and prove herself better than the boys. Why? Because I thought that was unrealistic. Nor, did I want Saul Harris my hero to single-handedly save the day either. The true theme behind the Aurora Series is teamwork. No-one is better than the other. If they were going to make it out of this situation they were going to have to work together on an even playing field. And not just my two leads – I have a whole cast of characters to contend with. The theme behind the series doesn’t just relate to equality between the sexes. The Aurora team is made up of a mix of nationalities, skin colour, ages, talents, career rankings, etc. This is a story about everyone banding together to survive, despite their differences.

And this is where characterisation plays a huge part, not just with the leads, but also with the minor characters. In order for a reader to feel the tension and to care about what happens to the crew of the Aurora, I needed to have well-rounded believable characters – that weren’t just there to stand in the background. To make them believable I had to build them with real life personalities that readers could potentially see part of themselves in, I had to give these characters each a part to play in the story, and I had to let the reader spend some time with the characters before the shit hits the fan.

I think all characters in some way inherit certain characteristics from their creators. I’m the first to admit that there are small elements of myself infused into all my characters. I mean, they say write what you know, right?  So, in order to make these characters real you need to insert a piece of yourself, or someone else you know, into them to lift them from the page. And not just the good characteristics, you need to give them flaws, because that is what makes them truly life-like. That said, you shouldn’t just focus on their personalities, because sometimes it’s the little physical characteristics that can help ‘flesh’ them out too. Take Harris and the way he often arches his eyebrow. He’s a captain who thinks, studies, analyses, and questions, and this little physicality underpins this personality trait.

Each one of my characters makes mistakes, but they also do some things right. It’s the ebb and flow of the character’s personal journey, and also the ebb and flow of the overall story’s journey – how the characters, in their ebbs and flows, relate and interact with the other characters. But don’t just stop at the personalities, physicalities, or relationships, and how these relate to the external turmoil of the story. To really flesh out a character there needs to be inner turmoil too.

To quote author Kurt Vonnegut: “Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.”

This ultimately means they should have something driving them, be it as simple as the desire for a glass of water, or a need to prove themselves to someone, or a more critical goal of something like survival.

Harris is clearly a man facing great external turmoil, trying to keep his team safe and fighting a foe he didn’t imagine possible. But as the story grew, it became clear to me that he is also a man facing great inner turmoil. The Aurora Series follows Harris as he travels through a journey of self-discovery. Slowly but surely with each episode in the series, he begins to find out who he really is and what his life really means.

Carrie’s story began as a simple ‘horror for chicks’ tale, about a woman facing the great external turmoil she discovers on the Darwin. But as the series progressed, she too became faced with a lot of inner turmoil. She, like Harris, is on a journey of self-discovery. She’s a woman who has her whole life planned out, but is suddenly side-swiped and forced onto another path she hadn’t planned. Battling the chaos around her, she is faced with the inner turmoil of questioning her career choice, dealing with the prospect of a love she hadn’t expected, and trying to resolve the widening gap with her estranged father. Slowly but surely with each episode in the series, she begins to discover what she’s really made of and what she wants her life to be.

All characters, be it major or minor, should have a back story -just like everyone in real life does. Each story in the Aurora Series peels away more layers and reveals more about each of the characters. Some of the character’s inner turmoil comes to the forefront and mingles with the overarching storyline, and some of the other character’s inner turmoil takes more of a backseat – there simply to add depth to that character.

Creating characters is not a simple thing. Strong characters are built from the ground up in a detailed 3D modelling kind of way. You need to consider every facet that a normal human has: particular physical looks, personality type, habits/quirks, background, relationships, family life, flaws, everything right down to their favourite drink.

I’ve spent about five years with the characters of the Aurora Series now, so they are like family. I laugh when they laugh, fear when they fear, and love when they love. They are as real to me as any of my friends, and I hope I have managed to translate them into words well enough, so that my readers can feel like they are part of their family too.

 

seriesAurora: Darwin and Aurora: Pegasus by Amanda Bridgeman are both available now 

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Excerpt: Aurora: Pegasus by Amanda Bridgeman

Posted December 5, 2013 by Mark

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Chapter Seven

The Plan in Space

Harris entered the flight deck and made his way straight to the central tier and the captain’s seat, and watched as his team spilled in around him. Doc took his usual seat to Harris’s left, McKinley beside him, while Brown sat to his right. As he looked around at the other crew, it felt strange to see Murphy, Steinberg, and Cavelera sitting where Carter, Louis and Smith once had, on the upper tier. He glanced over his other shoulder and saw Welles and Yughiarto taking up the other two seats, to the right of the aisle. He wondered whether Welles was going to be stubborn and throw up again. He smiled to himself at the memory of her first takeoff with the Aurora.

He looked down to the first tier, to the flight deck console where his pilots were seated. Hunter was talking into his headpiece and Packham was responding. Their hands were darting here and there to the various controls, running through their pre-prep for launch. So far so good, he thought, they’re working like a team.

Right on cue, the voice of the UNF Ground Control came over the loudspeaker, and Hunter engaged with them, confirming the Aurora’s clearance for launch. The loudspeaker went quiet. Hunter slowly pushed up the throttle on the control panel and the ship’s low humming sound increased dramatically. The loud starter beep came over the PA and the UNF computer-generated countdown began. Hunter confirmed that he was ready to rock, and Harris pulled the pre-selected disc from his pocket and threw it to him. Packham took the disc and inserted it into the appropriate slot on the desk.

T minus 20 seconds to takeoff,” the countdown called over the loudspeaker again.

Hunter looked over at Packham and nodded an Are you ready? at her. She nodded back, then Hunter grabbed hold of the control stick in front of him, took a deep breath and exhaled measuredly.

*

Carrie sighed, disappointed, despite the Aurora’s successful launch. This was her third takeoff now, but alas, that bubble of air was caught in her throat again, and her stomach swirled. She saw Harris studying her as he left the flight deck. She was just waiting for the others to do the same, prepared to take it on the chin this time. Besides, needing an anti-nausea shot wasn’t such a bad thing. It meant she’d have some legitimate time with Doc.

Of course, McKinley grinned at her as he walked past. Brown did too, but Doc shot her a sympathetic smile. She took some deep breaths and tried to control the bubble. As she exited the flight deck, she saw Doc talking to a green-looking Yughiarto and patting him on the shoulder. He looked up at her. “You need a shot too, corporal?”

She nodded. He motioned for her to follow and they made their way to his examination room, where he attended to Yughiarto first. In fact, seeing how ill the soldier looked actually made Carrie feel a bit better. Doc asked him if he was going to be sick. Yughiarto shook his head, but didn’t speak, his eyes remaining on the floor.

Doc nodded then turned to Carrie. “Corporal?”

She turned her shoulder toward him. “When is this going to get easier?” she asked, as she felt the sting of the needle in her arm.

“Well, you didn’t throw up this time, so it must be easier, corporal,” he replied with a smile.

She locked eyes with him for a second, before he turned and threw the needle away, then swabbed her arm.

He looked back at Yughiarto. “How you doing, sergeant?”

Yughiarto nodded, the color returning to his face. Carrie herself felt that warm glow sweep over her too, taking the bubble of sickness with it.

Doc came back with two cups of water and handed one to each of them. “Sip it, don’t skol it.” He watched them for a moment, his hands on his hips, then nodded. “Well, no-one threw up. We’ve had our first success for the mission!” He locked eyes with her again, then made his way to the door. “C’mon, soldiers. Dinner’s a-waiting!”

Carrie exchanged a relieved look with Yughiarto and they followed.

9781760080563

Aurora: Pegasus is currently on sale! Normally $5.99, you can buy it now for only $3.99!

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Aurora: Darwin, the first book in the series is currently FREE!

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Movies we were obliged to see

Posted December 4, 2013 by Mark

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Craig’s recent post about The Hobbit got me thinking. It seems like everyone I’ve spoken to (apart from Craig, obviously) was disappointed or at least a little underwhelmed by the first Hobbit movie. Now I am a huge fan of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy (I have a statue of Gandalf on my bookshelf at home – don’t tell anyone), but The Hobbit was unnecessarily padded and overlong.

But anyway, this post isn’t about the things that were wrong with that film. Because despite the problems we all had with it, despite the fact that nobody really enjoyed it as much as any of the Lord of the Rings movies, we’re still all going to see the second instalment when it comes out in a few weeks.

With a lack of enthusiasm we’ll all wander over to the cinema, head down and shoulders hunched, preparing to fork out our hard-earned money for a film we feel obliged to see. And this experience will be familiar.

Movies we were obliged to see:

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Star Wars: Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith

Ugh. Episode 1 disappointed but could have just been George Lucas being rusty as a filmmaker. We happily gave Episode 2 a chance, but it just confirmed that the magic was gone. But still, we dragged ourselves to the cinema to complete the journey, and finally see how Anakin became Darth Vader. And while it was an improvement over the first two episodes, it still didn’t deserve a worldwide box office haul of $850,000,000.

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Avatar

Hey, James Cameron is back after a huge hiatus. Hey, he’s making a visionary sci-fi film with realistic digital characters. Hey, here’s the trailer. Oh. It’s like Ferngully? Oh. But we went to see it because of all the hype about the visuals. And everyone else was doing it! But that $2.7 billion final total still seems like a clerical error to me.

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The Matrix Revolutions

The Matrix is a tight, fast-paced sci-fi thriller that is visually unique and stylish. The Matrix Reloaded is bloated, slow and looks like a lame knock-off of the original film. But maybe, as with The Phantom Menace, it was a stumble, and The Matrix Revolutions would bring it back. Still, it didn’t look promising. We reluctantly went, and it made $427,000,000 worldwide.

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The Amazing Spider-Man

The first two Spider-Man movies are classics of the superhero genre, with part 2 being a strong contender for greatest superhero movie of all time. But then there was part 3, and then Sam Raimi walked away and then the studio pressed the reset button. Everyone wanted another Spider-Man. There was so much potential. But nobody wanted to see another take on the origin story a mere handful of years after the third instalment in what was a pretty decent take on the character. The desire to see Spider-Man continue won out, and we all went. A $752,000,000 global total has ensured that not one, not two, but three sequels are now in various stages of production.

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The first film made a billion dollars but is easily the least liked of the middle-earth films. The 48fps presentation left audiences cold and the fact that it took over three hours to tell ninety pages of the source novel smacked of a studio and filmmaker stretching their story out just so they could make another trilogy. So here comes the sequel. And we will go see it, because we were entertained by the first one, and this one has a dragon. But we won’t be particularly enthusiastic about it. I would be surprised if this winds up earning anything near what the first one did but it’s guaranteed to be a sizeable hit.

Are there any films you felt obliged to see? Let me know in the comments.

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