Erin Lindsey on "Sex and Explosions Part Deux: Now with More Sex!"

Qué_valor!

About six months ago, I did a guest post over at SF Signal called “Sex and Explosions”, in which I observed that according to the Hollywood model, the essential ingredients of a blockbuster/bestseller are – spoiler! – sex and explosions. A great action romance, I argued, links a suspenseful plot and an engaging love story in a positive feedback loop: each influences the other, so that the romance shapes the action and vice versa. Ideally, these knock-on effects raise the stakes and increase the momentum of the story.

Catchy title notwithstanding, that post was really about romance and action, rather than sex and explosions per se. Needless to say, not all sex is romance, and explosions are but one way (albeit a particularly awesome way) of demonstrating action. Sex rears its… er, head… in many different guises, serving various masters. Explosions, meanwhile, are merely one subset of violence, and this too can be used to achieve a variety of aims. (Or at least, they should serve a purpose; all too often, sex and violence are simply tossed in as a matter of obligation.)

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Age of Iron by Angus Watson

Age of IronI'm reading and reviewing all ten finalists for the David Gemmell Legend Awards. You can follow along here. Voting has closed, but the winners aren't announced until August, so I'm plowing on...

Age of Iron (2014) is a gory, goofy, visceral romp. It combines a historical setting with shameless anachronism, enjoyable characters with gory violence and a simple (if largely reactive) plot that's focused on causing as much destruction as possible over the course of a few hundred pages.

Dug is a warrior - he's earned his really big hammer and his very impressive mail shirt. He's also, in a now-familiar trend that can be traced back to the works of David Gemmell himself, 'too old for this shit'. Experienced enough to understand he's not immortal, Dug's looking for an easy gig - someplace where he can wave his weapon around, but avoid taking a spear to the face. 

Unfortunately, his retirement gig - a sort of warrior-in-residence to a small town - comes to an abrupt and bloody end, when said town winds up in the path of a power-hungry local king, Zadar. Dug gets the hell out of dodge, but only after witnessing a massacre. 

Meanwhile, on the massacring side, Lowa is the leader of a troop of immensely talented archers - several laps further along in the arms race than anyone else in proto-Britain. Unfortunately, she's wound up on Zadar's bad side, and she too needs to get the hell out of dodge.

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Good Songs, Good Covers.

Okay, I admit - there were some truly abysmal covers in that list. That Sugababes action… yeah, I have to make up for that. So this time, here are some really great covers of genuinely good songs. 

Lake Street Dive - "Faith"

George Michael’s biggest hit from his 1987 debut solo album Faith was the titular song, "Faith". With it’s Bo Diddley beat and George in the peak of his post-Wham bad boy image, "Faith" isn’t a song you’d ever forget. It also isn't a song you could do justice to easily - so why try to do it George’s way at all? 

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10 Excellent Indie Comics From The Sequential Summer Sale

Complete_Bojeffries_Saga_CoverIn one of the least-difficult challenges we've ever been issued, the One Comic team were tasked with recommending ten titles from Sequential's summer sale

Our selections from the app's wide range of indie comics are all below, but there are more to choose from... The only hard part was narrowing it down to ten. 

The Bojeffries Saga (Alan Moore and Steve Parkhouse) is Moore tells the story of an extended family living in a council house in his native Nottingham. And I'm not sure what more you need to know*. Originally published in Warrior magazine, but then later cropping up all over the place, this collection includes a new story bringing the Saga up to date.

* Well, except that they include a vampire, a werewolf and a small child that generates nuclear energy. And one story is presented as a Gilbert and Sullivan light opera. And so much more. (Jon)

Boo! (edited by Andrew Waugh and Paul Harrison-Davies) is another anthology comic packed with British talent. I read it when it was first released - despite being (ostensibly) a 'horror comic for children', it is a lot of fun for readers of all ages. The stories range in the type of terror they inspire. Jonathan Edward's "School Dinners" is a charmingly goofy urban legend. Gary Northfield's "The Devil and Billy Beetle" is Gorey-esque in its surreal vision. Warwick Cadwell's "Night Piper" is folklorish and Andrew Waugh's "The Visitor" is just, well... flat out scary. A lot of fun. (Jared) 

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One Comic + Puns = A Bad Match

Mercury-Heat-1-00

Over at One Comic Mansion ("One Comic Assemble!") we try not to talk for talking's sake, as seen in this not-even-twenty-minutes show about issue one of Mercury Heat. We got in, said what we needed to, and got out again. And in passing, we talked a bit about a series called Whiteout from Oni Press, which you should definitely check out.

But back to the matter at hand. Listen here, or add the show to your feed: 


Ant-Man (2015)

Ant-man

So we went to see Ant-Man. And you know what? It’s a good film! You should go see it. Here's why: (There are a few eeensy spoilers below; forewarned is forearmed. Six-armed. You know. Ants.)

Following the bloated, gaseous corpse that was Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man is a breath of fresh air, a delightfully uncomplicated (relatively speaking) superhero origin story about a guy looking for redemption, and finding it in an unlikely place (namely, some old dude’s basement). Also, there's shrinking down to the size of a small bug, and being able to communicate with small bugs. There’s action, there’s adventure, there are some cool effects, there’s a death that’s at once hilarious and poignant, and there’s Paul Rudd, who I think many people of a certain age have squishy feelings about for reasons that boil down to ‘Josh from Clueless’.

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Films of High Adventure: The 13th Warrior (1999)

The Film: The 13th Warrior (1999)

13th

Dedicated to the Memory of Omar Sharif.

Responsibility Roundup: Directed by John “Die Hard is actually my adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream” McTiernan. Based on the novel Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton, who supposedly came on as director to reshoot some scenes after McTiernan’s initial cut bummed out test audiences. Scripted by William Wisher Jr. (Terminator 2, Judge Dredd) and Warren Lewis (remember Ridley Scott’s Yakuza movie Black Rain? With Michael Douglas? Don’t worry, nobody else does, either). Original soundtrack by Graeme Revell (The Crow, The Craft, the Riddick movies) and Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance, before Michael Crichton insisted on trashing the entire thing and having it rescored by his Congo buddy Jerry Goldsmith (always a good sign, amirite?).

Hackting by Antonio Banderas (lots of stuff), Maria Bonnevie (lots of Swedish stuff), Suzanne Bertish (The Hunger, Eleni on Rome), Diane Venora (Heat, Wolfen), and a whole Crossfit box’s worth of beefcake, including Vladimir Kulich (that Vikings show, the voice of Ulfric Stormcloak in Skyrim), Dennis Storhøi (Two Lives), Clive Russell (Ripper Street, Brynden Tully on Game of Thrones), Richard Bremmer (Control), Tony Curran (LXG). Also a very embarrassed Omar Sharif (RIP) (Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, Top Secret), who hated the movie so much he took a leave of absence from acting afterward.

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Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

Words of RadianceI'm reading and reviewing all ten finalists for the David Gemmell Legend Awards. You can follow along here. Voting has ended, but the winners aren't announced until August, so I'm pressing on...

Words of Radiance (2014) is the second volume in the Stormlight Archive, a projected ten volume series. Its predecessor, The Way of Kings (2012) was a previous DGLA winner, and, although I had some reservations, it was certainly a worthy one. As I noted at the time, it is "as good as a book can be without being exceptional" - and I bandied around words like "entertaining" and "hugely dramatic". Faint praise, but praise.

I've reviewed Sanderson a lot, thanks to his DGLA dominance. And those reviews have more or less gone from 'not so great' (The Alloy of Law) to 'good for what it is' (A Memory of Light) to 'pretty good' (The Way of Kings, The Final Empire). I don't seek his work out, but I've never needed to, as his annual fantasy book always winds up on the DGLA list.  It is fair to say that I've grown accustomed to a certain standard of decency.

I say all this to establish a baseline. I'm not a Sanderson fan, but I daresay I've got a proven track record of not being a hater. So please don't immediately disregard my opinion when I say Words of Radiance is a very bad book.

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The Western isn't dead...

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The Western isn’t dead. It just has a problem with logistics.

Go into your local bookshop and look for the Western section. Chances are, there isn’t one. So where do Westerns end up? Sometimes they sit confusedly with Science Fiction or Fantasy. Sometimes, they’re lumped in with Crime. Often, they’re spread through general Fiction. Interestingly, Westerns are almost always scattered: the only place I’ve ever encountered a dedicated Western section is in my local library.

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Weirdness Rodeo

Becky Chambers introduces A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.

STUFF

This week's must-read -  Jake Little on the why of books:

The biggest reason we spend money on books is because we want to read them (eventually), but that isn’t the only reason: we also like to look at them, and to look at other people looking at them.... The way I treat my books shows that no matter how important they are to me as things to read, they also exist as decorative objects and status symbols.

Little's piece is a much better-written and far more articulate way of this piece from two years ago, in which I tried to talk about books as collectibles across a number of, uh, 'dimensions' - text, object and artifact. As Little says, with the rise of digital books as the most efficient way of reading/collecting text, there's got to be something in why we keep hoarding the physical lumps as well.

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The 7 Best Horror Movies Ever

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Open Culture pulled together a list of the 93 favourite films of legendary director Stanley Kubrick - based on interviews with Kubrick and his family and a search through old magazine articles. 

For the hell of it, I compared this list with the horror movies recommended by Stephen King in the appendix of Danse Macabre

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The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley

Emperors bladesI'm reviewing all ten of the finalists for this year's David Gemmell Legend Awards. You can see the list and my approach here, and vote in the Awards here.

The Emperor's Blades (2014), by Brian Staveley, is perhaps the least surprising entrant on any of this year's shortlists. To pat myself on the back, I called this in February - but then, anyone could've.

Which, of course, begs the question - why? Other than its immense popularity1, what is it about The Emperor's Blades that says 'I AM LEGEND' (or, in this case, Morningstar)? The answer to that is pretty simple. The Emperor's Blades is the most 'core fantasy' fantasy of the year, and in that lies both its strength. 'Core fantasy' is actually a rubbishy marketing term, but works well here - basically, this is a really fantasy fantasy. "Formulaic" is a slightly prejudicial way of putting it. "Classic" may be more accurate. Pick your term of choice.

The Emperor of Annur is dead, presumably assassinated through arcane means. His three children, our protagonists, are stationed at different parts of the empire, finding themselves. Kaden, the oldest son and heir to the throne, is having his mojo tested at an isolated monastery - learning that being a man involves emptying his mind, avoiding the Dark Side, and spending a lot of time buried up to his neck in the ground. Valyn, the second son, is sublimating his spare heir angst training with the Kettral - the big-bird-based sky ranger elite. While Kaden contemplates nothingness, Valyn does epic fantasy boot camp - push-ups and war games. Finally, Adare, the Emperor's daughter, and the only one left in the capitol city. As the newly-minted Minister of Finance, she's in a position not only to keep the empire ticking along, but also to snoop around into the cause of her father's death.

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Extended Memory: Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?

Mexico city

Game: Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego - Enhanced (1989)
Developer: Brøderbund Software, Inc.
Original platform: DOS

I know this is not the intended lesson of Carmen Sandiego, but god help me, I’m considering a life of crime.

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