Review Round-up: A Queue, Two Devils, Some Magicians and an Empty City

9781612195162_custom-9dcd78cb1494554fe2ead2adb48ab8c65e917d12-s400-c85I'm way behind on writing reviews - a combination of life, SPFBO reading, sekrit projects and watching Ariana Grande and Chris Martin sing "Don't Look Back In Anger" on continuous loop. But whilst we all wait for me to get my act together, here's a quick catch-up on recent reading:

The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz (2016, first 2012). In an unnamed country, the people are ruled by a faceless bureaucracy. All paperwork challenging the state must be notarised by officials at the 'Gate', the accepted nomenclature of the 'powers that be' that work at entrance of the government building, but the Gate never opens...

Over time, a huge queue forms, and with it, a new society. People come and go, trade gossip, form a new, grey economy. The Gate seems to know everything and be everywhere, but its actions are nonsensical and baffling. Set against this... a mystery, of sorts. A man, shot in an uprising that never happened by soldiers that weren't there using guns that don't exist, is standing, wounded, in the queue. The maze of paperwork around him, if he exists, captures a handful of others, as they make extremely difficult choices in the face of overwhelming indifference. 

The Queue isn't quite as abstract as I'm making it sound. It is a good Orwellian thriller, with compelling, heart-breaking characters. Although inspired by Egypt, The Queue is one of the great fictional dystopias, with horrifying relevance to, well, everywhere. If you read one book on this list, make it this one.

Continue reading "Review Round-up: A Queue, Two Devils, Some Magicians and an Empty City" »


SPFBO: Some Unwanted Writing Advice

Publishing your book

In 1921 - this has a point, bear with me - the compilers of What Editors Want interviewed a lot of the prominent editors (both magazine and publishing house) of the day. They all responded with pages of stuff: formatting advice, genre preference, commercial details, you name it. Very specific.

The best response was a single line from Atlantic's Ellery Sedgewick: "My selection is made according to the whim of one individual."

Continue reading "SPFBO: Some Unwanted Writing Advice" »


Fiction: "An Affinitive Romance" by John Kendrick Bangs

002

I. MR. AUGUSTUS RICHARDS'S IDEAL

Mr. Augustus Richards was thirty years of age and unmarried. He could afford to marry, and he had admired many women, but none of them came up to his ideals. Miss Fotheringay, for instance, represented his notions as to what a woman should be physically, but intellectually he found her woefully below his required standard. She was tall and stately—Junoesque some people called her—but in her conversation she was decidedly flippant. She was interested in all the small things of life, but for the great ones she had no inclination. She preferred a dance with a callow youth to a chat with a man of learning. She worshipped artificial in-door life, but had no sympathy with nature. The country she abominated, and her ideas of rest consisted solely in a change of locality, which was why she went to Newport every summer, there to indulge in further routs and dances when she wearied of the routs and dances of New York.

Continue reading "Fiction: "An Affinitive Romance" by John Kendrick Bangs" »


"The Tingler" (1959)

The Tingler

Thoughts Before Watching

So again, "The Tingler" is not a radio drama and again, I am excited as FUCK to watch this. Maybe it’s the title? And the fact that it’s in black and white? And the possibility that this could be anything, like ANYTHING and here we are, toes curled on the edge of this thing that could literally be ANYTHING. It could be the best thing in the world. Illustrious acquaintance says it could be a piece of poo.

Continue reading ""The Tingler" (1959)" »


SPFBO2017 - The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off

Hello there

Pornokitsch will be participating the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off again this year, the third year of the competition.

You can learn more about SPFBO and its storied (if brief) history here

I'm reading 30 books, with the ultimate goal of choosing one finalist for the next round (the best part). I'll then read the other 9 finalists, score them (the worst part) and then there's an ultimate winner.

Continue reading "SPFBO2017 - The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off" »


Velvet: Sex, spies and stereotype

Velvet-comic

I recently saw a trailer for the upcoming film, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, a sequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service, a 2014 film based on a comic by Mark Millar and frequent collaborator, Bryan Hitch. Directed by Matthew Vaughn, Kingsman recaptured the over-the-top violence of their earlier collaboration Kick-Ass but was playing in the sandbox of a Bond-style spy-action-thriller.

In fact, the film was essentially a Bond spoof and, while it sought to make a point about class prejudice (although what that was I’m not exactly sure), their approach to women was much more in the vein of having their cake and eating it too. The female characters in Kingsman: The Secret Service are almost entirely sidelined, silent or uncomfortably sexualized. While womanizing has been a part of the Bond-style spy movie since its inception, is it a necessary part?

Well, if you want a spy thriller every bit as Bond as Bond (or Kingsman) but without the uncomfortable sexism, I’d highly recommend Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s Velvet (colours by Elizabeth Breitweiser, letters by Chris Eliopoulos).

Continue reading "Velvet: Sex, spies and stereotype" »


Are genre readers more likely to separate the author from the work?

Unjustly Condemned

Discussion around separating 'art' from 'artist' is something that springs quite a bit - especially in the SF/F community. I have a lot of theories on why that's so:

  • we've got an academic fan tradition, and like to overanalyse context;
  • we're a tight-knit community and live in one another's pockets;
  • social media makes it so dirty laundry is everyone; 
  • our particular blend of escapism often stems from creative people outside of traditional social norms;
  • we sure have an awful lot of assholes writing in our genres

Take your pick. But whatever the underlying context, the ultimate question is still the same for each reader: if you don't like the author - personally or politically - do you still read them? Can you separate the author from the work? Should you? Discuss, ad infinitum.

I'm interested in how people answer this question quantitatively. Are readers more likely to separate art and artist than everyone else? And what about genre readers? Are we more or less likely to read books by people we disagree with?

Continue reading "Are genre readers more likely to separate the author from the work?" »


The Operative: Joss Whedon’s most political villain?

Operative1

Warning: This month’s post spoils the shit out of 2005’s Serenity, the feature film culmination of Joss Whedon’s gone-too-soon TV space western, Firefly. So if you haven’t seen it, (a) what is the matter with you and (b) stop reading immediately.

It was Dolores Umbridge that got me thinking about the Operative. I know – because they have so much in common, right? One is a cowardly shrew of a witch with no discernible fighting ability, while the other is a mild-mannered, stone-cold killing machine. And yet they do have a lot in common, if you scratch just beneath the surface. They’re both government employees acting on behalf of something bigger and largely invisible. And they both belong to that rarest – and arguably most dangerous – species of villain, the True Believer.

Continue reading "The Operative: Joss Whedon’s most political villain?" »