January 31, 2015
[books] Charts and Diagrams Drawn by Famous Authors
… fascinating collection of diagrams authors have used to plan their work … ‘Writers often use plot charts to organize the threads of complicated stories, but they’ve also been known to crank out diagrams of the travels of other people’s characters, chart-style teaching tools, and even hand-drawn maps.’
January 25, 2015
[lovecraft] HP Lovecraft’s ‘The Colour Out of Space
… a look at how H.P. Lovecraft foresaw the future in one of his short stories …‘Lovecraft’s creature is a symbol of something that, at the time he wrote, was just coming into being. The prophecy develops through a number of rifts in the text, some of which align the extraterrestrial entity with technical innovations still nascent at the time the novella was written. For one we learn that the meteorite fell in 1882, which happens to be the year Thomas Edison switched on the world’s first commercial power station in New York City. Furthermore the scientists who study the meteorite discover that its chemical composition bears an affinity with silicon, a metalloid that, unbeknownst to Lovecraft, would enable the development of the semiconductor, without which there would be no digital age. Finally, the effect of the preternatural color on plants and wildlife is eerily prescient of radiation sickness—the radioactivity of electronic devices being common knowledge now. Through these and other elements, the story connects the advent of alien light and color to wider technological processes that have transformed the landscape.’
January 17, 2015
[moore] Poet has first book published thanks to old school pal Alan Moore
… ‘The book includes a seven page foreword by Alan in which he says Dominic’s “words speak of an almost-gone emotional reality, a since subsided proletarian warmth, an honesty entirely unafraid of sentiment, a great clarity of the heart.” In Spring Lane School there is a noticeboard displaying laminated pictures of Alan and Dominic to encourage the pupils which they are both very proud to feature on.’
December 7, 2014
[books] Chris Morris interviews Bret Easton Ellis
… ‘Who says Americans can’t write books? Well, my school teacher for one did but she was wrong and she’s dead now, and as if to dance on her grave this American is all book. His name is Brett Easton-Ellis, he’s from New York. Now I want you to imagine a book over 6 feet tall, it looks like a man, then imagine that book takes you aside throws open its arms and sprays words all over your face. It makes you laugh, it makes you cringe with raw satire like guts.’
November 11, 2014
[books] Stephen King: The Rolling Stone Interview
Q: Do you think much about what your legacy will be?
King: No, not very much. For one, it’s out of my control. Only two things happen to writers when they die: Either their work survives, or it becomes forgotten. Someone will turn up an old box and say, “Who’s this guy Irving Wallace?” There’s no rhyme or reason to it. Ask kids in high school, “Who is Somerset Maugham?” They’re not going to know. He wrote books that were bestsellers in their time. But he’s well-forgotten now, whereas Agatha Christie has never been more popular. She just goes from one generation to another. She’s not as good a writer as Maugham, and she certainly didn’t try to do anything other than entertain people. So I don’t know what will happen.
October 22, 2014
[books] Malcolm Gladwells David and Goliath Fairy Tales
… a strong, convincing critique of Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book … ‘The inveterate simplicity of Gladwell’s stories comes not only from a resistance to complexity, but also from a denial of tragedy. This neglect of tragic choices is not just a defect in presentation, though it helps to confer upon his books their peculiar inimitable blandness. Suppressing tragedy is also a refusal to think honestly about power. Václav Havel, who became president of his country after the collapse of the communist tyranny against which he had fought, spoke of “the power of the powerless,” but unlike Gladwell—who nowhere mentions the Czech dissident, perhaps because he was not a social scientist—Havel never underplayed the power of the powerful. He knew that Goliath was genuine and dangerous, not a timorous midget in disguise. In contrast, Gladwell would have us believe that power is a kind of illusion or confidence trick, a misinterpretation. This is a desperately dangerous view to apply in practice. For Tibetans facing becoming a minority in their own country, for Christians in Egypt and Syria, for Bahá′í in Iran, and for other imperiled groups, the power of the powerful could be potentially fatal.’
September 24, 2014
[books] Ten things you should know about HP Lovecraft
… ‘Lovecraft died of cancer of the small intestine in 1937. In keeping with his lifelong fascination with science, he kept a detailed diary of his eventually mortal illness. When he died, Lovecraft was buried in Swan Point Cemetery and listed on his mother’s family’s monument. This wasn’t enough for Lovecraft’s fans: in 1977, a group funded and installed a separate headstone. In 1997, a particularly avid fan attempted to dig up Lovecraft’s corpse under the headstone, but gave up after finding nothing from digging three feet.’
September 22, 2014
[movies] Ghostbusting Lovecraft
… great analysis of how the movie Ghostbusters beats back H. P. Lovecraft’s worldview …
…the busters’ typical enemies are ghosts of the Poltergeist persuasion, the Big Bad of the movie, a formless alien god from Before Time summoned by a mad cultist-cum-art deco architect, is basically Lovecraftian. From Gozer’s perspective—or the perspective of the Gozer cultist—human beings are small mammals clustered close to the firelight of their pathetic “reason,” etc. etc. etc. Standard Lovecraftian spiel. The skyscraper (and by extension New York and all human civilization) is the illusion. Scratch its skin and you’ll find a heartless alien reality beneath.
But Gozer loses. And the shape and consequences of his loss undercut the Lovecraftian dichotomy between apparent reality and actual horrifying reality. In Ghostbusters that horrorscape isn’t the truth either—it’s a mistaken interpretation of an underlying world that’s gross, evolving, playful, social, compassionate, and way more interesting than the dry surface layer.
September 15, 2014
[books] Don Estelle: Sing Lofty (Thoughts of a Gemini) – An important and definitive guide
… Scary Duck reads Don Estelle’s autobiography so we don’t have to … ‘If there’s one thing that stands out from Sing Lofty it’s this: Despite his prodigious singing voice, he was certainly no writer. And this comes out in his haphazard style, swinging from one subject to the next, recalling his exact mortgage payment at the time of the Suez Crisis and the name, address and post code of every booking he ever had, to his (probably righteous) rage at his lack of TV work after It Ain’t Half Hot Mum finished. If there’s an alternative title for this book, it’ll be Modern Life Is Shit… ‘
September 2, 2014
[books] All About Alienation
… Alan Moore discusses H. P. Lovecraft … ‘What Lovecraft seems to be doing in works like The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is attempting to embed the cosmic in the regional. He was doing his writing where he loved the New England landscape around him, he loved its history, he loved the way it looked, he loved everything about it. In that sense he was a very provincial person. He found his stay in New York unendurably horrific. But at the same time he was keeping up with the science of the day. And he understood the implications of that science; he understood the implications of relativity; he understood the implications of the quantum physicists; perhaps only dimly, but he understood how this decentralised our view of ourselves; it was no longer a view of the universe where we had some kind of special importance. It was this vast, unimaginably vast expanse of randomly scattered stars, in which we are the tiniest speck, in a remote corner of a relatively unimportant galaxy; one amongst hundreds of thousands, and it was that alienation that he was trying to embody in his Nyarlathoteps and his Yog-Sothoths.’
August 27, 2014
[books] Things That Don’t Suck: Some Notes On The Stand
… interesting look back and analysis of Steven King’s novel The Stand
… ‘When I compared The Stand to The Lord Of The Rings, I wasn’t being idle. The book does very much feel like an American answer to Tolkien (In fairness King actually brings up Watership Down as his point of comparison, about half a dozen times to two Tolkien references. Either way it’s all British epic fantasy to me). King actually knowingly inverts Tolkien in some interesting ways. Making the protagonists all distinctly working class, when Tolkien’s Hobbits were pretty much landed gentry. Posing Flagg in some of his visions, on “a great high place” as Tolkien posed Sauron. And in my favorite tongue and cheek touch, putting his Mordor in the West rather than the East.’
August 16, 2014
[films] What author/writer has had the most film adaptations?
… ‘Bob Kane, the creator of Batman, has 100 credits to his name.’
July 30, 2014
[books] The Bible vs. Mao: A “Best Guess” of the Top 25 Bestselling Books of All Time
… ’10. (tie) The Truth that Leads to Eternal Life, Jehovah’s Witnesses/Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York. Published in English in 1968, 107 million copies. 10. (tie) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling. The first novel of J.K. Rowling’s famous “Harry Potter” series sold over 107 million copies since its 1997 publication.’
July 12, 2014
[books] 30 Writers Other Writers Loved To Hate
… ‘Saint David Foster Wallace: a generation trying to read him feels smart about themselves which is part of the whole bullshit package.’
— Bret Easton Ellis on David Foster Wallace.
July 10, 2014
[savile] David Hare on Jimmy Savile: biography of the man who ‘groomed a nation’
… ‘In his own words: “I am a man what knows everything but says nothing.” As he moved to consolidate his position and to work for the knighthood that he believed would make him untouchable, he took to raising vast sums of money for charity, most especially for a spinal injuries unit at Stoke Mandeville. His first question on arriving in any town was to ask where the hospital was. This was not just because a hospital offered sexual pickings and a captive audience for his ceaseless self-glorying monologues. Nor was it wholly because he needed the immunity that came from apparent respectability. Most important of all, he believed that the day would come when he would have to offer his good works as some mitigation against a final reckoning.’
July 8, 2014
[people] How’s H.P. Lovecraft’s lovelife?
… ‘Her arms and legs bend in both directions so you can’t see if she’s facing you.’
June 23, 2014
[crime] Sleazy, bloody and surprisingly smart: In defense of true crime
… an appreciation of true crime books …
The very thing that makes true crime compelling — this really happened — also makes it distasteful: the use of human agony for the purposes of entertainment. Of course, what is the novel if not a voyeuristic enterprise, an attempt to glimpse inside the minds and hearts of other people? But with fiction, no actual people are exploited in the making.
I love crime fiction, too, but lately I’ve come to appreciate true crime more, specifically for its lack of certain features that crime fiction nearly always supplies: solutions, explanations, answers. Even if the culprit isn’t always caught and brought to justice in a detective novel, we expect to find out whodunit, and that expectation had better be satisfied.
June 10, 2014
[comics] “A Funny Kind Of Relationship”
… Alan Moore On Iain Sinclair … ‘So Iain had a profound effect upon my writing style, it’s probably more evident to me than to other people. It was more the fact that after reading Iain’s work I felt that I had to man up, I had to shift things up a gear, because knowing that prose of that quality was possible, unless you tried to address that, any other response is like, cowardice, or defeat, surrender… It was like when I read Burroughs as a teenager. It made me realise that prose was capable of doing certain other things than things that I had previously attributed to it. Later on I found that Iain’s kind of literary genealogy is not a million miles away from my own, its just that his has got a much finer eye attached to it and a much greater body of knowledge, but I think we were both inspired by the energy of the Beat writers and the culture that spread out from them.’
June 9, 2014
[books] When nature attacks! Pulp horror covers from the 1970s & ‘80s
… A gallery of covers and commentary on the “When animals go bad” horror genre … ‘Guy N. Smith produced the insect horror of all horrors with Abomination in 1987, where pesticide causes every insect, worm, slug etc attack man. Smith more than any other author produced several “Nature Gone Bad” books with Snakes, Alligators, Locusts, the rather enjoyable Slime Beast, which may have come from another world, or may have been an evolutionary mutation created by man-made poisons, and The Throwback, where evolution goes wild. The structure of these books is usually the same. The opening has some poor unfortunate, often a down-and-out or a lonely alcoholic, sometimes a misguided scientist, as first victim. Their body goes undiscovered allowing the rats, slugs, crabs, spiders, etc. to go unnoticed. There usually follows a series of tableaux where couples making out, small children and mothers, sad loners, and ambitious yuppies are killed with ever increasing violence. This leads to our hero, often a teacher (Herbert), a pipe smoking expert (Smith), or a disgruntled government employee (Hutson), who notes the pattern of deaths, the tell-tale markings or slime trails, and commences the creatures’ downfall.’
June 5, 2014
[books] The Mr Men Inhabit A Godless Universe. It’s A Brutal Existence
… Charlie Brooker on the Mr Men
… ‘The Mr Men inhabit a godless universe. They chiefly fall into two camps – those with character defects (eg Mr Greedy) and those with afflictions (eg Mr Skinny). They all suffer in some way, except those too mad (Mr Silly) or too stupid (Mr Dizzy) to comprehend what suffering is. There is justice in their realm, but it’s applied inconsistently at best. Mr Nosey, for instance, has all his inquisitiveness literally beaten out of him when the townsfolk conspire against him. He hears an interesting noise behind a fence and pokes his nose round it, only to be smashed in the face by a man with hammer – who laughs about it afterwards. But Mr Nosey’s only crime was excessive curiosity, whereas Mr Tickle – a 1970s children’s entertainer with wandering hands who runs around town touching strangers inappropriately from dawn till dusk – goes unpunished.’
May 28, 2014
[dystopia] The 10 Best (Worst) Dystopian Fictions
… ‘Next to 1984, Blade Runner — and by extension the novel that inspired it — is one of the most referenced dystopias in contemporary discourse, largely due to its bleak, sorta-exactly-looks-like-1980s-New-York-but-with-flying-cars urban setting. It’s not so much a meditation on our reliance on technology as it is a criticism of übercapitalism and the evils of war — not to mention racism, ignorance and intolerance.’
April 2, 2014
[books] Capote’s Co-conspirators in “In Cold Blood”
… a look at what’s true and untrue in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood … ‘In his 1988 biography of Capote, Gerald Clarke reveals that the redemptive coda at the end of the book, in which Dewey encounters a friend of Nancy Clutter’s in a cemetery, was fiction: their conversation, which Capote relates in direct quotes, never happened. Even so, Capote is right to suggest that any narrative representation of events is an accumulation of “selected” details, and that the process of selection and arrangement through which a writer converts disparate facts into an absorbing story entails an inevitable measure of artifice.’
March 29, 2014
[books] Meanwhile, on Tumblr… ‘Big hair, one shoe, no knickers. we’ve all been there.’
February 26, 2014
… a long read from Andrew O’Hagan on what it’s like ghostwriting for Julian Assange … ‘ I am sure this is what happens in many of his scrapes: he runs on a high-octane belief in his own rectitude and wisdom, only to find later that other people had their own views – of what is sound journalism or agreeable sex – and the idea that he might be complicit in his own mess baffles him. Fact is, he was not in control of himself and most of what his former colleagues said about him just might be true. He is thin-skinned, conspiratorial, untruthful, narcissistic, and he thinks he owns the material he conduits. It may turn out that Julian is not Daniel Ellsberg or John Wilkes, but Charles Foster Kane, abusive and monstrous in his pursuit of the truth that interests him, and a man who, it turns out, was motivated all the while not by high principles but by a deep sentimental wound. Perhaps we won’t know until the final frames of the movie.’
February 4, 2014
[books] How To Tell If You’re In A Hemingway Novel
… ‘You are alone at sea. How you hate the sea, but how you respect the fish inside of it. How you hate the kelp. How indifferent you are to the coral.’
February 1, 2014
[stories] Periodic Table of Storytelling
… an attempt at distilling TV Tropes
down into a table of classic story elements.
January 25, 2014
[books] 19 Book Cover Clichés
… a look at the remarkable similarities between the cover images of modern books… ‘Woman holding a birdcage for some reason – Must be a spooky tale in the Woman in Black vein.’
January 21, 2014
… the Japanese word for buying books, not reading them and leaving them to pile up.
December 10, 2013
[lovecraft] Charlie Stross on what scared H. P. Lovecraft
… ‘I believe that Lovecraft’s sense of cosmological dread emerged from the exponential expansion and recomplication of the universe he lived in—it eerily prefigures the appeal of today’s singularitarian fiction, which depends for its dizzying affect on a similar exponential growth curve. Lovecraft interpreted the expansion of his universe as a thing of horror, a changing cosmic scale factor that ground humanity down into insignificance.’
December 5, 2013
[cthulhu] Alexis Madrigal on Big Data and H.P. Lovecraft: ‘…data is merciless. It will correlate all its contents. And then what?’
November 11, 2013
[book] At the Shredding Plant
… Inside a Book Shredding Factory … ‘Confetti rains down from the shredding machines. Strewn everywhere on the floor is a babel of printed scraps: a non-stop factory of literary recombination and experimentation. Pressed tight into 650-kilo bales and stacked ready for delivery to paper mills, they are huge three-dimensional cut-up poems, only their surfaces of tiny orphaned fragments legible. Here, books are nothing special, just part of a wider ecology of continual destruction, recomposition and miscegenation: books; toilet paper; office waste; files; receipts; and in a second warehouse next-door, the non-paper waste – crates of bicycles; video cassettes; Zimmer frames. The shredder is powerful, omnivorous, indiscriminate.’
November 6, 2013
[books] 40 Trashy Novels You Must Read Before You Die
… fun list from Flavorwire … ‘The Second Lady by Irving Wallace – The premise of this alone sells it: the Russians have, through extensive plastic surgery, created a replica of the First Lady. But once installed, her doppelganger discovers that mimicry is not as easy as it looks.’
October 29, 2013
[books] 12 Unpublished Novels We Wish We Could Read
… A look at unpublished novels from many notable writers. On Harper Lee’s
never seen book The Long Goodbye: ‘Lee was halfway through the followup to her Pulitzer Prize winning To Kill A Mockingbird when she just… stopped. Was it the pressure? The alcohol? Capote? No one knows. We don’t even know what the book was supposed to be about. All we know is she wanted to be the “Jane Austen of Southern Alabama,” and write “a series of novels chronicling small-town life.” She began another project in the 80s, a true crime piece about “a renegade Alabama preacher whose wives and close relatives had a nasty habit of ending up dead,” but abandoned that as well. She refuses to speak to anyone about either.’
October 1, 2013
[politics] Digested Read: Power Trip by Damian McBride
I should stress that never at any time did Gordon or the two Eds have any idea whatsoever that I was leaking stories to the media or briefing against colleagues. Every time something to our advantage dominated the headlines, they would all three gasp with amazement and say: “Wow! What a brilliant coincidence. Aren’t we lucky to have so many coincidences! Are you sure you didn’t have anything to do with this?” And I would reply: “I know I’ve got a reputation for being a bit of a liar, but I promise I’m not lying this time. Believe me, if I’d known the minister was shagging his secretary, I’d have told the Mail ages ago.” And they would say: “You’re so sweet, Damian.”
September 30, 2013
[books] Hotel That Inspired The Shining Plans to Dig Up Its Pet Cemetery
… File under: THIS ENDS BADLY … ‘The most common complaint from neighbors concerns the noise likely to be generated by the excavation. Meanwhile, one local psychic with a head on her shoulders, was practically the only one to point out that maybe it’s not the best idea to disturb a bunch of pet graves on the property of the hotel that was not only the inspiration for one of the most terrifying horror novels of all time, but also the set of the book’s miniseries adaptation.’
September 23, 2013
[books] Stephen King: on alcoholism and returning to the Shining
… King is interviewed by Emma Brockes.
…without labouring the point, [Doctor Sleep] has good allegorical bones: the sick buzz one gets from consuming the grisliest news stories. It also captures the reality of a recovering alcoholic, a state with which King is intimately familiar. “The hungover eye,” he writes, “had a weird ability to find the ugliest things in any given landscape.” Danny turns his life around and starts going to AA meetings, where, King writes, he discovers that memories are the “real ghosts”. It is a book as extravagantly inventive as any in King’s pantheon, and a careful study of self-haunting: “You take yourself with you, wherever you go.”
August 16, 2013
[books] Why Stephen King Spends ‘Months and Even Years’ Writing Opening Sentences
… Stephen King discusses the opening sentences of books … ‘When I’m starting a book, I compose in bed before I go to sleep. I will lie there in the dark and think. I’ll try to write a paragraph. An opening paragraph. And over a period of weeks and months and even years, I’ll word and reword it until I’m happy with what I’ve got. If I can get that first paragraph right, I’ll know I can do the book. Because of this, I think, my first sentences stick with me. They were a doorway I went through.’
August 9, 2013
[books] Stephen King’s Family Business
… a warm profile of Stephen King and his family … ‘At times in his life, [Joe] Hill actually contemplated hiring an actor to do readings of his work, to conceal that unmistakable resemblance to his father. By the time “Heart-Shaped Box” was published and he had forged ahead with some readings, his alias had been blown. In the end, in light of the book’s success, that did not seem to matter; now he’s comfortable writing in a genre his father dominates. “Sometimes I think the kid who’s like, ‘I’m never going to be like my dad in any way whatsoever,’ is less his own person,” he said.’
July 18, 2013
[tv] The Forty-Year Itch
… is there a forty year cycle of nostalgia influencing pop culture? … ‘Though pop culture is most often performed by the young, the directors and programmers and gatekeepers—the suits who control and create its conditions, who make the calls and choose the players—are, and always have been, largely forty-somethings, and the four-decade interval brings us to a period just before the forty-something was born. Forty years past is the potently fascinating time just as we arrived, when our parents were youthful and in love, the Edenic period preceding the fallen state recorded in our actual memories.’
June 26, 2013
[people] Tony Blackburn’s Autobiography Compressed
… amusing collection of Smashie and Nicey-style quotes from Blackburn’s autobiography …
May 31, 2013
… a writer burns his mouldy set of Encyclopaedia Britannica encyclopaedias and reflects upon it …
In that respect, my encyclopædic blaze symbolised the benefits of creative destruction. Britannica stood for a time when access to information was limited, and largely determined by money. The magnificence of the collection was deeply connected to the fact that they were exclusive, expensively produced objects. We might well miss the smell of the leather binding, the crisp sound of flicking through their thin pages, the gravitas that the sheer 4lb weight of each volume suggested. But if what was on those pages mattered most, we must believe that these losses are more than outweighed by the freedom for anyone with an internet connection to access the same content and more at little or no cost. A world of valuable books behind the closed doors of a privileged minority cannot be preferable to one of invaluable information available through the open door of a web browser.
May 29, 2013
[books] I Am Very Real
… a letter from Kurt Vonnegut
to the leader of a school board which had burned a number of his books … ‘If you were to bother to read my books, to behave as educated persons would, you would learn that they are not sexy, and do not argue in favor of wildness of any kind. They beg that people be kinder and more responsible than they often are. It is true that some of the characters speak coarsely. That is because people speak coarsely in real life. Especially soldiers and hardworking men speak coarsely, and even our most sheltered children know that. And we all know, too, that those words really don’t damage children much. They didn’t damage us when we were young.’
May 16, 2013
[books] Funny Reviews Of Mr Men Books On Amazon
… ‘In his third work, Mr Happy, Hargreaves takes us on a Jungian journey to the integrated self. The story starts by introducing us to the supposedly perfect life that our eponymous hero appears to live – the tranquilized bliss and counterfeit euphoria of Happyland. Yet what is it that leads Mr Happy to wander away from an existence that, if truly flawless, should suffice to satisfy and sustain him? Why this need to venture deep into the mysterious unknown of the forest? To open a door in a tree-trunk and descend a staircase beneath the ground to the deepest recesses of the unconscious?’
May 15, 2013
[books] To Understand The World Is To Be Destroyed By It
… Jess Nevins essay on H.P. Lovecraft … ‘Lovecraft did not create cosmic horror. He recreated it. Lovecraft desacralized cosmic horror, reinterpreting it through the lens of modern scientific theory and removing its Victorian moral assumptions. What Lovecraft created was a specifically twentieth century idea: the universe as an empty, materialist one, in which there is no spiritual meaning to any actions and in which human existence is not significant in any way. This idea has been enormously influential on creators of fantastic fiction, and is Lovecraft’s lasting legacy.’
April 29, 2013
[books] Martin Amis’ Guide to Classic Video Games
… a fascinating look at the video game book that Martin Amis wrote in the early 1980’s and doesn’t like to discuss…
…There’s a half-expected (but still surprising) guest appearance from what I would be willing to bet is a young Christopher Hitchens. In a diverting rant about the increasing presence of voice effects in games, Amis recalls his first exposure to such gimmickry at a bar in Paris on New Year’s Day, 1980:
I was with a friend, a hard-drinking journalist, who had drunk roughly three times as much Calvados as I had drunk the night before. And I had drunk a lot of Calvados the night before. I called for coffee, croissants, juice; with a frown the barman also obeyed my friend’s croaked request for a glass of Calvados.
Then we heard, from nowhere, a deep, guttural, Dalek-like voice which seemed to say: “Heed! Gorgar! Heed! Gorgar … speaks!
“… Now what the hell was that?” asked my friend.
“I think it was one of the machines,” I said, rising in wonder.
“I’ve had it,” said my friend with finality. “I can’t cope with this,” he explained as he stumbled from the bar.