Friday Flash Fiction

30 11 2007

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Ok. I’m angry. Really Angry. I wrote the blog and story that follows on Friday, I posted it, I saw it live. I come home tonight from a great night out with friends to discover not only do I have no traffic from it but the damn thing is no longer up.

Now I know I posted. I know because it appeared. Albeit briefly in my facebook feed. This is the second time in as many weeks things have gone awry on here. If there’s another I’ll have to move, I simply can’t have things not going live when I post them.

So on the off chance anyone will actually read this now it’s late, here it is:

My short story “The House” will be appearing in Aphelion online from the 2nd December, also appearing in the same issue will be a story by fellow Friday Flash Fictioneer Gareth Powell.

And so this week is a linked Friday Flash – not part of the story you understand but linked. To find out how go to Aphelion sometime in December. Enjoy:

By Neil Beynon

I’ve never liked attics.

They’ve always been strange dusty places, an afterthought of space, tacked onto the top of houses. Like someone built the house and realised they had a bit left over.

You can convert them: lay floors, construct false walls, even place windows into the roof but they’re still not rooms. They’re attic rooms and loft rooms. You cannot escape their oddness: the walls at crazy diagonals, the lobotomized ceiling. Space just not intended to be used.

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Columbo Villian of the Week

28 11 2007

Apologies for the lack of CVTW last Wednesday. It was one of those weeks.

This week we’re going for political satire, it’s a bold and some would say stupid move. Like trying to sell Northern rock – ba-boom-tshh!

In case you haven’t guessed this week’s CVTW is the Chancellor of the Exchequer: Alastair Darling (unless he’s been fired already in which case it’s the former chancellor).

Alastair Darling

Alistair is the person the previous incumbent (Gordon Brown) chose to replace him when he moved into the top job at Number 10. Economically and politically astute observers have commented that might not have been a favour as Brown’s economic chickens come home to roost.

In the last few months we’ve had a series of blunders including the time-bomb that was easy credit exploding all over Northern Rock. And, most recently, the small matter of twenty-five million people’s personal data getting lost in the post. That’s right: TWENTY-FIVE MILLION or around third of the population of the UK.

Darling is in trouble. The Tories are out for blood and sensing Brown still has some armour left they’re going for old mono-brow.

Meanwhile Darling is presumably getting wise that the cold sensation between his shoulder blades is not Brown’s limp hand as he thought but a knife the Prime Minister has slipped in.

It’s not looking good for the former transport secretary, he must fight if he wants to survive. I can see it now…

Frightened he’s about to lose his career and fearing he’s landed in a trap of Brown’s devising Darling decides – like Railtrack – there’s only one way out: to take control.

First off he dyes his hair to match his eyebrows in order to prove more electable for the coming leadership contest he intends to create. Then, carefully, he trains his cat, Sybil*, to attack the Prime Minister on sight using a photo and a piece of his clothing that my lawyers have prevented me from listing here.

Then he invites the cabinet to dinner.

Sybil is trained, ready for action and with claws laced with arsenic, just to be on the safe side.

At the pre-arranged time the cat is unleashed. Leaping from the Welsh Dresser the cat flies at Gordon Brown…who reaches down to pick up the spoon he’s just dropped; the cat falling instead on Jack Straw. Sybil is beyond caring as she lashes Jack’s face with her claws.

Straw is rushed to hospital where he is pronounced dead. Darling becomes the poster boy for owners who don’t look after their pets garnering more bad press. To make matters worse a small American Detective refuses to leave him alone, dropping ash all over the carpet and talking about therapy for Sybil.

The icing on the cake is that the discs have turned up in his jacket. He has no idea how they got there, it’s almost like someone planned it.

My, isn’t Gordon smiling widely?

Gordon Brown

Oh lord it’s that detective again, I bet he’s got one more question…

* His cat really is called Sybil according to Wikipedia, and everyone knows Wikipedia is the bastion of all knowledge.


27 11 2007

Beowulf poster

Normally I post reviews within a few hours of having seen the film but I waited in the case of Beowulf. Why?

I needed time to digest it, to consider what I thought and to wonder if I should in fact wait to see it in 3D before making a decision. I still plan to see it in 3D but I thought it would be an interesting idea to post my thoughts on the 2D version and then an update when I get to the IMAX.

Mainly I decided I couldn’t wait after reading a fairly lengthy tirade by Hal Duncan on his blog. Hal is a writer who has me periodically shaking my head in awe at his frenetically fuelled prose and in bewilderment at some of his more outspoken views. The review is one of the latter occasions.

And I just can’t agree. Well not completely.

Yes I’m a Gaiman fan. And yes it’s been a while since I read the original poem. But that will not mean this review is a white wash, oh no – wait and see.

However, even in my semi-comatose-post-work-state, I could work out what Gaiman and Avery had tried to do with the screenplay. That it did not amount to oversimplification, that it was indeed, dare I say it, bordering on clever. It wasn’t a film with nothing to say but had stuff on the nature of fame, the nature of heroism and even a fair thrust at how history is written by the winners.

The fact that the film wasn’t brilliant, and certainly wasn’t the break through I’d heard it described as, by amongst others Gaiman himself, was nothing to do with the screenplay.

Nor was it the fault of Glover who’s performance as Grendel was terrifying and brilliant all at the same time – yes it is his movements they use, thanks to the use of motion capture techniques.

No I fear the blame has to lie with Zemeckis. The film is not a success because of the use of motion capture. It simply isn’t a good enough technology to use; it may never be because of one fatal flaw. It fails to capture the interaction between actors – if indeed there was any – and so we are treated to great individual performances from Glover, Hopkins (although using his native Welsh accent was a baaad idea, much as I love my native burrrr), Jolie and even Ray.

But they never mesh, they never connect. And that’s the problem with mo-cap.

If you want to create a hyper real world – and it really is effective for this type of material – you need to use the actual actors, on screen, together. The reason Glover’s performance is so much better than the others is simple: he’s the only one who has grasped the need to communicate his performance via his body rather than his face.

Now if you want to use 3D animation you need animators. I don’t want to sound puritanical about this but in CGI it is animators who make performances come alive. Until motion capture can capture character interaction accurately this will always be the case, and I suspect it will remain so even after that point because it’s such an alien medium. You can never just act like the real world. Movement has to be turned down a notch in some cases and turned up in others.

I’ll get off my geeky high horse in just a moment. The last criticism I have of the cgi is weight, the characters lack it and so the violence of much of the film loses its effect as characters are flung through the air. Who cares? They don’t weigh anything. They aren’t real. Indeed the only scene where a character seems to have real weight is near the end when Beowulf is hanging from the dragon. Even then it’s touch and go.

So what did I think?

I want to see it in 3D.

In 3D I’m fairly sure I won’t notice the deficiencies and that I’ll have the wow reaction I was kind of expecting. As a 2D effort I’m afraid the direction lets it down and the performances, well I’ve harped on it enough.

As a 2D offering it’s…well…flat.

Off again.

25 11 2007

There hasn’t been much in the way of bloggage over the last week as the bathroom kind of took over.

Constant readers will recall that we had some fairly major house issues over the last few months and last weekend was Fix The Bathroom Weekend, it rapidly turned into Fix The Bathroom Week. It is now looking like Fix The Bathroom Month.

Let’s see, what else have I been up to?

A valiant if foolish attempt to recover my NaNoWriMo wordcount, I’m not going to finish by Friday but finish I will. I saw Beowulf, albeit in 2d – a review will be posted later in the week. And I had a story accepted – more on that in a week or so.

This week sees me jetting off again. This time for a work gig – should be fun although not anything like as warm as Washington. Looking at the schedule I’m not sure whether I’ll have much time to blog, but after last week’s debacle I’ve prepared some content for the next few days, including all the regular features.

Feel free to drop by, comment, whatever – I’ll be popping in when life allows.

Packing beckons…

Friday Flash Fiction: Kind of…

23 11 2007

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As has become painfully clear to constant readers of this blog, and as exemplified by the woeful lack of a “Columbo Villian of the Week” on Wednesday, life has gotten on top of me. And so this week I find myself – for the first time since I started – running a little dry on ideas for Friday Flash Fiction.

So that’s it. Well not quite.

My pride will not let me lie down. Crap though the results may be. And so, with a big conspiratorial wink, this week I present the Elevator Entry:

Elevator Friday Flash Fiction
By Neil Beynon

Her shadow was long on the ground when she reached the snow kissed bank. The amber sun low on the horizon looked like it was falling off the edge of the world. The faint miasma from the near by processing plant the only blemish on the otherwise crisp November sky.

She fell through her memory to the last time she had stood there gazing over at the other side of the river. Hakon had been there then. They’d driven to the river in his gleaming Audi and eaten fast food from the pier as the rain had poured down on the roof of the car. She’d dropped a bit of a pickle from her burger onto the leather seats. He’d not been impressed.

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Kindling a debate

20 11 2007


Amazon have released the Kindle reigniting the debate over the future of the book pulling in comments from many people such as John Scalzi over at Whatever and Paul Raven over at Velcro City. Meanwhile Neil Gaiman‘s got in on the action, you can check out his thoughts here.

Neil makes a pretty compelling argument for the Kindle’s place in the world (for people who are mobile, people in remote locations and people who need to carry lots of books around). I remain more of a skeptic, not so much about the principle as someone is going to do it sooner or later, no my doubts are more about this device and the business model.

Sure mass storage is a great boon, I travel more these days myself and I could do without that moment of panic as to whether that fourth book is going to put me over the baggage allowance, yet it is the issue of battery life that really gets me.

I’m absent minded and busy. Between my job, my writing and trying to renovate my house I forget to charge my phone, my ipod (now a new ipod touch – yay!) and various other gadgets on a regular basis. I do not want to run out of power just as Poirot is explaining who did it or King is pulling the monster out of the closet. My paperback does not require charging, is already portable and barring fire or flood pretty durable. In short I need a bit more than “you can carry more” – I’m pretty skilled in secreting paperbacks all over my personage.

So this is my question: Why can’t they produce one with a solar powered battery? Because that coupled with mass storage and a screen as readable as a book…well that would be a break through device. That would take publishing properly digital.

The other slight bone of contention is the pricing model, it doesn’t seem to have been thought out and raises all sorts of issues such as “how much goes to the author?”, “why would someone pay for newspaper subs when you can access it online for free?”, “is there even a role for the publisher?” and my personal favourite “I don’t want to buy from Amazon as I’m worried about independent booksellers”. This is a second order problem but it won’t go away.

Of course the fact that I will almost certainly run out and buy one as soon as it’s available in the UK is neither here nor there. That’s a post for a different day – possibly entitled OCD and how to live with it or Gadgets: An addiction or a choice?

Friday Flash Fiction

16 11 2007

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Hmmm. Not sure on this one. Let me know.

By Neil Beynon

She gazed glassily at him through eyes that did not blink as if she were watching him watching her. Mouth pursed. He knew the expression, he doubted anyone else would.

Her words echoed in his head.

“It’s over,” she said.

“It’s not you it’s me”, should have been the next line only it wasn’t. She continued: “I just don’t feel the same way you do. You scare me.”

She had nothing to fear from him. All he wanted was to preserve what they’d had. To keep things the same.

He’d tried to argue but she’d just rested her hand gently on his upper arm.

“I’m not the person you want me to be,” she’d said, her tone thick. Her hand felt hot and dry. Pity had always come to mind as a cold feeling but the notion vanished in that moment – the desert sands of her’s erasing it for all time.

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