Pixie talk

29 07 2008

In yesterday’s post we left our intrepid blogger me pondering what to write and then read out on Friday.

As I clawed through my brain and indeed made several aborted attempts to start the short story I had planned on writing, I learned an important lesson: routine is key, at least for me. As lovely as the location was, as interesting as the course was, I still made the foolish mistake of changing my routine from writing first thing in the morning to the afternoon. Unfortunately by the time I realised this I was out of time.

I did draft a new story but it wasn’t in a finished enough state to read. I’ll probably redraft it next week.

We weren’t the only ones doing readings. On Wednesday evening Stephen Baxter was the guest speaker and he gave an interesting talk on how he develops his ideas. Thursday night saw Adam and Justina take the floor. Adam read a story included in the recently published BFS Dick and Jane Primer, Justina read from the Quantum Gravity series. Both were cool readings.

In the end I read a story called Pixies. It’s one of the more popular stories from my Friday Flash Fiction. I was pleased with the way it went down although I was quite nervous and so it wasn’t the best reading I’ve ever given. All of the stories read by people that night were really good.

The course was really useful to me and despite the wobble on what to write I did get what I needed out of the trip. Writers who’re just starting to take their writing seriously would probably get more out of it but the process of feedback, advice and support will be of use to any writer.

In other news: I’m disappearing again. I’m off to Marlowe tomorrow for a work thingy and so may be quiet for a couple of days depending on cost/availability of internet access. It’ll be nice to hang out with some of my colleagues but I’ve not seen much of G lately and I’m keen to be at home for a bit.

I’ve also begun the line edit on The Woodsman. I really must come up with a new title…

Review: Prince Caspian

21 07 2008

Prince Caspian

It would be too easy to begin this with a C.S.Lewis rant. Too obvious and unfair to a much younger me who loved the books and – wiser perhaps than I am today – could see past the allegory to the story beneath. Still, when I heard that Disney were turning the classics into films my heart sank a little.

I was moderately surprised to find myself quite enjoying the live action version of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. That’s why I went to see Prince Caspian and that’s why I was a bit disappointed.

For the uninitiated: Prince Caspian picks up the story of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy returning to school twelve months after their adventures in Narnia. Yanked back to Narnia they find things not as they left them, their castle an abandoned ruin and the landscape changed by the ravages of time. It’s been a tad longer than a year for Narnia. It’s not long before they find themselves embroiled once more in a battle for Narnia.

I could tell you more but I’m not going to. I know I’m a tease.

There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the film on its own. The children’s performance is – as it was in the first – pretty impressive and they carry the film well as does Ben Barnes as Caspian. I have to confess I think Sergio Castellito steals the show as Miraz and Peter Dinklage seems to have walked out of my head onto the screen.


It’s Susan. It’s always Susan. Not Anna Poplewell – a talent to watch methinks – but the actual character. The liberties taken with the original book Prince Caspian are in large part to make the film hang together but you can see director Andrew Adamson pondering the problem. In the books Lewis’s handling of Susan as they head into the climactic Last Battle (if they even make it) is amongst the most problematic elements of the chronicles. I’m not sure where they’re going with it but the handling of her character was at times brilliant (battle sequences/empowered female/go Susan) and at other times painful (kiss…too much). It jarred.

It’s worth a watch. Particularly if you liked the first film but die hard fans of the books may find themselves wincing and the violence will be a bit much for parents of young children*. Good effort but I’m still nervous about The Last Battle…and now I come to think of it The Voyage of The Dawntreader could wind up being a minefield. Interesting times. Shutting up now.

*The children will be fine you understand. It’s generally the parents sat next to them who dislike it.

Strange Feelings

20 07 2008

I’m not going to be around much next week as I’ll be in West Yorkshire on a writing course.

I booked the course earlier in the year when I was reviewing my writing goals and realised that I might benefit from getting my work in front of people who had already managed to sell work on a regular basis. In the cold light of July – what is the weather doing? – it seems a less clever idea and I must confess that I’m a trifle worried.

Will I cut the mustard?

Yet that’s not it entirely. You see I never actually checked where the course was located until yesterday when I was reviewing the route and realised it was a short distance from where I went to university in Bradford. I haven’t been back in five years. University was a funny time for me. More fun than school, less fun than I imagined it would be. The set up at the course feels a little like university, the trip a little like going home.

If you had a time machine.

Blah. That’s quite enough melancholic bollocks. I’m excited and nervous in equal measure. I’ve printed out some stories, I’m making sure my ideas sheet is up to date in the event I find myself blanking and I’ve some reading material to kick back to.

For the five people still reading this blog there will be some content (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) but I won’t have internet access to approve comments and so if you haven’t commented before, are spurred into action by something I write and wondering where your comment has gone…I will be back and approving as soon as I can. Feel free to follow me on Twitter, I won’t insult current followers by suggesting I won’t be twittering…damn thing is like internet crack.

Updates, updates, updates. In an update to the stats debacle, traffic continues to crash, mainly because google no longer seems to like me…given I haven’t actually changed anything this suggests I am the subject of excessive spam or that wordpress.com has made some change that the behemoth hates. I have no time to sort this now. More news when I return.

This last week has passed with me mainly working on the final draft of Blind Fate and the first draft of a new story called (at the moment anyway) The Room. This week’s flash had mixed results as I expected. On the doing stuff front it’s been quite quiet: had dinner with family on Thursday, cinema today and as previously mentioned away this week.

And that’s it for now. I need to finish the draft of The Room before I go as there’s another story I want to write. Byeeeee.

A quick note…

19 07 2008

Just a quick one to say that if you haven’t checked out Joss Whedon’s Dr Horrible then you really should.

It’s a sing-along blog cooked up during the writer’s strike and features amongst other Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion. It follows evil mastermind Dr Horrible on his quest to join the evil league of evil and defeat his nemesis Captain Hammer; I just about laughed my arse off. Oh and it’s only up for free for another twenty-four hours.

Check it out. Laters – Neil

Friday Flash Fiction: Doors

18 07 2008

This post has now moved. You can read it here: http://www.neilbeynon.com/fiction/doors/

I fear I may have mangled this one. Still: I hope you enjoy. Feedback – as ever – is welcome.

By Neil Beynon

She watches him from the door – a dark smudge against the glare of the plasma grid. He is covered in dirt and sweat, his hair a tangled coil that you’d be forgiven for attributing to the proximity of the charged grid. Their eyes are red rimmed. His from too much caffeine, she hasn’t touched the stuff in years.

He checks his notes on the hand-held, frowning as he cross checks it with a panel on the side of the grid; then he dives behind the machine. Muffled – as if from a long tunnel – comes the sound of him grunting and metal grinding on metal as the unseen is adjusted.

This post has now moved. You can read it here: http://www.neilbeynon.com/fiction/doors/

Review: Hancock

16 07 2008

Will Smith as Hancock

I went to see Hancock quite by chance as the film I had intended to see was sold out.

John Hancock is not a nice man. He’s a bad tempered drunk who lives in a trailer and generally irritates the hell out of everyone he meets. He’s also a superhero. That is to say he has superhuman powers and stops crime but he does so by leaving a trail of destruction in his path.

Ray Embrey is a PR man with a heart who wants to make the world a better place but is having trouble getting anyone to buy into his ideas. When Hancock saves him from a terminal encounter with a train Ray realizes that whilst he may be struggling to save the world he can save Hancock.

I wasn’t sure what I expected but it wasn’t quite what I got. I guess – based on the trailer – I was expecting a comedy around the not terribly original premise that being a hero might not be all it’s cracked up to be. I did get that but I also feel that’s selling the film a bit short.

Sure there are laughs. It’s not really meant to be taken that seriously but there’s this interesting seam of loneliness running through the whole thing that gives the film a much stronger emotional centre than I’d expected. It’s unusual and welcome.

There’s a lot of affection for the comic book genre on display as the writing team – consciously or unconsciously – seem to have borrowed from Jack Kirby. There’s an almost palpable sense of fun in the gentle pokes they take at the genre but they never stray far from the central storyline.

The film is not without its faults. The casting of Eddie Marsan as the film’s villain is problematic as despite Marsan’s best efforts he just isn’t entirely convincing – this may be more of a problem in the UK where he is better known than in the US. Whilst the film is clearly a Will Smith vehicle there is a problem in his casting as Hancock. In I am Legend he was believable as a lonely guy because of the situation and his haunted performance. Smith’s media persona is such that you can’t ever really forget that it’s him and so the idea of Smith being lonely when surrounded by a bunch of people is a bit of a struggle.

There’s also a really clunky link between the second and third act.

Yet these are minor quibbles that the respective actors’ talents minimise. Taken as a whole, Hancock is an entertaining film that delivers on the laughs without skimping on story. The climactic action sequence was totally absorbing. My conclusion: there are worse ways to spend your evening.

Top five Interstellar Tips for Driving in London

15 07 2008

For those of you visiting London for the first time, whatever system you derive from originally, you should familiarise yourself with the following tips:

1. The use of telepathy and indeed indicators is forbidden; instead you are required to use the Terran ritual custom called “guessing”.

2. There are a number of human greetings for fellow drivers ranging from the simple one finger salute to the more complex rhythmic flick of the wrist. You should learn as many as possible and remember that status is conferred for original combinations.

3. You will note an orange lifeform called “cones”. These are parasitic organisms that live off the road and reproduce at a fierce rate. They should be avoided wherever possible and never exposed to bare skin – unless you like the idea of one growing out of your head.

4. Where roads intersect you may often find yourself facing a black pole upholding a black box filled with lights. Despite much analysis we have been unable to determine the underlying logic for these light boxes or any meaningful pattern. You should ignore them as the natives do.

5. You will also observe that some Terrans are riding small, manually powered, two wheel conveyances. Such locals are wanted criminals and rewards are offered for each one you kill: you know what to do.


14 07 2008

OK. Stats have moved from the realms of plausible into downright strange and so this is really a test post but as I’m here anyway I might as well provide an update.

Let’s see: The Woodsman is still locked in a virtual drawer although it’ll be coming out soon for the line edit.

I finished the final draft of a new short story that was the flash entry I missed from a few weeks ago – it bloated into a much longer story. That’s currently with test readers – not sure if it’s any good but I needed to get it out of my system. It was interesting to see there are still places some part of my brain doesn’t want to go. I thought I’d got this out of my system with a short story called Stone that was really tough to write. It’s something I’m going to have to work on – I still feel like I’m holding back. Generally when I let go I get better reactions from readers.

Next week is Arvon. I am bricking it.

I’m currently reading Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and it’s early days but I’m struggling to put it down to do important things like earn a living. If you haven’t read any Chabon you really should.

Not much film viewing happening at present although I managed to see Hancock. Surprisingly good although is it just me or does there seem to be an awful lot of cribbing from The Eternals going on? A more thought out review will appear in the next few days.

New site: I am still working on this. The whole design thing is becoming a bit of a beast and so I may just go live with a rough beta version to start building traffic. The content is starting to back up a bit and it seems a waste. I’ll have made a decision by the weekend. To be honest the stats collapse here means I may shift the river to a new self hosted home as well. I’ve been surprised by how much functionality there is in WordPress when self-hosted and I have any number of domains just sitting unused at the moment. We’ll see.

I will try to do something interesting by Friday. Hopefully not involving slapstick but probably because…well it’s me. Bye for now.

A cunning plan…?

14 07 2008

Jason from Halloween offering to hold your hand in A & E

Apparently the government, or more specifically Jacqui Smith, believes that showing people who are caught with knives what happens to knife victims will help lower knife crime.

I love thinking like that: taking a terrified; badly injured victim still undergoing treatment and shove them in front of someone about whom they know nothing except that they carry the same weapon that injured them.

It’s a terribly clever idea. Think about it:

A & E waiting times will be reduced as people generally don’t want to be within thirty feet of a hoodie.

Stab victims will be in a hurry to get out before the show and tell begins, ergo more beds.

Afraid of going to hospital, for the fear of seeing knife wielding psychos, stab victims will stay away and bleed over their own home instead of A & E thus reducing cleaning costs.

This is the kind of thinking that made Britain great. Good job Jacqui.