Eastercon 2010

6 04 2010

I’m back from Eastercon.

It was a great con: really good to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while and, indeed, to make some new ones. I couldn’t help feeling a little frustrated with myself that I had not quite managed to be in a position to actually pitch The Scarred God, but I’m only a fortnight to a month away (line edit and synopsis), I may need to just attend the Autumn cons instead – it’s a tough job but someone has to do it.

A good haul of books including Joe Hill’s “Horns”; Adam Roberts’ “New Model Army”; Gareth L Powell’s “Silversands” and Lauren Beukes’ “Moxyland”.

Most importantly I’m feeling more focused than I have been in a while. To be fair this started before the con, but being around like minded people, not having to talk day-job shop, and having some thinking time, really has turbo-charged that feeling. At one point I found myself writing on my i-phone in a corridor, something I haven’t done in months and it felt great (the writing on the spur of the moment rather than the device). Preserving this feeling as I go back to work next week will be tough but I think everything will benefit if I do.

Now I need to go let my liver recover.





Eleutheria: Chapter 1

16 11 2009

Time for an update.

It’s now been a little over two weeks since my rash and foolish promise that I would podcast my NaNoWriMo exercise as I went. I confess that I was unsure it was wise at the time and let my general dissatisfaction with progress in general this year goad me into doing it. Furthermore, I admit wholeheartedly that in retrospect this seems like a Bad Idea. This has no doubt been evident to the few people still reading this blog by my reluctance to post the first chapter (now a week and a day overdue).

But a promise is a promise.

I am making the first chapter of Eleutheria available as a podcast and you can subscribe here:

http://www.podcastfm.co.uk/about.php?id=676

A few things:

– I am still experimenting with set up and so the quality is patchy in places.

– For some reason the hosting company seem to think it’s a video podcast, I will fix this as and when, you should still be able to listen.
– I can’t work out how to make it available as an MP3. As soon as I work it out I will make the files: a) available here and b) in that more accessible format.
– It sounds first drafty because it is.
– Feedback is welcome, insults – as ever – not so much.
– I hope to get better.

Lastly, although this podcast is free, this project is ostensibly for charity. If you enjoy the podcasts; or feel embarrassed for me; or simply feel it’s a good cause I’d really appreciate it if you would consider donating to my chosen charity, MIND.

A donation page can be found here: http://www.justgiving.com/neilbeynon





Story Acceptance

2 10 2009

I am delighted to shamelessly plug myself by letting you know that my story “The Room” will appear in the Valentine’s Day issue of Tales Of the Moonlit Path. This story was written some time ago and given a final tweak at last year’s Arvon course and I am thrilled it’s found a home.

While I’m at it: a quick reminder that my story “Crunch” will be appearing this year in the Autumn (and final) issue of Ballista.





Weekend

27 09 2009

I just got back after a weekend back in Wales.

My brother’s birthday was this weekend. It seems to be quite rare these days that family birthdays fall on days where I can actually be there and so I wanted to make the most of it. We had a lovely family lunch and seeing everyone – even my sister who is in Sydney courtesy of Skype – was really good. I can’t get over how much my niece has changed in eight weeks.

As we were only an hour(ish) away, we also popped over to Bristol for the appropriately entitled Bristolcon. It was a small but enjoyable event on the Saturday afternoon and evening with some interesting panels. It was good to catch up with friend, and fellow Friday Flash Fictioneer, Gareth L Powell and his wife, Becky; to chat again with Colin Harvey and Terry Martin; and to meet some new people. I particularly enjoyed Al Reynolds’ talk on hard SF and the need to make it weirder.

Now back to the graft, I have me own novel to finish.





Review: Franklyn

3 09 2009

franklyn

Britain doesn’t make many films anymore let alone Science Fiction or Fantasy but that wasn’t the reason I decided to watch Franklyn. In truth, it sounded like an interesting film with the kind of narrative play that I tend to like a great deal.

Franklyn follows several characters across two worlds. In Meanwhile City, a dystopian world ruled by a kaleidoscope of religious sects, the masked vigilante Preest searches for his nemesis, a man known only as the Individual. Nursing a vendetta for the death of a girl Preest has a clear purpose: to kill the Individual. In London, Emilia is a fucked up art student struggling to put her past behind her and find her creative centre without killing herself in the process. Milo’s been stood up by his fiancé and can’t stop dwelling on his childhood sweetheart. While Esser trawls the streets and hospitals for his runaway son ignored by his estranged ex-wife and holding onto the last thing he has: his faith.

There are many things to like about Franklyn. The cast includes some standout talent including Bernard Hill (Lord of the Rings, Boys from the Blackstuff) and Eva green (Casino Royale). Even adequate performers like Ryan Phillippe. The set design for Meanwhile City is interesting, if confused, and sections of the film’s photography are very nicely done. The film’s central conceit, about the nature of memory and reality, is an interesting one with a great deal of promise. And so the whole should be greater than the sum of these parts?

Alas, no.

The film falls short of its promise. On reflection, I think this is at least in part to do with the decision to follow four lead characters over four distinct story arcs in a ninety-minute film. It’s simply too much for this length of film and inevitably it makes it difficult to identify with or feel sympathy for Milo, for example. This also makes it far too easy to work out the film’s somewhat inevitable climax that falls like a damp squib rather than an emotionally satisfying close.

This is the most obvious symptom of a good idea that has not been thoroughly thought through. On delving closer there is further evidence: the logic of Meanwhile City is not clear and the story arc that takes place there is weak due to an onerous flashback. In general the transitions between the two worlds are handled badly in away that only the most forgiving audience would characterise as planned. But these are not its greatest sin.

Perhaps it’s a symptom of the truncated running time but the film falls foul of the greatest of sins: logical consistency. Be it fantasy, horror, SF, slipstream or whatever: it should be logically consistent within the framework of the story. There simply isn’t enough build around the hospital cleaner or Milo’s childhood sweetheart for their presence to feel like anything other than a clunking deus ex machina.

For all of its many failings Franklyn is a bold and brave attempt at an interesting idea. Writers and directors will find a useful lesson in the flexibility of narrative while more general viewers can enjoy a solid set of performances and some interesting cinematography.

Worth a view but don’t expect to be blown away.





Hugos And Graveyards

28 07 2009

I’m a bit late to comment on Adam Roberts’ critique but this kind of surprised me:

“But The Graveyard Book is too twee, too cosy, especially given that its theme is Death which is, in reality, neither twee or cosy, as some children, and all of us eventually, grievously discover.”

I have a lot of time for Adam, both as a writer and a critic, but the idea The Graveyard Book is about death, or Death as Adam puts it, struck me as just wrong and an uncharacteristically literal interpretation of the text. The Graveyard Book may be set in a graveyard and may feature ghost and ghouls but I took the book’s central theme to be about Life. As evidence I offer the following:

“…Liza’s voice, close to his ear, said, ‘Truly, life is wasted on the living, Nobody Owens. For one of us is too foolish to live, and it is not I. Say you will miss me.’…”

And this:

“…’Why can’t I just stay here? In the graveyard?’

‘You must not,’ said Silas, more gently than Bod could remember him ever saying anything. ‘All the people here have had their lives, Bod, even if they were short ones. Now it’s your turn. You need to live.’…”

And finally (because I risk copyright infringement):

“…’Face your life
Its pain, its pleasure,
Leave no path untaken’
…”

Maybe I’m missing something?

I could go onto some of the other arguments where I differ from Adam. For example, I am on the record as having loved Little Brother. A predilection that did not prevent me enjoying Adam’s own Swiftly which was, incidentally, one of the best books I’ve read this year. I could expound at length on the futility of arguing against a popular vote based award but I suspect that would be dull and rehash others arguments.

No, all I really wanted to say was what you do with your life is more important than death.

And that, I think, is what another Neil was trying to say.





Friday Flash Fiction: Between the Breakers

29 05 2009

This post has now moved. You can read it here: http://www.neilbeynon.com/fiction/between-the-breakers/.

Between the breakers
By Neil Beynon

He wobbles across the uneven rocks, scattered like broken teeth across the beach, until he reaches the smooth compressed sand beyond. He pauses for a moment, turns to look back at the cliffs behind him. If he is looking for something he does not find it on those rocky peaks looming large.

The tide is out and it takes him a little while to reach the edge of the ocean. He walks between the twin rows of breakers that line either side of his path like watery sentinels. He does not pause as he steps into the water, heedless of the cold saltwater on his shoes and trousers: it is not the first time he has done this. He wades out further into the water, ignoring the persistent slapping of the waves that almost push him back and his breath coming in short sharp breaths…

Read the rest of the post here: http://www.neilbeynon.com/fiction/between-the-breakers/.





Review: Star Trek

26 05 2009

star_trek_poster

I managed to see the new reboot of Star Trek.*

Some background: I am, for my sins, a long term fan of the series although I lean towards TNG over any of the other offerings, and best not to get me started on the TNG films. I do not consider Star Trek to be science fiction, it’s space fantasy – the science is bad, the speculative elements minimal and the amount of tech predicted has more to do with the number of fans going into science than any hard graft by futurists. I do not dress up.

The point being I was sceptical about a) the need for another film and b) the wisdom of rebooting some of the most iconic characters in television. It’s hard to imagine anyone but Shatner as Kirk and no one has ever really successfully out Vulcaned old Nimsy. Throw in the painful wounds inflicted by Enterprise‘s attempt to go retro and….well:  I was a hard sell.

Yet, despite not thinking of myself as a full on fan for some time, the thought of not going didn’t really enter my head.

For that I am infinitely grateful because JJ Abrahms somehow – in a trick worthy of Scotty – managed it.

The film takes us back to the moment of James T. Kirk’s birth but it soon becomes clear that something is wrong, things are not unfolding as the canon dictates: Kirk’s father sacrifices himself in order to save his crew and his family, James T. grows up fatherless, a perpetual troublemaker that has no intention of going into the fleet and people know what Romulans look like. Things change when Kirk meets Captain Pike in a bar room brawl and follows the pretty Uhura into the academy promising to beat his father’s record to the Captain’s chair.

Keeping up so far?

Yes, the plot is horribly complicated and convoluted as time travel based stories usually are but don’t let that put you off. You see the tricky plot is there to attempt to keep the likes of me amused and interested (granted many won’t be but I was). For the wider audience, that JJ is hoping to convert to new fans, the film is loaded with high action sequences peppered with light camp comedy (it is Star Trek after all) and some full on operatic villains. JJ was never going to please everyone but he’s done his best to create an accessible film and for the most part he’s succeeded.

There are plenty of nods to the original series including the pursuit of an abandoned storyline but it’s really the changes JJ brings that I think make the film enjoyable. The cast is more the ensemble piece the series was supposed to be, diverting some of the attention away from Kirk to Uhura, Sulu and Chekov. While Pegg is woefully under-utilised as Scotty, his performance is bang on the money without slipping into parody as does Karl Urban as McCoy with a wonderful homily to the late Deforest Kelly. Zachary Quinto, as the rebooted Spock, manages to riff off Leonard Nimoy, neatly sidestepping trying to match the elder Vulcan’s performance, and bringing his own strangeness to the part.

Chris Pine, stepping into Shatner’s boots as Kirk, is the man with the hardest job. Shatner is iconic not because he’s the world’s greatest actor – he isn’t – but because the Kirk was such a large part of sixties pop culture that he’s imprinted on western culture. He was the figurehead for Trek – so bad he was good. Pine doesn’t even bother to do a Shatner – it would be silly and risking parody – but lets the supporting cast provide the feeling of familiarity, while he injects Kirk with a character more recognisable from Star Trek’s apocrypha than its canon. It is only at the end of the film, when Kirk ascends to the command he will hold for the majority of his career that Pine allows an element of Shatner to enter his performance as he takes the chair, legs crossed in an improbably camp pose. It is, perhaps, the most well judged shot of the whole film.

A great romp and a successful if pointless reboot. See it – popcorn optional but recommended.

And yes: I don’t understand the lensflare either.

* Why they feel the need to reboot everything in sight I have no idea but that’s a subject for a different post.





Friday Flash Fiction: Buck

10 04 2009

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

This week’s flash fiction. Feedback, as ever, is welcome.

Buck
By Neil Beynon

It feels like I’ve been on the run forever. In reality it’s only been a few days and already I’m tired of it. The city is almost disserted, many of the shops are boarded up and construction works lie abandoned as if someone started operating on the city, trying to save it, and then gave up. The wind carries dust on it and whips round the corners of buildings that don’t look like they’ve been cleaned since they were built in the nineteen hundreds. This city bites. I raise my collar and start out across the square towards the hotel.

I can still taste the sugar from that too sweet soda. One more than I should have had and so thick with syrup that I could practically chew it, my heart is racing a little from the E numbers, my mouth covered in a light moss of acidity. Perhaps that is why I feel like the few people I encounter are staring at me, that they know what I am and why I am running. But how could they?…

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





Friday Flash Fiction: Still Rising

27 03 2009

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

Due to Internet fail I am posting this using the equivalent of smoke signals. It may look a mess.

Still Rising
By Neil Beynon

“Where are you going?”

Fahl stopped at the foot of the stairs, turning to the speaker with the creak of age as old as the tower he intended to walk up. It was Lumin staring defiantly back at him, his robes freshly pressed and his bright blue eyes gleaming in the torch light. Fahl sighed and leant on the rail that lined the stairs, in his other hand a long stone knife gleamed.

“Where are you going?” repeated Lumin.

“To do what must be done.”

“The city is no longer under siege Fahl.”

…You can read the full story here: http://www.neilbeynon.com/fiction/still-rising