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Review of Alien: Covenant

While there are worse ways to spend your money, Alien: Covenant is far from must-see movie-making. The earlier of these Alien reboot movies, Alien: Prometheus, was a hot mess - throwing half a dozen half-baked, super-ambitious ideas into the air and trying to catch them on the same saucer. It didn't work and mostly serves as a good example of why story must be the first, last, and everything in a movie.

Covenant is bit more coherent, if for no other reason than it really only has one idea in mind: getting us to a fully-formed xenomorph engaged in quality chest-ripping and murder-dicing. Which it does with reasonable competence.

Did I want more out of this movie? There are some moments that hint at a much more interesting and epic movie behind this one - the visit of the android David to the home planet (?) of the Engineers is one example. The idea of the evolution of the Xenomorph being a kind of machine directed domestication is intriguing.

But really this movie is the very firs…
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Review of Emily B. Cataneo's "Speaking to Skull Kings and Other Stories"

Weird Fiction, I think by definition, is a hard genre to describe. Still, I think it's possible to point to a couple of major strains - Classic and New. 
On one hand you have the heritage of Machen, Blackwood, Gilman, Ligotti, and of course the decrepit and dark idol of HP himself. These are tales almost like ghost stories, where protagonists brush up against the uncanny and either survives or succumbs to bleak fates. These tales tend towards a morose and gothic atmosphere and describe worlds I'd definitely avoid in real life.

Then you have the bizarre stuff like Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, Michael Shea, and China Meiville where weirdness is something plastic and garish. Often referred to as the "New Weird," these are works where the universe keeps warping chromosomes and shoving disparate genres into weird hybrids. I'm not sure if I'm that keen to visit Bas-Lag in person, but I'm pretty sure I'd have more fun there than Carcosa. For my part, I'm a f…

Review Grab-bag

If find myself pressed for time this month and absolutely overwhelmed by the various media I'd like to tell you about. 

First up. I watched Guardians of The Galaxy Volume 2, okay? So you can get off my back. And? I loved it. About as much as the first one, honestly, give or take a joke or two. What it misses in novelty and sheer comedy (this is a percentage thing: there are more jokes and fewer of them completely land) it more than makes up for resonance and, you know, feelings.

It's actually damn impressive that the first movie 1) got made in the first place 2) worked as well as it did. There are five characters I doubt many had any reason to care about and by the end of the first flick, you loved them.

Total surprise.

So that's the first film. The second film surprises by taking all of this very, very seriously and finding ways of making you care about such diverse topics as the attempt of a green and purple sister at reconciliation over the purple one's cybernetic mu…

What I Read in April 2017

I have a few short speculative stories to recommend from the past month. Particularly this year I find myself drawn to stories that promise one of two things: gloomy, restless undead or enormous 16-wheel tractor trailers, flames painted down the side, horns blaring, riding down the venal and corrupt and flattening them into road-kill on the side of the road. I have three of the former listed and one of the latter.

Her Hands Like Ice by KT Bryski. (Bracken) This was very good. The central of the mystery of the story - what haunts the narrator - is spun out convincingly, mesmerizingly until the final line. The reader's ache to UNDERSTAND this mystery echoes the cold need of the narrator to keep ahold of her dead sister. Not so much a revision or reaction to the classic vampire set-up as a clever misdirection. Infinite Love Engine by Joseph Allen Hill (Lightspeed). A great rollicking funny-as-hell, deranged, explosion of Afrofutrist space opera. It reminds me of a great many things…

Review of The Circle (movie)

I'll keep this short because although the reasons this film fails are many and complex, the end result is fairly easy to state. Don't watch this movie. It's worth neither your time nor money. 


It disappoints me to have to write the above because I did have high-hopes for this work. I read the novel when I learned who would be starring in the movie version of the book. Having read the book I thought The Circle was one of those rare works which might work really well as a movie.

Sadly, this isn't the movie I imagined.

It's not for lack of trying at the outset. The producers were able to bring in undeniable talent for this film. Tom Hanks in the semi-villain role Eamon Bailey, Emma Watson as the trusting and ambitious Mae, and half a dozen actors and actresses you've heard of before. The story is timely (although already rapidly fading in topicality - the half-life of near-future technofiction is not long) and the satire of the novel was gleefully savage. This shou…

Lost City of Z

This movie exceeded my expectations by a wide margin and the more I think about it the more excited I become of what the film's director could produce in the future.

I read the source material for the movie -- an eponymous non-fiction account of Percy Fawcett's early 20th century explorations of Amazonia and the lost civilization he was certain lay hidden within its depths -- a few years ago. The book stuck with me for three reasons. Firstly, the descriptions of the "Green Hell" of the Amazon rainforest, where every creature from microbe on up to man actively sought the explorer's destruction, are vivid and terrifying. David Grann, the author of the Lost City of Z, was very successful in convincing me I don't want to go into a rainforest. Grann was also, to move to my second point, adept in pointing out the many paradoxes and complexities of Fawcett's search for his city. Described as one of the last great explorers, Fawcett's efforts drew significant …

"The Green Rope," Announcement

I'm thrilled to announce my flash piece, "The Green Rope," has been published at the online literary magazine "Subtle Fiction." This is my first general fiction piece to have been published and to have it appear here is a great honor. The story is about fear and how it lingers. "The Green Rope," is one of the shortest works I've ever written so if you were inclined, you would have plenty of time to check out the other available works. Thank you, Jill Chan for selecting my story!



From Subtle Fiction's "About," page:

We are a new literary magazine which aims to publish the best short fiction online.

We are interested in short stories and flash fiction pieces of no more than 3,000 words. Fiction which does not fit into a box. It must be lively, daring, and filled with subtlety, hence our name. Give us stories which surprise and move us. We are looking for beautiful, complex, and uncompromising work.