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Howard’s House of Hammer (Part 1)

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to win some Hammer goodies from the House of Horror itself, which was nice. The prize was five DVDs bearing eight films. Unhappily, the envelope turned up with its flap open and only one DVD inside. Happily, Hammer leapt into the breach as soon as they heard my distant cry of anguish and sent me new copies of the missing discs.

I’ve been watching these in episodic form during my lunch ever since and have now seen all eight films. Most of them I haven’t seen for a very long time indeed, and in the case of the Dick Barton films, I had never seen them at all.

The DVDs are the new Icon editions and are very much at the budget end of the market. This not only means that a lot of extras that earlier releases included have been jettisoned, but they are now even missing subtitles, which seems extraordinary. Some of the prints – the Bartons and X the Unknown— have been in the wars a little, but all of them are certainly watchable. I recall there being a fuss when Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter was released in a very poor version where the night scenes were pitch black and the day scenes were washed out, but this was the correct version where everything was properly balanced.

The eight films span the period from 1948 to 1957, before leaping forward to 1974’s Captain Kronos. The ‘fifties films are historically interesting because the cover the period when Hammer evolved from a production company making smallish films of all (cheap to do) genres into its most famous manifestation as the House of Horror. The pivotal moment is generally said to be 1955 when it secured the rights to Nigel Kneale’s The Quatermass Experiment, which had been enormously successful as a BBC series.

In 1957 it released The Curse of Frankenstein, its first colour film, and the one that started the trend that we generally think of when we think of Hammer horror; supersaturated colour, a bit of sex, some Grand Guignol style gore, and ideally Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. If you look at Hammer’s releases after that, the other fare starts to vanish as horror and psychological thrillers come to dominate their output. This continued through the ‘sixties and into the early ‘seventies, when a new form of unspeakable vileness came to Hammer – yes, On the Buses, I’m looking at you – and the House of Horror started to look rather unsteady on its foundations. A bit more on that when I talk about Captain Kronos.

Here then, in very nearly the order in which I watched them, are my capsule reviews of the eight films, kicking off with…

With one bound..!Collapse )

'Cos I'm a Manly Man

Yes, my friends, the time has come at last for me to unleash the sheer, shocking masculine power of my Movember moustache on you. I warned you about this a month ago, so if you're not ready by now, I can take no responsibility for any consequences. Stand by, because when the sheer awesomeness of my moustache is revealed, you will not be unchanged. Men will wither with envy, and forever hesitate before using the "Gents" toilets in future. Women... well, your near future experiences will involve the word "gusset," y'know what I mean?

I hope you do, because I've slightly confused myself now and can't explain it.

In any case, and astounding masculinity aside, please remember that there is a serious purpose behind all this. Please, please visit http://uk.movember.com/mospace/1793088/ and donate something. Apparently one chap has made £12,000,000 in Movember donations. I'm not expecting that you'll be delighted to hear, but whatever you can give will be gratefully received. Remember, if you're a UK taxpayer, the testicular and prostate cancer charities can claim back the tax on your donation, which is a significant amount. Please take a moment to do so.

Right. Brace yourselves.

No, seriously, brace yourselves...Collapse )

Utter Nonsense

I found the following while going through my files, and own myself vaguely astonished by it. I have only the very vaguest memories of writing it back in 2002, as a self-imposed writing exercise, I think. Make what you will of it. 



Read more, if you feel you must.Collapse )


It's a Winner! It's a Real Bilbo Bopper!

 For your information, the subject line is an unforgivably oblique reference back to the days of vinyl records. Just so you know. Or don't. 

Right, I shall be writing this entry in sort-of real time with choosing the winner of a personalised and signed copy of The Fear Institute. Which is to say, I shall be writing a bit, doing something, writing about what I just did, and so on. First thing up is that I shall randomise a number from 1 to (checks Twitter) 425, and then do some very tedious counting to find out who that is. If it's an inadmissible entry -- a group or whatever -- I do it again and keep doing it until I get an individual. I shall not be publishing the number, primarily because I'm likely to miscount and I can do without being pulled up over a failure in accuracy, thank you very much.

I was going to generate a number electronically, but that's boring, so I'm going to do it old school and break out some polyhedral dice. 425 is an awkward number, but that can't be helped. I'll generate a 1 to 5 for the hundred groupings, then roll percentiles. Obviously, if 426 to 500 comes up, I immediately re-roll. That'll give me a flat probability spread over the target numbers. 

Dice

Dice! (Huh!) What are they good for? (Generating random numbers!) Say it again!

Okay, here we go. 

And the winner is...

Arse. 

No winner, it's a group, although a thoroughly awesome group and one I'm very pleased to have following me -- Hammer Films. What, you don't have a legendary horror film production company following you? No? Awww. 

Awesome, but not an individual. Try again. 

And the winner is...

I can't find the damn dice. I had them a second ago. How the blazes have I lost them? Oh, panic over. Okay. 

And the winner is...

These dice are taking the piss now. That's three numbers in a row over 425. This isn't going brilliantly, is it? This is why they never let me compère Eurovision. 

And the winner is...

W00t! A viable account! Finally.

@eslamprey! Come on down!

Evelyn S. Lamprey, a splendid name that I may use for a character at some point, is a photographer, and lives in a haunted house. I'm not going to have to make up anything at all for the character, really, am I? There's the story right there. 

Congratulations to you, Evelyn. I'll scribble in a copy of The Fear Institute and get it off to you before the end of the week. Commiserations to everyone else, especially those who offered "special" favours for me to rig the lottery, favours that I regretfully had to decline for reasons that now elude me. Believe me, you had a narrow escape. 

The Fear Institute comes out in about a fortnight from Headline in the UK and, I would guess, Australia. Still no idea when it will be published in the US or Canada. Sorry about that, but I'm completely out of the loop on how that's progressing. If you really cannot wait, I'm told that the Book Depository do a good job, but I don't have personal experience of their service. You can find The Fear Institute here: http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Johannes-Cabal-Jonathan-Howard/9780755347988 

Wheee! Competition Time!

 I announced a little give-away on Twitter the other day, but if you didn't see it there, I'll repeat it here. 

Basically, I've received my hardback copies of The Fear Institute and I'm going to give one away -- personalised and signed -- to somebody chosen randomly from my followers list on Twitter. The only restriction really is that it has to go to an individual and not an organisation or a bot or anything like that. I shall be doing the picking on Wednesday, all the while bitterly regretting that Twitter doesn't helpfully number your followers. That would make this so much easier if the random number turns out to be an awkward one. 

I shall announce the winner both on Twitter and on here, and then weep as the fair weather followers who only followed me to be in with a chance at the prize bail on me. You unfeeling bastards.

An Apology, plus Random Star Wars

 Oh, dear, it's been a dog's age since I last posted. My apologies; I've been a bit distracted. I still am, but at least I've got some nonsense to go on here. I was daydreaming while having breakfast the other day, a thought occurred, and I ended up writing it down. It went like this...

I'll give YOU bloody midiclorians...Collapse )
 
 
 

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Black Gate #15

Black Gate #15 is out soon. It's a terrific magazine for fantasy readers and I would recommend it wholeheartedly even if they weren't publishing a short story by me in #15. As it happens, they are. My story's an 11 000 word adventure called "The Shuttered Temple." The issue's full contents list can be found here:

http://bit.ly/hQRlW4

Also, in case you missed it, "Fantasy Magazine" published a new Cabal short online the other week entitle "The House of Gears." You can find it here: 
http://www.fantasy-magazine.com/new/new-fiction/the-house-of-gears/
There's an option at the top of the page to hear it read by Stefan Rudnicki too, which was unexpected and rather wonderful. 

Oh, My Giddy Aunt


Well, the new series of Doctor Who is starting this evening and I am rather looking forward to it. I wanted to mark the event somehow and, struck by a small coincidence, I think I have the perfect way.  

As will be apparent to anyone with even my briefest acquaintance, I rather like Doctor Who, in much the same way that Catholics rather like the Pope, and bears rather like the toilet facilities in the woods. My rather liking has taken the usual form of frothing gently at the merest hint of a Vworp, but has also manifested in a desire to write for Doctor Who in whatever manner becomes possible. Back in 1999, that meant writing for the line of novels, the television series having plunged back into the space/time continuum of uncertainty after the unsuccessful BBC/Fox pilot TV movie version of 1996. 

I started by pitching an idea to BBC Books having blithely ignored the writers' guide notes that specifically forbade the use of classic monsters for a first project. Unsurprisingly they rejected it. 

For my second shot, I read the guide properly and came up with something entirely new. It was a second Doctor story featuring Zoë and Jamie as his companions, and it was set in Hollywood in 1927. The idea behind it was original as far as I knew (and I read a lot of SFF) and would present the Doctor in a slightly new way, based on a single scene from "The Wheel in Space" that had resonated strongly with me. I wanted it to be a very historical "historical" and researched the hell out of the time and the place. I would be using not just one or two, but a whole bunch of well known Hollywood personalities and I wanted to understand them well enough to portray them fairly. I read about ten assorted biographies and memoirs, and read as much as I could about the movie industry generally in those distant days, helped greatly by my good friend Marsha who even managed to hunt down and buy for me two long out of print books on Mack Sennett. I had maps, I had timelines of the films in production at the assorted studios, I had a strong story. What could possibly go wrong? 

I wrote the first chapter, but the heavy work of putting together a detailed synopisis had to go on the back burner when my daughter was born and the father gig took priority. I never stopped working entirely on the book, however, drawing in new research and new events to improve the plot. 

Then, when I was almost ready to pitch the story in early 2001, the project died a sudden and total death. To my deepening horror, I read that later in the year a new novel would be published in the Doctor Who series. Mine was to feature the second Doctor, and be set in Hollywood, 1927.The new novel featured the second Doctor, and was set in Hollywood, 1947. There was no earthly way that BBC Books would publish two books with such similar settings. I played around with trying to change it, but it didn't wash. It had to be Hollywood, and no other Doctor worked in the part as well. That was that. 
 
It's always galled me, though. I like that first chapter to this day, and had intended to write the whole novel in the same, somewhat proto-Cabalesque fashion. I've also been intending to publish it here for some time, in the same way I did for the odd little story I put up last year, but was looking for the right moment. That the right time has arrived is based purely on a small coincidence -- that the new antagonists in Doctor Who are called The Silence, and that the Doctor Who novel I shall now never write would have been called...
 
Enter the space/time vortex...Collapse )


 

Genre for Japan

 Just a quick 'un. Genre for Japan is an auction of science fiction, fantasy and horror bits and bobs, the proceeds which will go to the Japanese Tsunami Appeal administered by the British Red Cross. Lots have been provided by authors and publishers, and include signed works by the likes of Gaiman, Pullman, and Pratchett among many others. It runs until midnight (BST, i.e. GMT+1), Sunday the third of April.

From the Vault

 Dear me, another long break between posts. My apologies; I know the world wilts and the colours are not quite so bright in the absence of my recondite musings. Yes, it does. It does, truly. You just haven't been paying attention. Trust me, you've really missed me. Oh, suit yourself. 

So, what have I been up to? Well, I have been largely tidying up one of the novels I finished last year (One of the three. I've mentioned that already, have I? Oh. Well, anyway. THREE). It's one of the two non-Cabal novels, and is pretty good fun. It will be interesting to see if I'm alone in that judgement. I'm waiting on notes for Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute, so in the meantime I'm going to write a short or two and polish the third novel. 

None of this is very exciting, I'll grant you, so in an endeavour to give this post some sort of interest, here's an artefact of sorts.

I do find myself concerned that, after I've won every literary prize imaginable and they build a new wing to the British Library to hold my archives for the wonderment of future generations, it is going to be quite a small building. Probably about the size of an outhouse. The reason for this is that I write almost purely in electronic form and, apart from a few notebooks and some fitfully notated MSS, there is limited wonderment to be had from gazing at old hard drives.

Marvel, then, upon one of the few times I've had the cap off a pen to do anything other than notes. I should point out that the following contains some mild spoilers for Johannes Cabal the Detective, so please be warned. 

Mild spoilerage awaits...Collapse )

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