The A To Z Of SFF: A Is For The Authority


A highly influential take on the notion of the superhero team that would arguably lead to the cinematic version of The Avengers that we know and like quite a bit. But who are The Authority, and why should we care?

Rob, Clive and CycloMedia lay out the characters and story beats of a comics series that still has a lot of bite.


The A To Z Of SFF: A Is For Armageddon

Rob really does not like Armageddon. Can Clive persuade him to the merits of the Bay-buster, or is this one going down like an asteroid the size of Texas? Join our intrepid pair of trivianauts and deranged AI CycloMedia as they spend some time in Bruckheimer-Space.

Here’s a taste of the Bay-tastic style of the movie…

Fodderblog: The Best Balls Ever!

As part of Rob's Attempt To Get Back On Track with His Writing, I intend to ease myself in gently. It's been a while since I posted a recipe. And this one, my Lovely Readership, is a doozy.

I love meatballs. With spaghetti, or some cubetti potatoes, and of course slathered in a rich tomato sauce, they're an easy midweek supper. But they're surprisingly easy to make, and you know exactly what goes into them. Let me walk you through the creaton of the best meatballs you'll ever eat.

The meat is pork and chicken. To be precise, pork shoulder and chicken thighs. Both have enough fat in them to add tons of flavour and, more importantly, hold together without the need for breadcrumbs, eggs or other binders. All they need is a little care in construction.

I'm lucky enough to have a mincer attachment for our K-Mix, last year's Bake-Off inspired Christmas present. It's become a handy tool to take really cheap cuts of meat and make flavour-packed burgers and sausages. Meatballs are even easier. I added some sorry looking herbs from the supermarket (basil and parsley in this case, but thyme and sage would work fantastically), and ground away.

If you don't have flash-boy toys, go ask a butcher to do the chopping. They'll be happy to help.

While I was mincing, I had a couple of finely sliced leeks and a couple of cloves of garlic sizzling slowly in a pan. Once soft and fragrant, I let the veg cool a bit before squishing it into the pork and chicken mix. Don't mash it up too heavily, but make sure everything is well mixed. Add some salt and pepper, then gently form into glorious globes of gorgeousness.

Now the important bit. Clingfilm the balls, and stick them in the fridge for at least an hour. It'll help them to hold their shape. You notice that I've put them on baking trays over baking parchment. There's a good reason for that.

When you're ready to cook your balls, pop them in a pre-heated oven at 180C for about 25 mins, turning them halfway through. They'll leak out some oil while cooking, which will help them develop a fragile crust. Don't fiddle with 'em too much and they'll keep their shape and take care of themselves.

If you're thinking ahead, you'll have some cubed potatoes in the oven already, so that when the dinner gong goes you can whip something out of the oven that looks like this:

Now we're talking. Serve with a simple chunky tomato sauce, that's all you need. The meatballs are fragrant, herby and meaty without feeling too heavy, textured without feeling gritty, deeply flavoured without being greasy. I am dead chuffed with these little beauties, and I recommend you give them a go. A tasty autumnal treat!


(It has been drawn to my attention that some of you fnd the word “balls” inexplicibly hilarious. I have also been accused of pandering to said lowest-common denominator in this piece. I really don't know what you're on about. There's nothing wrong with popping a hot pair of balls in your mouth and noshing away).


I tend not to talk about The Day Job on X&HT. I’m always aware of the potential downfalls of letting things slip about the paid gig, particularly if things aren’t going so well. But for once, I’ve had a couple of bits of good news, so I figured I should share them with you.

(Also, of course, yr. humble author is aware that the blog has been of late little more than a shop front for The A To Z Of SFF. Will work on trying to retweak the balance, honest guv).

First up, there’s been news of a rediscovered piece of cinematic history, as a 1928 short, “Sleigh Bells”, featuring Oswald the Rabbit has been unearthed by the BFI. What’s the big deal? Well, Oswald is the precursor to a certain famous cartoon mouse. You know the one. Red shorts. Ears that point the same way no matter which way his head’s pointing.

The 4K scans on this bit of 16mm print that some sharp-eyed researcher dug up from the vaults was carried out by yours truly. To give you an idea of the sort of resolution I was working at, 4K is normally the preserve of the biggest of big-budget blockbusters. It’s a slow process, which has to take place at a glacial six frames per second. However, the end result is good enough to be projected in cinemas–which is exactly what’s happening this Christmas. It will be screened on 12th December as part of a programme of Disney shorts at the BFI Southbank. It’s something of a big deal, and I’m pleased and proud to have been involved in the project.

Meanwhile, documentarian Chris Barnett interviewed me as part of his MA for a short film he’s making on the subject of colour. We chatted in the bowels of Bristol University’s Film Department, amongst old clip bins and Steenbeck film editing flatbeds. I don’t often sit on the other side of the camera, and wasn’t convinced that I was doing that well. Chris, however, seemed happy enough, to the point where he restarted the cameras after the end of the shoot to catch some more of my stream-of-consciousness ramblings.

Here, see what you think.

There’s more of the interviews that Chris shot for his project on his site, The Dark Art Of Light. I recommend it if you want more insight into the strange world in which I make a living. Oh, and kudos to him for getting a distinction in his MA. I’m sure it was down to me…

Finally, I was floored to find out that my interview was featured as the opening link on this week’s Tao Of Color newsletter, which goes out to the colourist community every week. Humbled, flattered, and frankly a little scared now.

There, enough bragging for one week, don’t you think?

The A To Z Of SFF: A Is For Aldiss


The Grandmaster of Science Fiction. Not just prolific but absurdly talented, Brian Aldiss is a Great British Author in every sense of the word. Rob and Clive celebrate the man and his work: not just as writer, but editor, artist and advocate for SF in all its forms.

If his work is good enough for Kubrick and Spielberg, it’s good enough for us!

Here’s a look at the film version of his deeply odd conjoined-twin punk opera, Brothers Of The Head. A strange and very English piece of work.


The A To Z Of SFF: A Is For Army Of Darkness

Time travel, skeleton warriors, heroic fantasy tropes upended and shaken till the lint drops out of their pockets… of course the film also known as Evil Dead 3 fits into our bailiwick!
Join Rob, Clive and CycloMedia as they tease out what makes Army Of Darkness such a great movie for Halloween. Because when you’re travelling the universe at trans-luminal speeds, it’s always October 31st somewhere…


The A To Z Of SFF: A Is For Altered States

Outer space is all well and good, but all the cool kids know that inner space is where it’s at. Rob and Clive take a look at the Ken Russell adaptation of Paddy Cheyefsky’s Altered States, and come to the conclusion that the greatest discovery of all is the ability to love…


Here’s a taste of the wild visual invention at play in Altered States. In this scene, Professor Eddie Jessop takes native hallucinatory agents in a field trip to South America. The resulting trip is… unsettling.