This week: short things, fake bands and two things which end up buried. Must crack on, busy weekend, got a lady to spoil.
Wherever you are, whenever you are, however you are, welcome to The Swipe.
Rob is reading…
As part of Reading Writers’ upcoming Not The Booker Prize night, in which we celebrate novels with terrible plots, awful characters and frankly unbelievable plots, I’ve launched into a childhood favourite—Jack Williamson’s 1947 SF potboiler The Legion Of Space. It’s a wild ride. When readers say they don’t like science fiction, this is the sort of thing they mean. I love it, but it’s utterly indefensible.
Rob is watching…
Bobby Fingers builds a diorama of the moment Michael Jackson caught on fire while shooting a Pepsi commercial. You have no idea where this is going. Just admire the sheer commitment to the bit.
Rob is listening…
To Lucero. Rock n roll for the end times. Seemed to suit my mood this week.
Rob is eating…
The extraordinary feat of food engineering that is frozen cauliflower cheese. It comes out of the bag in solid white lumps, resembling a building material rather than a foodstuff. A half-hour in the oven and lo! Proper, actual, al dente cauli in a smooth, piquant sauce with some bubbly brown bits. You could fancy it up with a bit of extra grated parm or even a dust of breadcrumbs. Stir in some cooked spirali for the ultimate food hug, Cauli Mac and Chee. Remind me why I’ve been dicking around with roux and bechamel for so long…
The discussions over AI-generated art continues to rumble and groan and spit hot takes like a dormant volcano waking up. Music creation has become part of the discussion. It’s simple enough to write a pop song—many of the classics use the same three chords in a simple blues turnaround which would take any expert system moments to analyse and duplicate. Is it real? Does it matter? I’m reminded of the old argument about the validity of fake bands, which still had the human touch however little the collar matched the cuffs. There are skilled writers and musicians behind most of these songs. It takes a lot of work to make something this throwaway.
A discussion was had on one of my WhatsApp groups this week over how painfully long films are getting. This week sees the release of John Wick 4, weighing in at a hefty near-three hours. I find it hard to muster up the enthusiasm for a trip to the flicks when it’s going to take up a whole afternoon or evening. I set out a position that the films and writing I prefer are short and snappy. 90 minutes is perfect for a film, and a novel is best when you can fit it in a back pocket of your jeans. Do you agree, Readership? I’d love to know what your best short films and books are.
Two in a row from the Guardian, yes, I know, hand me that tofu. But some very valid points are made in this bit from Jan Grue about fictional villains. It seems you can tell the bad guy or girl just by looking at them, and that’s starting to be a problem. I mean, it was always a problem. It’s just taken us a while to open up and start talking about it.
Jason Diamond in The Melt absolutely nails my feelings on the nature of film colour. So many shows and films nowadays have the same muted palette, or the dreaded ‘teal-and-orange’ aesthetic. We have the technology to create any look we want, so why is it so difficult to be distinctive? I was looking at some post-war Powell and Pressberger films at work this week, shot in three-strip Technicolor. They didn’t look realistic, but they really pinged off the screen.
Christopher Fowler passed. He was a fantastic writer, of course—I recommend his Bryant And May novels wholeheartedly as great examples of elegant, nippy crime stories (short and to the point, too). He was also a Soho figure of the old school. Larger than life and all too human. Joanne Harris remembers her friend.
Names have power. Give your character the right moniker and you’ve already set up some of what and who they are. Dickens understood this implicitly. Neal Stephenson even parodied the idea by naming the MC of his breakthrough novel Snow Crash Hiro Protagonist.
The greatest product review in the history of all product reviews. Tell me you don’t agree with every word in the next link.
There was a lot of gloom in the feeds this week as new studies on climate change gave dire final warnings on the state of the Anthropocene Era. Perhaps, though, we need to see these alerts not as a reason to batten down the hatches but to step up, stand tall and see the advantages. Change is inevitable. We should not be afraid of it.
In further commitment to the bit news, we have to raise a glass and our swords to Wayne Chambliss, a performance artist who took the idea of the metal detectorist to a natural end point. Read the whole thing. The end is a kicker.
A Dress Rehearsal For The Afterlife
It makes sense to offer The Last Word to Cory Doctorow. He has a new book out which as ever ties in to his ongoing fight against corporate land grabs on your thoughts and art. If you like audiobooks, this one is for you, because you’re probably locked into a system which ensures writers and creators get the worst possible deal in order to have a chance of reaching you.
As part of the lady-spoiling operation mentioned above, TLC are braving That London today for a trip to the theatre. We’ve snagged tickets to the Kit Kat Klub with a table close enough to the stage to reach out and touch Sally Bowles. I’ve resisted the temptation to put on my suit. It’s by Hugo Boss. Possibly a little too on the nose…
See you in seven, true believers.