The Cut 🪒 Issue 21

Michaelmas has come and gone. The nights are starting to draw in. We are heading into spooky season… like things weren’t freaky enough already. Oh well. Draw the curtains, pull up to a bottle and join us as we flag up the pings on our radar this week. We have a metal god, a robust response to some poorly-judged street art and a song that could well be the anthem of 2020.

Now is the time. Here is the place. This is The Cut.


Continue reading The Cut 🪒 Issue 21

The Cut 🪓 Issue 17

Good gravy, it’s Friday! It’s September! We’re coming up on six months since lockdown loomed up on us and the streets emptied. It seems like all the time in the world and a blink of the eye all at once. Join us as we look at religion in SF, the stories we can’t write any more and the most delicious food you can’t eat.

Now is the time. Here is the place. This is The Cut.


As writers, we can be said to spend our lives dreaming on paper. The life of the mind can be as real, and certainly more attractive than the one we live in every day. For certain people, the pull of a daydream world becomes so seductive that they begin to retreat into it…

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/the_daydream_that_never_stops

Cheers is one of those shows fondly remembered by everyone, mostly because of the great writing and vibrant, many-layered characters. There were some early casualties to the clientele, most notably one who didn’t make it past the pilot. Whatever happened to Mrs. Littlefield?

http://www.dirtyfeed.org/2020/04/heres-to-you-mrs-littlefield/

We kick off our food portion of The Cut with a new feature we like to call Recipe Of The Week (there will probably be a change in that title, but we’re running up against deadline, here). This week, check out Food52’s guide to a proper deep-crust Detroit-style pizza that’s a seriously cheesy, crunchy, saucy treat!

https://food52.com/recipes/82857-crispy-cheese-pan-pizza-recipe

We are binging the latest series of Chef’s Table on Netflix on the art of barbecue. The show focuses on the best of the best, but we feel they missed a name. Let us, via, Eater, introduce you to Tom Ellis who runs live-fire grills for big corporate events and celebrations. There’s some clever and refined techniques on display here, and as Tom himself admits, no small element of theatre…

https://www.eater.com/2020/8/26/21401422/how-swell-party-grill-master-tom-ellis-uses-open-fire-cooking-to-make-a-feast

You don’t often see Serious Eats taking about anime. But when they focus on the central part food plays in Studio Ghibli’s films, and the loving way the animation giant portrays it, then it’s worth paying attention. Spirited Away takes point, of course, but Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo and Kiki’s Delivery Service all have classic moments to savour.

https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/08/studio-ghibli-anime-best-food-scenes.html

Our SF Correspondent interjects:

Tamsyn Muir’s Locked Tomb books are in our top ten list of stories released over the past couple of years. Gothic, picaresque, wild and bracingly bonkers, there’s little else like them out there. The character of Gideon Nav is a creation of sheer snarky joy. Tor digs into the iconography twisted through Muir’s world-building and how it relates to a wider discussion of religious imagery in SF. From Star Wars to Dune, A Canticle For Leibovitz to The Parable Of The Sower, there’s a rich, dark seam to mine…

https://www.tor.com/2020/08/19/gideon-the-ninth-young-pope-and-the-new-pope-are-building-a-queer-catholic-speculative-fiction-canon/

So, the question of creativity during lockdown doesn’t go away. Should we feel guilty for not writing that novel or learning a new language with all the free time we were given? The answer is of course hecks no, but Steven Soderburgh isn’t helping matters. He used lockdown to re-edit a couple of his movies, reshaping them into new and shorter films. We pick up Indiewire for more on the annoyingly productive director.

https://www.indiewire.com/2020/08/steven-soderbergh-reedited-movies-quarantine-1234582502/

SF writer Charlie Stross has often struggled with the problem of plot redundancy. That is, a genius idea or gizmo that presents in real life before he gets the chance to finish the damn book. In The Year Of The Situation, Charlie looks at those story tropes and broad themes that are frankly no longer fit for purpose and are therefore dead to him.

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2020/08/dead-plots.html

Some notes from the Ninth Arts Desk…

We believe in comics. We think comics are an art form with a very specific set of strengths, and telling stories using The Ninth Art can unlock new aspects of narrative. That’s not all. As Lifehack notes, reading comics can actually make you smarter!

https://www.lifehack.org/468585/6-ways-reading-comics-makes-you-smarter

We’ve already mentioned how comics can make an excellent educational tool. Comics Beat recently interviewed art-chameleon R Sikoryak who has pointed his considerable skills into opening up one of the most misunderstood and misused documents of all time—The Constitution Of The United States!

https://www.comicsbeat.com/interview-r-sikoryak-constitution-illustrated/

Finally in this section, Michael Carty’s loving tribute to comics Mecca Forbidden Planet should have gone up last week as the old place celebrated its forty-second birthday. Oh well, better late than never. We remain especially fond of the original Denmark Street site. One of our number actually fainted while in a signing line for the first Judge Dredd annual in 1981. He picked hisself up, dusted hisself off and got that grud-damned Pat Mills autograph. Now that’s dedication to the cause!

http://mjcarty.com/forbidden-planetstin-pans-and-londons-eternal

This week’s Long Read takes in a charismatic con-man, a casino under threat and a very complicated bomb. How this story has not already been made into a film beggars belief. Perhaps it’s because some of the plot twists are just too mind-boggling for an audience to buy into. Settle back with a strong cocktail (trust us, you’ll need it) and enjoy the tale of The Zero-Armed Bandit…

www.damninteresting.com/the-zero-armed-bandit/

And finally, a quick plug for our Rob, who has somehow managed to weasel his way onto Keith Eyle’s Star Trek podcast, Let’s See What’s Out There! Join Rob, Keith and co-host Pete Mele as they discuss canon, deep cut episodes and how a post-scarcity Federation doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have bills to pay…

https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cDovL2xzd290Y2FzdC5saWJzeW4uY29tL3Jzcw/episode/YTk0ZGI3ZGYtMTRjYi00M2UyLThjOWMtY2NkMmRkNzI0ZDJi

Our love for California psyche-skronkers The Oh Sees (the current iteration, as is their wont, is called Osees) is deep and long and true. King See John Dwyer conjures glorious clangs and whoops from his high-slung guitar while the two-drum attack rushes the sound along at express-train intensity. We were minded to present an hour of rehearsal footage for songs from the new album Protean Threat, out later this month, but choose instead for Exit Music to showcase a set they did for KEXP last year, featuring some classic bangers. If you want an overview of the band and their sound, start here. They’re touring the UK in October, and we are sorely tempted to break quarantine to see them.

Dig in. Here we go. See you in seven.

The Cut – Issue 6

Another week down. The shops reopened, but frankly we’re happy behind the walls of our compound, letting all the goodies we need come to us. Queueing, we have decided, is not our bag. We may never shop in the old-fashioned way again. Anyway. Let’s do this. Now is the time. Here is the place. This is The Cut.

Continue reading The Cut – Issue 6

The A To Z Of SFF: H Is For Howl’s Moving Castle

It was inevitable that the Curious Crew would talk about a Studio Ghibli film at some point. And what better example than there be than Miyazaki’s adaptation of Diana Wynne-Jone’s novel? An explicitly anti-war film that absorbs, refracts and re-projects the source text (already a thing of beauty) into a rare and remarkable piece of fantasy fiction. If you’ve never seen a Ghibli film… start here!


The A To Z Of SFF: A Is For Aeon Flux (the animated series)


 

A female assassin clad in leather straps, dealing in extreme violence, having sex whenever she feels like it with multiple partners… did we mention this was an animated series that went out on MTV in the early 90s?

Aeon Flux is a strange mixture – a kinky, arty mashup of Euro sci-fi style and arch, deliberately impenetrable storytelling. Rob and Clive try to figure out what the hell was going on…


 

Humblebraggery

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.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-34711495

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 Abiogenesis

Rob And Clive take a look at a neat little SF short that elegantly describes one way life on earth may have come about. Science in our science-fiction? Well, maybe just a tiny bit. We can’t be too educational, can we?


 

Check out the full film. All 4 minutes of it!

 

The A To Z OF SFF: A Is For AKIRA

Akira. The word that for many fans of a certain age describes Japanese anime. Kinetic, violent and surreal, the film and book still has the power to shock, move and excite.

Rob and Clive explore the film and its continued relevence to anime culture.

Warning: contains excessive yelling of the names “Tetsuooooo!” and “Kanedaaaa!”

And if you need a gentle reminder of what we’re yabbering on about, the whole thing is on YouTube…