Out Of The Depths

Between 1844 and 2013, HMP Reading was the involuntary home for thousands of people who had caused offence to the state. From its original aim as a new model prison, with design features considered progressive for the time, the building changed, grew and mutated. Over the decades it became shabby, gradually less fit for purpose. Finally, after service as a young offenders lock-up, it was closed three years ago.

And that would have been the end for this unlovely, haunted building, if not for the fact that it is world-famous under its original name. Or rather, because of one particular inmate. Between 1895 and 1897 Prisoner C.3.3 suffered, wrote movingly of his torments, and immortalised the building whose walls enclosed him.

We know the man as Oscar Wilde, and the building as Reading Gaol.

Continue reading Out Of The Depths

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The A To Z Of SFF: H Is For Hard To Be A God

Over a decade in the making. Three hours long, black and white, an uncompromising political allegory and treatise on the dangers of anti-intellectualism.
Sounds like a laff riot, right? But Aleksei German’s Hard To Be A God has a lot to offer, if you’re prepared to put in the effort. Let Rob and Clive be your guides through a visit to Arkanar…



The A To Z Of SFF: W Is For We3


It’s been described as a mecha-suited Watership Down or The Incredible Journey on acid. But Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s We3 is a beast of a very different colour. It has its flaws, but the book is also a bold and brilliant example of proper comics storytelling.

Join Rob and Clive as they take a walk on the wild side…

Five Favourite Bunnies For Easter

Happy Easter Rabbit Day! As I hope the Readership is aware, I have something of a thing for the humble Lagomorpha Lapodirae that I find tricky to either explain or justify. I just like ’em, OK?

As today is the day when the little critters are most in the mimetic spotlight, I thought I’d run down a short list of my personal faves. Please feel free to chip in if you think I’ve missed any.

Continue reading Five Favourite Bunnies For Easter

Hamza and DocoBanksy Hit Reading Running!

The DocoPhone starts ringing. It’s an old red Trimfone, thick with stickers, and the ringtone’s been modded to play a chip tune version of the Beastie Boy’s Sabotage.

It would be more than my life’s worth to ignore it, and my very soul would be forfeit if I let it bounce to voicemail or -gods forbid- redirect to the mobile. The DocoPhone is head of my to-do list every day.

“I have a job for you.” DocoBanksy’s voice is dry over the phone line, all inflection stripped away by the anonymising software he uses. In person he’s much warmer–much more human. But now he’s all business, and I’m all attention.

“A drop-off,” he continues. “Some friends of mine are shooting in your manor, and I need you to get them some stickers. Don’t make a meal of it. Be a pro. Someone will contact you. I’ve given them your number and private email. I told them you wouldn’t mind.”

Click. The line goes dead. I have my instructions. All I can do now is wait.

The call comes through soon after. Once you get involved with docoBanksy, you learn things move quickly. A charming chap called Mike, who’s happy to chat. We arrange a meet. A public place. The Delphi Bridge in the middle of Reading’s restaurant district. Plenty of witnesses if the deal goes south.

It’s dark when the drop happens, and Mike and I end up circling each other for a while before we make contact. He’s brought an oppo, a tasty cove called Sam and I regret not scaring up some back-up. But the deal goes smoothly, and my envelope stuffed with stickers vanishes into an inside pocket. “We’ll be in touch,” Sam says, and they melt back into the sodium-lit night. Ahead of them was a day with free-runner Hamza Shabazz, who would show them how he runs Reading.

And now there’s a film of their exploits. If you’re a Readingite, keep your eyes open for the stickers that Hamza planted – there’s more out there than you’ll see below. DocoBanksy declares himself pleased with the end product. As he should be.

Meanwhile, Sam and Mike of Getting Dirty would like you to know that they do this all day every day, and that you can find out more about them at their website. I think that’s a click that’s worth making.

Getting Dirty