The Cut ✂️ Issue 14

Here we are and here we are and here we go. As we write this the sun is blaring down like the solar equivalent of an elephant strangling a tuba. As you read this, the heavens have cracked asunder and the great deluge is upon us. What a difference a few days can make. Anyhow, in spite of whatever apocalyptic scenario is currently bellowing into your face, we trust you can find a way through. Also, hey, nearly the weekend, right? So let’s do the thing where we raise up the (sodden or sun-scorched) banner and you raise your faces to the sky and roar…

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


A by-product of the clusterfukc of this year’s Hugo ceremony in which some of the old guard did not, shall we say, cover themselves in glory, has been the interrogation of what it takes to be a science-fiction fan. More specifically, what books you need to have read to pass by the gatekeepers—the so-called canon. Typically, this list is full of books that are easily 40-50 years old with an authorial profile that skews massively towards white, male, middle-class writers. This, as John Scalzi points out, does not cater to the tastes and experiences of many committed and enthusiastic fans of the genre. With his typical wit and self-deprecation, (he is, after all, of the demographic he rails against) enjoy the ride as Scalzi sets a fuse to the canon…

https://whatever.scalzi.com/2020/08/07/oh-christ-not-the-science-fiction-canon-again/

The detective steps into her bullpen. Her team are gathered. It’s time to connect the random patterns that link a set of heinous and imaginatively staged murders. In a prominent place stands the board on which victims, their relationships and the suspects to their murders are posted. It could be a simple whiteboard, or a whizzy graphic interface that the detective can prod and swipe at à la Tom Cruise in Minority Report. The serial killer could have their own version, a mess of photos and post-its and coloured string. It’s a vital part of the story. It’s known in the trade as The Crazy Wall. Esquire has more on this essential prop…

https://www.esquire.com/uk/culture/film/news/a7703/detective-show-crazy-walls/


We make no apologies for the following promotional message. Clay’s Hyderabadi is a true gem of the burgeoning food scene in our home town, Reading. This small restaurant produces food punching well above its weight class in flavour. Nandana and Sharat, the couple behind Clay’s, have struggled through The Situation, being unable to reopen due to limited space. This has not stopped them from dispensing hundreds of meals for charity and developing a range of their favourites in cook-chill packaging. The big news is now their amazing curries, biryanis and sundries are available nationwide. We urge you to give them a try if you want to try genuinely great home-cooked Hyderabadi cuisine at home. Check the review from The Plate Licked Clean then order up!

https://www.theplatelickedclean.co.uk/clays-hyderabadi-kitchen-reading-national-delivery-service

In a different spin on food and drink service during The Situation, Insider looks at the phenomenon of wine windows, a Tuscan plague-era architectural rarity enabling gelaterias to serve coffee and frozen treats in a safely distanced way. We’re reminded of The Greyfriar in Chawton, a sixeenth century pub we visited recently whose staff found a serving hatch that had been out of action for centuries. It’s now back in service and helping the staff get the beers to thirsty punters in a very Covid-friendly manner!

https://www.insider.com/photos-wine-windows-florence-italy-covid-friendly-gelato-coffee-2020-8

https://www.greyfriar-chawton.co.uk

We love this Eater piece on how comics and graphic techniques can be used to make cookbooks a much less intimidating prospect to use. We’re not surprised, though. The comics form works brilliantly as an educational resource in whatever discipline you put it through. Let’s be frank—if you’ve read a safety card on an aircraft, you’ve read a comic. We would especially flag Wendy McNaughton, who’s lovely pen-and-ink line illustrations make Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat such a treat to read and cook from.

https://www.eater.com/cookbooks/2016/11/16/13645020/cookbook-comic-book

ANOTHER Judge Dredd post? Well, it looks like the disease ridden hellscape of The Situation and the political fustercluck therein was foretold in a worryingly on-the-nose fashion by the British SF comic. This Wired piece is well worth a read, and we can very strongly recommend America, a powerful story that lays bare the lies and terrible choices behind authoritarian rule.

Not just biff bang pow…

https://wired.trib.al/zr42lMH

While we’re on the prescient tip, this 2013 piece on John Le Carre is a neatly drawn portrait of a man who has not just defined our view of espionage but how the spooks view themselves and take care of business. His influence runs deep, and his insight is disturbingly on the nose.

https://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/21/magazine/john-le-carre-has-not-mellowed-with-age.html

Cat photos. Very much a product of the InstaFace generation, right? Well, turns out we have been celebrating our feline chums photographically for almost as long as we have had the ability to do so. 120 years, to be more precise!

https://mymodernmet.com/cyanotype-time-capsule-cat-photos/

We would be failing in our duty as cataloguers of the interverse were we not to highlight the finest piece of writing published anywhere this week. Comedian and paragon of progressive masculinity Rob Delaney details the events surrounding his vasectomy. That’s all the background you need. Read on and enjoy.

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2020/aug/12/could-i-feel-what-they-were-doing-yes-rob-delaney-on-the-pain-and-pleasure-of-his-vasectomy


And finally, your Exit Music. Way, way back in the before times of 2004 (the year when the staff of The Cut relocated to our current eyrie, fact fans) musical artists of a liberal persuasion banded together to get their fans out and rock the vote. The resulting tour led to some amazing musical moments. Far Out magazine highlights two of our heroes, Michael Stipe and Bruce Springsteen, collaborating on a kickass version of ‘Because The Night’, a song written by Bruce and made famous by Patti Smith, one of Michael’s major influences. We love this.

https://faroutmagazine.co.uk/r-e-m-michael-stipe-bruce-springsteen-to-sing-because-the-night-and-man-on-the-moon/

See you in seven.

The Cut – Issue 11

Well, slap our withers and call us rosy, there goes another week! Time she doth fly, up into the rafters like a deranged pigeon to root around in the loft and make an ungodly mess. Much, indeed, like this ish of The Cut, which it has, we’ll be honest, been a bit of a scramble to pull together for deadline what with work and lives and whatever this fresh hell that is supposed to be normal is doing to us. WE HOPE YOU’RE GRATEFUL. Anyhoo. Let’s have a look at what the time-pigeon has dislodged, shall we? Now is the time. Here is the place. This is The Cut.


Let us consider Judge Dredd. It’s long been recognised that Mega-City One’s most ferocious lawman serves as parody and satire in equal measure to the thrills, chases and gunfights which may have drawn us in as excitable, sci-fi obsessed nine-year-olds. We offer for your approval two articles looking into this side of the man in the hat and his screwy world, both of which offer some fascinating insight. Also, who knew there was a new animated Dredd web-series out there? You do now!

https://filmschoolrejects.com/judge-dredd-vs-dredd-on-the-satire-scale-d823322cbf7f/

https://neotextcorp.com/culture/the-devil-you-know/

Keeping it comics, we wanted to highlight a delightful set of short films that came out a few years back, giving us the closest look yet at what a Calvin And Hobbes live-action production might look like. As creator Bill Watterson has no interest in merchandising or expanding the reach of the strip beyond what already exists (and who can blame him, as how do you improve upon perfection?) it’s nice to see this glimpse at another viewpoint on the boy and his tiger. These are really, really good.

https://news.avclub.com/hobbes-me-brings-a-beloved-comic-strip-to-stylish-lif-1798246596

You may be unfamiliar with Arnold Lobel’s Frog And Toad books. They are a heady mix of the aesthetics of The Wind In The Willows, the mood and atmosphere of The Moomins and the melancholy romanticism of E. M. Forster. Slate takes a good hard look at the stories and Lobel’s life to reveal stories that are very much more than the sum of their parts.

https://slate.com/culture/2020/07/frog-and-toad-anniversary-arnold-lobel.html

We stay in a literary frame of mind by sharing this excellent Open Culture list of free short stories. It’s a really good primer for the precision and detail needed to pull off a great piece of short fiction, featuring some of the best writers around. Whatever your tastes, you will find something to love here. And should you feel the urge to have a dabble yourself, we offer some tips from Mister Sandman himself, Neil Gaiman, who provided some powerful knowledge-bombs in his recent Masterclass series. Solid gold awaits the brave traveller.

http://www.openculture.com/2020/07/29-free-short-stories-from-some-of-todays-most-acclaimed-writers.html

https://writingcooperative.com/neil-gaimans-top-13-writing-tips-d78848fd85f0

It has often been thought that the deranged visions of Heironymous Bosch were brought on by the artist eating bread made with wheat tainted with a hallucinogenic fungus. But there is another contender for his singular vision of hell. Darnel is a grain that looks almost exactly like wheat and grows alongside it. In large doses, it’s fatal. In small amounts it messes with human vision and speech, acting as an intoxicant. Darnel is mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays and it seems the effects were recorded in documents from the Ancient Greeks. The symbiotic relationship between the grain and our bread- and beer-making urges has existed for a very long time.

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/wheats-evil-twin-has-been-intoxicating-humans-for-centuries

If you want a drink in New York, you have to have something to eat as well. That rule, imposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, has made the life of the poor schlubs running bars in The Big Apple that bit harder. To get round the new rules, dollar menu items are appearing that owe more than a nod to the infamous pre-Prohibition bar-snack , the Raines Sandwich. Vice has more to digest on this…

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/dyz44j/bars-are-serving-ridiculous-dollar1-menu-items-to-stay-open-during-covid-restrictions

Our long read this week is from writer Jonathon Maselik, and digs deeply into the drinking culture of Northern Pennsylvania. Bar culture across the pond has always felt odd and a little uncomfortable to us. The tipping etiquette and expectations is a potential minefield. We found this piece moving and worried that in some places it struck a little too closely to home, despite the cultural differences…

https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/drinking-alone

Talking about writing that speaks very clearly to us, this short missive from artist and zinester Austin Kleon says a lot about introversion and the quest for healing silence. It’s difficult to filter out the noise, even in lockdown. But for those of us who crave the quiet life, it’s desperately important to find that still point in the day.

https://austinkleon.com/2019/02/02/on-solitude-and-being-who-you-are/


And finally. We were saddened to hear of the passing this week of Tim Smith. His band, Cardiacs, were a singular mix of psychedelia, punk and prog who committed completely to his vision on how they presented themselves. As worker drones of the Alphabet Business Concern, Cardiacs had a dress code and musical direction that were strictly adhered to. Think a skewed English version of early Arcade Fire with more pancake makeup and gurning. That’s not right, but it’ll at least set you on the road. Tim was hit with a rare neurological illness that blighted the last ten years of his life—a tragic loss to English music. Who knows what twisted magnificence he could have wrought if he’d been at full strength in these strange times?

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/jul/22/cardiacs-tim-smith-a-one-man-subculture-who-inspired-total-devotion

Our Exit Music, therefore, is in tribute to Tim and Cardiacs. Their anthem and a great starting point for anyone who wants to know more. Is This The Life? Well, there’s a question.

See you in seven.

The Lockdown Library

I would love to be able to tell you how the extended time at home has led to an outpouring of creativity, a flood of new writing and art and music from my head meats through my skilful fingers and out, fluttering like glittering butterflies of the imagination, into the world.

Continue reading The Lockdown Library

The A To Z Of SFF: A Is For Anno Dracula


Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula books are wild, freewheeling takes on alternative history that that gleefully mash together fictional and historical figures to tell the story of a word where Dracula is real. A meta-fictional treat for anyone that likes their pulp. Rob and Clive certainly do…

The A To Z Of SFF: L Is For Logan’s Run


 

No, we’re not talking about the 70s Michael York/Jenny Agutter film. Rather, we’re taking a look at the source material–the William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson novel. An entirely different, much darker but much more cinematic prospect. Which is frankly a lot more fun!
We believe the time is right to reconsider this cracking, pulpy take on a society that has shrugged off its humanity in favour of youth. Who needs another movie?


 

logansrunbook
Pictured: the exceedingly battered 1970 Corgi edition of Logan’s Run that lives with Rob. 

 

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: S Is For A Sound Of Thunder

In which Rob fanbois so hard over Ray Bradbury that he nearly breaks something.
Seriously, though, A Sound Of Thunder is a formative SF text, and hence very worth of a one over from the Curiosity Crew. Just stay away from the movie, ok?



Once again, we believe you should read the story before you listen to the podcast. Not such a hard grind when it’s this good…

Start here, please.

 

Blast-off! Launching Pirates Of The Moon

Yesterday was pretty momentous for me. It saw the long-awaited release of my second novel, Pirates Of The Moon. Finally, oh my lovely Readership, you get a chance to read my first foray into long-form science fiction. Continue reading Blast-off! Launching Pirates Of The Moon

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.