The Cut ⚔️ Issue 27

This week’s featured image comes from Times cartoonist Morten Morland.

Well, phew, glad that’s all over and done with, eh? A neat, clean and gracious transfer of power—oh yeah, silly us. We forgot for a moment we’re living in The Darkest Timeline. Hey ho. Let us (quite literally in one case) shine a little light on Things That Are Not The Election. Added proviso—Nanowrimo is keeping us busy and also thinking about our own invented worlds instead of whatever this batshit crazy simulation we find ourselves in is. Which on the whole is probably a good thing, but is also our explanation for a slightly shorter than usual newsletter. No apologies issued. This is our art.

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

Continue reading The Cut ⚔️ Issue 27

The Cut 🗡️Issue 23

We had a link from Wired as the opener this week, on how the work/life balance has become irretrievably skewed (https://www.wired.com/story/how-work-became-an-inescapable-hellhole/ if you’re interested) but we realised you all know this already. So let’s put that nonsense to one side and instead centre up the nonsense you have come to know and love over the last several months.

This week, scary sound effects, an iconic bus route and a really rather funky musical instrument you can all play.

Now is the time, here is the place. This is The Cut.

Continue reading The Cut 🗡️Issue 23

The Cut ⚔️ Issue 22

“But he had spent so much of his life insisting that he was right that to admit he was wrong then would have been to raise the terrible shadow of what else he was wrong about. A strong man can’t be wrong.” (from “The Pursuit of William Abbey” by Claire North)

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

Continue reading The Cut ⚔️ Issue 22

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 12

Here we are again, my lovelies. Three months of linky goodness from Cut Command, beaming out from our transmission tower high on a hill overlooking the biggest town in the UK. We are proud to provide you, therefore, with the finest in Reading material.

Look, come on, four months of lockdown will do a number on anyone’s head. Let’s crack on, shall we? Now is the time. Here is the place. This is The Cut.

Continue reading The Cut – Issue 12

The Cut – Issue 10

As a way to do something with our incessant lockdown-centric web browsing, it’s good to see The Cut is still providing positive and continuing creative energy. Issue 10! A whole two and a half months! We could have written a book by now! Oh well. As displacement activity goes, there are worse ways to spend our time. How this all fares when we’re dragged back to the day job is anyone’s guess. Still, here we are.

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


We begin with another gem from the extensive Brain Pickings archive. As Maria Popova points out, one way for women in the Victorian age to sneak sideways into the realms of science was through art. Beatrix Potter’s observational skills and analytical eye over the details of the Northumbrian landscape led to admiration from many of her peers, regardless of the whole Jemima Puddleduck side-gig. Poet Emily Dickinson also had a keen eye and an urge to catalouge the natural world. Her herbarium is a beautiful and instructional object which, as Maria points out, reflects her sensual art as well. Let’s check it out…

https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/05/23/emily-dickinson-herbarium/?mc_cid=0cfa0370f7&mc_eid=ffbb244260

Fanfic has, to put it mildly, a poor reputation in the literary realm. At best, it’s porn or plagiarism. At worst, illiterate trash.

Well, that’s the story. The truth is wildly different. Fanfic writers are passionate about the characters and worlds they write about, and the communities based around them are massively supportive of the best of the work. When writers take established continuity and go wild with it, the end result can be much more fun than the canon. There is some amazing fanfic out there. Lest we forget, writers like Neil Gaiman, S. E. Hinton and the godsdamn Brontë Sisters have all dabbled in the field (yes, ok, and E.L. James). This Input piece on how fanficcers have rewritten and erased a particularly heinous trope in TV writing is an inspiration all by itself.

https://www.inputmag.com/culture/tv-lesbians-fix-it-fiction-fanfic

Get your notebooks out. We howled over this AskReddit thread on the best literary and TV insults. All your faves will be in here, but we guarantee you’ll find some new shots of absolute gold. You’ll be memeing for days off the back of this one.

https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/hofgi1/what_is_your_favourite_insult_from_a_book_or_show

Matthew Holness is one of our great dark iconoclasts. From comedy writer and performer to creator of the truly brilliant Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (launchpad, lest we forget, not just of Holness but Richard Ayoade, Alice Lowe and Mmmmmmatt Berry) to author and director of work that has flirted, then snogged, then gone balls deep into horror. Haunted Generation has a long conversation with Holness, touching on subjects as diverse as Peter Cushing, Kent noir and just how long is appropriate to find a major location before filming.

(Disclosure: our Rob has a credit on Matt’s most recent feature, Possum, and is proud to claim he was the first person to ever see That Bloody Spider Thing on film).

https://hauntedgeneration.co.uk/2020/07/11/matthew-holness-possum-the-snipist-and-garth-marenghi/

As it seems mask wearing is a part of all our futures, we may as well make the most of it. Japanese tech is, as ever, at the forefront of how we relate to people outside our immediate bubbles in the future. Introducing a Bluetooth-connected mask that can display speech-to-text and probably emojis in version 2 of the software release. The possibilities are limitless—well, ok, maybe not but we think there’s a lot of fun to be had here, particularly in communicating one’s disdain at the mal-informed offcuts amongst us that believe the act of wearing a mask is giving them 5G and sending the government DNA samples.

https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-japan-mask-technol/japanese-startup-creates-connected-face-mask-for-coronavirus-new-normal-idUKKBN23X190

We love The Expanse. Seriously. Best SF on the telly box at the moment. Twisty plots, brilliant SFX and characters to stan forever. Although we remain Team Drummer, we completely understand the love for Amos, the Roci’s bulldog. His deadpan delivery and ever-present simmering edge of violence makes him magnetic on screen. If we were writing fanfic, it would be about this guy (or maybe Amos and Drummer hooking up. Damn, that would be hot). The Ringer tells us more…

https://www.theringer.com/tv/2020/1/14/21064995/amos-the-expanse-amazon-prime-season-4

A couple of announcements from our friends and X&HTeam-mates. First up, our close pal Dom Wade has taken part in an interview on Cambridge Radio’s Behind The Bike Shed show to promote his doco Steel Is Real (But Carbon Is Quicker). A great intro to the film and the British cycling scene he documents so well.

https://cambridge105.co.uk/shows/behind-the-bike-shed/

Our Rob intermittently podcasts as one half of the Of Dice And Robs show on KaijuFM. It’s a show of chance, coincidence and conversation in which he and co-host Rob Maythorne use dice to choose the topics for discussion. It’s loose-limbed, easy-going and a bit nerdy, but the Robs bounce ideas off each other with an amiable charm. Worth a go? We think so.

https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/satan/id1456748415?i=1000484191981


This week’s Exit Music… well, there’s new Bob Mould in the world. And he’s pissed off. Which, when it comes to Bob Mould, is good news. The angrier he is, the better the music. Therefore, Forecast Of Rain (along with American Crisis, the first track from the forthcoming album (Blue Hearts, out on September 25th) which led one observer to note ‘I haven’t heard him scream this much since Zen Arcade’) is the glorious racket of a thunderhead looming. Fast and heavy, and ready to flood us all. It’s great to have him back and raging.


And that’s us. Ten weeks and counting. If you’ve been with us since the start, thank you. If you’ve joined us on the road, welcome. We plan to go coast to coast on this, then deploy the amphibious pack and hit the ocean like Roger Moore and his Lotus Esprit in The Spy Who Loved Me.

The road goes on forever. Strap in. See you in seven.

Two Hours In New Mexico

DATELINE: July 17th, 2018

Somewhere on Route 285, skirting the Carson National Forest, NM

The storm had tracked us since Alamosa. As we slipped south past the border, it shouldered in, riding alongside like a good ole boy with bad teeth and a worse attitude. It was pretty darn clear it was looking to start something.

The tail end of our trip south had lost its shine. Hawkeye had struck again. His ‘slight detour’ to dip a toe into a different state took us in a loop around some of the more desolate and depressing sites New Mexico had to offer. Dead or dying farmland. Vast junkheaps piled high with the ransacked corpses of old trucks, the exoskeletons of ruined farmed equipment splaying out thorny limbs like gigantic fossilised insects.

Every building we passed was empty, windows boarded up or kicked in. Scattered stands of graying lumber stood like waiting funeral pyres. The gateway to a ranch that we could not see had deer antlers knotted over the uprights, ugly-white as a bad dental job in the frantic light that pulsed out from the heart of the storm. The gateway to another had a mannequin strung by its neck hanging from a cross post.

I hope it was a mannequin. In the shadow-carved light, it was so difficult to be certain.

The storm was still with us, effortlessly keeping up the pace. Every now and again it would fling out a handful of rain, just to keep our attention up. This wasn’t the clean, warm Colorado rain we had come to welcome. This was dirty, greasy stuff, oil-spill and septic run-off, smearing the bug-strike across the Buffalo’s windshield without ever letting it clear.

The storm grumbled, thick and heavy as the snort from a Harley’s drivetrain, a deep pulse shaking us about like beans in a can. Anytime now, the fucker would pounce. Just at the point where we were furthest from help, it would clench its bruise-dark fists and pound us into the blacktop.

We found a way west. Route 64. According to the map, heading into the heart of the Carson National Forest. Months without rain had turned the landscape into a patchwork of khaki and tan, like camouflage, as if New Mexico was trying to hide from itself. The thirsting ground would have gratefully accepted the punishment of the storm. It was too busy toying with us to care about opening up.

The leading edge of the cloud front mutated, or maybe it was our change of course that shifted our perception. It developed a snout, sharp as a shark’s tooth. An eye-shaped meniscus bulged into being. Colourless as bone at the inner edge, deepening to the flat grey of dead flesh towards the orbit. Within, where a flash of blue from the early evening sky would have given us a faint glimpse of hope, there was only darkness.

No. Not darkness. Lightning flickered in there, actinic forks and nets of light, gone before they’d really registered. A complex pulse of activity, like the workings of some vast, inhuman mind made visible, all the better to inspire dread.

We felt it, alright. Barreling down a desolate highway with a malevolent weather system at our shoulder, dread was a default. The radio had gone dead. There was no-one else on the roads. There was no sign of habitation. No lights in the houses we passed. No livestock in the fields. This was abandoned country, dead land. Tierra muerte.

For a while, we wondered if the apocalypse had already happened and we were just a little late to the party.

Finally, we hit Highway 84 at Tierra Amarilla and could start working north. The storm, bored now, tossed one last bucket of dirty water at us and turned away, sulking south. Its dark eye closed, its snout flattened. Just a weather front now. Whatever demon had possessed it for a while on a an evening in mid-July in the New Mexico hinterlands was gone. At Chama, just south of the border, civilization began to reassert itself. A petrol station open for business. Houses with lights on. A dog in a yard, barking joyfully as we span past.

We broke the Colorado border at Chromo and the sun cast aside the last of the cloud. We were bathed in red and gold dusk-light all the way home.

A day later we would visit a town best known for its resident cannibal and bounce a deer off the Buffalo’s rear offside.

But that’s a story for another campfire.

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: G Is For God Told Me To


The last of our Spooky SFF episodes celebrates a gritty slice of New York noir that twists and turns into a highly freaky slice of horror-tinged SF. From acclaimed low-budget film-maker Larry Cohen, this is a film that takes virtue from the lack of money. Cohen favours invention and good writing over special effects Sturm und Drang.
A meditation on identity, religion and family, God Told Me to is a powerful piece of work that really stays with you. A fitting end to our exploration of the horrific side of SFF!


The A To Z Of SFF: S Is For The Stone Tape


 

Onwards with Spooky SFF month, as we discuss a massively influential slice of hauntological freakiness: Nigel Kneale’s terrifying The Stone Tape.

It ticks all the boxes: 70s setting, shot on video, Radiophonic Workshop soundtrack. A sharply empathetic performance from Jane Asher helps to elevate this story, but the whole thing is deeply unnerving and still bloody scary.
This is what happens when you try to solve the science behind hauntings…

Includes the first instance of a new term from Rob: cathode-punk.


GUYSGUYSGUYS! The Stone Tape is on Cosmic VideyouTube! Dim the lights, pour yourself a scotch and indulge.