The Cut 🔪 Issue 19

Let’s see if we’ve got this right. It is now unlawful to meet in groups of more than six people unless you’re working, travelling to work, in school or grouse shooting. There were people on our feeds this week wondering how problematic it would be to give their kids and their friends shotguns so planned birthday parties could go ahead. And that’s not even the weirdest thing to happen this week. Best crack on with it, then.

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

As far as we’re concerned, the big news this week was the announcement of possible life signs on Venus. For a second there the SF geeks on staff got very excited and started babbling about Edgar Rice Burroughs, rain-infested jungles and green-skinned alien princesses. Sadly, the situation isn’t quite as pulptastic as all that, but the discovery and implications are nevertheless extremely exciting. Science Focus has a decently straightforward breakdown on the news and what happens next.

https://www.sciencefocus.com/news/did-we-find-signs-of-alien-life-in-the-clouds-of-venus-heres-what-the-experts-say/

We kick off our film section with a look at a parallel movie universe. No, not one where cowboy movies make a big comeback instead of superhero flicks. This is all the more fascinating… because it’s real! Race movies, the studios that made them and the stars they created were big business for forty years in the early part of the twentieth century. They were, however, almost invisible to the mainstream. Messy Nessy Chic gives us the skinny on this marginalised corner of cinema history.

https://www.messynessychic.com/2020/02/06/race-movies-and-the-black-owned-studios-that-ran-parallel-to-mainstream-hollywood/

More worryingly, it seems like a lot of our cinematic history is quietly slipping from view. Although there’s a very definite uptick in creators shooting on film, the skills required in its preservation are almost exclusively in the hands of artisans reaching retirement age. A lot of amazing work can be done with old film electronically, but the material still needs careful handling before it can be digitised. The men and women who know what to do with a film splicer are few and far between.

Our X&HTeammate Rob Kaiju pointed us at this short film which lays out the big problem ahead, and what it could mean for over a century of popular culture.

In some areas, though, the gentle art of restoration is going through a bit of a purple patch, as viewers realise watching skilled artisans at work is actually kind of relaxing. We are big fans of The Repair Shop, a BBC featuring some of the cleverest restorers in the UK bringing old and well-loved objects back to life. The big reveals of an old rocking horse or a writing desk returned to their owners in tip-top shape can be quite emotional. Open Culture looks into a phenomenon that has only become more popular in lockdown.

http://www.openculture.com/2020/09/the-joy-of-watching-old-damaged-things-get-restored.html

A couple of food links for you. First up, a look at a foodstuff that has been with us for a long time. Honey is well-known for having antibacterial and preservative properties. Some ancient cultures used it in the process of mummification. Alexander The Great’s body was borne across Europe for burial in a vat of the sweet stuff. What’s less known is just how long-lasting honey can be. Forget that jar of Rowse’s lurking at the back of the cupboard. Archaeologists recently unearthed some seriously well-aged honey.

https://link.medium.com/Vz4jwDW5E9

Fast food treated seriously is, in our opinion, the most delicious of all. So when culinary mad scientist Kenji Lopez-Alt takes on the iconic McRib sandwich, you should pay attention. This is no half-hearted project. It’s a day’s work, involves two different kinds of pork and two different cooking methods. The final result looks none more epic, but would barely last for two minutes before we scarfed it.

https://www.seriouseats.com/2016/09/how-to-make-homemade-mcdonalds-diy-mcrib-sandwich.html

In our random but useful advice section, here’s a nugget for you. Trust is important, but how do you quantify it? Is there a way to figure quickly and easily how trustworthy your friends, family and workmates really are? Well, yes there is. It’s simpler than you think. Thank us later.

http://read.medium.com/WEW3EKV

A couple of guitary links. It’s gratifying to see the swell in interest in the old six-strings in the face of That Flippin’ Situation. Nothing says ‘screw you, intolerant and uncaring universe’ better than blasting an A minor chord through a cranked up Les Paul Junior or Fender Mustang and a cheap amp with your teeth bared. Best therapy going, in our humble experience.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/08/style/guitar-sales-fender-gibson.html

This, in our opinion, is the feel-good story of the week. A tale of the raddest bass guitar on the planet, and how it finally found its way back to the man who caused it to be in the first place. Seriously, this gave our raddled ould hearts a bit of a glow.

http://www.washingtonian.com/2020/09/11/his-prized-bass-vanished-27-years-ago-dc-musicians-raised-money-to-buy-it-back/

And finally. We’re throwing in an interview with comic creator Nick Abadzis for several reasons. Firstly, the Ninth Art Desk fondly remembers Deadline Magazine and considers it a much more important publication than simply the launchpad for Tank Girl. Second of all, Nick is warm, witty and open about the nuts and bolts of comic-making, with insights that fascinated us. Third of all, Hugo Tate is an excellent strip that deserves a wider audience. Can’t say fairer than that, can we?

https://neotextcorp.com/culture/nick-abadzis-revisits-his-beginnings-with-hugo-tate-with-hugo-tate/


In celebration of the exciting news of possible life in the atmosphere of our celestial neighbour, there was only really one choice for this week’s Exit Music. We very, very nearly went with the Bananarama cover, but felt the original just shaded it for us. All together now… “goddess on a mountaintop, shining like a silver flame…”

See you in seven.

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 15

On we jolly well go, clinging to the merry-go-round as it spins ever faster and the music of the calliope ramps up to lunatic levels of volume and speed. The last couple of weeks feel like the craziness has really taken a turn for the bonkers. What can you depend on? Well, at least on a Friday at 9am there’s a new ish of The Cut to help you into the weekend. Buckle up, buttercups!

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

Continue reading The Cut ✂️ Issue 15

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.

The Cut – Issue 7

We’ve had better weeks. Reading, our home town, was subject to an event now described as terrorist action. Three people died as a result. We are horrified, but not terrorised. We stand with all our friends and neighbours in this oddball place we call home, and look forward to seeing everyone in Forbury Gardens very, very soon.

Continue reading The Cut – Issue 7

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

Thoughts Following A Thursday Night Screening Of Alien: Covenant

Same deal as earlier this week, as I find myself on a bit of an uptick in trips to the cinema. Unstructured grumbling, spoilers abound. Let’s do this.

  1. Rumour control: here are the facts. I have been a big fan of the Alien franchise since the late seventies. Slightly too young to watch Ridley Scott’s iconic movie on the big screen, I nevertheless soaked up the production designs of Ron Cobb, Chris Foss and HR Giger, and still own battered copies of The Book Of Alien and Walt Simonson’s astonishing graphic novel adaptation. I saw Aliens in its first week of release at the Odeon Marble Arch back when that was one big screen showing films in 70mm. I’ve been around these movies, this universe, for quite a while. I have skin in the game.
  2. Prometheus, Scott’s attempt to fill in the backstory of the mythos, satisfied no-one. It didn’t help that he was trying to make an Alien film without, yannow, Aliens. Bloated, pretentious, self-indulgent and bewildering, it left me angry and more upset than I’d like to admit. I’ve laughed long and hard at the Star Wars man-babies complaining about how George Lucas consistently trampled over their treasured childhood memories. Now, here comes Ridley, stomping his expensively-shod size tens all over a world I love dearly. Gotta admit, there were man-baby tears from me after Prometheus.
  3. Which brings us to his attempt to re-bootstrap the legacy, taking on board the wails of us man-babies and making something more tailored to our tastes. Alien: Covenant is supposed to be the story the fans want to see. And, well, honestly? He’s gone too far the other way. Covenant is fan-service.
  4. Consider: he re-uses the classic ‘fade-in typography’ of the first movie. Jerry Goldsmith’s classic theme is larded all over the place. We see elements of Ron Cobb’s innovative Semiotic Standard designs in alert screens. There’s even a big, loving close-up of the dipping bird toy briefly glimpsed on the bridge of the Nostromo. ‘Here,’ says Ridley. ‘This is what you want, right? ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?’
  5. And actually, I was for the most part. There’s plenty of money up on screen, and John Logan’s script is pretty solid. I have issues with the attempt to make every female lead in an Alien movie into Aliens-era Ripley (sorry, I simply don’t buy the notion of gentle Katherine Waterston with a gun). Similarly, the inference that Billy Crudup’s captain is weak and ineffectual because of his faith is problematic, and the source of way too many weak religious puns.
  6. Of course, even through the Alien fan-service, Covenant is a movie that wants to deal with Big Themes. Creation. Life. Meeting your maker. It’s become increasingly clear that Scott’s heart is not in making more Alien films. He wants to make a statement, an epic SF take on Milton’s Paradise Lost (which was of course a working title for this movie). Unfortunately, the only way Fox will give him the dough to make it is if he throws a few chest-bursters into the mix.
  7. Which is a shame, because the Alien stuff is the least interesting thing about Covenant. The film really comes to life when the Luciferesque figure of David finally appears, messianic in long hair and robe. He’s literally playing God (or at the very least Dr. Moreau), and not that bothered about creating in his own image. His playful taunting of the Covenant’s resident synthetic Walter are real highlights (and the seductive scene where Michael Fassbender teaches Michael Fassbender how to play the flute is a technical triumph–’I’ll do the fingering’ indeed). These gave me a sense of the film that Scott actually wants to make–a darkly gothic take on creation mythology. Not an easy sell, though.
  8. Largely, then, Alien: Covenant is a mishmash, a slumgullion, a cut-and-shut that, while it has a lot to recommend (it’s a huge improvement on Prometheus) is still frankly a bit of a mess. It’s a big statement on epic themes that has a skewed monster movie wrapped around it. I’m still chewing over whether I actually enjoyed it or not. I think I did. Even though I know when I’m being pandered to.
  9. That being said, I do want to know what David gets up to next. Scott finally has an anti-hero as delightfully amoral as Hannibal Lector. I still dig his take on everyone’s favourite cannibal, and David is cut from the same cloth. The ending of Covenant finally sets up a dark new path for the franchise–one that, despite all my man-baby tears, I’d be happy to tread.

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!