Month: December 2010

A Very Lovecraft Christmas

If you read my story in Hub Fiction recently, you’ll have guessed I’m a bit of an HP Lovecraft fan. And as such, no Christmas is complete without the occasional Old One stopping by for a spot of sherry and a mince pie (although their mince pies tend to be made of people, which makes baking for them ahead of time a real pain).

Anyway. Merry Christmas, and may your most eldritch wishes come true.



Surviving a Christmas zombie attack

So you’ve bought (most of) the presents. You’ve stocked the fridge, the wine-rack and the freezer. You’ve probably forgotten to buy batteries – that’s OK, so have I. But, ask yourself: are you prepared for a zombie attack over the Christmas period?


I think we’d better do something about that, don’t you…?


I was probably the last person on the planet to see this film. Seriously: I hung on for dear life, avoiding spoilers and sticking my fingers in my ears, chanting “Lalalalala” at full volume every time anyone so much as whispered the word “totem“.

However, it was worth it because when I did finally see it, it was at the IMAX. And I couldn’t for the life of me work out whether it was the sheer size and impact of the screen or the film that made my head hurt.

Still, I watched it again the other day: at home this time, and while it makes my head hurt a little bit less, it’s no less brilliant. It feels a bit like it’s jumped straight into the “one of my favourite films ever” slot – although I’m still slightly unconvinced by the character of Ariadne. I know what she’s for, and I know the narrative would be even more brain-addling without her, but I’m not sure I believe in her–although do I enjoy the name she’s been given. But it’s a small quibble, given the wealth of Good Stuff going on, which I won’t list, because you know it all already. (Arthur & Eames, though, are now storming away as my favourite characters, which is interesting as they mirror each other in so many ways.)

Anyway, via my friend Sheamus, who runs Twittercism, I found an article on the shooting script, and an interview with Christopher Nolan, conducted by his brother Jonathan.

It’s totally geektastic, and this book is so going on my Christmas (or maybe after-Christmas) list…

Love Like Winter

It’s looking suspiciously like we’re beginning to thaw out in my corner of London: the icicles which have been festooning the leaky gutter over our bedroom window have all gone, and it’s back to making plink-plink-plink noises all night. Our snowman’s seen better days, too: his nose is falling off, and he looks like he’s been hitting the whisky. Hard.

Mind you, while towing Small Boy along on his sledge this morning (it’s like the resistance training ballet dancers do with tyres and stuff, only more prone to squealing) I spotted an honest-to-goodness snow-woman–with bejewelled breasts, no less. Ample ones. I’ve no idea how they’re staying up, to be honest. Three doors down the same road, there was a Dr Who snowman, wearing a fez and a bow-tie, and clutching a sonic screwdriver.

Neither of these were as awesome as these photos of snow under a microscope, nor this picture of the epic battle of Train v Snow.

And just to finish off the frosty theme, have some AFI, prancing around in the snow and carrying off hairdye like only a truly committed post-hardcore band can…

Brr. Chilly.

(And no, I have no idea where that link originally went to. But hey, it’s there now, so let’s skim over that, shall we? Move along. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.)

Pigeon: Impossible

We’ve all tangled with skyrats before, haven’t we: the urban pigeons who stalk you while you’re eating a sandwich, or dive-bomb you for a biscuit? But have any of them ever caused as much stress as this one…?

It’s collecting awards by the armful, and there’s loads more about it on the Pigeon:Impossible site.

And if you’re fond of the occasional al fresco bagel, you might want to keep one eye on the sky. Especially if you’ve got something very, very important in your briefcase.



In all this excitement about secret head-collecting societies and frozen lighthouses, I completely forgot: I have a story in the latest edition of Hub Fiction. it’s online & free to read, so you’ve got no excuse.

“And the Northmen Brought Their Gods” is what happens in my head when I look up and see my copy of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories sitting on top of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

King Alfred‘s reign is still in its infancy; Lindisfarne has been sacked – and the Danes are on their way to Wessex. And this time, they have company: a black ship that raises its own wind…

So if you fancy a break from mince pies, wrapping paper and yet-more-sodding-Slade, head over to Hub Fiction & read it here.

The Head Collectors

There’s a wonderful news story on the BBC site today about the king’s head. After years of speculation, scientists now believe an embalmed head discovered in France is almost certainly that of Henri IV.

“The human head had a light brown colour, open mouth and partially closed eyes,” said the scientists, led by forensic pathologist Philippe Charlier. “The preservation was excellent, with all soft tissues and internal organs well conserved.”

King Henri IV was one of France’s favourite monarchs. He converted to Catholicism to end France’s wars of religion, declaring “Paris is worth a Mass”, but was later killed by a Catholic fundamentalist. He built the Pont Neuf bridge and the Place des Vosges in Paris. Henri was the first of the Bourbon line of monarchs, which included his grandson Louis XIV, the Sun King.

His head will now be reinterred in the Basilica of Saint Denis after a national Mass and funeral next year.

(My good friend Andie points out the irony of Henri’s head’s resting place: St Denis was, according to legend, martyred by beheading – but he then picked up his head and walked for miles, preaching as he went…)

The fact it was Henri IV caught my attention: he’s one of the most important figures in arguably the best period of French history, tied up as he was with the Huguenots and the ever-charming Catherine de Medici. It’s all fascinating, and made even more so (not to mention sensationalised) by Dumas’ book, La Reine Margot.

After the excitement faded (I’m a medieval geek. It comes with the territory), I re-read the article on the BBC site, and I kept going back to this line:

A head, presumed to be that of Henri IV, has passed between private collectors since then.

Yes, it’s creepy – a bit creepy even for me. Skulls don’t bother me: I grew up in a medical household with a couple of skeletons knocking around the place… but an embalmed head just comes across as being a bit, you know, yuck. And what would you do with it, anyway? Use it as a paperweight? Bring it out as the surprise guest at the end of your dinner parties? Put it on a mantelpiece and lick it every time you pass (and yes, Gary, I can well imagine you doing that)?

Then I started thinking about these “private collectors” – ironically, they made me think of nothing so much as “The Club Dumas” – possibly my favourite book. Who are they, anyway? What exactly are they collecting: weird stuff, relics of the French monarchy or… well, bits of the dead? And what are they collecting them for?

I love the idea that maybe there’s a whole subculture of pickled-head collectors. And that they get together and have conventions: attend talks on preservation, compare collections – perhaps do the odd swap…

And here’s another thought for you: if you could have (or call dibs on) any head, living or dead, to keep on your mantelpiece – licking optional – who would you pick?

The Long/Short Weekend

I’m still jetlagged – although slightly less so. I may continue to use this as an excuse for general non-specific but recurrent crapness for the next few weeks: while people immediately nod sagely when you mention “jetlag”, they tend to look less kindly on you when you shrug and say you’re just flat-out incompetent.

I promised a slightly more interesting version of the weekend – so.