The Salt Trail

I stumbled across the trailer for an indie film, THE SALT TRAIL, made by Mark Waters this morning.

It looks absolutely stunning.

(That shot of the palm trees. Woah.)

You can read a little bit more about it here.



You know how sometimes I see a film and I get all ranty and shouty about it (first person to mention Red Riding Hood leaves the room via the virtual window)?

Yeah.┬áThis isn’t one of those posts.

I flat-out, completely, hopelessly love Drive.

I love the sparse use of dialogue. I love the spiralling pace: incredibly slow at first, but gradually increasing until–like the nameless Driver–you’re hopelessly sucked in.

I love the Michael Mann-ish shots of LA, and I love the way Ryan Gosling is busy channelling vintage Steve McQueen for all he’s worth.

I love the quiet horror of *that* scene in the garage, which left me sitting on the sofa thinking, “That’s just… mean!” because I couldn’t think of anything else that seemed an appropriate response. (And, while we’re on the subject: the lift! The hammer! Oh, god, the hammer…)

More than anything, though, I love the Driver. Not, I should point out, because I have a particular thing for Ryan Gosling (although the Ryan Gosling-as-literary-agent account on Twitter makes me smile and desperately, desperately wish that such a thing was real) but because the development of the Driver is just superb.

For the first third of the film, he barely says more than two words together–and the first time he really does come out with a solid batch of dialogue, it’s surprising and shocking; gloriously wrong-footing. The infamous Scorpion jacket is as elegant a comment on heroism – working in its own right as a superhero analogy – as I’ve seen, and while it shouldn’t work, it does.

It’s an amazing film.

And using this song is just inspired…

SFX Weekender 3

North Wales.



It takes a special kind of circumstance to make me even consider contemplating those three ideas in combination. It takes the marvellously over-the-top geekfest that is the SFX Weekender.

Other people have already covered the majority of big things that need to be said: Sophia McDougall‘s blog post on the gender issue within programming has already been widely discussed, and as far as I can tell, what that all boils down to is the old chestnut about visibility on a range of levels, including publisher.

On a more positive note, I was pleasantly surprised by how many women were there, and there for themselves (as opposed to wearing the standard “My boyfriend / husband / son / best mate brought me along–but in 37 hours, I’ll be out of here” expression). I frequently bang on about how inclusive the SFF & genre scene can be, so it’s heartening to ┬ásee it playing out on a larger scale.

SFX Weekender bar (photo borrowed from Jonathan Green)

And talk about scale. There were thousands of attendees, making it by far the largest convention I’ve been to, and the first non-writery one. It’s a bit of a bemusing experience for writers: we’re not quite sure what to do when a bunch of cosplayers wander past us, and I still can’t quite get my head around Darth Vader pulling pints behind the bar.

I’ve also seen more 11th Doctors than I ever imagined possible, and a startling number of 10th Doctors who were women (and while I applaud your cosplay, ladies, you’ve left me slightly… confused as to my 10th Doctor-related feelings…).

I think I handled it pretty well–particularly the moment when Anne Lyle, Amanda Rutter and I were ambushed by a Dalek demanding we open the door for it. Thinking fast, Anne and I did what every loyal friend would do, and threw Amanda to our new portal overlord. She was rewarded with the promise she’d be exterminated last, so technically we did her a favour. Stop judging.

I also particularly enjoyed seeing a Dalek aggressively refuse a massage (where do you even start?) and hearing yet another Dalek tell a passing Stormtrooper that “I am not the droid you are looking for.” Like a true Rebellion girl, I spent a significant portion of my time hiding from at least one Judge Dredd, because He Scares Me.

There were a lot of great moments: the roadtrip (because one does not simply walk into Mordor) up to Prestatyn with my fabulous chalet-mates Amanda and Anne, as well as the lovely Will Hill. Being shouted at by Amanda for “doing it wrong” when someone asked about my book. Sitting in Adam Christopher’s car with Adam, Will and Laura Lam on the way to the Tor party, driving down the narrowest lanes imaginable and trying to decide who we’d send out if a hook-handed serial killer started banging on the roof. Sorry, Will. We needed Adam to drive, and Laura and I will be required later for the role of Screaming Female #1 and #2…

I got to catch up with friends: people like Sarah Pinborough, who was incredible at the Just A Minute session–which is up on Youtube: the first part’s here, and I cannot encourage you to watch the whole thing strongly enough–and I met some fantastic new people–Joe Abercrombie is just as awesome a person as he is a writer, quite a dancer, and a bloody sight better at getting pizza than I am. Dammit.

I magicked G&Ts out of thin air, and was presented with a half-pint of wine (Johannes Roberts, you’re a man after my own heart….).

I had huge fun, too, hanging out with the Solaris, Abaddon & 2000AD crew, who are a fantastic bunch and who feel like family. I don’t get to see them in force that often, but the Weekender marked 2000AD‘s 35th birthday, so they were there en masse, and what a fine masse that was.

I danced like a loon to Craig Charles on the decks on the Saturday night, and am fervently hoping that no video of the event exists. I will also keep the photo of a certain editor and a certain author playing “Dinohunt” with intense concentration to myself. For now.

The SFX disco (photo borrowed from Jonathan Green)

I may also have inadvertently started an “Alasdair Stuart for god!” campaign. I would totally vote for that ticket, by the way.

So: I went to very little of the programming, and I’m sure I missed catching up with a whole bunch of people, but that wasn’t really the point. Part of the Weekender’s appeal is that you never quite know what’s coming, or who’s round the corner… summed up best by walking straight into Dave Monteith from Geek Syndicate on the Saturday night. Many moons ago, we used to work in the same incredibly boring office and haven’t seen each other in years–so when we did bump into each other, there was a lot of hugging, squealing and general “Ohmygod!”ing. It was nice.

The downside, of course, is that the site is so large it’s easy to lose people: there were several times I got separated from friends in the middle of a conversation, and many chats which went unfinished–but I hope they can be picked up again next time. A common complaint was that there was nowhere to sit and catch up with people, and that’s true. Hopefully it’s something that can be remedied next year. Because, yes, it’s back next year… and yes, I’m already provisionally booked in at the hotel across the road.

To conclude, then: a good weekend, made–as always–by the people. And in this instance, quick shouts go out to Will Hill, Amanda Rutter, Anne Lyle, Jon Oliver, Dave Moore, Mike Molcher, Simon Parr, Tom Pollock, Lizzie Barrett, Sarah Pinborough, Johannes Roberts, Alasdair Stuart, Jonathan Green, Lee Harris, Adam Christopher, Laura Lam, Jared Shurin, Anne Perry, Andrew Reid… and so many more people who’ve been obscured by the post-convention fug.

If you weren’t there, and you want to get a feel for the weekend (or maybe you were there, and you’d like to relive it from the comfort of your own home…) you could do worse than to check out Jonathan Green’s fabulous vlog & slideshow here.

Meanwhile, and for reasons which I don’t altogether understand, I seem to have got this song stuck in my head as my SFX Weekender theme-tune, probably because I have a strange little ipod. Still, y’know. Let’s go with it…


I’m not sure how I utterly failed to hear anything about this film until last night, when the trailer appeared in the middle of something I was watching on TV (oh, alright. It was “Grey’s Anatomy”. You got me. Guilty as charged) but it looks absolutely lovely.

Note to all film-makers: anything with Paris looking all twinkly in the snow, and you have my full and undivided attention. Because I’m soppy.

Walking Away from You

This should come with a public health warning. It *will* drive you crazy.

Shamelessly stolen from Christopher Fowler’s blog (which is one of the few blogs I consistently look at. If you don’t read it, you should, because it’s fascinating: a mix of personal opinion, film trivia and reviews, excerpts from his newspaper columns and – my personal favourite – London history and oddities, it’s clever, surprising and fun), is this brilliant montage of back-of-head shots from films.

Sounds dull, but is incredibly neat (not to mention deeply frustrating!) and you’ll go mad trying to identify them all.

Some are easy, some are tricky and some have got me gnawing at my fingers, thinking “But I know this one…”

Pinch of Salt

I went all quiet again, didn’t I? Don’t panic: I haven’t been clobbered by yet more woe (although I have taken to walking along with one eye on the sky, one looking behind me and one looking at where I put my feet… just in case. You work that one out, because I can’t!) but instead I’ve been involved in a wonderful new project: Genre For Japan.

Driven by Amanda Rutter of Floor to Ceiling Books, the idea is to bring the genre community together to raise money for the British Red Cross’ Japan Tsunami appeal in the best way possible: by giving you a chance to buy Stuff.

And not just any old Stuff, either: thanks to the generosity of publishers, authors, agents and fans of SFF, this is Amazing Stuff. Stuff Which You Cannot Live Without, all with the genre fan in mind.

It’s humbling, seeing how many items have been donated, and also the phenomenal level of interest. If you spend any time on genre-focused websites, or you’re part of the same corner of Twitter as I am, chances are you know all about this already.

And if you don’t, the details are here.

Keep checking the site, too, as more information will be going up over the course of this week ahead of the auction launch next Monday. It’s an awesome cause, and there are incredible people getting involved. Please, please support us, and help us to raise truckloads of money for the Red Cross.

In other news, I watched Salt over the weekend. I was quite looking forward to it – when it was released, much was made of the fact it was a spy-action-chasey-shooty-thriller… but with a woman as the lead. And, let’s face it, there aren’t really as many of those as there should be: particularly given the main thread of the plot (without giving anything away) is a woman trying to outrun spies to protect her husband.

This is a neat reversal of the usual “spy races against the clock to save his impossibly beautiful, elegant, intelligent wife” – but boy, did it frustrate me. It wasted an opportunity to do something really interesting and ended up sort of making a hashed-up, mashed-up version of The Recruit meets Mission Impossible (perhaps not surprising, given that it was written by Kurt Wimmer and – if memory serves – was originally a Tom Cruise vehicle, rewritten for Angelina Jolie).

It could have said so many things about husband-wife relationships, gender-power balance, the role of women in dangerous places and jobs… but it felt like the rewrite went as deep as doing a search & replace, exchanging “he” for “she”.

And the ending just made me cross.

(Interestingly, my Other Half – sitting next to me and watching me seethe in the grip of femrage – laughed as discreetly as he dared, shook his head and said, “You’re getting worse.”)

And he’s probably right.

The Lost Thing

How pleased were we when Shaun Tan won this year’s Oscar for Best Short Animated Film?

Very. We were very pleased. So pleased, we had to make ourselves plural.

Anyway, courtesy of Ellen Datlow‘s link, you can watch it here.

It makes me smile, and the big set piece reminds me of my favourite artists–people like Miro and Kandinsky. It’s beautiful and warm and sweet and poignant. And the ending… oh, it’s wonderful.

If you’ve not seen it, I hope you love it as much as I do. We do.

Just watch it, OK?

(Also, how did it manage to pass me by that Tim Minchin is the narrator? How? How???)

And That’s Enough Coffee For You…

You can tell a lot about people from their favourite Disney movie (especially if they don’t have one). While I’m a big fan of the Pixar films, and yes–I have a well-known soft-spot for The Emperor’s New Groove

… and rightly so, the real winner is Lilo & Stitch. The story of an alien genetic experiment codenamed 626, the film follows Stitch as he crashlands in Hawaii, discovers a love of coffee and Elvis and is hunted by the mad scientist who created him, a dotty alien anthropologist and a security guard with no sense of humour. He’s adopted by Lilo–a little girl who mistakes him for a dog–and we have the traditional “two-outcasts-find redemption-in-each-other” story. But with rayguns, and caffeine. Oh, and Ving Rhames as the most badass social worker in history.

This film contains the line: “Oh good, my dog found the chainsaw.” Seriously. What’s not to like?

There’s something incredibly appealing about Stitch–of course there is: it’s a Disney production, after all–but he’s so unabashedly, unashamedly naughty. Not evil, or malevolent (see previous point) but just plain old naughty. As his creator says: his programming if he reaches a large city will lead him to run amok, backing up drains and stealing everyone’s left shoe. That’s my kind of monster. His only weakness is an aversion to water… kind of a problem if you’re on an island.

More than anything, though, the film is gorgeous. It’s full of curves, sweeping lines and bright colours, as well as beautiful watercolour backgrounds. It’s often very funny and manages to be touching and to examine the meaning of family without once becoming saccharine. It’s not a bad piece of sci-fi, either.

If you’re in search of something to shift those January blues, you could do a whole lot worse than look Stitch up. Just don’t give him any coffee…



There is, by the way, a better teaser trailer (but it’s another Youtube embedding fail…) in which Stitch nicks Aladdin’s girl–in midair. Because that’s just how he rolls, and we love him for it.


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…