Thursday, 30 September 2010


Just heard that Tony Curtis has died.

Oddly I'd just been on Facebook trying to post that my favourite movie of all time was 'Some like it Hot'. SLIH is perfect: the script is marvellous, the direction flawless (what a light touch Billy WIlder had) and the performances from Tony Curtis (including a great, great take on Cary Grant), Jack Lemmon and Marilyn simply wonderful. The supporting cast was terrific too: I still laugh at Joe E.Brown.

A few years back there was a rumour that they (who are these mysterious 'theys'?) were going to re-make it with Tom Cruise and Jim Carrey - I couldn't believe it. The mind boggles that they should even think about trying something so stupid.

No, you can't improve on perfection. So...thanks Tony for a great performance. You'd have made a super Vanka!


I'm not the only writer in the Rees household. Nelli's new book 'Glass Bead and Jewelry Projects' is published by GMC on the 7th November this year.

Nelli's new book!
 It's been a real journey for Nell and I'm really proud of her. Not only did she have to design and make the beads and the jewellery shown in the book (and they are terrific!) but she also ended up doing all the photography. To do this she had to teach herself photography from scratch and I think it's a testament to her skill that GMC (her publishers) used her shots in preference to hiring a professional to do them as they'd first planned.

Nell is a very creative, artistic woman and these talents are displayed to perfection here. She is also a perfectionist as I think GMC found out during the editing process!

I'm sure the book is going to be a resounding success and after all Nell's hard work it deserves to be.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010


I've decided to do a Demi-Monde promo video.

The original idea was to have Nell reading from the book but a couple of things sorta decided me against it: first despite Nell's undoubted skills as an actress a straight reading can be quite boring, and secondly, the number of profanities in the book (and YouTube's aversion to them) meant that some of the best bits were verboten.

So Nell, Nigel and I have put our heads together and come up with an all-new concept. It'll be somewhere between 30 - 60 seconds in length (so quite snappy) and quite graphics-heavy. Nell will still be centre-stage but in a different role: she'll play an anthropomorphised version of ABBA, the quantum computer that the Demi-Monde is platformed on. We're aiming to do the shooting at the end of October.

We went up to North Cave (it's near Hull) today to meet with Tim who runs Cavewood Video to discuss things. Most of the more grandiose ideas (blue screens etc.) had to be binned because of cost but I'm pretty confident that we can come up with something really quite good for a manageable amount of money.

Now all I need is an oil lamp and some enamel crockery.


Week 1: Lost 6 lbs

By coincidence the guy who runs the computer shop in Hatton ( and who sorted out my router!) also has a  Herbalife franchise and a week or so ago I got chatting with him. I've always been very dubious about these sort of 'patent medicine' dietary systems, but feeling very overweight I decided I'd give it a go for three or four weeks my reasoning being that if I could lose a stone in a month then maybe...

Gotta say as diets go it's a real drag but as milkshake aversion therapy it's without peer. Trouble is it seems to be working (tho' I think my having knocked wine on the head had a lot to do with it) so I'm morally obliged to stick with it.

I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, 25 September 2010


Had some good reviews recently. Emma at Book Monkey ( gave The Demi-Monde 5 stars! She said ‘I felt completely transported to this whole other world with Ella (the main character in the first book) and loved every minute of it.’ Thanks Emma.

Russel D. Maclean at GoodReads ( awarded it 4 stars but I couldn’t find a review, shame but thanks anyway Russel.

As both Emma and Russel seem to have a Waterstone’s connection I asked Jackie if she knew them. She didn’t but came back with two new comments, one from Amy who ‘absolutely loved the book’ and one from Anthony who had struggle to ‘get’ the book and didn’t seem all that impressed. The every insightful Jackie then made an interesting observation: that girls were finding the Demi-Monde a more intriguing read than blokes. This got me thinking. The score to date is this:

A ‘GOOD’ Verdict:
Nelli (okay, she's a little biased)
Jackie’s Mum
Nigel’s Brother-in-law

An 'OKAY' Verdict:
George (of 'cookie-cutter' fame) 

Well, it’s not a statistically valid survey but the interesting thing is that all the ho-hum comments have come from men. Wondering why I thought perhaps that as there isn’t a gung-ho, rootin’-tootin’-always-shootin’, hi-testosterone hero in the book guys have nobody to identify with. Of course, there’s always Vanka but as Nelli observed when we discussed this in the car, Vanka is a sort of anti-hero: he’s a cynic who doesn’t really wanna get involved. Nell described him as being ‘Rhett-Butler-esque’ which when I think about is a perfectly correct observation. And of course ‘Gone with the Wind’ primarily appealed to women. Odd that.

Anyway, the situation ain’t gonna get better. I’ve got a couple more strong women waiting in the wings: Odette Aroca (a sort of Gallic Mae West who hails from the Quartier Chaud appears in Book 2) and Fresh Bloom, Dong E (a really smart Chinese concubine who makes her bow in Book 3).

The die is cast!

Thursday, 23 September 2010


Nigel Robinson of everythingbuttheproduct has come back to me with his idea for the first of the two posters I've commissioned. I think it's terrific.

The poster shows Reinhard Heydrich who's one of the main characters in the Demi-Monde (he's represented as a PreLived Singularity, a cyber duplicate of an uber-psychopath taken from history). In real life he was of course the evil b******* who masterminded the Holocaust. Because he was assassinated in Prague in 1942 (sensible people these Czechs) he isn't as famous (or is that, infamous) as the rest of the Nazis but he was probably the most despicable of the lot.

In the Demi-Monde he's taken control of part of that virtual world - rechristening it the ForthRight - and is promoting a Nazi-esque, pseudo-occult religion called UnFunDaMentalism. He's as crackers in the DM as he was in the Real World. 

The great thing is that Nigel's captured the retro-feel (the Demi-Monde is technology-locked in the Victorian era) that I wanted and has managed to incorporate the Valknut (the rune sign formed from three interlocking triangles) which is the symbol for UnFunDaMentalism and the ForthRight.

Great job, Nigel...but then I never expect anything less!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010


The final panel discussion Nell and I attended was the one entitled 'The Great Escape: Is escapism the key to fantasy?'. Of all the discussions this was probably the weakest, the panel didn't seem to have their heart in it and the debate was very meandering. It was the only discussion where the audience began drifting away before the end.

I'm afraid my attention drifted too: now that I come to write about it I'm hard pressed to remember much of what was said, the discussion only becoming interesting when the subject of fantasy as social commentary was broached. The panel opined - I think, it was a bit uncertain - that SF is able to examine subjects which might be verboten otherwise. Examples given were those of religious and racial differences tho' when one of the speakers lurched into a diatribe about the ineptitude of Soviet writers in opposing Communism I did sense Nelli bristling.

Overall though I think the panel was on the right track here. 'Escapism' is something of a poisoned chalice - it's easy to write but equally easy to deride and as one of the recurrent themes of all the panels I listened to was that the genre wasn't being taken seriously by the literary powers-that-be then being deliberately escapist in intent is probably something that serious SF writers should try to avoid. Of course they need to be entertaining but there has to be substance beneath.

As 'The Demi-Monde' majors on the theme of the distortions created in society by religious and racial difference I perked up at this point but by then the debate was petering out. Unfortunate.

Thinking about it later I came to the conclusion that the great works of fantasy - Gulliver's Travels, The Time Machine, 1984, Brave New World, Clockwork Orange, Dune to cite a few - all had one thing in common (besides being works of genius, that is)...satire. Each of them in their own way was strongly satirical and used the fantasy premise to examine in an accessible way burning questions of the day: racial prejudice, divisions in society, the dangers of totalitarianism, the role of sex in society etc etc. Theirs was a literary steel fist encased in a velvet glove.

Now I am sure several of today's writers are able satirists but the great expansion of SF/Fantasy post 1960 has somewhat diluted their impact. Maybe the problem is that now there is too much fantasy out there, too many Lord of the Rings rip offs and Dune-lites.

And there does seem to be a lot of fantasy about. SF seems to have taken over from rom-coms at the movies, comic books are burgeoning and then, of course, there's the ever-expanding computer gaming fraternity. Presumably this growth is due to the post-Potter generation trying to get its fantasy fix. But while this expansion has been achieved by a triumph of quantity over quality I still think it's good news because soon it will be these guys who will be running the literary reviews.

Maybe all we have to do is wait!

Monday, 20 September 2010


The second panel discussion Nell and I attended at FantasyCon was entitled 'There are no Small Presses (only Small Writers). It was the most interesting of all the events we sat in on.

I hadn't realised that the smaller, independent publishers were called the 'Small Press'. Apparently it's a piece of American terminology that has been adopted over here and - as was noted by the panel - is a pretty demeaning tag. The suggestion that they be renamed 'Indie Press' seems to me to be a good one (see below).

Cover of the FantasyCon Programme
As best I could make out - it was a pretty free-wheeling discussion - the views of the panel could be summed up as follows:

  • That if the Indie Press and it's writers think small inevitably they will be small. This need for ambition was most forcibly expounded by the writer, Sam Stone, who seemed to be of the view that writers should take more responsibility for the promotion of their books.
  • A lot of the woes of the Indie Press could be laid at the door of Waterstone's and their reluctance to stock titles from the smaller publishers.
  • Book reviewers from the mass media (notably the Times, Guardian etc.) have got a negative attitude to horror, SF and fantasy so-much-so that it's nigh-on impossible to get a book of this ilk reviewed.
  • The Indie Press is vital for the health of Speculative Fiction generally as it provides an entry-point for new writers and artists.
The parallels with the discussions I heard when I was on the jazz scene promoting Nelli were uncanny and not a little disturbing.

Far be it from me, a relative newcomer on the scene, to criticise, but it did seem that the Small Press in the UK might be missing a trick. Rebranding themselves 'Indie Press' is one (good) thing but I think with it should come an adoption of the ethos of the Indie scene. The Indie record labels came to prominence championing talent which the major labels were uncomfortable with, whereas - and I may be wrong - the impression I have is that the Small Press is more intent on aping the major publishers. Indie is a euphemism for edgy, dangerous and unexpected and somehow looking at the titles being promoted not terribly many of them seemed to fulfil these criteria.

'Indie' also suggests that things are done differently. I had expected the Small Press to be early adaptors of e-publishing and to be using the Internet very, very aggressively. In fact, that's why I went to the panel discussion in the first place: to try to pick up ideas I could use in promoting 'The Demi-Monde'. I was surprised that the Small Press still seemed wedded to print and pushing their product thru bookshops.

It could be, of course, that I don't know what I'm talking about and as time passes the penny will drop but I've got to say I had expected more left-field thinking.

Strange but interesting.


Went with Nell and Daughter # 2 (Daughter #1 was out with boyfriend) to see Scott Pilgrim yesterday.

Now in a previous blog 'THE DEATH OF HOLLYWOOD' I bemoaned the inability of film makers to incorporate the video game ethos into their films but now I've seen Scott Pilgrim I think there are grounds for hope. Director Edgar Wright obviously 'gets it'. Whilst the plot is pretty threadbare he still managed to conjure up a real fun experience giving us characters that are sharp and snappy and whom we cared about. The pace is fine (though I thought the film a tad too long) and the use of the effects terrific. I especially like the way he bleeped out profanities and storyboarded the occasional comment and plot signal.

A really good film that was smart, entertaining and original. Maybe there's life in the cadaver yet!

Rees Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 19 September 2010


Nell and I attended a panel discussion at FantasyCon headlined 'In the Beginning: every story begins with a single sentence' which discussed the importance (or irrelevance) of the first lines of a story. I was keen to attend because I'd had put a lot of thought into the DM's own first line:

'Norma ran. Picked up her skirts and ran as she had never run in her life. Ran as though the Hounds of Hell were at her heels.
Fuck it...the Hounds of Hell were at her heels.'

and I wanted reassurance that I hadn't been wasting my time.

Oddly the panel seemed to think that having that killer first line wasn't that important. They opined that it was the first page that was important as they believed that a lot of buyers bought books after reading that in the shop. They also mentioned Ford Maddox Ford's Page 99 Test which advises readers to reference page 99 to ensure that the quality of the book is consistent (I think I'm on safe ground here with DM: it's Vanka's introduction and page 99 is quite jaunty).

I wonder though if the panel are correct to be so dismissive of the opening paragraph. Personally I've never read more than the first few lines of a book in a shop - I'll check out the cover and I'll read the blurb on the back and if these two intrigue me only then will I open it up to read.

I Googled 'why do people buy books' but what's there is there is pretty unconvincing. However I'm pretty sure publishers have done studies on this which is why they spend so much money on getting the cover right (or wrong). My own opinion is that to get a buyer to physically pick up a book in a shop it goes something like this: is it in the right genre section, is it being prominently promoted, is the title interesting, is the cover enticing, do I know the author, is it the right size, do I like the premise described by the blurb, does the first paragraph grab me. Get over these hurdles and you've got a sale. Therefore I think that first paragraph is a key component of the buy/no buy matrix.

I am sure that if I'd have randomly picked up '1984' and read:

'It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen'

there would have been no way I wouldn't have bought it. Similarly with 'Neuromancer'' and:

'The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel'.

My especial favourite is from 'A Clockwork Orange':

'What's it going to be then, eh?'

Interestingly Nelli always looks at the last line when she buys a book, so I'm going to have to start paying more attention to that.


One of the things that struck me at FantasyCon was the power of posters so I contacted Nigel to have one designed.

I want one that shows the map of the DM but we both agreed that it needed a pretty strong tag line. Nigel suggested:


I reposted with:


The end result is that we're gonna do two posters. One will be based on a new idea of Nigel's: a picture of Heydrich a la Kitchener with the caption 'The Demi-Monde wants You!' and a second showing a map of the DM pinned to the door of the Prancing Princess under an In and Out sign, only the Out sign is smashed.

Nigel's mocking them up now.


Nell and I spent the weekend at FantasyCon in Nottingham which was great fun and gave me lots of things to think about - some of which I'll expand on over the next few blogs.

It was great to meet with Lucy from Quercus again and she hosted us at a terrific restaurant called 'Le Petit Paris' - very highly recommended - on Saturday together with Tom Fletcher (of 'The Leaping' fame) and Louise Morgan who helps with the BFS. They made excellent dinner companions...very enjoyable. Thanks very much, Lucy, it was great!

It was great to see Tom again (we'd met at the World Horror Con in Brighton) and good to compare notes. Shame his wife, Beth, couldn't be there but hopefully next time. Tom did a reading which we attended and which gave me much food for thought. Tom's got a good reading style - very expressive - and keeps his excerpts short which I think is essential if you want to keep the audience's attention. Other readers (who shall be nameless) went on and on and on and in doing so lost their listeners. I'll have to practice before I do my first one and maybe think of way of spicing it up. I think I'll pass on a penguin's head though.

A newly shawn Tom Fletcher reading from 'The Leaping'.

Meeting Lou was terrific too - we'd only ever 'spoken' via e-mail - and she talked a lot of sense. I just wish I hadn't been quite so pissed when she was talking about the power of social networking. I think I remember most of it though...

We took in four of the panel discussions and each of them in their own way gave much food for thought. I'll write about these anon. We attended Lisa Tuttle's interview which was fascinating.

Photo of Lisa Tuttle and her interviewer, Stephen Jones

One of the things I noticed was the power of posters at these kind of events so I'm in discussion with Nigel re the designing of one.

The British Fantasy Awards ceremony which took place on the Saturday evening was interesting and I thought James Barclay did a fantastic (sorry) job of hosting it. Conrad Williams won best novel for 'One' - I haven't read it but will. I was surprised at the amount of genuine emotion on display: it shows how much these awards are valued.

A really good weekend!

All-in-all I think Nell and I are getting a better handle on these sort of conventions now and maybe when we've got another couple under our belt we'll begin to be comfortable. Of course it will help when 'The Demi-Monde' is out: then I'll feel less of a wannabe.

Thursday, 16 September 2010



A young lady named Lou has just sent me a list of questions in connection with an interview she'll be doing about me and the DM for the British Fantasy Society. Now I've seen the sort of questions that are usually banded around - 'who is your favourite author' and 'what is the most diffuicult aspect of writing' that sort of bland stuff - so I was mildly (well, a little more than mildly to be truthful) surprised about how insightful her questions were. Lou had obviously read the book (now there's a novelty), evaluated it and was determined to ask some bloody tough questions about it. Totally unfair: I really had to think!

One of her questions especially intrigued me. This was 'three of your main characters are not just female, but relatively young: what was the motivation behind having young women as protagonists, and is it challenging to write not just one but three major players of a different gender?'

Funnily enough I had never really thought about Norma, Ella and Trixie being young and female before, I'd just written them that way because it seemed right that they should be young and female. Of course having two tough-minde, smart and ambitious teenage daughters (and an equally tough-minded, smart, ambitious and sexy wife) might have been an influencing factor but really I think this is a somewhat simplistic explanation.

The answer as to why three of my principal protagonists are female is that women these days are so much more interesting thna men. It pains me to say it but women are more complete individuals than their male opposite numbers - they want to do something with their lives - and, funnily enough they are much more inclined to take risks.

It could be said that I am basing this surmise on a very unrandom sample - the Rees household - but it is odd that the first person to contact me about the DM was a girl - Jackie - who wrote in a very lucid and interesting way about the book and the first person to ask for an interview was a girl - Lou - who is obviously possessed of a similarly incisive mind.

So is it any wonder that when I came to choose the gender of the characters who would struggle with the mysteries of the Demi-Monde that I chose women.

Of course, the DM isn't entirely a male-free zone. There's always Vanka Maykov and I've got BIG plans for Vanka!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010


I had a meeting with Quercus' Digital Manager, Mark Thwaite, last week and the subject of tweeting came  up. I have to say I'm not keen: my life is much too humdrum to interest anybody. I can't see a repetitive tweet saying 'Got up, wrote a bit, went to bed' being much of a grabber.

But ever willing - and prompted by the ever inventive Nigel - I got to thinking about tweeting on behalf of two of the Real World characters in 'The Demi-Monde', Ella and Norma. These two girls will be my proxy tweets.

As those of you who have read the book will be aware it commences as follows:

  • Norma Williams is captured in the DM on the 37th Day of Winter, 1004 DM time (equivalent to a Real World date of 9th June, 2018), and,
  • Ella Thomas enters the DM on the 40th Day of Winter, 1004 or the 12th June, 2018.
My plan is that both Ella and Norma will begin tweeting on the 4th May, 2018 (the 1st Day of Winter, 1004) when they are both in the Real World and their daily tweets will continue until they are finally in the DM. the Launch of the book is scheduled for the 6th January, 2011, I have assumed that this corresponds to 12th June, 2018 and I hence Norma and Ella (with my help) will begin tweeting on the 28th November, 2010 (Launch minus 40) with the tweets ending on Launch Day (when Ella and Norma are in the DM they obviously can't tweet).

The neat thing about this is it allows me to give some broader hints about how Norma came to be lost in the DM, for example...

5/14/2018. So ↓ I escaped school to indulge some retail therapy. Anything 2 get my mind off th@ b****** Johnny & ‘Rumours’.

5/14/2018. The Demi-Monde sells goth gear. Run by a cool girl called Liz. Gotta vague idea th@ I know her from somewhere. Sorta déjà vu.


Jackie has sent me some new comments from her colleagues who have read the advanced copies of the Demi-Monde.

Adrienne found it 'a refreshing and markedly different book' (what an astute girl!), made the hard-hearted Trixie her favourite character (a few people - especially girls - seem to like Trixie which I do find a little surprising), and found some of my humour a little repetitive. All-in-all, not bad.

Then she came to George. He liked the book because it was something different, but thought some of the characters were a little 'cookie-cutterish'. Now that stopped me in my tracks, mainly because I'd never heard the expression before. I had to Google it: 'predictable', 'a conformist attitude', 'lacking in originality'. A bit harsh, George!

But I suppose I'd better get used to criticism (good and bad). I've gone through my life advocating free-speech and being anti-censorship arguing that without criticism a society stultifies and never improves so it'll be a little thick if I throw my rattle out of the pram just because the DM isn't George's cup of tea.

No, what I've got to do is make sure that when George reads DM: Spring he starts to believe in the characters as fully rounded people and all thoughts of cookie-cutters are forgotten.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


Just received a letter from Aviva thanking me for advising them of my new address. They sent it to my old address! Words fail me.


Following on from my thoughts regarding the future of e-publishing I got to thinking about the Internet itself.

It seems that fictional reality and factual reality are merging. Whereas before the imaginary was distinct (and readily identifiable from) the real world this distinction – this separation - is now blurring. Viz:

  • When I worked in a hotel it was common for the staff to discuss the occurrences that took place on the previous evening’s soaps as though they were discussing mutual acquaintances – the characters of the soaps had become fiduciary family and friends...they had become real.
  • It is a phenomenon that some individuals operating on the web take on the names and personae of celebrities (live and dead), so much so that it is almost impossible for the veracity of the real celebrity to be accepted or even established.
  • Wiki has become so adulterated by spurious editing that every time you use it you have to question whether what you are reading has been infected by mischief.
  • As even the most spaced-out of wackos has the same ability to spout their nonsense on the web as have 'normal' people everything has at least the veneer of credibility.
The result is that as time passes - as the Internet becomes all-pervasive - fantasy is merging with reality. On the Internet reality and surreality, fact and fiction, rumour and truth have to co-exist but they can’t do this without contaminating each other. The result is sort of nu-reality - a pseudo-reality which is simultaneously truth and lies - and that is what I think is the essence of the story I am trying to tell in the DM: how a virtual world can (will) influence a real world. There was a nice phrase in a recent article in the Sunday Times by Camille Paglia about Lady Gaga (‘What’s Sex Got to do with It?’) which said ‘In the sprawling anarchy of the web, the borderline between fact and fiction has melted away’.

The idea that fact and reality will become mutable and manipulatable is not new (Orwell explored this to great effect in '1984') but what is different today is that it is so easy to do. The real world and the cyber-world are now merging. They are becoming increasingly intertwined creating a Gordian Knot of competing realities which will be impossible to cut through or to disentangle. In the future fact and fiction will become indistinguishable.

This for me is an interesting phenomenon and one I’ll be exploring in a book I’ve just begun, a punk-SF tale called ‘Faction’.


I was reading the author interviews carried on the Quercus website and was struck by the answers given to one particular question: 'What do you think of e-books?'. This got me thinking. With the coming of age of the Internet all media is increasingly one enormous cyber-continuum; the distinction between films, videogames, comicbooks, music, images and the written word blurring. There is now an enormous overlap between all these forms of creative expression (music videos, comicbooks and films, graphic novels) athough the implications of this conflation have been largely being obscured by the fact that there is another player involved: social networking sites. The audience is now part of the creative process.

This I think will have enormous implications for a writer like me and not just because my readership will (increasingly) want my product in an internet-friendly format. No, the implications go way beyond e-books per se.

I suspect that the reader of the future will be looking for an altogether more immersive experience than one which can be found within the covers of a book. They will want to explore the backgrounds of their favourite characters, be able (especially with SF and fantasy) to make a deeper and more profound examination of the world the writer has created, they will want to interact with the characters and with each other and, most important of all, they will want to see the writers visualisation of his or her book. Like it or not books will soon be merging with the cyber-world and it will become incumbent upon writers to create worlds and characters which transcend the printed word. This will be the only way they will be able to persuade a cyber-savvy generation to suspend disbelief.

That is why I created the Demi-Monde website; to allow readers the opportunity of immersing themselves more fully in the DM and understanding the naunces of that world that can only (because of considerations of pace and length) be alluded to in the book. But now I think I need to go further. I am going to have two of my Real World characters tweet and Nigel and I are looking at producing a PowerPoint presentation of the DM.

Modest enough but it's a start...


Thinking about the editing of films and videogames got me wondering about the editing of The Demi-Monde.

One of the imperatives of my first editor, Nick Johnston, was always 'to get to the action quicker'. At the time I could never really understand this need for speed but now I think I might.

I was brought up when the pre-eminent form of media was cinema and as a result when I'm writing I imaging the action and the characters and the scenes as though they were up there on the silver screen. And like most films pre-Star Wars this is a pretty languid affair with lots of wide-shots and cut-aways to characters looking serious.

Nick, being considerably younger than me, was brought up when the pre-eminent form of media was the videogame and hence he approaches books looking for a much more visceral, action-based experience, with faster cuts and less dwell time. I suppose I should have twigged this difference in perception when I had dinner in Brighton with Nick, Tom Fletcher and John Ajvide Lindqvist and they lurched into a discussion about favourite videogames which left me floundering (I can't stand the things).

Funny thing is that it's only now that I'm appreciating the different perspective Nick brought to the book. He did a good job and made the DM more palatable to a younger audience. So where ever you are Nick...thanks.


The one good thing about the house move and not being able to do much writing is that I've had time to think and to do a little random reading. And one of the articles I read was by Will Self carried in The Sunday Times of 28th August entitled 'Cut! That's all, folks'. Basically Will was bemoaning the death of Hollywood and that films are so poorly made these days that they're barely worth watching. Now Will Self is an interesting bloke and a quite provocative writer and as I regard myself something of a film fan I found much in the article that I agreed with.

As it happened his article came a day after the Rees family had made an effort to see the film adaptation of ‘The Girl Who Played with Fire’. We made this effort because we had voted ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ a hit (an average 8/10) so there was genuine enthusiasm to see the sequel, especially as the reviews had been pretty positive. We were disappointed and I think the reasons for this disappointment encapsulates Will Self’s proposition that film-makers are losing the plot...literally.

In my humble opinion as films are – generally – fantastical hence it is incumbent on the scriptwriter and the director to make them such that the viewer is able to suspend disbelief and to accept – for the length of the film at least - the fantastic as rational. But to do this the script - and the plot underpinning it - has to be both coherent and persuasive and sadly the script to this particular movie was neither. There were gaping plot holes and huge inconsistencies (I won't bore you with them) which the director tried to distract the audience from noticing by the inclusion of a wholly gratuitous sex scene and another stellar performance by Noomi Rapace (the girl's back must be nigh on broken by having to carry the film by herself).

I think 'The Girl Who Played with Fire' encapsulates all that is amiss in Hollywood. I suspect that Hollywood is undergoing a crisis of confidence akin to the impact of TV in the ‘50’s and much of this is due to them having missed the video games boat. As Will Smith observes in his article the sales of videogames have now surpassed movie earnings and I think this has scared movie makers: they thought they were in the movie business when they are actually in the entertainment business. This myopia is the reason why Hollywood missed the pornography gravyboat (too arrogent and too scared of middle-America to grab a huge business opportunity) and ignored videogames (too beneath them).

Now film makers are scrambling to ape videogames: hence the accent on action over plot, the febrile cutting and the paper-thin characters. The upshot is that films are poorer – the scripts are less rigorous and hence it becomes impossible to suspend disbelief. Rather than seeing how the film and the videogame experiences could be made synergistic and more satisfying film makers have simply surrendered. Films are now a second-class citizen.

This sorry situation has been aided and abetted by film critics who simply haven't the balls to be critical any more.

For evidence of this I had to look no further than the same edition of The Sunday Times where there was a review of 'The Girl...' by Cosmo Landesman. His comments included:
  • ‘Too often, the film has the look and feel of a quality British television drama series.’
  • ‘The pace is uneven’ 
  • ‘...there’s still too much narrative fat and exposition’ 
  • ‘...a gratuitous sex scene’
But despite this his final assessment stated: ‘...what we have here are well-crafted and enjoyable thrillers...’

??????? The words 'cop' and 'out' spring to mind.


The house move has been simply horrendous!

But perhaps the worst aspect has been the struggle to get back on-line. I use Virgin broadband and it took them ten (ten!) days to transfer me from my old address to my new one. Why in this day and age it should take so long is quite beyond me.

That was yesterday. I sparked up my laptop at 8.30 a.m. expecting to be back in the 21st Century but...nothing. What followed was four hours of misery, frustration and downright bewilderment as I spoke to Virgin Technical Services five times (total over two hours of 'phone time) and at least an hour on the line to Belkin, the b******* who made my router.In the end I gave up with Belkin (they were absolutely USELESS) and went out bought a new router. Eventually at around 2 p.m. I was back on line.

Moral of this story: don't move house and don't use Belkin routers.