September 2009


Let’s go in reverse order:

Apologies — sorry for not updating the blog for a couple of weeks. It’s been an odd few days but you haven’t missed much. Honest.

Rejections — I’ve had a few.

Acceptances — but the good news is that my story — Everything Binary — has been bought by Neon Literary Magazine. More info as and when.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, True Romance is on Channel 5. Nuff said.

I think I may have neglected to mention this when I found out, but Lesser Flamingo picked up a story of mine called The Reading of Mr Edgar’s Will and it appears in their third issue, launched today. The story obviously owes a debt to the above mentioned as well as a chap called Poenamu on MoreWriting and a book called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which I was only sort of aware of when I wrote the story but have since read and it’s officially a hoot.

Anyway, the placement of the story’s tongue is hopefully clearly in the environs of the cheek and if you read it, I hope you enjoy it. It’s about halfway down the page after the first batch of poems. But read them, too.

district9_poster-689x1024District 9 isn’t the movie of the year but it still has a lot going for it. The premise, for one, is captivating and the opening act that covers the set-up and backstory is arguably the best bit of the movie.

It seems in 1985 or so, an alien spaceship arrived in Johannesburg and hovered about for a bit. After three months of exclusive hovering and with not an alien to be seen, the South African authorities lose their patience and cut their way in. What they find inside is a severly malnourished and diseased population of aliens that they bring down to earth to treat, housing them in a refugee camp (the District 9 of the title) that quickly descends into a slum. The South Africans don’t really like the aliens too much, grow to hate them and then twenty years after the big disc arrived in their skies, they eventually hatch a plan to shift them out of Johnnaesburg into what would essentially be a concentration camp.

The nods to apartheid and nazism aren’t even vaguely concealed but it remains an intriguing what-if scenario, told in mock documentary style in a very convincing manner that made me come to the conclusion that real-life would probably be played out in such a depressing manner.

During the intro, we meet the main character — Wikus Van Der Merwe — who, through nepotism, lands the plum job of evicting the aliens from District 9. Wilkus talks to the camera, still in mockumentary mode — as he serves eviction notices to the extraterrestial refugees, with a huge military presence behind him. This is a very claustrophobic phase of the film. The mothership constantly hovers over the city in hazy blue sky. It suppresses the people below it and it’s everywhere … there’s no escape … and that feel is powerfully done aided no doubt by some nauseating shaky hand held camera work, that while nothing new, still increases the unease.

All too soon, though, director and screenwriter Neill Blomkamp abandons the documentary style and, in a rather confused transition, it becomes a more usual narrative driven story. It becomes a fugitive movie for a while and then when  it seems there’s nowhere for it to go other than into buddy action movie territory, that’s precisely where it goes. The last fifteen minutes feel like they belong more in Rambo than in the intelligent movie this seemed to be at the start and by the time it attempts to close back in documentary style, it’s all too late. I’m erasing the Wall-E moment at the very end from my memory.

Although largely entertaining, I was distracted a number of times at the nods to other movies. Oh, that’s the something out of something, I’d often think. For example, Oh, that’s the ED-209 out of Robocop. Or, Oh, that’s the camerawork out of Cloverfield. And I’m starting to think that people have forgotten how to tell a story in an hour-and-a-half. As an aside, Funny People, which I was contemplating going to see tonight, tips the scales at a bewildering 146 minutes. Do they think it’s The Deer Hunter?

So, overall, District 9 is a decent sci-fi movie that would probably have been better if it hadn’t tried to be clever and aragorical and get my hopes up. Or it could’ve kept to its initial ideals, abandoned the My Buddy’s An Alien nonsense and been awesome.

Got news today that the good people at Every Day Poets have accepted a poem of mine — The Last Red Light in the Valley — to appear in an upcoming edition. That’s right. A poem. I’m surprised and chuffed in equal measures.

I’ve written maybe six poems since leaving school, five of those in the last few months and it’s something I’m really enjoying. It seems to be a great way to deal with those ideas that don’t quite have the legs to become a short story.

Because I’m learning, I experiment with form and structure to see which style I most like, whether it rhymes etc. The Last Red Light is my first attempt at a sestina. No, I didn’t know what one was either until a couple of weeks ago.

A sestina is a heavily structured poem consisting of six stanzas, each with six lines and then there’s a little three liner, called an envoy, tagged on the end. But — and here’s the whammy — the last word of each line in the first stanza are reused as the last line in each subsequent stanza but in a different, defined order. So if the last words in the first stanza were:

A B C D E F

then in the second stanza they would be:

F A E B D C

and in the third they would be:

C F D A B E

and so on and so forth until you either finish the poem or your head explodes. From what I can gather, the envoy has a bit more flexibility about it, but to be honest by the time I got to that bit, I wasn’t really operating on a conscious level so I might have applied my own interpretation of the rules there.

Updates with regard to publication date and URL will be added as and when. In the meantime, go write a sestina. I’ll wait here.