Wednesday, 21 March 2018

'The Uncertainty of All Earthly Things'

The title story in Mark Valentine's new collection from Zagava is a gentle tale of strange events on the borders of what we term normal life.

A man goes to a small rural community to curate a museum dedicated to a not-very-famous explorer. In his new home he becomes fascinated by the artefacts he now has in his care, particularly ones which bear odd carvings in what might be an unknown language. Then the narrator encounters a pleasant, eccentric woman engaged in taking rubbings in the church. It turns out that she is also trying to create a new Tarot specific to the odd Cornish village of Sancreed.

The setting of Sancreed is beautifully evoked, and the story relies on the Machenesque notion that some places are closer (in some dimension) to a higher truth than most. The revelation that the characters experience at the old 'rocket shed' on the westernmost tip of the peninsula is awesome in the old-fashioned sense, an epiphany that it may take them a lifetime to truly know. This is, in a way, a love story, emphasising that the greatest mysteries of life and time are always close at hand.

More from this running review soon. I've reached that point in the book where I slow down a bit because I don''t want to get to the end. But I'm definitely getting there, regardless...

Quatermass and the Tits


I've just watched Lifeforce (1985) all the way through for the first time in many years. I have a few thoughts. Oh dearie me, yes.

For a start, this is a film with many real virtues. Unfortunately none of them have much to do with the script or the lead performances. Nope,  it's all down to the effects, the general production values, Tobe Hooper's solid direction, and a very good (if somewhat under-used) supporting cast. Much of the blame for this hefty box-office flop lies with Colin Wilson's original story, which - as my clickbaity title for this post hints - is wildly derivative stuff with a sweaty whiff of soft porn. Wilson's novel The Space Vampires I have not read. But if the script is any guide, it must be a doozy. But let's consider those virtues I mentioned first.

For a start, John Dyskra's space effects are rather good, especially in the opening sequence when the spacecraft Churchill approaches Halley's Comet and identifies a 150 mile-long alien spaceship lurking in the plasma fog around the nucleus. I mean, that's a good opener. They even try to add a bit of Real Science by having the Churchill (it's an Anglo-American space mission you see) powered by the Nerva rocket. Nerva was a real nuclear rocket engine researched in the early Sixties, thought it could not provide the continuous 1g thrust claimed here. Still, good try.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

New books by me

"Two new books, Dave? What a splendid chap you are, well done!"

"Gosh, yes, you're so prolific."

"Please have all our money."

Factually speaking, these books are about: changelings, 'the Good Folk', a haunted mansion, unwise ghost-hunting TV production methods, monsters, a town near the Welsh border called Machen, and other things.